my employee relocated and didn’t tell me

A reader writes:

I run an online business and we have not worked in office since March 2020. Like many Covid-remote workers, we saw some living situations shift: moving in with family, caring for parents, working in remote locations. That worked very well for us and I’m grateful. Our current return-to-work date is before the end of the year, when everyone is expected to be in office three days a week.

One of my employees, Margot, is immunocompromised and left NYC (where we’re based) to be in Texas and live with her dad. She got really sick every winter in NYC (pre-Covid, I had no idea about her compromised immune system; she didn’t want anyone to pity her) and her doctor said that with Covid, she should not live in cold-weather climates; the vulnerability is too great. Margot kept me posted at every step: when she wanted to be in Texas temporarily, when her doctor recommended it long-term, when she gave up her apartment. She knew she was taking a risk, because our company’s policy on working in Texas wasn’t defined, but she had multiple conversation with me and with HR to ensure that everyone was on the same page.

Another employee, Frank, moved to Cleveland. Unlike Margot, I learned about Frank’s plans after the fact. On a Zoom call, I noted a different background. “Oh, we’re in Cleveland for a while. We’re close to my wife’s family and staying in an AirBnb.” As Covid extended, the background changed again: “We got a short-term lease. We weren’t thrilled with our apartment anyway.” Then, I learned through others on my staff that his wife has gotten a job there. That he’s updated his license at the Ohio DMV. When I asked him about this, he said yes, he would like to stay in Cleveland but was waiting to see what our policy was; others at our parent company were in similar situations.

It took corporate a long time to weigh in — they surveyed the circumstances of everyone at the company, at all of our brands — and the bottom line is this: Those brands that allow an employee to work outside our headquarter cities must seek permission and pay the annual fees to incorporate — about $20K, which will hit my brand’s bottom line.

In short, I’m cool with doing that for Margot but not for Frank. Margot and Frank have very different roles: Margo is behind the scenes and handles organizational issues for our brand, but Frank’s role has a profile in our industry and it reads very weird for him to be based in Cleveland — a city that has nothing to do with what we do. The uncertainty of Covid really impacted/slowed my reaction, as did Frank’s boiling-frog approach to relocation without discussion or even a heads up, but now I’m clear: I don’t want his role to be based in Cleveland and I don’t want to pay an additional $20K a year for his decision.

So: Yes for Margot, no for Frank — and I’m willing to lose him as an employee. Am I being fair?

It’s not inherently unreasonable to decide that you’re willing to do it for one employee but not another, or for one job but not another. Different jobs have different needs, and some jobs can be based anywhere and some can’t. Some employees are just as effective when they’re based remotely and some aren’t. And some employees contribute enough that they’re worth paying an extra $20K a year to accommodate their move, and some aren’t.

If it really doesn’t make sense for Frank’s job to be based in Cleveland, it’s not unfair to make that your decision.

But before you do, I’d really interrogate your reasons. Is it genuinely about Cleveland, or is it about how Frank handled his move? If he had kept you informed every step of the way like Margot did, would you be making a different decision now?

If the reality is that yeah, you’d feel differently if he had operated more like Margot did, I’d cut him some slack there. The last year and a half has been weird, and a lot of people didn’t realize that “we’re working remotely for now” isn’t the same thing as “you can work from wherever you want.” Even aside from management concerns with that, not everyone knows that there are legal and tax reasons why an employer might not allow it — if an employer has employees living in a different state, they have business nexus there and may be required to pay taxes in that state, set up workers comp insurance there, and more. So many people relocated during the pandemic without realizing that (or with their companies turning a temporary blind eye to it because of the pandemic) that it’s easy to see how someone could conclude this is a thing people can just go ahead and do now.

It doesn’t sound like Frank tried to hide his move from you; he just didn’t proactively volunteer it. When you inquired, it doesn’t sound like he tried to avoid telling you; he told you he hoped to stay in Cleveland but was waiting to hear what your policy was. That’s pretty reasonable.

You still get to decide that the job just can’t be in Cleveland. You also get to decide that Frank isn’t valuable enough to you to pay $20,000 more every year to keep him. But if your decision is mostly driven by annoyance that he didn’t communicate as much as Margot did, I’d let that go*.

*Unless it’s part of a pattern with Frank not communicating enough. If it is, that’s not likely to improve when he’s working remotely from another state.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 524 comments… read them below }

  1. Yessica Haircut*

    It’s fascinating to me how many people have assumed over the course of the pandemic that “work from home” and “work from anywhere, even a different state/country than where your employer thinks you’re working” are interchangeable ideas. I suppose it’s understandable for people who have never dealt with the legal or tax-related side of business operations, but even if you don’t understand the legal repercussions or haven’t given them much thought, I can’t imagine picking up and moving interstate without even mentioning it to my boss! I try to give my boss a heads-up when I’ve scheduled a doctor’s appointment or have to work from home for the morning to let in the plumber! It’s pretty baffling to think of dropping a “BTW, I live in Ohio now,” as a casual afterthought.

    1. Move Move - Move Right Out of My Life*

      I understand what you’re saying, but I disagree. I think there are plenty of jobs, places, and people who work who wouldn’t think “Hmmm….what are the legal and tax ramifications for this company that I work for?” I would think “I haven’t been into the office. I’m still doing my work. Who cares where it’s from?” Especially if there are other things going on in life. I CAN imagine that what happens is someone moves and then they update their address with HR so that they can get their paycheck and tax information, just like if they were to move within their city.

      Honestly, I only learned from this site this year that there would be be issues with moving to another state, and I’ve been working for over 20 years.

      1. Llama Llama*

        Especially if it started with, “let’s go stay with/near your parents and they can watch the kids while we work from home” kind of thing. I know a lot of people who went to be with their relatives during the pandemic and for many it was a temporary situation.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        It never would have occurred to me that there would be tax implications from my employer if I hadn’t read it here. I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          Agreed – this is not common knowledge. The fact that Frank didn’t use a virtual background shows that he had no idea his move would be a problem for the company.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah, and the move may have been temporary at first. The wife may have just taken a temporary job to cover extra costs, or may have simply been offered her dream job, the kind of offer you just can’t refuse, and their plans then changed. A lot of people have found their lives taking completely different turns because of changing circumstances.

        2. RussianInTeaxs*

          Same. I’ve never had a job that dealt with any of this, would have never occurred to me. I also have never worked from home until last year.

        3. New Mom*

          I also had no idea, and I think a lot of employees who don’t work in management/HR/Finance might not know this either. I know of multiple people that have relocated during Covid, and I’m not sure they all told their employer. In the past I’ve worked at my in-laws house which is not in a state we operate in and it never occurred to me that it might be an issue.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Heck, I wasn’t aware of it as a manager until COVID because our office did not have full-time WFH jobs, so, in order to be in the office regularly, you kind of have to live in one of the jurisdictions we already have tax relationships with. When everyone went to WFH, we found out a lot of people were working in other jurisdictions after the fact, and it created a major scramble for payroll/accounting and HR (employment/labor law compliance) to ensure we weren’t doing anything illegal and were paying taxes/complying with appropriate rules and regulations. We tried to be as flexible as humanly possible, but we are just not set up to do business in certain states, to say nothing of state-specific licensure requirements for some professionals.

            1. Darren*

              The first time it came up at my work an Employee was in New Zealand, with the full awareness of their manager for several weeks, and then someone finally told HR and they were shocked, and scrambling to work out what that actually meant, and working with upper management on whether this could continue, we had to get them back from New Zealand, etc. Followed by an email making it clear your manager and HR need to know that you plan to move before you do so.

        4. Meep*

          We employ international students as interns occasionally on top of two international contractors. It never would have occurred to me, either. Though, probably because I have been too consumed trying to get one of our managers to stop her illegal pay practices in regards to work visas (think “paying” in Amazon gift cards or paying in lump sums for work she is trying to get them to do before or after their visa length).

      3. Smithy*

        I will add to this “I would have never known” – over the course of my US life, I have lived in many “tri-state” type areas where living in state X or Y and working in state Z is wildly common. The reality of those states having assorted regional and/or business agreements is something I still know nothing about technically – just the lived reality that those dynamics never seem to pose a problem.

        Spending more time on this site and the issues raised during the pandemic, I’ve certainly learned a lot more. And now know that just because it’s no big deal for Worker A to be remote in one state, that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be the same for Worker B to be remote in another state.

        1. Darren*

          I would imagine a tri-state area like that is more likely to have agreements in place where it’s okay. It’s the further moves that tend to be complicated (New York to California for example) where it just doesn’t really occur to those states that they would even need an agreement on how this should work since it shouldn’t really happen.

          1. Greg*

            It also isn’t about where you are living, it is about where the work is being done and the income is being earned. If you live in CT and work in NYC you are getting taxed in NYS. Athletes are another way this manifests itself: the players get taxed for where the game is played, not where the team is based.

            1. automaticdoor*

              Not always true! I work in DC and live in VA — 15ish minutes from my workplace in DC. VA has a reciprocity agreement with DC. “Virginia Residents who work in the District of Columbia, but do not establish residency in Washington, D.C are exempt from taxation there. These Virginia residents will pay income taxes to Virginia,” per VA’s tax website.

              1. Librarian1*

                Yep, I live in DC too and didn’t realize that you weren’t always taxed where you live until I heard it on this site. I assumed that’s how everyone did it! (I both live and work in DC, but I’ve been a volunteer tax preparer in the past, so I’ve dealt with this with clients.)

            2. Frank Doyle*

              If you work in a city like Philly or New York, you pay city wage tax, but you might actually pay state income tax to the state where you live, if the states have an agreement. I can personally speak for PA and NJ: if you live in one of those states but work in the other, you pay income tax to your resident state.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          Agreed – I moved from the NYC tri-state area to the Midwest during the pandemic, and consulted my two best friends (who both work in HR) about how to ask permission, which is when I learned about the tax implications for some organizations – fortunately my employer didn’t qualify for those implications so they could easily grant permission.

          I also learned about how some states have reciprocal tax agreements with other states, making it easier for people living in one state and working in another to file their annual income taxes. I learned this because my NYC state is NOT reciprocal with my Midwestern state and I had to hire an accountant to make sense of the various tax codes in play.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        I was about to say the same thing. The vast majority of employees have no business thinking about tax and residency requirements. It wouldn’t have occurred to me either. If “working from home” comes with restrictions on location, it would be up to the company to pro-actively inform employees of this fact.

        Now to be sure, just about no one had experience with a pandemic, so it’s understandable that companies weren’t on top of this. But from there to assume that the individual employees should be is a bit of a tall order.

        (Also, my partner has been on a fully remote job for the last few years, for a company that was genuinely “we want to hire the best fit, globally, and make it work”. “Was” even though they still are, but with growth there is somewhat more stratification (and there was also an acquisition of a US-based company involved). Nonetheless, their first manager was in the Netherlands, the founder/former CEO in Sweden, and their current project manager is in South Africa. If we were to move to another US state, or Canada, no one would blink – and while someone would deal with the pesky paperwork, they keep this off the radar of non-admin staff.)

        1. MM*

          This is a really good point: “Now to be sure, just about no one had experience with a pandemic, so it’s understandable that companies weren’t on top of this. But from there to assume that the individual employees should be is a bit of a tall order.” The initial commenter might just as well be shocked that every HR/legal dept in the country didn’t think to proactively mention this to their employees.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      I have a friend who thought it was ok to go on a cross-country roadtrip and visit campgrounds and national parks while “working remotely.” That fact that she had to pretend to be working from home the whole time probably should have signaled to her that it was not ok. I mean…it’s one thing if you get the green light to work from another state for a couple of weeks to visit family or whatever (I know several people that would self-quarantine for the recommended time, then drive to family to work for several weeks from their hometowns, then self-quarantine again after returning). If you’re given permission to take your work laptop or other company property a long ways, that’s perfectly fine. But traveling all over the country during a pandemic with company property probably wouldn’t have been approved by the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT office she worked for at the time. Geez!

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I just got approval to work a few days from another state over the holidays. I asked ahead of time and didn’t make my plans until I knew for sure it would be okay.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          Did you have multiple color-coded three-ring binders tracking each stop on your itinerary? (/Brooklyn 99 joke)

      2. Person from the Resume*

        As you said, since she pretended to continue working from HOME, she knew what she was doing was wrong.

        In my experience the federal government makes it pretty clear that they are supposed to know where (the address) you are working from and you can’t just ad hoc change it for your convenience or a vacation.

        Also they are extremely clear that you can’t take government provided equipment outside of the US. (Not that your friend did that.)

        1. DataSci*

          It’s not universally true that feds can’t take their equipment out of the country – it just needs to be cleared first. My wife is an astronomer working for NASA, and back when work travel was a thing she would routinely take her work laptop to conferences, or an external hard drive to telescopes in other countries to bring back the data. (Astronomical observations are a lot of data, and internet at telescope sites is not the greatest. Sneakernetting the data home is still the best way to do it.) She just needed to get permission, and verify that there was nothing sensitive on the laptop.

      3. Madge*

        hahaha i totally did this. it was 2009 and i worked in NYC in the declining magazine industry so my job wasn’t feeling super secure anyway. it was a calculated risk and i have no regrets!

      4. Firm Believer*

        A lot of people did stuff like this and unfortunately in the long run the trust associated with work from home will erode because of it. And everyone will suffer for it.

      5. Little Lobster*

        I don’t see what the problem with this is. She didn’t permanently relocate, so as long as she got the work done, who cares if it was from a lodge in Yellowstone? She shouldn’t have had to pretend to work at home, it’s really none of her employer’s business where her “home” is if she’s going to be filing taxes in her home state.

        1. Firm Believer*

          That’s not your decision or her decision to make. If she was on a road trip was she driving during work hours pretending to be working? Many WFM protocols require a dedicated workspace. This is such an entitled perspective.

        2. Nodramalama*

          What? She was on a holiday pretending to work. You can’t just up and go on holiday and not tell anyone.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Depends on whether she was actually getting the work done. If she was, then she wasn’t on holiday.

            1. IT Manager in Toronto*

              Agreed. People do this at my job all the time… it’s completely normal. As long as you’re getting work done, no one cares where you are. No pretending needed.

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, same here. During the pandemic, when foreign travel was either impossible, or at least difficult and absolutely not recommended, many of my coworkers who have summer cottages with decent internet connections worked from their cottages. Absolutely not a problem, as long as they stayed in the country.

                1. Sz*

                  It depends on where you’re coming from as well. In my country, since taxes are paid to the centre and not to a province, you can live anywhere within the country and it’s not a big deal. My bank account is in my home town in city A, I live in city B, work online for a job in city C. It’s all okay legally. I don’t even have to tell my employers where I am unless I relocate from the country, which is counted as 90+ days out of the country. So, if I go on holiday to a foreign country, come back in 89 days, I am still considered legally resident in my home country. It becomes a tax concern day 91 onwards. But I can spend the entire rest of my life touring my own country (wouldn’t do it, it’s just for an example), working on the road and it wouldn’t be a problem legally. If I wasn’t a regular reader of AAM, I’d honestly keep on thinking it would be okay in the US as well.

                2. allathian*

                  @Sz, I ran out of nesting.
                  Yeah, it’s the same here. We only pay tax to our IRS, which handles all our taxes. Municipal taxes are paid to the municipality you were resident in on Jan 1 of the tax year, and they have a flat rate, which varies by municipality. Income tax is progressive, with the same progression regardless of where you live. We pay tax in the municipality where we live, regardless of where we work. Employers withhold the tax and pay it to the IRS, we never see the money, and they don’t care where we live, because the IRS is responsible for ensuring that municipalities are paid the taxes they’re entitled to. There has been talk of splitting the municipal tax depending on how much time you spend in each municipality, because some municipalities have a smaller number of permanent residents vs. part-time residents with summer cottages, but this would be completely dependent on people actually telling the authorities how much time they’re spending in each municipality. This is one reason why the property tax for a summer cottage is higher than the property tax for a corresponding residential property.

                  Moving internationally is a bit more complicated, I could be liable to pay tax here, even while working in another country, as long as I remained a resident here (i.e. didn’t live and work elsewhere for more than 6 months of the year), but there are agreements in place to prevent double taxation.

          2. A*

            100% depends on the environment / industry etc. At my employer this is not at all uncommon and is a non issue. So long as they are getting the work done and are logging on during one of the two major time zones we work in, it’s not a problem and we don’t expect or require notice. We offer as much flexibility as we can so long as the business needs are met.

      6. JSPA*

        The federal govt, of all entities, actually should have tax agreements in all states (and territories), at a guess.

      7. Rachel in NYC*

        I got permission to spend the whole summer with my folks. But yeah, got permission first.

        But since I was coming back, it wasn’t a big deal for tax stuff but my office still needed to know. (Plus I promised to fly back if something crazy happened.)

    3. Roscoe*

      Eh, I mean without this blog, I don’t know that i would have.

      My company has people who work all over. I think we currently have employees in 15 different states. Aside from updating my HR records (which are done on a separate site), I probably wouldn’t feel the need to talk to my boss about it. The only difference is, at some point (who knows when) I’ll probably be doing client meetings again, which could be hard. But until then, I don’t know that it would really matter.

      You seem to be very forthcoming to your boss about lots of things in your life. And that is great for you. Other people, like myself, have been burned with giving too much information.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, same here. I would have expected to need special permission if I wasn’t already working from home, but if I already had been, I’m sure I would have thought it was fine.

        Plus, a lot of people do work from other locations than home when they’re working from home. One coworker often worked from her mom’s house the next town over, another one like to work in a coffee shop. And I don’t know if any of us would have realized that to our employer that’s way different than moving to a whole other state.

        1. Roscoe*

          Exactly. Like what lines are ok to cross and for how long. Is it REALLY different if I work at my girlfriends house for a week the town over, but spend a week working at a cabin an hour away from my home, but in a different state?

        2. Koalafied*

          And that’s probably especially true in places like the DC and NYC metro areas, where even an employer who doesn’t have any remote workforce are still used to routinely processing payroll for employees who live in Maryland/Virginia or New Jersey/Connecticut. So it’s not just, “How is working from a local coffee shop different than working from another state?” but, “How is moving from Maryland to West Virginia any different than moving from Maryland to Virginia, if we’re all working remotely anyways?”

          1. Smithy*

            The DC one is fascinating, because while MD & VA are the traditional commuter states, you do have a not insignificant number of people who commute to DC from as far away as WV, PA, and DE. Now, for those who are federal employees, this may also muddy the “street smarts” knowledge of what people think they can and cannot do without issue.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Many bordering states have reciprocal taxation agreements, which is what’s going on with DC/MD/VA. My spouse and I live in one, I work in another, and my spouse works in the third, but we only pay taxes where we live. I think that there are similar things in other border jurisdictions – I assume NY has something similar with NJ/CT/PA, and I’m pretty sure that the counties in SW VA and SE TN have something similar.

              The issue is less proximity and what the tax/business requirements are to have employees there. I forget which fairly close state it is that has onerous reporting and tax requirements (Pennsylvania maybe?), but I can have an employee in Florida or Texas but not in the closer jurisdiction.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            It’s different for the ones with zero remote workforce because the labor laws that apply are where the work is done. So if you work in the office in MD but live in VA, all the state-related issues the post mentions do not come up. It’s only once you starting working from that other state where your house is that it matters.

            1. Koalafied*

              This is incorrect. I live in Maryland and have mostly worked for organizations based on DC, including one where filing registration in all three of DC, MD, and VA was part of my own job. It’s very common in DC for business to be registered in Maryland and Virginia because they so commonly employ workers in those states and don’t want to limit their applicant pool. My Maryland income tax return requires that my W-2 specifies not just my employer’s federal EIN, but their Maryland EIN as well. My employer has to pay into Maryland’s unemployment insurance scheme so that employees in Maryland can collect unemployment if they lose their job. This is true even if all employees work on site in DC.

              Because DC, MD, and VA governments have tax reciprocity agreements with each other, my employer can deduct Maryland or Virginia taxes from my paycheck even though they’re based in DC, and I’m able to just file a single tax return with Maryland. If I were working in Delaware, which doesn’t have reciprocity with Maryland, I would have to file an income tax return in both states 1 in DC seeking a refund for the taxes my employer withheld, and 1 in MD to pay the taxes I owe here.

              The fact that income taxes are paid based on the employee’s location rather than the business’s location is why you see such high restaurant taxes in cities like New York and DC. It’s the city’s attempt to tax the commuting workforce who come in and use city services all day long, then go home and pay income taxes to another state. Since so many get meals in the city, they can tax them there.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                This is an excellent summary and exactly how I explain the 10% DC food tax. It’s their version of a commuter tax on the Virginians and Marylanders. We have all three jurisdictions in the DMV covered between our home and offices but only pay taxes in our home state.

              2. Amira*

                So, your unemployment should be where you work, not where you live – some states have unemployment reciprocity but that’s incredibly rare (and unnecessary, as the unemployment ties to the location worked in, not the location lived in).

          3. turquoisecow*

            Yep, yep. I’ve lived in NJ until recently and worked there, too, while my husband worked in NYC. My small regional company didn’t have any remote employees until recently, but we definitely had people working across state lines. I’d bet there’s very few companies in this area who don’t have at least a few employees working in another state. Why would it be any different if I decided to move to, say, Vermont, if I’m remote?

            1. Jaid*

              Trenton and Philadelphia are only separated by a bridge, so plenty of people from New Jersey work in Pennsylvania.

    4. Ambarish*

      > even if you don’t understand the legal repercussions or haven’t given them much thought, I can’t imagine picking up and moving interstate without even mentioning it to my boss!

      For many people not on a time-card, it’s none of their employer’s business where they live or how they conduct other parts of their personal lives so long as their work gets done. I have to say I see a lot of merit there.

      1. Colette*

        Legally, it is their employer’s business as the employer has to pay taxes, which can be affected by where their employees work.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Except that legally, it is their business. If employer has employees living in a different state, they have business nexus there and may legally be required to pay taxes in that state, set up workers comp insurance there, etc.

        1. darlingpants*

          But not if you’re working in person right? A ton of people work in Boston and live in New Hampshire, or work in NYC and live in CT, RI, PA, NJ, etc. I would never ask my employer if I could move across a state border if I was still coming into the office every day.

            1. darlingpants*

              But updating HR because I need a different address on my W2 once my move is over is way different than asking permission from my boss before I start planning it.

              Maybe I’m wrong and you do need to ask permission, but I would absolutely never have realized that on my own.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                They need to know because in a situation like that, you pay taxes in two states– the one you live in and the one you work in. If you’re in person and you commute from another state, it’s a different beast than living AND working in another state. You don’t need permission for commuting (usually), but you definitely need to clear it with your employer if you intend to be permanently based in a different state.

                1. Sea Anemone*

                  No, you do not ever have to pay income tax to two states. You might have to file tax returns in two states, but you do not have to pay income tax in two states.

                  Employers generally withhold taxes in the state of employment, and the employee generally gets to sort it out when they file their returns. There are some caveats if states have what’s called a reciprocity agreement, but an employer is not *required* to withhold taxes in the state where an out-of-state employee lives (and does not work).

                2. Sea Anemone*

                  No, you do not ever have to pay income tax to two states.

                  I should have added … for the same work. If you did work in two locations, say bc you travelled for work or something, you could end up paying income tax in both states where you worked. But you would not pay taxes in State A for work you did while in State B.

                3. David*

                  I don’t know if this will show up in the right place, but in reply to Sea Anemone’s comment that “you do not ever have to pay income tax to two states […] for the same work”, I used to have to do exactly that, so I’d attest that it _does_ happen. I was a student at the time, and I don’t remember if there’s something special about student status that affects this, but I think it came down to the same issue of living in one state and working in another. The state I lived in taxed income earned by residents of that state, and the state I worked in taxes income paid by employers in that state, so I had to pay taxes to both. (There was a reciprocity agreement in place, but it just meant I could use the taxes I paid to one state to reduce the amount I owed to the other, it didn’t eliminate either state’s tax entirely.)

                4. doreen*

                  Whether you might have to pay taxes in both states depends on exactly what the law is in those states. There was a (tax?) law professor (Zelinsky) who taught in NY and lived in Connecticut. He worked a couple of days at home for his own convenience. He divided his income between NY and CT based on work days – the Dept of Taxation said he had to pay NY tax on all of his income from that job and he fought it all the way up to the Court of Appeals . And the decision was that NY could tax all of his income from that job although Connecticut did not provide any credit for the taxes he paid to NY.

              2. AVP*

                It’s not exactly that you need permission, it’s that they might fire you if you do it and they find out later.

                I mean, if you have health insurance through your job, you probably would eventually have realized that it’s based in the old state and you might not be able to see a doctor in the new one, right?

                1. Sea Anemone*

                  They can fire you for wearing an ugly shirt, and that would make about as much sense as firing you for living in a different state than you work.

                2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                  @Sea Anenome, that’s a deeply inaccurate equivalency.

                  Living in another state may interfere with your ability to do your job effectively in a variety of ways. Off the top of my head:

                  *Higher chance to lessen employee’s ability to come into the office as needed
                  *May make client meetings more challenging
                  *Requires different management if in a different time zone.

                  Note, none of those impacts relate to taxes. And unlike the ugly shirt, there are reasonable reasons why a manager could decide that’s not workable.

                  And while I’d like to believe everyone understands their jobs well enough to know if this is a factor, I’ve met too many people who don’t have that kind of awareness. That’s not counting some of what we see on AAM, both in letters and in comments.

                  Along with @Yessica, I’m in the apparently small group who would think that moving out of the area or the state would seem like a big deal with professional impacts, even without AAM.

            2. RainyDays*

              If you live in Quebec but work in person in Ontario, the tax situation is weird, from what I understand. The employer needs to know.

              1. Joy*

                It’s not, though! In Canada you pay the taxes based on where your job is located, and the provinces work it out. Mostly this is simple because the federal government also collects income tax for provinces and remote it to them, it’s only slightly more complicated for Quebec because they collect provincial taxes directly. However, the federal and Quebec governments reconcile it overall for interprovincial workers after tax time. There’s no onus on the business to handle the provincial taxes of individuals who live in different provinces than the place of work.

                Signed, someone who has both lived in Ontario and worked in Quebec and worked in Ontario and lived in Quebec in the past year.

          1. Llama Llama*

            I don’t know the answer to your question but your state of residence will effect how taxes are deducted from your pay check. I work in New Hampshire and live in Vermont so I still have to pay VT income tax even though I work in a state without an income tax. So yes your employer does need to know your state of residency. Even if NH did have income tax, living in a different state means I would pay at a different tax rate.

          2. The Rural Juror*

            That’s a good point. I lived for a long time on a state border and many people crossed over for work in physical offices. I moved away from there before the pandemic, so I don’t know how they handled it while working remotely.

            I’ll post a link below to an interesting article I read recently about state tax nexus.

          3. zinzarin*

            I believe the difference has to do with where you do the work for your business. If you live in NH and work in Boston, all of your insurance and taxation is relative to MA; the employer doesn’t need to set anything special up to pay for your taxes or insurance. (You may still owe income tax to NH, but that’s between you and NH, not your employer and NH.)

            When you work in the other state though, now your employer has obligations to set up worker’s comp insurance and taxation for your new state. If they don’t already have that set up, that creates a burden for them, both logistically and financially.

            1. nona*

              It really, really, really depends on the states involved. Just because it works that way in MA and NH, doesn’t mean it will work that way with California and Colorado. And every state has nuances in state taxation law.

              In the state of Minnesota, you must be a *resident* of Minnesota to apply for unemployment in Minnesota. We get a lot of people that live in Wisconsin and drive into the Twin Cities to work for MN employers. Wisconsin resident can’t get unemployment in MN. An employer who employees people from both MN and WI would need to register in both MN and WI, as unemployment is funded by employer contributions, but dispersed by the state.

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                TBH, this whole thing sounds like a candidate for the states to get together and harmonize. Because (hopefully) location-flexible work is going to stay with us, and it would be an ideal opportunity to harmonize rules that have grown without much coordination in a way that ultimate it impedes the ability of companies to offer the kind of workplaces they and their employees would like.

                1. Cmdrshpard*

                  Or maybe the states should get together to create a level of government above the states, maybe call it “superior government, upper government, higher government, or federal government” to administer a nationalized system of unemployment/workers comp, and labor laws.

                  I agree with your point and the sarcasm is not directed at you.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  The states have no incentive to harmonize, and you’re never going to get no-income-tax states to agree to be like those that do. Getting, for instance, California and Mississippi to agree on worker protection and unemployment regs is not going to happen. Some states prioritize infrastructure, schools, etc., and that takes taxes that other states are not going to be willing to levy (nor are the higher tax states going to be willing to give up that revenue for remote workers). Heck, we’re in the DMV where there are reciprocal tax agreements for individuals, and the unemployment systems of Maryland and Virginia are night-and-day in terms of costs to employers and benefits to workers.

                  This disparate system does not cause a hassle for the states, it causes a hassle for employers and employees. States have no incentive to change (plus I can just hear the states rights frenzy now).

              1. roy_mustang76*

                It’s not a terrible one, actually. NH tried to sue MA over taxing remote workers living in NH who worked for MA-based companies during the pandemic! And the Supreme Court (which, fun fact, is the only Court with authority over disputes between States) rejected the case entirely – so anyone who thought they could move to NH and work remotely for MA (and save the 5% income tax) would have been in for a nasty surprise.

                That being said, a better example I’d love to see explained would be someone from NYC moving to the Berkshires to work remotely – is there a tax agreement between NY and MA already? And if not, what are the tax implications of such a move?

                1. pancakes*

                  The tax implications of that move aren’t a mystery. There’s no shortage of information on this stuff for those you interested in it. There’s a 2012 New Yorker article I’ve recommended here before called “Tax Me If You Can” that’s a fun read. I’ll link to it in a separate reply.

          4. Sunflower*

            1. Border states often have reciprocity agreements.
            2. Living and working in different states is a totally different situation than living and working in the same state where your office isn’t set up.

            In NYC I believe there are rules that you have to pay tax to the city no matter where you’re working out of. I know as an employee of an office in NYC and living/working remotely in PA, I was told I need to keep billing my time to NYC because of this.

            1. LCH*

              no, I worked for a NYC org but lived and worked outside of NYC and did not have to pay NYC taxes. the income tax form always asked if I was an NYC resident.

          5. Worldwalker*

            Because the work is being done in Boston. The resulting tax issues are yours, not your employer’s.

            If you live in New Hampshire and work from home, that’s a different thing entirely, and that *does* become the employer’s problem, because now work is being done in New Hampshire.l

            I live right on the border between two states. Billboards advertising, say, plumbing companies will say they are licensed in both states, etc. It doesn’t matter where the office is located — if it’s one one side of the border and my plogged-up pipes are on the other side, the plumbing company is doing business in this state — the plumber is snaking my drains — *and* the other state — the business office is writing up my bill. Which can sometimes make it more of a problem than it needs to be to get a plumber; thank the taxman for that.

          6. Irish girl*

            The working in Boston and living in NH was a huge issue during the pandemic for a bunch of companies as well as NH suing MA over income taxes those employees paid.

          7. Ask a Manager* Post author

            For business nexus, it’s the state where you’re working. (For payroll taxes, it can be different, but often states near each other have reciprocal agreements — as in DC, MD, and VA for example.) But we’re talking business nexus here; that’s based on where you work.

          8. Student*

            State (and local/city) income taxes work differently on a case-by-case basis. So yes, even if you are working in NYC in person, your company needs to know you actually reside in Los Angeles, California and just fly in every week in order to file all the taxes correctly. They could be liable to New York State, California, New York City, and Los Angeles all at once for incorrect taxes.

            Some localities base their income tax rates on your residency – in a nutshell, the place where you consider yourself to “live” permanently, the place on your driver’s license and voter’s registration.

            Some localities base their income tax rates on where you physically are when you do the work, regardless of whether you live there or not. That’d be your company building when you are coming into the office; your offsite work location if work sends you on a 1-month business trip; the place where your chair/standing desk is located while doing work-from-home. If you do work-from-home in a van on a cross country trip, you have potential for tax liabilities in every state you worked from the van in.

            Most localities will have some minimum amount of time they require you to be there before they actually charge you with taxes, so as not to catch people traveling through briefly or taking short work trips. However, some places make that minimum time very short – a couple weeks! Others make it ~6 months.

            In areas with lots of interstate traffic due to predictable commute patterns – like people from New Jersey and other neighboring states traveling to New York City for work daily – the states involved set up reciprocal tax treaties. Those treaties let the people who live next to New York but work there ignore the laws they would otherwise have to navigate; the states hash it all out at the state government level for you.

          9. nona*

            If you are living as a resident in a state that is different from the one your employer is in, there are tax withholding and other considerations of state law that may require an employer to do certain things because an employee is a resident of a particular state. If nothing else, there are unemployment insurance considerations, as you apply for unemployment based on the state in which *you* live, not where your employer operates.

            In the case of the NE, I would imagine companies operating there have some understanding of how those state laws play out, because it is more common to commute in from other states. There may even been some reciprocity and safe harbors in place to make the tax withholding and such less complicated. BUT – you would still need to tell your employer in NYC that you are now living in CT vs RI, so that can update their records and remit your withholding to the proper state for tax purposes.

            But a company based in NYC or Delware, probably isn’t going to be in tune to what Kansas requires, or what obligations they have under Illinois state law toward employees.

          10. Recruited Recruiter*

            This is somewhat different – The important thing is where the employee is working, not where they live.

          11. slh*

            Yep, and there are tax implications for doing so. You may double pay state taxes, or get some refunded at the end of the year.

          12. Anonymous Hippo*

            I think in a border state your company is probably already set-up so it wouldn’t matter. I think this is one of those things that is going to have to adjust as we move more into a virtual work world. I don’t think anyone is necessarily doing wrong, we just haven’t worked out a process.

            Now, I can’t imagine having to ask my employer permission for something, but giving notice to moving out of state may be required going forward, or maybe employers can publish a list of states that are already setup so only outside of that list need notice or something. This is just all still up in the air at this point.

          13. Risha*

            Pre-pandemic, my current employer was explicit in our timecard training that you always entered the physical location you were actually doing work as long as you were working at that location for more than two weeks, irrespective of where the client you were working on was located, your home office, or home address. And that this was because they would be paying state taxes based on that value, so it was your responsibility to get right on the timecard and to file all of your taxes correctly afterwards. (We had a lot of people sent on-site anywhere across the country or into Canada for a month or two, but also doing work on other clients at the same time.) This is the only employer I’ve ever had that covered anything like that in training, so I don’t think I would have realized the implications to them of my moving without that.

            But yeah, working in the RI office, I had a ton of coworkers who lived in MA, but they still entered RI into the dropdown because that’s where they were working out of.

            Post-pandemic, they’ve decided that everyone can work from anywhere in the 50 states, though they haven’t ruled out people someday going back onsite if any client ever asks for it, so that dropdown has gotten…. very large.

          14. MK*

            If you’re working at the employer’s site, it doesn’t matter where you live. I live near a state line and we’ve had employees live on both sides, but it doesn’t matter because they all *work* on our side. The ones that live OOS from us have to deal with it when they file income taxes.

        2. Silence Will Fall*

          Plus, depending on the industry, the employee may have additional requirements. A former colleague of mine went out of state for a few weeks to care for a family member. The company already had a business nexus in the state and the state had reciprocal licensing. However, the state he was visiting required everyone physically working in state to have that state’s fingerprint/background check. He only learned about it because he let our boss know.

          Now, what were the chances of anyone finding out? Small to none, but if anything had happened both he and the company could have faced fines and loss of license.

        3. Sea Anemone*

          If employer has employees living in a different state

          I think you mean:

          If employer has employees working in a different state.

          In Frank’s case, he lives and works in the same state, which is different from the business nexus of his employer. In the general case, as long as the work in done in the same state as the employer, the employee can live anywhere.

      3. NerdyKris*

        It’s absolutely your employer’s business that you’re capable of getting to the office within a reasonable time if needed. It’s their business if they have to pay hundreds of dollars to ship equipment back when you leave. It’s their business that support might be more difficult and you might be down for a day or two because IT needs to mail your laptop back and forth. Or that now they have to deal with your internet or power issues instead of the corporate office that probably has a business account with an SLA. And as noted, it’s their business that they’re paying the correct taxes and following the correct laws for the location the employee is working from.

      4. Worldwalker*

        Um, yes it is. It can cost the employer a small fortune if you don’t tell them, what with taxes, penalties, insurance, and so on. Plus most companies would like to know if they have a business presence in another state, y’know?

      5. Stina*

        “For many people not on a time-card, it’s none of their employer’s business where they live or how they conduct other parts of their personal lives so long as their work gets done. I have to say I see a lot of merit there.”

        Having working in onboarding employees, it IS pertinent to the employer where an employee puts their bum. An employer can be fined heavily if they don’t pay payroll and/or income taxes on an employee living another city or state. Depending on the job or the business the employer may need to register as a business in that new location. The employer needs to be part of that discussion before it happens either to make the situation work for everyone with the least hassle or to opt out of it.

        1. A*

          Exactly. I know at my company it’s a non issue as we have employees working remotely (even pre pandemic) in all 50 states – but even so, I would never move states without at least discussing with my employer first specifically because I don’t know all the ins and outs and there could be other factors behind the scenes I’m unaware of. That being said, we’ve had plenty of people relocate with just a heads up to their boss and it’s a non issue.

      6. Firm Believer*

        Oh gosh this is totally incorrect. You are actually breaking the law if you don’t form a business in the state where a remote employee is living. It’s very much my business where my employees live.

    5. Unkempt Flatware*

      Nah. I’m a smart and responsible person and I didn’t think much of it when I chose to work from my cabin just over the border in another state. Recently, my employer issued a policy explaining they couldn’t allow it because of insurance issues. From there on, I just took the time off and went to cabin.

      This employer should have issued a policy from the onset with a process for gaining exemption. This LW should grant Frank some understanding by now communicating the policy and her decision on if he can stay employed and letting him choose his next step.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        What?! People work from laptops all the time on out-of-state trips. It sounds like your legal address hasn’t changed, and you’re just visiting your cabin that you don’t live in full-time.

        1. nona*

          Out-of-state trip that you are going on because the company asked you to? Assumed to be temporary and that you will return to your original domicile.
          You choosing to work somewhere other than your home address (no such thing as a “legal address”), isn’t clear if you are establishing residency in another state.

          Some states have specific rules about living there a certain amount of time establishes you as a resident and then obligates you and the employer to activities based on your state residency. It is really complicated because this is all based on state law and you HAVE to know which states you are dealing with.

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Yes, they do. However, that does not mean that regulations and tax issues aren’t present when that happens – it just means that you are working for a company which is failing to comply with and confront those issues. Often, if this happens on a relatively uncommon basis, the relevant agencies will ignore the issue, realizing no intentional violations have occurred.

          When it becomes more common, businesses can end up with significant issues – or when they are expected to have already known about and been prepared to comply with the regulations.

    6. twocents*

      It’s interesting how people are bypassing the statement that “work from home” and “work anywhere in the entire world” aren’t interchangeable.

      Then again, I learned on a discussion thread here a few weeks ago that people think “flexible schedule” is interchangeable with “work as many or as few hours you want, whenever you want, even if it’s at 2 am.”

      1. Baal Like Bocce*

        It also depends on your work culture. I have never worked anywhere that called it “work from home” – it’s always been “telework” or “telecommute.” There’s no implication that I need to be at my house vs the library, a coffee shop, or a coworking place even in non-covid times.

        1. kelmarander*

          I work for the U.S. Federal Government, and my “telework” agreement states I’ll use WiFi from my home that meets certain security requirements. I can be in violation of the security policy for hooking up to some rando coffee shop or hotel network. My agreement also states my home address and that I cannot work elsewhere without advanced notice. I also have a 2-hour window at which I could be asked to report in person—this has never happened, but presumably it could if my network connection or power is lost at home.

          During this WFH posture, we’ve had dozens of employees move away or “retire early” out of the DC area and inadvertently knock themselves into a cheaper labor market where their salaries are lower, their insurance is invalid, their taxes are wonky, or they’re suddenly in need of travel reimbursement to come in and get security badges renewed or equipment replaced. It’s cost a good number of folks several hundred dollars when they’ve not informed their agencies of their moves and had to pay back the extra 10 percent they get for working in DC versus the much-cheaper Eastern Shore of MD. Plus, as a manager, it would be good to know if a natural disaster happened somewhere and I’d need to plan on you being out of pocket. Please don’t tell me you’ve moved to Miami as the hurricane makes landfall!

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I had a coworker recently get a talking to for punching in at 2am. She didn’t understand why that might be an issue.

    7. Calvin B*

      I agree…I also feel like there is a difference between working from home and working from anywhere. We had an employee at my company who started splitting time between Florida with his family and New Mexico with his girlfriend. Eventually he decided he wanted to work somewhere else, which is fine, but he spent a month or so helping his girlfriend move while doing very little work before he put in his two weeks notice. I don’t know how common this is, but I suspect that there are fair amount of people “working” from home and basically doing nothing.. (We had the same thing happen with another employee–somehow she worked for about six months without really doing any actual work).

      1. Pool Lounger*

        If you can “work” for a month without actually working with no repurcussions that’s partly on the company. My partner works from home and there’s no way he could just not work for even a day—his boss and coworkers would notice. It reminds me the letter from the person whose employee quit and they found out he hadn’t actually done any work in months. If there’s that little oversight that’s as big of an issue as the employee not working.

        1. Lacey*

          Exactly. My manager doesn’t keep super tight tabs on what I’m doing, but it would be very apparent if I just stopped working.

          1. Who Am I*

            We have an automatic log that notes who took what job, so we can tell if someone’s not working (which has not happened in the time I’ve been part of my team). Not to mention, if a team member just quit working, all the other team members would be saying something to them before our manager had a chance to figure it out! Maybe remote employees could get away with it it some places, but not in our office.

          2. Risha*

            I have about 8 projects, 6 of which I’m lead on, so no one manager really tracks what I’m doing from day to day. On a quiet day, I can easily get away with taking a mental health rest day of just answering IMs and emails and attending meetings and maybe doing one of my yearly mandatory trainings if I’m feeling energetic. In fact, I did that on Friday and I’m taking another one today. But there’s no earthly way that a bunch of people wouldn’t notice me disappearing altogether for a day, even if it wasn’t specifically my manager or project managers, and I doubt that I’d have this little oversight over my daily output if I didn’t regularly work crazy hours for them.

          3. allathian*

            Yeah, same here. And my coworker would definitely notice that I wasn’t taking any assignments from our queue! Some of our assignments require more work and take more time, so I could get away with slacking off completely for maybe a day or two at the very most before somebody’d notice.

            That said, while I detest the idea of micromanagement, if someone can get away with not doing any actual work for six months, then management has only themselves to blame for their lack of oversight.

          4. Liz*

            Oh mine too. Absolutely! then again, I have a fairly important daily task that takes up a decent portion of my day, and NOT doing it is never an option. so they would definitely notice. I will say some of my other responsibilities can slide for a bit, but not that one.

        2. Calvin B*

          Unfortunately I was not this guy’s boss, but I definitely noticed. There wasn’t much I could do though.

      2. DataSci*

        Whether or not people are trustworthy when working from elsewhere than the office is absolutely unrelated to whether they are working from the same city/state as the office location, and conflating them into “anyone WFH long-term is lazy or trying to get away with something” is not helpful.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m not super surprised that people didn’t think about it. I’ve also taken two jobs interstate with me in the past so I’ve had to deal with some of these issues, but I can see how someone wouldn’t think about it when they’re already working from home.

      However, I know a couple of people who decided to move internationally and were shocked when their employers said the “You can do this on a temporary basis” had run its course. It’s one thing to move to Ohio, it’s something else to move to Peru.

      Then again, as this blog often reminds us, it’s some else entirely to move to California.

      1. Usagi*

        My friend’s employee moved internationally. It’s… weird to my friend and me the reasoning this employee had. Like I agree that it’s not surprising that people don’t really think about this, but I feel like a move to another city (let alone another country) is something you should probably tell your boss about, especially because (hopefully) COVID is a temporary thing.

        For the long-ish version of the story, my friend and I are classmates from Tokyo. We both ended up moving to the US, and while we live in different parts of the country, we keep in touch to discuss culture differences, business practices, etc. My friend apparently frequently talks about how much she misses Japan, and she used to go back every year, sometimes more often, to visit, and would always bring back gifts. This particular employee (Michael?) was especially interested in her stories, and really enjoyed the snacks. For some context, while he wasn’t a bad employee by any means, my friend occasionally would bring him up as having poor judgement. Anyway, my friend’s company began 100% WFH, and ask in OP’s case, some people moved around the country — thankfully, her company is a large national brand, so this was pretty much a non-issue, at least from a legal/payroll perspective, and it sounds like the company is pretty open to WFH permanently for some roles. Michael never said anything about moving. He also always used different virtual backgrounds and one day my friend noticed that his background was the Tokyo skyline. She commented on this… and then noticed that the virtual background was a little TOO good. And that it in fact was NOT a virtual background.

        Turns out, he was in Tokyo! Because my friend’s stories inspired him! So thank you to my friend for giving him the push he needed to make a big change he’s always wanted to make, but has been too scared to!

        To avoid going into too much detail, my friend then talked to HR, who said that no, he could not work from another country. Thankfully HR also sided with my friend when Michael said that my friend was the one that inspired him to go. They told him that he needed to return immediately, and could work from pretty much anywhere in the US, but needed to be in the country. They were nice enough to continue paying him for the rest of that month… so Michael took that to mean that this was his opportunity to see a little more of Asia. And by Asia he decided China (!?). And then Japan had a spike of cases, and his home state had a huge spike of cases, and of course the US is not currently comfortable with people travelling from China. So Michael had a bunch of trouble trying to get home and eventually the month was up so he had to leave his job, and the last my friend heard he had to work with the US embassy to get home. But he made it home! And then tried to apply to the same company again. He was not rehired.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I mean, I have moved (within my area) and not asked my boss’s permission outside of requesting PTO for the moving days.

      Back in the in-office days, I’ve had coworkers who had to relocate for personal reasons, and requested that their position be changed to a remote one. Every request that I know of was granted. I however highly doubt that, had a request been denied, that any of them would’ve told their family “oh well, boss said no, move is canceled, we are staying where we are”. I believe that is what Frank meant by “I hope to stay in Cleveland, but am waiting to see what the policy is on that.” which to me reads that, whatever the reason, he knows he has to stay in Cleveland anyway. He just doesn’t know if the company would let him keep his job or if he’d have to start looking. I did not see it as Frank pulling a fast one on OP in the hopes that OP would forget that Frank hasn’t lived in Cleveland before (“the boiling-frog approach”).

      PS. My employer is transitioning to fully remote, and told us to take care of our own local taxes individually. I believe the state taxes are applied based on where our office is that we belong to according to the org chart.

      1. Love WFH*

        The tax implications for employers isn’t just about handing the employees tax withholding differently.

        “If employer has employees living in a different state, they have business nexus there and may legally be required to pay taxes in that state, set up workers comp insurance there, etc.”

    10. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I sort of agree only because I know that if I work in a different state, I have to file a tax return for that state, as well as my home state…so it would naturally occur to ME, hey, I need to let my employer know that X amount of my salary should apply to Idaho, and X amount should go to California — otherwise, I have to do the math and unravel this at tax time…and I hate math.

    11. Anonymity*

      Given how many people at my job (law firm, where admittance to the state bar very much matters) and at my husband’s job (accounting firm) seemed to not think about the legal and tax implications of working remotely from wherever they wanted, I’m not shocked that this was also a problem in the general population.

    12. Tuesday*

      I think lots of people don’t know about the legal and tax implications, so it’s reasonable (but incorrect) to think they could move anywhere as long as their job performance wasn’t affected.

      The plumber and doctor examples seem different to me because it affects the work day. If a move was completed on the weekends or on vacation time, I can see someone feeling that there was no need to mention it, just like they might not mention moving to a new apartment across town.

    13. Worldwalker*

      I just joined the staff of a small company officially as an independent contractor (to be fair, what I’m doing really *is* independent contractor stuff) because it would be a hairball for them to set up for an actual employee out of state. The tax situation alone would be a nightmare.

    14. Rock Prof*

      Maybe it’s the field I’m in (geology), but I work for a state university, and it would never occur to me to get in touch with the university about if I were taking my work laptop somewhere else to work temporarily. Part of this is that I travel for field work and conferences multiple times a year, so I’d never question taking my laptop on a road trip or to my parents’ house while I’m teaching an online course over the summer.
      However, these are all short term things, like weeks tops. If I were relocating with a new permanent address to a different state, that would be a totally different matter.

      1. nona*

        I mean it may not have mattered in the past, but if remote work really becomes a thing, I think I could see states cracking down on this and making enforcement of it a thing, if they think they are missing out on enough money

        Professional sports players can often get hit with owing taxes in the state where they reside as well as multiple states/cities because they work in multiple states when they travel to play.

        1. Rock Prof*

          This is actually really interesting to think about as an academic geologist. A lot of schools hold field camps that can be 3-6 weeks long in a different state than the one they work in. If a professor was there for 6 weeks, could that put them in a remote worker category? Similarly, I also know many people who have had extended, month+ field seasons in different states or countries even (sometimes on federal grants), and I have never heard tax implications discussed before.
          I guess at least my friends who work in Antarctica wouldn’t be impacted because they’re generally based out of the US field site, and I don’t think the penguins care about taxes.

            1. Rock Prof*

              I’m now imagining the southern rockhopper penguin as that colleague who tries too hard to come off as cool and chill but is still very into bureaucracy.

      2. Kay*

        Actually it can be problematic taking that laptop internationally depending upon destination and software hardware on your laptop. Export control have been an issue in research admin in recent years.

    15. Jennifer Strange*

      I’ll admit that before I started reading AAM I didn’t realize all that went into working in a state that differs from your employer. But I still would never have thought that moving to another state wasn’t something I’d need to talk about with my employer, especially if my role hadn’t started as fully-remote (but only became that way due to a health crisis).

    16. London Lass*

      My employer in the UK, which has quite a lot of international staff, was blind-sided by this on quite a wide scale when covid hit and we went fully remote. In many cases it wasn’t people permanently moving, but wanting to sit out lockdown with their families in the native countries rather than isolated in London, for example. And then it went on… and on… and international travel restrictions made it difficult to return… and eventually HR twigged that there were a whole load of people working from other jurisidictions and potentially creating a whole load of legal and tax issues. Now there is a clear set of guidelines on working remotely from overseas so that people can make these trips on a short-term basis, provided they get permission and certain conditions are met. Not everyone/every country is eligible though.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I had a coworker that months before the pandemic started, took family leave to go to his native country in Eastern Europe (he is a naturalized US citizen) and then got totally stuck there because borders closed just as he was supposed to return, and there weren’t any direct flights to the US; so he’d have to somehow cross several boarders to get to a country with any US flights, and then home to Los Angeles. He was managing to work remotely for about 3 months when our org pulled the rug out from under him and said he could continue to use up any of his accrued sick and vacation time, and then go on unpaid leave until he could return, but he had to quit working immediately. Haven’t heard anything from him for over a year now and I hope he is okay. Bizarrely my grand boss continues to talk about when Ivan* comes back and we continue to receive OOO alerts in Teams…rather than acknowledge the elephant in the room that he’s gone. We’re only NOW receiving the new policies on working remotely and one is definitely no international WFH allowed — not even our neighboring countries of Canada and Mexico.

      2. londonedit*

        Absolutely – we don’t have the same issues with people working in different parts of the UK as there are in the US, because it’s all under the same umbrella for tax etc (because Britain would fit into Texas 7 times or whatever it is), but there have definitely been people who have decided to go and live in France or Spain or whatever, forgetting that a) we’re not in the effing EU anymore so they can’t just up sticks and go and work in an EU country and b) there will absolutely be legal ramifications for their employer if they’re working in another country.

    17. IdahoSmith82*

      I am one of the lucky people who had valid reasons to change states, go remote permanently and this is one of the reasons why. (besides being a “stellar performer” on my team).

      Honesty will not only prove you as an ethical employee, but does help you gain favor. It’s usually not better to ask forgiveness than it is permission, and this is one example. We were upfront about all of our reasons, our timeline and realistic expectations on both ends.

      There were a couple people who tried to “sneak” a move, and, well, they no longer work at my company. Those people were also slightly shady in other ways, so even if they had done it the “right” way- they probably would have been declined.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        It always makes me wonder, in that case where someone is already doing shady things, if they know they’d be declined so they go with the “ask forgiveness” model instead of permission.

    18. Momma Bear*

      I think one thing the pandemic has made clear is that companies need to be very direct about the impact on them re: taxes and everything else. There needs to be very clear protocols stated upfront vs dealing with this after the fact. Too many companies have not specified this.

      Sounds like the bottom line is OP doesn’t want Frank’s position to be remote forever and doesn’t see it as cost-effective for the project/department. IMO OP should relay that to Frank and let him decide if he’ll return or not and give him the opportunity to change positions or find a new company. We have many people who were remote during the height of the pandemic, but the company is calling people back now. I see this as much the same just to a bigger degree b/c they moved. Company wants him in the office. Does he want to comply or is he ready to move on?

    19. Anna*

      The moment it became clear the WFH was going to be for a while I thought it was completely normal that many people decamped to their parents/partners/in-laws/college roommates houses for a bit. I didn’t know the details of these laws, or really realize the tax issues. There’s a pandemic and you’re expecting me to work remotely from my apartment – it doesn’t seem like it makes much difference at that point exactly where I am.

    20. JSPA*

      Also, let’s not treat the law as some immutable law of nature. Our laws are a human creation- – this one is fairly recent- – and there’s no reason people can’t push back. Issues activism doesn’t have to be partisan; the ability to live near our with family while working remotely seems like something people of any (or no) political persuasion could get behind.

    21. Powercycle*

      I work in government where the bulk of our workforce is currently WFH, and people had to be told REPEATEDLY that they cannot work remotely from another country. (Tax, legal, and security implications!) Some people just don’t know, or don’t care to know.

  2. KHB*

    To the footnote, I’d add, “…or if it’s part of a pattern of Frank asking for an inch and then taking a mile. Because that’s not likely to improve by letting him get away with it, especially on as major a thing as this.”

    1. emmelemm*

      I would agree. Alison says “Well, he didn’t hide it from you, he just didn’t proactively tell you”. I would argue he was doing the “ask for an inch, take a mile” and the “better to ask forgiveness than permission” and neither is great in an employee.

      1. KHB*

        Right. One of the first things my old boss explained to me when I started this job was the “policy of no surprises”: If anything out of the ordinary is going on, even if it seems like it should be no big deal and you can totally handle it, he wants to be looped in first thing, rather than being surprised by it later. He had in mind things that were strictly work-related, like “Client X is being a jerk,” or “It looks like Project Y is more complicated than we thought” – but “I moved to Cleveland” would certainly fall under that umbrella too.

        I think that if OP wants to keep Cleveland Frank as an employee, at the very least a clear conversation is in order about what kind of things he needs to tell you about or clear with you in advance. And maybe institute a “policy of no surprises” with the whole team.

        1. Marie*

          I learned a policy of “no surprises” from my mentor. I explain it as follows, if any of the following are true:
          – If I’m likely to get asked about something by HR
          – If I’m likely to get asked about something by one of my peers
          – If I’m likely to get asked about something by one of your peers
          – If there’s a reasonable chance someone is going to be upset by something you’ve done or about to do, even if you made the right choice

          Tell me as soon as you know.

          Even if you are handling it. I don’t need to give permission, but I do need to know. I can either find a better way to solve a problem, or support you/have your back as needed.

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      The only issue there is they can’t actually not let him get away with it. They basically only have the choice of keeping them as a employee or not. If Frank has moved to Ohio, and his wife has a job, he’s already made the decision to live in Ohio. You can’t make him move back.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yes, I figured he’d already decided to stay in Ohio, despite “When I asked him about this, he said yes, he would like to stay in Cleveland but was waiting to see what our policy was”.

        I mean, you don’t change your residence on your driver’s license if you’re planning to go back. I think Frank was hoping for a non-existent loophole to magically appear.

        1. SimplytheBest*

          Yeah, sounds like it would have been more accurate for him to say, “I would like to remain employed by OP, but was waiting to see what the policy was since I’ve already relocated to Cleveland.” The move is a done deal, he’s just waiting on the policy to see if he has to quit or not.

      2. KHB*

        “You can’t make him move back.”

        I’m not sure what I said to give the impression that I think otherwise?

  3. Sean*

    The real lesson here is to use a virtual background! ;-)

    It reads to me like Frank did an end-run around his boss, but that may just be me. I agree that if this part of a pattern, then it’s reasonable to not want to pay the extra money, but if Frank has been an otherwise exceptional employee then it may be worth it to keep him on. Like Alison said, we are in weird times.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      That’s how I am looking at this too. I also think it was lying by omission.
      I like the way Sean is phrasing it. If he’s an exceptional employee, let him use the political capital on this. Otherwise let it go (versus letting it go unless he’s a subpar employee).

  4. Fyodor*

    Frank is a great hero. He should have never admitted his move and continued to insist he was New York even as he appeared with visible Cleveland landmarks in the background.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      This could put his company at a great deal of liability, though.

      Frank is not a hero. He’s a bit clumsy, if anything.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Frank is shooting himself in the foot…wouldn’t he PREFER to pay Ohio taxes rather than New York? Right now his employer is withholding taxes etc. based on his New York residence. Plus, now Frank is the one who has to unravel that he owes money to Ohio, and needs to get it back from New York…

      1. Lance*

        This. It would not go well once he has to claim taxes; either he claims New York taxes with a residence that isn’t New York, or he claims Ohio taxes that he hasn’t actually paid. Either way, it’s a lot of trouble for him.

        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          Sort of even more difficult is his temporary/permanent status…when does he change residences? Because he was playing fast and loose, NY might say he didn’t become an Ohio resident until he notified his employer and they’re keeping the money paid up until X date, but Ohio might decide he was a resident 2 weeks after he started living there or when he started receiving his mail (IDK what Ohio’s law is on this) and they want to be paid starting on Y date… If he’d alerted his employer right away, he wouldn’t have to argue with either NY or Ohio, because it would be on record as an official change of residence.

          1. Calliope*

            They don’t normally police it that much tbh. I once moved cross country mid year while self-employed. Both states were happy to accept my representation of when I moved and I split taxes accordingly. Nobody is checking plane tickets or drivers licenses generally.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              They don’t sort of, and your situation is different because you presumably didn’t continue to pay taxes in your old state and then have to get it all back, but in order to get back the taxes his employer has been withholding for NY while he’s been living in Ohio, Frank’s going to have to give some idea of when he moved unless he just wants to pay both taxes. To his advantage would be to claim he permanently moved to Ohio from the beginning and then explain why his employer continued to pay NY taxes, but it depends on how much NY wants to hold onto that money.

              1. Calliope*

                Yeah, he’s not going to be called on to explain his employer messing up on tax withholding for a few months. It’s going to be fine.

                1. Calliope*

                  (And my situation was more analogous than it sounds because I had overpaid estimated taxes to state 1 but not state 2. Neither state cared when I said I was owed a refund in state 1 and then had to pay a bunch of it to state 2 – that’s just normal business.)

            2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              Most tax compliance is voluntary, and the government accepts the data which you (and employers/contractors/others) supply. If the government has cause to doubt the veracity of your data, you may be audited to test your compliance with the tax law (you may also be audited randomly, depending upon your state of residence and general luck in life).

              Rest assured that if that were to happen, and being highly mobile was something an auditor flagged, you would be called upon to provide proof of when and for how long you were resident in each state.

              1. Calliope*

                Sure, but in the VERY UNLIKELY scenario that happens, he can probably just show the date he got his Ohio driver’s license and call it a day. Millions of people are doing basically what Frank is doing right now – no state, much less New York of all places, where a huge percentage of the population of the city relocated for a substantial part of the Pandemic, is going to have the time to track down when each of their former citizens relocated. The taxes might be slightly messy but nobody is going to get into trouble (assuming the employer NOW either lets him go or incorporates instead of letting it go on indefinitely, which it sounds like they’re going to do.) I just don’t think we need to come up with hypothetical scenarios where something that will never be an issue is somehow a huge legal issue.

          2. New Yorker*

            FWIW, NYS tax returns require you to disclose how many months of the year you held permanent residence in NY State. (I presume because there are a lot of New Yorkers – esp. New York City residents – who have second homes elsewhere and “summer” there.) There are specific instructions about this and depending on what you put, you may have to file a different form for partial-year residents. So Frank is going to have to disclose that when he files NYS taxes…or lie on his NYS taxes?

      2. Nope, not today*

        I live in Cleveland and the tax issues…. ooooh boy. My father died in 2010 – in Florida. Never lived or worked in Ohio. I filed his tax return after his death from my Ohio address. Just LAST MONTH I got yet ANOTHER letter from the state of Ohio saying he owes Ohio income tax for 2010. Which I’ve told them repeatedly he doesnt owe, due to you know, not living here, not working here, and spending the months of 2010 he was alive dying in Florida. And they say oh, right, dont worry about it. Until a few years go by and I get another collection letter and have to start the same round of phone calls all over again. Its been 11 years of this now!!!

        So if Frank wants to play fast and loose with Ohio tax laws, he definitely isn’t likely to get away with it and it will cause him as much of a headache as he is currently causing his manager. But that’s karma I guess.

    3. Student*

      I’m not asking you to like taxes, per se, but we should all be able to agree local taxes support a lot of local infrastructure. That’s a fact – local taxes fund roads, schools, medical infrastructure, emergency services.

      If Frank is falsifying his address with his employer, then his local income taxes aren’t getting paid properly. That means that other Cleveland residents are footing the bill for Frank driving on the roads, going to the ER, sending kids to school. That’s not a good thing; it’s not good for Frank, it’s not good for Cleveland, and I’d argue it’s also not good for New York, even though New York ultimately comes out with extra $$$.

      1. Calliope*

        I mean yes but this is hypothetical because when Frank files he can report when he moved and get a refund from New York and then pay to Ohio. There’s no indication he’s defrauding anyone and a couple of months erroneous withholding is not an issue.

    4. my 8th name*

      I assumed you’re just being flippant for humor’s sake, but forcing your company into tax fraud would not be heroic.

    5. hockey*

      Amen to that, Fyodor!

      The time where people do not have to shape their entire lives around their jobs is long past due to die. Work to live, not live to work.

      1. Ms JT*

        Employees working in a completely different state can cause serious issues with taxes and unemployment

        The employer will not have unemployment liability – and Ohio requires companies to buy it from the state so you cant even add it to your own policy.

        having a random employee in a state with no footprint can also create Nexus which can open the company to paying income tax/personal property tax in the state where the employee lives

        All in all, this guy is not a Hero, he is just a pain for not telling his employer.

  5. Roscoe*

    This feels, and I could be wrong here, that your reasons for doing it for Margot and not Frank are really more about punishment than anything else.

    I don’t know what your company does, or what Frank’s role is. But, if he has been doing his job in Cleveland just fine, I’m not sure that the “It doesn’t make sense for him to be there” argument really works. It seems your problem is he didn’t keep you informed about his living situation in the proactive way you wanted. But as Alison said, it doesn’t sound like he was hiding it, just not telling you.

    I’m also betting you just like Margot more based on the way you are writing about her. You talk about her with a sense of compassion that you don’t seem to have for him. I’d look at why this is and see if its really a business reason, or more of a personal one.

            1. RosyGlasses*

              It’s wildly expensive in many states to set up and maintain nexus. For one employee that wanted to move to NY – it would have been almost equivalent to their salary EVERY YEAR to keep them on because of taxes and the way our business is structured.

    1. Colette*

      As the world gets back to normal (if and when that happens) some jobs will need to be in person even if they’re virtual now – think jobs that require building relationships with people. Face to face meetings can’t be totally replaced by zoom calls – especially not when the competition is meeting people in person.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        Totally. My whole team has been working effectively from home, but my role is such that when everyone goes back in, I will need to be back in, because those relationships and the in-personness is like, the point of my job. So i’m only effective at home because everyone else is home too. I won’t always be able to do this, and I know that that is what my role requires, so I’m not looking to move somewhere since I’d have to change jobs. I’d think he would have the sense to also know there’s probably a reason like that for him too. Otherwise, he probably would have been more open about a permanent move, especially to his boss. You don’t have to share a ton of personal stuff with your boss, but interstate relocations I do think fall pretty universally under the list of things you do need to mention, clearly. Before it happens.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I mean, if he had moved across a state border to a neighboring state and not thought to mention it, that would be one thing. But “Ope, I’m going to be several hundred miles that-a-way now….”

          …even if you’re in Texas, and would still be in the same STATE, I’d think you’d mention it. But definitely when you’re moving several states over.

      2. Roscoe*

        I get that. I have one of those jobs. I’m just not sure if THIS is one of those jobs. She didn’t mention him having to do face to face meetings, just that it “didn’t make sense”. How I interpreted it was something like “the auto industry is based in Detroit, but he now lives in Cleveland, so it doens’t sound as good”, not that he literally can’t do his job from there.

        1. Thinking Ahead*

          I didn’t want to go into in-the-weeds detail, hence ‘didn’t make sense.’ But here’s the why: In our industry, some steady measure of face time is key to success. Doesn’t have to be every day, or even every week, but part of the job is maintaining a professional public profile via events, meetings, lunches. Of course Covid changed that, but that changed it for everyone and created a different playing field. Now that people are coming back, being in Cleveland means he’s removed that value from his job — and it costs us $20K a year. (Ironically, Margot loves socializing — but in her role it’s a nice-to-have at best, not a requirement.)

          1. HA2*

            IMO that specifically makes a big difference. If a key part of the job is in person interaction, frequently enough that he can’t just fly in, then that’s a clear reason for the No answer (much more clear than him doing a move during the pandemic without proactively communicating about it).

            1. Roscoe*

              Agreed. That bit of info changes my opinion. As someone who will eventually need to do face to face meetings, I think this is a logical reason to deny it.

          2. T. Boone Pickens*

            I get the impression that OP works in an industry like high fashion/art/luxury goods where appearances are important.

          3. ArtsyGirl*

            I think I would take a very close look at his job description – if it explicitly states that he needs to attend events, it seems like you have an easy justification for his dismissal. Along with the $20k you have to pay annually, you will now have to pay for his travel (hotel, airfare, per diem) which quickly balloons.

          4. Momma Bear*

            I think that makes sense. Like a sales guy who can’t meet customers to encourage a sale – big deal. But a graphic designer who never meets with clients in person – not a big deal. Even though on paper I can do my job remotely I don’t do so FT. I need those sidebars in the kitchen, or to physically take a piece of paper to someone, or to look at a teapot up close. Human interaction matters in a lot of roles in ways you might not expect.

      1. Roscoe*

        But she has to find that to keep Margot as well. Its not JUST about the money, because she is willing to spend it. I just felt that she was more willing to spend it based on things that are, at least partially, personal

        1. Yorick*

          But Margot decided to move for her health! And she worked with the company to make that happen. I’d be way more willing to pay 20k in that scenario than in Frank’s.

          1. Little Lobster*

            It’s really none of OP’s business whether either Margot or Frank moved for their health. Maybe Frank moved for his mental health!

            1. allathian*

              The LW’s replied as Thinking Ahead. Frank’s job requires some in-person interaction, while Margot’s doesn’t.

              I assume they’ve managed without it until now, because pretty much everyone’s been remote who isn’t an essential worker. But as the world’s starting to open up again, salespeople who are remote are probably going to lose business to those who are willing to meet customers in person.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          If they’re in different states it’s likely $20,ooo per employee, in which case it may be reasonable to say they will only do it for one.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I read it as 20k per new state to get set up in. So if Frank had also moved to TX – other than the part where his job apparently does require in-person NY happenings when it’s not a pandemic – it wouldn’t be as big a deal.

        3. Doing the best we can*

          I read that as 20K per employee. So coming up with an extra 20K for him, 40K if he allows both of them.

        4. anonymous73*

          We don’t know that for certain. Margot has a different role. And even if they did have to pay that for Margot, OP stated that the role that Frank fills doesn’t make sense from out of state. It’s not just about the money.

      2. Momma Bear*

        I’d be more inclined to work it out if there wasn’t an annual $20K involved. Margot has a health concern she is addressing with the move. Frank just wanted to live somewhere else.

    2. Thinking Ahead*

      I appreciate the feedback. I think my compassion was impacted by a couple of things: One, his slow reveal that he’d moved (which only happened when I asked, repeatedly, if he intended it to be permanent) felt something like gaslighting. And two, he hasn’t been an exemplary employee — especially in terms of communication. However, this situation has done a lot to help me improve my thinking and check myself for emotional reactions rather than logical ones.

      1. Roscoe*

        I feel like gaslighting gets thrown around too much.

        If he didn’t lie about where he was at, he wasn’t gaslighting you. Hell, he may not have even been sure how permanent the move was when you asked.

        I can see you saying he was dodging the question, but that isn’t gaslighting.

        1. oirishgal*

          Yeah gaslighting would have been if he was insisting he hadn’t moved and that it was all in your head. Totally different thing.

        2. CBB*

          Thank you. This is not gaslighting. If he didn’t give a clear answer about his intention to stay in Cleveland, it’s likely he doesn’t have a clear intention, as evidenced by his first moving into an Airbnb followed by a short term lease.

          If he’s still renting and hasn’t bought a house, it may even still be his intention to return to NY if required.

          If you’re accustomed to big-city housing markets, it may be hard to appreciate how cheap easy it is to rent in Ohio. When I lived there, an apartment suitable for a couple with no children could be had for $600. Would be more today, but still relatively cheap. Also, the standard lease was 1 year, after which it typically switched to month-to-month, so it’s entirely possible that Frank is still honestly able to describe his residency there as temporary.

          1. Calliope*

            Yeah I know a lot of people who temporarily relocated to be near family during the Pandemic and it gradually became more permanent when they realized how long the situation was going to last and then how helpful it was to be near family. That’s not to say Frank should be kept on – sounds like he’s not worth it – but it doesn’t need to be a “AND he’s an evil gas lighter situation.”

        3. Little Lobster*

          Thank you! I feel like even this response from OP signals a lack of compassion for Frank and his situation that feels really “off” compared to how OP talks about Margot.

      2. KateM*

        But isn’t it possible that the fact that he moved revealed it slowly to himself as well? That he truly intended at first to just be near to his family. Then his wife found a new job – nearby – but they were still thinking it’s a pandemic thing and she’ll quit/work from home once it’s over. And only gradually they came to think they will live there permanently.

        1. Alex*

          We also need to take into account that no-one has expected the pandemic to extend into its THIRD YEAR pretty soon, many thought this was something short-term (12 months or less) to work around.

          So, even a “while the pandemic lasts” move next to family, expected to last for a few months to half a year turned out to be extending itself over and over, the situation got comfortable / making the wife finding local work necessary because savings were used up, then you slowly found a place you liked, established yourself in the local community, found that park and café you like, and soon it feels like “yeah, this works” and the desire to return to the old status quo is no longer desirable.

          I can tell this tale because this is what happened to my wife and myself (minus the moving next to family).

          1. serenity*

            I think you hit the nail on the head and also identified one of the things that’s frustrated me about some of the pandemic-related discourse (on this site and elsewhere) which has sometimes had the undertone of “these employees got away with this and this and…” rather than being a little more charitable and understanding that everyone’s been working without a playbook for 18 months

          2. KateM*

            What 12 months or less – in the start we expected the weird situation to last a couple of months if not weeks!

            1. generic_username*

              right?! I left food in office the day we left for lock down because I thought I’d be back in two weeks, lol. Three months later, I was finally allowed to access my office to clean the food out and get anything I was missing from my office.

      3. Blondie*

        I would just add my two cents that Frank not responding to whether the move would be permanent was probably based on what corporate’s policy would be, which you mentioned was very slow (understandably because things have kept changing). But I can’t help but feel compassion for Frank. He may not have a medical condition like Margot, but you never really know what is going on in anyone’s life, especially during the pandemic. He could have had childcare issues in NYC, maybe his wife’s parents’ needed extra help or were medically vulnerable to Covid. FWIW it does sound like issues with Frank extended beyond this, but I agree with Alison’s assessment to cut him some slack if the communication was the only issue.

        1. KateM*

          Or he does have a medical condition but is not into announcing that to coworkers. I’m pretty sure none of my coworkers knew about my family’s medical problems the year both my husband and I had surgeries (his left him bedridden for two months) while taking care of his dying mother and aged grandmother.

          1. Xenia*

            There’s a big difference between announcing a medical condition to your coworkers and telling your boss about it as part of a request for accommodations. The first is totally up to the individual. The second? While your boss still doesn’t need to know all the details, the vast majority of bosses will react very differently to “I need two months off for personal business” vs “I need two months off for medical reasons” and the second is much more likely to be approved.

            1. Gothic Bee*

              On the other hand, if it’s due to mental health issues, you probably wouldn’t want to tell your boss, if you even think of it as part of an accommodation. A lot of people have moved to be nearer to family to help with kids or other things due to the toll the pandemic has taken, but most of them probably aren’t thinking of it as a medical accommodation. In fact, I do know of someone who moved temporarily during the pandemic to be closer to family, but then due to their mental health, they decided to stay permanently. They’re really open with their mental health, so I’m aware of their reasons, but a lot of people wouldn’t be willing to be that open.

        2. KHB*

          If you (general “you,” not “you, Blondie”) want your employer to cut you some slack because of what’s going on in your life, you kind of have to tell them something about what’s going on in your life. “Just mind your own business and assume that there’s more to the situation than you’re aware of” works for when Jane down the hall is giving you dirty looks when you leave early every Friday for a therapist appointment – but not for when you’re asking your boss to accommodate major changes in your terms of employment.

      4. singlemaltgirl*

        if his communication is poor and you feel like you need to ‘pull things from him’ rather than him being transparent (and you’re transparent and set that expectation with your team) it ain’t going to get better with him working remotely and never being able to come into the office.

        i think attitude, openness, and communication styles count for a lot with my employees. it’s part of the ‘fit’ i’m looking for. and while everyone can have different styles of communication and openness, i’m looking for a willingness to work with me, to collaborate, and cooperate. some people are more introverted but still able to do all these things in a quieter, less obvious way.

        i read deceit in how you’ve written about frank. that’s a red flag. so then i’d look at the whole of his interactions and whether i’d want him on my team. i’m not willing to put in the majority of my management time on one employee when i have a team to manage. but that’s just how i evaluate things. and sure, you’re going to go with a bit of a gut reaction – how do we feel when we work with this person? do we trust them? that counts for a great deal. if i’m prodding him and pushing him for answers, that’s not a management style i want to employ for the long term. on anything.

      5. Gerry Keay*

        Someone telling you the truth, even slowly, is pretty much the opposite of gaslighting. If Frank had, for example, claimed that he still lived in NYC while his background was clearly of a different state and then told you you were crazy and clearly didn’t know what NYC looked like and OF COURSE he still lived in New York and you must have read my license wrong, *that* would have been gaslighting.

        This is just… someone asking for forgiveness instead of permission. You don’t have to like it, but to compare it to emotional abuse is frankly absurd. Maybe spend less time on advice subreddits.

        I know it won’t happen, but I’d truly love for Alison to put every comment mentioning “gaslighting” through moderation because the terms misuse here and across the internet is just ridiculous and insulting.

        1. Roscoe*

          “maybe spend less time on advice subreddits”

          Thank you. The amount of people on reddit who throw that term around is just infuriating. Like, people have basically decided to use it at any point to make the other person sound worse than they actually are.

        2. generic_username*

          Yeah, that term is having a moment right now. And it’s great that we’re recognizing that it’s not okay to manipulate someone by making them feel crazy and question their perception of reality, but it really is beginning to feel overused. I’m not even sure Frank lied to LW… he really might not have been sure what his plans were when they first went to Cleveland, his wife may be able to relocate her job to NYC if he has to go back, or he might just be figuring he’ll work as long as possible and put in his notice when he is asked to go back into the office. It doesn’t sound like he was told he wasn’t allowed to work from Cleveland

        3. KHB*

          The tone of some of these comments is upsetting. Can we at least give OP the benefit of the doubt that it’s not for nothing that she says that Frank’s actions “felt like gaslighting” (not that they necessarily were)?

          Because this kind of ask for an inch, take a mile routine is absolutely the kind of thing that manipulative, gaslighty people do. (Real-life example from a one-time long-distance boyfriend: He asks to come visit me on day X. I say that’s not a good day for me, but he’s welcome to come on day X + 1. He says okay, I’ll fly into town on day X, stay in a hotel near the airport, and come to your place on day X + 1. Then he says, oh, I actually booked a hotel half a mile from your house, not one by the airport, but it’s all the same. Then, on day X, he’s half a mile from my house, blowing up my phone about how awful I’m being for not “condescending to see him.”)

          It feels like gaslighting because after being subjected to the repeated lies of “oh, I just want this one little thing more,” you find yourself being treated like you agreed to a really big thing that you definitely did not agree to. And that is definitely something that can make you doubt your sanity.

          Maybe Frank didn’t intend it that way – maybe circumstances really did evolve just as gradually for him as he communicated them to OP. But I don’t think we know that they did – that’s an assumption we’re making. And, crucially, even if it did happen that way, it would look pretty much the same from OP’s perspective as if Frank always intended to move to Cleveland permanently and was deliberately manipulating OP into agreeing.

          So, “Consider that events may have played out in such-and-such way” is reasonable advice. Accusations of absurdity are really unkind.

          1. Kali*

            Sorry, I disagree. I think when you use a term as serious as “gaslighting,” the user has a responsibility to understand what it means and that it fits the situation. Otherwise you cheapen the term. It’s not unkind to point out that the situation isn’t factually not gaslighting, even if the LW felt like it was. It’s a signal LW needs to get some perspective.

          2. Roscoe*

            Just because something “Feels” x way, doesn’t mean it is. Gaslighting has a very specific definition, and most times I see it used online, its wrong. Personally I think people use it to make their own argument stronger because when its said, especially about a man doing it to a woman, it generates a very specific response. Calling out the wrong use of a word should be encouraged. This is no different than Alison asking people not to armchair diagnose mental issuess.

            1. Rachel*

              Here’s the problem: I disagree with your definition of gaslighting. To me, it is about Jane feeling like something is going on and when looking into it, Bob implies that her conclusions are completely unfounded, and calls into question the pieces of evidence she is using to get there to make her feel like she’s off-base and should rethink even asking it. Implying craziness is enough; it doesn’t have to be Bob calling her crazy.

              It’s about undermining the subject’s confidence that their perceptions are accurate. And all of the times I have seen it policed in these message boards, the commenters are demanding that it adheres to their own strict use, like it’s something from the DSM-5 rather than what it is, which is a colloquialism that does not in fact have a “very specific definition”.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                I don’t think that it needs to adhere to a set of DSM-esque criteria, just that the usage should bear some sort of resemblance to even the colloquial use of the term. The situation as described by OP just doesn’t. I don’t see anywhere how the guy is supposed to have implied that she was crazy or led her to doubt her self-confidence or think her conclusions were unfounded – when asked about it he told the truth each time, he just didn’t proactively explain beforehand what his intentions were. I just don’t see any reason to describe that as gaslighting except to imply seriously nefarious intentions on Frank’s part, when it’s much more likely that he didn’t explain his entire plan ahead of time because he didn’t have one.

              2. Roscoe*

                Do you also disagree that the world is round?

                Gaslighting has a definition. This isn’t it. He didn’t lie to her at any point (that we know of). He didn’t imply that her conclusions were wrong. He gave her truthful information over time when she would’ve preferred it up front.

                Some things aren’t about agreeing or disagreeing, they are about using words incorrectly. That is what OP is doing.

          3. tra la la*

            Nope, sorry, this is about incorrect use of the word. Gaslighting would be if Frank were saying “but we had this conversation, I told you I was permanently moving to Ohio back when the pandemic started, don’t you remember?” People can be shady without being gaslighty.

          4. Persephone Mongoose*

            Can we please stop with the assertion that any kind of pushback is “unkind”? The word “gaslighting” is misused more often than not and that deserves to be pointed out.

          5. DataSci*

            That’s manipulative and I’m sorry he put you through it. But it’s not gaslighting – that requires that the gaslighter tries to make you doubt your own experience. “Don’t you remember? We agreed that I’d stay at the closer hotel!”

      6. A Wall*

        Consider that the decision he & his family made was not made instantaneously. You’re seeing this change being rolled out to you slowly over multiple conversations as him reluctantly revealing a decision he’d made in the very beginning, in an attempt to obfuscate what was happening. What is more likely is that he and his wife made incremental decisions, trying it out and mulling it over and seeing what relocating would mean for them, and you heard about it gradually because it happened gradually. That’s also what Margot did, only she evidently shared it with you in a way that made you feel engaged with her decision-making process. Frank was honest and reasonably forthcoming with you the whole time, he just didn’t engage with you about it as if you were personal friends.

        1. singlemaltgirl*

          i agree that it appears that frank’s decision making and planning happened gradually as his personal situation changed.

          however, “Frank was honest and reasonably forthcoming with you the whole time”

          no he wasn’t. he had to be prodded and asked multiple times before admitting what was happening. had he shared, once they made a move, ‘hey we’re looking at trying something else out and waiting on the company’s policy to make a final decision’ that would have been reasonably forthcoming. him coming clean when he was caught out it’s being ‘reasonably forthcoming’.

          1. JM60*

            While Frank didn’t proactively inform the OP of his move, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize him as being “caught” then subsequently “coming clean”. If he was trying to hide the move, he probably would’ve used a virtual background, modified the background to look similar, or said he moved to a new place without specifying that he moved to a different part of the country (or stayed in that part of the country on the subsequent move). Instead, he took no steps to cover up his location, and directly revealed his location when asked.

            Frank comes across to me more as someone who didn’t think he needed to proactively inform the boss about his living situation, rather than someone who was “caught”.

          2. A Wall*

            The only way to say he was not forthcoming is to assume that it is a baseline of conduct for him to have proactively narrated this decision making process to his boss, and that is just not a thing. Under no circumstances are you ever reasonably expected to volunteer your entire thought process to your employer.

            The LW clearly did, in fact, expect him to volunteer all his thoughts on it the way Margot did, and that’s just not a reasonable expectation on their part. The fact that they did expect it does not make Frank’s entirely normal behavior into something shady.

    3. Tuesday*

      I wondered if part of the reason Margot updated her on all the steps along the way is that they have a closer relationship where that makes sense. Was she notifying her boss, or was she sometimes just talking with her boss who she has a friendly relationship with?

    4. AVP*

      I think that really depends – almost everything has been on Zoom for two years, but that’s changing really fast. If clients expect to be wined and dined or want to run into you at events or whatever, having a public-facing role and trying to do that remotely once the rest of the industry is back to IRL in another city is going to be a challenge.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      $20,000 extra for Frank to work in Ohio. Out of OP’s budget. I doubt anyone likes one employee over another that much.

  6. Beth*

    I’m going to give Frank the benefit of the doubt. His wife got a good job offer and it made sense to relocate and take his chances. I’m guessing Frank knows he’s employable elsewhere. There are plenty of jobs in NE Ohio right now if his role is anything tech related.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I honestly think it was most likely for his wife’s family reasons. He said they were close to his wife’s family there. Maybe FIL has passed away and MIL is getting old and needs family members that can get to her in an hour or two if needed, as opposed to in a day if they’re lucky. Point I’m trying to make is, if forced to choose between the move and the job, I suspect Frank will choose the move.

    2. KateM*

      Or his wife found the job only once they were there and felt she needs to find a job, in which case it isn’t surprising it was where they were now living.

  7. Thinking Ahead*

    Thanks for this. FWIW, Frank has not been a good communicator. That’s another reason that the lack of communication set off alarm bells: In deciding to make a permanent move to another location that has no connection to our business, it exacerbates his handicap. Margot, by contrast, is a strong communicator and kept me in the loop throughout; that reinforced my confidence in her desire to work remotely.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      I wondered if he had other communication issues / evasive behaviors. I would cut him loose personally; he doesn’t sound worth the extra $20K.

      1. Cara*

        “He” is a human being, and as such, attributing him a financial value that you feel he is not worth is incredibly gross. His contribution to the business may not be worth 20k, but he is also a human being and therefore is worthy of some basic dignity and respect when you talk about him.

        1. allathian*


          We aren’t talking about indentured serfs here. It simply doesn’t sound like it would make good business sense to keep Frank as an employee anymore.

          His job requires him to interact in person with clients. I assume the company doesn’t have any clients in Cleveland/Ohio and isn’t looking to expand there, either. So paying 20K extra for Frank to remain employed with them doesn’t make any business sense from that perspective.

          The temptation to let him go is additionally compounded by the fact that he hasn’t been particularly forthcoming about the move, and he certainly hasn’t been proactive about informing the LW about his plans. Although to be fair, we don’t know how intentionally the move was planned, or if it just sort of happened as the pandemic dragged on and on.

          However, all that said, the crucial point here is not the fact that the LW prefers Margot’s proactive communication style to Frank’s less proactive one, or that given his lack of communication, he’s hardly the ideal remote employee. Rather, it’s that his role requires in-person meetings with clients in a way that Margot’s job doesn’t. So even if Frank had been open about his wish to move, and he’d been allowed to do so temporarily while everyone was WFH, it would probably have been done with the understanding that if he wanted to keep the job when people started having more in-person meetings with customers again, he’d have to move back to where the clients are.

    2. Colette*

      That makes sense. Personally, I’d be concerned about having someone who doesn’t communicate well working remotely.

      1. Aila*

        As someone who struggles with communication, I intentionally opted to go into our office part time as soon as I was vaccinated, to avoid giving this exact impression. I know not everyone has that option available to them, but it feels like it’s been a godsend for keeping my job and getting clarity on my projects from my boss as things change.

    3. Sleet Feet*

      Makes sense. I think it is worth discussing with your current staff what you would the process of relocation to look like once Frank is let go.

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Tell Frank you’ll need to adjust his paycheck to account for the COL in Ohio rather than NY :-) and use that money to offset setting up business in Ohio.

      1. generic_username*

        This. If you check any COL online calculator and compare Cleveland with NYC, it’ll easily save you over $20k unless he’s making some absurdly low entry-level salary in NYC.

    5. Lizy*

      I agree with some of the other commentors, in that it doesn’t necessarily sound like Frank was deliberately trying to hide his move. Just from your letter, one could argue that he didn’t realize it was permanent (or the business implications) until after it was.

      But… the not-a-good-communicator throws another wrench in it. Is that something you’ve talked with him about previously? How is his work otherwise? If his communication wasn’t a factor, would you be willing to see about options for him to remain in Cleveland?

      The way I see it, is this about Frank working remotely, or the role/position working remotely? If it’s the former, then I’d think you need to have a very clear conversation with him before just saying “no”. I would be more than a little miffed if I found out my boss had issues with my communication (or whatever), never really said anything, told me I couldn’t work remotely after I already moved assuming I’d have the job, and then hired someone else to work remotely. I’d feel differently if my boss said “hey, I’ve noticed your communication hasn’t been very forthcoming with X project and Y deadlines. I understand you want to work remotely in Cleveland, but in order for me to feel comfortable with that, I need to see real improvement in Q and R.”

      Someone downthread mentioned COL and how NY is very different than Cleveland. Is that something you’d consider? (Again, assuming if Frank’s communication issues are moot/change drastically.) If so, you may want to include that in your talk with him. For example, “You may not be aware that there are some pretty substantial costs to having employees in another state, and your standard of work does factor into whether or not we can absorb that cost. If I see real improvements in Q and R, I would be willing to reconsider. Due to cost of living differences, we may also have to reconsider compensation.” or something.

      Ironically, I think communication with Frank is key as to how you move forward, in addition to your own feelings about him and the role.

      I took a rather large paycut for my current job. So much so that HR originally was worried about whether or not I’d want the job. But my COL is about half of what it was before I moved, and that’s a big factor. Frank of course may not have considered any of the business implications, but I don’t think that’s unusual. Once he’s informed, he may make the decision for you.

      Good luck!

      1. Washi*

        I agree with this, and I think if the role changes based on the value lost from being remote + extra fees, it would be fair to revisit the salary. Personally, I think the salary should then be what you would spend to replace Frank for a completely remote job, rather than tied to Cleveland specifically.

    6. Momma Bear*

      Every single person at my company has had to plead their case now that things are more known. Whether or not someone gets to continue WFH (and to what extent) is determined by multiple factors, including how well their boss thinks they handle it. I think it is absolutely appropriate to consider the communication about this move and the impact to the position when considering if Frank should continue to be remote, or if he needs to be told that his role requires him to be in person. Given that info, he can make his own decisions. If my boss said my WFH request was denied, then I would have to come in or find another job.

      Though the question was about two people, think about it individually. If it was only Frank, would you feel the same way?

      1. Anonymato*

        Momma Bear (or others), if you have a template/questions to consider for allowing working remotely, I’d love that. We are all staying remote for now, but I would love to have something that gives fair assessment ready for down the road. Thanks.

        1. Momma Bear*

          TBH it’s a little like a performance review. If you’ve been meeting your deadlines/the team can reach you/you’re online when you’re supposed to be and using the tools provided/you produce whatever you need to produce then you’re likely to be given permission vs someone who misses meetings/is never reachable/is not producing or not doing their job. I’ve had pre-pandemic FT WFH positions run much the same way. I worked with a guy who was a constant bottleneck because no one could reach him when he was supposed to be working (like for 3 hours he was offline without notice) and he didn’t always call in to meetings, either. It was one of the reasons he was eventually let go.

          That said, our Management has determined that none of us has a job that can be done 100% remote. You can sometimes ask for a coworker to check something for you, but if it’s your job to paint the teapot, you better not be passing that off to someone else on the regular. WFH is a privilege, not a right.

      2. andy*

        Making work from home not based in clear policies and instead on whims of managers is wrong. Managers and how they treat people is literally least accountable position. As such, especially rules like this, should be based on more then what they feel or want – they should be formalized and fair.

    7. hockey*

      Does Frank need to be in your office to do his job?

      If not, none of this is actually relevant.

      Do not cut someone off from their livelihood just because you think he should have told you about a move that sounds like it was 100% unplanned, and therefore was not something that was actually able to be communicated about.

      1. allathian*

        Sounds like he does, at least part of the time. Or at least he needs to be able to see NY clients in person.

    8. Roller*

      I’ve had a situation a bit like Frank’s, but I was much more communicative. Pre pandemic I asked my then employer if I could do some working from home a couple of times a week as I planned to move about an hour and a half away to be near family. I knew another employee was allowed, but he’d been with the company for decades. I was about 4 years in and had a good reputation but not considered so essential.

      The WFH request was denied and I got a new job pretty easily closer to where I wanted to be. I don’t have any issues with not being considered so essential, I just moved on.

      So considering each worker on their merits, if he had asked directly for working from that state would you have approved or just advised him to get a new job? It sounds like the latter from what you have said here.

    9. Starbuck*

      Right, they way they each handled their moves makes a pretty good case for who you can trust to be an effective communicator and come forward with issues to you when they’re working hundreds of miles away from you. I would be pretty leering of managing someone who I had to put so much effort into pulling pretty significant information out of.

  8. Medical review*

    There is also another component here. It sounds like you were going through and ADA accommodation for Margot and you have decided it’s a reasonable accommodation that your business unit agreed to as a result of a medical condition. This is not the issue with Frank.

    1. WulfInTheForest*

      This is what I’m thinking too. Margot has declared a medical condition that most likely would need an ADA accommodation/investigation process. We don’t know the exact reasons why Frank decided to move, but it doesn’t sound like he’s disclosed an ADA need right now, which makes him a different situation.

    2. allathian*

      I’m not in the US, but we have similar legislation, and I’ve read this blog long enough to have some idea about it. The ADA only requires reasonable accommodations that don’t place an unreasonable burden on the business. Frank’s job requires him to meet NY clients in person, or will do so again as society opens up. The company doesn’t have any clients in Cleveland, or it would have a nexus there, and isn’t interested in expanding there, either.

    3. Raxhel*

      I wondered about this. An extra 20k a year to keep Margot employed probably wouldn’t be a legally “reasonable” adjustment for a disability (totally uneducated guess) so accommodating her would be a generous (but reasonable) gesture from the company. But does agreeing to an accomodation make it a “reasonable accommodation”?

  9. Chairman of the Bored*

    It sounds like Frank doesn’t have responsibilities or job functions that actually *require* him to be physically located in New York, and the reasons for having him there come down to:
    -Vaguely-defined industry expectations

    If Frank’s salary was adjusted for the COL difference between NY and Cleveland would the company save enough to pay the incorporation fees? Very likely, given that it’s Cleveland.

    In a post-Covid world many many employees are going to want to choose where they live, and make employment decisions based on who will give them that choice. Smart employers will get onboard with this and figure out ways to make it work, rather than ways to push back against it.

    1. Aila*

      This is the only comment I’ve seen addressing COL shifts. It seems like that could be a reasonable conversation to have with Mr. Cleveland.

    2. Thinking Ahead*

      Totally agree. I am a big fan of remote work — but at the same time, there has to be a discussion for how to make that successful. That’s a bespoke process with any number of factors to consider, ranging from expectations for the role to the employee’s own strengths and weaknesses. But the one thing that would seem to be true for all would-be remote workers is their clear commitment to communication. If an employee doesn’t have that skill, or see it as their responsibility, that seems like assured disaster.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        Was Frank getting satisfactory quality/quantity of work done from Cleveland? If so, he can do the job from Cleveland, and it likely won’t be a disaster.

        Was he communicating well about other aspects of the job? If so, then he knows how to communicate.

        The last 18 months have been weird for everybody, the situation is constantly changing at many levels, and the LW says that their org also wasn’t crystal-clear about their take on things either. People very reasonably don’t want to jeopardize their incomes (or health care!) right now; I don’t blame them for playing their cards close to their vest. Employers certainly keep information to themselves when it benefits them or reduces their risk, right?

        If somebody does good work and doesn’t have a track record of recurring communication issues I’d be inclined to try to figure out a way to keep them doing good work in Cleveland.

        1. Xenia*

          While I agree with you that it’s important to consider how the work has been in the past it’s also important to consider if it will continue to be the acceptable standard moving forwards. A lot of companies have adjusted their protocols to “this is the best we can expect given weird and wild circumstances”, which is good. I wouldn’t expect them to maintain lower standards and protocols once the world is settling down, though, so if someone can’t maintain a higher standard—such as being at in-person things that were being done on video on an emergency basis—then they may no longer be a good fit for the job.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I agree with you on a large scale, but I think this depends on the job in non-pandemic times.

          We have two people who work at my company who are working from home on some other non-job related projects…we keep them on because we know we’ll need them when events start happening again and other departments need some support they can offer.

          There is no way they could work from home 100% of the time, in another area, and serve as liaison between company and community effectively once the rest of the world and our business goes back a face-to-face model of business. And we will. And they have been excelling at their tasks, but these tasks can’t be used as leverage to work from home post-pandemic in the same role they had pre-pandemic.

      2. not like I faint*

        Did he know he was supposed to communicate this? I’m not being facetious. With all the chaos going on, did he know he was supposed to proactively reach out to you to tell you where he was moving and living?

        1. Qwerty*

          It isn’t about where he lives but where he works. It should be pretty basic info to communicate with your manager about where you are working. Take out the part where we’ve all been working from our living rooms and it becomes pretty obvious. If they had an Ohio branch and Frank had just shown up there and said he worked out of the Ohio office temporarily, then never left and eventually admitted it was permanent, would you still have found that very normal? Or if Frank hadn’t moved, and just decided that the New Jersey office was closer to his home and started working out of there without ever having a discussion with anyone about whether that was a possibility, it would still be the same problem.

          If Frank has any logic, then he knew the risks of taking the move without getting it pre-approved. Odds are that’s exactly why he didn’t state his intent ahead of time – we’ve seen a number of letters and open-thread posts in this vein. Just as the OP is ok with losing him over this, Frank is probably ok with parting ways with the company in order to relocate, otherwise he would have done more to smooth things over.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            But the whole point is that no one’s been going in to an office. The analogy of just going into the Cleveland (or NJ) office really isn’t comparable.

    3. Buckeye Native*

      I think this is worth considering! CLE is cheap compared to NYC. If you want him the opportunity to keep the job but take a $20k paycut to stay in CLE, is he interested in that?

      1. FD*

        Yeah, that might genuinely be a good conversation to have! If he would be OK with the pay cut to be able to stay in Cleveland, that might be a win-win all around.

    4. CBB*

      According to a first Google result, the cost of living indexes for Cleveland and NYC are 72.3 and 168.6.

      That seems a little extreme, but even if they’re anywhere close to that, Frank could very possibly take a $20k pay cut and still come out ahead.

    5. Mental Lentil*

      I think you need to read the letter a bit more closely. LW clearly stated

      Frank’s role has a profile in our industry and it reads very weird for him to be based in Cleveland — a city that has nothing to do with what we do.

      1. Eden*

        That is presumably what they meant by “Vaguely-defined industry expectation”. That’s certainly how I interpreted that part of the letter in any case.

    6. anonymous73*

      I think you need to re-read the letter. It clearly states why it doesn’t make sense for Frank to be based in another state in his current role. And OP chimed in up thread stating his lack of communication skills (outside of this incident) made her question how reliable he could be working remotely on a permanent basis.

      It people want to move, they need to run it past their employer and not assume they can work from wherever they please. While remote work is possible in many scenarios, it doesn’t work for everything.

  10. Sleet Feet*

    I guess I don’t see a problem with Franks approach here. It sounds like they were temporarily working near their parents and his wife got a new job. If my spouse got a job during Covid and another coworker was going through that relocation process I would have waited to see what my company did too. Because if they fired her then I would be keeping my mouth shut while I tried to get a new job. 2020 was a hard year to be unemployed.

    Plus by your own admission it took headquarters a very long time to make a decision. I wouldn’t want to float extra rent/mortgages while my employee hemmed and hawed about how to address remote relocations

    Pre-pandemic a lot of places were absolutely fine with short term (up to several months) of tax free remote work. Even now the State laws haven’t finished shaking out. Some places are fighting for headquarter based tax pay and others for remote based pay and others still are fighting for office location based taxes regards of remote status. This all changed really rapidly and isn’t finalized in most courts either. I think it’s understandable the average worker didn’t think about that.

    1. anonymous73*

      I disagree. The only way I could see his approach as okay is if he and Margot had the same exact job. Even in that situation, I still wouldn’t assume it was okay for me to WFH permanently when the rest of the office was expected back in person by the end of the year.

  11. BPT*

    Alison – in general, what are employees’ responsibilities to update their employers on where they are working? Like obviously if you are going to do a permanent move, you tell your employer ahead of time (with the knowledge that they might keep employing you or not). But for tax purposes, how long do you have to be in another place before an employer needs to know? Thinking about situations like if you go stay with family for a month or two while working remotely, or are traveling around in an RV for a summer while you still have a permanent address near work, or something like that.

    1. WellRed*

      I believe this not only varies by state but also, some states may have a little reciprocity(?). For instance, Maine and NH vs nah and New Mexico,

      1. Mental Lentil*

        It varies state by state. My company is not in Michigan, but when we sent workers to do a job in Indiana, we had to take Indiana taxes out of their paychecks.

        This was a while ago, I’m not sure if anything is different now, though.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          And city tax is pretty easy to get wrong, if your zip code covers both the city limits, as well as unincorporated areas outside of it. (More than once I’ve had to make a phone call to payroll in a different state saying, “No, the post office is in [City]. My house is in [Unincorporated Township] near [City].” It’s always gotten cleared up, but it’s a pain to have to do.)

      2. Man from the North*

        It also depends on how the reciprocity is handled – I worked in IL and lived in WI for a few years. They had a reciprocity agreement, which meant I paid WI tax and did not pay IL tax – however, this required my company to set up some sort of tax structure in WI.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      I would guess it depends on how the state views a ‘resident’ or a ‘non-resident’. In my state, (for Medicaid purposes anyway) you are a resident even if you move somewhere else and you come back within 3 years. You are also considered a resident if you get a driver’s license in our state.

      1. nona*

        Residency requirements are often amorphous and based on a totality of the circumstances and vary by state. Sometimes a state will have a clear cut rule that if you reside in the state for 6 weeks without leaving you are a resident and need a New State driver’s license.

    3. Sleet Feet*

      Personally if you know it’s temporary I wouldn’t talk to your employer about it.

      It’s way easier to say no then it is to research if the Dallas TX wants a cut of the employer taxes from an Raving employee.

      Just don’t advertise that you are traveling everywhere and make sure your social media isn’t blasting pictures of your National parks tour to employees.

      1. state taxes are a pain*

        My husband’s large multinational consulting employer has withheld GA income taxes for 2 days of work meetings and MA income taxes for 4 days of work meetings. Many states reduced the requirements to a day or two to capture income tax money from pro athletes playing away games in those states. Of course, smaller employers and employees earning under 7 figures aren’t likely to get caught by state tax authorities if they don’t voluntarily withhold and remit income tax.

    4. Lucky*

      Many tech companies are creating policies around this, and so far what I’ve heard (from about 5 tech companies in the PNW) is that they’ll allow “work from anywhere” for 2 weeks to 1 month per year. I assume for each that 2 weeks or 1 month is the amount of time they’ve determined they can go without having to comply with a state’s or local jurisdiction’s wage and hour and other employment laws/regulations. And it’s pretty awesome, particularly for sandwich generation or young employees, who need/want to visit family but don’t want to spend all of their vacation time on “obli-cations.”

      1. generic_username*

        lol @ “obli-cations”

        But also, yes! I can work from my parent’s home as well as I can from my own (designated office space with a second monitor and everything!), and can extend my trips for longer than I was able to when I was using vacation time.

  12. Who the eff is Hank?*

    OP, is it possible that Frank and his family didn’t initially plan to stay in Cleveland long term but it ended up making more sense for them after their short term stay? If that were the case, it makes sense that Frank wouldn’t proactively tell you about his move. Maybe you were learning about it at the same time it was being decided.

    I’m currently sitting in a home office in a house we just bought in my husband’s home town. If you’d asked me in March 2020 if I’d ever be living here I would have said no. We came here for 3 months to care for an elderly family member, which turned into staying here until the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 as the pandemic progressed, to us finding this house and falling in love with it and deciding to relocate here permanently.

    1. KateM*

      I was thinking the same – that they themselves came to this relocation gradually and that’s why OP got the information gradually as well.

      1. Alex*

        I can tell you that pre-pandemic I would have never even considered living where I live now (I was always a city-dweller, and now I live very much… not in a city).

        It took a whole pandemic taking away all the small “niceties” of city-living to see all the downsides as well.

  13. Puzzled*

    Another question to consider – yeah, you are annoyed with Frank, but how much do you think it will cost you to hire and bring up to speed a new employee?

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Frank aside, we shouldn’t encourage managers to stick with people just because replacing them is hard. He could just win the lotto tomorrow and fade away.

      1. SoloKid*

        I disagree to a point – training costs and institutional knowledge are definitely investments in people. One should have BACKUPS in case people hit the jackpot but it’s of course in a business’s best interest to “stick with people” that aren’t otherwise a bad employee.

    2. Cj*

      If you hire somebody who already lives in Cleveland, and hire them at market rates for Cleveland, since I’m sure Frank kept his NYC salary since he didn’t tell anybody he was in Cleveland), they would make up their hiring costs in less than a year. (As noted below by a different poster: A quick COL comparison indicates that a $100k income in NYC is roughly equivalent to a $37k income in Cleveland). And they would enjoy that savings year after year.

  14. Anon in IL*

    Can someone explain why incorporation fees are $20,000? Are these attorney’s fees to incorporate the business in a new state?

    1. Thinking Ahead*

      My company told me that while it varies between states, the average cost for a worker to be based in a state is $20K per year.

      1. not like I faint*

        I think this is something you should really look into, not just average cost, but what the numbers are, what the breakdown is, before you fire Frank because he’s too expensive for you to want to keep him because he annoyed you.

        1. Emma2*

          I think the discussion is becoming so focused on Frank and Margot that it may be missing the broader picture. If OP agrees to Frank’s arrangement, what happens if 3 more people come forward wanting to work in different states? What are the criteria for signing off on that or refusing it?
          I doubt OP has an extra $20k in her budget for each employee so decisions need to be made and should be based on some sort of fair and objective criteria.
          I think OP should focus less on Frank and Margot and more on how she would make this decision if another employee came forward with the same request. I would suggest OP then consider how that approach would apply to Frank and Margot. Looking at the issue that way might help to remove any emotional response to Frank and Margot from the consideration.

    2. CTT*

      I think they must be using that as a blanket term to cover everything involved with qualifying and maintaining the business there. I’m a corporate attorney and even if you take into account my fees, it’s would be maybe a few thousand dollars to qualify in another state. But I know that the tax and employment side of it can be way more cost-prohibitive.

      1. MeanieNini*

        That doesn’t necessarily take into account the fees associated with conducting human resources in another state, including setting up and paying for an additional state of worker’s compensation insurance, having some kind of HR advisor available to answer state related legal and policy questions, etc. Both of those things can be very expensive. There may also be fees related to health care insurance as well – the employer may be required to set up a new health insurance plan altogether in a different state depending on what type of coverage they offer.

    3. Sleet Feet*

      Since it’s allocated to the brand, my guess is that it isn’t simply the licensing cost but tries to account for the executive staff and on lawyers time in panning and meetings as well.

    4. 1qtkat*

      I’m assuming it’s like a registration fee with a state’s corporation commission. It’s like paying a licensing fee to do business in that state and interact with that states residents, just like a doctor or lawyer needing a license to practice in a particular state

      1. Cj*

        The annual fee to register as a foreign (out of state) corporation in MN is $115. Ohio’s is $99. No way does it cost $20,000 just for corporate fees.

        Where there might be significant cost is work comp and health ins if you need different coverage. The company will also have to file unemployment (which might have a higher rate than the home state) and withholding returns, but it sounds like this is a very large company, so those filing should all be automated.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, I had to do this more than a decade ago for someone who had moved to NY and it was over $10K just for workers comp and that was years ago. And it was per year, I think.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              There are disciplines where M references the Latin word mille, which translates to thousand. I happen to have spent the foundational portion of my education in two of those disciplines.

              1. Annie Moose*

                Ah, I understand the confusion now. In standard English, it’s actually more common to use “k” as a short form of kilo (“thousand”), derived from Ancient Greek χίλιοι (by way of French, as many words in English are). In standard English, “m” is traditionally used as the short form of “million”, derived from Italian milione “million” (that is, Italian mille “thousand” + -one an augmentative). It’s true that there was a period in Enlish where “m” was used to represent thousand, as Latin speakers did in the time of the Roman Empire, but that was in the 15th and 16th centuries and hasn’t been part of standard usage since then.

                So this is where people are getting confused :)

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  We’ve chased our tail on this before. Sleep deprivation finally caught up to me; usually I try to put (20,000) after the first time I use it on a page.

    5. Professional Shopper*

      Ohio has CAT taxes, so now by having an employee/nexus there, the business might be liable for .026% of all Ohio gross receipts. Also, there’s weird Ohio Local Income taxes which Frank is going be surprised by (remind him to check on his RITA locale).

      I work for an Ohio company, and if any of my employees decided to move to and work remotely from: Michigan, New York or California, we’d part ways with them immediately to prevent the tax hassle. Those are just the states I know are a pain from experience, the actual list would be longer if I did research.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I would guess it is a sum of an assortment of the following:

      Preparation and filing of incorporation/business license or annual renewal fees in Ohio/jurisdiction
      Contributions to Ohio workers’ compensation/unemployment funds
      Preparation, filing, and payment of taxes (business and employee income taxes), possibly at a state, county, and local level
      Training/creating documentation for main office accounting/finance department to handle routine tax filings and payments as long as Frank is employed by them and lives in Ohio
      Legal and/or tax counsel professional(s) to advise on compliance with Ohio business regulations

      Business registration is generally not a one-and-done deal. Even after the business is registered, you are still dealing with tax payments (often on multiple levels), staying up to speed on the jurisdictions business-related laws, and at least annual, if not quarterly filings. (Depending on how you are incorporated, too, this is not always just a business-level filing. For partnership-based businesses, there are some states that require each partner to file an individual return in that state.) After seeing what would be involved with this process for a single employee, depending on how onerous a particular state’s requirements are, I get why a company would decide the juice was not worth the squeeze.

  15. Chairman of the Bored*

    A quick COL comparison indicates that a $100k income in NYC is roughly equivalent to a $37k income in Cleveland.

    So, a COL-based salary adjustment for Frank not only would cover the yearly incorporation expenses but would very likely save the company tens of thousands of dollars in compensation costs.

    There may be valid reasons to not let Frank move, but the $20k a year isn’t one of them.

    1. twocents*

      Interesting to bring up, mostly considering how anti-COLA people have been on AAM before. You really think Frank would be game for a 60k+ pay cut? Would YOU accept those terms?

      1. KateM*

        Maybe they could just spilt the difference. Pay Frank $60k, company has saved $20k, Frank has saved $23k, everybody happy?

      2. Yorick*

        He might not be ok with that large of a pay cut, but he might agree to a COLA that’s closer to $20k. OP could explain the situation. If it were me, I wouldn’t be happy but I might prefer that to finding another job. Especially if the cost of living were really that much lower and I’d still be doing well comparatively.

      3. Sleet Feet*

        My experience was that this community is general anti COL where the employer has it both ways. E.g where they want to downgrade your salary for moving to a lower COL area but refuse to increase it if they approve you moving to a high COL area. Either the employer adjusts based on COL all the time or they don’t at all.

      4. Sambal*

        But OP would then need to adjust COLA for Margot based out of TX. Sure, it’s not as cheap as OH but it’s certainly lower than NYC. And based off everything OP has mentioned, Margot would be missed. I personally would not take this route.

        1. Sambal*

          Sorry, just to clarify, that if Margot got a COLA, the same as Frank, you would potentially be pushing her out too.

    2. Thinking Ahead*

      I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t know if our company would adjust salaries according to COL.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        Seems like something worth investigating further before you use the incorporation fees as justification for not letting an employee relocate.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      A quick COL comparison indicates that a $100k income in NYC is roughly equivalent to a $37k income in Cleveland.

      Anyone local to NYC who can verify that? In Ohio, $37M is a high-school dropout salary. Even Targét and fast-food start at $30M.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        I made 36k in Ohio as a government contractor with a bachelors degree, and that’s a very recent past tense. I only left that job about a month ago, and it required a degree past high school. Wages of course vary by industry, but I wouldn’t be so quick to say 37k is high school dropout salary.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          That said, I was woefully underpaid and that is absolutely why I left an otherwise fantastic job. If Frank was offered that little I would hope he’d respond by giving his notice.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Again, Targét, Amazon, restaurants, etc, are offering $15/hour and still not getting enough employees. The degree is negotiable if you show up and work. $37M is roughly $17.75/hour; that’s a team-lead promotion or two or three years’ COLA (4-6%) above the bare minimum.

          20 years ago, programming jobs were starting at $40M/y (40,000) in central Ohio.

      2. CBB*

        I’ve never lived in NYC, but I have lived in Ohio, and I can report that it’s possible to live reasonably comfortably on $37k.

        If Frank’s wife also makes about that much, they would do just fine.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I’ve never lived in NYC, but I have lived in Ohio, and I can report that it’s possible to live reasonably comfortably on $37k.

          If Frank’s in New Philadelphia, that’s probably true. Cleveland proper or its suburbs, I doubt it.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              We may have different ideas of what it means to live “reasonably comfortably”

              You may be right.

    4. Sleet Feet*

      I have a hard time believing that a $100k a year job in NYC area is the equivalent of barely above poverty. Do line cooks routinely make $100k a year in NYC? Because they are paid about $37k where I live in a much lower cost of living area then Cleveland.

      $37k a year is only $11k above the federal poverty level for a family of four.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          37M and 63M are not interchangeable. 63M sounds significantly more plausible.

          1. Chairman of the Bored*

            The result depends on the specific calculator, what variables you put in for household size, and what portion of NYC you use as the basis for comparison. I’m not surprised that the numbers vary considerably.

            More importantly, even using the higher $63k value that’s still enough of a difference to (more than) pay for the notional $20k annual incorporation costs.

            1. Cj*

              Salaries aren’t based on household size, so I don’t put much stock in that type of calculator. Calculating poverty level, sure, but not salary.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          At least he didn’t move to Columbus, Lima, or Dayton. Can a job be so valuable that it’s worth maintaining the remote infrastructure but the employee so valueless that minimum wage dictates compensation?

        2. doreen*

          Yes- but no one earning $100K is paying over $5K a month for a two bedroom apartment in Manhattan. That’s 60K just for rent. Anyone living in Manhattan on $100K is living in a stabilized apartment with a lower rent, in a neighborhood with lower rents, in a smaller apartment (studio or 1 BR) or is sharing the apartment with someone ( roommate, spouse, SO ) who contributes to the rent or some combination of those things. The only reason the COL for Manhattan is so high is the rent – if the comparison was made using a rent that a person earning $100K might actually pay ( say $3K a month) the comparison would look very different.

    5. Sleet Feet*

      I just plugged in NYC queens 100K to Cleveland, OH and got a little over 63K which I am much more inclined to believe.

      I used the Nerdwallet calculator. Not sure what calculator you used or if you maybe compared it to living in Manhattan.

      1. serenity*

        100% agree. There’s no universal “New York City” cost of living and I’m also a little suspicious at the efficacy of some of these online COL calculators.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I was planning to relocate to Minneapolis, MN for a job at one point. From my hometown, the calculator said my earning power dropped ~5%. The next suburb north, it was ~-33%. The suburb to the west, +10%. Having lived in the area my entire life, there’s no demonstrable difference in wages for a given job or prices for a given good across the three cities.


    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      Well, that goes a long way toward explaining why Frank kept his move under wraps as long as possible. Getting a Cleveland job is probably going to result in a big paycut.

      1. Sleet Feet*

        You’d be surprised how this can shake out. I once took a 10% gross pay cut when moving out of state, but at the end of the day my net pay was higher because the state taxes were so much lower. Then on top of that my dollar “went further”. Pluse my federal taxes dropped due to my gross pay decreasing so in the end I was way ahead despite the “cut”.

          1. Cj*

            Why would they have delayed it if their net pay was higher? (Assuming their tax due/refund was comparable when they filed their return.)

          2. Sleet Feet*

            In my case I wouldn’t have delayed updating my income to accurately reflect the State I was in – for all the tax reasons I mentioned.

  16. JustaClarifier*

    It feels like LW’s reasoning that it’s “weird” for him to be based in Cleveland is an antiquated mindset from before this work shift. If Frank is good at his job and has a profile in the industry, who cares where he is located? Particularly since this work is shifting? Not to mention that if corporate has no problem with it, why does the LW? The personal, subjective viewpoint of “it’s weird” and “I don’t want him to” sounds to me more like the LW’s justification and being mad about this versus actually having a good reason. It makes this strangely personal and comes off vindictively.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Eh, it could definitely matter. If the industry is very local to NY, where people are starting to meet outdoors for coffee/business meetings again, the “Where’s Frank” question could start to matter. A four person meeting outdoors with Frank Face-timing in? No one is going to bother with that. Frank is going to get left out of a lot of networking. If that matters to his role, declaring it “antiquated” isn’t going to change that fact that Frank’s value to the company could plummet.

      1. CM*

        Yes, and this is a situation where being an extremely strong performer might be able to offset the lack of face-to-face networking, but in this case it doesn’t seem like OP is that impressed with Frank’s performance.

        Lots of comments about Frank’s possible motivations (seems irrelevant to me) and whether OP is correct that being in Cleveland negatively affects Frank’s ability to do his job (shouldn’t we take the OP at their word about that?) — ultimately if the OP is unwilling to have Frank’s role based in Ohio, I think that’s the message. I would not make any comparison to Margot. Also, a question for OP to think about is, what if you had a stellar candidate based in Cleveland who did not want to relocate? Would you hire them?

    2. The Price is Wrong Bob*

      Whether you think that or not, a lot of companies here in NYC have made it clear that leaving the office’s orbit even if you only come in 1 or 2 days a week is not something they are accommodating and salaries are based on location. I know for my place of business they have informed at least two people who moved before the policies were determined that they will give them a grace period to gently transition out and get a new job, so either quit on their own early OR report to the office location they were hired at for the minimum required time. And in our employee handbook it has always said no-showing 3 days in a row sans acceptable reason is considered termination for cause and you cannot get unemployment for that, especially if you do not live in NY and are not actively searching for work here in good faith. It’s a fairness thing, since it is a global company and they have had to tell people they must work in the country they are contracted in regardless of the current international travel restrictions. So the OP’s colleague could live in Cleveland, he just has to fly out for the minimum days the company expects, and his work location = NYC. He could file taxes in NY and OH and deal with the implications of that.

  17. I should really pick a name*

    “Frank’s role has a profile in our industry and it reads very weird for him to be based in Cleveland”

    How would clients know that Frank is in Cleveland?

    1. zinzarin*

      Probably because in the course of having “a profile in our industry,” he meets and talks to a lot of people. You don’t build good relationships with your peers without discussing your private life, which necessarily includes talking about where you live.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      People are starting to meet IRL in NY, vax cards and masks. Clients may not know Frank isn’t in Cleveland, but they’ll know he’s not at the table.

      1. AVP*

        Yeah, definitely this, it sounds like fashion or liquor or something similar. People will notice if you’re not showing up to lunches and parties IRL in that case.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Without knowing the industry, it could be something like fashion — industry contacts expect someone involved in fashion to be based in one of the fashion centers of the US in order to remain…relevant, informed, tuned in — NY, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. A fashion industry person based in Cleveland is going to read weird because Cleveland isn’t known for it’s fashion.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It can be hard to hide if in-person stuff starts. I once moved and my employer basically told me not to tell anyone I wasn’t in New York. One client invited me to an event (and I really wanted to go!) and I had to lie. That one was easy-ish, but the meeting where I had to drag my suitcase and a member of the client team was a personal friend… awkward.

      Now, my boss was weird, for sure. But in many situations it’s super obvious that a person is located elsewhere. In a lot of situations it doesn’t matter, but for many roles, it does. I have clients in one territory who are very happy I’m located near them because their last account director wasn’t and meetings were a headache. You can argue that virtual meetings are the norm now, but when a client prefers in-person or the meeting is better suited to face-to-face, location does matter.

  18. SassyAccountant*

    I’m just curious why it would cost $20K to incorporate in another state? I worked for a company that did government contracting and we had employees all over the country because of this and we only had to pay a few hundred dollar per state to file the necessary documents to have someone work for our company in another state. I mean we even had people in Alaska and California and it didn’t cost anywhere near that much. And yes of course each of these states have different taxes but it still didn’t add up to $20K just to do business in another state. I’m just saying if that’s a qualifying dis-qualifier I’d re-look into that. I admit I may be missing something but as it stands it shouldn’t cost that much.

    1. Thinking Ahead*

      I agree; I don’t know why, either. Have been asking and get the same answer back but with no greater detail.

    2. Lizy*

      I wonder if some of it has to do with having employees verses independent contractors. Or because your company contracted with the government. (Totally just guessing on both parts)

    3. Student*

      It depends on your industry and the relevant regulations. Developing video game software? Probably not lots of local regulations to worry about. Handling medical data, providing legal advice, selling anything terribly expensive, designing safety-critical systems, or working with any form of even mildly hazardous material? Probably local regulations to deal with. Some of those regulations in some industries are even explicitly designed to reduce competition from other states, such as expensive and complicated licensing requirements. It can hit industries as lofty as financial advisors and as common as hair-dressing.

    4. AVP*

      Since you had people all over the country, maybe you had national workers comp and national health insurance and already planned to have business nexus in all 50 states? It seems like this company doesn’t have that so they’d be buying one-off policies for all of that stuff.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Yes, plus the fact that Alison asks us to take letter writer’s at their word. If LW says it costs her company $20k to incorporate in that state, then it costs $20k to incorporate in that state. There’s nothing really to discuss here.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        And, if I’m reading the letter correctly, it’s the corporate company OP and their employees work for who set the $20K cost. Even if those aren’t “real” costs, that’s what corporate requires.

        To speculate on why, maybe a combo of insurance and state required liability (as others have mentioned); the need to train or hire more HR, IT, and Operations staff to support a more distributed workforce (i.e., taxes, tech support); (a cynical possibility) wanting to discourage people from moving without banning it.

    5. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      It is highly dependent on how many employees you have, and how your business is structured. A business that is used to working in multiple states in a region will already have many steps taken to be prepared for this eventuality – similiarly one that is a national or multi-national company.

      A smaller business which may not have previously employed a tax professional, or may employ ones who aren’t used to dealing with the state in question? and which is not defraying the cost over multiple employees? $20k isn’t an impossibility.

  19. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I have to admit that I prefer Margot’s modus operandi to Frank’s. I want to disregard the immuno-compromised angle; if the infrastructure is there for her and the business case makes sense, I don’t think it’s right to exclude Frank on those grounds.* I’d be more inclined to go to bat for Frank if he’d been up-front about his desires–even if that manifested as “We came to Cleveland for just a week, but now that I’ve drunk from the Cuyahoga, I think I like it here. Can we evolve my position into a remote one?” I’ve seen others try get some shaky stuff signed off on by preferring to beg forgiveness than permission, and that’s what it feels like Frank has done.

    *This is fundamentally different than the employee demanding access to Keymaster of Gozer’s parking spot. Employee using it prevents Keymaster from using it, and she certainly has a legit need for it, where Margot & Frank can both work remotely. This would be equivalent to an employer being able to provide infinite priority parking spaces.

  20. Hiring Mgr*

    Of course it’s your call, but if Frank’s been doing the job from Cleveland this whole time, maybe it really can be located there? Although as you mention, you’re willing to lose him so maybe that’s your preferred outcome?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      It’s possible that remote work was temporarily acceptable during the intense WTF weirdness of 2020, but is less than ideal moving forward. I’d describe my own job that way, honestly. It could be done remotely when everyone was remote, but that’s not really sustainable.

      1. Xenia*

        Same. I’m in an accounting firm and we didn’t do anything travel related unless it was a huge, huge deal. This meant that the risk of our auditors being wrong about something went up pretty much across the board, and our turnaround times went up leading to some awkwardly tight deadlines. It worked while Covid was going strong but I don’t anticipate it will continue once more places have cases going down and a vaxxed population.

      2. Mental Lentil*

        LW said that “it reads very weird for him to be based in Cleveland — a city that has nothing to do with what we do”. They didn’t really explain why it reads weird, but adds “but now I’m clear: I don’t want his role to be based in Cleveland and I don’t want to pay an additional $20K a year for his decision.”

        The fact that they are willing to lose Frank makes me think that Frank is a less than stellar employee anyway.

      3. SimplytheBest*

        Exactly. My job has been *doable* at home during the pandemic, but it has been significantly slower with significantly more roadblocks.

  21. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If the industry presence is so NY-centric, how is Frank managing to do his job from 600 miles away? Is this a case where everyone thinks you need to be local for Frank’s role, but in the last 18 months we’ve figured out that it’s not actually necessary? Or is this something like Broadway, where theaters coming back means Frank needs to come back?

  22. AnnoyingGirl*

    Frank might find that his health insurance is based in his employers state and all visits are “out of network”

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      Can you elaborate? My company has thousands of people working in multiple states…I doubt they’re all out of network?

      1. AVP*

        Your company probably knew that would be the case when they hired people and bought either a health insurance policy that covers all of your states, or has a few different ones for different locations.

        The problem is that if your company was only in one place, and thus bought a health insurance policy that only covers New Jersey, staff who move to like Montana may find that either they need to go back to NJ for the doctor or the company needs to find a new extra policy that covers people in Montana (even if thats one person).

        For ex, my husband was afraid to go stay at my parents’ house when Covid started because if we got Covid there we’d have to travel back to our home state to see a doctor or pay out of network.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          thanks – i would have assumed that if the company was set up to do have employees in a state, health insurance would be a part of that

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Yes, they would, and that’s why a compant that offers benefits needs to know when an employee moves out of state.

            (Insert tangent about decoupling employment from basic needs, like health coverage)

      2. LimeRoos*

        Different local plans, plans with large networks, plans with the local healthcare systems in each state – there’s a lot of options for insurance. I know the big players typically allow you to use large portions of their networks too – BCBS, UHC, Aetna, Humana, Kaiser etc. My company offers (I think) 6 or 8 different plans, 2 are more local, 2 have a huge network in and out of state, so I’m guessing that’s what your employer does too. Especially if they’re larger.

      3. RosyGlasses*

        You have to buy policies that include coverage in different states – and that isn’t automatically available under all networks.

    2. LimeRoos*

      This was what I was wondering too. Insurance is hugely variable by state, and everything in Cleveland is most likely OON for his NY plan. Even if there’s a travel network, that’s typically for emergencies, and if he does have OON coverage, that would go to his OON deductible which is usually higher, plus the possibility for balance billing depending on the network/contract.

      He might be under his wife’s plan, which would make sense in this instance, but oof. Insurance is something people want to review before moving states, even if you’re staying with the same company. There was a chance I could’ve moved to IL or IA and stayed with my current company, but I still would’ve had to switch insurance plans because the one I picked is with a local provider that I love. So uh yeah, I’m sure he figured this stuff out, but man, if he didn’t there’s a lot of not fun things that’ll happen soon, if not already.

      1. Esmeralda*

        Maybe. My son is in college in Illinois, I’m employed in a southern state, he’s had no trouble finding in-network providers for everything (lots of specialists and expensive tests). BCBS. It really depends on the provider and the plan.

    3. LimeRoos*

      And one more thing! My friend was looking at a job with a company from TN, while she is based in IL. The offer had the benefits packet included, so we went through that specific website to see if her providers were in network even though she was states away. All but one were (which was pretty sweet). So if it is like, BCBS or UHC, they may have a larger network.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ehhh, Cleveland Clinic takes pretty much every insurance under the sun. If Frank had moved to an abstract town in the middle of nowhere, this would in fact be a valid concern. However Frank lucked out by moving to a city with an extensive hospital/clinic system.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We provide local health insurance and have had to get new insurance for employees moving out of state. We’d count that when tallying the $20k

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        We provide local health insurance and have had to get new insurance for employees moving out of state. We’d count that when tallying the $20k

        That’s generous of you and says a lot about how your employees are valued. Every remote job I’ve ever interviewed for that I’ve gotten to the benefits stage has offered me the main office’s coverage, whether it made sense locally or not.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Oh jeez, we didn’t even go down that road. We have our first ever employees going remote now (one NY one CA, the headaches) and…health insurance is a really basic part of their benefits package. I don’t think we even considered that it was optional tbh. I’m sorry to hear that’s not typical.

        2. TiffIf*

          This past year, my office had some new hires (all remote currently because COVID) and at least a few of them were provided the benefits info for HQ–which is across the country and not applicable to our office. It was a simple mix up from the office distributing it as there really was a different local health insurance provider for our office.

  23. Christina*

    To add another perspective, I work in community mental health at an agency. We are licensed for the state that our agency is located in. We cannot go live in a different state as that would violate insurance rules and state licensing laws. We do have people who do not see clients that work remotely from other cities and states even, but our licensed staff have to be in our state in order to be employed by the agency. We have a clinician that lives on the other side of our state for medical reasons, but if they were to move to a different state we have to let them go.

    1. Sleet Feet*

      I’m not sure what state you are in, but it’s generally not true that your State licensure dictates where you can live. It usually only dictates where you can practice. We have several docs who commute from out of state and we’ve never had an issue getting paid from CMS now have we ever had a license investigation care about the docs residential address. Just the address of the practice.

      1. Xenia*

        It does mean that the docs have to be licensed in your state though and that can get expensive and time consuming.

      2. doreen*

        Commuting from out-of-state is one thing – but if I were a social worker ( or doctor) licensed in NY , I probably could not provide televisits from my home in another state if I wasn’t also licensed in that state. And if I worked for a agency that required state licensing rather than a private practice , I very possibly could not provide televisits as an employee of that agency even if I was licensed in my state of residence.

  24. Caramel & Cheddar*

    This doesn’t really help LW, but it made me think about how companies could be so much more proactive about this stuff so that staff aren’t left guessing or lying by omission. Is it that hard to have a work-from-home policy that includes *where* you can legally work for the company? My company didn’t have a WFH policy before now, but when we first got an update on returning to the office (months in advance), it was made clear that even if you were working virtually, you had to be in X province so that we wouldn’t have people all over the place. I don’t necessarily like or agree with that policy, but at least it was made clear to us and people could use it to make choices about their long-term living situations.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is a good idea, that I’ve seen expressed in other comments. We are in uncharted territory. When I started working in the US, everyone (with extremely few exceptions) had to commute to work every day and relocating, or in some cases even moving to the opposite side of your metro area, meant you had to change jobs. Now there seems to be no set process, that I’ve heard of, on relocations. Too late for OP and Frank I guess, but I agree that it would be great for a remote workplace to have a well-defined company policy on how a move or a relocation would be processed, what’s doable, what’s not, can an exception be made in special circumstances and how to apply for that (e.g. a past employer required everyone to be in the office every day, but when a key employee had to move out of state for their family, and did not have a choice of not moving, the company made an exception and made them remote), etc.

    2. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      My friend works for a software company and it was the same: you can now all work remotely, as long as we have a presence in that country/city. There options were many for this group but the direction was clear.

    3. anonymous73*

      While true, a reasonable human shouldn’t assume they can pick up and move anywhere they want without running it past their employer BEFORE they move. Most people don’t have the luxury of being able to lose their job because they made an assumption that didn’t work out for them.

  25. not like I faint*

    Is that 20K total, or per different state? Because if it’s total, then Margot covers Frank anyway. I’m also not really clear on the structure here, you run an online business, you have a corporate to answer to, but you’re the one having to pay for it? You have headquarter cities, plural, are they all in one state? I’m really confused here.

    But I’d cut Frank a ton of slack. I know a lot of folks who moved “temporarily” because of needing childcare. Some of them have moved back, some have not. One person took a full year to move back.

      1. not like I faint*

        I’m not really understanding? In my department, we have to cover our own employee salaries, but things like “can we do business in another state” are not our problem.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          Different companies do it differently but in allocation based business models then the cost for all non income generating departments is distributed across all the income generating ones.

          So the cost of doing business, the cost of the license, the cost of the meetings to plan the license, etc. Etc. Is allocated to the departments budget to more accurately reflect their income.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I think we just have to accept the fact that LW understands their business model, even if we don’t.

      The real issue here is that Margot was transparent every step of the way and Frank was all “Oh, yeah, by the way, I officially live in Ohio now.” Huge difference.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I would not be inclined to cut him this much slack. He didn’t move into his parents’ basement in Oneonta–he moved to a whole other region of the country. One that will incur significant expenses if the company wants to let him stay there.

    3. Koalafied*

      The 20K is the cost in a single state, and the cost may vary from state to state depending on each state’s regulatory requirements.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      If you mean in the legal sense of “reasonable accommodation,” $20k in cost incurred might not be a reasonable accommodation, esp. for a small business.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Correct. As another commenter pointed out, setting up an employee to work in another state is comparable to opening a new branch in terms of what the business has to deal with. That’s almost certainly beyond the legal bar for reasonable accommodation.

  26. Peppercat53*

    In 2018 I applied and interviewed for a job out of state. They made me an offer but the first thing I did was tell them I would respond in x amount of time because I wanted to make sure my husband wouldn’t lose his remote job if we moved. He had been tentatively talking with his company about it if I got offered the job but I had him make absolutely sure before I accepted the offer.

  27. MissDisplaced*

    A lot of this IS role-based and industry-based. But also some of it is not fair.
    Pre-COVID, my company was much the opposite. If you were sales, or lived 50+ miles away from headquarters (we have satellite facilities nationwide, so do operate in most states, that wasn’t the issue), office worker jobs could be full time remote. But if you lived near headquarters you were SOL and had to be in the office every day unless you were sales–no reason given except it was headquarters. People hated the unfairness of it and are pretty much refusing to go back to doing that even on pain of resigning.

    Perhaps it IS true that Frank’s role demands a NYC presence every single day.
    Or perhaps was once essential to be in NYC, but it isn’t so much anymore in a distributed workforce?
    But I get the sense that it was Frank’s method that might have soured you on Frank?

    I’d seek advice from some other peers in your particular industry before deciding if the real issue is Frank himself and not the NYC thing. But if it is the NYC thing, then you need to be able to support that with facts (We have 3x meetings a week in NYC, or This role needs to meet with NYC council almost daily, The additional cost for you to work in Cleveland is $X compared to a NY native, etc.) as to why occasional travel to NYC wouldn’t work for the role either. Because Frank surely knows you’re doing it for Margot and will ask why not him. Ultimately, you will have to decide what weighs out–A NYC based person, or the value Frank brings to the company?

    For the record, I get why you’re annoyed with Frank. But the past year and a half have upended lots of people’s living plans, and people were looking for ways to save money or be with family if needed. Frank could’ve handled this move better, but some of these things just happened and people needed to roll with it as it happened. I wouldn’t let this color your thinking too much. These will be the tough conversations for so many people next year! Let us know what happens.

  28. goducks*

    I think what people don’t often realize is that when someone works from home permanently, they effectively have opened a branch office of that company. Even if in the same state as the primary office, there can be workers comp or local tax considerations.

    When it comes to business tax requirements, it’s not that the employee is working from home, it’s that the employee is working from that municipality. It would be no different than if the employer rented a small office for that employee in that location. For the purposes of all appropriate taxing entities, the permanent location of an employee into that location (regardless of what the physical building looks like or what else it’s used for) triggers all the same requirements as if they’d decided to start a satellite office there in the way people more commonly think of satellite offices.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      Yup. For a small employer, it’s very logistically challenging to handle this stuff. I’m sure for a giant, multi-state business it’s not a big deal.

      1. MeanieNini*

        I am the sole HR person in a small company. It is absolutely a logistical nightmare to manage emplyoees in a bunch of states. We have employees in 7 states and that mostly happened before I started here. We have gotten penalized for various random things in 3 of those states – simply because we did not know that we had to provide X and get it from a state organization … or because our worker’s compensastion policy covers Y and it needs to cover A too in a particular state … or for random one-off taxes we did not know about. We also pay wildly different % and $ in the employer side of the state unemployment and income taxes in each state. Those are just the financial differences on the HR side. Trying to keep track of state labor laws on top of federal labor laws for all of these states takes up at least 40% of my time. It requires me to write separate policies and have separate PTO, sick, and all kinds of other policies.

  29. Urbanchic*

    Your question was whether this is fair, and many have weighed in on this. A point to consider if you decide to move forward: I think that the focus when you speak to Frank needs to be that you’ve decided that all of those colleagues for your brand with his role need to be based in NYC and in the office three days a week, or whatever the company policy is. I would not discuss how his disclosing (or lack there of) his move to you, or the cost of him working in Ohio influenced your decision unless you are planning to bend the stance for some of his peers in the same role. If he says he will return to NYC as planned, are you prepared to keep him employed? If your plan is to transition him out regardless, I would maybe change the way I handle this to include the communication issues. Something along the lines of “If you decide to return to New York and continue in the role, I want to talk through improvements we’ll need to see in terms of communication to be successful in this role moving forward…” Good luck!

  30. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    If my company does business mostly in the (let’s say) Springfield area, it makes sense to want employees to stay in that area, but if the business is national or global, then the company should be prepared for employees to live anywhere, and the cost of incorporation should be borne by the administrative side of the business, not by a specific department. The LW is unfairly being put in the position of having to decide whether to incur that cost in their department when it should be a matter of who is best for the job, no matter where they live.

    1. Koalafied*

      the cost of incorporation should be borne by the administrative side of the business, not by a specific department

      In this case, it’s not a department within a single company bearing the cost, it’s an independently operating brand within a multi-brand family. Think Taco Bell and KFC, which are both brands under the Yum Brands corporate entity. If Taco Bell wants to open a restaurant in a new state, it’s specifically Taco Bell that needs to be established there, not just Yum Brands. If KFC wanted to open a location in the same state, they can’t just hop onto Taco Bell’s filings, because those only establish Taco Bell in the eyes of the state.

      On the corporate side of the ledger, Taco Bell’s total dollars in vs dollar out is what the execs are looking at to determine if the Taco Bell brand is doing well. That includes everything from marketing to payroll to administrative and compliance expenses. It doesn’t make sense to just absorb all regulatory costs for all the brands under Yum’s umbrella, because the decision about whether it makes financial sense to expand into a new state rests with the brands’ executives, not the parent corporation’s.

  31. judyjudyjudy*

    I think you should seriously reflect on whether Frank-in-Cleveland is going to work for your company interests or not. Try not to bring your annoyance with him to bear here, unless it is part of a pattern of behavior that has been bothering you as his manager. Then, communicate with him what you are willing to do (or not do).

    I might also consider whether there is some anti-Cleveland, anti-Ohio, or anti-Midwest sentiment here. I don’t think that’s what’s happening, but it might be worth thinking about. I live in Michigan and have gotten my share of boorish comments from “coasties” about the Midwest. If that is part of your trouble here, is it a personal bias or is it going to color the perception of Frank within your industry?

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m not getting anti-specific location vibes. The fact that he moved 1/3 of the way across the country is plenty of grounds for annoyance. I think the point is more that he didn’t move to New Jersey or somewhere else close by but instead moved into basically a whole other geographic region.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        He could have moved to New Jersey. The point is he moved across state lines without telling his boss until after the fact.

        1. judyjudyjudy*

          Moving to New Jersey is crossing state lines, but I take your point. Frank could have moved much closer to NYC to somewhere in New Jersey, a state where LW’s company probably already has a business nexus.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            And a state where Frank could be expected to commute into NYC for business. OP says that face-time is an important part of his role, which isn’t a consideration for Margot. Being in Texas doesn’t impact her ability to do her job as things reopen the same way.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              If commuting back periodically is part of the equation, Frank may have done himself a favor by choosing Cleveland. CLE to LGA is one of the more reasonable flight corridors. Even just the non-stops offer plenty of selection, more if EWR is a viable option. There are even a few CLE-JFK.

                1. D*

                  Did anyone ask Frank if he’s willing to pay for that travel himself? No one said the company *has* to pay for travel caused by a self-relocation.

                2. D*

                  That is, I’d expect the company to still pay for travel to other places that Frank might travel to on business, but maybe not to the regular office location, as part of his routine work.

      2. judyjudyjudy*

        I said I didn’t think that’s what is happening, but that it might be worthy of reflection. LW can feel however they like without justifying it.

        At least Cleveland and NYC are in the same time zone :)

  32. Not really a Waitress*

    I think someone stated the key question: Is it Frank you don’t want in Cleveland or the Role. Or is it Frank in the role because of previous performance prior to the “Oh By the Way I live in Cleveland now”. But the whole situation brings up a load of new questions as the Work from home/work from anywhere becomes more common. If I am laid off from a job based in NY, do I qualify for unemployment in Cleveland?

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Gee wouldn’t it be nice to have a set of federal rules about taxation and unemployment that covered all 5o states!

  33. S*

    Wow. That’s rude. Please remember s/he is also a human being and therefore is worthy of some basic dignity and respect when you talk about him/her.

  34. Anony542*

    Frank probably thought that where he lives wants to live is his prerogative, and didn’t think boss needed to know as long as he was getting his work done, without knowing about the tax implications. You, as the manager, should have set clearer policies and communicated better rather than form a grudge. Frank thought that if Mary could do it, then he would be allowed to, but as a manager, if you don’t communicate what is ok or not, then you can’t just assume your employee can read your mind. This one is on you, OP.

    1. anonymous73*

      The same can be said about Frank. If the policy of full time remote work isn’t defined, he shouldn’t assume he can work from anywhere in the country.

  35. Sammy*

    Can we just let people live their lives? Why does everything we do have to be at the discretion of an employer that doesn’t care about individual employees at the end of the day. Tell Frank he can cover half of the $20k out of his NY salary and let the guy be happy. The tone of the comment section has become startlingly pro-employer in an era where that is shifting greatly.

    1. Gothic Bee*

      Agreed (especially with your last sentence). Unless his performance goes down significantly, I don’t see why they can’t keep him on remotely the same way he has been. And if the $20K is that big a deal, I like the option of at least offering him to have it come out of his salary instead.

    2. Thinking Ahead*

      I care a lot about my employees — and, I am a huge fan of WFH. I gave a lot of thought to how this might work, but in the process I realized I was contorting the role, and my expectations, to fit his desire. When I said that this impacted his ability to be an industry presence, he said he found that distracting and unnecessary. My initial response was “Well, maybe?” and later realized that made no sense at all in terms of what we need. The fact that he found it distracting and unnecessary also made me wonder if he fully understood the scope of his role. (He’s been with the company a long time.)

      Also: Employees can’t pay for expenses like these, even if they want to, under labor law.

      1. CBB*

        I don’t think Frank did anything wrong in terms of dishonesty or poor communication.

        But I agree with you on this:

        but in the process I realized I was contorting the role

        I’ve seen roles get contorted to fit a person (sometimes me), and it’s usually not good for the organization.

        I prefer working for a company that uses it’s org chart to define roles, and employs people who can fill those rolls. The alternative is not so much a company, and more of a ragtag bunch of misfits.

      2. Sea Anemone*

        he said he found that distracting and unnecessary. My initial response was “Well, maybe?” and later realized that made no sense at all in terms of what we need. The fact that he found it distracting and unnecessary also made me wonder if he fully understood the scope of his role. (He’s been with the company a long time.)

        That’s all fair enough, both your point and Frank’s point. If he’s been there for a long time, maybe he has thoughts worth listening to on why the industry presence portion is unnecessary. Does the return that you expect from industry presence match the return Frank is actually getting? If not, is that a Frank problem or a role problem?

    3. TiffIf*

      Can we just let people live their lives?

      A company can’t when they are on the hook for withholding correct taxes, worker’s comp and unemployment insurance contributions per jurisdiction, and providing health insurance. Legally, a company has to have tax nexus in a state if it employs residents of the state. The laws regarding minimum reportable income for tax purposes varies from state to state. If an employee moves without informing the company of the change it can have severe legal repercussions on both the employee and the company.

      It isn’t pro-employer when these are just the facts of the system in which we currently live and must take into consideration. By all means work towards changing those policies and laws, but companies just can’t ignore them to be nice to their employees.

    4. Tuesday*

      If forking over 20k was all that’s involved, I would say maybe (although I’m sure you can’t ask the employee to cover his half), but it’s creating more work for the company as well, so it makes sense for them to consider whether or not they want to take that on.

      Not going out of their way to accommodate his move is not the same as not letting him live his life.

    5. Meep*

      Look, I am getting married this week and it is hush-hush from my employers because my Toxic Coworker likes to pretend she is HR and is a gossip for days. The last time I discussed anything about her in regards to my relationship, she told me to buy a condo we were currently living in and not tell my long-term boyfriend of 10 years I bought it so he paid on my mortgage without any of the benefits. Before that, it was how I should break up with him because I was “young” (her boyfriend had broken up with her at the time).

      I am all for just letting people live their lives, but the caveat here is outside of work. His move affects his work.

    6. AVP*

      Well…sometimes the employer is just correct? The intricacies of US employment law, tax law, and insurance just don’t fall in Frank’s favor here, imo.

    7. Firm Believer*

      Having requirements, both legal and logistical, doesn’t mean you don’t care about your employees. Every business has different needs and OP’s job is to make sure the workforce meets those needs. No need for the hurt feelings and character assassinations. There’s more to running a business than being the good guy and giving everyone what they want.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Nobody is saying Frank can’t live his life, they’re just saying that living his life while working for this employer might not be realistic.

      I’ve posted this here before: My grandmother used to say, “You can have anything you want, you just can’t have everything you want.” Frank may be able to live in Cleveland or he may be able to work for this company, but not both.

  36. not that kind of Doctor*

    As someone who spent large chunks of 2019 registering to file sales tax in multiple states due to Wayfair, I sympathize with any employer who doesn’t want to deal with it. That doesn’t even touch on payroll tax, income tax, unemployment insurance, workers’ comp, etc etc etc.

    Since we already had economic nexus established in so many places when everyone went home in 2020, we looked at allowing people to move out of state. In some states – Texas, for example – it’s no big deal: no corporate income tax requirement & we’re already on the hook for sales & franchise tax. Others are still a big No Way. One well-liked and highly-valued employee moved to California for family reasons; no matter how much her manager loves her, the barriers to doing business in California are just too high for us right now.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Right! Can you really trust Frank’s judgment if he moved to Cleveland willingly?

      (In jest, of course).

    2. Meep*

      I live in Tucson. Everyone is fleeing here from NY and Cali as well. It is a mess. Both sound about as desirable to me too boot.

    3. Cat Herder*

      Sorry, it’s a 30Rock reference when 2 characters discover how lovely Cleveland is and want to move there. I’ve got nothing but love for Cleveland.

      1. banoffee pie*

        This is reminding me of an episode of ‘Chuck’ where Dominic Monaghan played a debauched rock star. At every concert he would shout ‘hello Cleveland!’ no matter where he was, because he’d lost track/didn’t care.

  37. learnedthehardway*

    I may be charitable in my reading of the situation, but it sounds like Frank’s decision to relocate was a gradual one. He may not have had any intention of actually relocating when COVID started – frankly, most people thought it would be over in a few weeks. And why not spend some time with family, if you have to isolate for a few weeks to a month or two? Of course, then things started to drag on, so if his wife was unemployed, she might as well have gotten a job local to where they were staying, for the short term, until things got back to normal. But then, of course, they didn’t get back to normal and eventually it became more of a permanent decision.

    It’s been a VERY strange 1.5 years – if he’s otherwise a good employee, I would extend some generosity to Frank that the decision probably crept up on him, and that he never intended to relocate, but was rather dealing with the situation as it changed.

  38. Alexis Rosay*

    My org (tiny nonprofit) had an employee move out of state. We did our best to accommodate her, set up a place of business in her state, set up all the new tax requirements, but it was too difficult to purchase a health insurance contract for just one employee. Instead, the employer reimbursed her for health insurance she purchased, up to the exact amount the company had previously spent on her premiums. She ended up very upset that in New State, that amount of money covered a less generous plan. She was also upset that taxes were different in New State and her take-home income was different.

    Employee had moved there to take advantage of the lower cost of living, and didn’t realize that there could be other impacts. It’s not simple to have someone work from another state, even with the best of intentions. OP could pay $20k for Frank to work from Ohio, and he could still end up unhappy.

  39. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

    As a person from Ohio, I am not happy about the comment on Cleveland. I have often found that people from bigger cities think that everyone in Ohio is a farmer / is unsophisticated. Ohio actually has three major metropolitan areas and several smaller metropolitan areas.

    Cleveland has a very strong arts and cultural institutions. World class orchestra, the 2nd largest theatre area in the country, great museums and zoo, and a first rate dining scene. Add to that the lake, the parks, Cedar Point, 3major league teams, and Cleveland is a great place to live and raise a family. Traffic is not a problem so you can easily access everything. Plus with the low COL, it is very affordable. A large newer house on a large tree-filled lot is accessible for many people.

    1. Wants Green Things*

      Jesus, read into it much? LW wasn’t dissing Cleveland, she was merely noting his location, which is a completely different state from Margot, meaning the doubled incorporation fees. Nothing about that is a diss to Cleveland – though Frank’s inability to tell the truth might start tarnishing this “stellar” reputation you’re trying to sell.

    2. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

      I was referring to the OP saying “it would read very weird for him to be based in Cleveland” not the joke. Which is a 30 Rock reference.

      My personal experience is that a lot of people from the coasts (especially NY) look down on Cleveland as being some kind of backwards and unsophisticated place.

      1. SimplytheBest*

        That makes your response seem even more bizarre. There is nothing insulting about knowing a specific New York based job doesn’t make sense to be held by someone living outside of New York.

    3. judyjudyjudy*

      I feel you — Cleveland is great! It may be that this specific job has to be in NYC, but I hope some other commenters understand that Cleveland isn’t like… a cornfield with bad internet.
      P.s. So jealous you have Mitchell’s!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I actually want them to keep thinking that way until I’ve bought my next house. Don’t move here. We are terrible.

        Seriously, we are starting to have an incoming stream of people relocating from the coasts to the more liberal parts of the city, and it’s driving the RE prices up a bit. All sarcasm aside, it is a good things for the area, albeit not without its tradeoffs.

        PS I prefer Jeni’s, but we only have one location :(

      1. Thinking Ahead*

        Hey, I like Cleveland. But not enough that I ever wanted to spend $20k a year to open an ad-hoc branch there.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Same! I really like it here. Been here for 25 years and have just moved to a more “fun” area of the city (with full permission from my employer – psych, I did not ask permission.)

      However, it occurred to me last night that both Margo’s and Frank’s new locations might not be their real ones, for privacy reasons. I mean, realistically, how can the same employer respond to “I am an immune compromised woman, so naturally, I am moving from NYC to a state that is a top Covid hotspot in the country and that also now has the laws in effect that won’t allow me to have any control over my reproductive functions” with a “yeah makes total sense”, and then in the same breath to another employee’s “we are moving closer to my wife’s family” with a “oh my god not CLEVELAND! are you okay? were you kidnapped?” I know there isn’t a lot of Cleveland love in NYC, but it can’t be that bad. I suspect both locations are made up.

    5. Nope, not today*

      I suppose COL is lower than many places, but the housing costs here are a bit out of control! My house is worth a small fortune now. But I’m not sure I could actually afford to move out of it! :(

      But I fully agree – I’ve been in Cleveland since 2008 and absolutely love it. The Metroparks are the #1 best thing Ohio has to offer in my opinion.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I once was messaging a friend who lives in Nebraska and had never been to Cleveland – just the usual updates on the past weekend – and mentioned how my son and I had taken our dog for a hike in the Metroparks, got lost there, and spent a couple of hours trying to find our way out. My friend wrote “lol, you guys got lost in a city park?” so I sent him a link to the map of the park we’d gotten lost in. (North Chagrin Reservation, if anyone is curious.) Long silence on his end… finally he gets back to me gushing about how he’d love to live next to something like that and how jealous he is. Precisely the reaction I expected!

  40. photon*

    It’s so easy to get frustrated at people right now, when we’re all worn thin by the pandemic. Thanks for the useful reminder that we’re all just winging it right now, and should strive for a little patience and understanding.

  41. pancakes*

    That line is not saying “I think people in Cleveland are uncultured.” It’s saying, people in our industry would find it odd for this role — a role that “has a profile in our industry” — to be based in a city where our company doesn’t have a presence, and doesn’t have a business reason to have a presence. It’s not a coded insult, good grief!

  42. Freya*

    I live in Australia. Quite apart from the fact that Workers Compensation Insurance (which is a requirement for most employers) is governed and administered by the states, in a number of industries, permits and licenses are state-based. Construction industries are one – a builder licensed to work in the ACT is not licensed to work in NSW, even though in the ACT you’re rarely more than half an hours drive from NSW.

    Half our states also have permits/licensing for labour hire companies – companies that hire people to work as contractors for other businesses. It’s incredibly common for labour hire companies to be used to supply people for government and defence contracts, for example. Those people are working for the labour hire company, who is on-selling their time. It’s historically been very easy to be dodgy, and the contractors always seem to end up suffering, so some of our states have introduced licensing. The ACT is one, as of May this year, but AFAIK NSW is still not. So if you’re working for a labour hire company and your normal place of work is in the ACT, or the labour hire company is based in the ACT, then the labour hire company needs a license to do that. If your normal place of work is in NSW, even if you can see the border, they don’t (unless the labour hire company is based in the ACT). Which has implications for WFH since it’s very common for people to live in the cheaper real estate over the border…

  43. gwen*

    When I asked him about this, he said yes, he would like to stay in Cleveland but was waiting to see what our policy was; others at our parent company were in similar situations.

    OP, Frank didn’t do anything wrong here. And no, you are not being fair.

    We have never had a timeframe in place for when the pandemic will be over, and we still don’t. Frank has clearly not set out to relocate from the start, nor to do so without telling you: there is no “boiling frog” approach being taken here. The company – and you – also did not communicate anything to anyone at any point about this, despite many others also needing to move around for various reasons during the pandemic. If nothing concrete was ever really said about office reopening plans – and if Frank’s role does not actually require him to be in the office – then this pushes the weight even more in frank’s favour.

    The thinking around Ohio being an unusual or odd place for someone in Frank’s role to be based from is something no one else will actually care about, especially during and after the pandemic.

    1. pancakes*

      Nah. Every time I’ve started a new job, I’ve had to complete tax forms that include my address. Some of the paperwork is federal, some state, and some is related to the city I live and work in. This lengthy and reliable pattern communicates, to me, that where I live is of at least some relevance to my employers. Clearly a lot of people have never thought about what, if any, implications their choice of residence has on their employment, but it doesn’t follow that any and all such implications went out the window because of the pandemic. Fwiw, I say this as someone who was working from home pre-pandemic.

      1. gwen*

        But this isn’t a new job. Frank has worked with OP for some time. Many people move without ever being asked or told to fill out new paperwork for the taxes, paperwork etc.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think many people do move to a new state without either filling out some sort of paperwork with their employer or, sooner or later, some branch of government or other, or multiple branches. The DMV, for example.

    2. pancakes*

      Also, it’s quite a misreading of the letter to think the problem here is that the employer thinks Ohio is an odd place to move!

  44. Showtime*

    Dare I ask if you actually asked any of your employees where they were working from? Or if they had moved? Or if you made it clear to everyone that a potential move of location might cause an issue?

    It sounds as if Frank was not the only person who has moved during the pandemic who did not realise it might cause some sort of issue, and that Margot was keeping you in the loop because of the very serious health threat (and the ADA requirements that you must meet as her employer) COVID-19 created for her, and her doctor’s advice. This indicates quite strongly that you, as the employer, did not have any actual policies or procedures in place that employees could refer to.

    It also sounds as if Frank had no intentions whatsoever to move, especially permanently, and that you have a problem with Frank that has nothing to do with any of this.

    How much will it cost you, in time and money, to replace Frank, and to train that replacement?

  45. anonymous73*

    “It doesn’t sound like Frank tried to hide his move from you; he just didn’t proactively volunteer it. When you inquired, it doesn’t sound like he tried to avoid telling you; he told you he hoped to stay in Cleveland but was waiting to hear what your policy was. That’s pretty reasonable.”

    I don’t agree with the Frank being reasonable statement. You don’t move to a different state without running it past your employer first. Just because exceptions were made due to the pandemic doesn’t automatically mean that you can work from anywhere, and him assuming this is not reasonable. Instead of asking permission, he figured he could just ask for forgiveness after the fact. If the ONLY reason OP wants to tell him he can’t do his job from a different state is because of the way he went about it, then I would say no that’s not fair to him (although I would keep a close eye on him since it doesn’t seem he can be trusted to share important life changing decisions that could affect his work). But if there’s a valid business reason to inform him that he can’t work from Ohio (which is sounds like there are a few), than it’s completely fair to not allow him to work remotely (regardless of a decision made for Margot).

    1. APM*

      I was surprised by Alison’s response! I didn’t think Frank’s actions were in any way reasonable or excusable.

  46. agnes*

    Regardless of one’s knowledge of tax law and such, the idea of permanently relocating without a clear understanding that one’s job will be permanently fully remote seems risky to me.

  47. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    When this all started, my company made me sign a document stating that all non client-facing employees must notify their managers of any temporary move from their legal address and take their laptops if they’re away more than a week. The idea in the beginning was to minimize any disruptions caused by sudden border closures, because there were employees who got stranded abroad and were impossible to reach, but it got extended to cover those who wanted to be next to their families for a couple of months. If Frank had tried to pull this where I work, he would’ve been terminated immediately and marked as ineligible for unemployment.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      If Frank had had a document to sign way back when all this started, he may have gone about his move differently.

  48. Greg*

    Let this be a lesson to any other “Franks” out there: if you’ve relocated to somewhere else and don’t want anyone to find out, virtual backgrounds/blur feature are your friends.

    (Kidding. Sort of.)

    1. MeanieNini*

      If you previously lived somewhere with higher taxes, I’d assume you will be jumping at the chance to change that with HR so even if you don’t change your background, your manager and the company will find out.

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