company has a men-only weekend trip, did employer lie about their interview process, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Company hosts a men-only weekend trip

Our company has grown exponentially since I first joined five years ago and now has over 500 employees. Our owner started hosting a “boys hunting trip” which only male employees from our corporate team attend. At first it was only a few members of our team as we were a smaller company, but now the attendees list is growing.

Only men are invited and are explicitly told to keep quiet about the trip so the women in our office don’t find out about it. I’m not disappointed I don’t get to join in boys weekend. I’m upset that leadership, including HR, thinks it’s okay to leave women out of this event entirely. Our owner doesn’t live anywhere near where our company is based. It’s very rare we get to talk to him, let alone see him for extended periods of time. Now newer male employees will have the chance to speak to him on matters the rest of us don’t get to. I don’t know the best way to address this without the boys club getting angry with me.

Whoa, this isn’t okay. Companies can’t hold events that only men are invited to; it violates federal anti-discrimination law. It’s also profoundly shitty, given that there’s a long history of women being harmed professionally through exactly this kind of all-male socializing, where men get face time and bonding with leadership that the women are left out of (to say nothing of the mentoring, information-sharing, and actual business that often happens at these events). The fact that men are explicitly told to keep women in the company from finding out says someone there knows this isn’t okay.

You and other women in your office should talk to HR and, at a minimum, point out that the company is opening itself to legal liability by holding men-only events. Ideally you’d frame it as an official complaint of discrimination too. Alternately, if you don’t feel comfortable approaching HR, a lawyer could help guide you through other options, including talking to the company on your/your coworkers’ behalf or filing a complaint with the EEOC (something you don’t actually need a lawyer to do — but lawyers are helpful for understanding your options).

2. Did this employer lie to me about their interview process?

I went through a lengthy interview process that included four rounds of video interviews and two tests that took several hours each. The hiring manager called my references and as far as I heard the calls went well. Then she set me up with a video call with Jane, one of her reports, which she said was for me to ask Jane any questions I had about the team and workplace.

Jane emphasized at the beginning of the call that she had not seen my resume and this wasn’t a job interview, she was just there to be a resource for me. So I asked her a few questions and, when we hit the end of the allotted time, asked if she had any questions for me. Jane repeated that she wasn’t interviewing me and the call was just for my benefit. So I thanked her, she encouraged me to email her if I had any additional questions, and we ended the call. Approximately 45 minutes later, I received a form rejection email from the company’s HR.

While I know that companies can reject people for all kinds of reasons, I am still a bit puzzled about what might have happened here. Given that the manager called my references prior to this conversation with Jane, it seemed like she was very close to hiring me. I’m wondering if Jane/the manager were being dishonest in saying that the conversation was only for my benefit, and if the call was actually an interview that could make or break my hiring. Should you always assume you’re being interviewed when you interact with employees during the hiring process? Additionally, given how long and involved the process was, would I have any standing to reach back out to Jane or the hiring manager and ask what happened? I’m just flabbergasted here and would appreciate any insight you have.

Pretty much every interaction you have with a company during a hiring process counts as part of their assessment process, even if it’s not framed that way. While no one would say that your casual chit chat with receptionist while you wait for your interview to start is an interview, it’s definitely something that could impact your chances if the receptionist passes along particularly good or bad feedback. The same thing goes for how you communicate in emails about scheduling, or with the team member who you chat casually with in the elevator. And so it could be absolutely true that your call with Jane was just to get your questions answered — but Jane still could have impressions from that call that she passed along.

But that doesn’t mean that that’s what happened. It’s possible the rejection was already in the works before you talked with Jane and they decided not to cancel since the call was already scheduled, but HR timed the rejection email weirdly. Or you were their second choice but their first choice accepted the offer that day so rejections went out (again with awkward timing). Or all sorts of other things; it’s impossible to say from the outside. I lean toward thinking a non-Jane explanation is most likely just given the timing — Jane convincing the hiring manager that you were a no and HR sending out the rejection is a lot to happen in the 45 minutes after the call ended (although it’s not impossible).

In any case, you can ask for feedback. Email the hiring manager, not Jane, and don’t frame it as “what happened?” Simply say that you wonder if they have feedback they can share with you about how you could be a stronger candidate in the future. You may or may not get anything useful but, especially after a long hiring process, it’s absolutely okay to ask.

3. Leaving when my contract has a $10,000 penalty for quitting early

I work overnight hours for a media company and I am at the end of my rope.

I signed a contract when I accepted the job in 2020, saying I will stay until September 2022. The unconventional hours, constant negativity, short-staffing and low pay are all contributing to my decision to leave.

I have a few offers on the table, and I am in the headspace to say that quitting really will be in my best interest. The catch is, I have a penalty clause saying I could be fined up to $10,000 and have to cover legal fees if I go before my time is up. Fortunately, I am in the financial place that I can afford to do that, though I would obviously rather not have to pay anything to a company that has so drastically impacted my mental health.

So when I put in my notice, do I say that I’m leaving because of the physical/mental impact this job has had on my life? Or do I say I’ve accepted another offer that I couldn’t turn down?

If you want to maximize the chances that they won’t try to collect on the penalty for breaking the contract, saying that you’re leaving because the job is affecting your health gives you the best shot at that. If you just say you got a better offer, they’re going to rightly feel like … well, you signed a contract agreeing to stay despite that. Health stuff puts it in a different realm and underscores that you don’t have a choice / aren’t just chasing after money. (Not that there’s anything wrong with chasing after money! But it would look like you were being cavalier with a contractual commitment and make them more likely to enforce the remedies the contract gives them.)

4. “Open the kimono”

Can we all agree that the phrase “open the kimono” as a euphemism for providing more transparency should not be used any more? And note that I’ve never heard a woman use that phrase, only men. Keep the kimonos closed, people!

Agreed. It’s problematic on multiple levels and needs to go away.

5. FMLA leave when you work remotely

A comment about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in another post sent me down a rabbit hole of history. And then I ran across something that concerns me a little bit. The FMLA applies when the company has 50 employees within 75 miles. I fear we’re going to see enough employees go remote only to find that they have spread the geography out so that their company now exceeds the 75 mile radius.

You’re eligible to take up to 12 weeks of leave a year under FMLA if: (1) you’ve been employed with your company for 12 months, (2) you’ve worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the leave, and (3) your employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite. That last part is what’s concerning you. But here’s the important thing: under the law, home offices are not considered your work site. Instead, FMLA considers your work site to be the physical office location that you report to and receive your work assignments from. So if your company is based in Boston and has 49 employees there plus you working from home in Florida, for FMLA purposes you’re all assigned to that work site, and so the 50-employee threshold is met and you’re eligible.

This doesn’t answer the question of what if there’s no physical location at all, as is becoming more common, or what it means if your boss (the source of your work assignments) is also remote. The only thing I could find on that said, “This predicament isn’t clear and neither the Department of Labor nor case law has given guidance on how to resolve it.”

{ 609 comments… read them below }

  1. Sami*

    Grown men disguised as an all boys club going hunting? Come on! It’s almost 2022. I don’t want to believe this sort of crap goes on, but it absolutely does.

    1. Beth*

      Right?? OP1, honestly, I’d personally skip the talk with HR and go right to an employment lawyer to see if they think there’s a case around this. Your company knows this is wrong–if they didn’t, they wouldn’t try to keep it quiet.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        That’s what I’d do, too. I’m not sure what a lawyer could do, but them I’m not a lawyer, and I know they probably have a lot more tricks up their sleeves than I’m aware of.

        1. Beth*

          Exactly–even if the lawyer’s advice was “talk to HR first,” I’d still want to go into that conversation fully informed on what the law says and what my options might be and what I should say to maximize the odds of me getting my desired result.

          1. EPLawyer*

            And able to use the magic words “I’ve already discussed this with a lawyer.”

            There might be a cost — although Maryland has a FREE employment law hotline – but the cost would be worth it to be clear on your rights AND remedies.

            1. Anne of Green Gables*

              North Carolina bar association has a lawyer matching service on their website. If you find a lawyer through that, your first 30-minute appointment is a flat $50 fee. In my experience, in that meeting they both get you started with what they can do for you, and lay out their fees going forward.

            2. KoiFeeder*

              Frankly, all states should have a free employment law hotline. It doesn’t really cut down on employers being scummy, but it does help folks leave faster or at least help themselves during a bad situation.

      2. Grey Coder*

        I was thinking lawyer first, to find out how to handle/document the retaliation I foresee coming from any kind of pushback. And how to ensure there’s an evidence trail to establish the retaliation is for a discrimination complaint.

        Sorry, this sucks.

      3. Not really a Waitress*

        In an added twist, if your company has an EAP – you can use it to get a free 30 minute consult with a lawyer. Which would be AWESOME.

        1. Rage*

          Not really a Waitress said: In an added twist, if your company has an EAP – you can use it to get a free 30 minute consult with a lawyer. Which would be AWESOME.

          This is true, but most EAPs will not cover legal issues that involve the employer. This is a conflict of interest, since the company is the one funding the EAP. It makes sense, no employer would want a benefit they are funding to be used to potentially sue the company. When I worked at an EAP, we had a situation where the employer changed their rules regarding covering non-employees on the company health insurance – specifically, minor children that did not claim their primary residence as the employee’s (so, shared custody, kids live with mom, but divorce decree states dad will cover the kids on his health insurance). The insurance required that they get a legal document that specifies the employee is to provide coverage for non-custodial minor children. Our legal referral service (3rd party, specifically designed for EAPs) balked, stating it was an employer issue and therefore ineligible for coverage. We had a lot of rounds with them, the employer, and their insurance for them to finally cave and agree to accept our client referrals for this issue.

          1. Amaranth*

            I think in the back of my mind I’d be wondering about their objectivity with the ‘defendant’ footing the bill.

        2. Just Jane*

          It probably won’t work if you use the company EAP to get a free lawyer. The EAP plans I worked with as a benefits administrator specifically exclude services for legal advice concering the sponsoring employer.

      4. Dino*

        And that way if the lawyer says “skip HR and go to EEOC”, you don’t have a target on your back from bringing it up previously.

      5. Pippa K*

        I suspect it’s more a case that they really *don’t* think it’s wrong, just that those tiresome women will get all offended (you know how touchy women can be! /s) and make a fuss. So it’s best to keep it a secret so the women don’t cause drama and spoil their totally harmless fun.

        I’ve come to realize that changing this sort of work culture doesn’t actually involve enlightening or educating people as often as we’d like, just stopping them doing this crap. Getting Bob to be a sexist dinosaur quietly inside his own head with no effect on other people counts as a win. (Can you tell how tired I am? I’m so tired.)

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Exactly. I don’t care anymore if I change their hearts and minds. I will settle for changing their behavior.


          Also so tired

          PS Did you see the story about Blue Origin?

          “One former employee told The Post that in a meeting with an outside company, McCleery turned to the executives and said: ‘I apologize for [her] being emotional. It must be her time of the month,” and “One former engineer said that she was kneeling at a co-worker’s desk in 2016, while they went over engineering drawings together. She said her manager, an older man, walked by and said: ‘You’ve only been working here two weeks. You don’t have to get on your knees yet.'”

    2. DropStop*

      Of course it does. And when the trips stop in this case, the story will be about how the guys used to have great weekends with the owner till the women complained and then they stopped. (⋟﹏⋞)

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        And I would bet money that if the OP does complain, a select group of women in the company will promptly be invited to an all-female spa and shopping trip hosted by the wife of one of the management team…

        1. Worldwalker*

          Because getting face time with someone’s wife who has nothing to do with the company is just like getting it with the boss. Right.

          And … spa and shopping? I’d rather go hunting.

          Yeah, it does sound exactly like something they’d do.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            I’d rather just go hiking in the woods. Not all women want to go shopping for fun, because we don’t all have the money. Spas are nice but expensive, and I’d be allergic to half the products used. Hunting, no thanks. Fishing, maybe, but I’m from the upper Midwest and we learn how to fish as children here.

            What is up with companies thinking everyone likes the same kinds of activities, anyway? It’s really stereotyping.

            1. Tisiphone*

              I’ll join you on that hiking trip.

              A day spent shopping is just more household logistics. This is not fun. I would not want to spend a day with coworkers shopping for groceries, household goods, or other things I do on a regular basis anyway.

              1. Ace in the Hole*


                I live in an all-female household. We carefully negotiate who does what shopping because we ALL hate it. I don’t even like shopping for fun stuff like art supplies or bike parts, much less for things like clothes that I don’t enjoy for their own sake.

            2. Worldwalker*

              I like shopping for fun … in places like used bookstores and Microcenter. The sort of people who think “shopping and spa” would be appalled. It’s like they don’t want to shop for 19th-century books on English architecture, bottles of 3D printer resin, and maybe a nice new graphics tablet.

              Please tell me they’re the weird ones!

          2. Christmas Carol*

            Why do I think that a bunch of wimmin folk showing up with guns would scare these good old boys right down to the soles of their hunting boots?

            1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

              I’m torn between wanting all the women to surprise show up at the hunt and spend the day “accidently” scaring the prey away and ruining the hunt OR surprise show up at the hunt and spend the day out shooting all the men and the big bosses. As a kid my family had very divided gender rolls. So I as a girl was not allowed to go hunting even though my younger brother was. After having read every book the library had on Annie Oakley I pitched a huge fit about not being allowed to go. (2 female cousins were allowed to go every year but it was always explained as because their dad had no sons, yes really the family actually said that allowed.) I pitched a big enough and long enough fit that the aunties insisted the men take me with them (honestly the aunties just didn’t want to be around me by that point) I was not allowed so much as a bb gun. But it was a pleasant day hiking thru the woods, the fun of knowing I had “won” against their wishes, and I got to see a dove fall directly into my older least favorite brother’s face. So that last bit was priceless!

              1. banoffee pie*

                Because they had no sons?? Wow. Gotta love the logic. Reminds me of that ‘bacha posh’ thing in some parts of Afghanistan where if a family has no sons one of the daughters lives as a man and performs the ‘son’ role for the family. So for example they can go to the market alone etc which the women wouldn’t be allowed to do. At least you had a good hike! This is all a bit alien to me because nobody really hunts here, men or women.

    3. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Oh, and who continues doing all the work while the boys are away on their secret hunting trip? But the women of course!

      This sounds so much like a place I used work… except it was 15-20 years ago, and a much smaller business where this was just the tip of the dysfunctional shitberg. At that place, a couple of the longest-employed women banded together and suggested that to be fair, they should either choose a different and inclusive activity for everyone, or at least close the office and give the women a paid day off so they’re not stuck picking up all the slack. The coddled man-babies didn’t like either idea, so they compromised by letting the women have a different afternoon – for High Tea! and Shopping! Because that’s what makes Women Happy! – on their own.

      Knowing firsthand how hard it is to see change when a sexist culture stems from the owner himself, I’d honestly question whether you want to continue working for this company, LW. I agree with everything Alison says of course, and props to you if you have the energy to fight for change. But if I were going through it again now, I’d just be actively trying to GTFO.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I’m pretty sure that f I were invited to high tea and shopping while the menfolk got a hunting trip I’d develop a hunting hobby out of sheer spite, despite a decade of vegetarianism and a total lack of gun ownership.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Hey, are you me? Because it was a different sport, and mostly centred on spectator drinking and going to strip clubs afterwards. So I developed a liver of steel and a tolerance for boobs in my face. And years after I left, a profound appreciation for what everyone says here about how dysfunctional workplaces can really mess with your norms.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            …and the ability to crack jokes about boobs in my face.

            As of two years ago, I received a flyer for a professional association’s “Men’s Bowling Night Out”. I’d even inquired about attending and was told I wasn’t going to be able to bowl. Nobody from my company attended.

        2. Morning Reader*

          It’s bow hunting season and the deer need thinning. Also, venison is the most environmentally friendly meat you can eat, if you kill it yourself.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Totally agree (don’t get me started about big agribusiness), but as a cis male with a brain I still cannot imagine putting up with Spanky’s He-Man Woman Hater’s Club in order to do that.

          2. DANGER: GumptionAhead*

            Yep! One deer can keep a family of 6 in protein for a year if you know what you are doing with all the non-traditional-for-urbanized-folk bits. An elk can keep 3 families of that size fed for a year. Good for the environment, good for the pocketbook, and tasty AF

          3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

            I recently switched from venison to pheasant. It’s a real game changer.

            (don’t forget to tip your waitress, I’ll be here all week)

          4. Black Horse Dancing*

            Considering the HUGE amount of damage hunters have done to predators like wolves, cougars, bears, and coyotes and others, all in the name of “preserving the deer/elk/quail/whatever”, environmentally friendly is the LAST thing it is. Want to see a nightmare? Wolf hunting in Wisconsin and other states. Numerous apex predators are killed so hunters get bigger elk, whatever. Livestock so called protection is worse but no, deer hunting is not friendly to the deer or the animals that hunt them except humans.

            1. herekittykitty...pspsps*

              Thank you, hunting is terrible. Can’t believe more people aren’t appalled that a company is doing this at all, in addition to it being a men only event.

              1. Katy*

                Please reconsider the blanket statement you just made. It’s fine to say that corporate events in the lower 48 should not be based around hunting, but please try to imagine how a Native American or Alaska Native person whose cultural traditions are based around subsistence hunting would react to a comment like yours.

          5. WantonSeedStitch*

            My uncle bow hunts deer, and I always get some tasty venison out of the deal! I love it.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Hunting trips frequently involve very little if any actual hunting and a lot of sitting around a hunting cabin drinking beer, and the only things shot are the breeze and bull.

          1. La Triviata*

            I once heard a story about a man who went off on his “hunting trip” with his buddies. His wife packed for him. When he returned, he complained that she hadn’t packed any clean underwear … she responded that she’d packed it in his gun case.

      2. DANGER: GumptionAhead*

        As a woman who hasn’t had to buy protein ever, I’d be vexed if someone offered me a manicure instead of a mule deer hunt.

      3. Not a cat*

        I worked for a software company that hosted a yearly reward trip. Interestingly, you had to be married to be invited (cis-hetero). Engaged wasn’t good enough, nor were unmarred partners. Toward the end of my tenure, they would invite a few singles, but they were expected to dance attendance on the marrieds. Think valet or ladies maid but for business. It was ridiculous!

    4. Don't Be Long Suffering*

      Since this practice is obviously discriminatory, and since we are ALL responsible for ending discrimination, Imma fix Allison’s sentence for her. “You and other EMPLOYEES in your office should talk to HR and, at a minimum, point out that the company is opening itself to legal liability by holding men-only events.” Because the people who are going on these trips have, I would argue, an even larger obligation to end it.

      1. Jamjari*

        Oh, so this. I’m disappointed in the men going on these trips. Even if owner sees nothing wrong, some of the invitees, who’ve been told to keep it quiet about it, know it’s wrong and yet are participating anyway. I know it’s standing up to the boss but you could also say you have another commitment – like you’re looking after the kids because your wife’s boss invited her on a hunting trip.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’m curious how they planned for this to stay secret when all the men vanish from work, especially if any of them are married to or dating those who aren’t invited. However, I like to think at least some of the men think its heinous and spread the word to other employees.

    5. KateM*

      I kinda went to check whether it is a recent letter, or, dunno, reviewing letters of 50 years past or so.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      My favorite detail is that the organizers apparently believe, en masse, that if they tell everyone to keep it on the dl no one else in the office will notice.

      I’ve seen better plans on Scooby Doo.

      1. The OTHER other*

        …”and we would’ve gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for that meddling letter-writer!”

    7. tess*

      I’d be only too happy to be left out of a hunting trip, but yeah, an all-males bonding without there being the same opportunity for women? Come on. EVOLVE!

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I’m sure some of the men would rather not be involved as well — maybe they prefer non-blood sports, or don’t drink, or really just want to be home playing Final Fantasy XIV. The owner needs to hunt with his own friends, and if he hasn’t got any, that is not his employees’ problem.

        1. OhNo*

          Ah, but his friends won’t kiss his a$$ and tell him how great he is all weekend! And let’s be real, this is definitely more about stroking the big boss’ ego than whatever ridiculous justification he’s managed to conjure up for it.

      2. Loosey Goosey*

        I wonder if a man could also have a claim for religious discrimination. An employee whose faith prohibits killing animals, even for food (Buddhism? Jainism?), would be in a really tough position here.

        (I think the men should be declining to attend secret, gender-segregated business trips regardless, and it sucks that they are apparently going along with this. I hope LW has some decent male coworkers who will join in whatever pushback she decides to do.)

        1. Worldwalker*

          The employee whose faith prohibits killing animals most likely wouldn’t be much if any less of a “hunter” than everyone else. “Hunting” trips of this kind frequently involve a group sitting around in a cabin in the woods, drinking vast quantities of beer. Actually hunting is frequently not involved at all. It’s all about hanging out with other guys and male bonding (and acting juvenile).

          People who want to go kill a deer … go kill a deer. Much more efficiently. They don’t need to take their buddies and make a long weekend of it.

      3. LW1*

        I use the term hunting loosely here. They’re staying at a multi million dollar property with a private chef and guides to help them do everything. It’s not some tiny cabin off the grid in the middle of nowhere they’re headed to. So even if someone isn’t necessarily a hunter, it’s not like they’re going to necessarily be miserable and sitting in the cold outside.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Oh, holy mother of the Flying Spaghetti Monster! I wrote before I saw this.

          That is very loosely “hunting” indeed. It makes the dudes sitting around a cabin drinking beer look like real hunters.

          Though it still probably involves a lot of sitting around, just much better food and drink than beer and second-rate chili.

    8. SpecialSpecialist*

      Barge in and take over their all-boys hunting trip a la Leslie Knope (then ‘accidently’ shoot your boss in the butt and let Tom take the blame).

    9. Quickbeam*

      Then other terrible issue with men only junkets is the assumption that the women will take care of the office scut work. I’ve seen this at several places I’ve worked. Watching car loads of men leave for a ball game while the phones are ringing off the hook? yeah, that sucks.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Even more so if you really want to go to that ball game.

        (note: do not talk to me about the ALCS if you value your life /s)

    10. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      Of course! Because OF COURSE all men just LOVE hunting – none have any ethical or religious objections to it or are just plain uninterested in it, right? Riiiighhht.
      Because, of course, all men are all alike – they’re just like the boss who thinks this is a splendid favor to bestow upon his male employees. Sheeeshh….don’t you love mandatory “fun” at work?

      1. herekittykitty...pspsps*

        Exactly. Most people from my home state act like everyone loves hunting, which is just obviously not true. Many of us do not enjoying shooting living creatures for “sport”.

  2. Shad*

    Can I just say how glad I am that letter #4 has been my only exposure to the phrase in question, and how much I hope that forever remains the case?

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I’ve never heard it either but can only imagine my reaction if I did in a business setting. (Well, any setting really, but especially in a boardroom.)

          1. ForeignLawyer*

            Oh gosh, I work in English in a non-English-speaking country… A whole lot of people I’ve worked with genuinely think that “circle jerk” means someone is such a big jerk their jerkwaddery is all-encompassing.

            I typically choose to let them keep believing that. Much easier than having to explain what it really is. :|

            1. AES*

              Oh my gosh I feel like you have to tell them though! What if someone used it in a place that could be harmful for your company or embarrassing for your colleagues? At least a “hey just fyi that is an idiom that isn’t appropriate for the workplace”?

              1. ForeignLawyer*

                You’re right, I probably should, but the whole company is so weird about what is and isn’t proper English I just don’t go there anymore.

                Seriously, they think “oh, that’s a shame” is wildly NSFW, but have no problems with “circle jerk”. And the word “ass” is fine, but if you say “arse” you will be speaking to HR (no, we don’t work with donkeys lol).

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  Funny, I use arse in social situations where saying ass seems too crude, and it usually lets me get away with it. (I use neither in a work situation)

        1. Robert*

          I dunno, unlike circle jerk it’s pretty self explanatory. So I don’t think asking for an explanation of the meaning would be very effective (and might also come off as offensive if you hit a “I demand to know what’s underneath the kimono” tone). With this phrase better just to shut it down immediately without playing games.

      1. a sound engineer*

        Open the kimono?? Had never heard that until now but I hope to never hear that again. SO GROSS.

          1. Ki.Mono*

            For what it’s worth, kimonos are worn by both men and women in Japan. (Not that this really makes opening them in business contexts any better.)

            1. bamcheeks*

              yeah, but I think the fact that the phrase bears no relation to how how kimonos are actually worn in Japan is part of the racism? It really depends on a European/American objectifying gaze which associates kimonos solely with Japanese women in sexual contexts.

              1. Daisy*

                Yeah, you can’t really ‘open’ a kimono? And they take a while to put on and off. I think they’re thinking of a dressing gown.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Yes. My grandmother had a multi-coloured patterned silk dressing gown from Liberty’s and she called that her kimono. It in no way resembled the Japanese version, that was just what she called it.

                2. Lenora Rose*

                  These days I’ve seen otherwise-not-(very)-racist north American stores use Kimono for pretty much any front opening garment that’s work suitable, like cardigans or long jackets or loose front-tying covers. Annoys the heck out of me because I like using cardigans or similar outer layers, but they’re not even a bit like kimonos.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Origin is supposed to be a feudal Japan practice of showing that you are not carrying weapons to the negotiation table. Unfortunately most Americans seem to think it’s referring to a geisha.

            1. Sandi*

              This lines up with my experience. I heard it used years ago in the context of people who didn’t know each other well meeting up to work on a project, and the comment was made to suggest that everyone be collaborative and honest. It isn’t appropriate now, but I wouldn’t be horrified if someone said it. I would ask them to find a different term that didn’t refer to a cultural context that wasn’t theirs, I would think of it almost like a suggestion to loosen business ties and take off jackets and get to work.

            2. LadyByTheLake*

              Yes, I have always understood it this way (open your robes to show that you are not carrying weapons). It wasn’t until this comment thread that it occurred to me that anyone would even remotely view it as sexist. To me it had exactly the same meaning as “put our cards on the table.”

              1. LadyByTheLake*

                And to be clear, I’ve always objected to it as racist, so I don’t like it for that reason — it just never occurred to me that some also saw it as sexist.

              2. Observer*

                That’s actually something that I would find highly non-credible. Because let’s face it. The vast majority of Americans who use this phrase see a kimono as a female garment, and most of them associate with Geisha.

                1. Anonymeece*

                  This. Even if the *origin* isn’t necessarily sexist, I doubt 99% of the people using it know that. It’s like the (disingenuous) argument I see that calling someone a… euphemism for a cat that starts with a “p” isn’t sexist, because it REALLY comes from the word “pusillanimous” which means cowardly, so why are the women getting so upset? (/s)

                  Yeah, right. Because the guys calling each other that while playing COD are thinking that, I’m sure.

              3. Worldwalker*

                I’m wondering if it came from wanting Japanese partner companies, suppliers, or whatever, to disclose more of their inner workings. Instead of just “open up”, since the companies were Japanese, a symbol (and probably the only thing Japanese a disturbing number of people could even name) representing Japan was pasted into “open up” — “open the kimono”.

            3. NaN*

              I looked into this a bit when the (female) CFO of my company used the phrase in a company-wide meeting (and got backlash and apologized).

              The origin of the phrase is uncertain. It may or may not date back to feudal Japan and showing you’re not carrying a weapon. It may or may not be akin loosening the kimono to relax once you get home, similar to loosening a tie. But it was popularized by American businessmen in the 70s and 80s, and those business men were absolutely hinting at the idea of seeing what was under a woman’s clothing.

              Being able to say “technically, anyone can wear a kimono” or “well, it goes back to feudal times” does not make it any less gross in a modern business context.

              1. NaN*

                Think of the phrases “balls to the wall” and “balls out.” The former came from aviation, referring to the ball on a throttle control. The latter is thought to be a railway engineering term, referring to a weighted steel ball used for mechanical control. But the reason the phrases stuck and became popular is because of the association with testicles. Claiming otherwise because “well, technically” is disingenuous at best.

                1. JBI*

                  Also… freeze the balls off a brass monkey

                  “What Is the Origin of the Saying “To Freeze The Balls Off a Brass Monkey”?
                  To freeze the balls off a brass monkey means it is very cold.

                  Early references to brass monkeys in the 19th century have no references to balls at all, but instead variously say that it is cold enough to freeze the tail, nose, ears and whiskers off a brass monkey; or hot enough to scald the throat or singe the hair of a brass monkey. All of these variations imply that an actual monkey is the subject of the metaphor, with balls being the surviving phrase.

                  It is widely believed that a brass monkey is a brass tray used in naval ships during the Napoleonic Wars for the storage of cannonballs (piled up in a pyramid). The theory goes that the tray would contract in cold weather, causing the balls to fall off. This theory is discredited by the US Department of the Navy and the etymologist Michael Quinion and the OED’s AskOxford website for five main reasons:
                  The Oxford English Dictionary does not record the term monkey or brass monkey being used in this way.
                  The purported method of storage of cannonballs (round shot) is simply false. Shot was not stored on deck continuously on the off-chance that the ship might go into battle. Indeed, decks were kept as clear as possible.
                  Such a method of storage would result in shot rolling around on deck and causing a hazard in high seas. Shot was stored on the gun or spar decks, in shot racks (longitudinal wooden planks with holes bored into them, known as shot garlands in the Royal Navy), into which round shot were inserted for ready use by the gun crew.
                  Shot was not left exposed to the elements where it could rust. Such rust could lead to the ball not flying true or jamming in the barrel and exploding the gun. Indeed, gunners would attempt to remove as many imperfections as possible from the surfaces of balls.
                  The physics do not stand up to scrutiny. All of the balls would contract equally, and the contraction of both balls and plate over the range of temperatures involved would not be particularly large. The effect claimed possibly could be reproduced under laboratory conditions with objects engineered to a high precision for this purpose, but it is unlikely it would ever have occurred in real life aboard a warship.

                  A Competing Theory
                  In the past, war ships carried iron cannons, which required cannon balls nearby. The cannon balls were stored in a square pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. In order to prevent the sixteen balls from rolling away, a metal plate called a monkey with sixteen round indentations was secured near the cannon. As iron rusts quickly, the plate was made of brass. Whilst the rusting problem may have been solved, brass contracts much more and quicker than iron in cold weather. As a consequence, when the temperature was extremely cold, the brass indentations would shrink and the cannon balls would roll off the monkey. The temperature was therefore cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.”

                2. pancakes*

                  JBI, that phrase was my white whale in the early days of the internet! My grandmother used to say, “you’ve got more nerve than a brass monkey,” and no one else ever quite knew what she meant or where she’d picked this up. She herself didn’t remember. When the internet really started to take off, one of the first things I tried to find out was, what on earth is a brass monkey?! It was a few years before I learned it’s a way to talk about balls — cannonballs! — in mixed company.

              2. Paulina*

                Yes. Claiming that there’s an innocuous source of the phrase just adds “overly jargony in-phrase” to its problems. “Ha-ha, it sounds like it’s racist and sexist and obscene, but really if you knew…”

                Ugh. Glad this is the first time I’ve heard it, and while I hope to never hear it again at least I’m prepared with how to try to shut it down.

                1. OhNo*

                  Agreed, this thread is giving me good talking points if I should ever hear that phrase in person somewhere. Glad I’ve avoided it this far, honestly.

              3. ursula*

                I appreciate this comment so much. Nothing to add, I just think this is a really wise way to think about language, history, and context.

                1. banoffee pie*

                  I’ve never ever heard that phrase. Maybe it isn’t a thing in the UK. But now that I have heard it, it just sounds racist and sexist to me. I would have assumed it referred to geishas, or at least that most people mean geishas when they say it.

              4. EmmaPoet*

                Yes, you can try very hard to make this seem innocuous, but maybe if you have to try that hard, it’s time to put this phrase in the trash can.

              5. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

                Replying to: Being able to say “technically, anyone can wear a kimono” or “well, it goes back to feudal times” does not make it any less gross in a modern business context.

                Honestly, anything that refers to feudal times, whether Japanese or European, has a high chance of being problematic in some ways, or at least to be misunderstood, since not everyone is an expert of feudal times.
                If the first image that comes to mind is something gross, that phrase is NSFW no matter what the original meaning may be.

          3. DJ Abbott*

            You just know some “clever” frat boy came up with it and people who have no idea what a kimono is started repeating it.

        1. HailRobonia*

          So this. It is gross on so many levels. It’s like someone had a contest to come up with the most absurdly idiotic/out-of-touch expression.

    2. Jackalope*

      I truly hope I never hear it again either. My brief bit of horrified internet research found an allegation that it began in Japan, and…. maaaaybeee it’s okay there? (I don’t know but giving the benefit of the doubt?) But I can’t see any way that it’s appropriate to use someplace like the US.

      1. Beth*

        I don’t think it began in Japan, FYI. I’ve never heard it used in Japanese, and a quick google doesn’t turn up any Japanese language equivalents. The only thing I can find are a couple pages that are basically going “here’s what this weird and confusing piece of English language business jargon means”.

          1. Catherine*

            Clarification: have not heard it used in Japan, in Japanese OR English. (I was however introduced to the phrase by the My Brother My Brother and Me podcast, which was uncomfortably fond of it for a while!)

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              Ugh, what? I listen to Sawbones and never heard it there, and now I’m wondering if Dr. McElroy dislikes it enough that her husband doesn’t say it around her.

              Count me in on the number of people who have never in their lives heard it used but instantly cringed on hearing it. Yuck!

              1. parsley*

                MBMBAM’s earlier days have some very uncomfortable moments, which I think they’ve acknowledged and apologised for.

                1. LizB*

                  In fact they actively tell people now not to start at the beginning of the podcast because of how shitty a lot of their early humor and takes were.

                2. RabbitRabbit*

                  Good to hear. I can get how some brothers joking around might get kind of weird together, so it’s heartening that they’ve figured it out.

        1. Jackalope*

          Thanks for the clarification. That makes the phrase even worse. Ugh. (And here’s to me doing more internet research before posting!)

      2. Artemesia*

        Japan has a very sexist work culture so I am betting that it has the same obscene connotations there.

        1. WS*

          It’s not a phrase in Japanese though. And if you did “open a kimono” you’d find…appropriate undergarments.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Can I propose “Reveal the appropriate undergarments!!” as the replacement phrase? It’s gender neutral and brings to mind Grandma telling you to wear enough clothes to keep warm.

            1. Morticia*

              All I could think of was “Open the Trenchcoat”. But that leads to a different sort of mental image.

              1. Nina*

                knowing nothing about kimonos except that my dad used to have a bathrobe he called a kimono, I gotta say, I had the exact same mental image about kimonos that you just did about trenchcoats. It hadn’t occurred to me that a kimono wasn’t a unisex garment.

            2. Expelliarmus*

              I think as far as work is concerned, we should try to avoid unnecessarily mentioning the reveal of undergarments. Maybe that’s just me though.

            3. CM*

              LOL! I worked with someone senior to me who loved to talk about opening the kimono and I cringed every time. I mentioned to him once that I wished he would stop using that phrase, but he shrugged it off. Revealing the undergarments, while not historically correct according to the comments above, is hilarious and also makes it pretty obvious why that phrase is not appropriate for the workplace. Or anywhere.

      1. UKDancer*

        I’ve also never heard this before and hope I don’t hear it again. Hopefully it doesn’t make it to the UK.

        I will stick to “shine a light on” for providing greater transparency.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I like “put your cards on the table.”

          But then I used the term “behind the 8 ball” with a coworker & she had to look it up. Some people aren’t as used to card & bar game references….

    3. RedinSC*

      My boss has said this.

      Along with other things. He plays this “Aww shucks” thing when he does this. He’s been called out enough now that I haven’t heard him say this in nearly a year. BUT he’s said it.

    4. John Smith*

      Same here. Though for some strange reason I had an image in my head of a Komodo dragon being caged up. It is early (UK).

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I have heard “raise the kimono” before, which I took to mean like the Victorian showing feet and ankles being scandalous, but it is a terrible term.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Maybe the speaker intended to say “raise the curtain” and stumbled.
          Another substitute phrase I’d suggest is “cards on the table”.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        UK as well and also never heard that expression before. Think I prefer the Komodo dragon image to the other image the phrase conjures up!

      3. Librolover*

        Release the Komodo. Kind of like release the kraken. It’s what we should do for people who use this phrase, and have gendered trips out.

    5. Drag0nfly*

      I’m right there with you. I came to the comments hoping to find out in what region of the country or planet where this phrase is uttered. Do they even say this in Japan?

      1. kathy*

        I’m in Canada, in the natural resources sector. While this is very definitely not a phrase I would use, I do hear it from the dinosaurs in our industry from time to time.

      2. The OTHER other*

        From what commenters here that speak Japanese/live in Japan have said—no, they don’t. And the reports we are getting from people that HAVE heard the phrase, well, let’s just say they do not seem to be cultural experts of historic Japan.

        I find the “show you have no hidden weapons” explanation specious. If that were the meaning, why wouldn’t there be a similar expression outside of a Japanese context? And as others have said, the kimono is outer wear, not underwear. If someone has a hidden weapon, they could hide it in their underwear. The notion of samurai or even 50’s Japanese businessmen stripping off their clothes in a meeting to show they have no weapons sounds pretty absurd.

    6. Kim-oh-nooooo*

      I can’t help but laugh, because I just talked to my manager about this phrase about a month ago.

      I’m one of two women in a department of about 50 people (yay, software development!). So, unfortunately needless to say, I’ve experienced a wide variety of gender bias. One day, I finally hit my breaking point and brought a specific issue to my manager, which led to him wanting to learn more about my experience both at work and in the industry as a whole. (He emphasized that he only wanted me to share what I was comfortable sharing).

      During one of our conversations he asked if anything he’s said or done, or didn’t say or do, was problematic. Immediately I remembered his boss’s use of “open the kimono” in more than one meeting. (His boss is very much a supporter and ally of women in tech, despite his cluelessness around the language he uses.) So, I mentioned this, and my boss reacted with speechlessness, followed by a facepalm, and then “yah, that’s definitely a problem.” With my blessing, he talked to his boss about word choice, and thankfully that phrase hasn’t shown up again. Additionally there’s been other changes around language, such as updating documentation to use more inclusive words.

        1. Jay Gobbo*

          sorry I meant “well done, you” or “bravo” — not “good for you” in a sarcastic way…

          (language!!! is hard!!!)

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        I’ve heard it used before. By one person…who was a woman, actually.

        That was within the past five years. She didn’t use it regularly, but I seem to recall hearing it more than once. Never heard anyone else use it that I can recall.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          Rereading that, it looks much more awkwardly-phrased than it sounded in my head. Which probably means I should be asleep right now.

    7. AJD*

      Yeah I first heard it about 15 years ago from a account sales guy I was working with. I actually jotted it down because it sounded interesting. I’ve heard it since then.. But yeah, I’ve never heard a woman use it. They just use words like “full transparency”.

    8. Coffee Anonymous*

      I’ve never heard this phrase at work either, but a few years ago, my spouse had an otherwise good manager who used it A LOT.

      That stopped after the meeting in which my (cis male, but doesn’t use racist or sexist language) spouse responded with, “With all due respect, Fergus, I really don’t want to see what’s under your kimono.” Fergus took him aside later and thanked him for pointing out that maybe he should retire that one.

    9. Lost academic*

      My only exposure outside of fiction was in an episode of the Office. Naturally it was a line from Todd Packer.

      1. Dwight Schrute*

        Ha! Of course it was. Which episode was this? I have to admit I usually skip his episodes when rewatching because his character is so cringey

      2. sacados*

        Yeah it was also in an episode of Mad Men — which…. checks out. (Pretty sure it was from Roger too)

    10. Person from the Resume*

      The only place I have heard “open the kimono” is in post saying it’s sexist and racist and should not be used anymore. I’m very glad that’s true and I’d be very much “WTH! What did you just say?” if I heard it in person.

      Time for that (male) part of the world using it to stop.

    11. Rock Prof*

      Something used it recently at what was supposed to be an anti-racist pedagogy seminar. He was an attendee, not one of the people leading it, but I couldn’t believe it.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think it is one of those phrases people here big shots use and then adopt — I remember when the British upper class snob expression ‘Tickety boo’ entered the lexicon of the US space program. Some guy heard a big shot say it and pretty soon all the mid level managers were saying it. I was around a lot of those people during the Moon shot and heard it often said with a smug ‘I’m in the know’ expression.

    12. Lacey*

      I loath that phrase. The only place I’ve ever heard it was on a very popular, somewhat raunchy podcast with men who are supposed to be hyper progressive, but say “Part the Kimono” every other minute (ok, not that bad, but enough that I am extremely annoyed by it).

    13. CoveredinBees*

      The only other time I’ve heard it was on a list of “let’s not use these phrases” list.

    14. Phoenix*

      My otherwise very nice boss said this the other day and I had no idea what to say :( I know I looked shocked, but I’m not sure he noticed. Does anyone have advice on what to do if it happens again? Fwiw, I’m new and junior.

      1. American Job Venter*

        Coffee Anonymous said this above: That stopped after the meeting in which my (cis male, but doesn’t use racist or sexist language) spouse responded with, “With all due respect, Fergus, I really don’t want to see what’s under your kimono.” Fergus took him aside later and thanked him for pointing out that maybe he should retire that one.

        but that would take quite a bit of capital, especially for someone junior and new.

      2. academicAnon*

        Hey Boss that phrase seems pretty misleading – can we just use transparent instead?

        I would not use the other reply. That’s a 2 wrongs dont make a right situation.

    15. C-Suite Diva*

      I am so jealous of all of you who are just hearing this phrase! I used to work with a woman who not only said this frequently but would mime the action while saying it. Yuck. Just ick at every level.

    16. kittymommy*

      Never heard it either. And I’m glad they included an explanation because I was utterly confused as to what that meant.

    17. Jane of all Trades*

      Thank you, LW, for this!!!
      I hear this phrase wayyy too much in my field (corporate law). It seems to usually be said by the same kind of people who also don’t welcome any feedback (especially from somebody a little more junior, like myself) that this may be an inappropriate thing to say.
      Can we all agree to just – not? You can just say “we will be transparent with the buyer” rather than saying “we’ll go open kimono”!

      1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        I am a real estate lawyer and I rather like the phrase, “Nobody should be hiding the ball.” I’ve heard it in the context of encouraging full disclosure so clients can make informed decisions and lawyers can move forward to accomplish what their clients want.

    18. Salad Daisy*

      I had a manager who used this term at every meeting, always accompanied by a smirk. When I brought this up privately with my team members they all said I was being too sensitive.

      What would be the male equivalent of this? I wish there was one, I would have used it!

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        What would be the male equivalent of this?

        Drop the towel?
        Don the Speedo?
        Leave the (fig) leaf?
        To Boldly Go Where No Clothes Go Any More?

      2. DANGER: GumptionAhead*

        Technically it would be the same, since kimonos are worn by all genders. But since English speakers seem to associate them only with women, I would guess the equivalent would be “drop the pants” or something

        1. not a doctor*

          Yeah, it’s funny, my first thought was that this was about a MAN opening his kimono and flashing someone, because they’re so much easier to open!

    19. Lizzy May*

      My first exposure to it was from Mad Men. A sexist old man in the 60s using the phrase is gross but realistic.

    20. Jill of All Trades*

      One of the senior advisors at my last company used to say it on the daily. I was too junior to correct her without A Scene, so I can’t begin to tell you the number of phone calls I’ve been on where that phrase was used.

      Blegh. I’m glad to be out of there.

    21. *daha**

      I haven’t encountered it before, but I found it on urbandictionary with three entries. The first reads “A 1990’s phrase that means that everyone should share data. There should be no secrets between those in the meeting. As in a Japanese wife showing her husband her naked body by opening her silk robe or kimono.
      (ital)If we’re going to make any progress with this new standard, we’re going to make sure everyone agrees to open the kimono and not withhold any information.”

    22. Empress Matilda*

      Same, honestly. I’m in a “burn down the patriarchy” kind of mood today, so this plus letter #1 have my blood boiling.

    23. Lizcase*

      I’ve heard it. About 12 years ago in relation to a company buyout, said by a leader I knew and respected. I actually approached him after the meeting to say how uncomfortable the phrase made me, and he apologized cause he had never really thought about what it could mean.
      I remember this very well as it was the first time I’d called out someone at work for a sexist/racist comment and I was terrified. I’ve gotten less terrified about calling things out since then. But that was the start for me of not just shutting up.

    24. Sparkles McFadden*

      The first time I heard this, I was in a large meeting sitting next to my boss. A consultant was doing a presentation and said “I’m going to open the kimono on this a little bit.” The CIO blurted out “What the hell does that mean? Who talks like this?” I muttered “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit” and my boss got such a fit of the giggles that he had to run out of the room. We never heard the consultant say that again.

    25. Sleet Feet*


      Also a lot of people my age and younger speak some Japanese, enjoy anime and manga, and are at least superficially aware of Japanese customs so I can’t imagine anyone reacting to this phrase with anything other then shock and disgust.

    26. NYC Taxi*

      One of the high level female execs at my company uses that phrase regularly. It makes my skin crawl every time.

    27. Olivia Mansfield*

      I heard Robert California say it on The Office, but I’ve never heard anyone say it in real life.

    28. too many too soon*

      We need a counterphrase, like ‘shorten the penis’ for being less of a d*ck, or something along those lines.

    29. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

      Came here to say exactly that. If I heard someone say this I don’t know that I’d be able to keep my WTF face from showing.

    30. Robin Ellacott*

      Same! I have never heard it before (thankfully) and I would have made a shocked and confused face if anyone said it in front of me.

    31. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

      Same same same. I saw that thought I’ve never heard that before and I never want to hear it again. Ever. It’s gross in so many ways.

    32. MangoFreak*

      I heard it once, in an episode of Mad Men, and even then it was from an elderly character who was particularly fixated on “orientalist” art and imagery.

  3. Ben*

    A men only trip where the guys are explicitly told to keep it a secret from female employees and management and HR are both okay with that?

    This sounds like a symptom of much deeper, fundamental issues with the company. LW is morally (and legally) in the right, but I hope they’re prepared for the possibility of ugly pushback if they complain (which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t).

    1. Bamcheeks*

      Yes, that’s what I thought. This is egregious, and it’s frankly impossible that it’s isolated egregiousness.

      Apart from anything else, the fact that there are no men standing up to go, “wait, hold on, we cannot do this” means that all of your male colleagues and managers are prioritising their own comfort and progression over a willingness to support female colleagues. What absolutely shitty behaviour. What kind of trust or collegiality can you have with them?

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Progression, yes, but comfort less so, if this is a real hunting trip. Hunting is a specialized interest. There are parts of the country where it is a common, stereotypically male hobby, but other (far more densely populated) areas where it is virtually unknown. If you aren’t into it, it is a pretty miserable experience, wandering through the woods often in pretty marginal weather. It isn’t even proper hiking, as it requires a lot of staying in place doing nothing, which in poor weather is really not fun. And then what if someone actually shoots a deer? This is followed by field dressing, which would be quite a shock to a city boy for whom meat comes from a supermarket. The part that would really give me pause would be wandering through the woods with a bunch of inexperienced hunters carrying rifles. My guess is that a lot of these guys go through the motions, with no intention of actually shooting their rifles. At least I hope so.

        Of course this is assuming it really is a hunting trip. It might be more of a “hunting” trip, involving a climate controlled cabin with a refrigerator well stocked with beer. It sounds dreadful to me, but many people enjoy this sort of thing.

        Either way, I’m sure some of the guys who go hate every minute, but this is about progressing their careers, not personal comfort or entertainment. No, this in no way makes it better. The best that I can say about this is that someone ratted them out, given that the LW learned about the trip.

        1. LW1*

          I knew about this trip from a few years ago when it first started and my then boss, happily showed me pictures of their bounty. I heard all their stories and was disappointed then to have been left out. Last year the trip did not happen because of COVID. Back when I first learned of it, it was a very small team from our office who went. Now that we’re much larger, the attendees list is growing and while it’s still trying to be kept hush hush, there’s no way I wouldn’t know about it because of my role. The other women in my office unfortunately don’t think it to be an issue and see it as they’d rather not do that activity vs missing out on the opportunity from a company/career perspective.
          Also of note, this isn’t some roughing it out trip. The place they are staying is a multi million dollar property that will have a private chef and guides assisting them. This isn’t a rustic off the grid cabin they are roughing it out at.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Ah, glamping with the occasional stroll through the woods. If the guides are really good, they even might be able to see some deer without too much standing around in the cold.

          2. Tisiphone*

            “The place they are staying is a multi million dollar property that will have a private chef and guides assisting them.”

            That makes it a hundred times worse!

            1. Aitch Arr*

              “That makes it a hundred times worse!”

              Right? How much is this little glamping trip costing the company?

        2. Broadway Duchess*

          I think the comfort part is more about the men not wanting a conflict with management. They may hate hunting or even personally object to it, but they are prioritizing their discomfort with making a fuss.

        3. bamcheeks*

          I don’t mean comfort in the “do you like camping” sense, I mean in the “are you willing to to do the right thing even if it’s not convenient or easy” sense.

      2. Worldwalker*

        It may be that all of the LW’s male colleagues may be prioritizing not getting fired.

        This sounds like the kind of boss who would do exactly that.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Honestly, I don’t know if I’d trust HR to handle this appropriately. If the company has an anonymous ethics hotline, I’d hit that to protect myself, but also be hardcore job searching.

    3. Nicotena*

      This is one where I’d put all my efforts into getting a new job and leaving (clearly, your contributions are not going to be valued there) and *then* going nuclear reporting this to whoever I can get to listen to me. I wouldn’t want to be a whistleblower at a place that acts like this *before* you piss em off.

        1. Nicotena*

          I think there might (?) be “standing” issues if you’re no longer an employee of the company you’re reporting, so OP should consider this and see if there’s any wiggle room that allows her both to be safe and to report.

      1. Smithy*

        My thoughts exactly.

        That being said, I do know that this may be somewhat privileged coming from the perspective of someone who lives in a region where even without remote work – I’d have a lot of other employers to choose from. It may be that for region and sector, there’s not the diversity and therefore having one employer be this much of a bad faith actor is uniquely harmful on women. Which may make the desire to fight this higher.

        However, whatever can be done after leaving….I encourage that……

    4. irene adler*

      Fundamental issues such as: what else goes on at this company that benefits only the male employees?

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I would speak with an employment lawyer who specializes in workplace bias. Get the facts and then decide how to act.

      I understand about being concerned about speaking up. In a place like this, retaliation is a given. However, not speaking up doesn’t guarantee any kind of safety in a workplace where secret men-only events take place. You will be denied opportunities and have far less job security than any man there – even one who started last week.

      …and yes…start looking elsewhere because this place won’t magically get better.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        Agreed, when you push back on this, they’re likely to retaliate, so looking for a new job is a necessity.

  4. M / P*

    re: #1, this is terrible. This is such bad judgement on the owner’s part that I’m wondering what other stuff goes on there. Organizing a work event which all women are explicitly disinvited from makes the company look actively hostile towards women.
    If HR does not or cannot help (since it’s the owner who’s doing it) is there any way to file an official complaint with a regulatory office? I’m not in the US so I’m not sure if it’s realistic or not.
    Otherwise, shaming the company on Twitter and Glassdoor?
    I’m skeptical talking to the owner as a group will bring meaningful results – if he asked the other employees to lie about it, he will try to BS his way out of this conversation. Plus, if he stops organizing the event, how likely is he to discriminate against women in other ways?
    I mean, this org needs more scrutiny from the outside and it needs to feel consequences if there’s going to be any meaningful change.

      1. Jackalope*

        EEOC was where my mind went too. Not just because the event is in and of itself discriminatory, but because it also raises red flags about what else they think is okay.

        1. RedinSC*

          Ditto, I was thinking EEOC as well.

          Honestly, I’d be looking for new work (not always easy to find) but this is so egregious!

      2. Tara*

        I’m glad you’ve mentioned that here and I hope OP sees it since I don’t think they’d find what you wrote in your post to be as helpful. They specifically mentioned in their letter that HR has already known about and been okay with this, so I don’t know that the LW would feel very secure talking to HR about it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ll add it to the post too. (That said, I can’t tell from the letter if HR actually thinks this is OK or if the LW is assuming that because they haven’t stopped it. They might think it’s not OK but they don’t have authority over the owner. It’s possible they’d respond appropriately to a formal complaint. It’s also possible they wouldn’t, of course.)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Is HR run by a man who’s being invited to? Or a woman who has never been told about it?

          2. Daisy-dog*

            Because of the fast growth of the company, the HR person may have been shuffled into the role or promoted from a non-HR type role. They may not have a strong enough background to know what is actually illegal and just kinda inappropriate.

      3. staceyizme*

        Or the media. The whole “hush-hush” factor makes it doubly egregious. The owner knows that this isn’t okay, but does it anyway.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Yeah, since they’re making a point of keeping it secret from women at the company, that says they know it’s not okay and are choosing to continue anyway. I expect that if they talk to the owner, he’s going to flip his lid and try to find out who “leaked” the information.

  5. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – what a waste of your and Jane’s time! I really doubt that it was your conversation with Jane that was the deciding factor. I mean, if you said something offensive, or were really hostile towards Jane, maybe, but I’m assuming you were on your best “meet-potential-new-colleagues” behaviour.

    To me, it sounds like there were probably a couple of finalists who they did the whole process with, and then made a final decision. I really hate that companies contact people’s references before making a hiring decision – it wastes references’ time – but a lot of companies do so.

    I would write back to the recruiting / hr manager to thank them for considering you, reiterating your interest in the company, and ask to be kept in mind for future opportunities. They must have liked you enough to get as far through the process as they did. You came in second this time, but there might be a future opportunity, or a networking contact to be had.

    1. MK*

      What would be the point of contacting references after you already made the decision? The references are supposed to help you make a decision.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        In the UK, references are often limited to “Batty worked there between 2009 and 2021 and had 1 recorded absence in the last twelve months”.
        And that last part is not necessarily a thing (the rules may have changed, but for a while it was used to confirm attendance reliability).

        They’re most often the last step in the process before making an offer.
        I don’t understand why you’d contact references after deciding who to offer the position to?

      2. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Yes, but in my opinion, that should be the very last step. You shouldn’t do any kind of interviewing or talking with employees after that point. I think ideally you should have done every process you normally do to get an idea of who the person is as a candidate and then, when you are ready to make an offer, you reference check to ensure there isn’t anything serious the person is hiding. Otherwise, you risk wasting references’ time (and that can end up hurting a perfectly-good candidate).

        1. ecnaseener*

          But a reference check tell you about way more than just serious problems. They can tell you what the candidate is really like to work with. That’s easily info someone might use to decide between the top 2-3 candidates.

    2. Viette*

      “I really hate that companies contact people’s references before making a hiring decision” — the references are such a critical part of a hiring decision, though! I would never decide to hire someone without contacting their references. They’re so informative.

      1. Teagan*

        I read that as hiring managers should decide who they want to make an offer to, then check that person’s references before making a formal offer. If those don’t check out, then move on to your second choice and check their references. Rather than checking the references of multiple candidates simultaneously.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This is what my employer does. They don’t contact your references until they’ve decided to hire you. And if your references convince them otherwise, they move on to #2.

        2. LizM*

          But even then, I’ll often check references for the top candidates. I may have 2 or 3 people I genuinely can’t decide between, and references help me crystalize the differences between the candidates.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I have to go with everyone else on this. I don’t contact everyone’s references, but for my top 3 or 4 people, I am going to talk to all of their references before I make a final decision. I’ve been contacted before a company made a decision as a reference and I never thought it was a waste of time.

      1. Artemesia*

        WE always checked references on the top 2 o 3 people before making the final decision unless we had a first choice that was very clear. If it is close you need that information to decide.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          It really depends on if it’s close or not. If I have a clear top choice and distant second choices, references are more to confirm the top person’s work record matches the impression they give in interviews. If I have multiple good options who are very similar, in that case references would help me decide who to make an offer to.

    4. anonymous73*

      There are many reasonable explanations for the rejection. There could have been a few top candidates and after speaking with Jane, she gave them her opinion. It may not have been a formal interview, but more of a personality check. It’s important that a new person mesh well with the current team and maybe Jane has a good sense of it that would be the case or not. It doesn’t mean that OP is a terrible person in any way, just that maybe someone else “fit” better.

      And as others have said here, I find it odd that you “wouldn’t” contact references before making a hiring decision. The point of a reference is to get a better understanding of the candidate from another’s perspective and is important in making a final decision. I know some places just call to verify time of employment, but in that case I don’t get the point of even having a reference. You can call the company’s HR department for that information.

      1. PT*

        It could be something reflective of the company/receptionist in the questions Jane asked. Like “what are your Covid protocols?” and the receptionist doesn’t believe in Covid.

        Jane did nothing wrong, but still lost the job.

    5. Pants*

      The receptionist “interview” is definitely a real thing. They’re usually asked what their feeling was on the candidate. Rule 1: Don’t mess with reception, admins, or IT. They can make or break you.

      Jane may have said it wasn’t an interview.
      It was an interview.

    6. Lizabeth*

      My company does something similar to this and I don’t think it’s a waste of anyone’s time. My boss brings the top candidates in to chat with the team because he values our input and also wants the candidate to be able to ask candid questions without him present. We always emphasize that the hiring decisions are not ultimately up to us and it’s not a formal interview. But because he values our input, if meet the candidate and feel they aren’t a good fit or are concerned about some aspect of their experience/attitude, that sometimes weighs into his decision. We just went though this recently and one of the candidates casually said something pretty alarming and she was taken out of the running because of that. I doubt she realizes that what she said was alarming since she dropped it so off-handedly, so from her point of view she may be just as confused as the letter writer.

      1. Alexis Rosay*

        I once did an “informal” interview with a candidate where she asked me a lot of questions about the workplace atmosphere. She was clear about wanting something collegial and cooperative but the company was more cutthroat and confrontational. I recommended we not move forward with her bc it was obvious she would not be happy if hired.

    7. Momma Bear*

      How frustrating for you OP#2. It sounds like maybe it was what some companies call a “prescreen”. Here we have HR call the candidate with some initial questions to make sure we can proceed with the interview per current corporate guidelines. Though calling your references before that seems odd, I wonder if something like that happened – Jane was screening you before the actual interview. Calling references means you were in the running somewhere. Maybe ask your references what they were asked?

    8. On Fire*

      I once got a call from someone who worked at my company, in a different department. I had expressed interest during a conversation with Big Boss in moving to that department. So this guy calls and wants to meet to chat. The department was being reorganized. He assured me that he wasn’t interviewing me; Boss just asked him to chat with me about the department. And he said, “I don’t know who’s going to manage it, but I know it won’t be me.”

      Surprise, surprise. (Narrator voice: this was not a surprise). None of those things were true. It was an interview. And he was the manager of the reorganized department. He was also the worst manager I’ve had so far. He was absolutely the reason I left that company about a year later.

      TLDR: it’s always an interview, whether they admit it or not. But I doubt the convo with Jane was the reason for rejection.

    9. Lenora Rose*

      We recently had a letter here where a candidate was given a job offer then told it was pending their reference checks, and it highlighted how the delay was causing difficulties with their resignation from a current job (as they can’t resign without a concrete offer but do wat to give two weeks) and his already agreed upon possible start date. This sounds like a much larger waste of time for the candidate than 2, 5 or even 15 minutes’ conversation with references* would be.

  6. TB*

    I work at a great but slightly tone deaf software company- we are in a really conservative part of the country that lacks diversity, and so while our culture is overall good and people are really kind and open, there are times when their…lack of exposure to people different then them really makes me cringe (I am a transplant to this area from a really diverse part of the country)

    In one of our all-company meetings, our CEO used the phrase “open the kimono” and I was completely taken aback- I had never heard this phrase before, but was IMMEDIATELY put off from it both for being super racist and also being sexual.

    I mentioned to my manager after the fact that I was a bit taken aback, and within a couple of hours, he issues a very embarassed and seemingly sincere apology. I don’t know if he apologize because I flagged it with my manager and it filtered up, or what. But the fact that I’m now hearing this phrase for a second time, is just crazy. How can ANYONE think that’s ok???

    1. Drag0nfly*

      It’s not diverse, but they think of kimonos? Is the CEO a transplant? Until now I thought this expression might be said some place where there’s a “Little Tokyo,” but I guess not.

      It’s just such a weird thing to say! Since when are clothes considered “obfuscating”? This sounds like one of those expressions that just don’t make sense even on a surface level. Glad your CEO stopped saying it.

      1. Well...*

        I mean, the idea of a kimono has definitely been in white people’s consciousness for a long time (however misunderstood). You don’t need to be in a diverse place for people to know what it is enough to say something racist about it.

        1. Catherine Tilney*

          I have several books from the 1940s – 50’s that use the word kimono for a house robe. It’s possible the speaker just never thought about the word.

          That being said, the phrase should be shut down. Fortunately, I’ve never heard anyone use it and only became aware of it a year ago.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            Yes, I’ve read a lot of novels where a woman wore a kimono and it meant dressing gown. And yes, the phrase needs to go away.

          2. Candi*

            Kimono as western dressing gown (as opposed to Japanese outside-the-house clothing, formal or otherwise) was a big fashion thing for a while. The impression I get from the older literature is “Oriental, but not too Oriental.” (barf) And unlike Japanese kimono, in the stories I read only women wear the kimono-style dressing gowns.

            There’s just no way this saying can work without being sexist, whether the association is geisha or western houserobe. (I sincerely doubt the saying originated in any context associated with the kimono both men and women can wear.)

      2. Canadian Valkyrie.*

        Also there’s TV… just because the CEO did not really get that it’s racist/sexist doesn’t mean he’s never seen a samurai movie or something.

      3. Nanani*

        I associate with those fetishizing books about Japan written by white dudes. Memoirs of Geisha*-type things.
        It’s racist, sexualizing things that don’t need to be sexualized, playing in to weird tropes about mystic Japan, and so on. And it’s gross.

        *(in case anyone didn’t know, not a real memoir of a real geisha! It’s a white guy’s fantasy about how ~sexy~ and ~scandalous~ it must all be; geisha are not sex workers and the fact that some visitors supposedly can’t tell the difference between a sex worker dressed like a geisha and an actual geisha is no more relevant than the existence of sexy nurse costumes to the job of real nurses)

      4. Sea Anemone*

        Since when are clothes considered “obfuscating”?

        Are you familiar with the phrase, “Statistics are like a bikini?”

        1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          I … have also never heard that phrase! But I *have* heard the phrase “the Emperor’s new clothes”.

    2. Emily*

      TB: I have never heard the phrase before either and would’ve been really surprised to hear it. I’m glad you said something to your manager. I think sometimes people don’t realize how offensive/innapropriate a word or phrase is until it is brought to their attention which appears to be the case here. I think this can especially be an issue in places thst are very insular, though that is certainly not an excuse (I also know sometimes people know what they are saying is offensive and just don’t care). Good for you for speaking up.

      1. cat servant*

        Agree! Many years ago we had a meeting about a project that was a mess and no one wanted to touch it , someone referred to it as a “tar-baby”. Being white female growing up in non-diverse region, i didn’t think anything about it other than fondly recalling the childrens story i heard years ago about the rabbit building a fake baby out of tar and tricking the fox into getting tangled up in the tar. The project was indeed sticky and no one wanted to get tangled in it so the analogy seemed correct. I did not know the history of that term being used as derogatory toward people of color and did not make the connection. Afterward we learned it was an offensive term, apologies were issued and everyone had to be educated not to use that term again. Many folks just didn’t know.

        (although i’m not sure how you could interpret “open the kimono” to be something innocuous…)

        1. Sea Anemone*

          I didn’t know that term was used as a racial slur. I knew the Uncle Remus stories were controversial for being written in a white interpretation of enslaved people’s dialect, and I wouldn’t use terms from them for that reason. But I didn’t know that term was used in a derogatory manner. I learned something new.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      I used to hear this phrase a lot in DOD/military circles – makes me wonder if the CEO was in the military. The phrase has fallen out of favor, but I still hear it occasionally (rarely).

    4. Ali G*

      I heard this phrase for the first time very early in my career. So early I wasn’t able to have enough awareness to control my emotions, and I had a visceral reaction in a Board meeting (I was junior staff and the only woman in the room). My boss noticed and talked to me about it later. No one used that phrase again (at least not around me).

    5. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Oh for Pete’s sake, “open the kimono” is a common term in the M&A world. It just means that a company for sale allows serious bidders to see non-public information.

      1. Rock Prof*

        What a weird argument to make. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it not racist and sexist!

      2. Sacred Ground*

        That it’s commonly used in the M&A world doesn’t mean it’s not racist or sexist usage. It means that racism and sexism are common in the M&A world.

      3. GNG*

        Aahhh common in M&A, the bastion of unbiased, unbigoted business jargon and practices! Never knew that. That makes it totally okay then. /s

      4. New Here*

        Just because a phrase has been in common usage doesn’t automatically make it innocuous. There are plenty of examples of previously accepted terms that, upon reflection, have been removed from daily use. We shouldn’t discount the very real problems with this phrase just because it’s been used frequently by those who haven’t stopped to think about the phrase’s origins.

      5. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        I have only heard it used in an M&A context. From a male manager who had a socially awkward management style. It’s even more awkward now to think back on that experience and sincerely hope this person has learned since then.

      6. Generic Name*

        “I’m not offended by this therefore nobody else can be offended by it”. Not a good look, Jr Peon.

      7. Nanani*

        Common words can be racist and sexist though.
        Common doesn’t make it good.

        What is wrong with your reading comprehension that you can’t tell this basic fact?

      8. Former Young Lady*

        Scottish-American here. If you insist it’s neither racist nor sexist, it should do you no harm to adopt a new phrase: “lift the kilt.”

        It’s situated nicely in the white-dude lane, and lord knows it’s appropriate for people who like to show their [behinds] this way.

      9. Risha*

        What a bizarre argument to make. Swearing and slurs aside, almost every offensive word or phrase has an inoffensive or useful meaning now attached to it. Think of “gypped” or “Indian giver.” That doesn’t make the offensive entomology magically disappear.

          1. Sea Anemone*

            When people mix up entomology and etymology, it bugs me in a way that I cannot put into words.

      10. Hex Libris*

        There are a lot of comments here explaining why the phrase is a problem. Refusing to understand is not a good look.

  7. Boadicea*

    #3: Are you in the sort of position where you can straight up ask your external offers for $10k to cover this? I have done negotiations like this twice and both turned out positively – even when they second company initially claimed “we don’t do that here”

    1. Mockingjay*

      It might be worth a consultation fee to have a lawyer review the contract. It may not be enforceable.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        It is absolutely worth a consultation fee to have a lawyer look at this contract. Also remember that “not enforceable” doesn’t mean “won’t be sued.” It just means that after all the cost, time, and stress of litigation you’re more likely to win the lawsuit.

      2. AVP*

        Absolutely! OP, if you’re at the media company that happens to be based in a labor-friendly state but is notorious for a terrible working environment, two year contracts, and using all legal options to chase down people who quit early, consult a lawyer! Lots of items in that contract are unenforceable, depending on how much legal stuff you want to deal with. It’s worth a consultation, though. Your colleagues can probably recommend someone.

      3. Voodoo Priestess*

        Completely agreed. There may be loopholes or it may not be enforceable at all. It’d be worth the time and money to have a lawyer look at it for you and advise the best way out.

      4. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        Alternately, if the situation is impacting the LW’s mental/physical health, it could be considered constructive discharge. An attorney can walk LW through all of his/her options so that she sets things up correctly, interacts with HR in an appropriate manner, etc.

      5. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

        I want to know what’s in that contract that’s to the LW’s benefit? Such as, are they guaranteed a job for that full two years? (I am deeply cynical, and also willing to learn. I just know that my staffing contracts come with end dates that only guarantee that employment will stop then.)

    2. Your local password resetter*

      I would also reccommend this. In many industries it’s not unusual for the new company to pay the fees and penalties like that when recruiting away desirable employees.

    3. Aerin*

      Even if they can’t give you a signing bonus that covers the full amount, they could likely offset at least some of it. Worst they can say is no.

  8. Managing to Get By*

    THANK YOU LW 4, I HATE that phrase. My boss used it on a call recently, and right then and there I asked him to never say it again as it is gross. He went out of his way to explain that the first time he heard it, a woman had said it and he thought it was a neat way to explain the situation. I said again, no, it’s disgusting and it hits both the racist and sexist buttons, if that’s what he had hoped to do. The other person on the call with us was the other manager in our department, an Asian woman, and she said “I’ve never heard that before and I’m glad”. Our boss finally agreed it wasn’t appropriate. I’m still annoyed by that call and it was over a month ago. At least my boss is someone I can call out in the moment and he won’t hold it against me, but he is perpetually clueless even after many hours of mandatory bias training.

    1. Observer*

      “there is none so blind who will not see”

      He’s not clueless, he doesn’t want to hear it. Otherwise you wouldn’t have had to argue with him so hard.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Interesting NPR article on it a while ago; link’s in moderation.
      It apparently started as a reference to feudal Japan negotiators showing that they were not carrying hidden daggers. Only it changed quickly, taking on geisha overtones.

      1. Mameshiba*

        I have seen this “feudal Japan” etymology proposed and I cannot believe this is true.
        The phrase does not exist in the Japanese language or in English used in Japan, at least not to my ears.
        And it’s just so ridiculous that anyone would “open a kimono” (that verb makes little sense in a tightly wrapped and layered garment), or literally undress to begin negotiations. I don’t think anyone in history has stripped before a business meeting. How would you even pull a dagger out of layers of tightly-wrapped kimono, it’s not an open robe. Plus you’d have a retinue of people with you at a business meeting, is the idea that all of them strip? Just have an assassin ambush the meeting, as was actually done…

    3. EPLawyer*

      Literally he HAS to use a metaphor instead of simply saying “Let’s be more transparent?” Yeah if you insist on using a sexist, racist, obscene metaphor over plain language, you just want to use the sexist, racist, obscene metaphor.

    4. MissMaple*

      I’m still annoyed at one of my collaborators at making me hear him say that and it’s been 5 years. Super gross

    5. Candi*

      Not only is it bigoted, but like most such sayings, it’s overly simplistic and inaccurate. It raises the image of opening a single garment, when traditional kimono can have up to 12 layers, and nothing’s opening up until the obi is removed. Like most biased statements, it doesn’t even work in the context they’re using it in.

      Sorry, picking apart the inaccuracy of prejudiced sayings and statements is something of a habit of mine. I think it started as a defense mechanism: People can whine “they didn’t mean it” and “it was a joke” all they want, but they generally get floored when I start nitpicking why the statement is just wrong. It usually ends with “you’re taking this too seriously” and them stomping off in some form.

      1. Candi*

        Addendum: if used in the context of western kimono-style houserobes, it still doesn’t work, since no company is going to expose itself completely, or expose everything but a thin layer comparable to night gowns or pajamas.

  9. The Rafters*

    Are you sure FMLA isn’t covered if you are WFH? I know of at least 2 other people besides myself who requested it and it was approved. Due to the pandemic, the vast majority of people in my agency were already WFH and have just started to return to the office. I’m returning to the office soon and the other 2 had to request additional leave.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you read the post wrong — it IS covered in many cases. It’s based not on the location of your home office but of the office that you report in to.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        I could be wrong, but I also think some smaller organizations (under 50) choose to allow/provide FMLA even if they are not technically required to.

        Maybe it is not technically considered FMLA, but it is a term people know for medical, parental leave etc…

        My company provides “FMLA” but we only have 6 people that work from my regional office, even the main office 1500 miles away only has around 25/30 people.

        We may have slightly over 50 people across 4 offices, but each office is at least 800 miles from each other. No where near 50 people within 75 miles of a single office.

        You could make the argument since payroll, HR, hiring etc… Is all handled from the main office, we are all technically assigned to that office, but I don’t think that is the case. We all go into work, receive work, and work on issues from our respective regional office.

        So I don’t think my company is technically required to provide FMLA but they choose to because it has been expected at this point.

        1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          My employer has it explicitly written in the handbook “We don’t have to follow FMLA due to our size, we follow it anyways but voluntarily, and may change the policy at any time.”

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah I’ve never worked for an organization large enough to require FMLA but there’s always been SOME version of it.

          But that’s obviously not something to count on, it depends on the employer.

        3. Just Jane*

          I was heavily involved in the administration of FMLA for a company that had numerous locations in various states doing government contracting work. The company took the position that testing the eligibility status based on the number of employees in a radius of a particular job site would be excessively time consuming since the number of employees often fluctuated. They also felt that it was not fair to employees at small, often remote job sites (of which there were quite a few) to be denied the same job protection as those at headquarters, on larger contracts, or located in a concentrated geographic location. I later learned that what we called FMLA for all employees was not actually protected under federal law for those working at sites which could not meet the size criterion but was just a company policy.

          I later administered FMLA for a similar company which took the opposite position and included the number of employees within 50 miles of the job site as part of the determination of FMLA eligibility. It was a very time-consuming process in a lot of cases because I had to use maps to triangulate job sites, calculate mileage (road miles vs “as the crow flies” distance) and count employees. I once had to inform an employee requesting FMLA for the birth and bonding of a child that she was not eligible for anything more than disablity benefits. It was not taken well because, just the year before, a colleague had been approved for FMLA. The contract’s employee count was down by two bodies since the prior year and I could not the right number of employees within 75 miles. I am sure that there is software that could do the work. This company, however, was so cheap it would only pay $3,000/yr for FMLA tracking software which did essentially nothing instead of the $35k-40k/yr. system to properly manage FMLA for 6,000 employees.

          1. Candi*

            So they spent more money being cheap, by wasting time and resources determining who was eligible and who wasn’t, then they would have just allowing FMLA (which doesn’t have to be paid under current law) for all employees? That tracks with cheaping out on the software.

    2. LQ*

      One thing to note about anything like this is that companies can opt into more strict and more robust support of workers any time they want. FMLA as legislated is a minimum, but there are definitely places that do more, some will do more and offer more and still call it fmla as a matter of ease of use. Some won’t because they don’t want to get in trouble if they do less at some point (legally or internally). But just because a company does something more doesn’t mean that’s the law. (also just because a company does less doesn’t mean that the law doesn’t exist and isn’t enforceable, just means they are breaking it…)

  10. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    On the hunting trip – I’m going to bypass all the legal issues – because I’m sure they will more than get handled – and go straight to how dumb are these guys for assuming all the guys hunt and none of the women do? Honestly in my family of origin I (a woman) have the only hunting or fishing licenses. If we hypothetically all worked at the same company – they’d be likely to turn around and give the invite to me – but they’d also be really open and loud about it too – saying they were giving the info to the only one of the three of us (again one woman – me, and two guys) who would actually show up.

    Plus – have any of these guys ever heard of Annie Oakley???

    1. M / P*

      You know, I think this might not be about hunting at all. Since the men are instructed to not tell women about it happening, this reads explicitly as a no-women-allowed thing. Which, of course, is gross.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        I also wonder if they’re *actually* going hunting. “Don’t tell the wimminfolk” just makes me wonder if they’re really going to one of those Vegas brothels, and hunting is just the cover.

        1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          There exists, unfortunately, a certain type of individual who actually would describe such activities as hunting, and approach them with very much the same mindset of a trophy hunter.

          So yup, that’s my expectation as well.

        2. Tessie Mae*

          This reminded me that, several years ago, my uncle revealed, after years of “going hunting” annually with his friends, that they didn’t actually hunt. They hung around in the cabin, drinking and playing cards. Obviously not a work-related situation.

        3. James*

          I know a company where the CEO goes on an all-male hunting trip. It’s not in the company, it’s a group of his friends getting away from their wives for a while. (Their wives go to Vegas for the same reason on a different week, from what he’s told me.)

          Hunting occurs. So does fishing. However, so does a lot of drinking, story-telling, card playing, and the like. If they bag a deer it’s bonus; the main point is to get away by themselves for a bit and blow off steam. Not problematic if it’s a group of like-minded friends outside of a work setting. But yeah, REALLY problematic in a work environment.

        4. LW1*

          Nope, they’re definitely going hunting as they do every year (except for last year due to COVID). And I use the term hunting loosely. Staying in a multi million dollar home, private chef, and hunting guides – not exactly roughing it hence why the male attendees don’t have qualms about going even if they aren’t necessarily into hunting.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t think that does fully account for why the men don’t have discernible qualms! “Sure, we’re categorically excluding women, but on the other hand it will be a luxurious get-away” isn’t a good reason to play along with this. At best that’s an incredibly self-regarding rationale.

        5. turquoisecow*

          You know, my uncle goes out hunting every year and, to my knowledge has never actually come back with whatever animal he was hunting (I think turkey and deer, mostly), so now I’m wondering if he actually does hunt or if he and his friends just sit in a cabin and play cards or something.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Not only is it gross, but per Calvin and Hobbes it is G.R.O.S.S.: “Get Rid Of Slimy girlS.”

    2. MK*

      Eh, I don’t think the reason they keep it a secret from women is because they don’t think they will enjoy it or want to come.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      They’re not assuming anything, they just don’t care. Guys who organise this stuff do not care at all about whether women like or are good at these activities, and they definitely don’t care about Annie Oakley. They just don’t want us there.

      1. Nicotena*

        Yeah, because they want all that good-ole-boy culture and the ability to be gross in conversation. My guess is it starts from the top with this out-of-town boss who probably doesn’t feel “comfortable” being himself around women – meaning he wants to say disgusting things without having to feel bad about it.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Agree, if anything explicit instruction to try to keep women from finding out seems likely to keep women from asking to join. Definitely not about assuming women don’t want to hunt.

      1. Office Sweater Lady*

        Yes, I was thinking of exactly this! Leslie forces Ron to take everyone from the office (male and female, whether they want to go or not). It turns out Leslie is great at hunting, but Tom accidentally shoots Ron (who sustains only a minor injury). In Parks and Rec world, everything turns out for the best, with Leslie saving the day and earning Ron’s respect in the process by taking the blame for Tom because he didn’t have a hunting license.

    4. Weird Sexism*

      This somehow reminded me of a dinner I went to many years ago. It was organized by a woman, who decided on all the details herself. Including that all the men at the dinner got steak and all the women were served chicken. What the what? A lot of trading went on at my table.

      1. UKDancer*

        I had a few dates with a vegetarian. At least twice we ordered food and he got given the steak and I got the vegetarian option because obviously men automatically eat steak and women eat mushroom risotto. It really annoyed me they didn’t ask and just assumed who would have what when they were delivering the food.

        I mean it’s ridiculous to assume that women prefer chicken and men prefer steak. At least ask people what they want if you’re doing a choice. I would almost always pick steak because it’s not something I regularly cook at home. My uncle would pick chicken because he doesn’t like red meat. People are complicated!

        1. Robin Ellacott*

          I get this with drinks! I like scotch and gin martinis and they always give my drink to a man at the table.

          So many examples of why people (especially in the workplace!) shouldn’t assume they know anything about you because they THINK they know your gender.

        2. Broadway Duchess*

          This has happened with MY SON!

          Teenage son and I went to a steakhouse on our way to a movie that no one else wanted to see. Now, my son does have facial hair but definitely looks young. I order a steak and salad, kid orders mushroom risotto; it’s served wrong. Annoying, but no big thing.

          They then serve my teenage son a glass of wine and I get the lemonade. Hmm, okay. But finally, they put the check in front of him and I hand them my credit card. They brought back the little folder to sign with the receipt and gave it to — of course — my teenage son.

        3. EmmaPoet*

          I went to dinner with my dad a while back, and the waiter delivered his salmon Caesar salad to me and my fish and chips to dad. He didn’t quite say, “The salad for the little lady!” but it was implied.

          The waiter was the one who took our order. Sigh.

        4. Paris Geller*

          I like to tell the story of the time my boyfriend and I went to an Alamo Drafthouse just a few months before covid (I think it was January 2020?) I ordered a burger and a hard cider. My boyfriend ordered a salad and a margarita. There was definitely an assumption as to who ordered what.

    5. NeutralJanet*

      I don’t think that the hunting is the actual point, in the same way that if the men were all going to a strip club I don’t think that the fact that some men aren’t attracted to women and some women are would be the point.

    6. Eat My Squirrel*

      Yeah, I’m a female hunter and I want to know where OP1 works just so I can get a job there and make this my hill to die on. I’m angry for all the reasons the non-hunting women are, but I’m even more angry because I would freekin LOVE that trip! Especially if it was like elk or moose or something I don’t typically get to hunt.

    7. ecnaseener*

      No doubt the women would also enjoy getting to hang out with the owner and bond with coworkers. The question of whether the women would want to come is very clearly not on the owner’s mind. He doesn’t want them there.

    8. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I assume that this is some sort of overnight trip wherein they can’t really accommodate mixed-gender gatherings (not space for both men and women, don’t want the lawsuit of men and women alone overnight together, etc.). Being foolish, they don’t understand that when you can’t accommodate both genders, you change the activity so that both can go.

      1. pancakes*

        What on earth? Rental spaces and cabins and whatnot not being able to “accommodate mixed-gender gatherings” is generally not a thing. Likewise litigation about men and women being “alone overnight together.” Alone without who, a chaperone? I am curious what exactly you’ve been reading about employment litigation that has led you to believe these very strange claims are commonly upheld.

      2. Mameshiba*

        The only kind of place where you can’t accommodate mixed-gender gatherings that I can think of is, like, a Turkish bathhouse.
        If their hunting cabin can’t accommodate all genders, I wonder what kind of environment these male coworkers are sleeping in? Are they sleeping naked??

    9. It's Tradition*

      They’re not hunting. They’re hiring prostitutes, snorting blow and drinking themselves into oblivion.

    10. LizM*

      I don’t think they’re excluding women because women don’t like hunting, they’re excluding women because they want a male-only event because “girls are gross and ruin everything.” The hunting is just a cover for a male-only trip.

  11. Cary2225*

    I’m still reeling from op3 where they have to pay $10k to leave their employer. I honestly can’t imagine that’s would be enforceable in my jurisdiction (BC, Canada) as it seems like it would be considered an abuse of the employer’s power and overly restrictive in the same way many non-competes are unenforceable.

    I would be OK if the employer had paid $10K as a golden hand cuffs deal, but just as a penalty for quitting seems legally dodgy.

    I’d say talk with a lawyer.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I’ve heard of this before. It’s not uncommon in work where people sign contracts. However, usually there is some sort of “escape clause” and a convo with a lawyer would be a good idea.

    2. I need cheesecake*

      I’m surprised Alison didn’t suggest having someone check it the contract is actually enforceable. It might not be.

      1. Nope.*

        This. Even if it seems legal and legit on the surface, the first and only piece of advice here should have been “talk to a lawyer,” not “spill your guts about your medical issues and plea for mercy.”

        1. Colette*

          “This job is affecting my health so I have to quit” is not “spilling your guts about your medical issues”.

    3. MK*

      I cannot speak to your jurisdiction, but this would generally be perfectly legal, as it is a contractual obligation the OP agreed to. The OP has a fixed term employment contract, which means she is guaranteed employment for a period of time, and almost certainly would be owed considerable severance, if it was the employer who wanted to end their association early. In my country the severance would equal the compensation for the rest of the contract.

      The only way I can think of for the courts to invalidate this is if the terms are skewed too much on the employer’s favour, as in the OP owes a penalty, but the company can fire her at any time without warning or severance.

      That being said, it is a possibility that the company won’t pursue this, especially if the OP’s job search lasts longer and there is only a short time till the end of the contract.

      1. Canadian Valkyrie.*

        I’ve also had fixed term contracts and would NOT have been rewarded any fancy benefits had the company decided to terminate my role. I’m not saying that that isn’t the case for OP, just that I’m getting the sense that you think contracts benefit the employee as much as the employer. I could be wrong but I would be seriously wary of a company that (a) puts this kind of clause into their contracts and (b) is giving an emoloyee mental health problems. It’s just that if you’re a good place to work you don’t usually need to hold that sort of leverage/threat over your employees heads. That said, I do understand that there are circumstances where you can’t just peace out without expecting consequence, like if your an actor and playing the lead character on a tv show or if you’re the new NHL goalie or if you’re being hired for a highly special project for 2 years that for some reason only you can do of where having to hire someone new could be irrearably damaging to the project… but I’ll reiterate: people are more likely to stay if (a) you have that contract and (b) you’re a good employer NOT because you were holding threats over their head.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          “I’m getting the sense that you think contracts benefit the employee as much as the employer.”

          I think they are just saying the contracts that *do* benefit both parties are more likely to be enforceable. They aren’t saying ALL fixed-term contracts come with severance.

        2. MK*

          Contracts do benefit both parties in most circumstances, otherwise there is no incentive to have them. It is highly unlikely to have an employment contract where the employee has to pay a penalty to leave early, but the company has no corresponding obligation, and it is likely to be void.

          If you have a fixed term contract, but you can leave at any time without penalty and the company can fire you at any time with no penalty, what is even the point of having it? Arguably, you still benefit by knowing how long your employment will last; th3 company could just hire you for an indefinite time and then fire you whenever they wanted.

          1. Canadian Valkyrie*

            I totally agree with that. I think my… hesitation (?)… is that I have just seen SO MANY organizations that use contracts as a way to not hire permanent employees, which results in the denial of things like vacation, health insurance, and other basic job benefits that they offer to permanent staff because they can then classify you as a different type of employee. So yeah, sure, if we’re strictly looking at quitting/firing, it’s definitely beneficial to know you’ll be gainfully employed for a certain period. And a lot of good places to work will treat you well in the process and won’t short change you because you’re not permanent… but in my line of work, contracts are routinely borderline predatory and put an employee at a disadvantage in terms of benefits they could get as a permanent employee. Obviously that’s not the case in all fields, but it sure as hell is in mine… so yeah, you’re definitely right, but yeah, I think we might both be right here :)

    4. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Yeah, I wondered if they’ve kept to the letter of the contract on their end too? If they’ve misrepresented any part of the role, or asked for LW to do any work outside the scope of the contract, maybe there’s some grey area there..?

      In either case, $10k is a lot. If you’re willing to part with it anyway, it sounds worth it to consult a lawyer first.

      1. MK*

        It is a considerable sum objectively, but it could make sense depending on the industry. For some, this could be one pay period’s compensation. I don’t want to presume, but if the OP can afford this, I am guessing she is in a high earning role.

        1. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Oh definitely! $10k just seems considerably more than it would cost to sound out a lawyer is what I meant. And if OP is as burned out as she sounds, keeping that $10k (less lawyer’s fees) may come in handy if she needs to take some time off for her mental health to recover.

    5. Non-Prophet*

      My husband has a multi-year employment contract that stipulates that he is responsible for paying the company the balance of his salary if he voluntarily leaves before a certain date. For instance, if my husband were to accept a new job with a year still remaining on his contract, he would be on the hook to pay his employer for an entire year’s salary.

      We had a lawyer review this before he signed, and it’s legal and enforceable. (We are in the US). This is the first time he’s been under such a contract, so the process was new to us; apparently it’s relatively common in his industry and for his role.

      He ultimately signed because there is also a benefit for him: the company has guaranteed his employment through the end date of the contract (or would pay out the equivalent in severance if he is terminated). He would have to do something truly egregious —such a commit fraud—to release the company from its obligation to pay. It’s definitely a “golden handcuffs” situation.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’m very surprised that Alison didn’t recommend taking the contract to a lawyer so that LW can better understand their options and possible consequences here. The $10,000 makes it penny-wise, pound-foolish to do this without professional legal advice.

    7. Snow Globe*

      I was thinking that perhaps the LW received a sign-on bonus when they took the job, but they have to repay all or part of it if they don’t stay a certain period of time. Repayment of a bonus that was explicitly for remaining through a certain date would be legal.

      1. Nicotena*

        Oh, I hope that’s what it is – that would feel a lot fairer to me vs a contract that basically says “no matter what hellish thing we do, *you* have to pay *us* if you leave.” My goodness, you could make quite a profitable scam out of that, it seems to me. I don’t think I would ever sign a contract like that – that’s not what employment means to me!

      2. Reba*

        I mean, don’t you think they would have said so if that were the case? My household has recently dealt with a signing bonus clawback; it happens and I don’t think it’s uncommon.

        This situation sounds much more onerous but sadly, it’s not difficult to imagine an employment contract that favors the employer in every respect. My experience has been that you can’t often negotiate these things either: the company will say, you want to work here, these are the terms, regardless of their legality or consideration.

    8. anonymous73*

      I’m not saying it shouldn’t be looked at by a lawyer for a loophole, but the OP signed it, so they essentially agreed to it. I can’t think of a scenario in which I’d ever sign an agreement like that, but to each their own.

    9. Prefers Diving to Law*

      I once got to nearly litigate one of these – media companies LOVE burning out younger production crew personnel straight out of college with crap pay and crap conditions on term contracts which were heavily weighted in favor of the company. I represented a young woman who had completely had it with her hours, the stress and the abuse and wanted to go into something kind, sweet and really far off the media path. She found a dream job, but this personal indenture contract stood in the way. I told her I didn’t believe that it was enforceable and to take the job and give reasonable notice – but to avoid complications, not tell them where she was going (she’d be theoretically liable to pay out the remaining 80K – two years’ pay on her remaining contract, plus the entirety of her earnings from the new job for those two years, despite the enterprise having no competitive aspect – these terms would apply if she quit to work at a daycare, a McDonald’s or dig ditches).

      They had some New York media law stereotype call to muscle me on the contract (I laughed at him) and to demand to know where she was going (I guffawed).

      Turns out that the management at the station then worked over her co-workers to determine her interests, and they started scouring want ads. The station manager himself called the target sweet employer and told them he was suing them for tortious interference with the personal service contract, which got them. (understandingly) worked up. Aside – it also confirms how toxic that work environment was.

      My next convo with the media stereotype was genuinely unpleasant for him, as I described how his attack on a part of a beloved and well-utilized local institutions would be viewed by our elected local judges, who are very attuned to these places in our community. I also advised him that it would be well-publicized across media platforms he couldn’t control, so that when his lousy little indenture got shattered by a judicial decree, it would be widely known. He stopped his bluster and caved.

  12. bookartist*

    LW1s company has hundreds of employees and the guys just hope every other guy keeps his mouth shut about the hunting trip? What’s leadership gonna do when a real business problem emerges?

    1. Jillian*

      That was my thought too. I retired recently, but have always been the only woman and for the last few years I was the oldest by 20 years. I still had male office friends I had lunch with and a couple I socialized with outside of work. Some men are pretty gossipy and I cannot imagine this really being a secret.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Plus, since the invitee list us getting bigger due to the company expanding, sooner or later they will invite a man who is either “WTF, no” and blows the whistle or who can’t keep their mouth shut. (In fact, the second may already have happened, since the OP is female and knows about it. If there’s a discreet way for her to let other women in the company know about Sexist Huntapalooza, that might not be a bad idea.)
      I think the trip is probably less about the hunting and more about male bonding, so that management can work out who they think is man enough to get a promotion. And I bet it’s mostly the men who do get the promotions. Ugh.

    3. NeutralJanet*

      It looks like not every man is invited, only men from the corporate team, so it’s not like they’re asking 350 people to keep a secret (I’m going to go ahead and assume that there is not an equal gender split in employees). And if the owner thinks that this is a good and enjoyable and acceptable thing to do, it’s quite possible that he assumes that all men feel that way as well, just that some pretend not to because of those goshdarn no-fun feminists running the world now /s

    4. anonymous73*

      Clearly it’s not a secret since OP knows about it. And if OP knows about, HR probably knows about it too which is an even bigger problem because they’re allowing it to happen. If I were OP I’d start job hunting immediately, consult an attorney and put a stop to this gross shit.

    5. Observer*

      the guys just hope every other guy keeps his mouth shut about the hunting trip?

      That’s already breaking down. The OP somehow found out about it, even though she’s not invited.

      1. LW1*

        I know about the trip because my old boss happily showed me pictures and told me all about it when it first started happening a few years ago. Back then it was only a few attendees. Last year it did not happen because of COVID. This year there’s a lot more attending because our corporate team and company have grown significantly. Because of my role I would know about this activity anyways.

    1. AnonInCanada*

      Same here. When I Googled the phrase I was rather perturbed why such a phrase would even exist.
      Sexist, racist and misogynist all in three words!

    2. Roscoe da Cat*

      I heard it a lot around US military folks and I think it came from after WW2 and the occupation in Japan. But you don’t really hear it as much now and I call it out when I do.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’ve heard *of* it, but never heard it in the wild. And I’ve worked with people who pretty much speak in corporate buzzwords. My guess is, none of my coworkers have had the gumption to actually say that phrase out loud. Good for them.

    4. Koalafied*

      Same! Very grateful I’ve never had to be in an environment where anyone thought that was an appropriate thing to say!

  13. LifeBeforeCorona*

    I wonder what sort of pushback a “women only” weekend retreat would receive. Especially with an agenda heavy on empowerment, networking, skills-building, negotiating, etc.

    1. MK*

      Unless the owner participates on those too, they won’t have the same impact. Also, there would still be a divide between male and female employees, completely without justification.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I was going to say, even if the owner participates, there’s no way it will be equivalent, because the very existence of a “boys” vs “girls” activity indicates that the owner thinks of them very differently. I’ve experienced first hand how that translates to joking around and sharing gossip with the group the boss feels more comfortable with. The boss might be very enthusiastic and trying to treat the other group equally, but bc they approach it from a different mindset, they don’t slide into that relaxed approachable role that they have with the other group.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It won’t be equivalent and people will complain anyway. “Oh, it’s okay for you to have a girls only weekend but we can’t have one for the guys?”

      2. Lacey*

        Exactly. My old company used to do a golf outing. Anyone could come, it wasn’t gendered. But many of us don’t play golf or care to. Another outing was proposed – but it only happened once because it wasn’t at all the same. The boss golfs. If you want that informal face time, you’d better golf too.

        1. La Triviata*

          I would be concerned if they set up a “girls” weekend event; it sounds like their idea of an equivalent version for women would be a visit to a spa or some such, without offering contact with the company owner or anyone else in the upper levels of the hierarchy.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Right. The thing that grates for me is that these men get this quality face time with higher ups that the women are deliberately excluded from. This is very wrong on several levels.

    2. Despachito*

      Not exactly this, but at a friend’s work they had a “women-only” one-day paid day off before Christmas, to “do the baking” (and they were supposed to bring some samples the next day).

      I was very glad it was not in MY work, because to me, it sent iffy vibes in several different directions:

      – it supposed that only women do the baking and, implicitly, all the Christmas preparatives, which is absolutely not true (in our house, it is Hubs who loves and does a lot of baking), and I felt that it reinforced the stereotypes I hate – that is OK for the women to do all the chores
      – it was discriminatory against men – they would certainly appreciate a day off as well
      – the assumption that you will bring the baked goods sort of forced you to really bake on that day off – and I’d hate to have people telling me what to do on my own free time.

      If I was one of these employees, I am pretty convinced that I would not be able to have my mouth shut, and I’d basically refuse a perk I consider unjust and discriminating, but I am also pretty convinced that the rest of the women would hate me for detracting the perk for them.

      Perhaps the best solution would be to advocate for men to have that day off, too….

      1. CoveredinBees*

        As much as I love baking and bringing in the results to colleagues, this would make me want to bring in a roll of pre-made cookie dough, drop it on the table, and walk off to by desk. I also don’t celebrate Christmas, but honestly that part bothers me so much less than the huge mess that is the rest of that practice. “Take a day off and bake for us…” is just making my head spin.

        1. Who Am I*

          I was thinking a package of Oreos myself. (Love baking, do it very infrequently since both of us at home are T2 diabetic. I don’t even keep ingredients. A small pack of Oreos or a cupcake from my favorite bakery are rare treats.)

        2. Terese*

          I’m a retired baker, and I absolutely loved my job. But I’m afraid my response to this would have been, “Oh, hell, no, and screw you!”

        3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I would bring in some Cheap Ass Rolls ;)

          But yeah, this is bad on every possible level. I am also diabetic, so no way I spend a day off baking something I cannot even eat myself!

      2. UKDancer*

        Would not work for me either. I hate baking. I don’t mind cooking when it’s my dinner I’m doing and I’m not bad at baking but it’s not my idea of fun. In contrast at least one of my male colleagues loves baking and makes amazing chocolate brownies. Whenever we have a potluck (pre-Covid) he makes something deeply ambitious and I buy soft drinks at the supermarket.

        Honestly not all women bake and not all men don’t bake. Stereotypes suck!

      3. Daisy-dog*

        I bake my grandmother’s cookie recipe every Christmas. It takes about an hour and half from start-to-finish (about the length of a Christmas movie). I would gladly take a whole day off to do that activity for a bit in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day relaxing or doing other fun festive activities. However, even with how much this would benefit me, I don’t think I would be able to hear that announcement without snorting. It is so ridiculous and old-fashioned and ugh.

      4. Amethystmoon*

        I’m a cis woman and I rarely bake, mostly because I’m afraid I’ll just eat it all. It’s rough being perpetually single sometimes.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Single with an eating disorder. Yes, please force me to trigger my mental health issues, that’s a great plan.

      5. ShowTime*

        I’m Jewish and I’d be tempted to decline the free day off out of principle. Not everyone celebrates Christmas!

      6. Meep*

        I love baking and sharing food but that is a no broski for me. At best, I would dump a bunch of stale Costco cookies on a tray for those clowns and call it a day.

    3. DANGER: GumptionAhead*

      I think AAM had a letter about that recently? Basically the objections were about as out of touch as “Men’s Only ____” is

      1. Paulina*

        And even then, advice from a remote mentor can’t replace hands-on mentoring from one’s actual boss. It helps, but you still end up having to be a self-starter on your actual job vs. a colleague getting “taken under the wing” of a superior that they click with due to a shared background.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My local (Midwest-ish, large city) foodies group cannot have a post asking to recommend Black-owned restaurants without all hell breaking loose in the comments. Every.single.time. I cannot begin to imagine what the “women / minorities only” career mentoring programs must be going through.

    4. Koalafied*

      I’m remembering now that LW who wrote over the summer and was sore about being excluded from a women’s leadership program his company had created to address a lack of women in leadership roles in their industry and their company. He said he was on board with DEIJ ideals but thought they ought to find a way to help women that didn’t “acutely disadvantaged men” and noted that his particular department within the company was not male dominated, so clearly he was not benefitting from sexism.

    5. The OTHER other*

      Especially if the CEO were a woman, and similarly inaccessible to most staff at this location except during this event, which includes new/junior employees. And the event were deliberately shrouded in secrecy.

      This is awful, I hope the OP manages to get the whistle blown and doesn’t suffer unfair blowback.

    6. Nanani*

      Not the point.
      Historically, single-gender work trips have excluded women.
      Imagining a parallel universe where that’s not the case has nothing to do with anything.

      You can’t pinkwash and empower your way out of a history of discrimination

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      There was a letter on this blog where the OP, a man, complained. And it wasn’t even a getaway at the owner’s mansion! Just a seminar on leadership skills or something of that kind.

      1. pancakes*

        There always is. There was a man who sued The Wing (a coworking space for women, pre-pandemic) too.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Remember the letter a while back from a guy who was peeved at not being able to sign up for women’s empowerment courses?

  14. a user*

    I would be hesitant recommending to the LW to bring this up to HR – This sounds like the kind of company where HR is buddy-buddy with the owner and where the culture is deeply rooted in the dude-bro archetype. The first person or group of people to bring this up will probably face a lot of (illegal, but still happening) retaliation for disrupting the frat boy culture at work there.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Which opens the company up to even more legal ramifications.

      Attitudes like yours are why problems like this continue to exist. HR can do their job (protect the company from legal repercussions of stupid decisions like this) or they can cover it up. It doesn’t matter. It’s terrible and it needs to stop, and it will only stop if people speak up.

    2. Nicotena*

      The middle ground to me is, get out first (at least get another offer and give notice), before going scorched earth; maybe you can leave the door open for the women still there if there’s already an investigation started. I agree, in a practical approach I would never want to work at a place like this while being a whistleblower; that just sounds absolutely awful.

  15. Cranky and uncaffeinated*

    Boy would I be tempted to respond to anyone using that kimono line with something like “yes, let’s strip the foreskin away so we can get to the meat of the matter!” Is it vulgar and pointed? Of course. But it might spark a clue for these idiots.
    ( I’d be tempted to use it on the mighty hunters too – who one suspects are almost certainly not hunting animals but alcohol and other boys night activities. Although it does sound like that bunch is already a special breed of a$$hats.)

    1. My Dear Wormwood*

      An Australian politician used to push back on the phrase “that takes balls” by saying things like, “Well done Peter, that took breasts.” I would love to be a fly on the wall if anyone ever used “open the kimono” in front of her. She’d probably love the foreskin option.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I have never ever understood that phrase. Balls are so delicate and sensitive – why do they represent toughness? And the bigger they are, the easier it is to take someone down with one well placed knee. I know that someone once did mental math something like balls = manliness and manliness = tough, but if you think about it objectively balls are only a massive weakness. Pretty much every chick who has watched a movie knows that is where to put a knee in order to bring a dude down.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          One thing I LOVED about The Magicians (the show, not the book, which I loathed the first one and refused to read any further…) is that Margo makes this point multiple times and consistently flips the script. I love it so much. (There’s one seen where she’s like “Balls? Really? Let’s be serious now, which one can really take a pounding? Yeah, that’s what I thought.”)

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I mean, it’s hilarious and I’ll totally be tucking that one away for later use (no vulgar pun intended)!

      But generally, responding to a sexualised comment with another sexualised comment just affirms for the perpetrator that sexualised commentary is acceptable. And insinuating that thoughts of foreskin or man-meat are on your mind to a creeper can backfire spectacularly.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        Right, I understand the temptation, but answering vulgarity with (arguably worse) vulgarity isn’t the way to foster an environment with no vulgarity at all. I would probably just return the awkwardness to sender and ask, “Open the what now? I don’t understand, can you explain?” Which is frankly what I might have done anyway, I’ve never heard this term and I never want to.

  16. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

    #1 – Name and shame them, OP – NAME AND SHAME!! Get this issue the sunlight and exposure it needs.

    I’m sure that such practices within a company of that size should be of interest to local media, or hopefully some regulatory body (we have an Equal Opportunity Commissioner where I live).


  17. Kahunabob*

    About letter 5 and businesses that work fully remote or without a physical location for FMLA purposes. I’m not from the US and was wondering if the address the business is registered at would count as the ‘office’ for the purpose of 50 or more employees within the 75 mile radius?

    1. Mockingjay*

      It’s the physical location employees report to. The head office can be elsewhere. I work full-time remote but am still “assigned” to a specific operations facility (which is not the corporate home office). My home is in another state, definitely beyond the 75-mile radius.

      I am fortunate to be working at a company that will give FMLA to any employee regardless of location or number of employees at the site, beyond the requirements of the law. (ExToxicJob would not.)

    2. Former Gifted Kid*

      I think it depends. I’m not sure the rules around what can be counted as the registered address of a business. My organization has been fully remote for a long time. They used to have several offices in different parts of the country. Most of the “offices” were basically a rented room in an office building with a storage closet. Which location was “your” office was based on what project you were working on. This was often the office closest to you geographically, but not necessarily, especially if you were working on a project with the main office. The organization restructured about 5 years ago so now the only physical office is the main one and the registered address (which, again, is basically a storage closet with a mailbox). The CEO is not even within 75 miles of the main office. Basically, the head HR person is the only one nearby because she goes and collects the mail every Friday, but I think that counts as the “work site” for all of us.

    3. Candi*

      I wonder, if a company owns its servers rather than renting space, if where the servers are could be considered a physical business location, even if there’s no regular workers on site. With remote workers, no servers, no business -snail mail is just too slow these days.

  18. TechWorker*

    #2 – most likely thing is Alison is right and it was unrelated.

    Other possible thing is the hiring committee/interviewers disagreed about you or had some doubt and Jane was there to give a second opinion. If she immediately backed up what the ‘no’ half of the committee thought (like, you don’t have enough experience and would be slow to get up to speed, or something personality related..) then that could result in a fairly quick ‘no’.

    I once took someone out to lunch (before I was part of any hiring committee) with the express purpose of ‘checking whether they were too arrogant’ because some of the interviewers had got that impression. They were fine to talk to, I didn’t think they were arrogant, we hired them, and they’re great to work with… but if I had come back with a different impression that might have swayed them into a reject.

    1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      I have gone on lunch interviews (from both sides of the metaphorical table) that were interviews, but nobody said they weren’t.

      But if the company explicitly states it’s not an interview, pretty the whole point is to let you ask some frank questions. What’s the work-life balance really like? The manager seems a little intense, what is your experience working with them? I read this negative thing on glassdoor, have you observed that pattern, and is the company doing anything about it?

      I mean you can’t show up drunk, say racist or sexist things, insult the company / your interviewers, etc. But the bar has to be pretty high IMHO. Otherwise the company is lying to you.

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, that’s what I thought – it’s possible they were on the fence and asked Jane to evaluate something, and she thought the OP was too arrogant/too timid/lacked self-confidence/wouldn’t like the hours/wouldn’t work well with the hiring manager.

      I also think the OP misinterpreted “not an interview” – it wasn’t an interview in the Jane wasn’t asking questions, but it was still an opportunity for Jane to evaluate the OP through the conversation.

      1. Meep*

        Pretty much this. I work in a pretty technical field. If you aren’t asking good questions, it really affects whether my boss would hire you or not. It is completely possible Jane wasn’t an interviewer but was someone high up on the food chain.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Honestly, when I hired babysitters it was the questions they asked that informed my decision. One young woman asked how to tell when the baby was fast asleep enough to be put down: she was the best we ever had and the kids cried when she left. The ones that only ask stuff that will affect themselves like “how often will you be back after midnight” are obviously just looking to earn some cash and don’t actually give a toss about my kids.

    3. Former Gifted Kid*

      I think this is a possibility.

      Relevant Story: I manage a department that works closely and is very interconnected with three other departments. We recently were hiring for a manger of one of my sister departments. My boss wanted the top two candidates to meet with the three other managers of this group before they made a final decision. It was very informal. We were not given any information about the candidates ahead of time. The goal was to get a feel for how the four of us would interact as a group. How “seriously” the candidate took the meeting wasn’t really taken into consideration. We wanted them to not treat it like an interview. The final decision was made the same day as the meeting with the second candidate (although not within 45 minutes) because as a whole, everyone was confident that both of the candidates would be great, but there was only one job. We just needed to pick one.

      With all that being said, I think there’s a strong possibility that TechWorker is right. In my story, my boss definitely did not tell the unsuccessful candidate that they were being rejected until the first choice accepted the offer. It could be that they had already offered the role to someone and were waiting to hear back when they informal interview happened. Or it could be that there was some sort of concern the hiring committee had that they wanted someone in a parallel role to assess in a more informal environment and the peer recommended not hiring.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      It’s hard not to agonize over not getting a job when you expected an offer, but there’s no way to know what happened and you have to let it go.

      Most often, it’s a weird timing thing. Maybe their first choice candidate accepted the position or something similar, and it was too late to cancel the meeting with Jane. It’s possible Jane knew and that’s why she stressed that it wasn’t an interview. It’s also possible that the candidates were evenly matched and wanted Jane’s input on how she felt interacting with each one. But that’s all wild speculation and it doesn’t pay to go down that rabbit hole.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      He would probably say that his big britches help him to carry all his hunting gear. But good callback!

  19. Empress Ki*

    1 “I don’t know how to address this without the boys getting angry with me.” It is the “boys” who should worry that you and their other female coworkers get angry with them. Their feelings aren’t your responsibility. They were wrong to participate. You and the other women have the law with you.

    1. piefaceline*

      Yes! I came to say the same thing Empress Ki! #Op1 seems concerned about hurting their feelings, but they have not for one second concerned hers or their other female coworkers.
      OP, I’m pretty sure there’s no way you can shut this down without people getting angry with you, but maybe it helps to know that they don’t care that you’re angry at them.

      1. NeutralJanet*

        I’m not sure that OP worrying that the boys will be angry is so much about hurting their feelings as it is about not wanting the owner and most likely more than half of the corporate team to have it out for her, especially given that this group doesn’t seem particularly concerned with treating employees fairly. Not that she shouldn’t speak up anyway, of course, but it’s reasonable to worry about managing other people’s feelings when those people might make their anger your problem.

    2. Observer*

      Their feelings aren’t your responsibility.

      Of course not. But they ARE her problem. And what do you think the changes are that the company is going to react well to her kicking up a fuss?

      I think that the people who said that she should consider finding a new job then going scorched earth have a valid point.

    3. LW1*

      Their feelings are not my responsibility – agreed. However the way I will be treated after is more where my concern is. It will be “my fault” they can’t have their boys trips, it won’t be viewed by them as we shouldn’t have been doing this. And while I recognize the whole you can’t retaliate against employees who file legit grievances exists, that won’t matter here. I’ll be made miserable until I leave which I am working on but easier said than done.

    4. Sparkles McFadden*

      “Hurt feelings” is likely a mild phrase that really means “I am afraid of retaliation.” That is a legitimate concern. Not everyone is up for that fight. It is not easy to work in a place where your coworkers are bigger and louder than you are, and they’ve been told by management that you are to blame for them losing something. We watch this on the national stage on a daily basis.

      For most of my career, I was the lone woman in my department. I had to fight a lot of battles: I had to push with upper management to get salary parity, I had to file a formal grievance to get equal access to overtime and training (the boss said “only men with families need overtime and promotions”) and many other things. My manager tried very hard to fire me for “making trouble” and, when that failed, she told the staff it would be better for everyone if I left so they should make me as “uncomfortable as possible.” Half of them complied. The other half help me document the bad behavior but would only do so if “those other guys don’t find out.”

      I was ready for all of that and I came out fine, but it was extremely difficult. Day to day was hard (used condoms shoved in my locker; snot wiped on my keyboard and other juvenile nonsense). Worse was that, years later, I’d be working with some higher level person and be told “I’ve heard for years about how difficult you are to work with and you don’t seem like that at all to me.” I moved on in the company and many of those other people in the bad department were gone, but the label of being “difficult” persisted, eventhough it came from a questionable source. It was always a punch in the gut to hear someone call me difficult and have to pretend I didn’t know why that would be.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Just want to add for the LW…contact a lawyer to know your rights and make a plan to push back. It’s best if you can do this as a group. If you’re not up for that, it’s OK to just find another place to work. This might just be the tip of the iceberg.

  20. Hollywood Handshake*

    Boola! Boola!
    It was sexist and wrong when Leslie Knope called it out when Ron and the boys went hunting, and it’s sexist and wrong for your company too, OP1. I’m sorry. They absolutely deserve to get called out, and I hope you, the other women in your office and hopefully some male allies who see how wrong this is, are able to do something about it without (illegal) retaliation.

  21. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    LW3: Speak to a lawyer who has experience navigating this.
    Not only do they say up to $10,000, they say (unspecified) legal fees. These people are out for a pound of your flesh. Maybe more than that, they could rack up frivolous legal fees for no reason except to bill you for them.
    So you need a hired gun on your side. Don’t try to winging this, if they decide to screw you over they may maliciously try to cost you several times that $10,000.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Agree 431320%. LW needs to talk to a lawyer and it will cost a fraction of $10,000 for a consultation and letter to the company.

    2. NerdyKris*

      Agreed. A $10,000 penalty might be enforceable for someone making six figures, but if you’re making $15 an hour doing work that requires very little training, it might not be an enforceable clause. Penalties have to be reasonable.

  22. Coffee Cup*

    Isn’t the first one literally the plot if an episode of Parks and Rec? I guess some people don’t get absurd comedy

    1. Well...*

      I feel like if an idea has been skewered in a show I like, then it MUST make people stop in real life, right? Sadly not so much

    2. Canadian Valkyrie.*

      They do it in Shitt’s Creek too but in both instances it’s not a gender-exclusive event, make and females go in both instances. I think the issue is more about the exclusion about women and not about the audacity of people going hunting. I could be wrong though… I haven’t seen parks and rec for a long time so many be it was a male only thing. But tbh having /hunting/ being your team event regardless of who goes is just… gross??? It’s not that I oppose hunting, but I mean, you’re going to get food via shooting and animal and I just feel like it’s in poor taste to make it into a casual fun even.

      1. KittyCardigans*

        The episode of Parks & Rec has men and women in it because Leslie has decided to take a stand against the annual men-only hunting trip by joining them (and bringing other women along, as well). The base problem in both the episode and the letter above is that there’s a men-only hunting trip, women are being excluded, and there are professional implications for that. It’s an apt parallel.

      2. Just a Cog in the Machine*

        The hunting trip on Parks and Rec was implied to have been men only in the past. I don’t think it’s said that women weren’t allowed, but Leslie invites herself (and everyone else) and says something about “I know you wanted this weekend to be a lot of man-on-man-on-man action, but thanks for letting me join.” I think in Ron’s case, he doesn’t care if it’s a man or woman, as long as it’s someone who will stay relatively quiet and is actually interested in hunting. (So, Tom was never invited before, as he is neither of those things.)

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        The Parks and Rec one, it was an annual boy’s trip and Leslie makes them invite the women along this year.

        The Schitt’s Creek one is not a work event.

  23. Someone*

    I would only make an issue about the hunting trip to HR if female employees remained in the office and had to cover the workload for absent male coworkers. If it’s a weekend trip off company hours and no one had to cover for absent male employees, I’d ignore it completely.
    One solution would be to have a company meeting and address the issue by discussing various options for other company activities during the year that will include everyone.

    1. SarahKay*

      But that’s ignoring the increased access that all the men get to the big boss that none of the women can enjoy.
      One solution would be for the company to stop thinking it’s in the nineteen-fifties, and end this hideously sexist practice now.

    2. Empress Ki*

      Why ignoring it ? It is still discrimination against women and put them at a disadvantage. It also discriminate against people who won’t go hunting for religious reasons (I.e : practicing Buddhists).

    3. Workerbee*

      Oh, dear. It’s been so well-documented why these men-only trips actively negatively impact women far beyond the “aw, poor ladies gotta cover their work in the office” bleat. Yes, even if it’s during non-work hours. It is still a company outing that only the presumably-penis-havers get to go on! And in this instance, no non-penis-haver is supposed to know about it!!

      Why you think this is something to be hand-waved off, in 2021, is willfully obtuse.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I appreciate that this is unlikely to be a company with many trans employees, but more generally, treating “penis-havers” and “men” as synoymous is also not great in 2021. :)

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          I’m half-suspecting that any trans men might actually not get invited if there was any hint of trans-ness that was known.

        2. Myrin*

          I assume that’s why Workerbee said “presumably-penis-havers”. Like, the presumption is on part of the company and indeed pretty likely from what else we know about them.

          1. socks*

            I mean, if a trans woman worked there they probably wouldn’t invite her regardless of her presumed penis-having status, and they probably wouldn’t invite a trans man even if he’d announced to the entire office he had bottom surgery. The vast majority of cis men have a penis, but this still isn’t *about* the penis.

            1. ecnaseener*

              For sexists, especially the “old boy” type of sexist who pulls this crap, it often is about the reproductive organs. (And yes, also about not challenging sexist notions of “masculinity comes from my penis,” hence transphobia.)

            2. Myrin*

              I’m not really following the argument here.

              A company like the one described – at least from what we know about it from this letter, but I don’t believe I’m amiss in assuming that a firm behaving in such a blatantly sexist manner has issues with other -isms as well – is incredibly unlikely to think of trans people (in either “direction”) as people who could possibly exist in its vicinity.
              As such, the trans woman in question would not have a “presumed penis-having status” because it wouldn’t occur to anyone that there’s anyone but cis women employed with them. Unless she openly transitioned while employed there which, again, unlikely.

              But I also think this isn’t really a salient rabbit hole to go down so I’ll just leave this here!

              1. socks*

                My argument is that in-group status is not based solely on the presumed presence of a penis. If they found out a week before the trip that one of the women working for them was trans, she wouldn’t be invited along, and she’d probably be fired. Using “presumed penis-haver” as a substitute for “presumed cis man” is, as bamcheeks said upthread, not great.

                1. socks*

                  In other words, they almost certainly do assume that all the men have penises and none of the women do, but “penis: y/n?” isn’t the entire basis of the invite.

              2. darcy*

                the point isn’t the firm’s transphobia or lack thereof, it’s the unnecessary association between gender and genitals in the comment that people are taking issue with. and arguing that the firm is probably transphobic in the same way as the comment isn’t really a useful defence.

    4. anonymous73*

      Ignore it??? No. They are specifically excluding women AND told to keep it a secret. It doesn’t matter if it’s before, during or after work hours. It’s illegal and wrong in so many ways. We’ve come a long way since the 50s, but clearly not long enough for this particular company.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      It seems like they already did take it to HR according to the letter (says leadership including HR is ok with all this), so I’d probably look at the other options.

    6. Observer*

      f it’s a weekend trip off company hours and no one had to cover for absent male employees, I’d ignore it completely.

      Why would you ignore it? The idea that what management does off hours is not relevant to the company is pretty toxic. When those activities actively involve other staff of the company and are planned with company resources, it TOTALLY matters. Ignoring that is both toxic and willfully blind.

  24. Al who is another AL*

    LW1, seeing the comments from others, can you confirm that ALL the men want to do this, it may be the case that some are being bullied/harassed into this trip. May be worth asking the question because that would help the case against the company even more.
    And yes, I would go straight to legal about this, the company won’t change.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Speculation, but likely they hire friends of friends. It’s pretty easy (albeit illegal) to screen for “bro’s” during interviews, especially when they come from same college, town, or area. I only mention the speculation because I saw this myself early in my career, when department heads hired from the (then) all-male military college that they themselves attended. (It took a lawsuit to open the college to women.)

      1. LW1*

        LW1 here, yes, the majority of our leadership positions are filled by men who attended the same college the owner did or his real life friends from college. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

  25. Rosacolleti*

    Ugh, the idea of working for a company who support hunting is a total deal breaker to begin with.

  26. Mannheim Steamroller*


    The company would probably answer any legal action with something like, “But the women are 100% at fault for learning about the men-only trip when they weren’t supposed to.”

    1. NeutralJanet*

      Given how many people seem to think that bigoted comments aren’t harassment if the target doesn’t know about them, and that if anyone tips the target off then THAT person is the one guilty of harassment, I wouldn’t be surprised if they insisted that the trip was okay because they didn’t mean for the women to know about it.

    2. Meep*

      We have been trying to hire an office manager/admin for years now. We hire one and then before she starts working, our (female) VP who needs the admin assistant most of all, typically decides it isn’t going to work out. This has happened to 5 potential hirers. Two because they were “too young”, two because they were “too old”, and another because she was of Chinese descent and therefore here to steal all of our software and bring it back to her motherland (I kid you not). And she is pretty open about her law-breaking to the point I wouldn’t be surprised if she hadn’t told at least one of them why she fired them before they started.

      This is my long-winded way of saying that or “They are women. They cannot hunt!” Sexists (and racists in the case above) always think that they are in the right.

  27. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#3 needs to talk to a lawyer. The lawyer can advise them as to whether the contract is enforceable. (NOTE: “unenforceable” doesn’t mean “won’t get sued.” It means that, if there’s a lawsuit, the company wouldn’t win. But LW would still lose time and money and still have to go through litigation.)

    The lawyer can also send a letter to the company discussing how they and LW can come to a mutually agreeable exit that hopefully won’t cost LW $10,000 and won’t cost the company or LW the cost of litigation.

    There is no way that LW should just go to the company and say “I’m leaving because of my health” without having a lawyer look at the contract first. Without seeing what it says, we don’t know if there’s any kind of exit clause that would let LW do that without triggering the $10,000 penalty (enforceable or not).

  28. Yokohama Menace*

    “Open the Kimono” is a dumb phrase, but not inherently “problematic” imo.
    A kimono is a unisex piece of outerwear and it was common to hide weapons under them; opening it would be analogous to turning out your pockets, not flashing somebody.

    1. NeutralJanet*

      That may be how the term originated, and certainly kimono are unisex in Japan, but I doubt that’s how most modern Westerners think of it, especially given that a kimono in the USA is as likely to mean a sexy silk robe with nothing underneath as the Japanese garment. The phrase “pussying out” actually comes from the word “pusillanimous”, but at this point, that doesn’t really matter, right?

      1. Collate*

        pussy/pussying out and pusillanimous are not related, that was an incorrect popular internet post

      2. NaN*

        An example I gave in another comment are phrases like “balls to the wall” and “balls out.” Just because technically the origin of the phrase is mundane (airplane throttle, mechanical railway weights) doesn’t mean that the phrase doesn’t exist because of a more salacious association (testicles).

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      I mean, I think of this argument as akin to the use of the word “niggardly” (which means stingy, comes from Middle English, and has no linguistic relation to the racial slur.) You could use it, but the risk of it being misunderstood is just way to high and not worth it at all.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      Considering there are a number of Japanese-speaking/knowledgeable people who posted here that they’re not familiar with the term, using a phrase about another culture’s clothing (especially with the complicated racism and sexism around Asian people/cultures that Americans have) is definitely at least somewhat problematic. It’s akin to “too many chiefs and not enough Indians” or similar cringey metaphors used in business-speak.

    4. Mental Lentil*

      Yes, but in western cultures it’s almost universally identified as a distinctly female garment because as long as we’re being sexist, we may as well be ignorant and racist as well.

      So, yes, this phrase is most definitely problematic. Asian women are already fetishized enough. This nonsense needs to stop.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Hunh, my immediate mental image was of a man flashing somebody.

        (I’m aware that proper kimonos are outerwear but of course in Western fashion “kimono” has mean a vaguely kimono-ish garment, often a bathrobe, for at least a hundred years, so it really doesn’t carry over well.)

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. My Grandmother had a silk Liberty print dressing gown and she called that her kimono. It wasn’t anything like a real kimono that’s just what she called it to differentiate from the thicker wool dressing gown she wore in the winter.

    5. Aquawoman*

      I don’t think the origin matters when people don’t know what the origin was. And that stems from the fact that it’s not U.S. culture. And the fact that it means “full disclosure” certainly reinforces the flashing idea.

    6. Nicotena*

      Yeah this is interesting – I have never heard that phrase in my life and would be horrified by it, because my mind would go someplace else, but having heard this explained it’s actually more innocent than I would have assumed.

      It still should not be used. Too much risk of misinterpretation and there’s something off about an all white audience using a Japanese metaphor anyway, to me. This reminds me of a word similar to “the N word” that my executive tried to use, and then had to waste time explaining it’s not related to *that* N word, and then it became a distraction and I’m sure people felt other-ized for no good reason.

    7. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I once had a coworker who liked the phrase. Once it was learned that I’m a Latinophile, the saying changed to “lift the toga.”

      I wasn’t a reader of AAM yet, but instinctively followed what I’ve seen Alison advise others to do with problematic phrases; I asked to have it explained to me. I ended up pointing out all the problems (it was scandalous to not wear a tunic under your toga and Romans were quite aware when it happened, togae were worn in civilian contexts as formal attire, most women wore an analogous garment called a stola from mid-republic forward, the daggers used to kill Julius Caesar were hidden under cloaks, not togae, etc) and by the time it was over, enough ignorance was exposed that I haven’t heard the phrase since. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those using the Kimono phrase were just as clueless about it and its context.

      Personally, I use “play cards face up on the table” and extend my condolences to those who are of and those who cherish the Japanese culture.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            The only problem is that I don’t know Japanese culture generally or kimonos specifically well enough to do it again if the situation were to arise again. I got lucky that the coworker drug the bad metaphor right into my wheelhouse.

    8. Nanani*

      It IS problematic. It’s a reference to geisha and other women in traditional arts being sex workers, started because some horny gaijin can’t tell the difference between a sex worker in a “sexy geisha” costume and a real geisha. No different than assuming all waitresses are sex workers because hooters has waitresses in skimpy outfits. Except it is different because of the racism and fetishizing of a specific country.

    9. Hex Libris*

      I’m not confident that the majority of people who use this phrase know that, and very confident that plenty of people who hear it don’t. If you have to stop and explain to your appalled listeners why, no, it’s not what it sounds like… just don’t use the phrase.

    10. Sacred Ground*

      A kimono is formal wear. Made of several yards of fine silk, they typically cost several tens of thousands of dollars to purchase and are almost always rented for formal occasions like weddings. The casual house robe is called a yukata.

    11. Mameshiba*

      Have you ever put on a kimono? How would you go about opening it? First you have to undo the obi, if you’re a dude take off your hakama… that is literally undressing.
      It’s not a phrase that originates from Japan or Japanese.

  29. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    “Open the kimono” is only acceptable when Rafael Barba says it on Law & Order: SVU, that’s my decree.

  30. Skippy*

    LW2: If the decision had already been made in favor of another candidate, why did they waste your time — and Jane’s — with a meaningless call?

    I won’t even get into the fact that the company put you through four interviews, two tests, and the meeting with Jane, plus they took up your references’ time, yet they couldn’t even be bothered to send a personal email that they had decided to go with someone else.

    Hiring is so profoundly broken.

  31. Turtle*

    OP 2: The fact that Jane didn’t ask YOU any questions and only answered what you asked makes me agree with Alison that they had already received an acceptance from someone else or something else in planning was already going on, and they just had you talk to Jane as a formality. Is that annoying? Yes, but that does sound pretty likely from your letter.

  32. Dust Bunny*

    “Open the kimono”

    >>record scratch<<


    Wow, am I glad I have never heard this. I am especially glad I have never heard this in a work setting.

  33. employment lawyah*

    1. Company hosts a men-only weekend trip
    That’s illegal.

    The choice is this:
    1) Protest yourself or in a group. If you do this you MUST HAVE A RECORD OF THE PROTEST AND ALSO OF THE HUNTING TRIP FIRST because this will be crucial if you are then retaliated against.

    2) let it go. Not my choice, but you are not personally obliged to take the hit for the team.

    3) Report it to an agency, depending on your state. You may be able to get one of the employee rights places to take this on

    4) Hire a lawyer and have the lawyer handle this anonymously. For example, I’m perfectly capable of making this stop as if it hit a brick wall, all without telling people who I represent.

    5) Hire a lawyer and craft a more personalized solution, which is based on the info that presumably isn’t in your post.

    I’d go w/ #4 or 5

    1. pancakes*

      It’s dodgy lawyering to claim you can definitely make something stop the way you do in #4, as if the cooperation of your adversary (and/or a judge) is a non-issue. Results may vary, always.

  34. Whiskeykoko*

    I worked for 4 years at an adult beverage distributor where I was the only female sales rep on a team of about 30. They also did men’s only hunting weekends, and when I mentioned that it was unfair that I was missing out on a team bonding opportunity, they told me that once a year they took “all the secretaries” to the owners ranch for a weekend and I could go on that one. Some of these “secretaries” were accountants or HR, but I guess to them all female employees were secretaries.

    Additionally, it was very very common for a group of guys from my team to meet for lunch at gentlemen’s clubs, where discussion and decisions about our department would sometimes occur. Needless to say I was not included nor did I care to be.

    I knew there was no way I was going to be able to advance there with such a boys club culture, so after 4 years I left. The bright side is I met my husband there, he was not one of the boys club guys, and we are still married 25 years later.

    1. Nanani*

      And this here is a great example of why “have a spa day for the girls” is not a solution, as well as exactly the problem with exclusive activities in the work place.
      I”m glad you got out of there, Whiskey, but sad it had to come to that.

  35. Wesley Smasher*

    I must be really isolated, because I’ve never heard the phrase “open the kimono” before today. That’s horrible.

  36. Mel*

    @OP#3 Get a doctors note :) Also works for quitting gym memberships early without penalties if you have to do it for health reasons.

    1. Kazu*

      Question here: Would the doctor’s note have to provide an actual condition? I couldn’t imagine a diagnoses of “burn out” would work here. (Although I think it, in theory, should be allowed.)

  37. Choggy*

    In my company its golf outings, the Director of our department takes other male employees out for a day of golf, but there is nothing for the women managers and below (spa day!).

    1. Nanani*

      Even if women were being treated to an equally expensive outing, it would still not be okay because the men are getting face time with the director. The men may then get promotions or choice projects or be spared layoffs based on that bonding with the higher ups.
      This is not a fantasy, this is historical reality and the whole reason why this sort of thing is not okay.

  38. manticoreforsure*

    Part the kimono….what in the sam hell? I have never heard this before, is it a regional thing? I’m in the coastal south (USA), for reference.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I heard it in the 90s. Used primarily by retired military officers – I guess it was a phrase that got coined by people stationed in East Asia in the 50s-80s. Never heard it outside that context. And I worked on an Air Force base circa 2010 and never ran into it then.

      Maybe OP’s office culture was set by guys from that era and it’s somehow stuck.

  39. Elizabeth*

    #4: Yuck. And while we’re at it, can we please stop using pow-wow and circle the wagons? A pow-wow is often a sacred event, not a work meeting. Nobody says let’s have a Mass about it.

    And circle the wagons is just ridiculously derogatory.

    1. cat servant*

      sorry can you clarify/educate on “circle the wagons”? I know it refers to old west wagon trains making a circle and it references a defensive position for battles with indigenous peoples. I always thought it was inaccurate since it describes a defensive/battle position, but folks use it like its collaboration. (I guess it could be seen as collaborating for defense?) but I’m not clear how it is derogatory?

      1. Elizabeth*

        It’s based on an inaccurate racist stereotype, akin to all Muslims must be terrorists. Yes, some wagon trains were attacked but it was incredibly rare, and most often, it was by white bandits dressed as Natives.

        If you’re circling the wagons in a business sense, you’re defensively collaborating against a perceived threat or problem. It’s a subtle reinforcement of the “can’t trust a dirty injun” mindset. Even leaving aside the historical racism, in my work experience, places that use that phrase have an “Us against Them” culture that reinforces entitlement and marginalizes any sort of diversity.

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          The phrase – and the tactic it describes – is older than the colonization of America. Migrants and armies traveled by wagon caravan for centuries.

          Ironically, defense was a secondary purpose of “circling the wagons.” The primary purpose was establishing a perimeter to corral the livestock needed to pull the wagons.

          But most Americans are only aware of the practice and the phrase from low budget Western movies, so there is a link with the stereotypes.

  40. Empress Matilda*

    OP1, I am absolutely furious on your behalf. None of this is okay, and I’m so happy you’re prepared to address it.

    Can I just say, though, that your goal should not be find a way to address it without making the boys club angry? First of all, it’s pretty much impossible – some of them will indeed be very angry about it. That’s too bad. And secondly, their anger is beside the point. What about *your* anger, and the anger of the other women who are impacted by this? What about all your missed career opportunities, and networking opportunities, and everything else that you’re missing by being excluded from these trips? What about the fact that this is straight-up illegal? Those things are all important too, and I would argue they’re more important than protecting the feelings of those involved.

    Obviously their anger can have a real impact on you, and they can hurt you in lots of real ways at work. So for that reason, I would suggest not even trying to address it within the company. See if you can get a consult with a labour lawyer – many of them will give you half an hour for free if you ask. Do whatever you need to protect yourself – this will be a bumpy road, but you’d be doing a good thing. Best of luck, and please keep us posted!

  41. Erin*

    Re men only hunting: I would also reach out to some men in the office for support with approaching HR. You might be surprised with the response of men who absolutely do not want to attend a weekend of hunting, and/or find this men only trip to be bad for the company.

  42. awesome3*

    #5 – so for FMLA if an employee is remote they count as working from the place they report to, but for taxes they count as out of state, right?

    With so many companies going fully remote, I have a feeling we’ll get a determination from case law in the upcoming years

  43. awesome3*

    #1 – this is in an episode of Parks and Recreation, even though we’re supposed to like the character of Ron. And they work for the government. yiiiiiikes

    1. not a doctor*

      Right? Someone suggested the women just turn up with rifles and I thought, “so it would LITERALLY be that episode of Parks and Rec.”

  44. Nanani*

    LW2 seems to distinguish between video interviews and the last video call.
    Is it just because Jane said that last one wasn’t an interview, or did they conduct video interviews that were not calls, as in like sending pre-recorded videos of questions and answers back and forth?

    If this is remotely the case, bullet dodged LW.
    Maybe bullet dodged even if I am overanalyzing a random word choice because that is a lot of time wasted anyway

  45. Overnight crew*

    I also worked overnight hours for a news station with a contract. I was MISERABLE, constantly exhausted, depressed, overworked, underpaid, and the hours were hell on earth. I would lean very heavily on the health impacts. As much as breaking a contract is not ideal, sometimes when you’re that unhappy it’s the only way. I spoke with my manager and was completely honest that my health, physical and mental, were suffering and I simply couldn’t continue on with a schedule like that, and they weren’t thrilled, but they let me out with no financial penalty. Media orgs make not on-air people sign contracts because they know they pay nothing and treat people horribly across the industry so it’s standard. If there’s anyone reasonable at your company, they should let you out.

  46. fhqwhgads*

    Alison’s last paragraph answer to #5 is my current problem. My interpretation of the wording of the law seems to imply that if everyone is remote, then everyone “reports to” wherever the company is headquartered, even if that’s just a mailing address and not a physical office. My company seems to have interpreted it as “if you have 50 remote employees in the same state”. Not that we have physical offices in those states. Nor do my work assignments come from there if we did. I had a whole, very reasonable, discussion with HR about it. They seemed firm that I was incorrect, but given the law specifically mentions the example of working in one state while reporting to another, I think that sort of quashes their interpretation…but I couldn’t find sources to cite otherwise. They would’ve listened if I had. But if as Alison says, it’s vague and ambiguous at the moment, I guess there’s nothing to find.

  47. Miss Muffet*

    I’ve never heard “open the kimono” (have worked in both the east coast and mountain west, and with people across the US) but EW. ew ew ew. If I ever heard anyone say that I think I might have to wait to scoop my jaw up off the floor before saying something but I’d def say something. gag. Problematic on so many levels, it makes you wonder who even thought to start saying it in the first place.

    (Probably the guys on the “boys trip” in question 1?)

  48. NoGirlzAllowed*

    For letter 1, my workplace has secret men-only events and trips, but if questioned they say it’s not an official work event, it’s just friends getting together who all happen to work together. Mostly organized by the Big Boss. Sigh. As a female leader, I am acutely aware of all the networking I’m missing out on and acutely aware that if I brought it up to (all male) upper leadership I’d lose a lot of social capital with them. Even in a professional environment you’re still expected to be the “Cool Girl” if you want the opportunity to get invited to a mixed gender happy hour once every 6 months.

  49. Confused*

    Okay, as a woman who actually would probably enjoy grabbing one of my rifles and going on this trip, I’d be absolutely livid at not even being invited because of my gender. But as much as I’d want to go, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like a hunting trip is just not an appropriate work event? Unless you actually work in the firearms or hunting industry, mixing guns and work feels really messed up, and the idea of this being an office event really burns me the wrong way. A lot of people have objections to hunting, a lot of people have objections to firearms, and even if women weren’t being banned outright, this would be highly exclusionary. That and guns and work just don’t mix in my mind.

    1. Confused*

      I don’t think I really articulated my issue. Put bluntly, hunting involves killing. Sure, I like hunting, but getting an official group together at work to try and go kill an animal just seems really wrong, especially if that’s how all the networking with the boss happens.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        It being a hunting outing bothered me, too, but I couldn’t put my finger on why until reading your reaction. Well articulated!

  50. Veryanon*

    I guess I’m out of touch, but I’ve never heard or used the expression “open the kimono.” It just sounds gross.

  51. greycat*

    #1: I would just skip the HR meeting and go straight to filing an EEOC complaint. It would be different if it was something you though HR might be unaware of, but if they already know and haven’t done anything then they need to face legal recourse. Also, EEOC complaint gives you the protection that HR *should* but probably will not (based on their track record).

  52. Pamela*

    #2. I don’t think they lied, per say, but I do think that is a terrible process for interviewing. If they did already make a decision on who they were going to hire, I would rather they just cancel the interview than let me be practice for an employee and waste my time. I’d rather they be up front about it all. I think you dodge a bullet with that place, it’s too odd for me to think they don’t do other things on the odd side as well.

  53. Vox Experientia*

    for the boys only hunting trip…. these days, an anonymous reach out to the media might be your best bet on squashing this without implicating yourself. gotcha journalism has it’s place and this kind of nonsense is perfect for it.

  54. ohMy*

    #4 I was once in a meeting where a senior kept calling a process a Kabuki show. He said it at least 4 times that meeting and then twice in a followup meeting. It was shocking.

    1. Mameshiba*

      What does that even mean? A theatrical performance with male actors and costumes? Might as well call it an opera or an open mic. It literally makes no sense unless you have a derogatory stereotype already in mind.

  55. Software Engineer*

    I do a lot of conversations with interview candidates where I’m just there for them to ask any questions or talk about whatever (what used to be taking them to lunch, now is a video conversation). But I always mention that while I am not asked to assess them, I CAN talk to the hiring team if I want to… to make it obvious that I am not thinking about their suitability but if they say something stupid (make a racist joke, admit to anything really shady etc) I can inform the hiring team. It’s very rare but we have had the lunch buddy be like ‘uh he was telling me all this privileged information about his current employer’ and weird stuff that

  56. Former_Employee*

    At least one other person mentioned going public with the hunting trip. (I assume anonymously.

    Not only would it cause PR problems for being sexist, but many people would be offended at a corporate organized hunting trip. Many people who haven’t gone vegetarian or vegan still oppose so called “sport” hunting.

Comments are closed.