coworker asks for “confidential” help, charity wants us to volunteer for a for-profit company, and more

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

1. Coworker asks me for help “confidentially”

I have a coworker who asks for help with certain processes, which is normal enough in our work, and I’m happy to help. But she also asks that her requests for help be confidential, which is weird (right?). She’ll send emails with “CONFIDENTIAL” in the subject line and then write things like “I’d appreciate this request being kept confidential” in the body of the email.

She’s been in her role for about a decade and I’m just coming up on my one-year mark. We have the same title and basically do the exact same work, so I’m not sure if she’s embarrassed to be asking? Or if she thinks I’m going to blab everytime someone asks for me help? Or it something more serious, where she’s been told to learn these processes but still needs frequent help and doesn’t want word to get back to our manager? What gives?

That is indeed weird! Weird enough that I think it’s possible she’s been told this is stuff she has to figure out how to do on her own. Regardless of the cause though, it’s not really cool for someone to ask you to do work that you can’t mention to anyone else. Of course, that assumes there’s not an actual work-related need for confidentiality; if there is, that would be different but then she should explain that to you.

In any case, ask her! “Jane, I’m happy to help with this kind of thing, but I’m always confused when you ask me to keep it confidential. I’m not comfortable hiding work requests from (manager) if it ever came up, so I wondered why you ask for that.”

Read an update to this letter

2. Charity wants us to volunteer for a for-profit company

I’m a long-time volunteer for a chapter of a well-known national charity. I received an email today sent via our official volunteer email listserv, offering “an exciting opportunity.” The “opportunity” is to volunteer during an upcoming Fancy Event run by a private, for-profit company (i.e. it’s not an event thrown by our charity). Volunteers will drive VIPs between their hotels and the various venues of the Fancy Event over the course of several days. They are asking people to sign up for as many 5.5-hour shifts as they can. The cars will be provided, which tells me that 1) they have a budget for cars but not labor and/or 2) they don’t want to offend their VIPs with the presence of a beater. They are trying to rally well over 100 people over the next four days, which tells me that someone messed up their planning and the VIPs have been left without rides.

In return, volunteers will receive tickets to Future Fancy Event, the price for which averages $110-150, and the for-profit company will make a donation (amount undisclosed) to a local charity of their choosing. Again, the organization that runs Fancy Event is a private, for-profit company; it brought in $40 million in revenue last year (I checked their annual report). They have the nerve to suggest drivers would be doing “a great civic duty” by volunteering. Am I right that this is NOT okay? I know from this blog that it is illegal to volunteer for private companies, but is there any kind of loophole that makes this legal? Even if it’s legal, it feels deeply unethical.

The only thing I can think of that would make this even a little okay is if the nonprofit that emailed you would be the recipient of the per-ride charitable donations, and so they’re trying to drum up lots of drivers to increase the size of that contribution. But you forwarded me the email they sent you and there’s zero mention of it. It appears this charity is just letting itself be used to generate volunteer drivers for a for-profit company, which makes no sense.

You’re also correct that for-profit companies can’t legally use volunteers. A lot of for-profit events do it anyway (offering tickets and access instead of money, just as this one is doing). Generally no one bothers reporting them, often because they’re excited to be part of the event in some way … but usually they’re being offered a more interesting role than “drive rich people around.”

I’d suggest forwarding the email to the national headquarters of the charity with a note about your concerns.

3. Company is holding a week-long retreat in a Covid hotspot

I recently interviewed for a position that sounds pretty much ideal. The interview went well and it’s possible I’ll be offered the job in the coming weeks. I want to say yes. But they mentioned that, as part of the onboarding process, I’ll be asked to participate in an annual week-long leadership retreat, in person, at a resort in an area that is currently a Covid hotspot. This would be the week before Christmas. I’ve barely traveled at all during the pandemic and don’t feel comfortable with this at all, in particular because I really want to spend time this Christmas with vulnerable family members and wouldn’t be able to do so if I’ve just returned from this trip (I am vaccinated, but at this point would have limited protection against the Delta variant).

How should I proceed? If I was offered the job, I want to be firm in my intention not to travel anywhere for the time being, and travel is otherwise not expected in this role. However, I don’t want to potentially cost myself this job offer either. I don’t believe that some kind of virtual participation in this event would be a viable option. From how this event was described, it didn’t seem to be optional.

Be very direct about it, because how they respond to that will give you useful information about how this company operates and how future “I can’t do this because it’s not safe for me” situations might be handled. So, for example: “I have high-risk family members and don’t feel comfortable attending an in-person event in an area that currently has high Covid numbers. Would it be possible for me to participate virtually instead?”

But also, this is a company that’s holding a week-long retreat in-person in a Covid hotspot, which doesn’t bode well for how they’re handling the pandemic. I’d take this as a flag to make very sure that you know how they’ve been operating in that regard and are comfortable with what you find.

Read an update to this letter here

4. When is no accommodation reasonable for a disability?

I’m curious when it is acceptable to say no accommodation is reasonable and an applicant can be rejected because they can’t do the job due to their disability. I’m not asking for ways to get around reasonable accommodations. I’m looking for input on situations where a person truly cannot be accommodated.

A few examples, all of which are real examples I may run into: (1) Can a warehouse job that requires driving a forklift, moving around heavy boxes, placing them in shelves that are eight stories tall, and picking things off the shelves exclude people who are blind? In a wheelchair? I can’t see how these can be accommodated in this situation. (2) Can a retail job that requires replenishing inventory from the back room to the sales floor accommodate a blind applicant? Wheelchair? If it requires color coordinating the stock, can someone who’s colorblind be accommodated? (3) What about a home design company that requires knowledgeable color coordination and working with pictures provided from the client, and likely design software that requires visually laying out options? Perhaps there are reasonable accommodations I’m not seeing?

I can’t speak to what specific accommodations might be available in those situations since I don’t know all the adaptive technology that might be possible, but the Job Accommodation Network is a wealth of suggestions for accommodations for different disabilities. However, what the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits is discriminating against workers who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations — so if there’s not a reasonable accommodation that will allow the person to perform the work, the law doesn’t require an employer to hire them anyway. So the law wouldn’t require you to hire, say, a blind applicant to drive a bus. (The law also has an exception for accommodations that would pose “undue hardship” to the employers, which is usually — although not always — about cost.)

5. What to say when you’ve stunk up the bathroom

I’m a 20something woman working an admin job at a hotel. I share a single restroom with the staff on my floor. Also, I have IBS, which can mean much-less-than-pleasant trips to the bathroom, even if I do everything possible to ameliorate it. This restroom is often in high demand— as in, someone trying to enter as soon as I leave (and not a stranger at a store, who I’ll never see again). Which is worse: to let them go in unwarned, or to say a quick “hey, I’d give it a minute”? I’m not bawdy but I’m not shy, and I’d be happy to issue a brief warning if that’s kinder.

I’m leaning toward “I’d give it a minute” and talking to your facilities people about if there’s a way to get better ventilation in there, but I want to throw this out to readers to see what they think.

{ 787 comments… read them below }

    1. FormerProducer*

      LW5: I apologize in advance if I’m suggesting something you’re already doing, but just in case – have you tried Poopurri? It really is shockingly effective and the bottles are small enough to tuck into most pockets.

      1. Goody*

        Poo-Pourri is some amazing stuff, and they come in a range of sizes including a pocket pack that’s not much larger than a Chapstick tube and several scents. Shake it up (this is important), then 2-3 sprays right onto the surface of the water in the bowl. The oils coat the waste and trap a huge amount of the scent.
        I do admit I’m a tiny bit biased because I conduct package testing for them. ;) But I’m at a third party independent lab, not an internal contact and I have no financial or personal interest in the company beyond satisfied customer.

        1. My Two Scents*

          I recommend a spray called Zero Odor. My office adjoins a very highly trafficked bathroom and we have scent sensitive people. This spray has been a lifesaver and is very fast acting.

          1. DataGirl*

            Interesting- our Vet recommended Zero Odor for cleaning up cat pee. It works great at removing stains and smells, but I didn’t think it was something you could just spray around like air freshener.

            1. aubrey*

              There’s a version that’s more of an air freshener spray than a stain remover spary, though I think you’re still not supposed to directly breathe it in. You can spray it in the toilet (or garbage can, or litter box, or whatever’s smelly).

          2. aubrey*

            I second Zero Odor. Does not bother my scent sensitivities (though of course people vary in how sensitive they are).

          3. Joielle*

            I LOVE Zero Odor! We use it for cat litter, dog beds, compost bins… the bottle does say you can spray it in the air, which I’ve tried. It works well, but it’s not as fine a spray as Febreeze or whatever so it doesn’t hang in the air as long. Which is maybe a good thing.

          4. profe*

            Citrus Magic is also very effective. It does leave a strong citrus scent, but it actually neutralizes the poo smell instead of just covering it up.

      2. Jackalope*

        Lots of people have recommended this or other scented products like Febreze and I’m here to strongly urge against it. At my office we had someone bring Poopourri multiple times and multiple times our head boss had to get rid of it because someone had scent allergies or sensitivities and it caused problems. Same thing with Febreze. Bathroom smells may be unpleasant, but they won’t cause anyone to stop breathing or give anyone a migraine.

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah, if my partner walks into something as scented as poopouri, he’s going home for the day while he can still drive, to spend the rest of the day with a stinking migraine. He’s fine with neutradol though, and it actually gets rid of some smells which set him off.

          1. Another one rides the bus!*

            Please tell us more about neutradol. I have a headache right now because someone walked past my apartment door wearing after shave. I need to use it in my apt, on the train, in the park, dentist office…. I se spray and gel packs. What should I buy for my life? Thank you.

            1. Batgirl*

              We’ve been using the original spray on the musty carpets in our new house – reasonably effective but I think we need to order the special carpet stuff. It was very effective at limiting the effects on the pot smoking neighbor before we moved. He also used the room freshener gel ball right under the vents where the pot smell came in. If you’re okay with eucalyptus and citronella, you’ll probably be okay (you can’t smell them, they do seem to simply “neutralize”). The ingredients are Eucalyptol, Hexyl Cinnamic Aldehyde, Eugenol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Alpha-pinenes, D-limonene, Geraniol, Citronellol, Citronellal, Benzisothiazolinone.

        2. Mm*

          This may also be a “know your workplace” kind of thing. It sounds like the LW works in a hotel, which tend to have TONS of scented items. If the employees are already exposed to tons of scents then I’d think this is likely less risky. Alternatively if it’s only a few people she shares the bathroom with she could simply ask about scent allergies.

          That all being said – I appreciate you bringing this up. I have a scent allergy and it can be pretty awkward sometimes when I have to ask people to stop doing something they like (air freshener, perfume, etc)

          1. Koalafied*

            When I was in my partying years I remember discovering how easily i could cover up any lingering pot smells when I need to transition to a public place, just by putting a tiny drop of the complimentary hotel lotion on each of my wrists and touching them to the sides of my neck. The hotel lotion inevitably had such an overpowering scent that two literal drops was enough to be the only thing anyone standing next to me could smell.

          2. PT*

            I am generally allergic to scents and I agree with this. The vast majority of public restrooms have some sort of odious air freshener thing in it. Somewhere low end will have that “weird bucket in the corner that smells like chemicals” and probably also reek of Fabuloso and somewhere middle end will have the “thing that sprays banana scent every 10 minutes so now it smells like banana and poop” and somewhere high end will go all in on the boutique potpourris and soaps so now it smells like the soap aisle at Whole Foods had a baby with the perfume department at Nordstrom.

            Poopouri is not going to make a dent in the odious scent stank of the average public restroom unless the facility is scent-free on purpose.

        3. Artemesia*

          If there is not someone with a known scent allergy issue, I’d still use poopouri which is entirely different than febreze and other airborne ‘fresheners’. If it turns out to be a problem, stop — but the situation she is in with only one small apparently poorly ventilated loo suggests doing something to ameliorate her problem. If it works, great. If it creates another problem, then stop.

        4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          If there is a colleague with a known real allergy to scent, then fine, don’t use it. But geez, don’t tiptoe around the possibility of someone potentially having an allergy to scent. Use it, and if someone brings up a real allergy, then discontinue using it.

          1. Shiba Dad*

            This seems reasonable and like a commonsense policy. As someone whose wife is sensitive to scent, I can say that it isn’t.

            When I met my wife four years ago, I was using scented products like most people do. When we started dating, I had to switch to unscented products (deodorant, soap, laundry detergent, etc.). As a result, scent is a lot more noticeable to me. When you use scented products you kind of become numb to it.

            When scented stuff is used, the scent tends to embed itself into practically everything. For instance, my mom had laptop issues and I brought it to my house to work on it. The laptop and power supply reeked of the scent that she used in the house.

            Granted, bathroom surfaces may be more resistant to this, and good ventilation can mitigate the embedding of scent. Good ventilation would also mitigate the need to mask odor to begin with.

            1. Jackalope*

              This is so true. My husband and I both have scent allergies, and they are to different things, so we’ve gotten rid of almost all of our scented products. I have a lotion I used to use before we met, and I decided to take the last bottle with me to work after we’d been together for awhile (a year or so) so I could finish it off there (with the idea that anything I used on my hands in the morning would be washed off by the time I got home). This lotion that I previously loved was SO STRONG now, and the whole day it felt like I could smell nothing but the lotion. It was awful. Got rid of it after a few days because I couldn’t stand it anymore. Now that it’s been a few more years, any scented product clings to everything for hours.

            2. nora*

              I am always shocked at the scent clinging to grocery delivery after being in someone’s car for no more than an hour, tops.

              1. Darsynia*

                The worst for me was the people at Dunkin’ Donuts using scented hand sanitizer at the drive-thru window and then using the same hand to place the lids on my drinks. The size of the drinks I get mean that their entire palm is pressed flush against the lid, meaning the whole lid smells like whatever they just covered their hands with.

                The first few times I took it home and put it into a different drink container, the next few I asked them nicely for a spare lid, and then when the dining section opened back up one day I went in and spoke quietly to the manager. I understand that people who aren’t scent sensitive or who are inured to it don’t notice, but I don’t actually have any sensitivities and it was still overpowering and potentially ruined my products. I still can’t drink the same flavor syrup I used to because I associate it with the lotion/sanitizer they were using. The issue was cleared up shortly after.

                Ideally, it just takes a ‘did you know’ kind of conversation to express the issue! But it’s not unreasonable for people who don’t realize to… not realize. We don’t know what we don’t know, and it’s not always possible for a random cross-section of the public to have found out that scent issues are a big deal and adjust accordingly! (this paragraph is a general, rather than specific you, person I responded to, kind of comment, just in case! <3)

            3. quill*

              Ventilation first, coverup scent second.

              There’s no way that the ventilation could cause unintentional harm to guests / employees.

              1. Mary*

                Also improved ventilation is a good idea generally to reduce illness as well as odour, especially in bathrooms!

            4. Batgirl*

              Same. My partner doesn’t have a “known” scent sensitivity even though it’s crippling. Nobody knows but me because nobody else can be vetted for the invisible smells anyway.

              1. banoffee pie*

                yes agreed, I don’t think I have any actual allergies but have a really sensitive nose and everything smells really strong to me. I have a headache right now from using hand sanitiser earlier, then driving so I couldn’t get away from the smell. Walking past some people’s houses, I can smell their laundry detergent from the street. If I was in the house I’d pass out lol. I don’t think you should need a note from the doctor to say you don’t want to have to work in very smelly environments.

                1. Just Jane*

                  What you smell walking past houses is probably whatever scented fabric softener product combined with the detergent scent. I can smell it from a neighbor’s house where the dryer vent exits over the garage.
                  This scent is very concerning for me. While it was some time ago, I had a significant allergic reaction -giant hives over a large portion of my body- to an unknown chemical in fabric softener. There was some talk about giving me an epi-pen if the problem persisted. I no longer use fabric softener or scented detergent but I am worried my neighbor’s dryer exhaust might trigger an other skin episode or worse.

            5. Anonny Non*

              I second becoming nose blind to scent. I use fragrance free soap and don’t wear scented lotions because my office is scent free and I have sensitive skin. My husband is sometimes whistful for Tide scented laundry, but I can’t stand it because I’m so used to using unscented products. When I quit smoking, my nose woke up and I couldn’t believe how every place I go reeks.

            6. hayling*

              I have a friend who I know uses a particular air freshener in his room. I haven’t seen him in years. When I saw him in person last week I could smell it on him!

            1. JB*

              To elaborate, here’s a short list of other reasons artificial scents might be medically significant to someone even if they don’t have a ‘real allergy’ to the scent: asthma; migraines triggered by strong smells; medical conditions that predispose them to nosebleeds; neurodivergent conditions that can cause sensory overstimulation, like autism.

              But, aside from that, I’m pretty sure if I said ‘I’m going to play my music out loud at work unless and until a coworker tells me they have a real medical reason why they can’t listen to my music whenever they come to my corner of the office’ you’d understand that as asshole behavior. Why do some people feel that artificial scents are somehow different? There are plenty of de-odorizing products that are scentless or nearly scentless, and IME those are the standard to use in office bathrooms.

              1. Awlbiste*

                Thank you for bringing up neurodivergence/autism as a reason someone would be sensitive to scents. This is an often overlooked reason. Some scents do give me actual migraines, but some are just so overpowering they cause my brain to become overstimulated and I have a very hard time concentrating on things, like doing my job.

                1. Anonny Non*

                  I’m not neurodivergent and I feel you on how distracting scents can be. Certain scents (like rose or geranium) can literally make me want to claw my own face off if I can’t get away from them.

                2. Common Scents*

                  tl;dr – smells are a *lot*

                  Sometimes if the laundromat forgets and uses regular detergent, I can’t think because the smell is so distracting. I’ve had to send them to be washed again.

                  I can also smell a banana (ewww bananas) at 100 paces and if a banana peel is in the trash, it wafts around and drives me bonkers. Baby powder scent is another smell that just ruins me. Actual baby powder on a baby is okay, but sprays and deodorants in baby powder (or powder fresh) make me feel icky.

                  I’m not scent-free, but I have to be very careful with the smells I choose or I’m so unhappy and distracted. I usually stick to light and citrusy or herbaly kinds of smells in shampoo, deodorants, etc.

              2. ThePear8*

                This is a really good point, thank you. As someone who’s prone to migraines, I can’t tell you how many times someone has simply even walked past me on the street or in a store exuding a cloud of strong perfume or cologne that left my head throbbing.

              3. hayling*

                I am diagnosed with something called non-allergic rhinitis. Basically scented products, cigarette smoke, air fresheners, etc., give me allergy symptoms (headache, runny nose, etc.) Can be acute but is also a daily issue (I take 3 different allergy meds).

            2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

              Judgmental much? Your above comment says a lot about you as a person. ‘Real allergy’ says a lot about people who say they have an ‘allergy’ but really just don’t like the scent and want to control the situation or get attention. Says a lot about them as a person.

              1. Jackalope*

                If someone dislikes a scent so much that they feel like the best way to deal with the situation is to say they’re allergic then getting rid of the scent is the kindest thing to do anyway. Maybe I’m biased because of my experiences here, but…. I have some scents that I react to with what as far as I can tell is an allergic reaction – I suddenly start sneezing, nose gets stuffed up, etc, and it lasts for half an hour or so after the scent is removed. Others I immediately have a strong negative reaction to but it takes awhile to see if it’s an allergic reaction or just misery at a strong scent flooding my nostrils. People who wear scents all the time tend to wear enough that if you don’t, the scent is overpowering, and it lingers for a lot longer than they realize. Most places I’ve been these days consider it common courtesy not to inflict scents on others both because of allergies and to avoid making people miserable.

              2. Aquawoman*

                I have to agree that the fact that you instantly go to liar/attention seeker does say a lot about you as a person. It also makes it much harder for people like me, who get “real” migraines triggered by artificial fragrances.

                1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

                  Wow…I never said I instantly went to liar/attention seeker when someone says they are allergic to something. Making that assumption says a lot about you as a person.

              3. DataSci*

                Most scented projects give me a splitting headache that lasts for about an hour after I’ve left the area. Is this a “real allergy”? I don’t know, I don’t have a formal diagnosis. I won’t go into anaphylactic shock, and an official Real Allergy diagnosis wouldn’t change what I do, so I haven’t bothered.

                It’s curious that you consider “please do not give me a headache” to be wanting to control the situation, while “I want to introduce unnecessary aromas into a public space because I like the smells” is apparently not at all controlling?

              4. Another one rides the bus!*

                IDK if mine is an allergy. I know that if you walk past me wearing clothes dried with a dryer sheet, I will have a headache for 12-24 hours. If I’m where I can’t get away from a scent, I will be down in bed for 24-48 hours. New research reveals that about 30% of people worldwide are sensitive to fragrances. Please just believe us. It’s not good.

                1. abc*

                  As someone who also gets migraines from scents, I’ve found a lot of people who don’t have migraines tend to think its an excuse for a scent I don’t care for because they don’t understand the impacts a scent can have on others. Sometimes stating I have an allergy to a scent is easier for the listener to hear than for them to hear the truth.

              5. Batgirl*

                My partner is not allergic. He simply gets migraines when smells are strong. Some of what you say is very true about objecting to smells when it’s not defined as an allergy is quite true; he doesn’t like the smell, and he would like to control these situations. He avoids bringing attention to it though; I wish he would… but he thinks people will judge him.

                1. abc*

                  Yes, people who don’t have migraines don’t understand the triggers and often think migraine sufferers are exaggerating. Its tough.

              6. Lab rat*

                Our workplace (lab) is scent free. We use a product called Odorgon which works really well and doesn’t leave a scent. We use it in the area we process specimens and in the bathroom.

            3. Bean*

              I mean, people do use the term allergy to describe things that aren’t actually “true allergies” including:
              – oral allergies
              – sensitivities
              – psychosomatic reactions

              1. Another one rides the bus!*

                Yes, I do that, mostly in restaurants. It confuses people to separate my true– this will make me swell up like a balloon–allergies from sensitivities that will just make me painfully $h!t for 6 hours. They don’t care. Me: Here’s my list that I cannot eat. Them: I’ll review it with the kitchen to be very sure you are okay. And they have my loyalty. I’m an adult. I know what works/ doesn’t work for me. I will do the same for you.

            4. YourAutoWarranty*

              Did you read Mina, The Company Prom Queen’s entire comment? Seems like the “real allergy” piece is describing an existing, known allergy compared to a hypothetical one. To me, the comment isn’t saying some people are claiming to have allergies that aren’t legit enough to be “real allergies.” Just a “real” vs. hypothetical allergy.

              1. Jackalope*

                The follow-up comment though was comparing the hypothetical person with “real” allergies to someone who wanted to “control the situation or get attention”. So it seems like a negative take towards people claiming allergies, not a real vs. hypothetical situation. (And if they “just don’t like the scent”, that seems like something that should be honored too IMO.)

          2. Jamjari*

            As someone who’s had to ask a person to tone down the cologne at work, I understand it’s not easy to bring up. And this situation might be more difficult because how do you do that without the “note to all, can whoever is using the stanky perfumed thing in the bathroom please stop”? For myself, I rather deal with the stinkiest BM that these perfumed poo products.

          3. alynn*

            I think it would be a good idea to just ask coworkers before putting something scented in a confined space. That is not tiptoeing.

            Yes, some people just don’t like certain scents or strong scents. But for some people it triggers headaches or migraines.

            And for a friend of mine, it is an actual allergy. She will stop breathing if exposed for too long (if she gets alway immediately, she suffers but is still breathing) . She is allergic to an ingredient that is in almost every scent. She has learned to avoid public bathrooms as much as possible. She also tends to not volunteer her allergy unless it is an actual problem because she is embarrassed and people tend to not take it seriously.

          4. Blarb*

            Yes, and you can make your own poo-pouring that is 100% exactas effective extremely inexpensively using any essential oil you want. There is no artificial fragrance involved. It’s also, um, WAY less offensive than the alternative. It’s hard to imagine that someone with a scent sensitivity I prefer to walk into a bathroom that smelled strongly of human waste as opposed to one that smelled faintly of genuine peppermint or orange.

            Here’s the diy link:

            1. Kal*

              It might be hard for you to imagine that someone with a scent sensitivity would prefer human waste smell to peppermint or orange, but as someone who will be literally sick for days from peppermint essential oil, human waste is extremely more preferable and is WAAAY less offensive than your essential oils. Plus, essential oils aren’t somehow less likely to trigger migraines or allergies or asthma or non-allergic rhinitis or over-stimulation or anything else than “artificial” fragrance.

              Even if I wasn’t personally affected by scents, I still don’t think I would ever prioritize my discomfort of people knowing my shit stinks like everyone’s does over the potential that I might be causing pain and discomfort to people around me, and I sure as heck wouldn’t require them to disclose their medical conditions to me before I chose to stop. I used to act like that as a teenager – blasting music at 3am with no care about how much it disrupted my neighbors and spraying my favorite scents all over the place with no care about who else shared that space. But then I realized how utterly rude I was being to the people around me and changed my behavior. Its not actually that hard!

        5. FormerProducer*

          Oh that’s a shame it didn’t work out! The reason I recommend it over other things is that it gets sprayed directly on the toilet bowl and then flushed away, so it’s waaaaay less aggravating for my scent issues and doesn’t sit in the air the way Febreze (INSTANT headache) or something else does. But yeah, there are a lot of people who are more sensitive to smells than I am and in those cases even Poopourri would be a no for them.

        6. What She Said*

          This is absolutely a reason to try zero odor. It really is awesome and doesn’t have the same overpowering smell of Febreze. I believe it also has a an unscented option.

          1. Not a cat*

            Zero Odor is excellent. We have 1 dog, two cats, three rats, and a chinchilla–(lots of pooping critters) and we use it at least twice a day.

        7. Allison*

          I didn’t realize poopouri caused problems, because you spray it directly into the bowl rather than use it to fill the air with powerful, odor-masking perfume. But I do realize it has some lingering fragrance even after you use it.

        8. GreenDoor*

          If there are concerns about scent odors and use of neutralizers like Poo-pourri, make your own! It’s shockingly easy and it will make you furious once you realize how much cheaper it is than the name brands. Take your 4-oz spray bottle and fill it nearly with water. Add one Tablespoon of rubbing alcohol.

          That’s it.
          You can add 15 drops of essential oil to add scent, but as I say, leave it out if use of scent is an issue.

      3. TimeTravlR*

        I was going to suggest the same! Keep it with you and use even if you’re not sure it will be necessary. Everyone, including you, will appreciate it!

      4. JSPA*

        Yes, if no one who works there is sensitive to the oils, it’s an excellent answer. I actually wonder if a fine mist of an unscented oil would also create a partial barrier to volatile poo smells from the bowl, partially reducing the problem without risk of triggering scent allergies.

        Zeolite doesn’t work instantly, but it absolutely works. Get a couple of bags if there is an under sink area or shelf to stash them on.

        1. Golden*

          I think I read somewhere that poopourri is a waste of money (no judgement on anyone that buys it, people are allowed to like and buy what they want) because just as you said, a thin layer of cheap cooking oil would do the same thing.

          1. JSPA*

            Citrus oils are cleaning agents, and I’m guessing there’s also some surfactant to help the oil not stick to the edges of the bowl. Plus the scent is scent, and volatilizing, it competes with the odors that, uh, start as gas, rather than lifting off from the bowl.

            If nobody’s allergic, I’d say that’s money well spent, as it goes a long way.

          2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            I was wondering if a can of cooking spray would work. Would totally confuse anyone not in the know, though.

            1. pugsnbourbon*

              If I walked into a work bathroom and saw a can of PAM on the counter … I would leave immediately.

        2. Salyan*

          You can easily make it yourself with a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol, water, and some essential oil for scent.

      5. Allison*

        Came here to say this, I know people treat it like a silly gag gift, but I love the stuff. My partner and I share one tiny bathroom, and it’s been a life-saver. When I worked in a office, I always had some on me for my awful post-caffeine morning poops so they wouldn’t ruin anyone’s say. I always buy the seasonal scents, I’m obsessed with the stuff, and I think everyone should be using it.

      6. Meep*

        Want to also recommend poopurri! You spray it BEFORE you go and, truly, it is shocking how well it works!!!

      7. EngineerMom*

        Just came to suggest PooPouri! It’s really, really effective, and generally doesn’t even bother *me*, and I’m particularly sensitive to scented things, especially most air fresheners. My husband uses it all the time at home.

    2. Jessica*

      LW5, if you’re talking about a literal minute, why not just stay in there a minute longer? Also, maybe the old burnt match trick, or some kind of air freshener (though beware of something people will be allergic to that’ll be worse than the original problem).

      1. Artemesia*

        Most store restrooms are not ventilated at all effectively but a burning match or candle can help. If it is big enough and has a spot where a candle would be safe, worth a try. Otherwise get long stemmed matches and burn one afterwards, being careful to douse it in water before discarding.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I would tend to avoid anything burning, just for potential safety issues. I’d also avoid the match because I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks that match smell is much worse than poop. GRIN even asparagus odors.

          1. Xandra*

            Oh I love the smell of a match that’s been put out! I didn’t realize it was such an awful smell for some people!

            1. Ally McBeal*

              I do too! But I also love the smell of chlorine (the pool was my happy place as a child) so I tend to fall on the “enjoys controversial smells” side of things.

              1. Killer Queen*

                I also love the smell of chlorine! People always think it’s weird and I’ve never met someone who shares the same love of the smell.

                1. MissCoco*

                  In my informal polling, about 90% of former or current competitive swimmers love the smell of chlorine and/or bleach – you are far from alone!

              2. SweetFancyPancakes*

                Me too. I always put a little clorox in my laundry because it smells clean to me. I also like the smell of wet dogs, and I once had a roommate whose sister liked the smell of skunk (!)

      2. MicroManagered*

        When people say “I’d give it a minute” they don’t mean a literal minute. It’s a face-saving way of communicating that “I just took a giant smelly dump and it stinks in there right now.”

        1. Oakenfield*

          Like I said above, if a grown adult can’t handle a match, they have no business being in a workplace.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            We have an entire field dedicated to ensuring people do not injure themselves. You’d be amazed at how grown adults manage to lose fingers, hands, break ankles, light bathroom trash cans on fire…..

            You’d lose probably half your workforce if your metric was “can handle a match”.

          2. Happy*

            Like Environmental Compliance, I am also a safety person, and the idea of an open flame inside the workplace (outside of say, a lab, where there’s a business justification for it) is shocking to me. Just because 99% of people can be trusted to handle matches safely does not mean it’s a good idea to allow the hazard to be created.

            Matches or candles in a bathroom would definitely not pass a safety inspection at my workplace.

      3. Autumnheart*

        The burnt match trick just makes everything smell like sulfur. It definitely doesn’t improve the quality of the air or remove odors. I feel like we need to retire this from the lexicon of old-timey solutions that still work today. Maybe it’s better than nothing in the context of a literal outhouse, but a modern indoor bathroom? Nope.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I do this all the time in my own apartment and I live alone! Of course I also love the smell of a recently extinguished match, so there is that (probably) weirdness.

        2. Kiko*

          I may be in the minority, but I much rather the burnt match smell over air freshener spray or poopoori. The smell of sulfur is not headache inducing, like so many artificially-produced scents that are popular in home fresheners.

          1. quill*

            I also find that it dissapates faster than any fragranced product. After all, those are formulated to linger.

        3. Wool Princess*

          I disagree – matches are the only thing that over time my nose doesn’t start to associate with poop smell. Poopouri, air freshener, candles…after a while of using them they smell gross to me because of the underlying odor.

          1. Yoyoyo*

            Yes! I was wondering if I was the only one. The smell of poopouri makes me sick and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the association.

        4. generic_username*

          Lol, can you imagine entering a bathroom after a coworker and it smells like a burnt match? I’d wonder what they were doing in there, lol

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      #5 – I don’t know if it’s possible, but having a bottle of a product like Poo-Pourri on hand for yourself (or even leaving it in the restroom?) can go a long way towards reducing the smell.

      1. Perfectly Pooped*

        When necessary I use One Drop (before), afterward first flush with lid down (of course), then add another drop and flush again with the lid up. Lid down before leaving. I find the ‘clean’ flush with the One Drop and the lid up leaves a hint of scent in the air. It’s not so obvious like air freshener.

        (Don’t like the Poo-Pourri scents myself, hence the One Drop. Also no spraying noise.)

        1. One drop fan*

          Another vote for one-drops!! Someone used to leave a pretty bad smell in our single bathroom at my work. I left a small bottle of one drops in there and the problem took care of itself.

          1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

            There are actually unscented options for this – I’d recommend trying a Bad Air Sponge. You just leave it in the room, and it literally absorbs smell rather than putting another scent out. It works on stinky pet rat cages, litter boxes and strong curry cooking smells, so I imagine it would handle human bathroom smells fine.
            Otherwise, I don’t think it’s ever inappropriate to just matter of factly say, “Sorry, you may want to give it a minute.” We have bodies, bodies make smells, the bathroom is the appropriate place for those smells, and it’s considerate to give people the opportunity to avoid them! But I know not everyone’s comfortable being so straightforward about it.

            1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

              Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’m not allergic but I’m very sensitive to smells and most air fresheners or deodorisers -even “unscented” ones – are really, really overwhelming and unpleasant for me, and I don’t notice anything at all with the Bad Air Sponge, it really doesn’t have a scent.

    4. Elm*

      For #5:

      I have lifelong IBS and come from a family with a long history of the same.

      The lesson hard learned by members of my family depending on their situations is unless you clogged the toilet or left a…er…mess outside the toilet, no one is as concerned about it as you think! We are our own worst critics.

      Even if someone does notice that the bathroom smells after every time you use it, unless they’re a terrible person (in which case, who cares about them?), at most they think “gotta hold my breath,” not “that person is so gross.”

      However, there’s a product…Poo Purri? Like Potpourri?…that some of my fam swears by. I guess you spray it in the water before you go.

      I’m old school and just prefer air freshener or, if your office allows, a candle.

      Good luck! I (quite literally) feel your pain.

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        Yeah, my reaction if I went in after you would truly be “this bathroom is stinky,” not “LW is stinky.” That’s how bathrooms are! Any remotely polite person who notices a pattern will at worst be like “ugh that sucks, I hope LW isn’t embarrassed” and not even give it a thought outside the bathroom.

        1. Batgirl*

          I would so much rather navigate a stinky bathroom (I honestly don’t care though), than have an interaction with a coworker about their bathroom stink. A quick warning without any need for a response is fine if the OP really feels the need to say something, but I don’t think it necessarily helps the person following and is potentially a little awkward. I don’t think they’ll turn on their heel as soon as OP warns them off anyway. They’ll just use their own judgement as to whether to give it a minute?

          1. buttercup*

            I’d agree with this. Maybe it’s just a particular cultural social convention I’m used to, but I would much rather both LW and I smile and mutually not acknowledge the stench. Of COURSE we both know it’s there, but I’m not going to be like “what on earth?! This bathroom smells like bathroom activities!”

            Smelling a stinky smell and having someone say “that was me!” (even in the kindest, most apologetic way) seems sooooo much more awkward and uncomfortable to me.

            1. pancakes*

              Yeah, same here. I can’t imagine caring who is responsible for the smell. Even if it was really egregious, there’s nothing I could do and nowhere I’d need to go with that information.

            2. Uranus Wars*

              This made my whole morning: “what on earth?! This bathroom smells like bathroom activities!” I really want to drop this into a conversation soon.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          Agreed. I expect that a bathroom has bathroom smells in it. It’s not something that I get upset about it? Everyone poops, poop is known to not smell great. That’s that on that.

          I had coworkers get upset when someone used the restroom to poop, because of the smell. But what did they expect them to do? Not go when they had to go? That’s just not an option for a lot (most?) of people.

          1. Rayray*

            I’ve never understood that thinking, would they rather people go in their pants? It’s not healthy to hold it in all day even if you can do so.

        3. Rayray*

          I agree. I work for a bigger company and the bathroom on my floor frequently stinks. I might crinkle my nose or even plug it while I’m in there (it does get pretty bad) but I’ve grown up since 2nd grade and I’m not going to try and figure out the culprit and go make fun of them. It’s unpleasant but I truly do not care, it happens.

      2. Rara Avis*

        Yeah, my opinion is that poop stinks. Everyone’s poop stinks. I don’t think we should be ashamed of using a bathroom for its intended purpose. I have certainly entered a bathroom after it has been used to a coworker and ignored the smell. I also have IBS but also scent sensitivities, so trying to cover the odor is not an option for me. (Plus my workplace is scent-free, although they do have odor neutralizers in the bathrooms.)

        1. Koalafied*

          This, and to answer the LW’s direct question, I definitely don’t think politeness requires you to warn people before they go in, and I think “give it a minute” is more thinly veiled warning than actual suggestion, because it’s going to take longer than that.

          I’d prefer to leave it unsaid so we can all pretend it’s not happening, and when people try to give me warnings like that, I’m prone to thinking “uh, shit, need to acknowledge thing that was just said, and it needs to be friendly and not sound like I’m judging them or disgusted…” and then blurting out some flustered nonsense like, “thanks, you too!”

          Which ya know, is not the worst thing in the world. But if I had my druthers, I’d rather not had an awkward and unnecessary exchange about poop smells with a coworker.

          1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

            Yeah, I can see that – no one should be shocked if a bathroom smells of, you know, bathroom activities. Sometimes for me it can feel less embarrassing to just briefly acknowledge the awkward, I guess? But it’s not necessary!

      3. John Smith*

        Oh I don’t know. Im in the OPs position and comments from people using the toilet after me…

        “Has Worzel Gummage dropped his kids off?”
        “What have you been eating? Dead rats?”
        “Smells like a skunk has died in there”

        It is all banter type as I get on with my team. I think a humorous self-deprecating “I’d give that a few minutes, sorry!” would work.

        1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

          Oh man, I’m there with you John Smith. I’ve been told that I need to be more selective about what I eat, that I must have eaten the butthole from a dead skunk for dinner, and that it would be better if I DIDNT strike a match because it would blow up the building from the fumes.
          To the OP… I would suggest something like poo-pourri but as others said, it can cause adverse reactions for others. You could always do what I do and let folks know upon exiting that “The Force was strong with that one.”, and if someone gripes, tell them that “everybody craps, and everyone’s crap stinks…no one’s gonna die from it.” *

          *I have had folks claim I caused them to have near death experiences though…

      4. Emilia Bedelia*

        I agree! I like to imagine that a bathroom is a portal to another dimension – I don’t want to think about what you’re doing in the bathroom, and I don’t want anyone else to think about what I am doing in the bathroom (this is how I’ve convinced my boyfriend to stop giving me bathroom commentary when he leaves it).
        Common decency means that we all politely ignore unfortunate things that happen to others when they can’t do anything about them, and we all agree that this is the case to allow people to go about their day gracefully.

        If not saying something is not an option, I would treat it like a burp or sneeze and go with a quick “excuse me” as you’re leaving.

    5. Carol the happy elf*

      I worked for a physician who had had an abdominal injury, and after surgical revisions she still had problems. She carried a little spritz bottle of orange oil and about 1/3 rubbing alcohol. The alcohol dissolved the very strong oil, and it was much less expensive than Poopourri. She had it in her desk, and one in her purse. It makes an oil barrier so the odor doesn’t escape.
      In our unisex restroom now, we have a shelf with cans of citrus spray, and a note that a 1-second spray in the toilet bowl is best. That room also has a very loud, powerful fan with a timer. (Frankly, I always looked for a loud replacement fan. Why would a person want a really quiet fan in a bathroom!??)
      The guys call the spray cans “Sh#trus”. The ladies don’t. So effective, I use it at home, and every big box has it with cleaning.

      1. PollyQ*

        Why would a person want a really quiet fan in a bathroom!??

        Because some of us find the sound of a fan realllllly irritating. Granted, it’s more of a pet peeve more than an actual problem, but still.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          True, of course! But I grew up near a family member who verbalized his experience, and the dining room was straight down the hall from the bathroom. Effective as a dieting aid, because who could eat after that? There were other bathrooms in that house, but he couldn’t be persuaded to go upstairs. When the fan got old and noisy, it was much better.

      2. April*

        Oh my god, same re: bathroom fans.

        There’s a hotel I stay at for a small fan convention most years, and their bathroom fans are nearly silent.

        Which is great for some folks? I guess? But I’m usually sharing that hotel room with THREE OTHER PEOPLE, and I’m a nervous pooper when I know people can hear literally anything. Pleeeeease have an audible bathroom fan, ffs. Especially since the rest of the shower/toilet room is basically just glass and tile. Things ECHO.

        (And also, at home I have a nicer white noise machine on in my bedroom for literally months at a time. Fans are white noise!)

        1. TiredEmployee*

          Fans and white noise drive me crazy, so I go with extreme denial. All bathroom doors are magically sound-proof. I can’t hear anything outside the room while I’m in it or anything inside the room when I’m not. The only exception is when someone knocks on the door, that creates a temporary sound portal long enough to say “I’ll just be a minute” or equivalent.

        2. XTraveler*

          OT, but… why have hotels all gone to the Big White Echo Chamber model for bathrooms? Back in the 90s/early 2000s, when I was traveling for work with other people, there used to be, like, an area with a couple of sinks and a big mirror, and then a door behind which was a toilet and shower/bathtub, often with a nicely noisy fan. This was good for a couple of reasons: you could be using the (also nicely noisy) hair dryer and putting on your makeup while your co-worker was in the shower or whatever, and the mirror didn’t get fogged up. Fortunately, I no longer travel with co-workers, but when I’m on the road with my family we’re staying in the same level of hotel, and every. single. bathroom. is a vast faux-marble box with huge mirrors that are completely useless after somebody takes a shower, and one humongous paper-thin farmhouse door or something equally ridiculous. WHY, HOTELS??

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Some friends of mine lived in an apartment that had the toilet and tub/shower behind the door, and the sink and mirror outside of it. It was brilliant, as one could be doing their hair/brushing their teeth, and the other could be in the shower.

            1. londonedit*

              It used to be fairly common in the UK to have the loo next to, but separate from, the bathroom. It’s seen as very old-fashioned now but I can see how it would be useful!

              1. Forgot My Name Again*

                I rented a house that had that – but they didn’t have a sink in the toilet, so you ended up waiting for whoever was in the shower anyway (and touching two door handles on the way, ugh!)

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Because machinery noise can be painful to my ears even without my hearing aids. (And I abhor the 70 decibel hand driers, those need a muffler especially when mounted at the height of a child’s ears.)

      1. JB*

        I am surprised that this is the advice. Are we thinking about this from the coworker’s POV? Because I hate when people say this to me.
        1. I don’t care that the bathroom stinks. Bathrooms often do.
        2. I need to use the bathroom.
        3. Being that I am at work, I probably don’t have time to wait there for the smell to clear.
        So I’m just going to go in anyway. Saying ‘give it a minute’ is just making it weird, because now I know it was you who produced the smell, which I don’t really care to know and wouldn’t otherwise spend time trying to sleuth out; and now there’s a weird implication that I enjoy bathroom stink, since I ignored the ‘warning’.

        1. pancakes*

          Right, it’s seldom going to be practical for the next person to wait long enough for the smell to dissipate. The idea of giving a warning seems closer to “please don’t think less of me for what you’re about to smell” than “you should literally wait a minute or two,” and it’s just not necessary.

        2. Autumnheart*

          This is where I land, too. Calling attention to your poop smell is like calling attention to the fact that you just farted. If you have to say something, simply say “Excuse me” and move on. Being all fake-polite with “So sorry! Give it a minute! You might want to use a different bathroom!” etc. just makes it more embarrassing for *you*. Because it doesn’t do any good, poop smell takes a heck of a lot more than a minute to dissipate, and you really have no idea if the person you’re talking TO also has a bathroom emergency that they need to deal with.

          You’re not having IBS *at* people, so stop apologizing *at* people! If someone is crass enough to bring it up and a response like, “Yes, unfortunately I have a medical condition,” doesn’t wave them off, then deal with that situation if it arises. But don’t initiate the conversation. Everyone poops.

          1. ObscureRelic*

            Same here. As long as the toilet and sink are left neat and clean, I prefer just ignoring any odor. Which is not to say it isn’t uncomfortable when you’re the culprit, but I just keep reminding myself that this is exactly what the room is for, get over it.

        3. JSPA*

          The rote reply is, “thanks for the warning.”

          And I’ve given the warning when I’m not the pooper, but it’s particularly ripe. So no need to presume source, based on the warning.

          Also, i find digestive enzyme pills help with odor as well as urgency. Let me check what I’m currently using…

          OK, Enzymedica Digest Spectrum and Healthy Origins Digestive Enzymes. Either one. OTC.

    6. Casey*

      It doesn’t do a great job but there is usually a can of Febreze on top of the toilet bowl dispenser in one of the men’s room stalls at work. In the over two years I’ve been working there, I’ve only done that kind of business twice, and it’s decent. Sometimes I’ll go in and it will smell pretty bad, though I don’t think everyone sprays that.

    7. bunniferous*

      Poo-pourri works great, I have tried it, but in a pinch I use a drop or two of whatever essential oil I have on hand (when I am home, anyway.) But other than that, I think we all understand that no one’s poop smells like roses….the other thing I do if I have to go in a public restroom is-multiple flush. I know it’s not very eco-friendly but first, it covers up embarrassing noises and second, not as much odor escapes. I have what I assume is probably IBS and when it hits, it hits.

    8. Pooper*

      Fellow IBSer here. I don’t know if I would ever say anything just because they’ll figure it out and decide what to do. My tips on reducing smell are to flush as you poop so sometimes I flush multiple times and use the poo spray suggested by others.

      1. Jackalope*

        Honest question here: does your backside not get wet from the flushing water? I’ve had that issue sometimes with automatically flushing toilets so I would feel reluctant to try this, but maybe that’s not always the case?

        1. TiredMama*

          Most of the time no. Some places have particularly shallow bowls or really strong flush mechanism but they are few and far between.

    9. Eefs*

      Since there’s a lot of advice here about the smell itself, I want to add some additional advice that I hope doesn’t bother you. I had ibs for many years and it was entirely cured with healthy diet, exercise and above all – lack of stress!! When I wasn’t as anxious I found I had less pain and less irritable bowel. It’s barely bugged me for years now, but it’ll hit at times when I’ve eaten badly or let anxiety build in me unchecked. Hope that helps at all, I don’t mean to imply anything about your lifestyle by that tidbit at all!

          1. Saraquill*

            I like imagining what would happen if disabled/chronically ill people charged a dollar for every “have you tried yoga?”

            1. Kat in VA*

              I’ve been handed the “have you tried yoga?” question.

              Yes, yoga will totally cure my habitually disintegrating cervical spine. /s

              While I don’t discount the good effects of stress relief, stretching, and general overall mindfulness of physical health, yoga/weightlifting/working out will absolutely not stop my vertebrae from crumbling or my discs from blowing out. The only thing that slows that process down is fusions with titanium screws and rods/plates and I can say those surgeries are objectively unpleasant in the extreme.

              1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

                Not to mention that a lot of the de-stressing benefits that come from a yoga practice (or similar) are going to be moot if you’re doing it with the expectation/belief that it should *cure* you….and judging yourself harshly when it doesn’t impact your health the way Instagram Influencers say it should.

                1. londonedit*

                  Don’t get me wrong, I do yoga and I enjoy it. But I don’t expect it to cure the autoimmune condition I’ve just been diagnosed with.

              2. Oakenfield*

                I just want to pipe up that a family member had the same problem, with spinal stenosis, and they were able to travel to Germany to have actual 3-D printed vertebrae replace the damaged ones. If this is something that you are able to afford, it’s worth looking into, as they are mostly completely cured now.

            2. Quickbeam*

              I have a lifelong yoga practice but am still disabled by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. People are constantly pointing out that my rickety status seems to mean that yoga doesn’t work. It’s crazy annoying.

              1. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

                I enjoy telling helpful people that I am explicitly forbidden by my specialist from ever doing yoga. It’s true, and it has the added benefit of making their heads explode.

            3. quill*

              If I had a dollare for each suggestion, it would pay for my yoga courses, that… objectively should actually help given that my problem is my tendons!

              Won’t change the fact that my footbones are Wrong, though!

          2. Freelance Mentor and Gravity Tester*

            I have IBS and in agreement with “reduce your stress” is generally unhelpful but there is quite good research that following the FODMAP diet to find out main dietary triggers and then avoiding or moderating consumption of those trigger foods reduces symptoms for about 75% of people with IBS (I wouldn’t call it a ‘healthy diet’ since many healthy foods contain FODMAPs). The reducing of IBS symptoms through diet could reduce any stress caused specifically by the IBS symptoms, which in turn reduces IBS symptoms further. My comment isn’t meant to be “poop less, dear LW” but just wanted to highlight FODMAP for any other people with IBS, if your healthcare provider hasn’t already prescribed it or if you don’t have a healthcare provider.

      1. JSPA*

        Cortisol certainly powers up inflammation, and stress massively boosts cortisol.

        But stress by itself is neither necessary nor sufficient for IBD. Plenty of people have no stress (beyond the stress of having IBD) and have IBD. Plenty of stressed people don’t have IBD.

        If someone is on the edge of having bowel issues, or has a really intense stress response, or both–changing stress levels absolutely could make adequate difference. But I’d hate to see someone quit a rewarding and remunerative but stressful job on the certainty that this will cure their IBD. On the other hand, if the hope of improving IBD encourages someone to get out of an underpaid and unrewarding stressful job–that’s a win, whether or not the IBD fix pans out.

      2. NewGrad*

        Just to clarify: it’s entirely cured but still hits you sometimes?
        It’s not cured, you’re just managing your triggers. Unfortunately for some people triggers are less avoidable! Especially stress?
        I’m not saying it’s not good advice, but you haven’t cured it and it’s unfair to suggest a healthy diet and less stress would “cure” someone else.

      3. IBS sucks*

        I’d be willing to bet that a large portion of people living with IBS were diagnosed by a physician. Typically, IBS is an exclusionary diagnosis, meaning they’ve been through an A**-ton of tests leading up to the diagnosis. Sometimes painful tests, with months of agonizing waiting in between. I promise you: They have gotten this advice. They got the memo.

        I am currently in therapy because the anxiety and stress my IBS-C&D has caused me is intrusive and crippling given that no OTC pain meds, dietary changes, “mindfulness” exercises, etc.– nothing ever truly works beyond basic trigger avoidance, which does NOT cure the spasticity that causes IBS in the first place. It feels hopeless — like I will forever be doomed to literally shit my pants or get made fun of for trying to avoid that scenario.

        This is super annoying “advice” and no one was asking how to fix their chronic condition, they were asking how to manage an unfortunate and unpleasant side effect.

      4. HS Teacher*

        You’re getting piled on a bit, but it’s because that advice is completely unhelpful. First of all, you don’t know what their triggers even are. Secondly, the number one cause of stress is being alive.
        I teach high school. I love my job, but it is stressful as hell. That’s not great for my Crohn’s Disease, but I manage as best I can. If someone told me to try being less stressed, they’d get a verbal knuckle sandwich.

    10. A Wall*

      I wanna recommend One Drop over Poo Pourri. It’s a tiny little eye drops-looking bottle and you do literally only need one drop. It smells like cleaning products rather than fragrance, so it’s both less obvious that you were trying to cover up smell and less offensive to the senses than a ton of, I dunno, floral smell or something. I personally don’t love being in a small unventilated bathroom that’s thick with air freshener smell.

      I also wouldn’t say anything to anyone going in. Bathrooms smell sometimes, it’s not a big deal. I think drawing more attention to it is maybe not necessary.

    11. Essentially Cheesy*

      Well everyone poops at work sometimes and yes we’ve all walked in to a stinky bathroom. LW, let people decide what they can deal with, or not. If anything, request that some air freshener be ordered for the shared bathrooms.

      1. Lilo*

        I’m team “bathrooms smell sometimes, everybody poops, try not to stress as much about it”. As long as you’re not leaving a mess in the bathroom, it’s just life.

        1. MissBaudelaire*


          Don’t care if a bathroom smells like crap. Do care if the toilet seat is sprinkled with urine drops/toilet isn’t flushed/there’s paper towel strewn about.

      1. Tayto*

        Please don’t spray anything smelly in a space that is not your home, actually. Artificial scents make me very ill sometimes. The poo smell may be unpleasant but it won’t incapacitate me for the day.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I had multiple arguments with the manager at a biology club who insisted they absolutely MUST have migraine-inducing oil diffusers in the bathroom because people would be offended if they smelled another member’s bathroom odors. Uh, in a biology clubhouse? Where people are paying good money to do projects with bacteria? If they don’t like biological odors, they’re in the wrong place. What’s she going to do, spray all the experiments with Febreze?

      2. fueled by coffee*

        In general, is there somewhere discrete to leave an open box of baking soda? It won’t make a dramatic difference, but might help a little bit, and shouldn’t trigger anyone’s allergies. A badly ventilated, busy restroom will collect smells regardless of anyone’s IBS.

    12. Kate, short for Bob*

      Striking a match and letting it burn a few seconds is always effective and doesn’t leave any artificial scent smells. Plus you get Girl Guide points for always having matches on you.

    13. Bea*

      Another good product is Flushee. It’s a spray like Poo Pourri but thankfully has an unscented version along with scented ones.

        1. Orora*

          This was my thought. The scent in Poopourri isn’t what neutralizes the odors. That’s achieved by the carrier oil it’s in. The scent is just to smell nice and help any lingering odors. But there are plenty of DIY versions of Poopourri on Pinterest that you could leave the essential oils out of to make an unscented version which probably wouldn’t trigger scent allergies.

    14. DrSalty*

      Buy some Febreeze – the kind with the light/no perfume that just neutralizes odors – and keep it in the bathroom. Then you can spray it before you leave the room if it’s bad.

      1. Yvette*

        IIRC Febreeze was originally unscented and scented versions were created later because basically people wanted to have something to “show” for the money.

        1. pancakes*

          Years ago I did some video editing for a woman who worked with them on market research, and one thing she did was go to people’s homes to see how they were using Swiffer mop pads. She said every single person would turn it over to show her all the grime they picked up!

    15. MPE*

      #5 – I’ve had nothing but kindness from “Sorry, it’s a bit smelly in there – just letting you know”.

    16. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      LW5: Bath and Body Works and Yankee Candle both sell very small spray cans of aerosol room fresheners; they come in a variety of scents and are easily tucked into a purse or pocket, or simply carried discreetly into the restroom. They’re also great for use in public restrooms when you’re shopping or traveling!

      1. Tayto*

        Please don’t spray public areas with scented products. A lot of people get ill from artificial scents, and Yankee Candle is one of the worst offenders.

        1. Artemesia*

          This — every time we had our car detailed we had to put signs everywhere to keep them from spraying ‘freshner’ that would give us headaches for a week. Perfumes mixed with poop — NO. But poopouri and some of the other ideas here are not about perfuming the air but about containing the odor with an oil film in the toilet. If the scent of that still causes problems, of course stop using it – but it is a different strategy than spraying perfumed spray in a small space.

    17. Casey*

      Courtesy flushes – flush as you go. Don’t just let it sit there until you’re done. It doesn’t eliminate the problem. But, it helps tremendously.

    18. tacotsunami*

      Courtesy flush.
      This is my constant saving grace for my frequent at-work bathroom trips.
      Yes, it is definitely flying in the face of saving water, but if you flush frequently *during* the act, it helps to whisk the odor away and prevent it from becoming overpowering.
      Plus, it doesn’t add scent to the environment and as a migraineur, I genuinely appreciate efforts that don’t include perfume.

    19. Holy Moly Workhours Batman*

      As someone who recently started having bathroom related issues, due to new medication not IBS, I have weirdly found that I just don’t care anymore! It’s a bathroom! People poop! I’m not saying people have to enjoy the smell, but you’re going into a place where bodily functions happen, it’s not always going to smell like daisies. And honestly, I think we could all do ourselves a favor and give ourselves more slack when it comes to this stuff. This might not be the answer you’re looking for, but I found it really freeing when I just decided to not care.

      1. Holy Moly Workhours Batman*

        And for what it’s worth, I am a woman! I know all about the taboo topic of women and pooping.

    20. Ann O'Nemity*

      OP, it’s not your fault. If the smell is lingering, it’s because the fan is inadequate for the amount of traffic that restroom is getting. Definitely ask facilities to fix the fundamental problem.

      In the meantime, if you want to warn the person waiting, I’d go with something like, “the restroom is a little stinky today” or something like that. Let them decide if they want to proceed or wait awhile.

    21. Elf*

      I think you might be worrying too much – people are often less bothered by that sort of thing than you might think.

      Whatever you do, don’t do a scented product. I have gotten so many migraines from work bathrooms! I don’t have experience with poopouri or zero odor, which I saw mentioned, but M9 spray works very well (it’s actually a medical product for colostomy patients, but easy to get on Amazon). You aren’t supposed to breathe it though, you are supposed to spray and let it dissipate for a couple minutes before you use the space.

    22. Office Pooper*

      I think a gentle “maybe give it a minute” is totally acceptable! We recently had a small electrical fire at my job and as a result we temporarily have just one bathroom for 15 employees. Some of my coworkers give warnings and others of us use poopouri.

      If anyone remembers my entry several years ago I was the office pooper and I was tormented by a coworker who was trying to sniff out (pun intended) who the office pooper was. I left that job not too long after I wrote in. My current workplace is pretty toxic but at least nobody freaks out over little crap!

    23. Marianne*

      I would look into “biological odor” sprays. They use them in hospitals and they are available in small bottles and are often scent free. I’ve seen them on Amazon.

    24. Free Meerkats*

      Around here, we look at really stinking up the place as a badge of honor. “Do NOT go in there.” is offered with pride, and sometimes a high five is offered.

      Of course, this workplace has a significantly skewed view of poop; there’s a pond of a third of a billion gallons of partially treated sewage right outside my office trailer door.

    25. What She Said*

      You say you work in a hotel. As a fellow IBS sufferer I would actually use one of the public restrooms in the hotel, assuming it’s one of those with multiple stalls.

      Hotels were always my preference, if one was close by, when an emergency arose.

    26. HotSauce*

      #5, I also have digestive issues. I carry Poopouri. It works really well & doesn’t make the whole restroom smell like air freshener.

    27. Deb*

      You may already be doing this (and it may seem obvious) but my primary suggestion is to flush frequently during the event itself. Especially if you tend to poop and pause for a bit and poop and pause… basically flush every pause. As someone with a very sensitive nose (and the squeamish knowledge that if I’m smelling something, it’s because particles of it are in my nose), this is what I’ve found most helpful whether it’s in my home bathroom or in public. I wish some of my coworkers were more comfortable with flushing more frequently rather than waiting until the very end to flush once.

      1. Juneybug*

        I agree! Feel free to flush often to remove the waste (which is also where the smell is coming from!).

    28. smell producer with experience*

      Matches! I come late to this discussion so maybe it was mentioned, but matches burn methane and work great for this!

      1. Lemons*

        Methane itself is odourless. Matches just cover up, they don’t ‘burn off’ bad air or clean up in any way that would actually make a difference.

    29. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      Courtesy flush about half-way to done and right before cleanup. Can’t stink up the bathroom if it’s no longer in the bowl.

      I also recommend being very thorough with the handwashing. Those two rounds of happy birthday, coupled with above, really help ‘clear the air’.

      Source: weightlifter

    30. AdequateAdmin*

      Maybe a small plug-in air purifier? We got one from amazon from about $30 bucks and it goes right next to the litterbox for when the cat leaves an especially heinous present. It plugs into the wall like a nightlight, so you wouldn’t have to worry about it touching the floor or needing real estate; it also provides a bit of white noise.

      Also, I feel you. Chronic stomach issues over here and I hate that it’s something to be embarrassed over. It’s not fun for us either!

    31. Fernie*

      LW 5, there’s a whole industry around this. Do a quick search on “Commercial Restroom Odor Control” and you will find a large variety of products and systems available to help. You don’t need to rely on at-home solutions. This should be part of the hotel’s commercial hygiene management, and they probably also have a supplier who can help find the right product for them.

    32. suggestion*

      If better ventilation in the bathroom isn’t possible (it might not be!) one option would be to see if your company would add a HEPA air purifier. After having a baby (and thus having a diaper pail) my house always smelled like a diaper – the HEPA doesn’t work instantly but it drastically reduces smells.

      If nothing is possible I lean towards saying nothing – people will figure it out and make their own choices.

    33. NorthBayTeky*

      I keep a breath spray in my pocket. When I have to take a #2, I use the breath spray liberally about the room. Our staff rest rooms also have no ventilation, so it comes in handy.

  1. awesome3*

    OP 1 – Do the requests involve FERPA protected information or something of that nature? Is there a chance she never learned the process for sending confidential information, or that she thinks this is it?

    1. Daffodilly*

      It’s not *information* in the emails. It’s asking for help. She’s asking that OP not tell anyone she asked for help.
      My guess is she has been leaning too heavily of coworkers in the past by delegating her work under the guise of needing help, and someone in the office has addressed it with her before.
      So now she’s trying the same thing with the new person, and asking her to keep quiet so she doesn’t face any repercussions this time.
      Alison’s script about being uncomfortable with the secrecy is right on.

      1. Cassie*

        That’s my guess too, though it’s possible that it’s not because the coworker is leaning too heavily on other coworkers.

        I was talking to a colleague in another dept on the phone and she asked me something work-related but not to the exact topic we were discussing. She then commented that the manager in her department told her not to ask coworkers for help. I thought it was bizarre (how are you supposed to learn, if you don’t ask when you don’t know?), until that manager became the manager in my dept and I saw her in action.

        1. Lizzie*

          that was me when I first started at my current company. I came from a place where help was sought, there was nothing wrong about asking someone for clarification! I was a paralegal at a law firm, and if you had questions, it was fine to go ask even the senior partners, if the associates weren’t available. And they’d routinely pull paras from other practice groups, if another had something big going on, or there was a chance for OT.
          But here? I made two “huge” mistakes when I first started. I asked the person who had my job previously about something, which apparently I should have known (and there was no way I could have) or figured out on my own. Um ok.
          the second cardinal sin I committed was going directly to the one attorney my boss and I reported to. the assignment had come through my boss, from the attorney. I didn’t understand exactly what it was, and needed clarification. so i went to the attorney. apparently i was ONLY supposed to ask my boss who would THEN ask the attorney. Seriously?

          1. Rebecca Stewart*

            This… clarifies something that’s happened with Boyfriend at his new job.
            He’s having to do a lot of training modules to get up to speed on the exact versions/programs they are using, and he had to go back and ask his manager a couple times about things, and she spent 20 minutes on the phone with him tearing him a new one. I’m just really glad for all the mental health work he’s done in the last year, because a year ago he would have been suicidal from the shame and humiliation she dumped on him for the great sin of asking questions about things. Apparently asking questions is Not Done There. Oookay.

            Fortunately he’s now at a point where he just gets tickets and does the work and doesn’t have to interact with her too much, and if she’s like that, that’s just as well.

        2. anonymous73*

          I can see the other side of this though. Yes team members and colleagues should be helping each other when necessary, but this person has been with the company for 10 years and is asking OP for help who’s only been there a year. If it happens a lot, I can see it being an issue. At some point you should be able to figure stuff out for yourself, and only bring in help on those oddball things that don’t happen often.

          1. Farrah Sahara*

            Agreed. I work with someone who has the same role as me and has been with the company for 34 years. She still doesn’t know how to do her job and regularly calls me asking for help. It’s annoying as hell that she can’t figure things out on her own.

          2. Butterfly Counter*

            I guess it depends on what the help is for. If they just rolled out a new software system and they’re having trouble navigating (as happened at my work 2 years ago), it wasn’t uncommon for people who have been there longer to be more confused by the changes than the newer people.

            But, yes, if it’s something that hasn’t changed in the past 10 years, that would be annoying and problematic.

          3. Anon for this*

            Yeah, I’ve worked with some people who ask a coworker as their first step in figuring something out instead of going and trying to figure it out and then asking for help if they can’t (and I’m not talking about people new in their roles). I supervise one person who used to do that, and we had a talk about exhausting your own ability to find information before asking others.

            1. anonymous73*

              I worked in support for several years and have little tolerance for hand holding. I’m the first to admit my memory sucks, especially with things that I do infrequently. But I make a habit of taking notes and documenting processes so I can refer to them in the future, not relying on others to help me every time I have to do something.

            2. Former Young Lady*

              I have a senior colleague right now who does exactly this. (We both report to the same manager.) She uses me as her helpdesk for
              – Stuff she’s supposed to have a working knowledge of already, which is supposedly why she earns more money than I do, and she doesn’t want to ask our boss because she’s trying to hide the fact that she doesn’t know the stuff
              – Stuff she could easily Google (“What does this abbreviation stand for?” “Does X website have any information about subject Y?”) or look up in files on the shared drive (“Do we have a copy of File Z?”)
              – Stuff that was communicated to her in an email she didn’t read, on which I was CCed

              I am happy to look up information for people who are truly too busy or important to do it themselves. That’s a large part of why I have a job.

              I am less happy to cover for another grownup’s learned helplessness.

              1. anonymous73*

                Curious about why you continue to help her? You say she’s senior to you, but not your boss. If you stop answering her questions and force her to answer them yourself, she’ll eventually stop asking.

                1. Former Young Lady*

                  I’m not saying boundaries aren’t important. We all know the value of scripts like, “That description is in the scope of the contract; have you pulled it up on the shared drive?” and, “Sorry, I’m swamped; have you asked our boss?”

                  But if you’ve ever worked with a longtime missing-stair like this, you already know the helplessness is pretty ingrained. “Teach them to fish,” people say, but when someone IMs you every week asking “What’s bait?” and “How do I put bait on the hook?”, it’s very tempting to just give them a fish so you can get back to your own work.

              2. Betteauroan*

                Yeah that is learned helplessness and not your problem. I think in your situation you should have it out with her and tell her you can’t do your own work and hers. She needs to figure things out for herself. Stop covering for her. It will never get better if you don’t draw the boundary on her.

      2. John Smith*

        I’ve seen this too and it’s not good. Said colleague would be berated and singled out because they cocked something up (as we all did) and wanted to keep the non-issue cockup away from the manager because manager would make a mountain out of a molehill. But what I’m sensing in the OPs letter is the colleague is either not getting the hang of their job for whatever reason or is pulling a fast one. A friendly word with her as Alison suggested is needed.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          I’ve seen both sides of this. When my previous manager “Professor Umbridge” was in post, she used to berate and single out one particular employee, it reached the point where that employee was so afraid of getting her head bitten off by Umbridge that she’d run practically everything she did past one of us to check in order to avoid that, and then Umbridge bit her head off for asking questions as well (no one had actually complained about it). Umbridge made her nervous enough that mistakes could become a self fulfilling prophecy.

          I remember one time when I had to ask this colleague a query about a meeting, and I deliberately chose a moment when Umbridge had gone for lunch, because I knew that a) there was every chance the issue hadn’t been caused by any error on my colleague’s part (and that turned out to be correct), b) whatever had happened, we could resolve it between ourselves easily enough without drama, whereas Umbridge would have most likely heard part of a conversation, gone storming in all guns blazing with a telling off, only to find that actually she hadn’t quite got the full context and had just shouted at her for no reason (this was typical Umbridge behaviour). It was only after Umbridge had gone that I wondered how I could have normalised that.

          On the other hand in my previous job, I can think of someone where opinion was divided as to whether she really didn’t understand or whether she was pulling a fast one. The manager we had at the time (Cornelius Fudge, for her habit of burying her head in the sand and acting on her own conclusions without investigating and then being wrong) basically washed her hands of it, and colleague just swerved as much as she could and didn’t even bother asking for help.

      3. Snow Globe*

        It seems *possible* that the request for help may in some way involve dealing with client information that is supposed to be confidential – if the client name is in the email, the co-worker thinks she needs to mark it “confidential”. That is probably reaching though; in that case she’d probably use “confidential” in all circumstances and the LW might have noticed that.

    2. OP1*

      Hi there! The emails themselves do not involve sensitive information, but are requests for general processes. Considering how much longer she’s been here than me, I would be really shocked if she never learned the information. It’s also worth pointing out that it is very normal in our office to ask for help! We have a lot of processes that come up rarely and we usually need to refresh our memory on some component of it with our colleagues.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        I wonder if she is using the heading with the expectation she will get a faster response – like some people flag all of their emails urgent. Another possibility is she is one of those who don’t take their notes or cheat sheets on processes and won’t look them up. Perhaps she read you should never talk about office procedures with those outside the office and thinks the note will prevent the thread from being forwarded.
        I do think a low-key, in-person question on why they are marked that way is worthwhile.
        Let us know the outcome!

        1. Liz T*

          Yeah, I wonder if she’s really invested in this being confidential, or if it’s kind of just a habit of hers.

        2. EmbracesTrees*

          OP might get a lot of good info by asking a colleague about it: “one of our coworkers has sent me several emails labeled ‘confidential’ that are just asking for help. Is that normal or is it something I should ask that person or Manager about?”

          1. Candi*

            Another reason to ask: Last time I ran into a person who was constantly asking for help with their work, they picked a person who tended to overshare and overexplain -the answers they got wound up doing half the actual work for the asker. The asker also asked the askee to not tell anyone about such inconsequential requests. Fortunately the boss caught on about the same time the askee (casual friend, not work friend) told me what was happening at their work.

            Protip: If you’re constantly asking someone for “help” that does a bunch of your work for you, 1) keep track of when they have vacation time scheduled, 2) remember the boss has absent workers’ email redirected to them in case anything urgent comes up 2) don’t use a reply to a previous message to ask the new question. 3) allows the boss to compare askee’s answer to your (asker’s) work. (I don’t know if they barely tweaked the wording, or just copied and pasted.)

      2. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

        Please send in an update if/when you figure out what is going on. That sounds so odd to me! I’m so curious as to why she is doing this.

  2. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    I’d suggest forwarding the email to the national headquarters of the charity with a note about your concerns.

    And give us an update.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      A safer method, instead of forwarding an email, would be mailing a paper copy to the right person at the national headquarters. Sending it anonymously by mail protects OP’s identity and avoids the risk of retaliation.

      1. Naomi*

        This seems unnecessarily cloak-and-dagger to me. It’s a volunteer gig, not OP’s job, so the organization’s power to retaliate is limited.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, absolutely. And if the LW really finds this objectionable, they can always stop volunteering for the organization and give this as the reason. Seems skeevy to me. I guess some people are willing to do pretty much anything to get close to celebrities, and the charity is counting on that to apply to their volunteers.

        2. WoodswomanWrites*

          Right. That’s what I get for posting when I’m tired, and forgetting the premise that the OP is a volunteer not an employee. Sheesh.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I would still forward it. If it’s official email to volunteers, someone at the not-for-profit is working on it during their office hours or at least on company equipment Which means donors are paying for it. And doesn’t even get us into the privacy issue of using their volunteer list on behalf of a private company.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, using a non-profit volunteer list to ask for help with an event for a for-profit company is unethical at best. I would not be surprised if this was due to a board member or management person at the chapter telling the volunteer manager to ignore their policy and send the email anyway.

        4. EPLawyer*

          OP IS an employee of the non-profit. They are being asked to volunteer for the for-profit event. So forwarding it to National of the Non-Profit could affect OP’s job. But yes, it needs to go higher and you need to let them know you are afraid of retaliation.

          This is just so what the what, I am baffled. It’s not a volunteer thing, other than you are being asked to do it, not told. But the for profit event organizer is just looking for free labor rather than PAYING DRIVERS to do this. Good grief, they can contact Uber or a Limo service to make these arrangements. OR they can promise EACH organization that providers drivers (and hello, liability issues, or what if someone is a terrible driver and VIP complains? they company has no idea the quality of the drivers) a VERY substantial donation. Instead they want free labor with the vague promise of well, some organization in this area will get a donation not necessarily any of the ones that provide drivers.

          Oh my, the liability issues I mentioned are giving me the shakes. Geez. What is the liability of the non-profit if one of the drivers gets in an accident? They caused is one thing, but if they are hit and injured, is it workers comp? Can they sue the non profit for pushing this gig? Just no. bad, bad, bad idea all around.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Nope I misread. She is a volunteer. But all my other objections remain. Especially the liability ones.

      2. Dahlia*

        You could just create a new email account without your name attached if that’s a concern. Save on a stamp.

    2. Roman Holiday*

      OP 2 Here! To confirm, this is a volunteer thing I do on the side, nothing do to with my actual job, so I have zero compunction about outing myself. I spoke to the volunteer coordinator for my area, and she told me the request was sent out from the country’s central office without her knowledge and that other people had also reached out to complain as well. I’m going to coordinate with her but I plan to forward the email to the national office.

      The event itself is ongoing and I’m VERY tempted to reach out on their social and ask how they’re paying drivers. It’s already an industry that has raised a lot of ethical questions and I have nothing to lose by calling them out.

      1. Clorinda*

        And what happens if a volunteer driver linked to your charity runs over a VIP’s foot? I mean, have they even thought? This is a bad plan on every possible level.

          1. Morgan Hazelwood*

            I’d missed the original follow-up on that one. SO glad management didn’t let that one stand.

  3. PaxThulcandran*

    My immediate suspicion for LW #2 is that someone on the board of the local chapter has a connection to the company. I’ve definitely seen this before in smaller non-profits, when board members expect certain favorable treatment of their own connections – though it’s usually a different non-profit with a different mission. I hope the national organization comes down on them hard, though.

    1. Ganymede*

      In the UK you’re not supposed to receive any benefit in kind from giving tax-free donations – not sure if its the same in the LW’s state but there could be tax implications if the for-profit is receiving favours from a charity that they have donated to.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        We have the same requirement in the US, but it can be kinda loose. Also, offering to make a donation to ANY charity, could likely get them around that.

      2. Oakenfield*

        In the US we have different laws, so you can receive a product or service for your donation. However, what the OP is describing where a corporation benefits in this manner is a quid pro quo contribution, and comes with certain stipulations, one being that the for-profit can only deduct the difference between the value of the service and the contribution, which in this case is likely $0 since they are no doubt saving money vs paying the drivers.

        1. Marthooh*

          If you receive a product or service in exchange for your charitable donation, the cost of it is subtracted from the donation for tax purposes. :the-more-you-know-rainbow-dot-gif:

    2. Splendid Colors*

      When I was considering applying to the board of a local non-profit, the rules for board members said you couldn’t be on the board of any other non-profit. So I’m a bit surprised, unless maybe they got tired of the “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” business and made a rule to prevent it.

      1. Observer*

        That’s actually a pretty uncommon requirement. And I don’t think it’s really relevant here – the issue is not that the organization is helping another non-profit, but that they are asking their volunteers to provide unpaid labor to a for profit (probably illegally)

    3. Roman Holiday*

      OP2 here – that was my exact thought! The organizations are set up so the local branches have a lot of independence from national oversight, for better or worse. I’ve been with them 5 years and this is the first time I’ve seen this kind of poor judgement, but IMO it deserves closer scrutiny from someone with more power than a volunteer.

  4. Cam*

    I once worked in a lending department for a large bank. If we ever went to a manager for help, they would immediately go tell your direct supervisor and then it would become a training issue. This applied to anyone, no matter how simple the question. It was an unspoken rule though so we were all just innocently asking for help for years before we found out it was reported each time. Of course this was a group of people that took literal joy in telling us when we made mistakes and they could officially charge us with an error. It was an all around ridiculous place to work.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Wow, sounds like an awful working environment. What kind of people agree to something like that? Glad you got out of there!

    2. hbc*

      I would never want to track to that level, but I’m a little confused as to what impact it had on the employees if they didn’t know about it for years. Did you “randomly” have training pop up three months later to teach you the thing you asked about? Or have your manager say you didn’t know enough about boat loans even though you had never asked *her* a question about them and had never made a mistake?

      1. Antilles*

        I was wondering that too.
        My guess would be that the manager actually did help on the spot so the work still got done, but then quietly reported it to your supervisor and it becomes a black mark on your record of “needs improvement: knowledge of standard bank loan procedures” or “fails to put forth independent efforts to learn” or whatever…but the worker doesn’t know, so you only realize it when end of the year rolls around and wait what do you mean I have 7 different items Needing Improvement and thereby am getting a mediocre review and crummy raise?!

    3. The Other Dawn*

      “It was an all around ridiculous place to work.”

      Having worked for a couple large banks, short stints each time, I agree with this statement.

    4. MissBaudelaire*

      What in the–??

      Did they just hope you knew everything on sight and never once needed to ask a question?

      I’m a supervisor. If 4-5 members of my team have the same question, then I might send out an email explaining the process of whatever. If 10-12 people make the same mistake, then I consider retraining. I 100% encourage clarifying questions! I can’t know what you’re struggling with if you don’t tell me!

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Oof. I feel like banking isn’t one of those fields where you want people hiding what they don’t know and making it up as they go along due to the regulatory framework.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, dang, that’s a terrible idea. I was a teller for like 5 months between undergrad and grad school and everyone was super helpful in my branch at least! And they wanted to help you do well because if you get good customer service scores that makes everyone look good, I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want you to ask questions???

        I know that I was surprised at how many times (I want to say at least three in my short time there) a customer told me I was so much more pleasant then the person they had just worked with at another bank when I really think I was just doing pretty baseline customer service politeness–I wonder if these kinds of ridiculous rules are why the people at that other bank were apparently so miserable and rude…

    6. Rayray*

      I was honestly wondering if they’re in a workplace like this or maybe the LW’s coworker previously worked somewhere like that and is carrying it over into the new job.

      I know I’ve been in jobs before where asking for help sometimes didn’t go well. Either you’d get eye rolls and sighing, blatant rudeness, or a super condescending manner of help. It sucked, so if someone could help you that you knew would do so kindly, you’d definitely go to them and try to keep others out of it.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        But the coworker’s been there 10 years. So if they carried it over from a previous job it’s been a super long time for that to be a holdover habit.

    7. Vanilla Bean*

      That’s weird! As a manager, I’ve talked to other managers about their employee’s requests for help, but usually in the context of huge gaps in understanding, like “hey, James asked me about X yesterday, which made me realize he has a spotty understanding of the purpose of Y process, which might be why we’re seeing problems with Z.” I’ve also managed in areas with a really formal onboarding and training program, and when we had a new class of trainees starting their post-training work, we’d give the trainers feedback on areas we were seeing the most questions on, or any gaps in training that we noticed, and occasionally have them do a 30-60 minute spot training on something if we were having a lot of issues with a person or the whole group struggling with something.

    8. Meep*


      My former Toxic Manager/current Toxic Coworker would get absolutely pissy if you emailed the Owner/Her Boss. She wanted to be apart of every single correspondence and if she THOUGHT it made her look like she didn’t know what was going on, she would chew you out. More often than not “Why did you email Boss about this?” screeched in full-force was met with “Well… He told me to.” Never did any of us get an apology.

      One time a coworker was screamed at by this lovely, charitable woman for emailing him about taking time off and how she shouldn’t be bothering Bossman. She was almost reduced to tears over the entire thing. Bossman walks in and tells my coworker as she is sitting there sniffling that he appreciated the email. Toxic Coworker looked like she was about to kill her.

      So my first thought was that LW#1’s coworker has this strange sense of not wanting to feel incompetent. Even if it is asking when someone else would be in.

      (I also got screamed at a couple of times for knowing when coworkers would be in when she didn’t. It goes with the territory when you are an unpleasant hag who encourages people to take vacation one second and then berates them the next for “inconveniencing” this company. They will go to the person who will tell them to have fun and remind the Boss for them, because she actually knows the Boss doesn’t actually care that you are taking PTO he gave you.)

  5. nnn*

    In #2, I’m wondering about the relationship between the charity and the for-profit company, i.e. why is the charity trying to find drivers for the for-profit company? (Not that this changes any answers, but it doesn’t make sense to me.)

    Also, given that they’re compensating volunteer drivers for 5.5 hours work with tickets that start at $110, weird that they don’t just…hire drivers.

    1. Eefs*

      Handing out free tickets they already have that mightn’t have sold is much easier than paying however-many dozens of people wages, probably!

      1. Yvette*

        This. Most of those events are priced to make a profit. A pretty decent profit. While the tickets may sell for that much, the actual cost is probably far less.

    2. Willis*

      I’d guess that the OP is right that they messed up their planning and aren’t able to hire that many drivers on short notice. I’m envisioning something where they made this offer to a few charities in the area to drum up drivers in exchange for this undisclosed donation. The free tickets are probably not much of loss for the company, especially if some volunteers take multiple 5.5 hour shifts. Based on the level of disorganization, I’m assuming this is some sort of Fyre Festival 2.0 and there will not be a 2022 event anyway.

      1. Jam*

        Yeah, someone at the for-profit went “hey, Meals on Wheels has loads of drivers, I bet they’d let us use them if we made a donation”. It was bad judgment on the part of the volunteer manager to put it out as a role. My most charitable thought is maybe the charity had to cut back lots of its volunteer activities and the VM has felt under pressure to have things for volunteers to do, and they convinced themselves it would be fine just to put it out there in case some volunteers would be interested.

      2. Roman Holiday*

        OP 2 Here – Unfortunately this is a well-known annual event, so they’ll definitely be back!

      3. nona*

        But…where did they get the cars that they are also not getting drivers? Are they just rental cars from AVIS? and licensed like private vehicles and not commercial vehicles like limos? Who is insuring the cars and the drivers?

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        It sounds like the donation might not even go to this charity though (“the for-profit company will make a donation (amount undisclosed) to a local charity of their choosing”) which is so weird!

        1. hamsterpants*

          I’d be very interested to know if there is a connection between the for-profit company and the local charity that will receive the donation.

    3. John Smith*

      I’d like to think that the for-profit is going to do something amazing for the charity beyond what the OP knows, but then again I’m a cynic. I’d just ask someone in authority why this is being done and let their answer decide whether I want to to continue volunteering (and inform Head Office of the answer if it’s sketchy).

      1. Roman Holiday*

        OP 2 here – let’s just say the for-profit is NOT known for its charitable endeavors. It is a type of industry that raises a lot of ethical questions.

    4. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Something else that may make a difference is insurance. A chauffer license or something like it could be required by the for profits insurance company to cover any drivers hired by the for profit. If the for profit doesn’t pay the drivers, then they haven’t actually been hired, so the drivers aren’t covered under the for profits insurance. A volunteer doesn’t need a special license and aren’t being paid which makes any liability fall on the volunteer (or the volunteers) insurance. Combine all that with the idea that someone at the for profit dropped the ball and can’t get enough professional drivers on short notice and that leaves a perfect storm of VIPs not having a chauffer.
      TL;DR– Professional drivers cost money and are in short supply. For profit is trying to get around the cost of hiring non-professional drivers by having volunteers do the driving.
      I hope my blathering is at least a little coherent. I haven’t had coffee yet so I’m a little fuzzy headed.

      1. Snark no more!*

        Oh, very nice! You could absolutely be correct. Plus if I were volunteering, I would want to know about insurance in the event of an accident.

        1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          Or damage to the vehicle – scratches on the outside, torn upholstery or puke on the inside.

      2. Oakenfield*

        Except, you can’t volunteer for a for-profit corp. This whole thing stinks.
        OP I’d also contact the labor board in your state.

    5. rudster*

      Because I’m guessing it would be hugely expensive and difficult to organize. How would one even go about hiring that many drivers? What kind of service hires out large numbers of professional drivers – but not cars – in that manner? Taxi and car/limo services would probably be happy to accommodate to you but would need lots notice, and may not be able to drive other than their own vehicles for liability reasons. They would also likely insist on full-day rates if the driver is going to be on call.

    6. Roman Holiday*

      Op 2 here – no relationship whatsoever that I could find, not related industries or sectors. I imagine it might have been a favor asked of a board member.

      1. BethRA*

        Is the Fancy Event a fundraiser for another charity? (Doesn’t change the fact that this is super shady, I’m just curious)

        1. Roman Holiday*

          OP 2 here – nope, not a fundraiser, a sports-type spectator event. Think similar to a golf tournament.

          1. CatCat*

            Oh, I hope you’ll update us on any outcome from reporting to the nonprofit HQ or calling out the Fancy Event. I’m kind of dying to know what the event is.

            I have a family member who was a volunteer driver under pretty similar-sounding circumstances (also a sporting event). I’m mostly wondering if this is an issue occurring with sporting events more generally, or one specific sporting event.

            1. Roman Holiday*

              I’m not at all opposed to outing them, but I want to give “my” non-profit a chance to respond first – I don’t want them dragged through the mud if one over-eager person sent out an ill-advised email, even though it certainly seems something hinky is going on! I’ve forwarded my concerns on to the national HQ them this morning and I’ll send any updates to Allison.

    7. Artemesia*

      Two things would have to be in place before I would allow volunteers to be asked to do this or do it as a volunteer. 1. there needs to be insurance coverage and acceptance of liability by the for profit asking this of drivers. 2. there needs to be a huge benefit to the non-profit providing the labor i.e. not ‘our efforts will yield money for ‘charity’ but rather THIS charity will receive (X) as a result of the volunteer efforts.

      Without ‘1’ this is very risky for those driving. Without 2 it is a real abuse of the leadership’s connection to this for profit and the volunteers.

  6. toomanybooks*

    What’s funny about #4 is that there were a handful of colorblind students and teachers at the prestigious art school I attended! Being colorblind doesn’t mean you only see in black and white or something. (I have a feeling this was thrown in as a less controversial sounding example of not being able to accommodate a disability)

    1. All the Oxides*

      Conversely, I’ve worked at a company where NOT being colorblind was a condition of employment because distinguishing between two very close shades of the same color was often a required part of the job. Only pre-employment physical I’ve ever had that included a color blindness test.

        1. Ina Lummick*

          At my company, some roles include a colour blindness test as part of the interview process. (As well as some other uncommon ones.)

          They work as a highly trained sensory panel, testing food and drink primarily. (They can do things such as tell the quality change of products over time, whether a change in recipe can be noticed, etc). They also have to be tested for their smell and taste abilities as well as colourblindness.

        2. BeckyinDuluth*

          Folks in the military have job restrictions because of color blindness too. A friend of mine can teach people how to operate nuclear submarines, but can’t operate one himself because he’s colorblind and you need to be able to see the difference between all the wires. I know there are restrictions in other areas as well.

          1. Gracely*

            Yeah, my BIL wanted to become some kind of pilot in the air force, but couldn’t because he’s colorblind. It didn’t preclude him from doing related stuff, but actually flying whatever specific plane/jet he’d had his eye on (I can’t remember which one) was a no-go.

          2. Movie Recommendation*

            The movie “Little Miss Sunshine” has a subplot around this topic. It’s a delightful movie.

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          When I was hired, our company tested for color blindness–at least people being hired in engineering and manufacturing. Someone color blind would not work with color-coded electric wires (a small portion of the roles).

        4. All the Oxides*

          Yes! I was an intern in R&D for a company that makes Complex Inorganic Colored Pigments, or CICPs. These are powders that color paints, etc. Since color was literally the crux of our business, accommodating color blindness was not really possible.

        5. Jay*

          I’m a doc and the strips we use to test urine samples give results in varying shades of colors – greens, blues, reds, pinks, and yellows. My boss is color-blind and apparently did not know that until he went to medical school. We are tested every year to prove we can distinguish the colors.

        6. MK*

          I’m an traffic controller and we’re tested for colourblindness (in my country not sure if that’s true globally) in our medicals. Without getting into the boring details we use colour to do our jobs. If you can’t tell the difference between green, blue and yellow you won’t know what’s going on. Even having a problem telling red and pink apart could be a problem.

        7. Retired Prof*

          People who are colorblind who go into geology tend to become paleontologists. For rocks you have to be able to distinguish colors, especially under the microscope, but fossil shells usually lose their color during fossilization. There’s even a rather famous blind paleontologist who does his work by touch and with a sighted assistant.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I worked as an engineer at a printing press for packaging. It didn’t matter for my role, but the QC inspectors and the operators who ran the equipment had to pass a test showing they weren’t colorblind (among other requirements).

      2. Ana Gram*

        I’m a cop and we’re tested for colorblindness at our annual physicals. (Weird because I don’t think you develop color blindness?) It makes sense since we need to distinguish the color of cars and people’s clothing and that kind of thing.

        I’m in hiring and we once had a Deaf guy reach out about applying. It was an interesting discussion and we reached out to our attorney. The consensus was that he was welcome to apply and we’d supply an interpreter, of course, but that his interview would involve going line by line through our essential functions and determining his plan about how to complete things like using a radio and communicating with the public. He never did apply, though.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          You can develop color blindness over time. This is especially prevalent in men. I am gradually losing the ability to distinguish between blue and purple. More and more things are just looking blurple to me.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            As people age, they generally lose the ability to make fine distinctions between colors.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Yep, my father could not tell the difference between a black or a navy sock. As I am aging I find that I need more light to see the difference in the darker colors.

              Fatigue alone also dims vision. I am surprised how much easier it is to drive after dark if I have more rest.

          2. Phony Genius*

            Interesting. I have perfect color vision, except that when I’m very, very tired, reds start fading into yellows and greens. Now I wonder if that’s an early warning sign.

          3. ThatGirl*

            My husband has some red-green colorblindness — his mom is colorblind so she passed it along to all three sons. But it’s not like “I can’t tell any colors apart”, it’s, well, when shades of red and green are involved. So like, we have some sage green sheets that just look gray to him. Or he has trouble telling shades of red apart. Probably a lot of things look blurple to him too :)

                1. Lady Blerd*

                  Brown can be obtained by mixing green and red. Also in some cultures, it’s just orange for them because essentially it’s dark orange. So based on the colours your husband has difficulties with, it’s not a stretch for an observer to think he can’t perceive brown.

                2. 2e asteroid*

                  I have a flavor of red-green colorblindness (possibly the same one, possibly not) and a lot of browns look green and vice versa to me.

            1. Spero*

              My ex had this. He thought all shades of aqua and teal looked weird and didn’t like them, and then he thought rosy pinks and sage green were the same color, or hunter green and burgundy were the same. He said that the greens and reds looked gray but weird, and the weird was just enough for him to recognize they must be green/red not gray.

            2. Morgan Hazelwood*

              My favorite color-blind story was my Step-dad.

              My mom had inherited a lovely peridot ring (like a faded emerald color. sorry, as an august Bday, I’m a little resentful of my birthstone), and he bought her an exact shape and cut necklace to match — in amethyst (purple).

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Amethyst used to be the stone for August. I was an August birth also. I dunno why they changed to peridot, but after lovely amethyst, the peridot looked anemic/dull.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I did a quick search because I was interested, and it looks like you can develop colorblindness. Most people are colorblind from birth, but it can happen later in life. Usually caused by:
          – diseases
          – damage to the optic nerve or retina
          – effects from drugs
          – chronic alcoholism

          Never knew that before today, but sounds like it makes sense to test for colorblindness at certain intervals if being able to see colors is an important part of the job.

          1. Dwight Schrute*

            I read effects from drugs as effects from dogs and was racking my brain trying to figure out how dogs cause color blindness

            1. Hlao-roo*

              If dogs somehow caused colorblindness, I would have fallen down a much deeper internet rabbit hole!

            2. Koala dreams*

              I’ve heard that dogs see fewer colours than humans, so that makes perfect sense for me. If perfect colour vision is important, don’t hire dogs. *Joking*/

              1. Kaitydid*

                I recently learned that cats can’t see red. My cat’s favorite toy is bright yellow, and she ignores the red toys. I chalked it up to cats are unpredictable, but it makes sense now.

        3. Hosta*

          Cataracts also effect your color vision! It happens so slowly that you might not even notice. My mother didn’t until her cataracts were removed and suddenly everything was a different color.

          She was a graphic designer and had also done a lot of home decorating before cataract removal. Whoops. None of us said anything about her slightly offbeat choices because hey, she’s the one who’s best at color and art, and she’d recently won an award for her excellent ad work.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            I admired the beautiful silver hair of the nurse who gave me my flu shot.

            She told me that she had thought for years that her hair was an ugly yellow gray.

            Then she got her cataracts done.

        4. I'm In The Office Today*

          Reminds me of watching the movie CODA, it becomes a thing when the deaf family needs to have a hearing person around to be able to hear if an emergency comm situation comes up while they are out boating.

      3. Texan In Exile*

        I worked at an engineering company that designs warehouse machinery. They were very careful with the computer interfaces to to use colors that would work for colorblind people.

      4. Deborah Rowan*

        And then you hear about the military USING color blind people as spotters because their brains aren’t fooled by standard camouflage!

        1. Bagpuss*

          I was going to mention that! It can b e an asset.
          Also I think sometimes people are hired for quality testing to make sure that people who are colourblind can see/read/use products, especially where safety is an issue

          1. American Job Venter*

            Yes, exactly,. The lesson to be taken from these examples should not be that colorblind people are generally unemployable. And the same goes for any other sort of disability.

      5. Roy G. Biv*

        My coworkers and I are regularly test for color blindness at our workplace. A zero is a perfect score, so it earns the test taker bragging rights until the next test period.

      6. quill*

        I’ve seen a few listings for lab / qc jobs that require this: can’t change the color of the chemicals!

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think what disability can be accommodated and what can’t should have safety for all employees as a first line in the evaluation process. If being colorblind means you misread a safety flag, then being colorblind is a safety no-go for that job.

      It’s in this vein that all fire alarms are now required by codes to have flashing lights – so that something gets the attention of the people who can’t hear the siren.

      1. Astor*

        On the other hand, if being colourblind means you misread a safety flag, then the safety flags aren’t well designed!

        1. Princess Hylia*

          Eh. Most people with color blindness (like me!) struggle distinguishing red yellow and green, which are pretty universal in these contexts. Traffic lights are fun. :)

          1. The German chick*

            This is why a good design would include additional elements, such as geometric forms (triangles, circles, cubes)

            1. Carlie*

              In the US, traffic lights always have to be positioned in a specific order for that reason.

              I don’t know if it’s a legal requirement, but most ads I see have the limitation right in the job ad. “Must be able to lift 50 lbs” is the most common one I’ve seen. (Although I’ve also read that can be a way to try to exclude women by posting it on jobs that don’t actually require lifting…)

              1. hbc*

                That order is better than nothing, but it’s insufficient. I think people would be horrified knowing how many people are basically guessing between red and yellow flashing light at an intersection, especially since many yellow traffic lights lean towards orange.

                I know some areas have X shapes for red lights and triangles for yellow, and it’s vastly superior.

                1. londonedit*

                  Ooh, see here a red light would never flash. The only time a traffic light ever flashes is at a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights, when the lights will change from red to flashing amber which means ‘you can go if it’s safe to do so and there’s no one crossing the road’. Our traffic lights go red, red-and-amber (which means ‘prepare to go’) and then green, so even a colour-blind person would know that the top light means stop, top two mean prepare, bottom one means go.

                2. Yorick*

                  But the red and yellow lights are not in the same place, so you can tell which one is flashing even if none of them look a different color?

                3. Zudz*

                  Can’t reply to Yorick, so…

                  Sometimes you have a single flashing traffic light. Flashing yellow works as a “yield” and flashing red is “stop”. They’re not common, sometimes there’s additional signage, but there were at least two of these in the area I grew up in that were just… single 4-way lights over the intersections. They were smallish, not highway, but I can see how they would be troublesome if you couldn’t tell which was which.

                1. A*

                  For no good reason? The example in the comment you responded to lists a weight lifting requirement that is often a core requirement for the jobs that, in my experience, call that out. It’s not inherently discriminatory to require such things if needed. I work in a manufacturing environment and we have these requirements for positions that truly require manual labor, because that’s literally what the position is for. No different than how not hiring a blind person to drive a bus isn’t discriminatory.

                2. Lily Rowan*

                  Can’t reply to A, but this is for them — that weight lifting requirement 100% shows up in office job requirement ads where it is definitely not required to do the job. Same as “standing and sitting for periods of time” and similar. Maybe someone needs to move a box of paper sometimes, but it doesn’t need to be this person.

                3. quill*

                  To Lily and A: Yeah, there are a lot of jobs where either you don’t actually need to be able to lift 50 lbs (think: the majority of office jobs!) or where you might need to do it once a year where that verbiage is included.

                  Very jarring to get a job that had specified that and then have to sit through a safety training about how you should avoid ever lifting more than 30 lbs / facilities is there to move large things / for the love of god don’t lift things we hate doing workman’s comp.

                  The 50 lbs verbiage was indeed in there for no good reason.

                4. Trillian*

                  My guess is that it is to screen out people with chronic back injuries who’ll miss work due to exacerbations and run up health insurance costs and disability claims.

                5. Jen, from the library*

                  Replying to Trillian: that’s still discrimination though, on a pre-existing condition.

              2. MoreFriesPlz*

                Where did you hear that? Not that I think companies are above it morally, but 50 pounds is a seven year old or a big dog. I don’t think there would be a huge gender gap in that small a weight.

                1. Mimi*

                  I’m a reasonably strong woman, and I do not lift more than 25 or 30 lbs if I can avoid it. Yes, I am physically capable of lifting 50 lbs, but it’s not fun and there is a reasonable chance that I will injure myself. I would not take a job where lifting 50 lbs was an essential function of the job (but, interestingly, it never has been one, even for the jobs that say they require you to be able to lift 50 lbs).

              3. NerdyLibraryClerk*

                I find the “Must be able to lift 50 lbs.” requirement quite baffling, because it’s almost never actually a job requirement. I worked a number of jobs that had it when I was medically unable to lift more than 25 lbs, and it never came up. (Yes, I lied in order to be able to work. There are almost no jobs that don’t have a 50 (or 30) lbs requirement, and yet being unable to lift more than 25 lbs does not qualify one for disability. I do know that my ability to do my job didn’t change when the medical problem was finally corrected.)

                I have no idea what they’re actually screening for. And they probably have no idea how many people lie and do the job just fine.

                1. Jen, from the library*

                  I also find this baffling, and if you’re going to require it for a job, then employers should send people for pre-employment physicals to ensure that the individual is safe to do such lifiting. Not just use it for an arbitrary screening.

              4. MK*

                I’m a very small woman and worked for many years as a baker, moving 50lbs all day every day. I imagine it would be a better screen for fitness than size/sex.

              5. banoffee pie*

                what’s 50lb? 22lb? I don’t think that would exclude all women. It would screen me out though. 15kg is my hard limit lol

                1. banoffee pie*

                  50lb= 22kg, not 50lb= 22lb, d’oh!! They’d fire me for not being able to type competently rather than not being able to lift! wish there was an edit button here lol

          2. SleepyKitten*

            This is why most data visualisation companies are switching to blue and orange, and why wires in the UK are now coded blue, brown and stripey green/yellow.

            So many people are colourblind that it’s bizarre it still isn’t designed for

            1. TiredEmployee*

              There being different types of colourblindness probably doesn’t help. Red-green is most common, but there’s also blue-yellow and monochromacy. I work with someone who can’t differentiate colours unless they’re very bright. I have sensory issues that makes many bright colours physically painful. It’s hardly surprising that there’s no standard template that works for everyone.

          3. Observer*

            Most people with color blindness (like me!) struggle distinguishing red yellow and green, which are pretty universal in these contexts.

            There is a reason that so many cities have moved away from green lights. In NYC, all the lights are white and red.

            Considering how common this kind of color blindness is, it really IS bad design to use those two colors in a safety signal that is so much in the public space.

            1. Doreen*

              NYC traffic lights are not all white or red ( I don’t think any are , but I could be wrong about that . )I believe the “walk /don’t walk” signals are white and red/orange , but they have always had an indicator in addition to the color.

              1. Observer*

                Yes, they have the indicator too. But, at least for the walk / don’t walk, they have moved away from green.

                Having BOTH is a good idea, especially since the red / green issue not the only kind of color blindness.

                1. NotJane*

                  I grew up in NYC (80s and 90s) and don’t recall crosswalk signals ever using green. They did used to spell out “WALK” and “DONT WALK”, but the color scheme was roughly the same (white and orange).

      2. Spero*

        FYI, if anyone is trying to design in a colorblind-friendly way – there are websites that can test this for you. Look at Colorblind web page filter, or look up how to test your contrast. If you have high enough contrast it can generally be read by all types of colorblindness.

    3. Xenia*

      The way disabilities (and discrimination by gender for that matter) were taught by my business law professor went something like this: if you have a business reason for a specific physical need, then you can require it. IE, “for safety reasons we require our electricians to be able to tell the difference between standard wiring colors”. Same with physical requirements—you can make “must be able to lift 50 lbs” part of the job and absolutely require that. BUT you have to be able to tie it to the actual job duties. So tying an accounting job to the requirement that you need to be able to bench press 200lbs is probably not going to be upheld.

      1. BeckyinDuluth*

        Yes, this is my understanding too.

        I am a bit concerned about the “no accommodations may be made” language of the letter. I don’t think you can ever really say that, as there are all kinds of accommodations that aren’t about the things noted. Maybe that’s not what they meant, but it sounded a bit like it.

        1. TiredEmployee*

          I took that as awkward phrasing trying to get at the idea of physical realities that can’t meaningfully be changed, e.g. having to move large heavy things in tight spaces for a shipping business, or having to be able to quickly process spoken language for an interpreter.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yeah that was my read too. I don’t think OP is being malicious, I have been in situations where we are desperately trying to think of accommodations and it’s just not straightforward. It can be hard to know where the line is where it’s just not doable.

            1. pancakes*

              Right, but trying to find that line without a fact pattern to work with is senseless. It’s just not possible to game out every possible situation in advance.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Oh super true. And in my experience, it’s not a hiring question, for reasons people have outlined elsewhere. This issue comes up more legitimately when someone becomes disabled (be it suddenly or progressively) and loses the ability to do work they were already doing.

          2. twocents*

            Agree I don’t think they were malicious, I think that they were just asking: are there really situations in which accommodations really can’t be made? I know a common example in school that professor gave was that a bra company can discriminate against men for modeling bras.

            And for a more recent example, I have a friend who told me about having to decline an applicant for a position that required delivery and all the routes in this region were walking, so you park your vehicle and then you have to carry all the items around a radius. The applicant was unable to stand for more than 15 minutes, couldn’t lift 70 lb which is an average weight for the packages, can’t see comfortably enough to drive in anything other than good weather. The applicant literally couldn’t do the job.

        2. Sam*

          OP here. I’m sorry if my wording was awkward and especially if it misconstrued intent as anything negative.

          I actually work in software development for a very large company working on internal tools used by the employees. In almost every case we can work around all disabilities. Colorblindness is probably a bad example since it can be readily accommodated in almost every situation, but perhaps not the very specific ones I mentioned?

          There are rare edge cases we may run into. If an associate can be accommodated in an unexpected way, then the software we write for the associate has to support that too, or can even help with accommodations in some situations.

          Thanks for ask the responses.

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            I once worked with a colorblind cake decorator. (She had been the Muffin Queen, but wanted to go into cake decorating; I was the new Muffin Monarch.) Unusually, she was full-greyscale colorblind. The accommodations that the department worked out:

            All frosting tubs and their lids were labeled with the color that went in them
            Periodically, she would check with a color-sighted co-worker to confirm that the buckets and contents and lids were correct
            She would check with a color-sighted co-worker if she was making a very pale tint, to make sure that the color was visible
            Specific color-matches (actual example: “I want the flowers and border to be Eeyore-colored”) were done in collaboration with a color-sighted co-worker (I had the background in painting, so I was able to come up with the specific frosting dyes that we’d need, and I watched while she mixed and we got there eventually)
            It turned out that no one had ever bothered to teach her even basic color wheel color theory, so I made a color wheel for her with the positions of our frosting dyes marked in relation to the color wheel colors

            The thing that everyone was actually worried about turned out just fine. She had no preconceptions about which colors went together, so for a standard three-color cake she would just pick three that she thought sounded good together and go with it. Her designs were very popular and would sell out quickly.

            For color-coordinating stock, if it involves physically putting the stock in places, as long as the stock has item numbers that distinguish between colors, I would have a color-sighted person come up with the plan, write down which numbers correspond with which colors and maybe make sure they had a scanner that would let them spot check, and let the colorblind person do the physical stocking. Perhaps with a color sighted person checking in every once and a while to make sure that nothing had gone horribly wrong.

      2. JohannaCabal*

        I think what happens is that a lot of stories get passed around (e.g., “there was this person who couldn’t see and they sued because they couldn’t get a bus driver job and then won a lot of money”) and get taken as the truth.

        But as with any game of telephone, the actual story is usually totally different and it turns out there is some justification for the suit (see the McDonalds coffee incident). It’s like how many corporate HR firms have Neutral Reference policies because they fear defamation lawsuits yet I’ve never known any manager or firm to get sued for giving a (truthful) bad reference.

        And unfortunately this can make some employers hesitant to hire people with disabilities. I have MS and right now it’s not effecting me, plus my job is virtual, but I do worry about my future employability.

        1. B*

          This. 100%.

          LW4’s questions are something that gets covered in 101-level classes. These are basic employment laws. I’m kind of surprised to see them here because it’s so easily Google-able and so thoroughly discussed. I did training on this topic literally yesterday and I’m not even in a management or HR role.

          No, you do not have to hire a blind person to fly an airplane. No, you do not have to let a deaf person edit your podcast. No, you do not have to hire an amputee to move furniture. This is simple stuff, but people hear about the whole accommodation thing and they get so agitated.

          At risk of derailing the conversation, this is at least partially intentional. Businesses and politicians deliberately hire agitators to turn public opinion against their own rights. The McDonald’s coffee incident is a perfect example. People exploited that to promote the perception that frivolous lawsuits were running amok. Magazines like Reader’s Digest deliberately publish vague and misleading stories about businesses being harassed by “The Government” to enforce nonsensical regulations, or challenged by frivolous lawsuits. The intent is to enrage the reader.

          When I was a kid I read these stories. I came away with the idea that government inspectors would just randomly turn up at businesses and drive them to bankruptcy with fines and penalties. The wheelchair ramp is two degrees too steep! The sign above the door wasn’t written in Braille! Your business is required to have exactly 15.8% elderly employees, and you didn’t hire enough elderly people! (Fill in whatever race/creed/other category in that last sentence.)

          It’s nonsense. It wasn’t until many years later that I did some Googling and found that the people who write those stories are also involved in conservative political organizations. Their goal is to make people angry about regulations and lawsuits, to think that the government is oppressing business owners and the courts are being exploited by dishonest scammers.

          1. JohannaCabal*

            Definitely this. I remember the old “News of the Weird” column was notorious for stories about crazy lawsuits.

    4. John Smith*

      A slight detour. There was a colourblind student in my art class in school. Noone knew he was colourblind until we were taught about opposite colours, when he revealed he didn’t see colours that way. He was damned good at art. And also fed up with “what colour do you see this as” questions from everyone including the teacher (and it wasn’t for teaching, it was pure curiosity). If you so know someone who is colour blind, please don’t test them like some kind of test subject and subject them to games of “what colour is this”.

      1. DrSalty*

        My husband is colorblind and he avoids telling people because he haaaaates it when people ask him what color stuff is, and people always do when they find out.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          I knew my husband for ten years before we got married. I didn’t know he was colorblind until our daughter was born. I kept getting after him for dressing her in really weird outfits that didn’t make any sense. He finally goes ‘Well, I don’t understand! I’m colorblind!’

          I felt like a jerk. I now fold outfits in her dresser for him to grab, or suggest jeans and shirts, or black leggings and tops.

          He too, hates the “What color is this?” thing.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Great story.

            My daughters have wild outfits on because that’s what they put on. Yeah I know it’s floral with plaid and Christmas socks in April, but if you can’t wear that when you’re four, when can you?

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              Oh yeah, she’s three now and sometimes chooses out wonky things to wear, and no one cares!

      2. Coenobita*

        My colorblind brother likes to mess with people who ask that. “Oh, obviously, it’s bruplellow! Don’t you know that color??”

      3. Huttj*

        Ok, so on the one hand we might have done this a bit…

        On the other hand it was back in high school, and we had just learned our English teacher was R/G colorblind when during a quiz one of the girls saw him smelling the markers (scented markers so he’d know what color it was).

        That day turned into a round of some bad questions, some interesting ones. A lot of students that day learned that there’s a standard order for traffic lights in the US, for example.

        Wasn’t brought up after that day though.

      4. A Genuine Scientician*

        My ex was color blind. I never asked him what color something was. But I’m now reflecting back on the fact that when I had a paper to submit, I ran all of my figures through an online site to test what they looked like for people with several of the most common forms of colorblindness. And then once I had figures that worked for all of those, I asked him to look over my figures and tell me if they were readable for him. He didn’t object, but I’m wondering if that crossed into annoying territory.

      5. Mx*

        I actually knew a colorblind graphic designer. He worked around this by getting color hex codes/Pantone codes from his boss. I never would have thought of that for an accommodation.

    5. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I know of a couple of non-art related situations where colorblindness was accommodated.

      The first was a software developer I worked with. He was tasked with coding a user interface based on a mock-up provided by one of our graphic designers. When he hit the first review point, the graphic designer asked him where he got his colors, as they looked nothing like the mock-up. And that’s when we learned my coworker was colorblind. The accommodation was that the graphic designers were required to explicitly specify the colors used on their mock-ups (which also helped the rest of us).

      The second was someone who was part of a land surveying team. These are the folks who measure not only how big a piece of land (or road or bridge) is, but also where it is located in respect to the surrounding area, and where things inside it are with respect to each other. To mark these points while they’re working, they’ll put wooden stakes into the ground (maybe 18 inches long?) and tie a brightly colored plastic ribbon around it. Different color ribbons indicate different parts of the survey, so the property line might be orange, the building footprint might be pink, and the line where the water line will run might be blue. This particular person was unable to distinguish a couple of the more common colors (I’ve seen yellow, orange, pink, bright blue, bright green, and less often red). So the team went through the ribbon colors together and determined which colors he could tell apart, and which ones looked the same. For any given job, the team would then only use one color out of a set the were the “same” to the colorblind member. So a job site might use pink or orange ribbon, but not both, and a second job site might use the opposite color from the pair.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The first was a software developer I worked with. He was tasked with coding a user interface based on a mock-up provided by one of our graphic designers. When he hit the first review point, the graphic designer asked him where he got his colors, as they looked nothing like the mock-up. And that’s when we learned my coworker was colorblind. The accommodation was that the graphic designers were required to explicitly specify the colors used on their mock-ups (which also helped the rest of us).

        I wouldn’t even consider that an accommodation; I demand RGB, CMYK, or HTML color hashes (I’ll take any of them) any time I’m requested to work in color. Otherwise, I get endless revisions to “make the blue a little more bluey and a little less bluish.”

        1. not a doctor*

          Yeah, I’m surprised that wasn’t already the default practice. My company puts hex codes on just about everything.

          1. Sam*

            I wish that was default practice. I usually have to open up the mocks in Figma or InVision or even worse Paint to get the color codes. Easily solvable problem even for non-colorblind people.

        2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          Yeah, I don’t think that one was phrased as a formal accommodation – more of a “Now will you specify the colors like we ask you to?” that the graphic designers finally listened to. (Previously, they’d sometimes but not always specify colors, but once it hurt their eyes from having a colorblind developer guess they started doing it all the time.)

        3. Koalafied*

          Agreed – my company’s brand style guide specifies the color in all 3 formats for digital as well as the pantone numbers for print. Nobody is just randomly picking colors from a wide open palette based on what looks good to them – we need branding consistency, which means all colors used in any piece of creative are approved computers from the official brand palette, which are precisely defined so that we have cohesive materials that all reflect the same style.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            well as the pantone numbers

            That brings me back… I’ll gladly accept those as authoritative representations of a color as well.

            1. Koalafied*

              There was a great bit in the final season of Brooklyn 99 where Captain Holt is describing a bird to his partner who’s been temporary blinded, by telling him what Pantone color each part of the bird is. Their characters were shown throughout the show to be very precise and literal as well as highly intelligent, so this was a perfect bit for them, because of course Raymond would be able to look at a color in nature and know by heart its Pantone color, and of course his partner would be able to visualize all of the colors named this way!

          2. Tau*

            Yeah, I might be spoiled by our branding guidelines but I balked at the idea of getting a mock-up with just any old colours. Nope! We have the primary/secondary brand colours and then a standard set a la background, text, error, success and those are the only ones I’m putting into the app!

    6. VI Guy*

      And almost all blind people can see:

      Someone with 6/60 / 20/200 vision can do most work tasks. Computers have zoom, we can look at physical items at a closer distance, and there are a lot of options for distance like monoculars. Some US states allow visually impaired people to drive with monoculars on glasses.

      A reasonable person with disabilities wants a job that works well for both employer and employee. So often we arrive at interviews with a cane or dog and immediately get rejected (not in the moment, but the interviewer has clearly lost interest) when we can easily do almost any desk job and most other ones too. When companies have a good list of tasks and/or skills, then they can have a healthy discussion about accommodations with interviewees. If something isn’t possible for good reason, then fair enough. Employers should look at every requirement to ensure it is needed, as some places ask for a driver’s license for jobs that clearly don’t need one. People with disabilities tend to be very reasonable about what works for us. If all companies were similarly reasonable then we wouldn’t have so many horror stories about bullying and weird denials of simple requests.

      1. Kaitydid*

        I worked on designs for curb ramps and crosswalks and such at my previous job. In the training I learned that vision impairment is a spectrum, and that’s why the bumpy mats are a high contrast color compared to the paving they’re on. I laughed at myself because of course it’s a spectrum. I have a hearing impairment, but I’m not Deaf. I’m midway on that spectrum, so it should have been obvious to me all along.

      2. Former_Employee*

        I think there is a difference between legally blind and total blindness. There are people who are legally blind who can see well enough to drive as long as they are wearing their glasses. Obviously, they probably wouldn’t need much (if any) accommodation in the work place. Then there are people who are totally blind. They can’t drive because they can’t see at all. There are probably a lot of jobs where no accommodation would be possible.

        Whether it’s blindness or some other type of disability, if the job seeker knows of simple ways the prospective employer could accommodate their disability it would be smart for them to share that information.

        If I were in a position to hire someone, I would be impressed if they came in with a “how to make it work” plan.

    7. Koala dreams*

      I also found the examples a bit weird. I have colourblind people in the family, and they generally get around just fine in everyday situations. If your colour coding scheme excludes everybody with colour blindness, perhaps it’s the colour coding scheme that should be changed.

      Similarly, it’s quite sad to see places that could easily accommodate wheelchairs but don’t.

    8. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

      My son has no vision in one eye and no peripheral vision in the other eye. He is currently finishing his BFA at a top art school. Photography, print-making, drawing, painting. Top notch work (my completely unbiassed judgment!).

      If you did not know he was almost blind, you wouldn’t be able to tell. He can’t drive, so he lives in a large city where he can walk and take public transit.

      He had other options for majors when deciding on colleges, that would not require him to see should he lose the rest of his eyesight. But he decided against them, with my full support.

      People with vision loss can do many things that seem surprising to those of us who see well.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. My friend is legally blind but she reads. Slowly but still…. She also looks you directly in the eye when you speak, yet she cannot see your face and has no idea where your eyes are.

    9. fhqwhgads*

      But also, the notion that they business MUST use color-coding is not very accessible. So of the examples mentioned, it’s the outlier. Like “can’t lift stuff” when the job is 90% lifting stuff is a bonafide job requirement. “Color code stuff”, at least based on the accessibility training I’ve had at work recently, could very easily be met with “why are you using a color-coding system that doesn’t also have shapes to identify the different categories”.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I should have said “can’t lift stuff – even with a device intended to assist in lifting stuff”. Or “not without a $$$$$$$$$$$ device intended to assist in lifting stuff”.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I worked at American Eagle and Old Navy – 2 companies where “colorizing” is important on the sales floor. Both companies had a code for what the color is printed on the tag. There are pages for each area of the sales floor for what the display should look like with the codes provided on the order of the colors. Yes, tedious. Also allowed, “Hey, what color is this?” or “Where do I put this color?” I received these questions frequently from non-colorblind coworkers who just couldn’t remember the rainbow order (which becomes difficult when you add in pink, teal, black, white & gray). And sometimes the red is a bit purplish or the yellow is orange-y.

        1. Sam*

          Thank you Daisy, this is exactly one of the scenarios I’m asking about.

          When you worked on the sales floor, can you think of anything the systems you used could have made it easier on you?

      3. Sam*

        Thanks for the responses. The colored coding example is not for an internal process but for customer facing merchandise. Likely it’s not as much of an issue as I thought it would be.

        1. The Wandering Scout*

          I can confirm that in clothing retail where I worked for several years we had the colour ‘story’ of each item listed on the tags – and I’m on the other side of the world to the USA so I suspect this may be a common theme! It was helpful because we regularly had three or four colour stories which all used the same or extremely similar shades of a colour and we would need to make sure items stayed with their story.

          As a short (and now an ambulatory disabled person) I can also confirm that most clothing stores have what we called ‘the hanging stick’ for hanging clothing items on our top racks, and so something similar could be an accommodation for a wheelchair using employee.

      1. Sam*

        How did that work out? Did they need help from other designers to set color schemes?

        I’m a software developer and we can accommodate almost any disability, but this one surprised me. If their core job function involves color coordination, how did they accomplish that? Was any special software or accommodation used?

        One of my QA at an earlier job was color blind and that is an job it we’ll as a huge asset. My cousin is color blind and a history professor. Zero issues there, but wouldn’t expect any.

        1. Koalafied*

          If they had any formal training at an art school, color theory is a major focus for most first-year art students. Being that color is determined by the physical properties of light, there’s actually a good bit of “science” behind what colors should be paired with other colors. Traditionally they’d use a “color wheel” where you can find additional colors a certain number of degrees around the wheel from your primary color depending on whether you want a monochromatic, analogous, complementary, triadic, or tetradic matches – and color theory also teaches you when to use which type of color pairs to achieve certain effects.

          In the digital age there are now digital color pickers/color wheels that can do this task very precisely given hex codes or rrggbb values, and what type of match is desired. And a lot of graphic designers who *aren’t* color-blind use them, because they’re so effective at what they do!

          1. HelenofWhat*

            Yes all this! I had a friend who secretly was colorblind and a great designer. They used technology and color theory to work out what makes sense in various situations. Color is only one small aspect of design and many companies have brand guidelines that day “these are the exact colors and their hex codes we use for any given project”. So you’re rarely starting from scratch in commercial design unless you’re rebranding, and even then colors often stay consistent. Shapes, contrast, and placement are often the most important design elements anyway.

    10. English Teacher*

      The second example for number four seemed really odd to me. Of course it varies by person, but I’m sure there are many visually impaired people and wheelchair users who can move things from one room to another. As for color blindness, the stock would simply need to be labeled with the color, and / or have the same colors always kept in the same spot.

  7. Double A*

    Even in normal years a week long retreat the week before Christmas seems like exceptionally thoughtless timing. This year, it’s just cruel. With precautions, people are potentially able to have somewhat more normal holidays this year, but a week of this type of travel right before could completely upend that for myriad reasons.

    1. PollyQ*

      Good point, especially for people with kids, who may only be able to take vacation during the 2-week winter break that often runs more-or-less from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2.

      1. allathian*

        A week-long retreat at any time seems excessive. Perhaps this company has a quiet period just before Christmas? It’s as bad as training seminars over the weekend so it doesn’t get in the way of work. Luckily I haven’t run across these personally, but I’d never voluntarily attend unless I could take two days off at the start of the following week.

        1. PollyQ*

          I would assume that “week” in this context means a business week, probably flying out on a Sunday evening and home the following Friday afternoon.

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            I hate being expected to fly out on a Sunday evening. That pretty much ruins the weekend. If someone is expected to travel for business, then they should be able to travel during business hours. Enough of this being expected to fly early morning/late night/Sunday night so as not to get in the way of work crap. When traveling for work, that is part of work and should be treated accordingly. If a company doesn’t want people to travel for business during business hours, they shouldn’t make people travel. Enough is enough.

        2. Antilles*

          YMMV here, because I’m the exact opposite. When I was younger and single, I worked for a company that had weeklong retreats every year and I actually volunteered for them as much as possible.
          An all expenses paid trip to either a resort or a cool city, getting the opportunity to train/learn new skills rather than writing yet another report, with evenings free to go out for drinks and nice dinners with my co-workers on the company dime? Absolutely!
          That said, having it right before Christmas is bad; even if it’s your slow time so it makes more sense logistically, it’d be not viable for a lot of people due to kids off school / other obligations / burning PTO before end of year / etc.

      2. HS Teacher*

        You don’t have to have kids to have familial obligations. Please stop pushing this narrative.

    2. Willis*

      Bad this year for covid reasons and for calendar reasons. With Christmas on a Saturday, would the OP be getting back from this retreat on Christmas Eve? Is your potential new boss named Ebenezer? Maybe it’s the week before that, which is still bad for the multiple reasons you mention.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      To be blunt about it, these people are sociopaths. This seems relevant when assessing a job offer.

      1. RJ*

        This right here.

        If you could lose a job offer for not wanting to travel to a COVID hot spot, OR not wanting to be away for an entire week right before Christmas, then you do not want to work for these people.

        1. I'm In The Office Today*

          I’ll be fair about one thing: most places at this point are Covid hotspots, albeit I would have Severe Reservations about anyone wanting to send me to places actively resistant to Covid protocols, like Texas or Florida. I about lost it the other day when a friend said that his father had to fly to Texas during pandemic for job training. The father is fine, but still, YIKES.

        2. NotJane*

          But it’s even worse than that, because OP said that attending this “annual week-long leadership retreat” would be “part of the onboarding process”!

          Although, now that I’m thinking about it, I bet that, as part of the onboarding process, new hires are volunteered (volun-told?) to chauffeur leadership around Jackson Hole or wherever for the week.

          Which brings us to the real, salient question – what happens if OP has a visual impairment or other disability that precludes them from being able to legally drive? Will reasonable accommodations be made?

    4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Agreed. So many red flags here. Expecting non-essential travel while the pandemic is still not over. To an in-person event. At a COVID hotspot. The week before Christmas. WTF? That says a lot about this company right there. OP, if you really want this job, I would definitely take Alison’s advice and mention that you are not available to travel at this time. But if they balk, walk (or rather run) away. But these red flags alone are enough to decline an offer without getting permission to not attend.

      Thing is, if you accepted the position and didn’t attend the retreat, will they resent you for it and treat you badly? Even if travel isn’t part of your job otherwise, would they try to pressure you to do other things that are risky due to the pandemic? And will they expect you to disregard the holidays every year?

    5. Ally McBeal*

      Seriously! In what universe do people not need the week before Christmas to wrap up (haha) end-of-year tasks at work, do their last minute gift shopping, attend friends’ holiday parties, etc.? This sounds a bit like “management is completely tone-deaf to the lives and needs of the lowly proletariat.”

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      Exceptionally thoughtless, *or* an industry like education where people are likely to not be working that week, I suppose. I am very curious.

    7. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Yeah. I’ve got no desire to attend a large gathering of people that could give me a nasty virus to transport to my mother when I see her at Christmas.

    8. Smithy*

      Pre-COVID, I once had an international work trip where for US citizens attending – we largely all made it back to the US on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.

      While the event was for international attendees, the organizer was US based and there was no escaping how irksome the planning felt. There was nothing that forced the event to be that week, but even if it had – was there no way to shift the start date a day or two?? It was already an event that included weekend days, so it was a choice that just felt particularly thoughtless.

      There are clearly a lot of jobs that are bringing back in person retreats and not including virtual participation. But does it really have to be the week before Christmas as opposed to perhaps the third week in January or first week in December?

  8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I think there can be some disabilities that just preclude certain jobs – for example someone who is deaf most likely wouldn’t be able to be a phone dispatcher, a blind person is probably not going to become an Oscar winning cinematographer.

    I think a better way to look at things is to accept that all people have weaknesses of some type to go with their strengths. The key is to find a career that lines up with your strengths. That doesn’t mean that you can be anything, but that there are jobs out there for all of us, sometimes just with a bit of tweaking around the edges.

    However, this outlook supposes that people can be reasonable about what requirements of a job are really important/ safety dependent and which requirements are more of a “we’ve always done it this way” tradition that may be due for an efficiency review.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, exactly. That said, there are deaf musicians. Google Evelyn Glennie, for example. She plays percussion and bagpipes.

      That said, my biology teacher in middle school became a teacher at least partly because he’s red-green colorblind. He was originally interested in studying mosses and lichens, but some species are distinguishable from each other by their color, so he had to abandon that idea.

      1. ecnaseener*

        That’s so sad! Do moss scientists not work in teams? All he would’ve needed was one teammate to let him know what he was looking at.

        1. Canadian Valkyrie.*

          So when your new to the field, you’d have to do a lot of the research and field work yourself. I have several friends and family members with PhDs or even masters in science fields and yeah you could definitely get around it but it’s harder earlier on. One possible thing to do is select something where it wouldn’t be limiting, like studying trees where it’s seemingly more about the style of the leaf and bark and stuff and less about colour (colour matters but as long as you can see in general it could be worked with).

      2. Velawciraptor*

        There was also that deaf composer who did pretty ok. What was his name? Oh yeah…Beethoven.

        Perhaps instead of assuming what people with disabilities can or cannot do, people should let the disabled person take the lead on what they think they can do and what accommodations they need.

    2. Anonybonnie*

      As an epileptic with breakthrough seizures, I think it’s a good thing that I can’t be hired as a bus driver, pilot, soldier, or air traffic controller. That wouldn’t be safe for anyone!

      On the other hand, I am really good at my current job in content creation. I have a couple of accommodations I receive regarding scheduling, meetings, and time off, but I still get the job done and do it well.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Fellow epileptic! And yeah, I’m legally cleared to drive but only cars. I’ll never be able to get a HGV license.

        Also I’m not allowed to be the only person on site. There always has to be someone else there. In case of seizure. (Which, touch wood, I’ve not had a grand mal for over a decade)

    3. John Smith*

      Blind/visually impaired film makers do exist. I think care is needed in deciding what someone cannot do because of a disability they have. There are many examples of people who do what seems impossible.

      Rather than say “you can’t do this job because of X”, you need to ask how a person would be able to do the job. It may be that a person simply cannot do a job (with or without adaptations) but at least ask.

      1. londonedit*

        We currently have a deaf actor called Rose Ayling-Ellis competing in Strictly Come Dancing (the UK version of Dancing with the Stars) this year who just got the earliest perfect 40 score in the history of the programme. Before the series started everyone was asking how the heck a deaf person could possibly compete in a dancing competition – how can she hear the music? But she’s explained that she can hear some parts of the music and can feel the beat, and with her last dance she said she was so in tune with her professional partner that she didn’t even need to be able to hear anything, she was just dancing with him and that’s how she kept to the right rhythm. She’s an incredible dancer and apparently searches for British Sign Language courses have exploded since she’s been on Strictly – the presenters and other dancers/celebs all use bits of sign language that they’ve picked up from her as a matter of course now.

        1. TK*

          Dancing with the Stars in the US (the American version of Strictly) was won by a deaf model a few years ago.

          1. Caitlin*

            Yes! I mentioned this is reply to another comment down below – Nyle DiMarco won DWTS Season 22 after also winning America’s Next Top Model Season 22. His twin brother, who is also Deaf, is a D.J.

            (Side note: I used capital D Deaf in my comments about Nyle, because he is part of the Deaf community. Deaf with a capital D is used for a cultural identity, versus deaf with a lowercase d refers to the physical condition. Not everyone who is deaf identifies as being Deaf, but Nyle comes from a Deaf family and has identified that way in the past)

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              On that side note/PSA, I’d also like to add that music is a big thing in the Deaf community. (Search YouTube for ASL + any favorite song title for a taste).

              LW 4’s question strikes me as naive. There are lots of simple accommodations that can be determined by simply asking the person in question what options are available (or using the resource Alison provided). It’s very difficult (and very discriminatory) to people with disabilities when hiring managers assume a candidate can’t do a job because of their disability.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        +1 to this comment. Most people without an impairment/disability are quick to say “I could NEVER do X if I were [visually impaired, Deaf, etc.]” but that’s because we don’t have the experience to know how it can be done. The people I know with disabilities that require accommodations are very aware of what they can do, what they can’t do, and what they can do given specific accommodations.

        I always think in particular of a family member who is visually impaired to the point he is considered legally blind. He can’t drive, but that’s pretty well the only thing he can’t manage – and if he hadn’t told you about his vision you’d only notice if you showed him something in your phone and he had to hold it close to his face to read it.

        1. MoreFriesPlz*

          I think people also say that based on their experiences with not having that disability.

          For example, I’m deeply baffled by the idea of a deaf composer but whenever I think about it I realize that’s mainly because I’m hearing and I have so little aptitude or interest in making music. I’m layering deafness onto my own experience as a non-musical person. When I say I could never be a composer if I were deaf, it’s objectively true. I could never be a composer if I were deaf, bald, blonde, or tall. Like how as a kid some friends would say “I like math class better than English class” but part of me never really believed it.

          I think the lesson might be not to assume people lack aptitude or passion along with their physical disability? Or remember people with disabilities are just like other people – they might be good at anything including the things you are bad at? Or something? I’m not really sure…

          1. Kaittydid*

            Yeah, I think you’re onto something here. I have one deaf ear and one that works pretty much fine. I can’t locate sounds and hate the Marco Polo game with a firey passion. I was TERRIFIED to lose my remaining hearing for a long time. I started learning ASL recently, and I’m much less worried about my hearing now. I think abled people are quick to dismiss disabled people because they don’t know how a disability actually affects a person, and I think partially out of fear. Anyone could become disabled, and anyone who lives long enough will become disabled.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. I’m thinking lack of imagination and consultation with someone who would need an accommodation is the biggest issue with this question. 99.999999999% of the time if a person with a disability thinks they can do a job with accommodations X, Y, and Z they are absolutely correct. Reasonablness of the accommodation(s) are the only questions and that generally is down to cost.

    4. VI Guy*

      People with disabilities are often not 100% something, they are just badly off enough to get some form of government support and protections. Often accommodations can be easily made!

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’m sorry if I offended. I tried to use non- definite wording because I know there are exceptions to almost any rule. The point I was trying to make is that I think safety for all the involved employees and clients should be the most important consideration for evaluating accommodations- not “we’ve always done it this way” traditions.

      1. VI Guy*

        I can’t speak for others, but I wasn’t offended by your comment. Yet it is a reminder of the societal stereotypes that PWD all live with, as there are few jobs that are completely impossible for a broad category of people.

      2. StrikingFalcon*

        Another thing to consider – you mentioned that you don’t think someone in a wheelchair could drive a forklift, but I wanted to point out that wheelchairs are used for many, many reasons, and you shouldn’t automatically assume someone in a wheelchair can’t get out of it to do a task. I use one because I can’t stand for extended periods of time, so driving a forklift (a job that also involves sitting) wouldn’t be a problem. Other people might use them for different reasons – someone who has very frequent seizures, for example, shouldn’t be driving heavy equipment. Someone who is paralyzed may or may not be able to get into the forklift seat, depending on the nature of their paralysis (complete/incomplete, lower limb/left side, etc.), and the cost of modifying the forklift so they can get in may or may not be reasonable (many paralyzed people drive cars, so equipment can be modified, but it’s expensive).

        This is why the question is difficult to answer in a general sense, but I’d encourage you to start from the mindset of “if I needed to make this job doable for a person with X limitation, could I do it?” rather than “people with X limitation obviously can’t do it.” The JAN is a great site with lots of examples to consider.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      The LW’s example of a person in a wheelchair working in retail who needed to replenish inventory basically described one of my coworkers when I had a retail job. He had a motorized wheelchair and the store accommodated him by buying him a wagon-like thing and only having him restock items he could reach. That meant he was assigned what would have been the rest of our stocking duties if it was lower shelf items and the rest of us took his upper shelf items. It was pretty sweet because the lower shelf stuff was heavier so using the wagon made everything faster for all of us and he let us borrow the wagon whenever we needed to bring out a bunch of stuff. Accommodation win for all of us

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        As someone whose bad knees make bending difficult, I’d love to stock the waist-level-and-higher shelves and let someone else handle the bottom shelves.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I have to get others to get stuff off the floor at work (arthritis, my knees won’t go down that far) but in return I’ll get everything off the top shelves!

          I’m over 6 foot tall, most of my staff are around 5 foot 4 :)

          1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

            In my house, we call that “being tall”. As in, “Hey Scott, you will come over here and be tall for me?” (And if a tall friend isn’t visiting, I just get the stepladder.)

        2. dawbs*

          I get to do this.

          Well, kinda. I have a few health things, incl. back things, that make bending difficult.
          When it’s time to clean things or stock things, my coworkers know that I will do whatever I can while standing straight OR while sitting in a pile on the floor, but not bending.
          We swap and I tackle a few less-desirable tasks in exchange. Also, I will ‘sweep’ everything on the floor into a pile to make less bending for everyone.

          I wish such accommodation was something everyone provided, because there’s no reason NOT to.

      2. Laney Boggs*

        I read a post the other day about how almost every office job has line about “being able to lift 50 pounds” and it precludes the OP who can’t lift, even though if that file box *really* needs moved there’s a dozen people who could do it instead.

        So I think it’s worth asking, too, how essential it is that THAT person does it. Do you normally have a dozen people on staff, and eleven are perfectly able to stock the inventory? Can the person who is otherwise unable to move inventory able to do something else essential on shift? Can you keep them off of, say, truck days where it would be all hands on deck putting inventory away? Etc.

      3. Texan In Exile*

        I worked for a company that designed warehouse machinery. That mid-shelf level is literally called “the golden zone” because that’s the most ergonomically desirable spot and it’s where you want your people working. My company designed some of the equipment so the platform where the operator stands can be raised and lowered.

        We were touring a customer site and saw an operator on the platform standing on his tiptoes reaching to put items in the boxes and our engineers were rushing over to show him LOOK YOU CAN FIX THIS! They couldn’t bear to see him straining unnecessarily.

      4. Sam*

        Thank you for the motorized wheelchair example. With that being feasible I’ll plan on keeping accommodations like that in the employee profile and we can adjust the automated pick paths accordingly.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, in the example of retail I would think if it was a big store with a lot of employees that is often just one piece of the job rather than like the core function so the accommodation may just be shifting who does what.

    7. Nanani*

      Well said.
      It’s important not to try to preemptively rules-lawyer straw applicants.

      A person who is visually impaired to the point that they can’t hold a driver’s license isn’t going to walk up and demand accommodation for a forklift driving job. There’s no point inventing strawpeople like that.

      Plus, remember that people with disabilities already deal with So. Much. Shit.

      The point of accomodations is to lessen the burden of some of that shit, exactly by doing away with the stuff that’s only there because it happens to be there instead of being an actual need, or because no one ever thought to do it differently.

      1. Velawciraptor*

        Not to mention, driving a forklift requires certification. If a person can’t be forklift certified, they can’t be hired for the job. I agree that this letter has the odor of strawman.

      2. MoreFriesPlz*

        Thank you.

        This question really rubbed me the wrong way. These are all real examples that you MAY see? If you haven’t seen them, they’re not real examples. People with disabilities know themselves well, and very few people are going to apply for jobs where the basic functions would be impossible or unsafe for them. What exactly is the point of inventing imaginary people with disabilities who don’t understand their own limitations/abilities and are demanding to be accommodated when no accommodations exist, and figuring out when you can reject them? I’m honestly confused as to why this was even published.

        1. Sam*

          I’m sorry it rubbed you the wrong way. I’m not in HR or hiring. I’m in software development and we do need to try to predict what we MAY see in the future so we can program for it now. If we wait until it’s actually needed, then it may not be able to change the software in the time needed.

          1. Retired Prof*

            This response is a little alarming because it sounds like you are designing AI that will rule people out for jobs based on the assumptions of the programmer. How about you don’t try to predict what disabled people can do before they apply for jobs? As many people here have said, disabled folks know their abilities and look for jobs that match them.

          2. Tali*

            Sounds like you should run this by your HR/hiring department to see what kinds of applicants you may get and a primer on how to accommodate disabilities!

        2. HoundMom*

          I actually had a manufacturing client where a 20 year employee who was a forklift driver lost his vision suddenly. He was young — only in his mid-40’s and wanted to work. They tried it for a week but there were too many near calls that made it dangerous for him to drive.

          This was 10+ years ago so maybe the outcome would be different now?

        3. Lucy Skywalker*

          Believe it or not, there are some disabled people who don’t understand their own limitations, until they actually have to do something that they are incapable of. For instance, people with nonverbal learning disability (NVLD) are notorious for not realizing how disabled they actually are. Think about it: if you are unable to understand nonverbal communication, you don’t know that you don’t understand nonverbal language!
          I myself have NVLD, and I have worked in many jobs that I thought I was capable of doing, only to be fired because I didn’t understand necessary information. Thankfully, I have learned enough about my disability that when I start a new job, I always say, “I have a learning disability that effects the way I communicate. I only understand the words that I hear or that I read. I don’t always understand the words that are implied. For instance, if someone said ‘you don’t need to be at the meeting today,’ it could either mean ‘you’re not required to be at the meeting, but we’d really appreciate it if you joined us anyway,” or it could mean “you’re not allowed at the meeting because we’re discussing confidential information. So you will need to be as direct as possible when speaking to me. I will not be offended as long as you say it in a calm and respectful manner.”
          Unfortunately, it took me 40 years to realize just how severe my disability really is. NVLD also causes problems with visual/spatial tasks, gross motor, fine motor, and organization. So, you can understand how I thought that I was qualified for jobs when it turned out that I wasn’t. In some of my jobs, the staff has provided me with adequate accommodations. In other jobs, however, it turned out that I was unable to complete the tasks required, even with accomodations.

          1. Despachito*

            “if someone said ‘you don’t need to be at the meeting today,’ it could either mean ‘you’re not required to be at the meeting, but we’d really appreciate it if you joined us anyway,” or it could mean “you’re not allowed at the meeting because we’re discussing confidential information. So you will need to be as direct as possible when speaking to me. I will not be offended as long as you say it in a calm and respectful manner.”

            But this can very well also be on the speaker and on their inability to convey the messages the way they are meant?

            I understand that you used it just as an example, and I assume NVLD is a deeper than usual level of inability to “read between-the-lines”, but I can easily see myself (and a lot of other people) failing to understand the “implied meaning” from a person who is in the habit to speak indirectly, and I do not think it would be always the fault of the listener.

            I have always hated indirect communication assuming that I, as the listener, will do a substantial amount of emotional labour to decipher what the speaker ACTUALLY means (instead of them telling that right away), and it is not something I am willing to expend too much From what you said I understand that NVLD is more complex and not just that, but, unless I am missing something important (which I may well be, and if so, I apologize) I can absolutely imagine a person without any learning disability to have the same problem of understanding what the boss actually meant.

    8. The Wandering Scout*

      It’s also important to remember that the vast majority of disabled people also won’t intentionally apply for a job where they know that they won’t be able to succeed – in my case and my comorbid collection of diagnoses I know I don’t apply for anything that requires early shifts, things where I need to stand the majority of the time and can’t have an accommodation to sit down, etc.
      I admittedly am coming from a working background where suing companies/taking them to court is an uncommon occurrence (public healthcare and employment wage coverage if injured in an accident) so it may be different in countries where it is more common, but reading the replies below it seems that most disabled people are aware of their limitations and their accommodation needs.

  9. CatCat*

    #2 is interesting to me because I have a retired relative who volunteered to drive shuttling VIPs for a fancy event this year. Apparently there’s like a regular pool of retirees who are enthusiasts of this particular event and VIPs associated with it. It’s in a warm climate and a lot of this pool of regulars were snowbirds who did not travel because of COVID so were not available. I told my relative that the private company operating the fancy event should be paying for drivers, but my relative didn’t give a hoot about that. My relative thought it would be a fun way to pass the time and meet interesting people.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Years ago a political party–the one with the elephant–held its national convention in the city I was living in. I personally ignored it, apart from noting how clean everything was after a frantic round of scrubbing, but my uncle volunteered to be a driver. I’m not sure who organized this. I am sure it was not the party itself. The drivers had to go through a training session. I suspect a lot of this was “Don’t tell your passengers what you think abut their appalling political views” and that is fair enough. The part that amused me was the coaching to avoid any local vocabulary, as it was assumed that the visitors were easily confused and uninterested in learning anything new, which also is fair enough.

      1. Roman Holiday*

        OP 2 here – No training offered, not that there would be time since they emailed Wednesday asking for drivers starting Thursday. I honestly considered signing up and then telling EVERY VIP I drove that I wasn’t getting paid, that I though their participation in this event was ethically suspect and then maybe ending on a rant about class warfare…

      2. Texan In Exile*

        Yeah, not sure I would keep quiet if a passenger volunteered his appalling political views. But then, I would not be offering my labor, unpaid or even paid, to drive Rs.

        1. Roman Holiday*

          OP 2 here – IF I had the time (which I don’t), I would have been tempted to volunteer and make it as awkward as possible for the VIPS. “Oh, they’re putting you up at this $500/night hotel? That’s so funny, they couldn’t even afford to pay me to drive you here!” …”Yeah, they’re letting me use this nice car to drive you around, I guess you are too important to be driven in a dusty old Toyota”.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      My uncle worked for the Post Office his entire life. Now that he’s retired, he took a job at a car dealership as a shuttle driver for people who are having their cars serviced – he loves driving and talking to people so it’s basically his dream job as far as retirement projects go. Key point, though, is he’s being paid for that time (in addition to his pension, of course, which means this job is basically pocket money, which increases his enjoyment even more).

    3. Artemesia*

      And if there is an accident and the relatives loses their house due to the million dollar judgment — fun times.

  10. New Mom*

    #1 really reminded me of an awkward situation I had years ago. There was a woman who had been with the company about six or so years and I had been there about one and was early in my career whereas she was further along. We were in different departments but had overlapping work and she was really struggling to make deadlines and then would fib about how behind she was. She was really, really kind but I think just could not keep up with the work.

    It was then causing me a lot of stress as her delays were impacting my own projects and then I had to answer to my own boss. I asked if we could meet in a conference room since we were in an open seating plan and I had to lay out for her that it was a big problem and suggested that we both go to her boss about it to ask for more support for her. Well, she started crying and begged me not to speak to her boss. It was awful. Literally looking me in the eye with tears pouring down her face and begging. I think I was so caught off guard that I kind of don’t even remember how we ended that conversation.

    She was ultimately let go and I found out that her boss had also been on her about her delays. I think she knew that if I had said anything to the boss it would have been the final nail. I wonder if OP#1’s coworker had already had tough conversations with their own boss, and worries that if the OP mentions that the coworker asked for help it might be that same final nail.

    1. L. Ron Jeremy*

      Some people are just not met for some jobs and sometimes that weakest link needs to be cut and replaced with the stronger one.

    2. anonymous73*

      Your example was actually my first thought about what’s going on. If this happens frequently, it’s an issue for a person who’s been with the company for a decade asking the new person for help all the time. The confidentiality angle tells me there have been issues with her productivity in the past.

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I thought the same thing, I’ve also seen this behavior in the workplace. When someone needs a hand I’m always happy to help, or coach on software or a process. We all get overwhelmed sometimes, right?

        When the person repeatedly asks for help because they don’t plan well, or manage their workloads well, or they still don’t know how to use a tool or software package that’s required for their job, or they don’t know the process after years of doing the job, that’s a different matter. It sounds like OP is dealing with this kind of situation.

  11. Steinau*

    As a person with a disability myself who needs some workplace adjustments to do my job, I feel like #4 is a bit disingenuous. I would think it would be unlikely for a person with a disability to apply for a job that would present the some of the barriers described. If they did, you would probably find them to be an incredibly resourceful and resilient worker who would offer their own solutions to address any barriers.

    Approaching it this way also is also potentially pre-judging someone’s capacity to do a job which I’m guessing in both your country and mine would put you in danger of breaching disability discrimination laws. Each applicant (disabled or not) deserves to be considered as a whole person first (skills, experience, qualifications) before any specific needs they have are weighed up, whether that’s each Tuesday afternoon off to play squash or a customised ergonomic set up to accommodate a disability.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, that’s naturally true, and I assume the LW was considering all of this before they wrote in. But when the disability directly impacts the core requirements of the work, then it’s no longer reasonable. This isn’t a matter of a customized ergonomic setup, but something like a voice-to-text app for a phone dispatcher. In many office jobs it’s possible to work around the need for voice communications (often easier and clearer than text, but not essential), but a dispatcher needs to be able to react quickly in emergency situations, and to hear what’s being said over the phone, in often less than ideal conditions. IMO it’s no longer a reasonable accommodation.

      1. Normally a lurker*

        There are however different levels and types of deafness. Someone who wears hearing aids *may be just fine if they can use the right connectors to stream the call directly to their aids. Someone else may still not be able to meet the requirements of the job even with reasonable accommodations. The point is that you can’t know until you have had the discussion about what accommodations might be possible. Excluding people with a disability automatically is unjustified discrimination. Some people may not be able to do the job regardless, but that discussion needs to be had.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, that’s true. I guess when I said deaf, I meant profoundly deaf, a person who can’t hear other people’s speech at all and who uses lip reading, sign language, and writing to communicate with others.

          That said, I do think that we as a society could do a lot better at employing disabled people. One of my cousins has an intellectual disability, which means that her intellectual capacity is about that of an average 8 year old. She’ll never be able to live completely independently and she’ll always be subject to some sort of guardianship. She’s currently in subsidized housing with 24/7 staffing and gets help when she needs it. She’s an industrial cook, and very proud of the fact that she’s employed and gets to do what she’s really good at. When she got the job, she told me that for the first time she felt like a person rather than just a burden on society, so getting that job was very empowering for her.

          1. Littorally*

            I guess when I said deaf, I meant profoundly deaf, a person who can’t hear other people’s speech at all and who uses lip reading, sign language, and writing to communicate with others.

            You’ve touched on a bigger issue in disability discrimination here! People tend to assume absolutism where it doesn’t exist — ie, a person who is blind sees absolutely nothing, a person who is deaf has 0% hearing, a person in a wheelchair has completely nonfunctional legs, etc. Those conditions are relatively rare, and when abled people see someone in a wheelchair briefly stand, or a blind person react to a bright flash of light, they assume fakery instead of a non-absolute condition.

            1. Daffy Duck*

              Yes! There is a huge difference between not being able to drive a car because of your vision and the ability to read a computer screen or the label on a file.

              1. Sunny*

                My dad works with a computer programmer who’s legally blind and can’t drive. His accommodations at work: he needs a large monitor (unusually large when he started, standard size now) and some sort of text-to-speech app. Also, if he’s given anything written on paper, it has to be at font size 72 or something, but that basically never happens because email is so much easier.

              2. NerdyLibraryClerk*

                Or many other things. My mom was in graduate school at a university where one of the paleontologists was legally blind. I tried to find out if he was still working and discovered that there have been multiple legally blind people involved in paleontology, including one rather famous paleoartist.

                What sounds possible in the abstract and what’s actually possible aren’t even in the same ballpark.

            2. Kaittydid*

              Yes! It’s irritating as hell! I’ve had people test to see if I was lying about my deaf ear. I don’t know why I would, or what benefit I’d get from that kind of a lie. It’s confusing and insulting when it happens.

            3. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

              YUP. As a blind person who can also see, you’d be amazed at the amount of people who ask if I’m truly blind. Depending on how I’m feeling that day, my response can be anywhere from calling them an a-hole to explaining there’s such a thing as legally blind. Just…. think before you act people. Please.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!*

          Yes. When i worked at a call center there was one person who was partially deaf. He could work just fine but he had to have a specific type of headset. I think his computer also had some type of software because his desk was assigned to him (When we were still hot desking) so no one was able to use his computer but him.

    2. GelieFish*

      I took it more of analyzing the law since there are so many laws that we hear about, but aren’t actually trained in. In this case, someone hears accommodate, but then runs through scenarios. I agree there are lots of ways companies can accommodate that sometimes hesitate or don’t think about. Alternatively, my husband’s in transit and they do have specific physical tests they applicants have to go through that related directly to driving, getting on the ground to inspect the bus, loading and securing wheel chairs, etc.

    3. Tau*

      Yeah, what concerns me about #4 is the pre-judging part, especially because nondisabled people often aren’t the best judges of what a possible accommodation might look like or how a disability could impact the job. Ex: I stutter. I will agree that I shouldn’t work as, say, an emergency call phone operator. But I’ve spoken to a surprising amount of people who think it’s impossible for a person who stutters to do *any* job that involves speaking with customers/external clients.

      Obviously there are some disability/job combos that just aren’t going to work – one example I heard about from my disability org at uni was inspecting historic flats for a wheelchair user – but in general I’d want to speak with the person before dismissing them on grounds of their disability to see if they’re aware of the barrier and, if so, if they have a solution in mind.

      1. darcy*

        Yeah, there’s some really disablist assumptions about how certain disabilities work going on in the comments here

        1. Tau*

          Agreed. Hell, even my example of inspecting historic flats for a wheelchair user – this was a particular example given during a session run by a guy talking to soon-to-be grads about how to navigate disability in the employment world. I.e., true for that particular wheelchair user. But someone else might be able to make it work.

          Conclusion: you really need to talk with the person in question. Maybe the first assumption is right and they can’t do fundamental parts of the job, but maybe their disability doesn’t work the way you think or they have tools available you don’t know about or there’s more flexibility in how to perform that particular duty than you’ve considered.

      2. Cranky lady*

        You are exactly on point. The person who has been living with their disability is the best person to know what accommodations are possible and work for them. This is why accommodation planning is supposed to be an interactive process with the employee. The answer the original question, there are probably a million reasonable accommodations you are thinking of and JAN is a great start but talk to the person affected.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I have heard the example given by a disability rights group of search and rescue after a building collapse being something that might not work for a wheelchair user but could work with accommodation for someone with a hearing impairment, visual impairment, etc.. And, in this specific instance, the wheelchair user could be assigned to a different duty such as drone operation and scene management (i.e. tracking what is done, what should be done next, conveying information to the search teams)

    4. WS*

      Yes, I get the feeling that #4 wants yes/no answers and honestly that’s rarely the case with disability. I once worked with a pharmacist with dwarfism (the term she preferred) and she just carried a grabbing stick to get things off higher shelves and had a step to reach the dispensing computer. But if the requirement had been “must be able to reach small packages on shelves above 2 metres” and “must be able to work at standing desk” that would have ruled her out.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        That wasn’t my read on it. I took it more as #4 was asking “is the answer ever ‘no’ and if so, how do you know when you’re there?” Which doesn’t make it any less complicated, but they got the answer they’re looking for, which is, sure the answer could sometimes be “there is no reasonable accommodation for that with this particular job” but you won’t know you’re in a situation where that’s the case until after you’ve gone through the iterative process – which is why said process is required.

    5. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes. This question feels too broad to be really useful, IMO.

      Most people (regardless of ability) want to do work that they can engage and thrive with. People with disabilities have almost certainly thought about what they feel they are good at and are are unlikely to apply for jobs where primary functions aren’t doable for them…..just like people without disablities. (And keep in mind, people without disabilites are let go from jobs all the time because they can’t perform the primary functions….we just see that as an aspect of them as an individual rather than ascribing it to a ‘category’ we’ve put them in.)

    6. Kate, short for Bob*

      The top of the leader board in Strictly Come Dancing right now (Dancing with the Stars?) is a deaf actor and she is SUBLIME. YouTube her, you won’t regret it. A lot of people wouldn’t have expected it though.

      1. Caitlin*

        A few years back, a Deaf actor/model won Dancing with the Stars in the U.S. – his name is Nyle DiMarco, he also won America’s Next Top Model! (Oddly enough, it was Season 22 of both shows) He comes from a Deaf family, and his twin brother (also Deaf) is a D.J.

    7. Jacob*

      Oh, it’s absolutely disingenuous. The entire letter stinks of “But haven’t the PC police GONE TOO FAR???”

      1. Sam*


        Not at all disingenuous. I’m asking for situations I haven’t thought of so I can be accommodating in the internal software I write. It’s not at all about excluding anyone but being proactive about what we can do on our side. Since software takes time to develop we can’t wait until there is an actual situation; then it’s too late.

        This question seems to have rubbed a lot of people the wrong way and I apologize I didn’t word it better to avoid that. The question was real and asking for real examples. In fact I received several useful responses that has led to changes I can now include in our plans that may be beneficial in the future.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          This sounds like an area where a consultant who specializes in this would be useful.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          I suspect the question is rubbing people the wrong way, because the actual question in the letter was “When can I say no?”

          Your comment here suggests that what you’re actually asking is “Are there accommodations that I don’t know about”

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, I went back and reread the question and it was… really unfortunately worded if that was the info you were after, OP.

            I also frankly doubt that this is the right forum to get that information, since Alison’s answers are generally pretty short, the comments are just going to have anecdotes at best, and “what are the sort of accommodations disabled people need” (any disability? any job?) is an incredibly broad question. A consultant sounds like a great idea, but even reading through JAN would probably get you more coherent info than this.

            1. Sam*

              I’ve actually received several specific and on-point examples that have led to ways to adjust development plans to be more inclusive. So while there was a ton of negativity due to my poor wording, I did also get exactly the result I was looking for.

              1. bowl of petunias*

                That’s great but the comments here aren’t going to be comprehensive. You might get some good ideas but this website isn’t going to help you think of everything, only of things that commenters here happen to be familiar with. If you seriously need to address this in your work then I think you need a consultant.

          2. Sam*

            I see I did word the first paragraph very wrong for my intent. The very last sentence though is clearly asking for accommodations I didn’t think of.

    8. Gig Prof*

      #4 looks like a Business Ethics student who’s recently learned of accommodations and is maybe hoping Alison will give them a quote for a paper.

      Key phrase to look up: bona fide occupational qualifications. These apply to protected classes, but you can also extrapolate the reasoning to apply to disability, which is how a lot of the reasoning for that works.

      There is no accommodation that would make it safe for a person who cannot see at all to drive in traffic. So a completely blind person can be legally and ethically turned down for a truck driving job.

      There are lots of accommodations that would make it completely reasonable for a person who cannot see at all to be a massage therapist. (A friend of mine does just that.)

      And yes, as has been mentioned already, the person themselves should be asked about accommodations because technology is expanding available options all the time.

      1. Sam*

        Not a business ethics student. Software engineer looking for unexpected examples the company can accommodate so we can ensure the software they use is equally accommodating.

        I’m particularly thinking about things like the custom home design center, pick paths in a warehouse, maybe extra info we wouldn’t have thought to include in replenishment tasks but can be helpful.

        1. Gig Prof*

          Oh, that is actually a very interesting business problem! You would probably do well to see if you can find SMEs at companies that work with disabled communities to develop accessibility software and equipment. You might have to pay a bit for their time, but the money and effort will be well-spent.

    9. Nanani*

      I got the same vibe to be honest.
      Inventing straw applicants so they can pre-emptively dodge any imagined inconvenience in hiring?
      That may not be what they meant but that’s how it reads.

      1. Sam*

        Exactly the opposite. I’m trying to think of situations where my company might be able to hire and accommodate someone and what we can do in the software to help. I don’t want our internal software to end up being an impediment.

        So my only option is to do the best I can with future hypotheticals. If we wait until it’s actually needed and it takes two months to make a change, we’re making the situation worse and not better.

        I’m not talking about the standard accessability stuff we do in all software we write, that’s very well established and testable.

          1. Happy*

            Yes! I think this would have made a great Thursday ask-the-readers question if it had included the basis for the request.

    10. Random Internet Stranger*

      I completely agree and generally am not a fan of hypothetical questions like this one. OP didn’t write in about a specific candidate or employee that needs an accommodation that OP wants to hire, but rather threw a bunch of (unlikely?) hypotheticals at the wall. My advice to OP is to not stress about something that hasn’t happened and may never happen.

      1. Sam*

        (OP) Unfortunately, as a software engineer, my job is entirely to think about future hypotheticals and come up with solutions for them today. Stress is almost a requirement of the job too. ;)

  12. autumnal*

    Allison, thank you so much for recommending the Job Accommodation Network. It’s such a valuable resource and I don’t think enough people know about it! Most of my professional career was spent in the disability inclusion field and I did a lot of training on how to investigate and implement reasonable accomodations.

    One of the most important parts of any accommodation is working with the person who needs it. Not making them responsible for the entire process but involving them so that the options you come up with have the best chance of success. People without a disability often look through the lens of fear. We cannot imagine how we would function if we, for example, lost our sight or hearing.

    But individuals who have lived with this sort of difference for years or even their entire lives, have a very different lived experience. I remember working with a man who had lost his vision in his 30s. He retrained and as part of his new job, wanted to be able to put together informational brochures. So we worked together (in Word Perfect for DOS – yes, it was a few years ago) and created a template he could use. We were both pretty proud of ourselves!

    And lw, thank you for your thoughtful letter. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to make your workplace welcoming to all.

    1. Scott*

      I came to the comments to thank Alison for that link as well. As a collateral duty EEO counselor (Fed) I am always looking for additional training opportunities for other counselors and managers.

    2. Purple Cat*

      I would love to hear more about your work if you (and Alison) are open to a deeper conversation about it!

  13. Starling*

    I am tired, and kept reading #2’s Fancy *Event* as Fancy *Feast*. Like the cat food!
    And was delighted with the idea of posh VIPs getting little tins of tuna :D

    1. MissDisplaced*

      HaHa! Good luck finding any Fancy Feast lately though!
      Shelves bare. Have yet to receive my Amazon order after a month.

      1. Hosta*

        I keep finding Fancy Feast in my area! Except what I need is Friskies pate. One cat will only eat Friskies, the other cat will throw up for several hours if he eats something that’s not pate, oh, and the first cat will throw up if she eats dry food.

        I forsee a future where one cat is fed shreds in the bathroom and the other cat gets dry food in the living room, and I’m forced to get up a half hour early to enable this.

        1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          I know your pain. One of my guys is sensitive to *chicken*. SO MANY cat foods use chicken! Another one is sensitive to almost every thickener used. Between those two, we are pretty limited in what we can buy. I’m so glad the third one has no restrictions.

  14. Rosie*

    Regarding accommodations, it’s so important to approach that process with an open mind because so many of the barriers people with disabilities face are due to lack of equality in our society – for example, new buildings still being built without wheelchair access. Although there are some job duties and disabilities that are incompatible, often the way things are done can and should be changed.

    1. Texan In Exile*

      I was furious to discover that a new building on my college campus (we went to homecoming last weekend) had the exact same number of toilets for men as it does for women.

      My husband, who went into the men’s at the same time I went in the ladies’, was waiting for me in the auditorium, texting, “WHERE ARE YOU?”

      Yeah, college president, it’s fabulous that the school is doing cutting-edge research, but do you think we could have potty parity?

      1. Sam*

        So men and women are getting equal toilets and that’s a problem? If it was optimized for certain traffic, then you could easily run into the opposite situation where the ones with less end up waiting. What if they decide to take a building with women’s studies classes and swap it out for a metalworking shop (sorry, this example requires a bit stereotyping). After that change, it would be reasonable to expect the pattern to change again. Sometimes a business can never accommodate everybody.

        There is a simple solution that should fix the issue, but doesn’t. One of my previous employers put in all individual gender neutral bathrooms during a remodel. Anyone could use any room so no more waiting by one gender vs any other gender.

        Everybody accommodated and all good now, right? Nope, still had complaints. Now it was people not wanting to share restrooms with the opposite gender (not at the same time, but if the other gender ever used the same restroom ever).

        So now they designated one of the individual bathrooms as women only and another as male only.

        After that, we had complaints that the individual bathrooms were added to accommodate bigots that didn’t want to share with a trans person. The company felt the stated reason was legit, but who knows the original complainer’s true motives.

        Sometimes a business really can never do things right no matter what they do.

        1. Jacob*

          You said your letter wasn’t meant to be a “But haven’t the PC Police gone too far?” commentary, but this comment is just more “But haven’t the PC Police GONE TOO FAR?” griping.

          1. Sam*

            Not at all about PC police, but how sometimes accommodating one request creates problems (perceived or real) for others.

            1. Observer*

              Except that it’s not reasonable to lump “perceived” and “real” problems in the same bucket.

              You deal with the real problems by fixing the underlying issue if you can. You deal with the perceived problem either by education or telling people to grow up (depending on the particular situation).

        2. i will do it anon*

          I mean, if the men also have urinals, then in practice the accommodations are not in fact equal.

        3. Texan In Exile*

          “So men and women are getting equal toilets and that’s a problem?”

          Yes, because women still wait longer. Potty parity does not mean an equal number of toilets or equal floor space, it means everyone waits the same amount of time to pee.

          1. Sam*

            Obviously you have never been in a software development office. While we should have far more equal numbers of staff, the reality is we don’t and most offices of this type have at least 10 times as many men than women.

            Hopefully this will change; in the beginning the field was dominated by women. It has to be addressed at every level though; especially early on in elementary school. By the time we’re reviewing resumes there are usually 20-50 resumes from men for every one from women, it’s impossible to get equality out of that applicant pool. That does mean though that the percentage of male resumes that end up in offers is far lower than the percentage of female resumes that get offers. Every company is trying to bring their workforce in balance but the applicant pool is not.

            Incidentally, do you know why the field shifted from predominantly woman to predominantly men? It’s all Radio Shack’s fault. Crazy story.

            1. Observer*

              It has to be addressed at every level though; especially early on in elementary school

              That’s the usual story, but that’s actually the least of the problems. Where it actually has to be dealt with is within the workplace, including workplaces that get such lopsided resume ratios. Because in most cases the reason for those ratios is due to the sexism in the workplace. In some cases it’s an industry wide problem to the point that women either drop out of that field or they are more or less warned off from even trying to enter it. IT suffers from both of those problems. In other cases, it’s a company specific thing – word spreads and smart women just won’t apply.

              For an example, give a look at the “good news” letter from the women who had an interview where the boss told her that she’s going to be “the only girl” in the place and that she needs to understand that because “boys will be boys”. You think that word doesn’t spread? Most women are NOT going to apply there, no matter how qualified they are!

            2. Texan In Exile*

              Then I am guessing that the men and the women pee in the same amount of time. Which is the goal for potty parity.

              I have worked in manufacturing. Those trade shows are the only time in my life I have known what it’s like to be a man – that is, I didn’t have to wait in a line for the bathroom at the convention center.

        4. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          Count the urinals as a type of toilet. *Now* give both types of bathroom the same number of toilets.

        5. Nerdling*

          I highly recommended men’s the book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, as it directly addresses this issue. Parity in bathroom wait times isn’t achieved by equal numbers/sizes of toilet facilities, because people with penises have very different bathroom habits than people with vaginas. People with vaginas take considerably longer to use the bathroom for a variety of reasons, essentially requiring almost double the number of stalls to achieve actual parity.

          If your job involves making software that can help accommodate folks with disabilities, assuming you’re in the US, I’m surprised you’re not already looking into 508 compliance, as that’s pretty much bare minimum and industry standard here. It won’t work for everyone who needs accommodations, but it’s a good place to start both in terms of hitting bare minimums and in changing how you think about disabilities.

    2. Kaittydid*

      People get worked up about ramps and handrails and other ADA compliance issues where I work, but making places accessible is just the right thing to do. It’s dumb to exclude people when we don’t have to. Sure, a new concrete curb ramp might cost $5k, but that’s a tiny sum compared to the impact on people’s lives accessibility makes.

  15. Annie J*

    When it comes to accommodations, it’s really important that you asked the person with a disability how they will overcome the challenges in the new job, as they may have thought of Solutions themselves already.
    for example I’m completely blind, and the amount of people who assume I can’t use a computer is staggering, They don’t know about software that reads the contents of screens.
    Because of this, many recruiters have decided I can’t do certain jobs.

    1. Leg MIA*

      People look at me like I’m Jesus when I stand up from my wheelchair, often to reach something on the higher shelves of the supermarket. Can stand, can’t walk. (Can hop on one leg better than any two-legged person I’ve met.)

      1. John Smith*

        In my student nurse days, we had to spend a day acting as a though we had a disability. I was put into a wheelchair and not allowed to get out of it for the day, and by god it was a sobering eye opener. Of all the obstacles and difficulties I encountered, the patronising and extremely judgemental comments from someone in a busy canteen was the last straw for me (“it’s a shame for cripples isn’t it?” and “oh aren’t you lucky to have such a pretty lady pushing you around all day!” like I was some five year old sexual pervert).

        I shouldn’t have done, but I just stood up, walked over to her, flung my arms in the air and shouted “It’s a miracle!!” before giving her a piece of my mind.

        At the same time, a psychiatric nurse was acting as someone with behavioural difficulties and was flinging food across the canteen, swearing at passers by and what not. But the test in this case wasn’t for him, it was for his student acting carer and the prejudice he met.

        It was quite a day and taught me more about humanity than any other lessons could have done.

        1. Leg MIA*

          I used to feel insulted when someone talked to me in a sing-song voice, or asked whoever I was with “what she wants to drink”, until the writings of a disability rights activist (the late Dave Hingsburger, his awesome blog is still online) reminded me that no one over two should be ignored or addressed in a sing-song voice, intellectual disability or no. (As well that being insulted when someone mistakes you for being intellectually disabled is pretty darn ableist.)

          It’s still awful, but now more in a “What are you an awful human being” and not in a “I’m insulted” kind of way.

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            YES! My aunt is disabled, severe mental retardation. She is non verbal and does not use any means of communication such as sign language. However her staff always speaks to her in a tone you would speak to any other 55 year old woman. She does have her own way of communicating via body language and such so she does get her point across. For example if she is thirsty she goes into the kitchen and stands by the sink. Her caregiver will know to ask if she wants something to drink.

              1. I'm just here for the cats*

                I am her legal guardian and on her medical documents it says retardation.. I know thats not PC because people had to go and make it a ‘bad’ word but in my experience its still medically the correct term.

                1. lazuli*

                  It’s actually fading out in medical terminology. The DSM-5 uses “intellectual disability.” The ICD-10 uses “mental retardation” but has a note saying they’re considering changing it to “intellectual disability” for the ICD-11.

        2. Anononon*

          These kinda “lessons” make me feel really uncomfortable. First, I bet there’s a huge difference between pretending to have a disability for a day versus actually having one. Just pretending to have one, all you’ll get is “wow, this is just terrible. I feel so bad that anyone has to live like this.” (And, in the back of your head, you also fully know that this is merely temporary.). Second, why not just talk with and read from people who actually have disabilities? It’s their experience that actually matters. (And by talk with, I mean speakers out there who specifically do this. Don’t just ask a random Joe Schmo about what using a wheelchair is like.)

          1. Leg MIA*

            I think, when handled well, it can be a very small part of a broad program that studies ableism.

            I also think it’s never handled well and it’s never a broad program.

          2. pancakes*

            Yeah. The idea that people can only learn about this—or learn better—by going through the motions of experiencing ersatz disability themselves rather than doing the work of seeking out and listening to / reading what actually disabled people have to say is not a good idea. I think it’s quite common for people to think the only way they’re capable of learning is direct experience, but I don’t know why that is or where that comes from. It often seems like intellectual laziness.

          3. Generic Name*

            Yeah. One of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had was as a volunteer for a day camp for kids with various disabilities. Each volunteer was paired with a single camper for the duration of the camp. One year I was paired with a nonverbal girl who used a wheelchair. She was 15. I think I was 14. Changing a diaper on one of your peers was life changing. I hope she’s doing well.

          4. Jackalope*

            My experience was that we had a day like that sponsored by the local Employees With Disabilities group and a lot of people found it helpful to get an idea of some of the obstacles that could be involved that had previously been invisible. I remember for example that one of the challenges was trying to open the heavy cafeteria doors which swung out while in a wheelchair. I noticed that about 3-4 weeks later, all of the cafeteria doors had the wheelchair access open buttons installed. So it seems like it helped. I also found it helpful in having a better idea of things to look for. Obviously that’s not going to be better than talking to individual employees with disabilities to get their perspectives, but as far as trying to preemptively make an office more accessible it helped.

            1. Anononon*

              I think getting actual input from people with disabilities would be just as useful, if not more, though. Like, why try to be preemptive and guess when you can just involve the effected people in the original planning process/in updating existing spaces? (This is my ignorance showing, but I’m also guessing that there are legitimate services/companies that businesses can employ to help improve accessibility as well, so it’s not just polling and tokening random people.)

              Even stuff like buttons for opening doors – that’s not a universal solution. (I’ve touted this youtube channel on here before as well, but) there’s a youtube channel I watch, Squirmy and Grubs, and the husband uses a wheelchair. He had a video where he was fitted with a robotic arm for his chair, and that was the first time (at least at his current mobility) that he could actually use a door open button (at least the flat type against the wall in that video).

              1. Jackalope*

                In my case it was because I moved to another location that didn’t have any employees who were in a wheelchair or scooter, so it was to have the building ready in case someone new came on staff that needed the accommodation. If we had specific employees that needed a specific accommodation then of course they would be the best people to ask but without specific people to talk to we wanted to at least cover some of the major bases.

              2. Observer*

                I think getting actual input from people with disabilities would be just as useful, if not more, though.

                The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The experiential learning can be extremely useful – and there are a lot of people who are going to be a LOT more receptive to what the disabled person is saying once they have experienced something in the same realm.

          5. lazuli*

            Yeah, these “lessons” are entirely based on the assumption that disabled people can’t speak for themselves and that non-disabled people have nothing to learn from them — that we can “figure it out” with just a short experience that only superficially resembles their lived experiences. I realize the people running them are trying to build empathy, but it rests on such ableist assumptions that I think it’s more harmful than useful.

            1. Jackalope*

              That can certainly be the case and is something to be aware of. On the other hand, given that the one time I participated in a similar activity it was sponsored and run by the disabled employees activist group, that’s an over generalization to say that it’s always ableist. As Observer said above, practical experience makes it easier to hear what a disabled person is saying. I would never imagine that my 10 minutes in a wheelchair is comparable to the daily lived experience of someone who sometimes or always uses a wheelchair to get around. At the same time, having had that short time going through some of the common hurdles (which the disabled employees had helpfully pointed out so we could experience them) made it a thousand times easier to understand when someone talked about their experiences. So I found it helpful in even getting a basic understanding, which I didn’t know beforehand that I didn’t have.

            2. Observer*

              Yeah, these “lessons” are entirely based on the assumption that disabled people can’t speak for themselves and that non-disabled people have nothing to learn from them

              No, that’s not the assumption (at least in most cases). The reality is that people often have a hard time understanding things that they have never experienced. Once they get a taste – and of course it IS only a taste – they are far more able to hear and understand what disabled people are telling them.

              This is an issue not just for disabled people. It’s true for just about every marginalized group. Google “Martin R. Schneider” for the tale of the shock one guy experienced when he lived his work life as woman for a week. The guy wasn’t sexist but till he actually lived with the experience his female coworker lived with all the time, he just didn’t get it. Is he now the expert on sexism? Of course not! But you can bet that he’s more open to hearing about things like micro-aggressions and subtle double standards.

              And it shows up in other contexts as well. A few years ago a group developed the “empathy belly”. It simulates a pregnant belly. One of the most interesting uses I saw was for teens – the idea was that if they spent a few days walking around with one of these things they would be more open to hearing about why it’s not smart to get pregnant without having your ducks in a row. Supposedly it worked to some extent.

              “Freaky Friday” Is largely based on that idea also (it shows up in a lot of literature, this just happens to be one that is well known).

              1. lazuli*

                And it’d be great if we could think about who we simply believe when they tell us what their own experiences are, and who we don’t.

                I have nothing bad to say about marginalized folks who do whatever they have to do to get non-marginalized folks to listen to them. But the underlying problem is the not-listening.

          6. Annie j*

            It can also be quite dangerous for people with that particular disability, I’m thinking about my own experience here but I do know that there have been people who have worn blindfolds for a Day, and found it very difficult as you might expect because they don’t have the understanding of the way that blind and visually impaired people navigate the world and haven’t Learned to pick up on the various non-visual clues that exist all around, and then decided that people who are blind can’t be good parents for example or can’t walk up the stairs because they couldn’t do it when they had a blindfold on.

        3. the cat's ass*

          I think I went to the same school, back in the 70’s and run by nuns. It was attached to a large acute/chronic rehab hospital and students spent a week with a diagnosis. I found it very educational and getting lined up in the hall in a wheelchair like my patients was humbling. Especially when they pointed out that I would ultimately walk away but in the meantime, here’s a tip for getting into the bathroom/the elevator/up to the table, etc. THAT was the most important part, getting instructed about how i could be helpful, and it’s informed my practice ever since.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh the fun of the office busybody ‘but I saw you walk from your car, why do you have a disabled permit?’

        Look, my spine is effed up. Mostly I need aids to walk but occasionally I can stand up and look perfectly ‘normal’ for a bit. Always amuses me when people look at you like you’ve just telekineticaly levitated yourself :)

  16. LilyP*

    Silly question but what is a “beater” in letter #2? Is that slang for a hired driver or something? Why would that be offensive to people?

    “The cars will be provided, which tells me that 1) they have a budget for cars but not labor and/or 2) they don’t want to offend their VIPs with the presence of a beater”

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It’s an older, cheaper car that still works but doesn’t really look very nice, so it isn’t the “luxury” type of car you’d typically expect a VIP to use.

  17. EchoGirl*

    re:OP2, when you say “a charity of their choosing”, is that a charity of the company’s choosing, or of the “volunteer”‘s choosing? Because if it’s the latter, it may be that what the charity has in mind is that the “volunteers” would choose them as the beneficiary, but they forgot/neglected to spell that part out. (I’m not saying that would make it okay, I’m just saying that would make it make sense why the charity is recruiting on behalf of the company.)

    1. Roman Holiday*

      Op 2 here – Charity of the organization’s NOT the volunteer’s choosing. They specified which one it was in the email – as far as I could tell with a quick google, it’s legit, but I don’t love that they didn’t specify how much it would be. Also, this final charity has no obvious connection to the for-profit organization or the non-profit I normally volunteer with. I have to imagine there is some mutual back-scratching going on among board members.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        So this is like, you’re a Humane Society volunteer and you get an email from the Humane Society saying if you drive people for Google, Google will donate to the Red Cross?

        1. Old-Lady*

          I’ve seen this before.
          There are people who volunteer to do things to help raise money for different things.
          A lot.
          If you can get a list of people who are like that, you keep hitting that list.
          So the for profit hit up the non-for profit for a list of volunteers with the carrot being that a donation would be made somewhere.
          Most people would assume that the donation would be made to their org by default.
          What bothers me is that this isn’t spelled out or is the amount per driver given.
          If they had said, “Hey guys, if we provide 20 drivers for this company’s event over the course of a week, for 5 hours a day, they have agreed to donate 10K to our org plus, give each volunteer a ticket to an event in the future.”
          A lot of serial volunteers would be all over that.
          It’s that part about how much the donation is that is missing, is what bothers me.

  18. Rez123*

    #1 My initial thought was that she has an experience where asking for help was used against her. We have a situation like this at work at the moment.

    1. Bop*

      That was my take on it as well.

      I’d put money on this stemming from past horrible workplace experiences, probably with a horrible boss.

      If it’s not impacting you negatively, OP1, just accept it as a quirk and leave it alone.

  19. rudster*

    LW2’s organization’s plan sounds highly problematic. When you come down to it, driving people or goods in return for compensation is a professional skill, and requires a commercial driving licence for good reason. Having a bunch of amateurs of unproven skill and experience driving people around all day is a massive legal and liability issue waiting to happen.

    1. John Smith*

      That’s a really good point. In the UK, you cannot drive for hire or reward without being licenced and insured for doing so, skilled or not. That it’s charitable doesn’t matter. I hope they don’t all crash into each other, though it would make a good question for law students in future!

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, same thing applies here in Finland. This is why Uber never caught on and they actually pulled out of the country, drivers need a commercial license to drive others for payment.

        1. ed123*

          I know this is off topic, but there is Uber in Helsinki. The drivers just need a taxi dricing licence. So essentially it is a similar to any other taxi service.

          1. londonedit*

            Same in London, but Transport for London are still arguing with Uber about it (they suspended Uber’s licence a while back but it was reinstated). Traditional black cab drivers obviously absolutely loathe Uber and all it stands for.

            1. ed123*

              I lived in Hertforshire for a while and I was in a taxi queue once and asked a friend if there was an Uber near by . A Cabbie overheared and came over immediately offerring a very decently priced ride while complaining about Uber. Good times :D

            2. Texan In Exile*

              You mean, they loathe that Uber exploits people who are not good at math and haven’t figured out that after they account for wear and tear on their car and self-employment taxes, they might be paying to drive others.

            3. SoloKid*

              I’d never use a rideshare if the cabs here had the same Knowledge training black cabs were required to have.

          2. Sunny*

            Man, I wish we had that where I lived. “A taxi service, but you can order it from your phone and they actually show up on time” is basically my dream. I know it’s different in New York City, but the taxi services here only take phone calls, only during normal business hours, and it’s anyone’s guess when or whether they’ll be there.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yup. Dad drives for a charity providing transport for the disabled and has to be properly licensed to drive the minibus. He doesn’t get paid for this, it’s voluntary work, but the insurance still has to be there.

    2. Roman Holiday*

      Op 2 here – totally agree! I’ve been volunteering with the non-profit for 5 years and although in the course of that I do drive my personal vehicle, I don’t have a commercial licence or any supplementary insurance or anything like that and I know it’s not something any volunteers would be required to have.

  20. Daisy*

    We also don’t know if it’s “the organisation” in general that’s pushing this – it might just be one rogue employee of the charity with access to the email lists whose spouse works for the private company trying to drum up recruits.

  21. Green great dragon*

    LW4 – ‘blind’ and ‘wheelchair user’ are not binary states. Someone may be registered blind, but able to drive a fork lift at slow speeds in a managed environment. Someone may use a wheelchair but be able to walk long distances, and be perfectly capable of picking up heavy objects. (My mother is registered deaf, but given the right equipment can speak on the phone no problem.)

    It seems unlikely anyone will apply for a job that’s completely outside their capabilities. So if they’re qualified in other ways, ask.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Thank you. It’s still surprisingly common for people to think wheelchair users must all be fully paralyzed from the waist down, and if they can stand up at all they’re faking.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        I’ve known a couple of wheelchair users who could walk short distances. One worked in the computer lab at my college – if he needed to do something in the server room, it was faster for him to walk there than to navigate his wheelchair from behind the desk, around the workstations, and into the server room. Another was a coworker who was able to stand and put his wheelchair directly behind the front seat of his van when he drove, but wasn’t able to manage putting it in the far back when he had passengers. Having seen both of them walk, I fully understand why they used their wheelchairs most of the time. Being able to stand or walk doesn’t mean it’s easy, or painless.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Yup. My godmother can walk for short distances, but is not able to say, stand in line at the grocery store without her wheelchair.

        2. not a doctor*

          And sometimes it’s inconsistent! I have a friend who sometimes uses a wheelchair and sometimes doesn’t, depending on how she’s feeling that day. She was using the chair when we first met, so I’ll admit I was startled to see her walking around the next time I saw her, but I got used to that pretty quickly. Either way, she can still stand for short periods of time when she is in the chair.

          1. QAPeon (formerly HelpDeskPeon)*

            My mom walks 2-3 miles daily, mostly on trails. And yet, still needs a wheelchair in some situations – visiting a museum or going through the airport, for example. Because she’s neither fast nor nimble (so she can’t get out of people’s way or maneuver around some obstacles quickly), and standing still for too long can be very painful. She can’t do 4 hours exploring a cool museum on her feet.

            Give the woman a nicely maintained flat trail and she’ll walk me into the ground.

          2. quill*

            Also for some conditions, standing is difficult in ways that walking is not. Or it’s a condition that flares and subsides… so many considerations for when people need mobility aids. And so many people, unfortunately, who can’t mind their own business about the people using them.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      There’s a lot of misconceptions about disabilities and medical conditions I’ve personally encountered.

      I’m physically disabled but can walk short distances with a stick and sometimes without. I can’t get down to floor level for anything though.

      I’ve got a mental illness that causes delusions but I’m not dangerous.

      I’m epileptic but have no problem with flashing lights.

    3. Mimmy*

      Exactly! I work with people who are blind and visually impaired, and their level of impairment ranges widely. For example, a student with tunnel vision may need a white cane or guide dog to navigate their environment safely but has enough central vision to be able to see a computer screen with little need for magnification.

      Or take me as an example. I am visually impaired but with a lot of usable vision. However, my depth perception sucks and I am glare sensitive, so if I’m not with my husband, I may consider using my white cane in unfamiliar settings. But I’ll admit that I’m hesitant to use it because of that binary thinking, i.e., white cane = completely blind. Nope. I just don’t want to injure myself because I did not see that curb!

    4. Clisby*

      Your last paragraph is what I first thought of. Is it really likely that people who clearly cannot be accommodated will apply? One example: A person who needs a wheelchair (whether always or just for short periods) cannot be a firefighter. Same if they’re blind. It doesn’t matter whether those are binary states. There is no accommodation for that. It doesn’t mean, of course, that a blind/wheelchair-using person couldn’t qualify for *any* job in a fire department – but nobody in their right mind would hire them to be firefighters, and I can’t believe any applicant in that position would even apply.

    5. Sam*

      Thank you. My intent in asking is exactly to learn of some situations where accommodations can be made but I would have overlooked them. I’ve learned several in these responses and appreciate the new information.

  22. Turingtested*

    LW #1 have you asked what she means by confidential? In my industry it’s typical to have those disclaimers on every email, but it means “within the organization” not “secret between us.”

    This reminds me of the manager who kept asking for things “COB” when she meant right away. I’d guess your coworker thinks it’s cool or ultra professional to splash confidential on things and hasn’t thought about how weird it comes off.

    1. londonedit*

      That’s a good point, maybe it’s a hangover from a previous industry/boss (though if she’s been there 10 years it seems a little more unlikely). Could just be a quirk of hers – I work with authors and some of them like to plaster ‘CONFIDENTIAL’ all over any email they send me because they’re paranoid that someone will somehow steal their book idea (even though by the time they speak to me their book is all signed up and contracted with us anyway). Whatever the reason I think it’s definitely worth just politely asking why it is that she always asks for things to be confidential – she might have a good reason, she might not, but either way there’s no harm in asking!

    2. Myrin*

      That’s exactly why the advice to just ask Jane about it is so apt, and it’s something I really value about Alison’s advice in general: Approach a situation with a mind open to the possibility that there’s more at play that will easily be explained once you actually talk about it straightforwardly.

      In this particular case, I’m more inclined to believe that Jane really should know the answers to the questions she keeps asking OP and wants to hide her ignorance from her boss but like you say, it’s always possible there’s something else going on and it’s much better to approach her like that instead of assuming the worst (I mean, you can assume it in your head but your outwards approach shouldn’t reflect that and who knows, you may find yourself surprised!).

  23. SleepyKitten*

    OP #4: this is what disability consultants and occupational health are for! Their job is to figure out what accommodations might be needed.

    That said, colourblindness is really easy to accommodate with labels or pattern coding. If you’re in the West, you’ve almost definitely worked with colourblind people before and not known it (I only discovered a co-worker was red-green colourblind when he asked if a banana was ripe). Your theoretical wheelchair using warehouse worker could have a device to transfer to and from the forklift, and pair up to do picking. Heck, if there’s a very tall person on staff they might appreciate not having to bend as much.

    Unless you’re hiring pilots or surgeons, it’s best to start from the assumption that a person CAN do the job with accommodations and then go from there.

    1. Purple Cat*

      I keep forgetting my boss (in Finance) is color-blind. I’m reminded when I tell him to focus on “x-colored” cells in a spreadsheet and he just gives me the blank stare back. Oops.

    2. Sam*

      Thank you, that is exactly why I’m asking. I’m looking for input on what jobs a person can do when at first glance it would appear they can’t and what accommodations might be made to enable this.

      1. A nice fish*

        To reiterate the above point: if this is information which is valuable to your company, you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD be paying a disability consultant for it, not cheaping or by relying in random internet comments.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree — this is not the way to go about it, and it’s also using this website in a way that it’s not intended when you really need to pay for a consultant. I’m going to ask that you wrap this up here.

    3. NerdyLibraryClerk*

      And even if you are hiring pilots, beware of assumptions. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this until your comment, but a one-eyed airline pilot made a rather nifty emergency landing back in the ’80s. I know comments with links sometimes get eaten, but googling “TACA 110” will bring up articles on the event.

      Blind pilots might be out of the question, but one-eyed pilots certainly aren’t.

  24. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: I had to give up my job when I became disabled because there was no way to make the accommodations I now needed.

    I was a virologist. To enable me to continue lab work they would have had to refit the entire laboratory. Obviously that isn’t reasonable.

    At the other end of the scale I’ve had some employers raise concerns that I can do my current job (IT) because of my limited mobility, chronic pain issues etc when in fact all I need is a)people’s computers to not be on the floor b) a special chair for the office and c) a disabled parking spot next to the building.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I don’t know about current practice, but in most of my office jobs it was common for people using a desktop to keep the “box” standing upright on the floor under their desk, so they had more work space free on the surface. You had to crawl under the desk to plug in or change cables and power cords.

        1. TiffIf*

          Oh Duh! I have had a work issued laptop for years and forgot that’s how my own desk was set up when I had a tower. I was envisioning people setting laptops on floors for some reason.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        For those with desktop PCs, yep. On the floor under the desk is a common place in this company.

        I just ask if I have to do a desk visit that they put it on their desk. I’ll cable it back up if need be but there is no way I can crawl under anything anymore.

        1. Clisby*

          Yeah, at the company where I spent years in IT, under the desk was the standard place for desktop towers. I didn’t put it there – the company did, so it’d be news to me that anyone didn’t want it there.

  25. Not Volunteering*

    I used to work as an extra in TV & movies. On several occasions casting companies would ask people to volunteer to work as extras in exchange for maybe meeting one of the celebrities. The reason always given is the movie/show was on a tight budget. These were multimillion dollar projects with A list celebrities in the lead roles so them cheating out on paying extras, often barely min. wage irked me. They always seemed to get tons of volunteers as the casting agencies would always be sure to mention that you were doing them a favor. So people hoped that meant they’d get cast more often. I had no idea these requests for volunteers was illegal.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Game Development companies move along similar lines. Since they know people want to have the prestige of working on a game they can pay staff badly (if at all – there’s a lot of volunteer work), treat them like dirt and drop them the instant they complain.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        It’s true of all prestige industries, look at the heritage and museum sectors. Look at publishing. Lots and lots all down the list…

  26. Cat Tree*

    Sort of tangential to the volunteering, but I didn’t realize it’s outright illegal to volunteer for a for-profit company. There’s an amusement park and concert venue near me that relies heavily on volunteers as concert ushers and for park concessions. It’s a big, well-organized process and they “pay” the volunteers with park tickets. It has been going on for years. I’m really surprised that their legal department is ok with it, and that none of their hundreds of volunteers over the decades have reported it. It makes me think there must be some kind of loophole or maybe I’m misunderstanding the law.

    1. Malarkey01*

      For the concert venue there can be workarounds if the concerts are not-for-profits. Our local symphony and opera are not-for-profits run by boards. They perform in a for profit venue but the symphony or opera can use volunteers for their events and that offsets the rental fees for the venue.

    2. a tester, not a developer*

      Paying them in tickets gets around it – it’s ‘compensation’.

      Where I live students need to complete 40 hours of volunteer work to graduate. There’s been issues with businesses trying to say they’re ‘paying’ student volunteers by signing off on their hours completed. The province has stamped on that pretty hard – the goal is to get volunteers for charities, not free labour for the arcade down the street.

  27. Let me be dark and twisty*

    #1 – I had a colleague like yours. She always asked all requests for help and information to remain private and confidential. I quickly found out it was because she oversold her skills and didn’t want management to know so they couldn’t reassign her to other duties. (She was hired to coach teapot painters but her background and expertise was all in the manufacturing of beer bottles, for example.) She very quickly learned that there was no confidentiality on her issues when she became the bottleneck grinding all work to a halt.

    You’re not obligated to keep someone else’s secrets for her, especially if it’s impacting your own work. She can claim confidentiality all she wants but if the information isn’t really confidential (like HIPAA or classified info), then she can’t require you to keep her secrets for her and you should feel free to discuss these concerns or any related issues with your management.

    And this is going to sound tinhatty but I also encourage you to make your own documentation on these “confidential” emails and decline engaging with her when she sends these “confidential” emails or asks for “confidential” discussions. Most likely she’s just in over her head but there’s always a minute chance she isn’t and she’s doing something she isn’t supposed to be doing, like accessing files and systems she doesn’t have clearance for. If it is the latter and she gets caught, all those emails to you marked “confidential” will bring you down with her because it could appear you’re helping her. CYA documentation will save you from going down with her in both instances.

    1. anonymous73*

      Not to mention if they’re coming to OP frequently, it’s going to affect OP’s ability to get their job done. I have very little tolerance for the “hold my hand” crowd. If I’ve shown you how to do something a few times and you’re still coming to me to help, I’m done. Take notes, do some research and use the documentation provided. And in this case it’s even worse because the colleague has 9 years more experience than OP.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah. My reaction when I read this post was, “ohhh, don’t get involved here.”

      I don’t cover for people. I will help someone whenever they need me to but I do not cover for them.
      Most definitely I am not going to cover for someone who cannot do their job. But to determine that they cannot do their job would require a bit of time and a number of questions on their part for me to realize.

      Here in OP’s setting I would answer the email with: “I can help you with this question. However, I will not promise you that I will keep your questions to myself. Do you still want me to answer the question?”
      I’d rather have this conversation in person. I worked in an arena where we had to report bad behavior from peers. I was not comfy doing this but it was part of the job. My solution became that I would help anyone with a sincere question but I would not cover for them. This worked out well, there were very few times over the 10 plus years of work that I felt I actually had to report something. When people are focused on doing the job correctly questions are no big deal. It’s when people want to hide something (including their lack of knowledge) that questions can become a problem.

      I am wondering if there is a pattern in the questions, is she asking the same questions over and over? Is she using OP as a rent-a-brain to save herself from thinking? The biggie in my arena was about answering questions that required certain qualifications. If I lacked the quals I would definitely NOT answer the question. But I would explain why I was not answering and I’d tell the person asking who would be a better choice to go ask.

  28. Me*

    #4 – I’d caution you real hard about making assumptions about other people’s disabilities and what they can and can’t do. If they’ve read the job description and applied, you should be operating under the assumption that they can do the job. If you offer them the position and they request accommodations then you have a discussion.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I would also suggest that #4 take the opportunity to review their job ad, and to make sure that the duties are fairly and adequately represented in it. Sometimes things like “need to be able to lift 50 pounds repeatedly” mean exactly that, and sometimes they mean “get the paper to the printer however you can,” and sometimes they mean “we actually expect 50 to be the lower limit of the weight you carry, best bring a lifting belt with you.”

      1. QAPeon (formerly HelpDeskPeon)*

        Yeah, we rethought our lifting requirement at one point – we had it set at 50lb in the past, but when we actually looked at the equipment we move around it all weighs significantly less (computer stuff, and we don’t work with servers etc that might reach that mark). Being able to haul around 4-5 laptops in one load is a convenience, not a requirement, so we changed it to “must be able to lift and install” the specific devices we use.

      2. quill*

        Yes, especially when it comes to physical accomodations: don’t use the same boilerplate for every person in the company! Your secretary probably does not need to be able to lift 50 pounds like your warehouse pickers might.

    2. Anon today*

      I have wrestled with questions of “reasonable accommodations”. I was supervisor for a new employee who turned out to have some invisible disabilities due to a brain injury. I was not his line manager so I don’t know if he ever made any requests for accommodations — if he did, they weren’t communicated to me. (He told me about the brain injury himself.) He had problems with concentration and memory, among other things.

      It eventually became clear he was a net negative for the team’s productivity, because everything he did needed to be checked in detail and usually sent back several times for rework. It was a very supportive environment overall and I really felt we explored every avenue to make it work, but in the end we let him go.

      I guess the difference between that situation and LW4 is we didn’t try to make this call at the hiring stage — the problems became apparent during his probationary period and he did not pass probation.

      1. Me*

        And that’s ok. Individuals without disabilities also sometimes can’t perform job duties and don’t make it through probation.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Disabled manager here, with experience of telling someone that there were no reasonable accommodations we could make for them.

        In their case, even with what they asked for (massively reduced hours, although same salary, absolutely no noise in the workplace, nobody phoning them, no alcohol screening) they couldn’t do the job. Not to any degree of ‘acceptable’.

        If the accommodations are just outright unacceptable (shunting the entire workload onto the other staff for example if everything they do has to be checked) or if they still can’t do the job with them then it’s perfectly okay to say no.

        I’ve had this argument with a few employers who’ve tried to argue that my accommodations (I can’t work alone on site, I need a special chair, I require time off for medical appointments and physio etc) are unreasonable but those are not. And with them I can do my job just as well as anyone else.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          A great example of this is the LW who wrote in because the accommodation for a coworker was needing everything to be symmetrical, including the assumed gender (I’m guessing it was based on looks rather than gender identity) line-up at the bus stop. That was not a reasonable accommodation

    3. Sam*


      Thank you for the caution, but it’s unfortunately misdirected. I now see from so many negative responses that I should have been clearer about why I was asking and what I was looking to get out of responses.

      I’m not talking about any individual applicant where we could easily work through the collaborative process to come up with accommodations together.

      I’m asking about future hypotheticals where there are accommodations that can be made that I wouldn’t have thought of that can enable someone to do a job where I would have thought impossible. With this added information I can adjust my plans for how I support those future jobs in the software I write. I can’t wait until there’s a real situation; by then it’s too late.

      Several responses have been exactly on point to what I’m looking for with real world examples of how someone was accommodated to do a job that was not obvious and I have noted ways to change our plans to handle or improve those situations.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        The issue with your question is that it’s far, far too massive a task and you’ll get nowhere near an accurate response from one website of comments.

        It’s like asking what health problems you foresee having in the future in terms of scale basically.

        Simply put, you can’t plan for every disability need proactively (and I’ve worked in software development so know this) – you can do the best you can with accessibility (for the love of god please put ‘low strain on the eyes’ option on colour backgrounds and font…) and handle exceptions case by case.

        You can’t test software against every error!

  29. anonymous73*

    #3 – I wouldn’t wait until an offer comes to let them know that you’re uncomfortable with an in-person retreat. Tell them now. If (big if) the company is willing to provide an alternative to the in-person retreat, they’d probably be more likely to do so if they know about your concerns up front. There’s no sense in moving along in the process, wasting both your time and theirs, if there’s no alternative and it’s a deal breaker for you.

  30. Ampersand*

    #3 I hope you’re talking about FL. I would love for all the tourists to think we’re not 80% vaccinated with a 1% positivity rate and stay home(;

    But in all seriousness, the last 2 month of the year are a bear when it comes to starting a new job. I doubt you would get much push back on asking for a 2022 start date.

      1. Yvette*

        I was under the impression that when states talked about the percentage of people vaccinated they meant the percentage of people vaccinated who were eligible to be vaccinated. Essentially adults (prior to the availability of vaccines for school children).

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Both stats are easily available. I think it’s problematic to talk about it in terms of %eligible, since A) new ages are becoming eligible over time so you’ll see the % suddenly drop and B) kids too young to vax can still be sick and spread it.

        2. lazuli*

          They generally use the “percent of people eligible” when they want to sound like they have more vaccinated people than they do. Herd immunity doesn’t really factor in vaccine eligibility. It’s important to know how many people in the total population are vaccinated.

  31. ecnaseener*

    OP1, please send in an update when/if you find out what’s going on here! Of course it’s possible there’s a reasonable explanation, but my mind immediately went to “she’s pawning off her work on you and perhaps many others and doing little to none of it herself…possibly to hide the time she spends working for her secret second job…”

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Yes, I thought from the letter that she was asking the letter writer to DO things, not just asking questions. Then, she lets the supervisor think she’s doing all the things and LW is slacking off.
      If that’s the case, I’d definitely ask the boss whether LW is supposed to be taking assignments from her. Boss needs to know, either to adjust workloads or just to shut this nonsense down.

  32. CatPerson*

    LW2, I think that liability insurance would be a problem with the volunteers. Who would be liable in the event of an accident and/or injury? You could be on the hook for damages! Don’t do this; it’s just wrong.

    1. Roman Holiday*

      Op 2 here – I was never planning to do it! I was mostly trying to gauge how outraged I should be (the answer: very) and how much of a stink I should raise (answer: enough to need A LOT of Poopurri).

        1. 2 Cents*

          OP is referencing the product recommended in another thread for OP #5 — Poopurri is a product that helps mask the smell of bathroom activities.

  33. TechWonk*

    Commenting on #5: I had a son that had special needs and was incontinent and his life revolved around whether or not he had pooped recently. Due to his diet and a few other things his movements were… epic.

    There exists a product line called “odor antagonists”, the best one I’ve seen (smelled?) is a hospital-grade spray that dissipates the most persistent of clouds in two spritz. Maybe in addition to ventilation the facilities team can stock a few of these spray bottles for general use?

    I know my wife appreciates it.

  34. Mental Lentil*

    With regard to #3, I had a friend who last summer decided to go to Florida when that state was on fire with covid, because they always go to Disney World for their honeymoon. This was a person I respected and regarded as intelligent and well-grounded.

    We are no longer friends. Willful ignorance or nonchalance in the face of an ongoing pandemic (and this was before vaccines were even on the horizon) is a dealbreaker for me.

    1. Jane Seymour*

      Honestly I’m more interested to know how many times your friend has been married that they have a habitual honeymoon destination!

  35. JB*

    For #4, I think Alison’s advice is spot on. I’m not a lawyer, but in graduate school I was required to take a class on laws that apply to educational settings. So the ADA was covered. During the height of the pandemic, it drove me absolutely nuts seeing all the videos of anti-maskers getting into verbal altercations with store employees because they clearly didn’t understand ADA law and/or the definition of a “reasonable accommodation.” A reasonable accommodation does not necessarily mean offering the accommodation that’s being requested. Also, the links in the previous letter that Alison references provide a lot of examples for anyone who wants to read further!

    1. not a doctor*

      “Reasonable accommodations” also have nothing to do with customers, so IDK what they think their rights are in that situation.

    2. Nea*

      OMG, don’t even start me on anti-maskers thinking they could hide behind the ADA to get their way. It makes me even more livid than the people who slap a “service animal” vest on a personal pet.

      The ADA is not “get to act like a spoiled toddler free” card!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        People with legitimate disabilities also RARELY act like entitled toddlers. They might be rightfully frustrated at times but they’re almost always just trying to live their fucking lives, while the fake service animal people or anti-maskers are trying to “gotcha!”. You can tell the difference.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          To clarify: No one should make a personal judgement that someone’s disabilities are fake. Just that some people aren’t being as sly as they think they are claiming accommodations no one would be entitled to.

          1. Nea*

            For one thing, the people who aren’t faking it don’t tend to come in groups and film it for social media.

            1. JB*

              Right! And most likely the people who aren’t faking it would accept the reasonable accommodation being offered. In the case of grocery stores, I remember seeing one video of a woman trying to go into a Trader Joe’s in California w/o a mask (exact location I’m not sure of). They offered to take her shopping list, do the shopping for her, and bring it to her car (this was very early in the pandemic, so they may not have had a fully functional curbside service situation set up yet). She refused and said something about having “private” items on her list or something, and then launched into the “you’re discriminating against me!” rant. I was like “NO! They’re literally not discriminating, they offered you a REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION! ARRRRGGGGHHHH!”

              … As a side note, I should probably visit the CrazyKarens IG less frequently lol

        2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Frustrated? Angry more like.

          Every time I saw some dingbat trying to shout that they have a right under disability law to go wherever they want without masks/vaccines/testing I’ve wanted to channel my inner Malcolm Tucker.

          Because those are the SAME people who complain about disability benefits or make out that we’re all malingering liars who just need to ‘get a job’.

          (I got feelings regarding this)

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Oh mad at those people absolutely. I meant more like from perspective of service people.

            For instance I worked at a historical site that wasn’t fully accessible and worked with people who had various disabilities to see as much of the museum as they could. It was frustrating the museum was not accessible, or required to be, but the people who I helped out were always very nice if not slightly frustrated with the situation. People who wanted to sneak in a fake service animal were invariable jackasses from the get-go. I can only IMAGINE how awful that place is to work during COVID.

  36. not a doctor*

    Just chiming in on #4: I agree with most of the comments above about keeping an open mind, talking to someone about their disability and accommodation ideas, etc. I just also wanted to point out:

    *(2) Can a retail job that requires replenishing inventory from the back room to the sales floor accommodate a blind applicant? Wheelchair? If it requires color coordinating the stock, can someone who’s colorblind be accommodated? (3) What about a home design company that requires knowledgeable color coordination and working with pictures provided from the client, and likely design software that requires visually laying out options? *

    2) I used to work in a store where the aisles in the back room would have been much too narrow for a wheelchair (arguably an issue in itself), but in a store where that isn’t the case, I’m not sure why a wheelchair user couldn’t potentially do this job. They MAY need assistance getting things down from/putting things up on a higher shelf (which is one possible accommodation), but many wheelchair users can easily carry and transport items with their chairs. Color coordination also seems pretty easy if you can implement even a basic labeling system.

    3) Again, labeling. Design should BY DEFAULT require as much concrete and specific labeling as possible on the “back end.” For web design, RGB/CYMK/hex codes should be on every color. For home design, have them select paint chips or similarly-coded samples. That’s not just good for color blind people, that’s better for everyone (which accommodations/accessible designs often are!), so you don’t get into the whole ‘that’s the wrong blue’ issue.

      1. Nea*

        To be fair, it is code in certain texting programs. What you want is the basic HTML i and /i inside less-than/greater than signs.

      2. Nina*

        ** is italics in Reddit markdown, and bold in some other markdowns. _ _ is italics in most other markdowns I’m familiar with. But yeh, AAM uses HTML.

    1. Sam*

      Thank you! Especially since part of my job is writing the software that makes all of those labels, this was really spot on for what I needed.

      I’m not following the home design example though. Can you elaborate?

  37. Nea*

    OP #4 – if your job description is honest, someone who cannot do the job will rule themselves out but – and I cannot stress this enough – your job description has to be honest. Because if it is, people who know accommodation options you don’t can rule themselves in.

    So the forklift job needs to say up front “wanted: someone to drive forklift and stack heavy boxes” and people who can’t do that will self-select out.

    On the other hand, “Job includes color-coordinating stock” and “work from client pictures to visually lay out designs” do not automatically rule out the color-blind. We had a pretty profoundly color-blind software developer once. He used the basic eyedropper color-picker to know which color we’d given him and worked from there to deliver consistency and color coordination.

    Nor do all accommodations need to be cumbersome, time-intensive, or expensive. My single accommodation is “let me bring my own chair.” I know that companies are willing (required?) to buy a chair for me, but I’ve already got one, and I’ve got it all set up the way I like. It costs a company nothing except possibly a “private property” or security sticker, depending on the site requirements.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      So the forklift job needs to say up front “wanted: someone to drive forklift and stack heavy boxes” and people who can’t do that will self-select out.

      In an ideal world, yes. But we’ve seen a lot of posts indicating there’s a pretty fair percentage of people who would say “driving a forklift sounds like fun, and I’ll get someone else to handle the heavy boxes.”

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          No, it’s not. I’m just saying people won’t reliably self-select out of a job they can’t (or won’t) do the way Nea suggests.

    2. Sam*

      Thank you, the color picker example is perfect. I’m asking because I’m writing the software these employees will use. I would never have thought of it but it would be straightforward for me to include a function where they put the picture in front of the tablet’s phone and we can tell them the colors.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    4. I work in an historical archives, which a) means you have to read stuff, b) means you have to lift stuff, and c) not in my case, but not infrequently means you are a department of one (the discipline calls these “lone arrangers”. Not kidding).

    The two requirements for my job were that I have a BA in something and that I be able to lift and carry 50 pounds up and down a movable staircase, and, yes, I genuinely do need to be able to do that.

    Sometimes the only “accommodation” would be to hire a second person, and budget and work level don’t always allow for that.

    1. not a doctor*

      Although this isn’t a disability issue, the BA requirement seems unnecessarily restrictive.

      I’m not familiar with archive work, though. What kinds of heavy things do you have to carry up and down the staircase, and how much/often do you have to do that? Not that any answers I can think of would necessarily preclude anyone with disabilities from doing the job, up to and including wheelchair users, save perhaps if it was your only job duty.

      1. This Old House*

        Heavy boxes of documents. Depending on the poster’s actual job responsibilities (I take from “BA in something” that they are not an actual archivist, which would have much more specific educational requirements) it may be a very essential part of the job – pulling boxes for researchers, possibly all day every day, depending on how busy the facility is. If they were the only person in that department/role, then yes, it’s probably not possible to accommodate someone who can’t access records on higher shelves . . . but no one is saying that it’s always possible to accommodate everyone.

        My concern here would be that since “BA in something” was a posted requirement that probably isn’t actually necessary for success in the job (I certainly started a job pulling records in an archival facility before I had completed my BA), then it lends confusion to the degree to which “carrying 50 lbs down the stairs” is going to be actually necessary to perform the duties of the position, and the applicant may not be able to determine the full scope of the work.

        (I’d also suggest that there are many situations where a lone arranger is not the sole employee, just the sole person in the archival department, and organizations that only have a single archivist probably also aren’t the busiest research facilities. There may still be accommodations possible wherein a non-archival employee could pull records on higher shelves for the archivist to work with, or to pull them when external researchers need access, while the lone arranger who can’t lift or climb can still perform many significant job functions. Which is why the conversation is important.)

      2. Loulou*

        Most professional archives jobs require a Master’s, so the BA doesn’t seem unnecessarily restrictive to me. (The real issue is every time I see a “BA required” archives job I know it will go to someone with a Master’s for way too little pay, but that’s another story)

        And to answer your question, paper. And other stuff! But mostly paper.

    2. Nanani*


      Someone who can’t lift and carry 50 pounds will see that in the description and not apply.
      They might apply, have it explained that the requirement is really real and not just occasional lifting or a way to screen out certain demographics.
      As long as your workplace is up front about a real requirement, it should be fine. There are no strawmen under the application pile.

      1. quill*

        The problem with the 50 pounds thing is that in some settings / industries, it’s in EVERY job ad. So you play “is this an actual thing” roulette every time you apply if, like me, you work in QC adjacent settings and medically should not be lifting 50 pounds. In most cases, stuff can be broken up / put on a cart / doesn’t actually weigh 50 pounds, but occasionally there’s “You gotta put a 50 lb can of solvent on a shelf” and until someone like me comes along nobody ever thought to do things like put the heaviest things on the bottom shelf or purchase a dolly.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I still think that in the scenario with the archives that there would be some accommodation to be made for the lifting. What if someone becomes temporarily disabled (pregnancy= can’t lift 50 pounds, or someone breaks their leg and they can walk on crutches but cant lift anything). Or what if a current archivist becomes permanently disabled and is not able to carry heavy boxes but can do everything else? Would the company fire them? Sounds like a case of discrimination waiting to happen.

      Are you saying that the company would fire or make them go on leave? There must be someone who could help? even if you work alone is there another person in another department that would be able to help. Or maybe if you have different shifts someone on an earlier shift brings all of the stuff out for the person who needs it?

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        This is one of the places that ADA and FMLA touch each other.

        Being (temporarily) unable to perform an *essential function* of the job is grounds for eligibility for leave. Being unable to resume that function at the end of FMLA leave is grounds for separation. Eligibility for UIC upon separation would be a fact-specific question of State law, as many States have a “ready, willing and able to work” clause in their eligibility criteria. The employee’s position, of course, would be that they are able to work, just not at that job, when filing for UIC.

  39. I don’t post often*

    OP 4 – 1/2 the males in my family are colorblind. We find out when, at the age of 4 or 5 they color Christmas trees brown or shout that the “big green truck” (the brown UPS truck) is here. One was turned down for a job at a railroad despite passing all other tests because he couldn’t tell the differences in colored electrical wires. Many of them only shop in certain stores for clothes where they know the sales clerk and the sales clerk will assist them in picking matching clothes. So yes, there are some jobs that are not open to those that are colorblind, particularly if safety is involved. But there reasonable accommodations. One cousin painted houses- his supervisor wrote the colors on the paint cans after my cousin painted trim work the complete wrong color. This was a reasonable accommodation.

    1. Sam*

      (OP) Thanks for the concrete examples.

      I had a QA engineer that was color blind and he was great at his job; often seeing things that were not clear to others.

      My cousin though, different story. He is color blind and has zero issues at work (he’s a professor) but he does where the oddest collection of clothes. Weird combinations of pink and green and brown. I think he does this for fun though; I know he can see some color just not differentiate some other colors. Plus it drives his wife crazy which could also be one of the reasons he does it.

  40. House Tyrell*

    For #1 maybe it’s a habit that developed when a past coworker reported every question she asked. Every time I email my coworker a question even if it’s a simple one because I was new (and the only person in person at my office every day) like “where is the mail room” he replies while CCing my boss which bothers me for some reason. Your coworker is certainly handling it a weird way so I’d ask them why they are labeling emails like that and if it’s to hide they haven’t learned what they’re supposed to then take it to the manager but it could be more innocent than that.

  41. employment lawyah*

    1. Coworker asks me for help “confidentially”
    That’s…. odd.

    First, I should clarify something which (apparently) few people understand:

    IOW, if I send you something marked “confidential” you don’t have to keep it a secret. But if I say “will you keep a secret if I tell you” and you say “yes,” and THEN I send it, you should keep it secret absent some odd exceptions.

    I would not “ask” her. I would simply tell her you won’t do it. Then I would ignore it. And frankly, if she does it again after you’ve told her not to, I would proactively being it up to your manager.

    2. Charity wants us to volunteer for a for-profit company
    That’s odd.

    One possibility is that they’re treating it as if the access/ticket is a wage for the value of driving, but I would tend not to view it that way.

    Certainly you can push back if they press you, but consider the pros/cons of being the “person who raised the issue.” It may or may not be to your long term benefit if you raise it.

    3. Company is holding a week-long retreat in a Covid hotspot
    This is not so concerning to me, because of the statistics on how “hotspots” are designated and the many factors involved. (As a simple example, smaller places can be wildly variant.) And just because something is innately a hotspot doesn’t make it risky, since it’s highly dependent on individual variables. And of course, it may be a hotspot NOW, but they’re going in a month.

    You can go to a high-CV area, rent a house with minimal staff, stay in rooms only with your own people, do lots of stuff outside, and be perfectly safe. You can go to a low-CV area and spend a lot of time in casino conference centers, movie theaters, or restaurants and crowded bars, and it’s much riskier.

    Anyway, if you don’t want to go, don’t go. And by all means check on their CV protocols, because it’s entirely up to you who you work for. But you should look at the situation and not treat it too generically.

    4. When is no accommodation is reasonable for a disability?
    It’s a fact-specific analysis. But generally, the extreme situations you describe would not be accommodations: Obviously a forklift driver can’t be blind!

    The more complicated thing is if you’re hiring sales staff who occasionally switch off driving the forklift. Then it CAN be an accommodation, because it may be perfectly possible for you to hire a single blind salesperson, and everyone else just does the forklift work.

    5. What to say when you’ve stunk up the bathroom
    You can something or nothing.

    If your bathroom doesn’t have “poop spray” you should buy some or make the office buy some (I find the orange-scented stuff works great)

    1. RagingADHD*

      Re: 1. This seems needlessly antagonistic for a co-worker that LW presumably wants to continue a good relationship with. No, it’s not binding—it’s a request, and neither the co-worker nor LW seem to understand that. But it makes sense to discuss the request rather than act as if the co-worker is being a bully or something.

  42. Katie*

    OP 4

    Most of your examples focused on blind people and I would encourage you to be a little open about what accommodations can be reached. Technology has really advanced and there are things like color identifiers and many different apps and computer programs that people use to help in their jobs. Beyond that, not every blind person is completely blind and if so, could possibly do 90% of a job and possibly reassign the other 10%. Honestly, I think it helps to try to approach it trying to find solutions rather than issues.

    There are so so so many organizations that can help you figure out accommodations.

    1. Sam*

      Thank you. I should have been clearer but that’s exactly why I’m asking. I write software for internal use by employees and am looking for what non-obvious things I can do to support these theoretical future employees. Someone else mentioned using the software to identify colors for people and that is great; I wouldn’t have thought of it but it’s not hard to include. A few other comments here have been equally helpful giving me ideas on how I can appropriately adjust development plans.

  43. Rachel*

    Letter #2 – there is way too much liability on the ‘volunteer’ that is asked to drive people around. In the case of a car accident, what insurance will be used? What if volunteer has a driver’s license but no car, therefore no need for auto insurance?

    They should contract with Uber / Lift for the 4 days or a limo company or a party bus. Anything else but what they are planning.

    1. Sam*

      Really great point! Insurance and liability would be a huge problem in this situation if there was an accident.

      If it’s determined they were driving for “work” then their personal policy likely would not cover them.

      If they’re not driving their own car, some policies would not cover them (this is rare I think).

      Besides, what if someone volunteers and they’re a bad or annoying driver? That happens with Uber and Lyft too. If the people are so important (and really even if they’re not), hire professional vetted drivers.

  44. #5 OP*

    LW5 OP here! Thank you all for your comments— finally I can wring some popularity out of this diagnosis. Am definitely going to look into the scentless neutralizers (only thing worse than bathroom smell is bathroom + rolling fields of lavender). And true, it’s a hotel and nobody cares about an individual nearly as much as it feels. Again, thank you!

  45. SentientAmoeba*

    LW 4: Yes there are situations where accommodations cannot be made. As evidenced by some of the letters Allison has gotten, some companies panic when someone says ADA accommodations and go out of their way to try to accommodate ridiculous requests. There is also the rare situation where employees have competing accommodations e.g. employee A needs a service dog and employee B is allergic to dogs and they are expected to share an office and there are not other workspaces available.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Well, there was the letter where the employee with OCD was (supposedly) being accommodated by dictating the colors their coworkers were allowed to wear, and wanted everyone to sit or stand in a certain order. I’m not sure the situation was real, but the requested accommodations were not in fact real accommodations and were ridiculous.

        1. American Job Venter*

          That was a very entertaining letter, I recall. But I would hate to see it used as a general argument against accomodations.

      2. Observer*

        “Ridiculous” is really subjective, though, isn’t it?

        Not always.

        I think someone linked to it already but the company that was making people line up for the bus outside the building by gender and who forbade any non-symmetrical clothing choices (including writing someone up for wearing a wedding ring without a corresponding ring on the other hand!) was being objectively ridiculous.

        1. American Job Venter*

          So we’ve had this particular situation brought up twice. I still don’t think that that example is typical of workplace accomodations or demonstrates a general problem of overreach in workplace accomodations, but it’s going to continue to be used to support both those ideas.

  46. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    LW4: remember that disabilities are more complex than that. I know a woman who is legally blind for the purposes of the ADA but is able to see. She uses adaptive readers on her monitor. Such a person could indeed stock items in a retail store.

    Likewise, a person with depression or diabetes is disabled and can be an outstanding forklift driver with accommodations for therapy, medication, or insulin.

    1. Metadata minion*

      My vision without my glasses is legally classified as blind, but a) the accommodations I need are glasses and those aren’t even seen as assistive devices in our society, and b) if my vision weren’t correctable with lenses, I could absolutely do most office jobs with magnifiers, text-to-speech, etc. and maybe the use of a cane in cluttered areas or for stairs.

    2. Sam*

      Thank you, that’s exactly the kind of feedback I’m looking for. What complex situations can be accommodated that are not obvious and what can I do as part of my job to help in those situations when it can take months to react so I need to be proactive.

      I had a really minor accommodation at one employer due to anxiety and a situation that had never come up before. It was not a big deal other than my non-responsive doctor that took forever to complete the necessary paperwork.

  47. I should really pick a name*

    I would say that it’s not acceptable to say no accommodation is reasonable until you’ve gone through the process of looking for accommodations.
    People have a wide range of abilities, so you can’t really have a blanket rule about it. You need to look at what the specific person in the specific situation can do.

    1. Sam*

      Thanks. Unfortunately my job requires planning for future hypotheticals. If something unexpected comes up, it could take months to adjust.

  48. Echo*

    I agree overall with Alison’s response to #3 but would not advise using the phrase “don’t feel comfortable attending”. A lot of people hear “not comfortable with” and think it means they just need to help the person feel more comfortable. They’re wrong, of course, but I’d still go with “am not able to attend”.

  49. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW2: How is insurance being handled for this? Presumably the volunteer drivers aren’t licensed or insured as chauffeurs. Would the volunteers be left holding the bag in the unfortunate event of an accident, which we all know can happen?

    1. Roman Holiday*

      OP 2 here – I re-read the email a couple of times and there is no mention of insurance/liability. I pointed that out in my response to my non-profit’s HQ, in addition to all the legal/ethical concerns. I can say in my capacity as a volunteer that I am certainly not licensed or insured as a chauffeur!

      1. Still breathing*

        Just a thought. I worked for a for-profit business that had a contractor that absolutely could not hire enough people to provide the services we needed bc their policy was to provide as close to full time employment as they could to everyone they hired and we just had seasonal needs. So they partnered with non-profits to provide the labor, and the volunteers who worked were not paid BUT the non-profit was. So if they needed 100 people to work our event but only 50 employees were willing to do it, and those 50 employees would earn $100 each, they would donate 50 x $100 x 2 ($10,000) to the non-profit for providing the other 50 people. I don’t know who covered the workers comp insurance but I’m sure someone did, both companies were pretty big. And they always had a list of non-profits hoping to participate.

  50. Freelance Mentor and Gravity Tester*

    Alison, I would like to request if you could add a note to letter three. Where the LW says “at this point, I would have limited protection against the Delta variant,” I want to point out that the vaccinations’ protection against severe disease, death and even mild illness is still high even despite observed waning immunity over time (this is separate from need for additional doses for immunocompromised people and for an additional dose for 60+ who received Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines). I think your advice is very good, especially as attending an in-person retreat puts the LW at increased risk of infection and then transmitting to family member. But that wording underestimates the continued protection from vaccinations and also seems to suggest that vaccines are ineffective against Delta (there is some reduced neutralization but vaccine protection is similar for the variants of concern, with the exception of Beta). (I work in COVID-19 policy and also want to note that the vaccines are not enough on their own and the LW is smart to not want to attend an in-person retreat before seeing high-risk family and not knowing what the mask-wearing and ventilation situation would be at the retreat).

  51. Womanwriter*

    In the olden days, and in the no money days, everybody just lit matches before they let the room. One kitchen match will remove just about any bathroom odor. I guess that’s not “cool” anymore – but it works. And I don’t know about any sensitivities to matches, but I am sure there are some.

    1. metadata minion*

      Why would I carry around matches just to mask the fact that I have used a bathroom for its intended purpose?

    2. Jen, from the library*

      Heh, at one job, a coworker did this in our one seater bathroom, but we didn’t know until one day I went in after her. I could smell the sulfur from the matches, and came running out thinking something was on fire. My poor coworker finally ‘fessed up and explained that’s what her family did when on vacation or in other small spaces with limited bathroom/ventilation.

      THE LOOK ON HER FACE THOUGH. She was SO embarrassed, but it saved us from calling 911 about a potential fire.

  52. American Job Venter*

    I was thinking about the possibilities of accomodations, and thought that it might help to have more examples of possible accomodations, so as to not start from the position of “we can’t do this unless proven otherwise”. I’ll reply to this comment with a few links.

    1. Sam*

      (OP) Thank you, that’s really what I’m after. Examples of things that can be done that are not-obvious.

  53. Above My Paygrade*

    re: disabilty accommodations.

    Pretty clear the LW is coming up with fantastical options to justify being an ass, but here’s the thing:

    The person needs to be able to do the “essential functions of the job” if they’re accommodated. And what happens is that businesses have started adding “essential” functions that are in no way actually essential.

    Distinguishing green from amber from red lights is essential if you’re certain types of engineers or designers. It’s not essential to someone who puts together a harvest banquet once a year, no matter how much you claim that the person who has been in that job has “always” decorated with red and green leaves.
    Is the job of sorting the leaves once a year actually essential to the operation of your business? Probably not.
    Is there another employee at a similar level who also works on the event who could sort the leaves? Probably so. Claiming the tradition of leaf-sorting means you get to exclude color-blind employees violates the intent of the ADA and may open you up to a discrimination complaint.

    Reassigning non-central tasks is absolutely a reasonable accommodation, so be careful with what you consider an “essential function.”

    1. Sam*

      You’re clearly making assumptions about the letter based on how you read it and your preconceptions.

      I should have been clearer but this has absolutely nothing to do with denying someone an accommodation. Exactly the opposite; what non-obvious situations have accommodations that enable a person to work a job that I would have thought impossible.

      I’m a software engineer working on internal software used by our employees (some in the warehouses, come customer facing, some in offices). A few comments had great examples that allow me to make our software better for these hypothetical future employees.

      1. Annie J*

        As a software developer, I would definitely look into making sure your software is screen reader accessible, The two main ones are called Jaws and NVDA, most websites are also designed according to Accessibility standards.

      2. metadata minion*

        There’s a lot of excellent material out there on accessibility and universal design. I’d recommend taking a look at some guides and on writing by disability rights/access organizations. They’ll have much more comprehensive information than whatever the comments thread happens to think of (not that there haven’t been some great suggestions!).

      3. agnes*

        Accommodations are specific to the person and the job, that’s why it’s called an interactive process. It’s pretty hard to know exactly what every job/person might need until you are actually in the process. There are some universal things employers can do to overcome general barriers–like making sure your website can be “read” by people with visual limitations, or that at least some company cars can accommodate certain physical limitations.

        If your interest is in writing software for future hypothetical employees with a disability, your best bet is to work with HR to determine what are the essential functions of the jobs most likely to need this accommodation.

  54. Sharon*

    #4 – an interview with a person with a visible disability (not all are visible) should be the same as any interview -ask them to explain why they are qualified for the job! What is their experience? How have they handled X situation? Tell me about a time you faced a challenge at work and how you solved it. Look at their portfolio or give them a test or a practice task if you give one to other applicants.

    It’s a little trickier when a person acquires a disability while working at a particular job, because they may still be figuring out whether they can do the work or not and what accommodations might help. But in any case look to the person with the disability to tell you whether they need anything.

    1. Sam*


      Thanks, unfortunately I don’t have a particular candidate or employee to look to. I specifically do have to try to anticipate hypothetical future accommodations and what I can do to enable them ahead of time.

    2. Still breathing*

      We have two specific questions we ask every single applicant. First we read them the essential functions of the job exactly as written in the job postings, which is exactly the same as listed in the job description. Then we ask if they have any questions about the essential functions. And then we say, “This is a yes or no question only please. Are you able to perform the essential functions of this position with or without accommodation?” Sometimes they say “yes but” and we stop them. At our place it isn’t the interviewers role to determine whether or not an accommodation is reasonable or not, that gets handled by experts in HR. Could the applicant be wrong and an accommodation isn’t reasonable or even possible? Sure. But I haven’t seen it yet. Technology is amazing!

    3. H.P.*

      I read these hypothetical scenarios, and I noted the word was “blind” and most people believe that blind means fully blind. There are a lot of visual disabilities that would meet legal blindness but not necessarily disqualify people from these particular scenarios, such as tunnel vision, blind in one eye, or just any kind of visual impairment that glasses alone can’t fix. Some people have enough vision they can read, etc. fine but cannot drive, and some people are the opposite.

      That said, forklift operators need license (AKA OSHA-approved safety training they’ve passed.), so that should be a simple question. Then walking the warehouse floor to show the most likely paths and logistics. If they’re experienced they should know if that’s the situation they want to be working in.
      Later-disabled operators may be an open question.

      Likewise, people may use wheelchairs due to heart and other problems that restrict their ability to walk long distances, but they can still stand, walk a bit, and drive a car without hand controls. It seems like checking their ability to get into and operate a forklift unaided, as well as getting out could be a basic part of the interview. If they have to do it slowly, it still beats not doing it at all.

      As AAM says, basic tasks of the job do matter, and accommodations do need to be reasonable. (i.e. maybe somebody folding and moving the wheelchair off the floor at start of shift and storing them within reasonale distance of where the forklift would be parked end of shift.)

      I am deaf and nonspeaking and I don’t like how many jobs try to screen people out by verbal communication skills. If I had listened to these ads I wouldn’t have landed a job I was perfectly qualified for. I wound up communicating to my workers by e-mail or IM, and having interpreters just once a year for a holiday party. That was all I needed to do my job, a chance, criteria, and training.
      I know you could employ deaf people in many of the workplace situations you describe, just a little more planning for safety and communication; I’ve known plenty of people in that sort of job.
      DeafBlind people with adequate vision also might deserve a shot, especially in non-forklift situations.

  55. LostinTheMountains*

    LW 1: I would think about whether there is a situation where you would be comfortable keeping this information from your manager “aka confidential”. What if her response is, ‘I need to keep this confidential because I was told I needed to learn this and could lose my job if manager found out I didn’t’, would you be okay keeping that from your manager and possibly lying to your manager? Might want to have a script ready before hand. So you aren’t put on the spot.

  56. Dahlia*

    LW4: Can we just assume, please, that disabled people aren’t either so ignorant or malicious to apply to jobs they’re completely incapable of doing? Why would a blind person apply to be a forklift operator?

    As a disabled person, I kind of hate questions like this because they feel like a “gotcha!” and they’re really not. No reasonable person does something like that, and most disabled people are also reasonable people.

    1. Lucy Skywalker*

      Not always, though. People with nonverbal learning disorder, for instance, are notorious for not realizing just how disabled they are, to the point that “not realizing how disabled they are” is sometimes listed as a symptom of NVLD! Think about it: if you are unable to comprehend nonverbal communication, you don’t know that you’re not comprehending it. I have NVLD and I have had several jobs where I read the listing and thought I was capable of performing all the tasks, only to find out too late that I wasn’t able to do the work required. Sometimes I have had accommodations and sometimes, I was still unable to do the work even with the accommodation.

  57. Adriane CMP*

    LW3: As an event planner – I’ve been hired to do an all hands program for a group. We all know that we MUST keep people as safe as possible. Here are some of the things I’m doing for them:
    -additional safety measures in place for the contract, including following CDC guidelines (not state) and that servers must be masked/gloved
    -additional space for seating
    -using ALL of the meeting space (so there aren’t any other groups in the space)
    -hand sanitizer outside of rooms
    -all major hotel brands have additional cleanliness protocols in place and this was included in the contract
    -all attendees are required to be vaccinated, if not, then they must arrive early to quarantine and daily rapid tests
    -masks are required during the meeting unless actively eating/drinking
    -daily temp checks
    -constant communication with the attendees about expectations onsite and what the company is doing to protect them
    NO event will ever be perfect, but I would urge you to ask that safety guidelines have been put in place.

  58. Whimsical Gadfly*

    Using letter 4 to grouse about how often job duties are abused and not challenged in the hiring process. Like how many job ads insist that it is necessary to lift 25-50 pounds and the actual job never does require it (that one has been a topic in some circles I’m in as being particularly universal and potentially violating the ADA when used unnecessarily so on my mind.)

    It’s bad enough when there are actual people involved and so you might be able to discuss accommodations. But hiring algorithms mean you often don’t get that far. So when someone just starts with a generic office job template and ads to it instead of looking at the actual job lots of qualified people never have a chance.

  59. Miles*

    #4 – You mention color blindness multiple times but in the contexts you mention, it’s not automatically something that prevents the person from doing the job successfully, any more so than a non-color-blind person, without accommodation. Does your interview process involve a practical portion that tests the applicant’s ability to color-coordinate? I’d bet you your pass/fail rates wouldn’t be along “color-blindness” lines at all, as tons of eyeball-typical people struggle with that same task and have the added disadvantage of never having thought about what colors might look like to others.

  60. raida7*

    I’d just talk to her about “What part of this requires confidentiality?”
    Maybe even add something like A, B and C aren’t covering sensitive or privacy data, and I don’t see any commercial in confidence details here.

    If she can’t point to something that requires you be treat the subject as confidential, then it isn’t confidential. If she just means “this is between us” then you clarify that ‘confidential’ is not code for ‘don’t fckn gossip about me’

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is exactly what I came to say. What confidence are you asking me to keep? Who are you asking me to keep silent to? What’s going on here?

      I generally assume that if someone works with you and the question is about work, there shouldn’t be big secrets about doing work. Because if there are, then DON’T DO THE THING because at least one of you shouldn’t be doing it if you can’t talk about it.

      And if it’s a “my boss will get mad if he finds out I didn’t know something” — then you should know what you’re going to be on the hook for, should someone find out that you helped. Or you can say, “gee, let me just help you learn this thing and you won’t have to feel so scared about not knowing it.” And if it gets too much and too repetitive, then you handle it as a work request that is overwhelming and you need to be able to address it as such.

  61. n.m.*

    The example that was shown in our anti-discrimination training was, suppose a firefighter needs to be able to wear/carry X pounds of equipment. Then it is reasonable to exclude anyone who can’t carry X pounds of equipment, regardless of whether or not the *reason* is a disability or the applicant just isn’t muscular.

    Similarly if driving is a requirement of the job, then you can reasonably exclude anyone who can’t drive, regardless of the reason they can’t drive. It is of course worth making sure that the thing you’re listing as a requirement really is a requirement of the work, and not just an assumption based on “this is how everyone else does X so you have to do X too”

Comments are closed.