coworker takes all his calls on speakerphone, demoted boss asked me to be a character witness, and more

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

1. My coworker takes all his calls on speakerphone

I have a very nice coworker who leaves his desk phone on speaker at a very high volume during all of his (very frequent) calls. His office is next to mine and our walls and doors are glass, which provide little-to-no buffer. Even with his and my doors shut, I can hear the conversations like it’s happening an inch from my ears. I’m usually good at filtering out all noise. (There’s a new metro station and skyscraper being constructed across the street from my office, and I don’t even notice the noise from that anymore. The brain is an incredible machine, and I’m able to block out the power drilling, excavating, and horn blasts that occur constantly.) But these phone calls my coworker is on I CANNOT block out. I wear noise canceling headphones when the calls go on for more than 20-30 minutes, but even those don’t help much.

How do I, in the nicest way possible, ask him to use ear buds/earphones while on the phone all day? I find myself feeling resentful and being annoyed yet I continue to stay silent.

As a side note, he also watches videos on his phone at full volume, and has his cell phone on speaker when he uses it. He’s very conscientious in many ways but this one habit is killing my ability to focus/concentrate.

This is much less complicated than you are making it!

Just be matter-of-fact about it. As in: “Hey Bob, could you not take your calls or play videos on speakerphone? Even with our doors shut, it’s really hard to block out and makes it tough to concentrate.”

That’s it, truly.

Most people want to know if they’re doing something that’s annoying the crap out of a colleague. (Wouldn’t you?) If Bob is affronted or unreceptive, he was going to be affronted or unreceptive no matter how you worded it and no matter how delicately you approached him. You might as well start by assuming he’s a reasonable person who just doesn’t realize how his actions are impacting you (although he should! speaker phone, come on) and be direct.

2. Rejected for being “overcommitted”

I am wondering if you can shed any light on a situation with my daughter’s job search that I find a bit bizarre. She is a high school junior who is searching for her first part-time job. She went in for an interview with our movie theater, which often employs local students. The interviewers asked her what extracurricular activities she’s involved in at school, and she mentioned that she is captain of a varsity sport and is part of a few clubs, but that she would be available after 5 most evenings to work and would have no problem making shifts. The interviewers then rejected her, saying they felt she was “overcommitted” and would not be able to handle a job in addition to her classes and extracurriculars.

Am I old-fashioned for feeling that this was unfair? My understanding as someone who’s been in the workforce a while is that employers should trust that potential employees know what workload they can and cannot handle. Are the rules different when hiring students? Or is it likely that they had some other issue with my daughter in the interview, and this was just the excuse they gave?

Also, I had advised my daughter to tell interviewers about her various school activities, as I assumed it would make her seem like someone with initiative and leadership experience. Would it be more beneficial for her to hide these commitments from potential employers to avoid seeming like she couldn’t handle the job?

I don’t think it’s particularly unfair, although hiring isn’t really about being fair to applicants; it’s about employers making the decisions they judge will be best for them. It’s not unreasonable for employers to make a judgement on whether they think someone is likely to have room for the demands of the job, just like they might also be wary of someone who’s already heavily scheduled up with other part-time jobs or who has a three-hour commute. They might be wrong in their assessment, but it’s understandable to err on the side of caution, especially if they’ve had student employees before who ended up quitting at inopportune times because their schedules became too much to handle. It’s also possible (maybe likely) that they want to be able to schedule her before 5 sometimes and would rather hire someone with more flexibility to do that.

She could try mentioning fewer of the extracurriculars and see if that makes a difference (although this is also something that will vary from hiring manager to hiring manager).

3. My demoted boss asked me to be a character witness

A woman who played a large role in hiring me, the only role in training me, and who was for my first year of my two years at my company my “big boss,” i.e. my manager’s boss but still with nearly daily involvement in my work, sent an email to my work email tonight. She detailed that she is being charged with two misdemeanors for leaving her dog in the car and needs letters of rec to keep her dog and not be charged with these crimes.

I am so torn. I do think she loves her dog but I don’t buy her story that what she did wasn’t a big deal. You don’t get a misdemeanor for animal cruelty and animal neglect while running in to grab tampons from CVS (she didn’t say what happened exactly but implied it was a quick thing, I personally think it was while she was at a concert but have no proof). And I think it is wildly out of line that she sent this to my work email; she has my personal phone number and could have asked for my personal email. She was demoted in a scandal earlier this year but it still feels like undue pressure to send it to my work email and to ask that I not speak about it. AND I love animals, I treat my cat better than some people treat themselves and I would never do anything like leave her in a car.

I know weighing whether to write the letter to the court is a personal matter I must wrestle with but I am seeking advice about whether to raise this with our leadership or HR. We just grew from 30 people to 50 and are in the midst of hiring a real HR team, but I do trust the integrity and opinions of that acting person. Anyway, what would you do regarding her involving our work emails and work life into this?

I’m less concerned that she sent it to your work email than that she sent it to you at all. Even if she’d used your personal email, it’s an inappropriate request from someone who has any kind of influence over your work. (It’s also really odd — do you have any particular insight into how she treats her dog? I’d think she’d be better off asking friends or family members, and the fact that she’s turning to you is troubling.)

At a minimum I’d recommend telling her that you don’t feel you have enough information about her relationship with animals to be able to write a compelling letter. But yeah, I’d consider telling your acting HR person as well since if she’s pressuring you to do this, there’s a good chance she’s pressuring others. Plus, if there’s any blowback from declining to write the letter, it’s good for HR to be aware of what happened.

4. Assistant calls out on all her in-office days

I work at an academic unit in a research university. We were fully remote during the early pandemic, and now are allowed two days per week telecommuting. I have been assigned two admin assistants to supervise and I’m tasked with monitoring their schedule and covering the front office. One admin is great about her schedule, rarely asks for last minute coverage, is a good communicator, etc. The other one has been more aloof. She is assigned to be in the office Mon-Wed (she chose those days) but has also been requesting those days off almost weekly at the last minute via our HR system. I don’t want to decline those days requested (she has the time banked) but it is always on days that she is scheduled to be in the office in person. I’ve mentioned to her that she ought to come in on one of her assigned teleworking days if she plans to be out on her assigned in person days (or just pick different days if that works better for her). That worked for about two weeks, but she’s back to the same behavior.

I want to be sensitive to people and their lives (god knows everything is still weird and stressful!) but also need to ensure that there is an actual person in the office to assist people at least once a week. I guess my question is am I being a jerk asking her to come in to make up for her teleworking days?

No. If you need someone in the office in person, it’s reasonable to tell her that if she’s out on her in-office days, she needs to come in on her teleworking days that week.

But there’s a bigger discussion to be had here about what’s really going on. Does she not feel safe in the office? Is she using this to manage her safety concerns rather than addressing them head-on (or has she tried to address them without success)? Does she have child care issues? Does she just prefer working from home? Definitely lay out the requirements of her job for in-office days, but have the bigger conversation too. You might or might not be able to do anything about whatever concerns come out (and you’ll need to be clear with her if you can’t), but it doesn’t make sense to ignore that something’s behind what she’s doing.

5. Forced to take a day off without pay

If an employer is forcing you to take the day after Thanksgiving off without pay, but you are willing to work, do they have to pay you?

It depends on whether you’re exempt or non-exempt, which are the categories that determine whether your employer must pay you overtime. People who are exempt (as in, exempt from overtime) must be paid their full salary for the week if they work any part of it, even if they don’t work all of it (with some narrow exceptions, like your first or last week of work). People who are non-exempt only need to be paid for the actual hours they work — so if you’re non-exempt, your employer can indeed tell you not to work on the day after Thanksgiving and not pay you for it.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

    1. Pop*

      Yes, there are very few laws around this sort of thing and so employers can welcome to require use of a vacation day if the office is closed, although many will have a company-wide holiday instead.

        1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

          Okay, I’ve wondered about this: what if you’re OUT of PTO? Is it a “you get paid but also coached/written up” thing? I’ve never been in that situation, but every time I read about exempt employees having to be paid for the week, I think about it.

          1. Chelle*

            Yeah, my company lets salaried, exempt employees take a certain amount of days of additional unpaid time off after they use up all their PTO (at managers’ discretion), and whenever Alison gets these kind of letters I wonder if that’s legal.

            1. Freya*

              Dunno about legality in America, but here in Australia, it’s absolutely legal. If the employee leaves while their leave balances are in the negative, the employer is out of luck, though – there’s only very limited circumstances in which the employer can claw back overused leave payments, and it can never legally be done without the employee’s written consent – so most places don’t, or if they do, there’s hard limits on it.

              1. WS*

                If the day is unpaid, though, it’s not part of your leave balance. Some employers do let people “book up” leave if, say, you’re getting married and want to take two weeks off early in the year when you don’t have two weeks banked up, but some make you take it unpaid and of course they don’t actually have to let you take it at all, because it’s “by mutual agreement”.

              2. Snuck*

                In Australia the law is partly based on whether you are a permanent or casual employee, and whether the day after Thanksgiving is a registered public holiday. I don’t think it’s a “Bank Holiday” or “Federal Holiday” (which seems the US version of what Australia generally calls a public holiday).

                So… if you are casual then your employer can just not roster you for a shift that day, and not pay you.

                If you are permanent and it is your normal working day on your normal roster, and your employer decides not to open for the day they can require you to take annual leave for the hours you would normally work (most leave categories in Australia are calculated on hours, not days). If there is no formal agreement in writing usually the directive from Fair Work (Government) is that the employee can take leave in arrears (Annual Leave in Advance), or unpaid leave.

                If you are permanent and it is not your normal working day, then you do not need to take leave and your employer does not need to pay you.

                (And if it’s a public holiday then the public holiday loading rates apply if you do work, but you do not get loading of any kind for leave you take – an hour is an hour is an hour… the rate of pay might be up to 250% the normal, but the time is defined by time not $)

                If your employer is opening, but chooses not to roster you – if you are a casual then that’s their prerogative (unless you are a casual who has been on the same roster for a long period of time – more than 12mths, then you may have a claim to be converted to Permanent, depending on industry/award), if you are permanent and your employer chooses to tell you not to come in (even when they are open) then he needs to treat that the same as any other day he decides he doesn’t want you at work – generally use annual leave to cover for the day, or if insufficient annual leave, unpaid leave.

                At least this is how I believe it works.

              3. Drazzilla*

                This may be why my organisation won’t let go us into negative PTO balance but will allow us to carry a flextime debit. It’s explicitly stated when I enter flex into my attendance record any negative balance will be deducted from our final pay. They cap allowable negative balance to employees usual weekly hours so they can’t lose.

                Precious employers have allowed a small negative PTO balance at their discretion, especially for forced leave like a Xmas shutdown.

            2. Snow Globe*

              In the US, they would still need to pay you even if you have run out of PTO days. How they handle that is up to the employer – they could just let you go into negative PTO, they could require you to make up the time in the next couple of weeks, etc.

              1. Anne of Green Gables*

                Yes, this has happened to me. It was weather-related closure, but we had to use PTO for those. There was a major storm a month after I returned from maternity leave when I had zero balance, so I went into negative PTO. Took me 6 months before I had a positive time off balance. I was willing to take the time as unpaid but was told this was not an option for my position type.

              2. fposte*

                That’s a situation where they may be able to dock an exempt employee’s pay. The rule is “Deductions from pay may be made when an exempt employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons, other than sickness or disability.” There’s a different clause that allows for partial-week docking for sickness if sick days are exhausted or the employee hasn’t yet qualified for them.

                1. Business Goose*

                  I always wonder why this never gets mentioned when when exempt/non-exempt unpaid time off comes up. That’s more than just a limited exception!

                2. eternalfiresong*

                  We just had a situation come up at work where an exempt employee asked for some unpaid days off (he’s used up all his PTO). While I manage this person, I am not an expert in this and asked our boss, who asked our outside person, and that’s basically what they said. I had mentioned “I’m not sure if we can allow for less than a week, as my understanding is that any time worked in a week results in pay for that full week.” But the service we use said that we can’t do partial days, but we can track unpaid time off by the day for exempt employees. Always makes me nervous when letters like this come in. Thank you for your comment!

                3. fposte*

                  @eternal–yes, for exempt employees there’s no partial days’ pay, ever. And I suspect a lot of employers don’t want to get into the hit to goodwill and accounting issues of deducting a days’ pay for an employee paid monthly, but if they do it right by the sometimes tricky law, it’s legal.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                We had negative PTO at Exjob also. If you ran out of accrued time off, you could take up to 40 hours and still get paid, but you would have to accrue back up to a zero balance and then start banking time off again. I used it the second time I went abroad since I didn’t expect to be going back so soon. It wasn’t hard to make it up if you didn’t take any PTO in the interim.

                OldExjob didn’t have that. If you were out of vacation days, you were just out and took it unpaid.

            3. Elysian*

              Sometimes they can deduct for exempt employees if they’ve run out of PTO – it all depends very much on the circumstances and the employer’s policies, so it is hard to say a hard and fast rule.

          2. Asenath*

            In my former job in Canada, this situation came up annually. Christmas-New Years was not one of our busy times, and everyone got an extra day of leave in that period plus the legal holidays. That wasn’t quite enough to cover the whole period, and, except for people who had to work then because their work requires 24/7 coverage (eg security), we could use our own paid leave to have a nice long mid-winter holiday. Most people, at least in the department I was in, did that and took the entire period from the afternoon of Christmas Eve to and including the day after New Year’s Day, off. Since the arrangement was the same every year, and we had decent leave provisions, workers planned well in advance to have the 2 or 3 leave days needed.

          3. Abated*

            My company has floating holidays. All employees, regardless of how long we’ve work there, all get three floating holidays to use during the year. Last year, the company made a change and closed a day after one holiday, I think it was July 4th. They only offered two floating holidays that year since they gave us an extra mandatory holiday. Some people were upset, but I didn’t care because I would normally have taken that day off anyway.

          4. anonymous73*

            I always wondered that as well. If a company is going to require employees to take certain times off (like the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day) it should either be counted as a company holiday, and therefore not come out of your PTO bank, or if you want to work, they should allow you to use it as a floating holiday.

            1. Unicorn Parade*

              I am a non-exempt employee and my office is closed on Black Friday, and they do not pay hourly employees for it. I’ve learned to bank time, but they also have a weird PTO accrual system – you aren’t eligible for any until the January 1st after you were hired, and I was hired mid-January, so I had 11.5 months with absolutely no PTO. It put me in a really tough financial situation, because I didn’t make a ton of money to start with. I actually had to take a loan from a friend just to have enough money to get by (and we get EOY bonuses, so I was able to pay her back and get caught up). It doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but when you’re barely scraping by, it can be a huge hardship. I wish more employers would recognize that.

              My grandboss has to approve my PTO requests, and for six years now, every single time I put one in for Black Friday, he emails me to tell me I should check with HR because he’s positive it’s covered, and I have to explain that as a non-exempt hourly employee, I don’t get paid, even though he does.

              1. MissBaudelaire*

                I work in an industry where I might have days off if the provider I work with isn’t working. I try and scramble and find somewhere that needs coverage. I had to have a long discussion with my provider that even though she thought it was nice for me to have ‘days off’, it wasn’t nice when it ate up my whole paycheck.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I’ve seen accrual delayed until the next quarter, but never the next year. I agree with LizB 110%.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I’ve had jobs where you have no PTO the first year. Now, do ask about it and avoid those jobs if I can. It’s not reasonable to expect people to have no time off at all or take unpaid time if they’re not even making enough to live on.

                  *bites lip to avoid a giant rant*

                3. Whimsical Gadfly*

                  My last job you accrued it durring one year to be able to use it the following year. There were all sorts of odd results from this besides not havong any your whole first year.
                  For example if you were part time one year the next you would have very little time accrued. And if that year you were full time with lots of overtime you might have tons of time accrued to use the next year even if you were part time again.

              2. Quiet Liberal*

                An old employer did this, too. We didn’t start to accrue any vacation, sick leave or personal leave until Jan 1 of the following year. I started on Jan 2 and worked a full year without any of those benefits. They also increased vacation time off at specific anniversaries. Initially it was two weeks and then increased to three weeks at the ten year anniversary. I was so excited to finally be eligible for three weeks vacation when I was on the cusp of starting year 11, when the HR b*tch (and she really was) informed me I had to wait until I’d worked through year 11 because that rule also applied to the extra vacation week.

            2. kitryan*

              I feel like either the PTO amount should be sufficiently generous to cover that and allow for other time off in a reasonable amount or it should be ‘preset’ that everyone has that time off paid as a default and it would be fair if then the PTO total for the rest of the year might be a smidge lower than it would otherwise be, if they did not have that set vacation for everyone already.
              When I worked in theater, we had what I still consider a really good set up. 1 sick day a month, with unused sick time accumulating up to about 25 or so days you could have banked-and rolling over to the next year(s), plus about 10 days vacation and 2 days personal time to be used for appointments and so forth. No roll over between seasons/years for vacation/personal, but also we had summers off unpaid, so the 12 days vacation/personal were really only for 10 months of the year. Pretty sure you could use all your days at any point in the year as well.
              It’s still my favorite overall structure to handle the vacation/personal/sick breakdown, as it addresses a lot of the concerns about allocating sick/personal/vacation and what if you’re sick but you have a vacation planned and what about appointments and all of that. With maybe a 2-5 vacation day increase if it were covering the whole year, I’d be pretty happy with that arrangement now, even though it’s less ‘vacation’ than I currently have, with my one-bucket workplace.

          5. Tigger*

            My roommate works for a company that deals with kids, and their schedules are based around school. If the kids were off school, the company was closed and non-exempt employees either had to take PTO, or not be paid. This sucked around Christmas, as the school would have over a week off, and employees had to plan for that. It resulted in her not being able to use her PTO for anything other than when the school is closed. Now she is exempt so she doesn’t have to worry, but yeah if you are out of PTO, then it’s unpaid time off, and totally legal to do that. But I don’t think it resulted in people getting written up.

            1. ecnaseener*

              It’s only legal in that case because it’s a full week. If exempt employees work one day in a week and the office is closed the rest of the week, they legally need to be paid for the whole week.

              1. Tigger*

                They are a non-profit, and can operate by different rules than for-profit in some cases. I think because they don’t get funding for those days (no school = no funding = no money) they are allowed to not pay employees. I might have gotten non-exempt and exempt mixed up, but she was paid as if salary except for non-school days, which she was then required to use PTO if she wanted to be paid.

          6. Koalafied*

            Big oversimplification here, but the one of the main thrusts of labor law is that your boss can’t use your paycheck as a disciplinary tool. They can’t dock your pay for mistakes, either as actual costs your mistake incurred or as purely punishment.

            So if you’re out of PTO, and you can’t legally take the time unpaid, where does that leave your employer? If it’s important, they could tell you to go ahead and take it, and perhaps let you go into a negative balance and not be able to take more vacation until you accrue a positive balance.

            There are also some legal frameworks where employers can let employees buy (or sell!) elective PTO with pre-tax deductions from their paychecks, which could be used to cover a scenario like this if the employer had that kind of program already set up – but as far as I understand, employers can’t do that outside of a larger program designated for this purpose, which has other compliance and recording requirements.

            But if your employer doesn’t offer you any way to borrow or buy more PTO and tells you you can’t take the day off, and you take the day off anyway, that’s essentially a disciplinary matter, and your paycheck can’t be used to discipline, so your boss would have to use other management strategies – coaching your attendance, revoking some informal benefits like flexible hours, up to and including firing if they really feel that way about it (and it’s not FMLA-protected, of course).

            If your boss is fine with you taking the day off but still can’t finagle a way to record this in the computer within the corporate structure because there’s no buying/borrowing/debt policy in place, some tools the boss might still have would be treating it as flex time – making an informal agreement that you’d take Friday off but keep it “off the books” you’d make up the day by staying an hour late Monday-Thursday for the next 2 weeks. Or you’d agree to work an upcoming evening/weekend event that management has been soliciting employees to do grunt work on a purely voluntary basis. Maybe he would say that you’re going to have to cancel your plans to attend a conference for professional development next week because otherwise he doesn’t see you having enough time to get your work done if you take this day off, too.

            Really any number of solutions could be worked out if the manager is actually OK with it. It would just come down to what both the employer and employee can agree is fair, and is also not illegal.

            1. Bee Eye Ill*

              I used to work for a boss who loved using unpaid suspensions as punishment. Even for salaried employees.

            2. doreen*

              According to the DOL

              Deductions from the pay of an exempt employee may be made for suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for disciplinary reasons for infractions of workplace conduct rules. Such disciplinary deductions may only be made in full day increments.

              So they can deduct a single, full day for an exempt employee who wants to take off for personal reasons other than sickness , or someone who is out for medical reasons if there is a sick leave policy and the employee has no sick time and they can suspend an exempt employee for one or more full days for some disciplinary reasons ( the page specifically says it cannot be done for attendance or performance reasons.) It’s always legal for a company to allow an exempt employee to take an unpaid day off – what they can’t do is force you to take a single day off ( such as Black Friday) and not pay you because you have no PTO left.

          7. yala*

            In our case, it’s leave without pay. It’s not uncommon for folks who were hired shortly before the holidays to just not have any annual leave in the bank for the time off. You can get written up/reprimanded if you go into leave without pay, but I don’t remember the hard and fast rules on it.

        2. Freya*

          It’s usually written into contracts here in Australia – permanent employees who are likely to be affected have something like “the office shuts down over Christmas and you will be expected to take annual leave during this period”. I don’t think I’ve ever had a contract that didn’t include something similar (casual positions (Australian equivalent of hourly) don’t have annual leave or personal leave, of course).

          I’ve just checked on accrued leave balances for most of my clients, so that I can ensure they know which of their employees are unlikely to have enough leave accrued so they can talk about it beforehand.

          1. Bamcheeks*

            It’s fairly common in the UK for senior university staff to have 30-40 days annual leave and have to use it for the time off between Christmas and New Year, and for lower level staff to have 25-30 days but get Christmas-New Year off in addition.

            (Yes, the university year is heavily Christian and no this does not necessarily suit everyone else!)

            1. londonedit*

              It’s the same in my industry – usually in companies where staff get 20 days’ holiday (not including public holidays) then the office will close between Christmas and New Year and you won’t have to take the time as holiday. In ones where people get 25 days or more, often you’ll have to take the Christmas/New Year time out of your annual leave allowance even if the office is closed. Thankfully I work for a company where you get 25 days and the extra time over Christmas!

          2. Snuck*

            Yup. Unless you work in grain. Then it’s “the office shuts down over July and you are required to work Christmas and New Years as seasonal demands are highest”

            Even when I was working for Australia’s biggest Telco there was a shutdown over Xmas (for deployments of software, HR moves/changes and major system/process updates).

            1. londonedit*

              Yes for us it’s a hangover from when you’d have a factory shutdown over Christmas – all the printing presses would stop so there was no point in publishers trying to send things to press over the Christmas break and most would therefore close too. I’ve only ever worked for one publisher in nearly 20 years that wanted a skeleton staff in over Christmas – the rest have all closed between Christmas and New Year, with varying ways of handling the holiday in terms of whether you needed to save annual leave or not.

      1. yala*

        Yeah, that’s how it is at our place. They make that very clear in the interview stage so it doesn’t take anyone by surprise, but it still stings something awful to loose ~50 hrs of annual leave during the winter holidays.

  1. KR*

    #2… From my own experience working & supervising at a customer service job, my high school age coworkers who had a lot of clubs and sports had more limited work schedules and time off requests. And when you’re at that stage in work, open availability is really prized by managers. I had a coworker who took the entire football season off & forgot almost everything about how to do his job when he got back. A new semester would start and suddenly another coworker needs every Saturday from 9 – 3 off for the next 2 months. Practices get scheduled last minute, games get rescheduled. Usually high school sports have a no-tolerance policy for late arrivals or missed practices and no matter how responsible the employee is, there’s often some event that gets missed that they need last minute coverage for. I’m not saying this is accurate about your daughter – she sounds very responsible and like a team player. But the manager of the movie theatre probably has their hands full already piecing together the availability of anywhere from 10-30 part timers and likely went with someone who has more open availability than your daughter for simplicity’s sake.

    1. KR*

      Wanted to add, when talking to fast food managers about scheduling keep it simple. If you tell them you can work after your drama club gets out at 4 at school across town, they will put you on the schedule for 4:15. If you tell them you need time off for the game they will schedule you to work before or after the game when really it’s an all day affair. Try to keep certain days or afternoons open week to week so every week she’s available the same time, for example Monday, Thursday, and Friday after 4, Saturday all day and Sunday after church for example. Less for managers to think about and it makes you seem less like you’re pulled in too many directions.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        I cosign this. I remember once in retail the manager scheduling a girl to work on a particular day even though she explicitly said in front of ALL of us that she was taking an exam during that shift. She scolded him and he changed it, but she must have pondered having to constantly fight over her schedule, because she walked off the job an hour or so later. Plus he kept disparaging the idea of a college education to begin with. I thought he was joking, but under the circumstances I could see not giving him the benefit of the doubt.

        For some reason managers in those types of jobs don’t bother to write down the caveats about your schedule. And they don’t seem able to think logically about the schedule they set up, like with “clopens” where you close late at night, then have to come in early in the morning to open the next day.

        1. Casper Lives*

          Clopens shouldn’t be legal. But that’s another discussion.

          OP’s daughter’s availability is too limited for what they’re looking for. It’s unfortunate that managers can’t keep the schedules straight. Even if they’re the SAME availability every week!

          1. Miss Muffet*

            When i worked at the front desk of a hotel in college, I often had clopens, and if there was availability, we got to stay overnight in the hotel, which was kinda fun!

            1. Rainy*

              I used to work retail as a team lead and Ops manager and I was regularly scheduled to close (locking up at 9am, leaving somewhere between 9:15 and 9:45) and then come in for freight the next morning at 4am.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            Yup my first summer job I was available any time any day except not available Sundays. The entire three months I got put on the schedule for Sundays, had to remind them to switch it, they switched it but never made a note, then put me on Sundays again. They never wrote down anyone’s caveats despite asking for them on the job application. I never did have to work on a Sunday (wouldn’t have anyway even if they didn’t switch me), but it was a ridiculous dance we did every week.

        2. KR*

          A dunkin donuts manager I had once scheduled me for when I was still in school (I got out of school at 2:25, he scheduled me for 1 or 2). I wrote him a nice note reminding him that I was 17 and still in high school, and got out of school at 2:25.
          The next week he scheduled me for 2:30. So I wrote him a more detailed note about how the teaching stopped at 2:25 and I needed until at least 3pm to pack up, get to my truck, get out of the school parking lot traffic, and get to work. Mind you this was all through note since he worked first shift and never worked second shift.
          This is the same manager who scheduled me for the only 2 days I noted on my application that I couldn’t work… for my first week. When working teenage part time jobs it’s really best to keep things simple. I didn’t have a lot of out-of-school hobbies, but I knew people who worked 20+ hours a week while doing varsity sports all year long. So it’s possible, I think the daughter just gave her interviewers too much info.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            From what I’ve heard about retail, that’s extremely typical that if you say “I can do every single day but Thursday,” you will always, always, always be scheduled Thursday (and if they’re especially evil, no other days BUT Thursdays).

            You’re not supposed to be doing anything but the job (so they can jerk your schedule around constantly), which is probably the issue with the daughter here. She can do activities or have a regular job, but probably not both.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Yep. There was an owner of several fast food franchise restaurants in my hometown that was quite upfront about the fact that he wanted his managers to only hire kids that weren’t in extra curriculars or came from “bad homes”…because they were much “easier to work with” ie, they would take more abuse without pushing back or quitting.

              I slipped through the cracks (my family was upper class and my mom had insisted I get a job to contribute something to the super-bougie extra curriculars I took. When I interviewed they asked me about extra “school activities” and since my horse and Baroque chamber ensemble weren’t through school I said I didn’t have any) and I got in trouble because I was told to clock out (but still expected to clean/close) and I just left. The other kids there were shocked that one “could do that.” The manager called my house when she realized I had left and got my mom. Thinking my mom was me (since we sound quite a bit alike on the phone) she read my mom the riot act about how I was expected to clock out on time but also not leave until closing was finished. As was customary, she did all her calls to employees to ream us out on speakerphone so all the staff could hear the threats and stay in line.

              My mom brought all of her Big Karen WASP Energy to bear on the manager, according to my coworkers who were still present (and working unpaid) there were no expletives but many, many phrases like “Are you telling me that it is customary to have minors working around dangerous kitchen machinery UNPAID and UNDOCUMENTED for HOURS after they have already worked the maximum for minors? ON A SCHOOL NIGHT??” and also name-dropping my family’s lawyer featured heavily.

              For the rest of the short time I worked at that place there were no suggestions that we work off the clock, but I’m under no illusions that the bad labor practices continued as soon as I left and only kids who NEEDED the job were left.

              1. selena81*

                Your mom is awesome. She may not have made a permanent change but she taught those kids that there are ways to fight the system.

            2. KateM*

              I have read that you should try to avoid saying “not” things because you say “not on Thursdays” and what is remembered is “Thursdays”. It’s better to say when you can than when you can’t.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              If the managers are not writing things down, I think it’s highly possible that you say “anything but Thursday”, what gets lodged in their brain is “Aggretsuko…Thursday”. Maybe you should say when you’re free to work rather than when you can’t.

          2. fueled by coffee*

            My first “real” part-time job (waitressing) tried to schedule me, a 16-year-old high school student who had to be in class at 7:20 the next morning, to work until closing at midnight (yes, it sucked, and the only reason I didn’t quit is that one of my coworkers was a 20-something with a boyfriend who worked nights so she was willing to pick up a few extra hours at the end of my shift in order to have more time to spend with him in the afternoons). And even then, I was in school until 3 and working from 5ish until 10 three nights a week, and getting my homework done in that two hour window was a challenge.

            I’m not saying movie theater guy was right not to hire your daughter, but I can’t imagine trying to get homework done while also participating in extracurriculars after school and working evenings. I mean, she’ll be in school/clubs until 5, working, say, 6-10 – when does she eat? Do homework? See her friends? I imagine movie theater guy has worked with his share of high school students who think they can take on a few hours of work in the evenings only to quickly realize that their schedules are too busy.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Yeah. A friend of mine in hs worked at a grocery store. I can’t recall if there were any laws about how late he could be out working (this was many years ago), but I know he was often closing/working long hours for a hs kid. And he was often really sleepy in class as a result. I felt bad — he needed the job because his family was having financial issues, so I don’t know that he had much of a choice. But I know it impacted his ability to focus and get his homework done.

              1. fueled by coffee*

                Ha, I had actually looked up the rules on this in my state at the time. Labor laws limited total number of hours worked but not when those hours could be. There *was* a rule that drivers under 18 within 1 year of getting their license were still not allowed to drive between 11pm and 5am, but there was an exception made for driving to or from work (or school). So that was a no-go with my manager.

                1. Here we go again*

                  Yeah maybe it was just because she’s 17 and needs to be out at a certain time (child labor laws) and he needs people to work later than that for clean up after late movies and she can’t come in earlier because of the after school activities. The minimum they can schedule is 4 hours and she’s only available for 2 hours. It makes more sense to have someone stay a little late or come in a little early to cover than to hire a new person for 2 hours at a time.

          3. JB*

            Hah, I had the same experience working at Dunks in high school. The manager actually called me asking if I could come in early, at like noon.

            Me: No, I’m at school. I can try to get there before 3:30 (my scheduled shift start) but school doesn’t end until 2:45.
            Her: So you just need a ride? I can come pick you up now.
            Me: …No. I am AT SCHOOL.

            1. selena81*

              Reading that i’m worried as to what made that manager have so little regard for schooltime: did they manage a lot of poor kids who were willing to miss school to earn a few dollars?

        3. Monte*

          Target asked me to drop out of college to keep working there part time (I was getting under 10 hours a week at $6/hour) after I worked the holidays. I had missed the previous semester of school due to an accident so I was available full time for December and much of January, but was clear I had to return to school 150 miles away. HR seriously asked me to reconsider returning to college.

            1. LizM*

              Target wouldn’t hire me in grad scho when I was trying to pick up some extra cash for Christmas because I didn’t have full availability (i.e. 24/7) until the week after Thanksgiving. I was willing to work 20 hours a week, I just couldn’t work Tuesdays and Thursday mornings because of my class schedule. They literally wanted full availability, but weren’t willing to guarantee a minimum number of hours.

            2. Monte*

              She seemed surprised I wouldn’t even consider it. Like my life plan involved a minimum wage stockroom job with OSHA violations galore.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            “I did reconsider. And–I still agree with what I thought the first time! I will be going back to school. Take your sixty dollars and choke on it.”

          2. Anononon*

            My second job was generally a summer gig (theme park) that hired a lot of high school and college students. One of the perks was a bonus if you worked the entire season. They literally had a list of all colleges in a certain radius with the class start date, and in order to be eligible for the bonus, you had to work until XX number of days before the start date (the number depending on how far away the school was). I was going into my freshman year of college in the fall, so after I started, I had to submit documentation showing that I was expected to be on campus earlier for freshman orientation so that I could still be eligible for the bonus.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              While the documentation as a freshman sounds like a PitfA, on the whole that system sounds pretty good.

              1. Usagi*

                I was going to say the same! At least they took distance into consideration, and were willing to flex based on Anononon’s schedule too.

                Still, as you said, PitfA.

          3. pope suburban*

            I had a part-time job at a toy store in college that did similar. I brought both my class and finals schedule with me to the interview, so they knew when I was available. Imagine my surprise when I saw they’d scheduled me during the final for my capstone seminar. I told them that I could not miss the exam, and I figured they’d change the schedule accordingly. Imagine my further surprise when, during the last exam that would be held on campus because a blizzard would shut down the region (in a region that never shuts down for anything; this was a declared state of emergency), they blew up my phone with progressively nastier messages about how “disappointed” they were, about my “lack of commitment” to work, and finally that I should “not bother” coming in. They seriously expected me to blow off the final for a class that was required for me to graduate so I could come in to wrap gifts at a toy store- you know, when the weather is so bad that no one’s leaving the house except to get essential supplies or fetch loved ones who are not safe alone! Needless to say I took them at their word and did not bother coming back. My parents were appalled and did not lecture me about quitting like that at all. The nerve of some people is astounding.

            1. Usagi*

              Not that this excuses their behavior AT ALL, but from my experience a lot of managers that do this get all “I care about this store 150%, WHY DON’T MY EMPLOYEES CARE ABOUT IT JUST AS MUCH!?”

              I’ve had a long stint in different retail stores and brands and there’s always at least one manager that does that, whether they recognize it or not.

        4. Anononon*

          All of these comments make me appreciate my first retail job. The shortest shift was generally four hours, but when I applied, young and sheltered me put on my application that on weekdays I could work 6 to 9. And, surprisingly, they let me do that, with very little fuss.

          1. MarsJenkar*

            Given the comments about available hours vs. business needs, might it have been that you happened to fill a gap that was needed at the place you worked? 6 to 9 sounds like it might be a relatively busy time on weekdays–if it was AM, people would be stopping by on the way to work, while if it was PM, people would be stopping by on the way back from work.

            1. Anononon*

              Possibly. It was a grocery store, so evening shifts on week nights weren’t super busy by dinner time (much of the rush was probably between 5 and 6). Also, the store closed at 10, which made it even weirder that they let me finish an hour early.

              1. BabyElephantWalk*

                That sounds to me like having you on the floor might have covered evening breaks for staff working longer shifts.

      2. Amaranth*

        One of the other issues with sports/drama/etc is that practice can end every day at a set time, but then what about games, travel for away games, championships, pep rallies? Its not normally the daily practices that cause the issues.

      3. Maggie*

        YES Yes this! to KR’s comment that if you say I’m available at 4 they put you on the schedule for 4:15. I’m a high school teacher and there is a nearby Panera manager who puts all my juniors on the schedule 15 minutes after school gets out. Then my students are begging me to get class early to beat the parking lot traffic and driving dangerously across town to make it “work.” When they beg, I always tell them, your scheduling does not work
        and you need to tell your boss you can’t start until endofschool + 30 minutes. Every single one of these kids starts the job with unearned loyalty to Panera boss, then they wise up and quit and go to the McDonald’s or Panda Express or Five Guys once they realize Panera boss doesn’t really care about their safety or schedule. So, my thoughts for OP are just bc your daughter can “handle it,” it doesn’t mean that she can handle it well. It also doesn’t mean the boss who hires her (knowing what that insanity will look like) is a good boss. The one thing Ask a Manager has taught me is how damaging it is to learn bad norms at your very first job. A summer job may be better and that’s okay! She is learning valuable stuff at sports and school.

    2. Willis*

      I agree with this. In my experience, you’re right that high schools sports often have variable schedules and take precedence over a part time job for a lot of students, so that may be the hiring manager’s experience as well. But I do think the wording in the rejection was a little weird…I would probably say I was looking for someone with broader availability or more flexibility or whatever than say she was “overcommitted,” which does sound a little patronizing.

      1. Autumn*

        Regarding high school sports, my husband owned a summer intensive business, but right about the time public school started their need for staffing dropped. So win win? No. Soccer practice started in the middle of August, the coach would run the legs off those kids, if the business was lucky the coach would run practice 7-9 am. But then you had kids who reasonably wanted to go home and shower. When local business owners complained they were told that games started as soon as school did so they had to start practice in august in order to win games. To hell with teaching the kids to honor their summer work commitments! Almighty sports were more important! Over the years my husband stopped hiring any students if he could avoid it. (College kids almost always left in the middle of august too.)

    3. Still breathing*

      This was my daughter’s experience with a retail chain during the holiday rush; the manager even told her repeatedly during her first week that they only hired her bc they were desperate and she would not have a job after 12/26. She was in two varsity sports and a drama troupe, and took private classes for voice, three instruments, and dance. She was also a National Merit finalist, ranked second in her class, and was dual-enrolled at a local university. She’s sort of an over-achiever. In February she finally asked them when they were going to take her off the schedule because her season was heating up, but she was cross trained for 3 positions and they didn’t want to lose her so she reduced her availability and stayed a few weeks past graduation. But they really didn’t want to hire her.

      1. Jack(ie) Straw from Wichita*

        Having raised a similar child and teaching high school for years, this made me guffaw: “ She’s sort of an over-achiever.” Ya think?

    4. turquoisecow*

      Yeah I worked retail for many years and the golden rule, so to speak is that if you want more hours you need more availability. More than likely the employer didn’t need anyone at the availability the OP’s daughter was offering, especially if there are dozens of other high schoolers in clubs and sports who are offering the same availability and maybe have worked there the last few years.

      When I was a cashier at a large grocery store we often had teenagers available to work after school but they also wanted weekends off. Well guess what, if someone else is willing to work at 3:30 and they’ve been here several years and are great workers, they’re probably going to get those hours before a new employee does. However, we could use someone else working Saturday evenings!

      1. KR*

        Yup – saw someone on a local Facebook group the other day talking about how they didn’t get a call back after applying at Starbucks with availability of weekdays, 8am-3pm. Well there’s your issue! (lol).

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Maybe it’s location specific, but what’s the problem with those hours? It seems like a lot of potential availability for a job that’s often part-time.

          1. AutolycusinExile*

            At least in my area, their available hours are pretty exactly the slow hours at coffee shops – the times when most stores would need minimal staffing and probably already have it covered. If you want hours, you generally need to be available during peak business times, which around here would be 5-7am (morning commute) and afternoons (students studying + dinner time). And of course weekend shifts always need more people. Unfortunately, the person KR would miss all of those!

          2. Red*

            8-3 Monday through Friday are the preferred hours for most people – those shifts are going to go to the workers who have been at *$ the longest, not to a new hire. They need people for evenings and weekends, not M-F during the day.

            1. T*

              They’re usually called mothers hours in my experience, moms looking to get back into the workforce who don’t have childcare outside of school hours.

              1. Texan In Exile*

                A distribution center manager who was having trouble finding people a few years ago created a shift specifically for moms who wanted to work while their kids were in school. I thought it was a great idea.

                1. JB*

                  Many busy bank branches still offer mother’s hours. Lunchtime can be the busiest span at large branches (people come in on their lunch hour to do their banking) so it helps to have the extra hands, especially since the tellers need to take lunches as well. So it’s not uncommon to have a part-time position working 11-2 every day.

                2. CoveredinBees*

                  I would love that. Thanks to covid, I have a limited amount of daycare available and not a minute more unless I hire a nanny (hard to find and out of our budget unless I get an outrageously-paid job). Everything I’ve been finding wants evening and/or weekend availability. Even in jobs that are not necessarily about coverage in 24/7 companies.

          3. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Those are the “golden hours” and everyone wants them. My current hours are 12-8 and they had a hard time finding someone to fill it because not many people want to work that shift.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              At my husband’s last job, he worked 11-7. He hated it, and it was where all new hires started because it was the shift no one wanted. Everyone wanted 9-5 or 7-3.

              1. ThatGirl*

                See, if I had no major responsibilities that sounds nice – I could sleep in and still be home before terribly late. But I worked second shift (3-12, roughly) for four years, and I liked it — except for the part where I had no social life and worked a lot of weekends.

                1. MissBaudelaire*

                  Oh for sure, if we didn’t have kids, it honestly wouldn’t have been that bad. He could sleep in, we could have had a late dinner together. But with kids, he was basically only seeing our little one for about half an hour in the evenings when she was tired and cranky, and that was difficult for him.

              2. Filosofickle*

                I was a lifeguard in my youth, and I LOVED the 11-7 shift! Best shift ever for a young person without kids. Had my mornings to sleep and my evenings to play :D

            2. marvin the paranoid android*

              My least favourite shift was 2-10, which of course I got all the time because my manager had a vendetta against me. I’m a morning person so I would have much preferred the 5-1 shift. 2pm is such an awkward time to start work–not enough time to do much in the morning except be sad about working later.

          4. Ally McBeal*

            At a coffee shop, the morning rush is usually coming to an end by 8am. My usual barista when I was in college arrived at the shop before 5am.

          5. Valancy Snaith*

            I managed a Starbucks for years. Literally everyone wants that shift. Much more necessary are mornings (4-5am to lunchtime) and closes (2-3pm to closing). In both cases the volume of work is much higher, and more employees are needed. Middle of the day is usually pretty quiet.

          6. TheWaitingGame*

            When I was hiring a lot of high school students, that was our busy shift so that availability definitely wouldn’t have been a problem for us and it’s actually more open than a lot people I hired! I wonder if the problem for OP’s daughter is that to someone who doesn’t know her, being available every day after school while still having a bunch of extracurriculars may make her seem like someone who is biting off more than she can chew schedule wise. In my experience hiring a lot of people this age, the people who had a lot going on outside of school tended to quit after a couple of weeks and leave us scrambling to find someone else, because they realised they just had too much going on. I do think she should leave some extracurriculars out. Its not about hiding anything from the hiring manager, but your resume is a marketing document, and for this kind of job, a long list of commitments (on top of school) isn’t always a positive.

      2. a tester, not a developer*

        I’m hoping that’s going to work in my son’s favour – he’s in sports and some clubs, but he’s available to work weekends.

        1. A*

          At least in my area, weekends are the key. My friends high school aged kids that are in sports are really limited in work options specifically because of the conflict on weekends.

        2. meagain*

          For sure. My work has a lot of part time employees and we have several who only work on Saturdays. It’s also our busiest day and the staff makes a fortune in tips. Most of the time it’s more than the week day people make all week. If someone only has Saturday availability, we will definitely take them! Plus people always want Saturdays off for various life reasons so it’s nice to have a roster of people who can fill in. And even when we have a whole staff, we are always so busy that anyone who wants to work on a Saturday is always welcome to do so.

        3. JB*

          Absolutely. Someone will want him. I worked at Dunks for 7 years (through high school and college) because I was willing to close every weekend.

    5. meagain*

      Exactly. The manager of the movie theatre said “overcommitted,” but what they were really getting at was “availability” which is the key word with those type of part time jobs. It’s not personal. They don’t care how well your daughter manages her workload and school and extracurriculars, and they aren’t concerned about her ability to juggle it all. But when it comes to scheduling shifts, all they care about is the calendar, who is available to work, and making sure shifts are covered. If she has other activities going on, that means less or limited availability.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I agree. I think this is more about what the manager needs (which is not something OP or their daughter knows) and how little the manager thinks the daughter’s schedule will fit that. If she were my kid, I’d also ask her to evaluate the jobs she’s applying for and what her schedule/availability really is. Why is she wanting to work? Experience? Can she get that through an internship in the summer? Can she do something like babysitting or tutoring instead? Or maybe not try to do weekdays at all, but simply say she’s available weekends.

        1. TheWaitingGame*

          I totally agree with you about her evaluating what she really has time for. I used to hire a lot of HS students, and to me the availability almost everyday plus the extracurriculars seems like someone who doesn’t really understand how much she’s taking on. Maybe it’s not the case with OP’s daughter, but in my experience scheduling teenagers, they’re still figuring out how to manage their time and as a result, can sometimes overextend (and quit their jobs suddenly as a result).

          1. Bee*

            I’ll be honest, my instinct here was “when is she going to do her homework??” I did two sports in high school, which meant from September to March I didn’t get home until 5:30 or so, and then I’d shower and eat dinner and spend 7:30 to 11:30 doing homework. Maybe she gets less homework than I did – I took a lot of AP classes – but I was absolutely at max capacity and already scraping by on 6ish hours of sleep every night. I could not have handled a job during those seasons.

            1. Eeyore*

              That was my exact thought as well. Maybe she gets less homework than I did and her varsity sports are less busy and competitive. But I strongly remember not having time for anything else during sports season.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        I’ve had some people that I’ve had to decline because their availbility just didn’t match what I needed. It didn’t mean they weren’t lovely people, or I didn’t like them, or I wanted them to suffer. But if I need someone 8 am-4pm on Monday and Wednesday, and you offer me 12-6 on Tuesday and Thursday, then I just can’t use you.

    6. tamarack & fireweed*

      I was thinking, too, that the movie theatre manager just had better experience with less committed students. And they may be quite wrong about the nature of this teen’s commitments and her ability to manage her calendar consistently, but it’s their prerogative.

      Now, they needn’t have said anything. They could just have called back saying “thanks for your interest, but we’re going with someone else / will not pursue your application at this time”. But I guess with teenagers a lot of people turn their personal leanings and preferences into value judgements and don’t hesitate letting the young person know (“I think kids today are too committed to too many extracurriculars, and if I have the chance to tell one, I will”).

      1. A*

        While the manager could have perhaps worded it more constructively (although keeping in mind we are getting this information 2nd hand so who knows if there was more said and OP’s daughter is just zeroing in on the ‘overcommitted’ phrase), I don’t think this necessarily is a ‘value judgement’ or macro level commentary. This is really not an uncommon situation.

    7. RJ*

      My experience is totally opposite. I find that the more things teens belong to, the more you can count on them being at their shifts and working hard. In my experience it is the teens who have no extracurriculuars that find ways to avoid tasks at work and call in sick on long weekends.

      If OPs daughter told me she was available most days after 5, which is when most movie theatres are busiest, I wouldn’t hesitate to hire her.

      1. Kiki*

        I worked at a grocery store in high school and I was a good student and involved in a lot of extra curricular activities. I was appreciated by my managers because I was hard working and could be counted on to show up to all of my scheduled shifts, even the 5am Sunday ones, but my more limited schedule was also a pain for them and meant I couldn’t come in at the last minute to cover for other employees. Sometimes it’s worth the trade-off, but other times managers would rather have someone who can come in just about whenever.

    8. Muggers*

      Hi! As someone who has had to schedule many people with limited availability, here is how I read your daughter’s schedule (no disrespect at all!): sports: no or very limited weekends, which are usually busy. ‘Anytime after 5pm during the week: great! But if she’s in school, then she’s getting up pretty early. Last movie starts at 10pm means she’s cleaning up at 12am-ish. If she were my only resume, I may dig deeper into how late she can stay, what her weekends look like generally, but if there’s a large hiring pool, I would just pass.

      With most retail/restaurants weekend availability is gold. Even by just saying, ‘I can always do Sundays and I can work till whatever late time during the week’ could put her at the top of the pile. Hope that helps and good luck to her! Finding those first jobs are tough!

      1. DataGirl*

        And depending on the state, there may be laws restricting how late students can work. In my state minors aren’t allowed to work past 10pm on a weeknight. If the employee can’t start until 5, that further limits the time I can schedule them.

        1. RetailEscapee*

          I came to make this exact comment about minors and labor law.
          In CT you can’t schedule less than a 4 hour shift, and minors can’t work past certain times. So if your kid can only work starting at 530 and I need to schedule her 4 hours, the most common shift would be 6-10 and then I get a labor violation if she clocks out at 10pm and 30 seconds.
          So that’s a hard pass.

        2. TheWaitingGame*

          I don’t know if it’s the same in the US, but my province here in Canada also has laws abut how late you can be on the road for a few years after you get your license. So even if they can legally work late on weekends, the transportation issue limits their availability there.

          1. DataGirl*

            I’m sure it varies by state, my state has restrictions on number of people in the car (only 1 other person unless they are family) and hours (can’t drive between 10pm and 5am) for those under age 18. So yeah, that’s another thing to keep in mind.

      2. Drama Llama's Mama*

        And depending on where you live and her actual age, there may be laws about how late she could work on school nights. I worked at Blockbuster in college (so I’m old), and closers usually left around 2 am, but all our high schoolers had to be out by 10 pm. 5-10 pm 3 nights a week isn’t a bad deal for the worker, but might be a pain for the scheduling manager if their typical shifts don’t line up with that.

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          Back in the late 80’s Hypermart rolled into town and started hiring up teens. And working said teens until midnight. The big suburban school district I attended already had a students should study not work priority policy so they were less then happy about teens falling asleep in classes due to Hypermart’s shifts. Hypermart received such blow back from parents and the school district that they changed their policy and no one 18 yrs and younger could work past 10 o’clock.

          1. DataGirl*

            In my state high school students also have to get a pass from their school giving them permission to get a job outside of school. I personally think that’s a bit crazy and an overreach of school authority, but it’s the law here.

        2. Nynaeve*

          This is probably as much the problem as anything. In addition to these restrictions, when I was in High School and working retail, there was also a maximum number of out-of-school hours a minor was allowed to be “working”, but those hours included any school sponsored extra-curriculars. I was lucky (I guess) in that my main extra curricular was dance, which was not affiliated with the school, so I could work the maximum number of hours all year round. People who played varsity basketball, or soccer or whatever basically couldn’t work more than one shift a week during their season and had a very hard time finding places that would hire them, or keep them on after the seasonal stuff was over, because they knew they had a very limited number of hours they could work, regardless of their willingness or availability. Something like that could also be working against OP’s daughter.

      3. marvin the paranoid android*

        I’m also guessing that high school students tend to err on the optimistic side about their availability. Eventually if they’re in a bunch of clubs and sports, conflicts will come up, and they’ll probably want to put their school responsibilities first–which is reasonable, but not necessarily something their manager will want to deal with on a regular basis.

    9. RabbitRabbit*

      Yup. 99% sure this was a euphemism for “we want even more flexibility/time.” Could be not wanting to fit a complex schedule person into their schedule, could be that the manager thinks a job is more important than activities and hates having to deal with students’ priorities, etc.

      1. MonkeyPrincess*

        The job IS more important than the activities to the employer. They may have fuzzy feelings of warmth towards youth sports and think that music education is important and all kids should be in band… but practically, they need X number of people working each shift, and that’s their primary responsibility.

    10. Dotty*

      Back in my retail years I was rejected at least twice by businesses that only hired teens and college students who played team sports, because they believed these people were better prepared with a team player mindset for work. On the other hand, the places where I did get hired were places that didn’t like to hire people who were on sports teams, because irregularly-scheduled away-games made them difficult to plan around. So: I think this teen should just view this as part of the finding the right fit. It’s not unfair – it’s just that each company has its own past experiences and priorities that shape who they pick. She’s not what this movie theater thinks they need right now, but someplace else will probably think she’s perfect for them.

      1. Muggers*

        Excellent point Dotty!! I definitely didn’t get a few restaurant gigs because they couldn’t be bothered with student schedules. But I also ended up working at an amazing restaurant all through my college breaks and they treated me so well. For them it worked because their usual staff wanted holidays, summer vacations, off right when I was home and needed money.

        Finding a good fit (interviewing like it’s a two way street) is a very valuable skill and is the perfect advice for this young lady.

    11. Daffy Duck*

      Back when I had to schedule students my boss hired a very nice young man. Who couldn’t work any morning shift because he needed to go to the gym; Monday, Friday, and all weekends were filled with sports teams; Wednesday night was church. So I had an employee who would only work the 2 easiest to cover shifts out of 14. He could never swap with other employees or cover in an emergency. I was allowed a limited number of student assistants and scheduling everyone else around him was a nightmare (no student wants to work every Friday and Saturday night and I don’t blame them).
      Sometimes very good workers just aren’t a good match because the scheduling won’t line up. I am a big proponent of set schedules so employees can plan, but the realities are managers sometimes need to spread the least popular hours among a limited number of employees.

    12. PT*

      I used to supervise teenagers, and LW, I would take this boss’s rejection as a blessing.

      Part of supervising high school and college students, as an adult who is working a primary job, is understanding that school comes first for them. That sometimes their team will make the playoffs with short notice and you’ll have to cover their shift yourself. Or their professor demanded their research project group come to office hours tomorrow or they’ll fail their most recent project, and office hours are in the middle of their shift. Stupid little things like that

      But a LOT of bosses are of the opinion that “school is fake, job is real world” and simply won’t accommodate school. They said they were available, if no one is available to cover, well then they are working and skipping the playoffs/office hours and if they get banned from the team and jeopardize future scholarships or fail their bio lab, well that’s not work’s problem. Work’s problem is that the shift is covered. One of my college-age employees had a previous boss refuse his time off request to take a final exam and wrote him up for leaving early to take the exam. Another one of my bosses wanted me to force college students to rent hotel rooms Thanksgiving weekend when their dorms locked so they could work just a few hours over the weekend, losing hundreds of dollars on the deal. (I believe the employee in question would have earned $150 for the weekend and the hotels would have cost $1500.)

      You do not want your child working for a boss like this.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        I gasped at the hotel thing. That’s–no. Never. In what world!?

        My industry is primarily staffed by college kids. I know darn good and well when finals season happens, and I know we’re gonna be staffed tight. We try to be slightly over staffed so it isn’t a problem.

        Now, that’s not to say it’s always sunshine and roses. I just had someone try and submit the whole month of December off, because he wanted to go on vacation. No, sorry, that’s not how this works. He was outraged. He was angry that I wouldn’t give him two whole weeks off to study for exams. Like, dude, I understand you pay a lot of money for school. So does every single one of your coworkers, and we did make the expectations clear at hiring.

    13. ItIsWhatItIs*

      Not to mention you’re never available for all the prep work like making sure the theaters are clean, popcorn is done, bathrooms are done, etc etc. Especially if it’s a small theater that is only open from like 5-10

    14. Public Sector Manager*

      For #2, I think this is more of an issue of the daughter applying for the wrong type of part-time job rather than being overcommitted (although the daughter’s schedule does sound pretty busy as is).

      Although it’s been years since I was in high school and since I worked in our local movie theater, but when it comes to movie theaters, Friday and Saturday nights were usually all hands on deck. But at my high school, home and away football and volleyball games were pretty much every Friday evening or late Saturday afternoon. Basketball was the same. Baseball and softball were usually during the day. The employees at the theater who did work there always did it after the season was over.

      So if the daughter can’t work a Friday or Saturday night for 10-12 weeks, that’s going to be a deal breaker for most movie theaters. My local theater didn’t need coverage on a Monday or Tuesday night–the owner could do that with minimal staffing.

    15. Shan*

      Yeah, it wasn’t until I became an assistant manager and took on scheduling that I realised how much of a pain it can be. I’d try to give everyone the shifts they wanted, but the reality was that if Sally and Mark have open availability, they’re more attractive hires than Amy, who can’t work at all four days of the week, and who has varying availability on the other three, or Brett, who says he’s available after 4:30 but really means he *should* get out of practice at 4:30, but not always, and then he has to shower and eat something and deal with traffic.

    16. BabyElephantWalk*

      Not being available until after 5pm on weekdays seems pretty limiting for student employment. When I was in high school, class would get out at 2:30pm and most of my peers who worked (and myself) would either start at 3pm, or not be available for the day.

      Granted, the labour market has changed significantly in the past year and employers hiring for part time are having a harder time. But if an employer is looking at a pool of potential students to cover afternoons and evenings, they likely have other candidates with more open availability, or earlier weekday availability.

    17. MCMonkeyBean*

      Agreed. Also, OP–I’m not saying your daughter definitely *can’t* handle it… but you said this would be her first part-time job, in which case how could anyone trust her to know that she could handle it since she never has before? I just don’t think that’s going to be a winning argument if anyone has hesitations about her being overscheduled.

  2. Goody*

    To LW2 – You sometimes don’t know what you’re capable of until you have to actually do it. Conversely, you sometimes don’t know your limits until you hit the wall. Your daughter is applying for her first ever job. She doesn’t know yet if she can handle the extra load, if she’ll have time for homework or a social life when she adds this in. On the other side of the coin, it’s a certainty that the theater manager has had student employees burn out from too many extracurriculars plus regular school requirements plus employment. He doesn’t know *your* child, but he does have history of teens in general.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      It’s one of those things like having a two hour one way commute that occasionally crops up. The potential employee may swear that they’re okay with it to get the job, but the potential for burning out and quitting is high compared to other employees. The experience of the employer is likely that teens who are in a lot of extracurricular activities, particularly competitive team ones, will prioritize their activities over a part time job.

      If it turns out that the OP’s daughter’s activities really do fit neatly into weekdays before five (no weekend or after school events), then she should stress that.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I was thinking about the long commute discussions as well. Sometimes you really just don’t know! I’m sure if seems unfair for the employer to try to tell you what you will be okay with, but if they’ve had people quit for these reasons before and they have plenty of applicants it makes sense they would prefer to avoid the potential issues.

    2. doreen*

      And it might not be too many extracurriculars so much as which ones – there’s a difference between being on a varsity team which might impact availability a lot ( I notice the LW says the daughter is available after 5 most days , which suggests to me that she’s not available during the day on weekends) and an activity that only has a couple of set-in stone , can’t miss days a semester at most – for example, my HS had a musical production every year and the people making the costumes or the scenery could do that whenever it was convenient for them.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        Very true. And if I were hiring for those role, I’d also be thinking that someone in varsity sports might be either counting on or hoping to go to school on a sports scholarship, which ups the likelihood that sports are ahead of work in terms of priorities. Which might lead to increased last minute absences.

        Which might not be the end of the world if she’s the only applicant. If they have a large pool of student applicants though? Her availability will become an issue.

    3. Butterfly Counter*

      Yes, let those who have the experience rely on that experience to help save people from themselves. No doubt this manager has seen students wash out time and again. OP’s daughter might be the exception, but everyone always thinks that.

      Currently, I have a grad student who is struggling. I recognized this 3 weeks into the semester and told her that she should drop the class because with 3 jobs, childcare, eldercare, and other issues, she does NOT have the time to do well in this class. She said that she did and would prove me wrong.

      I wished she would and this is a situation that I couldn’t do anything but warn her.

      With less than a month to go in this semester, I cannot see any way that she will pass this class. I wish so much that she had just listened to me to begin with.

  3. Fikly*

    OP2: If your daughter is a high school junior and this is her first part time job, it’s actually not unreasonable for a potential employer to feel that she doesn’t yet have the experience to evaluate the impact all of her prior commitments will have on her ability to add another commitment (a part time job).

    That’s absolutely a skill you learn while working. I very rarely side with employers, but yup, if they are looking for someone part time who can do x number of shifts per week, and in their experience, a student with those kind of commitments won’t be able to handle it long term, then it makes sense for them to hire someone with fewer things going on.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Completely agree. OP, when you wrote “employers should trust that potential employees know what workload they can and cannot handle,” that applies to employees who have demonstrated that skill set. I would assume (as I think many other employers would) that a high school junior applying for her first job would be learning that skill.

      Same with your comment that employers prize “someone with initiative and leadership experience.” That’s true for “grown-up” jobs. That may be fantastic for getting an internship in an office. But when you need to clean up after a kid barfed candy while watching an action film? You need someone available and willing to do the job.

      Your daughter sounds like a great go-getter with high potential. Unfortunately, that’s not what most people employing part-time high-schoolers are seeking.

    2. Snow Globe*

      As in many cases, the key is remembering that the hiring manager isn’t just evaluating your daughter’s application, but is comparing her to other candidates. If there is another candidate that has the same level of skills/aptitude, but fewer potential conflicts, then it makes sense that they would hire the other person.

    3. Elizabeth*

      I totally agree. I work at a university and hire/supervise many student workers– college students who have part-time jobs on campus. The most involved and “go getter” students always seem the most appealing in their applications/interviews, and they usually say all the right things about their capacity and managing their schedules. However, every time I’ve hired one of these students, they have ended up overwhelmed by their competing priorities and have had to step back from several of them– usually including their job. Now, I much prefer hiring the students with less experience but who have more availability and who can truly commit to the job.

  4. WoodswomanWrites*

    #3, I would start with HR before responding to your demoted boss’s inappropriate request. I would ask what their recommendation is as the best way to respond to the email you received, creating a paper trail should it ever be needed that documents you responded as they instructed you to. The request is really inappropriate in a work setting. And of course it’s not like people go around routinely collecting misdemeanors for mistreating their pets like they do parking tickets. Good for you for not wanting to get involved in that kind of a serious charge.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I absolutely agree that HR needs to know about the email (and don’t get rid of it – HR may need/want to read it themselves to determine in they have any next steps on their part), and I also agree that staying out of this is the best thing you could do. I like the phrasing of “I just don’t know enough about your animal to be helpful.”

    2. Casper Lives*

      Yes, this is such a weird request that I’d ask for guidance. I suspect whoever told the boss to get letters had in mind witnesses who could vouch to her treatment of the dog. Like her vet, people who live(d) with her, etc.

      1. Boof*

        I feel like a lot of character witnesses have nothing directly to do with the case at hand, they’re just there to say nice things about the accused to try to sway court emotions. I’m guessing LW’s boss thought LW would say glowing things about them, and/or they didn’t have enough other people they thought would sing their praises about them/them and their dog management. Or maybe they just asked everyone they thought had positive relationships with them to send one in and planned to pick out the ones that sounded the best to present.

        1. LunaLena*

          Yes, this was my thought too. The boss is expecting LW to say something like “Boss is an exceptionally responsible and caring person, in the X years I have worked for her she has always treated everyone around her kindly. She would never neglect her dog on purpose, etc etc etc”

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        From the letter, I got the impression that the demoted boss is no longer their manager but perhaps I’m misunderstanding. Either way, they should start with HR for their own protection.

        1. Snow Globe*

          If this person was originally “grand-boss” and was demoted, they are now likely to be a peer to the LW’s boss; which means still higher in the organization, so that could still be a concern to the LW.

    3. Snuck*

      #3 If you feel it’s too sticky to not write one… write it but make it useless. You don’t have to say she’s great! And you don’t have to say she’s awful! You can say “Mrs BigBoss asked me to write a letter of recommendation, in the years I have worked with her she assigns work to me in a fair and equitable way, and I have found her to be very approachable with work tasks and issues. I know she has owned Buster for many years and had a photo of him on her desk. I’m sure she loves Buster very much. Sincerely me”

      It’s useless. It doesn’t say she is honest, it doesn’t say she is your friend (in fact it emphasises the boss relationship) and it won’t have a fig of weight on her case.

      1. Snuck*

        And that’s only if you can’t wriggle out of the unpleasantness. I’d try to get this shut down. If your HR can manage her great! But if it’s something you need to disappear on your own that’s trickier.

        Another tactic is to say “Hrm, I don’t really know anything about Buster (the dog)… can’t your neighbour write a better one?” Or “I’m very busy, I’ll do it next week”… and avoid? Not ideal though and she shouldn’t be asking this of you

      2. Bamcheeks*

        A friend had to do something like this— a good colleague just below her level was accused of sexual misconduct, and she was completely thrown by it. She liked him and wanted to help but knows quite enough about sexual misconduct to know that, “well, Mr Owl has always been been lovely to ME, a woman ten years older and two grades senior” did not prove anything about how he treated people more junior. So she wrote a very measured but not effusive letter about what she had seen but also what she was ignorant of.

        When the investigation was complete, it was evident that it was an absolutely textbook pattern of predation on younger female colleagues, and furthermore that he cultivated friendships and positive work relationships with more senior women as a cover.

        I genuinely cannot understand the legitimate point of these kind of character references. They seem to be purely about protecting people with the nous and social capital to suck up to the “right” people.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think you often only see of people what they want to show you and it’s perfectly possible for them to be friendly and professional with people they don’t see as targets and completely the opposite with their prey. Reading her book about Ted Bundy it was pretty clear that Ann Rule never saw him as a threat when they worked together and trusted him.

        2. selena81*

          I think it makes some sense if it is strictly a ‘he said, she said’ situation where someone wants to point out ‘nobody in my surroundings thinks of me as a liar or power-abuser’.

          But if there is any hard evidence or there are supporting witnesses it quickly becomes a class thing (‘look at all the famous people who like me’)

    4. uncomfycat*

      LW here, turns out HR got the email too so now its entirely off my plate. She is talking to her about the charge, ie the details for whether its as simple as a 5 minute duck in for picking up a prescription or something more serious and she is going to let me know what the details are. And she is going to bring up that it was handled way badly. To add context we bring our pets to the office so I know her pet and how she treats it but yea this made me uncomfyyyyyy

      1. Observer*

        Oh wow!

        But I still would not write that letter. I think that if HR comes back to you saying that it’s “OK to write the letter” I would tell her that you really want to stay out of it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Hard agree.

          At one company I worked for the higher ups wanted to know about any requests regarding court cases and definitely anything regarding court orders. Employees could definitely say they did not want to be involved in something. (Of course, court orders are a different story, but the company would still try to support the employee.)

          OP, if your preference is to say nothing, I think it is fine to ask HR to “order” you to say nothing, making it appear that your decision has been pre-emptively made for you. HR may/may not play along, who knows. A time when I indicated I would prefer not to be involved HR was nothing but RELIEVED.

          If you get stuck writing something you can say something positive that you know to be true (“I like Jane.” or “Jane has always been kind to me.”) Or you can go with something that is distancing, “I know Jane from work but we are not social outside of work.” Then you can close on “I have no first hand knowledge of what happened in this specific situation so I cannot comment.”

          The last comment was one I used. “I have no knowledge or insight into the particular scenario that is being focused on.” That quickly satisfied everyone.

      2. Again With Feeling*

        Yikes! I get why she asked coworkers (you’ve seen her with her dog) but it’s still boundary-crossing and totally ok for you to decline. Also, with the scandal/demotion thing, it sounds like she might have some judgment issues and isn’t someone you necessarily could honestly vouch for in court, even if you were willing to.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I know that in France, a report’s “reference” does not count. If your report says glowing things about you, her boss, the court will assume that she didn’t have much choice in the writing. Typically, employees cannot be asked to act as witnesses for their boss in a labour court case.
      My partner’s business partner needed character references in his divorce because his wife was trying to get full custody, and my partner couldn’t write a reference because he had a minority share and the divorcing partner had the majority share. So I wrote one instead, even though I didn’t know him half as well.

  5. Properlike*

    #2 – Something similar happened when I was a teenager applying to a local part-time retail job. Upon finding out I was an honors student, the manager said she wouldn’t hire me because I’d “call out whenever I had too much homework or a big test to study for.” I had impeccable references from previous employers and teachers who would vouch that I’d handled multiple commitments and was conscientious and never late, rarely absent. I knew my limits well. Didn’t matter.

    I don’t automatically assume a junior in high school doesn’t know what she’s capable of. I’m well aware of the problem of unreliable employees, but it’s not limited to teens. Plenty of adults fail to show up on time, or at all. If the teen had excellent references, I’d be more willing to give them a shot.

  6. Still breathing*

    #3 I think it’s a bit strange that she needs letters of recommendation. I was involved in a criminal case for a misdemeanor where the defendants attorney tried to present character witnesses and since they hadn’t witnessed the crime and had never lived with the defendant the judge did not allow them to testify. You have no knowledge about how this person acts outside of a professional office, let alone how they treat animals in general or any pet in particular. They have already been demoted, and a guilty verdict for anything might cost them their job. I’m afraid they will take you down with them if you don’t report this request to HR.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I find that strange as well.

      My advice to the letter writer would be to not agree to be a character witness without first communicating with the defence lawyer and asking two questions:
      – How could being a character witness help the case ?
      – How will being a character witness affect me ?

      Make sure those answers come from the defence lawyer. Not messages passed through the accused. If she wants to be CC’d on the emails, that’s fine. If she wants the emails forwarded through her, worry about the communication being altered.

      If you don’t want to be a character witness, you don’t need to ask these questions.

      Whatever you decide, go to HR first.

    2. WS*

      I’ve written character references – you don’t have to live with the defendant or witness the crime, but you do have to say that you know what the person is being charged with, and be specific about how you know them and why this is relevant. So if the LW hasn’t seen how the person treats their pets then no, they shouldn’t be writing a character reference regarding that.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      “I have never observed her interactions with Mr. Barkies, but I have seen her deal with Fergus McIntosh, a junior member of Accounts Receivable…”

    4. Lilo*

      I’ve personally only seen things like character references at sentencing and not during the actual trial phase. A written letter like this often wouldn’t be admissible at the trial phase. Not sure the purpose of this letter.

      1. doreen*

        Yes, this type of letter doesn’t play a part in the trial as it wouldn’t be relevant to guilt or innocence. It can play a part in sentencing and it’s possible that the lawyer is collecting letters now – but I don’t buy the part where she says can avoid charges with the letter. My guess is that she has already been convicted or is about to make a plea deal and that’s why she wants the letter.

      2. Anonomatopoeia*

        This is exactly right. I’m a criminal defense lawyer, and this letter would not be allowed in at trial. It would only be useful for the sentencing phase, so I would have to assume she’s pleading guilty, and just hoping to mitigate her sentence.

        1. Delta Delta*

          Yep. Me too, and this need for character witnesses makes sense really only for sentencing. Or maybe to try to get her into some sort of court diversion program or something. (Which isn’t how it works in my jurisdiction but different places have different programs.) Also, id never send a client out to get witnesses/references. I’d do that myself or have an investigator do it so there’s no chance for shenanigans in the interim.

          1. selena81*

            Huh? Wouldn’t their only use be in determining wether the accused is a notorious liar or a known animal abuser?

            I don’t understand why ‘my friends say i rock’ would have any relevance after someone is already found guilty.

        2. Missy*

          Maybe she’s hoping to get a suspended sentence which I think a lot of non-lawyers would probably think of as “dropping the charges”, when that isn’t really the case at all but I can see someone misunderstanding it like that.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Makes me wonder if they really were misdemeanors. I can’t imagine that a simple citation for leaving your dog in the car would warrant all this effort.

        Then again, maybe the animal protection laws are much stricter where LW lives. Around here it would be the equivalent of a parking ticket.

        1. londonedit*

          In the UK if you simply leave your dog in hot car you can be charged with animal neglect and fined; if the dog is deemed to have suffered or become ill, or if it dies, then you can be charged with animal cruelty which can come with a prison sentence and/or a heftier fine. The RSPCA runs a ‘dogs die in hot cars’ campaign every year and you can call 999 for the police if you see a dog in a hot car – they can come and break in and rescue the dog. We don’t have the concept of ‘misdemeanours’ here so I don’t think the OP is in the UK, but it’s taken pretty seriously here.

          1. RagingADHD*

            Right, leaving an animal to be injured or die in a hot car should be taken seriously. And even here, it would be taken more seriously than if there was no harm done.

            I mean that if there’s a whole trial with character letters considered at sentencing, etc, that sounds like the ex-boss did something more serious than the impression she was trying to give LW.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          Criminal defense lawyer here. You can definitely get a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge in my jurisdiction for leaving your dog in a car, even for a few minutes. It just depends on whether someone notices and calls the police. The officers who handle animal welfare cases take this seriously and sometimes prosecute even minor-seeming cases (like where the owner came back quickly and the dog was ok).

          So the OP isn’t necessarily right that this must be something more serious. But I agree with the consensus here that character evidence probably isn’t helpful and the whole thing is inappropriate.

        3. Just my 4 cents*

          Someone I know got charged with leaving his dog in the car while running into the hardware store – it was a beautiful day in the 70’s. Anyway, he has top security clearance because of being a pilot in the Air Force, so it would have been a much bigger deal for him as it would come up every year on his background check. He ended up do something like 40 hours of community service to get it off his record.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Her attorney might not know she is asking for letters. I don’t do criminal but I do family law. I cannot count the number of people who reach out to friends and family to get “letters” to use at trial. Then get upset when I tell them they wasted everyone’s time because they are inadmissible. I never tell them to do this. They just go do it on their own then present me with the letters.

      OP3 — stay away from this person. She has already been demoted for some sort of “scandal” at work. I’m not sure from your letter if she is even still your boss. If not, then retaliation is not really a concern. Maybe acting professionally it is. She is also know facing charges of animal cruelty and neglect. This person at the very least has terrible judgment based just on what you have written. Just because this person was your boss and trained you does not mean you owe this person any loyalty. You need to protect your own reputation at work. Do not help this person with a letter and keep your distance at work (be professional of course).

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is what I thought–she’s doing this off the record. She’s already demonstrated poor judgment in other ways, so why not?

      2. cmcinnyc*

        Very good points, and to point #2: I get that this woman was important to OP’s career, but it sounds like she has spiralled since. I had a coworker like this. I really liked her but her problems at the job (and off) did some collateral damage to me and I had to set a clear boundary and not help. I did not feel good about that but I couldn’t afford to lose my job being a good friend–to someone who wasn’t even truly a friend. Let HR know and don’t respond directly.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        Totally agree with this–lots of people think they need letters and/or character witnesses, and they almost never do.

    6. Annie E. Mouse*

      This person taking OP down or tarnishing their reputation is a real risk. If the criminal charges aren’t already a hot topic of gossip, they will be. Another reason to talk to HR, if these recent issues are out of character, they might be a symptom of something bigger. HR may have resources.

  7. ggg*

    I worked with Speakerphone Guy years ago. He himself was not that loud, but he had to turn the speakerphone up to 11, because he was hard of hearing, and due to his hearing aids he couldn’t use a headset effectively. We could hear his phone through multiple sets of walls.

    It was annoying but he was doing the best he could. The “solution” was that he left the department.

    1. Anonariffic*

      Yes, first thing this letter reminded me of was my mother who has hearing issues. Everything needs to be loud but one of her ears is much worse than the other so she can’t really use stereo headphones effectively.

    2. misspiggy*

      Yes, hearing loss is what occurred to me. My ears are worsening, and I rely on speakerphone for work calls. It’s oddly uncomfortable and ineffective for me to use earphones, although I’m not sure why. Having sound right up to the ear canal hurts, possibly because of the oversensitivity you can get with hearing loss.

      Because my hearing loss means I’m rarely bothered by others’ noise, I unconsciously default to ‘this is fine’. While this isn’t a good set of behaviours, the most straightforward way to address it is to tell me when my noise is bothersome. I wonder if anyone could weigh in on whether earphones exist for people with hearing loss.

      1. misspiggy*

        I also wonder whether, in addition to stopping with the entertainment videos at work, the guy could take work calls in a space which is either away from others or has decent soundproofing.

        But in the short term, a lot can be done to block sound by insulating the doorway, which shouldn’t be a hard job for facilities management.

      2. T*

        I worked with someone who’s hearing aids can connect to her phone with Bluetooth. Might be worth checking out. I always wondered why she talking into phone as though on speakerphone but I couldn’t hear the call.

        1. Alex*

          My dad has these. I know they were ungodly expensive, but it’s been so worth it for him because he spends a lot of time on the phone (not professionally but personally). I would wholeheartedly recommend if someone can afford them. I can’t say enough how much easier it is to communicate with him now (we live in different countries so the phone is a must)

        2. Aitch Arr*

          My dad’s hearing aids have this capability. They also can connect to the TV, which means it’s not ungodly loud for the rest of us.

    3. Tenny*

      As a hearing aid user, I am happy to report that modern types of hearing aids can connect directly to smartphones. Similar to headsets. So if thats a case with the LW1 coworker, it should be easy enough fix. Of course, the phone has to be smartphone, not landline.

      1. Aqua409*

        It’s not just the smartphone. My father’s hearing aids will Bluetooth connect to the TV. My mother complained for years that the TV was always too loud. Now he can have the volume set at normal for everyone else and turned up on his hearing aids and it works for everyone.

        1. STG*

          My dad does this now but he puts the TV largely on silent when nobody else is watching. It’s always just a little jarring when I walk into their house and he’s sitting there staring at a silent TV.

          1. ellex42*

            My dad did that as his hearing diminished and his tinnitus got worse. My mother does the same, although her hearing is only slightly diminished, and she at least uses closed captioning. But a lot of the time she’s not really watching TV, she’s “thinking”.

      2. Annika Hansen*

        We have desk phones that can connect to hearing aids via Bluetooth. They should contact their phone service provider.

      3. Dancing Otter*

        If we’re right about him being hard of hearing, he may not be able to afford new hearing aids with Bluetooth capabilities. Their insurance may not cover them (Medicare doesn’t), and those things are expensive!

        1. Boof*

          Maybe he could ask work to cover them since they are to help him work and not disturb the rest of the office. Not guaranteed to work but not an unreasonable ask, either.

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

        Actually I think it depends on the phone system. We have regular landline phones at work, but some offices have Bluetooth headsets. I’m not sure how it works exactly but I think there is a thing that connects the the phone to make it bluetooth.

        And if this person does have hearing loss and needs a hearing aid, the company should be able to get a type of phone that would work with him because it would fall under ADA

    4. It's All Elementary*

      This was my first thought. I wear hearing aids and using a typical landline is hit or miss with me, either the phone connection is poor quality or the caller’s voice is one I can’t hear well. The clarity is just better on speakers, whether or be phone calls, music, or video. Bluetooth hearing aids are awesome but 1) are expensive and 2) not all employers are willing to get a special phone that hooks up to Bluetooth. It just may be that your coworker has no other option available to them. Or your coworker could just be one of those people who don’t realize or care how they affect other people. Only you could figure which one they are.

    5. BethDH*

      He also might just not realize how much the noise travels. He’s in his own office, is on calls where he’s be talking out loud anyway, and doesn’t realize how much worse the additional noise of the speakerphone is. OP realized because this guy is on calls a lot, but if the people adjacent to him aren’t he just might not realize.
      The glass offices sound terrible. Honestly one of the only reasons I want my own office is to skip headphones on days I have a lot of calls and webinars. This totally defeats the purpose of visual and audio privacy.

      1. A*

        Agreed. I view this more as a noise transference / building issue than anything else. So long as he isn’t shouting and top volume, I would think he should be able to use speakerphone in his own office. Not having to deal with headsets was one of the best parts of getting my own office, and if I received a complaint like this I would use a headset in the immediate but would also be opening a ticket with the building manager or relevant party to have the noise transference issue addressed.

        1. Annika Hansen*

          My freshman dorm room has weird noise transference issues. In my friend’s room, you could hear her neighbor down the hall…almost like she was in the room. The neighbor had quite the romantic life that my friend had to listen to.

    6. anonymous73*

      This may very well be a hearing issue, but at what point is it okay to disturb the entire office because you’re unable to hear people on the phone. Are there accommodations that can be made, and if not, do the others just have to suck it up and deal because it’s a disability? Genuine question…not being snarky.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Because people with hearing loss literally don’t know how loud they are. Unless OP1 or another coworker says something, he’ll never know. Alison is correct to start with a simple ask.

      2. JSPA*

        Different ways to amplify come first. Then soundproofing.

        A decibel reader that flashes above a certain level might also be helpful, especially if he’s also speaking loudly (which isn’t necessary).

        “Acceptably above my minimum” and “still seems fine to me” could be two very different sound levels.

        At some point, TTY (speech to text / text to speech in real time) or just, y’know, texting) might be a better option. But if the coworker were profoundly deaf, it seems like OP would likely have some hint of this.

      3. American Job Venter*

        Hearing aids that connect wirelessly to phones and other devices were mentioned upthread.

      1. A*

        …he’s in his own office. Unless by ‘office’ they mean cube walls, it would not occur to me that my colleagues could hear me behind closed doors. If they brought it to my attention I’d address it, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable that they assume their private office is indeed… private.

          1. Cold Fish*

            I don’t know how much room OP has in her office, but if there is room… adding some large potted plants by that wall may provide some sound insulation between the two offices. Oh also, given the holiday’s coming up, an adhesive hook and cloth wreath or two may also add a little buffer. It’s not a perfect solution. But anything with soft edges to help diffuse the sound coming thru the wall might help.

        1. Righto*

          OP says the glass doesn’t block much sound so I assume most people in the office would be able to tell that, but if the speakerphone guy IS hard of hearing, he might not hear the surrounding office noise coming through into his office and so might reasonably think the offices are more soundproof than they are.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            This reminds me of the 3 people in their 20s who rented the 3 bedroom townhouse adjacent to mine in a large apartment complex. Since we were tucked back by the playground and had the 3 bedroom townhouse-style units it was almost all families with children. They never heard their neighbors, so they assumed the units had great soundproofing. They were also holding band practice at full volume in their living room, and no, things were not really particularly soundproof (I could regularly hear the parents and kids from the family I shared a wall with on the other side) and DEFINITELY not “rock band in the living room every day” soundproof.

            Eventually, over a month later, one of the other neighbors told them off and they cut it out. It hadn’t occurred to me to talk to them about it because it felt like playing amplified music and a drum kit is the kind of choice where you know the impact it’s having on neighbors when you make it, and I didn’t want to get in a neighbor-war with three 20-something who already were transgressing boundaries, but maybe they all grew up in detached homes and were legitimately clueless.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I was prepared to be really irritated with him but I think it’s not outrageous he just hasn’t realized it’s so loud to other people if he is keeping the door closed. So tell him, OP!

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I used to work with Speakerphone Guy as part of a Cubicle Farm Team, and he damn well knew he was being disruptive -we told him so. He did not have issues with hearing loss or bad equipment, he just liked his speakerphone. Several times, we asked nicely if he could just, you know, do what the rest of us did and either use a headset, make peace with his handset, or take his call in a conference room. No dice.

        After months of this, we brought in radios – this was 1999 – and the next time he checked voicemail on speaker, we switched our radios on at top volume. It took a few times but he finally stopped doing everything on speakerphone.

    7. Tired social worker*

      On a somewhat related note, the majority of the work I do now is in my second language, which I find very difficult to understand over the phone – for some reason, I absolutely need to do phone calls and listen to voicemail on speaker if I’m going to understand what is being said. Luckily I have an office with a door that closes, and has real walls instead of glass, but I still feel terrible every time I have to give up on the handset and switch to speaker. Something just doesn’t click when I get the input in only one ear (doesn’t matter which one), and I can’t switch to a headset either because I need to hear the front desk paging me from the speaker when I’m away from my desk, which is often. I can speak and listen perfectly fluently in person, but something about the phone results in a back-and-forth that becomes extremely frustrating for the person on the other end when I have to ask them to repeat themselves 20 times. I do my best to keep it on a low volume, but now I’m worried I’m bothering everyone even with my door closed.

      1. JSPA*

        Headsets can still work, depending on the technology.

        I’m not sure how you’re getting the alert, and whether the issue is portability (they can be wireless!) the need to hear two different sources (they can be configured to connect wirelessly to more than one system!) Or just that you can hear outside noise (they can let in outside noise!)

        1. Tired social worker*

          Don’t want to derail too much – I get paged through the speaker on my individual extension. I did do a test run with a headset early on in my time here, which is when I ran into the paging issue and had to revert to speaker (and frantically getting out of my seat to close the door every time a call comes in). If I’m understanding you correctly then I may not have that issue depending on the type of headset. I had thought it was an issue with the phone hardware the office gives me, but maybe it’s worth experimenting again. Thanks!

          1. Imaginary Friend*

            It’s also worth just talking to the front desk folks about the issue. There might be a way to change how they contact you that isn’t a hardship for them and doesn’t need different technology.

    8. Chauncy Gardener*

      I have many older friends with various stages of hearing impairment. It is always interesting to me to see who will actually speak with their doctor/hearing aid specialist (I forget what that professional is called, sorry) to look for a solution and who won’t. I of course understand that hearing loss is super common and a pain to deal with, but I think people who have it and don’t take it seriously don’t realize how socially isolating it is, not to mention massively annoying for those around them. My MIL (who is 90) flat out refuses to get hearing aids, but doesn’t see OR hear well, so she kind of just sits there pouting in her own bubble when we have a family gathering. We all feel badly about it, but she refuses to do anything no matter how many times we discuss it with her. My late uncle refused to get a hearing aid or anything that would allow him to watch TV without disrupting the neighborhood, so everyone avoided him when he had the TV on, which was almost constant.

  8. Observer*

    #3 I see that I’m not the only one who thinks the whole thing is strange. I’m wondering why your former boss was demoted.

    More importantly, I’m wondering why you suspect that the animal was left in the car while she was at a concert. It seems to me like your “spidey sense” is tingling here and you know that something is not quite right with her and her story.

    Let HR know about the email – in fact, I think I would forward it directly to her and say something like “This took me by surprise. I really don’t think it’s appropriate, and I thought you need to be aware that it happened.”

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – it sounds as if there are some judgement issues all around with the former manager. And boundary issues in asking a former employee to write this sort of letter for a former manager, who may or may not still have some sort of supervision of OPs work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        As a theme, I will tie this to the observation upthread re movie theater job of sometimes not knowing what you can’t handle until you hit a wall and start not handling it. Sounds like this may be a theme in boss’s life over the past year.

    2. Karou*

      Yes – boss was demoted because of a scandal and is now charged with mistreating her dog. I don’t think she is the sort of person LW should vouch for and put their own reputation behind to support.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      These dog charges don’t fall down from the sky. In other words, police have bigger fish to fry than drive around parking lots looking for dogs in cars.
      Around here if someone is charged for dogs or kids in a car it is because someone reported it. Usually this person is willing to attest to the what they saw and that can go like this, “I saw the driver exit the car at 1 pm. It is now 4 pm and the driver is not back. I was concerned and grew upset because there are [pets/children] in the car. So I called and reported it.”

      1. Observer*

        This is true. And unless the weather was pretty bad (extremely hot of extremely cold) if someone called and said “I just saw the driver exit the car and the dog is strapped in” the police would not come by. If they are not overwhelmed with other stuff they would tell the caller “Please call us back if no one comes back to the care by x:00”

  9. Eeyore*

    #2 I feel for your daughter and am sure that she is responsible and would probably be able to make time for everything. But based on my personal experience and anecdotes from friends and family, that would be a very busy schedule. Some juniors take challenging AP courses and need to keep up grades for college applications next year; varsity sports are very demanding and competitive, with several hours of practice and travel for games every day; and on top of that she is in several clubs (I assume she attends on the sports off-season?). IME sports and clubs usually end at 5, presumably she needs time to travel/eat dinner/shower/do homework? Would she work weekends?

    So I am sure she is very disciplined and would be able to handle everything, but if I were hiring for a job requiring availability and flexibility to cover other students, I might see this as a red flag. Like if you were hiring an adult who said they could commute 3 hours every day.

  10. Casper Lives*

    How long has #4 gone on? If it’s front office coverage, someone has to do it. It’s an odd move (maybe desperate?) for her to request the days off and hope you don’t notice you’ve got to scramble for coverage 3x/week!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think the big picture conversation Alison suggested is really key here – but at the end of the day if you physically need a person in the office , you need to be able to trust that the in office person will be there. I’m back of the house medical, but the I’ma part of is the direct back up for the front of the house folks – so yes, we’re in person because if a flood of people show up all at the same time as walkins, or front desk folks call off they need backup five minutes ago – not in half an hour or so when you can get to work.

      (And honestly, given all the drama at times we hear about on this site, I do respect the fact there is a clearly laid out and cross trained plan to help any shorthanded department to minimize the “I’m drowning under workload” issues. Also, they have been really clear about the fact they need you to physically be in office and are taking distancing, masking, and vaccines VERY seriously.)

      1. Amaranth*

        I’m curious as to who is providing the coverage when the admin calls in last minute — are they having to give up their own WFH days to accommodate her absences? Are they putting of their own work in order to work the front office? If so, then LW should consider declining some of those last minute requests.

    2. Ganymede*

      I’ve just been reading an article about people taking on 2 full-time jobs when working from home and that was therefore my first thought!

      Well, my second thought after “she doesn’t want to catch covid”…

      1. Alice*

        Re your second thought – I’m a little surprised that OP4 has let this state of affairs continue so long without talking to the unreliable employee about workplace safey issues. Indeed, I hope the reliable employee has also been told what safety precautions are in place. I get that middle management is not able to set policies to make the workplace safe(r) without buyin/leadership from top management, but at least you can be communicating about it.

          1. Concerned Academic Librarian*

            And not all universities are equal about safety protocols either. Some of them are doing all the things. A lot are not.

            1. Colette*

              If I had to guess, I’d say this one is probably on the “not” side, since it’s not clear why they have to be in the office two days a week. If it’s coverage for something that needs to be done in person, then making her come in on another day doesn’t really make sense – the issue, in that case, is that she’s causing problems with coverage, and that’s a different conversation.

              1. After 33 years ...*

                My university has been very forthright about enforcing health and safety protocols. Now that our Canadian province has very low case counts, with possibly the highest vax rate in North America (~95 % single vax, ~90% double), our students have come back to campus, and our student service people therefore have to as well. You have to go where the students are…
                In pre-COVID times, as Department Head I covered for our front-office student-facing staff when they had PTO. I did appreciate being informed in advance when I’d have to do that – and, except for emergencies, I always was.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, this situation is long overdue for a bigger picture conversation. It’s weird that the employee is just taking last-minute PTO instead of talking to her boss about the fact that she apparently doesn’t want to come in to the office at all – maybe hoping to fly under the radar for a while? And it’s weird that the OP hasn’t addressed it head-on already.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m kind of impressed that she has enough PTO to take off three days a week, honestly. But that can’t last?

      1. doreen*

        Maybe – my sister banked a lot of leave since March 2020. Prior to COVID she had an ADA accommodation to work two days per week from home. She exclusively worked from home for months. When her agency returned to some in-office work, everyone got 2 days of WFH – my sister believes she’s entitled to four. The two everyone gets plus two for the ADA accommodation. She’s been taking off two of the in-office days while she fights this battle ( which I think she will lose). She probably had 40-50 days of leave banked when this started, so she can use 2 days a week for 20-30 weeks – and she will accrue even more leave while she is using it.

    5. Works in Academia*

      I had to deal with a similar situation. Had one employee whose primary responsibility is to deliver packages from the mailroom. She refused to come in — asked if she could WFH. Since we could not grant her WFH due to her tasks & responsibilities, we granted her unpaid leave. Eventually, as COVID concerns subsided, we asked her to return. She called out sick last-minute every other. It was causing me undue stress as we scrambled for coverage and it created morale issues for the rest of the team. We tried the bigger-picture conversations but the reality was, she was not interested in on-site work anymore. We eventually had to let her go and the rest of the team felt a dark cloud lifted.

  11. MS*

    Another thing for letter writer #3 to consider is child labor laws. In my state, children under 18 are not allowed to work past 7 pm. If your daughter is only available after 5 pm, that’s only a 2 hr time frame she could work each day which is much shorter than a typical shift. Nearly all of the youth coworkers I had at a parks and rec job with mostly evening and weekend hours were scheduled for weekends for this exact reason.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreeing with this – in my region employees who are in High School are not allowed to work past 8PM to help ensure a good nights sleep. That would mean a three hour shift at best, and probably lead to the manager picking someone with more availability to simplify scheduling logistics.

      1. BcAugust*

        As someone who worked in fast food that hired a lot of teenagers(we’d run anywhere from 1/4 to a 1/2 the people hired being teenagers), I’m going to say that yeah, multiple clubs and sports would be a problem. Just one *could* be okay, if the teenager was good at letting people know. We had several who would get the game schedule for the year and just hand it to the scheduling manager to get all those dates blacked out, but that would be for three/four months and they would work a full teenage schedule the rest of the year. Also it’s very, very easy for juniors/seniors to burn out in my experience. If you’re telling me she’s already doing ten to eleven hours of school stuff every school day(over here that would be a seven am to five pm in school), it’s definitely going to be a concern to have her adding several hours a night and weekends, plus needing multiple weekends off during the school year and possibly the summer.

        I am sure your daughter is dedicated, but that is a really limited work schedule(more then is apparent at first glance!) and I’ve definitely seen far too many teens burn out over the same thing. Because a lot of teens don’t know what they can handle, especially if this is their first job. If she wants it, I would encourage her to keep looking, but be aware that it is going to be very much limiting how much she can work and where, especially if you have super early legal limits on how late they can work a night.

      2. A*

        Exactly, especially for a business like a movie theater where they will still need coverage after 8pm (in my area 16+ can work until 9pm, but same deal) so the employer would need to either double book a part of that shift or have someone else scheduled to fill in between when 8-9pm and close.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this was an issue when I worked in the college dining hall. They also hired some local high school kids, but if they worked dinners they had to leave earlier because of the age cutoff.

    3. Clisby*

      That can vary a lot, though. I’m in SC, and hours are restricted only up through age 15. 16-and-older can work any hours, although there are restrictions on the type of work people under 18 can do.

    4. Empress Matilda*

      This is a good point. And to make it even more complicated – employment law in my area says that shifts need to be a minimum of four hours. So if there’s a minimum in OP’s area as well, that means the employer is either not legally able to assign her daughter to a 2 hour shift, or they have to assign her for 2 hours and pay her for 4. Either way, definitely not workable from the employer’s perspective.

  12. Ori*

    You don’t see it as much anymore but there used to be a thing of retail employers offering “8 hours a week, must have complete flexibility.” I’ve often wondered who on Earth that would work for.

    1. Ritz*

      I know a teacher who applied for a parttime job (1,5 day a week) and the principal told her to her face that he didn’t think she’d be a good candidate because she was planning to work two or three days somewhere else, so she would not be able to give the job the attention it needed.
      (By the time he called her, a week later, to offer her the job, she’d already applied, interviewed, and signed for full-time work with another school – with a principal who did realize that there’s a massive teacher shortage and that when you find an applicant, you don’t sit around and wait for them to go somewhere else.)

      1. Flower necklace*

        Yeah, the principal was being very unreasonable. There are plenty of full-time teachers who have multiple jobs (outside of contract hours). Most of my coworkers do something on the side, often related to teaching – tutoring, night classes, proctoring the SAT, etc. If admin went around accusing them of not being dedicated enough to teaching, they’d lose people pretty quickly.

    2. WS*

      It works for the employer!

      When I was in my second-last year of school, the main industries in my area (mining and power generation) were sold by the state government to the private sector. Overnight, they went from lifetime jobs that offered a large number of apprenticeships every year to 75% casual jobs where you would be put on a list, they’d call you when they needed someone – maybe for 6 hours, maybe for 6 weeks – and if you weren’t immediately available you went to the bottom of the list. It wrecked the economy of three towns. Youth unemployment the year I graduated was 45%.

  13. ceiswyn*

    I think another thing for #2 to consider is whether ‘leadership’ and ‘initiative’ are qualities a movie theatre is actually likely to want in its student hires. Or whether they might prefer ‘easy to schedule’ and ‘will follow instructions and not rock any boats’.

    This may be an example of why you need to tailor your application depending on the employer.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      Right, this is the thing. Those are great qualities, don’t get me wrong, but speaking as someone who has often dealt with scheduling tons of young part-timers, sometimes you just need someone to reliably turn up on time and do some stuff and then go home. (It’s great if you can find someone who’ll stay for a while and maybe end up as a team lead, but you need to know they’ll turn up first!) Her extracurriculars sound awesome but she might be better served by emphasising different aspects of them, like reliability/punctuality/being a team player.

      1. Observer*

        Those are great qualities, don’t get me wrong, but speaking as someone who has often dealt with scheduling tons of young part-timers, sometimes you just need someone to reliably turn up on time and do some stuff and then go home.

        Yeah. There is a time and place for everything. “junior Usher in a movie theater” is not likely to be a role where leadership is valuable.

    2. Lacey*

      Yup. Leadership is great, but the majority of the staff just need to be reliable and smart enough to remember their training.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yep. 2nd most important is “Not visibly inebriated when you show up” followed-by “Follows instructions”. Leadership probably doesn’t even make the list

        1. PT*

          “Stoned enough to be quiet, not stoned enough to eat all the popcorn” is probably the standard for a movie theater.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Second this. My starter jobs did not want a lot of leadership and initiative from me. They wanted reliability and a willingness to follow rules (rules, not just nitpicky ones). I was at the bottom of the food chain–they didn’t need me to be a leader.

    4. Observer*

      I think another thing for #2 to consider is whether ‘leadership’ and ‘initiative’ are qualities a movie theatre is actually likely to want in its student hires. Or whether they might prefer ‘easy to schedule’ and ‘will follow instructions and not rock any boats’.

      That was my first thought, actually, but I wasn’t sure how to put it. But you are right – the kinds of jobs this kid is applying for are not likely to be screening for, or even wanting “leadership”.

    5. Former Radio Guy*

      Bingo. I was an assistant manager and popping and selling popcorn, selling tickets, and cleaning up the theaters between showings is basically what you do. Not a lot of initiative required. Working in a movie theater is not a fun job.

    6. Fresh Cut Grass*

      Yep. I got a ton of praise at my first job in high school from managers who were astounded it was my first job. What did I do to deserve it? Well, I showed up on time, had a good attitude, and did what they asked me to do.

      The retail and food service type of jobs available to teenagers aren’t looking for you to be a leader; they’re looking for you to be able to follow directions, be reliable, and have an acceptably positive (or at least, not noticeably negative) demeanor.

    7. Foila*

      “Sober, on time, and prepared” is a surprisingly high bar, and pretty much mandatory for most jobs!

    8. Here we go again*

      Punctuality and attendance, following directions and ability to use a cash register are more important than leadership in a starter job. She’s applying to part time work like it’s college. She needs to tailor her resume.

    9. RB Purchase*

      Exactly! High-achieving teens are told by guidance counselors and parents to pad up their extracurriculars for college and I think they’re also usually told that type of involvement is a plus in the job market because employers want a well-rounded employee. The idea that high school prepares you for college which prepares you for your career is not really accurate (unless you attend a trade school) but was drilled into me in high school 15 years ago. I was super involved and could never get hired anywhere but my mom’s business.

      This is fine enough advice for job-seeking adults but the people hiring teens just really want available and does what they’re told.

  14. DE*

    LW 1: AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I used to sit next to a guy who would CHECK HIS VOICEMAIL ON SPEAKER!?!?!?!?!? He rarely ever had many calls, other than a short one to his wife or whatever, but the speakerphone voicemail, combined with his inclination to PLAY THE RADIO OUTLOUD AT HIS CUBICLE made me want to stab him in the eye with a pencil.

    1. Lacey*

      What a nightmare! I had a coworker who would play his radio on speakers in our large, echoey, open concept office. I asked my boss to make a rule that people had to wear headphones, but my boss was so enamored with this guy that he tried to pretend it was HIS radio. Even though my boss was one of 5 people with actual offices!

    2. Camellia*

      I find that a nice walk in the forest is very relaxing. The fact that I am dragging a body is totally irrelevant.

    3. Cedarthea*

      My colleague who I am back to sitting near as we are returning to the office likes to listen to our “hold” radio station. She has it fairly quiet which is almost worse because I have really good hearing and ADHD so it is at the right volume for me to keep trying to listen to it.

      So when she does that I just put in both of my headphones and hope that everyone else realizes that I am not trying to be a jerk.

    4. Adds*

      Every. Single. Person. in our office of 3 or 4 takes Every. Single. Call. on speakerphone and YELLS into the phone. Including the big boss/owner, who is The Worst Offender. And they also saunter through my office, while shouting, to take their call on the patio (for privacy I guess, but when you’re yelling into your phone on a patio at the public entrance of a building, is it really privacy?) .

      I hate it and it makes me excessively stabby.

      1. Adds*

        Just for clarity, our office is two rooms joined by a passthrough doorway in a building with paper walls. I’m lucky enough to not have my desk in the room with Big Boss, it’s not a fully private office. I can also hear the ladies who rent the office on the other side of me pretty clearly. They do a lot on speakerphone too.

  15. Turingtested*

    LW 2: I used to work with a lot of teenagers and many of them had attendance issues or couldn’t work the busiest shifts because of commitments. Often the organization would spend a lot of time and money training teens and working around their schedule only to have the person realize they couldn’t work and quit. Obviously school and college prep should come first but it was still frustrating.

    I’d imagine the decision has very little to do with who your daughter is as a person and a lot to to with past experiences with teens in a similar position.

  16. ES*

    Re: LW1 –
    I have two coworkers on my hall who take calls on speakerphone often. It’s not disruptive because we have real walls and doors and I can block it out easily, but once these two coworkers (*who work next door to each other*) called each other, both on speakerphone, and it created a sonic hellscape of reverb in the hallway that they seemed blissfully unaware of until I finally went down the hall and yelled at them to just talk to each other in person.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      If I did this my coworker would come into my office to ask why the H*ll was I calling her we were right across the hall from each other. We literally would only do this if we thought the phones were on the fritz and were testing them.

    2. AY*

      One of the older attorneys at my old firm used to do this! Instead of asking his secretary to come into the office, he’d get on the speakerphone and yell, even though she sat literally feet from his office. It’s absolutely maddening to hear both sides of a conversation in person and over the phone at the same time.

    3. LQ*

      I had a boss who would occasionally call me on speaker to ask me to come into his office. Except I was right outside his office, and if he’d just said in his normal voice “LQ, can you stop in when you’ve got a minute?” It would have been way less disconcerting than calling me on speaker and hearing my voice answer Professional greeting here because I had just answered without looking.

      After that most of the time when I’d notice him calling I’d just turn around and ask if he wanted me to stop in.

    4. kitryan*

      I used to sit in a cubicle outside a row of offices. Our culture is generally to keep office doors open, but most people shut them if on extended calls or similar. However, two attorneys on the row would phone back and forth, doors open, and had loud speaking voices, so I got to listen to them throughout the day, in stereo.

  17. Lord Percy Percy*

    My ex boss was a huge fan of speakerphones. Every morning when he arrived at work, he would call home and talk to his two kids on speakerphone. And it was turned up to 11. Little kids’ voices are loud.
    And one day he talked to one of my coworkers who was at home because she was undergoing treatment for cancer. He discussed her medical issues on speakerphone for everybody to hear. Not cool. I sent him a polite email about it. Never heard the speakerphone again.

  18. Lacey*

    LW2, my husband ran a restaurant for many years. He often hired high school or college students, but after a few years he refused to hire anyone who was on a sports team.

    At first it seemed like being committed to sports would give them a better work ethic. But their sports were always more important than work and their coaches often changed schedules or added extra practices, making those kids highly unreliable.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I’ve got one kid in a sport and one in marching band, neither of whom are old enough to drive. Can I just express how much I loathe these “surprise” practices.

      I really think these coaches are high on their own farts sometimes. I can’t imagine how kids with single parents or families where both parents work set hours could possibly participate. You can’t even arrange carpool on such short notice.

      1. Lacey*

        Oh I bet. And with some of the kids, we knew their parents a little bit and knew they were pissed of that the coach was ruining their kid’s ability to have a part time job or participate in anything outside that sport, but the coaches didn’t care.

    2. JB*

      Exactly. It’s not just about what the kid can handle; high school coaches act like they own every minute of the kids’ time outside of school.

  19. Tech writer by day*

    I’m confused about the different response to LW1 today (speakerphone guy) and the one yesterday about the aggressive good-mornings. Why is it reasonable to ask speakerphone guy to stop disrupting your work but you’re a “grump” if you ask good-morning guy to stop waving things in your face to get your attention just to say hi?

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah, one interruption every morning is annoying, but it won’t have that big of an impact on your work. Being constantly subject to a ton of noise will.

    1. i hate mornings*

      I’m trying very hard to find this ‘good mornings’ letter and coming up empty. Can somebody link me?

          1. i hate mornings*

            I had this exact problem. The person confronted me and thought I was “mad” at them for something. I explained that I’m not a morning person and I’m usually rushing to get in the office on time and I had been in the office for __ years and I’m not used to working with someone who always greeted me with good morning. She understood and we never had the conflict again. She still said good morning out of habit, but least she understood if I didn’t always respond.

  20. Dana Whittaker*

    #3 – as an equine humane investigator, perhaps I can offer some perspective from the other side of the situation.

    If she has actually been charged, and been to court, the case is pretty solid. It takes a LOT of solid evidence to get an animal neglect/cruelty case to be charged and prosecuted; it is not something that happens on a whim.

    You can Google “your state + humane laws”, and also court cases are public record – you should be able to pull up the proceedings to date to see what she has been charged with, and determine how far along in the process she is.

    Unless she is bringing her dog into work on a daily basis, you really have no knowledge to offer as to how she interacts with her dog. She would be better off with letters from someone who has both the clinical knowledge of how a healthy, happy, well-cared for dog looks and behaves (such as a vet, trainer, perhaps even a groomer), and the knowledge of how she particularly interacts with the dog (family, friends, neighbors, dog walker, fellow dog park attendees).

    A letter from an employee the defendant currently or formerly supervised will definitely have an air of coercion around it, and not have a lot to offer in personal observation of the relationship between the two.

    You may also point out to HR that you would prefer to avoid being subpoenaed to appear as a character witness, meaning possibly several days missed from work – would that be considered the same as jury duty? Or would you be required to use PTO? One of my cases went on for over five years; since I was a volunteer humane investigator, I had to use PTO from my paid job for all the court dates. I was under subpoena (for the prosecution) the week after my wedding; the court system will override anything else you have scheduled.

    Unless you are very close with this manager (which it does not sound like), I would decline to participate in this situation.

    1. Alldogsarepuppies*

      I don’t think HR can prevent you from getting subpoenaed though….they just don’t have that power. In terms of PTO, I know at my company if you are subpeoned or have jury duty you are given 1-2 days off before having to us PTO since its a “civic duty”.

      1. Colette*

        HR can’t prevent her from being subpoenaed – but if the OP isn’t part of the case, there’s no reason for her to be subpoenaed.

        1. Observer*

          Yeah. But that has nothing to do with pointing anything out to HR. After all, I can’t imagine anyone in HR saying that the OP needs to write a letter. If anything, they will tell them that they MAY NOT write that letter.

    2. Observer*

      You may also point out to HR that you would prefer to avoid being subpoenaed to appear as a character witness, meaning possibly several days missed from work

      The OP would be a TERRIBLE witness for Former Boss, so one would hope that her lawyer would nix that idea immediately. But, if the lawyer DOES move to call her, there is really nothing that the OP or the OP’s HR can do to stop it.

      However, not providing a letter probably makes it a TOUCH less likely that anyone would call them as a witness. I say “a touch” because as I said, I can’t see a competent lawyer thinking that their testimony is going to to FB any good. But not having any presence at all is better.

      1. Artemesia*

        Do people get subpoened to be character witnesses? I would not think so. If they are witnesses, sure, but character witnesses?

        1. Observer*

          That’s a good point. The bottom line here is that it doesn’t look like there is any reason for the OP to part of this case. I think that the less they have to do with it at any stage, the better. And regardless, any conversation with HR about being subpoenaed or not is not really meaningful.

        2. SnappinTerrapin*

          Character witnesses are generally close enough to the defendant to be willing to testify without subpoena. Having said that, the witness may need the subpoena in order to be excused from work to attend court.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Writing a letter isn’t the same as being subpoenaed. I can’t imagine any competent lawyer wasting a subpoena on LW who knows nothing, even if they were allowed to call live character witnesses in the case.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I could totally see a subpoena being issued. Your client has a terrible case. Client insists that getting testimony from OP will make all the difference in the world because OP did a letter in support. Don’t subpoena OP and you have to defend against a frivolous ineffective assistance of counsel claim after the client is convicted. Subpoena the OP and have the judge yell at you for wasting the court’s time.

        The guy I worked for right after passing bar issued subpoenas for terrible witnesses all the time. Was he incompetent? Not on paper. He was high up in the local bar association, other attorneys and clients referred him cases all the time, and in the legal community, he had pretty good standing.

        1. Cake or Death?*

          If LW was a witness to the crime, sure. But a character witness? I don’t think character witnesses are even allowed in criminal trials. Maybe during sentencing, but not during the actual trial.

    4. Dana Whittaker*

      I did not mean to imply that HR would be able to prevent a subpoena being issued; I meant more in the frame of “If you do not absolve me from writing this letter that I do not really want to write, then it implies support and no docked time if I *do* get subpoenaed as a character witness.”

      I am not an attorney, but it is very plausible that one could decide to subpoena OP in the desperate hope of eliciting more detailed support than might have appeared in the theoretical letter.

      Chicago city attorneys appeared in court 11/15 to argue that Mayor Lori Lightfoot should not have to appear as a character witness for the “Dreadhead Cowboy” in his animal cruelty trial, after DC (acting pro se) subpoenaed her as a character witness. So not as far-fetched as it may seem, and a huge waste of $$ to have to send the attorneys to argue this.

      Of course, DC has no legal training or knowledge whatsoever, and is making a giant sideshow out of this case. The judge has been the epitome of patient professionalism in jurisprudence.

  21. in the service industry*

    For LW2, I can see why the movie theater didn’t offer your daughter the job. First of all, is she available weekends? Because weekend availability will make or break a candidate for a service industry job. The hiring manager is also probably wondering what your daughter’s priorities will be when it comes to homework, midterms, and finals. It’s great that she is available after 5pm with her extracurriculars ending before that time, but what about if she has a major paper due the same week as a big away game?

    My senior year of high school I had a part time service industry job. The way my school was structure, most extracurriculars were during the school day with the exception of team sports. I worked 8 hour shifts Saturdays and Sundays (our busiest days) for months before I was switched over to a couple of weekday evenings and a weekend shift. I think they hired me because I was available the busiest days of the week. As your daughter continues looking for jobs, I recommend that she looks at jobs where busy hours specifically align with her schedule. Grocery stores, for example, could be a good option because a lot of people buy groceries right after getting off of work. Or she could apply for retail jobs that specifically align with her interests like athletic stores or recreational centers. I hope she finds something great!

  22. Anon for this*

    OP 2 – I suspect “over committed” is code for “we want to be able to schedule you for whatever evenings we want without having to worry about your other activities”. Retail is notorious for wanting employees who won’t dare to do things such as pick up a second job and have anything other than 100% availability.

    1. anonymous73*

      Or maybe her availability doesn’t align with what they need, they have experience working with teens and their schedules, and she doesn’t have any prior work experience to prove she’s reliable.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Hiring people who are available to work the hours they need covered is hardly nefarious–it’s how businesses function.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      Minors are only allowed to work until a certain time each night (varies by state). Hiring someone who can only legally work from 5pm to, say, 7pm, is not a wise business decision.

    4. nora*

      my in-law’s family business is food service (think dairy queen) that employs a lot of teens. they are pretty accommodating and love the personal growth aspect of employing and mentoring young people. but they have a lot of problems with commitment to scheduled hours. funnily enough, it doesn’t tend to be the honors students or athletes that give them the most trouble, it’s those whose parents insist that they get a job but they don’t “need” it or care about it. they tend to be notoriously late, call off last minute, etc. they also say they have a lot of trouble with the family demanding that the kid call off for family trips/other engagements at the last minute. my impression is they don’t have the slightest problem with working around vacations or complicated schedules, but the employee (and sometimes family) doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

  23. anonymous73*

    #2 – did they really say they thought she couldn’t handle the job with her other commitments or is that just your assessment of them saying she was overcommitted? They’re not being unfair, they’re being realistic. I’m sure they have experience with teens and schedules, and made a decision based on her commitments and lack of flexibility for times available to work. I understand you want your daughter to succeed in life, but please don’t be that parent that cries “unfair!” every time someone tells her no.

  24. Hmm*

    OP4, I’d put money on this being about the fact that a potentially deadly global pandemic is floating around.

    Has something happened in the office that has made her feel unsafe at work? Has something changed at home, which means she feels unsafe being potentially exposed to COVID at work? Have there been cases into your local area, or on campus?

    1. anonymous73*

      Could be, but you don’t just call out or take time off whenever you’re supposed to be in the office. You have an actual conversation with your manager and bring up your concerns.

      1. Iced Mocha Latte*

        I agree. If it’s a concern about the environment, COVID precautions, etc., or even requirements around a medical condition, they need to at least have a conversation with the manager. Without a conversation, it just looks like they’re trying to skirt about the requirement to be in the office part time.

        We went through this when our company announced it would allow hybrid starting this past summer. We have a specific requirement to be in the office a minimum percentage of working hours for the month, and also have to be in for a full day per the CEO. It’s rigid, but it could be worse: we could be required be in the office full time again. Anyway, people started abusing it so we had to crack down on it. We told them if it’s preplanned PTO, like vacation or something like that, then they don’t need to “make up” an in-office day. If it’s something like the cat puked and they want to work from home that’s fine, but they need to come in another day during the week. Magically all requests to work from home because of life’s inconveniences stopped. Again, it sucks that we have to manage to the CEO’s rigid requirements, but at least we can work from home part time.

  25. NotRealAnonForThis*

    re: Letter No. 1

    Not the letter writer, but what would the recommended course of action be if you’ve done this (assumed that they’re reasonable, mentioned it because of course) and the response has been to be passive aggressive and start shouting on calls? Serious OR amusing options entertained, y’all, because this is testing my sanity AND my (somewhat epic) temper.

    I apparently work with toddlers in an open concept. ::eyeroll::

    1. anonymous73*

      Assuming you were direct with the person (not joking or passive aggressive about it), and explained that it’s affecting your ability to concentrate, then I would report them to their manager. You tried handling it yourself and their response was to make it worse. I’m not a fan of what some call “tattling”, but if a co-worker’s behavior is affecting your ability to get your work done, you’ve attempted to address the issue yourself and it’s not stopping, then it needs to be handled by a manager with some authority.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I thought “Coworker, hey, I’m not sure you’re aware of how loud you are during phone calls, but the volume makes concentration extremely difficult and if I’m on a call myself, my Teams tells me I’m on mute through my earphones because its picking you up. Please be aware of your volume.” was pretty clear. I was informed that as a woman I have no idea how difficult it is for a man to modulate his volume.

        That department is full of bees, unfortunately. I’ve brought it to his manager and the grandboss. The grandboss has addressed as best possible.

        1. anonymous73*

          Wow, your co-worker and his bosses suck. My sympathies. I once had a manager who would chat frequently with my team members at high volume and would have to remind her sometimes that I was on a call and ask that I couldn’t hear anyone, but thankfully she would pipe down. I guess because she was a woman she was able to modulate her volume.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          In that case, you have a jerk coworker and managers who don’t care enough to address it. This is probably a “your workplace sucks and isn’t going to change” scenario.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Yes, and I am frequently reminded how happy I am NOT to be in that department. (The suck is very concentrated to one specific department…overall the whole place is better than decent.)

          2. often trapped under a cat*

            I worked next door to a woman who was a Very Loud Talker when on the phone. No speakerphone was involved–I never heard the other side of a conversation–she was just Loud. Very Loud. I could literally hear her through the wall between our offices. Closing my door mitigated it not at all.

            And she was on the phone for hours a day. Sometimes this was work-related, but a lot of the time it was her calling all her friends and telling them the same stories of events in her life, or gossiping about people they knew or family members. While each of her friends heard those stories once, I heard them every damn time. (I didn’t like her for other reasons, but I sure knew everything about her [which was part of why I didn’t like her–she was an anti-Semite, among other things, and I am Jewish]).

            Anyway, I asked her to try to speak more quietly and she basically refused: “I’m not that loud.”

            I went to her boss, who said I was making a big deal out of nothing (the boss did not sit near her).

            That was that. I couldn’t complain any higher because the next level boss was the parent of the Loud Woman’s boss.

            Loud Woman worked next to me for several years.

    2. Observer*

      In my imagination, maybe in real life, I would be tempted to play music when I’m not on the phone. And not quietly, either.

      In real life, would headphone (full over the ear or earbuds with good noise cancelling) with a noise canceling uni-directional mike help for the phone calls?

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        IRL, grandboss (we share one) has mitigated things short term with the best noise cancelling earphones on the market, blanket approves WFH as I see fit because sometimes I just need to concentrate, questions not my commandeering of a conference room for same reasons.

        Long term, said grandboss is attempting to move my seating, which even I can see is not do-able at the current moment.

  26. HS Baseball Aunt*

    #2 You didn’t mention her availability on weekends, did she say she was free or would be busy? Baseball aunt here from my experience just attending high school sporting events, sports take up a lot of time if she was adding in other groups as well I would think this kid is never going to be here. With Baseball and Basketball my nephew has no time for a job between practice, fundraisers, and games add in the clubs and we struggle between 2 families getting him everywhere he needs to be.

  27. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #2 – I used to hire teenagers.

    I would much rather have to split the 20 hours/week among three different ‘overcommitted’ kids than hire one who’s got fully open availability. Why? Because the kids in lots of activities have demonstrated that they have drive, can meet obligations, can weigh different priorities and make things work out. I needed those kids to be independent thinkers and not rely on me to tell them what to do all the time.

    There are jobs out there for teenagers like your daughter.

    1. Metadata minion*

      Huh, that hasn’t been my experience at all hiring students for on-campus jobs. Some students trying to do All The Things just end up doing none of them very consistently, and some deliberately don’t sign up for lots of extracurriculars because they actually need the money from a significant part-time job.

      And then, sure, there are non-busy students who are still flaky and other students who manage to double-major while running a soup kitchen and working 15 hours a week and they make me feel vaguely exhausted just watching them ;-)

    2. miro*

      Hmm, regarding the “independent thinkers” comment, I’m skeptical that there’s a linear relationship between doing more and thinking/working independently–I remember when I was in high school the kids doing a bazillion extracurriculars were largely doing so as a result of parental pressure (“if you’re not the president of three clubs you’ll never get into an Ivy!!!”) rather than deep internal motivation. That’s not to say that none of those kids were independent or would have been good, self-motivated/independently-thinking employees, I just don’t think those qualities were necessarily either a cause or a result of their many, many extracurriculars.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        True. I didn’t just say “oh, you have 4 extracurriculars, you’re hired.” My interview process was more involved than that!

        But on average, I found that the kids who didn’t just come home at 3:30 were better workers. And I was willing to put up with lower availability from them.

    3. Here we go again*

      I hated school as a teenager. I had zero extracurriculars. Loved work (and the money but more of the independence that came with it) and was super dependable when it came to work. I learned more having a part time job in high school than I did going to school.

  28. Nishipip*

    I’m not saying that this is the case for #1, but a lot of people with hearing loss need to use speakerphone so they can hear binaurally in order to have conversations on the phone. This is really really common. This may also explain why the volume seems to be so high.
    It’s still frustrating nonetheless, but it may not just be him being thoughtless of the other people in the office.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It still needs a conversation though. If using a speakerphone is necessary, that’s fine, but there should be a reasonable accommodation so that the noise is not disrupting coworkers to the point of frustration.

      And videos on a phone don’t sound like they rise to the necessary for work level, so those would have to go, regardless.

    2. JSPA*

      I thought of this, in the sense of, “be aware there’s an outside chance that there may be a health related reason, from carpal tunnel / can’t hold phone to range-specific deafness (easily overlooked during in-person interactions) / can’t wear ear-buds.”

      But there are over-ear headphones, blue-tooth-attached-to-glasses, and all kinds of other work arounds. Be ready to encourage him to find a solution that’s not, “I suffer needlessly because you are not willing to consider 90% of the reasonable accommodations.”

      Still, watching videos on speakerphone? That seems…highly optional…unless their job is video editing or critique. Most likely explanation is thoughtlessness/cluelessness/DGAF, as thoughtlessness/cluelessness/DGAF is already in play.

      1. JustaTech*

        Recently I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office when another patient decided to watch a video on her phone with full sound. This wasn’t an “oops, this auto-played!”, it was a full several minute video. I really wish I’d had the gumption to say “excuse me, your headphones aren’t working” or something.

      1. identifying remarks removed*

        Lol – headphones make my coworker worse. Am guessing it’s because he can’t hear himself when he has over the ear headphones on so he’s gets really loud. It’s actually better when he has the call on speakerphone as he speaks more quietly. I’ve spoken to him numerous times and he quietens down for a day or two and then starts it up again. Now I have my own headphones and a fan at my desk to provide white noise.

  29. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #4: I think one of the issues is that you’ve got a system that allows people to go around a supervisor when calling out. I’m a huge fan of allowing sick days without hassle, but if these are “vacation” or “personal” days, then it should be completely within a supervisor’s right to call attention to the last minute nature of these days off, and to ask that they be scheduled in advance, and with a plan to swap in-office time (if there is a business need for in-office time). And if someone else/business operations is being put out by having that person being out of the office unplanned, then that’s even more reason to clamp down.
    We schedule time off 2 or 3 months in advance, and anything in addition to that is up to management, “based on office need.”

    It’s time for a sit down to sort out how this front desk time is going to be covered, and if the employee can’t come up with a solution, then management should.

  30. Avril Ludgateau*

    LW #5:

    I knew somebody who got a new job for an academic institution. They were required to bank 5 vacation days for the end of the year when the entire university shut down and nobody was allowed to come in to work, even if they wanted, but nonetheless they were “work days” and thus you wouldn’t be paid if you didn’t have PTO. It was even more audacious than a simple “you don’t get paid during closures” because they expected you to use PTO even though you could not be on the clock during that week, so you were not “vacating” anything. (They probably didn’t want to trouble themselves with payroll modifications to dock people pay, so they insisted on using PTO.)

    Not only did it affect people’s bottom line, it shrank the advertised compensation package. That is to say, they were told on offer that they got, e.g., 3 weeks paid vacation per year, but the truth is it is 2 weeks and 1 inflexible week of year-end “holidays”. Or from a dollar standpoint, their salary was 2% lower than advertised.

    And the worst part specific to this friend? They started late in the fall and had not accrued the necessary vacation time to cover the closure! They were effectively told they would not get paid for a week of one of the more expensive months of the year, after accepting the position on the reasonable assumption that they would.

    To reiterate, they were conspicuously not told about this during the offer stage, and they were appropriately livid. Unfortunately we lost touch and I don’t know how it turned out beyond that. I know the were not the type to take such indignities or workplace injustices lying down, but this was also a brand new job where they had no cachet or capital…

    Personally, I thought it was BS then and I think it is BS now. I wanted to write in to Alison about it when I learned of it, years ago, but I figured the answer was exactly as she has written: it’s legal, sucks but nothing to be done. I’m surprised there isn’t more discussion of if it should be, though; you’re being prevented from working, even if you want to, and then forced to use your PTO to essentially cover for your employer’s poor financial planning. Even if they can’t afford to pay people to work that week… Then lower their salary by 2% at the offer stage and spread it around? Speaking for myself, I can bear 2% lower wages through the year more easily than I can go one month at 75% of my normal income. At a bare minimum, employers have an ethical obligation to disclose these kind of “complications” during the offer stage, even if it means they lose good candidates.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Comparison of two ways that I’ve witnessed it done; I agree completely that there is an ethical obligation on the part of employers during the offer stage:

      First Real Job was in a non-academic non-academic-support department of a University. I thought my department handled it well: everyone got December 26th through December 31st paid as “Seasonal Closure Days” upon hire. We weren’t open, and the newest/lowest hires didn’t accrue vacation anywhere near the rate as the professional/more senior employees, so it equalized a lot. The few essential folks who had to be on-call during this window got both their Seasonal Closure Days pay AND major O/T for being on-call and having to report to work. We were informed of this during the offer phase.

      My spouse’s first place of employment was on shut-down for the last two weeks of December. They attempted to pull this “use your PTO” nonsense; the reality was that, at that time, everyone that they put on shutdown was eligible for unemployment benefits for at least one of the two weeks. It was similarly NOT relayed during the offer stage, and the first year was a struggle as he’d not worked there all that long at the time. Came home one night and said “we aren’t open the next two weeks and they’re not paying us for the time off, WTF?”.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Which is why, when I started my own company, I took a simple approach: days that the company is closed are paid holidays. It amazes me how many companies don’t do that.

    3. Anon, boss may read here*

      It’s legal and it sucks. Your friend must work for the same benighted state Univ I work at, in one of those southern right-not-to-work states.

      Fortunately it’s been only a single day for the last few years. When I submit my leave for that day, I always put “Annual leave stolen by the University and the state of XX”. Some years I add “in lieu of raises”.

      Anyway it gives my supervisor a small chuckle every December.

    4. Gracely*

      This is sadly pretty standard treatment of staff-level employees at a lot of state universities. It’s definitely the case at my university (and most faculty are completely unaware of this unless they end up in the administration). The reason given is that at least in our state, they’re only “allowed” to give 12 paid holidays in a calendar year. But it’s more efficient for the campus to close for those 2 weeks at the end of December, so some holidays get shifted (I’ve never had President’s Day or Veteran’s Day or Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day off), and the rest of the days have to be unpaid or use PTO.

      My uni finally made some changes about 5 years ago and made 3-5 of those forced days off “reduced services days” so people could come in to work, but looking at the calendar this year, there are only 2 of those, and next year, there is only 1 (coinciding with a change in leadership, so probably they’re trying to subtly go back to how it was).

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

      That really sucks.

      I was in a similar position, but mine was that HR messed up my PTO amounts told me when I was hired I would have 2 weeks vacation but it was actually 1.5 weeks, because i was not a full year I was the academic year not the full calendar year. Even my bosses going to bat for me didn’t help with HR. But we got it worked out and I “worked” from home for 1.5 days. By working I was taking an online class.

      I later found out that there is a bank of hours that people can donate to and so HR could have taken some of that time to give to me since it was their screw up.

      I’m still at the university but I now work a full calendar year. But it still ticks me off.

    6. Daffy Duck*

      I have a friend who works for a smallish private practice and only gets 2 weeks of vactaion every year. One of those weeks is always the week the doctor goes on vacation. In reality, she only has 5 days/year she can take off.
      I know it is common for small practices to give staff a choice on using PTO or working on modified duties (cleaning, catching up paperwork, painting, etc.) and feel a bit resentful for her but apparently there are enough good things about the job she stays.

    7. doreen*

      I think this is one of those things that really depends on how it’s framed- I once worked at a private trade school. They closed down for a week at Christmas and a week in the spring and the day after Thanksgiving. But they didn’t frame it as “You get four weeks vacation your first year – eleven days that we are closed and you can choose the remaining nine” It was “You get two weeks vacation a year plus we are closed a week at Christmas and a week in the spring and you will be paid for both of those those weeks even though you are starting in mid- November”

  31. Former service worker*

    Man, Letter #2 is reminding me how glad I am to not be in the service industry anymore, AND how lucky I am that when I was in the service industry, my income mainly supplemented my existing support system and was not a matter of survival. If someone is taking on service work because they need to pay the bills, one part-time job is not going to cut it, but employers – who I refuse to believe are not aware of this – feel perfectly justified in essentially demanding that their employees rely solely on their unpredictable, underpaid part-time hours for all of their income. They can’t pretend not to realize that that’s what they’re asking.

    I get the intricacies in scheduling for this kind of work, I really do – I was in charge of scheduling at one of my service jobs – but I think what needs to change is the whole norm around lean staffing, or scheduling barely enough people so the operation doesn’t fall apart. If your business can’t handle the expense of “over”scheduling (in quotes because I have had bosses complain about being overstaffed the moment my coworkers and I had enough breathing room to go to the bathroom or take our legally mandated break), then you can’t afford to be in business. In my case, I did my best to give people consistent, reliable schedules, and I think it’s because of that that my coworkers were so willing to move things around if we needed coverage on a day most people had blocked off. When you recognize that people are working because they need money, rather than fantasizing that they’re just SO EXCITED to grow the business, and you honor the fact that yours may not be the only place they go for that need, it’s astonishing how far that respect can take you.

    1. Former service worker*

      So after looking at other comments, I’m seeing that I sort of lost the plot of the original letter, which is about a high schooler (presumably NOT working for survival). And to be clear, no employer is obligated to take on someone whose schedule will definitely not work. But I stand by the idea that employers should be transparent about which specific hours they need to schedule for BEFORE the interview stage, so it doesn’t come to that – AND that those hours should be as consistent as possible, with adequate communication if they need to be changed. And the fact that this isn’t common practice contributes to these jobs relying so heavily on high schoolers, most of whom do not have sole responsibility for the household bills, as well as others (like me) who have the luxury of only working one job.

      1. miro*

        I am totally in agreement that employers should be as transparent as possible about the hours that they need, and supposing they’re hiring for a variety of shift that makes me think they need to do a better job of figuring out the person’s availability before the interview. Some of the small local places around here still do the sort of informal/off-the-street interviews so if it was something like that (versus an application process where the daughter would have indicated her availability) that could explain it.

        One other possibility here is that the availability was only part of the matter here–like maybe there was a slim chance they could fit someone into that schedule if she really wowed them, and she didn’t–but the one that was most straightforward to mention.

      2. Here we go again*

        Availability could be discussed during the phone screen. “Hi I’m the manager of the movie theater. I saw your app and I have some questions, do you have a minute? I’d like to ask these over the phone before I schedule an interview. We need you Friday and Saturday nights from 4-10 pm and every other Sunday, are you able to work those hours? Are you willing to scrub toilets, mop spills, or using a vacuum? Do you know how to use a cash register?”

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I mean, OP2’s kid is looking for a first job for after school-a part time job is exactly what she needs. And it doesn’t at all sound like she’s going to live off the money.

      1. Former service worker*

        Yeah, I acknowledged that in my later comment – I definitely lost the essence of this particular letter, which I know Alison discourages, so I apologize for that. I admit to having a bit of a kneejerk reaction when part-time scheduling norms are brought up, and in this case launched into my semi-unrelated , but the employer was certainly not under any obligation to hire OP2’s kid.

    3. fueled by coffee*

      Oh I absolutely agree that consistent hours are crucial, even for part time workers who don’t strictly *need* the money (although we don’t know that’s not the case with OP’s daughter – lots of teens need to save up for college, etc.).

      But I *do* think this is not necessarily about the employer being a jerk about hours and scheduling – if you’re willing to hire teens, you are well aware that you can’t schedule them for shifts during the school day, etc. Like others have said, I think this probably comes more from the reverse situation: a teen involved in a bunch of other activities might *usually* be available after 5, until there’s a last minute sports practice or student council fundraiser after school, and suddenly you’re left scrambling for coverage. Whereas if an adult said that they work a second job but are available after 5, I would expect them to be consistently available after 5.

      1. Former service worker*

        Yeah, in this case I can see where the employer was coming from – ideally both the applicant and the employer will be able to clearly articulate their scheduling availability/needs, which didn’t happen here. I think I was mostly reacting after reading other comments that extrapolated further than this particular situation, to “well of COURSE they wouldn’t hire someone whose schedule isn’t completely open!” (or at least that’s how I interpreted some of those comments), and that made me reach for the keyboard.

    4. Observer*

      – but I think what needs to change is the whole norm around lean staffing, or scheduling barely enough people so the operation doesn’t fall apart

      So much this!

      I also think that service jobs would be much easier to fill right now if employers had made this change.

      Not that it’s really relevant to this particular situation, as I see you noted. But still worth mentioning.

  32. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-Your child probably is overcommitted. Varsity sports. Clubs. Probably taking higher level classes because she sounds like a smart cookie. I can totally see why an employer would turn her down. She’s got a lot on her plate and the employer needs someone who works on their schedule. I’m exhausted thinking about what that’s like and it doesn’t include homework, social time and family time. I worked at big box hardware stores and a small one starting in junior year. I only did marching band but was in honors/AP classes. That was enough to make scheduling difficult during the fall and weekends during spring parade season.

    #4-Are you me? Not exactly me as I don’t supervise our admins but basically the same thing going on and no one is really taking any steps to squash it.

  33. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #1 – does Bob have a headset for his desk phone? We had a speakerphone epidemic at OldJob. CurrentJob gave everyone headsets that plug into a phone jack on a desk phone, and it saved everyone’s sanity. I wouldn’t have even known to ask for one, but couldn’t imagine my life without it after I got one. We are a distributed team spread across several states and countries, and most of our meetings and collaborative work were done on the phone.

  34. Former Radio Guy*

    #2. I spent six months as an assistant manager at a movie theater (which was the worst job I ever had and I quit before having the stroke I would have had if I had stayed, but that’s another story…), but one of the issues we had with high school students was that they couldn’t work past 8pm on school nights. I would generally get out of the theatre about 10-11pm on weeknights due to cleanup, paperwork, etc. and due to safety reasons two people had to stay til closing. Mostly high school kids worked weekends, and the only time they could close was on Fridays or Saturdays which were our busiest nights. Any student on an athletic team is probably not going to have a schedule compatible with a movie theater’s needs. By all means I encourage the letter writer to have her daughter look for employment opportunities because it sounds like she’d be an asset in the right situation.

  35. awesome3*

    #4 – The bigger picture conversation here is key. To me this sounds like someone was like, ok, they’re saying I have to go in in person 3 times a week, but I have time off banked, so I’ll take those days off. Then I can make it work remotely.

  36. Data Analyst*

    I really like this bit from the reply to LW1: “You might as well start by assuming he’s a reasonable person who just doesn’t realize how his actions are impacting you (although he should! speaker phone, come on)”
    I think this underlies a lot of our communication issues – there’s a feeling like “surely everyone knows that this is a rude thing to do, but he is doing it, therefore he must be rude/unreasonable and this conversation will be fraught” but some of those things, people just don’t actually know. Or, he is assuming the walls are doing a better job, and if you don’t take calls on speakerphone he wouldn’t necessarily know how audible they are through the walls. “Start by assuming they will be reasonable” is such good advice, and something I as a people-pleasing, conflict averse person have to keep re-learning.

    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. Most people are reasonable in my experience. An awful lot of people don’t always realise their impact on others but it’s usually just not noticing rather than active malice. I think if you ask someone something and treat it like you’re both reasonable people, then usually people are more inclined to respond positively. If the OP doesn’t tell their colleague there’s a problem he won’t know how much it bothers her.

    2. awesome3*

      *Or, he is assuming the walls are doing a better job, and if you don’t take calls on speakerphone he wouldn’t necessarily know how audible they are through the walls.*

      Exactly this. Start under the assumption that he has no idea and will be glad you’re letting him know.

      1. JustaTech*

        Exactly this. In our old building configuration I could hear perfectly everything said on speaker phone in the office two down from mine (even when the door was closed). There is absolutely no way that anyone would know that if you didn’t tell them.

        Then there are people who just don’t think, but when you remind them are perfectly happy to do things like close the door to cut down on the noise. (I had one coworker who never remembered to close his door so I just got in the habit of closing it for him because that was easier than trying to get his attention when he was on the phone.)

        With our new glass-fronted offices there’s not much that anyone can do about the noise: I wear headphones so I don’t have to speak as loudly and at least everyone else is only having to hear me and not the rest of the call.

  37. Interviewer*

    OP#4 – When we returned to work in the office this summer, we had some people who did not want to come back for a variety of reasons (medical conditions, childcare, family situations, etc.). Most had conversations with their supervisors like grown adults. One told her boss that she wasn’t coming back, she didn’t care what the company wanted, that she would just use up her PTO and then quit. (She ended up giving notice on the first day we were all set to return.)

    I would bet you’ve got a similar person there, but yours has figured out how to keep getting a paycheck while not coming back to the office. Using up a large PTO balance is not the only goal – maybe she wants to stay on benefits for as long as possible.

    One more note: Our handbook has a clause about excessive use of unplanned PTO (i.e., calling out at the last minute). We understand illnesses are not predictable, but if it happens all the time for a variety of reasons, we can rescind an employee’s use of PTO until attendance is more reliable.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      That’s a good point about unplanned PTO. It can very disruptive when used too frequently. I’ve definitely been talked to by my managers about my PTO use in the past. I was using a lot for mental health days instead of properly managing my mental health. Once someone said something to me, it made me rethink my whole approach to the situation and now my last-minute PTO days are few and far between.

  38. RagingADHD*

    LW#3: Why do you suppose she is asking you to be a character witness, when she knows that you know nothing about how she treats her dogs?

    Because nobody who does know would do it.

    She chose you (and possibly other folks with no real info) because the truth is not on her side.

    Why do you suppose she asked you to keep it quiet? Because she knows it’s inappropriate, and that pressuring you this way would further damage her already-shaky standing at work.

    She’s already been demoted and criminally charged for various kinds of bad behavior. Her attempts to manipulate you point to a larger pattern, rather than isolated errors of judgment.

    Take Alison’s advice and decline on the grounds that you can’t be a witness because you don’t know. Then start putting as much distance between you as possible, or you will wind up tarred with the same brush as one of her “insiders.”

    1. Observer*

      Take Alison’s advice and decline on the grounds that you can’t be a witness because you don’t know. Then start putting as much distance between you as possible, or you will wind up tarred with the same brush as one of her “insiders.”

      This. Completely.

  39. Moira Rose*

    Re: Letter #3, it’s absolutely true at least that *parents* have been charged with crimes and been threatened with the loss of their children for things like running into CVS to grab tampons while a kid waited in the car, or even for letting a kid play alone at a playground. I have a lot of opinions about this, but I just wanted to say that I find it awfully plausible that someone would get charged for leaving a pet in a car while running into a store to grab something.

    1. Observer*

      Please. There is a HUGE difference between parents doing this and a pet owner. You can talk about “pet parents” all you want, but that’s just not how the law works. If nothing else, there is no law on the books in most jurisdiction that criminalizes “pet endangerment” but there ARE laws in every jurisdiction (in the US) against CHILD endangerment. What there are, when it comes to animals, are laws against CRUELTY. In some areas you do have laws against neglect, but no one is treating leaving a dog in the car for a few minutes are neglect.

      Here, for example, is how the ASPCA describes environmental signs of cruelty and neglect:
      * Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary

      * Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter

      * Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them

      * Animals are housed in kennels or cages (very often crowded in with other animals) that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements

        1. Observer*

          Because both the comparison and the attempt to negate the OP’s judgement are seriously problematic.

      1. jiggle mouse*

        Please, get over yourself. There are pet endangerment laws all across America, and they are enforced by police as well as animal control, who are indeed treating an animal left in a car for a few minutes as neglect and cruelty. You must live in a shithole state.

        1. doreen*

          That may be – but even child endangerment laws allow for circumstances. Here is my state’s law regarding the confinement of an animal in a vehicle :
          ” 1. A person shall not confine a companion animal in a motor vehicle in extreme heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection from such extreme temperatures where such confinement places the companion animal in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury due to exposure to such extreme heat or cold.”

          It’s not simply any instance of leaving the pet in a vehicle, just like leaving any child in a vehicle isn’t automatically endangerment – there’s a difference between leaving a ten -month old in a car and leaving a ten year old in a car.

        2. Observer*

          There are pet endangerment laws all across America, and they are enforced by police as well as animal control, who are indeed treating an animal left in a car for a few minutes as neglect and cruelty. You must live in a shithole state.

          Could be- I live in New York. But what I quoted was not from NYS, but the ASPCA. And while there are laws – as I actually noted – they generally do NOT lead to criminal charges for leaving a pet in a car for a couple of minutes. Certainly not in reasonable weather (ie not extreme heat or cold). As distinct from young children or infants, where the weather doesn’t play a role.

          The laws and their application are fundamentally different.

    2. RagingADHD*

      This is an odd take. The legal treatment of children and pets is worlds apart, no matter how much people may conflate them in their own minds.

      I don’t know of any jurisdictions where Animal Control would take neglected pets in a carseat to your next-of-kin’s house while you go to petcare classes.

      Or, for that matter, where CPS comes to take people’s kids in a utility truck with cages in the back, and sends them to a kill shelter.

      Thank goodness.

  40. agnes*

    I used to hire high school students a lot for a small coffee place I owned. What sometimes happened was a lot of schedule rearranging and juggling if students had a lot of extra curricular activities–I was frequently asked to change schedules at the last minute and it was a big headache. And often, it was mom or dad who was having a conniption fit because I couldn’t change a schedule, not the student.

    That might be the reason the employer is hesitant, and something the student could address in an interview if they are pretty confident of their availability—“I am reliably available at these times to work.” I loved having the high school students work–they were usually really good at customer service, eager to learn, and proud of their jobs—we just had to get clear about the expectations.

  41. Liz T*

    #4 – but if she has that much PTO banked, isn’t she entitled to use it? Won’t this issue resolve itself when she runs out of PTO?

    (Obviously it’s not unlimited PTO since that wouldn’t be “banked.”)

  42. Cringing 24/7*

    OP 2, you write, “My understanding as someone who’s been in the workforce a while is that employers should trust that potential employees know what workload they can and cannot handle.” Which is absolutely true for experience or adult employees who have had the chance to experiment and self-reflect on where their limitations are.

    If this is your daughter’s first job (and, honestly, even if it were her second job), as a hiring manager, I wouldn’t trust a teenager to understand their workload limits, nor would I expect their schoolwork and personal life not to have rapid, unprecedented, and severe shifts in the amount of mental energy it will take to get through certain situations.

    This is not at all to say that your daughter is immature nor that she lacks self-awareness, but this *is* to say that it does make sense for a potential employer to look at what someone says their capabilities are and compare it to what extent they’ve had the opportunity to test those limits. And, frankly, someone who’s never had a job before isn’t going to be a good judge of how much a job will affect their mental health, stress levels, and daily/weekly schedule.

    1. Observer*

      but this *is* to say that it does make sense for a potential employer to look at what someone says their capabilities are and compare it to what extent they’ve had the opportunity to test those limits. And, frankly, someone who’s never had a job before isn’t going to be a good judge of how much a job will affect their mental health, stress levels, and daily/weekly schedule.

      Exactly. And I’m not sure that the OP is a really good judge either, as they don’t seem to really understand the expectations here. Either that, or they have way too high expectation of their daughter.

  43. Orange You Glad*

    #2 – This doesn’t really help now since it’s November but when I was in high school I had success getting my first job at the beginning of the summer. I had very few commitments during summer (no school/clubs/etc) so that gave me a few months to prove myself as a good worker. When the school year started I then just had to say limit my weekdays to 2 days per week and I can’t do Saturday mornings. Since management knew me by then they had no problem accomodating my schedule. I’d also recommend she look for work at large employers like a grocery store or department store since there will likely be more shift options and more coworkers to swap shifts with.

  44. Lobsterman*

    LW2: Please just give your child an allowance and let them concentrate on school, extracurriculars, and growing as a human. There’s plenty of time for work over the summer and once they’re 18.

    1. Colette*

      One of the potential ways teenagers can grow as humans is through getting a job (and the money associated with it). And teenagers often want expensive things their parents don’t want or need to bankroll.

    2. RagingADHD*

      What makes you think the job was the parent’s idea, or that the child doesn’t already get an allowance?

    3. Orange You Glad*

      Hard disagree with this. I hire a lot of college students and the ones who figured out how to hold down a part-time job while still succeeding in school were much better prepared for a larger workload (both at school and at work) once they reached college or post-college.

    4. nora*

      Every kid is different. I would never take back my high school job in lieu of an allowance and “time to concentrate”. It didn’t cost me any opportunities (I worked around them and was on top of my schedule and obligations) and set me up for a lot of future work experiences. I’m not one of those extraordinarily smart people, but managed to get excellent grades, was involved in many activities/clubs/theatre/etc. The only thing I missed out on was hanging out with friends, so I suppose I missed the “human development” of learning how to roll joints properly.

      I genuinely loved the job and I’m grateful to my parents for their encouragement to apply for it and their support throughout (they dropped me off/picked up before I bought my first car, thanks to the job).

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Honestly, that’s a rather privileged attitude. A lot of kids need to work to save money for post-secondary education.

      Also, I firmly disagree on waiting until the age of 18 to get a job. My kids – I had them get paper routes specifically so they could build work ethic, responsibility, and references. They both started at age 11.

      The deal is that they can quit the paper route when they have a better job lined up, because I’m not going to have kids who simply loaf around at home, and I won’t pay for an education that they’re not also working towards.

    6. Observer*

      Wow. You know all about what THIS kid, in THIS particular set of circumstances needs. All from a letter that actually says nothing about the family, their finances, the social milleiu or almost any other relevant information.

      More likely you are projecting. Because for a lot of kids a job in high school is an excellent idea. For others, it’s a necessity. So necessary sometimes, that they might have to give up on some of the extra curriculars. And sometimes they would be better off without the job. But there is nothing in the letter to indicate which it is.

    7. Imaginary Friend*

      It’s good for everyone to get experience dealing with people who don’t have any reason to give you slack when you mess up. Family gives us slack; school gives us slack; friends give us slack; but employers usually hold us to reasonable limits and give us consequences for (good OR bad) behavior.

    8. J*

      I wish someone could go back in time and tell my parents this. Doing 32-40 hours a week, school (where I graduated with enough college credits to start college as a sophomore), marching band, swimming, and a handful of clubs greatly contributed to my burnout before age 20. I even ended up getting a settlement in a class action lawsuit because of how the job went, but my experience wasn’t unique except in the way I got paid out hundreds of dollars. I wasn’t old enough to recognize how I was being exploited and harmed at the time and my parents emulated the behavior that sacrificing everything for your job was the only way. It did allow me to finance a car and clothes but at what cost?

  45. Good Staples*

    I read this as “my demented boss […]” on first reading, then read the letter and didn’t even question that interpretation until a later second read after coffee. Dear gosh.

  46. Orange You Glad*

    #4 – You mention in the letter that you asked this employee to come in on days she is not taking PTO but it only worked for 2 weeks. Why is that? As soon as she went back to taking off days in the office did you say anything? It sounds like you made the expectation clear (swap your days in the office on weeks you use PTO) but you haven’t followed through in holding this person to that expectation.

  47. Observer*

    #2 – Another thought. You say that “My understanding as someone who’s been in the workforce a while is that employers should trust that potential employees know what workload they can and cannot handle.

    Why would you think that? This is not a workplace situation where there is an employee who has already proven that they can manage their workload and schedule on their own. This is also not a situation where someone is coming with a track record of managing this. It’s a situation where the hiring manager is looking at someone who is a totally unknown quantity. On the other hand, what the manager DOES see are significant red flags – a very heavy schedule and the lack of experience that can easily lead someone to underestimate the challenges involved.

  48. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – If you feel really pressured to write the letter and can’t find a way to get out of it, I would simply write one that reflects your thoughts on her as a manager (as positively as you can do so).

    Eg. “While I cannot directly comment on Marg’s treatment of animals, I found that she was a welcoming and approachable manager who provided clear direction and ensured that I had good support as I transitioned into my role at XYZ Corp. She was a good coach and mentor who took the time to … ”

    People who are in the roles that oversee these decisions will understand that you had to write the letter, and don’t feel comfortable commenting on your former manager’s treatment of animals.

  49. Movie Theater HR*

    LW #2 – I do all of the hiring for my employer, a movie theater. The verbiage you mentioned for her rejection isn’t something I’d personally use, so I wouldn’t see that being a disqualifier in itself. Like you mentioned, your daughter’s activities are a good indicator for me that she is likely responsible, punctual, and has experience working as a team (albeit not in a professional/work setting). From what you’ve indicated, her schedule would be a factor for me depending on the shifts that we needed to fill. I have a number of employees with a similar schedule, but we reached a maximum on the amount of those employees we could employ (with availability limited to evenings and weekends).

    I will add also, unlike a lot of other industries, we’ve had virtually no problem filling positions. Our candidate pool is really large, partly because of our reputation in the communities local to our sites, but also we’re just a desirable industry to work in especially for first-time job seekers. I processed over 200 applications just for non-management positions in September/October! So, that does mean I rejected a pretty large amount of applicants for a variety of reasons. I just had the luxury of being selective, and unfortunately sometimes it was just due to availability.

  50. Rosemary*

    What is her rationale for thinking she needs two more days in addition to the two she was already receiving? Her employer is essentially just giving everyone else the same “accommodation” she had; not taking hers away.

    1. doreen*

      I think you are replying to me – she feels like her accommodation was supposed to be not “WFH two days a week” but instead “WFH two days a week more than every other employee can” so that if everyone gets two, she should get four. It doesn’t make sense to me , I don’t think she going to win this battle and I’m sure the fact that she’s even having it is going to have consequences of some sort – but it’s impossible to convince her of any of those things so I don’t even try.

  51. clearlyMillennial*

    LW2: I used to work at a store that rhymes with Mush Bosmetics and many, many applicants were in high school. They were hard to work with. We didn’t need employees who could come in after 5, which many of them wanted to do, we need someone AT 5. On top of that, worrying about how late they can work, how many hours they can legally have, etc, was too much to deal with because I was running a store of 50 employees. It super sucks for the kids, but ….

  52. It's Me*

    For #2 – This could be the Shaquille of reaches, but in addition to all the valid points made, I wonder if the manager, even subconsciously, is tallying the daughter’s risk of exposure. Not even in a health risk sort of way but just in a statistical “The nature of the job cannot be done remotely, legally she would HAVE to call out and leave us short if she’s had an exposure, and her odds of exposure are higher because of the extracurriculars.”

    The math just may not shake out in her favor.

  53. MonkeyPrincess*

    I used to specifically try to recruit teenage employees for a job (working in after-school childcare) because it seemed ideal: they were off school, it could be a fun job, etc. It NEVER worked out. It was almost always sports. Just one day that their meet schedule changes seems like “just one little switch” to the student, but to me… I can’t just not have coverage. And then three months into the school year (which seems like a long time to a teenager, but that’s only when employees are really hitting their groove!) Fall sports would end, Winter sports would start, and they would need to change their entire schedule. And then their friend would convince them to try out for the school play, and that night is the Science Fair.

    These kids were right to put their academic lives first, but at the same time it made it literally impossible to staff them. I know that plenty of kids do make after school jobs work, but honestly, in my experience, it’s not kids who can really do much in the way of extracurriculars or clubs. It’s not their fault! But it also wasn’t my fault that I basically stopped even interviewing them once I found out they played sports or were involved in music or theater or anything, because I’m not kidding when I said that it never once worked out.

  54. Serafina*

    LW #4: I know when I first started going back into the office a few days a week last spring, I had a lot of trouble doing so due to pandemic-induced anxiety. I was vaccinated, but one of my colleagues wasn’t, refused to get the vaccination, and was openly not social distancing at all. I was uncomfortable working in close proximity with this person– even with a mask!

    The pandemic greatly affected my mental health to the point where it was very hard to leave the house. I was working on it with a therapist. It was hard to go to my boss about it, but I opened up with her and she was very understanding. I would do my best to go into the office on my scheduled days, but if it was too difficult— I’d work from home. Not all jobs allow that leeway or have understanding bosses. But one must keep in mind– the pandemic was difficult for some.

    Thankfully where I work ended up requiring vaccinations unless one wanted to get tested for COVID at least once a week and permanently wear a mask in the office and paid us $500 for getting vaccinated. You can bet she saw dollar signs and got the vaccine. I still am anxious about being in the office somedays, but I am much better than I was!

  55. nonegiven*

    My husband’s work used to have only Thanksgiving Day off and not the Friday after. They also had an extra holiday they could take for their birthday or for any other reason. So many people took Black Friday for their extra day that they started giving them that Friday and their extra day, too

  56. Grapeseed Oil*

    I think LW2’s situation is a good example of: the same things that make you valued in school don’t make you valued as a (potential) employee, despite the fact that we claim “school prepares kids for the working world”. Companies don’t care if you are smart, well-rounded, and “show leadership”. They just need your labor and your time. I’m not going to get into my own value judgements on this, but it is how society currently functions.

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