employee got pulled over during a Zoom call, are firm offers a mistake, and more

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

1. My trainee got pulled over during a Zoom meeting

I train new employees and one of my trainees was just pulled over during a Zoom meeting. Before that, I could tell she was away from her desk, which is fine as we are all permanently WFH, but I didn’t realize she was driving (video was off). She didn’t mention being on the road at all. When she was pulled over, I could clearly hear the officer say it was for a minor traffic infraction and begin questioning her before she signed off.

I emailed to let her know we could meet another time and we could reschedule next time rather than have her driving while in a meeting. She must have missed my email, because she sent a separate email with a completely different reason for why she left our call (which didn’t mention she’d been pulled over at all).

To be fair, maybe some context wasn’t there for me, and I’m sympathetic that she is a Black woman in a notoriously racist state, so it’s as likely as anything that the cop stopped her without cause. But … she should have told me she needed to be away during our meeting or that she was driving, and then failing that she should be honest about what happened. Do you have any suggestions for handling this kindly but firmly?

Focus on what you want her to do going forward — which is to not schedule training calls while she’s driving. So: “You really can’t be driving on our training calls. You need to be able to devote your full attention to training, and we don’t want people taking that safety risk. Can we pick a time when you’ll be at your desk?”

That doesn’t get into the explanation she gave you because I’m not convinced you need to. Yes, people should be honest at work. Yes, it could be an integrity issue. But it could just as easily be that she panicked and thought she needed a more professional sounding excuse and/or was rattled by dealing with a cop. If you’re not seeing other issues with honesty, I’d cut her some slack and let that part go. (Especially since you’re not her boss, which is additional weight on the side of just focusing on what you need from her in the future.)

Read an update to this letter here

2. Are firm offers a mistake in this economy?

My employer has been moving from a wild west salary approach to a much more structured one. They have done a pay equity study, identified pay bands for different classifications, and have consistent cost-of-living factors that they apply for different cities. In general, I feel way less stressed making compensation decisions in this new framework, as it reduces my anxiety about guessing wrong or not having all the info about fair market compensation.

However, we are also being advised to make firm offers only, with no room for negotiation. That’s for good reasons — to reduce inequities around who negotiates. I support that goal and I understand the rationale. However, I also think that job seekers are being increasingly advised to always negotiate, and I think it may turn off good candidates if we demonstrate no interest in meeting them partway.

I know that theoretically people should make their decision based on the final offer, whether you get there through negotiation or through a non-negotiable offer but … I’m not sure human psychology works this way. And especially in this labor market, can we really afford to be the “we don’t negotiate” firm?

The other way to do this would be to under-offer compared to what you’re willing to pay, assuming they will negotiate. That’s nerve-wracking in its own way because they may be turned off by what looks like a lack of understanding about the market, but at least you can go up in response to their negotiation request.

If you under-offer because you expect negotiation, you’re going to get people who don’t negotiate or who ask for less than other candidates and, boom, you’re right back to having equity problems.

If you use a policy of firm offers only, the way to do it is to (a) explain the policy to candidates in advance, including that it stems from a commitment to salary equality, (b) explain why the offer falls where it does within the salary band, and (c) truly make your best offer. If candidates understand the policy and recognize that you’ve made a good offer, quite a few of them will be relieved. It gets a lot messier if you don’t explain the policy until they try to negotiate (at which point it feels a bit like a negotiating technique on your side) or if your offers are low. (If they are low, it’s extra important that you’re listing the salary range in the ad — and not just the entire band for the job, but the range you’re likely to offer to a new hire, which is often at the bottom of that band. Ideally you’d list salary in the ad regardless, but it’s especially important if you’re paying below market so that people know before they invest time in your process.)

3. I love my job but hate my boss

I’m at a crossroads with my job. I love the company I work for, our senior leadership, my boss and my team. Unfortunately, the head of my department is a mean, condescending jerk who ruins everything.

Nothing this person does is against company policy or the ethics guide, they are just rude and nitpick at every single mistake. They call out people on the team for making mistakes in front of everyone. The smallest error warrants a phone call and if you see their name come up on your phone, it makes your stomach drop. My boss is aware but tolerates it better than I do. She said she has told the department head that criticizing is not a way to motivate people, but nothing changes. I’ve been told senior leadership “sees the gaps in (department head’s) skill set” but nothing seems to be happening. My entire department is actively looking for work because they have made morale so miserable.

I’m not going to be humble—I’m a high performer who has exceeded expectations in my last two reviews. I want to go to someone and say, “You are going to lose a high performer if you don’t do something about this” but I don’t know who I can go to without fear of retaliation. I certainly wouldn’t go to the department head’s supervisor because I would then have a target on my own back.

I don’t want to leave this company, but I also can’t stand witness to the daily bullying any longer. Did I mention I am in HR? So talking to HR is not an option here either. Is looking for a new job my only course of action? Will they only know my dissatisfaction when I complete an exit interview?

They already know about people’s dissatisfaction. They just don’t care enough to do anything about it. It’s easy to think “they might care more if they realized they were going to lose good employees over it” … but it is rare for that to change anything. In cases where that really moves the needle, it usually takes multiple people actually leaving (not just threatening to leave) and citing the problem person as their reason … and often it still doesn’t change anything. More often what it does is spur some action around the edges (like getting the person a coach or sending them to management training) but rarely does it spur the kind of decisive management that truly resolves the issues, unless leaders above the person are willing to take a very hard line (meaning firing is on the table and the problem person knows that).

Now, maybe your situation could be one of those rare exceptions. But when the likelihood of change is already slim and there’s no one you can talk to without fear of retaliation and HR is part of the problem … you’re pretty much out of options. If there happened to be a higher-up who you think would listen and be willing to act, you could try that person … but it sounds like the “willing to act” part may simply be absent. I’m sorry :(

Read an update to this letter here

4. Does anyone ever want to see your actual diploma?

I recently started an MSW program at the same institution where I got my undergraduate degree in 2017. A few weeks after I picked up my student ID, I got an email about a financial hold on my account. It turns out that they charged me a replacement card fee, because I had had a student ID as an undergraduate and then got a new one as a grad student. I’m super annoyed and don’t want to pay on principle, and the fee is small enough that the school won’t prevent me from registering for classes, but I presumably won’t get an actual diploma when I finish my degree unless I pay up. It’s a relatively small fee, so it’s not like I can’t afford it, but I really want to be petty about it! Is it likely that an employer will hold it against me if I’ve finished all the coursework for a degree but don’t have a diploma because of a financial hold?

You could indeed be asked for a physical copy of your diploma, although more commonly when employers want to verify degrees, they do it by contacting the school directly or requesting transcripts (or they use a third party service that does that).

However, the financial hold could cause other issues. A lot of schools won’t confer a degree or even provide transcripts if you have a financial hold on your account, either of which could cause issues in future jobs searches. So I’d check that before you decide anything. It might also be worth seeing if you can appeal that fee to someone higher.

5. Being paid by debit card and without a paystub

My friend is working for a temporary staffing company. She is paid with a debit card and must pay a fee to use it (make a withdrawal, check a balance, etc.) She does not get any type of paystub or record of what hours the company has listed for her, which hours are considered overtime, how much is withheld for taxes, nothing. She was told that our state (Texas) recently passed legislation allowing this. How is an employee supposed to keep track of earnings or know if the employer is compensating correctly?

Texas did recently pass a law allowing employers to pay by debit card without first obtaining employees’ explicit consent — but they’re also required to allow employees to opt out and be paid by a different method. They’re required to provide your friend with a form allowing her to opt out so if she doesn’t have that form, she should request it.

Texas law also requires employers to provide an electronic or printed pay statement that includes the rate of pay, any deductions and their purpose, and the total number of hours worked in that pay period. She should ask her employer how to access those as well (it’s possible she can access them electronically and doesn’t realize it).

If they refuse to comply with either of these laws, the state department of labor should be her next stop.

{ 680 comments… read them below }

  1. LJ*

    It’s not clear if OP#4 even tried with the front line workers yet (before appealing higher up). It could be as simple as someone – seeing OP had an ID in the system – hitting a key for “replacement card” when they went for their grad student ID without realizing it triggers a fee.

    1. LJ*

      On re-reading, maybe they did check after the financial hold appeared. I’m still surprised that if it’s a known service fee, no one informed them at the time or service, or tried to collect it up front

    2. GNG*

      It’s hard to tell from the letter how OP#4 knew the details about the fee, or what steps she took to get it resolved. I don’t know the policies at OP’s school, but when I went to grad school, I couldn’t even register for classes for the next semester because I had a financial hold on my account (which turned out to be a mistake that someone in the finance office was able to fix). Not sure how far OP’s school would let her go in her matriculation if the hold isn’t resolved.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        Yeah, this seems like it’s a genuine mistake from the system. If you’ve tried to resolve it and the university is standing firm, that IS shitty, though!

        (Also, can’t help thinking that if you go into social work you’re going to encounter A LOT of shitty bureaucratic “computer says no” situations with far more serious consequences than this. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be angry about it, but I kind of feel like you’ll need to pick your battles carefully!)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is a really good point–a quixotic, unproductive approach to choosing molehills to die on when faced with bureacracy is not a good match with this field.

          OP, if you had a client with this problem you would be advising them how to push back on it. Including the part about how if you’re right, but an a***ole about it, people will be disinclined to exert themselves the minimal amount to clear something up.

          You hopefully would not advise the client to hand over two years of tuition and fees while refusing to pay a $10 charge because then they get to Be Technically Right even while not having a degree. You should be helping people look at the big picture and how sometimes you need to roll with a seemingly stupid bit of bureaucracy in service of progressing toward your big picture goals.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            I’m reminded of the advice I saw somewhere years ago:

            “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?”

            If I had the $10, at this point I’d just pay the fee. Yeah they shouldn’t have charged you.
            But by refusing to pay the fee, you are causing them ZERO problems and potentially creating issues (ranging from annoying to progress stoppers … getting your degree, registering for classes, qualifying for other programs, jobs)
            And by not putting it behind you, you’re giving the bureacrats space in your brain, emotions rent-free.
            Pay the fee and get on with your life.

            1. TardyTardis*

              So agree. Tony Robbins once said, ‘if you have a problem that can be solved with money, and you have the money, it’s not a problem any more’.

              I mean, feel free to call up a friend and rant about it! That’s perfectly reasonable.

              But just pay it and move on.

      2. Amaranth*

        I know, LW says they want to be petty, but I’m not sure if its worth having an outstanding balance that could end up on a credit report, or hold up grades or a degree. Is there a difference between the undergrad and grad school ID’s, either visually or in electronic access? I’d call or email the bursar and ask for it to be waived and if they refuse, just pay it off and list it under the other ridiculous fees they spread around.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There are times to be petty. But when the petty thing is going to invalidate your very expensive coursework, screw your credit rating, and make it harder to get a job–that’s not the issue to go to the petty mat on.

        2. Roscoe*

          Yeah, like how much could this fee be? Wanting to be petty on principal can cause far worse issues later. I can’t see how this is worth it.

        3. fueled by coffee*

          I imagine the undergrad ID probably expired when OP graduated in 2017 (right?), so that’s even more evidence to provide to the bursar/ID office that you shouldn’t have to pay the fee – you literally can’t use the old ID!

          But refusing to pay the fee won’t get this corrected – you need to take it up with the university staff involved in this.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I know when I graduated undergrad, my student ID was actually marked as good until a few years later–not sure why but I remember continuing to use it to get a student discount at the movie theater lol.

            But even if that’s the case, it obviously should not be considered a replacement and it would be very silly if they expected you to still have your old undergrad degree a 4 years later! I agree with the others that this is most likely just a computer-system mistake, though if it is you’d think it would come up a lot as OP is presumably not the first person to return for grad school a few years later.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Seconding or thirding the thought that this is a “computer burp,” and probably only happened because OP is pursuing graduate studies at the same university their undergraduate degree came from. Check with the ID office and your graduate advisor, they may know who you need to talk to about this – but don’t just let it go to be petty – that hold may block you from getting transcripts later that you’ll need to get jobs.

              1. ABBBBK*

                Don’t think it’s a computer burp. I have 2 master’s degrees and an undergrad, all from different institutions. they all make it super clear that you get ONE ID CARD. Not per degree, per person. Sucked for my classmates who didn’t realize they should have kept their undergrad ID from…ya know…5 years ago.

                1. Canadian Librarian #72*

                  I got my master’s and my undergrad from the same institution. I had to get a new card when I started my master’s degree – they would not allow me to use my old one. (And yes, I did have to replace my card once or twice during undergrad, because I was disorganized and young and I lost things.) Was this a cynical cash grab? Maybe, but it would be incredibly stupid to fight this policy, as though I was going to win against a top-rated research institution with 40k undergrads and god knows how many more grad students and post-docs. Suck it up, pay the fee, move on with life.

          2. Hillary*

            one of my undergrad IDs doesn’t have an expiration – when I started grad school ten years later they expected me to use the original (with 20-year-old me’s picture) or pay for a new one. It’s a big state school with a lot of perpetual students. If I signed up for classes now I’d have to pay for a new one.

          3. Yorick*

            I’ve been a student at 3 universities and I don’t think any of my ID cards had an expiration date printed on it. They likely did expire when I graduated, but then would come back if I enrolled again.

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        My school’s policy was that all of your accounts (late fees, library fines, tuition) had to be paid in full before graduation. I overpaid in an abundance of caution and as a result my school still owes me $5 and change.

        1. Canadian Librarian #72*

          Yeah, I actually think this is quite standard with universities – my alma mater’s policy is that if you owe in excess of $20 in library fines, they’ll withold your diploma until you pay up. This kind of policy really shouldn’t really be news to anyone.

        2. Pickle*

          You can ask the institution to transfer the credit to the alumni fund. It’s a journal entry internally, and way less work than cutting you the refund.

          If you don’t claim it, it will be escheated to the state of location of the institution and again more bureaucracy to obtain.

    3. Artemesia*

      And this is not a principle you want to die on. Financial holds can mean your employer can’t verify the degree and that could hurt you without you being aware of it; it isn’t just the physical diploma, it is the ‘hold’. It is ridiculous that they charged this — give fighting this another round, but if it doesn’t work then pay it so you don’t potentially mess up a future job background check. And do you really want to explain this to a hiring manager? Sometimes you have to fold’em.

      1. Retired Prof*

        Seconding this. I had a student who found out two years after he thought he graduated that the university would not confirm his degree over something like this, and he lost a job offer because of it. And what is the “principle” you are defending, really? That you are right and a bureaucracy is wrong? This won’t be the last time that happens and most of the time it’s not a battle worth fighting.

        1. FERPA Cop*

          Why would you deny a graduate something that helps them get employment? How does putting more barriers between them and a paycheck increase the chances the institution will get paid? I’m a registrar and this is why I changed my school’s policy on confirmations/transcript release for financial holds ASAP; it’s absolute nonsense.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            This kind of thing is my job. We can’t provide transcripts or diplomas if student accounting put a hold on those things, but we can prove degree awarding via a letter and it should be verifiable if someone calls or checks the clearinghouse. Sometimes student accounting will make an exception once in a while and let someone get a transcript.

            However, in my experience, jobs and grad schools (ESPECIALLY international ones) are frequently refusing anything but a diploma in your hands as proof of graduation. Or transcripts.

            OP, this is a ridiculous hill to die on. I don’t know what future employers are going to complain about or refuse as your proof of graduation, but not being able to prove graduation according to THEIR requirements, which may not be reasonable, is going to cause you trouble. Paying the money will end the pain a lot faster than trying to find someone to argue with four years later about you shouldn’t have had to pay for a new ID card.

    4. Heyima*

      The LW should first check in with the Admin Assistant of their graduate program to ask what’s up with the replacement card charge. At our institution each graduate position comes with a certain number of TAships. This means that graduate students need both student and staff cards issued to them as the cards allow them access certain restricted areas or to charge items to their own funding accounts or dept operating accounts depending on whether the item is research or teaching related. It may be that this is something easily refundable through the program, or it may be in the hands of the Finance Office. Either way Admin Assistant is your best resource here.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Hard agree with everyone here about hills to die on, finding a way through, contacting the AA of the program for assistance. And also came here to verify that some employers (particularly in the medical/allied health world) absolutely do require the diploma, state licenses, etc. The LW says they’re in an MSW program. If their eventual job winds up being in a hospital/medical setting, there’s a strong possibility that they’ll need to produce a diploma at some point in the onboarding process.

        1. ThisIsTheHill*

          Agree. I recently started working in a healthcare-adjacent position & had to submit a photo of my framed diploma (I told them it had been there for more than 20 years so I wasn’t sure if I could remove the frame without damage) as part of my background check. Transcripts would have sufficed, but Lord knows where I stored those so many years later.

          1. Grey Coder*

            I had to submit photocopies of my diplomas for an academic visa. My Master’s diploma is ridiculously large; I had to go to a specialist copy place to get that done.

            1. Llama Llama*

              Somewhere along the way through moves etc I lost my masters diploma and I hope I never need a physical copy. Getting a new one is expensive!

            2. Adultiest Adult*

              Have that problem too with my masters. The guy at Kinko’s when he finally figured out how to copy it 20 minutes later made me several extra copies on the house, just so that I wouldn’t have to do it again!

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This is also true if they end up working in government or courts or education. All three of those fields have strict requirements for the documentation they need to see prior to hiring someone.

        3. Yorick*

          This is true. I’ve never had an employer want to see a diploma, but they often want to see transcripts, which the university will not issue if you owe money.

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      They absolutely need to get this cleared; I’ve seen so many complaints of universities withholding bestowing a degree over even minor outstanding fees like university library book fines. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to prove their case.

      And I did have to show a physical copy of a diploma or transcript within the last few years, for a job transfer within my institution.

      1. Serenity*

        Yep. I’m an MSW, and for my org’s re-accreditation recently had to request full transcripts of undergrad and graduate programs, and I’m decades past graduation. You will need to prove these things in this field for your license and your work. (Plus I agree about the hill to die on, working with bureaucracies, etc comments.)

      2. Jen with one n*

        I work for the feds in Canada and submitting a photocopy of your degree/diploma is required for all staffing actions, including actings (when they’re a few months long).

      3. Canadian Librarian #72*

        Same here – got a job a few months ago that needed proof of my degrees. I had to send photos of my BA diploma and my master’s diploma, plus an official transcript. I was annoyed at having to cough up $15 for the transcript, but unsurprised about the diplomas. (This was for an academic job, which explains the degree of scrutiny – most other places I’ve worked have just called the school if they needed hard proof I’d graduated.)

    6. scoobs*

      It’s also possible the replacement fee was lower than a new card fee! I remember paying for my school ID card… this might be worth double-checking to make sure the replacement fee wasn’t someone actually doing a favor.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed – my university back in the dark ages of the 00’s just charged a flat fee of $1 when you got your ID, cash or check only. They didn’t start the print process until you paid. It would be so silly to stand on principle over a couple dollars, especially if that couple of dollars later prevents the university from confirming your degree.

    7. Save the Hellbender*

      I’ve gotten silly fees from a university overturned before – I think a lot of systems are just arcane and a real human will often rather waive it than deal with you.

      1. Gan Ainm*

        It’s literally probably as simple as the system being programmed to charge a fee whenever # of IDs issues > 1. Just talk to a human about it.

    8. IWentThere (But only for law school)*

      If this is a certain very old university with a school of social work with a reputation so excellent the state at one point partially outsourced running its child-support system to the school of social work, I highly doubt this was an accident. (If this is that august institution, a good friend of mine used to work in the department that issues ID cards and can confirm that this is exactly what they’d do, on purpose.)

    9. OP4*

      I commented further down, but yes, I have disputed it with a bunch of people. I initially sent an email to the bursar because I had no idea what the financial hold was for, and have emailed two people and called three people since then. I am pretty sure it was a simple mistake that caused the fee to be assessed, but unfortunately that does not mean that it’s a simple fix.

      1. twocents*

        How much is the fee for it to have been worth all of this time? Your time has value too and sometimes the cheapest way to pay is with money.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, this sounds like a large amount of time and having to complain to “a bunch of people.” And if it’s not a simple fix? Seriously, if you can afford the fee, that ends the pain a lot quicker and you can move on with your future.

      2. Yoyoyo*

        You will absolutely need a hard copy of your diploma. I am an LICSW and every job I have had has required a hard copy. Also, at least in my area of practice, it would be a little weird to not have it displayed in your office as proof of your credentials.

    10. ElleKay*

      Ditto. It’s not clear that she’s said to someone “Hey, I’m coming back in a new program, as a Masters student, not re-enrolling as an Undergrad. I graduated in 2017 and need a new ID card for this program”

      (Also I totally still have my undergrad ID in the back of a drawer somewhere and would be petty enough to pull it out in this situation! But I’m also a packrat)

  2. Sami*

    Oh OP #1: Please please talk to your colleague about how Zoom meetings should be going forward. No zooming, no phones, nothing. Distracted drivers are at a huge risk for car crashes, not only for themselves but for others on or near the road too. It’s just far too dangerous.

    1. Sue*

      It’s not clear to me that the employee was driving, they may have been a passenger but it could potentially cause liability to the company if an employee is working and involved in an accident. I would make sure sure the employee (and all employees) know that this is strictly forbidden. The safety issue is huge and the possible liability issue could be costly.

      1. Worldwalker*

        The letter said the cop began questioning *her* — as opposed to questioning “the driver” — and repeatedly refers to pulling *her* over. I think we can safely assume that the employee in question was the one driving.

      2. anonymous73*

        Whether the employee was driving or not is irrelevant. If they’re supposed to be in a training session, they should be in a private space with no distractions. I’ve taken meetings in my car before, but they were informational company meetings, not meetings in which I had to pay full attention and contribute.

        1. A*

          Exactly. Unfortunately in my line of work taking calls on the road is often unavoidable (although I wish it was as I agree that it carries inherent risk of distraction), but I only do that if it’s informational / calls where I’ll be mostly listening in versus participating. It would never occur to me to try and taking a training call anywhere other than at my desk as it typically requires interactive components and presenting. If nothing else it definitely requires my undivided attention, and note taking etc.

    2. Worldwalker*

      Yeah. Why the cop pulled her over is irrelevant. How the OP found out she was driving is irrelevant. The fact that SHE WAS DRIVING is what’s relevant. She was putting every other person on the road at risk because she was trying to have a Zoom meeting while driving. That shows incredibly, profoundly, staggeringly bad judgement.

      That deserves a stronger response than “now, let’s be sure not to do that again.”

      1. Grey*

        The response said to make it clear they can’t do it again. What else specifically do you suggest? The O.P. isn’t the employee’s boss.

      2. Anononon*

        If no video’s involved and they’re either using Bluetooth or the phone is mounted, I’m not sure how this is much worse than having a business call in the car. I do understand that lots of people don’t think any calls should happen while driving (hands free or not) but because it’s so common, I don’t think it’s as bad as you’re saying it is.

          1. A*

            Agreed, but not everyone has the authority to make those choices. In my line of work taking calls on the road is unavoidable to a certain extent, and that’s not my call to make. I do what I can to shift my schedule to minimize it, and only ever call in on the road if it’s informational / I’m just listening in – but I don’t have the ability to override the company’s approach to these things (aside from continuing to push for change, which has been working…. but slowly).

            Doesn’t sound like that’s the case here since employee chose to be on the road / it wasn’t for work related reasons – but in general it’s not that black & white.

            1. jiggle mouse*

              A few lawsuits from injured parties might put your company out of business, which would be a huge relief.

            2. Sacred Ground*

              When you get ticketed, it will be YOU paying the fine and increased insurance premium. Because your boss Is not the one driving your car. Only YOU are responsible. Your employer cannot order you to break the law. “…but my boss insisted…” Is NOT going to be a defense in traffic court.

        1. JB*

          It was also once common to not wear seatbelts in cars. People at that time also saw it as ‘not that bad’ because ‘everyone does it’.

          Yes, it is the same as taking a business call in the car. No, it is not safe to be on any kind of call while driving.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I know so many people who literally only wear seatbelts because cars do the annoying beeping thing now. If not for that I’m sure it would still be common.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                I have a family member who never wore a seatbelt until our state introduced a policy known as “click it or ticket,” meaning cops can and will pull you over for driving or riding as a passenger without one. (Before that, they didn’t pull peopke over JUST for that, although they would ticket for seatbelt noncompliance if you were pulled over for something else. )

                After she and her husband got pulled over and hit with a big fat fine because neither of them were belted, they started wearing the belts regularly! It’s nice to know that sometimes laws like that really DO work.

            1. Gumby*

              This *astounds* me. Putting on a seatbelt is so second nature to me.

              I remember one night when I was in high school, and really tired, sitting down on the couch and reaching over my right shoulder for a good 30 seconds and being annoyed that I couldn’t find my seatbelt before I realized I was not actually required to wear one in the house.

          2. UKDancer*

            Yes people used to drink and drive until they were educated not to and people used to not wear seatbelts. Now most people understand the risks and dangers of these so they don’t and those who drive drunk are stigmatised for it.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Yes, distracted driving is common… and dangerous. Which is why it kills so many people.

        3. The OTHER other*

          Talking on the phone while driving is a serious distraction, no matter whether hands-free technology is used. Not to mention how distracted the driver would be from the call.

        4. MusicWithRocksIn*

          If it was Jimmy from Accounting rambling about last quarters deficits – which don’t really impact you but you need to be on the meeting in case someone has a question for you then it wouldn’t be much different than listening to the news. But this was a training – which means she should have been paying close attention (probably taking notes) and engaging in what was going on. It shouldn’t be background noise, it was something that should have taken most of her focus. So either she wasn’t focusing properly on the training or she wasn’t focusing properly on the road – both of which are bad but only one of which could kill somebody (depending on the profession – there are lots of professions where both could kill somebody).

        5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’d say that following a training course is far worse than a business call. A course might last several hours, a call is more likely to take a few minutes. You’re more likely to need to take notes, and address complex ideas. If a call gets complex, you can say “OK thanks for explaining, right now I’m not at my computer, let me get back to you once I’m back in the office” but you can’t really do that if you’re in training, perhaps with several other people.

          1. Nesprin*

            Counterpoint: Most of the training I get to sit through is CYA lowest common denominator stuff which I can listen to with less engagement than the podcasts which I usually listen to during my commute.

            1. Hannah Lee*

              If that’s the case, the employee should do it while folding laundry or balancing their accounts, not while behind the wheel of a 2000+lb metal vehicle in motion where there are other living beings.

        6. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

          It’s bad. Others on this thread have cited specific studies. It is distracting, even if it’s a hands-free audio-only call, even if you’re dialing into a meeting that you don’t need to pay much attention to, even if it’s built into your employer’s culture and it’s expected of you by your boss, even if you do it all the time and you’re sure you’re really really good at it, even if a kid screaming from the back seat is more distracting.

          No matter how you slice it, when you choose to talk on the phone while you are driving, you are accepting a higher level of risk, and you are accepting it on behalf of other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists that you’ll encounter. Please, please don’t. Just don’t.

      3. Firm Believer*

        Agreed. I had a job applicant literally take an interview with me while driving. I was flabbergasted at the unprofessionalism but truly disgusted at the safety factor. I told her we would not be moving forward with her because of that.

      4. k bee*

        For whatever its worth, Zoom feeds into this completely: if you use Zoom from your phone, they have a “driving mode” that disables certain features.

      5. Calliope*

        The issue is that this isn’t something that’s commonly known to be as dangerous as it is. So it warrants a different approach than something that is commonly known to be dangerous. It’s not “staggeringly bad judgment” by a new employee when it’s commonly done and legal and Zoom even has a “safe driving mode”! It’s something to educate about.

      6. neeko*

        Staggering bad judgment? This is extreme. So you have never done something distracting while you drive? Never maintained a conversation with a passenger, ate a bite of something, or had a song stuck in your head?

        1. Neptune*

          I think that if you have to resort to comparing actively participating in a training session so fully that the person training you didn’t even realise you were driving to “having a song stuck in your head”, you probably already know your argument is weak. Those are two entirely different categories of distraction and pretending that you don’t know that is disingenuous.

          1. neeko*

            The OP clarified that it was a phone conversation and not an actual training session. I’ve had plenty of phone conversations where the person didn’t know I was doing something else. Do I think the person should have rescheduled the conversation? Absolutely. But the pearl clutching and not actually giving decent advice to the OP over this letter is ridiculous.

            1. Chalk Dusted Facsimile*

              There have been plenty of studies quantifying the effects of distracted driving, and it’s frequently on par with a level of alcohol consumption that would make driving illegal. Characterizing responses aware of this as “pearl clutching” is hard to swallow.

      7. tangerineRose*

        “She was putting every other person on the road at risk because she was trying to have a Zoom meeting while driving.” This!

    3. Puppet*

      I agree. I can’t believe how indulgent the reply is. The trainee was a danger for herself and others on the road but the biggest concern in the reply is that she is not paying full attention to the training and let it go. Unbelievable.

      1. Am ITA?*

        During the pandemic while we temporarily did WFH (we no longer are), big boss would hold org. staff meetings. Over 100 people were on the call, so we were directed to mute and encouraged to turn video off to reduce distractions/lag/prevent call from crashing. There were never any video components to watch–just big boss’s face talking–and no questions were ever answered in real time if anyone asked questions. Staff rarely did since staff were advised to bring concerns about the information to your next department meeting, if they had any.

        I… I have started the call parked in my driveway, hooked my phone up to my car via bluetooth so I could listen hands free through my car’s radio, and then driven during the meeting. I always viewed it as the same as listening to NPR while driving–requires learning, but still relatively safe.

        What do people think of this? Obviously very different than training where one would be expected to interact, yes? Or no, just as bad?

        1. Amaranth*

          I think it depends if its being used as background noise or if you’re really focusing on the information, gathering facts, and trying to formulate questions for later. If the latter, I’d say that most people will be distracted enough from driving that it could be unsafe. If you’re really just turning it on to get credit for attending and plan to listen to a recording later, then it wouldn’t be a big deal from a safety aspect.

        2. Susan Calvin*

          Honestly, I’m with you – I didn’t realize this was such an unpopular opinion! In my job we (used to) travel a lot, and be in the car at odd hours through the day, so using that time for a few quick phone calls, or listening in on a low prio meeting is just. Super normal to me. With the caveat that of course you need to use a hands-free setup and do anything that requires fiddling with an app or whatever while parked (both of these are also legally mandated where I am, ymmv), and you should make it known that you’re in the car so it’s completely clear that you won’t see any presentation, and might be unresponsive because, duh, driving.
          I’ve ended calls when entering harder to navigate parts of my route, and I’ve never looked askance at anyone who isn’t ever comfortable with it, but I also don’t think it’s outrageous. (Oddly, I find having a passenger with me in the car much more distracting and stressful)

          1. BubbleTea*

            I believe the evidence shows that hands free calls are as dangerous in terms of distraction as calls where you are holding the phone, although obviously there’s an additional physical element when not hands free. Since finding that out, I’ve tried to avoid any calls at all when driving and kept essential ones very short. I definitely couldn’t drive safely and concentrate on work at the same time.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes, that’s my understanding.

              Also, while specific may vary from person to person but I think the research also suggests that calls are more risky that speaking to someone physically in the car I think possibly because in those situations the other person can see where you are driving and so they are more likely to pause if there’s something that needs your attention, and that people are more comfortable saying ‘be quite a minute’ in person than on the phone (again, maybe because they know the other person will ‘get’ why)

              I think generally speaking it’s much safer to not be making or participating in calls of any kind,.

              1. banoffee pie*

                I’m pretty sure they’ve studied it and it’s more distracting to be talking to someone on the other end of a phone than someone in the car with you. You maybe subconsiously feel that you have to listen harder because you can’t see them, or as someone said upthread if you’re talking to a passenger they can pause the conversation if something dangerous happens. Some bosses will expect people to take work calls while driving though, and I’m not sure how you’re meant to say no. I really would prefer people never to take calls in the car at all.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I got a very, very hard line on this – you don’t talk on the phone while driving. Even hands free. I’ll hang up if I think the other person is driving and when I’m in the car the phone is kept out of reach.

              When one has had to be cut out of her car after a distracted lorry driver piled into it due to talking on the phone…yeah, I have some really lasting issues.

          2. Risha*

            I’m with you as well. I haven’t done it often, but I’ve taken or continued an important bur low-interaction meeting a few times while driving to an appointment or the like. Hands free only is a given, and I wouldn’t do one that is very likely to require any more interaction then responding to a roll call – if nothing else, having car noises in the background when you talk would be weird. But I can’t think that it’s any more distracting then your average audiobook, which people commute to all of the time. Significantly less so then a really good one, probably.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            I would say that quick calls and low-priority meetings aren’t the same as a training session, though. A training session would require a lot more concentration, probably for longer duration.

            (I’m not crazy about people talking on their phones while driving, but, that aside, I don’t think a short phone call is equivalent here.)

          4. JB*

            I’ve spent a lot of time in the car with someone who drives while on calls throughout my life (my father).

            He is a reasonably intelligent man. He fully believes he drives just as safely while on a call as not. But it is clear to me (and anyone else who has ever been in the car with him) that even with low priority calls that he doesn’t actually need to engage with, he immediately becomes more distracted and a worse driver. He just isn’t as aware of his surroundings.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Seconding. And my dad is an incredibly good driver! I wish everyone on the road was up to his standards. But his driving and reaction times are noticeably impaired when he’s taking a call. It’s fortunate that he’s a good enough driver that this still makes him better than most people on the road, but that still doesn’t mean that it’s not making him a less safe driver.

            2. Koalafied*

              One of the funny things about humans is our tendency to think that anything brain-based is something you can simply choose to do through sheer force of will.

              “Multitasking is a skill many people have.”
              “I can be objective and consciously not consider in my evaluation facts that are known to me.”
              “People can pay attention for hours without a break unless they’re lazy.”
              “1,000,000,000 isn’t that big of a number.”

              I’ve found that some people will reject on its face any suggestion that the human brain has any inherent limitations or shortcomings that can’t be overcome by anyone who simply wants to.

          5. James*

            If the meeting is so low-priority that you can drive (which takes up a significant cognitive load) while on the meeting I have to wonder what value that meeting has. Are you actually getting anything out of it? Or could the company save time, effort, and money, while increasing safety, by simply making it an email or a recorded presentation? If there’s a meeting that requires so little of me that I can be doing other things, I probably wouldn’t be on that meeting. It’s not worth anyone’s time.

            The difference between a passenger and a phone call is that the passenger can act as a second set of eyes/ears. They can break off the conversation when needed, and can identify that need immediately. Obviously not all can–a 4 year old having a tantrum after Trick or Treating is pretty oblivious!–but most adults can.

            As an aside, humans assess risk more by what we’re familiar with than by actual risk, at least as far as individuals go (we’re actually pretty good in aggregate, but individuals tend to be stupid in this regard). For me working with hazardous waste is normal; I’ve done it for years, I’m trained in it, it’s something that’s just part of my job. Most people would consider being in a pit of toxic sludge to be incredibly dangerous. Steel workers used to consider climbing rebar without harnesses normal, and objected when OSHA required even master steel workers to wear them–sure there was a risk of death, but it was one they were used to. It’s called complacency, and is one of the four trigger states, the fundamental causes for almost all workplace injuries and fatalities. Merely feeling safe doing something isn’t sufficient as far as risk assessments go. The statistics are pretty clear, as others have rigorously pointed out: distracted driving kills.

            1. Nesprin*

              Yep, speaking from a meeting heavy culture, there’s at least 2-3 meetings per week where someone would be offended/thing X would be out of compliance/etc stupid politics if I didn’t listen in.

              Yes it’s terrible, and absolutely my least favorite part of the job.

            2. Am ITA?*

              James, I would say the meetings I do this for are LESS than worthless. They were frustrating time sucks and energy drains. I truly only dialed in to CYA and to have a record of my attendance. If I was at home (which the majority of the time I was), I would also do other things then (like fold laundry, wash dishes). I actually think the recommendation to turn video off was bc it was clear MANY people were watching dishes, etc., which big boss maybe found demoralizing that people weren’t paying attention, but not demoralizing enough that he figured out to switch them to an email.

        3. Puppet*

          It is different when it’s a meeting that you only listen (although you might miss some info, especially if there’s a PowerPoint presentation). It is very different when it’s a one-on-one meeting that you’re supposed to participate in.

        4. anonymous73*

          I’ve done the same thing. As long as it’s an informational meeting, and nothing where I have to pay full attention to and contribute, it’s no different than listening to an audiobook.

        5. Your local password resetter*

          It would depend on the meeting, but I’d still be uncomfortable with this way.
          It’s fairly common that people never have to contribute, so I completely believe that part. But unless I knew the meeting was always completely useless, I don’t think you would just zone it out like you would with radio talkshows and such. This is still your boss talking about your work, and you probably will want to remember and process some of the things they are saying. Which would distract you from driving safely.

        6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          What do people think of this?

          All depends on the driver. I’ve conducted 3 hour conference calls during 8 hour drives where I ran circles around vendors who were trying to snow us, without missing a lane-change signal, a shift, or an exit. On the other hand, I’ve also had coworkers who I wouldn’t ride with even if I could remove the car’s stereo and lock their phone in the trunk beforehand.

          1. The OTHER other*

            The problem is that virtually everyone thinks their driving and ability to multitask is above average.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              The problem is that virtually everyone thinks their driving and ability to multitask is above average.

              Agreed. It’s the ability to demonstrate above-average that matters.

              1. StlBlues*

                Not missing an exit is simply not the same as not being distracted. This feels like something that people are unable to judge for themselves.

                As the first comment said, everyone thinks they’re above average. I’m sure they think they have “proof” of it too. (They’re alive! They haven’t crashed. They haven’t missed an exit.)

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Not missing an exit is simply not the same as not being distracted. This feels like something that people are unable to judge for themselves.

                  Fair enough; I didn’t intend that as an exhaustive list of why I was a good driver on that drive.

              2. jiggle mouse*

                How many tries does someone get to ‘demonstrate above-average’? A fender bender? Scaring the shit out of the person you almost swerved into? Maybe a little bump to a pedestrian?

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Those are good questions even when there are no bluetooth/hands free calls.

                  My standard response to reckless driving under any circumstances is “it’s way too easy to get a driver’s license in this state.”

            2. KoiFeeder*

              My dad actually is an above-average driver, and he’s still a less safe driver on phone calls. Just because taking calls while driving puts him at slightly above average instead of highly above average doesn’t mean it’s not impairing him!

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            OK, an 8-hr drive, I’m imagining you driving through the desert in Arizona, not another car in sight, and hardly any animals either. But for me, driving would involve driving in the most densely-populated city in Europe (that’s Paris), or on the busy motorways leading elsewhere, which is another kettle of fish entirely.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I’ve only done it on the Appalachian Autobahn (I-77 between Columbia and Atlanta). It’s a mix of through-town (Columbia, Charlotte, Statesville, Charleston), mid-town (Wytheville, Beckley, Parkersburg, etc) and dozens of miles at a time of rural freeways.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              One of the challenges of driving is that you don’t just have to pilot your own vehicle … keep it in its lane, headed in the right direction, taking the right turns. You also have to be constantly aware of everything around you so you can react immediately. It could be a moose or other wildlife barrelling into the road, it could be a driver behind you reading a text so their eyes aren’t up and looking ahead so they won’t notice if you brake, slow or stop, it could be someone dozing off, adjusting their phone/music volume in the lane next to you starting to come over the line, it could be a windgust that will knock your car, and some of the vehicles around you, a yard to the left in less than a second* or an ice patch which could send your off the road into an accident even if no other cars are around. Any one of those things could be dangerous or even deadly, but are made less so if the driver is aware of what’s going on, both hands on wheel, feet near gas and brake pedals so they can react immediately .

              *There’s an area on the interstate near me that has frequent accidents, even though it’s a straight section of 3 lane highway with no ramps, no change in incline, etc. Very curious. When I took a job with a commute in that area, I came to suspect the cause is the crosswinds along that stretch of highway. I always put both hands on the wheel as I approach that stretch, because even on calm days, my car can get blown halfway out of my lane if I’m not ready to hold it steady when the gust hits.

          3. Oh Marshmallow*

            Watch even a couple of ‘bad driver’ videos on YouTube and you’ll see craptons of multiple-car wrecks piling up behind distracted drivers, as they merrily go along their way, never even seeing the disaster they created by their chaotic lane waffling or cutting across multiple lanes of traffic to catch that exit that they really really don’t want to have to backtrack for.

            That the distracted driver themselves arrived at their destination in one piece is only half the equation.

        7. Tech*

          Doesn’t your computer have a built in mic and speaker that you can use hands free without burning fossil fuel? If not there are plenty of cheap webcams with built in speakers and mic and you can cover the lens while using.

          1. Susan Calvin*

            Life truly is a rich tapestry if your first idea about why people take calls while driving is “because they don’t like wearing headsets”

        8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          The thing is that the person speaking cannot know about your driving conditions. If someone just cuts in front of you, so you have to quickly brake to gain a safe distance, or if you need to navigate a dangerous bend in the road, most passengers will automatically shut up until the danger is past.

          1. marvin the paranoid android*

            I think the other reason why talking to a passenger is considered safer than talking into a phone is that passengers will warn you if they see something dangerous about to happen, which helps cancel out any distraction they might cause. Although that will depend on how distracting your passengers are.

        9. Indy Dem*

          My company has many field workers (sales, patient education, etc) so there is a corporate rule, no calls/meeting while in the car. If you have to take/make a call, you are required to pull off the road. This is a liability issue for the company!

        10. CCC*

          I think it’s pretty bad. Would it be okay to have a very boring movie playing while you drive? I think having a video playing in the corner of your eye is pretty awful. If you stowed the phone away where you couldn’t see it or interact with it, then it’s probably comparable to a phone.

        11. cacwgrl*

          I’ve worked in an organization that would expressly forbid this, even if it is listening only. That company was extremely safety focused and the one time I witnessed their response was probably 10 years before the pandemic. Safety was (probably still is) their highest priority and in one team meeting, a fairly high level manager called in from the vehicle. It was obvious from the background noise they were in a car and likely still moving. In this case, the callers was driver and sole occupant. They were directed to disconnect immediately and never again take a call while in an unsafe position. Upon return to the office, they were counseled and received a formal write up. The company felt the employee endangered themselves as well as other drivers and had anything happened, the company would be liable. That incident more than anything factors in to any work related calls I receive in a vehicle. Since then, I have answered calls and remain dialed in on a large call that’s listen only but only when I absolutely had to be and could not avoid commuting.

      2. Boof*

        I think this ignores the reality that we live in where it’s really common and there’s a lot of hands free technology to do this relatively safely. At the risk of a huge debate, yes it’s probably best to avoid in general but there are some scenarios (ie, passive listening meetings you set up before you start) where it’s hardly different from listening to the radio

        1. After 33 years ...*

          In our jurisdiction, use of hands-free can still result in a ticket and demerits if it’s demonstrated that the driver is distracted. Based on the available research, any style of phone usage is a serious distraction, and should be discouraged. Our commutes are generally short, so most people here would react sharply and negatively to anyone using meeting technology while driving.

          1. Risha*

            Out of curiosity, would they react differently to someone listening to an audiobook, making a call home to update a spouse, or talking with their child in the backseat? I’m really struggling with how this differs from the everyday tasks we typically do hands free in a car.

            I understand the distracted driving stats people are quoting, and I believe them, but most of the comments on this so far seem really out of touch with the reality of how the average person lives.

            1. Ryan*

              I recommend doing some reading on the issue – there is a ton of research that explains why this is so dangerous.

              And the fact that many people choose to do something that is known to be dangerous is a terrible argument for doing it.

              Listening to an audio book or talking to someone else in the car are very different in terms of the cognitive load they induce and the impact this has on focus, concentration and awareness. Making a call home to update a spouse is also a big no-no. The evidence is very clear. You can choose to disregard it, but you should be certainly be aware of the risks you are taking – and the risk you are putting other road users in by doing these things. The number of people who would never drive drunk but somehow think, in spite of the decades of evidence, that hands-free phone calls are perfectly OK is terrifying!

              1. Risha*

                Maybe I’m attending very different meetings than you, but talking to someone in the car (something that requires interaction and emotional engagement) is massively more cognitive load for me than virtually attending the kind of meetings I’m talking about, and roughly on par or probably slightly lower than the audiobook. Are those studies you’re talking about quantifying the specific types of interaction? Or are you just projecting what you feel is true?

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  My understanding is that the claim is that talking on the phone while driving differs from talking with someone in the car in that a passenger will see the same situation you do, so if something comes up requiring the driver’s full attention, the passenger will see this as well and the conversation will automatically adjust. Someone on the other side of a phone call won’t have this information, so the conversation will plow forward distracting the driver. I’m not sure I buy the argument, partly because I have no problem saying “Hold on a moment” on a phone call, but mostly because I have little faith that a passenger will be that aware.

                2. Your local password resetter*

                  Either way, talking to people while driving is a bad idea. It takes your attention away from watching and reacting to traffic, and you can’t just stop paying attention to it.

                  Audiobooks might be fine, but that depends on how intrusive it is and how much attention you’re paying to it.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  Richard’s point is what I’ve observed–the driver has to merge or figure out what that green Subaru is doing, and conversation automatically pauses for a few seconds while this happens. (This does not apply to young kids in the back seat.)

                  I think it’s fine for OP to address the work side–I need you to be in a private space with your attention on the training–but she doesn’t need to offer up any outrage about driving while listening to a meeting. I certainly don’t know if the training is something where employee should be fully engaged and taking notes and asking questions, or more something like listening to a mostly dry presentation that might have one or two relevant facts buried in it (like having the radio on).

                  And while I don’t normally talk on the phone and drive, this is a very routine thing I can’t muster up any outrage over.

                4. My Employer does Naturalist Driving Studies*

                  Much of the literature is relatively older, due to the extended time that is required to do “naturalist” driving studies, where technology is installed in drivers’ cars and measurements are taken for an relatively long time. Most drivers seem to forget that the technology is there after a while, which leads to better data. Unfortunately, this means that the data on people zooming while driving is currently being gathered rather than being published. Here are some cites of older studies if you would like to investigate further.

                  Treffner, P. J., & Barrett, R. (2004). Hands-free mobile phone speech while driving degrades coordination and control. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 7(4-5), 229-246.

                  Backer-Grøndahl, A., & Sagberg, F. (2011). Driving and telephoning: Relative accident risk when using hand-held and hands-free mobile phones. Safety science, 49(2), 324-330.

                  Metz, B., Landau, A., & Hargutt, V. (2015). Frequency and impact of hands-free telephoning while driving–Results from naturalistic driving data. Transportation research part F: traffic psychology and behaviour, 29, 1-13.

                  I have also seen studies that indicate that truck drivers cognitive needs are greater than car drivers since they have more complex vehicles with a more dangerous factors (longer stopping distance, less nimble), but have not seen any studies on truck drivers zooming and limited naturalist studies.

                5. Cat Lady*

                  echoing that the auto pause may be true for adults in the car…..but I can guarantee that my screaming toddler in the backseat who wants a snack does not care one iota if someone just cut me off.

                  and there are definitely meetings in some lines of work where you are required to have your presence show up and literally remember nothing. it’s a terrible use of time, agreed, but those meetings are less interesting and distracting than when my favorite song comes in the radio.

              2. My Employer does Naturalist Driving Studies*

                As a follow-up to my other post:

                Charlton, S. G. (2009). Driving while conversing: Cell phones that distract and passengers who react. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 41(1), 160-173.
                … and passengers in different in-car settings (passenger as usual, passenger without front view or passenger without view of the driver) were compared to a hands-free cell phone and to a hands-free cell phone with additional visual information either about the driving situation or …

                McEvoy, S. P., Stevenson, M. R., & Woodward, M. (2007). The contribution of passengers versus mobile phone use to motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance by the driver. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 39(6), 1170-1176.
                … There is evidence that mobile phone use while driving (including hands-free) is associated with motor vehicle crashes. However, whether the effects of mobile phone use differ from that of passengers in the vehicle remains unclear. The aim of this research was to estimate the …

                1. Risha*

                  I have to say that, while I remain pretty skeptical that a lot of the hardliners in this thread are really properly evaluating the risk/reward ratio on this, I deeply appreciate you bringing in the relevant cites.

                2. Lenora Rose*

                  Do any studies compare this directly with audiobooks or with music? Do any compare it directly with utter silence (Which would drive me mad)? I’m just wondering what the control groups are.

                3. My Employer does Naturalist Driving Studies*

                  Dula, C. S., & Martin, B. A. (2015). Cellular phones contribute to dangerous driving. encyclopedia of mobile phone behavior, 1330-1340.

                  … Distracted driving is a type of risky driving (other types include such things as speeding, redlight running, DWI), as it puts one at … But, if participants listened to music or audio books, driving ability was not diminished (Strayer & Johnston, 2001). Simulation research also suggests …

                  Shinar, D. (2015). Cognitive workload≠ crash risk: Rejoinder to study by Strayer et al.(2015). Human factors, 57(8), 1328-1330.

                  … Different audio books and different conversations create differing workload depending on their physical and content characteristics. McKnight and McKnight (1993) were probably the first to note the difference in distraction between a “natural” conversation and one that they …

                  Nowosielski, R. (2017). Using Audiobooks to combat Mental Underload: How Traffic Density and Road Complexity affect Driving Performance while Multitasking in Virtual Environments (Doctoral dissertation).

                  … Distracted driving (driving while performing a secondary task) is the cause of many … Most research on distracted driving has focused on operating a cell-phone, but distracted driving can include driving while eating, conversing with passengers or listening to …

                  I couldn’t find one that addresses the distraction of silence, perhaps since that is the default that they are using to compare to other distractions.

                4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I have to say that, while I remain pretty skeptical that a lot of the hardliners in this thread are really properly evaluating the risk/reward ratio on this

                  I would like to see this split into calls where the driver is primarily providing information and calls where the driver is intended primarily to receive information. I can be an authority on a call and drive trivially, but I don’t retain information provided to me anywhere near as well–and trying to do so would be far more likely to compromise my driving.

              3. A*

                “And the fact that many people choose to do something that is known to be dangerous is a terrible argument for doing it”

                I agree that it is dangerous, and I’m not a fan. However I don’t think it’s fair to paint this as always being a CHOICE. I occasionally have to call into work meetings on the road, and I do what I can to minimize this and will pull over if I’m able to – but it’s not always possible, and I do not have the authority to over ride that. I continue to push for change, but ultimately I also need to perform my job and remain employed.

                1. Curious*

                  This reminds me of the letter from the person who was expected to participate in a video call while driving.

                  I’m sorry, but it IS a choice — between doing something that may cost you your job, and your financial well-being, on the one hand, and doing something that involves significant risk of seriously injuring (or killing) yourself — or an innocent victim.

                  That is a s#!tty choice to be forced to make. It is unfair. But it is, nonetheless, a choice that you are making.

                2. Sacred Ground*

                  You and only you are responsible for your driving. You and only you have the authority to refuse calls while driving. “My boss told me to” is never a valid reason to break laws.

                  Amazing to me how many folks will just toss up their hands like they don’t have a choice. It’s your car, your driving, your risk, your citation when you get caught. It is ONLY your choice, nobody else’s. Your employer won’t be liable for your accident, you will be.

                  I worked for years as a driver and had this drilled into my brain. The driver is responsible for driving, not the driver’s boss, not the company, not the shipper, not the dispatcher. The driver is solely responsible for safe and legal operation of the vehicle. Stop abdicating your responsibility by blaming your boss for your choice.

            2. After 33 years ...*

              Using an audiobook or any type of phone call would evoke the same negative response. The safety peoples’ position is that many tasks that we do in cars – eating, drinking, any form of distraction – are not good. A few incidents involving distracted driving have a tendency to shift opinion towards the unacceptable side.

              1. After 33 years ...*

                After the legislation was passed, one of the first persons cited for phone use while driving was the provincial Premier.

            3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              thing is, your spouse on the phone has no idea that you’re nearly at that dangerous roundabout, and might choose that moment to tell you they want a divorce.
              your kid in the back, you can easily tell them, hey wait a mo, this lorry driver thinks he can cut in front of me….. OK sweetie, what was the song you wanted?
              with the audiobook, you can “rewind” if you miss a chunk, or maybe if you’re listening while driving, you’ve chosen something pretty vanilla that you can half-listen to, and enjoy because it’s being read by somebody with a very pleasant voice.

              1. BBA*

                Yeah, and there’s no obligation to an audiobook. You can tune it out, replay it, whatever. The audiobook won’t notice or care. The audiobook has no control over your income. There’s more obligation, a higher bid for attention, involved with any kind of work call, whether you’re actively engaging in it or “just listening.”

              2. banoffee pie*

                Is it true that there are no roundabouts in the US or is that just a joke on the Simpsons? Somebody help me with this please. And if no roundabouts, what do you use??

                1. After 33 years ...*

                  Although uncommon, roundabouts (sometimes called traffic circles, I known they’re not the same) do exist. Our town has added several in the past 5 years.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Is it true that there are no roundabouts in the US or is that just a joke on the Simpsons?

                  It’s untrue. And, despite the kvetching, they’re replacing intersections where land use permits because they’re safer and provide greater traffic throughput.

            4. JB*

              Have you actually been in the car with someone – NOT yourself – doing these activities? There’s a huge difference in the level of distraction between ‘just’ listening in on a call vs talking to someone in the car with you or listening to an audiobook or the radio.

        2. Kal*

          There may be lots of hands-free tech, but the evidence shows that it does not in fact make this “relatively safe”. Indeed, it clearly demonstrates that it is just as dangerous as holding the phone.

          The fact that so many people do not understand this indicates that the tech companies have successfully lied about this technology and sold it as a solution when it is not.

          1. Boof*

            Can you site your source on that? I can find sources that hands free (esp if there’s some visualization interaction) is more distracting than no call, but nothing comparing to a “handy” phone.
            For myself, my worst distraction historically is getting confused/lost, and the phone nav system has been the best in minimizing that.

            1. Who Needs Road Safety?*

              I don’t think glancing at a navigation system is comparable to looking at a zoom meeting. When you’re looking at a map app your focus is still driving. When you’re looking at a zoom meeting your focus is listening to what people are saying, totally unrelated to the driving.

              1. ecnaseener*

                Actually there is research that looking away from the road is a big distraction and causes people to miss things in driving simulator experiments. It’s least bad if your phone is mounted just below the windshield (vs down in your lap or something), but still significant.

                1. Lenora Rose*

                  By that logic one should never check one’s speedometer or gas gauge either, but not doing so would likely be counted as “bad driving”.

                2. ecnaseener*

                  Lenora Rose, the research is specific to things like reading a map that require you to look away frequently. I’m of course not saying you can’t glance away once every 10 minutes, but if you’re peering at the map trying to figure out which exit is yours, that’s proven dangerous.

              2. Boof*

                I mean, there is a huge list of things that increase risk when driving: Fatigue. Passengers. Stuff rolling around. Bad weather. Bad emotions. Substances. Doing anything other than staring straight at the road with two hands on the wheel.
                The truth of life is that we usually try to balance risks/benefits rather than always minimizing risk at whatever cost.
                It’s not unlike covid; the minimal risk is staying at home, alone, and never interacting with anyone in person. Most people can’t tolerate that and don’t think it’s worth it. Most people think a vaccine and masks and hand washing are acceptable and do a great deal to decrease risk, even if there is some minimal risk in going out.
                I am NOT ADVOCATING for high risk things (driving drunk, texting while intoxicated, driving while severely sleep deprived, etc) just saying when you have to commute an hour a day, when your options are getting confused/lost and possibly getting into an accident because you are looking too hard at road signs and not hard enough at traffic vs glancing at a nav display, when it’s taking a bunch of separate cars or whatever; there’s a minimal risk we accept and I can’t get outraged or condemn people for doing things slightly suboptimally

                1. Boof*

                  (and in case it wasn’t abundantly clear, I’m talking about personal habits – a work place should definitely discourage people from meeting while driving overall, and never pressure people to do this, because it is an easily modifiable risk from a workplace standpoint. Similarly places that have long shifts should provide a call room to nap in after, or a car service home and back to work in the am, etc etc)

                2. My Employer does Naturalist Driving Studies*

                  Ishigami, Y., & Klein, R. M. (2009). Is a hands-free phone safer than a handheld phone?. Journal of safety research, 40(2), 157-164.

                  … participants in the phone condition, regardless of the phone type, were as slow as, if not slower than, drunk drivers, to respond to signals. Driving drunk is illegal in many jurisdictions. Perhaps similar restrictions regarding use of a cell phone while driving should be considered. …

                  Strayer, D. L., Drews, F. A., & Crouch, D. J. (2006). A comparison of the cell phone driver and the drunk driver. Human factors, 48(2), 381-391.

                  Burns, P. C., Parkes, A., Burton, S., Smith, R. K., & Burch, D. (2002). How Dangerous is Driving with a Mobile Phone?: Benchmarking the Impairment to Alcohol (Vol. 547). Crowthorne: TRL.

                  … from Handsfree and Hand-held phone conversations in relation to the decline in driving performance caused by alcohol impairment. The TRL Driving Simulator was used to provide a realistic driving … to drive drunk than to drive while using a phone, even when it was Hands-free. …

                3. 454345*

                  Yep. Some of the commenters on here are really unrealistic–I mean, telling people not to even talk to passengers? Not to look at directions? Everything’s a tradeoff, and no aspect of life has zero risk.

                4. James*

                  “The truth of life is that we usually try to balance risks/benefits rather than always minimizing risk at whatever cost.”

                  I agree in principle (I’m a safety officer on a construction/remediation site, I have an extremely jaded view of “safety”), but what’s the benefit here? You get the call done quicker–at the cost of risking your life and the lives of everyone you share the road with. And the cost of NOT risking painful death or manslaughter is finding a place to park. And remember, we’re not talking about looking at road signs or glancing at a map–this employee was ON A TRAINING SESSION. That’s a whole different world. It’s not unreasonable to ask that people not check emails during training sessions; why should we allow people to drive while doing so?

                  This employee didn’t engage in a minimal risk activity, or a risky one that’s inherent to driving. They did something very, very stupid, something that put everyone around them at risk. THAT we most certainly CAN mitigate.

            2. My Employer does Naturalist Driving Studies*

              Backer-Grøndahl, A., & Sagberg, F. (2011). Driving and telephoning: Relative accident risk when using hand-held and hands-free mobile phones. Safety science, 49(2), 324-330.

              …Experimental research shows that using mobile phones while driving leads to impaired driving, and it has been suggested that this driving impairment to a large extent is a result of cognitive, rather than physical, distractions. This notion is partly supported by empirical data showing that use of hands-free phones is associated with impaired driving in much the same way as use of hand-held phones. In the present study, accident risk when using hand-held and hands-free phones was investigated in a sample of 4307 drivers who were involved in …

              Tison, J., Chaudhary, N., Cosgrove, L., & Preusser Research Group. (2011). National phone survey on distracted driving attitudes and behaviors (No. DOT HS 811 555). United States. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

              … • About one-third of respondents considered a driver who was manipulating a navigation system for driving directions (33% men, 38% women) or talking on a cell phone and holding the phone (32% men, 37% women) as very unsafe. This increased with age from the low 20s to …

              Okon, O. D., & Meng, L. (2017, September). Detecting distracted driving with deep learning. In International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Robotics (pp. 170-179). Springer, Cham.

              …Driving is a complex task and requires a number of skills such as cognitive skills, physical fitness, coordination and, most importantly, attention and concentration of the driver on the driving [1,2]. Despite of the complex nature of driving, it is common of drivers to get involved in activities that divert their full attention from driving, degrade their driving performance and even lead to fatal accidents. Typical examples of such activities include using a mobile phone, eating or drinking, using a navigation device, grooming, tuning the audio system, and/or talking to passengers, etc. In a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has been estimated that approximately 25 percent of car accidents were due to inattention of drivers [3] and around 50 percent of these accidents were caused by distraction of drivers [4,5]…

              1. Cdn Acct*

                My father, who takes great pride in his driving skill and probably doesn’t want to admit that his alertness has changed at all in the last 5 decades, loves the bells and whistles on his car including his GPS. When I’m in the car with him and he starts ‘adjusting’ the GPS or showing off some feature, I tense up visibly and sometimes ask him to stop as it’s really obvious that he’s not paying attention to the road, though he would say he is. He is clearly not staying in the lane as well, and not seeing as far ahead and checking road/traffic conditions. But my visible reaction upsets him because he either doesn’t want to admit, or doesn’t believe at all that his capacity is diminished. I find that especially in North America, people’s belief in their driving ability is very tied to their pride and it feels like an inviolable right to them, so anything that suggests that they should improve, or that it’s a privilege that needs to be actively maintained, gets very strong pushback.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            the tech companies have successfully lied, because the audience was desperate to believe them.

        3. anonymous73*

          Do you ever turn down the radio when you’re driving so you can find somebody’s house? It doesn’t matter what tech is available – you shouldn’t be doing anything hugely distracting while driving. A boring company meeting, sure no problem. A training session? Nope, never.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          In this case though it sounds like this was a one-on-one scheduled training, so that seems like the person should be a lot more attentive than “passive listening” or else in addition to being potentially dangerous, it seems like kind of just a waste of the trainer’s time.

        5. James*

          I cannot for the life of me think of a meeting where my presence is required, but which require so little attention that I would feel comfortable driving during the meeting. Either my presence is of no value, in which case why am I bothering to attend, or I need to be actively involved, in which case I can’t be doing other things.

          If your company is having meetings where you need to be present but not participating, your company has a screwed up culture and is, to be blunt, wasting everyone’s time. Save time, money, and lives by advocating for these meetings to be recordings or some other format that allows you to absorb the information when you’re not driving.

      3. BatManDan*

        My wife was rear-ended quite badly (no braking by the other driver, my wife was at a full stop) yesterday by someone that was distracted driving. Concussion and whiplash. I have lost all tolerance for distracted driving at this point.

      4. Who Needs Road Safety?*

        Yeah, it really drives me crazy how lackadaisical people are about this stuff. They’re driving multi-ton machines on open roads while looking at a powerpoint or whatever…. how did this become okay? I commented this below, but my CEO literally videoed into an all staff meeting while driving recently. All the directors do it too. In fact, I was once in a meeting where a DRIVER (someone whose job is to drive people around) did it… with his boss on the meeting.

        But hey what’s another road death or injury?

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. People have zoomed into court hearings while driving. You have to be on video due to the judge needing to judge credibility. Documents are put into evidence that you have to look at. Etc. Yet people are like “oh this big important hearing, let me do it while driving to work.”

          Folks sitting in a parked car because its quiet and private, fine. Actually driving, no.

          Distracted driving is distracted driving whether you are on a work call, personal call or whatever. That’s why its called distracted driving now, not driving while using your phone.

        2. ecnaseener*

          Video is definitely ridiculous. I can’t tell from the letter whether this trainee was looking at video or just treating it like a phone call.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            It says video was off.

            But a training session must require a fair amount of concentration/distraction, I would think.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          Yes, I completely agree – this is something that I am really really hardline on and I find it astounding how cavalier many drivers are about other people’s safety on the road. “But everybody does it” (the classic kindergarten justification for bad behaviour), “but I’m a good driver”, “but it’s like an audiobook” – it’s the same answers every time no matter how many statistics come out and studies are done on the road accidents, injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving. This one is particularly egregious because it was a TRAINING session, ie something that you are specifically supposed to be paying attention to and be engaged with; OP’s trainee did something very stupid and risky and I see no reason to overlook that. If the meeting is so very important, pull over. If you simply must drive somewhere, plan your time better.


          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            All of this is why I do not drive. I prefer not to be in cars at all but I do not want to be party to this insanity.

        4. JP*

          Agreed. I’m horrified by the responses on here. I know the OP isn’t in the position to do so, but I would have considered firing this employee.

      5. Colette*

        I agree it’s wrong and the employee shouldn’t do that, but it’s not the OP’s responsibility to stop. She should explain that the coworker can’t drive during training, but she’s not in charge of how the coworker drives in general, and she’s not the coworker’s boss. There’s not much she can do.

        1. James*

          Depends on the company. Most of the folks I’ve worked for, either directly or as clients, state that all employees have Stop Work Authority if there is an unsafe condition, and that work CANNOT resume until the unsafe condition is resolved. My company goes further and states that it’s an obligation, not just authorization–it’s literally part of the terms and conditions of employment. And they really do walk the talk. Executives have been thrown off sites for not having the proper PPE.

          If anyone found out about someone taking a conference call while driving they could–and should–report it to the project safety manager, who will determine and initiate any corrective actions required.

          Obviously other companies are different, and you need to account for the company’s culture. But it’s not universally true that just because you’re not the person’s boss there’s nothing you can do.

          1. Colette*

            Sure, but that’s far from the norm, and if it were an issue at the OP’s company, she presumably would know that already.

            1. James*

              “…but that’s far from the norm…”

              It’s becoming increasingly common. The liability is tremendous, if nothing else (and honestly most safety programs are really liability mitigation programs). Again, everyone I’ve worked with, directly or as a subcontractor, has such requirements.

              There’s a reason for it. If I get into an accident while on a conference call it’s an OSHA recordable. Companies look at the incident rates, and if the rates are too high you can’t get certain kinds of work. Plus, it’s expensive–you have hospital bills to pay, worker’s comp to pay, an employee that’s down (and modern lean staffing means that this necessarily means everyone else becomes overwhelmed), etc. From a purely business perspective the risks just aren’t worth it. And that’s assuming that only the employee was injured. If they injure or kill someone else, it gets exponentially worse, for the employee and the company.

              Please note that I’ve not mentioned any humanitarian reasons for such policies here. Pure, cold-hearted, Objectivist-style capitalism demands that, given our current regulatory and cultural environment, we not permit our employees to assume such risks for the company. (That’s not to say I ignore the humanitarian justifications; reckless driving, including driving while distracted, clearly violates the “An it harm none, do as you will” concept. I’m just saying that even if I were to do so, every business should still have such a policy.)

              “…and if it were an issue at the OP’s company, she presumably would know that already.”

              Do you know every policy and procedure in your company? I’ll save you time and just say that I assume anyone who says “Yes” and works for a company large enough to have official SOPs is lying. No one can. And even if you did learn it, remembering it in the moment is notoriously difficult. The employee is under pressure to violate it. Reminding people of these sorts of requirements is a good idea. And again, remember that when employees choose to drive distracted on company business they are in fact assuming tremendous liability risk for the company. I seriously doubt a relatively new hire is in a position where they would be allowed to do that.

          2. Minerva*

            Large US based company I work for even asks us to call out coworkers looking at a phone or on a call while walking down the hallway (pacing in a private office might be ok) due to slip and fall injury rates. It’s all about what they record as causing injuries. And we have manufacturing with far more serious risks (I have to annually certify my understanding of high voltage risks and take lock out training, and I am mostly office staff, so it’s not the only risk identified)

      6. MK*

        The OP isn’t traffic patrol, or even the trainee’s boss. All these comments about how dangerous driving while on a zoom meeting may be right, but the OP doesn’t have any authority to police this person’s driving habits, especially if they aren’t doing anything illegal. Stipulating that the trainee needs to be in the right environment for training is acceptable, a lecture from a coworker about irresponsible your driving is isn’t likely to go well.

        1. James*

          The short version of this is “Not my job, not my problem.” Another way to put it: “Volunteers to die on the job, please step up to the line”.

          I will kick someone off my project site if they have that attitude, because it’s simply too dangerous to work around such people. If you see a hazardous situation on the job you have the moral obligation, if not the legal one (and sometimes you have that too), to make an effort to correct it. The company almost certainly has an obligation to do this, under OSHA–distracted driving is a recognized hazard and any company that falls under OSHA’s umbrella has a requirement to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.

          And sometimes it’s the lecture from the coworker that tips the scales. People aren’t convinced by statistics; what they’re convinced by is stories. Plus, a coworker isn’t The Man, he’s just Bob, the guy you beat in the March Madness bracket last year. Some things are more convincing coming from a colleague than an authority. It shows that this isn’t just some made-up nonsense the BOD pushed, it’s something real, that has real consequences. In my experience it’s the single most effective way to communicate safety concerns.

          1. MK*

            No. This isn’t a hazardous situation on the job, it’s a coworker noticing dangerous driving while on a work call. And the OP is unlikely to have the authority to kick this person out.

            Also, if you have found lectures from random coworkers an effective teaching tool, all I can say is, this hasn’t been my experience.

            1. James*

              “This isn’t a hazardous situation on the job, it’s a coworker noticing dangerous driving while on a work call.”

              The distracted driving is the hazardous situation on the job, and it IS a recognized hazard; there’s simply no possibility of debate on that issue, any more than there is that smoking causes cancer or that evolution occurs. Further, it wasn’t “just” a work call, though that would be bad enough–it was a training session.

              Company cultures differ, but for my money an employee who knows about it has a moral obligation to speak up. It’s required by my company. And it’s an effective method for ensuring workplace safety. It’s a means to address at-risk behaviors, to use the terminology of Behavior Based Loss Prevention. (I don’t make this stuff up; these are all real concerns that safety officers deal with).

              I assure you, if the worker got into an accident and injured themselves or someone else because of this it WOULD be a recordable for the company, in addition to the worker being injured, killed, or killing someone else. That’s how it’s gone in every case I’ve seen. The employee is on company time, therefore what they do affects the company. This affects everything from insurance premiums to the ability to win work. I can’t really think of any industry that’s not affected by such things; OSHA is pretty well entrenched in the USA at least.

              “And the OP is unlikely to have the authority to kick this person out.”

              If the only disciplinary action you can imagine is to fire someone, I pity anyone working under you. You don’t need authority to fire someone to correct a clear and obvious hazard, and half the time you get the authority by acting as if you already have it.

              “Also, if you have found lectures from random coworkers an effective teaching tool…”

              Please read what I wrote, not what you want me to have written. Lectures are of limited effectiveness, sure. But stories? Most people I know have stories of injuries or deaths related to distracted driving that they can relate. And information coming from colleagues is different in kind from that coming from higher-ups. This is why grass-roots movements differ from top-down movements.

              For my part, I would much, MUCH rather work with people I know are concerned about my safety–even if from purely selfish motivation–than with people who say “Not my job, not my problem.” I’m alive today because the people I work with were concerned about my safety, and I’ve kept a few people alive by being concerned about theirs. The industry I work in is simply too dangerous for the type of attitude you are describing. I want to be crystal clear here: The attitude you are describing kills people, every day. Almost every incident investigation I’ve participated in has included the phrase “I saw something but didn’t want to say anything”; had the person spoken up there would have been no incident. While I’m extremely jaded about safety, this is one thing that I think the BBLP got right: Jobsite safety is a commitment by EVERY team member, it starts with each of us taking personal responsibility not just for ourselves but for our colleagues.

      7. Bluephone*

        I mean, the last time a similar letter came through, but from the opposite POV (and no police involvement), the consensus was a very vocal “that LW had NO CHOICE BUT TO ENGAGE IN A ZOOM CALL WHILE DRIVING HOW COULD ANYONE SUGGEST OTHERWISE” (despite the obscene irresponsibility and disregard for safety or traffic laws) so like…par for the course, I guess?
        Do not Zoom while driving, why does this have to be debated all the time???

      8. Sleet Feet*

        Yes. Alison should have spent at least a paragraph shaming the driver. That would have been super helpful to the OP. It definitely would result in the driver never driving and talking on a phone again, even if it’s legal in their state.

        Plus we all know that Zoom requires video so it’s not like the OP failing to specify if it was a video/screen share call means it’s safe to assume this was a simple phone call.

      9. lilsheba*

        I agree. I’m a huge believer in people who are driving should be paying attention to DRIVING and nothing else. No meetings, no phone calls, and above all else do NOT be impaired (not saying they were). I believe in harsh punishments for people who are driving impaired or distracted. You don’t get to drive anymore, period. It is way too dangerous. In the OP’s case I would write them up for doing the training while driving and the next time they’re fired.

    4. James*

      I work for a large multinational firm. Being on Zoom while driving would be cause for immediate termination if your higher-ups chose to do so. At minimum it would be a PEP and revocation of your ability to drive while on company time (which, for some of us who travel extensively for the job, would mean: immediate termination). The reason is exactly what you say. I work with hazardous waste, on UXO sites, in the wilderness, and generally in insanely dangerous places. The most dangerous part of my job, statistically speaking, is driving to and from the work site.

      1. UKDancer*

        My company also prohibits people from using their phone while driving. Using a hands-free phone is legal but it’s still a bad idea and UK road safety research shows it’s as distracting as using a hand held. Also if you cause an accident while distracted the penalties are more severe.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Ours clearly states that with the exception of the emergency response units using their radios, nobody is to talk on the phone while driving. Even hands free.

          You get a call you need answering/need to make a call you find a safe place to pull the car over first.

          (We’re a massively safety-driven industry that takes no chances)

      2. Elle*

        Same here. If you even checked your email once while driving on company property or time you would risk being fired.

    5. Josephine Beth NotAmy*

      My department not only doesn’t consider meetings (phone or zoom) to be distracting while driving, we have leadership who actually schedule meetings for the times they will be driving. We often have very kong commutes and lots of time in the field, so this is 100% expected, and we are considered to be not using our drive time efficiently if we don’t deal with phone calls during those times. I wish I was kidding. I make sure my own reports aren’t driving when we meet, but I have no authority to push back against the rest of it. For the record, I hate it, and I do everything in my power to avoid it whenever possible. If anyone has suggestions for pushing back on this, I’d love to hear them.

  3. louvella*

    I graduated college when I was 22, never picked up my diploma (just never bothered), am 34 now and it hasn’t come up for me yet.

    1. David*

      It doesn’t come up for a lot of people, sure, but I think the important point (and the one that Alison was making) is that it _could_ come up. There are situations that actually happen where someone asks to see an actual, physical diploma and where a transcript, proof of graduation, or a copy of the diploma are not acceptable. And it’s not something where you can know for sure ahead of time that you will or won’t ever get into one of these situations.

      1. Raine*

        From what I’ve seen, it’s usually in connection with financial or high-security positions, or professional certification/licenses. I’ve helped with assembling the paperwork for a lot of professional engineering licenses in multiple states and that, most definitely, requires a copy of either one’s transcript or diploma, sometimes both, depending on where. I’ve even had one state demand to see someone’s high school diploma *and* transcript, despite the fact that a) the school burned down in the 1970s and b) the engineer had been practicing engineering as a licensed professional for longer than I’d been alive.
        It’s definitely one of those things where a small fee now saves a lot of headache years down the line.
        I’ve also had people assume I wasn’t as trained or as educated as my job demanded, so having a framed diploma up on my cubicle wall was So Very Worth It.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I’m a teacher, and have had to upload a photo of my master’s diploma to job applications or to HR for a salary bump.

        2. Expiring Cat Memes*

          It may be required if you shift industries or employers too. It may not be important in the industry you work in now, but who knows how jobs will evolve and the trajectory your career will take?

          The fee is annoying for sure, but it’s a silly hill to, maybe not die on, but incur an injury that might come back to bite you years down the track.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          I, like louvella above, have never had a copy of my college diploma. You had to request, and pay for, one specially. I didn’t go through the cattle call graduation, but my understanding was that the paper handed you was a dummy. This makes sense, as it would vastly simplify the logistics of the ceremony. In the decades since then not one employer has asked about it. Transcripts are another matter. For years I kept a stash of official transcripts in their original sealed envelopes, and would order another batch when mine got low. I would guess that this is done electronically nowadays, but have not had occasion to find out.

          I find the idea of requiring a copy of the diploma rather than a transcript to be bizarre. Why? The diploma tells you nothing the transcript does not, and unlike a transcript, a diploma is easily forged. This looks to me like a bureaucratic requirement that is about a half century out of date.

          Gotta ask: how did the case of the burned-down high school play out? Was the license approved even without the high school transcript?

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I went to my college cattle-call graduation ceremony, and we were handed very nice (but empty) diploma holders. The actual diplomas were mailed to us later (no need to request it or pay a fee, that I can recall).

            I agree with you that transcripts make more sense to request than the diploma itself.

              1. londonedit*

                I assume my degree certificate (definitely not as fancy or as large as a diploma) is still at my parents’ house somewhere, as that’s the last place I saw it. I’ve never been asked for it in my life.

            1. Le Sigh*

              Instead of blank sheet of paper, my university used it as an opportunity to plug all the ways we could become donors now that we had graduated. Nevermind that I had a barely minimum wage internship and was in debt.

        4. Diplomas*

          I’m an attending physician and I’ve had to provide scans of all my diplomas (medical school, residency completion, fellowship completion, board certifications, etc.) so many times that I have them all saved in a secure cloud folder ready to be whipped out at moment’s notice. Applying for a new state license, onboarding for a new job, applying for faculty appointments at academic medical centers, etc.

          1. DataGirl*

            I work in medical education, so 100% admin work not patient care, but I still had to provide a copy of my grad school diploma. I think there are certain fields- academia, medicine, finance that will usually ask for diplomas. If OP isn’t in one of those fields they are probably not going to need it but you never know.

            Also, when I worked overseas I had to provide copies of all my diplomas including my AA and BA.

          2. L.H. Puttgrass*

            That’s fascinating. I’m a lawyer and I’ve never had to show anyone my diploma or even my bar admission certificate. Usually, if someone wants to verify that a lawyer is licensed, they just ask for state and registration number. My state has a website where anyone can look up whether a lawyer is currently licensed to practice (and see whether they have any public disciplinary history). Once a lawyer is licensed, the law degree doesn’t matter so much because it’s mainly a prerequisite for passing the bar (well, whether you have it doesn’t matter; where it’s from is still tremendously important to some people for reasons that are mostly messed up).

            But if you want to call my school to verify that I have a Ph.D., they won’t tell you without a signed consent form. I find that odd—whether someone holds a degree from an institution isn’t necessarily easily verifiable.

            I wonder if the difference is that many of the situations in which medical professionals need to show their diplomas have to do with licensing, which is similar to proving you have a law degree in order to qualify for taking the bar. But even when I signed up to take the bar, I didn’t have to show my degree—I just had to ask the school to send confirmation that I was getting the degree.

          3. aunt beast*

            I’m an academic and my husband works in government/public health. We have scans of our diplomas saved in multiple places, and our diplomas are part of the set of documents that came along in our bags on our last overseas move instead of going in the shipping container. It’s not like they’re irreplaceable, or that border force was going to ask for our diplomas (although we did need them for our visa category), but it is the most monumental pain when you get asked for them and you don’t have them immediately to hand.
            I think these requirements show up more in situations where there’s no central licensing registry or database, and where it’s less work for the institution or organization to make the applicant/employee prove their credentials than to ping the credentialing institution itself. It’s not foolproof, but I get that it’s probably much faster on the institution’s end.

      2. Double A*

        I’ve had to provide official transcripts for a few jobs and when I applied for a teaching license in another state. But you order those from the university registrar; I’ve never had to provide my diploma. The official transcripts confirm my degree and are essentially notarized, which a copy of a diploma wouldn’t be.

        I *think* my diplomas are in my file cabinet? I’m sure the masters is…not quite sure about the bachelors.

        1. Double A*

          Also, if there’s a hold on issuing your diploma then there would probably be a hold on issuing official transcripts! So you would still have the same problem.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Agreeing with this. In college back in the dark ages of the ‘00’s I worked for a semester in the registrars office – we wouldn’t be able to release transcripts to you if you had any sort of hold.

            All of this is making me really fond of how that university handled student IDs – any time you needed one – that will be $1 please, cash or check only. Eliminated the financial holds for IDs – because how easy is it at 18 to loose that little plastic rectangle?

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Yup, as I noted above, a diploma, meaning a gussied up piece of paper, would be easy to forge, especially if all they demand is a photocopy. Making this a requirement is the sort of thing that gives bureaucracy a bad name.

          1. kathy*

            hahaha I once had a job that accepted photos (from my cell phone) of my framed diploma hanging on my wall. It’s genuine but seriously could have been forged so easily.
            But that was not to hire me – it was when I ordered my first business cards and I wanted the degree after my name. Such a weird corporate policy.

            1. Clifton Bridge*

              Ha! As part of my most recent job interview, they had me hold my (framed) PhD diploma up to the webcam as an identity check. Sure. Why not.

              (But I do work in an industry that does require all sorts of weird combinations of diplomas/transcripts/etc. to be produced, at a moment’s notice, for all sorts of reasons, plus I live in a country where having a PhD means that I have an easier time getting a visa, so. Not a hill I would die on, personally.)

              (That being said, I’m pretty sure I don’t have a physical high school diploma? Like, I did attend graduation — did I really not get a piece of paper that day? Who knows.)

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Persons of a certain age and background will recall Ask Dr. Science!, with the catch phrase “He Knows More Than You Do!” Dr. Science proudly proclaimed “I have a Masters Degree… In Science!” At one time you could order a personalized Masters Degree in Science for your very own. My brother, a tenured chemistry professor, had his framed and hung it on his office wall next to his Ph.D.

              2. Koalafied*

                It’d be hilarious to pull a Ron Swanson and just hold up a piece of obviously handwritten paper that says “I have a degree.”

                (In the show, he was asked to produce a permit for grilling in a public park, to which he replied, “Sure, I have the permit right here,” and then handed over a piece of paper that said, “I can do what I want.”)

          2. JB*

            I would assume it’s really about the optics, especially in high liability industries like healthcare.

            If it turns out you hired a fraud, it looks a lot better to be able to say ‘of course we have a copy of their diploma, but it turns out it’s a good fake’ rather than ‘well, we don’t bother to ask for diplomas really’. Even if the reality is that there’s the same risk of fraud either way.

        3. L.H. Puttgrass*

          How big is your file cabinet? My masters degree diploma is something like 14 x 17 (way too big, IMO), and the matted frame is even larger, of course. I’m having a laugh picturing lugging that thing with me to show someone who insisted on seeing the diploma itself instead of, say, an official transcript or a degree verification.

          1. Double A*

            This is funny, because I’m pretty sure my master’s is like…7×10″! I remember thinking it was awfully small. Definitely not even a regular full sized paper.

      3. Amaranth*

        The university here won’t give out grades if there are ANY charges outstanding, so I’d want to be very certain that they’d even confirm the MSW when asked. It isn’t just about the physical diploma.

      4. JP in the heartland*

        I’ve been in the work force for over 35 years, mostly working in fundraising for non profits, with a little customer service/restaurant work thrown in when I was younger. The job I just started in May at a nonprofit is the first time I have ever had to produce my physical college diploma. I was very lucky to find it. Pay the fine. Get the diploma.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      There are two issues – not picking it up, and not having it issued in the first place.

      If your employer needs to verify your degree, and you just haven’t picked it up, you can order it, or get copies of your transcript. I needed to order my PhD diploma for visa paperwork reasons (hadn’t bothered picking it up before). If there’s a hold for financial reasons, they may not issue the degree, and you won’t be able to verify the degree because it hasn’t been granted yet.

      And yes, the university can and will hold onto your degree until you’ve paid off all the associated fees. In my undergraduate, you could walk in the ceremony because you had completely the requirements, but the envelope held an invoice, rather than the degree, even for a few dollars in library fines. I had a bill for library fines at that level mid way through the degree, and I couldn’t order transcripts or register for new courses until it was cleared up. Basically, it’s not worth using a debt collector for small amounts of money, so they use the leverage they have.

      1. Willis*

        This. And if OP is planning to get a social work license at some point, she’s very likely going to need a transcript and/or some other proof of graduation when she applies for it.

        1. East Coast Girl*

          Came to say exactly this. I currently work for a professional licensing body, (not social work but health care). Both registration for the entry to practice exam and application to apply for a license as a new grad require individuals to submit proof of graduation. In our case, this can be a copy of their degree/diploma or a letter from the registrar’s office saying they completed their program requirements in good standing.

          There’s a good chance the school will not issue either if there are issues with outstanding fees, even if the reason for the fees is debatable, unfortunately.

      2. Tuesday*

        Yes! OP needs to make sure her degree will be posted on her transcript. The actual diploma can be worried about later. It seems unlikely to me that they’d post the degree but withhold the diploma. They usually go together.

      3. Carlie*

        Yep. Bursar’s holds trump everything, including conferral of degree. OP would actually be lying if they said they had graduated or gotten a degree if that hold is there; the best they could say is that they completed the coursework for the degree. They have not completed the degree until the registrar’s office officially clears them as having completed all requirements, and that includes having paid everything owed. OP is likely to get the fee waived by calling and explaining, but the chance of ignoring it and graduating is probably zero.

      4. MsClaw*

        Yep. The issue here is not the piece of paper. It’s that she hasn’t actually ‘received’ her degree. How much is the student id? Unless it’s truly astronomical, just pay it. It’s not worth not graduating over $35.

    3. Aj Crowley*

      I posted below but it can come up especially for someone, like LW, who may be going into a field that requires a license. To obtain the license, they may have to show a diploma, among other documentation. There are many uses for an MSW but LCSW is a common career path.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Exactly. If your degree is required for licensing or a visa or anything like that, assume that they will want to verify it, and be ready to provide it.

      2. Washi*

        Yes. I have an MSW and have had to provide a copy of my diploma at work. I think that’s a fairly normal thing where there is billing involved and it’s important to prove you have the correct credentials.

    4. Stitching Away*

      It comes up much more often with jobs for any kind of government (federal, state, town, whatever). They are notorious for wanting physical proof. So if this person has any intention of that kind of job at any point, they want to get this fixed now.

      I know someone who worked a government job that required a masters degree. They had a doctorate in the field. It wasn’t deemed acceptable, and they almost got the offer recinded, but happened, while going through the doctoral program, to pay to be issued a masters degree partway through.

      1. Monte*

        I was coming here to say this. I have a professional degree and when I went to apply for a government job they wanted a PILE of official documents from my university, regardless of when you graduated or what licenses you already hold.
        I’ve also had licensing boards request my diploma as proof of graduation despite having graduated years before.

    5. John Smith*

      I’ve been asked for mine by my employer which I provided, but they also wanted to see evidence of high school and college certificates as well for some strange reason (and pretty difficult to get hold of given how long ago that was).

      Pay the money. Not having a certificate pales in comparison to not having a degree conferred.

    6. Well...*

      I’ve had to show my PhD tons of times for my the various gov funding behind my job and for random visa bureaucracy reasons. They want the physical copy which always freaks me out. I’ve had to get it mailed overseas, and it’s survived two international moves.

      But while my case is special, Allison is right that holds on accounts are going to interfere in other ways. Universities are good at getting their money. You probably won’t be able to get official transcripts or a lot of other things people often need.

    7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m not in the US, but I’ve been required to provide my actual physical degree certificate several times, plus the physical certificate of my professional qualifications.

    8. Artemesia*

      My college made it clear that they don’t replace diplomas; in the US I have never heard of anyone requiring the physical diploma for anything. It IS required in some foreign countries where the actual diploma is a big deal. In the US the key is being able to verify the graduation or request a transcript.

      1. MCL*

        Yes, I had to provide a copy of my high school diploma when I worked in Germany. I was studying abroad and earned some money as a part-time English tutor at the university I was studying at. IIRC they wanted the copy of the actual diploma, not transcripts. This was in 2003 or so.

    9. mreasy*

      I think if you’re in graduate studies it’s more likely to come up. I believe I have my college diploma…somewhere…but in my diploma-holder is still a sheet saying “congratulations! But you still owe us library fines”…

    10. Roeslein*

      It’s come up for me a number of times, for example when moving countries and needing an equivalence (I’ve moved countries a lot) and when applying for public service jobs.

      1. Roeslein*

        My official PhD degree is hand-written in Latin only and A1 format so it’s always interesting. (Id id get the university to issue a English, stand-size “equivalent”.)

        1. Deborah*

          My undergraduate degree is also in Latin and it’s HUGE! But I’ve never needed to use it – proof of degree (in English) is available from the college.

    11. Anne of Green Gables*

      I think it’s important to note that there is a difference between your diploma and your transcripts. The diploma is a fancy-looking one page certificate that indicates that “full name” has completed “specific degree” from “Institution” on “such and such date” and is signed (stamp-singed, I’m sure) by someone high up, possibly the president of Institution. This is what you frequently see framed on walls in offices. The transcripts outline every course taken towards a degree, grades, etc. It also has the date the degree was completed/conferred on it, so it does serve as proof of completion of the degree, but it has more information than that.

      I have never needed my diploma. I’ve needed my transcripts from my master’s degree for every job I’ve had since earning said degree. When I hire, my HR requires transcripts pretty early on in the process. I am not in social work, so I can’t speak for that specifically, but I suspect that what would be needed are the transcripts, not the diploma. And it is very possible that a financial block will stop someone from obtaining transcripts, that’s fairly common.

      (I do agree that LW should go to the financial office and talk to someone, it’s very likely this can be cleared up easily.)

      1. Anononon*

        I think people mostly know the difference between the two, and, yes, there are many situations in the US where a copy of the diploma (not transcript) is needed.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, the correct “be petty” response here would be to go to the relevant offices in person and escalate up the chain, until someone realized that they shouldn’t have issued the replacement charge and removes it. Something that would be not monetarily logical (say you spent 3-6 hours fighting bureaucracy for $7) but by golly on principle you were right and you were going to fight it. (I do wonder if the charge would otherwise say “new ID card” and it would be the same amount.)

        Society functions in part because some people out there will be petty like this and insist that the rule be followed even if ignoring it would be easier for them.

        OP’s instinct of how to apply the pettiness is deeply counter-productive.

        1. Willis*

          Yeah, I also wondered if OP would otherwise be paying a new card fee (or possibly she also paid a new card fee rolled into other grad student fees).

    12. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      But, there may be variances from country to country. It’s not unusual for jobs outside the US to ask for copies of diploma and transcript for undergraduate and graduate degrees. For instance, I had to help a friend of mine get official notarized copies of her US diploma and transcripts for a job in India at a consulate of a European nation. She told me that she always has to submit them when she changes jobs.

      Also, if you ever apply for another graduate program in the future, it won’t be good to have outstanding problems with your previous degrees.

      1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

        Oh, and I have even heard of people being asked to provide TRANSLATIONS of diplomas that were written in Latin (as the diploma of my undergraduate alma mater is).

        1. Anononon*

          Hah, my college diploma is also in Latin, and I think when they gave them out, they included a page with the translation. No idea where that page is…

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          There are still Latin diplomata in this day and age? I knew I’ve been on the wrong continent this whole time…

          1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

            Well, I got mine in 1993, but I’m pretty sure the college (which is in the U.S.) still issues them in Latin.

            1. The OTHER other*

              I really wish the fetishization of Latin would die but it still lingers on in law, medicine, and college diplomas.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Be careful what you wish for; if Latin fades further, Greek & German are champing at the bit to fill the void.

            2. Anne of Green Gables*

              My diploma is also in Latin, awarded in 2000. I’m fairly certain my alma mater still issues them in Latin.

        3. Deborah*

          Yeah, my alma mater still issues them in Latin. Also notable: the scroll they hand you at graduation is your actual diploma. They don’t mix them up.

    13. RabbitRabbit*

      On the other end of things, I had to provide a copy of my diploma (or transcript stating I was granted the degree) within the last few years. I was changing jobs at the same employer.

      I also had to provide a copy several years prior when the institution was standardizing their certification/degree checking process.

      The more urgent problem for LW 4 is that their university may withhold actually issuing their degree without proof that they owe no fines, so that person may technically not HAVE that degree. If they need a copy years down the road and suddenly the university says “nope, that person never completed their graduate degree” it will be ugly to fix.

    14. Falling Diphthong*

      I have never shown anyone my actual physical diploma, either.

      But anyone checking employment history would call the school and be told, yes, I graduated on the date given with the degree given. OP seems to think the diploma would exist internally somewhere, and employers would call the school and confirm what classes she took and the grades she got in each–which is not something the school is going to do with a hold on the account, nor the employer who will have less than zero interest in making a bunch of phone calls to try and confirm OP’s tale of having completed the coursework but not earned the degree because of a $10 id replacement charge.

    15. Llama Wrangler*

      I just want to add to the thread – I’m a nonprofit worker who has had to supply a scan of my physical diploma multiple times in my ~15 year career. (It’s possible if I didn’t have the physical diploma, I could have gotten something from the registrar, but the broader point is I’ve had to verify it – despite working in low-stakes fields with low emphasis on credentials.)

      On the other hand, I’ve never had to supply a copy of my master’s degree, which is sitting in the unopened envelope it came in at the top of my closet.

    16. Dr. Rebecca*

      I’m certain this has been covered in the 48 people who replied before me, but I’m legit baffled at responses like this. Your experience isn’t universal.

    17. Ashloo*

      I needed to scan my college diplomas for a loan refinancing application. It was weird and the only time I’ve pulled them out in years, but it’s a data point for possibly needing it.

    18. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I have never needed it for work, but I did have to show it while applying for French nationality. The fact that I got my master’s at a French university meant that I didn’t need to sit the language test (which is expensive, and you sometimes have to wait a long time before getting a place).

    19. Software Engineer*

      They gave us placeholders in our diploma holders at graduation (which was a letter ASKING FOR MONEY I kid you not, and during the ceremony they harped on endlessly about alumni donations), and I only went and got my actual diploma when I needed it for a visa application to move overseas

    20. Yoyoyo*

      In social work, you absolutely need a copy of your diploma. I have needed it for every job I have had, in addition to them verifying the degree with the school. In my area of practice, it would also be kind of weird for someone not to display their diploma in their office as proof of their credentials.

    21. Thursdaysgeek*

      And I graduated college, went many years without needing the diploma. But then the college converted to electronic records going back to just AFTER I graduated, so if a company calls, the first response from the student worker is “who? Never heard of ’em.” When that happened at a job offer stage, I quickly took my diploma and some old, old report cards, to give them something while we waited for a formal request for transcripts. I was well past 34 when I finally needed the diploma, and am so glad I had it. It kept the job offer open, helped me show that I wasn’t lying about having a degree, while all that was straightened out.

  4. ela*

    I much prefer firm offers- I think it’s worth considering that there may be people who would be very good at the work itself but are not good at (or don’t know they can) negotiating salary, and that those people might just turn down a low offer rather than negotiate. If you include negotiating salaray as part of the interview you may inadvertently be self-selecting for “confident negotiators”- which may or may not actually be a quality that impacts the job

    1. Artemesia*

      So often ‘range’ in the ad is misleading and they only hire at the bottom and that tends to make well qualified people frustrated or angry. And women who negotiate may end up alienating their hiring manager (I know this is stupid and also know someone it happened to — she got a small hiring bonus but then a lot of ugly from the boys who ran the place after that). I also know people who have had firm offers that were excellent and felt good about them. The key was that the firm was very clear about their firm offer policy. AND that the offers were in the high end of what jobs in that field generally paid.

      1. Laney Boggs*

        I got an offer rescinded when I asked for more money just a few weeks ago :,)

        Well, to be technical, they offered 1500 more, I was genuinely willing to think about it and asked for another day, and they called back an hour later and rescinded.

        They offered 42K (then 43.5) for a bougie district of VA/DC between Tyson’s Corner and Arlington. Absolutely miss me with that, but I was still super bummed.

          1. Laney Boggs*

            Yeah, I was on every salary/COL calculator I could find and it was basically the equivalent of me taking a $5/hr, $10K/yr paycut in the area I live in now.

            I’d done that wage before, but it was tough, I was eligible for overtime, and I had a network of friends and family who would feed me when I had money for dinner, swap me cars if mine crapped out, and buy me soap and paper towels disguised as “I just love you!” gifts. All that support would go away with a move down to DMV.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I have been advocating firm offers for a while. The key is to truly understand the market value of the position and to offer the best salary for that candidate upfront. But the policy does need to be explained clearly, along with the reasoning, because many people will assume that the company is “cheap” if they won’t negotiate.

    3. Sandi*

      I think a lot of people prefer firm offers if the offer is near the average, and if they acknowledge previous work experience.

      I work for larger tech companies that have mostly firm offers, although they have specific levels that are based on experience and those can be discussed. When I received my first job offer it was based on a 3-year degree, and I called up HR and said that I had a 4-year degree and an extra year of relevant work experience, so they started me at a slightly higher salary which included these.

      I have hired coop students and the salary options included the ability to pay more if the student had unique skills and/or they were part of a marginalized group in a tech job (one could argue that the second one discriminates against people who aren’t marginalized, but there is so much societal systemic discrimination that the extra $640 ($1/hour x 16 weeks) doesn’t begin to offset). They also had a slightly different pay level for each year of school, so again based on experience and expected competence.

      So in my experience a firm offer doesn’t necessarily have to be unchangeable, rather the options (typically focused on years of experience) are openly shared within the company and with new employees during the hiring process. If a company has no negotiation and also pays all new employees exactly the same amount then that isn’t equal either.

      1. Spearmint*

        I’m pretty sure that offering higher pay to people for being part of a marginalized group is straight up illegal. Whether it’s moral or not is a different question, but your employer is putting themselves at risk of legal liability if they say that women or non-white people get paid more simply for being part of a marginalized group.

        (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer)

        1. Student*

          Doesn’t seem to slow anyone down from paying a premium for white guys.

          On a slightly more serious, but still depressing note, there’s always a way to do this but provide yourself enough plausible deniability to keep it from legal challenge. Even with salary bands – the trick with gaming fair salary bands is just to find two different titles with enough job overlap. Hire all the women as the title with the lower salary band, all the men with the title with the higher salary band, and just give them the same work assignments. Occasionally promote a woman from the lower band title into the bottom of the upper ban’s title to blur the lines just enough that nobody will be willing to sue or able to make a strong case.

          I’m not speaking from bitter experience or anything. Nope.

    4. Koalafied*

      Yeah, my view on this is probably not universal and probably colored by being a woman in a low-paying field, but I have a hard time imagining myself turning down an offer purely because I wasn’t given a chance to negotiate. I might be somewhat put off, but at the end of the day $X is $X and that’s either an amount I will take or it isn’t. I don’t feel rich enough that I can afford to turn down an offer out of some sense of wounded pride.

      If Offer 1 is $90,000 and they negotiate up to $94,000 and Offer 2 is $95,000 with no negotiation possible…all other things being equal, I’m going to take the offer for $95k. I don’t care that they didn’t let me negotiate, and particularly if the reason was explained to me as Alison says, I would likely value that they didn’t lowball me and force me to have to guess the magic number that wouldn’t be leaving money on the table.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        I feel like it doesn’t hurt to ask. If the employer had a firm-offer policy and explained ahead of time it was for reasons of equity, then I wouldn’t ask, but barring that, I always do say “Could you do $X+10K?” or whatever.

    5. WendyRoo*

      If they really need to meet the candidates halfway, why not offer extra PTO, flexibility, health care coverage?

    6. Anonym*

      I’m a (fairly) confident negotiator, but would be delighted if I didn’t have to do it. I think Allison’s suggestion of including the fixed offer info early on the process is ideal. Bonus for putting it in the ad – that tells me your organization is forward thinking about inequity, and that makes me want to work for you. Making it a surprise at the end will have me questioning whether it’s true or if I’m being manipulated. I’m in the midst of an old school negotiation right now, and am on tenterhooks waiting for a response. Unpleasant and unnecessary.

      Tl;dr: you won’t lose candidates by sharing that your offers are fixed from the get go. You may even gain a few of us by illustrating that you’re a good company to work for.

    7. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I’m bothered by games around negotiation. Firm offers don’t bother me. Negotiable offers don’t bother me. I would be irate at being told that it’s a firm offer and then finding out later that there’s a super-secret backdoor to maybe negotiating more money.

    8. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      My current job (higher ed, not faculty) came with a firm offer and I was much happier about that than I would have been at the prospect of negotiating. The offer was above industry average, even considering our relatively high cost of living in this part of the country, and despite being fairly senior, I haven’t had a ton of experience with salary negotiations. I was thrilled to have one less thing to stress over in the middle of a big career transition.

      1. OP2*

        Hi all, OP2 here – I’m really appreciating this discussion around firm vs. negotiable offers. I lost a candidate I really wanted because of this policy earlier this year, so I’m probably a little sensitive, but it’s sounding like a fair offer, communicated up front, is not inherently seen as bad. Oh, and since I forgot to mention this in my letter: we are (finally!!) posting salary ranges in our job posts. Also, our employer made a lot of progress in the last few years in raising salaries across the board, and in 2020 raised nearly every salary at the company to acknowledge the new pandemic competitive landscape. So I hope we have laid the groundwork to make a firm offer competitive.

  5. nnn*

    Can anyone explain to my ignorant self what the benefit to the employer of paying by debit card would be? It seems convoluted and pointless from where I’m sitting.

    1. Racketball*

      “and must pay a fee to use it (make a withdrawal, check a balance, etc.) …”

      I’m guess the employer gets “something” from their bank for using this option.

      1. The OTHER other*

        Yeah, the employer is definitely getting some kind of benefit vs: checks or direct deposit. That employees have to pay debit card fees to access their own money is awful. And the employer is sleazy to implement only the part of the law that favors them and not the rest (opt out, still getting breakdown on hours, tax withholding, etc). I hope LW’s friend gets them to shape up or reports them.

      2. Eden*

        My guess would be that they aren’t literally getting kickbacks, but that it ends up cheaper or easier for them then alternative methods because the financial institution involved subsidizes it so that they, the financial company, can go all those fees. But that’s just a guess/hope.

        1. Student*

          “…it ends up cheaper or easier for them…because the financial institution involved subsidizes it…”

          That would be… a kickback. Kickbacks are usually mutually beneficial for the couple of people in power that arrange them, at a cost above-market to a bunch of other people who are beholden to the decisions of those in power. Not sure why you want avoid calling it exactly what it is.

          1. Miri*

            I don’t think this is quite right (to be clear, this is not to defend what the employer is doing). The employer isn’t receiving anything for using the service, which is what I would think of as a kickback; it’s that the overall cost is lower than other ways because the bank is eating the cost/passing it on to the debit card users.

            1. Recruited Recruiter*

              I came here to say this. My understanding (not guaranteed to be accurate) is that direct deposit fees are typically waived/decreased on these kinds of arrangements, and the bank recoups these lost fees from the debit card users.

      3. Observer*

        It’s actually unlikely that they are being paid anything by the bank / card company.

        What this does is shift some of the costs of payroll management to the employee. Actually managing physical checks and / or paystubs is actually rather labor intensive and costs money for printing those checks / stubs. By putting it on cards that the employees are essentially paying for, the company loses most of that expense. And by putting it on cards they also don’t have to deal with the direct deposit to different banks, which takes more processing than just dealing with the cards.

        1. mreasy*

          Yes, by doing this they’re likely charged less/not charged by the bank for the payroll service. This is a disgusting practice.

          1. EPLawyer*

            My husband’s company started offering this. He noped out of it so fast he set a land speed record for noping out. Some people bought the company line that you would have access to your money faster without having to wait for your bank to post it. UGH.

              1. Dwight Schrute*

                No, mine always take a few days to actually hit my account from pay day. It’s usually pending for 2-3 days

              2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

                Hi, I work in banking, though not directly with checking/savings accounts. But you absorb things, you know…

                Direct deposits may post to the recipient account several days after the funds are sent. A lot of (but not all) employers time the sending so that the funds will drop for most employees on “payday”. And as of a few years ago (not sure if it’s still the case or not, pretty sure the bigger banks at least have dropped the practice) certain types of recipient accounts, like the high-fee checking accounts offered to folks with bad/no credit, might have an additional delay for “verification” or some such.

                1. Koalafied*

                  Yep, and in fact, a lot of credit unions have started offering as a benefit “early access to your paycheck” for federal employees or other large employers where the credit union knows the employer is in the habit of sending the funds on Wednesday so that they’ll post to employee bank accounts by Friday. They figure there’s such low risk of the payments not materializing when they’re coming from a big steady payer, that it’s an easy competitive benefit to credit depositers with their paychecks on Thursday instead of Friday.

                  I’ve also banked with places that didn’t make the funds available until Friday as standard, but the deposit would show up in my account as “pending” on Thursday because it had already been submitted by my company’s payroll.

                2. Aphrodite*

                  My southern California credit union, Wescom, credits my account with the funds as soon as the direct deposit hits the banks’ clearing house. That means I get the funds from 3-5 days ahead of payday. They started doing this when the pandemic was still quickly building around May or June of 2020.

            1. Gothic Bee*

              I didn’t realize that some banks still take that long to deposit paychecks that it would be worth it. My bank usually posts my paycheck the day before I technically get paid. I’m not sure if that’s because of something on my employer’s end or the bank’s side, but it usually shows up as pending the day before and by the end of the business day, it’s been posted.

              But I was briefly paid by debit card like 10 years ago or so and it sucked. Definitely don’t recommend it unless you aren’t able to get your own bank account or something. Even then, it’s absolutely disgusting that there are charges associated with it. If it’s a paycheck, the charges should bounce back to the employer instead of being absorbed by the employee.

              1. abc*

                Having worked at a bank that offered payroll cards, I observed many businesses opting to issue cards was because they had many employees who did not have a bank account, or were unable to obtain a bank account (credit, previous account abuse, etc). Instead of issuing paper checks which require a ton of work, they would issue payroll cards and put the responsibility on the employee (if a check is lost, the employer replaces; but if a card is lost, the employee is responsible for working with the bank for a replacement). But also, people generally prefer carrying a card.

                As for the fees on the card, she may review the terms and conditions of the card. Often, you can perform a cash advance each month with no fee allowing you to “transfer” the funds to a checking account. Or, she may see if online banking is an option for the prepaid card. Assessing a fee to check a balance is typically to encourage users to utilize the online banking option.

                1. abc*

                  Also, employers typically pay a per-card fee at issuance at minimum, but often each month for the bank’s servicing. Also, most likely paying fees for each deposit made to the card.

                2. Ash*

                  This is a lot of extra work to just get paid and not have any fees taken out of it. Do you need to request the cash advance every single month?

        2. Somebody*

          Do people still use checks in the US? Here in South Africa, since 1 January this year, checks are no longer recognised as a form of payment. The use of checks has declined in the last few years, as people prefer electronic methods like EFT’s and debit cards. Namibia stopped using checks in 2019.

          As for paying people’s salaries: can’t they just transfer the money into their bank accounts? If we can do it over here, I’m sure a 1st world country like the USA can figure it out. Maybe I’m missing something.

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

      I don’t know what the benefit to either employee or employer is, but ADP offers their own debit card, Wisely, as part of their payroll package. I imagine they are cutting out the banks and maybe that might save someone money…maybe. It sure would make ADP money to charge the customer for this service.

      1. Raine*

        I suspect, knowing what I know of ADP, that if their client (the employer) goes with handing out debit cards to employees, ADP sells them a discount on not cutting paper checks or doing straight-to-bank (ACH) deposits. Which, y’know, feels super sleazy and weird in my head, given that ACH deposits have been standard for eons now and even paper checks can’t cost that much.
        I can see where if someone doesn’t have a bank account (a lot of people don’t!), it would be super convenient to be paid with a payroll debit card, but those hidden fees would add up quick, especially since I suspect they would be things like “$5 if you don’t use this card within 60 days” and “$2.50 if you withdraw money from an ATM not in card issuer’s network” or worse.

        1. Liane*

          It’s the card’s terms that are super-sleazy, and as a poster below said, exploitative. I’ve worked places that use those, including a current job. BUT I have never had a pay card with such horrible terms, or that doesn’t have a secure online banking site just like the brick & mortar banks; I can even set up free online bill pay if I want. The one I use now (as well as my prepaid PayPal card) doesn’t charge fees for anything I use it for: getting cash back at POS or in-network ATM; paying bills or buying online; checking balance/transactions online or automated phone. If I went to an out-of-network ATM, there would be fees, but that’s true of traditional** bank-issued debit/credit cards. There is a 30¢ fee for declined transactions, but that is nothing compared to bank NSF/overdraft fees, which are often $35+.

          OP, encourage your friend to change how they get paid and contact Texas DOL right now. This isn’t the way any of this should work. Not legally or morally.

          **I used “traditional” to describe something that was invented when I was in high school!

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            **I used “traditional” to describe something that was invented when I was in high school!

            I can sympathize. I used “archaic” last week to describe techniques that were bleeding edge when I learned them in high school.

      2. Junebug*

        One thing to consider is that many people don’t have bank accounts. For them, the debit use fees might actually be better than the check cashing fees, plus not having to go somewhere to cash a check. But it’s pretty shady that the employer didn’t offer any alternative. The place I worked that did debit cards laid all options on the table at once (debit cards, paper check, or direct deposit).

    3. Double A*

      Maybe it’s an industry employing a lot of unbanked people so they were cutting a lot of checks? A temp agency might not have a lot of their workers set up direct deposit even if they did have a bank account. I could see how debit cards could be easier and maybe cheaper.

      1. Lady of the Lab*

        My first paycheck when I worked in the US was payed by one of these cards because HR hadn’t processed my bak account information correctly, or really at all.

        I took it to my bank and they spent 30 min with me figuring out how tk get the mo ey out without the $5 fee… just for shear principle of it. But thT only works if you have a bank staffed with patient people.

    4. Ampersand*

      In places like TX and FL, it’s common in some communities not to have bank accounts. These debit cards are basically the new paper checks. I can’t tell you the number of times I got calls from people upset over having to pay a check cashing fee for their paycheck before we moved to these cards. For some reason, maybe the fee is less or it’s psychological, they don’t mind as much with the cards.

      1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        Lots of psychological studies suggest people view cards as less real than cash, so there’s a different reaction to an extra fee that gets charged when the card is used, than there is to handing over a check for $x and getting back $(x-y%x).

      2. mreasy*

        This is a good point and it’s a good option! But employers should not be passing the costs along to their employees.

      3. Snow Globe*

        Many people that don’t have bank accounts will ask employers for debit cards, vs. checks. It’s easier for them, since they don’t have to go to the bank at all, and they may not have a bank nearby where they live. As long as the employee has the option to choose either, I can understand why companies would offer both options, although I don’t think they should just default to the card without clearly providing the options and fees to the employees.

      4. Daffy Duck*

        Does the employee have to pay a fee to check the balance (and possibly outrageous overdraft fees)? Pay a fee for each withdrawal? This very much sounds like a predatory financial practice that hits the people who can’t fight back effectively the most.
        It isn’t the debit card itself that is the problem, it is the fees associated with the card they are using.

        1. Observer*

          If someone has a low balance checking account, they are almost certainly paying all sorts of fees.

          For instance most banks have a flat fee just for the privilege of having an account. eg I just checked on CitiBank – for their most basic account they have a $12 per month fee.

          If you are stuck using a non-Citi ATM, a cash withdrawal is going to cost you 2.50 + whatever the other bank charges. And the other bank may also charge a fee for simply making a balance inquiry.

          I’m not dunking on Citi here. A lot of banks have this kind of thing in place.

          1. JB*

            These cards are not tied to a bank account (well – technically on the bank end they are tied to SOME sort of accounting bucket for bookkeeping purposes, but it is not a checking account in the product sense). They are pre-paid, reloadable cards.

            1. Observer*

              I’m talking about fees related to bank accounts. Daffy Duck was saying that people are always going to be better off with a check, and it’s unfortunately not necessarily the case if they don’t already have an account.

              A couple of decades back New York’s MTA got into a major dispute with their major union. For years MTA had had an agreement with a local bank (Chase, I believe) to cash people’s checks. For some reason the agreement lapsed (either the MTA was trying to cut costs or the bank increased it’s fees – I don’t recall). The union hit the roof and threatened to sue. (They couldn’t threaten a work stoppage because that presents legal problems.)

              The MTA backed down an reinstated the agreement.

              The union argued that the law requires that pay be provided in legal tender (technically, cash), and a check was not a suitable replacement. The MTA’s argument was that anyone can just cash their check, so it’s effectively the same as cash. The problem was that a significant proportion of the workforce was unbanked, and if they couldn’t go to that bank to cash their check they would have to go to a check cashing place and pay a fee. And another significant proportion of the workforce had very basic bank accounts with low balances, so they could not cash the check – they had to deposit the check and wait for 3 *business* days for it to clear.

              The Union’s argument was that if people need to either pay a fee or wait several days for access to their money, that’s not the same as cash. Apparently the MTA’s lawyers went back and decided that they’d lose in court.

      5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        For some reason, maybe the fee is less or it’s psychological, they don’t mind as much with the cards.

        Cheques have their value written on their face, where debit cards often don’t. That’d be my guess.

      6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        It isn’t just TX and FL. People all over the country don’t have access to banks. We had temps working for us who were paid by debit card, but the temp company covered any fees associated with using the cards (not sure how they arranged that with the bank). It can be fair if the employers care enough to make it fair

        1. The OTHER other*

          A little over 5% of US adults have no bank account. That’s actually a smaller % than I would have guessed, I imagine it has gone down over the years, but that’s still over 14 million people.

      7. MCMonkeyBean*

        I would be upset about a check-cashing fee as well. Any fee to access your own money is ridiculous.

      8. Gothic Bee*

        I know this would absolutely not fly, but I feel like people who don’t have a bank account should be able to request a cash “paycheck” instead of being forced to either pay a check cashing fee or fees on a debit card. I know there are tons of reasons that this wouldn’t happen, but it’s kind of disgusting that we let employers screw over people who can’t get a bank account (or don’t want to).

          1. Gothic Bee*

            You don’t need to be intentionally trying to screw people over in order to screw people over. I’d say passing fees onto your employees because it’s more convenient for you to pay people in a certain way definitely qualifies.

            1. Torschlusspanik*

              My biweekly payroll averages $600K. 50% of those people get live checks. Having $300K+, in cash, on premises, is untenable. Even having $100K in cash, on premises, would make me nervous.

        1. Student*

          I worked for a couple of jobs that paid in cash. Sure, it takes organization and effort – but so does electronic payroll. One of those jobs was a white-collar job in a country where that was just the normal way of doing business. Just because it’s not “normal” in our area anymore doesn’t mean it’s actually hard. Paying people in cash was once the default.

    5. hamburke*

      They don’t have to issue live checks – it’s all direct deposit. It saves the Friday afternoon rush to pick up their checks and get them to the bank before COB. If you’ve ever been to the bank on a Friday afternoon, it’s always packed.

      I will say that payroll cards are exploitive for exactly the reason that this lw pointed out, and tend to prey on the unbanked or underbanked population. I always advise my payroll clients to avoid them or try them out themselves first to make sure there are no fees. And I keep a list of local banks that have free personal checking and a contact there that I’m willing to connect their employees to.

    6. RosyGlasses*

      Often folks do not have the ability to have a checking account snd a debit card helps them avoid costly check cashing spots. This is pretty common for both unemployment payments and staffing agencies where I’m at.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      Apparently the physical costs of payroll (issuing checks and paystubs) is enough that going to debit cards can save some money.

      I am always astonished that employers do it, because it isn’t that much money and a grown-up business with grown-up employees needs a normal payment method of checks or direct deposit combined with records for taxes. But a number of them try.

      OP’s friend should definitely demand this form and demand to be paid by check, with a paystub.

      1. Greg*

        Didn’t/doesn’t California use debit cards for their unemployment benefits? I think I remember some kind of scandal with their debit cards in the past year

        1. Double A*

          I’m actually not sure about unemployment (it probably is!), but for disability and parental leave payments you can choose to get a debit card or a check. I’m on maternity leave and opted to get a check because that’s much easier for me…but basically it just means the money is then linked to my own cards. Having a different card would be a pain for me, but if I didn’t have a back account I can see how it’d be nice. I’m not sure what fees are like; it’s though bank of America, so I’d imagine you can get cash free from BoA ATMs but might need a fee for others. But probably you can make purchase fee- free like most cards.

          Overall I’ve been very impressed with the CA leave program. It’s easy to file for and the money shows up on time and reliably. They even called me once my disability leave was up to make sure I knew I could take parental leave. Basically, it’s a program designed to help people and it seems to want to make sure people actually get that help.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I don’t recall a scandal, but yes they did pay that way. My recollection is it was easy and fee-free to transfer all the funds from the card directly into one’s bank account if one has an account. But this is a secondhand account from my knowing people who were partially furloughed and dealt with it, not my personal experience.

      2. Observer*

        because it isn’t that much money and a grown-up business with grown-up employees needs a normal payment method of checks or direct deposit combined with records for taxes.

        I actually IS “that much money”. And Debit cards don’t mean that you don’t have records for taxes. On the other hand, even direct deposit (which is generally cheaper than paper checks) has some significant costs.

        I do agree that it’s still a cost that the employer should carry, not the employee. But there really is a significant cost involved.

    8. Karen Ann Vieth*

      My friend can request being paid by direct deposit; however, there is a complication. Although she is listed as an employee in the national office, the local office does not have her so listed. She is getting paid (via debit card) but getting switched to direct deposit apparently is done locally. Also getting electronic access to her payroll records seems tied to the problem with the local office. Her supervisor has tried several times to get this fixed, but the local office is unresponsive. Plus the supervisor just quit so she is getting a new supervisor.

    9. I'm A Little Teapot*

      There are a lot of people who don’t have a bank account, so for them a debit card may actually be better. The reasons for not having a bank account can vary, but often involve poverty or discrimination (or both) in some way.

    10. I'm just here for the cats*

      People who have bad credit and cant get a checking account have to get paid some how. My mom had been in a really bad situation years ago and it screwed up her credit and she wasnt able to have a checking account. Her new (at the time) employer had the debit card option through ADP. They didnt do paper checks so this was her only way. Even after she left that job she had to keep the ADP Card because she couldnt get a checking account. It is crappy because they charge fees for using ATM’s. Plus customer service is horrible. They locked her card and she gave them the info but the still required her to jump through hoops just to get her money. She did finally get a regular checking account and stopped the ADP card.

    11. PT*

      I worked somewhere that only issued direct deposit or paycard. They *claimed* they were having tracking problems with checks going missing. They were in the middle of a big crackdown on company credit cards and purchasing due to missing funds/unauthorized purchases, so I am sure that was part of it, but it can’t have been all of it.

      So when they failed to correctly issue my direct deposit, they handed me a paycard to correct this wrong, instead of a paper check like I requested. I was able to, with the help of customer service, log into the paycard’s site and transfer the balance to my checking account for free.

      1. Hillary*

        I work tangentially with payments – there were months 25% of our paper checks were literally lost in the mail. I spent a lot of time convincing all my payees to switch to ACH. Our payroll is centrally located, it’s not physically possible to hand out paper checks.

        A good, low-cost debit card option can be great for unbanked employees. But it’s very important to vet the program properly.

    12. AdequateAdmin*

      Lots of good answers already, but I have one that’s a little different.

      My step-daughter was working for the a store that was closing soon in our local mall, and they were basically hiring for the 4-6 mo until the store was approved to officially shut down. They paid her via the debit card because they had so many people show up for 1-2 days and not come back that it took longer to process paperwork and get payroll and direct deposit sorted than the employees worked for them. Then they had to go through and undo everything which was also a big time suck. Her card didn’t have and fees though, and she was able to swap to a direct deposit after a little bit.

  6. Llellayena*

    I do understand that providing pay via a debit card can be very helpful for people who don’t have bank accounts, but then use a card that doesn’t have transaction fees! There is NO reason why you should be charged to access your own money. Especially since the people who use these cards are at the end of the scale where an extra dollar can be the difference between eating and not eating. Arg!

    1. The OTHER other*

      There are many people without bank accounts, they either rely on friends or family to cash checks or pay a lot to check cashing companies. Both are a huge hassle. But most places won’t give cash from a debit card, I know lots of people are going cashless but there’s lots of things that are cash only.

    2. EPLawyer*

      THIS. It is only making the people who don’t have bank accounts for whatever reason have LESS money. You are literally giving up part of your wages to pay to access your wages. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, and especially if you are not quite making it, these fees can tip you right over the edge.

      They know the unbanked don’t have a choice. Which makes it double sleazy.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And I don’t think you can open a bank account with gift cards. So it makes it harder to ever move out of being bankless.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        And if employers want to they can actually help with this situation. I worked for a nonprofit where 80% of the staff did not have bank accounts at time of hire. The org had an arrangement for no-fee checking accounts at a local credit union and USAA (something like 60% were veterans or family of veterans). For temps, they covered any fees associated with debit card use specifically so the staff were not exploited by the check cashing industry. Employers can absolutely address these disparities if they want to

    3. ecnaseener*

      Yes, this should be totally possible. I haven’t encountered this as an employee payment method, but it’s often what’s used to pay clinical research participants, generally WITHOUT a fee. (The one I’m most familiar with, they might charge a fee if you don’t use the funds within X months – which is annoying but easily avoided.)

    4. Sloanicota*

      I think what I’m learning here today is that paying people by check (if they don’t have a bank account) also incurs fees, at check-cashing places. So now I’m not certain what the solution is anymore.

      1. Shad*

        Honestly, I think the solution is systemic change to remove barriers to accessing the banking system. Because that’s the root problem here.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Sadly, even my large national bank has traps to punish small account holders; fees etc. They don’t actually want to be in the business of keeping people’s small pots of money as I guess it’s not lucrative for them :(

    5. Monty & Millie's Mom*

      It may well be an employer-issued card, with the employee having no say in it. I don’t know all the details, but in my state, the unemployment department offers you either direct-deposit or a debit card, and if you choose the debit card option, they mail the card to you, you don’t get to say “use this card I already have”. So. Not great options.

  7. Kelly*

    #4 I agree with Alison, try and talk to someone higher up such as a VP or Dean about the fees and the unjustness of the situation. I work in higher Ed and schools would actually want to know about things like this so they can remove barriers. This is an easy one to remove.

    1. H2*

      Eh, I’m imagining that this is in the $50 range (and is intended as a deterrent for lost IDs, which is important because there is so much tied to IDs these days (especially financially).

      Since you’re a graduate student, I would go to your department admin and ask for help. It’s very likely a matter of a quick call to someone and your admin will know who to call (and will likely call for you). This is the kind of situation in universities that is easy to fix if you ask the right person.

      If that turns out to not be the case, definitely don’t be petty about it. I get it. But it’s not worth a stand.

      1. Catnip*

        I don’t know, $50 can be a lot for people, depending on the financial situation. I definitely wouldn’t be so magnanimous about a $50 fee. A $10 fee, maybe.

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

          The opportunity cost of not actually having that degree is a lot more than $50…

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          OP is planning to give the institution three more semesters of tuition and fees, though. And her method of striking back will really hurt her while the university won’t notice or care.

        3. fueled by coffee*

          It’s $25 at my grad institution (US-based). Definitely a hassle and not something I especially want to pay, but also not so dear to the university’s funding scheme that they shouldn’t be able to waive it for OP’s case.

        4. Need More Sunshine*

          Well, OP explicitly says that the cost in minimal for her, so in this case, whether it’s $10 or $50, the dollar amount is not a big deal to the OP, just the principal, which is an easy enough thing to fix if she has a conversation with the dept admin or the office that charged this fee in the first place

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this is what most gives me pause on OP’s problem–that there is a boring normal way to address this (go to your department admin; go to the registrar if that’s who issues ids) and OP is jumping right past that to a method where she pays a massive amount of money to this school while planning to never actually graduate?

        OP, “getting an actual diploma only if you pay up” includes the school telling anyone who asks that you fulfilled the degree requirements and graduated. The piece of paper is just the suitable-for-framing physical embodiment of the university computer systems marking you as “graduated.”

        1. Gothic Bee*

          Yes, the bigger issue is whether the school will confer your degree and thereby confirm that yes you graduated, not whether they send you a paper diploma. I could understand being petty if it’s after the fact. Example: I graduated undergrad, got my degree conferred and received my diploma, and then they tried to get me to pay like $5 worth of printing charges. No, I didn’t pay that and nothing ever happened and I’m in good standing with the university (able to order transcripts, have them confirm my graduation, etc.). But I would have quickly paid if they’d ever actually put a hold on my account or something.

          Anyway, I’d recommend just calling and disputing the fee. Explain the situation and it will likely be a non-issue. I work at the same school I attended in undergrad and I’ve had new IDs issued twice (once as a student and once as staff) and they’ve never charged the replacement fee despite there being one (for $25). It’s unlikely to be a big deal, unless the fee is in lieu of a larger fee for establishing a new ID, which I doubt.

      3. JelloStapler*

        It’s worth paying but making sure the right people know it’s an issue (professionally, without a chip on your shoulder). This fee could be difficult for others, and TBH, sounds like the system saw a new card and charged automatically.

  8. Bee Eye Ill*

    #3 – I was in a similar situation with a boss at a government job who had civil service protection. He was notorious for also creating silos for job security. I eventually just quit the place and now a few years later I make more money than him. Win/win.

  9. Four lights*

    #4. Definitely make sure your degree is finalized and has been conferred. Sometimes jobs need you to have that master’s. My dad worked for a college and there were people who never technically got their degree. Maybe they did all the course work, maybe they needed one class, but it was not finished. Thirty years later they suddenly need the degree and they are out of luck, because it’s not retroactive. So if the college doesn’t offer the degree anymore, or the course work changed…these people were back to square one.

    1. Pamela Adams*

      I’m an academic advisor, and one of my jobs is helping students who left without degrees get things finalized and their degrees awarded.

    2. Artemesia*

      Many degrees, particularly graduate degrees, have a time limit. You can’t come back years later and finish.

    3. KC*

      Absolutely. I’m a college professor and one of my students lost a job he was applying for because when they called to confirm his degree, he technically didn’t have it because he neglected to fill out one piece of paperwork. The company considered this misrepresenting his credentials and cut him loose. He definitely got the paperwork done after that!
      (Lest you feel bad for him, he was reminded multiple times to take care of it, and said it wasn’t a problem because nobody ever asks for your diploma!)

      1. ecnaseener*

        If we’re sharing stories, my dad had a friend who didn’t take care of a hold on his high school degree…was traveling all summer and didn’t get the letter from college telling him his admission was rescinded since he hadn’t gotten his high school diploma…didn’t find out until he showed up with all his stuff to move in.

    4. JustaTech*

      I had several undergrad classmates who didn’t technically graduate with us because they hadn’t fulfilled their PE requirement, so they had to take some kind of “gym” class the summer after graduation to finally get their diploma.

      (This is why as fellow students the older students always told the freshman to take all the PE classes early, especially if they were going to be engineers, because there would not be time senior year to be taking ballroom dance or yoga.)

  10. alienor*

    #4 Oh my lord just pay the fee. Sure, try appealing it first, but if they dig their heels in, I assure you that the satisfaction of being petty over a few dollars (that you can afford) is not worth the nuisance of any issue it might cause. It might *not* cause an issue–I don’t think I’ve ever had to show my diploma–but why risk putting your future self through it?

    1. triplehiccup*

      EXACTLY. Find a way to lodge a complaint with the school if you think it’s unfair. That would be the productive way to handle it. Simply not paying communicates nothing and changes nothing.

      Personally if I was hiring and the candidate couldn’t produce a required transcript because they had taken a petty stance on this fee, I would question their judgment in general. Do they know how to weigh costs vs benefits? Can they predict consequences? Do they have a general sense of proportion?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Do they know how to weigh costs vs benefits? Can they predict consequences? Do they have a general sense of proportion?

        These are good, relevant questions for an employer to ask.

        OP, would you want your future clients to work on these skills?

    2. hbc*

      I agree. I’d put something in writing that makes clear how absurd this is and appeal it through any means possible, but sometimes…bureaucracies gonna bureaucrate. Your irrefutable logic is no match for their ironclad policies, even if those policies stem from a bad assumption of masters students continuing straight on from undergrad and lead to 50 year old returning students who don’t look anything like their freshman year ID picture.

    3. Tala*

      Yeah, there would be an ongoing emotional cost of the stress around this every time you start a new job or go to gain a new qualification. If they won’t relent, I would definitely pay and chalk it up to bad bureaucracy.

      1. TurtleWins*

        The best petty revenge is to change the policy on all the people who didn’t help you. I did this-got rid of a ridiculous form and an even more stupid policy at my university when we got a new chancellor. He went around meeting different departments and when he said “I’m here to solve problems”-I raised my hand. He agreed the form and policy were bureaucratic nonsense, it was early enough in is tenure that he had time, he wanted some easy wins, and boom-I won my revenge on the Finance Office.

        1. Curious*

          You may want to reach out to the school’s Development (i.e., alumni giving) Office. I would think that holding back diplomas or transcripts from graduates for small (to the University) fees might well have a negative effect on how generous those graduates feel about future requests for gifts.

  11. Aj Crowley*

    LW 4: you mentioned that you are getting your MSW. If you have any inkling that you may wanted to get licensed in the future, you may need your diploma. Licensing boards are notoriously picky and demand all sorts of documents. Not to mention getting employed somewhere if you’re licensed – for good reason there are all sorts of background checks for folks providing direct service and sometimes they require a hard copy of your diploma. Somewhere I still have all my syllabi from graduate school and documentation of all my training hours in case I ever need to establish licensure in another state (some do require all that documentation even if it was – in my case at least – over 10 years ago).

    (I’m a licensed clinical psychologist and I know LCSW are licensed by another board in my state but licensing boards everywhere – having dealt with multiple states because Pandemic and telehealth – are The Worst.)

    1. Xena*

      Ugh, yes. I’m going through the process of applying for my CPA license. The CPA board was the only one that wanted an official transcript, but getting it to them was a massive PITA. I’ve definitely made sure to have all of my paperwork organized for that because the process is so expensive and time consuming that I don’t want to have to do any part of it again because of paperwork issues.

      1. Aj Crowley*

        I feel your pain! I think the challenge is that, at least in mental health, licensing boards fall under Dept of Consumer Affairs, and are tasked with protecting the client not the professional. So they are not run by people in the profession and focus needlessly on details that don’t matter and not enough on those that do.

    2. Lexie*

      I have a friend who was working on getting licensed in our state (she was already licensed in the state she had lived in previously) and they wanted a syllabus from one of her undergrad classes.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Serious question: How does that play out? Undergrads are unlikely to think to keep these, and neither are the schools. Ask me for a syllabus from undergrad, which was during the Reagan administration, and the discussion will be about waivers. If those turned out to be impossible, I would start wondering if it would be possible to get a Writ of Mandamus.

        1. Lexie*

          In her case she ended up moving out of state so she just stopped the process. I don’t know what would have happened if she had continued the process. I’ve had other friends get licensed in that state and it is a very intense process.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Heck, mine was in the Clinton Administration, and I’d be in the same boat, even with a few “well, I can’t exactly go to the professor in charge as she/he’s deceased in the near 30 years since”. I’m not sure what a Writ of Mandamus is (off to goog!), but I’d requesting a writ of “AYFKM?”.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            A Writ of Mandamus is a court order to a government official to do his job. It can sometimes be the ultimate fallback in a bureaucratic stall. So, for example, you might have a jurisdiction where if a government employee applies for disability it has to go through a review board, and if the board denies it the employee has a right of appeal. But what if the board simply sits on it, because no one thought to include a rule specifying their time frame to act? There is no right of appeal because the board has not denied the application. But you might be able to go to a court and get a Writ of Mandamus. Or not. It can both both ways. And yes, this is a real-world example.

      2. Anne of Green Gables*

        I had to do something similar to this, and it was not a big deal.

        I am a librarian and in my state you can get Public Library certification, it involves proving that you took certain coursework that is fairly standard in MLIS degrees. (Master of Library & Information Science) One of the required areas is Cataloging, very, very routine in this degree. My graduate institution did not call it Cataloging, even though that’s a super common term, they called the course “Organization of Knowledge.” I needed to prove to my state that Organization of Knowledge was actually Cataloging. I think I contacted the department and got a statement of the key learning outcomes for the course and that was enough. Tthere may have also been a description of the course on the website that was enough, it’s been long ago enough that I don’t remember, but I remember that it was not something that took hours and hours to track down.)

        So I wonder if the syllabus request was really about learning objectives/course content and not the actually syllabus. If it was a core class, that info probably exists.

    3. Bamcheeks*

      Honestly, I don’t even think it’s fair to characterise licensing boards as “notoriously picky” for wanting to see a diploma etc. Getting licensed as a professional social worker, engineer, doctor, whatever comes with a HUGE amount of power and responsibility, and they absolutely should be picky as hell!

      1. metadata minion*

        Sure, but why do they need to see the physical piece of paper rather than just having your school send over a transcript and/or notarized proof of degree? If anything that seems *more* official to me since it’s coming directly from the issuing body.

        1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          Hold over/institutional inertia from when student records weren’t digital, and getting a transcript/other documentation may have taken a while. The diploma was what you could reasonably expect a private individual to have and provide for proof.

          Wasn’t actually that long ago for a lot of universities. My own has only managed to digitize the student records back to 2001 at this point.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Hold over/institutional inertia is exactly right. In other words, there might once have been a good reason, but there is no longer. I don’t buy, however, the might have taken a while part. These processes all take a while. Time spent getting a transcript from the registrar is a drop in the bucket. And it is not entirely true that the private individual is more likely to have a diploma than a transcript. As I noted above, I never bothered to get a pretty piece of paper, but I kept a supply of official transcripts in their original seal envelopes for years, since this is what employers asked for. This was in the 1980s. If I needed an actual diploma today I expect I could get one, but it would take a lot more time and money than getting a transcript.

        2. Bamcheeks*

          I was assuming that if you weren’t able to graduate because you weren’t in financial good standing, you wouldn’t be able to get an electronic degree certificate either. That would certainly be the case in the UK! And I don’t think it’s unreasonable for a professional body to need confirmation of a conferred degree rather than a transcript of completed work.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I agree. If you can’t get your diploma, it’s likely because they haven’t given you your degree (and won’t until your balance is paid).

        3. uncivil servant*

          Transcripts cost money from many institutions, so accepting a diploma instead is of value to many applicants.

          That said, refusing to accept an official transcript makes no sense. I’ve had to show my diploma three times for jobs within the same government organization, while my diploma was framed on my parents’ wall 2000km away. Two hiring managers accepted my transcripts, and one just wanted a photo of the diploma (where you could see the reflection of my father’s face in the glass if you looked closely!).

      2. Artemesia*

        ‘See a diploma’ here though probably means ‘get a transcript from the university.’ That is more definitive than a piece of paper that could be faked easily. I am kind of horrified at the ‘see a syllabus from undergrad’ — heck I couldn’t even produce syllabuses that I created and taught. And yes, she needs to pay the fee and protect her future even if the university will not bend on correcting their ridiculous mistake.

    4. Feral Fairy*

      Exactly, and there are also employers who will require you to display your diplomas. LW4 should attempt to resolve the issue but if the school insists that the hold is valid, I would suggest that you do not die on this hill.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      LOL. I had to apply for licensure in my field and provide a hard copy of my diploma. I have 2 copies of my diploma, one that they accidentally stamped with the signature of the dean of med school (I am not an MD) and one that has the correct dean’s signature. The printed signature block beneath is the same and for the dean of my school, so I got them mixed up. Somehow the licensing board recognized that it was the wrong signature and made me resubmit (and pay application fees again) with the diploma with the correct signature. Never, EVER, underestimate the weeds into which a licensing board will delve into.

  12. Xena*

    #4 – I had to send my employers a transcript, but I believe that was primarily because when I was hired I indicated that I was eligible to take the CPA exam (which has a credit requirement both in quantity and type of college credits) and my firm wanted proof/confirmation of that eligibility. They also didn’t require a formal transcript or diploma, both of which would have cost money, and were fine with the ‘unofficial’ one. I have no idea how an unpaid fee would have affected my ability to access that but would recommend that you either clear it up with the payment office or pay the fee because it can hit you in much more annoying ways than just getting your diploma, up to and including your credit score.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    #3 – Having firm offers can work if the company is up front about the fact that they will not negotiate past a certain point in the process. I had a client who did this – they explained to candidates that they want to arrive at a negotiated offer that works for both parties, and they put their cards on the table. They would listen to the candidate’s requirements/requests, and would structure their offer to provide the best offer they could give. They even counseled candidates to figure out the value of their benefits packages and other perks and to include that in their decision about what to ask for After that – once it was on paper – they wouldn’t negotiate the offer any further. They lost a few candidates who didn’t get it, or who came back with counter offers, but it did work pretty well in most cases.

    #4 – This is a classic situation where the advice “Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face” applies. You are literally the only person who is going to get hurt by not paying this fee. Since you never know who might or might not request evidence of your degree, it pays to NOT play chicken with the university’s finance office. A financial hold WILL cause the university to not grant the degree – it’s the only leverage they have to make sure they get paid by students. If you really object to the fee, then chase it down with the registrar’s office and make your case there. (Odds are, it’s not worth your time, and you should just pay the fee, unless it causes you financial hardship. You’re not going to get them to change their policy for you, for example.)

    Anyway, a lot of companies will do a background check when hiring people, and those almost always include an education check. If you claim a degree and the university says you don’t have one, then you’re going to be stuck proving that you indeed DID do all the courses and have to rely on the good will of the hiring company to get past this (and some companies have their own policies about having a degree and proving it). In a background check situation, the university will only say you did or did not complete a degree – not how far you got with it or that you completed all the courses but didn’t get the degree because you still owe the university $50. It will slow down and possibly derail your ability to get hired, probably at a time when you least expect it (background checks are often done for senior management roles, for example. Imagine yourself 20 years from now having to contact your alma mater and making arrangements to pay $50+interest – it will be a hassle). Not to mention that it will look like you chose a very inconvenient molehill as the hill to die on, which will cause hiring managers to wonder whether you really have good judgment or not.

    1. Normally a lurker*

      This. I wasn’t asked for my degree certificate/transcripts etc at all for 10 years after I graduated, and then I suddenly needed them urgently. It tool literally months to get sorted and a lot of stress and hasstle.

    2. Esmeralda*


      Also, you may have to have a different id when you change your status at the university — are you absolutely sure, OP, that you could have continued using your undergrad id?

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        If that’s the case, it’s even more ridiculous that they’re charging her the lost ID fee, since she’s in exactly the same position as any other new grad student…

        (I still have my old student IDs from college/grad school — partially as a souvenir but mostly out of inertia — though for security reasons, I probably “should” destroy them instead.)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think I might have my college ID – but it’s been almost two decades – I’d definitely have to get a new one (and move states, but that’s another kettle of fish entirely).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I am sincerely curious whether they charged her the lost ID fee but should have charged her the new ID fee. And whether those amounts are different.

        1. ecnaseener*

          My guess is there IS no new ID fee for new students, the first one is supposed to be free and that’s what makes this so obnoxious.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            But surely it’s just a matter of enquiring at the office that deals with this stuff, pointing out that she never lost her card so why pay the replacement fee. No need to go scorched earth as people say here.

    3. MI Abroad*

      I used to work in credentialing for a group of community health centers. About half of my job was verifying credentials for new hires and license renewals for current practitioners. If we had a social worker starting and their university told me that they did not technically receive their degree, for any reason at all, that person would not have been hired.

      You don’t know what effect this might have on you long term. It could be much more serious than not receiving the piece of paper. Just pay the fee if you have to. It’s not worth losing a job over.

  14. PollyQ*

    #1 — I know the general rule is that you shouldn’t send out an all-hands memo just because 1 person did something wrong, but I feel like this might be a good case for an exception. Let everyone know that you don’t want them to driving while zooming or calling for safety reasons.

    1. Bamcheeks*

      Yes, ideally this shouldn’t just be “it’s my personal preference that you don’t take a call whilst driving”, it should be company guidelines or policy. Does your company have any policy around this and if not, could you raise it? I think it’s a good thing to include in training and make sure it’s a clear expectation for everyone if you’re doing a lot of virtual/phone training and meetings.

    2. Artemesia*

      She needs to be VERY FIRM with this employee that driving while training or in a meeting is dangerous and absolutely not to be done. After that it ought to be a firing offense. The company may have some liability here too if someone is literally on the job while causing an accident. AND it makes sense to also do an all hands very clear memo on the policy. Let her know that you are going to do this because it is important that everyone else also be clear on this. (so she doesn’t feel it is directed at her again)

    3. James*

      The company I work for has “safety moments” at the start of every meeting (in theory, anyway). The goal is to keep safety at the forefront; the reality is, 9 times out of 10 it’s a way to kill those 5-10 minutes while everyone trickles in. One advantage, though, is that it offers a way to discuss issues like this without specifically calling out the person in question, while at the same time letting the person in question know EXACTLY what they did wrong. So, for this example, if the person were my employee, I’d say “For today’s safety topic we’re going to talk about distracted driving. To remind everyone, the company policy is no phones while driving, including hands-free devices. If you need to join a call be sure to find somewhere safe to pull over; otherwise, let folks know before you leave that you will miss the call. We’d rather you join late, or review the information later, than get killed or kill someone else.”

      1. Rainy Day*

        We have safety moments at our company too, although in our team it often turns into “I Did A DumbUnsafe Thing Amnesty Moment”.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’d have thought that the fact that it’s against the law should be enough, what company needs a policy stating that “we abide by the law”?

      1. PollyQ*

        It’s not against the law everywhere to have a hands-free voice-only call (which is what it sounds like this employee was doing), although IMO, it probably ought to be.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yup. In some places even video might not be specifically against the law.

          When we had someone in a video meeting who was on video, participating and also obviously driving the person leading the meeting (senior but not in this person’s reporting chain) said “Whoa, Bob, are you driving? I’m going to put you on mute until you can get somewhere safe to pull over!”
          Everyone else who had video on was visibly horrified and it never happened again (that we knew of). Hopefully that means that word went out to the folks who do a lot of driving during the workday to not take calls while driving (or at least be sneakier about it).

  15. Lexie*

    I have a degree in Social Work. I used to work for an agency that had to be licensed by the state to operate. Certain positions required degrees therefore the agency was required to have copies of diplomas to prove to the state that the employees met the requirements. So my advice is do what you have to do to obtain that piece of paper.

    1. Clorinda*

      Copies of diplomas, or transcripts? Transcripts have a lot more relevant information than the diploma itself.

  16. Expiring Cat Memes*

    LW#3: As a coping mechanism until you leave, try ‘Asshole Bingo’: make a mental list of all his classic jerk manoeuvres, and any time you have to interact with him, call up that bingo card in your head and check off the squares.

    I had to work with a Very Difficult person, and privately playing Asshole Bingo was the only way I was able to persist through that part of the project. Eg: Nasty personal comment with no one else around to hear… check… Surprise meeting attendees falsely backgrounded and riled up… check… Aggressive, unrealistic demands and gang-up ploy… check… Indulgent satisfied smirk…check, check, check… And here she comes to throw me under the bus…BINGO!

    If you can find a way to focus on the behaviour, rather than getting caught up in the effect of the behaviour on you, it does make it somewhat easier to get through the interaction. I’m sorry you’re going through this, and best of luck in your job search.

    1. LKW*

      Do not share this with your co-workers. Private play is no problem but sharing it with others could cross the line and be seen as disrespectful or even bullying (which is ridiculous because the boss is the bully here – but seen by an outsider, they won’t have the same perspective as you).

  17. Olddog*

    Reiterating what others have said- as a social worker you will likely have to provide copies of your diploma on multiple occasions- initial licensing, to insurance companies when you apply to join their panels and employers. ( I’ve been in the field for 20 years and last month had to provide a copy of my somewhat weathered diploma after accepting a new position.)

  18. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

    OP #1 – I want to put out the possibility that your staff person may not have been driving. Perhaps they were in a car with someone else who was pulled over. An officer can still ask questions of a passenger. I think the answer is a good one, to focus on the future behavior. But maybe you can change it to: don’t take meetings while you are in a car that is on the road (whether driving or passenger). That way you cover all bases.

    1. Worldwalker*

      The OP speaks of *her* getting pulled over, so I think it’s a fair bet that the employee was driving.

      1. hbc*

        I think it’s worth pointing out that the default and most likely conclusion (that most of us would make in the moment) might not be right.

        OP writes “I could clearly hear the officer say it was for a minor traffic infraction and begin questioning her before she signed off.” If what OP heard was something like, “Afternoon, ma’am, you failed to use your blinker while switching lanes. Can I see license and registration?” before the call was closed, the officer could have been talking to a driver while the colleague was in the passenger seat.

        Just leaving open the possibility doesn’t hurt anything.

        1. LQ*

          One of the commenting rules is that letter writers are the experts on their own situation. If everything is different than it is, then everything should be different isn’t useful in an advice column.

    2. Allonge*

      I don’t see any major issues with taking a meeting in a car that someone else is driving (yes, you may get interrupted but then that happens if you are at your desk too).

      If that is what happened, the employee can easily clarify.

  19. Observer*

    #2- Assuming that you are actually putting good offers on the table, GOOD candidates will generally not walk away just because you don’t negotiate. They may ask but you don’t have to say yes. If you are making good faith offers that really are competitive then you have shown a willingness to meet your potential employees halfway (and more) by making a good offer that doesn’t require them to negotiate.

    I think that Alison is right that explaining this up front is a good idea, especially the reason why you are doing this.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I think the advice to be upfront and clear about there being no negotiation, and equity being the driver, is really important. At that point, the candidate who thinks, “well, they’ve said no negotiation but maybe there’s an exception for ME” is telling you both a lot about themselves AND how they view your company’s commitment to diversity.

      1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

        Agree. If all I know is that they’re firm about not negotiating, I can be happy about that but I might think that they’re rigid. But if I know the rationale, I can know that I’m getting an offer from a company with good ethics.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Also in situations where the employer won’t negotiate, I’ve been counseled to ask about things like more vacation days, an insurance reimbursement, stuff like that, so OP should ask themselves if there’s anything they’d consider there.

  20. Stitching Away*


    I can’t tell from the letter, but if there is a pay range for the position, which is to say, if the offer will differ based on what the person’s background is, but the job duties will not, then it’s not equitable. Too many factors that are based on privilege and nothing else impact what experience and degrees/schooling a person has. So if your intention is to make pay more equitable by removing negotiation, you also need to pay everyone the same if they are doing the same thing, not based on their background.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      Some employers would love that. Pay everybody the same, even if one brings more experience to the job and can be predicted to perform at a higher level, with no incentive pay for being more productive. That would cut back on dissatisfied high performers making lateral moves in hope of eventual advancement.

  21. Elliott*

    OP #3 – I’ve been in this exact situation and it sucks. In my case our head of dept’s behaviour had been reported many times yet nothing was done. 3/4 of the team (including myself) quit within a 6 month period. In our exit interviews we were all quite candid with our experience with them. Even then the business did nothing. They ended up getting promoted. They were a very good operator and great at many things, just not people management. The business chose to ignore the people issues due to high performance in other areas, I imagine your situation is the same and wouldn’t count on your threat of recognition changing anything if this has been going on for awhile.

    1. Still Trying to Adult*

      LW #3:
      Allison’s response – “They already know about people’s dissatisfaction. They just don’t care enough to do anything about it. It’s easy to think “they might care more if they realized they were going to lose good employees over it” … but it is rare for that to change anything.”

      They know, and it hasn’t risen to the level of corporate pain high enough to do anything about it.

      Or, long ago from a Quality Industry consultant: “Management gets what it wants. Even if it doesn’t like what it gets.”

      (funny, I mentioned this same phrase a few weeks ago on another letter! :-D )

    2. LKW*

      Management won’t do anything until they realize the cost of not doing anything is greater than the cost of doing something. And even then, they have to actually realize it. Attrition numbers are going to appear normal if you’re looking across a large organization, and unless someone looks carefully at department turnover numbers and sees a spike in one department, they’re not going to realize that there is a problem worth their attention.

      I’d suggest looking for transfer opportunities if available but you may have to leave.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Even then the business did nothing.
      I think this is the most likely outcome.

      A string of good people leaving AND a new broom at the top with the ability to say “Well there’s your retention problem, and you people are nuts not to have fired them already” and then fire the department head is the only combination that works, and that not all the time.

      1. Monster in the Closet*

        This exact situation happened at my previous employer.
        8 out of 9 people left the department in less than 1 year (for reference, the place was small enough that this represented 1/4 of the staff of the whole company, and people from other departments left as well for a grand total of 40% turnover in less than 1 year)
        Almost all of those folks reported specifically that one particular senior manager was a nightmare to work with, it even came up with people that weren’t in her direct department. The company lost multiple VPs and higher level managers.
        The 1 person that is left from when I worked there has also made official reports about how this person is to work with. Nothing has been done still. It’s frustrating to watch.

    4. Sara without an H*

      The Awful Department Head is probably getting the company the results it wants. A high turnover rate among his direct reports is the price the company is willing to pay.

      OP#3: Review everything in the AAM archives about job searching, resumes, cover letters, etc. Update your LinkedIn profile. Alert your network that you’d be interested in opportunities.

      Words won’t fix this. Go job hunting. Good luck!

  22. Anonymous*


    I just have notice at my job where I had a very hard to deal with team lead who caused at least five other high preforming people to quit. Alison is right — the company will hold on to this person. The person who made people leave — who is making me leave quite honestly — has been holding an entire section of the business hostage, and refuses to make any moves to make things better. And, despite this being a known issue for over a year and a half, nothing has happened.

    This is all the say — assume things won’t change. Assume that this person will be there and going higher up (as someone who was begged to stay for six months and got a 40% raise at my company, I had a lot of leverage — I told the ceo that this person was an issue and still nothing happened) isn’t going to help.

    If that’s the case — what would you do?

    I assume quit. It’s a job, and it sucks, but go somewhere that people will value the care and thought you put into your work.

    1. Heffalump*

      Did you say in so many words, “No, I won’t stay for 6 months because of Jerk,” and if so, what was the response?

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Why would they do that? If five people have quit over this person, then the company has made it clear that the jerk is going to stay no matter what. If you insinuate that you’re thinking of quitting when the company has already decided you’re less important, you’ll get pushed out sooner than you want.

        I also worked somewhere where two people quit, citing one guy as the reason. I was an intern and mentioned to someone how difficult he was to work with, and that’s when I found out about the two who named him in their exit interviews. It was made clear that he was the most valuable person on the team above literally everyone else.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          In my experience, if 5 people quit all citing one person as the reason, but it happens over the course of a year (or longer), it’s much more like that the sixth person complaining is not going to be what causes them to do anything about it. But if 5 people quit citing one person as the reason, and it happens within 1-2 months, that’s much more likely to get action. So to anyone in a similar situation, if you’re the sixth, I’d say if the others who left did so rapidly, then you already know nothing will happen.

  23. Lab Lady*

    LW#4 If you get a job in another country based on your degree – you will probably need to show your physical degree to a customs officer somewhere.

    Funny story (now). I was at the Can-US border showing my physical certificate for my PhD in Physics to the border agent for a J-1 visa. The degree says “Doctor of Philosophy” in big letters, with the school, and “Physics” and all the rest of it in smaller letters below my name.

    The agent looks at this and asks me in what world does a Philosophy degree qualify me for the sort of work my letter of employment details (Physics-based). I tried to point out the “Physics” bit below but was told “don’t be smart, this is at my discretion”

    Luckily, I also had the physical certificate of my Bachelors on me (I had brought every credentialed piece of paper I had to this), and I qualified for a visa based on my Engineering specialization instead of the Physics doctorate that I was hired for.

    On the way out – I was told “don’t show off missy, because it almost cost you big”

    It’s funny now. Terrifying at the time

    1. SemiAnon*

      I don’t remember exactly what I had to show crossing the border, but I didn’t have my diploma yet (I moved in between the acceptance of my thesis and the ceremony). I think it’s just the Canadians who do this while crossing – other nationalities have to get the J-1 in their home countries before coming, so more work, but less chance of getting stranded at the border.

      A later, overseas job, required my physical degree, verified by the embassy, if I remember correctly.

      1. Paulina*

        Back when I got my J-1, it was indeed just Canadians who could get it at the border. If the agent bothered to know about that exception, which at one point they did not (also a mess that was terrifying at the time). They didn’t want to see my degree for it, just my passport and the employer’s paperwork, but a different visa class would have needed the degree.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      Border agents have tremendous power. Yikes, I can see why it was stressful at the time and only funny after the fact.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, but not THAT much. If he had actually not allowed her in because of this, she could have managed although it would have been a real headache.

        But, yes, I can see why it must have been a REALLY stressful event. Funny now, but only because it’s history.

      1. Alex*

        I feel like I’ve met very kind & patient border agents, and power-tripping ones. Never anything in between.

        1. ThisIsTheHill*

          I live near Detroit, so it’s common – well, in the BeforeTimes – to drive back & forth across the border. Pretty much everyone agrees the American agents are the worst to deal with. Meanwhile, the Canadians do things like laugh & wave you through when you accidentally get in the NEXUS lane.

          One time BP stalked me in their car while I was taking photos of a neat building in the city. I’m a middle-aged white woman; I can imagine, based on stories my BIPOC friends have told me, how they would have treated me if I were a member of a marginalized group.

    3. Short*

      I have a TN visa and also always have to bring my diploma with me. Once the only question I got was “why is your diploma in Latin?”

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      Logistically, this would be a nightmare for me. I don’t know why, but all the public universities around me issue degrees that are larger than a standard sheet of paper. One of my degrees is roughly 11″ x 14: (legal paper sized) and two others are about 15″ square. Even the one that is 8.5″ x 11″ is larger than that in the frame. They’re also double-matted in the school colors and framed (graduation gifts from family).

    5. River Otter*

      Let’s just say that there are reasons why some people get PhDs in physics and some people become border agents, and some of those reasons have nothing to do with access to education.

      I can see how that was terrifying. In hindsight, it really is hysterical. What a complete ass.

      1. Lab Lady*

        Fun twist to this story – which is now totally off topic – I worked as a (Canadian) border agent at a major Canadian airport while I was in my early twenties as part of the Federal Student Work Employment Program. That was its own adventure.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I was reading this without looking at your username, thinking, this is a woman being told not to be smart, by a man who is certainly a whole lot less smart.

  24. HA2HA2*

    #2 – Firm offers are totally fine! People aren’t going to make decisions based on whether they negotiated or not, people will make decisions based on the final offer.

    However, you have to be really honest with yourself about what you will do in the hard cases. First – what if you have a really good candidate that literally tells you “X is the amount I was offered from a different company, and I’ll take your offer only if you match that.” Are you going to actually hold the line, or is it going to become a case of “We don’t negotiate! …unless we really want to/the person drives a hard bargain.” And second – what would you do if you consistently, for some position, lose candidates because you’re offering too little. Do you have a process for reevaluating these bands, if it appears that you got them wrong?

    Basically, make sure that you’ve figured out how to deal with the “firm offer” framework in the cases where it’s hard. Because otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of temptation to fudge the rules and negotiate anyway.

    1. mreasy*

      Yeah, this is the issue. I am an always-negotiator and my concern is that the employer will not be making “their best offer” – as they don’t always realize what their budget IS until the candidate they want asks for more. The company must apply this strictly and be willing to have their top picks walk away to make this happen, which I am skeptical any company is. I applaud this effort, though, if it is applied effectively!

      1. hbc*

        In cases like the OP’s, it’s not about budget–it’s about fairness. If they had an extra $10K in their budget for your position, they are unwilling to give it to you because then you’d be paid $10K more than your colleagues to do the same work. If there’s good reason to pay you more, they need to fix their calculator. If not, then the best they can do is something like offering you $2K more and giving $2K raises to the four existing employees.

        I’ve done this and stuck to it. It’s not that hard when you’ve walked into a department where the top salaries were going to the lowest performing people because hiring salaries were outpacing internal raises and recognition.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          I agree, I don’t see what is hard about this. If an excellent candidate walked in who would be performing higher than the others on your team, then your firm offer should be higher. However, “excellent candidate” needs to be well-defined in advance. Did they go to a specific university that you value? Was their previous company very prestigious? Do they have a rare skill? All of these things would be specified in the calculator, so in that case, if an “excellent” candidate walks in but doesn’t check these boxes, are they really that fabulous or are you just dazzled by something that doesn’t actually matter in the job?

  25. HA2HA2*

    #4 – you should pay the fee. You will not win this contest of wills.

    You probably won’t need the physical diploma (aside from some rare exceptions), but the university can and may hold off giving on the actual degree, including verifying completion of said degree to people who call. You do NOT want to be in the position where a prospective employer calls to verify your graduate degree and gets told “LW has not been given that graduate degree from this institution”, and you have to try and explain that it’s just because of a fee, really, you promise and pinky swear. The potential consequences of having an employer believe you lied about your degree are far, far higher than the few bucks the stupid fee costs.

    Save your principled stands for something that matters more. There’s plenty of things that need it, and a few dollars of fee are not it.

    1. WS*

      I mean, ask once! Someone might have hit the wrong button or misclassified something. But if they say no, then pay up.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        You can even decide to put many hours over the next two weeks into it! At some point you give up, but the occasional person willing to push and make sure it’s by the letter is a good check on bureaucracies.

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

      I read it that the OP knows she won’t actually have the degree (she says that she’s completed the coursework for the degree, but differentiates that from getting the diploma. You can complete the requirements without actually bring granted the degree of course). As such it won’t be that an employer ‘believes’ she lied about having a degree, but actually untrue.

  26. John Smith*

    #2. Firm offers are the norm in the UK, especially in the public sector. I’d rather have firm offers than negotiate myself into poverty or unemployment!

    #3. It’s the same in my organisation. Higher ups are fully aware of complaints about inept managers, low staff satisfaction scores, plummeting morale etc yet do nothing besides farting out meaningless phrases and trying to justify the unjustifiable (when I complained I hadn’t had any review meetings, I was told that any interaction is a review meeting. How I kept a straight face I don’t know).

    It’s a case of stay put and toughen up or go find another job. Easier said than done.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Yes, I’m in the UK and have never negotiated. Equally, I’ve never applied to a job that didn’t have the salary listed in the advert. Friends tell me this isn’t the case in the private sector though.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yup, when I applied for my current job in higher ed in the UK, it was clear they had a fixed salary schedule and there was no point negotiating. Since I’d had to job hunt after moving countries at the end of 2020, I was actually very glad not to have to negotiate salary, because I really couldn’t have handled any more stress!

      1. Amey*

        Just as a counterpoint, I’m in higher education in the UK and we’ve regularly had candidates negotiate a starting salary a few points up the scale. The scale is published and accessible to everyone but we’ve definitely agreed that people can start a few points up where they’ve asked for it and make a good argument for it (or where we particularly want them.)

        My husband is in law in the UK and salary is hugely negotiable (and not published).

    3. Bagpuss*

      It’s very normal to negotiate in the private sector in the UK.

      I don’t know about other fields – in mine (Law) it’s quite common to have a salary range listed in the job ad rather than a fixed amount.

      1. londonedit*

        Annoyingly in my industry (publishing) it’s not common for job adverts to have salaries listed at all (because we’re meant to be doing it for the love and the passion, right??) but there has been some work going on to make giving a salary/salary range more normal for entry-level positions (most people higher up in the industry will know roughly what a prospective job is going to pay). For jobs at my level the ad will just say ‘competitive salary’ or ‘salary commensurate with experience’. There is always scope to negotiate and I always give it a go, but the most you’re usually going to get is an extra £500 or £1000 so you’d never go in and ask for an extra £10k or whatever.

  27. portia*

    I’m sorry, OP #3. I’ve been there and it’s terrible.

    Unfortunately, too often so called “back office” functions (such as HR, admin support, accounting, etc.) are just seen as cost centers to corporations. Even though you are high performing, that may not mean much to someone who is just looking at the bottom line. I’ve found that it’s best to assume that you have less leverage than might be reasonable in these situations.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s fascinating to me that there exist companies where people can’t get fired no matter what they do.

      And of course, the problem with trying to locate one for job security is that they have people like the unfireable department manager.

    1. anonymous73*

      OMG this. The fact that we have to spell out to people that they shouldn’t zoom and drive makes me want to bang my head on the keyboard. This is why we have warning labels.

  28. KayDay*

    #4 – Diploma: The need for a diploma can pop up in unexpected ways. I ended up doing my masters degree in another country, and I actually needed my original diploma to get my visa and officially enroll–apparently this is quite common practice in many countries where the diploma holds more weight than the transcript, and I also occasionally needed to submit a copy with international job offers (at the background check/due diligence stage). You never know when some random thing like this might pop up, and you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because you never received the diploma.

  29. Virginia Plain*

    I’m sorry to be dim but how does it work when someone is paid by debit card?
    So the employee is issued with a card (with fees to use it – I definitely don’t get that, how is it not effectively docking your pay?) but what account is that debit card attached to? A company one with loads of other employee cards likewise attached? That can’t be right or how is it established what money each employee has access to? Or does the company effectively open an account in the enployees’s name? How does that work, who is responsible, how does the security work in terms of access, privacy and protection against fraud? I’m glad Alison advised that people can opt out – the fees part really sticks in my throat. I mean say they pay you $400 a month after tax, but when you spend $50 there’s a $5 fee, well then they aren’t paying you $400 are they, they are paying you $360. At best unfair, at worst daylight robbery!

    1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

      My understanding is that they function in the same way a pre-loaded and reloadable gift card would; each card ties to its own set of funds, but not necessarily to the person the card is issued to.

      The fees are an obscenity against the card holders, yes, but the same thing happened for quite some time with government benefits cards (and probably still does in some places), because regulations regarding how these types of account access can be treated by issuing institutions tend to have been written back in the eighties back when they were considered a luxury/advanced feature, and never updated since.

      1. Esmeralda*

        My son (teen at the time) was paid this way at one job. No fees, fortunately. It was extremely convenient for him, as he was a teen. He just had to be very careful not to lose it.

      2. Observer*

        Yes, something like this happened in NYC with the Summer Youth Program. The move to debit cards was actually an excellent idea. The execution? Not so much.

        Basically, the program targets kids in low income households. So a demographic that is HIGHLY unbanked. And it became clear with time that when there was a bank account available, it was not an account belonging to the kid in question, which was a problem especially since they started realizing that the money often never went back from the adult to the kid who had been working. By giving the kids Debit cards it allowed the kids to get immediate access to the funds and made it easier for them to actually KEEP the money they were earning.

        But it did take a couple of cycles to deal with issues like fees, expirations and the ability to move funds to a bank account.

        Fortunately, when the city moved to EBT, they avoided the fee issue. But I don’t think you can easily move the funds off the card to a bank account – and that’s by design. These cards are used for SNAP and WIC and the only way to enforce all of the regulations involved is not NOT allow these funds into a standard bank account. It’s still MUCH better than the old system, especially with WIC.

    2. ThunderpawsMama*

      My last company offered payroll cards. They basically work as a bank that doesn’t have a physical location. We had to opt in and that was when they opened an account with our information and our pay was direct deposited in on payday. I chose to have a certain amount deposited into my regular account and a smaller portion put on the payroll card. We didn’t have any fees come out aside from the standard outside the network ATM fees and those were easy to avoid.
      The amount of fees this person is dealing with does feel like essentially taking a pay cut since there’s no way to avoid them.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Our state unemployment has this as well, and it is so they avoid mailing checks. You do have the option to deposit into any other online account, but if you don’t provide one, you get the card.

      The debit cards are a bad deal. There are fees to access at an ATM and there was pushback over charging fees to the already unemployed who need every dollar.

    4. a tester, not a developer*

      I was getting confused by that too – I’m in Canada where 99% of the time a debit card is attached to your own bank account.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah in the US at least there are pre-paid cards which are a separate thing, not tied to a bank account.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        I am also Canadian, and also confused! Does the employee get a new physical card each time they get paid, the same way they get a new physical piece of paper each time if they’re getting paid by cheque? Or does the employer give one physical card when the person is hired, and deposit the money into the account like a direct deposit?

        Does the employer have a giant credit account for all their payroll, or do they maintain one small account for each employee?

        Either way it feels like pretty much the same work effort for the employer – the basic function is still “calculate pay, make the money available to the employee somewhere, provide proof.” So I imagine the benefit to the employer is substantially lower fees on the debit card method compared to the others…which are of course offset by the additional fees the employee has to pay.

        1. Cera*

          They are called reloadable prepaid cards. While there isn’t a traditional bank account tied to them, there is an account tied to them. The difference is overdrafts and other things can ‘technically’ happen so it’s not a ‘real’ bank account. The employee is issued one card and then each paycheck is loaded onto that card. From an employer perspective the process is the same as issuing checks or ACHs.

          There is also a lot of good programs with minimal fees attached to the card (for the employer).

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

      We have this in the UK as well, it’s a pre-paid card in the name of the employee, which the employer/agency “remits” money on to each month when the person gets paid. I don’t know if they have fees to use – the one I researched didn’t. The scheme I know of is used by an agency that employs a lot of people who are new to the UK and ‘supplies’ them to contracts (for warehouse work and similar) to the agency’s customer companies. The customer companies pay the agency and then the agency pays all their workers onto their cards.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      I have used these and I can explain how it works. I think a lot of people are over thinking it or thinking that its something that the company itself is managing. They are not. its managed by anohter company
      Most likely its ADP (thats what a previous employer used and it seems to be the biggest one). Just like some banks have ATM Fees and such the debit cards have fees. The fees are not coming from the employer. They are coming from the bank that the card is from. So just like if you use an ATM outside of your bank network and you get charged a fee they charge a fee too. Or if you go negative in your balance they

      Basically what happens is the employer issues a card in the employees name. This comes with an account number (not just the credit card number) and a routing number. The employee then can set up a pin and online account. no one else has access to the card (they are actually really strict, to the point that the locked my mom’s card even after she gave the info over the phone. she had to scan and email stuff to get it unlocked).

      It works just like any other debit card and from the employer’s side they have an routing and account number so they aren’t going to get people confused (unless the payroll is messed up but that has nothing to do with the cards)

      The employee probably does have access to their pay stubs it would be online somewhere. They need to contact HR to get that info.

      It’s actually a good solution for people who need a credit/debit card (who doesnt these days) but for whatever reason cant get a checking account. In my case it was falling victim for a crappy bank that screwed me over and so I wasn’t able to get a checking account for a couple of years until i built my credit up and could show that I was responsible.

  30. Boof*

    OP1 – not sure what kind of training call this was (ie, a highly visual and interactive one, vs a more passive “listening to a lot of stuff” one) but I think it’s pretty normal to zoom while driving with a hands free set, just like it’s normal to call sometimes like that. Your employee may not have had any idea it wasn’t ok to do this, and almost certainly didn’t want to tell their coworkers about getting pulled over either.
    So I’d start with just explicitly stating your policy about not driving while in meetings / not multitasking and not jumping to calling this unethical, unless there’s more going on (ie, you know they were already explicitly told not to do this, have other concerns, etc)

    1. EPLawyer*

      It’s training. Presumably information they would need to retain later. So even if it was not full of visuals, and Q and A, the person needed to be paying attention.

      Distracted driving is distracted driving whether its an involved zoom meeting or you are arguing with talk radio because someone said something stupid.

    2. anonymous73*

      The fact that you think it might be okay that the employee was doing this is the problem. People shouldn’t be doing ANYTHING distracting while driving. And on the other side of this, if you’re in a training session, you shouldn’t be doing anything that would distract you from learning. Why this needs to be spelled out is beyond me. Common sense – it’s not that hard.

      1. 45345*

        People shouldn’t do ANYTHING distracting while driving? So you never talk to a passenger? Listen to music? Look at your GPS? Take a sip of water? Think about what you’re doing next?

        You see how this standard is unrealistic? Almost everyone who drives does something that takes their attention away from the road, and that’s okay. There are real benefits associated with these risks. Just like with COVID, the goal is not zero risk, it’s to minimize the risk and maximize benefits.

        1. anonymous73*

          Everything you’ve described is not a distraction in it’s simplest form, and if it becomes one, it can be ignored. If you’re trying to conduct a training session for work, your attention is elsewhere.

        2. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          There’s been actual science on this stuff, and phone calls are way more distracting than talking to passengers simply because the passenger gets visual cues that the driver needs to pay attention to the road, and they pause the conversation. This is why it was very half-assed when laws were passed saying only hands-free driving was legal, because the distraction element was more of an issue than the one-handedness issue. (I think things have changed since then. It was a long time ago.)

      2. Software Dev*

        I find this black or white approach taken by a lot of commenters is really unhelpful. Yes, ideally everyone driving would be fully focused. They would be awake, pain free and only drive when road conditions were good. Their vehicles would be well-maintained.

        I’m not saying what this employee did was okay but the way some people here are out for blood, saying the employee should be fired or emails sent to the entire company, is a little wrongheaded and unhelpful. many people are not going to be able to live in a world where they can’t afford to drive, sometimes unsafely. I don’t know why this employee was driving during training and its interesting to me that very few people have speculated about it, in a community given to writing long fanfiction justifying people’s actions. Maybe she didn’t need to be or maybe she felt she had to both attend this training and be somewhere specific.

        Maybe this is just me but I often find myself drifting into a kind of mindless trance on my commute (when I had a commute) or on long drives, maybe thinking about things I’ll do later or replaying conversations or plotting my rpgs. I wonder, is that safe? Is my attention focused? Are there people who can focus fully every time they drive or do most people eventually begin to drive a little on rote? I don’t have answers (and I definitely don’t want to imply road safety isn’t vital, I almost died being sideswiped by an eighteen wheeler once) but it feels like there’s the way people talk about driving online, as this kind of platonic ideal, and the way the vast majority of people drive in real life, which has to take into account that driving is a thing you often have to do constantly and as part of the day to day and sometimes in less than ideal circumstances.

        1. anonymous73*

          I’m not saying I’m perfect, and haven’t made mistakes while driving because I wasn’t giving my attention to where I was going and what I was doing. But based on the defensive driving I’ve had to learn over the years on my work commute, many people treat the act of driving as secondary to a bunch of other things they need to get done. I’ve seen people with open newspapers, eating things that require 2 hands driving with their knees, having sex, and numerous other things that they shouldn’t be doing. And narrowly avoided MANY accidents because they weren’t paying attention. I’m just tired of the dismissal that it’s no big deal.

      3. SnappinTerrapin*

        Some people are more easily distracted than others. All of us are more easily distracted at some times than at other times.

        I’ve known people who couldn’t safely operate a car while talking to a passenger, others who were distracted by listening to the radio (not to mention changing stations), and others who get lost in thought while driving.

        Setting the mandatory defense against distraction at the level of the most easily distracted drivers seems to be a bit impractical.

        Having said that, it can be a reasonable business decision for a business to prohibit transaction of company business while driving a vehicle, or to regulate distracting actions while driving for the company.

        And I have no quarrel with the purists among you who would wait until your vehicles is completely stopped, off the road, and visible warning lights and cones are in place before calling 911 to report a dangerous driver, an active shooter, a collision, or a forest fire. If you are in those situations, I trust you to use your best judgment to balance the risks to yourself and others.

      1. Calliope*

        Hands free phone calls are not. I think it’s great to talk to the employee about not doing it going forward, but the idea that EVERYONE knows not to do this because it’s OBVIOUSLY illegal is just fallacious.

  31. triplehiccup*

    OP1: you say “I’m sympathetic that she is a Black woman in a notoriously racist state.” Does your sympathy not help you see why she may not want to announce a run-in with the police to a (presumably white) person with more power at her new place of employment?

    1. Feral Fairy*

      It seems like the OP is sympathetic though. They are trying to figure out how to have a conversation with the trainee to ensure that they schedule zoom calls for times when they aren’t driving in the future. That’s why they wrote in to AAM. It doesn’t seem like they want the trainee to be punished for what happened, but it makes sense to be concerned about someone you’re training taking zoom calls while driving. If I was training someone, I would not want them to risk getting into an accident and I would also rather schedule the phone call at a time when they are less distracted.

      1. OP 1*

        Yep, that was basically the situation. I felt weird about her explanation because I know integrity matters, but this seemed like a situation where she was probably embarrassed, new, and trying to save face, rather than a serious issue. I don’t blame her.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m pretty sure this is why OP is writing in! Please don’t take offence when people are trying to navigate this kind of issue, it just makes it that much harder to do so. Not everybody is totally woke, and those of us who are trying to do their best don’t want to have people jumping at our throats when we are trying to find out what the best course of action is. It’s best to meet people where they’re at, and explain what and how and why. If you’ve run out of patience with people asking about this kind of thing, I don’t understand the point of reading advice columns.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      I think that was the point of mentioning it.

      In another context, she might have been more concerned with the potential issue of integrity, but was inclined not to in this instance.

      She was asking for an objective opinion as to whether she was right to ignore that question, and focus entirely on her concern about the potential safety issue.

  32. Recovering Adjunct*

    LW #4, you need to resolve this, but I completely get your frustration. Contact the school’s alumni office. Someone there might have enough common sense to fix this.

  33. LGC*

    OP5 – the debit card isn’t the red flag here. For what it’s worth, this isn’t uncommon. My company pays some people via debit card (although we’ve defaulted to direct deposit), and it’s a solution for unbanked people. (You can argue about how good of a solution it is, but there are unfortunately some people who would be using a check cashing place otherwise.)

    The real red flag is the lack of stubs available – even online. Also, the apparent lack of a direct deposit option. Ask for the stubs, even if they’re online. And she should ask for direct deposit as well.

    1. anonymous73*

      My thought as well. When I was on unemployment recently, they issued a debit card. But I has access to the “statements”, and I could link the card to my bank account and transfer money.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I’m betting that they just don’t know where to get the stubs online. especially if this is new and they are used to getting them via paper. I had to ask my manager at my first job how to access my pay stubs because I needed them to show income. Theres a site you log in with your employee info and can print them off. It was interesting becuase there were even pay stubs from other companies i had worked at years ago that gave me paper checks. They must have used the same payroll company.

      Now if the law is that they have to have another option besides these cards and they are refusing then thats another problem.

      1. OP 5*

        My friend would like to get direct deposit (she has a bank account) but the local office is difficult to work with. The national office has her listed as an employee but the local office does not. Switching to direct deposit is something the local office would handle. Likewise getting access online to her payroll information. her supervisor is trying to resolve the matter. But is has been weeks now.

      2. LGC*

        That…could be a possibility! That’s how our system works – we don’t have paper stubs, we provide them electronically. But I can also see them being shady about it – if they make stubs hard to discover for example.

        For what it’s worth, I’m in New Jersey, so definitely NOT Texas. Although even years after we moved to our current payroll system I still have employees who are unaware they can get stubs online.

        (You also just reminded me that I need to ask our new hire if he wants direct deposit.)

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          I had one former employer who … took a while … during the transition to direct deposit to figure out how to make the electronic stubs available. They eventually got it right.

  34. Feral Fairy*

    For LW 4, the fact that you are pursuing an MSW makes a difference here. If you are planning to pursue licensing, having a physical copy of your diploma might be necessary. A lot of licensed clinical social workers will actually display their diplomas in their offices (depending on what the office set up is). I am not sure what the rules are and it probably depends on the state and other factors, but you could end up in a position where you are expected to produced the diploma or display it so I would pay off the fine if at all possible.

  35. I should really pick a name*


    It’s not really clear from your letter, is this an incorrect fee, or is it a fee that they’re legitimately charging you, but you just think it’s dumb?

    1. JelloStapler*

      TBH, it IS dumb. As I said before other non-alums of the grad school get their new ID card without a fee. I’m betting the system just saw another card and automatically did it; it needs a human to tell it that that doesn’t make sense.

  36. Jennifer*

    Allison’s comments to letter #1 is very softball. The woman’s race in the letter is of absolutely no importance and not sure why the letter writer included it. She lied? That’s an integrity issue and should be absolutely addressed.

    1. OP 1*

      I mentioned it so people know that being pulled over doesn’t necessarily mean she did anything wrong on the road, and that she was probably very stressed out by an unpleasant and potentially dangerous encounter when she made that excuse. I do actually think that matters.

      1. anonymous73*

        I don’t have an issue with the lying and can understand why she may have done it. The biggest issue for me is why she thought it was okay to follow a training session while driving. It’s dangerous (to herself and others on the road) and she’s not able to pay full attention or take notes. That’s not okay…at all.

        1. OP 1*

          The training in question was a conversation about progress and any help she needed, and she knew it was going to be, so it was more of a conversation and that may have factored in to her not speaking up. It’s not ideal, and I let her know to do differently next time, but it makes sense to me.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          There are employers who will get mad at you for not taking calls on the road, so it’s understandable if people have different approaches to this.

          1. anonymous73*

            So I’m supposed to put my life and the lives of others in danger to avoid an employer being mad at me? Ummm, nope. This IS a hill I’d die on.

            1. I should really pick a name*

              I’m not saying it’s good, but I’m saying it could be why she was willing to do it.
              Alison often references the fact that a company’s bad practices can rub off on you and feel normal.

            2. Software Dev*

              I wrote a very long rant up above about this, but some people would, the same people who go to work with the flu because if they call in sick they will be fired or work in exploitative call centers because its that or go hungry.

              IE this thing where people are supposed to just be able to lose their job over some genuinely important principle like “not taking calls on the road” or “not spreading disease” ( and no I don’t think that’s the case here, but as a hypothetical for why some people may work at companies that require them to take calls while driving).

              (I think the solution is to have good social safety nets so people can quit exploitative jobs but ymmv. Whatever the solution, the problem is clearly that people aren’t going to put the needs of society ahead of their own survival, which includes things like paying the rent)

          2. Loredena Frisealach*

            This! If she’s coming from that sort of environment, and had to be somewhere (doctor’s appt she’d booked 3 months ago for instance) she might have been reluctant to say she couldn’t take the call/refuse to take it on the road.

      2. Jennifer*

        Whether or not she violated traffic laws is not relevant in this context (unless her job requires her to drive?). I think most people are a little rattled by a traffic stop. The problem isn’t that she lied about getting pulled over but that she lied about driving during a meeting when (from the way I interpreted the letter) she shouldn’t have been driving and should have been working. I don’t think it needs to be a big deal but it should be addressed and called out that you knew she lied and set expectations for honesty going forward. FWIW, it’s commonplace at my workplace to take an occasional work meeting in the car but we’re all upfront about it. “I’m going to be camera off – driving to xyz.”

      3. Observer*

        doesn’t necessarily mean she did anything wrong on the road,

        Well, she DID do something wrong by being in a meeting while driving. I take your point that she may not have been doing anything wrong that the cop could see, but it is important to realize that the essential issues still exists.

        I do actually think that matters.

        Unfortunately, you are almost certainly right.

        1. Calliope*

          But in most places being on the phone during a call is not grounds for a cop to pull you over, so that’s kind of irrelevant.

      4. SnappinTerrapin*

        It seems to me that your legitimate concern is over whether the training call should have been rescheduled. In that light, it’s kind of you to feel a sense of responsibility to ensure she feels free to say so in the future.

        The reason for the traffic stop really isn’t the employer’s business – unless you feel responsible for distracting her while driving, and it’s her call whether to let you try to share responsibility for her decision if you were to offer to do so.

        Omitting an explanation of something that really isn’t your business (i.e., the traffic stop) doesn’t raise any integrity issues. As you noted, she may have sent her vague email without first seeing yours that mentioned the traffic stop.

        Even a direct lie under oath isn’t perjury, if it’s an answer to a question that the court decides was not relevant to any material fact in the case. In that sense, your concern as her trainer wasn’t over her being accused of a traffic violation; you were concerned with whether she realized she could have rescheduled that training call before the traffic stop.

    2. neeko*

      Her race ABSOLUTELY MATTERS. If you aren’t US based, then perhaps you aren’t aware of the number of deaths of Black people that started off as traffic stops that have been reported recently. If you are from the US, I genuinely don’t understand how you could possibly think that her race is not a factor here.

  37. WTF*

    LW4: OMG, My jaw dropped when I read that you would be willing to risk losing even one job offer or opportunity over a petty fee. There is no win for you here. You are not going to prove anything to anybody by not paying this fee. Nobody at the university is ever going to care that you ‘won’ this battle, but you are going to screw yourself out of getting your actual degree. This is beyond pettiness. This is self sabotage.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Yeah. You won’t get a degree that you paid tens of thousands of dollars for. That will show them!

    2. OP4*

      I never said that I was willing to miss out on an opportunity over this fee! I asked if it was likely to happen, since I know two people who never technically graduated due to financial holds and neither of them were affected at all (in fact, one only found out that he hadn’t technically graduated after he had retired), so wasn’t sure if it actually mattered or not. You can pick your jaw back up now!

      1. MI Abroad*

        If he’s old enough to have retired, he’s likely from a generation where verifying credentials wasn’t done as much. I used to work in credentialing and our old records were nowhere near as thorough as the modern ones. But we did have to go through and verify anyone who hadn’t been checked when they were hired in order to comply with an auditing agency, which is when something like this would have been discovered and potentially cost him his job.

  38. Who Needs Road Safety?*

    Our CEO recently videoed in to an all staff meeting that he led while driving. I wish I were kidding.

  39. Boof*

    Op2 – i think firm offers are fine in regards to overall compensation! It’s worth having some flexibility / room for negotiation within those parameters, though; ie, someone who wants fridays off working for 80% pay, or allowing 4/10 vs 5/8 schedules, or whatever makes sense for the position.

  40. MAB*

    OP4…what exactly is the principle? The school presumably had to expend resources in creating and printing your new ID.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Typically new students do not pay upfront for the first id card — the fee is only for a replacement.

      But I agree. This is a pretty foolish hill to die on. Especially if OP has other unpaid fees and fines by the time they want to graduate, it could hold up getting the degree granted.

      I get feeling salty about this. But you know, OP, as a social worker you are going to be facing considerably more significant bureaucratic b.s., both for yourself and for your clients. Best to figure out now what’s worth expending emotion, time, and energy on, otherwise you will wear yourself out fast.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think usually the cost of the first card would be included in tuition. If you come back as a grad student it makes sense if they are essentially using the same account info for you on your return instead of creating a new one, but it would not be reasonable for them to act like she should still be using the card she had when she graduated four years ago. As far as costs go, the card she is issued now should be considered her first grad school card included with her grad school tuition. I would be very annoyed at them trying to charge it as a replacement card too.

      I think if OP wants to fight on principle, it is certainly worth a few follow-up calls or emails or visits to someone to argue against the fee and see if you can have it removed. But it’s definitely not worth risking your graduation status over if you can’t get it removed.

  41. Meghan*

    #4: certainly try to talk to people higher up in the department, but if that ends up going nowhere, just pay the fee. It will not be worth the absolute hassle it will be to pay it later. Since you’re a current student, it’ll be much easier to do it now, rather than trying to contact the correct office and deal with the bureaucracy when you’re outside the system.

  42. OP 1*

    This happened last week, so I can give the good news that it went well when we next met! She admitted she had been driving right away, apologized, and said next time she would definitely reschedule. I emphasized I wanted her to be safe and driving during a meeting wasn’t, that we give a lot of flexibility, and all she needs to do is communicate about it ahead of time. She’s been doing well since then, so I hope it was a one time issue.

    Unfortunately, our company culture used to be pretty lax on car Zooming. Thank God the managers have started pushing back against it because even listening in to a large meeting is distracting. I know the research! I’ll be reminding people in training that it’s a safety issue.

    1. EPLawyer*

      YAAAAY. I can see a new employee being unsure about rescheduling something important like training. At least it got talked out and she is aware that a set time for the training is less important than her safety and the safety of everyone else on the road.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      This is a good update! Thanks for sharing, and I hope there are no zooming-while-driving sessions in your (or your coworkers’) future.

  43. hamburke*

    I’m guessing there was some time between undergrad and grad school – enough time that a student id wouldn’t be kept or wouldn’t be useful anymore (advanced technology, etc). So it can be technically correct and dumb but still incorrect. If there was a gap, they should be treated as a new student – shouldn’t be penalized for to being an alum! (That’s actually where I would go to complain first – the alumni association)

    1. MCL*

      Yeah, op says they finished undergrad un 2017, so I think that gap is plenty long enough to ask a university staff member to waive it. I am guessing it is a short enough gap to trigger a replacement fee though, either automatically applied by a computer or by a person who hit a wrong key. OP, talk to the student services person in your department to ask about who to talk to, it sounds like a mistake.

  44. Stepped on a Lego*

    LW4 – Ask for a refund. Go during a slow time (middle of the semester, before registration for the next semester of classes, middle of the week, etc.) Make an appointment if possible. Dress nicely/ appropriately (no pajamas, messy clothes) so they take you seriously. Have your talking points ready, and be calm, do not escalate. State facts only and how you want it resolved. Smile.
    Don’t be petty – this can come back to get you, they can add interest or send you to collections, who knows. They have the power, so take it back.
    Talking from experience – did we go to the same school? I ask because it is also known for its social work program.
    Good luck!

    1. buttercup*

      As someone who worked in Accounts Payable at a university: LW4, PLEASE please read the above comment and do this!!

      I served many, many past students from years back who came to resolve old fee holds that had gone to Collections and were preventing them from getting loans, mortgages, etc. It was always a small thing like a campus card fee or library fine, but it didn’t matter – if they’re above a certain dollar value and after a certain amount of time, it automatically got sent to Collections. Once that’s happened, it’s completely out of the school’s hands and between you and the Collections agency. One person was in tears because his $100 library fine from a decade back was preventing him from getting a student loan to pay for medical school. It was heartbreaking and awful to not be able to do anything to help him.

      PLEASE don’t risk a small fine ruining your credit or finances just to make a point (even though I agree with you that all of this is super gross and awful and shouldn’t happen).

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      This. Part of the degree conferral process both in undergrad and grad school was a check to ensure all your accounts were current. They would not mark you transcript as “degree conferred” until all debts were satisfied. You didn’t just not get the physical diploma, your transcripts reflected only coursework, not that you earned a degree.

  45. Essess*

    Most of my employers did credit rating checks as part of the interview/offer process. If you keep this financial hold on your account, it will likely show up on credit reports as something you failed to pay and will impact your ability to be hired. Speak to the school about the fee, then pay it if they say it is still required. You did get a new card, which does use up time and materials so it is reasonable they may charge a nominal fee for it. If you are talking a lot of money for the fee, then I can see escalating the issue up through higher layers of management at the school, but if it’s a nominal fee then you should pay it since you did receive the service just like many other student/college fees.

  46. Michelle Smith*

    Pay the fee and get your diploma. The principle is not worth the peace of mind of actually having the degree you earned conferred. Of course they’re allowing you to register for classes—that’s more money for them. The only person you’re hurting here is yourself.

    And yes, even though I transferred agencies for the same government employer, I was still required by my current agency to drag my law school diploma into the office for them to photograph it. Even though I had transcripts and my background had been thoroughly investigated by my previous agency. It was stupid but still necessary for my onboarding. Don’t risk it over a small fee you admit you can afford. Fight it, sure, but if they won’t lift it, just pay it!!

  47. yams*

    LW3, an organization I worked with has a manager who has had *27* people leave from under them in the last year! 27! The team is 12 people! It’s literally turned over twice and the organization has done nothing about it.
    In fact, I was shocked when in my own organization only 4 people had to quit for my boss to be fired. I highly recommend leaving, threatening to leave won’t accomplish anything.

    1. irene adler*

      27! You’d think someone involved with the onboarding would be complaining about all the work this exodus created for them!

      A friend tells me that management at his company- where they had 3-4 people quit and cite pay as the reason- got wise and announced that the annual pay raises would show up 3 months early. And at that time salaries would be reviewed. That seemed to stem the tide. Yes, they actually followed through with this.

      1. yams*

        A friend and I are watching the trainwreck from afar, and so far it looks like HR is just saying: “well, they didn’t seem to be a good fit so good riddance;” meanwhile, it is widely known in the industry the manager in that department is literally the worst person possible for the position. Last I heard they are actively pulling people who only vaguely meet the requirements of the position since it’s so widely known how toxic and dysfunctional that manager is and the pool of qualified people who want to work there is basically nonexistent.

        1. Observer*

          The problem is not just the manager, HR is actively incompetent here. That level of turnover and all they can say is “it’s a bad fit”? If that’s what they REALLY think, why are they not revamping hiring?

          1. yams*

            That sounds about right. I have a long standing bet with a friend about how many people they are going to go thru before they do something about the manager. I bet 35 and she bet 50, it’s looking like I’m not going to win this one lol.

  48. AthenaC*

    #1 – I want Alison’s response to be the right one, and it may be where you should start … but I’ll admit I’m hard pressed to think of a time where I gave someone grace at work and it didn’t come back to bite me later.

    #4 – Interesting how everyone seems optimistic that the fee can get cleared just by asking. I hope for the OP’s sake that’s true. In my experience (which admittedly was at least a decade ago), universities treat students like that on purpose. Any short-sighted way to pad the bottom line now!

  49. No, no, it's not me*

    # 3 – I feel for you. I was in the same situation for years and finally snapped and quit this year. And that is after having the guts to go around my boss to raise the issue that they were driving people away, etc. Nothing changed, if anything it got worse (boss was told of my “concerns”). I quit, and the weight lifted off of my shoulders is huge. I was extremely honest about my reasons for leaving and nothing has changed, I hear from people almost daily how miserable they are and at least 3 other people have left since then with absolutely no changes.

    1. Jack Bruce*

      Same! My previous job had the same issue- we got a new (micro)manager and she made our lives hell. I told my previous boss (now one level up and new boss’s supervisor) that things were bad early on, and old boss didn’t do anything. I told them before I left that things were very bad in the department but nothing has changed there- and several people have left, more are looking. Oh well, the powers that be made their choice and can keep shooting themselves in the foot.

  50. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Letter #5: OMG! What on earth?! Paid by a debit card and you have to pay a fee to access your own pay?! Why would anyone push for this kind of law to happen? I’m appalled.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      For the “unbanked,” the alternative of paying fees to cash a paper check is no better. Some debit card issuers are more like the “check cashing” or “payday loan” businesses than a more traditional bank.

      Employees have options for direct deposit to regular checking accounts, which is usually a better deal for the employee – if there isn’t a reason they can’t have a checking account.

      There are some cost savings to employers in electronically paying rather than processing paper checks.

      A lot of time, though, small companies may hear about a new law and implement a policy based on a misunderstanding of how it works. That’s pretty common in the wage & hour category especially.

  51. Chairman of the Bored*

    Refusing to negotiate seems like a way to lose out on good talent.

    When I am negotiating with an employer I have access to information that they do not: The details of offers that I have received from other companies.

    Regardless of whatever studies they have done and factors they’ve applied, the final arbiter of the market value of my labor is what other organizations are willing to pay for it.

    If their “firm offer” is substantially below the real offers that other companies are making the same talent pool they’re going to have a lot of candidates take those other offers. Negotiation give the opportunity for LW’s employer to address this discrepancy in real-time even if their studies are not accurate.

    My experience is that employers’ studies do a poor job of evaluating the labor market, as every time an org has told me that their studies say I’m being paid enough I can find somebody else who is willing to pay me considerably more.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If it’s *substantially* below other offers then they probably don’t have the budget to compete anyway. You accept the talent you can afford.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        Sure, it’s a different case if they are budget constrained. But that doesn’t seem to be what’s going on here.

        From the letter, it sounds like they’re going to let their internal studies be the sole and final arbiter of the fairness/competitiveness of an offer, with no mechanism to correct it based on actual market conditions.

        They’re putting an awful lot of faith in the output of that study. I suggest they should consider the possibility of their magic number occasionally being wrong, and either:
        1) provide a mechanism for the number to be modified based on feedback from the job candidate
        2) accept that you’re going to lose good candidates when you inevitably get the ironclad and unchangeable number wrong

        Say an employer offers me $X.
        I then tell them “I have other offers for >$X”.
        They then say, “Nope, we are confident that you’re only worth $X. We did a study! Take it or leave it.”
        I’m not going to take their offer.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Is that all that different from what happens in every other situation where a company doesn’t accept your negotiated rate? “Sorry, we can’t match that.” Same result, no?

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I find firm offers work better for entry- and mid-level positions. We negotiate more with senior positions, more because of differences in benefits and loss of retirement vesting versus salary. We rarely negotiate entry-level offers, but we also keep on the pulse of the market and try to always be a little ahead of the curve. I don’t even remember the last time someone we lost someone entry-level over pay.

    3. bamcheeks*

      But maybe you are not a good fit for this organisation, and they would rather lose you as a potential employee and hire someone who shares their commitment to ensuring that everyone who is doing the same work is receiving the same compensation.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        I’d point out that nothing stops them from hiring me at my actual market value, and then giving everybody else doing the same work as me a raise to match. You know, since they’re very committed to making sure everyone gets paid fairly and I’m doing them the favor of updating them about the current state of the labor market.

        If they’re not interested in doing that I’d suggest this “firm offer” scheme is actually just a way for employers to depress their labor costs and dress it up as doing the right thing.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          If you’re a white man, I wouldn’t default to thinking that what you are offered is “the current state of the labour market”— that’s positioning yourself as the norm. You may be being offered “the norm + the unearned white man bonus”, and it may not be financially feasible for businesses to offer that to everyone. The salaries that you are offered may *depend* on a lack of equity to be affordable. There’s no objective rule that says that because the market offers you X, X is the correct price for the job.

          1. Chairman of the Bored*

            I’m all for reducing inequities in the labor market, and would fully support an employer taking the approach of “we don’t negotiate with white men because your salaries have been inflated by patriarchal racist treachery”.

            But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening here.

            Presumably, if an applicant who is *not* a white man were to ask this employer if they can match or beat a better offer their answer would still be “Nope, we did a nebulous and opaque study that says your labor is only worth $X. Trust us, this study is totes fair and accurate despite there being a whole bunch of reasons (both innocent and nefarious) for it not to be. Anyway, the offer is $X; take it or leave it.”

            It may be reasonable for an employer to decide that they can’t (or won’t) pay as much as other employers in the same labor pool.

            It’s not reasonable for them to decide this because of over-reliance on an internal study with no corrective mechanism, and then say that the result is doing the right thing by their employees/society.

            1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

              Assuming no corrective mechanism is kind of a lot. They may well have a plan to evaluate every quarter to see how it’s going, but LW didn’t say either way.

  52. Persephone Mongoose*

    Seems like quite a few LWs are willing to die on weirdly petty hills recently. Please learn to choose your battles.

    1. Metadata minion*

      It also seems like if not paying the fee is the hill you’re on, the better battle is “make a (reasonably polite) fuss and keep pestering them until they waive the mis-charged fee”, not “ignore it and hope there won’t be consequences”.

    2. OP4*

      I’m not willing to die on this petty hill! I’m willing to fight on this petty hill if the stakes are not that high. If I were willing to die, I wouldn’t have bothered writing in to ask if this financial hold was likely to actually matter for my future. Given that it seems quite possible to affect me, I will pay the fee if I can’t manage to get it waived.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I’m sorry that so many people are misinterpreting your question! You were perfectly clear about asking what the consequences would be if you didn’t pay. It’s funny, you don’t usually see this comment section ignoring the “asking for advice” part! You see it the other way around sometimes, where people offer advice on things that the LW didn’t ask about, but that makes more sense since it’s an advice column.

        1. Persephone Mongoose*

          Respectfully, why would an advice columnist and/or commenters know more about whether not paying a fee would affect someone’s future or not than someone at the actual school?

      2. Persephone Mongoose*

        “It’s a relatively small fee, so it’s not like I can’t afford it, but I really want to be petty about it!”

        These are your exact words. I don’t think my assumption that you were looking to die on this hill was inappropriately extrapolated, but I’m sorry for the misinterpretation anyway.

        That said, if the fee is small enough and not paying could possibly prohibit your receiving your physical degree, I guess I’m just not understanding why you’d even entertain not paying it out of “principle” in the first place. We all have to do things we feel are unfair in order to save ourselves a real potential roadblock in the future. If you can speak to the university and get the fee waived, definitely do that, but I really would not expend much more effort on it than you already have.

  53. raincoaster*

    LW #4, if your school has a law school their students are dying to provide free legal help to you. Contact them and ask for advice.

  54. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-17 years in higher ed here.

    No one should be asking to see your actual diploma. Those can be easily purchased online and fake. Your diploma is nothing but a piece of paper and an employer asking to see it is woefully out of touch. Your transcript, on the other hand, is your proof. And a tiny fee absolutely could hold up receiving your transcript, although probably not conferring the degree. You just wouldn’t be able to prove it to anyone officially.

    All that said, this should be an easily solved problem. Start with whatever office issues your student id cards. If you can’t get resolution then go to your bursar/student accounts office. This isn’t appeal territory. It’s asking a question about something weird territory. Don’t go heavy handed in a situation where it’s probably not necessary. If they still get squirrely about then go up within the financial department. Your program admin is probably going to be able to help you here. You could throw a flag towards your SGA folks as well. Your assistant dean or equiv would be a person to ask as well. They’d have the clout to help in some schools. I know that’s a large part of what I do.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      Edit-Your program admin is probably NOT going to be able to help you here. Not their world.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Agreed. As a department admin I don’t have any involvement with this process at all. We have a student service center that deals with these; it might be called something else at OP’s university, but that’s where to start.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Gosh, this is quite the opposite in the UK! Your degree will not be conferred if you are not in good financial standing, and employers will ask to see your degree certificate, never a transcript.

  55. Jack Bruce*

    #4: my last two positions (in government) required either an official transcript or a photograph of my diploma. So pay it if you can afford it and just get the piece of paper! I was surprised I needed it, but I’ve been glad to have it handy when that cam up.

    1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      My experience was the same – it was the Government job process that needed it. I had to bring in my original, they took a copy for their records and it was now in the system and I wouldn’t have to do it again.

      That said, it was in storage and a royal PITA to dig it up for just the interview.

  56. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    #2 – Wanted to share a bad experience I had with a non-negotiable offer early in my career. I was unhappy in my job and had just started actively looking for my next one. A friend called to ask me if I was interested in a job he’d been approached about, that he did not want to take at the time, and I said yes. Friend said he’d already talked to a recruiter about the job, and that it would pay X/year. The recruiter then got in touch with me, I had an interview with the company, they loved me, and made an offer. The recruiter called me with an offer and said “the pay is non-negotiable and is Y/year” and named a number that was $9,000, roughly 15%, lower than the original X. (A big difference in our location in 2000.) I liked everything else about the job, and took the offer. I was also initially told that they’d make it up to me at my annual review the following year, by giving me a 4K raise to get me to the next round number. (not 9K, but better than nothing!) Then (of course), at the annual review, when I asked about it, boss looked at me like I had three heads and said he would never be able to justify that large of a raise for me to the HR. It was like the previous year’s promises had never happened, and I had just then asked for an abnormally large raise for no apparent reason. I still liked everything else about the job (and tried looking, but with little success), ended up staying there for a total of six years. It took me almost my entire six years there to get to the amount that I’d been initially promised to be paid at the start. I have a really strong feeling to this day that the amount was lowered because the initial, high amount had been promised to a man, and I was a woman. Talk about equity! The point I want to make here is that a firm offer is good in my opinion, but it needs to be transparent and stay the same all the way through. Otherwise it is not a good look on the employer.

    1. irene adler*

      But, not surprised.
      My dad, very sarcastically, would coach me to ask when presented with a job offer: “You are offering me $X for this role. Now, what salary would you offer to a man for this same role?”
      No, I never did ask this, but he has a point.

  57. Doc in a Box*

    OP4: I’m surprised your MSW isn’t covering the cost of the card, as your privileges as a graduate student are necessarily different from your privileges as an undergrad. It’s not like you lost the card (which is what the replacement fee is for) and you’d have needed a new one anyway to reflect your new role.

    At my academic institution, building access and library access and a whole lot of other things are based on swiping/tapping your card on a reader. A few months ago, my card stopped working — I notified one of the admins and they gave me a form where they covered the cost of a replacement out of dept petty cash.

  58. OP4*

    I fired this email off in a fit of pique after having been on the phone with three different people for over four hours trying to get this fee waived, and I think it shows! I promise that I am generally a more reasonable person than this letter might suggest.

    This is absolutely an illegitimate fee, as I’m pretty sure that my undergraduate ID has expired, and the school also changed to a different format for student IDs sometime over the past four years, so I wouldn’t be able to use my undergrad ID even if I still had it. I’m sure it was charged by accident, but I am not that confident that I’ll be able to get it reversed—I keep contacting one department, which tells me that they can’t help and I need to talk to another department, but then that department says that they can’t help, and so forth.

    When I was in undergrad, my friend also had a problem that was caused by the university and they didn’t help her at all—her advisor was mistaken about her graduation requirements, so it turned out that she needed to take two classes that she did not know she had to take. She did not realize she wasn’t eligible for graduation until she tried to register for a dinner for graduating students, and then she ended up having to take an extra semester and also fight the school to give her the financial aid she’d been receiving for the first four years. This was obviously a much bigger deal than my $20 fee, but I think it’s part of why I was predisposed to be angry about my fee, as I’m still angry about my friend having to pay for an extra semester because her advisor told her she had met all her graduation requirements when she hadn’t whenever I think about it.

    Anecdotally, I know two people who never technically graduated because of financial holds, and neither of them had any problem come up when applying for jobs, so I really wasn’t sure if it would matter. I don’t plan on getting a license, most of the jobs in my career path do not actually require a license but do recommend an MSW. That said, a lot of the jobs in the field do require pretty extensive background checks. I’m going to try calling the department that person #3 told me would be able to help me, now that I’ve calmed down a little, and I’m also going to talk to the program administrator, and I guess if none of that works, I’ll pay this fee, but I will be EXTREMELY grumpy about it for the rest of the day.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think you sound perfectly reasonable in your letter! We’ve all been there. Sometimes something small just gets under your skin. Your grumpiness is super valid.

    2. Not your typical admin*

      Totally get your frustration!!!!! Dealing with bureaucracy is a nightmare and a headache, and makes us all want to take die hard stands for justice (even if those stands can hurt us in the long run).

    3. Jack Bruce*

      You sound reasonable but frustrated. I had similar things with my university but in the end just had to pay their fees so I could get my diploma. Good luck with getting it straightened out!

    4. Reba*

      I completely understand your ire!

      That said, I think “not technically graduating” is still a bigger deal than it sounds to you and your friends. It’s not about the diploma as a piece of paper, it’s about the degree being conferred! This would absolutely come up on a thorough background check: the registrar would look at your record and say, nope, didn’t graduate, no MSW here. And even though no fault of your own, this would look like falsifying your credentials and you may not get the chance to explain. It would be such a shame for your time and money to essentially go to waste by not getting the degree in the end.

      I know you are going to deal with it, I just want to underscore that that is the best thing to do. :)

      I hope the department admin can help!

      1. OP4*

        This is exactly why I asked, really! Like I said, I know two people who never technically graduated because of financial holds—one lost a library book and was too embarrassed to tell someone and the other isn’t sure what the fees are for—and one of those two is retired and the other has been in the workforce for 35 years and is planning on retiring soon, so I wasn’t sure if this sort of thing really could affect your life. Good to know that it’s a problem often enough that it really isn’t worth it to be petty over $20.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I think the difference here is the place in time and access to information. Degree validation is a standard part of the background checks we run. I bet that was not the case for people my mom’s age.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          OP4, the frustration makes total sense – and $20 for an ID is way more than what I paid 20 years ago. And I totally also get grumpily paying a fee, but doing it because of beurcracy that won’t bend.

          I will also say that your friends are so far into their careers, or have ended their careers so the “technical graduation” impacts them far less because all of this happened back in the dark ages. A lot of hiring policies have changed in the last 30 years, so things that once were okay aren’t anymore. It’s not always fair, but it is the world we now work in.

        3. OP4*

          I’m realizing now that I think it over that my father never actually finished high school, but was able to get a PhD, which probably contributed to my idea that finishing the coursework but not technically graduating isn’t necessarily a big deal. However, my father grew up just outside of Saigon and was supposed to finish high school in May 1975, so had…very obvious and extreme extenuating circumstances, to say the least, and may not have been able to provide proof that he graduated even if he had.

          This all goes to show that if you’re very frustrated about something, you should maybe wait to calm down before making any big decisions, because your irritated brain may be thinking ridiculous thoughts!

          1. Observer*

            This all goes to show that if you’re very frustrated about something, you should maybe wait to calm down before making any big decisions, because your irritated brain may be thinking ridiculous thoughts!

            Yes. 100% Actually 1,000%

    5. Metadata minion*

      Ohh, wow the four hours of phone totally makes your letter make more sense! Thank you for this context!

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I went to two Enormous State Universities, and the bureaucracy could be absolutely maddening. Nearly everyone had a tale of getting snagged by the cogs of bureaucracy and the byzantine process to get it sorted.

      We do degree checks, and I had to rescind an offer from someone who wasn’t quite done with their degree but represented that they were. It wasn’t about the unconferred degree (that, I could have worked with), it was about the dishonesty.

      This is $20. Your time is money valuable, too. Consider it a donation to your mental health, get your degree conferred, and write the university a letter (email) outlining your case and asking them to refund it, cc it to any department/administrator you think may be able to take care of it. To spend all that time and money on a degree and then not have it conferred over a $20 bureaucratic snafu only has the potential to hurt you.

    7. calonkat*

      I confess, it’s been many, many, many years since I was a college student, and a decade since my daughter was a college student. But I remember fees for student IDs even back then. So if your old ID would be invalid now, then why wouldn’t you have to pay a fee for a new ID? I remember mandatory fees for all sorts of things that seemed silly, but not worth arguing over (and not like the people I had access to had the authority to change anything anyway). I guess I’m just not understanding why you wouldn’t EXPECT to pay for an ID at a university.

      On your friends situation, same thing happened to my daughter. Had to find a job and housing for that one additional semester. On the plus side, December graduation was a LOT less crowded for her family!

      1. OP4*

        At this particular university, your first ID card is free, but if you need a replacement because you lost it or intentionally damaged it, you have to pay a fee. Not sure if that’s the case for other schools, but that’s the policy here.

        1. calonkat*

          Hmm, so your argument would be that because they’d have had to replace the card anyway, the replacement should be free.

          Their argument is that you couldn’t turn in the original card as would have been required when the system changed, so the new card is a true replacement.

          There is a certain amount of time and work involved in canceling and replacing cards, as all sorts of systems can be tied into them (even if you don’t use all the systems). And if they have the original card, they can mark that it’s destroyed and it cleans up the record keeping. $20 might be a bit high, but I’d wager it’s set as “affordable when it’s truly needed, but high enough that you’ll check ALL the pockets”.

          Take “I lost my card” and multiply it by the number of students every year. That’s why there’s a fee.

          There are hills to die on, but I’m not sure this is the one I’d choose. But I’ve generally had the job of doing the data entry on this sort of thing and getting yelled at for following rules, so I might be a bit biased.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            It makes no sense to basically punish your grad students for having attended your school for undergrad. Charging them extra because they are alumni. They did not *lose* their card. They are here essentially as a new student, who just happens to have been there before 4 years earlier. It is almost certainly a mistake and they should definitely remove the fee. It sounds like no one is even telling OP that it can’t be waived, they just keep passing her around to different people so no one has been able to solve it.

          2. OP4*

            My argument is really that this shouldn’t be considered a replacement card at all—I was charged some one-time new student registration fees when I started my undergrad program and then charged them again when I started the graduate program, so the school is treating me as a new student and thus I don’t see why I shouldn’t get a new card included. I also have been told by two of the people I’ve spoken with that this fee doesn’t make sense, they just haven’t been able to waive it for me.

            That said, I am keeping in mind that any given person I’m talking to is probably not able to help me because of the rules, so it’s both unfair and counterproductive not to be polite to them—that’s a big part of the reason why I wrote this letter instead of continuing to make phone calls, I was irritated enough that I wasn’t sure if I was able to be polite to the next person on the list to call and I really don’t want to make anyone’s day unpleasant, especially over an issue that they may not have control over.

            1. calonkat*

              Ah, I understand the issue now!!!
              * New students get a free card
              * You were charged “new student” fees when you started the graduate program
              * You were charged an ADDITIONAL fee for a replacement card as a “returning student”.

              You are being treated both as a new student (fees) and a returning student (more fees).

              Sorry for my denseness, I understand your frustration now. And on behalf of the people on the front lines, thank you for understanding they can’t always fix things.

  59. Dino*

    #4. You can pay the fee and still be petty!

    My university charged a $50 fee to “apply for graduation” and if you didn’t pay it you wouldn’t be allowed to graduate/get your diploma or transcripts. It pissed me off so much, but I got the last laugh. The first time I got a request for a donation to my alma mater, I wrote on the form “my $50 fee to apply for graduation is the only donation you’ll ever get from me” and sent it back.

    Two years later they dropped the fee :D

  60. Purple Loves Snow*

    To OP #4:

    I hold a BSW and for every social worker job I have had; they have required a certified copy of my diploma. This means a copy from my Uni, that is stamped “certified copy” and signed off by the Registrar’s office.
    Note – I reside outside of the USA, and this is common practice in the social worker field.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      Yes. I was an office manager for a residential healthcare facility that was Joint Commission certified (in the US). I did have to ask for copies of the diploma for all of our social workers, nurse practitioners, doctors, etc.

  61. CRM*

    I 100% agree! I absolutely hate negotiations, and if the offer is in-line with market rates and my skillset (and is similar to other positions that I am interviewing for) then I will happily accept without trying to squeeze out extra. What could I even base my negotiations on at that point?

    Furthermore, I think it saves everyone time and hassle. If the salary is lower than someone is willing to accept, they don’t have to play the game of “should I continue interviewing in the hopes that I will be able to negotiate a higher salary or should I bow out now?”.

  62. Erin*

    The new employee is taking training sessions while driving? That is a liability for the company if she gets into an accident while driving during these trainings. Also, was she able to absorb any of the material presented in this training?

    I also train new hires. Some employees need more guidance on professional conduct more than others. Her made up reason for ending the call definitely points to integrity issues. She had the opportunity to say “I’m sorry, I had to run X errand during our training, and I was driving. I got pulled over, and I needed to end the call”, and we could have had talked about it. But, she chose to make something up.

    As the trainer, I’m responsible for what new hires know. So, I keep training notes on all of my trainees, and this information is sent to their managers at the end of a training day (I created a template, and I mostly check boxes). There is a comment section where I can write anything good or not so good. 99% of the time, I get to write about how quickly someone catches on, or about how they have incredible knowledge of X thing. 1% of the time, I need to indicate less than stellar feedback. This information would definitely be included in that comment section.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m more willing to give a pass on the lying. The situation was potentially embarrassing, it’s a new employer where she’s not established, as Alison said she was likely rattled – maybe file it away in the mind in case a pattern emerges but I wouldn’t flag that in any feedback.

      The driving itself is another matter.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Conversely, the first time the employee makes a mistake, that’ll be embarrassing, too. I don’t want a co-worker lying and making something up instead of owning and learning from it.

  63. Belldandy*

    #4, I work at one of those third parties that run background checks for companies. It’s not uncommon at all for us to not be able to verify a degree due to a financial hold on the applicant’s record. So just something to consider.

  64. Spearmint*

    I guess I’ll take the contrary view on negotiation vs. firm offers.

    I completely understand why negotiation leads to unfair outcomes. At the same time, though, it seems rather suspicious to me that the answer to this problem employers have decided on gives them all the power in setting salaries. A good employer will make the firm offer a good offer, but my cynical side says most employers will actually offer something near the bottom of their pay range. Yes, an applicant can turn down the offer and look for other jobs, but even in a strong job market many/most people are not in a position to do that, whether it’s unemployment, moving out of state, needing to get their foot in the door of a new industry, or leaving a toxic job. Negotiation after an offer is the where the candidate has the most leverage.

    Look at government jobs. They do firm offers, and it’s always the very bottom of the range. And not surprisingly, government work usually pays less than the private sector.

    1. Spearmint*

      So for LW2, I’d say you do risk losing out on candidates who do have other options just because many are pretty cynical about business and employment these days.

    2. Observer*

      Negotiation after an offer is the where the candidate has the most leverage.

      So you are assuming that the OP’s employer is acting in bad faith?

      You probably don’t mean this, but what your response comes down to is more or less “Employers are going to act in bad faith and not make truly competitive offers, so better that they should continue to perpetuate the inequities we know exist rather than starting to act in good faith.”

    3. Jackalope*

      Government jobs are a different situation though, at least in the US. In exchange for lower income you get a more stable job (possibly one you can stay at the rest of your career, which is hard to find these days) and good benefits. It’s not for everyone, but a lot of people are willing to have a lower salary in exchange for that.

      Plus it’s important that people get paid fairly and know that they aren’t getting less because the negotiating decks are stacked against them. I personally shudder at the idea of trying to negotiate pay; it’s not a job skill I need for anything I’d be applying for, and I’m unlikely to do well, so…..

  65. SawbonzMD*

    LR#4: I don’t know what university you’re involved with but when I was at MIT I almost didn’t graduate (meaning that, in addition to no diploma, I would have no degree) because I owed a$7.50 parking ticket. I literally had to purchase a cashiers check (which cost me $15.00) and walk it to the Comptroller’s office the day before my graduation ceremony. I know how tempting it is to be petty (and in truth, it’s the school being petty), but just pay the thing and put it behind you. It’s not worth it.

  66. AnonyNurse*

    For #4, because you’re doing an MSW specifically, it MIGHT come up assuming you go for LCSW and associated positions. I’ve never understood why, but I’ve needed to show a copy of my actual diploma a couple times for my BSN and MSN, though not for my BA. No clue as to why, as it didn’t matter when I got my RN license. And one would think transcripts and degree verification were more relevant. But employers are weird.

  67. InMyGardenAfterWork*

    #3. A number of my friends and past coworkers were in this position when the non-profit they worked for got a new ED. They loved the company, the mission, the work, and their bosses. The ED progressively diminished their healthcare benefits, moved their office to the kitchenette to eavesdrop on employee conversations (there were other subtle invasions of privacy and clues of paranoia), and created an environment of competition between managers and departments. The ED also preached an open door policy, “come to me with any issue,” but if you did, you were shamed and reprimanded for bringing anything up. It turned out ok in the end. Half of them left and the other half unionized. The new ED quit as soon as the remaining employees told the board they wouldn’t back down forming a union. It took them a few years to accomplish this, but the non-profit as an organization and staple of the community was saved as a result.

  68. Free Meerkats*

    My employer has a blanket official policy of no meetings while driving. We had a member of the Mayor’s staff disciplined for it, so we’re serious.

    Don’t Zoom and Drive.

  69. Lou*

    LW 2 – I recently accepted a job that had a firm offer, which I discovered when I tried to negotiate. What they ultimately did was give me a small one-time sign-on bonus. I suspect it was because I’d tried to negotiate at all, tbh, and they wanted to reward that behavior.

    They were very clear about salary range in the phone screen, and though the scope of the job ultimately shifted (less senior role) over the course of the process, they offered me the low end of the original range of the more senior job. When I tried to negotiate they were very straightforward in explaining that it was a firm offer and that they have a policy of coming in at their best offer because not everyone tries to negotiate at all, so they take that out of the equation. The employer in general has clearly defined, easily findable (this is key!) salary bands and clearly labels each job with the salary band name so you can match and get a sense of where it falls. And, like I said, this job was even more explicit with where exactly they were in the (original) range.

    If they hadn’t been very direct and clear throughout the whole process I probably would have felt unhappy and/or slightly misled about the salary, but I felt like they were telling me the truth and acting in good faith so I was ultimately happy with it.

  70. sometimeswhy*

    OP4 – I’ve never been asked for either of my diplomas. They are, in fact, still in their shipping tubes in the top of my closet, unopened. My current job didn’t even verify education when I first got it but several years ago, they tightened up their personnel practices required everyone provide proof of their credentials and I had to dig out my official transcripts.

    My alma mater will not give you official documentation if you have outstanding debts. “Diploma” or “graduate/graduation” in the FAQ is actually “we will withhold literally anything that proves you went here, when, for how long, and studying what; you get nothing except this invoice over and over until it’s paid” in the written rules. If I hadn’t had or had access to those transcripts to prove I hadn’t falsified my credentials, I could’ve put my job of more than a decade in jeopardy.

  71. IL JimP*

    #4 as someone who works in Higher Ed, I’ve seen schools hold conferrals and transcripts for holds as little as $1 – just ask for a manager to see if you can get it waived or pay it

    totally not worth the trouble

  72. Sara*

    OP#4 – Associate Registrar here – Depending on what state you live in the school can withhold transcripts which could hamper your job seeking ability.

    To your original question. Do employers ever want to see the diploma. That is highly dependent on where you are looking for a job. We have seen a trend lately that more and more licensure boards are requiring both a diploma copy and a transcript. This is new in the last few years.

    The word on the registrar blogs is that this is primarily a push from liability insurance providers because both colleges and licensure boards should know that transcripts are more valuable than diplomas as proof (harder to forge).

    So far social work hasn’t seemed to follow this trend, but there are many social work settings that may (if you were associated with a medical facility, etc.)

    But in the long run, is this worth it? If you do not pay they will keep tacking on late fees and eventually will turn this small bill over to collections, hurting your credit score. Talk to your billing office and your program, often fees like this can be waived or reduced especially if you can show you were misinformed about needing a new ID.

  73. Crazy Plant Lady*

    OP #4 – I’ve had to submit a scanned copy of my diplomas (and once of a final transcript) for background checks for a few different jobs. And if your career requires any form of licensing, you will certainly need to prove that you have the appropriate degree. Just pay the fee – it’s not worth the potential for hassle later on.

  74. Texan In Exile*

    I discovered after my first semester at business school at UT that I had been on academic probation.

    I enrolled in a master’s program for English just after college. I dropped out but never withdrew officially because I needed to stay on my parents’ health insurance. So I guess I got Fs in my classes. :)

    Despite that, I was admitted to the business school five years later – but under probation. Double secret probation, apparently.

  75. Stuck in the Middle with You*

    to LW#3 (love my job, hate my boss):
    I manage someone on my team who’s a bit like this. Maybe not quite as bad as you describe, but I can tell that their presence is a negative force on their team. Two people are leaving within a month of each other.

    Here’s what I wish I could say to the folks on that team: We know. We know that this person is not a great manager in a lot of ways. Frankly, we would love to see this person take a new job elsewhere. But we’re long past the probationary period, and it’s really hard to fire someone for just being kind of a jerk. I get that you feel stuck and torn; we feel the same. We have a suspicion that this person is job searching, and all we can do is hope it comes to fruition soon. In the meantime, we know there’s little we can do to keep people here — we don’t begrudge them leaving; we just hope they stay somewhere in the company and might come back to us later.

    Allison or anyone else who’s been in this kind of a position, I’d love advice on being the manager in this kind of situation.

  76. Regular Human Accountant*

    #1 My daughter was in a car accident while on an extended-family Zoom call early in the pandemic, and it was horrifying for all of us! She wasn’t driving and the driver wasn’t participating in the call. All of a sudden she started spinning and there was shrieking and then a terrible thud and for a few very long seconds we all held our breath. (They were both fine, the car was driveable, they were very lucky.) It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, and this letter made me think of it, and so my response to the letter is: make sure all employees know they should never participate on a video call while driving.

    Also, Dallas highways are THE WORST.

  77. Cowgirlinhiding*

    OP3 – I have found that the sh!t flows downhill, when you have someone at the top that is creating a certain culture, even HR cannot change that culture. Our HR reported abuses to the corporate office and was told basically the person was just venting and that HR was their safe place to vent(threating physical harm to employees). But the abuse just continues. If you aren’t seeing changes after many reports, it is time to look elsewhere. Now is a good time, there are jobs on every corner.

    1. Heffalump*

      Grrr. Part of me wants to shake one of the higher-ups and say, “Hey, the guy’s reports are human beings and have a moral right to be treated with common decency.” Of course I have no illusions that that would accomplish anything.

      I’m reminded of a statement in one of C. S. Lewis’s books: when he went off to Oxford as a young man, his attitude towards the moral law was that of a baboon towards classical music.

  78. DJ Abbott*

    #3, could you get into a state of mind where you say the mean boss is just the way he is, and not take it personally?
    That has helped me with my boss at the deli, who has a very rough way of speaking to people and can come off as rude and hurtful. I had to work on not taking it personally and getting past it, and I ended up feeling a little sympathy for her because she is under tremendous pressure. I’ve made an effort to get past my intimidation and treat her with respect and go ahead and ask when I have questions. There are times when she’s been unbelievably rude, but more often she simply says what she wants and says please and thank you, and she’s been very fair in the way she treats me.
    I’ve been at this job for six months now and I’m getting interviews for good customer service positions because of this experience! So glad I stayed. I’m also proud I was able to deal with this and get past it.
    There is at least one jerk in every workplace, so it’s good to learn to ignore them and not let them get to you.
    Good luck!

  79. freddy*

    Hi – there have been a lot of questions about the safety of hand-held cell phones. The report I use most often here is the National Safety Council’s report called Understanding the distracted brain: Why Driving While Using Hands-Free Cell Phones is Risky Behavior (2012). (I’d link to it but I’m not sure if links are allowed – a quick Google search will lead you to the full report, though.) They looked at all relevant research to date and concluded that “All of these studies show handsfree phones offer no safety benefit when driving. The cognitive distraction from paying attention to conversation – from listening and responding to a disembodied voice – contributes to numerous driving impairments….It is clear that the risk of crashing when engaged in a hands-free phone conversation is about 4 times greater than when not using a phone while driving. “

    1. Heffalump*

      Links are allowed, but the post has to await moderation. When Alison determines that the link is OK, the post goes live.

  80. LadyJane*

    I feel for OP#3. That letter could have been written by me 16 years ago. I also worked in HR. Loved the actual job and working with my colleagues, but the direct boss was a bear to work for. After being in that job for 3 years I knew I had to find a new one. I was sick a lot due to stress, I couldn’t sleep at night and I would go home some days crying. I found a new job in the same company, but different department. I have been in my current position for 13 years. My coworkers are like family but I do miss the duties I had in HR. Interestingly, when the bear of a boss left HR, they contacted me asking if I would like to come back. I declined because there were just too many bad memories there.

    1. Goldenrod*

      OP #3 – That could have been me at my last job as well! There’s an expression I think of a lot – “you can’t wake a man who is pretending to be asleep.”

      If you leave, I doubt they will bother doing an exit interview. Even if they do one, it won’t matter. Everyone knows. Everyone is looking the other way. No one wants to bell the cat (to use another expression).

      I advise leaving, even though that sucks. I’m so much happier working somewhere where the fish doesn’t stink from the head! (To use yet ANOTHER expression!)

  81. pickaduck*

    OP #4 – please pay the fee. I had a similar circumstance when I graduated, and wouldn’t pay “on principle.” I then got a job that didn’t require the degree, so I just kind of let it go (while of course paying on a student loan for a a degree I didn’t even have proof of. Fast forward 10 years (!) and I am at a job that will require the degree to advance – but the school won’t release any records until the fee is paid. I go to pay the fee, only to discover that I now have to retake 2 classes because the requirements have changed. Long story short, I guess college didn’t teach me any common sense, but what I do know is – do what you need to do to get that piece of paper.

  82. Anonymous for This*

    I was suffering with the “firm offer” stance for quite a bit. I *chose* to accept a promotion knowing the salary, but over the last few years, I’ve realized that my employer (state government) is going to always tie pay to title and not responsibilities.

    Let’s say we do Personalized Teapots. 3 of the units can personalize certain types of teapots and my unit personalizes another type. The other 3 units have 6, 9, 0r 11 people being supervised…I have 16. The other units produce 2500 teapots in a slow year, 3500 in a superbusy year (very rare). My unit produces 4800 (slow year) to 5500+ (super busy year — also very rare). My unit consistently out performs the other units. But all 4 managers are paid the same.

    My bosses and HR are just absolutely shocked that my direct reports were extremely…explicit…in their refusal to even consider applying to replace me (I just got promoted, but I had another job waiting for me if I hadn’t gotten promoted (to my knowledge, my boss was unaware of this other job, and I never mentioned it to my boss)). Number one reason was the pay compared to managing the other units. To my boss’ credit, we are now discussing ways to make the position pay more…but it has to come with a job title change, and more codified responsibilities. I pointed out…isn’t having more people and more cases a higher level of responsibility. But they aren’t hearing that. To be fair, there may be other considerations that I’m not aware of (and being in state government isn’t helping the matter any), but it is super frustrating to people that they won’t be fairly compensated for their time and effort.

    Also to be clear…we’re not saying the other managers should be paid less. Just that this position should pay more. Even two or three thousand would be extremely helpful.

    1. Anonymous for This*

      Ugh, I shouldn’t have hit “Send” so fast.

      The point, OP #2, is that you really might lose out on some good talent if you take the “firm offer” approach. I will also point out that I think if you’re up front about it, you will weed out anyone who wants to be able to negotiate. There are pros and cons. You (meaning your company) needs to weigh which option they value most.

  83. Jennifer*

    #1 The employee may have told the truth about why she needed to leave the meeting, and just omitted the fact that she was also pulled over, not realizing she wasn’t on mute while she was speaking the officer. I don’t think that’s really the issue. She just shouldn’t be driving, period. I think if she’s a new hire she was nervous about pushing back and rescheduling a meeting and wanted to try and multi-task. Letting her know that rescheduling in the future is preferable would probably give her peace of mind.

  84. JelloStapler*

    LW4- ask about the fee, it may be some automatic thing. Plus if no one told you ahead of time that there would be a fee (that you’re only getting because you returned your alma mater for grad school) – I bet appealing would be easier than seething about it. But ask nicely and without attitude.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Oh and you WILL need that diploma/transcript to take the licensure exam. So, appeal but then pay it if it goes nowhere.

  85. Taco Bell Job Fair*

    About seeing a diploma that happened to my dad during the recession. He wanted to work at some industrial cleaning place. They insisted to see his bachelors degree.

  86. It'sABonesDay*

    Re: Love the job but hate the boss– I worked for someone like that. The rest of senior management knew he was a problem, but it took 8 (out of the 10 of us in his division) of us quitting and citing him as a major reason for them to do something about it. I also suspect someone had a contact on the Board of Trustees and had a quiet word with them.

  87. LW#3*

    Hello all,
    Quick follow up from LW#3. While this letter was being reviewed by AAM, I took a chance & schedules time to talk with a member of the C-suite I have a strong relationship with. It went better than I could have even imagined! Leadership had some clue what was going on, but not the extent of it.
    I’m going to hold off on saying any more at this point but I do believe I was supported & taken seriously. Now…we wait and see if there’s any fallout. Good times! Of course, if it all goes south I will polish up the ol’ resume.

  88. NYC Grunt*

    #4 OP: I work for a major university that would absolutely send you to collections for outstanding balances. We have ~30k students (undergrad and grad). If everyone decided to stand on principle (I’m not even sure what the principle is in this case–most college ID offices make it pretty clear that there’s a fee attached to getting replacement cards even if you’re going from undergrad to grad programs–it’s only a surprise if you’re not paying attention) and refused to pay the $10 ID fee, that’s $300k that is rightfully owed to the school. I don’t understand why it’s wrong for a college to want their money.

    I’m honestly amazed by the things our students choose to double down on. One guy left college without graduating and had an actual tantrum because he was required to pay the $30 application fee to be readmitted so he could take his last class and graduate. Another student borrowed a book from the campus library, never returned it, and was shocked that the library expected him to pay the late fees. I mean, if the only thing standing between you and getting your diploma is a lousy couple of bucks and you’re not willing to pay it because of some nebulous principle, then I just don’t know what to tell you.

  89. larry*

    Hi! Truly speaking remote working is giving headache and opportunity at the same time. There is no boundaries, whenever they need assistance, they are asking directly. So, it is like flexible 24/7 of working on the same pay cheque. However, as there is flexibility and comfortable working situation without surveillance it is not a problem to do another task. I think it is not unethical if you want to work more, earn more, learn more, & progress more.

  90. EngineerMom*

    OP#1: Yikes! Being on the phone while driving is a fire-able offense at my company (large, older medical device company).

    It’s a safety issue that’s addressed in our first day training, and is repeated often, because it’s so dangerous to drive distracted.

    No meetings, zoom or otherwise, while driving! Period. And to say “I can’t attend that meeting because I will be driving” is completely legit, and should modeled often by management.

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