HR called employee’s wife about his bad behavior, should my employer pay for my flat tire, and more

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

1. Should HR ever call a spouse about an employee’s bad behavior?

This is a secondhand question, but I’m interested in your take.

Nora’s partner Nick works at ACME Corp; Nora does not work there. Nora notices that Nick seems to be in trouble at work, but Nick tells her that it’s because of petty procedural issues (failing to put the new cover sheet on TPS reports or whatever). Then one day, Nora gets a call from ACME’s HR informing her that Nick is being fired because he’s been sending explicit photos of himself to coworkers.

Should HR have contacted Nora? On the one hand, it doesn’t seem right for Nora to be in the dark about this. On the other, HR informing someone’s partner about a firing seems inappropriate in general — though perhaps the specific reason here is clearly Nora’s business in a way that “we’re firing Nick because he can’t comply with our new TPS documentation requirements” wouldn’t be?

Nora is a friend of a friend, so I don’t have a lot of details about exactly how HR framed it, but my understanding was that it was along the lines of “you deserve to know what’s going on with Nick.”

Nah, they overstepped. Nick’s employer has no business meddling in his marriage or reporting his activities to his wife, reprehensible as they may be. The appropriate response to Nick’s behavior was ending their employment relationship with him, which they did, not trying to ensure he faces consequences at home.

2. Should my employer pay for my flat tire?

I was on the clock on my way to a work event when I got a flat tire. I was close enough to the event location that I was able to park my car nearby and walk there. After the event, I called roadside assistance, a tow truck driver changed my tire, and I drove home and clocked out.

The tire cannot be repaired. I will find out tomorrow how much it’s going to cost to replace it. I told my boss about it, and she said I could leave early the next day to cut my hours, but she did not offer to pay for my tire. I work for a small organization with few written policies. Should they be responsible for at least part of the cost of replacing my tires?

Typically an employer wouldn’t cover something like this unless it was directly caused by the work you were doing — like if something you were transporting to the event damaged your car. A flat tire isn’t really linked to the event itself; you just happened to be on your way to a work function when it happened.

3. My managers are so upset I’m leaving that they’re taking time off to “deal with their feelings”

I work in a caring profession with a lot of vulnerable clients. I’ve been in this field for over a decade, dealing with funding cuts, and I’m now making the jump to another kind of role. Earlier this year I made a couple of attempts to get some support from management but they weren’t receptive. I was burnt out and it was definitely time to go. I’m team lead, not a partner or director, and I gave my full notice.

My colleagues are being lovely but my two managers have lost it — “disappointed,” “betrayed,” and taking time off to deal with their feelings. They haven’t made me a counteroffer or tried to talk about how to ease the transition or anything practical at all. So I’m not sure what their purpose is, except … I don’t know, to make me feel bad?

A few times I’ve tried to discuss something relating to handover and the discussion gets derailed into them saying, “Fine, we’ll just close the whole department because how will it function without you?” … with me just trying to redirect our talk back to practicalities. Can you suggest a script that would be a professional way of saying, “Knock off the guilt trips and treat your next employee better?”

Taking time off to deal with their feelings about your resignation? Dear lord.

The next time they say they should close down because they won’t be able to function without you, please respond with, “That would reflect terribly on the organization if it were true.” If you want to soften it you can add “which it’s not” … or you can just look at them for an awkward beat and then go back to whatever you were discussing.

With other forms of guilt-throwing, just say, “I have limited time remaining and we should really spend it focusing on the handover. So about XYZ…” If they won’t let up after that: “You know, I tried to talk with you about my concerns before deciding to leave, but I didn’t get anywhere. If you’d like feedback on what will help the next person stay, I’m happy to give it — let me know if so.”

Take this all as confirmation that you made the right decision.

4. Employee’s father is stalking her at work

I am still new as a manager and I have a lot to learn. I have an employee who has been at our company for several years. She is young and comes from a dysfunctional household. Her alcoholic, abusive father has been stalking her at our business and she seems understandably stressed. What can I do to help her?

Talk with her and ask! When you do, you should do three things: First, let her know you know the situation isn’t her fault and it doesn’t affect the way she’s perceived in any way (because people dealing with this sort of thing often worry they’ll be seen as a source of drama, even though they’re not the ones causing it). Second, lay out some options that she might not know she can ask for — things like ensuring no one at work gives out any info about her whereabouts to any caller, ensuring the front desk and security have a photo of her father and know he’s not allowed on the premises, having someone escort her to her car after work, removing any indications she works there from your website, letting her work from a less visible/accessible location if that’s an option, and giving her time off to deal with it legally if she needs to. (She might not want all or any of these things; the idea is to just let her know they’re available if she does, and without judgment.) Third, let her know this isn’t a one-time offer; if things change in the future and she needs additional help, she should come back to you and you’ll help however you can.

5. Pre-planned trips when you switch jobs

I wondered how you would approach negotiating vacation time with a new employer. I’ve just had a very positive second interview with a company I’m excited about, and was told they will be offering their final candidate the position within the next two weeks. The position is set to begin in December, but I already have out-of-town travel plans (with plane tickets booked) over Christmas and MLK weekend. I imagine that in this new job, similarly to my current position, during the first 3 to 6 months I won’t automatically be allowed any time off. If I’m offered the position, how should I negotiate these days off since they’re already booked? Do you have a script I can use? I don’t want to seem entitled, but after not traveling for two years, I really want to see my family!

Yes! The time to raise it is once you have an offer but before you’ve officially accepted. At that point, you’d just say, “I have two trips scheduled that I want to make sure will be okay — one on (dates) and one on (dates). I can of course take the time unpaid if I won’t have vacation time accrued yet, but I want to mention the dates up-front since the plane tickets were already purchased.”

People do this all the time, and companies are used it. And here is a whole guide to time off when you’re starting a new job.

{ 494 comments… read them below }

  1. Prefer my pets*

    Oh man, I know that technically the “correct” answer to #1 is that HR overstepped, but as someone whose ex-husband successfully lied to me for YEARS about his truly egregious behavior that no one ever disclosed to me, and then had to pay massive amounts of alimony to the bum because he could never hold then eventually get a job & we had crossed the magic 10 yr threshold by the time I found it all out & divorced in a no fault state….I just want to buy that HR person a fancy bottle of whatever she fancies.

      1. Mockingbird*

        And HR may have overstepped this time because they’ve seen this go badly before when they didn’t and regretted it. Or maybe Nick had such a pattern of lying as well as sexual harassment they knew Nora would never hear the truth. Or Nick is so tight with the old boy network he’ll have no trouble getting another job where he’ll do all this again and they snapped. Whatever their reasons, I agree they did the right thing by doing the wrong thing. And that Nora should stop talking about it so no one gets in trouble for it.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Or possibly this was a rogue HR employee who notified Nora on their own initiative (not at the company’s behest).

              1. Daisy-dog*

                100% a fireable offense for HR. Perhaps another position could get a last-and-final, but not HR.

              2. Roscoe*

                Yes it absolutely is. Going to someone outside the company is something that they should be fired for

              3. TechWorker*

                Ha, fair enough. All the people here saying it’s definitely the right thing to do are lucky they don’t work in HR then I guess.

                1. PollyQ*

                  @yala I don’t believe the HR person broke any law here. It might be a firing offense because it went against corporate policy, though.

                2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Oh, I know I’m lucky I don’t work in HR! That’s why I never showed any interest in a career in HR.

            1. Miami Beachbum*

              Sometimes you do things because you really feel its the right thing to do, even if it is technically the wrong thing to do in a work sense.

              1. Princesss Sparklepony*

                I think that would be the one situation where it would be permissible to tell Nora. If someone was flashing naughty photos of me, I’d like to know. Unless Nora has given Nick the go ahead to do so… seems like everyone has a kink…..

      2. Viette*

        Totally. If Nora is glad to know then she needs to zip it and do what she needs to do within her marriage. If she’s not happy to know, then she should have told HR that at the time that they called her. With Nora telling everyone ( a friend of a friend knows enough to write in to AAM), it’s ending up a messy public drama that’s probably not benefitting anyone.

        1. JustForThis*

          Nora may have desperately needed someone to talk to about the issue if the news came to her as a complete shock, and that one confidential talk with one friend may have then made the rounds. Or she wanted all her friends and acquaintances to know what a sleezeball her husband is and never thought about the implications for HR for a company she does not work for. I’d cut Nora some slack for who she talks with after getting a phone call that may have totally changed what she thought she knew about her husband and their marriage.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Word. If Nick didn’t want his dirty laundry aired he shouldn’t have sent pix of it to coworkers.

        2. dresscode*

          What a weird take! Nora didn’t do anything wrong here. Let’s not blame the victim. She’s totally within her rights to talk to whatever friends she wants to. She doesn’t even need to keep it private! She doesn’t owe anyone anything. Nick’s the one who needs to make amends, not Nora.

        3. Observer*

          f Nora is glad to know then she needs to zip it and do what she needs to do within her marriage. If she’s not happy to know, then she should have told HR that at the time that they called her.

          As a practical matter, you may be right As an ethical matter? I’m not so sure. Especially if she’s not happy – she doesn’t owe the HR folks anything.

          Which is another reason why HR needs to not reach out to people other than the actual employee when stuff goes bad. You simply have zero leverage or standing to expect any specific behavior form people.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That was how I took it too; as a personal favor to Nora. Is this proper process or a professional thing to do? Nope. Would I want to know if I were Nick’s partner? Hell yes. I would indeed handle it as I have handled any inside information in the past that was relayed to me at work (nothing criminal, things like a friend giving me pointers on how to keep my job when my boss/his friend had inexplicably put me on a PIP) – act on it in ways I need to, and keep my mouth shut about where I got the info from.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It does put me in mind of other workplace (within and between) scuttlebutt–that hiring managers can ask people in their network about you, rather than just the people you list as references.

          In a negative example, someone was cued in by a coworker that said coworker went to her book club and was told OP had just interviewed with another book clubber’s spouse. Where I both think that the interviewer should have kept his mouth shut and not told his wife who apparently wanted to broadcast it far and wide, but also that it’s the sort of thing work would shake their heads at. Like the manager working two full time jobs, you can consider it ethically wrong but also not worth getting excited over.

      4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Yes to Nora being discreet about HR’s heads-up to her! (Too bad her husband couldn’t have been more discreet about his desire to send X-rated photos – you know, discreet enough to recognize that it was a godawful idea that would get him fired.)

    1. Ally McBeal*

      Yep, this. The HR entity at the company overstepped, but the individual human who contacted Nora was doing Nora a huge favor.

      1. Nathan*

        Well-put. Alison gave the right answer as it pertains to HR and what makes sense within the confines of a business relationship. And it’s a slippery slope for sure; I don’t ever want to be anywhere near the document trying to outline under what situations it is and is not OK to “tattle” to a spouse about their significant other’s work behavior. But…as a person, *I* would want to know, and I would be grateful if I were told (given that I’d offer pretty good odds that Nick would just lie about it).

      2. EPLawyer*

        Or not. Maybe Nora knew and was hoping to keep everything from going public. Maybe Nora didn’t care he was doing this as long as he was bringing home a paycheck. Who KNOWS how Nora feels about getting the information.

        However, HR is supposed to keep information confidential. PERIOD. Unless someone’s actual life is in danger (or you know child abuse). But that’s it. And you notify the authorities or the possible victim. Not the spouse of the perpetrator. Letting a wife know her husband is sexually harassing people does not fall into either of those categories. If I had oversight over HR and found out they did this “for her own good” or “she deserves to know” the HR person would be following Nick right out the door.

      3. banoffee pie*

        If Nick’s actions were against the law, it might come out eventually anyway. I thought sending unwanted explicit pics can be a crime in some jurisdictions, or am I wrong?

        1. Kittykuddler*

          That was kind of my first thought. Maybe he was sending pics to minors? When my daughter was a teen she ended up reading pics with a married man she met in a video game chat. We ended up finding out when his wife discovered them and turned him in. He did time over it, and we almost had to fly out to testify at his trial.

      4. bamcheeks*

        “This is doing Nora a huge favour” is a MASSIVE assumption. Maybe Nora is glad to know! Maybe she isn’t! Maybe someone told her in the belief that they were doing her a favour, or maybe they told her in the belief that it was she’s got a responsibility to fix her husband’s bad behaviour or is somehow culpable for not keeping him in line. Maybe she’s just collateral in someone’s desire to see her husband suffer!

        It’s a really big leap to go from “I would want to know” to “this is so obviously a moral good that it’s worth ignoring my professional standards”.

        1. Observer*

          or maybe they told her in the belief that it was she’s got a responsibility to fix her husband’s bad behaviour or is somehow culpable for not keeping him in line.

          Yeah, I would totally no be surprised. A while ago there was a scandal about a Rabbi who was using his position to be a Peeping Tom. It was a gross situation. But almost as gross as the behavior was criticism that was lobbed at HIS WIFE. Somehow she HAD to be at fault. Some blamed her for enabling because “She had to know and did nothing”; “How could she not know. She must be a TERRIBLE wife and person.”; “She must have not been a very satisfying wife and so he needed to meet his needs this way”. (Which is multiple layers of gross.)

          It’s unfortunately possible that any of these ideas were at work here. Without knowing what HR actually said or how they framed it, we just can’t know.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I heard people saying similar crap about Dennis Rader’s (BTK Killer) wife after his arrest in 2005. They thought she should have known about the horrific things her husband was doing outside his family, church, and work time, despite the fact that he was very effectively compartmentalizing them.

            She did not know, and following his arrest, she was granted an emergency divorce with no waiting period.

            1. Distracted Librarian*

              Interesting. I didn’t realize this, and I wonder if it inspired Rachel Caine’s wonderful Stillhouse Lake series of thrillers about the wife of a notorious serial killer.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          It doesn’t matter if she’s glad to know or not. As someone who has been cheated on, and who also saw my family fall apart when my father cheated on my mother, you NEED to know if your partner is committing CRIMINAL ACTS, and you also need to know if they’re cheating on you, to protect YOURSELF. My father refused to come clean to my mother until their pastor said he’d tell her if Dad didn’t, and my mother cried basically nonstop for A YEAR – she was not happy to find out, because no one’s happy to find out their partner is doing awful things, but at least she could make decisions with the full picture in mind.

      5. George*

        Oh, I completely agree HR was right here, as a human. I had a friend who did me a similarly huge favor. When their company’s contract with their biggest client fell through, she called me and let me know so I could sell my stock in time. If she hadn’t, we’d have lost all our money and been out on the street! Think of our children! Sure, technically that was a huge violation and worthy of prison time, but as a human, she did the right thing.

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Are you sure that YOU like the idea of a family left bankrupt and homeless? Perhaps the real lesson here is not to put all your financial eggs in one basket; that way, if any one of them goes down the sinkhole, you still have enough to fall back on.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I’m assuming George’s comment was a joke. But if not… approving insider trading because it kept one well-off family* from being “bankrupt and homeless” is kind of messed up.

              *Well off enough that they could afford to invest in stock. Which is a far cry from many people who are on the verge of being bankrupt and homeless.

            2. Boof*

              I mean, by that logic, you can justify all kinds of terrible things “for the children”. Maybe don’t put money crucial for keeping up with food and shelter in stocks, then you won’t have to resort to illegal activities to “avoid family being homeless”???

          2. EPLawyer*

            They were using hyperbole to show that anything can be justified by claiming “it was the right thing to do.”

        1. AlwaysALurker*

          I don’t think this is a valid comparison. It is actually a violation of law to disclose insider financial information because it leaves room for collusion and corruption. HR divulging confidential information in this case is not a violation of law. It is arguably (as you have seen there is significant discourse on this) HR’s ethical obligation to not divulge this information but it is not illegal. However, this woman’s husband himself could have committed a crime – dependent on jurisdiction and desire to push charges by the victims. Sharing this information with the wife would not give her an unfair advantage on anyone but give her crucial information to make private decisions for her marriage. This is definitely a gray area and is not as stark of a violation as you present above.

        2. E Pendergast*

          Securities fraud harms many people to advantage a few. Telling a wife that her partner is a sex pest does not do that. It harms only the sex pest. They are both rules violations but the similarity ends there.

          1. Bamcheeks*

            It had the potential to harm the partner quite a bit. Many people would want to know; not everyone does.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          If you are suggesting that what this HR person did is on the same level of insider trading then I’m gonna have to vehemently disagree. Especially because while what they did likely violated company policies, it certainly didn’t violate any laws.

      6. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Yes, they were! And even though there’s no indication of this in the letter, I couldn’t help but wonder if the LW was sending those photos to underage people? If so, he hasn’t learned anything from Anthony Wiener’s downfall!

    2. Anon4This*

      Same here. I know Allison’s answer is technically right but when you are married to a liar you never know the real reason they keep losing jobs. You may suspect after a while that it must be something they are doing because no one gets fired that often, but you have no idea what it is. I would have been grateful to find out the truth, even if it was hard to hear.

      1. many bells down*

        I was married to a man who was fired from two different, unrelated jobs ON THE SAME DAY for sexually harassing women at both jobs. Yeah, I’ve been Nora and I wanted to know. (One of the jobs was with the same company I was at, but a different location, so my boss heard the story and told me)

        1. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

          I think it’s worth noting that all of the commenters who have an experience with this kind of thing are uniformly saying “she did the right thing by telling Nora.” Food for thought.

          1. EmbracesTrees*

            I agree that I’d want to know, absolutely. AND you can’t make a credible claim that this “must be right” because people who have had that experience are agreeing too.

            It’s soooo much less likely that people who have had that experience and preferred not to know or act like they didn’t know (for whatever reason) are going to publicly post that.

    3. tamarack & fireweed*

      I think that HR (in their function of HR) has absolutely 100% no business doing what they apparently did, and should face consequences for it.

      If however an employee, who might happen to be in HR, has met Nora socially around work, and privately, on their own time and initiative, tells Nora what went down then I would think differently and would even close an eye about consequences for the blabby employee.

      I really think that upholding proper roles here is the priority that would only be overridden if we’re talking about saving a life or preventing a tragedy. Lying to your partner and committing sexual harassment at work is bad, for sure, but in the absence of indications of danger for Nora is, as far as she is concerned, a crappy personal situation that probably most of us will in some shape or form have to handle.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I would not close an eye to the blabby person just because they might have had a personal relationship with Nora. Even if they did it on their own time, they still blabbed information they know ONLY as a consequence of their confidential work in the company.

        Where do you draw the line? Oh, my best friend’s husband is going to get that promotion they’ve been waiting for, let me tell her, including all the new perks he will be getting? Or, oh hell, we know layoffs are coming, let me meet my friends at the company for drinks and warn them.

        HR stuff is confidential. REGARDLESS of your relationshp with the person affected by the information.

        1. Boof*

          There’s no indication the work is confidential; similarly, coworkers and employees have a right to be treated respectfully, but not confidentially (except when being confidential falls under respect ie you don’t blab someone’s medical details for time off everywhere). Confidentiality usually only applies to things like attorney client or doctor patient privilege. It doesn’t even apply to HR/mandatory reporters; they are in fact obligated to report certain types of bad behavior even if the victim asks them not to. They can keep it as confidential as possible but they can’t just not report some stuff (ie, sexual harassment, discrimination, etc) once they know about it. Not to coworkers bad behavior.

        2. Observer*

          I think that the slippery slope argument can be taken too far. Sometimes you just have to exercise judgement.

        3. curiousLemur*

          You’re assuming that this is confidential. In some companies, this information might have been common knowledge. I mean, he was sending pics to co-workers – what are the odds that none of them mentioned this to anyone other than HR?

          1. EPLawyer*

            Just because everyone else is talking about does not relieve HR of their duty of confidentiality. HR keeps their mouths shut about things that go on in HR. Sure they talk about benefits and pay. But the decisions AROUND those things, and things like why someone got fired ARE CONFIDENTIAL. It is NOT for HR to decide to talk about outside the company.

            Everyone is trying to justify this because its a guy being gross. That is not an exception to confidentiality.

            1. Disco Janet*

              Legally, it’s not. Ethically, yes, lots of people are fine with it. I hear that you’re very upset about that, but I don’t think the capslock is changing anyone’s mind.

        4. tamarack & fireweed*

          Um, if it *was* confidential, then sure. My assumption was that everyone on the floor knew about Bob sending around dick pix.

        5. Anonymous Today*

          The thing is, this is a closed circle. No one at work is being given confidential information about the job. The promotion example is based on the person continuing to work there. The layoffs pertain to current employees. Nick no longer works there and his wife apparently never did. As long as HR doesn’t disclose the names of the people to whom Nick sent the photos, I see no problem.

          Would this mean that if someone from a potential future employer called the company and asked about Nick’s time there, HR would have to lie and say what, exactly?

      2. Jackalope*

        Maybe this isn’t what you meant, but I disagree that most of us will have to handle getting the news that our partner has been sexually harassing multiple coworkers.

      3. Roscoe*

        The problem is, by turning a blind eye, you can’t be sure the next time they blab that it will be something you as ok with them gossiping about. Sure a lot of people can go “well, personally, I would love to know this”, but that doesn’t make it right. What about next time when something is diclosed that is a lot more questionable?

    4. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I see this as one example of when “technically the correct thing to do” is not, in fact, the correct thing to do. Been there, dodged the big bullets (because I wasn’t married to the arse), and I too want to purchase a fancy bottle of whatever for HR.

      1. DataGirl*

        There’s ‘correct’ then there’s ‘right’ as in morally right- HR was morally right in this case.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Yep. My mother taught me never to lie, except when a lie could save someone’s life. Moral absolutism isn’t really a valid perspective in the world we currently live in.

    5. Kittymommy*

      Yeah. While HR probably shouldn’t have done what they did, I’m not getting that worked up about it.

      Sucks to be Nick.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it falls helpfully into the “overstepping, yet not illegal” framework. Work doesn’t need to keep the reason they fired you secret. They don’t even need to wait to be asked.

      With all the letters about how work oversteps into personal relationships in bad ways, it’s nice to even the scales a bit with one where work didn’t have to say anything but gave someone a heads up. Though as TiredMama says: Keep your mouth shut, Nora. Someone tried to do you a solid here.

    7. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

      As the daughter of a father who was fired for looking at porn at work and successfully hid it from our family for a bit….. I honestly can’t say I disagree with what HR did here. These kind of shitty men do everything they can to keep innocent, dependent parties in the dark.

    8. Alice*

      I feel the same, I know this is the correct answer but I’m glad Nora got a heads up… That said, it’s a second hand story so we don’t know how HR framed it. We don’t even know if it was an official call from HR or an employee privately contacting Nora (possibly because they had also received indecent photos from Nick). We don’t know how the story may have been changed by the retelling. So I’m not sure how helpful it is to speculate about the details, when we know so little.

      1. Can't Think of a Name*

        That’s what I was thinking – what if the employee who called, called because they (or one of their work friends) had been on the receiving end of the harassment? Not saying that it’s professionally the right thing to do, but it makes sense as to why the person’s judgment is clouded.

        Definitely on the side of, technically not the right thing professionally, but on an interpersonal level, I think they did a good thing.

        1. Leg MIA*

          What, no. Victims get to talk about their experiences to whoever consenting person they want – there’s no clouded judgement in talking to the perpetrator’s spouse.

    9. Meep*

      I think considering Hubby could have a harassment suit against him, HR informing Nora was a very good idea. If it was an affair, maybe not, but yes, please report the sexual predator to the wife.

    10. EmbracesTrees*

      I thought exactly the same thing! It may have been — okay, it was — overstepping professional boundaries, but WOW they did her a favor imo.

    11. Apricot*

      Absolutely 100% same. Every time someone writes a letter about catching their boss/coworker/whoever cheating and Alison advises just staying out of it and minding their business, I know she’s right, but I still die a little inside that the cheater is being enabled and my heart breaks for the person being cheated on. Professionally, I get that HR overstepped. Personally, I’m Team HR on this one.

    12. e271828*

      I’d want to know if my partner was sending crotch shots or, indeed, harassing other workers in any way. I understand the reasoning behind the reply, but I would want to know from a third party.

    13. ErinWV*

      Has anyone seen the movie The Apartment from 1960? There’s a philandering bossman who at one point fires his secretary for telling his current girlfriend that she, the secretary, was one of his past girlfriends and identifying who the other ones are in the company. He’s like, if you can’t be discreet, you’re fired. So she goes to her phone, calls his wife, and gives her the what’s-what before she leaves. I kind of feel like this situation is similar to that one. Someone is tired of Nick getting away with this stuff.

    14. GlitsyGus*

      I was also thinking if the photos were OF Nora (rather than Nick sending dirty selfies) HR may have technically overstepped, but I would still want to know if I was Nora.

      It is one of those “yes, there is the technically correct answer, but I can think of a lot of extenuating circumstances that would shade my opinion there.”

  2. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    LW1: I understand the appeal of a blanket employer should not contact spouse policy but this is one of those grey areas where the spouse is better off knowing the truth.

    LW2: They should be paying you per km or covering incidental costs for all travel for work related travel on the clock. If you had not done this travel for work you would not have got this flat tire during a work related activity.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But is “the spouse is better off knowing” really the right framing, and if so, where do you draw the line? The spouse might also be better off knowing her husband was mouthing off to clients and in danger of getting fired, putting the family’s income at risk/having an emotional affair with a coworker/failed a drug test/is gambling at lunch, but I’m pretty sure most people wouldn’t think HR should call a spouse about those things. (I feel like this sounds snarky, but it’s a genuine question!)

      1. Prefer my pets*

        For me, who was the wife in a similar situation, the lines are:
        -anything that’s egregious EEO (eg, sexual harassment)
        -criminal even though they opted not to file charges (eg, embezzlement, fraud)
        -drug or alcohol abuse

        Those are all in a very different category in regards to what that person had become that they might be successfully hiding from their spouse than things like “just not good at the job” “late too often” “screwed up on this procedure because they never pay attention”.

        Obviously I’m not the person the letter is about, but if some kind soul at any one of the places my ex was fired from would have told me the REAL reason he wad fired (his case was most commonly drugs or calling out “sick” for affairs) instead of me just believing whatever reason he told me, I would have saved years of my life & over $50k in alimony. Oh, and an STD that caused permanent damage (how I finally started figuring it out).

        1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

          I would have saved years of my life & over $50k in alimony. Oh, and an STD that caused permanent damage (how I finally started figuring it out).

          I posted my reply below before seeing this, but dear god
          I mentioned affairs but i never thought of STDs and years of time :(

        2. banoffee pie*

          I’m really sorry to hear that. I feel like people forget about STDs a lot when affairs are mentioned. I agree with your ‘red lines’: drugs, criminal stuff, sexual harrassment. HR may not be technically ‘supposed’ to tell, but as the spouse I would be very grateful if they did tell me. I think emotional affairs are hard to define and it would be hard to justify HR calling a spouse about one. Plus the person being told might well not believe it anyway.

        3. Artemesia*

          I too understand the answer but it is the kind of information that some kind soul ought to let his wife know so she doesn’t spend another decade not getting the whole story as he goes from failure to failure because the world is so unfair to him.

      2. Coder von Frankenstein*

        I’m not sure where to draw the line, exactly, but a couple of things that feel relevant to me:

        1. It’s germane to the husband’s firing–that is, HR has a legitimate reason to be concerned with the matter in the first place (unlike, say, gambling at lunch).

        2. There is hard (hah) evidence and a clear violation. We aren’t talking about something vague and hard to pin down like an emotional affair.

        3. It is also directly relevant to the marriage, unlike mouthing off to clients.

        I’d be really uncomfortable trying to write a policy for When To Tell The Spouse, but if I had to make the call in a specific case, those would be things I’d consider.

        1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I would expand n. 3 to say that it’s relevant to the marriage in a way that, say, an affair is not.
          If Nick was having sex at work, it’s not a coworker’s/boss’s/HR’s place to tell the wife because they do not know the specifics of the marriage. But sexual harassment via explicit pics does not fall into the same category, and has the potential for legal consequence. I think it’s this latter point, the legal consequences, that makes the difference for me, although I would not write a policy for When To Tell The Spouse either. This is probably one of those exceptional cases in which doing a good thing meant breaking the rules, and it should remain an exception.

          1. BethDH*

            Yes, I think legal consequences are a pretty clear example of how unsolicited explicit pictures are different from the affair, and the “unsolicited” part means it can’t just be a decision they made in their marriage.

        2. NerdyKris*

          I’d think about it this way: Who else are you calling? If they don’t have a spouse, their girlfriend? Their parents? Siblings? Friends? Why is the spouse special in this scenario?

          It’s just a giant boundary violating can of worms and HR needs to stay out of their employee’s personal relationships. It’s none of their business.

          1. JB*

            Exactly. And there are so many additional variables that a random HR person is not going to know, especially if they don’t know Nora/the spouse. And the fact is that if we treat this as a normal or even heroic thing to do – what next when someone vindictive chooses to lie about it? Say a bullying, abusive boss finds out an employee is job-searching, and retaliates by firing them and calling their spouse to give them this kind of explanation? If the norm is ‘well, that’s fine to do if true, because the violations to the spouse are so extreme’ then that gives people in the workplace (who we often cannot choose to interact with or avoid) a lot more permission to move into our personal lives. There simply isn’t any personal matter on which HR or a supervisor should be encouraged to act as a babysitter.

            It’s one thing if someone at the company is personally acquainted with Nora and tells her in a personal capacity, but I really don’t think it’s good that the HR person did this if they didn’t know Nora at all.

            1. Colette*

              Yeah, agreed.

              (And frankly, anyone could call up someone, say they’re in HR at their husband’s work, and that he was doing X – there is no way for the spouse to validate that.)

              And again, Nora doesn’t work there. HR doesn’t know if they’ve separated or anything else about their relationship. And they shouldn’t, because she doesn’t work there and it’s none of their business. But when they share upsetting news that they have no business sharing, they don’t know that the context for her hearing that news is, or what the impact will be on her.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I think a reasonable line is someone who is legally entangled with this person. In slightly different circumstances, telling the business partner about personal behavior that could damage the business if it got out. (Vague memory here of a previous letter: small business owner who had just discovered her partner was having an affair with the husband of a big client.)

            1. NerdyKris*

              By that logic should they also be consulting the spouse about any pay raises or changes in compensation? Of course not. It’s none of their business. You’re imagining a scenario where it has a good ending, but consider a scenario where it’s someone with an abusive spouse that you’re now feeding information to.

              1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

                This reminds me of an article of Alison’s that was published on Slate talking about how in one company people would take turns devil’s advocating any new idea till it was dead.

              2. yala*

                Are pay raises or changes in compensation likely to wind up with criminal charges against their spouse?

                As for the possibility of feeding information to an abusive spouse, in this case, the guy seems to be the abusive one. I mean, it’s not necessarily always a “only one person” thing, but the dude is sexually harassing coworkers, which kinda seems abusive to me.

                1. Pennilyn Lot*

                  We know absolutely nothing about the person’s spouse in this scenario, and frankly the fact that one spouse is a shitty person doesn’t inherently mean that the other isn’t. You cannot make an assumption that they won’t react aggressively or abusively, and the fact that you can’t make that assumption is why you can’t have a policy of HR doing things like this.

          3. Jackalope*

            I think Prefers My Pets above gave some obvious examples of why a spouse is different. A spouse is legally joined in financial ways that other family members are not. The legal consequences for them of having a partner who is breaking the law are much different than for a parent or sibling. And if their spouse keeps losing jobs because of EEO reasons they will be affected directly. Not to mention the risk of things like STDs.

            1. NerdyKris*

              I do not think my employer should be concerned about sexually transmitted diseases I may or may not have. That’s so not their business.

            2. Librarian1*

              But if we’re including the risk of STDs, that applies to any sexual partner, not just a spouse.

        3. Hiring Mgr*

          Think of the people in your HR dept now.. Do you want them making those decisions on what is/isn’t worthy of a call to the spouse?

      3. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        I get where your coming from and why you have a blanket employer should not contact spouse/family viewpoint but there are times that behaviour should not be procedurally swept under the rug, even in the name of professionalism. This is divorce level betrayal, heck it could involve legal consequences.

        That said i do understand where you are coming from that where should the line be. Frankly its subjective, such as affairs. I don’t like subjective (despite my reply on this issue) but at times there isn’t a much better objective standard. For example a spouse would want to know if an employee was taken to the hospital (whether the reason is work related injury or unrelated stroke or seizure or whatever).

        So perhaps thats the line, illegality. The rest is hard to blanket policy imo. That said i mostly agree with you that an employee’s business is between them and their employer but there are rare exceptions imo.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          With the hospital, that comes down to a next of kin contact, which is different than a “thought you should know” contact. Next of kin contact is made when the employee is not able to speak for themselves – if they’ve been carted off in an ambulance, or are stuck somewhere without communication, or if they’re missing and you’re trying to figure out if they’ve walked off the job or are incapacitated.

          I could maybe see a next of kin contact if an employee has been exhibiting significant changes in mental state that might mean dementia or something. But you don’t contact a next of kin to let them know somebody is a total glassbowl, or has been fired, or has been arrested.

          1. Anonomatopoeia*

            I don’t know, maybe arrested. I mean, if they just got carted off from the office, I can see someone calling the spouse to let them know.

        2. metadata minion*

          I think one major difference in the case of an employee being taken to the hospital is that the employee would presumably want the spouse to know, and in fact probably filled out some kind of designated emergency contact form for exactly this sort of situation.

        3. EPLawyer*

          But it’s not the company’s job to decide ANYTHING about their employee’s marriages. Oh it could affect the marriage. So could a promotion, demotion, denial of vacation, ANYTHING. It’s not for the company and it is definitely not for HR to be making decisions about what the “spouse should know because it can affect the marriage.” The spouse does not work there. Therefore, the company should not be giving out any information any more that the company should call up a random person and say “hey did you know Nick got fired for sending dick pics?”

          1. 6101*

            We just had someone fired for egregious and very public sexual harrassment at a work function. It’s a small industry and word got round very quick and his wife heard about it. She called the employer to verify if he had been fired for sexual harrassment and was told to ask her husband. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. The HR person at our end would definitely have been summarily dismissed for any other answer. HR is absolutely not responsible for anyone elses marriage

            While I can kind of understand some of the emotions with people feeling for the wife in this situation and the HR person, I agree that HR should not be releasing any information at all. It would also be a breach of privacy laws in the jurisdiction I live in and the employer could get fined for it.

        4. JB*

          It’s not ‘sweeping it under the rug’. Your spouse’s employer is not your spouse’s babysitter, and if you WANT them to be, that’s an internal problem you need to solve within yourself.

      4. Zan Shin*

        My thought was: full agreement that HR shouldn’t have called….if it were egregious enough for the company or affected workers to report it to the police or to file suit, the partner would be notified by those relevant parties.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Well, that doesn’t really hold up. Plenty of serious sexual harassment (and assault, not that that’s what happened here) doesn’t get reported to the police or lead to a lawsuit.

          1. tamarack & fireweed*

            Well, the point is, this didn’t happen here.

            And if this was about something more serious such as sexual assault then the failing of the company would not be to neglect to tell the spouse, but to neglect to call the police. (And as I said above, if the police is called and immediate action is taken, or if there appears to be a continued danger from this person – eg, brought a gun to work, police is called, and he flees – then I could condone calling the next-of-kin to prevent harm.)

              1. tamarack & fireweed*

                It may have been, but then the duty of the company would be to call the police, not to inform the wife.

          2. AuroraPickle*

            Nothing in the letter talked about the photos being unsolicited. Maybe Nick’s coworkers wanted the pictures and maybe there were multiple firings. Yes, that’s weird! Weirder stuff has happened.

            1. iliketoknit*

              Although if the coworkers wanted the pictures, I don’t know why the employer/HR would be involved at all? You don’t call HR about dick pics you wanted to receive.

      5. Cmdrshpard*

        I think a general line could be causing severe harm to others and/or criminal/illegal behavior, I admit I am having a hard time defining it.

        Mouthing off to clients no real harm no need to inform. Physically attacking a client, inform the spouse.

        Sending sexually explicit photos to coworkers causes severe harm, in a different way that i don’t think repeatedly asking a coworker out or hitting on them has the same effect.

        A person being fired for theft/embezzlement inform the spouse. A person fired for not following the proper reimbursement process no need to inform.

        1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          You came up with better examples than I could! I agree with these. They also underline the exceptional nature of the situations in which contacting the spouse can be acceptable.

        2. KHB*

          If he physically attacked a client or embezzled money from the company, presumably the company would call the police, and the spouse would (I’m assuming) ultimately find out that way.

          What makes these particular circumstances so slippery is that they’re not necessarily severe enough to involve law enforcement, but they’re objectively icky enough to make a significant percentage of people (judging by the comments here) think, “This person’s spouse really ought to know about this.”

          I’ll admit to being on the fence about this. When I first read the letter this morning, my knee-jerk reaction was “of course HR was right to tell Nora.” Now, I’m not so sure. This may be one of those issues where there’s no single obviously correct answer, and different people can reasonably make different judgement calls.

          1. Observer*

            f he physically attacked a client or embezzled money from the company, presumably the company would call the police, and the spouse would (I’m assuming) ultimately find out that way

            Actually, no. It happens surprisingly often that the police does NOT get called. Especially for the monetary stuff.

      6. Monte*

        While there’s a BIG part of me that wants to tell the spouse, I don’t think “the spouse is better off knowing” is the right framing because HR has no relationship with the spouse. HR’s relationship is entirely with the employee and employer. I think it feels weird to me because it makes me think of therapy, which is of course a totally different relationship (confidentiality being key to the work). But the similarity is that a relationship with one individual does not involve any others at all. So I suppose it feels like a breach of trust, because as you asked, where is the line? HR isn’t a person making individual ethical choices, it’s a specific part of an employment structure with particular roles that may include protecting the company and/or employees but doesn’t include the spouse at all (outside beneficiary choices, and all those conversations still go through the employee). And while I could understand and even excuse an HR person making this call to the wife, (because honestly most of us probably agree that it’s better for her to know in general – I’d certainly be tempted to make that call), HR has no standing to make that call. And I wonder if such a call could undermine HR’s role.

        1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

          Forget standing, as George Bernard Shaw once said: The only secrets are the secrets that keep themselves. Helping someone sweep their malfeasance under the rug under the guise of professionalism is not a good standard.
          This is not a difference of opinion between employee and boss, this is activity that could get the law involved.
          Above another poster mentioned there were affairs and STDs involved, leading to permanent medical harm to the innocent spouse.

          Therapy is a different animal, that is about someone hoping to improve themselves by dealing with their emotional traumas by being able to safely reveal their personal thoughts and feelings.
          Even then there are limits, court order, risk of suicide, physical harm to others, threats to a minor, abuse and so forth.

          1. Colette*

            “Not going out of your way to tell someone not directly involved” is not the same as sweeping something under the rug.

            I understand the wife would probably want to know; I don’t think it’s HR’s responsibility to tell her – any more than it’s their responsibility to tell the partner of his victims, even though they’d probably like to know, too. HR should only be in contact with the spouse of an employee if the employee is unable to do so (e.g. they collapsed and are en route to the hospital).

      7. TiredMama*

        I hope HR realizes that telling Nora is at least as likely to backfire (accepting spouse’s explanation (HR has a crush on me) and attacking HR is easier than accepting your spouse is sexually harassing a co-worker) as it is to save Nora from STDs, bad divorce, etc.

        The line is tough. But I wouldn’t be mad about HR calling the spouse for criminal/sexual harassment. As for where I would draw the line on the questions:
        The spouse might also be better off knowing her husband was mouthing off to clients and in danger of getting fired (no), putting the family’s income at risk/having an emotional affair with a coworker (no)/failed a drug test (yes)/is gambling at lunch (no but maybe yes if there is more happening that just gambling at lunch) . . .

        1. KHB*

          “I hope HR realizes that telling Nora is at least as likely to backfire (accepting spouse’s explanation (HR has a crush on me) and attacking HR is easier than accepting your spouse is sexually harassing a co-worker) as it is to save Nora from STDs, bad divorce, etc.”

          If I were in the HR person’s shoes, I think I could be at peace with that outcome. The goal in telling her wouldn’t be “make sure that Nick suffers further for his behavior,” but rather “let Nora have the relevant information, and let her do with it what she will, because after that, it’s out of my hands.”

        2. AndersonDarling*

          I’m in alignment with you in regards to STDs and possible harm to the wife. We also don’t know what these explicit photos were. They could have been dic-pics, or pics of Nick with other women, or pics of Nick with his wife.
          I believe the motivation of HR calling Nora was to notify her that her husband has indicated his risky behavior and Nora should know her own health is at risk, to notify Nora that a lawsuit may be coming, and to let her know the content of the photos.
          To me, this falls in the category of work contacting a spouse to let them know the employee’s personality or cognitive functions have suddenly changed in a way that indicates a major medical issue.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            To me, this falls in the category of work contacting a spouse to let them know the employee’s personality or cognitive functions have suddenly changed in a way that indicates a major medical issue.

            That’s not a good analogy. My spouse’s major medical issue (presumed) is something 1. I need to know about and 2. he may not be able to tell me, if his cognitive issues or personality changes prevent it.

      8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Wondered this elsewhere – what if the person who called Nora was one of the employees that Nick was sexually harassing, and they stated that they were employed by same company just so Nora didn’t think they were some random crazy person?

        1. KHB*

          I think the difference here is that the individual harassment victims would be unlikely to have Nora’s contact information (unless they’re friends/acquaintances with Nora outside of work, in which case they can tell her whatever they want), whereas HR would.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If both Nick and Nora are on Facebook, it’s not difficult to track one of them down if you know the other one.

      9. Batgirl*

        As a former betrayed spouse, it’s not anything to do with the income issue at all! She’ll know about the income issue when he gets fired. It’s the criminal sexual behavior which she might never learn about and which could (which definitely will) directly harm her. I don’t think people understand how abusive this level of infidelity and secrecy is within marriage. You are constantly gaslighted on everything, even what day of the week it is. You think you’re going crazy. You are in a financial and legal agreement that only you are holding up. No one would think twice of informing her if he were defrauding her of money. I don’t think it’s a responsibility employers owe spouses at all…but I can’t criticize it when it happens.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          I hated being Nora. I had a gaslighter in the Husband 1.0 position. (People were “jealous of him” because he had such a good rapport with coworkers- yeah, tight with the GOB network, and free to harass the “girls”, because-’80’s, right?) So Nick’s belt couldn’t find closure, and his pants were afraid of heights. I would have thrown myself over a deep chasm to rescue someone who gave me this information.
          But that’s not what HR is for, and sadly, this individual screwed up.

          BTW, Nicky, your prize cucumber isn’t as unique as you think. According to an acquaintance who has, shall we say, seen most of the cucumbers in the garden- they’re all pretty much the same. She’s young, early thirties, and she hates it when she gets any of these photos, (and is supposed to guess whose cucumber she’s looking at.)

        2. Data Analyst*

          Right! It’s different than just being sort of creepy, or being unfaithful…it’s criminal and predatory and the person doing it is very unlikely to come clean to their partner, so it’s very important information that she is unlikely to just find out on her own. I think that’s the line for me (on the side of telling).

      10. Amaranth*

        I’m uncomfortable with the idea of calling a spouse unless there is violence or the threat of violence – and really, if that’s the situation, shouldn’t the police already be involved and given the contact information?

        I can understand why some people say ‘well, I’d like to know if my spouse is cheating’ but what if HR is actually passing report of an affair to an abusive spouse?

        1. Risha*

          It is also not uncommon for a spouse to prefer not to know and/or to know and not care. I don’t understand those people (well, I can get there empathy-wise for the first), but everyone knows someone who’s lost a friend by telling them about their spouse’s affair, etc.

          1. Batgirl*

            I know a woman who overlooked her husband’s statuatory rape of a teenage girl. She got a little uncomfortable when their daughter had sleepovers, but not enough to kick him out. She also threw some people under the bus to help keep his secret. She was completely under his control by that point of the marriage, which is something people don’t understand about this type of marital abuse. I still don’t think it was wrong that she was informed. I don’t think preventing another situation like that is to pre-emptively keep secrets, or to assume that all betrayed spouses are like her. Many people are very glad know and are still in a position to act to secure their safety.

          2. Colette*

            Yeah, a lot of people say they’d want to know, and a lot of people don’t believe it when they find out.

        2. hbc*

          I agree. Whether the spouse wants to know is pretty much immaterial to whether HR should call, or at least a minimum that’s insufficient. Given all the gross inferences people make about opposite sex friends, I can only imagine the kinds of “helpful” calls could be made because a couple of coworkers go offsite for lunch regularly or something.

          Frankly, if it’s not something you would report to the police, you shouldn’t be calling spouses or partners or parents.

      11. Bagpuss*

        I think you could draw a line between criminal and non-criminal behaviour.
        Which (at least in the jurisdiction where I live) would include sending unsolicited obscene pictures)
        Of course that would mean that there were other things such as an affair, which would not be disclosable, but has the benefit of being pretty clear.

        1. BabyElephantWalk*

          At the point that the behaviour is criminal though, should HR not be notifying the police? At which point the question of whether the spouse will find out likely becomes moot.

      12. Cheese and Rice*

        Putting myself in HR’s shoes, I would say “the spouse is better off knowing” when the spouse it at risk of STDs. For example, if I knew that the husband had got a member of staff pregnant I would definitely tell the spouse – so that they would know to go to the doctor. Just sending nude photographs probably wouldn’t cross the line, but it would very much depend on my knowledge of the employee. HR may have heard rumours that he’d taken things further than just photos. From my perspective it’s not about punishing the husband or trying to cause consequences for him at home. It’s about giving his spouse the information they need to protect their health, like shouting ‘Watch out!’ when a light fitting drops out above the conference table. To me it’s the kind of thing that falls outside of ‘work related’ and becomes ‘general civic duty’ at a certain point. In most cases I’d say photos don’t cross the line, but I don’t know what HR knew so I wouldn’t say it’s 100% off the cards. STDs can cause a lot of harm.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          like shouting ‘Watch out!’ when a light fitting drops out above the conference table.

          Right, this is where I fall on this issue too. Yes, it is generally not appropriate to yell out in meetings. But I’m not going to go around saying, “they knew the rules, they had to stay quiet in a meeting, falling chandelier or no”. But I admit it’s cultural with me. I spent the first almost-30 years of my life in a country where, at a minimum, no one would have made it through a day if they followed all the rules and laws of the place; and where, at certain points in history, you could get your friends, neighbors, or colleagues jailed or killed if you followed the laws to a T, and reported to the authorities everything they told you to report. It lends to developing a certain mentality, that then stays with you. I understand completely that most people born and raised in the US do not have this mentality. It’s all good. But I do.

        2. EPLawyer*

          but you don’t KNOW the hsuband has been passing on STDs. In this case, all we have are he sent sex pictures. Not that he actually DID anything.

          The light fixture is completely different. There is an obvious danger of imminent physical harm to someone. With Nick, it’s all speculation that maaaaybe he could take STDs home. Or maaaaybe Nora has been kept in the dark and “would want to know.”

          HR doesn’t get to make these speculations. Their job is confidential for a reason.

          1. Amaranth*

            Also, I think this is more about the HR person wanting to either strike out at Nick or feel better about themselves. Its rather self-righteous to determine that the partner needs to know about ‘bad behavior’ – was this harassment or texting an accidental d-pic while trolling grindr? One should involve law enforcement, the other some blunt discussion about use/abuse of technology. From this call the partner would only know that someone wants Nick in trouble, not how legitimate the claim is — it sounds like Nick had other problems at work and anything could have been the last straw. Its also a bit strange to me that someone from HR would call to say he is “being fired” instead of “was fired.” Were they walking him out the door as HR breathlessly contacted the partner, or had Nick just been called into a meeting to be told? Since the LW is several steps removed the details are probably not completely accurate, but it just strikes me as odd.

      13. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        If I had to fire someone for indecent behaviour, I’d definitely feel a desire to let their partner know. I wouldn’t do it though. Likewise for harassment, sexism/racism/antisemitism/homophobia etc. I’d WANT their partner to know what kind of dipstick they’re involved with but again, I wouldn’t do it.

        The only exception I would make would be for something that has also involved the police removing the person from the premises. I think I might give them a heads up that their partner is a) out of a job and b) the next call they’ll get is likely to be from the police station.

        This is a very high bar though as I’ve only ever been involved in one incident involving someone being arrested/fired/computer assets taken by forensics in one day and it was really, really horrific what that guy had been watching on his computer. I don’t know HR called his family but I kinda hope they might. So that’s my personal line.

        1. londonedit*

          I’m wondering where the line would be on this in terms of GDPR? Obviously HR can use a spouse’s phone number to call them as next of kin in an emergency, but could they legally take a phone number out of someone’s employee file to ring them about their partner being fired? Aside from that I think I also come down on ‘I’d be so tempted to let their partner know, but I wouldn’t do it’. I just don’t think it’s something an employer should be getting involved with – they’ve fired Nick, that’s where their involvement ends.

          1. parsley*

            I’m pretty sure GDPR relates specifically to information used for marketing purposes, I don’t think it would be relevant legislation here.

            1. londonedit*

              Hmm OK maybe the wrong legislation, but are there privacy issues? I know I’ve given permission for my employer to contact someone in the event of an emergency, but I sure as heck haven’t given them permission to call my next of kin because I’ve had a run-in with my boss, or whatever. I also know that HR aren’t allowed to, for example, ask Accounts for my bank details even if that would make things easier for everyone – I have to give them the details separately because that sort of information isn’t allowed to pass between departments without explicit permission. So I was just wondering whether there would be some sort of privacy law/legislation/regulation/whatever that would prevent someone from digging out a phone number and calling in this sort of case.

            2. Birch*

              No, there are a lot of data processing regulations in GDPR, including for employers, universities, research data, government and public agencies, etc–it’s everyone who collects and uses data about people. It specifies different legal bases for processing data and ways to get that legal basis (just as an example, consent of a person is one way, accessing publicly available data for research in the public interest is another).

            3. bamcheeks*

              that is absolutely not true about GDPR! GDPR covers all personal data– what is held, how it is stored, and what it can be used for.

              And yes, if someone in HR had accessed Nick’s personal data in order to find out his wife’s name or contact details and then contacted her for something he hadn’t given permission for, he would have a pretty strong case against the company for a GDPR violation and could certainly take it to the ICO, who wouldn’t care whether it was in Nora’s interests to find out or not.

          2. Birch*

            I don’t know that GDPR is the best argument against this. The rules are so vague that they basically have to be interpreted with each case, and if it could be argued that Nick’s fireable actions put Nora in danger somehow, then I believe it would be above board as long as the original HR contact had a reason to have access to Nora’s phone number in the first place.

            1. Observer*

              From the limited interaction with GDPR that I’ve had, I suspect that Nick would most likely win the case unless there was something like strong evidence of ransom violence or the like. “Divorce level betrayal” would almost certainly not cut it. Even “possibly illegal behavior”, even though it would totally be ethically fair to give Nora the information she needs to protect herself.

              I’m not a lawyer or GDPR expert, but I’ve had to deal with basic compliance and this is my understanding.

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I feel like racism/antisemitism/homophobia doesn’t really fall under the same umbrella here. They are all awful – but people who are those things generally don’t work super hard to keep it from their wife the way that sexual harassers do. If a dude is racist there is a much higher chance his wife is aware of it (or at least thinks it is ok) than the guy sending dick picks to the interns.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          I agree with you – ultimately, the relationship is between the company (and thus HR) and the employee, NOT with the spouse. And in terms of liability, there’s a possibility that the employee could claim there was a breach of privacy, which could get the company in some hot water with the privacy commissioner (at least, where I live, this is a thing).

          If I were the HR person’s manager, I would have to fire them. They breached an employee’s privacy. Their judgement is now very much in question. HR HAS TO maintain confidentiality in order to have credibility within the organization.

          If the issue were so serious that the employee’s spouse was reasonably thought to be at risk of serious physical harm (eg. if HR was legitimately concerned that he might go and kill himself and family), then a) there would be someone senior approving going outside the organization, b) the call should have been first to the police, and c) only after that would the spouse be informed, presumably by the person’s manager or by a senior executive in HR.

          While many people would prefer to be told this kind of news rather than being kept in the dark, many other people would not believe it, would believe there was a personal vendetta against their spouse by the HR person (and would complain to the company about the HR overstep), etc. etc. So, there’s also an element here of putting on one’s own oxygen mask first – the HR person is in serious risk of the ex employee or their spouse complaining to the company about their breach of privacy.

      14. Thomas*

        The line our society tends to draw for where typical “say nothing” conventions stop applying is at direct physical harm. Whether that’s reasonable or not, that does tend to be the line we draw.

        And I would say in this case, it’s a matter of danger to the wife HR was contacting. If her husband is sexually abusive, and she’s lucky enough that hasn’t been directed at her yet, she needs to know before it is. Especially when the sexually abusive person she lives with has just gotten fired and is likely to be upset. At the very least, her health is at risk because of STI concerns.

        With that said it’s still a gray area … but it’s a gray area where the value of saying nothing is preserving a social convention and maybe protecting the company from some liability, and the value of saying something is radically improving this woman’s life and protecting her health. If I was in the position of the HR department, and I knew my official duty would be towards protecting the company against any chance of liability before her health and happiness, I’d take the risk of being reprimanded and do it. I don’t think I could live with myself as a human being otherwise.

        1. ecnaseener*

          But you’re making a leap from harassment to abuse. Sending unsolicited dick pics doesn’t mean he’s likely to be a danger to his wife.

          1. Victoria J*

            I think it’s always an issue if a partner does not have a clear concept of consent !

            Which is why I think the partner has more of a right to know about this than for an affair.

            Though ultimately I think it is not an HR decision and probably should be a legal one. As in this should have criminal consequences and the police or legal system should inform partners where crimes are violent or linked to lack of sexual consent.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Maybe he did not go from 0 to unsolicited dick picks in six seconds; being completely professional in his behavior one minute and then all of a sudden sending out a bunch of pics the next. Maybe there was more? BG: had a coworker who’d done some pretty heinous stuff, including repeatedly threatening a teammate, which for some reason was not enough to justify his being fired. I was afraid to come into work every morning because of that guy, as were others, but the HR was saying they couldn’t do anything. Maybe the photos were the first actionable/fireable thing Nick did. (My coworker was eventually fired for performance issues. They were never able to act on whatever harassment he’d done. It was not enough harassment or something?)

        2. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

          As the daughter of a man like Nick — thank you. Telling the wife was the right thing to do.

      15. Blisskrieg*

        Sending explicit photos would always be icky, but perhaps they felt the circumstances (or nature of the photos) was bad enough to be predatory, and she needed to know from a safety perspective. That’s where I would draw the line.

      16. SomehowIManage*

        At my old job, the CEO told us (an audience of a few hundred) about the time a few employees were fired for having sex at the office. (This story was in the context of stuff he hates having to deal with as CEO. No names were mentioned.) Apparently they were switching partners and using company IM to set up trysts. The wife of one of them called and demanded to know how he could be so heartless as to fire her husband right before Christmas, and he told her the reason. Apparently, her husband had lied and said he was laid off. What’s your take on whether he was right to tell her?

        1. Your local password resetter*

          That seems fine to me. The spouse inserted themselves into the work relationship and demanded information,so at that point you’re definitely free to share information IMO. While being proffesional about it of course.

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          I have no problem with this. The issue is who initiated the contact. In OP1’s case, HR, representing the company, did so. In this case, the spouse called the CEO. Once she made her incorrect (because her husband lied) statement, the CEO was free to share the correct information to protect the company.

        3. Boof*

          I don’t see that the company is under any obligation to lie or hide reasons for firing from anyone (partner, other employers, etc). Especially when it’s for cause. My sense is usually the reasons company don’t disclose is more for their own benefit (not wanting to deal with angry people, potential for [frivolous] lawsuits, potential for the manager to turn out to be the wrongdoer and then actual legitimate lawsuits, being allergic to firing people and so trying to get rid of them by “not giving them a bad reference”, etc).
          So yes if someone contacts the company with an obvious misunderstanding of the situation I don’t see any reason not to correct them.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          Absolutely fine with me. Just as if the fired dude applied somewhere else and that person called up the CEO to say “Hey, Bob applied, says the reason he left your employ was he burned too brightly for your eyes.”

          This one falls into my broad “Just because you want all the people who can see what you’re doing to keep it secret, they are not actually obligated to do that.” You want something to be secret, you cover it up better.

          No one writes to Alison about the question of revealing secret stuff they actually don’t even suspect.

        5. Observer*

          The wife of one of them called and demanded to know how he could be so heartless as to fire her husband right before Christmas, and he told her the reason. Apparently, her husband had lied and said he was laid off. What’s your take on whether he was right to tell her?

          That’s a very different scenario – SHE CALLED. She initiated the conversation, and made it personal. He could have gone the “we don’t discuss personnel matters with anyone but the employee” route and it would have been fine. On other hand, I don’t think that the CEO has that much of an obligation to the ex-employee that he had to not answer the question honestly under the circumstances.

      17. Your local password resetter*

        Its a blurry line, but it feels like it could easily stray into the “technically legal/correct but ethically bankrupt” category we sometimes see here.
        I think if it’s likely to cause direct harm to someone, you have a moral obligation to inform them.

      18. Rebekah*

        To pick an extreme example, if the husband were accused of sexually abusing children at work, and there was enough evidence to fire him, the wife needs to know if there are children in the home. And yes she might find out if he was arrested or it was reported to CPS, but investigations can take a long time during which they may not arrest the accused, or the victims might decide not to follow through on prosecution.

        Having established that there are some situations in which this would be appropriate, at that point it is just a gradient and likely everyone will draw the line in a slightly different place, but it isn’t automatically wrong to notify the spouse in case of misconduct.

        1. Batgirl*

          Yeah I mean ideally everybody knows who the criminal is because of the public nature of the court system. Because of protections on sex victims, its not always the case and a lot of sex stuff doesnt reach the court. I’d feel I was on solid ground outing someone as a criminal to anyone so long as I don’t identify victims.

        2. Victoria J*

          I think in that case it should be reported to social services who should deal with the partner too.

          There are also issues with reporting criminal matters that are ongoing sometimes – which actually make it more complicated and not more clear cut. For example there may be information that cannot be shared because it could allow someone to destroy evidence.

          (I’m in the UK so rules are very different but I assume it must still be an issue. There are specific laws preventing you telling anyone they may be under investigation for fraud. And when reporting safety concerns about children, vulnerable adults, etc. about the only time you don’t have a duty to inform the person is if it could lead to further harm or evidence being destroyed).

          And I’d expect our HR to treat staff basically the same way we treat service users. Where decisions are based on that risk of harm – but disclosure would be to social services not family members.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          And gradients and personal discretion and nuance are good things when people have to interact with each other.

        4. hbc*

          Or…telling the wife means she wipes all the child porn from the house before the police come calling, and HR has just become accomplices.

        5. Observer*

          the wife needs to know if there are children in the home.

          In case like that, the company needs to report to the police and then do what the police tell them. Because, as someone noted, it’s totally not unheard of for the spouse to support the perpetrator, rather than making the safety of the child(ren) the top priority. Which could lead to said child(ren) being at even greater risk.

      19. tamarack & fireweed*

        Yeah, for me the line would be preventing imminent danger to life or limb. And even with this line I would put it into the lap of the individual employee who knows about it, independently of their role, rather than on the company.

        Not merely lying, sexual infidelity, and sexual harassment at the non-criminal level. Also not stealing. Certainly not alcohol use- she’s probably better placed then the workplace to know about that one. Certainly not “she would be better off”- companies arent in the business of having judgements about the spouses of their employees this way.

        1. tamarack & fireweed*

          (If it’s something that would endanger actual people, on consideration the company has some responsibility. In the example of the previous commenter, if the company called the police on the husband about suspected child abuse, the police comes and questions him, and at the end of the day this ends with the company firing him and the police at least seeming to follow up, or even arresting him, then I would probably think it is just right for the company to call to the employee’s home and tell an adult there that they have called the police and that the husband is being questioned, and that they won’t provide further information because he doesn’t work there any more – & refer her to the police.)

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          It might not be life or limb, but a cheating spouse is endangering the health of their partner by not disclosing other partners. Plenty of women have contracted STD’s unknowingly from a partner who is taking zero care when sleeping around, and have to deal with those health problems for the rest of their lives.

          1. Boof*

            Yes I feel like if “physical threat” comes in to it, well sexual infidelity DOES carry a physical risk, so that doesn’t seem like the clear line others think it is.

          2. tamarack & fireweed*

            That sounds a little waffly to me. You don’t get an STD from sending out dick pictures. And spouse cheating is so extremely common that it’s not as if information from the employer made a dent in the information potentially available to the spouse.

      20. Victoria J*

        I think HR have no standing to break confidentiality here. The correct answer has to be no they shouldn’t do it.

        But I also think if it was possible for anything to change that – it would be this. It seems strongly implied that he sent unwanted explicit pictures (given the multiple “colleagues” and the fact that the organisation found out about it). And that’s a sleaze issue but also a consent issue. And I think anyone’s partner should really have the right to know if they are not clear on consent.

        I think the correct answer is probably that it should also be a criminal thing (whether or not it breaks a current law) and she should be informed at that point by police or the legal system. But in the mean time I’m another one who quite likes HR for crossing the line.

        Incidentally I knew someone whose husband got sacked, because he was alcoholic and no longer able to do his job while refusing the (substantial) support he was offered. And he just didn’t tell her. He left the house every day (for the pub!) and pretty much everyone knew but her. They were both Irish and living and working in England until they moved back to Ireland but to the smallish place he had grown up. So everyone knew him and she was an outsider. Horrible – particularly as it meant she missed out on a chance to try and intervene. (His employer technically did the right thing – the people who knew less formally did not).

      21. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I have an additional complication you need to considered before writing a policy saying to contact the spouse: Do a gender flip and check all assumptions.
        Some assumptions in today’s comments:
        -A woman is the victim
        -A man is the harasser.
        -The spouse is a reasonable person (ie not potentially violent)
        And yet, I would want to be told. This is thorny enough I’m reminded why I didn’t go into HR…and how glad I am that thoughtful people do.

      22. Not Today Satan*

        Sending unwanted explicit photos is abusive behavior, and like all sexually abusive behavior, the woman in his life deserves to know so she can protect herself.

      23. Falling Diphthong*

        For me, one line is whether the information is supposed to be a secret–I’d put the failed drug test in there, as something only the worker, manager, and whoever did the test should know.

        If the behavior is visible to everyone in the office (or the employee complained loud and long to anyone who couldn’t escape about how they were being fired because the drug test showed their meth fueled weekend and like that’s uncool) then we get into how humans are much less excited about their role as secret-keeping co-conspirator than the person failing to do something in a secret way imagines.

        Here, the information would be unsurprising coming from any of the people harassed, from co-workers who knew what was going on: HR adding themselves in there as one of the dozen people in the office who know what’s going down doesn’t bother me the way it would if the only people who knew were the employee and HR.

      24. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

        If he has children, the HR employee absolutely did the right thing in informing the wife that her husband is a sexual deviant. I speak from direct experience in a very similar situation as the daughter of said kind of creep.

        1. earl grey aficionado*

          I’d rather not throw around the term “sexual deviant,” thanks. Nick’s behavior is creepy and wrong but the phrase “deviant” is extremely loaded (toward LGBTQ people especially) when used to describe behavior that is shitty but common and presumably happening between adults. Your use of it here is part of why I think this is a tricky call for HR to make. I don’t think it was wrong for Nora to be informed but I have a lot of concerns about HR bringing their own biases to bear in an inappropriate and possibly discriminatory way in other situations.

      25. Anononon*

        The way I’m thinking about it, for the egregious types of situations like those in the letter, I’m generally comfortable saying that while I don’t think HR has/should have a duty to disclose to the spouse, I’m honestly not upset if they do.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think this is an important caveat for any human behavior–you want some broad guidelines for consistency and fairness, but also some personal discretion where individuals decide whether to extend more or less grace based on the specific details of a case.

          (For example, yesterday someone had an example where an employee was not good with money, and boss figured this out but employee was also close to retirement and had started caring for a disabled relative, so boss rearranged job duties and kept the employee away from budgets through their retirement. That didn’t mean every conceivable past and future example of bad job performance had to be given the same solution.)

      26. shakiras stolen purse*

        Shouldn’t the line be “criminal behavior?” Which sexual harassment is.
        Emotional affairs are not criminal, neither are mouthing off to clients or failing a drug test. (Possession/dealing is legal, but having taken the drugs themselves is not strictly criminal I believe.)
        Gambling may or may not be criminal depending on the state & specific laws.

        Also, love the “Nick and Nora” reference!

      27. happybat*

        The UK government is considering making cyberflashing a crime (I hope they do). If my spouse were accused of a sex crime, or something which many people consider should be a crime, I would very much want to know. Not least because the wives and girlfriends of men who commit sex crimes are often subject to serious social repercussions because ‘they must have known’. I think the dangers and potential costs to the women concerned make this something of a special case.

      28. Meep*

        To be fair, Allison, it sounds like Nick is a sexual predator. If it was even an affair, I would agree with you. Sexual harassment, though? Nope. The wife should know what her husband did when it is criminal.

      29. New But Not New*

        ITA, that’s a judgement call as to whether or not somebody would be “better off” knowing something their spouse is doing in the workplace.

        Now in the personal realm, that’s another story. There was a discussion here once about telling your friend when you saw their mate at dinner with someone else (in this case, their husband with another woman). The person who witnessed this decided not to tell, despite a friendship of many decades.

        I felt that the witness betrayed her friend, who in this case in my opinion would have been better off knowing that her husband was cheating. I personally would want to be told (I have my health to consider). But the commentariat skewed to not wanting to get involved. So the comments here surprised me. I understand not getting involved in a professional setting, but personal? Nah.

      30. Temperance*

        For me, it’s the fact that he’s a sexual predator that makes this different from the other bad-but-not-illegal behavior that makes it acceptable and even preferable that they shared the information.

    2. John Smith*

      The flat tyre is not something the employer is responsible for, as the fact it was on works time is not the cause of the incident. If you are interested, look up “proximate cause”.

      This is similar to a so-called newspaper in the UK which ran the headline “Girl, 13, crushed to death by a falling branch as she sat on park bench because her teachers were out on strike”.

      This blames the teachers being on strike as the cause of the death when it evidently is not the cause. Thankfully the paper has now removed the “because” bit, hopefully out of sheer embarrassment.

      1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

        The employer did not put the nail on the street but they did cause the employee to travel for work on work time in a non work vehicle. If it had been a work vehicle the employer would be paying for the flat tire.

        1. mmppgh*

          That’s different though because the employer owns the vehicle and as such is responsible for its maintenance.

        2. anonymous73*

          Would you expect your employer to reimburse you for a flat tire that you received on your normal commute to work? If you say yes, you (and the OP) are out of touch with reality. Outside of reimbursement for mileage, your employer is not responsible for your car maintenance unless you’re using your car for work duties. Commuting back and forth is not part of your work duties.

          1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

            This is not travelling to or from work (commuting).
            The letter writer WAS using their own car for work duties when this happened.

            1. anonymous73*

              No, they were travelling to a work event. They were not using their car for anything other than driving to a location. That’s no different than travelling to/from work.

            2. Cold Fish*

              The key words here though are “own car”. The OP is responsible for routine maintenance of their own car. At the end of the day a flat tire is routine maintenance.

              There are all kinds of possibilities/scenarios that could point back to OP as the responsible party. The OP’s car could have incredibly bald tires and the flat would not have happened if they were new. It is entirely possible that the OP ran over a nail on the way to work (commute/own time) but only discovered the problem when driving to event (company time). Was the company requiring her to drive a specific route to event? Perhaps she could have avoided the flat by taking another route to event.

              The only reason the company should be responsible for the tire is 1. If they were responsible for the car maintenance (company car) or 2. If they were directly responsible for the cause of the flat tire (“made” OP drive over the nail/it was poorly maintained company property that damaged tire)

              1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

                Great way for companies to shift costs onto their employees, make them use their own cars on company time for company mandated travel and not reimburse them for mileage or accidents.
                Lets also hope the OP’s insurance company covers work related travel, because if not (they may need some kind of business coverage) then any accident will ruin the OP. Car accidents are not cheap to pay for out of pocket.

                1. New But Not New*

                  There may have been a company owned vehicle available that OP didn’t want to bother picking up, in which case OP took the chance with her own car. They may not have been made to do anything.

                  This isn’t an unusual scenario, it’s not work related travel, and you’re being weird about the whole thing.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          If you get a flat tire on your way to church do you ask the church to pay because they encouraged you to come to worship? If you get one on your way to your friend’s house do you ask the friend to pay, because they invited you?

          Flat tires are an inherent risk of driving. You don’t assume you’ll go through life and not get them, and unless there’s solid evidence that the job caused it (failed to, I don’t know, repair exposed rebar in the parking garage or something), you buy your own tires.

      2. rudster*

        Proximate cause is relevant for torts. For this case, we need to look up “Agency Law”. If the agent is on work time and acting at the behest of the principal, the principal is responsible for what happens in course of the agent’s activity. If my employer asks me to leave my workplace to go make a delivery or visit a customer, and I get into accident, my employer is responsible for any damages, even if they had nothing to do with the proximate chain of events that caused the accident, since it would not have occurred but for the employer’s instructions. If the employee had, e.g., slid off the road and hit a tree due to poor road conditions, they would absolutely have recourse against the employer and/or workmen’s comp for damages and injuries incurred.

        1. Bagpuss*

          That’s interesting. I don’t think that would be the case where I am (UK) in most cases.

          There are situation where an employer is vicariously liable even if they were not at fault, but they are the exception and the liability is typically to third parties, not to the employee.

          But also if you are driving your own vehicle as part of your job then you re being compensated for that – either by claiming expenses or by your over all reimbursement package- the flat tyre is wear and tear on your vehicle .

          I think if the situation was one where there was a clear risk and the employer instructed you to go anywhere, you’d be in a stronger position (for instance, if they instructed you to drive on an unmade road that wasn’t suitable for your vehicle)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I work in the transport industry (albeit rail but we have a lot of road vehicles) and I still can’t get my head entirely around the UK laws.

            If I’m driving the IT Department fleet vehicle to site and anything happens that is not a result of my negligence then the company foots the bills. If I’m driving my car to site and something goes wrong with the car that again isn’t a result of my negligence then it becomes an issue with my insurance company (who charge me through the nose to drive my car but that’s a whole other case).

            The company will pay me a mileage rate for use of my own car which covers fuel, wear and tear but not my insurance costs.

            Now if I was pulling out of a site car park and ended up with a load of damage to my car because some twit had upended a load of machinery all over the place or another employee backed a welding truck into me then, yeah I think they’d pay out.

            Basically it’s more complex than UK train ticket restrictions.

        2. Joielle*

          I’m a lawyer (US) and I’m not going to go into the entire tort analysis but just wanted to say – my understanding is that’s not really how “agency” works in tort law. It applies if the agent commits a tort and you’re trying to determine whether the employer is liable, not if something random happens to the agent. And proximate cause is… a whole different thing as well. You’ve sort of mashed up a bunch of different concepts there.

    3. Shiba Dad*

      Good point about LW2. Work related travel using your personal vehicle should be reimbursable and $x/mile. Most* US companies use the current federal rate (currently $0.56/mile). I’m pretty sure that rate includes “wear and tear” on your vehicle, and tires (including a flat tire) would fall under that.

      1. Shiba Dad*

        Forgot to address the *: I worked for a small company that the owner sold in 2005 to a Larger Conglomerate. LC set our mileage reimbursement rate to the federal rate at the time of $0.405. When I left in 2016, our reimbursement was still $0.405.

        1. Purple Cat*

          “When I left in 2016, our reimbursement was still $0.405.”
          Isn’t that illegal? I always thought the IRS rate was a mandate, not a recommendation?

          1. Shiba Dad*

            I don’t think so probably because “unreimbursed employee expenses” are deductible. My accountant at the time (retired now) never indicated that my employer was breaking the law.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes. Generally gas is much less than the per-mile reimbursement, which feels great in the moment, like you’re making money off of driving for work. But that rate is also supposed to cover the company’s share of the wear and tear and irregular expenses of owning and maintaining a vehicle. Some of it goes to the purchase price/depreciation, some to regular maintenance like oil changes, and some to unexpected repairs like a damaged tire.

        It kind of sucks if you have a large unexpected repair that feels like it’s due to driving for work if you don’t drive for work very often, because the per-mile reimbursement approach assumes that everything evens out over time and that requires that you drive for work and get reimbursed regularly. But I doubt OP would get very far pressing for reimbursement for the tire damage.

  3. ENFP in Texas*

    “Fine, we’ll just close the whole department because how will it function without you?”
    Guilt trippers drive me nuts. And for managers to pull that garbage? Ugh.

    “I’m sorry you feel that’s your only option, but that’s certainly your decision to make. If you choose to do that, it’s up to you. I’m leaving on X date – let me know when you are available before then to talk about transitioning my current workload.”

    1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      “How will the department run without me? Funny, you never paid me anything near what someone who was so indispensable is worth!”

      1. Roflmao*

        I just left a position about a month ago where my manager tried to pull this with me. “I guess the company is just going to have to close or something since you’ve randomly decided to leave” said with an angry, flustered, over-exaggerated sigh. My answer was basically what you said there. “If the multi-million dollar company was only surviving because of my work, why were you only paying me $35k?” He slammed his door on me. Felt good.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I feel like we need to create the Ask A Manager version of the Oscar, and you need to receive the first one. That is AMAZING.

        2. LKW*

          Oh that was beautiful! You take that, wrap it up in a little blanket, and you take that out and tell that story whenever you feel like it.

        3. HotSauce*

          The most satisfying response of all time. I was offered the promotion I was trying for years to get when I handed in my notice. I just replied that it was too bad that they finally felt that I was ready when I felt it was time to move on.

          1. Anon for privacy*

            Huh. Similar thing happened to me when I broke up with a serious partner back in my 20’s. “But I was going to buy you that truck you wanted!” My only reaction (kept to myself) was “??? is that supposed to change my mind?”

        4. Meep*

          My boss, as much as I love him, can be a big idiot. We let a guy go because after waiting three years for a contract we promised him after he got his PhD (it was promised in August 2018, he graduated in Dec of 2018), he decided to find an actual job that wasn’t paying him pennies and had benefits. He had brought it in millions of dollars for us over the years, too.

          The most facepalm-worthy thing is that this is the third time in five years. You think my boss would have had a clue by now. At least, he had enough common sense to give me a raise and more vacation days or I would’ve watched too and then he would really be screwed.

        5. Observer*

          My answer was basically what you said there. “If the multi-million dollar company was only surviving because of my work, why were you only paying me $35k?” He slammed his door on me. Felt good.

          That slam must have been music to you. What an idiot.

    2. Damn it, Hardison!*

      “That sounds like a you problem, not a me problem.” I would never say that at work, but I certainly would be thinking it.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m reminded of the letter last week about bereavement leave. I’m guessing most of us would consider “needing to process one’s feelings about the serpent’s tooth of an employee who would leave us” as not grounds for several days of paid leave.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      “Thank you for confirming for me that this place is so badly run that I’m right to leave.”

    5. Kshoosh*

      I would go a slightly different tack with manipulators- commiserating the situation *with* them in an “aw shucks” kind of way. It reframes from them blaming you for leaving, to it being an incompatibility that neither side could have helped. It’s not that you chose to leave (although you know it is)- it’s that you need something different and so really didn’t have a choice. What a shame they couldn’t have done anything to change that, but oh well, that’s life.

      When they next try to guilt you, agree with them in an upbeat, matter-of-fact way: “oh it sure is sad, I would have loved to stay, that’s why I brought these things up to see if they could be addressed. I just wish you could have done something about [issues 1, 2, &3], but since you can’t/didn’t, it sure is a shame but I have to pay my rent, you know. I do wish things could have turned out differently!”

    6. EPLawyer*

      Excellent. Guilt trips only work if you let them.

      OP, you can’t care more about the transition than they do. Stop trying to have conversations with them about it. Act professionally. Leave all the documentation you can for others. But don’t keep putting yourself in the way of emotional blackmail. You are OUT of there. Once you leave, you owe them nothing. Keep that in mind. Your time there is finite. So ignore the guilt trips. Do your job. Partcipate in any transition if they raise it with you. But other than that, stop trying to make this “get done right.”

      1. Artemesia*

        And don’t beyond one or two quick questions, continue to provide counsel or information. After two weeks, don’t pick up their calls and if they get through it is “Oh I left a while back and can’t answer that for you.” or ” I left notes in the transition document, afraid I can’t help beyond that — don’t recall’. or similar.

    7. El l*

      My response to that line would be what my mother always said:

      “Your failure to plan is not my emergency.”

      You lose the right to guilt trip when you become responsible.

      Think you nailed the rest of it! (“I’m leaving on X date…”)

  4. Coder von Frankenstein*

    I’m on the fence about #1. I get that HR crossed a line, and there’s a good reason to put that line where it is… but I also feel like this is one of those cases where it’s easy for everyone who *could* tell Nora to decide “It’s not my place to speak,” and so Nora stays in the dark.

    I wouldn’t condemn HR if they’d chosen not to tell. And I certainly wouldn’t codify this into any kind of policy. But I also think the HR person who did tell Nora did a good thing.

    1. Mama Sarah*

      Agreed. There’s a clear argument for overstepping. But we also don’t know all the details…I wondered if the spouse might be facing legal issues or perhaps this incident implied something more perverse? So maybe it’s a good thing the wife is in the know.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I wonder if the HR person was one of the female employees that Nick was sexually harassing?

        In that case, she said she was with the company so Nora doesn’t think she’s some random crazy, not because she was trying to speak on behalf of the company.

        1. Bagpuss*

          It did occur to me that that could have been the way round it. If I were HR I might be very tempted to tell the victim (s) that I could not tell Nick’s wife as I have a duty to keep disciplinary matters confidential, but that as individuals they are free to speak to whomever they wish…

        2. ecnaseener*

          If so, I don’t get why she specified she was from HR. That’s where the feeling of overstepping comes from. If she’d just said she was from that company and she personally wanted to inform Nora, it would be much less of an issue.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            It’s possible Nick was harassing people in HR. The sort of person who thinks it’s a “good idea” is also not super likely to care about who is the target outside of “not the owner/CEO” category.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, my first thought was that this person might be from HR, but maybe they were calling on their own and not actually at the behest of the company. Or maybe they said they were from HR but weren’t. Or maybe Nora assumed they were since they were calling about the firing.

        4. generic_username*

          I was thinking that maybe the HR person already knew Nora personally from some sort of work social event, like a happy hour or a holiday party (although lol, I doubt I’d introduce my spouse to work colleagues if I was also sexually harassing some of them, but I also have better judgement than to sexually harass colleagues). So “This is Cindy” (maybe “from HR” as a descriptor, or maybe Nora knows it’s Cindy from HR) and then when Nora tells the story, she anonymizes Cindy as “a person from HR,” which is how a secondhand contact might see it as an official contact from HR.

    2. EPLawyer*

      By deciding Nora “needs to know” they are taking away Nora’s agency to decide for herself what information she wants. Maybe Nora WANTS to be kept in the dark . We don’t know. If Nora had called the company and said “Why did you fire Nick?” that would be slightly different. They still should NOT have said anything to her. But at least it was based on her own agency.

      But by HR deciding for her, they are treating Nora like a helpless female who needs to know what her dastardly husband is up to. It’s no different than any other decision about a person — we do not get to decide what they need.

      1. Yorick*

        But you can’t decide not to know about what your husband is doing unless you already know about it (at least on some level). Nora is in the dark on this without her consent, by definition. Maybe once she finds out she’ll wish she never knew, but no one can know that without telling her.

        1. EPLawyer*

          But she can’t unknow if she is told. Nora is a fully functioning adult, presumably. It is not her husband’s employer’s HR place to decide “she deserves to know.”

          1. Stevie*

            It certainly is possible that Nora may not want to know, but she also doesn’t really have a right to *not* know, either, especially without having informed consent, and irregardless of the person’s motivations for telling her.

            If the person who contacted Nora was doing so in an official capacity, using information they could have only gotten from their HR role, that does seems inapproriate. Not sure if the HR person was also victimized as some suggested she might have been, but maybe it changes things if this information is public knowledge at the company? I know the reasons for a firing like this would be well-known where I work.

          2. yala*

            “But she can’t unknow if she is told.”

            But she can’t know that she doesn’t know?

            You don’t really get to choose to Not Know Things most of the time. All you get to do is choose what to do with the information you have.

            I don’t see how on earth letting someone know their spouse is sexually harassing people is “treating them like a helpless female.” Keeping someone in the dark seems more like that to me.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Taking away her agency? No. Telling someone that their spouse is engaged in sexual misconduct is GIVING them agency. Nora can’t make an informed decision for her life and her future if she doesn’t have all the relevant information. And sure, Nora might use that agency to stay in her marriage and try to make it work. Lots of spouses who get cheated on make that decision. But it’s HER decision to make and she can’t make it without being fully informed.

        (I know as a lawyer you’re focused on the legalities of this, and that’s valid. I’m not saying whether I think this was the legally correct thing for HR to do here. I’m simply responding to your claim about taking away Nora’s agency because I think you have it exactly backwards.)

        1. EPLawyer*

          No I got it right. All the time we talk about infantilizing women by deciding what they NEED. The same thing here. Everyone is bending over backwards to justify it because it happens to involve her husband behaving badly. But we still do not get to decide for someone else what they need. And HR of a company she doesn’t work for, REALY doesn’t get to decide she NEEDS this information.

          1. Yorick*

            But she does need this information. Otherwise she can’t make informed decisions. There are women who have been in this situation saying so in the comments. Now, I don’t think it’s appropriate for HR to tell her. But it’s silly to think that you need informed consent to give someone information they don’t have. It’s not possible for her to decide whether or not she wants this info, because she doesn’t know it exists. Would it be better if someone contacted her and said, “I have important info about your husband’s behavior that affects your marriage in ways you’re not aware of, do you want me to tell you or not?”

            1. banoffee pie*

              lol @Yorick, I’m sure she would know what was coming. It’s hardly gonna be ‘it’s come to my attention your husband is a great guy’!

          2. Catnap*

            If I adopt a dog that has mauled someone before and someone knows about it, is it taking away my agency to tell me about the dog? It’s just information.

          3. yala*

            You got it very very wrong, and the whole “infantilizing” thing seems more buzzwordy than useful here. I don’t think anyone saying she deserves to know would say any differently if the genders were reversed.

            It’s not infantilizing to say that people NEED information to make informed decisions. That’s just a statement of fact. Giving people information GIVES them agency.

            As for the infantilizing thing, it’s hard to think of something more infantilizing than arguing that you should keep harsh truths from a woman because she might not want to know them.

          4. Starbuck*

            So if the person who called opened the conversation with “I have some bad news about your husband, do you want to hear it?” that would settle your issue? Because for all we know they could have done that – it’s what I’d do.

      3. Purple Cat*

        What? Nora has no agency in this situation and that’s what the HR person was trying to fix.
        She can’t “decide for herself” if she wants information that she has no idea exists. (Presumably) she has absolutely no idea what her husband is doing. So she can’t look in the mirror in the morning and ask herself is she wants to know about her husband’s unsolicisted pics, because she has no idea it’s happening.

        Now, do I think HR overstepped? Absolutely. And on a professional level this person should be fired. On a personal, humanitarian level though – I’m glad they did what they did. NOW Nora has agency to do with this information whatever the heck she wants. Heck, she could file a complaint against the company if she really didn’t want to know – and probably would win.

      4. Jackalope*

        That’s a really odd take. Nora may not know there’s anything else TO know in this situation. Unless her husband was acting out like this in front of her, she might not think to ask, “Hmm, was my husband fired for sending inappropriate pictures? Maybe I should find out!” To be clear, this is not me arguing for or against HR reaching out to her. But giving someone information that they may find important or necessary in order to make future decisions seems more like GIVING them agency, not taking it away.

      5. Observer*

        There are good reasons for coming down on either side. But claiming that you are worrying about Nora’s agency here is the kind of thing that makes people hate lawyers. It’s manifestly dishonest and is designed to make it sound like you want to do the right thing when what you REALLY want to do is the thing that is convenient for her.

        This is especially obvious in this case, as you claim that refusing to tell Nora even if she calls somehow does NOT over-ride Nora’s agency. Which is impossible – if she is asking she clearly wants to know, but you have decided that YOUR needs / wants / standards over-ride her agency.

      6. Genny*

        You can’t consent to not knowing something when you don’t even know that the thing exists and that there’s an opportunity to know it. Having agency requires having the necessary information to make a decision one way or the other.

        1. banoffee pie*

          It’s like Donald Rumsfeld and his unknown unknowns, although I think he was pretty pissed they were ‘unknown’. My opinion is, knowledge is power, and I’d always rather know. YMMV

      7. Librarian1*

        This is an impossible dilemma though. How would Nora know that she doesn’t want to know until she knows?

  5. Mockingbird*

    For #4, because I don’t know, is this something an EAP would be able to help the employee with, like if they needed help filing a restraining order or other legal advice? I feel like from the great explainer on here about them that they would be helpful, but it could be very much YMMV if the one your company contracts with or even the employee you got on the phone would be.

    1. Need More Sunshine*

      If the company has an EAP, then absolutely it should be something the employee can reach out to them for. Mainly, I think they’d give good resources on how to manage this outside of work (like you said, legal advice advice, perhaps), or even just how to manage this in a mental health sense. But that should go alongside all the things Alison suggested for how the employer can help keep the stalking away from the business, which is mutually beneficial for their employee and for the employer as a whole.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Allison’s suggestions are the things that a manager can offer immediately and provide that level of openness that may be super important to the person at risk. EAP takes another couple of steps — like a phone call and an appointment and whatever. Manager can offer time and space to do those during work, which someone who is stressed may not otherwise feel brave enough to ask for.

  6. Bex*


    I’d been in a similar situation last year after winning guardianship of my sibling. I spoke with my boss, here’s what he did that helped

    1. Reminded me of our EAP. Not just that we have one, he printed out the directions for how to contact them, our company access code, etc.
    2. Spoke with site security and gave them the info I provided on my father (name, description, vehicles driven, and a photo) with direction that he be immediately removed from site if he ever showed up. Also gave site security instructions to not disclose my work building, my presence, my contact information, etc to no one.
    3. This might not apply to your workplace, but we are a very large company which has its own security group (not just guards for site). My boss put me in touch with them so they could help me review home safety (video call walk through house showing windows, doors, etc)
    4. Gave me info (again, printed out resources) on employee emergency assistance fund – this could have been used to help pay for time in a hotel if we didn’t feel safe, or even 1k to helping towards deposit on a new place if we felt we needed to move.
    5. Checked in with me about once a week. Private. He always said “just touching base. Want to make sure you’re okay.”

    Having printouts of resources available helped. I didn’t have to go looking or try to remember, it was all right there for me.

    Good luck

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      What an awesome boss! I’m so glad you had someone like that in your corner.

    2. Love WFH*

      Your boss sounds great!

      Years ago, I worked at a business where a woman was being stalked. In addition to warning the people at the front desk, and so on, people came up with a solution to hide her car.

      We were a smal manufacturer, and the shipping department at the back of the building had a large door with dock but also a regular garage door, flush to the pavement. They cleared out the space by the garage door so that she could drive her car inside. That way he couldn’t see her car in the parking lot to tell when she was at work.

    3. madge*

      Oh wow. I don’t have anything to add; just want to say that this is exactly how it should work and I’m so glad you had that level of support!

    4. 2cents*

      Wow – this is amazing. Years ago I had an ex-boyfriend stalk me at work after we broke up, and although I didn’t feel people thought less of me because of it, I certainly did not have all that support and felt very scared to go to work for days. Bravo to your boss!

    5. Bex*

      To note … he had been my boss for all of 5 months at this point. He was amazing. Not the best manager in other areas, but in supporting his people he was top notch.

      Another thing he did that I just remembered – he closed off the back door and access to our building from outside , so everyone had to use one door. The back door would lead people into our office and right behind me at my desk. Having that door closed, no longer hearing footsteps and panicking that my father might have made it on site, was a huge relief.

  7. Czhorat*

    For lw#1, I suspect that the person in HR wanted to pursue legal action but for whatever corporate reason they couldn’t. Reaching out to the spouse is usually an overreach, but in this case it’s perhaps the only way to enact a measure of justice.

    I have a hard time feeling angry about this.

    1. Julia*

      Justice is not the HR person’s responsibility. Also, it makes little sense to say the HR person wanted to pursue legal action. Employers don’t pursue legal action against sexual harasser employees; harassed *employees* pursue legal action against *employers*. The employer has no legal cause of action against this man and has no business with him or his wife after the employment relationship ends.

      I knew the comment section would be against Alison on this one, and I knew I would disagree. Workplace boundaries are not just for when an employee’s conduct is good. Boundaries are all the more important when conduct outwardly appears reprehensible, because that’s when your average HR person will feel most tempted to violate them.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I suspect that it would be for the individual victims to decide if they wanted to take action – I am not sure whether sending unsolicited pictures would be a criminal offence in OP’s jurisdiction (it could potentially be, where I am).

      I suspect that for an employer the action they can take is to fire the offender, which they’ve done. I’m not sure what further legal action they could take?

    3. Asenath*

      Hard situations mean hard choices. If, in all other situations I’ve seen discussed here, work issues are between employee and employer, this one should be too – however hard it might be not to inform the wife.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        But human behavior comes down to context–almost any action is the right move in a certain context, yet not in all others.

        1. Pennilyn Lot*

          Yes but the point here is that employers do not have that level of context about their employees’ lives and so should not be making those calls about their lives. Sure, it feels justified to call a wife and give them a heads up about a spouse who has been sexually harassing people, but how do you know how they’ll react? If they react violently, or abusively, or they decide to start an illegal eviction, or whatever – that’s not something that an employer should be the catalyst for.

        2. Asenath*

          There’s nothing special about this context. The employee is being fired for bad behaviour. The fact that the bad behaviour is sexual instead of, say stealing from the till, sabotaging the equipment or any number of other fireable offenses doesn’t mean it should be reported to his wife. She isn’t his boss, a co-worker who received one of the photos, or even the mother/legal guardian of an underaged worker at his first job. There is no way she’s part of his work relationships, or his employer is part of her family – or even part of her circle of friends.

    4. Kaiko*

      This sits weird with me. Spouses, especially wives, are not responsible for meting out “justice” when their partners misbehave. Being told about a transgression of this type blows up her life as much, if not more, as it blows up his. It sort of perpetuates the notion that men are trying to get away with as much as they can, and women are there to stop them.

      1. Bernice Clifton*

        You articulated what was ultimately bothering me about this. It feels like the principal calling someone’s parents.

        1. nonegiven*

          IDK, this feels personal, to me. He has wronged this person in some way. If it’s not one of the co-workers he sent his pics to, he has done something else to them.

  8. justmeagain*

    The road leading up to my work’s building is unpaved and every time they use a tractor to smooth it over, it must turn up a ton of nails and screws, because we are all getting flat tires. Seriously, I’ve four this year when I have had one in the last 10 years before this. And many, many coworkers have gotten flat tires as well. Some have been able to be patched/repaired – in other cases, a whole new tire was needed. We have all paid for our repairs out of pocket, but it’s getting to the point where another coworker said the other day, “And when is X company going to start paying for all these new tires?”

    1. rudster*

      Unfortunately, Agency Law principles usually do not apply before you have arrived at your usual place of work. The employer should of course ensure safe access to your workplace, but you will probably have to find another approach to resolving this.

      1. justmeagain*

        Well the “road” is my company’s, it’s part of the property that they own. Like you turn into the entrance and this is past the gate, it’s like a long driveway/unpaved road leading up to the actual building and parking lot. So it is happening on property. (That my company owns.) I don’t know if that makes a difference? Honestly, I’m not losing sleep over this, or even really expecting them to pay, but it had happened a lot over the past year to many of us. Of course at the tire repair places, they say there is so much construction going on in our area with new developments, that it just happens. A nail doesn’t discriminate. Still, we definitely have an issue with our entrance road.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          See, in this case, yeah, I think the company should pay up since it’s their private road and seems to be a maintenance problem. They could resurface or pave it and solve this.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I don’t think the solution is for the company to pay for new tires, I think the solution should be that the company sorts the road out.

      1. Cold Fish*

        In this situation, where the company was responsible for the damage to the tires, I think the company is responsible for both the tires and sorting out the road maintenance to prevent further damage.

    3. hbc*

      Having it happen on company property is an entirely different ballgame, morally and maybe legally. If I was to draw the line on reimbursement, it would be for things that are pretty much whether it’s a common situation that could have easily occurred outside of work. Hitting a random pothole? That’s just Michigan roads. Sending you to a nail-strewn street or parking lot? That’s on them.

  9. broomchickameowmeow*

    Regarding #4 can I just add to the advice given by others: document, document, document. Note if stalker Dad is seen at near her work, exactly where, when, doing what, by whom, etc. Likewise archive any time he shows up on security video, if possible. That may seem like overkill, and it may (hopefully) never be needed, but it will all add weight to her police complaint, should she file one, because we all know which way he said/she said often goes.

    1. Anon this time.*

      Also, speak with the employee and if she wants all this see if there are other family members that have been added to the “no contact” list because they are feeding information and locations to the relative who is stalking. Those “enabling and abetting” relatives are the absolute WORST (unfortunately spoken from experience).

      1. Drag0nfly*

        I was just thinking of those flying monkeys, but from the standpoint of employees who might disregard the orders about giving out information.

        Specifically I’m concerned someone at the front desk (or whatever department) might take it upon themselves to decide the stalking isn’t *really* bad, and #4’s employee should be made to reconcile or talk it out. “Families shouldn’t have strife, and you need to be the bigger person and make up with your father,” and all that crap.

        So if possible, maybe LW #4 should make a blanket order against giving out information on *any* employees regardless of the claim of family status. No matter what. And to simply say that certain people aren’t permitted entry because of restraining orders, criminal complaints and whatever umbrella classification you can use without saying anything about particular employees. Minimal details to minimize the toehold for a busybody “peacemaker.”

        1. nonegiven*

          Bad thing about restraining orders is they put the person’s home address on them. Why would this guy hang around her workplace but to try to follow her home?

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      I mean, Facilities/Security should be documenting every incident with any type of trespasser anyway.

  10. The Prettiest Curse*

    LW#4 – a colleague at my old job had a stalker and since she worked at a small satellite office without much in the way of physical security features, they upgraded the security (new locks etc.) at that office.

    The stalker would also post awful things about her on our social media (using different accounts whenever he was blocked), so they made sure there was extra monitoring on those pages so his stuff was taken down ASAP.

    1. Managing to Get By*

      Where I used to work, there was someone who was not in the corporate phone directory due to stalking. I found out when I needed to talk to her about some cross departmental work, I had to call her manager and get a call back. One of my coworkers had worked there when her stalker was showing up at the office so knew the story. The front desk security also had instructions to not acknowledge that she even worked there let alone let in any visitors.

  11. Kella*

    Re LW3: Years ago, I left my job at an incredibly dysfunctional bakery and cafe because it was causing me serious mental health problems. I was in charge of the bakery half and I handed over this work to the two women I had trained to be in the department. During my last two weeks, I was supposed to assist them in whatever they needed to be done while they figured out their new roles.

    But they resented me for choosing to leave when clearly they weren’t ready to yet. I was leaving them with a mess (that I didn’t create, in fact, I worked 60 hours a week to keep the mess at bay) and they were mad at me for it. So, for the first few days, they basically ignored my offers for help. I don’t remember exactly what I did but I think I just put my head down and baked standard stuff we always needed.

    But it didn’t take long before they realized they had no idea how to do any of the work without me and they really did need to spend the remaining time learning how I did it. I think what clinched it was the day they finally gave me a list of things to bake, I read it over once, and said, “Well, I can make A and B, but I can’t make C because we’re out of that ingredient, I can’t make D because that pan is dirty in the sink, I can’t make E because we don’t have the oven space, and F, well, we already have a full case of that.” They just stared at me, deer in the headlights.

    So, what’s my advice? Probably, offer or carry out the help you know they’ll need for sure, try not to react too much to their attempts at creating drama because they may get tired of it if it doesn’t produce a reaction in you, and let them dig themselves their own hole. Maybe they’ll come around before you leave. Maybe they won’t and that won’t be your problem.

  12. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    #3 this is just as banana crackers as you think it is. I would add into Alison’s advice:
    1. Communicate with them via email, with a BCC to your personal email so you have a written record that you tried to transition information.
    2. If anyone higher up is not nuts, tell them what is going on.
    3. Treat yourself to anything you love as soon as you are out of there. You deserve it.

    1. KateM*

      Surely the manager of these managers would like to know that these two are emotionally really not suitable for the position of a manager.
      Also, funny how the department won’t be able to exist without OP but has no problem existing with TWO of their managers taking time off for not being able to do their work – makes one wondering about the necessity of those managers.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I would be so tempted to ~innocently~ mention the problems to the grandboss. “Best of luck, I sure hope the department doesn’t have to close! … Oh, it’s not closing? That’s so good to hear! [Tweedle-dum] and [Tweedle-dee] were really worried, but I guess that time off was just what they needed to help them work through their emotions around my leaving.”

        This would not benefit LW at all but it would be pretty satisfying.

    2. LKW*

      I was also thinking that the upper echelons need to know that their department leads are kneecapping themselves out of spite. It would seriously make me question their abilities, maturity and leadership.

  13. Ashkela*

    LW#4, I’m absolutely sure you do have many things to learn as a manager, but this? Immediately wanting to know how you can help and support rather than ask ‘how can I keep this from messing up my company/job experience’ is EXACTLY the right thing to do.

    I’d add make sure your employee knows that the rest of the staff will only know so much as she’s comfortable with them knowing. And also that anyone at the company that makes life difficult for her about this won’t be cut slack either.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP4: not a member of my family but I’ve got some horrible experiences with having a stalker. Here’s what a bad company did, countered with what a great employer did:

    Bad: upon hearing about this, said they couldn’t get involved in ‘drama with your ex’ (for the record I’ve never been even remotely interested in my stalker let alone dated him)

    Good: upon first hearing this, had a quiet low stress over a cup of tea meeting with the boss where I was asked if I had any preference to how they made sure this guy wouldn’t bother me at work there.

    The bad firm did nothing. Stalker calls helpdesk asking for me? They’d tell him where I am. That sorta thing.

    Great firm? Did everything they could to help. All the guy’s emails? Blocked. His phone numbers? Blocked. Security given his description and told under no circumstances to let the guy in or confirm that I work there. Heck, one of the guards actually got me a reprieve by telling the guy that I’d moved onto another firm on the other side of town. Multiple people offered to escort me to my car. There was support offered for if I went to the police about all this but, regrettably, I’d already tried that and got a really nasty ‘well, he’s not physically attacked you so this is all just made up drama’ from the police.

    1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I had family member harass me at work from several states away – calls, emails, etc. IT shut off the calls to my work phone and blocked all the emails to my work computer.

      The employee should be encouraged to document these incidents, if she’s not already doing so. Even if she does not yet to want involve the police, the specifics will give her options in the future.

  15. Willis*

    For #3, I wouldn’t bother trying to give feedback to your bosses or mention how you previously brought up the issues that led you to leave. They didn’t care then, they’re acting super weird and immature now, so why would they suddenly become reasonable and receptive to input? It’ll just devolve into them arguing about why your reasons for leaving aren’t valid. Honestly, I’d just ride this out…if they don’t want to use what’s left of your two weeks in a productive way, that’s on them. Do what you can do to leave your stuff in order for your coworkers, and get out of there.

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      And block their phone numbers so they can’t call and beg you to do more work for them after you’re gone.

    2. Sleet Feet*

      I completely agree with you. This org has demonstrated they are not level headed or emotionally mature, I think her scripts would be better at a place that was usually great and maybe just missed the mark in their initial response to a beloved coworker leaving.

      OP just don’t engage and know you made the right choice.

    3. irene adler*

      Given this: “Fine, we’ll just close the whole department because how will it function without you?” is what they are saying, then what good is feedback going to be, anyway? They are closing down-right?
      Sure, I know they are being sarcastic, but hey, take ’em at their word and ride out the two weeks. They had their chance to be professional about things. Not the OP’s problem if they choose not to be.

  16. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    Adding this one that I saw at a former job: check and see if there are any “accomplice family/friends” that need added to the list with mr stalker. The accomplice knows that the stalker can’t get your info – so goes and gets it and gives it to the stalker.

    I once worked in college with a young woman whose ex-boyfriend had totally conned her Parents(?!?!?!) into tracking her down and giving him her contact info and job more than once. Fortunately our mutual boss was smarter, and ran interference for her till she left college to joint the Marines (which solved the problem of the ex boyfriend).

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Oh, man, I hope she got totally buff from the Marines and scared off the ex permanently. (Although of course I wish that wasn’t necessary to get rid of stalker exes, but I still love the image in this instance.)

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Lol – she became a vehicle mechanic in the Corps (she had always been really good at visualizing what was broken and how to fix it even at our college job). And the GI Bill after she got out got her an Engineering Degree without parental interference, due to no longer needing their financial info on FAFSA forms.

        She stayed in touch with us till we all started moving as life took us different places.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah, my parents gave out my contact information to my stalker too. It sounded like he really needed to talk to me. He’d previously managed to get my parent’s contact information from my employer (I had their address registered as my permanent address, since I was living on site when working for that employer)

      1. La Triviata*

        In college, I had a boyfriend who took up stalking me when I broke up with him. He’d cry to people and say he loved me so much and just wanted to talk to me to try to repair the relationship. I didn’t talk much about the whys and wherefores of breaking up with him, so he got a lot of sympathy. Once I left college to go back home (in a different state), he tried calling a few times but never got through. He graduated and went on to grad school, so the stalking ended on its own.

    3. BabyElephantWalk*

      Yes to this. Clueless/willfully ignorant family members and friends who feel caught in the middle are often a conduit for providing private contact information to abusers and stalkers.

      There should be some sort of office policy re what information is given out to whom, as well as a specific safety plan if this employee wants one.

  17. Pollyanna*

    If there’s a desire to see Nick face consequences outside of the workplace then the HR department should have taken a legal route or supported his victims in doing so. That would probably have led to the wife finding out anyway, without having to hear it from a stranger in HR.

  18. Anonybonnie*

    For LW1, I just can’t fault someone for deciding that a person should know that their romantic partner sexually victimizes others. To me, that’s a safety issue.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, this. There is no really good choice here and then sharing information on such a thing is the better choice still.

    2. Batgirl*

      Thank you. Safety is the word I would use too. The responses on here that suggest it’s just a kind of mild and quirky preference – knowing whether the person you bed down with is a sex offender – are driving me crazy..

      1. hbc*

        No one is suggesting it’s quirky to want to know–it’s just that it’s not a company’s role to keep family members of employees informed about what they want to know. It’s a moral and logistical quagmire, not to mention a lawsuit waiting to happen, and maybe even illegal depending on how you get the contact information.

        If your position is “This is bad enough that I’m willing to get fired for contacting the spouse and tank my references at my company,” then go for it.

        1. BabyElephantWalk*

          I think we have a conflict between what many of us see as the moral imperative in this situation and what the law actually says and suggests as far as Nick’s right to privacy/discrete handling on his information by an employer.

          From a legal perspective, I can’t imagine HR had any standing to let Nora know, and may have violated Nick’s rights.

          Morally? Yeah, you probably should tell people when their significant other does not respect women or value consent. I get why people would tell. (I get why people might not, too, though I fall into the tell her camp myself.)

          1. Starbuck*

            What legal rights? Seriously, is there an actual law the company might have violated by releasing this info, and not just their own policies? Especially if what they said is verifiable and documented, and so not a lie, as far as I understand it’s not illegal.

    3. Pennilyn Lot*

      Frankly, if we are justifying this on the basis of domestic conflict, violence, or sexual victimization, then we also need to acknowledge that employers will potentially endanger people by doing this. You don’t know your employee’s home life, you don’t know if their spouse is abusive or volatile, you don’t know what kind of danger you’re putting them in by imparting that kind of information inappropriately. It’s really easy here to feel like it was a moral decision because of the specific context, but it will not always be that clear cut and there is significant room for harm.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Right? Whose safety?

        It’s also not at all unheard of for an aggrieved spouse to blame the victim of sexual harassment or even direct assault as “the other woman” and target them with threats or violence. The safety of the employees Nick was targeting should be the employer’s concern.

  19. Allonge*

    LW3 – holy moly. I mean, people – managers included – by all means should take time off to deal with feelings and figure out necessary changes, but you don’t tell the person the feelings are about that it’s Their Fault TM! FFS.

    You are well rid of these people.

    1. LKW*

      If your feelings about someone leaving a company are so intense that you need time off, you need to reevaluate your work/life balance. A coworker leaving, for whatever reason, should not be met with the same emotional reaction as a spouse leaving the relationship.

  20. Hapax Legomenon*

    This is an unusual set of short answers. I feel like three of them could each be their own posts, because they’re all difficult situations: HR going out of their way to get involved in a fired employee’s personal life, managers throwing preschool-age tantrums about an employee valuing their own health over a job that hates them, and an employee being stalked by a family member. This is an intense set of questions and it kind of feels hitting like AAM bingo.

    1. Meow*

      There have been many instances of 5 answer posts that in hindsight may have been better on their own.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        And even a few which have been separated out into their own post (bird phobia, St Patrick’s Day pinching I think)

    2. WellRed*

      But while the situations are intense, I think the answers are relatively straightforward. The stalker situation for example. The solutions are pretty straightforward and standard. From there, the OP can take appropriate steps as necessary. No need to delve into the why’s or how’s of the stalking. All three questions are also variations of questions we’ve seen in the past as opposed the LeAp Day birthday which was a holy sh*t situation (but not dangerous, for example).

  21. Guilt trippee*

    I haven’t really responded because they’re not asking anything or otherwise eliciting feedback. So I’m just closing and transferring cases.

    Two other people quit in the last five months. They were actually a lot better about boundaries and were not putting in the extra unpaid hours to keep things running (which I was doing as team lead). These other people were feted with multiple lunches, flowers, gifts.

    So either management see my quitting as a last straw *or* there’s some kind of lesson to be learned about being the safe pair of hands at work.

    1. Allonge*

      I know that ‘these specific people are just weird, no other conclusions’ is not a satisfactory take-away, but I would not go deeper than that. They are being unreasonable, but that is not a good reason for you to stay or make performance decisions at your future employers.

    2. After 33 years ...*

      Your middle paragraph suggests that, while mgmt saw the other employees as junior/interchangable, you were seen as “part of our mgmt team”. Hence, the attempt to lay guilt. Being the safe pair of hands, or the less assertive pair of hands, can lead to being taken for granted. Ask me how I know…
      Did they make a counter-offer?
      Best wishes!

      1. Guilt trippee*

        No, I’m not angling for a counteroffer but just thinking that might be something I’d do as a manager if I were having a similar response.

        We’ve been interviewing to replace the people who left, they could easily get someone experienced to replace me. The candidates are now emailing me saying, “We haven’t heard anything…?”

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I think that personally, they’re panicking and lashing out because something they’ve done/not done is now about to bite them on the rear end in a very big way once you’ve gone. Something they’ll no longer be able to hide.

      Endless speculation could of course occur as to what that is, but in terms of the emotionally laden guilt-tripping they’re giving it does ring rather familiar to me. Let them fail.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good for you being completely professional even though the people you report to are not. I have to wonder if they aren’t heardly looking for another job themselves because they don’t want to cover all the extra work they know you’ve been doing.
      (PS I almost missed your comment so I’m putting OP/LW here for the next inadequately caffeinated reader.)

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s a line in a Vorkosigan novel about never doing something for work and saying they don’t need to pay you, because work will learn to assume you’ll do it for free and then they’ll start to expect it as a right. Resonates here.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think that was said by Miles to his future wife — and it is astute that this is both true and very true when women and their contributions are involved.

    6. LKW*

      Don’t spend too much time trying to figure it out. Their behavior is extremely immature and unprofessional and it is not your job to teach them how to gracefully transition people. As others have said, if their success plan is based on a single individual then they’re setting themselves up for failure. People leave. Heck, I know someone who had to step in and figure out a process because the guy that was in charge of said process was killed by a falling tree. Shit happens.

    7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly, sounds like this is a total “the chickens are coming home to roost and we’re not ready” freak out on the manager’s part because they realize just what and how much you’ve been doing for them. I think you’re handling this as close to perfectly as possible. Just keep being totally professional and leave everything as finished as you can. If you’ve got time I would suggest writing out some frequent questions and answers for the folks left behind in the old department.

    8. Observer*

      So either management see my quitting as a last straw *or* there’s some kind of lesson to be learned about being the safe pair of hands at work.

      I’d say that both are true.

    9. EmmaPoet*

      Guilt trippee, quite frankly, if this department is in fact only staying afloat because of your herculean efforts, then it was a house of cards about to collapse anyway. What if you got hit by a bus, or were out sick with Covid for a month, or, you know, left because you were burned out? You can’t run this kind of org with a single point of failure which is that big. That’s entirely on them, not you.

  22. There’s a policy for this*

    #4: This should be covered under your office’s workplace violence and harassment policy. It’s good to check in with the employee to see what she needs, but it’s also important to make sure that you know what procedures your policy sets out to make sure you’re in compliance with your local laws and following best practices for safety.

  23. Asenath*

    Regarding number 3 – what I like to say (although I don’t always think of it fast enough) when someone’s trying to make me feel guilty and I don’t think I should feel guilty, is something that apparently takes what they’re saying seriously. The program is going to collapse without me, leaving vulnerable clients in the lurch? “I do think our program is valuable to our clients, but since I’m leaving, your decision on that is the one that matters.” Managers needs to go home and deal with their feelings? “Probably a good idea if you are so stressed. I hope you’ll feel better soon.” Toss their feelings and decisions back into their own laps, where they belong. And be glad you’re leaving soon; it sounds like a difficult place to work. I wouldn’t even bother mentioning that you’d previously brought up problems that remained unaddressed and were part of your reason for leaving. They had their chance to fix those, and it’s too late now.

    1. rubble*

      huh, I thought about nick and norah’s infinite playlist, but as I’m typing this I’m remembering the nora/norah spelling difference!

  24. Turducken*

    #4, try establishing a code word for real emergencies so Stalker-Dad can’t get through claiming he has to talk to Offspring because “emergency.” Doesn’t always work, but the fake emergency is one to plan for with Coworker.

    1. Gray Lady*

      I’m not sure how that would work, unless it is assumed that there can never be an emergency involving Dad needing to call in. If there ever can be, then he needs to know the word, and so does every other person in her life who might possibly ever have an emergency that would require calling her at work. And if he knows the word, it’s useless to prevent him from calling for any reason. If there cannot ever be such an emergency involving Dad, then she could just say never to put him through in any circumstances.

      1. Genny*

        I think this works if Dad never needs to contact her about an emergency and if he has been known to call in a fake emergency while pretending to be a trusted individual. In this case, daughter may choose to give the “emergency” password to a handful of trusted people. If dad calls in saying there’s an emergency, he gets denied access to daughter. If dad calls in pretending to be one of those trusted people, he gets denied access to daughter because he doesn’t know the password.

      2. Imaginary Friend*

        I think the assumption is that Offspring would never ever want to talk to Dad for any reason.

  25. LondonLady*

    #LW3 – if you have ideas on how the handover should work, and information that would be helpful to your successor, then you could put that in writing and share it with your managers, so at least you have done your bit to make the transition smooth, even if they have not.

    Also, you can focus on preparing your team members for your departure, with a countdown and handover plan for essential activities: and if there is a potential successor among them, perhaps brief them to be acting team leader and start training them up.

    You don’t have to do any of these things, but if you want to, then it gets round your managers being so useless.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I would say since management is busy imitating toddlers, focus on the folks in your department. Set them up as well as you can for success – because I have a feeling there’s not going to be a lot of hiring (based off of something you said above in another comment).

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    If #4’s father is actually showing up in person and the employee feels in danger, maybe a call to the police is warranted? This might be beyond the capabilities of your front desk/building security.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Not so sure what country OP is in – but here in the UK you likely won’t get a response from the police unless the person is being actively physically threatening at that moment. Sad to say I’ve got a lot of experience with the police not giving a damn about stalkers/people who make you feel really unsafe :(

      Definiately warn building security though. And if he *does* move onto actual physical threats/harm then absolutely call the police.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Mileage here varies by jurisdiction, laws in your state/county/city, amongst other things, in the US. And that’s not even touching on the “other issues” that are rampant in the US (i.e. race, gender, sexual orientation, etc….too often if they don’t inform how complaints are approached, they sure seem to. Its a capital P problem.)

        I honestly trust my building’s security guards more than I do the local PD.
        In college though? I trusted the local PD more than I did the University PD (who had jurisdiction and were actual police and not just rent-a-cops) because the University PD did prove themselves worthless in a similar situation.

        Also – the number of (presumably) women in the comments with similar issues in their personal IRLs is enough to make me cry. This shouldn’t be.

      2. Private_Eye*

        Yes, sad to say but that was my experience too. The night of the death threats – police were interested in knowing I was in a safe location. Actually following up and charging them though… nothing.

    2. BabyElephantWalk*

      Unless #4’s father is endangering the workplace or people within the workplace, please let whether to get the police involved be her call rather than something HR decides for her.

      She knows better than the HR department how he has behaved in the past and what specific concerns she has about reporting him through police. She knows better than HR what sort of connections her stalker dad has with the police. She knows better than HR what ripple effect this will have on the rest of her life and family relationships.

      If dad shows up and endangers the workplace, yeah call the police. But don’t take that agency away from her unless it’s 100% necessary because you may cause more problems than you solve. Preemptively calling the police before it gets to him showing up and causing a problem is not a safe idea.

    3. Bex*

      I’m in the US – California. My father drove across state lines 3 times to threaten/intimidate. Until the last time, when he showed up with a gun and was brandishing it, police said they don’t get involved in family squabbles and that since there was nothing physical there was nothing they could do.

      The weapons incident? He put it in his vehicle and despite video evidence of him waving it around, and threatening us, all he got was a warning about not brandishing weapons and let go.

      Law enforcement is not always the answer sadly. Or not the full answer.

  27. B Train*

    #4 please take this seriously. This is the exact thing that happened to a coworker of mine (ex boyfriend, not dad in that case). He ambushed her outside work one morning, shot her, and she died.

    Please take this seriously. Please make sure both security and the police know. Please protect her ad much as you can

    1. Observer*

      The OP *IS* taking her seriously. But calling the police should only happen if she’s on board with it AND the PD is likely to useful. It’s not always helpful, unfortunately.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        Yes to this. Disentangling your life from abusers is a fraught and at times dangerous thing. It’s her call whether it is the right time to involve police.

        1. Observer*

          I’m genuinely curious. Why on earth do you consider this an odd reply? I’m even more curious as to why you think that it’s a sign that I’m having a bad day.

          Very, very strange reaction to hearing a differing point of view.

  28. Boof*

    Hmm, lw1 feels tricky to me. On the one hand the work relationship and the personal relationship are very separate. On the other hand I don’t think the company is obliged to hide bad behavior and maybe it shouldn’t be such a secret to find out when/why people are fired for cause.

  29. mc*

    I think the company was correct in telling the employee’s spouse.

    Unfortunately, our society has a tradition of “protecting” the male spouse in all domestic situations, at the expense of the wife/kids. If you think about it, it’s really weird for the company (or the police) to “draw a line” and not “interfere” in anything related to the home. This tradition is why domestic abuse was not considered criminal under the law for most of western civilization. It seems like the company is drawing on this tradition.

    For example, if the employee was embezzling, do you think the company would keep this information away from another company who called for a reference? Certainly not – they would feel responsible to keep the 2nd company from harm. Now, contrast that with their attitude towards the wife….why is her harm not important to the 1st company when harm to the 2nd company is?

    1. anonymous73*

      It’s not about protecting him, it’s about it not being anyone’s business outside of the company. I would say the same thing if the genders were reversed and she was the one fired. Comparing it to a referral for another company is not the same thing. Yes it’s okay to inform another company that is considering hiring him about his behavior AT WORK. It’s not okay to meddle in their marriage. I can’t believe how many people in the comments are justifying HR’s behavior.

      1. WellRed*

        I’m surprised too. If the HR person wrote in asking if they should do this, pretty sure the answer would be hell no.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Same. I personally think the HR person should be fired for sharing confidential information outside the company.

          1. STG*

            The company doesn’t have a relationship with the wife at all though.

            Just a little further down, someone brought up a good point. Would you react the same if the HR person called his mom? His kids?

          2. Colette*

            I don’t think it’s confidential – but if they can’t prove it, it may be possible for them to be sued for libel, so a reasonable company is not going to be happy they shared it.

          3. PNW HR*

            The reason for termination is generally considered confidential. It is part of a business relationship between two parties. The wife is not part of that. I would fire this HR person so fast their head would spin.

    2. Colette*

      Sharing work-related information with another company is different from calling up a spouse. It’s not about protecting the husband, it’s that they don’t have a relationship with the spouse. Should they also call his mom? (If it were a woman, would they call her spouse?)

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Actually, a lot of companies wouldn’t share the information about embezzling. They’d just say “so and so worked here from this date to this date, and is not eligible for rehire”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        But Alison’s advice would be to let them know rather than just give out just enough information to make you wonder what the hell happened and end up thinking, OK I suppose we’d better pass on this person, what a pity, he was my favourite candidate. I mean “not eligible for rehire” does sound pretty bad but it could be due to the worker rejecting the boss’s daughter’s advances (in a family business where she was working for daddy).

    4. Bernice Clifton*

      That’s not an equivalent situation. Nora didn’t call HR and ask why Nick doesn’t work there anymore.

      And you are talking about a potential employer calling this place and requesting specific information, not an HR employee proactively calling other employers to say, “FYI, we just fired this dude for embezzling money.”

    5. Pennilyn Lot*

      This is a reach and a half. A domestic partnership is not the same thing as an employee-employer relationship. It’s not appropriate in the slightest to call up a current or former employee’s partner and tell them something like that. If anything, having a company policy that you will call up a wronged spouse to tell them that their partner is cheating on them is something that is likely to increase domestic conflict and possibly violence, not in any sense prevent it.

      The company isn’t the police. The wife isn’t another company. The male spouse has not committed domestic violence or done anything criminal. None of your comparisons here track.

    6. Observer*

      For example, if the employee was embezzling, do you think the company would keep this information away from another company who called for a reference?

      There is a difference between honestly answering a question from someone who calls for a reference and proactively reaching out to other companies. That’s really the difference between the two scenarios, not the reason Nick was fired.

      If another company called Employer to ask about Nick because they are thinking of hiring him, Employer should tell them the truth, and that would be true whether he was fired for suspected embezzlement or for harassment of any sort. But would expect them to proactively reach out to a company that they heard was interviewing Nick? Regardless, of whether it was embezzlement or harassment (or any other misconduct.)

  30. I should really pick a name*

    For #1, there’s a distinction between what’s best for the spouse, and what’s best for the company.

    Yes, in the majority of cases, the spouse would want to know, but that doesn’t obligate the company to tell them.
    1. The company does not have a relationship with the spouse.
    2. By telling the spouse, they’re opening the door to getting more involved in the situation (ex. providing evidence in divorce proceedings, a lawsuit from the former employer saying that they cost him his marriage or something like that). Even if they’re completely in the right, it’s not in their interest to be involved.
    3. If it’s criminal matter and there are charges, the spouse is going to find out anyway.

    I’d say the calculus would be very different for a friend, but for a company, it opens them up to a lot of negative outcomes.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Even “in the majority of cases, the spouse would want to know” doesn’t justify it, IMO. The minority that would not want to know, or who might want to know but certainly wouldn’t want to find out like that, is pretty real too.

  31. Shiba Dad*

    #3 – My colleagues are being lovely but my two managers have lost it — “disappointed,” “betrayed,” and taking time off to deal with their feelings.

    Good grief!

    These folks took you for granted. Now they are burning the bridge. When you try to talk transition again and they start whining, you may want to point out why you are leaving. You could tell them that you feel “disappointed” and “betrayed” because they didn’t listen to your concerns and now they are trying to blame you for their inaction. Of course, only do this if you are comfortable doing it.

  32. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: I wouldn’t have made that call. Unless it was something really really serious (like their spouse hasn’t just been fired but also hauled away by the police and I’ve seen this happen) and then I probably would have done, if just to warn them that some major problems are coming down the line.

    For everything else…I’m biased because I’ve come darn close to losing my job on a couple of occassions due to appalling behavior (decades ago, I’m better these days) and I don’t think I would have coped had someone rung my husband to tell him all the ways I’d been a total arse at work. And while I never did any kind of sexual harrassment I was really, really, out of line.

    I guess my level is ‘is the law involved?’. If legal stuff and especially the authorities are now involved then yeah, I’d let the family know just as a heads up for the stress that’s incoming.

    1. WellRed*

      I can almost see that if you know the family (long time employee, say) but really, the family will find out quick enough. You telling me a stressful situation is coming isn’t likely to help much unless you are prepared to provide concrete information.

      1. Imaginary Friend*

        Keymaster said “I’d let the family know just as a heads up for the stress that’s incoming”. They did not say “I’d let the family know that there is stress incoming”. These things are not the same. I’m not Keymaster but it sounded to me like they were saying that they *would* share details – as an advance warning.

  33. MBK*

    My current and former employers are in the same industry and many employees from each know each other well through conferences, collaborations, and mutual acquaintances.

    When I interviewed at Current, I already had approval from Former to attend the Big Annual Conference in Edinburgh on they’re dime. I’d also had a proposal accepted to present on work I’d been doing at Former, which is always good representation for them and something they actively encourage.

    But given the timing, I knew that (a) Conference would end up taking place during my notice period, and (b) as supportive and understanding as they were, Former would almost definitely revoke my travel funding once I put in notice. They’d still give me the time to go, just not the money.

    I was up front with Current and negotiated that they’d reimburse my travel and registration expenses for Conference, even though I would still be Former’s employee and “wearing Former’s colors” during the whole conference. It ended up working out great. The only hiccup was getting Current HR’s expense reporting software to accept conference expenses and receipts with dates that preceded my actual hire date.

    So yeah, employers – good ones, anyway – often have some flexibility regarding preexisting plans and commitments that overlap with the first few weeks of a new job.

    1. MBK*

      UGH. On *their* dime. Why does proofreading for autocorrect typos never work until after hitting submit?!

  34. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    Re: #1 – and THAT is why HR gets a bad rep!

    MAYBE… I can justify the call to the employee’s wife, like if HR called the wife because he expressed suicidal thoughts after the firing – in which case HR would have been right to overstep, and only then can I see how the conversation would have been a bit different and would have included the reason for termination (so the wife would have context).

    But if it otherwise happened exactly as OP said it happened: why??? UGH!

  35. Shiba Dad*

    #4 – At Old Job I used to work in a system at a small office building. On one trip I noticed they had designated several parking spaces near the building as “stork parking”. I found out from the Building Manager that they did that as a response to an ex of one of the women that worked there showing up and harassing her. They added a security guard and designated that parking for people in her situation.

  36. anonymous73*

    #1 – there are very few reasons to contact an employee’s spouse, and this is not one of them. It’s not the business of HR to meddle in their marriage. He was fired, end of story. Why he was fired is up to him to explain to her. No contact of the spouse is necessary or warranted. Just like a spouse/partner/parent/etc. shouldn’t contact that person’s employer on their behalf outside of letting them know they won’t be coming to work and they’re incapacitated.
    #2 – if you got a flat tire on your normal commute to/from work would you expect your employer to pay for a new one? Unless your job requires you to drive and/or transport things as part of your job using your own vehicle, they aren’t responsible for any of your car maintenance.
    #5 – Most places are reasonable with pre-planned vacations. As Alison said, just make sure you’re up front about it one you’re at the offer stage and be prepared to possibly take time off without pay. If you accrue vacation time, some places will let you go into the negative a bit, but every company is different.

  37. AthenaC*

    I’d like to offer a correction to the response to #4:

    “(because people dealing with this sort of thing often worry they’ll be seen as a source of drama, even though they’re not the ones causing it). ”

    I think that needs to be amended to “because people dealing with this sort of thing are often perceived by their peers and managers to be a source of drama and are penalized for it, even though they’re not the ones causing it.”

    OP#4, bless you for being the exception to what many of us have experienced.

  38. Cautionary tail*

    Op 5, It may not be all roses. A few years ago I interviewed for a position in April/May. At the offer stage I informed them that I had a prepaid vacation for the next December, 7 months away. They sweetly said that won’t be a problem but did not give me anything in writing – I didn’t think to ask. I then moved my family 350 miles away to a different state to join this company. They turned out to be a seething toxic pit of vipers. In November I reminded that that I had an upcoming prepaid vacation and they responded with “If you take that vacation, you’re fired.” I reminded them that they had approved it before I took the job and they again responded with “If you take that vacation, you’re fired.” I took the vacation. On my first morning back to the office, they said “You’re fired.” I said “You can’t fire me, I quit.”

    After leaving there that morning I was finally able to reflect on how horrible the company was and deal with the depression and anxiety they gave me which years later I learned was workplace PTSD.

  39. Eman*

    @LW2 / OP2, this may be a good time to learn how to change your own tire if you get a flat.
    I know it’s separate from your discussion about work but, if you are able-bodied, knowing how to do this will in the future save you the call to the towing company.

    1. londonedit*

      A lot of modern cars don’t even come with a spare tyre nowadays. They have ‘run-flats’ which are designed to enable you to get to the nearest garage etc, or sometimes a quick temporary repair kit. But if you’re on the motorway and you have breakdown assistance then you’re probably far better off staying well away from the vehicle and calling the breakdown company for help rather than attempting to change a tyre on the hard shoulder where you’re at risk from passing traffic.

      1. WellHere'sTheThing, Janice*

        I’d like to add that many vehicle insurance companies provide non-collision towing coverage; mine was up to $100 and it was as simple as calling for a claim number, scanning and emailing the tow invoice, and getting a check in the mail a week or two later. So I don’t stress getting a tow anymore if conditions are hazardous for changing the tire.

      2. AnonAnon*

        My vote is also for calling roadside assistance.
        While I am able bodied and like doing hands-on things, and I theoretically know how to change a tire, I am definitely not familiar enough to be able to do it quickly and safely on the side of the road. I will need to pull out the instructions from the owners’ manual or find it using my phone. I know it will take me a long time, involve trial and error in every step, and probably can’t even loosen the lug nuts as others commented below. Even when/if I changed it to the spare donut, I still have to drive to the nearest garage and wait for them to repair it. If I’m wearing my work clothes, the grease and dirt will ruin them and I’ll have to replace them. So how does all this save me anything? AAA membership is there for exactly this kind of thing. The last times I had to call them, it was easy. Saved me a ton of time and stress.

        1. CBB*

          Safety is a big consideration. If you must change a tire at the side of a road, better to do it quickly, and have a big yellow truck with flashing lights parked behind you.

      3. UKDancer*

        Yes I can technically change a tyre but I also know that I pay the RAC money each month so they do it for me. Its quicker and safer especially on the hard shoulder. I would always prefer to use the professionals.

    2. Shiba Dad*

      I recently had a flat tire. I attempted to change it myself. The problem I had was that the lug nuts were really tightened down. The tools that came with the car did not give me enough leverage to budge them. I’m not a small guy either.

      Swallowed my pride and called the tow truck to change the tire.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Back in late high school/college/just out of college I had a run of lousy cars with lousy tires and I drove a lot. I got my share of flats. I theoretically know how to change one, but I’m not the biggest or strongest person and I never could get the lugnuts loose by myself. This is why I’ve always had AAA.

      2. Gray Lady*

        Yes, many otherwise able people cannot remove the lug nuts if they were put on with power equipment at a shop.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          This is very interesting! I’ve never had to try but I hope I remember this thread if I try and fail in the future so I don’t feel bad about not being able to lol

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            The older I get, the more willing I am to set aside my ego and accept help changing a tire.

            I can still do it when I have to, but I tire quickly of dirty, manual labor. If a young man (or woman) wants to be chivalrous toward a man who isn’t as young as I used to be, I will express my sincere appreciation.

            And yes, when I was younger, I did a lot of work that was harder and dirtier than changing a tire. But time happens.

      3. yala*

        Yeah, the three times I’ve gotten a flat tire, I’ve had to have someone help me. It’s not that I don’t know how, it’s literally just my little noodle arms cannot get the lugnuts off.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Throwing this out there because I’m seeing lots of people talk about not being able to get the tire lugs loose because they are so much tighter now. Modern cars actually have a set of Torques listed for their tires to ensure they stay on under operating conditions. This makes them tighter and harder to loosen on your own. I recommend adding a cheater pipe (just a length of METAL pipe that can be placed over the end of the socket wrench) to help you get extra leverage to turn the lugs. The pipe can also be used to help tighten the lugs on the spare until you get to the tire shop.

      (Oh, and the best shops are using hand torque wrenches, because you can actually damage the the studs by over-tightening the lugs. My spouse is a former mechanic – they tell everyone to add a metal cheater pipe to the tool kit that they recommend you keep in your car.)

      1. Okay, great!*

        I found out just this week that my car came with a cheater pipe with an attached lug nut wrench. It came in really handy as I had to jump up and down on it to get the lug nuts loose. I don’t have triple A but I was able to get safely to a parking lot to change to the spare. Gotta love you tube for all of the instructional videos!

  40. saby*

    Maybe because I’ve been very closely following the Chicago Blackhawks story (which is truly awful so google with caution), but my instinct at this moment is very much on transparency and making it clear when someone is being let go because they are a sexual predator or even just a sex pest, even if there isn’t enough evidence/severity for a criminal charge. How would HR feel if they let Nick be quietly fired and never warned anyone and he later escalated his behaviour? Maybe the spouse isn’t the right person but she’s also not *not* the right person.

    1. Colette*

      The right person would actually be the police. If they don’t want to go to the police, they shouldn’t attempt to make the wife responsible for his behaviour.

      1. rubble*

        I don’t think that’s why they would be warning the wife. I think they meant to warn her so she could get out of the situation if necessary.

        the company absolutely should not be forcing their employees (the targets if the behaviour) to go to the police if they don’t want to.

      2. saby*

        I think it’s a pretty big leap from “warning the wife of a sexual harasser about what he’s done” to “making the wife of a sexual harasser responsible for his behaviour.” And we have no information about whether they went to the police or not, or even about whether this behaviour escalated to something the police would actually take seriously or not. But I do take them contacting the wife as a hopeful sign that if they ever get a reference/employment check for this guy they’ll be straightforward about the fact that he’s bad news.

        1. Colette*

          If the goal is to prevent Nick from escalating his behavior, as you said in your comment, then how will the wife help? The only way is if she takes responsibility for his behaviour.

    2. Observer*

      I did a quick Google. TOTALLY different scenario, if I’m understanding correctly.

      The problem with the Blackhawks is not that they didn’t tell a spouse or SO about the behavior. What they did do is sit on the issue for weeks, and then refuse to do an investigation. And let’s be real – giving him a choice of investigating or letting him RESIGN and then keeping that a secret says that they knew that there was an issue and were refusing to take basic steps to deal with it. The fact that he tried something on an intern in the time that the organization first found out about it and the time that they decided to deal with it just makes it worse.

      This is not an apples to apples comparison.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I’m not familiar with that situation, but in most cases where there’s rampant abuse, the issue is that no one investigated or involved the authorities, not that they didn’t call the abuser’s spouse.

    3. Observer*

      How would HR feel if they let Nick be quietly fired and never warned anyone and he later escalated his behaviour? Maybe the spouse isn’t the right person but she’s also not *not* the right person.

      How is telling the spouse supposed to have any effect on keeping Nick from escalating? How could she be the right person?

      Why do you say that she is “not *not* the right person”. That could only be true if there were a significant chance that she could be the right person. But how is that even possible?

      You are, however, making the point that someone above asked about. Was HR calling to make this Nora’s responsibility? What you are saying essentially is yes, it’s her responsibility.

  41. feath*

    #5: the advice is spot on, but also be willing to be flexible. When I started my last job I had two Friday plans, and a full week off planned. I let them know the two Friday ones were more “set”, and I could be flexible on the week off and not take it/take less. They appreciated this and let me go into negative PTO and have the full week!

  42. Elm*

    Granted this was a school, but we had a dad show up high as a kite and start harassing a teacher and the students. It was bad enough that the principal (thankfully bigger than him, since the drugs the guy was on give super strength) was able to subdue him, and dad was taken out in handcuffs.

    The fact is, if he’s showing up drunk, making people uncomfortable, harassing ANY employee (related or otherwise), or escalates to threats or similar, it may have to come to this regardless of her wishes. Make sure she knows this is for everyone’s safety and still won’t reflect badly on her, but she may feel betrayed if this isn’t made clear and has to happen.

    Also, thanks for not blaming her. I see so many advice columns where the opposite happens, and I got in serious trouble for telling my security guard to not let my ex in the building because I thought he might be dangerous. (Yup, seriously, and I worked with children!)

  43. CatLady*

    LW #5 – this has never been an issue for me. I’ve started more than one job with a vacation right away – including one where I’d been laid off for 9 months prior. We’d had a Disney trip planned the year before. I started and two weeks later I was on the trip. I told them when we started talking serious and getting into benefits – “oh btw, I already have a vacation planned and paid for. How can we handle that?” I always expected they’d tell me I was unpaid (getting ready for the worst) and each time they said – no worries, you’ll just go into vacation debt that’s all. Nobody blinked an eye.

    1. Bee Eye Ill*

      I had something similar where we’d booked a 7-day cruise a year or so in advance and I started a job the week before we left. I was up front about it and just didn’t get paid while I was gone, but we’d pre-paid for the trip so it wasn’t a big deal.

    2. Coenobita*

      Same! When I was in this situation, my new job let me go “in the red” on my vacation time so that I didn’t have to take the time unpaid.

    3. irene adler*

      In the early days, my employer did similarly. One woman took a lot of vacation time-enough to go greatly into the “red”. Not a problem. She was paid for those hours. Not sure if there were others doing similarly.

      Then she turned around and put in her two weeks notice.

      The “in the red” vacation policy ended right after she left. They got burned- her final paycheck (withheld, I believe) was smaller than the number of vacation hours in the “red”. Ouch!

    4. MCMonkeyBean*


      The one thing I will note is that I would also make sure to mention it to your direct manager at some point early on if your manager isn’t the one you’re discussing it with. With my previous company I discussed existing vacation plans with the person who extended my offer and they said it wouldn’t be an issue and we moved forward. Once I was actually there it came up in conversation with my boss and apparently no one had told her. She wasn’t thrilled about it to be honest, but she was like “oh, well, I guess if they already agreed…”

  44. WellHere'sTheThing, Janice*

    LW2: Many car insurance companies will reimburse you up to a certain amount for non-collision-related towing. I had no idea until my mechanic clued me in! (Mine was up to $100 which covered my tow completely.) It won’t help with the flat tire cost but it was relatively easy to file the claim and got a check a week or two later.

  45. Falling Diphthong*

    Re a flip to #1: I have tried and failed to find this old letter:
    OP ran a small business with a partner. One of their clients had just clued her in that her business partner was carrying on an affair with the husband of a major client. (I think caterers was the example given, but it could have been some other ongoing business relationship with small and large gigs, one-off and recurring.) Apparently it was reaching the “everyone in this social group except the cheated-on wife and the business partner knows” level, and someone finally clued in the latter.

  46. Workfromhome*

    Them “Fine, we’ll just close the whole department because how will it function without you?”
    You “Oh thanks for letting me know that I’m absolutely indispensable. I never would have know from the way you underpaid me and ignored my concerns all these years. I guess if the department will close without me there will be no need for me to try to rate any reference documents or transition plans for a department that wont exist.” turn and walk away


    Re: #2 What if the car is a company car? What if the LW is able to use the car for personal use?

    1. Common sense not so common?*

      Then there will almost certainly be policies in place to cover this very common eventuality. But that isn’t the case here.

      Seriously, come on – if you rip your pants on your way to work, your company doesn’t buy you a new pair! If the pants are part of a uniform supplied by your employer, you probably already know if uniform costs are covered or the responsibility of the employee.

  48. Falling Diphthong*

    In #1, I am sincerely unclear on whether telling the spouse would usually be illegal. (e.g. HR only knows about this because they used their access to discover the confidential information.)

    A company normally doesn’t need to keep the reason someone was let go a secret. Sometimes you call a press conference to explain that someone is no longer working for you, and why. (For example, if your employee wore their employee ID/sweatshirt while storming the Capitol.) If the reason for the firing isn’t legally protected, and isn’t considered an official company business secret–then I’m not sure there’s much practical difference between “an outsider called up a contact at the company and asked what went down when Nick got fired (possibly ranting about the reason Nick gave them)” and “one of the dozen or so people at the company who knew why Nick got fired opted to share that information with someone they thought should know.”

    Is the reason someone is fired for cause always considered a deep dark secret that the company shall never reveal to anyone outside the org?

    1. Observer*

      In the US, there is generally no legal issue with revealing this kind of information to a spouse. But. that doesn’t make it good idea to call a spouse with information about a firing.

      In this particular situation, I’m not sure where I fall, because we really don’t have enough information.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I feel like whether or not sharing helped the spouse (as an innocent party entangled with the person setting their life on fire) is very up in the air. I could see someone who wouldn’t tell 8 out of 10 people, but would the other 2. I don’t think it has a one-size-fits-all answer.

    2. RagingADHD*

      “Is the reason someone is fired for cause always considered a deep dark secret that the company shall never reveal to anyone outside the org?”

      No. But in the US, anyone can sue anyone for anything if they are mad enough to pay for a lawyer — even if they can’t win. Broadcasting the reason for a firing is dicey territory, and not usually in the company’s best interest.

  49. Stina*

    LW1: The only reason I could see for HR to tell a spouse is if it was “We fired Employee today for (illegal behavior) and have filed a police report” vs. run of the mill performance issues. The LW’s situation sits right on the edge of that line since sending unwanted explicit photos can (should) be considered illegal behavior and might involve law enforcement although it appears HR did not involve the police (consensual pix but done on corporate equipment?).

  50. AngryOwl*

    I’m a hypocrite because I would not have made the call in #1…but I would want someone to call me.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That’s not hypocritical.
      Your needs as a spouse are different from the needs of the company.

  51. Lobsterman*

    LW3: Clean out your desk, don’t show up to work any more. These people are deranged, and I wouldn’t trust them not to do something foolish or destructive.

  52. H.Regalis*

    LW #1 – In general, I would say they shouldn’t contact a spouse; but for this, if it were me, I would want to know. I’m glad they told her.

    LW #4 – Make sure your employee knows you’re on her side and are willing to help her. You may want to bring up her getting a restraining order against him if she doesn’t already have one. The police are not always helpful, but sometimes that can be enough to scare someone off, if they think there could be consequences for their actions or don’t want the police looking at them too closely for other reasons. I’ve had a stalker on and off, and the longest they’ve ever left me alone was when I called the cops one time when they showed up at my house and sat on the front porch and wouldn’t leave. Prior to that, they would sit outside my house and try to follow me to my new job so they could find out where I worked and start bothering me there. This was not someone who was ever violent towards me, and this is really a YMMV situation. But please talk to your employee about what actions she wants taken, what she feels comfortable with, and what makes her feel safe. She is the best authority on this.

  53. New But Not New*

    Re: #2
    OP says they were “on the clock” when the flat tire happened. This fact may have incurred some worker’s compensation liability on the part of the employer if an accident happened and OP was injured. But responsibility for a personally owned vehicle malfunction is outside the scope of employer responsibility, whether on the clock or not.

  54. Not your typical admin*

    Question 1: This would be so tough. This goes way beyond most fireable offenses. Depending on what all happened I absolutely feel it was right to tell Nora, although perhaps not in an official capacity. She could be exposed to STDs for one. Also, depending on what actually was sent, he could be involved in potential illegal activities. If he’s in a public setting, his firing and the reason behind it could become public knowledge. I know I would want the chance to get out of town before something like that broke. And honestly, if I had that knowledge I’d be tempted to reach out to her anonymously.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yeah, I’m scratching my head on that one.

        Generally speaking dick pics do not evoke an enthusiastic “yes, please, let’s have an affair” response, any more than catcalling on the street is an effective dating strategy.

  55. Florida Fan 15*

    For #3, I wouldn’t waste any time trying to figure out why they’re acting like they are. Leave that to their shrinks, their bartenders, or their put-upon spouses. Certainly don’t waste your breath trying to get them to stop. They’re acting out, it’s not rational, and your best bet is simply to ignore it.

    I also wouldn’t spend much time worrying about the handover and what happens after you leave. That’s their responsibility, not yours, and they’ll either handle it or they won’t. Just because they’re acting like children doesn’t mean you have to act like their parent and make sure they get their homework done.

  56. Smilingswan*

    #4, Also, I don’t know if anyone above has mentioned it, but if you have an EAP, you may want to make sure the employee knows about it.

  57. RagingADHD*

    Re: #1, since this is all third hand/hypothetical, are we sure Nora got a call from the actual HR department, or from a personal friend who works for the company and who might also work for HR?

    Or possibly Nora got a call from the recipient of one of the photos, who may or may not actually work in HR?

  58. Chilipepper Attitude*

    An old coworker was the wife in #1. Telling her did nothing. It was all a plot against him. She defended him and helped him move on to another workplace where it happened again.

  59. No Dumb Blonde*

    For LW #5: This has happened to me twice and it turned out fine both times. The first time, I was interviewing for a position with one of the Big 4 accounting/consulting firms. My interviewer was a stranger to me, but others on the team had recommended me, as their project desperately needed someone with my specific background. This occurred in early December, and my spouse and I already had booked a 2-week vacation over the holidays. I was clear about that in the final interview stage and I offered to delay my start date until afterward, but they were so eager for me to start that they asked me to fly to another state for intense onboarding/training between my last day at old job and my planned vacation. It was stressful fitting it all in, but it was nice to be in a paid status for that few days of training.

  60. Cube Farmer*

    Late to this, but several years ago, we had a colleague being stalked. We knew the stalker’s name, and we offered to answer the phone if his name came up on the caller ID. My colleague went to court and got a restraining order and luckily, that seemed to be the last of it.

  61. Elizabeth*

    Great responses to the manager who is in a position to support an employee who is being stalked! In addition, please suggest that folks learn about their local resources and help their employees/colleagues connect with a confidential advocate at a local domestic violence or sexual assault agency. Managers or colleagues often think they have to have all the answers for employees in harm’s way, when in fact there are professionals to help! A good advocate could help this employee by assessing risks (Does the estranged father have access to a weapon, or has there been a restraining order in place, or has he previously threatened violence? Any of those, or other indicators, would be a reason to escalate the response, and an advocate is equipped to do that assessment.) and helping the employee to a) explore their options, b) safety plan, and c) communicate their needs to their manager. Thanks! – from a confidential advocate

  62. Kevin Sours*

    For #3, I feel like “If there aren’t any transition tasks remaining to accomplish, should we make today my last day?” should be a response on the table. You really shouldn’t have to make yourself an emotional punching bag during your notice period.

  63. Alyssa*

    #5 I did that same thing several years ago when I started my current job. I interviewed in August and had a trip already planned in October, and the interview and hiring process moved much faster than I anticipated. I was offered the position in late August and the plan was to start right after Labor Day. I told the hiring manager I really wanted the position but had this trip planned (air fare booked, etc). She wanted me and made it work. Because of the company’s HR policies the time had to be taken unpaid, but I was fine with that. I got the job I wanted and a trip across the country to see a close friend—a true win-win situation!

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