food restrictions at a lunch interview, X-rated background noise on phone calls, and more

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

1. I hear X-rated noises in the background when I call an employee

One of my employees is chronically late and often absent. Some of this is to do with disability and mental health issues, so they get a fair amount of latitude. It’s frustrating but I’m trying to get on the same page about appropriate accommodations with them and a more senior manager.

I have to give them a welfare phone call when they don’t come into work. When I reach them in this situation, they are unapologetic but polite and friendly. They say they are ill or have overslept, and recently that they didn’t have the money to pay for transportation to work. The problem is: a couple of times on these calls there have been noises in the background that sounded like sex or porn. I don’t know (or want to know) what they or someone in their room were doing, but it made me really uncomfortable and is inappropriate for a work-related call. Can or should I speak to them about this? I don’t want to, but equally I don’t want it to happen again. Where would I even start? If it’s relevant, we are both nonbinary and are both usually misgendered as men.

Loop your HR team in on this, for a few different reasons. First and foremost, it sounds like this might have gone beyond what’s reasonable to accommodate. Allowing someone to no-show without a phone call when they’re ill can be a reasonable medical accommodation, but not bothering to call to say they won’t be in because they don’t have transportation to work is something you’d normally handle differently. So there’s a broader conversation you need to have with your HR team about how to handle this, particularly if the unscheduled absences are causing coverage or workflow issues.

Also, it’s not acceptable for you to have to be subjected to sex noises when you’re doing your job! If it had only happened once, you could write it off as a fluke. But if it’s happened multiple times, it’s reasonable to address it.

But this is weird enough, and wrapped up in bigger accommodation issues, that you shouldn’t try to navigate it on your own. Tell your HR team what’s going on and ask for their guidance on how to handle both pieces of this.

If I was forced to handle it without any HR guidance, I suppose I would say something to the employee like, “Several times when I’ve called you recently because you didn’t show up to work, I heard what sounded like X-rated noise in the background. I’m not comfortable hearing that, so I need you to ensure you’re in a quiet place when you take calls from work.” But really, there’s too much going on here to handle it yourself so: HR.

2. Food restrictions at a lunch interview

I am in the middle of interviewing for a new position, and a question came up that I have never figured out a good answer for. This interviewer is providing a lunch as part of an all-day interview, and they asked if I have any dietary restrictions. I usually say no because I don’t have any allergies or cultural restrictions and I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but the truth is that I do have some restrictions. I’m autistic and have aversions to some food textures, but they aren’t easy to sum up and I’m afraid that if I list them I’ll look unreasonable or like I’m “just” a picky eater. The vast majority of the time, I can find something that I can eat, but every once in a while I will be served a meal that hits those sensitivities with no alternatives and I’m stuck picking at sides and hoping I don’t come across as rude. I truly cannot just muscle through eating something I don’t enjoy because it will make me gag, which is mortifying for everyone involved.

This hasn’t happened at a work or interview setting yet (thank goodness!) but I’m wondering if there’s a way to avoid the issue that I’m not thinking of. I thought about asking for the potential menu for the lunch to make sure it looks okay, but I’m afraid that might look rude. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? I don’t really want to disclose that I’m autistic.

How about this: “I have some complicated food restrictions. Any chance you can send me the menu ahead of time so I can make sure there’s something I’ll be able to eat?” Or if your sense is that they’re not taking you to a restaurant but catering or otherwise providing food in the office: “I have some complicated food issues. Any chance you could connect me with whoever is ordering the food? I’ve found that’s a lot easier!”

Or, if there’s something reliable for you that’s on most menus, you could request that. For example: “I have some food restrictions, but just a simple green salad, no tomatoes, dressing on the side, would be great.”

3. My work friend disappeared when I moved on to her team

I recently got a new role at my same company. I switched into the department of someone I had a close relationship with in my previous role. We’d meet pretty much weekly and a lot of the insight she gave me into how her team worked actually probably helped me to get this job since I already knew their culture and business so well. But now we don’t work together anymore.

A few months into the new role, I reached out to her for a virtual coffee meeting just to catch up since we didn’t meet anymore. She requested a reschedule once and then when the time finally came around she declined the meeting a few minutes before saying her husband was coming home for lunch so she wouldn’t be able to meet. No apology or even saying maybe another time. We haven’t talked since. I’m at a loss for what could have happened between us! She used to share a lot of pretty personal information with me and seemed really open. Could something about me moving into her department have made her not want to be friends anymore? (She is not my manager.) Should I just let it go?

If I’m reading correctly, you’ve only made one overture to her? If that’s the case, it’s not unreasonable to try one more time and see what happens.

If she’s not responsive to that invitation either, it might be that she’s just not that social and now that there isn’t a work reason to meet, she’s not one to maintain the relationship. Or who knows — maybe she wanted the role you ended up getting, or maybe she favored another candidate for it. Or it could have nothing to do with you at all and she has other stuff going on. But yeah, if she’s not receptive to the second overture, at that point it makes sense to let it go.

4. Will senior leadership turnover affect my new job?

I recently accepted a new job that I’m supposed to start in a couple of months after I’ve wrapped things up with my current employer. I’ve signed an offer and submitted a bit of other paperwork, but otherwise I haven’t heard anything in a couple weeks. That didn’t strike me as strange given how much time there is before I start. However, it appears that the organization’s president and a couple of other senior leaders resigned in short order very recently. The organization announced interim replacements but no other information that I can find.

My role at the organization is a new one and I’m slightly concerned they may change their mind on my hire. It’s not a huge place, maybe 30 full-time staff. Mine is not a senior role but not insignificant either. I’m relocating for thus job. Should I be concerned? Should I reach out to my future supervisor about this? What should I say?

Yes, reach out. Send an email to the person who will be your manager saying something like, “I saw you’ve had some staffing changes and I wanted to make sure nothing has changed that would affect the X role or my May 10 start date.” If it’s your style, you can add, “I’m excited to get started!”

5. What’s the standard time for a company to get back to you after an interview?

I work in a specific area of a common industry. I interviewed for a new company two weeks ago. I have been with my current company six years and am only pursuing a new opportunity due to the remote situation. I participate frequently in panel interviews at my current job and am comfortable with interview questions, format, etc.

I thought interview went great. I followed up with an email within the week and received a positive response. Now I am approaching two and a half weeks, and silence. I have always lived by the rule of one outreach and then let it go. So I won’t email again!

But I am curious in this climate and economy if anything has changed about HR letting a candidate know the position is filled. Is there an industry standard of four weeks? Do companies feel obligated to even inform candidates? My current job is very prompt and will inform candidates within a week max if they are still in running or not getting an offer. Are we out of the norm to communicate this quickly with candidates?

You’re not out of the norm, but there’s a wide spectrum of behavior around communicating with candidates and, while some employers are responsive, it’s also very, very common for companies to completely ghost people after interviews. It’s incredibly rude, and it’s incredibly widespread.

That’s not to say you’re being ghosted here. Two and a half weeks isn’t enough to conclude anything; it wouldn’t be out of the norm for them to take a few more weeks, if not longer, to get back to you. There’s no standard of X weeks — it’s all over the map. But it is possible they won’t get back to you at all.

The best thing you can do after an interview — even after a good interview — is to assume you didn’t get the job, put it out of your head, mentally move on, and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do contact you.

{ 298 comments… read them below }

  1. 2 cents of grump*

    I did not know not having commuting money was an legitimate excuse to stay home! /s

    But seriously, the porn noises along with the other behavior make me wonder if they’re just messing with you at this point? It sounds like the company has been terrible at dealing with this employee and your team is suffering as a result.
    Your employee clearly has some legitimate issues but you definitely need HR to clarify what’s acceptable and what’s over the line. It sounds a little like the previous bullying is making the company nervous that the employee will be litigious if let go, but letting them get away with anything isn’t the solution.

    1. Wintermute*

      In a perfect world, employers would be far more sensitive to the cost of commuting, so that part I’m not going to knock.

      I sort of had the same thought split-second, if maybe he’s TRYING to get fired for some reason, either intentionally, or as a self-sabotage thing. But it’s equally possible that he’s just not coping real well and having trouble with comporting to work norms. There’s even a slim possibility that part is just a coincidence– I’ve lived in a few apartments with really, really thin walls though the fact it’s been “a few times” and presumably short calls REALLY beggars belief that it’s just the neighbors. I suppose maybe it’s just unfortunate timing with the neighbor’s morning routine, but still… it seems unlikely at best.

      Ultimately though, the good news is it really doesn’t matter. Motive isn’t important here only that it stops. Even if that doesn’t change the fact he’s watching something, that’s not the part that has to change.

      1. 2 cents of grump*

        It was a rare moment of kindness during the pandemic when my employer sprung for parking instead of asking me to take public transit so I do agree that employers should be more aware. I guess the wording just struck me, if I don’t go to work I don’t get paid so bring too broke to commute would just compound any financial difficulties.

        1. Snowball*

          I work at a big city firm and for awhile we had free parking during the pandemic…and driving was 20 minutes compared to an hour commute. Parking is now back to $40/day so I’ve gone in once since

          1. JJax*

            Holy moly, they expect you to shell out $800 a month for parking?! That’s nearly $10,000 a year, assuming you’re on a 5 day a week schedule. That’s horrifying!

            1. PT*

              They probably expect everyone to take mass transit. Parking is that expensive in cities with a functioning rail system.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                In our office, parking is $10 unless you have an accommodation or a company car.
                Most people take public transport (which is good and bears no social stigma) co-financed by the company, or cycle to work (bike parking and showers are ample and free).

          2. Yarrow*

            Wow, that’s nice. My firm told everyone to keep paying $180 a month for parking for 2 years of WFH or risk losing their parking pass.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I presumed the employee has a somewhat regular schedule, so presumably OP is calling them at a similar time on each occasion (half an hour after he was meant to show up, or whatever) so it’s not out of the question that he could get caught out with these noises in the background a couple of times…

      I thought it was more likely that he has roommates (or yes – densely packdd living with poor sound insulation from neighbours) and that’s where the noise originates from. Also as he says he doesn’t have the money for transportation – it does seem like it could all be linked into a quite complex mental health / living situation / socioeconomic status sort of ‘cycle’. (I hope that isn’t too close to “diagnosing”.) I get the sense he might be struggling a bit. Depending on the nature of that it might be he can’t reasonably go “somewhere quiet” to take work calls.

      1. Simone*

        The letter specifically mentions the employee is non-binary and often misgendered – they/them is more appropriate than he/his.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Sorry! I realise OP used ‘they’ and so should I. For some reason I’d got ‘he’ in my mind in reference to a prior comment.

      2. WellRed*

        I’ve always lived with roommates. Pretty sure if anyone was having loud porno sex they’d have to be in the same room in order to be heard over the phone.
        Am I the only one who thinks regularly calling an employee to do a welfare check us unreasonable in itself? Your employer isn’t your babysitter. Or your mom.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          I wondered about that too. Just how often is that happening? You do that often enough the employee might think the onus is no longer on them to call in their sick days – they’ll just wait for someone to notice and call them instead.

        2. D*

          Yeah I also thought that was odd. It’s one thing to accommodate the employee not coming in but that feels like making OP way more personally involved in the employees struggles than I would ever want to be with an employee.

          I also think if it’s a roommate making noise then the employee needs to step into the hallway to take the work calls or set up a headset to filter them out…not okay to expose people in your workplace to that whatever the reason.

          1. Winter Sky*

            It’s possible they don’t even notice the porno noises any more – kinda like the way you don’t even hear the planes if you live next to an airport for a long time.

        3. Observer*

          Pretty sure if anyone was having loud porno sex they’d have to be in the same room in order to be heard over the phone.

          That could easily be possible. On the other hand, we’ve seen letters on this site that also prove that it doesn’t have to be in the same room (look at the linked letters).

          Am I the only one who thinks regularly calling an employee to do a welfare check us unreasonable in itself?

          Nope. I also agree that this seems VERY odd.

        4. higeredadmin*

          This might be in the UK/Europe. When I worked in the UK if an employee didn’t show up to work by X time in the morning as a line manager you were required to call the employee to check and see what was going on. This wellness check policy is along the same lines, as in your employer is considered to have a duty of care to you as their employee. (Rumor was that someone died on the way to our office years ago, and it was discovered that something had happened when the manager phoned their home to ask why they were not at work, and their partner said that they had left. It turned out they had slipped and fallen off of a riverside path on their walk in.)

    3. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Eons ago, one of my husband’s reports called out because he needed to do laundry. It was explained to him upon his return that this was not a reasonable reason to not show up to work.

      I’m wondering if this employer has a generous sick day policy for their staff. Such as, they can afford to stay home on a sick day and still cannot afford their bus ride that day. Not sure about other cities, though, but if you’re taking public transit to work daily or most of the time, I would think a monthly pass is the cheaper option (and certainly more convenient). And now that I’ve typed that and reread the OP’s letter, it’s possible this employee could not afford the monthly pass.

      Also: It’s one thing if a person is ill but to calmly state that you’ve overslept… I’m confused. Are they still coming in, but later? Is the oversleeping due to health issues that kept them up all night (I worked with someone like this)? Why not just still say you’re sick? A lot of employers wouldn’t be happy with “I overslept” as a reason for not coming in, unless it’s part of what looks like might be a complex accommodation.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        The LW does say the employee is chronically late, so I imagine oversleeping often = late. Also, I would also assume it’s part of the disability and thus part of the accommodation. I’m surprised that people don’t seem to know that a lot of mental health disorders (as well as physical) come with symptoms related to sleep.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          I do know that – now. I didn’t before.

          A lot of the working world is still geared towards early birds compounding the issue. I’m not sure I could go back to an 8 a.m. start (I now start at 10).

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Having been caught in a bad burnout-depressive cycle, I am familiar with a major symptom of depression being the sheer inability to get out of bed except to use the bathroom on autopilot, and then still nearly falling back to sleep on the toilet. This happened to me way before ADA, so…

      3. GlitsyGus*

        I was in that boat when I was particularly underpaid. There were a few days where it really was cheaper to call in sick and use the PTO day rather than pay for gas, parking, train fare, food (even packed lunch), etc. because I really was THAT broke and WFH wasn’t an option. Fortunately, I didn’t have to stay in that job very long, but it was my reality for a while.

        That said, I did call in before my start time. While I understand giving leeway, this isn’t the kind of “oopsie” situation that waking up late with zero spoons may be. This is something that you should be able to notify your boss about, rather than just waiting for them to check on you. Agreed that HR needs to talk to this person and set better guidelines and possibly work out more options.

    4. Valkyrie*

      But also how poorly is OP’s company paying your staff that they can’t afford to take a bus/drive their cars or whatever? Obviously there could be other factors (e.g., maybe the colleague has a lot of student debt to pay off, maybe they have a lot of expenses relating to their illness, maybe they can’t take a bus because it would some how put their mental health at risk) but I do wonder why they don’t either (a) support them in finding a nearby colleague to carpool with – the carpool driver needs to want to do it but still or (b) offer them a bus pass or something presuming that it’s not prohibitive to their mental health. This is doubly true if they’re paying this person at a rate that they can’t afford to get around.

      (I recognize this likely isn’t OP’s problem to solve given that they talked about having a manager over them, but depending on their role they might be in a role to advocate for this person)

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Carpooling could be tricky with this particular employee. If they don’t call in, they might not also not call the person who is picking them up to cancel. If their illness is unpredictable, regular carpooling isn’t going to work out well.

      2. doreen*

        The coworker not having money to pay for transportation may have nothing to do with being poorly paid. I have an acquaintance who has been known to borrow money because he literally could not afford the train ticket to get to work. It wasn’t because he was poorly paid , it was because of the choices he made – including the choice to spend approximately 25% of his gross income on lottery tickets. I also don’t think it should be the employer’s responsibility to help find someone for them to carpool with – especially since co-workers may not feel free to refuse if a supervisor or manager asks them to.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Yeah, this is a fair point. That, and things that look like affordability issues on the surface are sometimes (mostly) driven by executive function issues or an condition that makes your ability to do life skills unpredictable. For example, you might be able to afford a monthly parking spot or transit pass, but you can’t remember to buy one until too late or you don’t set up auto-pay. You can easily get into a situation where paying daily/per-trip rates add up to the point that you eventually can’t afford to get to work.

          Same goes for a condition that may lead to someone inconsistently oversleeping, particularly if that drives up the likelihood of needing to Uber/taxi to work to get there on time rather than take a less-costly form of transportation. These factors are probably going to impact the ability to make carpooling work well nearly as they do managing one’s own transportation.

      3. Evelyn Carnahan*

        Mental health issues can be costly. Medication and therapy can be really expensive, especially because most therapists don’t take insurance so you have to pay out of pocket even if you’re insured (in the US at least). There’s also the added cost of traveling to therapy appointments. Depending on their specific illness(es), honestly the not being able to afford the bus fare or gas to get to work could just be an excuse that they think sounds more reasonable than “listen, I haven’t showered in a week and it’s going to take me all day to work up the energy to shower so that I can go to work.” Mental health issues make us do things that don’t make sense.

      4. Saberise*

        I don’t see that either solution will work. No one is going to appreciate the boss “voluntelling” them to be in a car pool with someone that doesn’t have a problem with being a no show no call employee. And they can’t really offer to cover the commute for one employee without offering it to the others.

      5. Observer*

        but I do wonder why they don’t either (a) support them in finding a nearby colleague to carpool with – the carpool driver needs to want to do it but still or

        It sounds to me like the employer is already WAY too enmeshed in this employee’s personal life. Also, the idea that the employer should try to get someone else to carpool with them? No. It’s way over-stepping to the person who might be asked. And that would be true even if there weren’t the additional issue that this person seems to have issues with getting up on time on a consistent basis.

    5. Rolly*

      “I did not know not having commuting money was an legitimate excuse to stay home!”

      So if someone actually did not have enough money to get to work, are they supposed to make up another reason why if they’re asked? (I realize this person volunteered the info)

      1. Critical Rolls*

        Getting yourself to work on time is a basic responsibility of any position. Commuting expenses are predictable. If this person is paid so poorly they can’t afford transportation, of course that’s a problem. But we don’t know that, and there are a lot of indicators they just don’t care about meeting minimal standards.

    6. Brightwanderer*

      I guess I’ll just flag that I’ve been in a position in the past where a chronic condition made this a real risk – not because I couldn’t afford the bus fare, but because I didn’t have cash on me, or I only had large notes that the drivers wouldn’t accept. Getting cash or breaking a note would require me to go out somewhere on foot, walk back, and then get the bus – which I couldn’t manage on bad days. Fortunately my city switched all the buses over to accepting contactless payments a few years ago and it lifted a huge weight of anxiety off me.

      Not convinced that’s this person’s situation, but just mentioning that it’s not an inherently implausible excuse.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        (This doesn’t change the advice to OP. I’m only mentioning it because I’ve seen a number of people comment on it already with a knee-jerk “that can’t possibly be a legitimate reason” reaction.)

        1. Loulou*

          But this is an excuse that the employee only gives *after OP has called to find out where they are.* They’re not calling out because they can’t get there, they’re no-showing and then giving that reason when asked. To me, that’s the part that suggests this is not a legitimate excuse. Especially because given all the excessive (in my view) accomodations LW has provided, I can easily imagine them coming up with some solution or paying the employee’s bus fare

          1. londonedit*

            Yes I think even taking into account the employee’s accommodations etc, it’s reasonable for the OP’s employer to require them to call in whenever they can’t make it to work, whatever the reason. They seem perfectly able to use the phone when the OP calls them, and I don’t think it would be unreasonable for the employer to say look, you’re going to need to call/email/whatever if you can’t come to work, because otherwise we’ll worry that something has happened to you and OP will have to take time out of their morning to call and check up on you.

          2. quill*

            Without knowing the exact situation, I can pretty safely say that there needs to be some re-evaluation of this employee’s accommodations so that OP does not have to do a welfare check on sick days.

            As an aside to the commentariat, it is NOT unusual for people with mobility devices to be forced to take more expensive transportation. If the city bus can’t handle you due to the way it’s built, and a rideshare service charges extra to ensure that a car that CAN handle your equipment is sent, it’s very possible for transport costs to rack up way faster than average, and even if you’re well paid, the cost of medical care in america could leave someone, especially if they’re part time, broke more often than average.

            1. quill*

              Note that this is only addressing how it is possible to be too broke to commute, given that we know nothing about OP’s employee’s pay. There are SEVERAL other parts to the letter.

    7. Just Me*

      Yes, to me it sounds like a lot of excuses from the employee. Many people with mental illness still manage to get to work on time or to call when they won’t be in. If transportation costs are an issue, the employee should discuss that in advance with the employer and discuss work from home or possibilities for transportation compensation. It’s true employers should be aware of parking/driving/public transit costs…..but if no one else at the job is having much of an issue, if it’s not a major city or one with a significant commute, and if the employee already has other excuses for not coming in, then I would dig deeper.

      1. Cait*

        It sounds like they (employee) have realized the breadth of the accommodation they’ve been given and have decided they’re going to take full advantage. But accommodations should only be made if both the employer and employee are willing to do their due diligence. For an employee this means, at the very least, notifying the employer when they know they’re going to be late, miss work, or just for a wellness check in so the employer doesn’t worry. It sounds like the rules of this arrangement weren’t made clear so now the OP is floundering. I think a meeting with HR is in order so that the rules can be established and everyone can be on the same page as far as what is expected from both parties, what happens if either party doesn’t meet those expectations, and what (if anything) needs to be adjusted. Unless everyone understands the arrangement, it will be very hard to address these problems with the employee without sounding discriminatory (outside the X-rated noises… that should be addressed just as Alison said).

        1. higeredadmin*

          I think you are right on the money Cait. This is a situation that is drifting, and HR needs to be brought in to remind everyone of what the accommodations and rules actually are, and how this actually should be working. It really feels like this is being managed without HR’s professional input and so “accommodation creep” has set it. I had someone who had an accommodation for a back injury that drifted into all other kinds of schedule and actually coming to work messes. Once we brought HR back in it was righted very quickly. (And our HR prefers to manage these schedules directly, which is something I wish I had know when this all started. So HR might be able to take over completely from OP in terms of activities like the wellness calls.)

    8. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Now that I think about it some more, since the public transit cost has been raised, in my town, we have cards for contactless payment, for single fare or monthly passes.

      To get money on the card, you have to go online and use your credit card or pay with cash, debit or credit at a fare machine. If you’ve maxed out your card, you can’t add money to your card. If you’ve got limited internet, you might not have enough minutes/gigabytes left until the next billing cycle to go to the internet to load up your card. And the fare machines are not at every bus stop but only at larger hubs.

      I’m not saying that this is the issue. And I’ve overthought this, clearly! :) But sometimes life is just that stupidly complicated.

      1. Student*

        The thing is, life us complicated for everybody. This employee needs to do one of two things:

        1. Plan ahead to deal with transit.

        2. Clearly connect their transit problem to their disability, then talk with HR and the manager to find a reasonable accomodation. Emphasis on reasonable in this case. No-showing is not generally a reasonable accomodation for being short on transit cash. They would have to demonstrate that they are also unable to call, text, or email on top of being unable to come in, that all of it is disability-related. At that point, the employer would probably be able to argue it’s an undue burden to keep an employee on who can’t get to work regularly and cannot communicate when they will be late or not come in.

        If their disability is causing that extensive of a problem, then they may need to consider filing for disability benefits, or seek out work that is not schedule and transit driven.

      2. Observer*

        Eh. In most cities, you can ALSO add money / buy a new card in person. In NYC, for instance, you can get a card in almost every strain station, and even in some stores.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          I live near several bus stops. Not one of them is close to a place where I can add funds or buy a new card in person. I would have to take the bus/train to get to those locations. Pre-pandemic you could still pay in cash; not sure about today.

          When there was paper tickets I could buy them just about anywhere – this is no longer an option.

    9. AnonForThis*

      One (of many, many) possibility for both the noises and the lack of money could be an abusive partner (or family member, roommate etc) deliberately trying to isolate the employee and force the employee out of their job/keep them at home. Controlling the household finances and deliberately making it difficult/awkward/embarrassing for the employee to take calls from work is straight out of the abusive partner’s playbook. “Drama” having happened the night before could be part of the oversleeping too.
      People with pre-existing mental health issues (and other chronic illnesses and disabilities) can be particularly vulnerable to abuse. And if the employee’s nonbinary-ness has lead to social isolation (which very much depends on where you are and what the local and workplace culture is like) that may also make them more vulnerable.

      Obviously I have no idea if that’s what is going for this particular employee but it’s a possibility workplaces (and the people here snarking about this person’s financial issues) need to be sensitive too.

    10. LGC*

      Late, but…you’d be surprised, unfortunately. I’ve had a couple of people stay home because they didn’t have bus fare. It’s one of those things I’ll flag to the relevant people, because in a way, you’re right – this is a dumb reason.

      That said: it’s expensive to be poor. I’m glad you can’t imagine not having commuting money, but a lot of people aren’t that fortunate. I hope you never find yourself in that position.

  2. Loulou*

    I’ve been in LW 2’s shoes and think it is a good idea to stick a granola bar or something else you can eat very quickly (on a bathroom break etc.) in your interview bag. Even if the food is appealing, carrying on a conversation with what is often a big group of people l and eating a full meal can be tricky. I’ve been hungry and glad I had something to scarf down.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      I echo this. I have some dietary restrictions and bringing snacks with me is really helpful if I can’t eat the food that’s available. I think bringing snacks for a daylong interview is useful even if you end up having a good option for lunch. It’s a good idea to have snacks to avoid getting mentally fuzzy if there’s a long gap after lunch, or even before. Personally, I wilt physically and mentally if I go too long without eating when I’m on someone else’s unpredictable schedule. For example, there’s a chance they may have you eat lunch at 12 and then go straight to 5:30 without another offer of food, which is way too long for me. Think about your own biorhythms and plan accordingly. Good luck with the interview!

      1. Rolly*

        I’ve taken snacks for events where I did not want to eat with other people, but have had them privately before hand (such as during a break) rather than in front of the other people. With the other people I pick at food and eat a tiny bit.

      2. Cait*

        But what happens when they want to feed you and ask about restrictions? Saying, “Oh don’t worry, I’ll just bring my own snacks!” probably won’t go over well or will at least drive them to ask again about dietary restrictions because they want to be hospitable. After all, no one wants to eat a full lunch in front of a candidate who’s just nibbling at a granola bar.
        As someone who deals with a lot of catering, I think it would be best for the OP to say, “I have a complicated list of restrictions but am perfectly fine eating X, Y, and Z.” Listing what you CAN eat, in this scenario, is easier than running the gamut on everything you can’t eat.

        1. Loulou*

          To clarify, I’m suggesting secretly eating a granola bar in the bathroom as a failsafe if the provided lunch isn’t sufficient. Nobody would know that’s what you’re doing! Pick at something on your plate during lunch (you’re too busy chatting to everyone to eat a ton) and then take care of it later.

          1. Cait*

            Which is fine if you aren’t asked about your dietary restrictions and none of the food presented works for you. But the OP was asking about how to respond when asked about dietary restrictions and catering.

            1. Loulou*

              Yes, and I’m saying that even if they’re served a meal that works for their restrictions, they may still end up hungry because it can be difficult to eat a full meal during these lunches.

      3. LCH*

        i actually mentioned my wilting once during a day-long interview and we took a break to visit the campus coffee cafe. it was really nice (yeah, i did get the job. good fit.) but i felt really comfortable doing that in the moment and there have been lots of interviews where i would not. a quick hidden snack is a great idea.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      That was ky first though too. In fact, every time I’ve actually had a desk or a lockable place to store my things at work I’ve kept a small supply of non-perishable single serving snacks on hand. Being hungry and trapped at work is not fun.

    3. Scotlibrarian*

      I’m autistic, and vegetarian and gluten free. I’m quite awkward to feed. If I’m going somewhere I know I’ll be over lunch I always take food: a filling fruit, yogurt, and protein powder smoothie can be chugged during breaks, or some nuts and an apple. Please make sure you take something as being without food for a whole day could lead to zoning out / meltdown / shutdown, which won’t help at interview

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        yes! I’m vegan and gluten free and these situations are always stressful. Snacks are key!

    4. Batgirl*

      Yeah, from one food restriction person to another; always bring your own food! I was so touched when one organisation asked me what intolerances I had, that I only packed cheese and gluten free crackers as an emergency backup. Reader, they forgot. Everything on the table was wheat encrusted. This was very much to the embarrassment of the person who reached out about my intolerances. Sometimes, when nothing is checked and you just packed a lunch, it can feel rude to tuck into your own food and you get a lot of: “Oh you should have told us!” Which is when I say: “Oh it’s really complicated so I play it safe with my own food”. Mine are actually not complicated at all, just pick up a packet of gluten free wraps, or a gf quiche and set them to one side; I don’t even have cross contamination concerns. But it does seems to be too complicated for most people….. So.

      1. SaeniaKite*

        Unlike OP I am just a picky eater and I always take snacks/ lunch. The last catered work event I quite happily tucked into my salad while the rest had pizza and apart from one ‘are you sure?’ noone seemed bothered at all

        1. Rolly*

          “Unlike OP I am just a picky eater and I always take snacks/ lunch. The last catered work event I quite happily tucked into my salad while the rest had pizza and apart from one ‘are you sure?’ noone seemed bothered at all”

          So you would do that for a lunch that’s also a job interview? Really?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I’m not sure I see what’s wrong with SaeniaKite’s strategy, even for a job interview?

              1. NotRealAnonForThis*

                Given the alternative may be “risk of anaphylaxis” or “risk of significant and embarrassing GI distress”….what other strategy would you recommend?

          2. KRM*

            Why not? You’d just say “oh my restrictions can be complicated so I prefer to bring my own food” and really nobody should bat an eye.

          3. Smithy*

            Personally, I would not feel comfortable taking out snacks/personal lunch at an interview meal – unless it was truly a situation like Batgirl’s where accommodations had been discussed in advance and then missed the mark. Interviews are already more formal with power differentials, I’d only take out my own food (vs. quickly eating something during a break between meetings) if I felt it would relax a situation.

            In catered work lunch environments, I think it’s fairly common to see people eat smaller amounts than one might expect in a personal situation. Whether it’s due to catered sandwich/salad fatigue, dieting, or nerves around talking while eating – if all someone eats is half a wrap and some grapes, that’s not the same as as doing that at a family reunion picnic.

            All to say, for the OP, particularly for catered meal moments – should there be foods you’re more inclined to be fine with – certainly call out what does work. At a work brownbag, if there’s something from the catered food that I want to mix with food I brought from home into my own messy marvelous creation – amazing. However, if its a work meal where I know I’m going to “on” and expected to make small talk/potentially speak to the table – I have a far more narrow list of foods I want to be eating under that circumstance.

            1. Loulou*

              I didn’t interpret this as OP bringing their own salad, just the catered lunch being pizza and salad (and they just chose to eat the salad). Seems pretty normal to me.

          4. SaeniaKite*

            A lunch that is a job interview I would expect to be in a restaurant where I can check out the menu before hand. If it is a full day with a break for a catered lunch? I absolutely would, and have, brought my own. In the industries I have been a part of the catering is usually a sandwich selection or something like the pizza I mentioned above and I would rather politely say ‘thanks but I’m set’ then have them watch me pick stuff out/off the food they have provided. Usually there are some snacks that I can eat so I grab some of those but mostly I eat my own food. I just treat it like it is no big deal and have found that means others also treat it the same

        2. Dasein9*

          I had this happen at a retirement party. It was a buffet that included seafood, which is one of my allergies. I have learned the hard way not to trust groups of people to use the serving spoon only for the dish it was originally provided for. So I grabbed a sandwich and cheerfully joined the party. The guest of honor understood and graciously expressed pleasure at my joining them. Many other people present were horrified and made it very clear that my eating a sandwich at a buffet offended them deeply. Someone who wasn’t even at the party mentioned “the incident” to me six months later, implying that I had enemies on campus whose names I didn’t even know.

          While I hated the layoff when it happened, I know now how much better off I am!

          OP, food issues can give us an opportunity to see what a group of people will be like to work with. Do they believe you when you tell them things? Do they trust you to know what’s best for you? Naturally, you don’t want this to be a big focus during an interview, but you can pay attention to how people respond.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Absolutely. You can see whether your hosts are more interested in making sure you’ve had a decent meal, which is about your well-being, OR more interested in whether you ate the food they provided, which is about their self-image.

            As a picky eater, I have dealt with this from family members and my avoiding certain foods is not well-received, so I know it’s about them and not me. Especially when it’s actually very easy to accommodate my issues (leave off any cheese, condiments, or salad dressing on one serving, please) and yet that’s too much to ask. Though it’s never been referred to as an “incident” or brought up months later, yikes!

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I have been at a bunch of meetings typical to my industry where they provide a lunch of sandwiches/wraps and salad. I have disassembled sandwiches and added the lunchmeat to salads, but consider myself lucky that cross-contamination is not a concern for me. I don’t even recall seeing GF options, but I could be remembering wrong because I couldn’t eat those either.

      3. Hazel*

        @Batgirl – “Oh it’s really complicated so I play it safe with my own food” — This reminded me of my great aunt who always brought her own food when my grandmother and her sisters got together for Sunday lunch every week. I just thought, “of course that’s what you do if you want to make sure you don’t get sick.” I think it can help other people not get worked up about it if the person with food sensitivities is matter of fact about bringing their own food (to a team lunch or something – obvs this wouldn’t fly at a restaurant). I’ve been helped by Alison’s scripts on this – saying that my food restrictions are a long boring list and then changing the subject.

    5. Lynca*

      Since the OP says that most of the time they’re able to find something to eat on the menu I think snacks are the safe back up plan to go with.

      I have ADHD and there are certain textures of yogurt/steamed veggies/etc. that I cannot handle without gagging. These generally don’t cause major issues when dining out. I keep some non-perishable snacks on hand in my car/purse just in case.

      My sister keeps a box of protein bars in her car just in case she gets stuck on a shift without a way to get food she can eat. The food she has access to at work is very often not something she’ll eat and she’s not able to bring perishable food from home.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      A polite interviewer would assume, if you don’t eat much, that you’re nervous or focusing on processing new information or worried about spilling something on your interview clothes. In any case, they would not mention it or reject you for it! If someone does make an issue of your eating or not eating, that’s a sign that you might not enjoy working with them.

      Make sure you bring snacks that will help you stay energized and focused during the afternoon part of the interview, and plan a reliably delicious dinner and breakfast that day because you deserve it.

      1. LW2*

        This is good to hear, thank you! I don’t know why I didn’t think of bringing my own snacks, I’m glad so many people have mentioned it as an option.

        1. Nesprin*

          FYI I bring snacks for interviews even though I eat everything- I need to eat every couple hours in high stress scenarios, and a granola bar + bathroom break is a life saver.

      2. Lacey*

        Yeah, lunch interviews are awkward anyway. I never eat much because I’m talking or taking notes!

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          If the interview is all day, my guess is that the lunch is more of a break and conversation would just be social rather than a formal interview where you have to be taking notes.

        2. Hazel*

          For me the worst part is trying to order the least embarrassing thing to eat in front of other people when I’m anxious anyway about the interview.

        3. JustaTech*

          My group had a lunch interview once that was badly planned by us, because the restaurant we chose was a popular tourist destination (why we picked it!) and we got so distracted by the location we hardly talked to the candidate at all!

          (When I had interviewed a few months before they didn’t think about taking me out to lunch, even though the interview was scheduled 10-2 and by the time I got to 1pm and realized that there wouldn’t be lunch I was starving. Thankfully I’d dropped a mini granola bar in my purse and was able to cram it in my mouth when someone offered to get me a glass of water.)

      3. Office Lobster DJ*

        I was going to say something similar. If an interviewee didn’t eat much at a lunch, my first thought would be excited, nerves, or too caught up in talking. On the outside chance that I recognized “Huh, I guess they’re not much of a pizza person,” I would see it as my problem as the host for not checking, not yours for appearing to not care for a certain food.

        I think there are several good options here – ask for the menu ahead of time, say it’s easier to bring your own food, soldier on and bring emergency snacks if needed. The only thing that might (MIGHT) turn me off a bit as an interviewer is if you said nothing ahead of time, let me plan the meal, and then brought out your own lunch. I would have found something you could eat if you told me, I promise!

      4. GigglyPuff*

        I totally had someone mention it once and made me embarrassed and I felt like they totally judged me for not eating much. It was a catered academic interview lunch and they had sent me the menu, and I am a picky eater with texture issues but can still almost find something. Well picked the caesar salad with chicken, and the chicken seasoning or whatever was awful, and there either wasn’t enough dressing or it was awful also. Plus it was a huge plastic container, so I only was able to maybe tolerate a fourth before I just kinda of ignored it and socialized.
        Well towards the end one of the interviewers asked if everything was okay and if I didn’t like it. Sooo awkward, like I get if you want to know if the catering was bad but also come on, tons of people aren’t going to answer that honestly. So had to make up something about how I had a big breakfast but also get nervous and don’t eat a lot during interviews. They totally looked at me weird after that, and I just wondered later if they were annoyed about the food/money waste.
        But I will say out of all the academic interviews I’ve done that have included lunch, a decent number. That was my only experience with someone saying something and I had definitely picked at food a few other times. I’ve also totally brought snacks before and it’s never been a problem, or if you’d be fine with a drink with calories to keep your energy up, I’ve done that, and it seems even more acceptable.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      I’d do this simply because I’m a nervous Nelly and my appetite disappears during things like, you know–job interviews, so I’d end up ordering a salad and then be ravenous an hour later when it was all over.

    8. londonedit*

      Yep, my sister always has various non-perishable snacks in her bag because even if she lets people know about her dietary requirements she often ends up in a ‘This is gluten-free!’ (but ah, it has cheese in it) or ‘This one is vegan, no dairy!’ (but ah, there’s gluten in the pastry) situation.

    9. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, I’ve discovered that I’m pretty awful at eating when I’m in a setting with a lot going on. I’ve never had a job interview meal, but I have had special luncheons at work with leadership. If I’m trying to listen & engage, then I don’t eat more than a few bites. Thankfully at those, I go back to my desk afterwards and it has been acceptable to bring with me what was left in my box/on my plate. I also always have snacks.

    10. Evelyn Carnahan*

      Yep. I am a picky eater (according to other people) and have some issues around how I eat that are similar to sensory issues. Luckily, most of my pickiness can be covered by telling people I need a vegan meal. In my field, job searches are usually national so it’s much harder to bring food to the all day interview. I have usually asked for menus of the places they’re planning on taking me so I can make sure there will be something I’m okay eating. It has never been a problem for me. In fact, the place where I currently work gave me a couple of places to pick from when I told them I had some dietary restrictions. It can be a good temperature check for a potential new job.

      1. Loulou*

        Huh? I’m also talking about national job searches and don’t know why that would preclude bringing food. To be clear, I’m describing a granola bar or something that nobody will know you are eating in the bathroom. I’m not suggesting OP cook a meal and eat that during the interview.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          Yeah, as far as I know you’re still allowed to have some Clif bars in your bag when you get on a plane.

          1. Hazel*

            I could see how the issues that might come up with traveling, staying away from home, and eating out for every meal cannot be resolved with snacks. I assume that’s what Evelyn Carnahan meant.

            1. Hazel*

              I mean, these days you’d think you could get gluten free food or skim (non-fat) milk or a menu that has SOME food that doesn’t contain beef or pork just about anywhere in the U.S., but unfortunately, I’ve discovered the hard way that it isn’t the case.

            2. Evelyn Carnahan*

              Yep, exactly. When I travel for a job interview, it usually involves multiple meals. That’s a lot of granola bars and string cheese to carry around with you, especially if you only have access to a 7-11.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          We have the same policy, plus when traveling I’m supposed to check in with my manager daily – any sign of life will do like a CC on an email. If I don’t, they try to get in touch and if they can’t they’ll send the cavalry. We do go to some out-of-the-way places from time to time so it makes sense.

    11. Verthandi*

      An all-day interview including lunch is a nightmare I’m glad I haven’t had to deal with yet. I have had similar with all-day meetings plus a mandatory lunch social hour. Interviews would be so much more awkward.

      I learned the hard way through all-day meetings with mandatory lunchtime social hours to always have a snack on your person. If you’re going out to a restaurant, find out which one ahead of time so you can get directions and go online to look at the menu and plan what you’re going to order.

    12. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah. I came into food intolerances later in life, so it’s not automatic that I realize that the stuff they feed me may be cooked with something I can’t eat. Worse, my intolerances – celery, celery seed, cilantro and soybean oil – are in lots of things. Most commercial fried foods uses partially hydrogenated soybean oil (often just labeled “vegetable oil) and if I eat them, I will end up doing the 100 yard dash to the bathroom and be in there for 30 minutes. In an interview, this is very disruptive. The others just give me headaches or a deep, hacking cough. Still not great. Sure, I don’t end up in the hospital, but I can’t eat that stuff at interviews.

      So I have to be *very* careful with office/catered food. I seldom eat out for the same reason. I will usually just tank up beforehand, haul a basic snack, or forgo food.

  3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    I feel badly for OP1 – they’ve been dropped in the deep end and definitely need more support than they are getting. Hopefully you’ve been documenting what’s happened as you’ve been going – but now it’s time to go to your manager and then get the both of you to HR to get a solution figured out. This is more than most people could handle on their own, and a big part of HR’s responsibilities in most workplaces.

    Wishing you a quick and fair for all solution to the issue OP1.

  4. Red*

    LW#2 you DO have dietary restrictions just not commonly understood/accepted ones. So please don’t feel out of place saying yes when asked if you have dietary restrictions. Alison’s script is really good for navigating the question though since it sounds like you have list, but if it were ever the case where you knew just one or two of your no-go foods were going to be on the menu, just say you can’t have those items.
    Like I can’t stand the texture of beans for example. I will spit them out like I’m two. So when we’re doing a group catering and everyone wants Mexican I say ‘No beans with mine please! I can’t eat them.’ By and large people don’t probe (like ‘Hey Red are you reallly not able to have beans?) and they also don’t switcharoo on the food (like ‘ha! there were beans you were lying!’)
    Most people will be happy to accommodate you and won’t think you’re being picky; if they do they’re being weird not you.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I underwent allergy testing a few years ago. When discussing results and the corresponding lengthy list of proscribed ingredients, the doctor said something that resonated: “It’s easier to tell you what you can have as opposed to what you can’t.”

      OP2, I was going to suggest the same as Alison: simply tell them what you can eat. Avoids discussions about diets, allergies, and any other conditions and keeps the focus on the interview itself.

      And good luck!

    2. Beth*

      I love Alison’s scripts for this letter. I have some very specific aversions to certain food textures, and massive sympathy for the LW!

      1. DaniCalifornia*

        It’s so nice to hear that others have this issue and not be labeled like a child. I have been labeled a picky eat my whole life when in fact, it’s not that at all. (Turns out when an authority figure is yelling in your face to eat a certain food and forces it down when you’re gagging, you end up having some trauma – go figure!) I have and am trying lots of food related therapy. I’ve even tried hypnotherapy! I am never rude to hosts or those offering a meal but have struggled with finding the words to say. I really like Alison’s script. I had defaulted to saying “I’m dealing with certain food issues after a surgery” which was/is true after having my gallbladder out. But I might switch to what she recommends.

        I always have anxiety over lunches/meals/situations where I cannot control what I eat.

        1. JustaTech*

          One of the most valuable things I’ve learned here is how complicated and fraught food can be at work (and in life in general) and that the best thing I can do is 1) ask what people want to/can eat and do my level best to make that happen and 2) never, ever comment negatively or neutrally on what people are eating or not eating (I’m still going to say things like “that looks/smells amazing!”).
          It’s just better for everyone to believe people when they say they can’t/won’t/don’t want to eat or drink something.

          So thank you everyone for sharing.

    3. Melody Pond*

      I appreciate you saying this:

      you DO have dietary restrictions just not commonly understood/accepted ones

      And Alison, I can’t express enough how helpful & meaningful it was to me that you posted and answered LW#2’s question. I was diagnosed as autistic a few months ago, and I’ve had this exact same lifelong food struggle. It’s been rare that I’ve been in the position where I couldn’t find something to eat in a work setting, but that possibility is one that I’ve always dreaded. I’ve never known how to deal with my food restrictions – I’ve always just gone along and hoped it will work out. (Occasionally I have brought along my own snacks, as others have suggested, so I’m not starving if there’s nothing I can eat.)

      But Alison, I think your suggested script is absolutely perfect. It really gets at the heart of what I need – to be able to determine for myself whether there’s something I’ll be able to eat. Thank you so much for answering this question.

      1. Yarrow*

        The script is really good. And as a fellow autist, I’ve gotten comfortable with asking for the menu or looking it up ahead of time. That makes it easier to figure out if I can find something to eat (and it alleviates some of the uncertainty).

    4. The ole food switcheroo*

      My mother would do the ‘hide food in a dish and not tell you’ to get me to eat something I said I didn’t like. 40 years later and I still have food trust issues. If you don’t tell me what is in something then I won’t eat it

      1. Casper Lives*

        Ugh, when I was a kid, my mother had a boyfriend who would do that. He’d melt bleu cheese in mashed potatoes because I didn’t like bleu cheese. Then when I choked it down (he’d make passive aggressive comments if we didn’t like his cooking), he crow that I DID like bleu cheese, I was just being DIFFICULT.

        For the record, I’m not a picky eater at all. I don’t care if others are but I try almost any food once. I love other stinky cheeses, can’t get over my aversion to bleu cheese.

  5. SAS*

    LW 2- I had to eat FODMAP for a while which appears wildly random and restrictive without context. During that time, I used to just bring my own lunch as usual, “forgetting” the planned office lunch.

    If your restricted foods have any sort of scale to them, I would just nominate the worst/most commonly occurring 4 as casually as possible. “Yes, I can’t eat lettuce, tomato, pizza, or egg. If that’s too difficult to accommodate I’m happy to bring my own food.”

    1. My dear Wormwood*

      Yeah, I’ve got FODMAP issues, and other things being investigated, and I’ve decided to play life on hard mode and follow an orthodox fast for Lent. It’s just easier to very breezily say, “oh, I have a bunch of food restrictions and it’s just easier to bring my own food.”

      Lent aside, I can usually say ” Lots of food restrictions but sushi is usually fine, will that work for you?” and pack safe snacks as a back up.

    2. Lizcase*

      I follow a modified low fodmap diet and am intolerant enough to onions to treat it as an allergy, and yeah, it’s complicated. The easiest thing is to ask for a menu (most of the time I can find something) or bring my own food. One of the nice things about working from home is I haven’t had to deal with team lunches with my new job yet.

    3. cookie monster*

      This is interesting. I loosely follow FODMAP as well and dont usually tell anyone. I can usually find something to eat but if not I say “some vegetables don’t agree with me” or “my body can’t tolerate aspartame”, which are the two biggest issues for me.

      1. cookie monster*

        If not, I just use the “I have some complicated food restrictions, can I see the menu” line and literally no one wants to get into it.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          And if somewhere you’re interviewing *does* want to get into it, you just learned some valuable information.

    4. Phony Genius*

      Ugh. The FODMAP thing gets complicated. I was on that for a bit, and still wasn’t feeling well. Then my dietician told me that new research had just come out that said some of the food on the safe list (which she had given me) wasn’t. She explained that the research into this area is so new, the lists are constantly changing. Hard to follow a diet when it’s a moving target.

      1. DanniE*

        Oof, yes, I’ve been there too. FODMAP diet is so complicated with the ‘stacking’ of foods in the same category, too – I ended up having to learn to cook because my husband was having so much trouble figuring out all the rules! (Not to mention I was also eliminating foods I had an igG sensitivity to, which made it an even bigger mess…)
        I spent a lot of time at work trying to find the shortest way of saying “really, no thanks, I REALLY can’t eat the snack/treat/meeting lunch!” And avoiding the awkward comments about my food (I once got asked, “Is that a whole can of olives?!” Which, yes, it was, it was the quickest thing I could grab from the nearby store on my break that I could guarantee was ok for me to eat.)

    5. Panicked*

      I have Celiac and almost all catered lunches make me ill, even when they assure me that it’s safe for me to eat. I typically say “Thank you for the offer, however I’m on a medically-restricted diet and unable to eat food I don’t prepare. Will there be a refrigerator available for my lunch?” That stops the well-meaning “Oh, I’m sure we can find SOMETHING you can eat!”

  6. Green great dragon*

    For #1, totally agree this is part of a bigger issue. But if you’re effectively telling someone not to answer the phone when there’s noises in the background, I’d be really specific about what you want them to do instead – ring back within 10 mins? Text or email immediately? This doesn’t seem to be someone who’s fitting business norms about calling in, so I’d be concerned they’d take this as permission just to ignore your calls.

    1. Blueberry*

      I’d like to add to this that it isn’t the employee calling in with sex noises in the background – the employee is being called. Just because work is calling doesn’t mean it is the same standards as a work call. If you call an employee and a sound makes you uncomfortable you either blatantly ask them if they can get away from the distracting background noise or to call you back.

      While the obvious assumption is looking at porn – it could even be a disastrously thin wall where neighbors or roommates are conducting their own “business”, if the employee is stuck in bed it is out of their control and they may not even realize that the sound is picked up over the phone.

      I just think whatever is happening in the background isn’t relevant to the work issues.

      1. Yorick*

        Honestly, I think the employee’s judgment could be bad enough that they’re just not bothering to pause the video they’re watching when they answer the phone.

        Ask them to make sure they’re in a quiet place when they answer, using Alison’s script. You can add, “If that’s not possible, please text or email back instead of answering.”

          1. newgrad sadgrad*

            Its easy to say without directly acknowledging it though “Sorry if there’s any background noise coming through, we have thin walls/noisy neighbours/etc. If it’s too loud then send me an email and I’ll get back to you immediately”
            I’d be way too embarrassed to answer a work call if there was any chance of then hearing x rated noise!

    2. Smithy*

      This is really sensible. Whether this is a case of someone with housemates/neighbors playing porn or the individual themselves not pausing the video when they answer the phone, there’s clearly that second step missing around blocking out that noise. Be it pausing the video or putting on headphones to answer the call, that larger executive processing piece is missing.

      So in addition to mentioning calling back when there’s not noises in the background (i.e. pause all videos/music you can personally control) it also provides the context of how to adjust for noise you can’t control. Calling back with headphones – and perhaps that means calling back via telephone or an app.

    3. Software Engineer*

      This is what I was thinking… it’s a bit harder to make demands about the background noises when YOU are calling THEM. You can ask, and you can mention it in the moment “there’s some background noise”

      But still the bigger issue is this is not a reliable employee and they are not even bothering to call in, so you should definitely be working with HR on what are REASONABLE accommodations and what you really need from this person

    4. Nanani*

      Caller ID is standard nowdays right?
      “Mute your porn before answer work calls” is a very very low bar to clear.

      If it’s not the coworker’s noise, like a roommate or something instead, they can explain that.

  7. oh no not cucumber*

    LW2, I am also autistic with both food allergies and food aversions PLUS a history of eating disorders, so eating “in public” with strangers who are assessing me is pretty much my idea of hell. (Also, content note for the rest of my comment.)

    On the other hand, autism means I really don’t like to be the one seen to be breaking convention/rules.

    So in addition to Alison’s excellent suggestion of checking out menus or coordinating with caterers in advance, I offer you these alternatives:

    1. “For medical reasons I don’t usually eat at this time, but you go ahead.” People don’t love this, but they usually accept it. A variation on this is, “I’m fasting at the moment” but YMMV whether this would be seen as faddy/lifestyle/fitness or religion based, and whether that assumption would disadvantage you (even if illegally). If you aren’t actually fasting then you might need to sneak a snack in the bathroom!

    2. You can take food and not eat it. It’s unlikely anyone will actually scrutinise what your plate contains when you all stop eating. This is the fallback position. At a typical sandwich buffet you could take two or three small pieces plus a few chips and an apple, and only eat the one sandwich without mayo/cucumber/sesame seeds on it. You can disguise this further by dialing up your conversation.

  8. Mialana*

    “that they didn’t have the money to pay for transportation to work”

    How can this ever be an excuse not to show up? If you don’t make enough money with the job to pay for the commute, you need a different job. Because the purpose of a job is making money not losing money and if the employer can’t or doesn’t want to afford to pay you more for your commute, they surely won’t pay you for not showing up at all.

    1. Skittles*

      It’s such an odd reason to give for being absent – did something unforseeen happen to their finances and they didn’t realise until that morning? If not, I’d really want my direct reports to talk to me about it as there might have been something I could do to help!

    2. mikey c*

      I guess there can be issues with organisation that can mean you don’t have the cash on hand to get the bus even though you may actually have the funds in your account. (I am so glad that at last, 10 years after everywhere else, my local buses now take contactless card payments).

      1. I'm just here for the cats.*

        I wish my buses would! I’m lucky that my employer offers a discounted bus pass that lasts the entire year. I can just have it taken out of my paycheck the beginning of the year and I’m good to go.

      2. Jennifer*

        I think most major cities nowadays have cards you can just reload. But I do understand being so broke that you don’t have the $5 to load onto the card.

      3. Yarrow*

        Oof, this was me years ago, before my city started using a payment app. I’d miss my bus because I hadn’t ensured I had exact change for my commute. And I have had jobs where I would sometime run out of money for the bus. It was embarrassing to have to tell my boss I was broke, so I didn’t.

    3. Liz*

      Sadly this is the self perpetuating cycle of poverty for many people. You don’t have money for travel, you can’t get a job. You can’t get a job, you have no way to get money. Not many employers are understanding, but there are a few that often work with charity affiliates to offer work and accommodations to people to help break that cycle. Perhaps LW1s employer is part of a similar scheme?

      1. Rolly*


        Saying you don’t have money to get to work may not be an excuse – rather it might be a statement of fact.

        1. Yorick*

          Sure, but there’s no excuse to no-show because you couldn’t afford transportation. In fact, you should have been able to realize that ahead of time and asked your manager about working from home or some other alternative.

          1. Unaccountably*

            There are many, many jobs that can’t be done from home and have no alternative to working on-site, and if you’re too poor to afford transportation, you’re probably working one of them. You may also not have relevant qualifications or job experience to work anything else.

            I’m not saying it’s an excuse to just not show up, because it’s not. I’m saying that realizing ahead of time that you don’t have enough left over from your last paycheck to take the bus that week does not necessarily mean that there’s really an alternative your boss can offer you.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              The part that gets me is the employee not calling on mornings they can’t afford to commute.

              I realize they might not find out they’re unable to afford the trip until the last minute. My question is, why aren’t they calling the second they realize they can’t make it to work? There may be an acceptable reason for not calling when it’s a disability-related absence. But it’s reasonable to expect an employee will call promptly if they have a transportation issue…. whether it’s financial, mechanical problems, weather-related, or a rabid raccoon blocking their front door (true story!)

          2. Liz*

            That depends on other factors. The letter states that mental health is involved, and where somebody is significantly unwell, they might not be able to do this on their bad days, or might not even remember. There aren’t really enough details to go on in the letter, but accommodations of such an extent would suggest that the employee is quite poorly at this point in time. Now I admit I might be seeing this through the lens of my own experience – I’m a mental health worker and my role is Recovery and Employment – but I could totally see some of my clients facing this dilemma and replying “I just had too much anxiety”. Of course from a recovery perspective, we could then work with them to get to the point of being able to call or text, and if the employer is happy to make the call and do a welfare check, then that provides a cushion while we support the employee to meet that goal.

            I wouldn’t normally bring this much “whataboutism” to the thread, but the juxtaposition of mental health and the extent of accommodations reminds me so much of my own work (and lived experience of mental health) I thought it might be useful to shine a light on why such accommodations might be in place and how I see them operating long term in my line of work. Sorry if this is off topic.

    4. T-rex*

      I’m surprised that so many people don’t understand being in the position of not affording transportation. That’s poverty, and a whole lot of (gainfully employed!) people live in it. Maybe the bus costs $2 cash and you only have $6 in your account, which makes using an ATM to get those $2 out not an option. Maybe they’re out of gas and won’t be able to re-fuel until payday.

      Maybe it’s due to the industry I work in, but I can absolutely see it happening. I’ve had co-workers who managed to make it to work but didn’t have the dollar for the bus home, or who had to hitch rides because they were out of gas for a few days.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        20 years ago, my monthly railroad pass cost $125 and a one-day round trip was 15. Used car prices are very high this year, and there are recognized supply chain problems trying to get repair parts.
        If someone is living at a distance for cheaper rent and has an unexpected expense, that could be insurmountable.
        So for OP, I would let that one slide and just concentrate on the “overslept” portion of the employees no-call/no-show excuses.

        1. Dee's Knees*

          Absolutely. And perhaps HR can help hook the employee up with programs that can help. My city offers discounts on public transit for disabled passengers.

      2. Bertha*

        I have been in the position where it was financially difficult to get to work, including when I just couldn’t because my car was broke down — I CALLED IN TO WORK and explained the problem. Or I tried to arrange for other transportation. I put in effort. I didn’t just sit at home and wait for them to call me. That’s what’s frustrating about this to me.

        1. T-rex*

          Oh for sure, you absolutely call in. But I can absolutely see “I can’t afford transportation” being a reason to not go to work.

        2. Loulou*

          Right. Not calling in is totally different and it’s making what could be a legitimate excuse seem otherwise.

      3. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Exactly. Its literally the reality for some.

        25 years ago if it was pouring and it was in between paychecks? I likely didn’t have money for transportation, as work was NOT on the main bus route requiring a taxi ride, and I was consistently broke as the pay wasn’t awesome for my internship. What does pouring have to do with it? I rode my bike to and from work. Did I need a new job? Likely, as it covered my needed expenses with about a $10 cushion each month. Was it my reality at the time? Yes.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Yeah right now gas is $4/gallon in the US – I think the minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. Not excusing this employee but it’s not a strange concept that someone can’t afford to get to work.

      4. Critical Rolls*

        I think people would be a bit more thoughtful about it if it weren’t coming from an employee who also considers “overslept” a good reason to regularly not show up. This person seems pretty chaotic, norm-breaking, and indifferent to their responsibilities, which tips people in the direction of this being a planning issue rather than an insufficient pay issue. I kinda feel like if I were financially strapped enough to have commute cost be a regular worry, I would not be nearly as cavalier about my work performance as this person is.

    5. Batgirl*

      If I had to guess from the other issues, it’s not that there’s not enough money it’s that there is a chaotic and disorganised approach to money. It could easily be like how they are chronically late – it’s probably not because they have less time than everyone else. In fact, as a former late person, even now giving me more time can be like giving a drowning person more water. Accepting not having ready cash as a reason for a no show is pretty extreme though! It goes way beyond reasonable accommodations and is the kind of excuse you give a therapist not a boss. They need to be having a ‘this is threatening your job’ kind of discussion here. I think everyone has gotten too used to the accommodating the lack of work, rather than accommodating a different way to do the work.

      1. feral faerie*

        Yeah, as someone who went through addiction and mental illness during an internship I was doing for grad school, that was my problem. Budgeting is frankly still a challenge for me despite being in recovery. Disclaimer- I’m not giving these examples to speculate on the OP’s diagnosis but just different reasons (that I’ve experienced first hand) that led me to struggle with paying for necessities when I did have money to. For some people, it can be hard when they’re depressed or anxious to look over their paycheck/bank account and plan a specific budget because it can be overwhelming and takes some effort. In periods of time when I was really anxious or depressed, it was hard for me to even check my bank account and see how much money was in there.

    6. Lacey*

      It’s a really common reason, especially for lower paying jobs. People rely on a relative to take them, one day the relative can’t and they don’t have money for the bus or (more likely in my area) an uber.

      They should still call to let someone know though. I’ve had a couple of occasions where unexpected car trouble meant I couldn’t get into work in the morning, I called or texted my boss as soon as I could to explain the situation.

      1. WellRed*

        Yes this is what people are missing. The employee should pick up the phone and call out.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I don’t think people are missing it, I think people are reading “mental health disorder.”

          1. londonedit*

            Even with a mental health issue at play, though, for most workplace situations it can’t be reasonable for this employee to have a blanket ‘doesn’t need to get in touch, can just turn up to work (or not) whenever they feel like it’ arrangement. Whatever their reason for not making it to work, it’s still reasonable to expect them to be the one to contact their employer in good time to let them know, instead of leaving the employer to worry that something terrible has happened (which seems to be why the OP is then tasked with calling the employee in the first place).

        2. Elsajeni*

          I don’t think anyone is missing that, really! The question that starts this thread isn’t “Why would not having the money for transportation be an excuse to miss work without calling” — it’s “Why would this ever be an excuse for missing work,” full stop. Yes, of course they should call (barring some other issue that makes calling also impossible), but also, of course not being able to afford transportation is a real thing that sometimes happens and not an inherently suspicious or obviously-BS excuse.

    7. Jora Malli*

      My job provides each employee with a transit card. Their arrangement with the local metro system is that they get billed at the end of the month for the number of rides taken on the cards they sponsor, and they make it clear when the cards are issued that they’re to be used for travel to and from work only. And I really think that every employer should do the same. The cost of traveling to and from work can be a substantial decrease in people’s salaries and it feels fair for employers to cover either public transit fees or parking fees so that employees can afford to come to work.

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        My employer pays for my monthly bus pass and I can use it as desired. It’s part of our collective agreement.

        And the value of it appears on my tax papers as a taxable benefit.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I’ve worked places where they issued annual transit passes as part of their green compliance mandates from the local government. (The area I live in has a horrible traffic problem.) They even issued them to people who drove. It has turned out useful when my car had to go into the shop, even though it took me twice as long to get there on transit.

      2. doreen*

        I can imagine that there are some situations where I would believe that employers should cover commuting costs, but I wouldn’t expect all employers to do so , for a couple of reasons. One is that I’ve known a lot of people who voluntarily worked far from home for a variety of reasons even when they could have worked for the same employer closer to home. Sometimes it was because they wanted a promotion that was only available in the further location, sometimes they wanted a particular assignment that was only available in the further location and sometimes we couldn’t figure out why those people never transferred closer to home. And the second reason is related to the first – if the employer is expected to pay the commuting costs , it seems very likely that the employer will prefer to hire the person who pays $5.50/day for the subway over the person who pays $15 ( or more) per day for the railroad.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup. I pay £250 per month to get to work on a 90 minute commute from the next town over. My colleague can choose whether or not to take a bus. It would be nice, but ultimately it’s why (a) I’m looking for a job closer to home and (b) if my employer were to pay my commute, it might be suggested I do (a)…

          And it’s impossible to do my job from home.

          To be honest, it is what it is. It’s unlikely to change the situation in the OP and as autistic and prone to panic attacks that have kept me off work in the past, I have always let people know when I won’t be in.

          It’s hard for everyone. I get people want to be sympathetic, but ultimately we can’t have everything done for us.

    8. Jennifer*

      I have struggled to scrape together money to take public transit or gas so I get it, plus gas prices are ridiculous right now, but I would have definitely called and instead of no-showing and making someone at the office call me. That’s just irresponsible and rude.

    9. English Teacher*

      Just as a general note, one that probably doesn’t apply here–I used to take the bus to work, and if there was not enough money on the fare card, you could only add more in cash. If my fare card had gotten low and I didn’t have any cash lying around, it could be a problem! In my case, it was just absentmindedness, but for someone who is really financially insecure, this can be a real hurdle. Probably not bad enough to miss work altogether, but can certainly cause a delay as you make other arrangements.

  9. Greige*

    Hiring managers take note: I would likely drop out of a process that involved a lunch interview unless it was really presented as optional. Unless the position is directly related to food, I don’t see how it’s worth all the complications, risks, and bias introduction when consuming food is a component of your hiring process.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, as a person with a weird and difficult-to-explain allergy to a common food ingredient, a lunch interview would be my idea of hell. However, I do appreciate the need to let interviewees eat if it’s an all-day interview process, but at least let people bring their own food or go out to grab something.

      I would seriously consider withdrawing from consideration from any job that required me to do a lunch as part of the process. Interviews are stressful enough without having to worry about going into anaphylactic shock!

      1. Zee*

        I also have a weird/uncommon allergy to a food a lot of people love! People very often think I’m exagerrating and I actually just don’t like it. Nah dude, what I actually don’t like is not breathing!

    2. Incoming Principal*

      OP mentioned that this was an all-day interview. I would not appreciate if a potential employer interviewed me for the whole day but asked me to fare for myself come lunch time. This happened to me once when I flew to another country for a whole day interview and had to figure out a lunch place quickly enough to come back within the 45 min break in time for the rest of the interviews. I bought fruit at a minimarket and was actually starving.

      1. mikey c*

        yes – at an all-day interview having them provide lunch would be totally normal; they are, after all, taking up your entire day, they should at least give you something in return.

        I would hope that the lunch would be optional, though, for the aforementioned dietary issues but also because you might just want a break from being around everyone! When I’ve been on training days with an included lunch I tend to scoff it down and then go for a walk…!

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        I’ve had one or two of those, when the interviewing (with multiple people) went through the lunch period, and I didn’t have a lunch. I don’t mind the meal interviews because it gives me another chance to see if I like them. (I also don’t have food issues, and recognize that it can be much harder on those who do)

        One time, the job interview included lunch out for the whole team and myself. I mentioned some of the more unusual Astronomy Picture of the Day images. My would be boss categorically called all of them fake (or photoshopped) I didn’t get the job, and may have turned it down if offered

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        Oh, I think that they definitely should provide food if the interviewee would want it, but also let people opt out if necessary. For example, you could provide a list of lunch places close to the interview location so that the candidate could look up the menus in advance. Just be flexible and understanding that not everyone wants to (or can) eat from a set menu of limited options.

      4. LemonLyman*

        If it were an all day interview I’d appreciate lunch time to myself to have a little quiet time and to recharge for the afternoon. Especially after the last two years, that would be a LOT of professional in-personal interaction that I’m just not used to anymore.

    3. LW2*

      This interview actually has both the lunch the day of AND a dinner the night before. (The dinner is at a restaurant and they did send me the menu for it, so I didn’t include it in the question.) This is very, very common in my field so there is no way to avoid it unfortunately.

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Once upon a time, a guy I know had an interview for an investment banking job. Ritzy meals were part of the client relationship process in that industry (this was a while ago) so dinner was part of the interview to see that the candidate could handle a high-end restaurant experience appropriately.

        Perusing the appetizer list, he immediately rejected anything dripping with sauce, and settled instead on escargot (snails). Small, discrete, protective shells, good. The appetizer arrived and, while making work-appropriate conversation, he went to fork up the first delicious snail …

        … which went flying into the air, spinning wildly and landing in the boss’s lap.

        He got the job anyway.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Haha, let’s hire the guy with the projectile snails.

          I’d think that handling that sort of faux pas with aplomb would be a big plus.

          1. Incoming Principal*

            Absolutely, and also how they would handle receiving the wrong side dish etc.
            I grew-up poor so didn’t have such experience but tried to read so much about it.
            Now over a decade later, you’d think I have eaten at such places all my life. It was a lot of hard work and insecurity but in some professional services, that is an inevitable part of deal making.

            1. londonedit*

              I have a schoolfriend who ate an extremely restricted set of foods when we were growing up – I think it’s called neophobia, she basically didn’t want to eat anything she wasn’t already familiar with. Trying to find places to eat if we were out and about/on holiday with her was a nightmare because in an unfamiliar situation she’d pretty much only be willing to eat McDonald’s or a plain pizza (literally plain, just tomato and cheese, no herbs or anything). In the end she found she had to make changes after she graduated – she went into a job where going to lunches and dinners with clients was a big deal, and companies liked to take their clients to high-end places, so it was going to be impossible for her to avoid being confronted with menus full of food she didn’t know. And asking for a plain pizza wasn’t going to look very professional in front of important clients! So she started very gradually experimenting with new foods at home, and learning about the things she saw on these menus, until she had slightly expanded her repertoire so that she knew she could at least find one thing to eat. In her general life steak and chips is still as adventurous as she gets, but she can also now go to a restaurant and feel confident that she can choose something she’ll be able to eat, which she couldn’t have done until her mid-twenties.

        2. Texan In Exile*

          I did that with my college boyfriend’s mom. His parents took us out for a fancy dinner. I tried to open a crab leg using leverage and that is not the right way to do it. Instead, I flipped it off my plate like a Tiddlywink. It spun in the air, splattering butter not only on my bofriend’s mom but also on me and the nice silk blouse I had borrowed from my roommate.

      2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        LW2, is there a typical lunch? I.e. I used to go to catered industry meetings that almost always had sandwiches, wraps and salads. If that’s the case, it might be easier to identify likely offenders and mention those. Or ask, “is it sandwiches? A completely plain chicken sandwich would work.”

      3. AcademicallyOK*

        All day interviews with meals are common in my field as well. I want to second a suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere to bring your own snacks! Also, if somehow someone notices you’re not eating much try to deflect the question. When I had my interview for my current job I was recovering from food poisoning, which I didn’t feel like I telling them, so I just tried to order something that sounded OK, and ate what I wanted off the plate. The only comment I got was someone worried I didn’t like my entree and wanted something else. I just said something along the lines of, “with all this travel my internal clock doesn’t know it’s dinner time, but this is fantastic. What is the restaurant scene like in [town]?” And then off the conversation goes. It’s a red flag about the employer if people are really weird about what you’re eating and if someone is asking with genuine concern, you should be able to redirect them. Good luck!

    4. anonymous73*

      It’s an all day interview so lunch is provided. Why does everything have to be related to bias?

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        Unconscious bias is…unconscious and can be affected by all sorts of things. Religious bias can be raised by people who pray before eating or have dietary restrictions. People might think that people who need kosher or hallal food are “being difficult.” People have ALL sorts of snobbery against people who aren’t “adventurous” eaters, which is ableist. (note–ableist means it affects people with disabilities more than those without, not that it is intentionally aimed at PWD). Nobody’s saying that people are offering lunch to intentionally “weed out” certain types of people, but biases around food are very common.

          1. Daisy Gamgee*

            Except that offering someone only what they cannot eat isn’t common courtesy and can be done in a biased manner. For example, if the only option is a ham sandwich, that won’t feed quite a few different demographics, and it would not be fair to tell any of those people to just suck it up, let alone to judge them as unemployable for it.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Also, if the person is heavy, they will get judged on what and how they eat. As a fat person, I regularly get side eyed if I don’t opt for a salad. Add to that the fact that even condiments like mayo or salad dressing cause me GI issues, and work food ends up a minefield.

      2. Anonymous Hippo*

        I hadn’t thought about it before the above comment, but I’ve thought back over our lunch “interviews” which were never really structured just getting to know you, but that raises questions about family background and marital issues, or just “I don’t jell with their vibe” since it’s more of a hang-out than a real interview, so it could tend to favor people more like the interview group rather than someone who would be terrific at the job but yet not have the same background as the group.

        1. Loulou*

          I mean, sure, but that’s true of any more informal interview conversation, not just one served over a meal. Remember that we’re talking about jobs where the candidate will have to move to a new area to take the job. They really need the chance to talk to potential colleagues informally to a) see if they like them! And b) get information about the area from peers.

          1. JustaTech*

            At several companies where my spouse has worked and interviewed the lunch was in the company cafeteria (lots of options, generally well labeled) and importantly, *not* with anyone on the interview loop. This is specifically so the interviewee can relax a little bit and ask some company-culture questions that they might not be comfortable bringing up in the interview itself.

    5. Esmeralda*

      Very typical for academic (faculty) interviews to go a day or a day and a half. You gotta eat. Meals are seen as a way for more people and different constituents to meet you. Eg breakfast with students, lunch w search committee plus some folks, coffee and snacks before/after your presentation, reception with everyone and his dog, dinner with the younger faculty or the LGBTQ+ faculty or….

      1. Rock Prof*

        I was just about to say this sounds similar to an academic interview. I’ve had breakfast with the faculty in charge of the hiring committee, lunch with students, and dinner with all the committee. It’s a lot! I’m just lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is normally not that complicated, but sometimes it’s a pile of pizzas with students and I have to fight for the cheese slice.

      2. After 33 years ...*

        We always ask candidates if they have restrictions, or send menus on request. I’ve never seen a candidate who declined to eat any meals at all with their potential colleagues.

      3. Artemesia*

        Academic interviews typically include breakfast lunch and dinner. People are assigned to these meals as part of the interview process — both to court the person being interviewed and to allow maximum number of people to get to know the candidate since job offers are voted on.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          That’s what I am familiar with. Though I don’t doubt some people have unconscious bias when it comes to seeing other people eat, it’s within the realm of possibility that the people doing the interviewing also have some unusual dietary restrictions or preferences. I conducted several meal “interviews” last year (it was less about interviewing them on their merits, but seeing how they get along with people in our department in general) and I am a picky eater and a vegetarian. Because of our faculty’s other issues around food, we tend to find places that have a ton of options just for the faculty to be able to eat.

          There was an interviewee that ate maybe 2 bites of their lunch when we were out, but it didn’t affect how we viewed her at all. In fact, she was the one we hired. There are about 10000 things that we consider in an interview when it comes to hiring that will persuade us to pick one candidate over another besides what they ate (or didn’t eat) for lunch.

        2. Esmeralda*

          Right. Especially for candidates from metropolitan/cosmopolitan schools interviewing at schools that are not in those places. THe school wants to show that they have good places to eat interesting food. It can be tough…

    6. Yorick*

      This is really, really common in some industries and you wouldn’t get a job if you took this stance.

    7. Jora Malli*

      I have trouble eating when I’m nervous, so even with no food restrictions at all I wouldn’t be able to eat much at a job interview.

    8. Wisteria*

      In the hiring manager’s shoes, how would you plan for the lunch break for an all day interview? Would you really let the candidate fare for themselves, remembering that they might not be familiar with your site and know the options available? I would be turned off if my interviewers didn’t feed me lunch at an all day interview.

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        In the hiring manager’s shoes, how would you plan for the lunch break for an all day interview?

        By asking the candidate if they have any food restrictions, and also mentioning to them foods my area is famous for, but in a way that makes it clear they will not be judged for not choosing those foods. It seems odd that this wouldn’t be the common option.

        1. Wisteria*

          Which is what most places, including the place where OP is interviewing, already do.

          I’m interested in what Greige specifically would do since they are advising hiring managers that including lunch introduces unacceptable (to them) risk.

    9. Koala dreams*

      Not having lunch would exclude even more people, since most people won’t be able to go the whole day without food. People who won’t eat lunch could mention it when they ask about food restrictions and the employer could accommodate that just as they accommodate other food restrictions.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yep. I would absolutely self select out if I would be interviewing the *entire day* with no food break. Not even you have to provide me food, but give me a lunch hour! I would be much, much more concerned with that company’s norms & expectations to have an interviewee *skip lunch*.

        1. JustaTech*

          This happened to me when I interviewed for my current job. I don’t know how the wires got crossed but they just scheduled a solid 4 hours through lunch. Thank goodness for the mini granola bar in the bottom of my bag!
          (Since I started I’ve made a point of asking if there would be lunch with the interview so it’s at least on someone’s radar.)

      2. Raboot*

        Yeah, frankly I really don’t think it makes sense to filter out an interview because they hadn’t “presented” lunch as optional. You really just need to ask if you need accommodation. Like maybe in a perfect world you wouldn’t need to, but we live in this one, and I really think the majority of places are going to work with you. There are so many possible accommodations for an interview that it doesn’t make sense to me to rule out anywhere that doesn’t happen to specifically call out the one you need.

  10. Justin*

    I’m in the process with two jobs right now. One has gotten me through two whole rounds in the time that the other took to contact me about the second round.

    There’s no real way to predict (though as a person who tends to move quickly, I’m much more hyped about the faster one and you can use this experience as knowledge).

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Often there’s no real idea of what’s going on behind the scenes. For my current job the 2nd interview process was delayed because one of the big managers was having unexpected surgery. I didn’t know that. All I saw was they took down the job notice. They had pretty much decided to hire me, but couldn’t formally say that until after the 2nd interview.

      For another job the board couldn’t get together because of various issues to formally vote on my selection. Since it was required to be a public meeting it took another week for the meeting announcement. There are so many things that go on that slow down the hiring process.

  11. Rainy Cumbria*

    #5 reminds me, last year I interviewed for a job in August, and didn’t get the rejection email until November. Luckily I’d realised in the interview that I didn’t really want the job (bit of a bait and switch), and in those three months I was offered a much better job which I’m now very happy in.

    1. Meghan*

      Similar for me! They actually *mailed* a rejection letter to me. On fancy gilded letterhead.

    2. Raspin*

      I’m still “waiting” for a rejection letter for a job I interviewed for last August. I found out from a friend that they hired someone internal and it was likely I had just had a courtesy interview. I’ve also accepted a much better job since then.

  12. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP1 – Put them on a PIP or give them a warning and consider termination.

    Their gender identity is a red herring here that ultimately doesn’t matter (at least in terms of the law, respecting that it could matter to you on a personal level), since the performance problems mainly stem from the no call/no show.

    Even the noises in the background ultimately don’t matter either. Someone repeatedly no-showing for work because they overslept or because they don’t have money to commute is not a member of a protected class legally in any jurisdiction I’m aware of.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this is reasonable at pulling out the important part–whether a pattern of no-call no-show is reasonable to accommodate. The background sex sounds only arise because OP has to call them about the no-show.

      1. Beany*

        If OP doesn’t have a choice about calling them, and is subjected to X-rated sound effects as a result, I think that counts as sexual harassment.

    2. Liz*

      I understand that in the vast majority of places, this would be the case, but LW talks about trying to get “on the same page” as senior management with regards to this employee. We don’t really have the particulars here, but it seems that the higher ups are happy to accommodate this employee. Maybe that means working on a casual basis and if the employer can afford to do that, hats off to them. If this worker’s no shows are causing actual work flow issues, then LW needs to feed that back to their manager/HR and look at what steps can be taken to offer other solutions. I could be off base here, but if the employer is this accommodating, I feel LW would be out if step with the workplace culture if they decide to take the PIP/firing approach when their own manager is encouraging welfare calls and a “come when you can” schedule.

      1. Velocipastor*

        This is where I am so confused by the situation. The Powers That Be seem perfectly content to keep this person employed despite their unreliability — which as you suggest may mean they have a “come when you can” schedule” — yet they have also given OP instructions to call the employee when they no-call-no-show, which suggests that there IS a set schedule. I almost wonder if this company has a huge misunderstanding of what constitutes “accommodation” and thinks they aren’t allowed to say no or reprimand this employee at all because they have a disability/mental health issue on file.

        1. just another bureaucrat*

          I’m guessing that the senior management is saying they don’t want a fight on their hands to fire this person so OP should do whatever they can do manage this person as best they can but good luck because they aren’t going to back them but they are going to expect the same level of work but without adding any additional people because that slot is occupied but nonshowup can’t call in person.

        2. Doctors Whom*

          I have nothing to say except that Velocipastor is one of my all time favorite movies and to thank you and your screen name for your service accordingly.

        3. Jaydee*

          LW1 refers to the phone call as a welfare check. So it does sound like the no-call/no-shows generally are the result of the employee’s disability and that when employee doesn’t come to work or call, there is concern that they might need medical attention.

          Presumably these phone calls are pretty short – confirm employee is not in need of emergency medical care and will not be at work today, wish them well, and say goodbye. Unless the background noise is incredibly loud or graphic, assume the employee is watching “World’s Deadliest Swarms” (where are my X-Files fans?) and call it a day.

          If the background noise *is* exceptionally loud and/or graphic, treat it like any other background noise that makes the conversation hard to hear. “Can you turn the TV down/move to a quieter part of the apartment? I’m having trouble hearing you.”

          Now, if the employee gets creepy about it – says “oh, I thought you’d like this video” or turns the volume up the next time you call or something – by all means take it to HR. But if the employee responds appropriately – reduces the volume and makes an effort to do so in the future – then consider it a weird work story and one of the risks of contacting employees at home.

      2. The Lexus Lawyer*

        I hear your concerns but that’s exactly what a PIP is meant for. It’s not necessarily a one way road to termination – if they can improve their performance issue (the no call/no shows) then they won’t have to be terminated

        1. Liz*

          Oh yes, absolutely, but my point is that even a PIP might be an overstep if a more senior manager has stated that this is how they want to handle things. And the impression I get is that the LW has been expressly asked to call them when they don’t show, which would suggest to me that the higher ups are fine with it.

    3. anonymous73*

      I think the biggest issue here is that the company is trying to be accommodating (OP mentioned disability and mental health issues), but nothing has been clearly defined, so they just let them do whatever they want and hope they show up for work. Whether or not a PIP needs to be created, expectations need to be defined and agreed to by both parties.

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Falling Dipthong identified the correct way to consider the issue. The LW didn’t actually identify any performance problems, they just said it’s frustrating. If the no-call no-show is frustrating but ultimately the employee gets done what needs to get done, they can’t be fired. Some jobs are not time-bound the way, say, shift work would be. The employee certainly may be over the line for a reasonable accommodation but there is not enough information to assess that. I don’t think one instance of not coming to work due to cost issues is sufficient to fire someone.

      Also, as the parent of two children with sleep disorders, I can assure you that there are disabilities that affect people’s ability to wake up.

  13. The Lexus Lawyer*

    OP3 – in addition to the reasons Allison mentioned, have you considered that some people don’t like to mix friends and business?

    There could also be reasons entirely on her end that aren’t about you personally. Don’t take it so hard. Make new friends

  14. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP3, It might be that you were a great person to vent to until you became part of the situation about which she is venting.
    But it could also be non-work related and nothing to do with you at all. Especially if you’re both remote.
    In either case, do you ever talk about life outside the office? It seems worth it to me if you like her.

  15. Hope*

    With the food restrictions, there are lots of reasons you might not have a label (vegan, coeliac, kosher, nut allergy etc) for restricting your food, so a reasonable person wouldn’t just assume that you’re picky.

    For example, you might be in the process of figuring out some intolerances, you could have an eating disorder, you might have IBS, you could be on a medical diet, you might be following a particular fitness regime.

    Alison’s advice is great, especially seeing a menu in advance so you can choose. Another tip, if you are reduced to ordering sides, is to ask that they all be brought out on one plate so it just looks like a regular meal – it attracts less attention than picking from different smaller dishes.

    1. J.B.*

      I get why the poster is concerned though. Relatives get weird about my autistic kid’s food limitations. If that’s the message you’ve been getting all your life its a tough one. Plus some people are judgy and that level of bias during a job interview (of something that would probably not be a major thing in the office itself) can kill your candidacy.

    2. LW2*

      That’s a really good tip to ask for the sides all on one plate, thank you! I’m glad that my question resonated with so many people, it makes me feel less weird/unreasonable. :)

      1. After 33 years ...*

        You’re not at all unreasonable! In our interviewing process, meals are always involved, but we’d always ask the candidate to let us know what will work best for them. Dietary choices and restrictions are common for many people, including me, and interviewers should anticipate that.

      2. Another JD*

        Food restrictions are not weird at all. Just have a script prepared if you’re still served something you can’t tolerate. I went to three weddings last fall. I told each couple I was allergic to butternut squash (the invitations all asked). All three had butternut squash on the menu, and I was served it at two of them. I flagged a member of the catering staff and got my meal fixed. It’s not rude at all to say “That looks great, but unfortunately, I can’t eat it because of my food restrictions. Is there something else available?”

      3. fueled by coffee*

        Not at all unreasonable! As the person who has done the food ordering in these situations, I wouldn’t bat an eye at someone who said “My food restrictions can be a little complicated; it’s probably easier if you send me the menu and I can let you know what I can eat.” Loads of people have complicated food restrictions for a variety of reasons.

        I also think lots of people are just generally unaware of what different dietary needs actually mean. I’m a vegetarian, which seems like it should be straightforward to accommodate, but apparently is not based on the number of times I’ve been served chicken because it’s “not really meat.” Ditto marshmallows/jello, Caesar salad dressing, and “I picked the pepperoni off your slice of pizza.”

      4. Ana Gram*

        People get weird about food. I’m fairly adventurous but I hate most fish. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “oh but you should just try this fish preparation/ my fish recipe/ this type of fish”, I’d be rich.

        You’re smart for trying to figure out a strategy to try to minimize awkwardness.

      5. Daisy Gamgee*

        Your question isn’t weird/unreasonable at all, and I’m glad you asked it. I’m actually taking notes from the ensuing discussion to help advise a young autistic person in my life.

    3. Metadata minion*

      A reasonable person wouldn’t assume pickiness, but there are a surprising number of unreasonable people when it comes to food, even if they’re reasonable about most other things.

      1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

        Yeah, anyone else remember that letter writer with the peanut allergy whose coworkers harassed them with attempted poisonings? Or that one advice column (or maybe a Reddit post, but I saw it make the rounds afterwards in horror) about the girlfriend with a mushroom allergy, whose in-laws so thoroughly refused to believe or respect it that they put mushrooms in EVERYTHING at Thanksgiving dinner, down to mashed potatoes. And allergies to a single thing are relatively recognized and respected (especially peanuts!), but the people who get unreasonable about it tend to get EXTREMELY unreasonable, especially given the consequences are so dire. Even with mostly-reasonable ones, some people have a surprisingly hard time recognizing that not everyone’s allergies are the same level of severity – yes, Sansa can have foods prepared in the same facility as peanut products, but Arya can’t, because her immune system is different.

        When the issues are more widespread – sensory aversions, or an allergy to a class of foods, or even just those people who can’t get their heads around being vegan – it gets even harder to be treated seriously. (Or even just to explain. Sometimes it is in fact easier to internalize what you CAN eat than the whole list of restrictions a mile long.)

    4. Nanani*

      The whole notion that “picky” eating is bad/childish and not worthy of respect is one I would gladly throw into a bonfire. So what if it’s not an easily understood restriction?

      People can eat what they want! It goes into your body! It should be 100% your choice!
      We don’t quite live in that world but still. Someday.

  16. The Rafters*

    We’ve had employees with various mental health and/or substance abuse issues, and have done everything possible to get them help, but no-call, no-show – they were out the door. They were already on very thin ice as it was, much like your employee, and were told no more chances for you. This from an org where it usually takes years to fire someone.

  17. Workerbee*

    #1 Just bravo to OP for trying to make sense and issue reasonable accommodations for a delicate and pitfall-laden situation.

    #2 Note to interviewers: An all-day interview sounds exhausting and stressful. Then you add in lunch where at base level, the interviewee is going to have the added stress of crumbs, splatters, spills, being asked questions when their mouth is full, not sure if they should raise the fork to their mouth while they’re being spoken to, etc. Then layer on dietary and other complications onto that. Lunch interviews are not friendly. And what is so important about the role that you need to book an entire day? Even in my extremely tightly-knit team, pre-pandemic I only had one video interview and then in the next round, met the team in a clump and then met with HR, all of which only took a couple hours. Perhaps I’ve just never had a job of such importance or detail that I had to be sussed out by every single person throughout the day, ha.

    #3 I’d just let this one go. Your work friend knows how to reach you. Things change with work people as different roles and directives come up.

    1. Esmeralda*

      FAculty day/day-plus interviews:

      If it’s a tenure track position, they are potentially hiring you forever. They need to be sure about fit. Or as sure as they can be. As do you.

      You will meet many different constituencies. If you’re faculty who will be teaching, you *want* to meet students. (If you’re research faculty, you want to meet the postdocs etc). You want to meet your potential colleagues. You’re going to meet the horrible folks (they always come out of the woodwork for these things) — you need to see if the rest of the people are good enough to make up for them. Talk at these meals is a combo of social and intellectual/field related. Are you someone who’s interesting to talk to? Are *they* interesting to talk to?

      Meals are fraught, but tbh the worst is when they stick you in an office for anyone who can’t make the other events to stop by and talk to you. (See above re woodwork)

      It’s exhausting. You’re on all the time. Hard for almost everyone, and clearly a problem for folks with disabilities that affect their energy, focus, mobility etc.

      1. Nesprin*

        The interview for my current position was 2 days, 17 different 1/2 hr interviews + 5 meals. (was godawful, and my institution changed our approach shortly after me). The only reason I survived was like 12 granola bars in my purse.
        It makes some sense to put candidates through the gauntlet- faculty at research institutions are given a startup package (500k) and they’re stuck with you for 6 years or so.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I don’t love a meal interview if that’s the interview. I sat in on one of those once, and the interviewee felt weird trying to figure out what to order and when he could actually eat, since people were asking him questions. at one point someone said something like, “gee, give Fergus a second to have a few bites of his sandwich,” since he’d been answering questions nonstop and his food was getting cold.

      It occurred to me in this interview, as well, that if it’s in a restaurant setting that there’s even pressure around what to order. This person ordered grilled cheese and tomato soup because it was a rainy day. But what if he ordered a burger and the person in charge of hiring was vegetarian? Or salad, which takes a long time to eat? Or something messy, even though it’s delicious?

      1. Metadata minion*

        “But what if he ordered a burger and the person in charge of hiring was vegetarian?”

        Most vegetarians are aware that meat eaters exist and don’t hold it against them. Yes, the militant ones stick out, but if the person in charge of hiring is that opposed to meat, they should hold the interview in a vegetarian restaurant.

      2. Shiba Dad*

        Back in my college days I heard stories about companies taking job candidates to dinner and messing with them. For instance, if the interviewee ordered a steak cooked medium, the interviewer would have the kitchen undercook the steak in order to see how the interviewee would handle it.

        I have no idea if these stories were true, but they were prevalent back then. Did anyone have an experience like that?

        1. JustaTech*

          At my college there was a special dinner offered to seniors that had some nice name but was known as “how to not make a fool of yourself at an interview dinner” where it was a full three course meal full of things that are very challenging to eat neatly (curly skewers, vegetable towers, a whole quail, that kind of thing).

          Before every course arrived one of the group leaders (I think a professor) explained how to eat the food neatly, and also gave some tips on “polite dinner conversation”.

          I went because, hey, fancy food, but at least one guy at my table completely ignored the instructions (and point) and ate with his hands and was actively rude. “I’ve already got a job, who cares about this stuff?”

      3. Esmeralda*

        I always chose: Not messy, not saucy (no soup, no spaghetti), stay away from seafood (even though I love it) because if it’s off I’m gonna really suffer on the trip home. No alcohol except a glass of wine w dinner which I take a few sips from (I’m a lightweight and I get….garrulous…when I’ve had too much; delightfully social but a lot less filtered).

        If there’s something interesting that’s easy to take bites of in between talking a lot, that’s the best. French fries are perfect. Anything that comes already cut into bite sized pieces. Non-sloppy sandwiches. I mean, I love a bacon cheese burger with a runny egg on it, but not in this situation.

    3. Wisteria*

      I have always had multi-hour interviews that include lunch. At this point, a short interview is a red flag bc it means they are not giving enough time for everyone to meet and ask questions. The interview is as much for you as it is for them–it’s good to have the opportunity to meet multiple people and discover their quirks. Yes, by the end of the day, you are tired, and people recognize that and cut you slack.

    4. Heather*

      Sometimes I wonder what the hiring process would look like if the commentariat here got to design it from top to bottom. It seems virtually every aspect of networking, applications, interviews, and on-boarding is problematic for some reason or other.

      1. Daisy Gamgee*

        That could make for a great Friday discussion, if approached with a different attitude than a slavish love for the status quo.

    5. Chickaletta*

      Executive-level interviews are often 1-2 day affairs. I’m the EA who books them and they can definitely go 8-4 on the first day followed by a dinner followed by another day of interviews. Lunch interviews are often part of the deal in order to make efficient use of time. When someone is being brought on at that level, the company has probably already spent six figures just looking for that person and once they’re brought on board will be expecting them to help lead the direction of the company and affect its performance, so many people want to meet with them before an offer is made. It is exhausting for the candidate, but that’s part of the price tag of having a nice salary and getting to that level.

      I also ask candidates if they have any dietary restrictions before ordering lunch because it’s the kind thing to do. I know they’re trying to make a good impression, so I want to give the candidate some control over their day and at least have the fuel they need to get through it. And it’s ok for them to tell me if they have a complicated diet! I order lunches for people all the time, trust me, I’ve heard a lot of requests. It’s ok!

  18. ecnaseener*

    LW3, it sounds like your worries mostly stem from the fact that she didn’t apologize for canceling or offer to reschedule. Sure, this could mean she never really wanted to hang out with you – or she might have just goofed. She might have been distracted or frazzled by something else, and simply forgotten to employ the social scripts she was supposed to use to avoid hurting your feelings. Definitely try again!

    (And yeah, as Alison mentioned some people are just not the type to initiate plans – I’m like that. I have to really force myself to make plans with friends, even though I know I’d love to see them. I don’t have the energy to do that for casual friends, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t genuinely be happy to hang out if they reached out.)

    1. La Donna*

      Completely agree with you. I sometimes forget to apologize or say thank you, even when I mean it. It has nothing to do with the person and I don’t mean to come off rude, it just happens because I’m distracted or I have other things going on.

      I think OP is taking it way too personally, and she should reach out again if she wants. If it turns out that said friend doesn’t want to hang, then OP just needs to move on. It happens.

      I had a group of gal friends at work years ago and I made one of them mad somehow, and things got very awkward. Tried reaching out, she wouldn’t respond, when I would see her in the office kitchen, she would ignore me. Super weird.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I wouldn’t even necessarily say LW is taking it *too* personally, because that sounds like they shouldn’t get to feel hurt. I completely get why they’re hurt! The coworker neglected to say any of the things you’re supposed to say to signal that you’re not trying to hurt someone.

        I just think you can feel hurt by someone AND recognize that it might have been an accident and not an indicator that they don’t like you. And if you’re invested in a friendship it generally makes sense to give people a free dumb mistake or two before you conclude they don’t like you.

  19. I h8 the tom8*

    LW2, not all food allergies/intolerances can be easily explained. My sister can’t have fructose, so she can’t have high fructose corn syrup, apples, garlic, onions, some varieties of grapes, or honey (among MANY other things). She just asks to see the menu ahead of time or brings her own food (usually both).

    Just because your food limitations aren’t life threatening or physical, doesn’t mean they aren’t valid. I cannot force myself to eat tomatoes in any form. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. Is that psychological? Yeah. Would I skip a meal instead of eating tomatoes? Also yeah.

    Make sure you have food that you can eat, the why of your food limitations is way less important than making sure you’re fed.

  20. anonymous73*

    #3 – I’ve come to realize that friends, even close friends, are not always in your life for the long haul – priorities change, life throws you curveballs, etc.. Sometimes you lose touch and that’s okay. It’s not always about something that was said or done, it’s just life, and some people are really bad about keeping in touch. I’ve had a few friends come and go from my life, and if they contacted me tomorrow I’d get together with them in a heartbeat. But if you’re the only one reaching out, you have to let go at some point. I would reach out one last time, and then if she cancels or doesn’t respond, let it go.
    #5 there is no standard. At my current job, my manager doesn’t waste time, so when we were interviewing for some open positions on my team, we would make decisions quickly. But if multiple managers are involved and schedules need to be coordinated, it can take time. So many companies are ghosting their candidates now, and while it sucks, there’s not much you can do about it. I do what Alison mentioned…no matter how well the interview went, I assume I didn’t get it and move on.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Right, or the kind of job can make a difference. When we hire for non-exempt admin positions (pay bands, etc), we can move quickly. When it’s for exempt professionals (good luck finding out the salary ahead of time), the HR situation is different and it takes forever.

  21. 123456789101112 dododo*

    L3 – Is there a chance that you are now viewed as “competition”? Now that you’re in her division, she may have had to switch you into the coworker category instead of friend or mentee, and her silence may make more sense if she’ll be competing against you for promotions or other compensation-related things in the future. I am good friends with many people in my field, but my coworkers don’t get to see the side of me that further-afield colleagues do.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      That is certainly a possibility, but the OP really doesn’t have hardly any data here to judge. I can’t see any downside to her trying once more, if she’s still interested. But even if the work friend is a no-show again, all the OP can reasonably conclude is that, for whatever reason, this person just isn’t available for an outside-of-the-office friendship right now. There are so many possible reasons, and it doesn’t sound as though it’s anything personal, so…try once more and move on. That’s my vote.

  22. Strictly Anonymous*

    For the last letter writer, I’m currently in the hiring process and it’s been several weeks since the last interview and I am still waiting on a decision from senior management that could mean I could hire both my top candidates, so no, I haven’t, nor will I ghost candidates, but some of them might think that if they haven’t reached back out to me to get an update on the process yet.

    I’ll also say, a follow up in the first week, followed by another one two weeks later is not too pushy in my book. Both my top candidates have done it and it lets me know that they are still interested in the position, which is obviously helpful!

    1. SomebodyElse*

      In these types of cases, I ask (or generally my internal recruiter offers (she’s great!)) to call the candidates to check in. I would suggest doing this if possible. Does two things, lets them know you are still interested but things are taking a bit longer than expected and finds out if they’re still available. It would suck to lose both candidates in your situation when you’re trying to get approval to hire two and one of them has already taken another job and you lose the other because you delayed.

  23. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#2: I guess I’m an outlier among the commenters who are very strongly against interviews that include eating a meal with the hiring manager and potential co-workers. I was never a candidate for BigLaw but I did get to the second round of an academic-adjacent position once. We had a lunch interview and I found it a fun novelty. Also: free lunch.

    I have a couple of food restrictions and I’m sure I was wary of ordering anything that could splatter, but after all this time honestly I forget what I ordered. Probably a non-spaghetti type of pasta with non-red sauce. I don’t remember what anybody else at the table ordered, either. We were there to meet with one another and get a sense of whether I would be a good fit for the crew and vice-versa.

    Anyway, I imagine they told you the name of the restaurant and probably the address, so you know enough to look up its website and find the menu. (Obviously, ask them for this information if they didn’t offer it.) You don’t have to have any kind of awkward conversation ahead of time with the hiring manager about food restrictions if you don’t want to.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        You mean, all day where I’m sharing 2 or 3 meals with others rather than just lunch? I guess I’d do the same thing only multiple times.

        I don’t think it’s very different from spending an entire day (or multiple days) at a business meeting, conference, or retreat. If something is scheduled at International House of Foods That Glomarization, Esq., Avoids, then I’ll try to look up the restaurant menu ahead of time or I’ll speak to the host/server. I’ll carry some granola bars with me and maybe try to stop at a convenience store or supermarket by the hotel for some pre-meeting breakfast and late-night nosh in my room.

    1. LW2*

      I’m pretty positive the lunch will be catered, not at a restaurant. There is a dinner the night before, and they did give me the name of the restaurant and menu for that, so I didn’t include it in the question. Basically what I’m trying to suss out is if it would be appropriate to ask for a menu for a catered lunch beforehand, and it looks like that is an overwhelming yes. :)

    2. Evelyn Carnahan*

      I’m in higher ed, and having an all day interview with 2 or 3 meals is very standard. Sometimes I am given an itinerary with all the restaurants on it, but sometimes it will just say “6:30pm: Dinner. Meet at hotel.” It is much easier, at least for me, to ask about specifics and give some broad guidelines about my needs rather than worrying about what I’ll be able to eat.

  24. Jennifer Strange*

    OP 5 – for my current job I think I went four weeks between the second interview and hearing back about coming in for the third interview. Not sure where in the process you are, but I wouldn’t assume you’re out of the running just yet. But as Alison said, it’s best to assume you didn’t get it until you hear otherwise (that’s what I did, so it was a nice surprise to hear back from them).

  25. Avril Ludgateau*

    re: #1


    but not bothering to call to say they won’t be in because they don’t have transportation to work is something you’d normally handle differently

    Alison, what if this person has a disability that makes it impossible for them to drive, and their usual transport is not as consistent as it would ideally be? I worked with people with various disabilities for a period in my career. Our state offered a publicly funded transportation service that was free to the eligible end-user, but I found out over my time there that it was notoriously unreliable. When it was running normally (which appeared to be rare), they would give you an hour window during which they would show up. An hour! But it was so often delayed for any reason and no reason, and they would not communicate consistently to the customers. On more than one occasion, I would give an individual a ride, myself, after finding them still waiting outside the building for their ride, when they had left me more than an hour prior.

    Is this a job where remote work is an option? If so, this would probably cut down on at least some of the absenteeism. But it’s also possible that the individual is, well, a flake. Not everything can be attributed to a disability, and even when it can, it should not absolve the individual of the responsibility to communicate with those who are counting on them.

    I’m not touching on the background noise. If you are indeed hearing what you think you’re hearing… that’s supremely uncomfortable to listen to, no matter the context (i.e. the employee is watching something, engaging in something, or simply has thin walls).

    1. Brightwanderer*

      Right, but in that case they should still call in, not just no-show, which is I think what Alison was saying there.

    2. Sal*

      +1. Access-a-ride in NYC was notoriously unreliable. May as well not have existed for most people who needed reliable transportation and couldn’t make public transit work.

    3. 2Legit*

      Person with epilepsy here.

      Remote work is an amazing solution to the barriers to transportation that we face. Some of us can drive, some of us can’t, some of us – like me – have been medically cleared to drive, but given my medical history, I don’t own a car for now. For now, I’m choosing not to drive. Given how amazingly well that work-from-home has done, and how good it is for the environment, it’s hard for me to understand why some workplaces are insisting on going back to the old ways of working in the cubes in a sad little building.

      The public transit where I live – the bus system – is very lacking. I’ve relied on it before, and it isn’t very efficient. Takes a long time.

      Not advising your employer that you’re not coming in – no matter who you are – that’s the real problem. If I was running late, I would definitely call work and say “I’m running late.”

  26. Bookworm*

    #5: It can vary, pandemic or not. I’ve had jobs get back to me within 24 hours and some I’ve never heard back from, ever, even with a polite follow-up. In my most recent job search it was usually around a week unless they weren’t moving forward. In two relatively recent instances where I didn’t make it past the first round I didn’t hear back for over a month, even though they said I’d hear back either way within a week.

    Good luck!! Hope it works out for you.

  27. I'm just here for the cats.*

    In regards to the person who no showed and said that they didn’t have funds to get to work. This is a legit concern and has happened to me. If it wasn’t for a great manager who lived a few blocks away I don’t know what I would have done.

    I’m wondering if they think they are supposed to wait for the call from work. There may be misunderstanding with the accommodation and figures this is how it works. I think the OP needs to communicate that regardless of the reason they should call/text/email. Only if they do not hear from the employee then they would give them a call. And if it’s not something to do with their disability (overslept, not feeling well, needs emergency meeting with their therapist, etc) then they can be written up as a No Show just like anyone else. Being that they have some struggles they are probably not thinking clearly on this and figure that everything is good.

    I don’t know what to do with the noises. I sort of want the OP to call the employee out in the moment.

  28. Purple Loves Snow*

    To OP #1:
    There are a few red flags here but is it possible that the employee has a porn/sex addiction. You noted they have a disability and mental health issues. Perhaps the x-rated noises are part of that. That is what jumped out at me, not saying it is ok to expose you to that but it may be part of their disability/mental health.

    To OP #5:
    I do hiring and it takes a solid 8-10 weeks to hire someone from the time the job is posted, to the various interviews, reference & background checks to making an offer. 2-3 weeks is not long enough for hiring in my neck of the woods.

  29. Monkey Fracas Jr.*

    Re: OP1, I would argue that a “welfare phone call” is not part of LW’s work duties. To be sure, this employee probably needs to be fired. But it would be a different thing entirely if the employee called and there were “sex noises” in the background, versus LW calling for a non-work purpose, which a “welfare” call is.

    I know we’ve talked about this before here, but I strongly feel that our employers are not our parents and shouldn’t be taking on this type of role. Either the employee is at work or they’re not. It’s not the LW’s business to make sure they’re ok.

    1. Lana Kane*

      It may actually be company policy for the supervisor to call the employee when they no show to check that they are ok. It was the case where I work, and while I almost always got the person in one call, there was one time that several hours went by without me being able to reach that person – I had started checking with HR on whether I needed to do an official wellness check but fortunately the employee saw all the missed calls and called back. I was really nervous to have to get the police involved if I couldn’t locate the person.

    2. doreen*

      I’m not so sure that “welfare calls” ( as opposed to sending someone to the employee’s home) are made solely to ensure the employee is OK. If an employee doesn’t show up when expected and doesn’t call , it seems to me the purpose of calling is to determine if they are coming in at all today , if they will be out for a couple of days and so on at least as much as it is to make sure they’re ok.

  30. Evelyn Carnahan*

    LW2, I used to have a coworker who had a large number of food allergies as well as some other food issues. She was very upfront and matter of fact about it, and would often make suggestions for types of restaurants to avoid as well as places that were usually good. She was allergic to fish and shellfish among a long list of other allergies and sensitivies, so when we had to find a place for a group meal she would say “no Asian restaurants or seafood, Italian is always okay for me” or something like that. I have some food issues of my own, and between my experiences and working with her I have found that this is a good way of testing the place where I’m interviewing to see if I will want to work there based on how they handle food and dietary restrictions. For example, when I worked with that coworker we were in a group of about 15 and I had to find a place for all of us to eat. She, one other person, and I had dietary restrictions so I worked with the two of them to create a list of places where we all could eat and had the whole group vote on those. I told everyone that this was based on dietary restrictions and food allergies, and even listed the allergies that the others had that would send them into anaphylactic shock. Despite this, our grandboss still tried to insist we go to Red Lobster with two people with shellfish allergies!

    If you give the potential job your food restrictions and they can’t get you something you can eat, treat it as the red flag it is. What other accommodations will they fail to give you?

  31. Observer*

    #1 – Alison, I agree that the OP needs to loop in HR, and that the employee’s behavior seems rather problematic. But I don’t think you can mandate that there are no “adult noises” going on in the background unless you know that you are calling the employee on a cell phone and that she can walk out of the house. This may not be something she has control over.

    You’ve had several letters here about people who have this kind of stuff in their background, and have no way to control it.

    1. Observer*

      Oh gosh, I see that I misgendered the employee. I should have checked that before I posted. Sorry about that!

    2. Metadata minion*

      Headphones can make a big difference in muting background noises on a phone call, even pretty cheap ones.

  32. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    In regards to the LW with the employee who no-showed because of transportation costs. As others have said this is a legit thing that happens all the time. Others have mentioned that they should have still contacted the boss. But I’m wondering, since the accommodation is that they will get a call from work, if they think that’s how it is for everything.
    If I was the OP I would make it clear that if they are not coming in for any reason they should still attempt to call, especially if the reason is not related to mental/phyical health. If the employee is struggling they may not be thinking clearly and just figures that the OP will call anyways.

    I’m not sure what to do with the rest of this. Part of me wants the OP to call them out the next time it happens. Like they call the employee and they hear that noise. “I’m sorry I cant understand you, there’s a lot of background noise.” Maybe the employee is watching porn, maybe its the roommate. Heck, maybe the employee lives next to a brothel! It doesn’t really matter except that it makes the OP uncomfortable. I would say if it continues a lot (more than a few times now) that the OP could push back and say they no longer want to be the ones to place the call. Have someone in HR or the boss do it!

    1. Evelyn Carnahan*

      It doesn’t seem like the phone calls are an accommodation, but rather “This person was supposed to be here an hour ago, can you see if they’re okay” situation. It does seem to me like there might be a misunderstanding that the employee expects LW1 to call them rather than them calling LW1.

  33. calonkat*

    OP3/Letter 3: I was so happy to see Alison bring up “it might be that she’s just not that social and now that there isn’t a work reason to meet, she’s not one to maintain the relationship”. THIS IS ME!!!! I like the idea of reaching out again, but then just being open to what happens in the future. Possibly she’s got stuff going on in life and has no bandwidth for anything that isn’t work/life critical.

    1. londonedit*

      After nearly 20 years in the workforce, I’m at the point where I sort of always assume I probably won’t keep in touch with work friends when I leave a job. Of course there have been exceptions over the years, but in the vast majority of situations even if you’re really friendly with people while you’re working with them, once someone leaves everyone will say ‘We’ll keep in touch! We’ll have to meet up! We should organise dinner or coffee or something, let me know when you’re settled in at your new job!’ but the fact is that a lot of the time work friendships are based on situation and the only thing you really have in common is work, so it’s really hard to maintain a friendship when you’re not seeing each other five days a week and working closely together. Someone leaves and their focus shifts to their new job, and it’s hard to keep those old relationships going.

  34. Khatul Madame*

    LW1 I am trying to figure out what kind of work you do that tolerates absenteeism and subsequent lack of work product/output for so long. Just curious, is your employee exempt, and paid for all they days they are absent? THAT would be a sweet deal. Conversely, if they are hourly and only paid when they show up, no wonder they’d have no $$ for transportation.
    You have a lot bigger issues than X-rated sounds when you call the employee for the welfare check, but if you just want to address this, try to unload the welfare call duty on the HR. Say that you can no longer do it for privacy reasons and see if they go along.

  35. Lana Kane*

    LW1 – even with an accomodation, an employee can be expected to call out for the day in the manner specified by the employer. In my case when I was managing, I needed to hear from people 1 hour before the start of their shift. People with accomodations still had to adhere to that. Please don’t think that your hands are completely tied here on that front.

  36. Texas Teacher*

    Letter #2 I would recommend Allison’s ideas for anyone with any restrictions. I’m deathly allergic to peanuts and need to know the restaurant because people who don’t deal with allergies/food restrictions don’t always know how to ask the question and read the tone. For example with peanut allergy. From personal experience if you call up two popular restaurants and say “We have a staff member who is allergic to peanuts can you accommodate them?”

    Five Guys’ Response – “Sorry, we can’t take this catering job. There is no way for our food to be made safe for this person. We just can’t take that risk for us or your staff member. (I told the organizer they would say this and that I would bring my own lunch. Even after she told them I was willing to bring my own lunch to the meeting (on our campus) they refused to take the chance)

    Chicken fast food place that is known for their hate – “Oh, that is no problem our food is perfectly safe” (Except they use peanut oil in the kitchen. If pushed they claim it is so pure it can’t trigger a reaction. Not their choice to make! This has happened to different people I know at multiple locations the people put in danger included 2 yo and 4 yo children in Moms’ Day out or PK classes.)

  37. Crazyoboe*

    OP #5 – I interviewed for a position the week before Christmas, and received the offer over 2 months later with no contact in the mean time! And that’s not even the longest in my personal experience. If it is a Federal govt position, they take forever. I had one position where all I had was a phone interview, and didn’t hear back, so went on and got another job. 4 months later, they called to offer me the position. And were somewhat upset that I turned them down.

  38. Thorn*

    LW1: I had a similar experience with “pornographic” noises, and it ended up being a colleague’s nonverbal, disabled son grunting and moaning. I’m so glad that I didn’t say that I was hearing “sexual noises” when I mentioned on a call that there was distracting background news. Unless there is a news with no other explanation, I would probably choose a less direct approach the first time. In my case it really, really sounded like a sexual situation and it really, really wasn’t.

  39. Louisa*

    OP #2, I am so sorry. I have been there. I don’t have allergies per se, but a lot of things I can’t eat. Plus eating in an interview situation is soooooo awkward (What if I get something caught in my teeth?) it really should be outlawed. (If it helps though, for inspiration, once I was taken to an Indian buffet during an interview –possibly my worst thing– I can’t tolerate spicy food and yogurt makes me super-ill–so I ate some rice and pushed around some others things on my plate and ultimately got an offer!). Good luck.

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