religious decor in a shared work space, yoga pants at a team-building event, and more

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

1. Religious decor in a shared work space

I share an office with the rest of my small team — one coworker and our supervisor. Due to the nature of our work, even when all three of us are working at the same time, we are rarely in this shared office together (if at all), so one desk/computer is enough for us to function just fine.

However, someone has put up some religious decor here and there, and it makes me kind of uncomfortable. It’s nothing outrageous — think a bible verse taped to the monitor, for one example — but I have a pretty negative personal history with religion, Christianity in particular. I don’t begrudge anyone else their beliefs! But the constant reminders of those negative experiences staring me in the face while I’m trying to work are frustrating at the best of times.

To complicate things, I’m almost positive it was my supervisor who put up these things. I have a good relationship with both her and my teammate, but in conversation, my teammate has explicitly mentioned that she isn’t religious, so that just leaves our boss.

I’m worried that I’m overreacting to the situation. Should I let this go? Or can I say something? How do you bring up something like this with regards to a shared space without damaging an otherwise great team relationship?

You’re not overreacting. Someone put religious decor on your computer! It’s their computer too, yes, but when you share space and equipment like that, you need to be considerate of the people you’re sharing it with; generally that means not taping up bible verses directly on the computer they will be using (which is much more in your face than, say, something on a shared wall would be).

Legally speaking, employers can prohibit or allow religious decor in employees’ personal work areas (they just can’t allow it for some religions but not for others), but I haven’t been able to find anything addressing religious decor in a shared work space like yours. My hunch is that if you were to go to HR about this, your right not to have religious items unavoidably in your face while you work would trump your boss’s interest in having them there.

But it doesn’t sound like you’re looking for an HR or legal solution (at least not at this stage). So one option is to just try moving the items to a less central location so they’re not so in your face. That might be all it takes. Otherwise, though, would you be comfortable saying to your boss, “Would you mind if I move these religious items to a different spot?” Or even just, “By the way, I moved the bible verse and cross to the other side of the room so they weren’t at the shared computer.” A reasonable person will not bristle at this. But if your boss is an unreasonable person, you might want to try getting your coworker to join you in speaking up (so your boss can’t single out just one of you) or skip her entirely and ask HR to handle it.

Read an update to this letter here

2. My new boss is sending me tons of work emails before I’ve started

I have a question as I transition from one job to another. I’m in K-12 education, so though I’ve accepted a new job for the next school year, officially beginning on July 1, I am still finishing out my very high-stress current position until mid-June (so way longer than your typical two weeks, but not uncommon for education).

Though I don’t start the new job for seven more weeks, I have started to receive emails from my new boss inviting me to meetings and looping me in on projects that will be a part of my job description once I start. Though this information is important, and i will need to know what happens in these meetings, I don’t work there yet. And I don’t have the capacity to attend these meetings and consider these projects while still working my current job.

I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with my new workplace, so do you have any suggestions for a script that will express to my new manager that though I am excited to get started on this work soon, I can’t do it until A) I wrap up with my old job and B) I actually start getting paid by my new job? Everything I can come up with sounds snarky since what they’re asking of me is so unreasonable, and I don’t want to release the snark this early on.

Say this: “I’m not sure if you were hoping I’d attend any of these meetings or respond about projects before I start. Realistically I won’t be able to give them any attention until I start — my current job is going to be really busy for the remainder of my time here. Is there a way to send them to my new email address there so that they’re all available to me when I begin work?”

If they can’t do that (which could be the case if your new email isn’t set up yet), you can put the messages in a folder yourself and not deal with them until you start.

It’s possible that your new boss isn’t sending you this stuff because she hopes you’ll deal with it now but just thinks she’s keeping you in the loop about things that will affect you once you do begin. Or who knows, maybe she does think you’ll deal with it now (which would be wildly unreasonable). But saying the above should clear it up.

3. Are yoga pants too revealing for an athletic work event?

I have a corporate team-building day coming up next week, and it was just announced that the event will involve physical activity and we should come in athletic attire. Putting aside my feelings on athletic team-building events (I have your scripts for how to suggest a more inclusive activity for next time), I’m panicked about what to wear. All of my athletic bottoms are yoga pants, and while I generally feel comfortable wearing yoga pants in my day to day life, I tend to dress pretty conservatively at the office, so it feels different to be dressed that way around coworkers.

Is it appropriate for me to wear yoga pants to this event or should I wear something less form-fitting like hiking pants or sweats, which may be less comfortable if the planned activities are intense? If it makes a difference, I’m one of the youngest members of my group and a woman.

I don’t think yoga pants are inappropriate when you’ve specifically been told to come in athletic attire and if you want to wear them … but it depends on whether you’ll be comfortable or not. If you think there’s even a chance you might feel self-conscious, go for sweats instead.

4. Interviewer scheduled a phone call with me but never called

A job I applied for reached out to me asking when I was available for a 30-minute call to discuss the role. They selected a time at the very end of the block of availability I gave, and then never called me. I double checked that we were on the same page regarding time zones and I know there’s not a problem with my phone because I had a phone call with a different company later the same day, and I confirmed my number when we confirmed a time.

I waited until the end of our scheduled time, then sent an email saying, “Did you run into any issues calling me today? I was expecting your call at [TIME] EST but did not hear from you, and I don’t see any missed calls on my phone.”

I don’t have this person’s phone number, so I couldn’t call them myself. I don’t know if they were running late but knew I wouldn’t be available later, or if something happened. Was this the appropriate response? I still haven’t heard from them, and I’m just left wondering.

Your response was fine. You could have added, “I’m still interested in the role and would like to reschedule if that makes sense on your side” … but if they do want to reschedule, they’re likely to let you know that whether you explicitly invite it or not.

Unfortunately employers flake on phone interviews all the time — sometimes reappearing later and sometimes not. It’s rude, but there’s not much you can do about it.

5. Paying back PTO if you leave with your balance in the red

Something came up when I was talking about work with friends and they insist that paying back an employer for PTO/parental leave when you quit is a common standard. I had never come across this, but was wondering if I was lucky, if this is common in certain industries, or if they are wrong.

Both of my friends work in different mid-size companies in a state with very few worker protections. At their companies, you accrue PTO quarterly but it appears in their system as all available to you at the start of the year. If you take more than what you’ve accrued and then quit, you have to write a check to the company to pay them back for that PTO. If you take parental leave and then quit within six months of returning from leave, you also have to pay back the company for your parental leave. At least one employee had to write a check for over $1,000 for using PTO that hadn’t accrued and then quitting before it would have accrued.

I was shocked. I said I would assume the company would just write it off as a loss. Whenever I have worked someplace where PTO accrued by pay period/quarter, it was very clear if you were trying to use PTO that hadn’t been accrued yet (extra manager approval, limit on the amount you could borrow, etc). And I’ve never heard of paying parental leave back (plus, at places I’ve worked that offered paid parental leave it was mostly funded by the short term disability benefit offered by the employer, so sending my employer a check for the pay that was covered through insurance confuses me). Is this common? Or do my friends just work for two separate, really off-base companies?

It’s pretty common.

It’s not unusual to see policies that require you to pay some or all parental leave pay if you don’t return to work once your leave is over (and health insurance premiums for that period too). It’s less common to see that extended for six months after you return, but not unheard of (although they can’t include insurance premiums in that if you return for 30 days or more). With the exception of a few state laws, companies aren’t obligated to offer any paid parental leave in the U.S., so they can put whatever stipulations on it that they want.

It’s also not unusual to require employees to pay back PTO if they use more than they’ve accrued and leave before their balance gets out of the red. Advancing PTO to an employee before it’s accrued is basically treated like a loan that can be required to be paid back when the person leaves, and generally that’s done by deducting the amount from the person’s final paycheck (although the logistics of that can depend on state law).

{ 416 comments… read them below }

  1. Certified Nerd*

    #3 – one popular option for modest exercise clothing is to wear a pair of shorts over the leggings

    1. Yvette*

      Some yoga pants have a wider flared leg so they are more like slacks and less like tights/leggings.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I imagine the main issue for OP is how tightly yoga pants cling to one’s crotch and rear, not how tightly they cling to one’s legs. Also, certain brands (from cheap fast-fashion to Lululemon) are often sheer – or at least not opaque – in those areas.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          I’ve had good luck with Target’s yoga pants when it comes to schemes, durability, and POCKETS. :)

    2. iliketoknit*

      I came to suggest joggers. I don’t love them, personally, but I think they’re a little more forgiving if yoga pants feel too revealing. (Though I think yoga pants would be fine.)

      1. Retired Accountant*

        Track pants/warm up pants are another option. I guess most of these options might involve the op spending money which she may not want to do, but places like Target have lower priced workout gear and in my book you can never have too many comfy pants.

      2. Camelid coordinator*

        If the LW doesn’t mind buying another pair of pants, Athleta always has some cute joggers. I sometimes wear a pair to my higher ed workplace on a regular day in the summer.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I picked up some cute joggers at Old Navy that ware cute, comfy, and very reasonably priced. They;ve held up to several wearings and washings as well, since I am not easy on my active wear.

      3. Bee*

        I also think yoga pants would be fine, as long as you’re comfortable! But also I highly doubt the activities will be intense – I have been to a lot of stuff like this where I dressed for my own conception of “moderate physical activity” and then the activities turned out to be, like, “walking outdoors” and “trust falls.” I would bet that lightweight hiking pants would also be fine.

      4. Bumblebee*

        I just got some awesome joggers from Target for about $30. They are really lightweight in case OP is in a hot location (I can’t imagine putting on sweats or even full-length leggings in the south right now).

      5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Same here. I have a couple pairs of joggers and I love them, including for exercise. They’re looser than yoga pants and still have some stretch, but many are not as warm as sweats or track pants. And if you get nice ones, they’re pretty versatile. These are my fave:

        I also have a pair of these, which are nice and loose, but I do get panty lines from regular underwear:

        But like iliketoknit, I think yoga pants are fine if you’re comfortable. But based on your letter, I don’t think you are, and that’s OK!

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Most of my joggers are about the same weight as my yoga pants. If it is too hot for those, I’m thinking yoga pants would also be uncomfortable and basketball shorts or something like that would be the way to go.

    3. Viette*

      This is a very good option. If you don’t typically wear exercise-style shorts over exercise-style leggings, you might feel like it looks weird, but I assure you that a lot of people dress that way for either modesty or warmth or both. It would look fine, and appropriately sporty.

      1. Virginia Plain*

        It’s very popular amongst road cyclists and mountain who want the look of shorts but need the warmth of running tights (yoga pants for men!). I’ve seen it worn by men in the gym too especially on “leg day” when keeping muscles warm whilst doing weights is important.
        Far from all amateur male sporty types like skin tight Lycra from thigh to waist and plenty of women are similar. I favour a longer top, over my derrière and, ahem, womanly space, but that’s no good for yoga or anything where you are a bit upside down as it would fall over your head!

        1. Bubba*

          Yes. I was coming here to recommend wearing a long shirt. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have worn leggings into a dressing room once or twice and been shocked to discover I was displaying some glorious camel toe.

          And a friend of mine took a yoga class and the woman in front of her did not wear underpants under her Lululemons, and she could see deep, very deep, into that woman’s downward dog.

          You don’t want that to be you at work. But a long shirt or tunic takes that all away!

          1. The Original K.*

            I took a yoga class some time ago and I could see every inch of the striped underwear the woman in front of me was wearing, especially when she bent over and the fabric of her leggings stretched more tightly over her body. I debated saying something but someone beat me to it. The woman gasped and tied a shirt around her waist, so clearly it wasn’t her intention to wear leggings so sheer.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          I wear bike shorts for the padding and to protect my skin from friction, but I wore them all of once by themselves and decided that they left entirely too little to the imagination. So I wear regular shorts over them without any problems. It may look a little odd but who cares, I’m out riding.

        3. Jane*

          I think it’s less about the look (or at least wasn’t originally) and more about the context where it developed – specifically backpackers and boaters. Back before yoga pants we all had synthetic, silk, or wool long underwear. If you’re backpacking it can save weight to not bring long pants – shorts over long underwear is more versatile for temperature changes, lighter, and you’re carrying the polypro anyways for the warmth layer. If you’re boating long pants are a weird soggy layer on top of your long underwear in a way that shorts are not. Yoga pants aren’t as insulating as polypro but they look a hell of a lot better and they’re ubiquitous. For situations where less insulation is needed or wanted the older functional but dorky/baggy in odd places look has shifted to the same thing but with sleeker yoga pants.

          And of course the long underwear under shorts (or skirts. I love a good backpacking skirt) thing will likely continue to exist as long as there are boaters and backpackers and knit fabrics.

          A good slice of the people wearing what people now assume are yoga pants under shorts (particularly men, or in more extreme environments) are actually still wearing long underwear designed to retain rather than dissipate heat; but the shorts or skirt cover the crotch/waistband details that would give it away.

      2. Selina Luna*

        I used to do this in the winter before leggings with pockets became more common. I wore the shorts just to have a pocket that could actually hold my phone.

      3. Mr. Shark*

        That makes the most sense to me. I would think that sweats or athletic pants would be restrictive for someone used to wearing leggings, so shorts would give someone the modesty they desire without the restrictions.
        Of course, I’m male, so I don’t have any personal experience. But that seems like a reasonable compromise for comfort and modesty, and I’ve seen many women wearing that combination before.

    4. sb51*

      There’s also exercise skirts designed for the same purpose (I have one I can tuck in my bike bag when touring so that if I want to go inside somewhere I don’t feel quite as silly walking around in spandex but they have less fabric than shorts so crumple up smaller.)

      1. H2*

        Yes, I love a tennis skirt for situations like this where I’m doing something sporty but want to look a little nicer. I don’t know where you are (what the weather’s like) and if you want your legs covered, but you can always just wear the tennis skirt without the leggings. They’re available in various lengths but all have built in shorts so are quite modest.

      2. Sylvan*

        The company Halara makes a ton of skirts and dresses with shorts built in. Most are short but there are knee-length and longer options if you prefer.

        Note – their size range is usually XS-4XL, sometimes XXS-4XL, and they don’t make petites or talls.

      3. Mannequin*

        I have 2 pairs of combination leggings/exercise skirt, a long pair & a capri length pair. I bought them for every day wear, because it thought it looked cute + is more comfortable & convenient than wearing a short skirt over leggings.

        Don’t know the brand, picked them up at Ross and/or Marshall’s.

    5. Bucky Barnes*

      Duluth Trading Co also has NoGa pants, which are super-comfy but generally don’t have the leggings look of yoga pants.

      1. Smithy*

        This is what I came here to say. If the athletic activity in question is something more like a nature walk/hiking then a longer/loose shirt may cover any parts that feel less conservatively covered by yoga pants.

        I do think that part of the solution to this question is what the OP already owns and what the OP is or is not interested in spending money on. If the OP already owns sweat pants but not longer/loose t-shirts that feel workplace appropriate, then sweatpants are an easy way to go. On the flip side, if new clothing has to be bought, then a longer t-shirt to cover yoga pants may be a cheaper solution and more desirable. Or there might be a fun pair of joggers on the market the OP has been eyeing regardless and this is a good excuse to purchase them.

        While I don’t think yoga pants are inappropriate for this kind of athletic workplace activity – I do think it’s right to listen to your gut about what will/won’t make you comfortable. When I’ve gone to conferences/work events at hotels on the beach/with pools – I’ll often bring swimming suits with a strong caveat of “if it feels comfortable”. There may be other women and men at this event very comfortable in yoga or other spandex style pants – but if you’re not, then don’t make a weird work athletic activity worse by feeling dressed in a way you don’t want to be.

      2. Rose*

        This was going to be my suggestion too! I’d feel slightly weird in yoga pants but I can’t stand working out in sweat pants. It’s just so… sweaty.

    6. MusicWithRocksIn*

      If you have someone in your life that could confirm the pants do not become more transparent if you bend all the way over? That is my only hold up with yoga pants. Some of them stay pants all the time, but some of them become tights if stretched too far. Also – totally unrelated to me at all – but do not wear them in combination with underwear that has words written on it.

    7. Laney Boggs*

      Yeah, my best friend and I did this when we were teenagers for running shorts (they’re cute but we both have thick thighs!).

      Especially if the yoga pants are fairly tight and dark colored, and the shorts are patterned/bright, it can look like a legit fashion choice over modesty.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      Lots of good recommendation. Mine would be what I call “soccer shorts” or maybe running shorts. Basketball shorts (not quite as common in the inexpensive brands) would have a longer inseem and cover more of your thigh.

      Walmart, Target, or a sporting goods store will have inexpensive sporty shorts with an elastic and drawstring waistband that are not skin tight. Also great to wear over your yoga pants, but where I am right now, it is already hot, hot, hot so in addition to being too form fitting especially around the butt and crotch for work I would not choose to wear full length yoga pants or any long pants outside.

      As i said you can find inexpensive brands at Walmart and Target and at sporting goods stores avoid the big name brands (which are going to be very expensive) and look for the store brand. They’re about the same price as what you’d find at Target.

    9. Gothic Bee*

      Men’s workout shorts (like the longer basketball style) on their own might be a good option too. I wear them all the time during kickboxing classes, so they work well for high intensity stuff, they’re not form fitting and they’re longer, and you can get them fairly cheap, I buy mine from walmart for like $10-$15 (I usually try not to buy from walmart but they do hold up well).

    10. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      I was thinking that this is skort opportunity. Unless you are uncomfortable showing bare leg above the knee. The issue I – and most women – have with yoga pants in public (not that I don’t wear them to Target – officially done with caring) is that they tend to cling to the back end and thighs. A skort will drape nicely.

      (And yoga pants that could pass as real pants over something body clingy or more legging like are available. My favorite yoga pants have a looser cut around the butt and thighs and I can pull them off with a long shirt as real pants (the waistband is what gives them away as yoga pants).

    11. MapleHill*

      Several people wear these (or maybe they are athletic leggings, not sure what the difference is) for our work events and I’ve never thought anything of it. I’d make sure you wear underwear at least (apparently some people don’t).

      Or if you have a long shirt/tunic that covers your butt & crotch area. This is my go-to type top with leggings.

      If it’s warm enough, try to find some shorts that have built-in “biker” shorts. I bought several of these for work activities (thankfully mostly outdoors volunteering instead of athletic team building). They made me feel more comfortable because the biker short piece is a little longer & fitted, so colleagues won’t accidentally get a crotch shot & the regular athletic short piece is looser over them, so I don’t have to worry about them being too tight (or panty lines).

  2. TeaFiend*

    #5: If they didn’t have to pay, what’s stopping them going for a very expensive holiday with PTO advanced to them then quitting at the end of said holiday? Feels icky to have to pay back money to the employer but it makes sense.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think we need to go into scenarios where the employee is taking advantage of the policy, when it is perfectly reasonable to pay back PTO. It is often said it’s part of your compensation; well, if you had asked for an advance on your salary and then quit, you wouldn’t think the company should just take the loss for paying you for work you didn’t do.

      That being said, employers in my country generally don’t bother when the advanced PTO is a couple of days and the sum of money small. But if we are talking of thousands, it’s probably different.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Although if you require employees to pay back overages on PTO, but don’t pay out unused PTO, it’s a pretty crappy thing to do.

        1. Alexis Rosay*

          Agreed. It’s fair for companies to ask for it to be paid back but it should go both ways.

          1. Hotdog not dog*

            This is how my current company does it. If anyone leaves, they will be paid for unused but earned PTO, and required to reimburse any used but unearned PTO. Our PTO is available for use at the beginning of the year, but actually accrues monthly.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Mine too, but they only pay out up to 80 hrs. We have a yearly “use or lose” policy that they make extremely clear starting in about August. If you take more PTO than you earned and then quit or are fired you need to pay it back. However that policy is abundantly clear since they ask you to sign an agreement stating that before advancing you leave. IMO, it is a good system because it is transparent.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I have a similar experience – employers not bothering to try to get paid back for a couple days of PTO. It’s not so much an issue of effort (payroll systems can handle this pretty easily on last checks); it’s more that it’s not worth pissing off departing employees and risking a dispute for a relatively small amount of money.

      3. Rananculus*

        I worked for a generous Silicon Valley company in the 1990s — our office manager hired (over many objections) a 30-something woman who no sooner was on the payroll than she announced she was pregnant, high-risk and had to have bed rest for the rest of her terms. Six months. Then three months paid maternity leave. Came back for two weeks and quit. So out of 11 months, during which she had extremely generous health insurance for her high-risk pregnancy and neo-nate, she worked six or seven weeks.

        After she quit she admitted that she did it on purpose because her husband’s job had “crappy benefits.”

        Yeah, some people really DO take advantage of employer PTO and s-t disability programs.

        1. LadyA*

          I’d be more mad at her husband’s stingy company and admire her hustle, personally.

        2. TheWriter*

          Yup. The first company I ever worked for (mid-2000s) we got all our PTO at once at the beginning of the year or your anniversary hire date (can’t remember now) and we had several coworkers over the years essentially use up their PTO as soon as they got it and then quit. The company changed the policy soon after to accrue PTO every pay period instead of all at once, and it’s been that way at every company I have worked for since.

        3. Rose*

          If I was at a company where people where people thought of my pregnancy and any complications therein as an annoyance/burden, I’d quit ASAP too.

          I love when people imply we need to disclose if they’re pregnant, and then act annoyed about pregnancy. So… you want us to disclose so you can discriminate against us, and you’re annoyed when we don’t? Great thinking. She probably saw he writing on the wall with coworkers like you. Glad she got out.

        4. Ann O'Nemity*

          You’re probably sharing this story as an example of people scamming employers, but all I can think is that this is just another reason healthcare shouldn’t be tied to employment.

        5. Ash*

          Also what were the “objections?” That she was of childbearing age? If so that company was full of sexists who deserved to be hustled.

      4. Rose*

        I agree it’s perfectly reasonable to pay back PTO, but I think accumulation by the quarter is wildly cheap and unreasonable. I’ve never been anywhere where it accumulated by anything less than a week. My current job it’s by the hour.

    2. nicmyles*

      Agreed – I’m in the UK where people generally have c.25 days paid holiday a year or thereabouts as standard, so this probably comes up much more frequently than in the US. If you leave a job and you have unused holiday that you’ve accrued, they will either let you take the holiday as part of your contractual notice period (which in the UK is usually 1-3 months) OR pay it out in your final pay cheque. Conversely, if you leave and have taken more holiday than you’ve accrued at your leaving date, it will be deducted from your final pay cheque. I *once* in 20 years have had to actually pay an employer (i.e. transfer them money) for this purpose, but it was an unusual situation (I started a job shortly before my pre-arranged wedding and honeymoon, and then I left the job in six months).

      So it does work both ways, I guess just more unusual in the US due to generally lower annual leave allowances?

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Interesting, I was just thinking about how this so rarely comes up where I am and I think that’s due to the long notice periods. Typical notice here is 3 months to the end of the month, and there’d be an interview phase before that for the new job. So one would reasonably know about 4-5 months in advance that one may leave and just plan accordingly, i.e. not take more than accrued. People taking all their time at the beginning of the year is rare anyway, most spread it out. Most of the time what I’ve seen is people haven’t taken all their accrued time when they leave, so they take the last two weeks or whatever of their notice period off.

        1. Virginia Plain*

          In my experience (also U.K.) although one can accrue extra leave for a certain number of years in post, it’s rare for it to accrue during the year. So your allowance at the beginning of the year is for the whole year, they really do give you all of it. As such you’d only need to pay it back if you had effectively been given an advance, taking leave from the following year. Which is rare (because, lucky us, we normally have enough, sorry) and ime would have to be signed off and have special circs attached.

          1. londonedit*

            We get ours all in one go at the beginning of the year, too (and pro-rated if you join the company after the year has started, so there’s no such thing as having to wait to accrue holiday when you join – you’re given whatever remains of your year’s holiday balance as soon as you start the job) but technically it is pro-rated. So if you leave in June and you’ve taken less than half of your year’s holiday balance, you’ll be paid for the holiday you haven’t taken up to your leaving date. But if you leave in June and for some reason you’ve already taken 15 days’ holiday, then you would be asked to pay back the equivalent in monetary value. It doesn’t happen often because people generally do spread their leave out across the year, and if you’re planning to leave a job then you’d work it out and not take holiday if it was going to push you into a negative balance, but it can happen.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Yes, this is generally how it works here (Germany) too, except that the legal rules around paying it back or not, and in some cases even a transfer of the days, or lack of days (!), to the new employer (!) is really complicated. I just looked it up and am very, very confused about how it’s supposed to work in a lot of cases. Easiest to just plan to use the prorated/accrued days only and completely, because I wouldn’t trust HR to get it right.

            2. nicmyles*

              Yep, standard practice as I understand it would be that you would “get” all your days holiday for the year available to use immediately, but it’s still accrued in the background, hence the scenario arising where you may need to pay back.

      2. KateM*

        Yes, I’m in Europe, too, and I think it perfectly normal to pay back if I took holidays I haven’t yet earned. It’s like exchaning the vacation days to non-paid days off, isn’t it?

        Maternity leave is government-paid here, though, so nobody would ask that back.

        1. Amey*

          I’m in the UK and my employer gives additional paid parental leave above the government minimum and you have to pay that additional amount back if you don’t return from parental leave for at least 3 months.

          1. londonedit*

            Yes, I’ve never taken maternity leave but I believe it’s common here in the UK for employers to have a clause saying you can be asked to pay back anything you’ve received over and above the government statutory maternity pay if you leave the company within a certain amount of time after coming back from your leave.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Yes, statutory mat. pat can be reclaimed from the goernment but if the employer pays more than they are required to then it’s pretty normal to have provisions to allow that to be clawed back if they chose not to return or left within a set period afterwards.

          2. Tuppence*

            Yes, it’s not an uncommon clause in the UK – although it’s not necessarily very clever since it potentially puts you (as the employer) in a position where, having let the maternity cover go, you now need to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of re-recruiting and onboarding for the permanent post – all for the sake of three months’ worth of work from someone who’s been off on mat leave for a year.

          3. Media Monkey*

            in the company i worked at when i was on maternity leave, you got a return to work bonus that was paid 3 months after your return and you had to pay it back if you left within a year. the additional (non statutory) mat pay did not have to be repaid.

      3. Snow Globe*

        It may be less common because some US employers don’t allow employees to take paid vacation that hasn’t yet accrued. Therefore, there would be little chance that you’d end up owning anything. But for employers that allow taking unaccrued leave, this is a pretty common approach.

        I think the parental leave situation is less common. Typically that is handled as medical leave or short-term disability leave, and doesn’t need to be paid back. I’ve known plenty of people that quit at the end of their parental leave or medical leave, and didn’t pay back anything.

        1. Clandestine Timoraetta*

          How would anyone be able to use their full accrual if they can’t take it before they earn it? Presumably they wouldn’t earn all of it until the last paycheck of the year, and then the year is over. Or in January? How would anyone take time off?
          I’m in the US and have never heard of not allowing someone to take the amount that they “should” have if they work the full year. Yes, pay it back if unearned, but not wait to earn it.

          1. baseballfan*

            If PTO is accrued per month/per pay period, then employees can use any of the balance up to the amount accrued, or go negative if it’s allowed. I earn 1/24 of my annual allowed amount every semi-monthly pay period, and the maximum hours I can have accrued is equal to my annual allowed amount. We aren’t allowed to accrue more than the maximum so at that point the PTO would be “lost” in that you would not accrue more until you used some of the balance.

          2. Koalafied*

            The places I’ve worked didn’t generally advance PTO that hasn’t been accrued unless extraordinary circumstances are in play, or they wouldn’t let you go more than 1 day negative. If you get 4 weeks a year, you accrue 0.76 days per two week time period, so it’s really just the last 1.5 days that don’t accrue until December, and if you go one day negative you’ll earn most of it back on the next paycheck.

            I also think it’s common for employers who have accrual systems to allow some of what’s accrued to rollover to the next year, though there’s usually a cap on how much and you lose anything over that and some companies are stingier than others. Some likely adopt stingy rollover policies specifically to avoid coverage issues if they can’t afford to have everyone taking their last 1 day (or more) in the final week of the year, so even though they don’t want to let multi-year employees build up large unused leave banks, they do want people to be able to hold off on taking their December accrued days for a few months if it keeps everyone from being out at the same time in December.

            1. Person from the Resume*

              I agree with this. I’m sure some people may go in the hole with leave for some sort of emergency, but it certainly wouldn’t be common.

              But we have limited amount of days that roll over to next year after the last december pay period. Most people carry some PTO hours into the new year. Well, I guess everyone does because they earn X hours on the last paycheck and that’s “carried over” into January / not availbale to use until Janaury.

            2. HelloHello OP5*

              Looking at it now I think it’s not so much the paying it back, it’s that they would let you borrow so much unaccrued PTO that you could put in 2 weeks notice, get it deducted from a paycheck and still have to write the company a check. Maybe the company couldn’t deduct from payroll and that’s why there’s a check, but it threw me off. My friend at that company JUST negotiated to be able to take off more than 3 days in a row after years there so it just seemed odd that you could borrow so much PTO still.

          3. Cj*

            Yeah, if you can’t carry any of your vacation over to the next year, there’s pretty much no way you’re going to be able to take all of it.

          4. doreen*

            Not every employer has a “use it or lose it ” vacation policy and even those that do will sometimes allow a certain number of days to carry over into the next calendar year or allow carry over for a short time , so that you lose any vacation days left over from 2021 on March 31 2022 , for example.

            I’ve never had an employer that would allow me to take leave I hadn’t yet earned – but I also earned a lot of time off and could bank a fairly large amount ( at last job, the limit was 300 hours on Jan 1 – there was no limit on any other date.) so taking vacation in January wasn’t an issue.

          5. Gothic Bee*

            My employer recently changed the policy so that vacation days accrue throughout the year (and you can’t use time you haven’t accrued). The way they do it is that you accrue days from Jan-Nov (so the total days/hours divided by 11). Also, they added a rollover policy to go with it, so you can rollover 5 days each year so you have time off in January.

            There’s also an extra years of service benefit where you get an extra 5 vacation days after you’ve worked here 5 years (and another 5 after 10 years). Those days don’t accrue so they’re available at the start of the year.

            IMO I think it’s better to just let people use all the time at the start of the year, but if you’re going to require PTO to accrue before being used then allowing employees to rollover days from year to year so they have time off at the start of the year is the bare minimum.

          6. EnidWhatever*

            Accrual *should* be in concert with allowing leave to carryover. I believe I’ve read occasionally about companies that do what you’re talking about where you can only use leave as it’s accrued but then you don’t have time to actually use it — that’s a terrible policy and not the norm.

            On the other hand, I can’t see how there’s any point in a company saying their leave is on a weekly or monthly accrual system, if people can just take it before they earned it and never have to worry about paying it back. That sounds identical to just giving them all their leave at the beginning of the year, which is perfectly fine, but it’s not an accrual system.

          7. Starbuck*

            No every place re-sets your PTO at the end of the year, so if it carries over it’s easy enough to take it all eventually.

          8. fhqwhgads*

            In my experience if vacation is accrued, you can’t use it until you’ve accrued it – or you get special permission to go into the red. So if you get 4 weeks per year, and you started in January, by June you could take two weeks off. By end December you could take the other two. In other words, accrual is contradictory to use-it-or-lose-it unless there is some amount of rollover permitted.
            When it’s presented as “this is what you’ve got this year, use it whenever” it’s specifically not accrued. If you use it all in spring but quit in summer, there’s nothing to claw back.

            An employer that does both use-it-or-lose-it with zero rollover permitted AND makes you pay it back if you use it before it “accrued” is shitty.

          9. RedFraggle*

            My company and my husband’s both only allow you to take what has accrued.

            For both of us, we accrue per paycheck.

            There’s some complexity attached, though. I can’t request time off – even months in advance – unless I currently have that much PTO available. I accrue 8 hours per pay period. If I’m requesting 40 hours in 6 months (think Christmas / Spring Break / registration week / etc.), but I only have 24 hours right now, I can’t request it even though I’ll accrue 96 hours in the next 6 months. (I’ve been talking to HR for years to see if they can get our payroll software to make the adjustment to include “expected PTO accrual” when determining if the request is allowed. Since PTO requests aren’t actually approved in the system until the week before the PTO date, there’s still the opportunity to deny the request if an employee doesn’t have it available when the PTO is scheduled to be taken.)

            My husband, however, has to request any week-long or longer PTO in December for the entire following calendar year, and has to request PTO in smaller amounts by quarter. His PTO can still be denied if he doesn’t have enough, but his policy creates a completely different set of issues.

            As you can imagine, trying to schedule a vacation in my house is HARD.

      4. Bagpuss*

        I think the other difference is that here in the UK the leave is a statutory right, and the employer has a legal obligation to pay ourfor leave which is accrued but not taken (although of course they can require the employee to take leave during their notice period, to use it up, ifthey wish), whereeas as I understand it, in the uS it’s not uncommon to have a situation where an employee doesn’t get paid out for their unused leave.

        But yes, here is is absolutely standard – if you use more than you have accrued then the balance is deducted from your final wages and if you owe more than that then you would have to repay the employer. I think it would be seen as unreasonable to expect the employer to take the hit, but it is a more level field in terms of the power and rights each party has .

        My experience is simialr to yours in that it is very common for people to use up leave atthe end of their notice period. For instnace, i havesomeone who is leaving whose notice expeires on a Thrsday, but their last day in the office will be the previous Friday as they have holiday to use up. People often use it to allow a breathing space between jobs . Technically you shouldn’t start your new job until your official last day but I am sure people do, and in most cases it won’t matter.

    3. pbnj*

      I think the way their friends’ companies are doing it is confusing to OP. Usually I’ve seen PTO accruing throughout the year, but it doesn’t show in your company’s system that you don’t have a full year’s PTO available, just whatever you have actually accrued. My company makes it complicated because it’s a “use it or lose it” policy each year, but the PTO vests evenly each pay period. However, you are free to use all your vacation January 1. So if you take off in January, you’re probably in the red. I wonder if OP is not used to people needing to take PTO loans since it’s either all available Jan 1 or it doesn’t show your entire allotment in their company’s system.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        My company also has a use-it-or-lose-it policy. Companies that allow rollover of some/all of your unused balance at the end of the year don’t usually allow for you to “borrow” against unaccrued time because there’s no deadline to use it up.

        1. skunklet*

          THIS is what I’ve seen.
          Previous company – could accrue whatever, but only carry over 80 hrs of PTO as of 31 Dec, couldn’t go negative.
          Current company – earn per month, zero carry over, but CAN go negative. I’ve got 8 days of sick and 15 of vacation right now.

    4. Medusa*

      It’s standard practice everywhere I’ve worked to have to pay back PTO if you take more than allocated before you leave, but I’m shocked about having to pay back parental leave. That hasn’t been in the case anywhere I’ve worked.

    5. RedFraggle*

      I used to work for a practice that gave you a lump sum of PTO at the beginning of the year, take it as you see fit throughout the year.
      But, if you left, your PTO accrual thus far in the year was calculated, and if you had used more than you would have under an accrual system, it would be taken out of your last check.
      Every single person who left that practice while I was there (except the practice manager, who left because she was moving out of state) left with zero notice on payday, to avoid having to repay PTO.

  3. Bayta Darrell*

    LW3: is it possible for you to bring a bag with a few outfits? If they didn’t tell you specifically what you’d be doing, then you could bring extra clothes for different activities. Then you can match the activities and also match what others are wearing.

    Alternatively, if you want to wear the pants but are concerned they are revealing, you could wear a long shirt that covers your butt.

    Good luck convincing them not to do this in the future.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah we had an activity week in school requiring an activity wear shopping spree, as teachers are supposed to dress pretty modestly. I felt perfectly comfortable with the long top option. I wore gym leggings underneath (love the ones with phone pockets) which was similar to the “is this too tight” yoga pants conundrum. They do make wide leg and gathered ankle yoga pants too.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Another option is shorts over yoga pants (assuming they are more on the tights end of the spectrum). I personally love this one because then you can have pockets. If they are your classic flared leg yoga pants, I, personally, wouldn’t hesitate to wear them without a long shirt, but a long shirt would definitely alleviate all modesty concerns.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Amazon carries a ton of these “two-for” options for a very reasonable cost. I have thicker thighs and like a longer inseam so have several pairs of the bike short + running short and capri + running short combos. No inner thigh irritation and they have some fun color combos as well as the basics. Plus most come with one or more side pockets that fit your phone and key.

      2. CCC*

        I was about to suggest that, too. I wear shorts over leggings fairly often. It can solve a lot of different problems– too cold for running in leggings only but I’ll get too hot if I wear sweats over them, not sure if my underwear is too brightly colored for that particular pair of leggings, a need for more pockets, etc. (You can get leggings with pockets, btw! I refuse to buy them without.)

    3. CoveredinBees*

      The long shirt can make a big difference. I love the comfort of wearing leggings when running errands, but feel too exposed without a longer shirt to cover my butt.

    4. Smithy*

      I love the idea of bringing a bag with a few different options.

      I was apart of one workplace bowling event that seemed to highlight 101 ways it was not inclusive, and then at a separate workplace it seemed to work really well. So it may ultimately be “outdoors with movement” type activities that might largely allow the OP to show up in just jeans and sneakers. I’m thinking of activities like hiking or ropes courses. The OP might genuinely be more comfortable doing those activities in yoga pants or joggers and could certainly dress for that. But might find a number of coworkers in jeans and hiking at the pace of like a 20 minute mile.

  4. Bazza7*

    #5 I worked with someone who went on 4 weeks holiday and plus leave loading (Australia) and then quit. Personnel rings to say, is Chris there, we reply no he has left resigned, etc. He only had a couple of days owing to him not 20. This was is the days of paper before computers etc. Did they contact at his home address, none the wiser. But this is effectively obtaining money by deception.
    I was able to take sick leave and get paid for it as I hadn’t worked enough time. I had just started the job and got sick, but since I worked there for over 20 years I didn’t have to pay them back.

  5. Bayta Darrell*

    LW 1, Maybe you could suggest she print out the verse and put it in a picture frame, then the frame can either be on the desk when she’s using it or stored elsewhere when she’s not.

    I’m a religious person but I would never put a Bible verse in a shared space for just this reason. I hope that your boss is a reasonable person and ends up moving it.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      It’s probably just me, but I would have fun with this, posting Bible verses of my own. Song of Solomon is the low hanging fruit here: “Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wanteth not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.”

      1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

        *completely off topic* (sorry Alison, especially if this details), but my husband and I got married in a religious ceremony despite my not being religious and I had a great time coming up with Bible verses for the three required readings. You bet your tush Song of Solomon made an appearance, although I felt bad when I realized that as our first reader, my new sister-in-law got stuck reading it in front of our families.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I, in all seriousness, think it is entirely appropriate for a wedding. It is a fascinating book, starting with how unlike it is to the rest of the Bible, and how uncomfortably it fits in with Christian traditions. Christianity is a syncretic religion, combining elements of Judaism and ancient Greek philosophy. On the second side of that is dualism: there is the body and there is the spirit, and the spirit is decidedly the more important of the two, with the body at best a distraction.

          Then here comes the Song of Solomon, celebrating the body. If it were just some random text we could dismiss it as semi-porn, like Ovid’s advice on how to be a pickup artist. But here it is, in the Bible! What’s up with that? The usual approach is to pretend that it is not about body stuff at all, but rather an allegory about the love of God and mankind. This is not entirely wrong. If it were just sexy stuff, no one would have thought to include it in the Bible. Its inclusion tells us that the compilers of the Old Testament thought it was about God. But pretending that the sexy stuff isn’t there does not pass the giggle test. Of course it is there. The love of God and mankind is being expressed in sexual language. You would never find this once Greek dualism kicks in, but the Song of Solomon is from before that influence on Jewish thought.

          For a wedding? Writing here as a Christian myself, likening the love between spouses to the love of God and mankind is the absolute ideal. And it absolutely should be sexual! What could be more appropriate for a wedding?

          That being said, I confess that I chickened out. I refused to use the 1 Corinthians passage, as being a cliche. But I balked at going down Song of Solomon.

          1. TheLinguistManager*

            Continuing the tangent, I do not think that Song of Songs is actually out of place in the Tanakh. (I can’t speak to the Christian bible.) It has a place among Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes as an expression of what it’s like to be a human, to live a life. Those other books (and many others in the Tanakh) don’t shy away from concrete aspects of being a person – why should sexuality be left out?

          2. Stay-at-Homesteader*

            We used both of those, plus the Beatitudes. I’m actually loving this theology thread and could go on for paragraphs but will leave it here for the sake of everyone else on this site (I know, I started it!)

          3. Claritza*

            Agree on 1st Corinthians. When I was 16, I vowed that I’d never have that read at my wedding.

            1. Dark Macadamia*

              My husband and I aren’t religious and made this very clear to our officiant (we thought!). Spent a lot of time looking for secular readings for our ceremony. DURING the wedding, guess which Bible verse he decided to include without warning? -_-

          4. RagingADHD*

            There are *some* Christian traditions that embrace dualism and are uncomfortable with the body. Others embrace incarnational theology, so the physicality of the body and the Sacraments are very much part of the point.

            The poem was written to celebrate a wedding, of course it’s appropriate for a wedding. Whether or not you want to hear/discuss certain passages in front of your grandma is another matter.

          5. Anon but tired*

            Its inclusion tells us that the compilers of the Old Testament thought it was about God.

            No, it doesn’t. As TheLinguistManager said, the people who compiled and wrote what you call the Old Testament were not Christians, and I’m going to ask that you reconsider whether looking at it from a Christian perspective is the same as looking at it from a historical perspective.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I am at a loss what I wrote that gave you the impression I thought the compilers of the Old Testament were Christians, especially in light of my explicitly mentioning “Jewish thought.”

            2. Bagpuss*

              Yes and no – you are absolutely right that the writers were not christians and those who complied the Torah were not christians. However, the bible as we know it today was complied by christians, and ultimately the church made choices about what to discard. I belive that it’s reasonable to say that those who authorised it’s continued inclusion in the authorised versions of the bible did indeed see it as being about god.
              That doesn’t mean that it was originally written that way – writing and compiling are very differnt andthe comiling, at least, went on for at least 1500 after the writing.

              1. Anon but tired*

                “However, the bible as we know it today was complied by christians, and ultimately the church made choices about what to discard” – do you understand that Jews still exist today? And that the Song of Solomon is part of the Tanakh, not the Christian New Testament?

                Richard, you’re interpreting the Song of Solomon through a Christian lens and I don’t know how else to explain that.

        2. calvin blick*

          I actually am religious, and we chose Song of Solomon for basically the same reasons. I can’t remember which family member got to do that reading, but whoever it was I know they were pretty straight-laced. Unfortunately I was pretty nervous on that day so I don’t really remember much of the ceremony.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Me too and me too! It was actually our pastor’s recommendation – “Love is as strong as death and jealousy as cruel as the grave.” This was maaaaaaany years ago now (35 to be exact!) so I can’t remember how he worked that into his meditation (though I do remember thinking “That’s pretty cool”) but I remember the verse very well.

            It wouldn’t work well as a little inspirational message at work, though. :-)

        3. Been There*

          same! My parent’s pastor was doing the readings though (it was very informal as neither my hubs nor I are religious, we did it because my g’parents would have boycotted the wedding otherwise) and he made it slightly more appropriate, but yea.

        4. Lord Bravery*

          S of S is one of the main suggested readings for Catholic weddings. The love poetry is entirely apt, although a flock of goats doesn’t 100% hold up as a romantic thing to compare one’s hair to!

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Maybe OP can create a framed and selectively quoted Joshua 13:1: ‘Joshua was old and stricken in years, and the Lord said, “You are old and stricken in years…” ‘ Meaningful, yes?

        The Old Testament is a remarkable collection of poetry, law, codes, history, prophecy, and even a census. There’s also horrible behavior that some devout Christians choose to ignore. If I had an officemate that constantly posted verses in a shared space, I would be sorely tempted to post a verse about Noah and his daughters.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Thank you, you are both right – my memory is not what it used to be, my apologies.

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            What? I think this would be a fine retort quote if it said, “Joshua was tall and strong, and the Lord said, ‘You are tall and strong…’.”

            The point is that Captain Obvious makes an appearance in the passage, not that being old and infirm is an insult.

        1. Petty Betty*

          I’m still thinking it’s more appropriate than what is currently up, though, and quite the passive-aggressive, yet pointed, dig.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Honestly, I’d just move it to a wall/out of the way and say nothing, same as I would with any personal item left in a shared space. If someone asked me who moved it, I’d say it was me and I moved it because I found it distracting.

      1. EPLawyer*

        This is actually a great approach. Treat it like any other personal item that was left out. Put it away safely for the person, whether its a Bible verse or a fidget spinner.

      2. Petty Betty*

        Yep. “It was distracting so I moved it.” No fuss, no muss. Any complaints can be shrugged off. Any backlash can be documented and potentially taken to HR.

    3. Mid*

      Or, they could get a cute, cheap frame from the dollar store and gift it to the coworker/frame the verse for them. Not necessary at all, but a nice gesture.

  6. talos*

    #2: last time I changed jobs internally, I started getting invited to recurring meetings weeks in advance of when I actually completed the job change and had the bandwidth to attend them, just so they would be on my calendar/not get scheduled over. I think it was more of a when-the-meeting-organizer-was-thinking-of-it situation, rather than an expectation that I would attend them before actually changing roles.

    Any chance at least part of this is just trying to get things in place for when you do get there, rather than anything you need to deal with now?

    1. Artemesia*

      I like Alison’s response in case they are loons and actually expect you to be working. I would read this as them looping you in so you arrive knowing the drill, knowing what projects are underway, are aware of new policies or the kinds of meetings to expect etc. i.e. a sort of welcoming to make sure you are clued in about the new workplace — NOT an expectation that you will join meetings or do work.

      1. Cj*

        Even reading the emails takes time, which is work that she should be paid for, and she won’t be as she is not yet their employee.

        1. Koalafied*

          This is where i come down on it. When I have a new employee starting I absolutely start setting up meetings for them, sending over reference materials, adding them to internal listservs, etc a few weeks before they start… But I’m using their work email address which they won’t have access to until their first day, not the personal email address they applied with.

    2. Mongrel*

      My thought was if New Job has their internal e-mail account set-up they may have been added to internal groups, so organisers are just clicking the “Add Teapot Handles group” when they’re generating the meetings

    3. Jaxgma*

      I work in education and although I’ve never heard of this happening (being sent info in advance), it doesn’t surprise me. Education is often viewed as a “mission” and it’s routinely assumed that people will work far more than their scheduled hours. I do like Alison’s thought that perhaps they just want you to have the background available to you when you arrive. However, I suspect that if it’s about something you’ll have to carry out when you start working there, they’re trying to offer you the chance for some input before you come into the role and discover that the way processes for this task/project have been set up don’t work well for you, or that you’re missing something you need. If you’ve been hired as the subject expert for something they’re lacking (like special ed or IT) they may actually be looking for your input. I do like Alison’s response reminding them you are busy finishing the year at your current job and that you’ll look at the materials when you come on board. It shows that you are committed to your (current) students and to finishing what you started.

      1. Cj*

        It doesn’t actually matter whether she has time to do this or not. She is not their employee, and will not be paid, so it seems like it would be illegal for her to even take the time to read the emails.

        1. DataGirl*

          I work in medical education which means we follow an academic year and know our incoming residents and fellows several months before they start. There are some things they have to do before they start so that they are good to go on their first day- things like get their physicals, fill out forms, get their photos taken for badges. But our legal department makes it clear that we cannot ask them to attend meetings or do training activities before they are getting paid. The compromise is that their contract start date is 1 week before their programs/work start date. In that week they do all their orientation and training and get paid for it.

          In LW 2s case, I suspect that this manager does want her new employee to start taking part in work activities so that they are up to speed once they start, but if that is the case, LW needs to be paid to do those things. I’d recommend pushing back with language that makes it clear that of course any work activities would be paid, and since her contract start date isn’t until X, she looks forward to starting those work activities on that date.

      2. Ori*

        Yeah, I agree with this. I work in K-12 education (I’m an elementary school teacher) and sometimes teachers switch jobs partway through the school year. It is often expected that you do lots of transition activities before your actual start date. Some stuff is obvious – like you should have lesson plans ready to go for your first day. But other things are not as obvious – meeting with the current teacher to discuss plans/students and, yes, attending meetings, depending on your role (like a board-wide curriculum coordinator or something). If you’re not yet a permanent teacher, it’s even worse. One of the interview questions is usually how you will deal with the transition, and they expect you to do things like observe the class and meet with the current teacher (who may be going on mat leave or w/e) before your job/pay starts. Then there’s all the work we’re expected to do over the summer (our only real vacation) even though we are not paid during that time (but if you don’t do any planning, you just end up screwing yourself over). At least they pay teachers well in my country. It’s the only way to stomach it.

    4. EngineeringFun*

      Yellow flag! I am 20 years into my engineering career. I got my dream tech job and I needed a month to finish up at old job. Dream job touted work life balance and employees stay for decades. I was assigned tasks for dream job to complete prior to my start date. Then slammed with work when I started(cried off camera day 3) and asked to present new work on day 12 for major govt org. Boss said things like “well if you had started on time we wouldn’t be in this situation” and “don’t worry I can teach you tricks for working 80 hours a week” and “you’ll never find a job for 40 hours a week”. I quit dream job on day 9!. I’m Happily working 40 hours a week for more more pay making coffee pots!

  7. ScarlettNZ*

    I don’t know why letter writer #5 is so shocked that folk would have to pay back leave which they have taken but which isn’t yet due to them. It’s like an advance on their salary. I’m not in the US but it’s common practice here that if you have taken leave in advance and then leave the company before it has accrued, the cost is deducted from your final pay (many companies actually won’t let you take leave in advance).

    Same for parental leave – my ex-employer offers 12 weeks paid parental leave (this is in addition to paid parental leave provided by the government). If an employee resigns before they complete six months service afterwards (or don’t return from parental leave) they are expected to pay it back. It’s not a secret – all parties are made aware of this requirement.

    1. Ayla*

      Do you know if the parental leave payback applies to terminations too? I’ve seen people be terminated and find themselves suddenly on the hook for sizeable tuition paybacks, and I’m nervous that the same thing could possibly happen t9 my family if my husband’s employer decides after the fact that they didn’t really want to pay for his 2 weeks parental leave

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In the rubric I’ve ever seen, it’s only been resignations. You would need to check the small print in the employee handbook or specific policy document.

      2. Sc@rlettNZ*

        I’ve never seen it applied to terminations, only resignations (but my sample size is only one company!l

      3. Tuppence*

        In my experience there is normally a specific exemption for redundancy, but as General von Klinkerhoffen suggests, check the employee handbook for small print!

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Do you know if the parental leave payback applies to terminations too? I’ve seen people be terminated and find themselves suddenly on the hook for sizeable tuition paybacks, and I’m nervous that the same thing could possibly happen t9 my family if my husband’s employer decides after the fact that they didn’t really want to pay for his 2 weeks parental leave

        I’ve seen paybacks apply to terminations. I actually left my last job because I was a poor fit and was being required to take $20+M ($20,000+) in training that I would be on the hook for reimbursing the company for if I left over the coming 24 months for any reason, including termination with or without cause. I wasn’t ready to gamble 3 months’ salary pre-tax on a supervisor that I was incapable of pleasing.

        1. Heather*

          24 months is just too long! 6 months I think would be pretty reasonable, but anything over a year is asking a lot.

          Just curious, if you don’t mind me asking, where are you from? I can’t think of where I’ve seen M used for thousands before.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Born, raised, and live in the southeast part of the Great Lakes Megalopolis.

            My education spent long periods in Architecture, Finance, and Classics, where it’s more common. Hellenophelia wasn’t as dominant in my formative years, either.

            On topic, the owner of the company was banana crackers (usually like a fox) and I would have left anyway; that clause in my performance review just made the decision a no-brainer.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Oh that’s so interesting! All my degrees are in classics (well, undergrad was classical studies but who’s counting) and I’ve never come across that – I’d been assuming it’s an American thing.

        2. yala*

          That…sounds like a scam? Like, a good incentive to nix employees before that 24 months is up

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            The only thing that stopped me from thinking that it was a scam is that I couldn’t figure out what the company got out of the arrangement.

    2. Cringing 24/7*

      Same. I’m in the US, and my first thought was, “That’s… really, really standard.” But, it may be that OP has just never come across that sort of situation, and you don’t know what you don’t know – I have to constantly remind myself that I, myself, was unaware what was standard until I learned it.

    3. Observer*

      many companies actually won’t let you take leave in advance

      Which is extremely annoying and can present significant problems. But they do it, in most cases, because of people who are “shocked” when they are expected to pay it back if they leave before they finish accruing. In the US you generally can’t withhold the money from the last paycheck. You have to pay the whole paycheck then go after them for the money.

      That’s why my employer stopped allowing it.

    4. HelloHello*

      OP 5 here! It makes sense thinking of it as an advance, at least for PTO. Paternal leave a bit less, I think because I keep thinking what if I went on leave fully planning on coming back but then my child had health issues where it made more sense for me to not come back so paying that is shocking (I have a lot of genetic testing in my child bearing planning, so I realize this isn’t as common). Also I’m at my first job where I have access to paid paternal leave, my other jobs was just you can talk to our Aflac partner once a year and see if that works for you. Or, we don’t qualify for FMLA but we’ll hold your job unpaid for x weeks.

      Everywhere I have worked has either not allowed you to borrow ahead at all or put in pretty clear limits (ex where I’m at now you accrue quarterly, I could probably borrow up to 2 days, especially at the end of the quarter but it would take extra approval steps). As far as I know my company doesn’t require us to pay it back (probably because it would be so little if anyone is in the negative). It was the same at my past workplaces. I have been denied to borrow a half day to go to a wedding at Old Job because it was 2 days before the next PTO accrued. They do require paybacks for tuition reimbursement/licensing/continuing education reimbursements so paying back “loans” from work make sense.

      I think just knowing you could borrow so easily but still have to pay it back surprised me. One of these friends company requires multiple approvals to take more than 3 days in a row off, but also has no restrictions on taking unaccrued PTO and have you pay it back. Compared to my company where folks only ask questions if it’s over a week or so but it’s really hard to borrow unaccrued PTO. Really glad to have this cleared up for me though, cause I was confident they were an exception, but it just isn’t something I’ve come across.

  8. Why isn’t it Friday?*

    It sounds like OP #2 is too busy at their current job to even read all the emails their new job is sending them. (Which is totally reasonable. The new job shouldn’t be sending OP all this correspondence to review before they start getting paid.) It might be worth it for OP to clarify that not only do they not have capacity to work on these projects, they’re not going to start reading these emails until starting at the new job. That way, OP can set expectations now.

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      And isn’t everyone now going to have an incorrect email address? If she’s receiving them now, it’s likely at a personal email address, or even her current work address (!). So those people who have added her in meetings or emailed her will now have that wrong email address in their email program and she will continue to get email at the non-new-job-email for months (until they figure out how to delete that old email address, which is easy, just not high on people’s priority lists).

      1. GraceC*

        I’ve been at my job for 2.5 years now – and every time a coworker tries to share something with me, Google prompts her to share it to my personal email because she sent one single interview-related email nearly three years ago

        1. DataGirl*

          I’ve been at mine for 4.5 years- once in a blue moon I get an email from my manager at my gmail account because she started to put in my name and it Outlook autofilled the personal email instead of the business one.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I moved to my job just prior to this one, there was a ton of activity that was going to impact my position happening between my acceptance and start date (2 weeks notice period+2 weeks I need to detox). In that case, I was getting copied on all of the relevant e-mails to my personal email. Because I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with them, I made a rule to send them to a folder for later reference. This situation didn’t bother me, though, because new boss: a) told me that it would be happening and b) told me it wasn’t something I had to respond to or deal with until I started. She just wanted to make sure I was up to date when I started and they couldn’t set up my email with that org until I started (it actually took about 5 days because government). I appreciated it because it helped a lot to understand the politics and whatnot I’d be walking into. However, if they had just started appearing in my inbox, I would have been annoyed.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That still seems to me a little ridiculous that they would be sending any correspondence and information to an e-mail outside the company, especially since you hadn’t started yet.

        I guess your future-boss at least told you the intention, but I’ve never seen a personal e-mail addressed used for someone who had not come on board yet with company e-mail information.

    3. Camelid coordinator*

      I am in a similar boat to LW#2. My new job (starting 6-15) has been inviting me to meetings for months. I’ve been a volunteer so it is not unusual for me to participate in events in meetings. I (mostly) drew the line at attending things during the workday and said just like they would get my full attention, my current employer deserves that as well. What I can’t tell, and this may be a concern for the LW also, is if the folks at my new job have an onboarding plan or if my attending a bunch of meetings is it.

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I started at a K-12 last fall (field change for me) and I immediately started getting tons and tons of emails. They set up my work email pretty much as soon as I accepted the position (so at the beginning of my 4 week notice period at my prior job). It was fine because I didn’t read them and it was mostly all-staff kind of things, but at one point my soon-to-be boss asked me to coordinate a zoom call through his assistant, which I did from my personal email – and she snottily informed me that “everyone has a school email and they need to use it”. I was like, Lady, I don’t even work here yet!

      I think in their case it was that everyone is way too busy to stop and think, but it didn’t start my employment with them on a great note.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        To clarify: this was a work email account via Google suite, so they had me set it up on my own time. The emails were coming to the work account, not my personal account, but it definitely seemed like at least some people expected me to be reviewing the work emails before I even started!

  9. Prefer my pets*

    Oh man am I glad I’m a fed. Religious crap in shared spaces goes into trash immediately, no questions asked. If it’s extremely & obviously valuable (as happened once with a new mormon coworker), it goes in a box they can take home. I have zero effs to give about anyone’s desire to bring religion into the workplace and I *will* and have taken it all the way to the OIG when they try. But this is one of the biggest reasons (along with payscales set by position & not negotiable based on race/gender/background) why I stay a fed instead of going to private where I could make more money.

    1. Healthcare Manager*

      I’m atheist and I still want to point out it’s not okay to call it ‘religious crap’ please be more mindful.

      1. cal*

        You can call it anything you like when someone is forcing it on you. The person TAPED it to a computer screen! Respect is not a one-way street. You can’t expect it when you trample over someone else.

        1. Aand3*

          I missed the part where “taped” was synonymous with “tied OP to a chair and glued their eyelids open like in Clockwork Orange.”

          Yeah, the LW does have standing to ask if it can be taped somewhere else since it’s a shared computer (or maybe this team has outgrown this weird shared-office arrangement?) but the histrionics, on all sides, really don’t help.

          1. cal*

            The supervisor is the culprit. You might have missed that. He / she has power over her. The tone would be very different if it was a co-worker who is in the same position as the OP. That is what makes the whole thing icky. You can tell a co-worker to zip it but it could mean being fired if you say that to your manager.

            Allison has discussed power differentials countless times. Look through her archive. I’m not going to repeat what she says about power differentials.

    2. Pet your pets*

      Why would someone take a valuable item to the office for cube decor? It’s… beyond sense.

      1. BethDH*

        I assumed valuable in this case meant of obvious personal value (like a not-printed-from-the-digital photograph), which a lot of people do.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I imagined it was something like a religious text, which may not have financial value (I was at a used book stall this morning and could have picked up a Bible for 50p had I so wished) but certainly would be inappropriate to throw away. Or perhaps a wedding photo in front of the temple, with scriptural text written on the frame.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I assume personal value not monetary value. I would imagine that something like a personal / presentation bible / copy of the book of Morman might be of valuable without being worth much money.

      4. Paddy O'Furniture*

        I don’t think they are taking valuable items to the office for cube decor. You can find a lot of religious items for cheap at many dollar stores.

    3. Kitty*

      That’s a weird reason to avoid the private sector. I’ve worked for private companies for 20 years and have never had a problem with coworkers bringing religion into the workplace. It does happen, but not as much as you seem to think it does.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        As a religious person, I tend to be very careful about both my speech and my stuff at work. If it is something I bought and want to show it to certain friends, I will do it, but take the art piece home again.

        The most frequent things that I mention are going to ethnic festivals, many of which are at churches.

      2. Perfectly Particular*

        Could depend on the state? I could see this being a legitimate concern in certain parts of the south, and maybe Utah.

        1. QuickerBooks*

          It’s a legitimate concern everywhere.

          I think these kinds of broad, blanket assumptions make it impossible to effect good policy globally. There is far more variety within states and regions than there is between states and regions. Just like races, just like genders, etc.

          People thinking “Oh, I’m in a ‘good’ state where we don’t have that sort of problem” is why you get unaddressed racism in New York and California and unaddressed COVID problems in places like Massachusetts and Rhode Island. People thinking that they are above a problem makes it impossible for them to address it.

          1. Loulou*

            Okay, but it’s actually statistically true that some states are much more religious than others…of course every state and workplace will have people who are very religious and people who are not religious at all (and I don’t mean to suggest that most religious people will bring it into the workplace like that!), but it seems obvious that you’re more likely to encounter a problem like OP’s in a place where a higher percentage of adults identify as religious. This isn’t saying “the northeast is an atheist utopia!”

            1. QuickerBooks*

              I am responding to Perfectly Particular’s indication of where they believe this issue is a “legitimate concern”. It is a legitimate concern everywhere. I stand by that.

          2. Jack Bruce*

            Yes, it gets tiring hearing about “the south” as if we’re a monolith. Especially if you’re in a larger city in the South, religion is less likely to come up in the workplace.

          3. Raboot*

            This is such a reach. They said it “could” be a concern in “parts” of the south. No one is saying they live in a “good state” or implying “south BAD”

            1. QuickerBooks*

              We know what is being evoked here. And if you don’t, Perfectly Particular and I both do.

              Saying that you could see that religious paraphernalia in the workplace is a legitimate concern in state X or region Y is akin to saying, “I could see heart disease being a legitimate concern for men.” It’s not untrue; it’s that the way it’s phrased encourages you to put blinders on about a whole segment of the population.

        2. Cringing 24/7*

          This. Here in Texas, I think I’ve only ever worked at one office (ever) that didn’t have religious (read: Christian) paraphernalia displayed somewhere. It feels entirely unavoidable.

          1. Jack Bruce*

            And I’m in one of those other Southern states and have only experienced it in one workplace, mainly from “optional” prayer at mandatory group meetings for the department. But other than that, it didn’t come up much. Just depends on the climate of the organization, not necessarily the state.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Same here. I’ve been in the private sector 28 years and there’s never been an issue with people bringing religion into the workplace.

        Throwing people’s things away no questions asked seems to be a pretty extreme reaction. Just take the stuff down, put it in a box, and push it to the side or put it under a desk.

        1. Antilles*

          Throwing people’s things away no questions asked seems to be a pretty extreme reaction.
          Frankly, it’s such an extreme reaction that it’s likely to actually lose you the argument in other people’s eyes – even people who’d normally be on your side about it are going to give you side-eye at such an overreaction.

          1. Loulou*

            Yes, I am not a fan of displaying Christian paraphernalia at work and I would react pretty negatively to OP here.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Seconding this. I don’t want religious things in my workspace but I’d move them, I’m not going to throw out other people’s things and I wouldn’t support others doing it in “protest”

          3. cal*

            It’s not an over-reaction to something that should not be in a shared working space. Think of the religious implications. Could a Muslim get away with doing this?

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              No more than a Christian and their things should likewise be respectfully removed and placed somewhere for them to get later.

              1. cal*

                ‘No more than a Christian’

                That is your claim? That a Muslim person doing this would be treated exactly the same?

            2. Antilles*

              It doesn’t matter what religion it is – in all cases, the appropriate answers are moving it like The Other Dawn suggested, politely asking asking for it to get moved, or perhaps getting HR involved. Not throwing out someone else’s property.

              And especially given the statement of “goes into the trash immediately, no questions asked” which is going to really make people wondering why you didn’t at least try to start with a less hostile/aggressive solution first.

        2. Unbeliever*

          I’ve always worked in the private sector in a blue state and it’s an issue that does come up from time to time. I don’t appreciate the T-shirts proclaiming that we should REPENT, or other “Believe or Burn” messages some of my former co-workers thought was appropriate office wear/decor.

          As an atheist I’m well aware that plenty of people believe I’m going to (deservedly) burn in Hell for my unbelief when I die. That they find any person who shares their theology more trustworthy and better people than any unbeliever. But sure, displaying a spaghetti monster image is the more hostile move.

        3. CoveredinBees*

          Ironically, the only time I have encountered someone bringing religion into the workplace was at a government agency.

          The person had so many more problems (like literally not doing her job), but she was somehow unfireable so we dealt with an hour of Christian preaching radio nearly every day and counted the days until she retired. Even though some of the preaching was explicitly anti non-Christian religions (that’s me!) and queer folk (hi again!) and others, the people I complained to just brushed it aside. If I had brought it up with other people who might have been able to deal with it, I know it would end up making my work life miserable. You should have seen the goodbye party we had the day after she left.

        4. A Feast of Fools*

          In federal workplaces, however, new employees are provided handbooks that lay out the rules of working there. One is about not displaying religious items in the workplace. So the person who puts up religious stuff is already willfully flouting the rules. They know they’re not supposed to do it but do it anyway.

          Prefer My Pets doesn’t say if employees are told their stuff will get thrown away. If not, they should be. Then it would be no different than, say, having a communal fridge in the break room with a sign that says, “Anything left in this fridge after 4:00PM on Fridays will be thrown away.”

      4. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, just screen for employers that don’t allow any religious decor if it matters that much to you. Ask in the interview.

      5. thestik*

        Really? I’ve seen it in my laat two private work places (out of three; I tend to stay in companies for a while) in what’s becoming a purple state. One of the only things I like about working ftom home is not having to deal with this.

        1. Kitty*

          I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. I just think its a bizarre reason to avoid the entirety of the private sector, which makes of up vast majority of jobs, in order to avoid this one particular problem.

      6. Maggie*

        Same, my husband did have someone pray at the start of a meeting and that person was reprimanded

    4. Nancy*

      Don’t throw away other people’s things without asking, even if you think those items are ‘crap.’

      I find anything taped to monitors annoying, so I’d just move into a desk drawer while I worked. LW can just do that.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        I’d just put a sticky note over it while I was there, and then take it down when I left. No big deal.

    5. Yikez*

      You would throw my Star of David in the trash? I promise it’s OK to tell me it makes you uncomfortable, though I’d probably ask you to explain in detail why you have such an issue with it that it forced you to take my property and put it in the garbage.

      People here freak out when someone eats their yogurt, but you feel comfortable putting other people’s items in the trash? That’s pretty hurtful, and it’s not the open minded take you seem to think it is.

      1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        Did you leave your Star of David hanging from a shared monitor? If not, then it’s not applicable.

        1. Yikez*

          Read what I was responding to. “Religious crap in shared spaces goes into trash immediately” Prefer my pets said nothing about a shared monitor.

          1. A Feast of Fools*

            Would you bring your Star of David and display it in a shared area when you’ve already been explicitly told that religious items are not allowed to be displayed in shared spaces in your workplace?

      2. Morgan*

        Some people might have more animosity toward the state religion than they do Judaism, but I do think you’re correct in that it is inappropriate either way. It’s important not to ignore the coercive authority of our unofficial state religion (assuming you are in the US), especially right now, while recognizing that as individuals of different or no faiths we should not argue amongst ourselves. We should be respectful toward each other while fighting systems of power that strip away rights and public participation based on evangelical Christian doctrine.

        1. Yikez*

          I think it’s really important to push back on the blurring of the line between church and state, but I think it’s more important to coexist and to recognize that my Catholic coworker doesn’t represent the church and her Christmas tree isn’t being done AT me (also, it’s pretty).

          1. Morgan*

            It might be easier for you to coexist, but as a member of the LGBTQ community my ability to exist in the public sphere at all is at stake. To me, pushing back is more important than keeping the peace as I’m not always allowed to exist in the same space, so obviously no coexistence. If you want to learn about why that often fails, try reading about how mattachine folded into the GLF.
            But to me, pushing back doesn’t look like disrespecting an individual’s faith at work or otherwise, or calling it “crap.” That’s not going to help anyone. We need collective action against the institution when it abuses state authority.

            1. Morgan*

              Just to clarify, I’m not talking about pushing back against the office christmas tree. I think they’re pretty, too. I’m talking about the difference in people’s reactions to Christianity vs Judaism, and not bending over backwards to appease religious people when it impacts me and my community negatively (this is simply about survival, not disrespect).

          1. cal*

            My office is shared with 1 person. It’s like home, you can put anything in there without interfering with the other person (who can also leave stuff there). I simply cannot imagine this happening at any kind of scale in England. Most likely only if you work for a religious institution.

    6. Aand3*

      Guess you’re tossing out Star Wars paraphernalia too, since “Jedi” is recognized as a religion on some census forms? And any and all atheist-themed stuff that’s aggressively anti-religion?
      It’s also really ducking weird that you’re like “private sector booooo!” but now I know where the leak in my tax dollars is, I guess.

  10. Tee 3*

    For OP #2, I I think Allison’s response is spot on. That said, I’m currently in a situation where we are between administrators (in higher ed), an the new administrator is an internal hire. I need to make several decisions in May that will very directly impact him and I literally have no clue what he would prefer that I do. He won’t be on duty until June 1. I’m trying to respect his time off but the inability to discuss things with him is kind of killing me.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Reach out and ask him! I was in #2’s shoes last year when I started a new teaching position. First i was included on all emails because they set up my email early and just added me to the blasts, and I too felt bombarded. For you, and OP2 I would suggest that should there be something really important to the job start like a decision that has to be made or giving info to HR to ask if a single half hour meeting before the job starts would be possible to sort these logistics. If it’s a lot of decisions, consider if you’re asking them to work before they are paid and offer some kind of compensation.

    2. BRR*

      I think the situation is somewhat different for internal hires. I’d still try and limit sending the person stuff as much as possible but at least they’re being paid by the company.

      1. Cj*

        Since he is currently employed by your company, and therefore being paid, I don’t consider the this to be the same situation and in the letter.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          I agree. Although I wouldn’t expect an internal hire to be working on new projects, I don’t see a problem sending them an e-mail if there is something big that someone would need their input on and that affects their job going forward.

          1. Tee 3*

            To give a little more context, this individual is moving from a 9-month faculty position that carried summers off to a 12-month calendar. Before this position change happened (3 weeks ago, a week before the semester ended, unexpectedly) he had already planned an extensive vacation out of state with family to visit family. My issue related to a potential new hire and would involve an interview and a lot of background about what our program needs. It’d take a serious chunk of time out if his vacation, sadly.

            1. Tee 3*

              Not that it matters, but I don’t think I was very clear about the timeline I just shared to I came back for a re-do.

              -About three weeks before the semester ended, the VP for Academic Affairs was offered a position elsewhere and accepted it
              -About a week and a half later, a faculty member was selected as his replacement
              -This faculty member hadn’t known this opportunity would come his way and had already made great summer plans. Now he is someone who no longer even gets summer break.
              -Knowing he is taking on a major life schedule shift somewhat out of the blue, and that he gets one month off before diving into this new challenge, I just don’t have the heart to interrupt his vacation. It would take a lot to get him up to speed and he would need to be part of an interview process… basically sending him into full-on work mode. So, I wait.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I think the rules are different both for internal hires and for executive-level administrators. I would email him and ask how he’d like you to handle these decisions – make them to the best of your ability, hold off as much as possible, or let him make the call.

  11. JSPA*

    If you can’t just ask your supervisor if it’s OK to keep personal items, philosophy and religion out of the shared space…

    I’d start to put up (not otherwise inflammatory, either vaguely upbeat or very, “hunh?”) quotes from other religions, starting with flying spaghetti monster. Either it dilutes the in- your- face- christianity… or your boss gets the message and decrees that they all come down… or your boss declares that only christian stuff is allowed, and then there is something clearly actionable.

    And i’d assume your coworker was sounding you out to figure out who, exactly, was the source of the religious stuff.

    Unless it’s a locking office I suppose there’s the nonzero possibility that some 4th person is putting the stuff up. So a polite conversation about personal effects might be the way to start.

    1. Freelance Anything*

      I understand the temptation but this feels… unnecessarily aggressive? Particularly if you’re involving something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      I think the other suggestions to move it out of sight while LW#1 is working (like in a drawer or a box) and/or sending an email maybe that #1 is putting other people’s personal items in a box as they prefer an uncluttered workspace and they can find their stuff there when they want to display it during their work day, would be less outwardly confrontational and could establish a decent practice going forward.

      1. JSPA*

        I’m assuming the quote is effectively permanently taped on–as in taped entirely over the surface, and thus stuck down on all four sides–and can’t easily be moved. (People used to do this with fortune cookie fortunes.) If it were effectively a post-it note, I’m guessing OP would have quietly moved it to work and put it back upon leaving, without asing the internet.

        I’m going to push back on the idea that FSM is

        a) intrinsically “in your face” or

        b) not potentially a valid philosophy or religion. People (in some US states, though not Australia) have won the right to (e.g.) have their driver’s license photo taken with a collander on their heads, on “religious headgear” grounds. In New Zealand, there are a couple of accredited FSM wedding celebrants (“ministeroni”). Interesting studies have been done on people incorporating FSM phrases into their standing superstitions, exclamations, swearing, etc, in ways indistinguishable from how people use (or if you prefer, misuse) various long-standing religions.

        [Gravity is “Just a Theory”–Ramen!]

        Temporarily putting one’s own post-it with one’s own inspirational quote over the offending quote (or even forgetting the easily removed post-it, on occasion) seems like a fine option. Let the supervisor be the one to have to move it; let the supervisor complain that “someone else is inspired by something other than me” or that “my religious quote was blocked by their hang-in-there-kittens (discrimination wah wah wah).”

        “I find my inspiration more inspiring” is a really normal stance for anyone to take. And a ruling from HR of, “no quotes taped to the computer” would be a win.

        1. Loulou*

          Okay, but OP has not indicated that they worship the flying spaghetti monster, and if their goal is to stop seeing religious decorations at work there are a million more reasonable ways to achieve that, like everything Alison said in her answer. This is childish and if I were a coworker, I’d be rolling my eyes.

          1. Cringing 24/7*

            Agreed. This feels like retaliating just to make a point or to (probably justly) hold up a mirror to someone’s insensitive actions when that point could much more easily and kindly be made with words.

        2. revengeofpompom*

          This seems passive aggressive and childish. I encourage you to rethink your approach and to reconsider handing out this advice.

        3. Jora Malli*

          This is way more work and effort than just peeling off some tape. Most tape is not permanent, so even if it’s tapped down on all sides (which I doubt since OP said it was on the computer monitor, which means it’s probably hanging down from the bottom edge) you can still carefully peel it off and move it to the side.

          Don’t encourage people to use religions they don’t follow to make a point in the workplace when a simple “can we please put limits on personal items in our shared workspace?” conversation could solve the problem.

        1. Vio*

          it’s not so much that it’s more aggressive than Christianity, it’s more that many Christians don’t realise how aggressive it can seem when they take for granted that everyone either shares their faith or has no problems with how it’s expressed. followers of the FSM on the other hand are far more likely to realise how it can come across. it’s not fair that one should be considered more reasonable than the other, it’s more that one is more likely to be due to naivete and the other more likely to be deliberately provocative

      2. Vio*

        I’d say it’s a good idea IF there’s pushback against the things Alison suggested. if Supervisor and/or HR insist that religious decoration must be allowed and reasonable solutions are ruled out then alternative religions present a way to protest as well as demonstrate why such decorations can be problematic in a shared space
        as a first resort though, you’re right, it’s definitely too aggressive. it’s usually best to assume other people are going to be reasonable and only resort to such tactics when they’ve proven that they aren’t

    2. Janet*

      That seems like a weirdly aggressive (or passive-aggressive?) approach to take with someone OP has a decent relationship with. If boss hasn’t been proselytizing at work then this verse is likely there for her own comfort, without recognizing that others might be actually discomfited by it rather than just indifferent. Starting by assuming good intentions of other people is a generally more pleasant way to go through life, I think.

      1. JSPA*

        Agreed; thus the conditional phrasing (which works out to an, “if/not” statement).

        If supervisor is reasonable, have the discussion, and make the minor ask.
        If not, make the point some other way, e.g. I’d start by [xyz].

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        Especially if what OP wants is to make the Bible verse co away rather than start an escalating conflict!

        1. JSPA*

          As Alison points out, it’s a good guess is that in a shared space, the law only requires lack of preference for religious sentiment…not absence of religious sentiment.

          As much as you, I or anyone else would prefer otherwise, the defensible tack that one can take in that situation is, therefore, to go for full inclusivity (ad absurdum, if need be).

          There’s nothing intrinsically conflicting about religious and philosophical inclusiveness, in any case. Framing it as a “conflict” is only justifiable within a certain religious or philosophical framework. Interfaith worship spaces equally exist, where distinctly disparate religions share premises (generally on different days of the week).

          1. ecnaseener*

            People are confused about why you’re going straight to what’s legally defensible instead of what will best serve LW’s interests. LW wants to maintain a pleasant relationship with this person, and the way to do that is to approach her like a reasonable person. If boss refuses to let LW move the objects, then maybe it’s time to prove a point at her (and come on, you can say whatever you want about it not being inherently conflict, your method will definitely come across as being done AT her).

            1. Starbuck*

              Well the obvious answer is people are going that route because this is a comment forum, where people like to post a fantasy about what they’d like to imagine they could do that would be most satisfying, which doesn’t necessarily overlap with practicality or common sense.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        By putting verses on display where coworkers cannot look away, boss IS “proselytizing at work”.

        1. Hamster Manager*

          Yeah, I do wonder…if this really WAS the boss, if they’ll be able to be objective enough to agree it needs to be taken down, since they thought it was OK to put it there in the first place. Many American Christian people feel Christianity is the default for everyone, and legitimately won’t understand why other people are getting upset about this “normal thing”. I’d expect pushback if it was the boss who put it there.

        2. Jora Malli*

          I would disagree. Proselytizing is on purpose, and there’s a very large chance that this is just the boss being thoughtless and not realizing she’s making people uncomfortable. Give her a chance to do the right thing.

          1. NancyDrew*

            A senior leader taping a religious verse to a shared computer cannot possibly be construed as anything but intentional. Come on now. This person knew exactly what they were doing.

            1. Other Claire*

              Apparently the boss wasn’t even the first person to tape the Bible verse up, it was left over from a previous user. Turns out sometimes it’s not a proselytizing conspiracy!

    3. anonymous73*

      So instead of having an adult conversation with OP’s supervisor your advice is to passive aggressively put other things up to counter the religious material? I really hope you’re joking.

      1. JSPA*

        Yet again, as some dozen people seem to have skipped past the first line of my post:

        IF OP can safely have that conversation, OP should have that conversation.

        IF OP cannot safely have that conversation, then OP needs to do something else.

        We all on board so far? Good.


        Given OP’s (statedly!) semi-competent-at-best HR department, this should not be something that can be interpreted at all as OP acting “against” the supervisor’s religion. [Yes, this would be a mis-interpretation on the part of HR; but you don’t push that button if you know it’s connected to alarm bells.]

        So, OP has a restricted number of choices that are potentially mildly irksome, but that leave OP clearly on the right side of the law, while getting the message across.

        Has nobody here ever seen what sort of insanity can break loose when someone’s religious stuff is touched or moved (even if it’s just for cleaning)? I have. It’s not pretty, and the blow-back can be extreme.

        Being thought juvenile or goofy vs being fired with a “do not rehire” for presumed intolerance–juvenile/goofy wins.

        1. Gothic Bee*

          I mean, if OP wants to put up their own religious decor as a response if the boss refuses to remove the bible verse, then fine. But personally I don’t think it’s a good look to use someone else’s religion to prove a point or to be mildly irksome. Like honestly I feel like it has the potential to be really offensive to that other religion.

          1. JSPA*

            People, religious and otherwise, quote from outside their own faith tradition all the time. (Often without knowing they are doing so.) Furthermore, most of the world’s major religions (and not a few of the minor ones) are highly syncretic (often more so than their adherents realize).

            A quick google gives, for example, the following, which…I have no idea how anyone can presume that posting any of these would be offensive either to Christians or to an adherent of that religion.

            “Men and women have equal rewards for their deeds. – Quran 3:195”

            “The world is green and beautiful, and God has appointed you his steward over it. – Prophet Muhammad

            “The wise man is one who knows what he does not know.”
            ― Lao Tzu

            22.“A man with outward courage dares to die; a man with inner courage dares to live.”
            ― Lao Tzu

            “The world is a drama, staged in a dream”
            –Guru Nanak

            A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
            – Gautama Buddha

            A man may conquer a million men in battle but one who conquers himself is, indeed, the greatest of conquerors.
            – Gautama Buddha

            A person should always not cast his thoughts backwards, for his eyes are placed on his face and not his back.
            –the Talmud

            A person should always be soft like a reed and not rigid like a cedar.
            –the Talmud

            Do not injure, abuse, oppress, enslave, insult, torment, torture, or kill any creature or living being.
            ― Lord Mahavira

            In happiness & suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.
            – Lord Mahavira

            The Self is hidden in the hearts of all, as butter lies hidden in cream.
            –The Upanishads

            Reading widely and taking inspiration from beyond your own religion (or lack thereof) is something practiced by Martin Luther King Jr, Pope Francis, Gandhi, and for that matter, Kurt Vonnegut. There is no rule of the universe saying you can only take inspiration from one book, or that it’s cultural appropriation to appreciate a phrase from another culture. If it were, most of the people posting here could not take inspiration from the bible (i.e. unless you read hebrew, aramaic, or biblical-era Greek).

            If you’re hearing combativeness or snark in my suggestions or my responses, look inwards. You’re projecting an intention that’s not at all what I envisioned, nor described.

        2. anonymous73*

          I didn’t miss the first line of your initial response, and based on your many snarky replies, it’s clear that you’re not up for a rational discussion. You suggestion is ludicrous and will not solve the problem even a little bit.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          I read the your post in its entirety. I think that it is still a bizarre suggestion, because if the OP’s supervisor is so invested in displaying their religious iconography that having a normal polite conversation is off the table then why on earth would it help to get into a passive-aggressive post-it war comparing said iconography to the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Make it make sense.

          I mean, like the comments on yesterday’s sleeping at work post, suggestions like this seem pretty divorced from reality. Advising people to do this kind of stuff is either an exercise in internet badassery and therefore pointless, or if meant genuinely, almost unkind.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          I think that if OP is in a situation where it’s unsafe to have that conversation, or there’s a risk of firing over moving the stuff… your suggestion will also be 100% unsafe. It will be taken as a provocation. Yes, they’ll be legally protected in theory, but “legally protected in theory” is not actually a nice, or safe, place to be.

          If OP is unsafe to have the conversation, the correct advice is *get the hell out ASAP*.

    4. calvin blick*

      I feel like this is a great way for OP to destroy their relationship with their boss completely unnecessarily.

      I haven’t seen anyone suggesting just putting a post-it note or picture or something over the bible quote when OP is working there to put it out of sight, (hopefully) out of mind.

    5. sagc*

      This would, at best, be extremely embarrassing for the LW. The Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn’t exactly make me think “mature, reasonable person”; it makes me think “angry teen in a fedora”.

      1. JSPA*

        Hunh. Shoehorn in any other religion–or lack thereof–and see how it reads, maybe? Do you feel that way about all atheists? All agnostics? All Wiccans? Do you think it’s right and normal and protected for other people to feel that way, as well, and thus normal for it to irreparably ruin a relationship, to invoke your dedication to science as a philosophy?

      2. Morgan*

        ….Christianity has (awesome) flying eyeball monsters. It’s a faith, not an advanced theory. They all seem strange to an outsider, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to make fun of it.

    6. Hamster Manager*

      I think putting up more stuff is just going to end up with a childish, religious paraphernalia arms race. It’s passive-aggressive and unlikely to achieve the desired outcome.

      That said, I think just moving the item to the side could also very easily result in an “I put it on the wall, you move it back to the monitor, forever” dance as well, so better to just talk to the supervisor.

    7. nutella fitzgerald*

      “Religious decor makes me uncomfortable, what should I do?”
      “Put up more religious decor! That’ll show ‘em!”

  12. TheEndIsNigh*

    #3 Don’t get the Lululemon ones. They are really transparent under lights. And in a work event it would be messy.

    1. ecnaseener*

      ? LW isn’t asking for shopping recommendations, they already HAVE the pants.

      1. Willis*

        Exactly. It sounds like the OP has three options that would be fine and she should just pick whatever she’d personally be most comfortable in. It doesn’t require buying new stuff.

  13. Do you have a flag?*

    LW #1, if/when you decide which of Alison’s approaches to use, keep in mind that folks who seem reasonable on a normal day can become suddenly, intensely unreasonable in just this situation: getting any push back against bringing their religious practices into inappropriate (public, shared) spaces. You are not overreacting at all; it’s inappropriate and unprofessional to post religious materials in a shared workspace. And the kind of person who doesn’t understand that may overreact when someone points out the problem, so unless you have previously discussed religion with your supervisor and know they’re level-headed about it, just be prepared.

    (Still can’t believe I’m living in a country where some factions of the religious majority insist they’re being oppressed…)

    1. Do you have a flag?*

      Also, there’s an argument to be made that posting religious tracts on your computer, right in your eye-line in your workplace, may be intended as proselytizing.

      And to be explicit for Christians who have never worked with a non-Christian: Proselytizing in the work place is not OK. Luring your coworker off-campus so you can proselytize to them outside of the workplace is not OK. Your religion’s mandate to proselytize does not override your coworker’s right to a safe work environment.

    2. NeedRain47*

      Yes, this. There’s a good chance that a person who would put up a bible verse in a shared space without asking anyone if they mind is the same type of person who will be mightily aggrieved when you ask them not to, no matter how peacefully and rationally you ask. I hope the OP is in a place where their supervisor/HR will back them up if needed.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      I don’t feel this strongly about religious stuff anywhere…..put up whatever. In response, I will bring cat stuff. However, I also believe there is a strong likelihood that this conversation may not go smoothly and I agree that anyone who would not even consider that others may not care for their religious décor likely won’t receive the request to move it very well. While anecdotal, I have known many very strongly religious people and when they found out that I was not quite as “gung ho” as they were, their perception and interactions with me changed drastically. If you want to take the path of least resistance, I think suggesting it be framed or hung on a wall is the best option….it won’t be so in your face and your manager will likely think that you actually appreciate the decor. The only downside I see to this option is that they may bring in even MORE décor.

  14. londonedit*

    We’re desk-sharing now that people are going back into the office (to reduce the number of people in at any one time, half the company are in for half the week and the other half for the other half of the week, and everyone’s being spread out much more around the building so we all have more space, hence trying to use half the number of desks we were using before) and as part of that we’re not allowed to leave any personal items on our desks. We now have lockable drawers to put things in (like stationery and personal items like hand cream/tea bags/whatever), and we take our laptops and any other work bits and pieces home with us seeing as we’re WFH for half the week. I really don’t think it’s unreasonable not to have personal items on your desk if you know you’re sharing the workspace with someone else – and that’s before we get into how inappropriate it is to leave religious quotes etc on a desk that someone else is using.

    1. KateM*

      Yes, I was thinking the same – one shouldn’t put ANY personal items on shared things. Wouldn’t it be weird if someone put a magnet with their child’s photo at office fridge, for example?

    2. dowsabel*

      My thoughts exactly. This is a workspace that is being shared by three people, none of them should be personalising it. And framing it that way takes religion out of the equation for now. If the supervisor does double down, the OP has a polite and unobjectionable request for an uncluttered workspace to show HR.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      We hot desk (there are only 5 total desks available for booking since we’re a small team) and everyone has a big box marked with their name for personal items. You pack everything into the box when you leave for the day.

      I don’t keep any decorative desk items at work to cut down on packing and unpacking time, but I only work in-office 1 day a week, so it’s not a big deal.

    4. Mizzmarymack*

      So are we! But we have re-purposed office equipment… before it was in the shared space someone cut-out and glued a picture of Geordi (from Star Trek) to what is our best, largest, and highest resolution monitor. He might even be decoupaged on there.

      My preferred spot. So every day I book that desk I get to share it with a StarFleet chief of engineering. He’s an OK desk-mate.

    5. AnonInCanada*

      Agreed. Not just for the religious aspects. Any shared space should be devoid of anything that would hint one person is in possession of such space. Be it Bible verses, Quorn passages, readings from L. Ron Hubbard, photos of loved ones etc. A small plant, maybe. I will presume no one will find that offensive.

      1. metadata minion*

        I know the rule is normally to ignore typos, but I just love the idea of Quorn passages instead of Quran passages. (If you’re not familiar with it, Quorn is a brand of mushroom-based fake meat products.)

    6. lilsheba*

      Good lord I’m glad I don’t have to deal with SHARING a desk space in the office. And not being able to have any personal items at all. That is not a great way to spend 8 hours plus in a place. I’ll just stay home where I can have it the way I want thanks.

    7. Midwestern Scientist*

      This is what I was thinking as well. Maybe just because of the confidentiality of the only place I worked where desk sharing was common but everyone had a locked cabinet to put their things in (personal things, snacks, files, whatever) and the desk space was expected to be clear and clean when you left for the day. Very weird to me that anyone would leave anything in a shared space (regardless of any religious content)

  15. Panda (she/her)*

    LW5 – this things are both super common here (Canada). My employer has a condition that if you voluntarily leave within a year of returning from maternity leave, you need to pay back everything they paid you – but they also provide 95% of your salary for 4 months, which is over and above the standard EI payments you get from the government while on maternity leave (those cap out at just over $500/week or 55% of your salary, whichever is lower – so while we do get paid maternity leave, you still lose a lot of wages by taking time off).

    1. Alma from Canada*

      Depends where in Canada. My province has substantially better provincial mat leave, and subsidised 8.50 a day daycare. (Main reason we stay here) Also, I’m unionised in a feminised industry, so no paying back anything. Have to buy back our pension for the year though. Still, no one’s wants or job, missing thousands of workers for the sector….

    2. Recovering Catholic*

      #1 I am sure if you out up something that clashed with their religion they would be quick to point it out. Religious people love to tell other people not to force your views on them without the hint of irony that they force their made up religious views on you (and yes everything about religions are made up, feel free to follow them all you want but stop using your made up crap to control what I do with my life)

  16. Luna*

    For LW1, I would perhaps move it even just a bit to the side and explain that my eyes travel to things a lot, especially if they are taped onto the rim of the computer (which I mostly know as a place for taping important info to and needing to check a lot) and it can be distracting. Has little to do with religion itself, but more with ensuring I don’t let it distract me from work.

    1. linger*

      Indeed, are there any WORK-RELATED items of information that would be useful for OP or Coworker to keep by the computer that could be laid over Boss’s scriptures? Lists of hotkeys, phone extensions, that sort of thing? If so, problem solved without the weird escalation of symbols favoured by other suggestions. It’s a work space; work needs must trump individual preferences.

  17. GythaOgden*

    Yeah, I think with the religious decor I’d agree to negotiate and ask if stuck on/decal quotes can be taken off. I’m religious, but generally it doesn’t belong at work unless it’s something like jewellery, my Sikh colleague’s turban etc. Otherwise stick to having stuff at home where you can have your private life and not make it public.

  18. FG*

    #3 – There are yoga pants, and there are yoga pants. Some have thin fabric that can be almost see-through in some situations; some have thick, always-opaque fabric. Some are truly skin tight; others less so. Some are so form-fitting in the rear that the cheeks are exquisitely delineated; others are not. Know which kind you have by asking a trusted friend to give you a once-over while wearing them in bright light.

  19. Bookworm*

    LW4: I think your message was totally appropriate and that Alison is right: unfortunately it seems this interviewer flaked on you and couldn’t even be bothered to let you know if they chose someone else or what not. It’s more common than it should be but at least it saved you the effort of physically traveling to the office for an interview. Sorry that happened to you and boo on them!

  20. Dax*

    LW1: Like you, I have negative associations with religion (diagnosed C-PTSD from being in an evangelical cult, to be exact). If your boss is on the extreme end of the evangelical spectrum, she may claim she’s being persecuted just by being asked to remove her religious decor, which will then turn you into the enemy in her mind. Just be aware that this is a very real possibility. Hopefully she leans more moderate in her beliefs and this won’t be an issue. Either way, as a manager, she should steer totally clear of religious references at work. I can’t help but think posting a scripture on a shared computer is intended as a form of evangelism/witnessing, which makes me suspect she’s more radical in her beliefs. It would be a red flag for me to proceed with caution, maybe even involve HR early (just give them a heads-up that you’re going to talk to her and you’re concerned it may not go well).

  21. AthenaC*

    OP1 – If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your personal history / feelings about Christianity with your boss, I might suggest moving the Bible verse (as Alison suggested) and then explaining it as – “Sorry, having the text in my field of vision was distracting me from (insert work tasks here) and I really needed to focus.”

  22. anonymous73*

    #1 First I would verify that your co-worker didn’t put it up. You say she’s not religious, but don’t make assumptions. Once you’ve confirmed, take it down and go to your supervisor. “For personal reasons I don’t want to discuss, the religious décor makes me uncomfortable. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t put anything of a religious nature in our shared work space” Like Alison said, a reasonable human would understand. But IMO a reasonable human also wouldn’t assume that it was okay in a shared area without asking, so I would also be prepared to go to HR is she gives you a hard time about it or refuses to comply. You say you have a good working team, but part of being a team is respecting your team members.
    #3 it’s less about the revealing clothing and more about what makes you comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing them around your co-workers, then wear something else.
    #5 not unusual at all, although it IS unusual (at least to me) to have the employee write a check and “pay it off”. Everywhere I’ve worked this has been a policy, and you were never allowed to go more than 40 hours into the red. It’s like a company paying for your education – most companies require you to pay back the money they gave you if you leave within 6 months or a year of that education. They’re investing in you, and they don’t want to get screwed over by their employees learning new things to then leave immediately for another job.

    1. C in the Hood*

      Thank you for your answer on #1. It seems to be the only one (so far) that suggests talking to the boss directly in a non-confrontational way. “Use your words” as they say.

      1. HelloHello OP5*

        I think it’s the writing a check that is throwing me off. I’ve never been able to use more than a day or 2 of unaccrued PTO and I can understand deducting that from a last paycheck, it’s being able to use so much that you write a check back for that $$ that was shocking.
        The parental leave I can kinda wrap my head around, but what do they do if someone can’t just write a check for 12-16 weeks of pay? Do they have HR/Payroll work out payment plans? Send you to collections?

  23. Michelle Smith*

    Yoga pants are perfectly fine. You might consider which ones you wear though and do a stress test on them first. Some leggings can turn see-through if you’re bending over, so ask someone you trust to look for you while you are bending over outside in bright sunlight. If they can’t see your underwear, the pants should be conservative enough for a work event. The other thing I would suggest if you’re self conscious is to wear a longer shirt that extends over your bottom.

  24. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    OP1, what’s your office policy on desk decoration? For example, my job allows minimal decor for people with designated desks (posters must be easily removable) and forbids it for hotelling/hot desking areas like the one I work.

    OP3: we had an event where we were told to wear gym clothes, so I wore baggy gym trousers instead of yoga pants. In the end it was a good choice because we had to sit on the floor and I was super comfy with them.

  25. QuinFirefrorefiddle*

    #1- If you want to have a “reason” for moving the computer Bible verse that isn’t, “it’s a Bible verse,” try replacing it with a reminder. A step by step guide to how to do something, or where you’ve stashed a certain file, or the website you need for new teapots. Something you “keep forgetting.” Make sure it’s work related, of course!

  26. Tib*

    Alison, would your answer change if the OP asked about leggings? I’ve seen more and more ads for “yoga pants” that are what I would call leggings: a knit pant that is completely fitted to the leg. And I think many young people do include leggings in the yoga pants category. It sounds like you were only thinking of leggings as a pair of knit pants that are fitted only at the waist and hips. I would feel very uncomfortable wearing leggings to a work event unless I wore shorts or an exercise skirt over them. I might feel more comfortable wearing joggers or yoga pants.

    1. londonedit*

      I think as long as the garment doesn’t go see-through when you bend over, it’s fine. To me, yoga pants are looser than leggings – usually lightweight jersey fabric with cuffed legs that have a sort of triangle shape and skim over the thighs. Leggings are tight-fitting cotton or polyester, and they definitely have a tendency to go a bit thin if they’re poor quality or old or if you’re bending over and stretching the fabric over your bum. Many gym/running leggings and tight shorts are marketed as ‘squat-proof’, which means you can do your squats in them without the fabric going see-through and showing your underwear. Joggers or tracksuit bottoms are made of a sweatshirt sort of fabric, usually with cuffed legs, which don’t have the see-through issue but would be a lot warmer and bulkier than yoga pants or leggings. If the garment the OP wants to wear is tight-fitting, they should definitely check whether it passes the squat test, and they could wear a longer top if they’re worried about wearing something that’s tight on their bum (I wouldn’t be, but then I’m a runner who’s perfectly happy to go and do the supermarket shop in my kit after a run) but I can’t see any problem with leggings simply because they’re tight fitting. Or even with shorts or anything else someone wanted to wear. People have legs!

    2. anonymous73*

      I honestly don’t think it matters. It’s more about what OP feels comfortable wearing, not the type of pants. There will always be people who push the envelope with how they dress for work (I once witnessed a temp worker come dressed in a leotard for Halloween and put ON a skirt to go to lunch), but with this being a team building event taking place outside of the office, I’m assuming the dress code is more laid back. Leggings are athletic wear, so I don’t see either as being a problem (unless you can see through them).

  27. Nikkole*

    My mother’s job used to give them all their PTO at the beginning of the year, until people abused the policy by taking the job (all benefits are available on start date) working a few months, somehow being allowed to use up all 3-4 weeks within that time frame and quitting. then there were the ones who used it all up immediately then got pissed because other people used theirs more wisely and were able to take time off during the summer and winter holidays. Now they give them a week on January 1 then they earn the rest throughout the year.

    1. londonedit*

      That’s ridiculous! And a classic case of everyone being punished because a few (grown adult) people can’t be trusted. I could be wrong, it may happen in some company/industry in the UK, but I’ve never heard of a company here not giving everyone their full holiday allowance at the beginning of the year. On January 1st you could sit down and book in all your leave for the year if you wanted to, with your manager’s approval of course. I would hate not being able to book in holiday because I hadn’t ‘earned’ the days! If I want to get my summer holiday booked in January because that’s when flights are cheapest, I should be able to do that. If people can’t understand that if they take their whole holiday allowance at the start of the year, they won’t have any for the rest of the year, that’s their own fault and I have zero sympathy for them because it’s something an adult should be able to grasp. The other issue is solved by a) having some rules around how and when holiday can be taken (for example needing to get approval from higher up for anything longer than two weeks, or having rules around how many people in one department can be off at any one time, or rules around holiday not being taken during busy periods, etc) and b) having managers and bosses who actually manage their staff and make sure people aren’t using four weeks’ holiday within the first few months of their employment. And if they had a policy like the one the OP describes (which is also standard practice in the UK), then the people who took four weeks’ holiday and left in April would have to pay that back when they left. The solution isn’t to police everyone’s holiday allowance just because a few idiots can’t manage their own time.

      1. anonymous73*

        Actually it’s not ridiculous. And even when I’ve had to wait to accrue time, I can get approval from my manager to take time off in the future that I have yet to accrue. In fact in my last few jobs, I didn’t even have to get “approval”. I just told them when I booked my vacation. The only time I’ve “asked” is if it was a particularly busy time or others were out and I wanted to make sure it was okay for me to be off too.

        1. londonedit*

          I’m sure the whole accrual policy thing works if you’re used to it, but what’s ridiculous is a company making a blanket change to everyone’s holiday allowances simply because a few people can’t be trusted not to abuse the system. And in your situation, if you’re able to book holiday before you’ve accrued it, why don’t they just give everyone their full allowance at the start of the year? As I said in another comment, technically in the UK holiday is also pro-rated, but you get the whole allowance at the start of the year and you can use it as you see fit.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Further, it encourages people to hoard their leave, so you’re scrambling to get everyone to use it up in December.

          2. Critical Rolls*

            The future time off is being given the thumbs up because the PTO will have accrued by then. So you don’t have access to the leave before it accrues, but you can get the time off approved for when it’s available. In most cases of acruing leave, earned PTO from the previous year rolls over up to a certain cap, so if you know you want to take 2 weeks in January, you typically plan to save your leave and use the balance on your trip. Most people have a bit of leave left over every year, and it often grows into a healthy buffer. It’s not ideal but it’s very manageable IF you get a reasonable amount of PTO.

          3. anonymous73*

            Still not ridiculous. People abuse something, that privilege gets taken away. Do you honestly think it’s feasible for a company to pick and choose who’s allowed to follow the old policy and who has to follow the new one when it comes to PTO? And I can book vacations before it’s accrued because I will have accrued it once I take the vacation.

      2. Nikkole*

        I don’t see the issue? they still get the same amount of time…. if you want to book a holiday in January for a trip you are taking in March or August you still can it goes in as a ‘future time request’ with the assumption you will have earned the time before the trip. We use the same system at my job. My colleague is taking off 2 weeks for her wedding. she does not have 80 hours in her bank currently but she will by September. Her time is booked and protected. Most people use the time throughout the year anyway and not at once, so it really only affects the people who want to abuse the system.

  28. LondonLady*

    #LW1 – you have the right to ask all users to keep a shared workspace de-personalised without the religious aspects even becoming an issue. Years ago I did a job share with a colleague who had very different tastes (think dogs vs cats). We had personalised computer desktops but no personal stuff on the actual desk.

  29. Non-profiteer*

    #1 – for a totally non-confrontational way to deal with this, what about finding something work related that you would conceivably need to look at a lot, and taping it to the monitor? Like, a list of accounting codes, or passwords, or something? Then take the attitude of ‘of course I had to move that non-work-related thing so I could tape up my work-related thing.’

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I can’t imagine what they could put up that would be so big that they’d have to remove the verse for it to fit.

    2. giraffecat*

      Totally off topic, but you really shouldn’t keep a list of passwords taped to your monitor. That may likely violate many employer’s IT security policies, but even if not, it’s still a bad idea.

  30. Former Retail Lifer*

    #5: I may be losing my job soon due to a sale and I’ve used more PTO than I have accrued so far. I don’t have to pay it back by writing a check (it’s not 1995), but it will be deducted from my final paycheck. I’m going to lose a week’s pay. I hate it, but that’s how it goes.

  31. Dinwar*

    LW#1: For my part, I think that going to your supervisor or HR shouldn’t be the first step if you can avoid it. The first step should be talking to the person. Make it general: “I feel uncomfortable working in a space that others have decorated; it feels like I’m intruding in what’s supposed to be a shared space”, or something like that (I’m not very good at scripts). Going to the boss or HR is a pretty serious escalation. The coworker is likely to be totally blind-sided–not because of the religious angle, but because putting inspirational quotes on things you work with is fairly normal. I mean, I’ve got a water bottle with my family’s SCA motto on it (Fac Fieri, meaning “Make it happen”); if my boss came up and said “So-and-so is uncomfortable with this” I would be baffled, and I would be VERY hesitant to trust that person again.

    The religious nature of the quotes is a red herring. I mean, would you go to the boss if the coworker had posted, say, “Success is 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration”? If not, your objection is entirely based on religious grounds. Fundamentally your objection is not substantively different from the person who mistreated the letter writer who wrote in about being outed as a member of The Satanic Temple. They are a member of a group you dislike, and you are expecting them to hide that fact to avoid making you uncomfortable. That’s not how a pluralistic society is supposed to work. We should expect to see certain things that make us uncomfortable, because we should expect to routinely encounter people who think and live differently from us. That’s what diversity MEANS.

    Put another way: We’re supposed to be better than those who oppressed us.

    The best way to deal with it is, as I said, to talk to the coworker. They likely don’t realize anyone would be uncomfortable with it–not merely because it’s the dominant religion, but because most would consider it reasonably innocuous. A friendly conversation pointing out that it’s a shared space, and that this means you’d like to keep it impersonal, would be a small step towards making the world a better place.

    1. Colette*

      There is a difference between a generic inspirational quote and a religious quote, whether you’re religious or not. The OP’s coworker can believe in any religious they like, and practice it. If they didn’t share a computer with anyone else, it would be fine for them to put a religious saying on it for their own use. But it’s unreasonable of them to post religious stuff on the OP’s computer.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      …absolutely not. There’s a difference between making jokes to a coworker about sacrificing her dog because you don’t like the religion she follows and not wanting religious paraphernalia prominently displayed in a workspace *you* use. This is an incredible false equivalency.

      Religious coworker can be as religious as they want. They can even talk about going to church on Sundays! This is not the same thing. As another commenter pointed out, having a bible verse on a piece of equipment another person has to use is dangerously close to if not entirely proselytizing, which is never okay in a workspace for any religion to do.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “if my boss came up and said “So-and-so is uncomfortable with this” I would be baffled, and I would be VERY hesitant to trust that person again.”

        This is not the correct reaction. The correct reaction is to reflect on why you were not approachable in the first place. This person would have done nothing wrong by going through proper channels regardless of motivation, but there’s a good chance something you’re putting out there would make them feel like they have to.

      2. Dinwar*

        The simplest explanation–the one that doesn’t assume that the coworker is a monster merely because they happen to let slip that they are a member of one of the largest religions in the world–is that the coworker simply didn’t realize that posting an inspirational quote–something so common as to be cliché–would make someone uncomfortable given the source material. Until evidence is given otherwise, that’s the conclusion the LW should run with. Always assuming, of course, that the LW’s intent is to have a cordial relationship with their coworkers.

        The error being made isn’t the crass comments about sacrificing the dog. It’s presuming to understand the person based on a sub-minimal amount of information and an almost certainly incorrect understanding of the person’s views. Your attitude will, inevitably, lead to such comments. THIS IS HOW DISCRIMINATION STARTS. And this is where we need to fight it in ourselves, so that we never commit the errors of those who have oppressed us in the past.

        I will thank you for reminding me that many of the commenters here are perfectly fine with religious discrimination, so long as it’s against religions the commentariat dislike….

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          You are also making a lot of assumptions here. For one thing, the bible verse is specifically pointed out to be *one* example. So if we take it in your terms, as being the most innocent and potentially not even intentional, how does that track with there being multiple examples?

          Secondly, no. The person posting these things is a supervisor. There’s a power dynamic at play to the point where OP is not comfortable bringing it up because of the potential professional backlash. There is a higher onus on people in power to be aware of the environments they create and the messages they send to others. OP is not simply concerned about a cordial disagreement between colleagues.

          Some people here are absolutely thirsty to feel discriminated against and are completely missing what is and isn’t appropriate in a professional shared space.

        2. Colette*

          I’m not sure you read the letter.

          The example was of a bible quote, not an inspirational quote. Could a bible quote be inspirational? Sure, if you find it spiritually significant. But it’s not a generic inspirational quote.

          And, assuming the OP is in North America, Christians are not being discriminated against. Our holidays are Christian ones, our work week is arranged around the Chirstian sabbath and, even in 2022, it’s not uncommon to have Christian prayers at political or public events.

          I do agree that the OP should assume that the coworker is reasonable, but the rest of what you’ve said is off base.

        3. Jennifer Strange*

          I will thank you for reminding me that many of the commenters here are perfectly fine with religious discrimination, so long as it’s against religions the commentariat dislike….

          That’s not at all what folks are saying and it’s odd that that’s what you’re taking away from this. OP isn’t asking someone not to ever mention their religion or even not to have a token of their religion anywhere at work, they’re just asking that it not be part of a SHARED DESK which is perfectly reasonable. The commenters here overwhelming supported the person who mentioned their Christian religion and had to endure a co-worker bashing it, so your statement just looks silly.

          1. Observer*

            it’s odd that that’s what you’re taking away from this.

            Not odd at all, based on the original comment. Let’s face it, they compared asking for a shared workspace to not have explicitly religious quotes on the shared equipment that other need to use with actively mistreating someone for a religious belief that the victim had never even MENTIONED at work.

            Given that out out scale sense of grievance, what else could one expect?

        4. aebhel*

          I don’t believe that anyone said or implied that the coworker in question is a monster, simply that it’s inappropriate to display religious quotes of any type in a shared workspace (especially *taped to someone’s computer monitor*, good grief) because not everyone views such things as neutral. Christians often think they are BECAUSE it’s the culturally dominant religion, but that doesn’t make that the case.

          “Don’t tape Bible quotes to my computer monitor” is not even remotely religious discrimination, anyway.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      Asking someone not to decorate a shared workspace with *any* religious items is not asking them to hide their religion. It isn’t singling out a religion, or mocking it, or criticizing the person for their faith. It isn’t forbidding them to ever express or mention it. The letter you’re referencing had a person whose participation in religion was spotted outside the workplace, publicized by the coworker, and then subject to shunning and mocking behavior, which is not in any way what’s happening here.

      Asking for a religiously neutral work station is not oppressing a person of faith.

      1. Sazerac*

        Asking for a religiously neutral work station is not oppressing a person of faith.

        One more time for the people in the back.

    4. Observer*

      If not, your objection is entirely based on religious grounds.

      Which is perfectly acceptable. Keep in mind that what the OP is asking for IS NOT – and CANNOT be considered “mistreatment”. Yes, I’m being extremely emphatic.

      Fundamentally your objection is not substantively different from the person who mistreated the letter writer who wrote in about being outed as a member of The Satanic Temple.

      It’s pretty stunning to me that you cannot differentiate between MISTREATING someone and asking someone not to put specific things in your shared space. Also, that you cannot differentiate between someone discreet being outed and someone posting explicitly religious materials in a shared space.

      We’re supposed to be better than those who oppressed us.

      “We”? No, this is not the language of anyone who had actually been oppressed by a majority. This is the language used by oppressors to sound sympathetic while putting an unreasonable expectation on the victim.

      I’ll agree that what is happening to the OP is not the biggest outrage. But saying that they have no standing to push back because they are not allowed to object to having religious text placed in THEIR (albeit shared) workspace, and that they “need to be better” and so allow behavior that they would not be allowed to engage in, is pretty outrageous.

      About the only thing you have right is that the OP should probably just have a conversation with the supervisor, if she’s a reasonable person.

      1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        Not even just in their workspace, placed so that it must be viewed while working.

    5. JSPA*

      1. The satanic temple example happened outside of work. Nobody was putting up Satanic Temple gear on a shared desk. The equivalent in this circumstance would be if OP found out that the supervisor was Christian by hapenstance, due to seeing the supervisor exiting a church, and then distrusted and objected to the supervisor on those grounds.

      2. What’s the likelihood that someone has encountered your SCA motto in the context of an abusive, trauma-soaked childhood? (I’d hope it’s zero.)

      3. Even if someone removes your SCA cup, you may be ticked off, you don’t have a discrimination complaint. If HR were functional, I suppose one could go to them to say, “I would normally speak to my supervisor about not cluttering up the shared space with personal items, or would remove the items myself and set it aside for them. But as these particular examples are religiously themed, I want to be extra careful about doing so, and let you know in advance that I’m going to put them safely and respectfully in a box with their name on it.”

      4. Religion gets its own category under the law–both in terms of protection from, and protection for. “If it would not bother you if it were not religious” is rthus an argument with an intrinsic logical flaw.

      5. There’s no sign at all that OP is unhappy that the supervisor is Christian, or is holding it against them, or is unhappy to see someone’s faith object in passing; they’re merely wishing to not have the quote placed in the one position where it must be in front of their eyes constantly, through the work day. (Think Clockwork Orange–they’re literally not able to close their eyes and look away, while still doing their job.)

    6. NancyDrew*

      “They likely don’t realize anyone would be uncomfortable with it” is such a naive belief in our current American climate. I genuinely cannot believe folks on here think this was anything but passive-aggressive proselytizing.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Christians in the United States are not being oppressed. Period. Nor is proselytizing innocuous. The attempt to imply that they are is patently transparent, not to mention offensive to religious minorities who are actually being oppressed, often to the point of being murdered, and to those who survived religious abuse.

    8. Sazerac*

      They are a member of a group you dislike, and you are expecting them to hide that fact to avoid making you uncomfortable.

      That’s not it at all. Asking someone not to have religious paraphernalia in a shared workspace is in not asking them to hide their beliefs. Asking someone to remove a pendant with a cross/crucifix/ohm/Start of David or a Kippah, is asking someone to hide their beliefs. That’s not what’s happening here.

    9. CCC*

      Do you genuinely think it’s a good idea to say “yes, it’s fine to have religious quotes on shared monitors?” Like all of them? Religious texts include a huge body of sexual and violent passages, and a plethora of discriminatory passages as well. Is it okay with you to stick those up on shared spaces?

  32. Testerbert*

    LW5: In the UK, it is expected that if you use up more holiday time than you have accrued, the excess will be deducted from your final pay. Expecting someone to write a cheque for the amount is near unheard of.

  33. Dancing Otter*

    #2: Regarding repaying the employer, I have to wonder how the company (IF the company?) corrects the tax record when a departing employee writes a check.
    If they’re not getting to keep it, it shouldn’t be taxable to them. A lot of payroll software would have problems with negative transactions, though, and manual adjustments can be tricky. I can easily imagine a payroll clerk not knowing how, or not bothering.

  34. Not Today*

    In LW#1’s shoes I’d probably choose a non-confrontation path of emailing coworker and supervisor and saying something simple like “I am finding the religious stuff distracting, and as we share a computer/workspace would whoever put it up please remove these items (or move them to location X if LW is ok with that)?”. No need to go into why you dont want it there, or accuse supervisor of putting them up – just a straightforward request?

  35. Critical Rolls*

    Without reading through the other comments, the idea of clawing back funds from paid parental leave is just deeply repulsive. There are a lot of things that can happen around a birth to change one’s plans for return to work. It just feels like one more way to add professional and financial risk to having a child (as usual, especially for women).

  36. Gnome*

    Athletic events? I don’t wear pants, basically ever, for religious reasons. If I wear pants, I wear a skirt OVER them (e.g. pants are required where I volunteer for safety reasons so I wear long pants with a knee-length skirt, but mobility isn’t an issue for that work). So, athletic events aren’t viable for me.

    If I wore them, yoga pants would be fine, but avoid light colors. They can turn see-thru if you sweat.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah there’s a lot of reasons people wouldn’t be able to participate in events like this. I personally consider them the opposite of team building and would like to see them done away with.

    2. Yikez*

      I have friends/family who are Orthodox and adhere to a similar rule, they participate in sports just fine. But I agree that we need to keep sports out of work, but my opinion is just based on laziness ;)

        1. Yikez*

          Yeah, that’s true. Your comment just gave me the mental image of my mother doing aerial yoga (an event my workplace did have) so thanks for that, lol.

          And yes, the thought of aerial yoga makes me nauseous, so I drank Prosecco and was the photographer of the event! But when we hike I’m all in!

    3. Aand3*

      There are a plethoria of companies selling comfortable, functional, stylish workout gear for people that eschew pants, including for religious and cultural reasons. I first learned about these companies from Muslim runners on instagram who don’t wear pants or shorts but still run a bunch of marathons. Pretty sure those same companies have stuff that would be fine for a work event.

      If you don’t want to do athletic events at work, that’s fine (or if the mixed gender thing is also an issue), but don’t act like “religious fashion need” is automatically incompatible with “Conglomerate R Us annual Employee Appreciation Outdoor Festival of Fun.”

      1. Observer*

        A lot of people are not going to have the right gear for this. So, it is an imposition, because even if someone is ok from a religious point of view with that stuff, it means that they are going to have to purchase it just to accommodate a work activity that actually has nothing to do with work.

        I’m not saying that it is the ONLY reason to be wary, but it definitely is*A* reason.

    4. RagingADHD*

      There are lots of religious skirt-wearers all over the world who can participate in all sorts of athletic events, up to an elite level. If you don’t want to, that’s your business, but the skirt isn’t the problem and it perpetuates some really damaging stereotypes to promote the idea that women have to choose between religious convictions and physical activity.

  37. Bitsy*

    #4: I was conducting phone interviews to hire a new staff member. I’d scheduled a call with our preferred candidate over the phone, then emailed her to confirm the date and time of our first interview. I got an email back saying that the person was no longer interested in the position. I was disappointed, but we moved forward with our other interviews.

    Shortly after the time we would have talked to this person I got a voicemail. She had been waiting for the interview call but wondered by we hadn’t called!

    It turns out that when I’d emailed my confirmation I’d misread her email address. She uses her middle initial, but at the end of the address, so my eye skimmed right past it. Think vs. The person who had refused the interview was some other Jane Smith! Who, frankly, we were all a little mad at, because why didn’t she just write back to say that I’d sent the email to the wrong person instead of declining an interview for a job she’d never applied for?

    I’m so glad that the “real” Jane Smith called us back after the missed interview. We rescheduled, she did great, we hired her. And I kind of hope that Evil Jane Smith gets what’s coming to her someday.

    1. Stevie*

      Could it be possible that the other Jane Smith thought that she *had* applied to the job you were hiring for? I know I’m not the only one who forgets every place I apply to (back when I was looking, anyways). If I were Jane Smith, I’d be more likely to assume I had applied there and forgotten about it vs. being mistaken for someone else.

      1. Bitsy*

        I guess it’s POSSIBLE. But it’s not probable. This was a pretty specific, technical position, at a small local college. If Evil Jane even lives near here (probably not!) she’s not likely to have applied for a job like this one, or at this college. More likely she’s just evil! :-)

      2. JSPA*

        If someone’s finished with a job search / just been hired, they probably don’t even read the content or check the sender of the emails that come in, to schedule interviews. They drop in the boilerplate and hit “send.”

  38. Yikez*

    #1: So what is it? “Think a bible verse taped to the monitor, for one example” means it’s not that, so I’m not sure the advice around that specific example is applicable. I have religious decor on my desk. My coworkers have religious decor. None of us have spontaneously combusted.

    And please ignore the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” suggestion. That with make you look like a dramatic (and stupid) teenager, no one wants to work with that um…individual.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      On YOUR desk, I think that’s fine! OP is talking about a desk they have to use where this is making them deeply uncomfortable for personal reasons. As Alison says, OP’s comfort is more than likely going to be what HR would prioritize over the decoration preferences of another person using a public space.

    2. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      Do you share your desk with someone? If not, it’s not applicable. Think about how you would feel if someone left religious decor for a different religion on your desk and you didn’t feel like you could move it.

      1. Yikez*

        I do share my desk. It’s a desk with 2 computers. My coworker puts up religious decor. I don’t feel like I could move it, nor do I feel like I should move it. But I have manners.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          This is a shared computer, not just a shared desk. Also, manners would be not having divisive items on a shared computer so as not to make your coworkers uncomfortable. It’s not difficult.

          1. Yikez*

            We don’t know where the decor is. Hence the question: “#1: So what is it? “Think a bible verse taped to the monitor, for one example” means it’s not that, so I’m not sure the advice around that specific example is applicable. “

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I think it’s clear that it’s something taped to the monitor, just maybe not a bible verse specifically. Either way, the OP is allowed to feel uncomfortable about it and ask that it be removed when that person is not using the desk.

              1. Yikez*

                I don’t think it’s clear, which is why I asked for clarification. I agree, OP can be as uncomfortable as they choose to be.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  I don’t think the OP would have specified “tapped to the monitor” if that’s not where it was, though. It seems clear to me of the placement, just maybe not the actual item.

            2. Stevie*

              I actually think “Think a bible verse taped to the monitor, for one example” means that it is exactly that…

              That’s how I would phrase it, if I were to give an example. I don’t think it’s hypothetical. I think OP is fairly plainly saying that a Bible verse taped to the monitor is one example.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I read “Think a bible verse taped to the monitor, for one example” to mean that is one example of the actual decor, out of several (so it might be that plus several other things). Regardless, this thread has become way too heated and prickly below, so I’m closing it now.

    3. MicroManagered*

      Displaying the “Flying Spaghetti Monster” doesn’t automatically make someone “dramatic and stupid.” FSM originated as a tool to try to explain all the fantastic reasons that church and state should remain separate. (Women in the US are living one of those reasons right now, with politicians attempting to force Christian beliefs on us and criminalize autonomy over our bodies.)

      However, I agree that passive-aggressive is usually not the best way to ask for what you want/need in the office. If OP5 is not a FSM fan of her own accord, a simple request would do in this instance. “Do you mind if I take this down? It’s distracting to me on our shared computer.” would suffice.

      1. Yikez*

        You’re right, I was being glib. At the same time, the optics of passive aggressive teen behavior is…not great. But again, we don’t know if this specifically is a verse taped to a computer.

    4. Purple Cat*

      Why are you so hung up on whether or not it is specifically “a bible verse taped to the monitor”. People use “close, but not exact” examples all the time. Does the advice change if it’s actually a picture of a crucifix instead? Or a quote from the Koran, or a statue of Buddha. Either way, when you are sharing a personal space, it’s respectful to not make decorations so personally specific that it might cause offense to someone else. You’re pretty dismissive of the LW concerns because she hasn’t “spontaneously combusted” yet.

      1. Yikez*

        Yes, the advice does change if it’s a bobblehead Jesus on a side table vs. a bible quote taped on the monitor. People do use examples all the time, and I ask for clarification all the time. I’m glad I come across as dismissive, I would like to be dismissive of people who can’t look at the existence of a religion.

        1. Stevie*

          I honestly would assume this is straightforward. If I said something like, “I’d never seen such ill-behaved children in my life. Think, spitting on me to get my attention, for one example,” I would mean exactly what I said – these children were physically spitting on me to get my attention. (Sorry, not sure why that this is the example I went with.)

          I think OP means that a Bible verse taped to the computer is actually one example. Whether we get official confirmation of that may or may not happen, but I took their statement at face value.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          I would like to be dismissive of people who can’t look at the existence of a religion.

          Good thing that’s not what’s happening here at all.

          1. Yikez*

            I’m capable of having my own opinion regarding what’s happening here. If you disagree with it feel free to say why instead of relying on mealy mouthed passive aggressive responses.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Why don’t you explain why you feel a person saying “Hey, this is a shared space, can we keep religion out of it?” is saying they can’t look at the existence of a religion instead of responding with hyperbolic and (by your own admission) dismissive rhetoric?

      2. RagingADHD*

        Honestly, I think it does matter to some extent, because it speaks to whether it would be generally seen as religious in nature, or whether the LW is particularly sensitive, because it may or may not be worth pursuing.

        For example, a motivational-poster type image with the phrase, “Do justice. Love mercy.” “Peace on earth” or “Let your light shine.”

        Many people might not even recognize those as Bible verses, and surely the sentiments are not offensive or proselytizing in themselves. If it still bothers LW due to their history, and the coworker isn’t cooperative, it might cost them capital to pursue it with management or HR.

        Same with the bobblehead doll.

        There are a lot of things that sound like a bright line when you describe them one way, but the details can change the ramifications of standing on principle.

        Yes, all of those things are references to religion and as such you can make a case that they don’t belong in shared space. The question is whether it’s a case worth making in those particular circumstances.

    5. JSPA*

      Drop any other religion in place of FSM, and see how you feel about having made that statement?

      Per the britannica,

      “Flying Spaghetti Monster, the deity of what began as a parody religion and grew to become a social movement. The adherents, who call themselves Pastafarians, purportedly number in the tens of thousands and are primarily located in North America, western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.”

      Pastafarianism an anti-intelligent-design-being-taught-in-schools movement that attracted a large number of PhD biologists, chemists, biochemists, doctors, lawyers and civil rights activists, upon it’s founding…and then morphed into something of a place-holder religion…then for some, took on the social functions of an actual religious community.

    6. cal*

      Let’s not forget what belief makes you look like. You can’t criticize one and then expect special honours for what you believe in. Atheists have just as many rights as you do. If religious people want to bring stuff in then so can the atheists.

  39. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

    Thanks for your answer to LW#1. I have a somewhat similar problem with religious books and knickknacks in our office kitchen/meal area. They are not being actively used or pushed on anyone–think communal bookshelf that no one really uses with certain books in it–but I don’t like them being there, I don’t think it reflects well on us as a company. Some of my coworkers have religious items around their desks and that’s absolutely fine, but I do feel better having read this answer today, knowing I’m not out of line for being uncomfortable with that stuff in shared spaces.

    1. Morgan*

      I am gay and worked with a higher up coworker who would have his mail delivered to the office instead of his home (that’s common in the city we were in). Each week he received a catholic publication that, as the admin, I had to hand deliver to his office. This publication always had ads on the back. I didn’t mind until one day the ads were for anti-lgbtq books. I told him that I didn’t want to have to look at that publication anymore as I found the ads offensive. He stopped having it delivered there. I was lucky that I lived in a city with an anti-dscrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation.

  40. TheRain'sSmallHands*

    Two stories for LW 1…..One, I once worked with someone who was a pretty conservative Christian. He’d been my peer, I got promoted into a different team, he became the manager of the team I used to be on. After a few months as manager, Bible verses started showing up below his signature. I found them annoying an inappropriate, but I didn’t say anything since I didn’t have too much to do with him any longer (he was a nice guy, although the rule for not talking religion or politics at work always applies double when you have a deep suspicion you would each lose respect for each other if those topics came up). It took about three weeks before he stopped, and I’m sure he was told to knock it off. (And I have a pretty good idea it was the Jewish guy we worked with who made it an issue – he had some standing as senior to the new manager, and faced pretty regular stupidity from coworkers in a region where being Jewish is unusual).

    The second one was a friend’s signature – it says (and may still say) “Black Lives Matter” – there was a complaint that this was a political statement prohibited by policy and he was asked to remove it. He had the support of his manager and had several meetings with HR over it. The company itself had a Black Lives Matter titled press release and a button on their intranet site. It came down to “I will be happy to remove it if you tell me I need to in writing and that its a political statement.” They weren’t willing to do that (none of the people attempting to make him stop really wanted him to), so it stayed. About a month later the person that he suspected was the one who complained left the company suddenly with a Linked In profile that he was looking for work.

    So – say something. It will probably go away with little fuss. If there is trust between you and your boss, saying “I respect people of faith, but I was victimized by someone who weaponized Christianity in my youth,” its a common enough story that they will likely understand.

    1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

      Oh, I meant to add relevant to the second story – but don’t make it a hill to die on unless its a really important hill. I doubt the BLM complaint was the only reason my friend’s coworker suddenly found themselves looking for employment, but the timing is suspicious that they may have chosen to die on that hill. (I think my friend, with different management, could have been the one who died on that hill).

  41. A Penguin of Ill Repute*

    #5 – back when I used to work in a warehouse, I had some medical issues come up that put me out of work for a month (covered by FMLA) and then required frequent time off after that. At the point I quit, I was so far in the hole with PTO that when I put in my two weeks’ notice my boss just had me leave effective immediately, because the entire two weeks would have effectively been unpaid.

  42. Purple Cat*

    Wow, LW5 that’s surprising to me. My company just switched it’s policy. We used to accrue as you go, and if you were in the negative you’d have to pay back the company to true up to $0 when you left.
    NOW, we get all of hours at the start of the year. If you leave mid-year you only get a certain % of the balance paid out. 25% per quarter. If you managed to use all of your leave in the first 3 months though, nobody has to pay anything back.

  43. CubicleJesusTM*

    #1 — I work for one of the largest (size and population) counties where one religion is by far the more popular one. While I’m not myself religious, there is a particular painting of Jesus that is very well known in this religion. A few years ago a new supervisor at my location started and put up this photo/painting in their cubicle, front and center, all by itself, in the back office. It made…everyone uncomfortable in so many ways, but no one wanted to say anything because we didn’t have a lead supervisor at the time and this supervisor was known to blow very small things out of proportion, and we knew how this would go over.

    I decided to go to HR, because someone had to and this was a supervisor and it was weird and separation of church and state is still a thing? A lot of the location was religious, but this was a new level that no one felt comfortable with. People had religious quotes in their cubicle, but because they were hidden, to be seen by just the person in their cubicle, no one cared. Our HR was like “oh. Not touching that with a ten foot pole, let’s go to main central HR to do the right thing.” My HR sent photos to Main HR, and Main HR got on the phone with me and said “Oh. You don’t know that, that is Jesus! It could be any cartoon character! We can’t say anything because it really could be anyone.” Over a photo that my very religious BFF looked at and went “Oh. That’s Jesus!”

    The good news is, I’m gone from that location and years later my friends and I still ask ourselves, but what would CubicleJesusTM do? Or my favorite “Do you remember when you were gaslit over Jesus?”

  44. LW4*

    Quick update on the phone interviewer that ghosted – I sent a second followup email a few days later and finally got a reply the day after that (which was a full week after the scheduled call.) Interviewer apologized, citing a large event that almost everyone in the company is on site for this week, and rescheduled for next week.

    I’m giving them another chance because I do know the amount of effort going into this event and was kind of surprised to hear back before it happened, in the first place. We’ll see! I will definitely be keeping this in mind if an offer is made.

  45. Sad Desk Salad*

    Where I live (California, USA), all PTO not taken is paid out at the end of the person’s employment, whether such end is voluntary or not. (That’s why “unlimited PTO” is such a scam. And unfortunately the culture in the US is such that taking any of your entitled leave is so frowned upon that most people take way less than they’re given. If I were fired today, my company would owe me something like $20K in unpaid PTO. They’re generous with PTO but the culture demands that few people actually take all they’re given.) It’s part of your compensation package, so it would make sense that anything over what you’re entitled to would be unpaid–meaning, if you’re paid for something you’re not entitled to, you’ve got to pay it back.

  46. cal*

    1. Because it is your supervisort I would go with ‘By the way, I moved the bible verse and cross to the other side of the room so they weren’t at the shared computer.”’

    I think this will allow you to suss out how your supervisor will respond. In terms of the monitor, you can say you need a clear computer without anything being taped on it. You can add that you don’t want the computer screen being spoiled by having to remove stuff that was taped on.

  47. cactus lady*

    LW #2 – I was in the same position before I started my current job. For me, though, it was in the time period when I was moving for my job and my boss knew I wasn’t working at the time. I felt a lot of pressure to attend the meetings so I did. Reflecting back on it now, I wish I had asked about how I would be compensated for my time since I wasn’t yet an employee. An hourly rate? A stipend/honorarium per meeting? And ask it as if OF COURSE they’re not going to ask you to work for free before your job starts. This might be enough to get them to stop, or at least think very carefully about what they’re asking you to do.

  48. RagingADHD*

    Yoga pants are obviously more casual than slacks, but how revealing they are has more to do with fit and opacity than anything else.

    I’ve seen plenty of folks wearing the wrong size dress slacks, or in a light color, who were showing off their underwear choices way more than they probably intended. And conversely, dark yoga pants in the right size don’t reveal anything except the fact that you have legs.

  49. OP #1*

    Hi all! First off, thank you Alison for publishing my letter! I have never been so excited over an email!

    To clarify a couple of things a few people seem to be hung up on: First, I tried to be clear in my letter that I in no way begrudge people their religion, and have no issue having a supervisor who is Christian, it’s just very uncomfortable for me to have religious iconography staring me in the face while I’m trying to work, due to some past trauma. And yes, there are Bible verses and other blatantly Christian pieces taped to our monitor and a couple in frames set up around the desk. I have a great relationship with my team and the responses to this letter encouraging passive aggressive (or just outright aggressive) behavior are… not particularly helpful for maintaining that, and I appreciate the folks who didn’t go that route.

    And then, to update! When I came in this morning after reading Alison’s response and some comments, I got up the gumption to ask my coworker direcy about the pieces, as someone suggested it would be good to be 100% sure they weren’t hers. She confirmed to me she is in no way religious, they aren’t hers, and she also would prefer if they weren’t taking up our shared desk space. We’re going to mention moving them to our boss this afternoon, calmly and cheerfully, together. Wish us luck!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Please update us after! I’m so glad Alison’s response to you was helpful.

    2. middle name danger*

      Having an abundance of those things staring at you is so much worse than if it was just one bible verse or a single statue…Best of luck! I’m glad your coworker feels similarly.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Also frankly I would find having that many non-work items taped to my monitor distracting regardless of what they were!

    3. Purple Cat*

      Good luck! You seem totally reasonable and this is an appropriate request. I hope your boss is equally reasonable in return. If you guys alternate days at the desk you can also suggest that they get put in a drawer when boss isn’t there and boss can take them out on days they use the desk. (Obviously doesn’t really work if it’s truly shared and intermingled all day long).

      1. OP #1*

        Unfortunately we overlap quite a bit, but that’s a good suggestion for folks who share an office at different times for sure!

    4. Nameless in Customer Service*

      I hear you (I too have scars from a Christian childhood, both emotional and physical), I think you’re perfectly reasonable (don’t mind the occasional Christianity Is So Oppressed commenter, you know how that song goes) and I wish you all luck and comfort!

    5. Morgan*

      Good luck! As one religious trauma survivor to another, I hope your healing journey goes well, or whatever we’re calling the process. Ignore any responses that minimize what you’ve been through. And thank you for approaching your supervisor with kindness!

    6. Stevie*

      Good luck! It sounds like you’re handling this in an extremely reasonable and professional way!

  50. Lobsterman*

    LW 1 – my 2c is to go very hard on this. Take pictures, go to HR, be prepared to move on from this job. There is a type of confrontational, self-justifying person that uses religion as a way to pick fights and is supported by some pretty mainstream sects.

  51. OP #1*

    A quick turn around update to my update!

    When I got back from lunch, my boss was in, so my coworker and I popped into the office and just asked if the religious stuff was hers. She said it was, and we just nicely asked if it would be possible to move it/take down what was on the monitor since it was a shared space and the taped-up things were distracting. This is where it gets funny! We recently took over this office from someone who no longer works in our facility (corporate buyout = lots of shuffling around), and apparently there was a Bible verse already taped to the existing monitor the first time our boss got into the office! We had our wires crossed a little bit about when everyone had been in the office for the first time, and she assumed one of us had put the verse up, so she figured it was alright to put up some things of her own! We laughed about it a bit and she is fine with taking the personal items down in favor of getting some new office supplies and a desk organizer instead.

    I’m glad we took the calm, assume-the-best of people approach, and this work relationship can continue to be as great as it was before this conversation.

    1. Other Claire*

      That’s great to hear, thanks for updating! It’s always nice to get a reminder that reasonable people exist and that a calm approach can work out.

    2. Purple Cat*

      You win the prize for the most updates in real time! Great news. And validation that even “bad” situations on AAM can often be worked out reasonably.

    3. OP #1*

      I’m so thankful for Alison and the commenters! Y’all gave me the confidence to have the conversation!

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Congratulations! Sounds like one of the best case scenarios all around!

  52. Essess*

    You definitely shouldn’t attend meetings before your start date. You are legally required to be paid for work time, including meetings and if you don’t actually work for them yet it will cause a mess to try to get paid correctly.

  53. Elliot*

    The company I work for, a Fortune 500 company, has a similar PTO policy. If you voluntarily leave the company we do require you pay back any unearned PTO. However if you’re let go we consider any unearned PTO a loss and don’t go after it. I’m not completely sure why, though I was close enough to a post-firing situation that got scary that I assume that it has at least something to do with not pushing already fired and potentially angry people further.

  54. Hamburke*

    #3 – Yoga pants shouldn’t be a problem but you’d likely be more comfortable with a looser fitting shirt than most form-fitting/support workout tops. A regular tee shirt would probably do the trick.

  55. Jonquil*

    Every time I think I know every horror of the American employment system, I discover a new one. LW5, and other Americans, I’m so sorry you have to put up with this.

  56. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    While I realize that the actual LW#1 situation is settled now (and so reasonably! by people discussing things!), I’m curious how Alison’s “move it somewhere else” advice would change if such a quote or other similar decoration was taped to the monitor in such a way that it’d be difficult to remove it without damaging the decoration? The last time I taped quotes to a monitor was in college, they were printed out on regular printer paper and trimmed down, and I definitely taped them in such a way that they would not be removable without likely damage to the paper they were printed on. (I wanted them to survive the various moves in and out of the dorm, so I completely covered them with tape.)

    I personally wouldn’t tape something that thoroughly to a work monitor unless it was an official property label of some kind, since I’d want to be able to remove anything personal later, but I’m also one of the few people at my office who doesn’t cover their work laptop in stickers so I know I’m somewhat out of step on this and I could see it happening.

    In that case, do you risk damaging the quote while removing it, cover it up with another layer, or try some other strategy?

  57. Aunty Fox*

    For LW 2, I had a lot of emails before starting both my last job and my current one, and all it was, was so that I could be aware of where projects were when I started and hit the ground running, instead of my boss having to dig out and forward three weeks worth of key emails on my first day. I popped them into a folder as Alison suggests and ran through them a few days before starting so I had a feel for where we were. Work email addresses in my area don’t get set up before you start.

  58. Yellow*

    LW1 either request that no personal stuff be left on the shared desk, or learn to ignore it.

    Not having anything is reasonable. If you want the stuff you like, but not the stuff they like, it will cause problems. Best bet is to have somewhere to put personal stuff and leave the desk completely clear for the next user.

    Whatever you do, don’t go searching for ways to offend your boss or coworker in some escalation of office decorations. Not least because, you will have limited comeback if you do need to escalate if you’ve been decorating the shared space with contentious stuff yourself.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      This isn’t “office decorations” though, it’s specifically religious items. The OP has a right to request that it not be in there. If anyone gets offended by being asked to keep religion out of a shared work space it reflects poorly on them.

  59. Evvie*

    #2 In K12 education, that’s normal. You’ll get emails about things that don’t apply to you and that you’ll still expected to attend constantly. That said, the frequency of pre-work emails is red flag city for me.

    In this case, the boss likely doesn’t expect attendance at meetings that occur during your current work hours but expects you to read the emails so you’ll “need less training” when you start.

    I’d email to clarify, though. I’ve had principals who definitely wouldn’t have understood why I didn’t attend these meetings.

    Education is its own lawless world. Start and end dates and times don’t matter!

  60. Scaredy Cat*

    LW #5: I live (and work) the the EU, where regulations mandate that all member states provided a minimum of 20 days PTO. Like in your case, these days are all made available to us at the beginning of the year. And yes, if you leave the company and are in the “red” with them, you have to pay the company back. Still, it’s a bit less weird, in that they just deduct this from your last paycheck, not make you send money to the company.
    At the same time, if you leave with PTO left over, you get it paid out (added to your last paycheck).

    My personal experience has always been the latter, since my bosses almost never let me leave without working the full notice period.

    Now, there is one scenario that I see being embarrassing, but I’m guessing this is something that would be discussed on a case-by-case manner. So we are paid once a month, and the last paycheck may be a full month or less, depending on the last work day. Hypothetically speaking, you may end up working 2 days, but “be in the red” for 4 days PTO, in which case the last paycheck wouldn’t cover the additional PTO. So I’m not sure how things would pay out in this scenario.

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