my coworker says we shouldn’t hire women of child-bearing age, new colleague lied about his name, and more

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

1. My coworker says we shouldn’t hire women of child-bearing age

I’m leaving my first professional job at a smallish, dysfunctional company (~150 employees), and I’m thrilled to be moving on!

However, I’m friends with a manager in another department, and at lunch yesterday she told me, “I’ve tried to encourage HR to stop hiring women of birthing age since they’re likely to need maternity leave and may not even come back after it’s over.”

I was flabbergasted. This coworker is the hiring manager for all folks entering her department, and the unethical hiring practice she described is discriminatory and, from what I understand, illegal. I was so shocked in the moment, I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. Now that I’ve slept on it, I’m angry, and I want to do something about it.

I’ve got three options as I see it: (1) Go back to my coworker directly and tell her that what she’s described is unethical and illegal, and she should reframe how she’s hiring pronto. (2) Go to HR and tell them what happened. I would also suggest management training since it’s clear this coworker has poor judgement as a manager at best. (3) Keep my mouth shut and count my lucky stars that I’m leaving this dysfunctional place.

What do you recommend? For what it’s worth, I’m a “woman of birthing age” and this coworker may have discriminated against me if I’d been interviewing for a position in her department, which makes this sting even more.

You can try to tell your coworker how incredibly wrong-headed and illegal this is and, who knows, maybe you’ll get through. But the most important thing is to report it to HR because she’s opening the company to legal liability and they need to address it with her immediately. I’m concerned that she claims she’s already told HR where she stands on this (while encouraging them to illegally discriminate in hiring, WTF) because if that’s true and they didn’t immediately set her straight, the problem goes well beyond your coworker — but maybe there’s more to the story or she twisted it in the telling. In any case, reporting it to HR is the way to go, and you should frame it as if of course they will be appalled to learn this, and of course this is obviously offensive to any sane person, and of course they will want to immediately address it so the company isn’t in legal jeopardy. Then leave and don’t look back.

2. My new coworker lied to me about his name

I recently started a new job. On my second or third day, a coworker from a different department came up to me and introduced himself as Bob Jones. Bob said that he was new to the company too and we had a nice chat. We’ve had a few pleasant interactions in the past few weeks that seemed normal enough.

Here’s the problem: I can now definitively say that this guy’s name is NOT Bob Jones. I’m absolutely positive. I was able to talk to another coworker who confirmed that this guy’s name is Jim Green. I’ve seen Jim interact with other people and every single one of them has called him Jim. And he’s not new to the company, he’s a department manager who’s been here for years (and is apparently a renowned jerk). To make things even weirder, we do have a Bob Jones who’s new to the company, but he’s in a different department and looks nothing like his imposter. I’ve spent the past few weeks wondering if there were two identical twins with different last names working here. But they couldn’t look more different.

How do I handle this guy? I’m grateful that he showed his true colors within 15 seconds of meeting him, but I’ll need to work with him occasionally. And do I keep calling him Bob, or should I go with what I assume is his real name?

I think “renowned jerk” is the key here. The most likely explanation is that Jim is either messing with you or messing with Bob — or both. He probably thinks it’s a funny prank — although “haha, I fooled a new person about something they had no reason to question” is not in fact particularly funny. Renowned jerks tend not to have especially refined senses of humor.

I’d just blandly switch to calling him Jim as if his conversation with you never happened.

3. My coworker is never here — can I ask for his office?

During Covid lock downs, my company let us work remotely. Since being pretty much forced back into the office, one of my coworkers who performs the same job as me has more or less just ignored their repeated demands and shows up maybe once a month. This is the one person who has been there so long that he could get away with murder.

Since returning to the office, my role has changed a little and I’m doing more work that requires much more focus and attention to detail. I am the only person in my team who is sitting in a cubicle; everyone else has an office. Is it wrong to ask my manager for my coworker’s office since he’s never there?

If you’re there every day and he’s there once a month, it’s a reasonable request to make — which isn’t the same thing as meaning it will be granted, particularly if your coworker has been granted prima donna status, but it would certainly be a sensible thing for your manager to consider. Point out that your work requires focus that easier in a space where you can concentrate and that the empty office is going unused, and ask if you can move into it.

It’s possible that your manager won’t say yes simply because doing so would be admitting that they’ve capitulated to your coworker’s insistence on staying home, but it’s worth a try.

4. Should I tell my new boss about my fertility treatments?

I started a new job a couple months ago that I really love. My partner and I are also in the beginning stages of fertility treatments, which require multiple in-person appointments throughout the month.

I’m going to do my best to schedule appointments in the early morning or over lunch, but I’ll likely need to notify my manager about some of them. So far I’ve called these appointments “doctor’s appointments.” I’m worried that eventually my manager will either (1) worry or ask about a potential medical issue or (2) wonder if I’m applying elsewhere or not as committed to my new position. Since this is a new job, I don’t have as much rapport built up as I did at my last company or a long, dependable track record to help dispel concerns. She has asked about one of these “doctor’s appointments” already, which is what sparked my concern. (I had been feeling sick with a cold. She asked in a meeting whether my doctor’s appointment was due to being sick or if it was for something else. I quickly said it was for something else and moved on with the conversation!)

I’m wondering whether it would be helpful to share with my manager that I’ll be undergoing fertility treatments and that I might need to step away for a couple appointments throughout the month. I’m hesitant to share because it can be a sensitive topic for me (and I really don’t want questions checking in about how it’s going) but also because I would hate for preemptive pregnancy discrimination to impact my career at this new company.

Don’t share it. It might go fine or she might end up being nosy and/or discriminating against you in some way (see #1 above), and it’s not worth the risk. It’s also not at all necessary; you can address both your concerns without sharing private medical information with her. Try saying, “I want to mention that I’m going to have some ongoing medical appointments this year — it’s nothing to worry about, just something I need to get taken care of. I’m trying to schedule them for the early morning or over lunch as much as I can, but I probably won’t be able to do all of them that way.” That’s it — that shares the part that’s relevant to her and reassures her there’s nothing she needs to worry about, without disclosing personal medical info that she doesn’t need to have.

5. Using PTO when the office closes early

Our office closes Friday afternoons in the summer and requires everyone to use four hours of PTO. However, my daily schedule ends at 3 pm. They still want me to use four hours of PTO every Friday and I think I should only have to use two since I’m not scheduled for the whole afternoon. I feel like I am not really “off” for those four hours and am using up my vacation for hours that I wouldn’t be in the office anyway. Who is right?

You are.

It’s also messed up that they’re making everyone use PTO when the office closes, especially four hours a week for the whole summer. That’s going to use up a massive amount of PTO for people of the course of the summer and certainly isn’t a benefit in the way summer hours are normally intended.

{ 509 comments… read them below }

  1. IT Relationship Manager*

    LW #1: *screams in every time I’ve been asked if I’m planning on having kids in an interview*

    1. RedinSC*

      I’m in the US, but back in 2002 we were doing a lot of off shore hiring in India, and the HR lady there told me I needed to ask women candidates if
      1. Their parents were planning on arranging a marriage any time soon
      2. would they be moving to be with that arranged spouse
      3. do they have kids, or will they be having kids in the near future

      I just could not. I told her that there is no way I would be asking these questions. I suspect she asked them of the candidates I passed on to be hired.

      1. MassChick*

        OMG. I am in India and had not heard of this! Terrible. I hope the women candidates show their outrage, but given their age (the HR lady would only ask the young and “marriageable” women) they might be too intimidated. I hope they just lie to her if the answer isn’t favourable.

        1. RedinSC*

          Good to know, and remember, this was also 20 years ago, so hopefully things have changed there as they have been changing here in the US, too.

          1. MassChick*

            Ah I misread the year as 2022..whew! Certainly not saying this wouldn’t happen but it wouldn’t be as blatant. I hope.

    2. Casper Lives*

      The manager said openly what a lot of companies think quietly. It’s not legal to discriminate but hiring managers do it, consciously or subconsciously.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Removed the off-topic part of your post. (I am with you on abortion rights but this is not the place to discuss it, nor can I moderate the ensuing discussion.)

      2. NewishButLearning*

        OP here – two other coworkers were at lunch and heard her say this. I asked one of them if I should report it to HR, and she cited this sentiment as the reason why I shouldn’t report it *facepalm*

        1. Sinking second childhood*

          That doubles the need to tell HR. And it may mean citing exact legal codes in case HR itself doesn’t think it’s a problem.

              1. Lydia*

                OT My husband and I play Rock Band and we frequently ask each other “Is that a band name?” This would definitely be a band name.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Actually I wouldn’t report it. You are leaving. Not your circus, not your monkeys.

          Yes, we should all stand in solidarity and work to improve things for those who come behind us. In reality, HR already knows this manager’s attitude. HR has apparently done nothing. Reporting it to them won’t suddenly make them go “OP — who is leaving — says this is wrong, we should do something.” You said the company is dysfunctional, well this is one more example. Let them wallow in their dysfunction. Then when they get hit with a discirmination lawsuit, you can laugh your ass from the safety of your new job in a non-dysfunctional place.

          And before anyone says it — NO OP will NOT be held liable for not reporting it if discrimination does happen. Unless OP was a higher level manager or HR, she had no duty of care for which she can legally be held responsible.

          1. WellRed*

            We don’t know for sure that HR is aware. OP isn’t risking anything by having a conversation.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Lunch companion said she had been trying to convince HR to not hire women of child bearing age. OP should take this person at their word that HR is aware of her position. OP is leaving the company, she does not need to spend her time and energy investigating whether or not HR knows already. OP needs to focus on getting the hell out of there and moving to her new job with bright hopes.

              1. NeutralJanet*

                It’s possible that Lunch Companion didn’t explicitly tell HR that they shouldn’t hire women of child-bearing age, only that during the hiring process she advocated for men or older women to be hired, and possibly said that she didn’t get the sense that any candidates of child-bearing age seemed like they would be committed to the job, without saying why. Good HR should have been able to read between the lines of this happened more than once, but the fact that she said the quiet part out loud to OP doesn’t mean that she did to HR. I agree that OP doesn’t need to spend time and energy investigating this issue, but I don’t see why she shouldn’t say something, especially since she’s leaving so there’s no real way for anyone to retaliate against her.

                1. pancakes*

                  Yeah, it’s not inconceivable that she has just enough sense to have been more subtle with HR than she is with peers, and the potential cost to the letter writer of relaying this info directly and politely, without getting overly involved (i.e., trying to keep up with any fallout at the old employer) are nil.

                2. tangerineRose*

                  It’s possible that HR has been trying to convince the manager that this is wrong (but isn’t being blunt enough) and maybe another person reporting this will get their attention.

              2. Rolly*

                The OP leaving is a good reason to report it. The world would be a much better place is more people talked openly about stuff like this, without hesitation.

                1. Rain's Small Hands*

                  I’d talk to HR adding the last point “and now that I’ve heard this,of course if I’m asked to be a witness if there is ever a discrimination suit I would have to tell the truth, and she said it in the cafeteria, and more people than just me heard it.” (The chances there will be are miniscule, the chances attorneys would find her are smaller still, but it brings home the point that if such a case were to hit the news, the OP MIGHT come forward with “yep, and yep, HR knew.”

                  Companies do this, and its wrong – but corporate America is filled with “it doesn’t count if you don’t get caught” so the manager’s indiscretion may be the seen as the bigger problem here – because now if they do it the chances they get caught are going up. (And, if they are insightful, they will understand that the manager has now exposed them to being set up – multiple people have heard this.

              3. Workerbee*

                Lunch companion with such reprehensible views means I wouldn’t take any such “I tried with HR” assertion at face value.

              4. Lydia*

                Shitty Manager could have been using a little bit of hyperbole and since there’s no way to know, report to HR. Sorry, buddy, but in this day and age “not my monkey, not my circus” doesn’t stand up in situations like this.

                1. Aeroloft*

                  It really doesn’t anymore, not with the constant attack with women’s rights underway.

                2. Jake*

                  I think this is unfair. There is a lot of illegal and immoral things happening in businesses all across the country. Is it our moral obligation to bring every single instance to light? If so, we are all miserable failures.

                  Would you go to HR if you found out your work friend was leaving early every Friday an hour early and charging the company for that time? Would your answer change if you worked for a workers’ rights non-profit since that theft no longer effects the owners of a company, but now a cause you believe in? Who gets to decide when a person is obligated to stand up to injustice?

                3. pancakes*

                  Jake, we all get to decide that every time we make a choice for ourselves. Of course different people will want to make different choices about the situation in the letter. Of course people would want to make varying choices about other situations, too. It doesn’t follow that it’s productive to try to change the subject. It’s ok for people to disagree about this situation.

              5. Newsletter Subscriber and T-shirt Wearer*

                This is one of a hundred different ways that the practice is allowed to continue and replicate, though. Current employees who have reason to fear blowback and/or worry about job loss aren’t going to say anything. (If it’s a small company, Glassdoor isn’t a safe option either.) The otherwise qualified women who aren’t getting brought in for an interview aren’t going to know this is going on. The likelihood of a lawsuit is far less inevitable than someone in that HR eventually moving over to another company and realizing that approach will work just fine there, too.

                If it bothers OP enough to consider saying something…even if HR has already made their decision that it’ll be quietly tolerated, being seen enough times might at least put them on notice.

            2. Momma Bear*

              I think OP leaving is all the more reason to say something, as there won’t be much time for retaliation to OP and could spare other people some angst in the process. I also wonder what the coworker thinks is the right age range? Really if companies valued women at all they’d make it easy for them (and all parents, really) to return to work and have a good work-life balance. Then there wouldn’t be this exodus after childbirth worry.

              1. Momma Bear*

                (Amended to say exit after adding to their family, but the OP said their coworker’s concern was specifically “childbearing” women.)

            1. Observer*

              The OP should definitely report this. But there is actually no legal issue here for the OP to worry about.

            2. Klara*

              Not necessarily moral, but ethical. This is a case for the use of applied ethics, in which we question whether a given action or decision is in any way unfair, unkind, unjust or dishonest. You only need one check mark; by my count, deciding not to reports nets at leas two. Verdict: objectively unethical.

          2. Lady Blerd*

            Disagree, the fact that OP is leaving puts them in a good position to at least help future female candidates and not risk any retaliation.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            If I were leaving I would DEFINITELY report it. I can afford to since I’m not going to be there to face any blowback.

          4. ceiswyn*

            OP: “My coworker is at least advocating for, and possibly actually doing, illegal things. I am in a position to report this without any negative consequences.”
            You: “Don’t report it.”

            Whyever not?!

            1. EPLawyer*

              Because not everyone has to fight every fight. Sometimes we are allowed to walk away and just protect ourselves.

              1. Observer*

                What does the OP have to protect herself from?

                It would be bad enough if you were just saying that she doesn’t have a moral obligation, but you are actually actively discouraging her from reporting. And making it sound as if there is some significant risk to her in reporting. And that’s just nonsense.

              2. ceiswyn*

                Protect yourselves from the NO NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES?

                Do you want to try that one again?

                1. Jake*

                  Its a small world. There is no such thing as being able to know there are no negative consequences.

                2. Observer*

                  @Jake, you can never be 100% sure of no negative consequences. But in this case the chances of bad consequences from reporting are not greater than the chances of bad consequences from NOT reporting.

              3. Myrin*

                I mean, OP certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to say anything if she felt like she’d rather look forward and leave this subject alone, but it doesn’t sound from her letter like she feels like that at all.
                The worst thing that can happen is that HR indeed knows everything about Discriminating Diana already and has decided not to act and as such continues to not act. And if that’s the case, OP can still say “well, at least I tried” and move on. So I’m not seeing any consequences.

              4. Newsletter Subscriber and T-shirt Wearer*

                Okay, sure. But in deciding whether to walk away or not, there’s an assessment to make. The short version: How much do you care, and are you willing to deal with any repercussions?

                – How much caring: What we’ve got to go on is that the OP cares enough about this that they wrote to Ask A Manager. (Maybe this is an assumption I shouldn’t make, but I will guess that OP does not write to AAM every time they have to contemplate whether to speak up about something.)
                – Repercussions: “Just protect ourselves,” especially in the context of an advice column about workplaces? That has meant thousands of things here, in every installment. If you mean “A person can consider their own personal situation and priorities more important than this issue?” Just say so.

              5. MCMonkeyBean*

                But OP clearly *wants* to, so why would you try to talk them out of it??? There is literally no downside to doing the right thing here.

                1. pancakes*

                  That question is exactly what using language like “allowed” evades. It’s a way to dodge the ethical question of what the appropriate response is.

          5. idwtpaun*

            Maybe I’m being incredibly naive here, but I don’t agree that reporting to HR won’t do anything. They may have done nothing because they’re being conflict avoidant and just hoping that the discriminating manager keeps it to themselves and the company will avoid having to fact the liability, but if they knew that the discriminating manager is actually openly talking about breaking the law, it may spur them to actually do something to protect the company.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I agree–it’s possible they thought they could just ignore the hiring manager’s stupidity but hearing that she is spreading it elsewhere might change their stance. It’s also possible that this woman has only mentioned it to one particular HR person who doesn’t want to do anything about it, but if OP brings it up as a complaint then other HR personnel may get involved which may result in actual action.

              Or of course it is indeed possible nothing changes. But you never know until you try and I think it’s fairly rare to have a case like this where what’s being said is so clear-cut in it’s illegality and the person reporting has so little to personally lose from reporting it–so why not try?

          6. Observer*

            In reality, HR already knows this manager’s attitude. HR has apparently done nothing. Reporting it to them won’t suddenly make them go “OP — who is leaving — says this is wrong, we should do something.”

            If OP does this in writing it WILL be a piece of evidence that they “know or should have known” about the discrimination. So there is that.

            Also, if the OP reports it a high enough level it might go to someone with a bit more understanding of the legal issue at stake.

            1. Christmas Carol*

              Exactly, OP should not only report it to HR, they should also report it to who ever is above HR, and to Bad Manager’s supervisor as well. . If Bad Manager has been trying to persuade HR to follow this patently illegal and horrible practice , and HR’s response has been anything other than an immediate shut down of this, and notification to Bad Manger’s boss, they are derelict in their duty

          7. tamarack and fireweed*

            *We should all stand in solidarity.* And when solidarity is low-risk and cheap, then especially I’ll side-eye anyone who doesn’t chip in to bend this particular arc into the right direction.

        3. pancakes*

          Whew, these people have terrible ideas and terrible judgment. “I think it’s common and therefore it’s acceptable” is not how that works!

        4. Pocket Mouse*

          Please report it. Even if HR was aware it was going on from her directly, they might be more motivated to action if they knew that others are aware it’s highly illegal and that there’s at least one person who (because they’re already leaving) would have no reason *not* to report it to EEOC.

        5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I’d still report it and frame it as my concern the company, due to the manager jeopardizing it by going around making these statements to seemingly anyone who’d listen (with added comments that can be interpreted to mean that she told HR and they were okay with her idea). Even if the company secretly wishes they could have a policy not to hire women of childbearing age, they know they’ll be sued into oblivion if this gets out. They do not want that.

          FYI, this was a pretty open (maybe not in writing, but employers had no problem talking about it) policy in my home country when I was in my 20s and was starting a family. No one had any recourse. I wasn’t denied a job explicitly for that, but was sent on an indefinite unpaid mat leave after my 1st was born, and was turned down for a job at another place a year later because “our policy is we don’t hire women”. The country had pretty much zero enforceable labor laws at the time, but we had other things going on like the country dissolving, the economy collapsing, hyperinflation, high crime rates etc. The US is not there yet (and hopefully never will be). This will not fly here now. I say report.

        6. knope knope knope*

          I am a 37-year-old mother of 2 in a leadership in Fortune 100 company. I BEG of you to report this. We women must help each other.

        7. Ellie*

          Nah, you can’t police someone’s thoughts, but as soon as she said it (or acted on it), she had to be reported. Any competent HR would want to know that she is making statements that will land them in legal trouble, if they’re overheard by a prospective candidate. You’re leaving anyway, you don’t have anything to lose. Why not report it?

    3. Still Anon*

      Yep. I have been asked if I want children and if I’m a christian (both nope) in interviews. Even worse, my coworker has been asked how she plans to conceive (they mistook her for a lesbian – she’s not. I am).

        1. Spooncake*

          I mean, to be fair, I’m asexual and I have definitely said this to get it out there before someone else does it for me (and to avoid giving them an actual answer to a question that isn’t any of their business).

      1. pancakes*

        Yikes!! I have never been asked anything like that, nor about plans to conceive (!), and would have some very sharp words for someone who thinks those are good questions. I’d also tell everyone I know and/or had occasion to mention it to about how wildly out of line the interviewer was.

        1. Lydia*

          In college, I applied to a bowling alley called Trinity Lanes. That should have been a highlight, but then the application asked if I was married. I didn’t answer and they asked me why not when I dropped off my application. I said it didn’t seem relevant. Guess who did not get an interview.

          1. pancakes*

            Oh wow, yuck! And the name alone is hardly a tip-off of extremism. Trinity College in my home city, surely named after the Dublin one, isn’t that way at all. The movie theater on campus was a big part of my education in indie movies in my teen years.

            1. Lydia*

              That has not been my experience. Especially when there are three wood cut out bowling pins on the roof. :D

      2. irene adler*

        “Oh my- didn’t see the ‘wants kids’ and ‘must be Christian’ requirements listed in the job description. Maybe you could point these out to me?”

        1. WillowSunstar*

          I’ve been asked about religion but it was at a small company. How I get around it is by stating something like “I was brought up Lutheran and went to Christian elementary school through 6th grade.” Not a lie since it did actually happen. But I’m not going to state in an interview that I also went through the deconversion process as a young adult. That whole conversation would be extremely painful since I would also have to talk about a period in my life in which I was very depressed and probably should have been on medication.

          Seriously companies, why do you ask questions like this?

          1. pancakes*

            Presumably interviewers who ask questions like these are intensely religious. I’m sure it’s less awkward to let them think you might possibly agree with them or fit in there, but I wouldn’t want to find myself working in a place where intense religiosity at work is the norm, let alone allow anyone to believe I’d be comfortable in that type of workplace, and/or don’t see any legal issues with it.

            1. WillowSunstar*

              It depends on the company and how much I am in need of a paycheck. When this happened, I was much younger and also making a young person’s wages. So while I agree on principle, sometimes the capitalist way means people might have to take a job they don’t like in order to survive.

              1. pancakes*

                Of course. It also depends how plausible the candidate’s answers are considered. For someone like me — other people often decide I’m probably Jewish based on my nose, without asking about my background — what we say might not matter as much as how we look, assuming we’re brought in to interview in the first place.

            2. Ellie*

              I’ve been asked the religious question a few times in interviews (illegal of course), and it usually ends up as being one backwards interviewer in an otherwise normal company (I’m an atheist by the way, which was not the answer they were looking for). The ‘are you planning on having kids’ question still gets asked but has largely been replaced with, ‘are you planning on taking any extended leave over the next two years’. I feel free to lie to both of them. Not hiring women across a 20 year age span is on another level though, she’s discriminating against half the workforce.

          2. Irish Teacher*

            I have sort of been sounded out about it, but usually when applying to schools with a minority religious ethos and even then, it’s been “would you be willing to take part in religious activities like accompanying students to religious services?” Not “do you identify with our ethos?” Even when there have been priests or nuns on the panel (and this is not uncommon due to the involvement of the religious in Irish schools), I have never been asked “are you a practicing Catholic?” and certainly never been asked if I planned to have children.

          3. Still Anon*

            They had a business-ish reason for this (mainly if religion would stop me from doing a small part of the job).

            1. pancakes*

              That seems of dubious necessity. The type of question Irish Teacher describes (“would you be willing to do xyz”) makes much more sense. How the candidate feels about it doing something is a much more invasive question than whether they’d be willing to do it.

          4. Le Sigh*

            When asked, I’ve typically responded in the same way. Most of the time it works and people drop it. But I had a client once ask if I was a Christian — I responded in the same way (“I was raised…yada yada”) but apparently that wasn’t good enough. The client had the temerity to ignore what I said and repeat his question, “But are you a Christian now?” I would love to say I was honest that I was atheist or pushed back, but I was young and early in my career in a small southern town and well, I lied and said yes because it wasn’t worth the issues it would create. And by that point I was pretty used to lying about it — I figured if hells exists, I was probably going there anyway for a laundry list of reasons, so what was lying going to do at that point?

            1. pancakes*

              One reason not to lie in that type of situation is to discourage people like that from thinking their views are indeed the default. The more accurate their understanding that not everyone shares their worldview, the less inclined they’ll be to think a question like that for a vendor is appropriate, fair, and likely to get them the answer they crave. Whether lying is or is not acceptable in the universe of their religious beliefs seems relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things, and simply not my problem as a non-believer.

              1. Le Sigh*

                I agree and I don’t have an issue with being honest now. I’m older, more confident, and I don’t live in a small southern town where that would have jeopardized my job if the client took issue with it (and trust me, the client would have and my employer would not have backed me up). I’m no longer in a position where it’s an issue, but I also grew up in communities that viewed atheists as pariahs and even side-eyed Catholics with suspicion. I was open about it on many fronts, but you also have to develop a spidey-sense for picking your battles.

                1. pancakes*

                  But that’s just it, no? One major reason why communities like that are the way they are is that the people living there are afraid to have that battle with one another. If no one is willing to step up and say something along the lines of, “I’m not a believer and I’m part of this community too,” of course the believers living there think they’re part of a powerful majority. Everyone around them is helping them construct that flawed vision. People who speak of “picking their battles” in this context always seem to mean playing along with the status quo until they can get out. I understand that is a survival technique. It isn’t simultaneously a way to change the status quo. It leaves it in place, if not actively reinforces it.

                2. Le Sigh*

                  Well, I didn’t say I *was* changing the status quo and I wasn’t really disagreeing with any of your points. I was simply giving context for why I made those choices and who I was then. And I have no idea if you’ve spent time living in areas like that, but the pressure of that environment is real and it shapes you.

                  At the end of the day, I was 23 and I didn’t yet have the internal confidence to be more outspoken, and had long lived in areas where unions or other social support wasn’t a thing. This also wasn’t about my personal life, it was about my job — I made $25,000/year and if I lost my job, I would have been evicted and defaulted on student loans, among other issues. I made a calculation. If I could go back now, maybe I would have done it differently, maybe not, I don’t know. I was simply explaining who I was then.

                  Yes, it is a survival technique — and you can’t brush that aside because for a lot of people, that’s a very real, very practical thing. Not everyone in a difficult situation (workplace harassment and discrimination, abuse, etc) was born with the confidence or inherent ability to take these things on or is in a financial or personal position to do that. They might realize that if they push back, their employer can just fire them, nothing will change, and they’ll have no way to pay bills. I’m more confident and in a position to do something now — and so I do. Yes, sometimes people in difficult positions still challenge the status quo and that’s awesome and yes, I would very likely encourage someone to speak out if they came to me for advice.

                  But I’m not going to dump on individuals for making the hard choices in bad situations they didn’t ask for or create. And this is why unions, advocacy groups, and other networks are really important. One worker challenging discrimination or unequal pay might get fired with no recourse, but the protection of a union (or even just a group of workers together) provides strength in numbers, and gives people more confidence to take on the systems.

                3. pancakes*

                  I think it is a type of disagreement to make a sort of joke about it and suggest that people make choices like that because they’re young, not wealthy, and planning on going to hell anyhow. The real reasons are the first two, and even those seem dubious because people who are older and not just out of college don’t seem to have an easier time chipping away at that particular delusion of their neighbors. It seems far more often they either endure it or leave. The idea that people need to unionize to have a bit of cultural power the same way workers often need to unionize to have a bit of power over business owners similarly doesn’t sound quite right.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Have been asked, outright and obliquely, if:

        I’m married (yes and I wear my rings but I don’t answer it)
        I have any children (no, again, won’t answer)
        I’m going to have children (absolutely NEVER but none of their business)

        In the case where I actually did get hired there I went to HR and basically laid out the questions I was asked and why they are so problematic: things like it’s not just women who can get pregnant, the assumption that if someone looks female/has feminine name that they must own a working uterus and desire to have kids, that the assumption that woman = going to leave the job soon is ridiculous….

        It was a long list. I was 32 at the time (now late 40s) and just diagnosed with the condition that got my uterus removed a month or so back. I think it’s where my ‘oh no more Mrs Nice Techie’ life started.

        Complain. Absolutely complain.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have to admit, if I was asked that I might cry great big crocodile tears and say “I can’t, I had to have a hysterectomy” and then more tears. Make the person understand why that’s a land mine…

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            If I could cry on purpose I’d totally do that. Alas I’m more of a two fingers and ‘up yours’ type.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I will say though that one unexpected benefit of gender neutral parental leave is that it starts to reduce this bias, especially when fathers are expected to actually use it. In a single mother by choice so it doesn’t *directly* benefit me or my child. But it has absolutely normalized parental leave. I’m in a male dominated industry (engineering) and two of my male coworkers used it in the same year as me, one overlapping for 2 months. My own (male) boss used it a couple of years ago.

      I definitely feel like I don’t stand out as much for having a kid and taking leave. It doesn’t completely remove the bias but it’s a step in the right direction.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I don’t think this is an unexpected benefit at all. Enabling men to parent is the point… on both micro and macro levels.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, but while it enables men to parent, it absolutely reduces the discrimination people who are perceived as women face in the workplace if people of any gender who become parents go on leave.

    5. Other Alice*

      Shout out to the male coworker who once told two women “it’s not true that companies ask you if you plan to have children, they never asked ME”.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Woah, that is impressively missing the point. Not that discriminating against people planning for children would be OK even if it WERE gender neutral, but what makes it even worse is how it’s targetted at one gender.

        1. Seeking second childhood*

          Don’t know the guy, but I read it as him saying no they don’t ask everyone, they just ask women. As in he was agreeing that it’s a problem.

          1. Other Alice*

            To clarify: he was explicitly denying it was a thing that happens to women, because it never happened to him. While two women were discussing times when it happened to them. Aside from that comment he always seemed decent person, which is why it shocked us so much to hear him say that.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              He seemed a decent person, until he finally told y’all who he really was. Good, good.

      2. quill*

        The point passed so far over his head that he thought it was the international space station.

      3. Former Young Lady*

        He can go sit next to the guy who told me at age 20 that he’d never heard of catcalling and he was pretty sure women were making it up.

    6. An anonymous name*

      And unexpected “bonus” of having had kids at a young age is I can reference them at some point in the hiring process*. I’m 41 but apparently read as young-mid 30s, and even though I’ve never been asked about it directly, there’s a vibe I get that goes away when I do something like referencing my resume mom-gap or parenting flexibility (a la COVID) comes up and it’s apparent that my kids are teens.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I would record her quietly (if it’s legal in your state, find a stable !!??) position elsewhere, and then turn it over to HR, AND an employment lawyer or the EEOC.

        Some species of dinosaur are too ugly and dangerous to not be hunted to extinction!
        (I have strong feelings about this because I’m old enough to remember women getting fired (illegally) for getting MARRIED, because it was expected that they would get pregnant soon….

    7. OhGee*

      Not to mention that, at least in my workplace, parents get parental leave AND because our benefits are good, new parents tend to stick around. Covering for leaves can be a challenge, but workplaces should be prepared for that, for any reason, not just childbirth/adoption. This isn’t the 50s — if your workplace offers great benefits and support for parents (like flexibility about family health needs etc), new parents leaving shouldn’t be any bigger of a deal (or more likely) than other staff leaving.

    8. HoHumDrum*

      Well I suppose now with Roe v Wade overturned here in the US they no longer have to ask- anybody with a uterus of approximate child bearing age is one mistake away from being a mother. There is going to be a decline of women getting hired in states without abortion rights, I can sense it. Those women can join the other women who got booted out of the work force by the pandemic loss of childcare options I suppose.

    9. pope suburban*

      Oh jeez, yes, this is the worst. The last time I faced it was during an interview for housing through my employer (They have a handful of properties they rent for cheap in exchange for maintenance/occasional event duties). I found it wildly inappropriate and tried to skirt the issue as diplomatically as I could; the agency has a history of favoring employees with young children and it really upped my discomfort. Needless to say we did not get the housing, which is a real pity as anywhere within even a moderate commute is going to mean being rent-burdened. Oh well, the only thing for it is to leave, which I am trying to do. I hate that this is where we *still* somehow are, in 2022.

  2. E. Smith*

    This is wage theft to me. PTO is a benefit for you to use for your needs. If you are being forced to use it, then it’s not personal & it is not a benefit.
    This sounds fishy wrt accounting. It leaves me wondering if they’re cooking the books by juggling how they account for wages vs benefits & payroll taxes.

    1. Untidy*

      Legal though. In my field it’s’ common for companies to close the last week of the year and make you take PTO for it.

        1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

          How so? My work also closes down for a couple of weeks over Christmas, and basically everyone uses PTO to keep a paycheck over the holiday.
          This sounds like the same kind of thing, just more spread out. I’m genuinely curious if there is a legal or official difference between the two?

          1. Squidlet*

            My husband’s company does the same thing.

            On a practical level, a (mandatory) week off is at least more useful than numerous (mandatory) half-days. You can plan a trip or go hiking or tackle a big craft/DIY project, whereas OP is just getting home a couple of hours earlier than useful.

            1. metadata minion*

              I think that’s a very individual thing. I would much rather have Friday afternoons off than a whole week.

              1. The Original K.*

                I had half day summer Fridays at a previous job (did not have to use PTO) and I loved it – I could get all my Saturday errands done, which freed up the rest of my weekend.

                1. londonedit*

                  Summer Fridays is a thing in publishing, but the way it usually works is that you make up the time over the rest of the week – so you do an additional hour Monday-Wednesday and an additional 45 minutes on Thursday, and then you finish at lunchtime on Friday. And it’s usually optional, so you’re not forced to work that schedule if you don’t want to finish early on a Friday. It seems weird to me to a) close early but force everyone to use holiday and b) force the OP to use four hours of holiday when they wouldn’t usually be working for four hours on a Friday afternoon anyway.

                  We also have the closing between Christmas and New Year thing (which is traditional in publishing as it’s a hangover from when the printing presses all used to close for the Christmas holidays) and the way I’ve usually seen that work is that if an employer gives everyone the minimum 20 days’ holiday (which is the minimum required in the UK plus 8 public holidays per year) then the policy is usually that you don’t have to save some of that for the period between Christmas and New Year. But if you get 25 days plus public holidays, then it’s more common for the company to require everyone to save 3 or 3.5 days to cover the holiday period. However I think it’s becoming more common for companies to just decide to treat it as a company holiday and not require anyone to save their leave, even if they give 25+ days of annual leave a year. I think that’s the fairest way all round, but it’s not universal.

                2. The Original K.*

                  Yes, @londonedit – the former employer I’m referring to is a publishing house. My friend works for a different one and their summer Friday schedule is every other Friday off, with an hour added M-Th.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            But the fact that it’s every Friday, to my mind that simply means that the company doesn’t work on Friday afternoons. PTO should be used for times when the company is not closed and the employee cannot/does not want to work for whatever personal reason.
            Salaries should be scaled back to take into account those four unworked hours, but PTO should remain intact.

            1. Blue*

              That would have to be *very* clearly spelled out in hiring…most people cannot afford to take a 10 percent paycut three months out of the year.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            Well, it’s different at least in that you actually get the days off whereas, if I understand the LW correctly, she only benefits from 2h of reduced work but needs to take 4h of PTO.

            I imagine her work day is something like 7:30 am to 4 pm with a half-hour unpaid lunch break. If they close the office at 2 pm she should have to take only 2h of PTO, not 4.

          1. Anon all day*

            It’s only same if someone works, say, 30 hours a week, but is forced to use 40 hours of PTO the week the company is closed because everyone else works 40 hours a week.

      1. JM60*

        The way they are charging the OP 4 hours, even though they are presumably only paying them for 2,probably wouldn’t be legal in most states where the law considers vacation to be wages. If they want to charge the OP 4 hours, they should pay them 4 hours.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oooh good point. If they are hourly, they should be paid for the hours of PTO. If they are salaried (most likely) then the company needs to stop taking PTO for hours they weren’t scheduled to work.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            If they’re salaried they should get to leave at noon. Even salaried, if they have to take half a day mandatory PTO they need to get to work half a day less.

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          OP’s situation (losing 2 hours of PTO for no reason) would be illegal in my state, as vacation/PTO is considered earned compensation and must be paid out. The company could get away with making employees use PTO for office closures, but only for the hours they were actually scheduled to work.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            11, I think? Everyone else normally works til 5 and takes 4 hours off. If OP normally works til 3 but also has to/ “gets to” take 4 hours off, they’re done at 11.

      2. ceiswyn*

        Yes, but the OP is being required to use PTO to cover times they wouldn’t be working anyway. It’s more like expecting you to use PTO for your weekends.

    2. Ben Marcus Consulting*

      It’s not theft if you’re being paid for it. It’s unlikely there’s any ‘cooking the books’, it’s more likely this is how the office keeps PTO down so that staff aren’t taking off time during the winter…or what is presumably their busy season.

      1. Casper Lives*

        But the part where LW wouldn’t be working those hours anyway is questionable. How can you be forced to take PTO for hours you wouldn’t be working? That’s like saying you’ve got to take 16 hours of PTO for the weekend. When your office isn’t open weekends.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Our PTO system is specifically designed so that it can’t charge you more PTO than will bring you up to your officially assigned hours for the week. So a 1.0 FTE employee can’t take four hours of PTO if they have 38 hours on the clock, even if they put it in and I as their manager approve it the extra 2 will be returned to their PTO bank. Likewise, a 0.9 FTE (36 hours) who works four days and puts in 8 hours for the last one will only get 4 hours paid and the other four will be returned to their bank. This applies to all our team members, exempt and non. The only way to get paid for more than your officially allotted weekly hours is as worked overtime, in which case the worked hours will count first and then extra PTO if applicable will be refunded to your PTO bank. (We aren’t in California where daily OT would apply.)

        2. Antilles*

          How can you be forced to take PTO for hours you wouldn’t be working?
          Because most of the US has basically no regulations/requirements related to PTO. Zip, zero, zilch. The company has no legal requirement to provide PTO so they can mostly do what they want with it and set whatever rules about “required use” that they want.
          So yes, they can absolutely force you to take PTO for the hours the office is closed. It’s no different than how companies can force employees to burn a day of PTO if the office is closed due to snow or how you can be required to burn PTO if you’re forced to quarantine for Covid.

          1. ceiswyn*

            Well, yes it is different. Because those are occasions on which you would otherwise be working. OP would not.

          2. LizB*

            No argument that the company’s probably within the law here, but I think it is a little different from situations you described in that the OP is being charged PTO for hours outside of their normal schedule. For a while I worked at a business that was staffed 24/7, and my schedule was Friday-Tuesday, so my “weekends” were Wednesday and Thursday; if the business had somehow been closed for a snow day on a Wednesday, I’d be pretty annoyed if I got charged PTO for that closure, because I was never going to be working that time in the first place. It’s another level of nonsensical on top of the examples you gave.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      If the OP5 is hourly, then they should be getting paid for the four hours of PTO so it’s not theft (but might push them into 42 hours per week). If they’re not, they ought to be getting two hours of comp time at some other point in the week.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Overtime pay is based only on hours actually worked (not hours paid for), so those four hours of PTO wouldn’t trigger an overtime pay requirement.

        1. Starbuck*

          Oh word, so a company could have you work 40 hours in a week, pay straight time for that, and then just decide to also charge you some PTO on top of that? Obviously there’s no sensible reason why they’d want to – but there’s nothing stopping them other than their own policies?

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        OT is not required to be paid for PTO used only for hours over 40 worked.

        Let’s say you take one 8 hr day of PTO during the week, work 32 hrs, Tues to friday but then work 6 hrs Saturday and 6 hrs Sunday. So timesheet would be 40 hrs of straight regular pay, 8 hrs PTO regular pay, and 4 hours of actual OT pay.

      3. Green great dragon*

        But Tinkerbell’s comment stands even if the 42 hours doesn’t matter here. Sounds like OP is being paid for 6 hours, working 4, and losing 4 PTO, or maybe being paid for 8 and working 6. It seems amazing anyone thinks that’s reasonable.

        What happens if they ask to start later on Friday, or to be scheduled up to 5 like everyone else?

    4. AcademiaNut*

      If the LW is exempt, it’s a sucky thing to do, but I’d be surprised if it’s illegal. She’s still getting paid for a whole week’s work, and exempt employees don’t get paid hourly or qualify for overtime, so expecting someone to work 50 hours and then use PTO for Friday afternoon is sucky but legal.

      FWIW, there are a lot of jobs where you’re expected to use PTO to cover business closures – the time around Christmas and New Year’s being a classic example, or some areas of manufacturing where the plant closes down completely for a week or two. There are also many jobs that have blackout periods for PTO, before major deadlines or on particularly busy days.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, it’s common in the UK to do that over the 3 working days between Christmas and New Year. After a change in management, we also now have to account for bank holidays out of our holiday hours, but (a) we still get what we were getting before (29 days plus however many BH we generally get, including an additional one for the Jubilee) and (b) I can understand it, since we’re now managed by a facilities organisation that handles workers who don’t necessarily have bank holidays off. If there’s a piece of clinical equipment that fails or a leak that needs patching, maintenance can’t ask people to wait until Tuesday because Monday is a bank holiday.

        We still take ours as usual for office work, as the office is closed on bank holidays as usual, but it’s there for others who have to be more flexible.

    5. Oakwood*

      4 hours is a weeks worth of PTO gone every 2 weeks.

      If they are doing this for months on end it could, literally, wipe out their PTO for the year, making things like a vacation, Christmas visits, or Thanksgiving travel impossible.

      It’s one thing to close the office for a week and make everyone take a vacation at the same time. It’s another to slowly bleed away PTO.

      PTO is a benefit. No different than medical or retirement. If the company told you they were going to end their 401K match, you’d realize it for what it was: a cut in pay.

      On paper, the company isn’t cutting PTO. The reality is, they are making it impossible for the LW to use it in any meaningful way. It’s a pay cut.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Especially as they’re making people take the least productive half-day of the week.

      2. Loulou*

        Wait, what? Isn’t it a day’s worth of PTO gone every two weeks, assuming an 8 hour day?

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, I think maybe they missed that it is only on Fridays. It is still really crappy of the company to do, but it is losing one *day* of PTO every two weeks, not one week!

      3. NeutralJanet*

        Obviously #5 is extra ridiculous because they’re being required to use 4 hours of PTO when they’re only actually missing 2 hours of work, but being required to take 4 hours of PTO a week, every week all summer is a lot even for people for whom that’s not the case! Assuming that “the summer” runs from some time in June until some time in August, that could easily knock out 40 hours for everyone, which is probably a significant chunk of your yearly allotment.

        I know that some businesses close for the week between Christmas and New Years and make employees take PTO, which I also think is bad, but this feels worse somehow. (Maybe because shorter days on Fridays feels like less of a vacation than an actual full week off? Maybe because many people who celebrate Christmas travel around that time, so probably a not-insignificant number of people would want to take one or two of those days off anyway? I don’t know, it just feels different.)

        I also hope that if you’re hourly, you’re getting two extra hours of pay—that seems like it’d be a legal requirement in some states, though probably not all.

        1. NeutralJanet*

          This was supposed to be a standalone comment, not a reply, but I don’t think it’s overly out of place here, so I guess that’s fine!

        2. Bee*

          Part of the reason this would make me so mad is because I’m spending a full week of vacation time but still have to get up & go to work on time every one of those days. You’re not actually detaching from work or getting any rest, but there’s a third of your vacation time down the drain. I loved summer Fridays when I had them, but they really need to be optional if you’re charging PTO/having people make up the time, OR you just need to suck it up and give everyone those hours off. It was your decision to close, after all, not the employees’.

    6. FalsePositive*

      A friend who works at a local accounting firm has the same problem for their hourly admin staff during the summer. They do summer Friday afternoons off and admin staff can either make up their four hours earlier in the week or mark it as PTO.

    7. MCMonkeyBean*

      It does seem equivalent to wage theft for the OP if they continue trying to make them use PTO for not working hours that they were never scheduled for; but it wouldn’t be for people who are actually scheduled to work 3-5. It would just be very crappy.

    8. Observer*

      This is wage theft to me.

      No, it is not wage theft. And as messed up as this is, it does no one – least of all the OP – any good to claim that this is in any way illegal.

      This sounds fishy wrt accounting. It leaves me wondering if they’re cooking the books by juggling how they account for wages vs benefits & payroll taxes.

      Why on earth? This is not just a “jump”, it’s like you went through a wormhole in space or something.

    9. Bridget*

      A previous job closed the office every Friday in July every year. The option for hourly people was to either work 4 10’s or take PTO. It sucked, because July was never the time that I wanted time off, and I didn’t want to burn up 32-40 hours a year just for those days. I worked 4 10’s, but my job didn’t make sense for those hours so I ended up surfing the internet for a couple hours each day but at least I didn’t have to use my PTO. So stupid.

    10. BabyElephantWalk*

      What’s most egregious to me is that they seem to be ending the day 2 hours early and expecting that she will use 4 hours PTO.

      I’ve had companies dictate that PTO must be taken during a week the entire company is closed before. But asking her to use more hours than she is getting off is just outrageous.

  3. Clobberin' Time*

    “Birthing age”? So, no women ages 18-50? Or is this garbage fire of a co-worker also of the opinion that women effectively stop being able to get pregnant as soon as they turn 30?

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      It’s also naive of her to assume that all women in that age range want to have children. She going to implode when a man of “birthing age” requests paternity leave. Best not to hire any of them just to be safe.

      1. Despachito*

        That would mean hiring no men at all, given that they are able to conceive a child during their whole lives…

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Their whole working lives, anyway. Clearly the solution is to abolish those pesky child labor laws.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          That sounds like the best solution. Only hire men who can prove that they don’t want or can’t have children. We can’t have them losing focus on their work because they have kids distracting them their precious time which must be devoted to their job.

          1. JustaTech*

            Why not just go whole hog and insist that all their employees be totally without any family ties at all: orphaned only children, a la James Bond?

            For goodness sake, it’s a job! People have lives outside of work and still get work done.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      In my experience, this kind of discrimination (which is unfortunately common, but seldom explicit) most often gets applied to women around 25-35 years of age (if college-educated, probably younger if not). So around the societally expected age for having children. It gets worse if married, and much worse if they glean that it’s a recent marriage. And yes, all this is based on clichés and prejudices, as most discrimination is.

      1. NewishButLearning*

        OP here – you’re spot on. She mentioned she was specifically referring to people in their late 20s and early to mid 30s.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes. I have translated tons of “applicant profiles” for a head-hunter client of mine. The men can be of all ages, but the women are never aged less than 40. So it seems like 40 is a cut-off year for childbearing.
        (The women whose profiles I get always either have no children, or at least three, meaning that hiring managers will think “oh she wants to remain child-free” for the former, and “Oh she’s probably done with child-bearing, she has plenty of kids already”. The men mostly have a couple of kids.)

      3. NeutralJanet*

        I mean, it is a cliche, but it’s also probably based on reality (as I suppose most cliches are)—while you certainly might get pregnant if you are 45 and have been married for 16 years and already have a 15 year old and a 12 year old, you probably won’t! Obviously it’s awful and discriminatory to refuse to hire women older than 35 because they might get pregnant, and there are plenty of women who will get pregnant over 35 and plenty of women who won’t have been pregnant by the age of 35…but realistically, if you exclude women within that range, you’ll probably exclude most pregnant women (again, that’s bad, don’t do it).

      4. Allison*

        Crap crap crap crap, I’ve definitely mentioned to interviewers somewhat recently that I’m getting married this summer. I hope they didn’t interpret that to mean maternity leave is just around the corner for me, because my partner and I are not planning on kids.

        1. Jora Malli*

          If they did and they chose not to move you forward because of it, those aren’t people you wanted to work for anyway.

        2. Nameless in Customer Service*

          I hope for both your sake and theirs that they are decent people who will evaluate you on your match with the job and not your marriage status. All good luck.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      So by her own logic, the company should not have hired her.
      s/Clever, this one./s

    4. alienor*

      And then once you’re a woman over 50, age discrimination starts kicking in, so there’s really no way to win ever.

      1. DataSci*

        I think for women age discrimination kicks in at about 35, at least in tech. Certainly I’m seeing it in my early 40s.

        1. quill*

          Women 22-30: not enough working experience!
          Women 27-40ish: but she might need MATERNITY LEAVE!
          Women 40+: Wow, she’s old.

          At what age are we supposed to be able to make a living? *sigh*

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Why did you have to go and accurately describe my entire career like this?

            Never. We are supposed to marry a good man who’ll take care of us while we are at home raising his kids /s

          2. Summer*

            OMG this scares the hell out of me. I’m 43 and absolutely terrified of what awaits me…it truly feels hopeless at times.

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, I started seeing it at 40. I definitely see it at 60. If I’m interviewing in person I dye my hair purple or some other fun color to hide the grey.

    5. Georunner*

      As someone on an extremely competent team made up of mostly women aged 28-32 (6 of us plus two men), this line of thinking blows my mind.

  4. I know it’s late…*

    #2… this reads like a script from “Friends.”
    Toby/Chandler and Joey/Joseph

    The guy was being a jerk. I’d call him a totally different name, like “Sue”.

    1. Sleeve McQueen*

      I wondered how many people would have the same reaction as me, which is to call him a different name in each interaction. Glad to see I am not alone

        1. Pennyworth*

          ”Hi Jim – do I have your name right ? I’m a bit confused because you introduced yourself to me as Bob but I also seem to think of you as Dick.”

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          Side note, there was a Chicago TV news reporter named Dick Johnson, and in one interview he did make a comment that occasionally he had trouble with calling in pizza orders.

        3. Avery*

          I actually know somebody named Dick Johnson! Nice guy, too. Never had the courage to ask him if that name ever caused him any problems.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like this one.

        It is a weird brand of non-humor–like they recognize that claiming to be Spiderman in their off hours would be over the top, but think that claiming they grew up in Iowa when they actually didn’t grow up in Iowa is a hilarious way to show off their ability to manipulate people, rather than just odd.

        1. quill*

          Oh, I had one of those in college. Dude, either change your major every week or don’t, whether you pass or fail or are lying about your major is not actually my problem.

        2. Anonybus*

          Yeah, recreational lying about things nobody is actually that invested in seems like a popular pastime among a-holes. I doubt it’s the win most of them seem to think it is.

        3. JustaTech*

          I once worked with a guy who thought it was some weird form of political protest to always use a fake name when ordering takeout from the teriyaki place next door. The place he ordered from at least twice a week, and always picked up in person. I never did figure out what was up with him (he was good at the technical parts of his job and tremendously unpleasant otherwise), or what the folks at the teriyaki shop thought of him.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        OP could in fact at the next meeting call him “Bob…oh, wait, aren’t you actually Jim?” and embarrass the heck out of him. Although I suspect he’s the type who doesn’t actually embarrass easily, and anyway I don’t actually suggest you do this, OP. But what the heck Jimbob? Or, oooh, you could actually call him Jimbob and really piss him off. (Again, don’t do this. But I can dream, can’t I?)

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This sounds all too familiar to me from my younger years. Grown men thinking they are so coy and so clever with their head games.

      OP, decide right here and right now that you just don’t deal with head games. (Sadly taking the time to firm up this decision will be something that will serve you well as you go along.)

      Looking at this a bit differently, in some companies a person who proclaims to be a different employee can be a huge problem for security or privacy reasons. This stuff won’t fly and it could cause a write up and/or dismissal.
      I am pointing this out so that you know your complaint here is serious in certain settings.

      When I hit stuff like this, it became a caution light where I double checked anything the person told me. If I had to move their work forward, I would double check it before I added my own work on top.

      I tend to agree with Alison just call him by his correct name. If your experience goes like mine, you will find plenty of other stuff later that you may or may not take action on. Silently in your mind, thank him for letting you know the quality of his character.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I was wondering if he, as a manager, was posing as a recently-hired peer to see what the new hire would reveal to him in that guise . . . like some sort of undercover boss scenario. But I think you’re right that he’s just playing coy head games with a young woman, because honestly that tracks with my experience from my younger years, as well.

        1. Gnome*

          But… what could a new employee reveal that would be of interest in any legitimate way? Maybe stuff about their own personality, but nothing that would benefit a manager who is not their own.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It’s not intended to be interesting in a legitimate way. It’s intend to make problems where there aren’t any.

    3. Chikka*

      Maybe the guy just had a brain fart and blurted out the wrong name by accident. It does happen (Google “No I’m Angela Hernandez”).

      1. Napkin Thief*

        Except then he also “accidentally” offered up details that were untrue about himself and are true of Bob. I doubt that he suddenly forgot he’s a long-standing department manager rather than a new employee.

      2. Observer*

        Why are you trying to find utterly absurd “explanations” for someone ridiculous behavior.

    4. WillowSunstar*

      This could be resolved by making everyone wear a badge as part of the company dress code. My current company does that (although of course, it wouldn’t apply if everyone was remote). But you could also require people to put their name on Zoom and not a nickname like I’ve seen some do. (Or the default “iphone” that I’ve also seen.)

      1. Observer*

        There are good reasons to make people wear name tags. Preventing supposedly competent adults from acting like unfunny brats who think that prank calls are the height of humor is not one of them.

    5. Puggie Mom*

      I teach middle school and high school students. This sounds exactly like something one of those ms/hs students might pull. It’s so immature. And, oh, I completely fooled you into believing something that you had zero reason to think any reasonable person would lie about. SMH

      I agree with Alison and the other commenters. Call this person by their real name. Do not acknowledge whatever game they are trying to play with you. Do not engage. They are looking for some sort of reaction – probably you (the OP) looking silly and incompetent. But, failing that, they will settle for confusion and embarrassment. Also, file this away in your mental dossier of information you have about this coworker (co irker). They have shown you exactly you they are. Proceed accordingly.

    6. Xantar*

      Is there any chance this guy has a side hustle where he pretends to be other people and takes interviews for them?

      (Still can’t get that letter out of my mind)

    7. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My sister in law lives in the same neighborhood as me, and I met her new neighbor briefly when I was helping my SIL move in. Months later, SIL had a cookout and introduced me to the neighbor — I said “oh yes, we met when SIL was moving in. Is it Jane?” The neighbor says “no, Jennifer,” I apologize and say it’s nice to see her again. Then she says “no actually, it’s Jessica. No, Samantha. No, Regina! Oh, Stephanie!”

      Suffice to say, Jennifer (her actual name) and I are not friends.

          1. Observer*

            It sounds to me like she was getting snarky that @ICNH had the audacity to not remember her name.

    8. Pants*

      His name is now: Jim-Bob Greenjones.

      I had a guy introduce himself to me as George. His friend said, “Your name is not George!” So I called him Not-George for as long as I knew him. He was irked when it caught on. Served him right.

  5. New Jack Karyn*

    #2: If you feel it’s something you could get away with, keep calling him Bob. Introduce him to other people as Bob. Until the end of time, or he finally corrects you, whichever comes first.

    If he ever corrects you, then ask why he told you his name was “Bob Jones”. He’ll say it was a joke, and then you play the “I don’t get it, where’s the funny” line and just beat it to death. Hopefully in front of other people.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      At the very least, engineer a “chat” with a third person present so you can conspicuously say “Hey, do you know Bob? He’s new too!” and you can both watch him try to backpedal :-)

        1. Freelance Anything*

          Yeah, he would refuse to pick up on any sarcasm and just see that as the punchline.

          If you want to address it all, then New Jack Karyn is right.

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Sure it is but in this scenario he doesn’t actually have the power here since OP knows he was lying. It’d be hilarious for OP to do this and then laugh and say how they already knew that he’s actually Jim and haha isn’t it a funny joke? That might actually get to Jimbob.

          1. Anon all day*

            Nope, bad idea. It’s such a weird thing for the guy to pull that it’d be so easy for him to look at OP and be like “wtf are you talking about?”

      1. Oakwood*

        You engineer the chat when “Bob” isn’t present. Tell them the story of how he introduced himself as Bob, that you caught onto the joke, and now want to turn the joke back on him.

        Get your coworkers to start calling him Bob. Even address him in emails as Bob. Nickname him Bob and make it stick.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          Make sure the real Bob is in on it. In fact, have him be one of the ones calling Jim “Bob”.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I bet he’ll say he never said that was his name and look at OP like they’re crazy. OP has no way of proving that conversation happened.

      1. A.N. O'Nyme*

        This. Not even acknowledging that he ever said a different name is more likely to be effective as it robs him of the chance to make fun of LW any further. After all, “didn’t I tell you my name is Bob?” is a weird question to ask if your name is not, in fact, Bob.
        (And if he does ask that, LW, just give a confused “no? Why would you say you’re Bob the new guy when you’re Jim the manager who’s been here for a few years?”)

      2. Snuck*

        This is what I am thinking too.

        For people this ‘complicated’ I tend to default to polite distance. Just call him his real name and if he tries to say his name is Bob again just shrug and say “I met the real bob the other day haha, now about this purchase order…” and move on

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          AGGRESSIVE polite distance. This minute I learn this is one of those people where their main source of entertainment is ultra-irritating “messing with” others with ongoing jokes that are offensive or annoying or not funny, and then accusing those others of not having a sense of humor, I back off and resort to eye rolls, sighs, intentional awkward silences with narrowed eyes, pursed lips, and occasional weak half-chuckles and subject changes.

          Then I move to phrases like, “All right, are we done with this?” and “I just don’t see what’s funny about this,” and “This has gotten old. Can we move on?”

          Getting a rise out of me is not hilarious to me. This is not a big deal when everyone is amused by a funny joke, but when only one person is amused by a mean joke, it needs to go.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Oh, yes. Do not engage in this sort of game with this sort of person. It’s fun to imagine embarassing them for their nonsense, but they usually are immune to embarassment. The better plan is to limit interaction as much as possible and don’t get sucked into the weirdness.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            OP, great advice here from GrammarGirl and Emmy. You are better off knowing how this person is than seeking ways to right it. People like this tend to unravel themselves in a bit and they really don’t need our help to do that. Chances are that others are aware of how this person operates also.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Agreed. All my comments have been tongue-in-cheek and AAM fanfic of what I wish you would do, but I do not actually think you should engage with Jimbob at all. But you do have my permission to think of him as Jimbob for all eternity.

            2. Observer*

              Chances are that others are aware of how this person operates also.

              Sure, people know what he’s like, or he wouldn’t be a “renowned jerk”, as the OP puts it.

              He’s the office missing stair.

          2. pancakes*

            I think for a number of people like that, being embarrassed is just one additional method of getting negative attention. People who don’t care whether they get negative or positive attention so long as it’s flowing in their direction are tasteless that way. It’s a different kind of tastelessness than what we conventionally mean by “in good taste” or “in poor taste,” in my understanding at least. More like a bone-deep commitment to a way of seeing and interacting with other people, who are useful even if they really dislike the attention-seeker.

        3. Smithy*

          In the spirit of passive aggressive politeness, I might be tempted to say “I met another Bob Green last week – how does HR/IT differentiate your email addresses?”

          All to say, as much fun as that might be – the Aaron Sorkin type dialogue situations where that can happen in a witty way is usually far less often and easily prone to make us look awkward or weird.

      3. Puggie Mom*

        I agree. Call the coworker by his real name. Do not try to play any silly games.

        Think about it: If a completely new coworker started calling a colleague by the wrong name, who would you think was misinformed?? The new guy, right. Even if I new old colleague was a bit of a jerk, the new person is a complete unknown quantity. I would think the new coworker was having a problem learning people’s names.

        OP – I strongly recommend not engaging in any way. That would “feed” the troll.

    3. pancakes*

      Nah. Everyone, including the letter writer, knows he’s not Bob. There’s no reason to complicate things, or play along if he did this out of some clumsy attempt at a joke. Likewise if it was meant to be a mean joke. Whether there’s any fuckery going on or some innocent explanation for all this, just call him by his name.

  6. RedinSC*

    LW 2, Oh man, I did work with identical twins and didn’t know it for the longest time. They were Sikhs and I thought I was going a little crazy, because I’d see the one guy in the morning with one color turban, and then at lunch with a different colored turban on. I was really wondering if people changed up turbans in the middle of the day!

    I finally saw then standing next to each other. DOH!

    But for your coworker, IDK, I might ask him why he introduced himself as Bob?

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Not entirely related but this reminded me of a big facepalm moment earlier this year:

      At my kids’ school, there are several married pairs of teachers. One day my elder kid came home and mentioned something about how it was Mr. S and Miss S’s 40th birthdays. I commented how cool it must be to marry someone with your same exact birthday, same year even! My kid gave me that lovely “you’re even dumber than I thought” look and informed me that EWWW, they’re not married, they’re TWINS. And really, how cool is that? To both go into teaching and end up at the same school together? I frequently wish my sister lived closer to me, so working at the same place would be awesome!

      (I will note, here in the southern US, female teachers tend to go by “Ms.” on paper but get called “Miss” in person so I totally missed the distinction between “Miss S” and “Ms. S” which might have cleared some things up…)

      1. SwiftSunrise*

        It all ends up sounding like “Miz,” no matter which way it’s spelled!

        (I still ended up getting called “Mrs. Sunrise” when I taught, no matter how many times I wrote or signed off as “Ms.”!!!!!)

        1. Gnome*

          And that’s why I hate Ms.
          I am a Mrs but when people speak and say Ms. It sounds like Miss to me (or both sound like Miz).

          Mind, I don’t care what others want to be called, just my preference for myself.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I’m in a place where Miss and Ms. are very distinct sounds. So I don’t mind being correctly called Mrs., and I don’t mind Ms, but I get a bit weirded out by Miss. Yet I know I’ve called married women Miss by error myself, so i try to let it slide unless it’s a situation where martial status is of actual importance.

            (I know two people named “Martina” where my kids use Miss and Ms. to distinguish them – one works in the school and Miss Martina is what she has all the kids call her. And I usually say the wrong one to the divorcee the first time I’ve seen her in a while.)

          2. Clisby*

            Where I live, “Ms” and “Mrs” are pronounced exactly alike. “Miss” is pronounced differently.

        2. londonedit*

          Where I live kids in school usually refer to their teachers as ‘Miss’ and ‘Sir’ rather than as ‘Mrs Jones’ or ‘Mr Smith’ – it doesn’t matter whether a teacher is actually Miss or whether they’re Ms or Mrs, the kids will still use ‘Miiiiiiiiiiiiissssss’ to get their attention!

          1. Anna Badger*

            I went from a high school that used teachers’ last names a sixth form that did this (although married women were ma’am rather than miss) and the sudden lifting of the cognitive load of having to remember teachers’ names was BLISS

          2. Irish Teacher*

            Same here, except one school where they used the Irish versions, Iníon and Maistir, where I had a student start calling us “Onion.”

      2. Wolf*

        FUN FACT: I actually do have two friends who are married to each other who have EXACTLY the same birthday.

        They proceeded to have identical twins, so now there are four people in the family who have two birthdays between them.

        1. Esprit de l'escalier*

          That was my family growing up! Parents had same birthday, twins had same other birthday. Two birthdays among the 4 of us!

    2. Cmdrshpard*

      Now you have to tell us what the longest time actually was? We talking 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years?

      We’re they called Waakeen and Joaquin?

      1. RedinSC*

        They were Inderjeet and Sanjeet, but I only knew Inderjeet, I worked with several people with their same last name. And this went on probably for a month maybe two.

        In my defense (weak though it is) we worked in different buildings, so I didn’t see either of them every day.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is the refreshing version of the story, where it turns out everyone was just being normal. The other version is when Mary Kate decides the internship is boring a week in and gives it to her identical twin Ashley.

          “People at work claim to be totally different people at work” is an odd theme for 2020, but given the themes the past couple of years I’ll take it.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Another version is when a teacher cannot grasp that a pair of siblings is not a pair of identical twins, and worse, they’re in the same physical class together. He could not keep my sister and I straight, and continually confused our assignments and scores. I thought my parents were going to absolutely flay him.

            We are not identical, not even the same coloring.
            We are not in the same grade, there’s a three grade gap.
            Our first names are not even similar to each other.

            Thankfully we both did very well in the class?

            1. Phony Genius*

              Reminds me of something that happened when I was in school, albeit a different class. The teacher was calling a student by the name of his older brother, who she had as a student a year or two earlier. he just sat there silently, since it was not his name. Since he wouldn’t answer, the teacher decided that it warranted having his parents come in for a meeting. When trying to set up the meeting, his parents realized she was calling him by the wrong name and told her so. Somehow, they all reached a consensus that the kid should have corrected the teacher and then answered (thereby making it his fault). I was supposed to have that teacher later and happily missed her due to her sabbatical.

              1. Random Bystander*

                Unless older brother’s name was really unusual, it would seem completely reasonable for the student to think teacher was calling on some other classmate altogether (and I disagree with the notion that the student should have had the burden of correcting the teacher–who does, after all, have the correct info on the class roster).

                Then again, I also recall when I was in 5th grade, and decided I wanted to go from the nickname version to my actual name–I’d say it once “please call me [full value name]” and after that refuse to respond to nickname. Took a few months, but the adults finally did get it.

                1. Phony Genius*

                  Actually, it was an unusual name. The younger brother’s name was somewhat more common.

                2. Irish Teacher*

                  Even without an unusual name, he would know if there were a kid of that name in his class. My sister’s name isn’t particularly unusual, but I still think I only had about one class in my schooldays when I’d a classmate with the same name as her. There were two girls in my year with her name, I think, but we rarely shared classes.

                3. EvilQueenRegina*

                  You’d think. In the example I posted on another thread, my classmate did correct the teacher and say “It’s James” when she called him Colin, but it still took longer than it should have to check the class list and realise we didn’t have a Colin. Makes me wonder if this teacher would have believed it if that kid had said something like “Apollo’s my brother, I’m Dan”.

              2. shedubba*

                This happened to me a lot growing up; my older sister was four grades ahead of me and my younger sister was two grades behind, and we look fairly similar and sound almost identical, and we had a lot of the same teachers. Usually they caught themselves pretty quickly, expressed slight embarrassment and corrected themselves, and everyone moved on.

                But once in high school, the orchestra teacher tried to get my attention to ask me to play a passage by calling me by my younger sister’s name, repeatedly. I just didn’t notice. I assumed she was talking to my younger sister, who was actually in the class at a different time of day. The rest of the students just thought she’d finally lost her marbles. She finally walked up to my music stand and addressed me to my face, whereupon I gave her a confused look and said, “I’m [shedubba],” and her irritation visibly deflated into annoyed self-deprecation, and she called me by the correct name and I played the passage.

                She retired a couple years later, to the disappointment of many but the surprise of none. She was an excellent teacher.

            2. quill*

              There was a pair of girls in my elementary who claimed to be fraternal twins, and transferred in for spring semester one year. They got away with it until everyone in the class was having tenth birthdays, and then one of them, let’s call her Ellie, went around reminding everyone that it was going to be HER birthday next month. Everyone asked what about Nora’s birthday?

              She looked at us like we were crazy. “Nora’s birthay was in july.”

              We were all pretty sure that was impossible, given that they claimed to be twins, and it was October. We wanted to know if they’d insisted on splitting up their birthday celebrations or something, clearly they actually shared a birthday or were at most technically a day apart, with one being born and the other after midnight, etc.

              “No, *I’m* turning eleven.”

              And this is how we discovered that Ellie had insisted that they pretend to be twins to hide the fact that she’d been held back, but was too proud of being older, and too interested in forcing the other students to tell her happy birthday, to keep up the ruse.

          2. Lady Danbury*

            This reminds me of Anderson Paak’s father and uncle. They were identical twins who would sometimes switch places with each other, including one twin taking his brother’s place to serve in the army in South Korea after his brother had completed basic training. There’s a lot more to it (including some tragedy), but it’s one of those stories that reminds you that truth is stranger than fiction.

          3. Dragon*

            Without his onscreen wig, Harpo Marx looked almost identical to his brother Chico.

            So early in their entertainment career, pianist Chico would double book dates and send Harpo to the other one. Which fell apart quickly when people found out Harpo didn’t play piano. :)

            1. Phony Genius*

              Actually, he could play the piano pretty well. But Chico was much better at it, so it was easy to tell.

              They also once secretly switched roles on stage to see if their own mother could tell the difference. Unfortunately, she missed the performance and they never did it again.

        2. BethDH*

          This seems like a very reasonable mistake to me — who would default to “there are twins at my office”? I’d be much more likely to assume I was moving up my days and misremembering what they wore.

    3. nnn*

      I JUST realized this might be the situation with the cashier who works at the grocery store and the liquor store and seems to consistently wear different hairstyles for each job. Might be twins with one job and one hairstyle each rather than one person with two jobs and a distinct hairstyle for each job!

      1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        It *is* a fun thought, though, to imagine it being one person who styles their hair differently according to where they are working that day xD Especially since the jobs aren’t much different from eachother or at different managerial stages that one could reason it was appropriate to “dress up” a bit at one of them

      2. Irish Teacher*

        One of my colleagues had a situation like this, only with names rather than hairstyles. She thought the person in question just used his middle name in some situations or maybe a nickname or something, but it was actually twins.

        1. Elspeth*

          I had the opposite situation as this. My freshman year of high school I had a bunch of classes with what I thought were identical twins “Bob” and “Matt.” It wasn’t until a couple months into the school year when I realized that it was one person. “Bob” was his legal first name, but it was a family name and he was something like the IV, so he went by his middle name “Matt.” Only some of the teachers didn’t get the memo or had a tough time making the switch. Eventually everyone called him Matt but it took awhile.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I had an eldery relative who was a bit like that – to family she was always known as ‘Margaret’ (which was her name) but she had a lot of friends to whom she was known as ‘Jane’ – I think it originted in her first job, or possibly even when she was in school, when she went by her middle name as there were already so many other Margarets, and it stuck with her in other jobs.
            I was very confised when I went to her funeral and heard people talking about ‘Jane’

      3. pancakes*

        I used to go to a grocery store that had twin cashiers, and one was always more goth than the other.

      4. paranonymous*

        In high school my twin and I were always getting asked by customers why we weren’t at the other person’s job. But the best was when someone asked me if I still worked at a place neither of us had ever worked. Perhaps we have a triplet.

      5. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that two servers at the diner in town are sisters. They look and sound very, very similar, but the hair and tattoos are different.

    4. WS*

      I also worked with identical twins – I knew two new people had been hired, but I just called them both Carly because I didn’t realise that I had met both of them (we have a uniform and badges are on a lanyard so often not visible) rather than just running into Carly twice. Fortunately they were cool with this when I met them together!

    5. LolaBugg*

      I had this same experience with identical QUADRUPLET girls who used to attend the school where I work. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why this particular girl would change her outfit several times a day. Then one day I saw their mom picking up all 4 of them together…

    6. Lore*

      A local bar used to be owned by a guy who was always super friendly to me when I came in but when I saw him around the neighborhood, he never even said hi. I chalked it up for months to him needing the context of the bar to make the connection until one day I was sitting at the bar waiting for a friend and he started talking about his twin brother.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In fairness, I once ran into my daughter’s BELOVED first grade teacher at the grocery store, and after we chatted for a minute and then moved on, my daughter hissed “Who is that?”

        1. PhyllisB*

          That reminds me of a time I was chatting with a lady at the grocery store that I was in a club with. As we talked, she got this confused look on her face, and finally said, “I think you’re mistaking me for my twin sister!!” Until then I never REALIZED she was a twin. We had a good laugh and ended up being friends too.

          1. shedubba*

            I got this a lot in college, but with my sister who’s two years younger. At the time we had similar builds, glasses, and haircuts, and we’ve always had similar faces and voices, so a lot of acquaintances would see one of us in passing and mistake us for the other one. The interactions were so brief that it usually wasn’t worth it to correct them, either, so we just kinda rolled with it.

            1. allathian*

              My coworker and her sister are the same way. My coworker’s the older by two years (early 30s), but they look more alike than most fraternal twins I know. I once saw them together downtown.

      2. Jay*

        When they were younger, my husband and his brother looked a lot alike. Back when there were actual stores selling software and peripherals, my husband went in to look for something and the friendly salesperson greeted him and asked how he liked last week’s purchase. He’d never been there before. His brother had recommended the store, and eventually hubs figured out that the friendly salesperson had helped Bro the week before.

      3. Lady Danbury*

        My mom’s neighbor is a twin, and I when I run into one of them in public I can only tell if it’s him or his brother based on how friendly they are to me.

    7. Delta Delta*

      I had a similar experience! I worked in a department with “Carol” who was absolutely lovely. One day I was walking back to the office from lunch and believed I saw Carol across the street, so I waved and called hello to her. I was a little hurt when she ignored me. I thought she was being rude, but I let it go. A few days later I saw Actual. Carol on the sidewalk with her identical twin, “Connie” and sort of laughed at myself for not even considering this possibility.

    8. Clisby*

      I did, too. Not Sikhs, but when I was still working as a computer programmer, I was on a project to introduce a whole new set of data processing software to one department. There were 2 women (probably late 20s) who were identical twins. It took me weeks to realize there were two of them. They didn’t dress alike, but they wore their hair the same and I ordinarily wouldn’t even see both of them on the same day, much less see them standing together. (Also, they had to have been 6 feet tall, and I guess I just didn’t expect to see two 6′ tall women in the same department.)

    9. RegBarclay*

      I worked with identical twins once and didn’t find out for years. It just seemed like sometimes Kenny was really nice when I saw him but other times he gave me odd looks when I would see him somewhere in the building and say hi. Turns out that person giving me odd looks was Kenny’s identical twin, who worked in a completely unrelated department in a different wing.

  7. Rose by any other Name (Required)*

    I’m absolutely fascinated by #2, mainly because I worked in a government agency with a guy who was also a renowned jerk and in the process of having his name legally changed. So he would introduce himself as his future legal name, and some people knew him by it and others didn’t. He never let on that this was a game to him, or anything out of the ordinary, and made no effort to explain or offer a reason why. I still think about it from time to time.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      I used to work in an office that was literally just me and one other lady, Susan. Kept getting calls for Nancy and telling the caller “you still have the wrong number and there’s still no Nancy here.” Until one day I got one and said something out loud and Susan was like “Oh, yeah, sometimes people call me Nancy.”

      Like, that would have been NICE TO KNOW before I took twenty calls from this mystery person for you!

      1. bamcheeks*

        My mum was always called by her middle name as a child, but switched to her first name at 18. So all her family still called her Nan, but she was known as Meghan to literally everyone who had known her since she’d left school. As a child, I did *know* this, but frequently forgot, and once hung up on my aunt after telling her she’d got the wrong number!

        1. Irish Teacher*

          My grandmother’s parents wanted to call her Violet, but this was back in the 1920s (she’d actually be 100 next November if she were alive) in Ireland and the priest refused to christen her Violet as it wasn’t a saint’s name, so they christened her Máire (pronounced Mah-ree, not Muh-ree; just realised this gets even MORE complicated when told to an international audience), so she was known as Violet or, to a lot of people, Auntie Vi, but was still Máire on official documents. When she went into an old people’s home, I was wondering who to ask for, the first time I went to visit, because I wasn’t sure if the receptionist would have her legal name or the one she used.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          My grandmother had several brothers who I saw only occasionally when I was growing up. I heard a lot of stories about them though, because she and mom and my aunts would tell lots of stories about all of them. I’d heard stories about Bob and Tony and Vinnie and Cento.
          One time at a big family gathering mom said her mother was very excited- all three brothers were together for the first time in years. I, my siblings and the cousins we hung out with were very confused “three? She has four brothers”. Nope just three: Robert (Bob), Anthony (Tony) and Vincent (Vinnie or Cento depending on who was speaking). Whoops!

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            My family goes the other way, we’ve got a Christine and Christopher as siblings, both of whom use Chris among friends, years ago they used to get contacts meant for the other on Friends Reunited because people contacted the wrong Chris Lastname, and someone who didn’t know the context could theoretically not realise there are two of them.

            (Among the family themselves it’s not as bad – Christine couldn’t pronounce Christopher’s name when he was born and she was 2, and it got to “Tiffer”. My grandparents didn’t want that to stick, and started using his middle name to avoid that. Except the year he turned five, a novelty song containing that name was released in the UK, and it is also the name of a cartoon duck. He reverted to Chris in high school, but for some reason the family never adopted it.)

            1. quill*

              My family has too many Andrews. We have an Andy, and a Drew… and nobody’s allowed to bring in another, not after the trouble we have with the two Brians, who both married in and have to be referred to as “Annie’s Brian” and “Betty’s Brian” because Annie and Betty are sisters and their married last names are exceptionally boring.

        3. PhyllisB*

          When I was young my family called me by my middle name, but in those days teachers insisted on using complete first names so got used to using it. My dad’s family however, always called me by my middle name. One day my son commented that he kept getting this lady asking for middle name and he kept telling her she had a wrong number. He had forgotten that they used that name. (We didn’t communicate often.)

        4. NeutralJanet*

          My aunt and uncle didn’t come up with a first name for my cousin until she was two months old, so the family calls her by her middle name, though she goes by her first name in all other situations, and I was genuinely confused and a little angry when I got an invitation to her wedding. Like…who the hell is “Julie”, and why is my cousin’s fiancé marrying her????

      2. Thegreatprevaricator*

        I once worked at a restaurant with a guy that everyone referred to by his nickname, Tez. I didn’t realise it was his nickname not his proper name. Thus, when his girlfriend rang and asked for him by his actual name I told her I didn’t know anyone by that name. He found this intensely amusing and it is pretty funny… but in my defence how was I to know that Tez was not just short for Terence? (It was actually a ref to a viz character which is not work suitable!)

        1. geek5508*

          at one job I was known by my initials, “RC”. Once when my wife called me at work, she asked for me by my full name. The guy answering the phone said “We don’t have anyone by that name here”, and she thought I had been fired!

        2. EvilQueenRegina*

          My former coworker often had that kind of confusion with full names and short versions of names – say we had a coworker called Eddard Stark, who went by Ned. She’d be fine if anyone called for Ned, but if anyone called him Eddard, she’d do one or a combination of the following:
          1. Say something like “I’m sorry, I don’t know what he looks like”,
          2. Start shouting “Excuse me, does anyone know an Eddard Stark?” (inevitably, he’d walk in on this)
          3. Try calling another department and ask if they had anyone called Eddard Stark on their team,
          4. If it somehow happened that no one had been able to intervene and explain who that was, she’d eventually tell them she had no idea who that was and they must have the wrong number.

          One person was actually quite pleased as coworker had done that with a debt collector, but someone else took it to the point of raising it with her manager.

          1. JanetM*

            Heck, I was out to dinner last night and the server, when handing back cards and bills, asked for “Pete” several times before anyone realized she was looking for “Peter.”

        3. quill*

          So high school nicknames being what they are, and english descended men’s names being what they are, it should be no surprise that the guy my high school friends called “Soup” and the guy his his mom called “Jack” were in fact named John Campbell. (His actual name was a little more distinctive but you get the gist.)

    2. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Did this person claim an entirely different tenure at the company, though? If it was just the name thing I’d chalk it up to “yeah maybe trying out new names for a name change” but the “claiming to be new” bit definitely pushes me in the direction of “lame joke”.

    3. Maxie's Mommy*

      I would tell him that a man came in to repay Bob Jones $500, so you sent him over to Bob’s office, and boy was Bob grateful!!

    4. Threeve*

      My mind goes straight to trying to shift the blame for bad behavior. Did Fake Bob say something offensive or insult the company?

      I would give the real Bob a heads up if I ever ran into him. “Just FYI, Jim introduced himself to me as Bob Jones. Maybe he thought he was being funny and messing with the new folks? Just letting you know in case he’s done it with multiple people, or your paycheck goes missing.”

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I originally thought something like that might be the case in the LW’s situation, until I got to the part about him not even BEING new and there being somebody who was with the name he was claiming.

    6. metadata minion*

      If he was actually legally changing his name, that sounds independent of his jerkishness and I’m not sure why random coworkers would expect to know the reason for it.

      1. A Rose by any other Name (Required)*

        A name change can and often is (as seen here) independent of being a jerk. I probably should have offered more clarity around “he never let on that it was a game to him”, because he didn’t just not offer a reason but as far as I know he never informed anybody. Since we were a government office, people were often trying to reach him at his former name and not being able to. This would cause a lot of confusion that typically fell on the office staff (who were usually seasonal and therefore also didn’t know what was going on) to deal with. I never heard a single “oh, that’s my previous name, I now go by [current name].” And while I’ll also say that there could be reasons why a non-jerk would just want to be done with an old name and not explain or notify, the fact that he was an established jerk made it more believable that he just enjoyed the confusion.

    7. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have a name story to add since so many are sharing them.
      My husband is from a British territory where the tradition is to have a local first name and an “English” middle name; one name for home and the other for interacting with work and school. After we married and had a son, it got confusing; he used his first name for some things and his middle name for others.

      We realized the problem and were slowly making sure everything was legal first name, but in the middle of that, we had to deal with some problems with a hospital bill for our son. I was on the phone with them and they asked me the name of the responsible person. I turned to my husband and ask, honey what is your name?

      I was pretty sure we were gonna get flagged for insurance fraud. What I meant was, what does the hospital/medical insurance think is your name?

    8. Liz T*

      I don’t think I was a renowned jerk, but at the beginning of sophomore year of college I started hanging out with a new group of people and mentioned I wanted to change my first name to what I imagined would one day be my pen name. They were enthusiastic about it, and everyone I met that year knew me by that new first name. But all my friends from the year before, who were still my friends, called me by the old name.

      I found out later that a bunch of people did in fact think I was twins.

      Further, someone else in my year had my same last name, and the first name Bess (like Liz, commonly a nickname for Elizabeth, but not in her case), and people often thought we were the same person on paper. So the whole thing was very confusing.

  8. Sleeve McQueen*

    LW5: it’s like your company has heard what a cool company does but totally missed the nuance! It should be an added perk, not a punishment

    1. Hannah Lee*

      Exactly! My company isn’t the most generous with time off and even THEY understand that leaving early on the Friday before a holiday isn’t something you use PTO for (they tend to make the “everyone leave early” decision like it’s a new one every single time, often waiting until it’s 30 minutes before the production shift usually ends anyway so it isn’t much of a perk for some people (the people who normally work til 5 make out better) and you can’t count on it when making weekend plans which is a bit annoying)

      FYI there was a policy that PTO could only be used in increments of 4 hours, which I was told was because of some employment law. When I took over payroll and HR policies, I search high and low and could find no legal reason for the policy. Everyone I talked to -management and staff- hated it, because it meant if someone needed to leave an hour early to pick up their kid, they had to schedule a half day off even if they didn’t want to. (I think it started as a way to simplify production work hours/scheduling but no one knew for sure)

      I started ignoring the rule in practice, telling managers to ignore the rule when approving PTO requests and finally got it changed officially. Just mentioning that in case there’s some weird minimum PTO hour blocks thing going on at LW’s company.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Hannah Lee, this makes sense; supervisor preferences or misunderstanding of labor laws (which are ARCANE) often turn a ‘rule of thumb’ into solid cement policy, but no one can determine quite how/when it happened.

        OP5, might be worth asking for the company rule or guidance that set up this PTO requirement when you ask about your hours. I’d check local & state statutes beforehand; might be some help there for your discussion.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I heard at one job that did that last-minute “you can leave early” routine that it was so it wasn’t an official benefit that they had to negotiate with the union. Not sure if that was true!

        1. doreen*

          It’s a little more complicated than that – strictly speaking, the employer wouldn’t have to negotiate the benefit with the union. They can give you time off on a whim. The problem for the employer comes when they do it too often/too consistently/for too long.
          If they let you leave an hour early the day before every holiday for years and then stop doing so, the union might grieve it as a binding “past practice” that the employer cannot change without negotiation.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right, several places I’ve worked had early Fridays, but they were certainly NOT PTO. At one place, it was a program you could opt into with your manager’s approval, where you worked an extra hour M-Th and left early F. Other places just had an early Friday release, that was in the timesheets as “early Friday release”. No mandatory PTO requirement. What OP has looks just like the company stealing PTO from people, to the tune of 6-7 days per year? I’m pretty angry on OP’s behalf, to be honest.

  9. Catgirl*

    My company once fired someone who joked about how much money the pregnant employees were costing the company. It wasn’t the sole reason for firing him, but it was the first one – the one that made them realize he was a problem.

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      During an interview, a coworker asked me and a woman who reported to me what the biggest challenge facing the group was. She answered “maternity”. Cue one of the more awkward meetings of my life for me to explain that wasn’t appropriate.

    2. TPS reporter*

      Umm how about my boss used to say things like that?? Thankfully she seemed to have some sort of epiphany and decided the problem wasn’t the people going on leave (who are just humans living their lives as parents) it was the company who wouldn’t pony up coverage options. So she focused that anger on creating a bonus for people who covered and decent temp services.

  10. Tussy*

    LW #1 you should make your boss read “Kim Jiyoung Born 1982” by Cha Namjoo, it’s an absolute sucker punch of a book that shows how shitty this opinion is.

    Actually, I think a lot of AAM readers would like it! It’s a short fiction book dealing with discrimination faced by women in the workforce in South Korea but it is very recognisable to women from other countries as well.

    1. GythaOgden*

      The other one is ‘A Day Like Any Other’, which is a Soviet story that made a huge impact in a more repressive society. The narrator is a woman who struggles with a job and a family that her husband refuses to help with because home and family is a woman’s job — even in a socialist society. The other handicap she faces is that shopping is a matter of standing in endless queues, and so it’s not a matter of just popping in to the shops on the way home — it’s an expedition in its own right.

      There was an interesting article on Soviet feminism that I read when studying for my Masters. At meet-ups with Western feminists, the westerners were often surprised by how much the Soviet women wanted the creature comforts the westerners associated with less enlightened times. They wanted to be able to stay home with their kids (Soviet propaganda wanted ‘hero-mothers’ producing kids and taxed single or childless people, but at the same time looked down on and even persecuted those who opted out of the system of production who wanted to be able to raise those kids outside of the daycare system) or have easy access to makeup. It taught me a lot about the real diversity of opinions within movements and that we take a lot for granted about our lives that others would actually be quite envious of.

      I know my sister has actually gone slower on her career as a teacher than my mother did. My mum was really motivated and a force of nature and barrelled forwards to as high as she could go within education. My sister is more content with a lower level position if it means she gets to be with her kids more. My mum was never an absentee parent — she had the energy for both! Seriously, my husband called her Hurricane [Firstname] after an Atlantic storm blew through carrying her name — but neither of us have that well to tap into so we’ve both made more accommodation with having less money but more free time and work/life balance.

      But this should be a genuine choice rather than a social diktat. Everyone should be able to choose their level of what they want out of a career. I remember the scene in the Office where Jan hosts a women’s meeting among the women of Scranton and they actively and, at some points pointedly, make it clear to her that they value other things than the sort of career direction to which Jan has sacrificed her life. Like many people, the women of Scranton just want to get by and enjoy life. Jan wants to push them into a career like hers and seems confused and a bit betrayed when they don’t want to go all the way and have it all.

      It is mostly women who want to stay with the kids, but my husband was content to stay at a level where he got paid, came home and had a life outside work.

      Most people will only go so far — which makes the perspective shown by OP1’s colleague all all more pernicious, because she is denying jobs to people who need to support their kids and have a life out of work, and need the money to do that! After reading the Soviet perspectives on feminism, I actually see that their work-life balance had a different colour than the American one, and their priorities were based on what was scarce in their society.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh this is interesting. Never heard of the book, but I grew up in the Soviet Union, and started my career and my family in the former SU in the 90s. It was a wild mix of women having actual rights unheard-of in the US (a real maternity leave at least 1.5 years long, dirt cheap daycare and summer camps for kids, etc) and out of control sexism. I have stories for days. My first job, everyone knew what everyone else was making, and every woman on my team had the exact same salary, because, to quote our manager, “if I give one of you five rubles more, the rest of you hens will peck her to death” (barf) (to be fair, he then contradicted his own statement by giving me several good-sized raises after my first and second years there). A childhood friend’s wife was a fresh college grad moving into our hometown with her new husband/my friend. Went to a job interview, and the manager, a middle-aged woman, asked her if she planned to have kids. She said no, manager replied with “yeah yeah that’s what you all say” and my friend’s wife did not get the job.

        At my first job, I worked with women in their mid-30s who all had families and children and it was exactly like your first paragraph described. They put in a full day at work and then did 100% of the work at home and with the kids. The men did nothing around their homes, as it was considered women’s work and beneath them. When my women friends turned 40, they all started coming down with serious medical conditions, chronic illnesses, having surgeries etc, because their bodies were just plain worn out, as early as in their early 40s.

        In the early to mid-90s, my friends and I got to live the American dream of staying home with the kids, when we all had our first and our employers reacted by kicking us out of our jobs. And then none of us could find another job in our small town, due to being women with kids. It wasn’t as great as it had sounded. My husband refused to lift a finger around the house or with the kids, because, he said “my job is to make money, yours is to do everything else” and I couldn’t make money because I couldn’t get a job, and my younger son was too young for Russian daycare anyway. (It started at 18 months.)

        I think the moral of my story here is that sexism comes in all shapes, and it is easy for a society to become sexist, socialism or no. Probably because too many people benefit from a society being sexist, and because the people who do benefit from it (men, older women, men and women both in positions of power/wealth) have more power than those being discriminated against by it. If we do not actively work to make sure our society is not sexist, it will automatically drift towards being so. Which is why I would nip OP’s manager’s nonsense in the bud. I’ve seen her ideas in action.

      2. Parakeet*

        There’s also, of course, differences within the US (to say nothing of between different Western societies). Poor parents of color in particular are stigmatized as “welfare queens” and such for wanting to be stay-at-home parents, and there have been plenty of attempts to restrict their reproduction and parenting throughout US history. Part of the reason that Black feminism/womanism exists in the US is because the needs of these folks weren’t being met by the second-wave mainstream movement.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Agreed. It’s maybe moving beyond any idea that women are a monolithic community and focusing the energy on social justice that takes everyone’s varied needs into account as individuals as well as part of a broader group.

          I don’t feel I’ve struggled with sexism and I’m white so obviously I’m not going to touch on how you and others experience racism However, where I have been let down is by my own body and mind. My struggle is twofold — social acceptance and support, and that my mind and body — ranging from neurological control to just being in low-level pain all day — make it harder for me to pursue the career I wanted. Disability comes with a two-for-one disadvantage — even if society was completely understanding (and it’s MUCH better, even changing according to people’s needs during the pandemic), the stress, lack of stamina and outright pain would still be there. Disability is not a social construct. It’s real. Other people use other labels — neurodivergent — but the disability space needs to remember that social understanding and media representation aren’t the sum total of our needs.

          It’s OK to say I’m lame — I’m unable to walk unaided, my ankle hurts all the time, and that restricts me compared to someone without that injury. Saying I’m lame makes no value judgement about me as a person; it only says that I can no longer run and use a stick to make sure a lopsided gait doesn’t wreck other parts of my body. (And by extension, saying something cruddy is ‘lame’ is OK by me, because yeah, being lame is pretty cruddy.) Erasing that kind of language does nothing to help me cope with it or find me assistance; it’s actually a bit of a silencing tool, as if disability were just another identity such as being gay, black or female.

          So ITA. It’s really important to create a society where everyone can advocate for themselves on their own terms. It’s the basic principle of intersectionality, and as you point out, monolithic one-size-fits-all movements can have serious blindspots.

    2. NewishButLearning*

      OP here – thanks for the suggestion! Luckily this person wasn’t my direct manager, just a manager in another department.

    3. pancakes*

      Thanks for this. The links that came up made it super easy for me to borrow the e-book from the library!

      Another book on this topic I want to read that I recently read a review of is Talk to My Back by Yamada Murasaki. It’s also from the 1980s but I think just recently translated into English. It’s manga, which I have never done more than skim, but I’m hoping it will shake me out of a bit of a reading rut.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        Thank you for the book recommendations, I now have 2 on hold at my local library. I’m spoiled by living in my area, because I am connected to libraries in 5 counties, including Cuyahoga (where Cleveland is), all from a computer.

  11. TROI*

    #4 – I agree in general with this advice (and especially when you think about the other letter where the company actively and baldly wants to discriminate against women) but I had a very different experience, if I may share with anyone else going through fertility struggles. Once I started my first round of testing then of active treatment and had to communicate last minute time off very frequently. I stayed vague about the reason for my time off, but my grandboss reached out to me and wanted to know if i was OK, but told me I didn’t have to tell her anything. I was so massively depressed and down by that point (I had struggled through years of infertility before being able to seek medical intervention) I thought I might as well. She was so kind and compassionate. She encouraged me to talk to my own manager about it if I wanted to, and that helped so much as well.

    The nature of my work is that I have a lot of juggling to do and “face” to give and they helped me find a way to balance what I was going through with the demands of the job. I was so afraid of oversharing but I was really struggling with what I was going through medically and I took the help that was kindly offered to me. I’ll always be grateful.

    I am still going through the infertility thing, but I recently got a promotion, so I know that sharing that wasn’t a black mark against me. A few key things – 1- I have been at the company for 7 years and was not a new employee. 2- my grandboss and old direct boss were women. 3- I know them to be compassionate people. I know this won’t be everyone’s experience but I feel lucky that I took the chance at being open and it helped me deal.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Yes, I think this is massively a “know your boss and workplace” thing with a side of “err on the side of caution”. I told my boss when I started TTC, but I knew her personal circumstances made her sympathetic to me, and also I had a colleague who was just back from maternity leave and I’d heard passing references to, e.g., the fact they’d provided her with a napping area during pregnancy, to reassure me about how they’d respond. I was still nervous though.

      1. GoldenHandcuffs*

        Yes, for sure. My first round of IVF, I told my manager. She and I had a good rapport and she was wonderful and as far as I know, never said anything to the grandboss. She was also wonderfully supportive all through my pregnancy and emergency birth. She also supported me through a second round that resulted in a miscarriage. My third round for a second child, I reported to someone different and changed departments during that time. I never said a word to them and avoided telling them I was pregnant for as long as possible because I knew I would be penalized. And lo and behold, as soon as I told them I was pregnant, I was no longer given work and never learned anything in my new job because my (male) manager wouldn’t delegate anything to me. And when I returned from maternity leave, it was more of the same until I was finally reorged under another (female) manager who was amazing and supportive. All this to say…sometimes it can make sense to say something. And sometimes it’s far better to keep quiet. (This was all at the same company, just different departments.) Good luck, OP4!

    2. IVF anon 2*

      I went through IVF without telling my managers, and it was … a challenge. Between my first round and my second round, I’d changed jobs and also moved an hour away from the clinic, and then my new job was an hour from home in the opposite direction. Fortunately. the clinic had changed its protocols from blood samples and scans every other day once you were on gonadatropins to every five days, and I think somehow two out of three fell on a weekend (I can’t make that maths of that work, so I might have mixed that up, but it was definitely better than the first time around when I had to go in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday!) So I had a couple of mornings where I had to get up at five, drive an hour to the clinic, wait half an hour to be seen, and then drive two hours to work and managed to arrive at only twenty past nine– but it was very disorienting to meet people who still thought it was the start of the day when I’d already been up for four and a half hours!

      I like someone’s suggestion of dental treatment, which does make sense of the extremely varied length and frequency of IVF appointments. From my point of view, the appointments are so mathematically worked out to match your cycle that it felt like anyone looking at the pattern of my appointments would know immediately what they were for, but rationally I could see that it was one of those things where it feels obvious from the inside but nobody else is looking that closely.

      Rather than saying, tell or don’t tell, OP, I would suggest you game out the advantages and disadvantages of telling and not telling. What kind of employment protections and culture do you have at your company? Do you trust your manager personally? How much of a disaster would it be if you were blocked from success or laid off from your job? Balance all of those against how much of a stress it would be for you to keep this a secret, and keep coming up with reasons why you need time off and whether you think that would also damage the trust your manager has. If it doesn’t work, would you want support from the workplace or would you rather nobody every knew? I think instead of treating it as a “what is the right/normal/safe thing to do here”, you should think about it on a very personal level of what would be the less stressful and best option FOR YOU, and there are lots and lots of different factors that go into that.

    3. Crcala*

      I went through multiple rounds of IVF (which thankfully was successful–my IVF baby is currently screaming his head off upstairs refusing to nap) and I had a mixed experience. I told my supervisor who was very supportive. However, she went on medical leave and I started reporting to my former supervisor, who had been promoted. I shared with her because she kept wondering where I was (my office was outside her door), and even though she had been my supervisor for years and we had had a good relationship, she was not supportive about this and was kind of a jerk, frankly.

      I think in retrospect I would not have told people and would have used Alison’s script. But yes, it depends on your workplace! Mine is very respectful of medical privacy and colleagues do not ask about your medical issues, which is why I could have gotten away without telling people.

      Good luck and fingers crossed for you!

      1. Polly Hedron*

        Yes, that’s another reason not to tell. Even if you game out the advantages and conclude that you should tell your current manager, management could change and then you couldn’t unring that bell.

      2. DEL*

        I agree with not telling for as long as you can but be prepared at some point you will likely need to tell your supervisor something more, as IVF will completely run your life and may require missing critical things at work.

        Also, once you are (hopefully) successful, please share your experience with as many as you can. While we had some understanding of the cost (even that was far more astounding than we’d planned), we had no idea how physically and emotionally challenging the process would be (multiple rounds of IUI and IVF that were ultimately unsuccessful). Added to that the stigma associated with fertility treatment.

        While you certainly shouldn’t have to (and definitely wait until you are ready) – you can help change the perspective of others. Wishing you absolutely the best and know that strangers support you from afar!

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      My colleague had been wondering whether our boss would be compassionate enough to hear the truth, then his friend/new hire started talking about their mutual friends’ struggle with infertility. Cue lots of raucous jokes about “maybe I can show them how to do it”. I quietly let my colleague know that I would cover for her any time she might end up coming in late. The boss did wonder out loud at one point why this previously completely dependable employee suddenly had lots of appointments, and we all continued to work, stony-faced, in order not to let him know a thing.
      She fell right off her Golden Girl pedestal anyway once she got pregnant (twins of course) and was put on complete bed rest as from her fifth month.

    5. Anon Today*

      I would use Alison’s script.

      I went through IVF and thankfully my schedule was flexible enough to slide in most of the appointments. The ones at a further away clinic, I kept my explain at “oh a medical appointment, nothing big but just my luck they’re on the other side of town today.” That left it open to complain about traffic.

      It wasn’t worth it to me between the potential for direct discrimination, unconscious bias, nosy people, or having to deal with explanations if it failed (and it took us 2 tries).

      1. TROI*

        My schedule is an inflexible one, and my clinic is three hours away one way, which means an appointment was an entire day affair. Because of how badly I responded to prior treatment I was also afraid that I would be ill and unable to work in between. I wish I could have hidden it as a dental appointment but it seemed like a stretch.

        The culture of my team unfortunately is that people state why they will be missing work and if they are sick describe their sickness a bit. I stopped participating in that right away and I know it made it seem like I had chronic diarrhea or cancer.

        Just to state that disguising it as a dental appointment may not work for everyone. I suppose it still could be done if I was more creative.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t think someone should have to get too creative in hiding that, keeping in mind that people back in the office won’t actually have visibility into whether they’d be spending, say, three hours each way driving to and from a difficult appointment, or spending the whole day in a difficult dental appointment closer to home.

          Similarly, if “I’ll be out for an appointment” seems like code for a particular scenario to them, that should be mostly (it not entirely!) their problem. Being wrong about a faulty guess isn’t the worst thing in the world. Hopefully it will eventually occur to someone with a tendency to do that they don’t actually have to guess at all, or sink in that they tend to be wrong and should maybe keep their guesses to themselves, if not question their own thought process.

    6. PickleFish*

      Review your HR policies. I work for state government and was told I couldn’t request no overnight travel for 6 weeks to do a round of ivf. In 2016, I took a huge paycut and transferred… one day watch a training that reproductive issues qualified as a disability and was required to be accommodated. My supervisor at the lower paying position was supportive after I explained why I took such a huge pay cut (I’d said I was tired of travel in my interview. ) In 2019, I transferred again to a higher paying job. This department is awesome and people oriented. I recently did another round for a sibling. I simply said medical stuff 2 hours away. I have an autoimmune disorder and said my appointments were for that when concern was expressed. I could go the disability route if necessary. I recently got a new supervisor and told her as she was trying to schedule me to travel. As soon as I said IVF, she backed off.

  12. Martin Blackwood*

    #2 – this sort of thing was a common prank for my middle school/high school classmates, giving the name of someone else during attendance, or a fake name that wasn’t on the list. Notably, the ones I remember doing this were jerks.
    Not sure why a 15 year old is a department manager. Funny how these things happen.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Ugh, yes, my first reaction to this was “Is Jim fourteen years old?” I can remember this at my high school (possibly sort of middle school age – I’m from the UK where middle schools are the exception rather than the norm). This one person (I would agree with your assessment re: jerks) tried to convince a supply teacher his name was John Lennon. She didn’t fall for that and responded by calling him Lenny, but she also managed to get it into her head that one of his friends was also fake-naming her. In this case, I’m not sure that the friend actually was – the wrong name she was calling him was similar enough to his last name that she could have quite easily misheard that, and when he kept trying to explain he was really called James, she thought that was a fake name and kept calling him Colin. It went on for a while before she actually twigged that there was no Colin on that class list, but there was a James.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I am a teacher, who spent a number of years subbing and that is common. Mind you, from teens, there is a point to it. It is often partly so they can do what they like, not do their work, etc and then if the sub reports them or gives them detention, hey, they aren’t down for detention at all. I once had a group who did it, so I went around to all the kids who were behaving, asked THEM their names, crossed them off my list and reported the others!

        But yeah, there’s SOME logic towards not letting an authority figure know who you are if you are planning to work on the premise “teacher’s out; I’m not working for some sub!” There’ no logic to giving a fake name to a coworker.

  13. TiaraWearingPrincess*

    LW #2 you have 2 options
    1) start calling him Steve

    2) start calling him JimBob

    He sounds like an asshat.

    1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

      Voting for JimBob! Even if Jim & Bob are very probably just stand-ins for the actual name he gave/has. Actually, call him JimBob *especially* if they are pseudonyms :D

  14. John Smith*

    #2 Plot twist. His real name of Bob Jones but he told everyone else it’s Jim. Joke’s on them.

    Seriously, this manager sound a right asshole. Lying in any form is a serious issue to me where there is no relationship with the person that permits joking, pranks etc to be acceptable. What else is he going to do? “You’re fired! Nah, just joking. No, seriously, you’re fired”. He sounds a nightmare.

    1. KateM*

      And he also is really a new employee but he has told everyone else that he has been a department manager for years!

    2. Hannah Lee*

      Or is this like Jerry/Gary on Parks and Rec. He told people his real name, but people didn’t care enough to remember and he eventually didn’t care enough to keep correcting them and just rolled with Jim. But he’s trying to start off right with new people ;)

  15. IVF anon*

    OP4, don’t tell anyone at work you are having fertility treatments. Having seen someone laid off just after disclosing that her sick leave was a miscarriage (because it was clear she would want to get pregnant again, but as she wasn’t pregnant at that moment she had no legal protection) people can be a lot sh*ttier than you expect.
    Dental appointments are the perfect cover for IVF. Nobody worries that you might be ill, it can be a complicated thing that goes over several appointments, and you can go in suddenly for a provisional whatever falling out (and if you have a second round, it’s the same thing on the other side). We had four rounds of IVF and only had to take two full days off work, plus about 2-3 late arrivals (by 10 am, say). You have a 5/7 chance of your main appointment being on a Saturday or Sunday anyway. Any later rounds may be frozen transfers only rather than the whole cycle so you’re talking about one very quick appointment. Good luck!

    1. My dear Wormwood*

      Never thought of this but it would be the perfect cover for me. I have such notoriously bad dental history and I even got my current dentist’s name when I asked colleagues if they had a recommendation.

    2. Raboot*

      > as she wasn’t pregnant at that moment she had no legal protection

      I don’t believe this is true. The situation in the OP 1 also covers women who are potentially not actively pregnant. I know you are sharing an old story the way it happened but since it is relevant to many people hopefully someone clearer on laws than me can clarify.

  16. Despachito*

    OP2: is there any chance Bob/Jim was legit?

    A twin, or a change of legal name?

    If you have a trustful coworker, can you ask them about that?

    Like – “I am a bit confused – this man introduced himself to me as Bob and told me he was new as well, but I overheard everyone else is calling him Jim and he seems to be a manager working here for some time already?”

    This will dissipate any (albeit it seems very slim) chance that Bob/Jim was not lying/being a jerk, and will possibly give you an ally if it was a prank and Bob/Jim tries to humiliate you somehow for it. And if he is a known jerk, I’d hope that the coworkers will possibly believe you over him should this happen.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      The letter says they look nothing alike and one has been there years and the other is new. He introduced himself with the wrong name and said he was new. Whether it was him being an asshat or just terrible at comedy is up in the air. There is no chance it was legit. The question is only if he were being an intentional jerk or a clueless jerk.

  17. Squidlet*

    OP2, I would just let it go. It may be satisfying to give him the cold shoulder, roll your eyes when he speaks, or try to turn the joke back on him, but you’re new, you’re junior to him (it sounds that way anyway), he’s a jerk, and you have to work with him. If you make it obvious that his silly prank got to you, you’ll be setting yourself up as a target for future pranks. If you’re rude to him or make him look foolish in front of his colleagues, you’ll look unprofessional. Put it down to a childish sense of humour and move on!

    Enjoy your new job, I hope your other colleagues are pleasant to wok with.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This. The best case scenario for bringing this up is that you seem more fun to mess with. Bringing it up is likely to cause more problems than it solves.

      JimBob is a missing stair (or is actively trying to undermine people) and it sounds like everyone else has just resigned themselves to jumping over the gap. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll get all that much support on this one and risk coming off as a whiner. It’s super unfair and it sucks. As someone new, I wouldn’t use any of my limited social capital on dealing with this. But rest assured that the rest of us are all rolling our eyes at JimBob right along with you.

  18. Myrin*

    “Renowned jerks tend not to have especially refined senses of humor.” is an immediate new favourite!

    This is a really stupid and boring “prank” but I would love to know what his plan here was/is – I’m assuming that in the ensuing conversations you had with him, OP, he continued to keep up his Bobsona? Did you explicitly talk about new-to-the-company stuff or more general topics where he didn’t need to keep pretending to be someone else? Also, did he intentionally try to impersonate the real Bob Jones or is the name such that it could reasonably have been a coincidence?

    I’m fascinated by the psychological side of this but other than that, yeah, I’m not surprised he’s known as a jerk and I’d tread him very neutrally if I were in your shoes, OP.

    1. Global Cat Herder*

      LW2: I worked with a JimBob. Jim’s “prank” wasn’t getting you to call him Bob in private, it was to get you to call him Bob in front of others.

      Our JimBob would then DARVO it (deny, attack, reverse victim & offender) to try to make you look bad. “Where did you get that from? I never said that! How can you not even get my name right? What else are you wrong about? Hey boss, you need to watch this one, they can’t get anything right.”

      Our JimBob was an insecure asshole who was threatened by new people, especially women, and actively undermined them from day one. Like most abusers, he started small (getting someone’s name wrong is understandable for a new hire) and escalated. Said lots of things one-on-one that he’d deny in meetings and accuse you of making up.

      Management had no objective metrics, the good-old-boys network was strong, and JimBob schmoozed really well, so they thought he was great. They just couldn’t understand why new hires didn’t stay longer than six months, or why – in a really big company – no women ever applied to their internal postings.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I was wondering that. Surely he must have known he couldn’t keep it up forever, sooner or later someone was going to call him by his proper name in front of OP. It’s a pretty feeble joke really.

  19. LondonLady*

    #LW3 – maybe you could ask to ‘share’ the office with your absent co-worker, with permission to use it on days s/he is not in? And have access to a cubicle space on the rare days they show up?

    1. SPDM*

      I was also going to suggest asking to share. Even just moving a second desk in would give you solitude 95% of the time, and it’s less of an ask than wanting to take over the entire office of someone senior to you.

    2. That Coworker's Coworker*

      In my company I’m the person who had a private office, which I got after being annoyed and distracted for years by the noise in the open work area (so maybe I’m a similar office prima donna) – and then I arranged a permanent work-from-home situation instead of joining the Great Return the the Office. Now once or twice a month I go there for a portion of a day – but I certainly didn’t expect that “my” office would stay mine now that 95% of the time I’m not there. I would think any reasonable company and coworkers would not expect to keep a perfectly good office vacant most of the time just to accommodate such an infrequent visitor. But yes, alas I know not all offices and coworkers are “reasonable.”

      The difference might be that your company is apparently still demanding that this person return to the company, while I have an officially-sanctioned arrangement – so maybe that would make them hold his office for him in hopes that he’s eventually returning to it more frequently, but: are you certain this is the company’s expectation? In my case my work from home arrangement was approved because of a medical accommodation (unrelated to Covid), and the company did not seem to have informed my coworkers of this, probably out of an overabundance of caution about privacy – so some of my coworkers did think I was just ignoring the return to the office order, until I informed them myself of the arrangement.

      I tried to make it pretty by removing all my files, books, and personal stuff that I didn’t consider it to be “my” office anymore. Somebody else did eventually move in – I don’t know whether he just did that of his own accord, or whether it was sanctioned by upper management – hopefully the latter, but not really my business at this point. The first time I spent a morning back at the company he felt awkward about having moved into that office, and said I could share it with him while I was there, but I assured him that wasn’t necessary and I was just planning to use an empty desk in the open work area for the few hours I was there.
      You should just ask the company, and see what happens – it might be that they know or have become resigned to the idea that he’s not coming back to his office, and especially if you have a good reason to need a private office they might just say sure, move in. If it’s a big enough office maybe you could offer to share it with him when he’s there, or offer to work elsewhere on the one day per month that he needs it.

    3. Cubicle Prisoner*

      All good thoughts. I appreciate the feedback. One of my biggest distractions in all the office noise is the person next to me that cannot take a phone call with the phone receiver or headset, every call is on speakerphone. My wife thought it was a bad idea to ask. I jokingly brought it up to my direct manager, who just laughed it off. I went to his manager, who used to be my direct manager but has since moved up and he didn’t see a problem with it and said he’d talk to my direct manager. I’ve heard no more about it and the guy who currently has the office magically showed a day later. Almost think they are using it to force him back in a little more often. The company wanted everyone back in the office so they incorporated it into the employee handbook that you needed to be there from 8-5 Monday through Friday and made everyone sign that they read it. They went so far as to have HR people walk around the office to see who was there and who wasn’t.

    4. Cubicle Prisoner*

      To add one more thing regarding sharing the office with my coworker, there’s no possible way of doing that, it looks like a tornado swept through there. Come to think of it, that might be part of the reason he works from home, he can’t find his desk. :)

  20. Luna*

    LW1 – “Well, that’s a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen. And even if it weren’t discriminatory to not hire a person because of the potential of parental leave, which can also happen with fathers, you would be completely screwing yourself over by not hiring anyone unless they have completed menopause, meaning you would be more likely to have the ‘problem’ of hiring people that will retire soon instead of leaving on parental leave, meaning you’d have to find a replacement for them, anyway. Rack your brain about your mindset again.”

    1. NewishButLearning*

      OP here – thanks for the script! I was so gobsmacked in the moment, I had no clue what to say. But if this happens again, I’ll know what to do.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Just here to sympathize with being too overwhelmed with the “oh my god, WHAT?” feeling to handle it the way you wish you would in your head. It has happened to me too.

          1. metadata minion*

            It’s so, so common! Even people who are relatively assertive can be thrown by something out of left field.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Honestly, IME the perfect script for “why this is wrong and you shouldn’t do it” pretty much never happens, unless it’s a conversation you have regularly. I actually think it’s better just to practice verbalising a generic expression of shock that works for all egregious violations of professionalism: “Sorry, WHAT did you just say?!” Takes much less thought and preparedness, but it quite clearly communicates that they’ve crossed a line and you have the option to say something more considered and specific if you can.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Amusing scripts from a couple of tweens I know:
            “I’m sorry what planet are you from again? Did you hurt your brain when your ship crash landed here?”
            “WHO raised you?”
            “I’d ask what animals raised you but that’s an insult to animals”
            “I’m sorry I don’t understand why that’s a thing”

            (I told them they needed to be more creative and use the swears less. These seem to fit this particular situation well, even though its not what they were originally said in response to…)

            1. quill*

              My favorite, also stolen off a tween, is “I need the address of the rock you’ve been living under.”

            2. allathian*

              The scripts are funny, but I guess the last one’s the only professionally appropriate one…

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        I had a coworker casually say this at lunch, and I was livid. I remember struggling for anything to say and finally landing on, “Well, I wouldn’t want to hire anybody ambitious because they might leave the role or the company for something better and I can’t guarantee they’d be there for the long haul. Better to have somebody not as good but who won’t go anywhere.” I won’t say it was a magic bullet for the conversation and changed hearts and minds, but it was a spin on it they hadn’t heard before and at least got them thinking.

        1. drinking Mello Yello*

          I mean, seriously. People can straight up Die at any time, leaving the company needing to replace them. Better not hire humans because they’re mortal and risk suddenly dying. :P

    2. KarenK*

      Also, not only are those of us of a certain age looking toward retirement, but also remember that our bodies are falling apart, and may require some upkeep, i.e., surgery, time-consuming medical treatments, etc. Just because we’re not having babies doesn’t mean that we won’t need extended leave of some kind, often with much, much less notice than a pregnancy!

      Doesn’t leave much of a window.

  21. Soontoberetired*

    I work for a place that has hired very pregnant women without worry if they were the right one, even when their maternity leave was not the greatest.

    Also, LW4 is describing what was known in my town as summer hours. A number of companies gave Friday afternoons off but you worked an hour extra the other days of the week so no pay was docked and no pto used. Most of these companies now have flex schedules.

    1. Laney Boggs*

      Our summer hours were announced, as a 4 9-hr days and one 4 hr day with no PTO. I was just coming to the comments to see if that’s how it usually worked :) Just doesn’t seem like much of a perk to me.

      1. Lab Boss*

        It does let you do things like schedule Dr. appointments or do other “standard 9-5 hours” things during the work week without having to get time off for it, and maybe get a jump on a weekend-long trip or do some errands in advance. For me though, yeah, if I have to make up the hours with longer days AND still wake up early Friday it’s not a huge perk- I much prefer that we went to a 4×10 schedule so I get a three-day weekend every weekend.

      2. soontoberetired*

        That is what they did. I don’t know why this was such a big thing in this city full of insurance companies – but I think it had a lot to do with the weird banking culture here. Banks in this city would close early on Fridays in summer, and rarely had hours after 6 pm. Where I grew up, banks were open late on Mondays and Fridays and on Saturdays and there wasn’t any place that had “summer” hours. I am pretty sure no one has summer hours anymore, but I haven’t checked in ages. They all went to flex scheduling (5/5 days, 4 1/2 days, 5/4 or 4/5 weeks and more recently working 12 hour days 3 days a week for some jobs).

      3. Clisby*

        My daughter’s summer hours are 4 9-hour days every week and every other Friday off. She loves it.

        1. Laney Boggs*

          If it was a whole day off, maybe. If my work environment (cubicle, basement, no light, no one talks to each other) was nicer/we wfh full time again, I might feel differently.

          But as it stands, an extra hour 4 days a week just so I can log off at 12 sounds like misery

  22. MicroManagered*

    OP1 what your coworker said is so egregious and illegal that I think you need to go to HR immediately and NOT try to discuss it with her yourself. I would not want to “tip her off” and give her the chance to exercise plausible deniability when HR comes to talk to her.

    1. pancakes*

      Yes. It really doesn’t matter how she justifies her mindset to herself or others.

    2. NewishButLearning*

      OP here – I plan to let HR know without telling her. I’m hopeful they’ll intervene since our head of HR takes legal liability really seriously.

  23. Khatul Madame*

    LW1 what gets me is not the co-worker’s opinion (opinions are like ar$eholes – everybody has one).
    It’s the need to share it far and wide and zero self-awareness and foresight – like, nowadays a company can get in trouble for pregnancy discrimination , so maybe not run your mouth so much about this?

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s the main reason I think OP definitely needs to talk to HR. Maybe they have so far just kind of rolled their eyes and ignored when this hiring manager told them that, but if they know that this woman is going around saying this to other people in the company then maybe they’ll finally see it as something that needs to actually be addressed. Preferably by making sure someone who feels that way is not managing other people…

  24. Universal Phoenix*

    For #2, I know this is not the mature and depending on the situation can professionally backfire, but if we didn’t have to interact much, I would continue to call them Bob–somewhat louder than usual, ask how they’ve been handling the new job–all with a tone of “haha”

    1. pancakes*

      It would be immature, yes, and doesn’t seem like much fun. If it is a lousy joke — it appears to be, but maybe it’s some sort of mix-up — then it doesn’t need to be extended.

  25. Excel Jedi*

    LW5, how long is the whole summer? Because 4 hours per week for 10 weeks is a whole week of PTO – half my vacation time at many of my jobs. Unless you have an incredibly generous policy, this seems like a way to ensure that no one takes more than a week of vacation every year.

  26. NotRealAnonForThis*

    Did I write #3? Because boy oh boy, could I have done so….

    In my case, the decision was made over my head after I gave my cubicle-mates the same amount of courtesy that they typically gave me. I was in a completely different department, and since they couldn’t figure out how to keep it to a low roar, they discovered that I could play the loud game too. They whined that I was distracting them, their manager went to mine, mine laughed at the other manager and said that turnabout was absolutely fair play as he’d been complaining for months about them doing the same to me.

    Currently sitting in my office. With a door. With no loud other-department-frat-boys nearby.

  27. A Pound of Obscure*

    #2 – it would be completely reasonable to say, the next time you interact with him, “Oh, hello — you told me your name was Bob Jones but it’s really Jim Green, right?” in a very calm and matter-of-fact way. It’s absolutely normal to confirm you are calling someone by the correct name in any interaction when you don’t know the person well, and this would be a logical place to do it. Of course the side benefit is that he knows you know he was being dishonest.

    1. Generic Name*

      I’m leaning towards this approach as well. If he tries to play it off as a joke, you can brush it aside with a slightly confused “Hm okay”. As others have said, you now know to be very wary of Bob as he’s showed you his true colors. Honestly, your company has too. They allow a “renowned jerk” to be in a management position. That says a lot about what a company values.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’d be more tempted to use Alison’s approach because it denies the resident jerk much of the satisfaction of having tricked OP. I’m guessing that part of why he does this is to get a rise out of people. OP can deny him that by simply switching to his actual name and saying nothing, leaving him to wonder about OP’s reaction to all of it.

  28. LilPinkSock*

    LW1, ugh. Some people these days are just really not afraid to say they hate women, huh? Please go talk to HR.

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

      I think it’s more Women of childbearing age than anything, as those people will of course be having babies as that’s the only thing they are good for.

      It’s bad enough when men do this, but the OP says their friend is a woman. That ticks me off even more!

      1. Aeroflot*

        Sigh.. internalized misogyny strikes again. I will say that as a woman that doesn’t make it ok but men created this system and they are complicit in keeping it this way. I don’t feel like it makes sense to be more upset with the men than with that woman.

        1. pancakes*

          Ok, but it’s not actually a contest at all, even when people say things suggesting they see it as one. It’s a bad thing when it happens and it needs to stop, without much regard for the gender of the perpetrator. Maybe that makes for softer views among their friends and loved ones in terms of their culpability, but they shouldn’t get a pass on the behavior itself, including discriminatory remarks, and particularly at work. They should be able to put a stop to the behavior while working on themselves internally, whatever the source of their views on gender.

          Similarly, I don’t think it makes the manager’s point of view any more acceptable for it to “only” or “mostly” be directed at women of childbearing age. That’s still a huge number of women, and the reasons why gendered discrimination is ugly don’t become less so in smaller quantities. The mindset is the same. It’s not actually daintier or more refined by way of not being directed at a bigger chunk of the populace.

          1. Lena*

            I disagree with you in the sense that the gender of the perpetrator doesn’t matter. It does matter when it’s one side that wants to systematically strip the rights of women. Women don’t have the systemic and institutional power to be sexist even when they direct it at other women. It’s men that that started this. It’s men that perpetuate this. It’s men’s responsibility to dismantle this. I’m not holding my breath that anything meaningful will change. To be honest I have moved from activism to avoidance. I shy away from male dominated fields and gravitate towards women owned/led business as far as work goes and things have been at least somewhat better. Asking men not to be sexist is like asking dogs to not chase cats. Just because a woman is sometimes sexist does not negate the vast institutional and political power that men have.

            1. pancakes*

              There is a whole lot of gender essentialism in your comment and I don’t agree with any of it. Women who wield institutional power can certainly wield it badly, for a start, and specifically, in ways that reflect internalize sexism and internalized misogyny. All of this is quite beside the point of what should be done with regard to this woman in the letter, though, and I don’t want to derail on it.

    2. Aeroloft*

      I think this country as a whole has no problem saying they hate women as evidenced by events especially over the last week.

  29. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP4, definitely follow Alison’s advice. When I was going to be undergoing fertility treatments, I used a script very much like the one Alison recommended, even though I absolutely knew my manager and grandboss would have zero trouble with it if they knew the whole story. Any manager who would be supportive of you knowing that you’re going through fertility treatments will also be supportive of you while only knowing you’re undergoing medical procedures and monitoring. I didn’t actually end up needing the treatments (I was already pregnant when I had my initial consultation–just didn’t know it yet!), but basically treated my early pregnancy appointments in the same way: just “doctor’s appointments” until the time came that I felt comfortable announcing my pregnancy and discussing plans for leave.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      And in our new national legal environment, OP4 should protect herself and not tell anyone anything about her reproductive health and plans unless they absolutely need to know.

      1. quill*

        Yeah. With no guarantee of medical privacy, all information you disclose can be used against you.

      2. pancakes*

        Yes, but it’s not exactly new. It’s not as if the extremism of the anti-woman crowd came out of nowhere. Please familiarize yourself with the prevalence of violence and attempted violence carried out by the anti- crowd in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and the extremely anti-woman laws passed in the early 2000s, such as the one Purvi Patel was jailed under.

  30. J3*

    LW3, I think the move here is not to ask for the office to be actually reassigned to you, but to get in through the back door by seeing if you can “borrow” it when he’s not there– which sounds like pretty much all the time. Soon enough people will start thinking of it as yours and you will have office squatter’s rights :)

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I think my game plan would be to request an office since my job duties have changed and I needed more quiet than the cubicle provides. Then make it annoyingly obvious that a space is needed. Like make it an ongoing “joke” or fit it into EVERY conversation with manager. Not mention the absentee co-worker or his unused office. Make management make the decision. That way 1. Management can save “face” for not having dealt with absentee coworker & 2. Coworker can’t “blame” me for losing their office. Who knows, there might an option OP may be unaware of that makes everyone happy.

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

    for #3 I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention this but could there be a legit reason why this person is only coming in once a month. Maybe an accommodation of some type? I feel like there is some hostility here and maybe there is more to the story than we know.

    OP I think it would be absolutely ok to ask for your co-workers office. If nothing else, if its big enough maybe you can share it?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Even if there is some kind of accommodation in place, it would be reasonable to ask if you could use the office. Maybe you could make an arrangement where your co-worker would use it on the rare days they come in, while you work from home on those days.

    2. Observer*

      I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention this but could there be a legit reason why this person is only coming in once a month. Maybe an accommodation of some type

      In this context, what does it matter? The OP is not asking for the coworker to be punished or forced into the office. They are asking for an office and pointing out that this one seems to be empty all but one day a month.

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

        I’m just stating that the OP uses some strong language :

        ” forced back into the office” Coworker has “just ignored their repeated demands and shows up maybe once a month.” ” he could get away with murder.”

        I think it would be best that they have a clear head before talking with management about using the office. I could see someone in this position say But coworker has their own office and never comes in. Why cant I have that office.
        its important to note that this person has senority and that the OP shouldn’t hold this against them.

        1. Peonies*

          I agree. There is no way for LW3 to know if their co-worker has been permitted to stay home as an accommodation for a disability. And if that is the case, the office may also be part of the accommodations. This isn’t to say that the LW shouldn’t ask for an office, but it’s really not their job to decide whether their co-worker deserves an office or not. And I would be careful not to go into the conversation with the attitude that the co-worker is a prima donna.

  32. Claire*

    I look forward to the day when I am surprised by letters like the first one, but it’s so common. A lot of companies (and managers and coworkers) justify it by saying that maternity/parental leave is difficult on the company and the other team members, but without non-discrimination protections so few women will advance in the workplace. I agree that it would be good to bring it to HR as Alison suggests.

  33. Lab Boss*

    Related to #2: When I worked at a summer camp every year was an influx of new staff so we had to do a lot of get-to-know-you exercises. One year one of our maintenance guys introduced himself as “Kyle.” We had another mainenance guy named “Nick.” Both Kyle and Nick were sort of skinny teenage white dudes that looked more or less the same, and since you usually only saw the maintenance guys as they drove by in their trucks we all just assumed they were two guys who looked alike.

    Until about a month in, when we finally realized that they were the SAME PERSON. It turned out Nick (his real name) couldn’t think of of an object that started with N during the name game, but he had a knife in his pocket. Knife starts with K… K name… Kyle. He never could figure out an escape hatch from that so he just spent the rest of the summer answering to either Kyle or Nick, whichever someone called him- his fellow maintenance guys all knew his real name and he interacted with the rest of us so seldom he nearly got away with it.

      1. Lab Boss*

        He worked there for a few more years and was still called by both names as of finally moving on. I was never quite sure whether people were just teasing him or whether word never fully spread and some people still just thought we had a Nick and a Kyle that you never saw in the same place.

    1. nnn*

      What’s hilarious about that is the K in knife is silent, so if he’d just said, verbally “N is for knife” people might not have noticed!

  34. Ann O'Nemity*

    #5 – Could you ask change your schedule so you start two hours later and are scheduled until 5? You’d still be losing 4 hours of PTO every week like everyone else, but at least you’d be getting 4 hours off like everyone else!

    1. Generic Name*

      Ooh, I like this approach. I’m wondering if the company is trying to reduce their vacation time liability across the board. If they say no to this request, you can ask them if it’s their intent that you are being docked vacation time you aren’t using. Alternately, you could also leave 2 hours earlier than normal so you get the full 4 hours for which you are being docked. Assuming you are salaried, I’d actually just announce your new summer hours, to comply with company policy of course, where you either arrive later or leave earlier so you work 4 hours less.

      1. Lab Boss*

        That’s what I wonder- it seems like the increased expectation of being allowed to WFH has put quite a few companies on uncomfortable ground with how much PTO liability they’re carrying- now that suddenly people are able to work through a minor illness, a sick kid, waiting for the plumber, all that stuff that used to eat up the PTO bank.

  35. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    #3 I used to frustratingly work for a company that gave all the Director level people offices. In fact, I was made to give up my office for a newly hired one of the male persuasion.
    Fine, but the frustrating thing is that these people were almost never IN the office! In fact, once forced out if my old office, it sat empty for months as that director abandoned that site for another, yet I was still not allowed to use the office!

    My point here is that you can ask, but if the person is higher than you on the food chain you might be denied. Unless you just take matters into your iwn hands and become a squatter!

    1. JustaTech*

      I worked on place where our Big Boss had an office that he literally never set foot in, while the rest of us had desks in the lab and nowhere to have a private phone conversation.
      One day I desperately needed a private space to talk on the phone (with insurance) so I just snuck up to Big Boss’ office, which didn’t even have any furniture.
      (Big Boss had at least two other, much more prestigious offices on other campuses.)

  36. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    OP1: This is messed up, but sadly not shocking. I would definitely talk to HR. If your HR is more than one person, it’s quite possible that you would be reporting this to someone who was uninvolved in the conversation your colleague had. I’d also consider reporting it to the colleague’s boss. This one is trickier and very much depends on what kind of relationship – if any – you have with the boss.

    OP3: Do you have to mention the co-worker and his office at all in the conversation? It might land better if the discussion is more about how your work has changed and you need that quiet space to do your best work. Let the boss figure out the best way to do it. Alternately, could you just squat in the other guy’s office? At least when you’re working on those tasks that require a lot of focus and concentration. Buddy can have his office when he’s there, but you can use it when you need to at other times.

  37. Observer*

    #2- Lunatic coworker.

    Good grief. What an idiot. But at least you know where you stand with him. NEVER EVER take anything he says as factual. If he tells you it’s raining check for your self. And DOCUMENT anything of even the most remote possible consequence that he tells you.

    Whatever else is going on with this guy, he’s a pathological liar.

  38. FormerLibrarian*

    I did IVF when I was working as a librarian during the worst of Covid-19. My managers were fairly understanding, but the news got around and my coworkers expected updates. It got to the point where it was clear that my sweet, nosy, elderly coworker expected me to manage her emotions at that time and, when the first round didn’t work, it made things soooooo much worse. Additionally, it DIDN’T make my bully of a coworker act like less of one.

    The second time, two months later, I told only my direct supervisor that I’d have a lot of appointments. He was the kind of guy who didn’t ask questions or expect elaboration or tell anyone. By the time I was calling in sick, pregnant with twins, my branch manager had assumed I was looking for jobs, because of the rampant turnover the system was having (and still is having, because it’s poorly managed from the top). It was sort of a lose/lose… except I got some babies!

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      I hope you and your twins are doing well! My twins are five now; it sure was tough at the beginning with two tiny babies but now they’re great playmates who have their own independent interests.

      1. FormerLibrarian*

        Thank you so much. We’re doing well. They’ve been wonderful and are expecting a baby brother (for free!) I’m December!

  39. Avril Ludgateau*

    Tangentially re: #5:

    I’ve since learned this is not only legal but common for employers in the US to shut down for a day or period, and then require people to use PTO to cover it, while also not allowing them to work should they want to preserve their PTO. I think a similar topic arose here recently with a LW mentioning their office closing for the Kentucky Derby?

    I have a friend who works for a respected regional university and they are closed for the week between Christmas and New Year’s. A lot of academic institutions here do this, but most of them treat it as a holiday. But in this friend’s case, even though the entire campus shuts down, there are no classes or activities, students might even be shuffled out of residence halls… The staff are required to use vacation time to cover this week, or else they won’t be paid (even salaried). The worst part was my friend was not informed about this until accepting the offer, and she started close enough to the holidays that she did not actually have enough PTO to cover the period.

    IIRC she told me they advertised the job as 4 weeks vacation but the truth is it was 3 weeks vacation and one week of designated holidays. IMHO it was a bait and switch.

    Even if it is legal, I strongly, in fact vehemently disagree with forcing employees to use their own time to cover days – or parts of days – they do not even have the option to work. But the LW5 situation is especially egregious because they are being ripped off of time that they don’t even need to be covering, since they are not on the schedule.

    1. Lady Danbury*

      Completely agree!!! In my country it’s not uncommon for businesses to do summer hours or shut down between Christmas and New Year’s, but I’ve never heard of anyone being required to use PTO for that time. Imo, it’s completely egregious since your PTO should be yours to use whenever you want (subject to business needs, to some extent).

      1. TechWriter*

        My (US-based) company does the shutdown with required PTO use, unless you are essential to keeping systems running/have special permission.

        We also routinely get the “don’t forget to use your vacation time! It’s important for your health!” emails. Everyone knows they’re actually just concerned about balancing the books, since banked PTO might have to get paid out at some point. (We can bank and roll over up to a year’s PTO.)

        I take that week anyway, since we live far enough from family and do in fact celebrate Christmas, but I’m still pretty resentful that I don’t have a choice in the matter.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Yeah, this happened to my husband at his last job. He started in November, found out in December they closed for Christmas week. Nobody thought to even tell him in advance. Found out when his paycheck was short. That place was a dumpster fire in other ways too.

    3. JustaTech*

      I had not realized that this (shut down but make people use PTO) was a thing!
      My company sometimes (but not always, depending on who is in upper management and what the books look like) gives everyone except the facilities group the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. Most people get the time off because it’s a very slow time for business so it’s the sensible time to shut down and do any big repairs. The rest of us get the time off because why not/fairness. (The facilities folks get more PTO to use other times, and I think are informed well in advance.)

      I guess I should be glad that we just didn’t shut down that week when we were owned by Evil Corp, because they totally would have taken everyone’s PTO!

    4. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      Gov/mil contractors who provide on-site support sometimes have to do this, if the office where they work closes for early holiday release, weather, etc. Sometimes you’re able to make up the missed work time by staying late on other days in the pay period. But if you can’t make it up, you have to use PTO.

  40. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    OP3, I see your options are:
    1. If it’s unlocked just use it (although I bet this doesn’t exactly work if you have things like a desk phone. Maybe forward the desk phone to their desk phone for the day, or to whatever you use for telework days?)
    2. Talk to co-worker and specifically ask them for permission to use their office and/or trade spaces
    3. Ask your boss for an office space not calling out co-worker specifically by name (i.e. now that we are back in the office and I have been coming in everyday, due to the noise (or other supporting items) I believe I should be allotted an office space) [My recommendation]
    4. Discuss with boss about having those that do not come in regularly hot seat one office and those that do come in regularly get a designated their own offices (I see this as the most ‘I’m a team player’ option)
    5. Ask for your boss the specific coworkers office (I think this wouldn’t be the best option because if they can get away with murder and have been there so long, it’s either going to be taken as you trying to poke at the perceived unfairness of them not having to be in the office and not a legitmate claim to an office space)

  41. Maybesocks*

    When someone teases me or makes a strange comment, I say “Yeah Yeah Yeah” in a bored voice. When it was about being a woman or specifically pregnant, I would say “Ooh, that’s a good one. That’s going on the list.” And yes, I did keep a list. The comments stopped quickly after a few repetitions. It hasn’t been a problem for years, thank goodness. I’m retiring soon from being a math professor.

    1. Liz T*

      Which letter is this referring to? None of the LWs are worried about being teased–they’re worried about actual interference with their careers, or the careers of others.

      1. Maybesocks*

        It was related to LW#2. If he starts talking about being new on the job, I’d say the Yeah Yeah Yeah. In other words, you’re not fooling me and I find this boring. People making comments about my being a woman, and sometimes a pregnant woman, in the math world were more senior professors who had significant power to affect my career. I think some readers may find this approach useful, although I agree that it is not directly related to LW#2’s situation.

  42. Velawciraptor*

    LW2 is really begging for the Lloyd Bentsen response: “I’ve worked with Bob Jones. I know Bob Jones. Sir, you are no Bob Jones.”

    And now that I’ve shown my age, I’ll be bowing back out.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      And I’ve now realised that Gay Mitchell’s somewhat amusing quip…wasn’t really original. It was made to a Sinn Féin politician who was involved with the IRA and who compared himself to Nelson Mandela.

  43. Cataclysm*

    With Letter 1, the whole birthing age confuses me because . . . how would you even decide who qualifies? Virtually any non-menopausal adult with a uterus could have the potential to be pregnant. I suspect she’d focus more on mid-twenties to mid thirties, but plenty of people have children earlier or later than that. What if the woman is single? As far as I know, single people choosing to have kids alone is still pretty rare. What if the woman is a lesbian (and thus even if she and her partner choose to have children, it could be her partner who carries or they adopt)? And for trans people — trans women wouldn’t have the chance of getting pregnant, but trans men might. Are you going to filter out men of birthing age as well, to really account for the possibility of pregnancy? (And then what if a non-birthing parent wants to take parental leave and will quit if that’s not granted?). With a lot of non-binary people, you wouldn’t even know if they could get pregnant unless you somehow knew a lot of their medical data before hiring.

    It’s been a while, but I don’t remember having to put down a definitive gender on job applications (even for demographic things, there’s usually prefer not to say, isn’t there?) — what if you get someone with ambiguous gender presentation and flat out can’t tell?

    Even setting aside the immorality of it, this rule just seems really difficult to implement on a practical level, especially since that manager said “stop doing it at all” and not “reduce the numbers.” Bigotry is known for having logical gaps, but this seems particularly bad

    1. Time Capsule*

      Gave birth as a single parent in 1987. It was common even then. Nothing rare about it.

    2. metadata minion*

      I really don’t think they’re putting nearly this much thought into it. If “people who might need maternity leave” is “presumed-women in their 20s-early 40s” for you, that’s who you discriminate against. I can almost guarantee you that this coworker does not think trans people exist :-/

      1. Cataclysm*

        I also think she probably doesn’t believe trans people are “real,” but I think she’d have to admit there are some AMAB people she can’t tell apart from cis women and vice versa, so even if she doesn’t believe in the validity of their gender identity, they would still affect her stated goal.

        I agree I doubt she’s putting as much thought into it as I did, I’m more trying to point out just how absurd and confusing that would even be as a policy because there’s no way to tell.

      2. NewishButLearning*

        OP here – you’re right that she was specifically referring to women aged ~25-40. She clarified this when we were talking *shudder*

        1. yala*

          Sooooo….basically the ages when most women enter the workforce and start to build careers holy CATS

          PLEASE give us an update on this one because, I mean. yikes.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I was thinking I have colleagues and friends who’ve had kids at every age from their late teens to their mid-40s, and…most people looking for jobs are probably in that age range.

  44. MistOrMister*

    Re OP5…what a sucky practice on the part of that office!! What are they thinking?!? When my office closes early, they give us administrative leave. And, in fact, if you have to work past when the office technically closes, you still get to request those 2 hours. Basically you get them no matter what as long as you worked until the leave time. If you left at 12 and the 2 hours would kick in at 3, you have to use PTO for the whole afternoon.

    I personally dont like the idea of forced half day closures where you have to use your PTO. I hate working half days. And if we assume 12 weeks of summer, 4 hours every Friday comes out to 48 hours of PTO. That is over a week of leave! I think a vast majority of people would not choose to uae their leave in this manner. I can understand it more when places do a week long closure between Christmas and New Years. Although I still don’t love it….if the office is closed, PTO should not come into play. What happens if you don’t have enough??? Do you just not get paid? In my office we get penalized for taking LWOP unless there are extenuating circumstances.

  45. Essess*

    LW2 — I’m surprised by the attitude to ignore the situation. You should actually RUN to HR about this. He is deliberately trying to impersonate another person in the office. Anyone who doesn’t know the real Bob (such as you when you were introduced) will blame Bob for anything offensive that Jim does/says. This has potential serious repercussions on the real Bob’s performance reviews and reputation over time as Bob’s supervisor hears feedback and comments about fake Bob’s interactions with others and thinks they were done by real Bob. This is a very serious concern since Jim has been stated to be a jerk so this behavior will get back to Bob’s boss by people that don’t know that Bob is really a different person. This is deliberate identity theft and will cause harm to real Bob.

    1. Observer*

      This is a total catastrophizing, and really unhelpful. Real Bob’s supervisor knows who he is. Real Bob’s coworkers know who he is. People also know the Jim is, and they know he’s not Bob. He’s not “impersonating” anyone, and the idea that he could actually do any harm to Real Bob with this stupid prank is seriously far fetched.

      If the OP went to HR with this, Jim would deny it, and even if he didn’t HR would be far more likely to look at the OP with concern about THEIR fitness, than not. Trying to claim that this could harm Bob would likely elicit no more than a few eye rolls.

      1. Essess*

        Bob’s supervisor knows who he is IF the supervisor was in attendance at the time of an incident. But let’s take a realistic scenario. OP (before finding out he’s a fake Bob) hears fakeBob making inappropriate comments to another coworker. OP calls realBob’s supervisor and reports that Bob made inappropriate comments. The supervisor wouldn’t know that the complaints are about the wrong Bob. Similarly, OP could have talked to other coworkers and talked about the rudeness of fakeBob, and again the coworkers wouldn’t know that it wasn’t really Bob and this gives them negative views of the new person that they haven’t met yet because the negative items are being blamed on the wrong person. Since Bob is new, these types of things will harm Bob. It is NOT “catastrophizing”. It is real office interactions and real repercussions, especially since the person making the fake identity has a bad reputation already which will spill over onto the new person when talked about under the false name.

        1. Observer*

          That’s a far from realistic scenario. But even if the OP *did* have something to complain about, and went to Real Bob’s supervisor, what makes you think that the supervisor is actually going to take it seriously? Seriously enough for it to make him think worse of RealBob without taking ONE second to check out “New Guy’s” story? That just makes no sense.

          Far more likely, if the OP were going to run to a supervisor over something that RealBob didn’t say, is that the supervisor figures out that OP has the wrong person and the OP winds up looking like an idiot. But even that is not likely.

          What ACTUALLY happened is what one would expect to happen. ie The OP figures it out long before they do anything with their incorrect information.

      2. Essess*

        And I want to respond to your “He’s not “impersonating” anyone” comment….. what in the world do you consider impersonation if introducing yourself as another person isn’t impersonation? That’s the definition of impersonation. He introduced himself by a false name, and gave a false history of who he is in the company by deliberately using a real other person’s name and history and he maintained the falsehood over several weeks with the OP.

        1. Observer*

          I consider actually acting like the other person in a minimally sustained way, at minimum. Idiot Jim introduced himself as Bob and added some color to it to make it clear that he knows exactly what he’s doing. Then he promptly goes back to using his own persona – including in the presence of the OP. It’s kind of hard to call that impersonation.

  46. Free Meerkats*

    For #2, if there’s an accomplishment with high profile that involves Jim, make sure you credit Bob loudly and often.

    In a meeting where JimBob’s manager is present, keep addressing him by Bob. Then look confused when you are corrected and pointedly ask why he introduced himself as Bob.

  47. Aeroloft*

    ust a thought, I think today can be summarized as:
    1. Openly discriminating against women of childbearing age.
    2. Gaslighting of women by a male.
    3. Rules not applying to men.
    4. Discrimination against women undergoing medical treatment.
    5. Well… this one is at least gender neutral.

    I’m seeing a common denominator as far as the problem goes. Hmm. What could it be?

    1. pancakes*

      It’s not gaslighting every time someone has terrible views or a terrible sense of humor. A number of commenters seem to think that because a guy who seems like a jerk introduced what seems to be a jerky joke to the workplace, it needs to be repeated ad nauseum. Ran into the ground until everyone is thoroughly exhausted by it. I think the impulse to do that needs reconsidering, but I don’t think it has anything to do with being gaslit.

  48. Startup Survivor*

    LW1: do you have in house legal? Often at smaller companies HR started via recruiting and payroll and may not have proper HR training. In my experience, reporting to in house legal usually results in a very frank conversation with someone who actually has the power to make these problems stop. (Report to HR as well, however.)

    1. NewishButLearning*

      OP here – we’ve got a legal coordinator and our head of HR takes risk management really seriously. If she knew it opened our company to legal liability, I think she would act.

  49. k*

    I sympathize with LW #5. Our office has implemented the same policy, but we just don’t get paid, at all, and we don’t have nearly enough PTO to make up for it. Technically, it isn’t mandatory, but it is “encouraged” to the point where if I say I’m working until 5:30 it’s seen as staying late. We’re also technically allowed to work later if there is a project requiring extra hours… which there never is.

  50. McConnell and Paul, seriously?*

    Sort of on the other end of LW #3, I am the manager and gave the nicest in person space to the only person in our office who goes in to the office every single day. The vast majority of people work from home all the time, or come in once a month or so. There is apparently some resentment that the one coworker got the nicest office and hard feelings that the people who barely come in to the office don’t have very nice spaces. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    1. Heidi*

      This makes sense when you are going to be in the office more often. I’m not sure why there is resentment either.

    2. Pisces*

      The resenters probably don’t like being reminded that the employer also has a say in work arrangements.

  51. Jay*

    When they were younger, my husband and his brother looked a lot alike. Back when there were actual stores selling software and peripherals, my husband went in to look for something and the friendly salesperson greeted him and asked how he liked last week’s purchase. He’d never been there before. His brother had recommended the store, and eventually hubs figured out that the friendly salesperson had helped Bro the week before.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I have a similar problem with two brothers at work, and since we tend toward casual, I have to check to see tattoos to determine which is which. One has gorgeous multicolored sleeves, and the other doesn’t have any visible.

  52. toolittletoolate*

    My blood boils when I hear that “she’s probably going to get pregnant” talk. When was the last time you heard someone say “I’m concerned about hiring that guy because he might have a heart attack in the future?”

    1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

      Also, so what if she does? Even in the land of long parental leaves, most come back and work many more years. I didn’t come back from a parental leave…. Because I took another job that I liked better. Most of my coworkers have little kids and working spouses.

      Hire people who like your work,or accept that people will leave whether or not they give birth.

  53. Liz T*

    LW#1, do everything you can to get your coworker fired.

    Seriously. Especially now, of all times. She wants to deny women a livelihood over the possibility that they might get pregnant–exactly when our ability to control that is being taken away. Get it in writing if you can, record her if that’s legal in your state, but scorch the fucking earth.

    1. NewishButLearning*

      OP here – I’ll certainly report it and stress how discriminatory/illegal it is. Our HR is pretty hit or miss, but if they know, I’m hopeful they’ll take it seriously

  54. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

    I’m not currently looking for jobs but the topic comes up in my CF communities somewhat often–is it a good or bad thing to include your childfree status on an application? It’s so tempting to list it to avoid discrimination like LW1 describes, but you are really only (maybe) avoiding that particular instance of discrimination. Announcing you are childfree, especially as a woman, only ever seems to open the door to more raised eyebrows and debate from other people. I also wonder about the message it inadvertently sends, like “pick me! I’m better than those OTHER women who might leave to have babies at any time!” But some have described cutthroat application processes where they felt like they were at a big disadvantage without volunteering that information. I think, as usual, there’s no win-win for people who could theoretically bear children.

    1. metadata minion*

      I would find it extremely weird to see that on a resume, and I say that as someone else without children. It would honestly make me wonder if you were going to discriminate against parents.

      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, if your childfree status is so important to you that you’re announcing it, I would worry that you’re an asshole over it.

    2. River Otter*

      “ is it a good or bad thing to include your childfree status on an application?”

      Are you in the US? I’m asking bc I wonder where you would even include this information. The only place I can think would be the cover letter, and despite what this site believes, those are not universal in application processes.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      I’m also CF, and have been my entire career (I’m 60), and I have never put it on a resume or job application.

      I also didn’t marry until I was 52 and it was fully legal.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I really, really, really wouldn’t include it for a whole number of reasons.

      Firstly, it is like you are encouraging discrimination in your favour. It could come across like “favour me over women planning to have children” which could turn employers off because they might feel that if they DID employ you, it would look like they were discriminating against people likely to become pregnant.

      Secondly, you REALLY don’t know who you are applying to or what their views or personal circumstances are. What if they are a single parent who credits their need to provide for their children with being the reason for their success? They might either feel that a childfree person wouldn’t have the same incentive to work hard or feel like the candidate was making a dig at working parents and take offence, which isn’t the reaction one wants when applying for a job.

      I also have my doubts it would help. I suspect the type of person who decides they don’t want to employ any woman who could possibly have a child is the same type of person who would think “oh, she says that now, but she’ll change her mind!” Or “oh, I bet she’s just saying that to get a better chance of getting the job and then she’ll be off on maternity leave as soon as she gets it.” I suspect the overlap between people with an understanding that women can be childfree and genuinely have no interest in having kids and those who discriminate against all women of childbearing age because “they’ll be off on maternity leave” is relatively small.

    5. Observer*

      If I were looking at resumes and saw that on a resume? It would immediately go into the reject pile. Not because you are child-free. That’s none of my business. But because there really is no reason it’s on there that doesn’t speak poorly of you in some way. Either you have zero sense of boundaries, zero sense of professional norms or you are a jerk about the matter. Or maybe you are too stupid to realize that someone who chooses staff based on that is almost certainly not a good person to work for.

      In short, it displays terrible judgement. (At least in the US)

    6. Liz T*

      It would say to me that you’re totally fine with being hired for discriminatory reasons–you’re courting it, in fact–which would make you someone I would not want to work with. “Look at how male/white/straight/able-bodied/etc I am!” would be a pretty awful thing to put on one’s job application, and so would this.

      1. pancakes*

        Yeah. I am wondering why that last “but” wasn’t an “and.”

        “I also wonder about the message it inadvertently sends, like “pick me! I’m better than those OTHER women who might leave to have babies at any time!” But some have described cutthroat application processes where they felt like they were at a big disadvantage without volunteering that information.”

        If that’s not meant to be the message it sends, what is? How is an atmosphere in which people are trying to compete with one another for work on that basis not cutthroat? Of course people are likely to feel it’s cutthroat to be trying to compete for work in ways that 1) have nothing to do with their ability to perform the work and 2) invite illegal discrimination. It is.

    7. quill*

      It would be exactly as weird as trying to promote yourself as an employee based on your experience raising children. Much like the breakfast club quote regarding sex, there’s no win here: either you’re less dedicated because you have them or weird and not woman-ing right because you don’t. There’s no assumption that a hiring committee will make about you as a woman that actually has an advantage.

    8. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

      Thanks all for the input! I am definitely going to bring up a lot of these points the next time I see this conversation happening.

    9. Logan Noonan*

      As others have said, definitely don’t include it. Just curious – are you inside the US? I’m just asking because it can be common in other countries to include children (and religion, height, and weight) on resumes. In that context I might have a more softened opinion.

  55. TPS reporter*

    As someone who manages a large team, statistically I have seen that I have a harder time keeping people who don’t have children or aren’t trying to have children. My organization has non-profit salaries but we try to make up for it with great benefits, flexibility and normal hours. In general the job seems to be more attractive to parents or potential parents as a result.

    Also I want to mention that these managers getting angry at the parents- this is screaming at the sky for being blue. Direct that energy towards HR or other parts of your company that can help you with the struggle you experience when staff goes on leave. Advocate for leave bonuses for the staff that is coverage for someone on leave, good temp agencies, options that allow let’s say one team to cover for another. Put the burden on the company to figure this out, not the human who is just being a human.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I would have loved a bonus for the times I’ve had to cover for mat/pat leaves.

      1. TPS reporter*

        It has been such a game changer and still HR fights us on the program. It’s absurd, they want us to be very accommodating towards leaves which of course I do too! but they have to help us out. The work is not going away.

  56. TootsNYC*

    I don’t think it should be legal for a company to require you to use your PTO for ANY period in which the office is closed and you CANNOT work.

  57. CLC*

    I disagree with Alison on the IVF one. I did *years* of IVF and I would never have been able to do it and have my child if I hadn’t been open with my manager and my team. You may be able to keep one cycle under wraps, but most people have to do more than one, and you can only be out for so many outpatient surgery and doctors appointments before people start to either worry about you or think you are shirking work. You also cannot “schedule” most of the IVF in advance. The nurse will call you each day to give you instructions for the next day, and you cannot guess the days of your retrieval and transfer in advance. Furthermore IVF isn’t just about the trips to the clinic and days off for retrievals—it can often make you feel awful, give you brain fog, insomnia, nausea, gain weight, etc—you may very well need to leave early because you feel awful. There’s also a very good chance you will have to spend hours and hours on the phone with the pharmacy or insurance company
    And it’s extremely stressful. You cannot travel or schedule important meetings in advance. It’s also really important to normalize open discussion of this stuff at work—millions and millions of people are going through it and I cannot stress that it is very difficult even with the full support of the people around you.

    1. pancakes*

      A lot of what you describe could also describe the treatment process that followed my breast cancer diagnosis. Not always being able to predict when I’d be having a harder time than usual, brain fog from the medications, hours on the phone with pharmacies and ins. reps, etc. I have never regretted not telling people about it other than my supervisor. A lot of people who like to think of themselves as supportive handle things like this quite badly, and a lot of people who wouldn’t categorize themselves one way or another have pretty messed-up ideas about things like illness, conception, parenthood, etc., and/or the way those things can interact with work. There’s much to think about for anyone in a similar position and of course they’ll know their own situation best, but wanting people to be supportive and actually being able to count on them for support aren’t always aligned, unfortunately.

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