suspended for Covid-related absences, cost of gas is making my commute impossible, and more

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

1. Suspended for Covid-related absences

I have a friend who works at a large, reputable nonprofit organization that provides education and support services to vulnerable folks in our community. She is in college while working full time with an hourly wage because her employer offers tuition remission (after she stays for X months).

The company seems to have a decent Covid protocol in the sense that folks who are exposed at work are immediately sent home and can’t come back until their corporate Covid hotline clears them (following a negative Covid test at a partner agency).

My friend has been sent home so many times in the last few weeks after being exposed to Covid at work. Even though she immediately takes a home test (always negative so far) and goes to the designated clinic for a PCR test, the Covid hotline has often taken days to “clear” her due to their backlog. Every time she is home due to Covid exposure, she is not getting paid (the PTO options for hourly employees are meager at best). One time the Covid hotline took so long to clear her (even though her test results were negative) that she tried going to work with proof of her negative test — and they sent her home again.

Last week, she came back to work after about a week off due to two Covid exposures at work. As soon as she arrived, she was suspended for taking so many days off. They told her it wasn’t personal, but they were just following the policy. It was understandably demoralizing for her to get suspended in addition to the financial stress of not being able to work.

This is crazy, right? There are a bunch of other things she’s told me about this organization not treating their employees well, but this one seemed especially bad. Does she have any legal rights here to push back on this policy, or should she just move on and try to find another job, potentially forgoing the tuition perks?

Yes, this is crazy. She followed their policy after Covid exposure at work and got disciplined for doing it — and because she missed too much work, they’re suspending her so she misses even more days? I don’t even know where to begin sorting through this — the fact that the exposures were from work, the question of what she should have done differently (nothing, it appears, so what exactly is the cause for this discipline?), the way this incentivizes people to hide exposures, the fact that the punishment is more of what spurred the discipline in the first place, the whole idea of “punishment” for adults … It’s all outrageous and speaks to something deeply rotten in her organization.

There’s no real legal recourse for her; none of this is illegal, just profoundly stupid and wrong. She should indeed look elsewhere.

2. The cost of gas is making my commute impossible

We live in California where the price of fuel (everything for that matter) keeps going up. Our employer doesn’t give cost of living raises, nor annual performance reviews. My daily commute cost (fuel alone) is almost $20 with the most recent fuel spike. That’s $400/month just to get to and from work. I continue to ask about the possibility of working from home one day a week or even one day a month to help absorb this cost, but I am told no every time. I am the company’s top performer, too.

What do others out there do in a situation like this? Am I the only one that can’t afford to drive to/from work? I have literally cut out every unnecessary expense I have, and it is now at the point where I need to get a second job just to survive.

Have you asked for a raise based on your excellent performance? If not, you should. Just because the company doesn’t give cost-of-living raises doesn’t mean they won’t give raises based on performance, particularly if a top employee asks and particularly in this market. I don’t normally recommend mentioning your personal expenses when you ask for a raise (your salary should be based on your work), but in this set of circumstances it would be reasonable to say something like, “At this point I’m paying $400/month to get to and from work so if working from home some of the time isn’t possible, I’d need to look at other options. But my strong preference is to stay here and I hope we can work something out.” (This shouldn’t be the crux of your case for a raise, but given that you’re their top performer, it’s reasonable to be up-front about it. They should appreciate knowing that they risk losing you and why.)

But if they say no (or if you’re just done dealing with them) … why not job search? It’s a good time to be looking for jobs and you might be able to get a sizable increase in pay that way (as well as possibly remote work too, depending on the nature of the job).

3. Will it hurt me to wear a mask at an interview?

As a result of my job role losing funding, I’m about to head back out into the job market. I have a question about masks at interviews. I have asthma, which while not severe enough to class me as vulnerable, is still bad enough that I’m being very cautious about masking in public (especially being in the UK where masks are becoming a pretty rare sight in my area). My current job has allowed me to work at home for the entirety of the past couple years, but I realize that I may not be able to find a new job that allows this.

I’m not too worried about masking in the office once I get a job, but I do worry about how masking at an in-person interview might be perceived. If my interviewers are unmasked and I remain masked, will that affect my hiring chances? Will they see it as a commentary on their choices or even find me overly paranoid for still masking when they aren’t? I’m unsure what the etiquette is now for masking during interviews when we are two years into a pandemic, especially given that people have a wide range of opinions on masking and other safety precautions at this point. I worry that prioritizing my own concerns about my health will work against me in the job market.

Interviews are a two-way street: you should be assessing them as much as they’re assessing you, and you want to screen out employers who aren’t a good fit for you.

If an interviewer doesn’t hire you because you wore a mask in an interview, that’s an incredibly strong sign about their culture and what you might encounter around safety precautions if you worked there. It’s to your advantage to screen out employers who look down on people who take safety seriously. And even if your interviewers have loosened their own precautions, they should be aware that other people have good cause to make different risk calculations for themselves (including different levels of medical risk or higher-risk loved ones … as well as the fact that the pandemic isn’t over for anyone).

Wear the mask because you need to wear the mask, and consider it an effective tool for screening out employers you don’t want to work for.

4. Can I ask a company to call my references instead of getting written replies?

Is it ever okay to ask a company I am interviewing with to call my references?

I am at the final stages of the interview process at a company and was told I basically have the job, they just have to do the background check. However, they want three written references.

One of my references got back to them quickly. However, my second reference just gave birth to twins a few days ago (she barely has time for herself and her children, let alone sitting down at a computer and writing something up), and my other reference is living in a remote area this summer on a family vacation with little internet access. He says he has phone access but slow WiFi.

Both of them told me they’d be happy to talk to someone on my behalf and vouch for me, but the requirement that all of this be written and in PDF format is making it difficult for me to get the job. Is it rude to ask the company if they can call my references instead of making them type something up?

It’s not rude at all. Explain the situation! “Valentina Smith just gave birth a few days ago, and Cecil Mackelberry is on vacation in an area without internet access. They’re both happy to talk to you but given their situations would have difficulty doing a written reference right now and asked if they can speak with you by phone instead.” This is the kind of info a good hiring manager will want to know.

5. How junior staff can provide value to their network

I was reading the archives and got onto a string of letters about networking. One was from a young adult who didn’t like networking. I loved how in the reply you said not to discount what a junior person can bring. However, I recently had a situation highlight that in a manner you didn’t mention and wanted to share.

We needed to hire someone very junior, preferably right out of school, for a technical position. The entire hiring team and technical staff were over 35. We had no direct connections to the candidates we wanted and weren’t getting a good candidate pool. So I reached out to my network specifically targeting folks in their first five years of work or new to the field and asked them to help me find good candidates. They, in turn, looked to their younger college friends, professors, and younger siblings. It was a lot of value; I couldn’t access the new talent without the very youngest and newest folks in my own network.

Yes! Junior folks often aren’t sure what they could offer contacts who are more established in their careers, but this kind of thing matters. There are lots of other ways less experienced people can provide “value” in a networking relationship too, so junior people, don’t underestimate yourselves!

{ 437 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Deviant*

    1/ it never ceases to amaze me how crappy employers can be. How infuriating.

    1. Sue*

      I would take this as high up as I possibly could, even if I were planning to leave. This policy makes absolutely no sense and someone is either misinterpreting or applying a policy in such a rigid fashion that it becomes nonsensical. I personally would not be able to let it go without a huge pushback.

      1. Salymander*

        You think that maybe one or a few ridiculously officious and narrow-minded people are interpreting this as the right thing to do? I can believe that. People do weird things and small minded people sometimes get really excited by any power they have. Maybe going up the chain of command could work in that case. Or, it really could be the whole org that is rotten from top to bottom. That is unfortunately also very plausible.

        I would be incandescent with rage at being told, “Sorry, Awesome Employee. I know we wouldn’t let you come in due to our Covid policy. Now, we are firing you because we told you not to come in due to our Covid policy. Nothing personal, it is just business.”

        I guess they aren’t too worried about the whole Great Resignation thing. And they clearly don’t realize that this type of story will spread and they might discover that it is tough to hire quality employees when no one with any other viable employment options wants to work there. WTF is wrong with these people?

        1. Casper Lives*

          They’re being foolish and short-sighted. Maybe it’s the type of non profit that thinks there will always be people wanting to work there for the cause? And tuition reimbursement? LW said it’s a large, reputable nonprofit.

          1. Oakwood*

            There seem to be a large number of posts about nonprofits mistreating employees. Is there something going on with them or just a large number of readers of this site that work for nonprofits?

            The LW said they will pay for her tuition if she works for them a specific length of time. It may sound cynical, but they may be laying the foundation to fire her before that to avoid paying her tuition.

            I was offered very enticing stock options if I stayed with a company a specified time. I was laid off a month before they became active. I later realized this was standard operating procedure for the company as I spoke with several other people who had also been laid off just before their options kicked in.

            I hate being cynical, but sometimes you have to be cynical.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              There seem to be a large number of posts about nonprofits mistreating employees. Is there something going on with them or just a large number of readers of this site that work for nonprofits?

              This has come up on here before and the answer is people who work for nonprofits say they work for a nonprofit when they write in (and most people write in about problems, not things that are going well). People who work for for-profits just say “I work for a company” or “at my work” when they write in, not “I work at a for-profit company.” So it seems like nonprofits are more dysfunctional because we (as readers) don’t lump all of the other workplaces together as “for-profits” in our brains.

              1. AnonToday*

                I volunteer for a couple of nonprofits and am familiar with others with related missions–there’s a lot of teaming for political advocacy. Seems that the same organizers and leaders keep showing up at different nonprofits (and related civil service jobs) on a fairly regular basis. I don’t know how much of it is driven by changes in leadership vs. higher pay at other orgs. (I do know that one group had an interim director who laid off a lot of folks for reasons that didn’t seem very plausible. They were snapped up quickly by other groups.)

            2. quill*

              Much like academia, nonprofits find it easier to lean on “but the greater good!” to justify their bad practice. It seems more that nonprofits are more consistent in the ways that employees could be mistreated, whereas for profit is a wider range of companies with a wider range of truly bonkers problems.

            3. Bongofury*

              In the 90s in Dallas, everyone I knew had something just like that happen to them at IBM. It was called “Being IBM’d” and that was all the explanation you needed for looking for a new job at 55.

              1. Hazel*

                Why don’t they just, I don’t know, NOT offer the stock options!? Word will get around anyway, so it’s not going to be a big draw for potential employees.

                1. Autumnheart*

                  Because if you promise stock options that vest after 3 years (for example), you can just about guarantee that your employee will decide that sticking around for 3 years is worthwhile when they might otherwise start looking around at 2 years. Cut your turnover by 30% and never actually have to pay out those options! It’s a great deal! /MBA

              2. Reluctant Mezzo*

                K-Mart did that with store managers over 50, but alas their class-action suit ended up being turned down. Not that I suspect the higher management had more influence with certain parties, of course. /s

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            That’s what I’m thinking – low-level authority figure being an ass, and the high-ups might be horrified to hear the story.

            1. tangerineRose*

              I wonder if it would be worthwhile to find a sympathetic higher-up and ask for mentoring on this – asking how she could have avoided this situation. Maybe the higher-up will realize that she couldn’t have avoided it and will fix the problem.

          2. Ama*

            That’s exactly what I was thinking — this is the HR person in charge of monitoring staff absences who isn’t bothering to adjust their enforcement to account for the new COVID policy.

            I personally think it’s ridiculous to have a staff absences policy that is this rigid anyway (since it doesn’t seem like it is related to no show absences but just a particular number of absences whether they are excused or not? This isn’t high school.)

          3. Crumbledore*

            I was thinking of the manager who wouldn’t let their employee take off their Leap Day birthday in non-Leap Years because “it’s not the policy.” And doubled down when Alison and the commentariat declared them way out of line. Could be very literal interpretation of the policy coupled with a belief that management’s role is primarily policy enforcement; but I have to think there’s someone deriving some satisfaction from wielding this power over people.

        2. Hookt Awn Fonicks*

          There’s not enough info here to conclude 100% that this isn’t illegal. The friend should consider speaking with a lawyer, who may draw out additional facts. For example: Has this policy been applied consistently? Does this policy cause some disparate impact?

          1. somanyquestions*

            How does this work with people who have medical reasons for missing work? What about when that’s based in a disability?

            This policy is fraught with possible weirdness.

            1. Zelda*

              Is “having an immune system that doesn’t 100% fight off Covid infection even when vaccinated” effectively a medical condition, for which LW is being penalized? (Casually assuming LW is vaccinated; “medically unable to be vaccinated” would be another can of worms.)

              So fraught.

              1. Molly the cat*

                Not even that; she’s getting exposed and then taking tests that turn up negative, but still being kept at home.

        3. Amethystmoon*

          I could believe that also. Treating workers like dirt because someone got power hungry is fairly common in the US, sadly. Some people get a whiff of power and they become mini dictators.

      2. A. Person*

        I also wonder if this is someone misinterpreting a policy. Often if employees are being mistreated it’s because it’s convenient or beneficial for the boss in some way (even if it’s just “I can’t really be bothered dealing with that”). But it seems like this policy would be a total nuisance for everyone, including the employer – if it’s being applied across a large organisation, wouldn’t they be suspending staff constantly, and then having to reallocate the work? I guess the other possibility is it’s *not* being applied to everyone and someone has it in for the LW’s friend in particular.

        Either way probably a good idea to start looking for another job, and query it with HR or someone higher up if you can in case it is a particular person doing something weird.

      3. Katie Impact*

        It kind of sounds like the policy is intended to pressure people to lie about COVID exposures, while still being able to say that they have a strong COVID safety policy (as long as people don’t look too closely at the details). The policy is impossible to follow, but if an employee breaches it and gets caught, the blame falls on them.

        1. Snow Globe*

          My assumption is that this is a long standing policy about absences, and wasn’t adjusted once the COVID-related protocols were implemented. And the manager thinks she needs to apply the legacy absence policy regardless of the reason for absence. Very much “by the book” without thinking through or caring about the ramifications.

          1. Observer*

            Well, in that case it could actually be a real legal exposure for them. Because any policy that penalizes someone for all absences, regardless of the reason almost certainly will run into legal problems. In many places, penalizing someone for absences due to jury duty is illegal. And penalizing someone for taking FMLA covered absences is absolutely illegal. Telling the court that you penalized someone for an absence you know was covered by FMLA because “all absences regardless of cause” are counted in your disciplinary policy will be an automatic loss.

            Which is to say that while it’s probable that what is being done to the OP’s friend is legal, if this is where they are coming from, they are almost certainly doing something illegal.

            1. doreen*

              Yes, but it’s also possible that there is a policy that excludes FMLA absences and jury duty absences but hasn’t been updated to exclude COVID absences. My former job’s absence policy excluded FMLA absences , counted all continuous absences with medical documentation as a single absence and didn’t count scheduled absences such as jury duty at all. When I left in January, there still had not been any update to the actual written policy for COVID so somebody who was very by the book might have thought the policy applied to COVID absences. I’m 99% sure that a large part of the reason this didn’t happen was because Labor Relations had the final say regarding violations of the attendance policy, not individual managers and supervisors.

          2. Zelda*

            “Very much ‘by the book’ without thinking through or caring about the ramifications.”

            That Upton Sinclair quote comes to mind– “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Because there is (on a short-term, surface level) a benefit to the company if workers quit reporting those pesky infections and just work, darnit; whoever is applying this policy has an incentive not to think it allll the way through.

            1. Boof*

              But this policy is bad for the business too – no one’s profiting off sending employees home (i think!)

              1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Unless the company saves money by getting rid of people just before they have to pay the employee’s tuition.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          But the organization is the one that identified the covid exposures in the first place, so she couldn’t possibly have lied about them.

        3. Amethystmoon*

          Yes, I’m sure the company also subtly encourages people to come in with regular flu all the time. This is how we get pandemics. Heaven forbid people be honest.

        4. fhqwhgads*

          I don’t quite think so because the exposures are at work, so it seems like work is who told them they were exposed. So you can’t really hide the exposure. The super-backed-up lab results keeping people out longer would piss me the hell off though.

        5. Burger Bob*

          But it’s the company that’s informing the employees of the covid exposure. The employees aren’t self-reporting. They don’t even appear to know they have been exposed at work until the company informs them.

      4. kittymommy*

        Yeah I wonder if this is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          This. I’m 100% certain that it’s incompetence, rather than anything malicious. Employers have all the power in the world to force people out the door if they don’t want them around – I can’t imagine anyone going to the trouble of deliberately crafting two contradictory policies in order to trap their employees like this.

          I would recommend the OP’s friend take it to someone fairly high up in HR and explain what happened – hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the suspension will be reversed.

      5. starfox*

        I think she should take it to social media, the news, etc., although perhaps after securing other employment.

        If it’s a large, reputable nonprofit, maybe public backlash will make them start treating their employees better?

      1. Anonagain*

        I wondered that too. Or, is she has to work a certain number of days or be full time to qualify, and the suspension effectively disqualifies her.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Damn. Didn’t even think of that because it’s so cold. But I wouldn’t put it past some orgs.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Huh, I didn’t think of that, although it sounds like it’s policy so it’s across the board and not specifically directed at the LW.

        1. Oakwood*

          If they know she’s racked up $50 to $100k in tuition costs it could be, which would be very easy to do in a 4 year span.

          1. somanyquestions*

            A non-profit isn’t going to pay that much of it’s employee’s tuition. It would be a few thousand a year.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Another vote for taking it up to the head of HR or the highest operational level the OP can access.

      And for writing a Glassdoor review about the experience, if that doesn’t work, and the OP has to find another role.

      1. redflagday701*

        If I tried everything and got nowhere and had to find a new job, I would be hard-pressed not to reach out to a local TV news station that did those “We investigate!” segments.

    3. Helenteds*

      It’s like some kind of weird catch-22. It does indeed sound like somebody is overly rigid in following company procedures, but hopefully they will realize that they need to make changes to policy. It sounds like the policy was implemented before Covid hit and it didn’t occur to them that they need to make changes.

    4. Casper Lives*

      It’s terrible and short-sighted. I don’t understand how she’s being exposed to covid so much at work, either. What is going on in that non profit?

      1. April*

        Depending on what of the country you’re in, case rates are SUPER high.

        But given the work described, it might be direct caregiving or home visits of multiple people, or working in a care home. I work in a retirement community, and we have a lot of folks in independent living who have outside agency caregivers come in anywhere from once a week to multiple times a day. Some people get 24/7 care. A lot of caregivers have multiple clients, especially if they’re through an agency. We had to change our policy ages ago–if we forbid people with known exposures from entering the building, a lot of elderly people wouldn’t have been able to get basic care–toileting, eating, bathing, getting in and out of bed, taking their medications.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Any job which involves face to face contact extended contact with members of the community, combined with high case rates. It’s like the parents of kids in daycare who paid for two months of full time day care, but were only able to use it for a couple of weeks, due to repeatedly being sent home due to exposure.

        2. WellRed*

          Yeah in addition to the way they are treating her I wonder if their definition of Covid exposure is in line with current guidelines.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Yeah, I don’t think quarantining after every exposure is even the recommendation anymore is it? I think if they are filly vaccinated and masked, just continuing to wear a mask after an exposure is sufficient per the CDC. And personally I am very in favor of people who want to follow stricter protocols than that… but this is definitely NOT the way to go about it!!

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, it’s not. My roommate has covid *right now*, and I used the CDC calculator to figure out what to do- it said I was fine to go about my life, so long as I’m masked (I am vaccinated and boosted). I work in a chemistry lab so air flow rates are super high, but if that weren’t the case I’d feel really uncomfortable being around coworkers all day, even masked.

              1. That one over there*

                Me as well. I have a kid at home, who can’t be vaccinated yet and has Covid now. The rest of us are negative and per the cdc we can go about life as normal (not my kid of course). We will try and be responsible and keep trips outside the home down though. I am still working in office however.

          2. Observer*

            Well, we know that their behavior is not in line with any reasonable guidelines, CDC aside. I mean I get why they want a PCR, even though that’s a bit overdone. But it has to be through THEIR clinic *and* needs to be reviewed and passed on by their *understaffed* central hotline? That’s just lunacy.

            1. Cat Lover*

              Right, I can’t wrap my head around why no one thought this would leads to issues.

            2. Empress Matilda*

              Yeah, and they won’t accept a negative test result, unless it’s specifically passed on through their hotline or whatever.

              It’s this kind of chaos that tells me they don’t know what they’re doing – they’re just blindly following Policy, without any thought for logic or practical consequences. There is *no way* they’re competent enough to be building some nefarious scheme to force OP’s friend out the door.

              1. somanyquestions*

                LOL. I work for the government and I frequently laugh at conspiracy ideas. Like these people as a group could pull that off.

                1. quill*

                  My favorites are always “oh, only high ranking politicians know about it, that’s how it stays secret” My friend, have you SEEN the kind of things politicians will blurt out?

                2. Louis*

                  Having worked in both government and in the private sector, you can be assured that that conspiracy theories assume a higher level of competance than actaully exists in most large organizations.

              2. Observer*


                But you are right. It doesn’t sound like they have the brains to do that. But I have to wonder what else they are wasting money and resources on in the name of “policy”.

                1. Empress Matilda*

                  Having worked in government for 20+ years, I can tell you all kinds of stories about wasting time and resources in the name of policy! That would be a thread all on its own…

            3. Phony Genius*

              Their hotline isn’t so hot. If you’re going to call something a “hotline,” it needs to function with speed and efficiency. I wonder how many people this hotline has to process per day. Is the hotline only for this organization, or is it an outside vendor serving numerous companies?

      2. April*

        Depending on what of the country you’re in, case rates are SUPER high.

        But given the work described, it might be direct caregiving or home visits of multiple people, or working in a care home. I work in a retirement community, and we have a lot of folks in independent living who have outside agency caregivers come in anywhere from once a week to multiple times a day. Some people get 24/7 care. A lot of caregivers have multiple clients, especially if they’re through an agency. We had to change our policy ages ago–if we forbid people with known exposures from entering the building, a lot of elderly people wouldn’t have been able to get basic care–toileting, eating, bathing, getting in and out of bed, taking their medications.

      3. April*

        Depending on what of the country you’re in, case rates are SUPER high.

        But given the work described, it might be direct caregiving or home visits of multiple people, or working in a care home. I work in a retirement community, and we have a lot of folks in independent living who have outside agency caregivers come in anywhere from once a week to multiple times a day. Some people get 24/7 care. A lot of caregivers have multiple clients, especially if they’re through an agency. We had to change our policy ages ago–if we forbid people with known exposures from entering the building, a lot of elderly people wouldn’t have been able to get basic care–toileting, eating, bathing, getting in and out of bed, taking their medications.

      4. April*

        Depending on what of the country you’re in, case rates are SUPER high.

        But given the work described, it might be direct caregiving or home visits of multiple people, or working in a care home. I work in a retirement community, and we have a lot of folks in independent living who have outside agency caregivers come in anywhere from once a week to multiple times a day. Some people get 24/7 care. A lot of caregivers have multiple clients, especially if they’re through an agency. We had to change our policy ages ago–if we forbid people with known exposures from entering the building, a lot of elderly people wouldn’t have been able to get basic care–toileting, eating, bathing, getting in and out of bed, taking their medications.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I think their combined policies of how they handle Covid exposure and how they handle “too many absences” are the reason why she is being exposed even more than the average (and my social media feed is full of “my whole family is positive” posts right now, so the average is pretty damn high). Bet she wasn’t the first employee to get suspension for missing too much time for exposure (on top of all the time missed for exposure being unpaid). So people are learning to keep their mouths shut about being exposed outside of work, or maybe about testing positive even. Come to work with Covid and spread it with abandon. It will get worse.

      1. Other Alice*

        That was my first thought as well. The only way to comply with this policy is lie about exposures. If so, it’s extremely nasty. Start looking!

    5. Emma*

      At husband’s job, if you are vaccinated and exposed or get Covid, you have to use your sick leave. If you aren’t vaccinated, you get a different kind of leave that doesn’t count toward your sick leave. So basically rewards employees who won’t get vaccinated. Makes no sense.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Same here – vaccinated and exposed, no ping on your PTO/sick, even if you’re actually too sick to WFH. Unvaccinated and exposed, if you’re not well enough to WFH you have to use your PTO/sick. (Our field employees are subject to the rules of the respective jobsites as far as quarantines; their PTO/sick pay is via union and not us so I have no idea how that works as I’m not in payroll!)

          Other than a very early (too early IMHO) back to office return, my employer has been very solid in their messaging about this though, especially in NOT punishing truthfulness. There’ve been no surprise “gotchas”. And even the return to office was HIGHLY coordinated.

      1. Rose*

        What?! What is their rationale for this policy? Or is the company run by anti-vaxxer nut jobs?

        1. Emma*

          It’s a federal government agency…so, maybe?! ;) Makes no sense at all and I’ve yet to hear a good justification.

          1. Mianaai*

            I wonder if it’s a product of the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” sort of thinking, that only unvaccinated people get severe Covid (or get Covid at all) and thus that vaccinated people no longer “need” the additional PTO if they get sick. Kinda a byproduct of the “if everyone is vaccinated we instantly go back to normal” mentality of mid 2021. In my fed office we currently only get the extra PTO if it’s determined that we got Covid from work, which seems like it would be incredibly difficult to prove. We do get extra PTO to get vaccinated or boosted during work hours, and for recovery from vaccine side effects, though.

            1. C*

              Yeah, I once had to call a worker’s comp carrier for a patient who was a nurse who got covid on the job and it was 100% provable. This was pre-vaccine to boot. She had opened a claim, the adjuster laughed in my face about the chances of the claim being paid. I have dealt with asinine insurance policy for years and will call them out on it; I kept it polite but intimated that adjuster’s behavior was unprofessional, repulsive, and gave the industry a bad name.
              I told said patient what insurance told me and asked for their employer’s HR’s phone number so I could inform them that they needed a new worker’s comp carrier as worker’s comp was treating their staff poorly and acting unprofessionally and that was incompatible with said employer’s bid to be the best rated employer in the region.

    6. Erin*

      +1 to this! The company must have the entire staff out pretty frequently with the covid exposure rules that have been implemented. The company is really hurting itself by not temporarily pausing the attendance situations that are the result of covid exposure & waiting for test results by the 3rd party vendor.

      I see this company’s employee morale tanking, and losing dedicated employees that could easily be retained by simply pausing the attendance policy for covid related absences.

      That’s just crappy and shady. How frustrating!

  2. TCO*

    #5: yes! When I was younger, I used to have my own connections to candidates for junior-level roles. Now that there are fewer of those folks in my personal circle, I depend on younger colleagues to help me spread the word about internships and entry-level roles. I was hiring for one early-career position earlier this year where our first round of basic advertising wasn’t getting us the candidate pool we needed, and my network was really helpful in connecting us to more strong early-career applicants who had the right skills.

    I value my young colleagues as talented coworkers who bring great ideas and dedication fo their work, obviously, but they are also genuinely helpful for networking with.

    1. OP5*

      Yep! It was an interesting experience for me and a situation I hadn’t considered at all when I was younger.

  3. Chad*

    Why would someone stay at a job that doesn’t give raises? That employer is telling you that they don’t value you. Leave that employer behind and find one that values you. You can leave a crappy employer.

    1. irene adler*

      Why would someone stay at a job that doesn’t give raises? Because no one else has hired them.

      It can be very hard to find a new position. For me, it’s not because I haven’t tried. I’ve been looking for 7 years now. Lots of interviews and lots of “We went with the other finalist. Good luck in your job search!”

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Not all areas have endless jobs available. I live outside of a big city with a reasonable number of jobs, but if I needed something close to where I actually live, it would be basically all cashier or food service jobs, which are fine but not exactly variety.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, my husband’s experience is in a very niche field where the skill sets don’t really transfer to other fields, and his level of experience means that he is suited to a fairly senior role. There aren’t a lot of roles like that available nationwide, and if you factor in that we’re not willing to move to a new area, it’s very limiting. Hence why he’s taking care of our son right now while I work.

    3. anonymous73*

      No matter what you’re hearing about it being a job seeker’s market right now, not everyone can get a new job instantly. And in my 25+ years of working professionally, I have NEVER gotten a COL raise. Yes you can leave a crappy employer, but it’s not always that easy. And most people don’t have the luxury of resigning on the spot. A crappy salary is better than no salary.

    4. ThatGirl*

      My husband stayed at a job for 11 years that only gave him like … two raises (and one pay cut). Because it was a university counseling center job, which aren’t THAT plentiful, and he otherwise liked his work and his coworkers. He also didn’t really fully believe he could find another job. (He is moving on now, but that’s a story for the open thread.)

      1. Leonineleopard*

        I would love to hear that story if he is willing to share on the open thread. Looking at a similar situation myself and would love to gather some anecdotes.

        1. ThatGirl*

          He doesn’t really use this site, but I’m planning to post it on his behalf today! :)

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

      There might be other factors in play. Really good health insurance for example. Or other perks that are hard to find elsewhere.

      I really hope that the OP’s company will either give them a raise or let them WFH. OP Please give us an update so we know how everything worked out!

      1. AdequateArchaeologist*

        The bennies are a good enough reason to stay for many people. My coworker is staying in an underpaying position because she’s just so happy to finally have health benefits. And decently priced ones at that!

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        I concur! Salary is only one piece of the pie!

        I work for a state agency in California. Once you get to the top of a pay scale (after 4-5 years), getting a raise is really difficult. But the benefits are amazing! Good pension, best health care (most services don’t have a copay and if they do, it’s never more than $15), really good time off, very flexible work from home policy, and working with some truly fantastic people.

        I could make more in the private sector and lobby for raises on a recurring basis, but losing the benefits for me and my family would be a deal breaker.

    6. Phony Genius*

      If they truly don’t give raises or performance reviews, the only option left is to ask for a promotion. If the LW truly is their top performer, maybe they’ll get one.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        The LW said they don’t give COL raises or performance reviews. That doesn’t mean they don’t give raises if someone asks.

        Some employers believe that a raise is something that you have to ask for.

        1. Phony Genius*

          OK, you may be right. But this may actually be a good opportunity to ask for a promotion, if the LW wants one. (If that’s how promotions work at this company.)

    7. Shiba Dad*

      Why would someone stay at a job that doesn’t give raises?

      There are a few reasons. One is the current job is “the devil you know”. You have a comfort level with it, even if it isn’t all that great. You know the job really well. You may not know how your skills translate to another job, especially if you are in a niche industry or position. If you are in an industry where everyone knows everyone else, it may get back to your current employer that you are interviewing.

      The job market is good now, but that is a recent phenomenon. they may have tried in the past and gotten nowhere. Even now there are employers that still act as if we are in the 2009 job market. As others have mentioned, the job market isn’t universally good everywhere.

      Some people doubt their abilities. They could be someone who doesn’t normally have loads of confidence or their employer has destroyed it.

    8. Dino*

      There’s only 3 companies in the US that do why I like to do, and the other 2 companies have much worse working conditions and also no raises, just a higher starting base rate. We also can’t really make the case for a raise because privacy regulations mean we cannot discuss the bulk of our work. It makes it hard to justify why the company should pay you, specifically, more money. There also isn’t any senior roles available or promotions due to the skills required to do the job. It’s either my role, or switch to admin (which I’m not qualified for or want to do).

    9. Anonaly*

      I stayed at a place that gave 1% raises each year, if that, because they had a 10% 401K match and free graduate tuition (free = need to stay there for # of years after completion of coursework). I almost regret leaving just based on the 401K benefit. In my mostly rural area, the job market is not hot unless you’re in healthcare (RN, DNP, MD) factory/manufacturing, engineering, or IT, and the higher-tier jobs in my field top out at $55K (vs six figures in more urban areas). I would need to move across the country in either direction “leave a crappy employer.” But I like your idealism.

    10. fhqwhgads*

      Reasons people stay at jobs that don’t give raises:
      No one else has hired them yet
      They assume no raises is the norm and wouldn’t be better anywhere else
      They prefer the devil they know

    11. Anon now*

      I work somewhere that doesn’t give raises. However, I work in a field where salaries are low pretty much wherever you are, and I actually make more money now than I would at a lot of places in my field.

    12. Reluctant Mezzo*

      Small rural town. Surprisingly good benefits, and a spouse with cancer, so you can’t risk a gap in coverage.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    #4 – if your references can’t write the references and the company won’t budge, ask your references if they would be okay with you writing the answers to the questions and having them edit them and then send them in. That would save your references the balance of the work. If they feel your assessment of yourself isn’t accurate, they can edit the report.

    Frankly, if a company is stupid enough to be hardline about reference requests being written, instead of being flexible to accommodate references’ needs, they deserve what they get.

    1. Casper Lives*

      I’ve never had a job that required written references. I guess they want them written to put in the employee file? Hopefully the employer will see reason.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        My government job requires them. I’m sure it’s for documentation purposes. Also, because hiring is done by committee, & they want all members to have the same info.

        But they provide a clear list of questions without expecting really long answers.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        In my office, we usually have phone conversations with references, but we’re supposed to take notes on a feedback form and submit those to HR to file.

      3. Nesprin*

        If you’re anywhere near academia, recommendation letters are more common than reference calls.

    2. After 33 years ...*

      In our place, written references are absolutely required for many positions. They have to be available for review by multiple people; they cannot involve interchange or interaction with the hiring committee (so, no phone or video calls); and they have to be available if an Access to Information request or grievance is filed.
      Circumstances vary by employer and position, but in some cases what may appear unreasonable to a job applicant does have reason behind it.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        What would your place of work do in the situation where references were willing but unable due to circumstances to write something up? Would you ask the LW for other references? Pass on their candidacy? Something else?

        I’m asking because my first job back in the US was government with strict hiring protocols that wanted phone only, no written, references. My references from my two overseas jobs didn’t feel comfortable enough in their English to do a phone call and the time zone difference was brutal (The only realistic overlapping hours would have had the references meeting after 5 pm), so they asked if they could do something written. In this case, because of the language differences, they allowed written vs phone.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          We would either have to ask for other references or pass – no options.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            So alternate references might be something that the LW would want to consider. Another option is having the current references to dictate something in speech-to-text software. Without editing, it might end up not being the most polished thing, but if the requirement is “must be in text” that would fit the bill. The hiring manager can call if something is unclear, I suppose

          2. Empress Matilda*

            This is so much like letter #1! We have a Policy, and the Policy is the Policy, end of discussion. Never mind the actual impact, or understanding the spirit of the policy – nope, we’re required to follow it exactly as written.

            I work in government as well, so I’m very familiar with this sort of nonsense!

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          It happened to me. I needed to get a reference from someone else. (Due to office politics, a former manager just ignored the request – even though she had agreed to be a reference. Weirdly, I was reporting to someone as a contractor at the time, but they couldn’t be a reference, because they were on the hiring committee!) I did eventually get it sorted out.

    3. Oakwood*

      Written references? How 1970 of them.

      I’d have reservations about a company that is so stuck in the past the insist on written references. Will you also be using a typewriter instead of a computer?

      The closest thing I have to written references anymore are recommendations on LinkedIn.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        They are very, very, very common in a good chunk of the world (IIRC a good chunk of Europe – especially NGO and govt, E. Asia, S. America) and certain industries (e.g. academia)

      2. Loulou*

        This is a pretty strong reaction to something that is really not as uncommon as you think.

      3. A Social Worker*

        A lot of healthcare jobs require written references as part of their credentialing process. This is not as uncommon as you might think and not necessarily outdated.

    4. Mel*

      It’s also possible ask if phone references with the written references being supplied later would be acceptable.

    5. DefinitiveAnn*

      I agree with this! I have asked for references for different purposes (candidacy for a community leadership program) and the common response was “write the letter, tell the truth, and I will sign it.”

      1. whingedrinking*

        This. A friend of mine in academia was beyond shocked that I had penned most of my own reference letters. In one case, I was being forced out of my living situation in a way that was shady but not worth it to fight. I pretty much insisted to my landlord that I was going to write the reference and even if it said “Whingedrinking is a literal angel who farts rainbows”, he *would* send it to whoever I asked him to. Or I would sic the Residential Tenancy Board on his ass.

    6. JayNay*

      I like being straightforward with your potential employer about your references!
      I want to recommend another thing: Please ask them to consider if they really need 3 references, given that one of your references has just given birth. That’s a really valid reason to not be available for any work-related requests. I’m sure this person thinks and would speak highly of you, but I find it really rude to ask someone taking care of a newborn (or two even!) to take time out of their day for your career advancement. Please let this person have peace with their babies, if you can.

  5. Mm*

    It’s so frustrating to see people worried they will be discriminated against for wearing a mask during a pandemic. I feel this a lot in Texas – like I have to justify still wearing it. I don’t understand how we got here.

    1. Chikka*

      It’s the government. The states that don’t support strong Covid protocols tend to influence public opinion. The British government is literally just pretending that Covid does not exist. Not only are there zero Covid restrictions, it’s not even possible to report a positive test (if you can even find tests in the first place) so we really have no idea how many people are infected.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        100% agree that the British government currently has an abysmal attitude towards Covid, but it is still possible to report LFT test results. (Not sure about PCRs, never had to do one of those.)
        I have been doing this via the NHS reporting system for months and it didn’t change once they started charging for tests.

      2. Adereterial*

        You absolutely can report the result of an LFT test in the same way you’ve been able to all along – via the Webform on GOV.UK. I did it last week – both negative tests.

    2. Luna*

      Just do it. If other people don’t like you wearing a mask, well, that’s their issue. It’s not illegal to wear a mask. (Though I admit that the justification of ‘it’s not illegal’ is probably not the best reason to have as your first one) And you don’t need to justify yourself. At best, say you want to wear it. Which, frankly, is the only reason that should matter to strangers.

      1. Kate*

        Just want to add that I’m in the UK and all the interviews I’ve had recently have been on video call, even for jobs that will be in-office some of the time (because interviewers are working from home). So it’s possible that this won’t come up as much as OP is worried about.

        1. Waffles*

          I’m in Canada and same. I’m interviewing candidates for a job now and am doing all interviews by video because I’m working both at home and in the office and my schedule is unpredictable.

      2. whingedrinking*

        I was once asked if I knew I didn’t have to wear a mask. I said, “I did know that! Did you know you don’t have to wear underwear? Seriously! There’s no law or anything!”
        Sometimes the fastest way to get people to leave you alone is just to be super weird.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          In a state like Texas you can also mention ‘Those people use facial recognition, you know.” If they’re going to play Paranoia, you get to as well.

    3. anonymous73*

      Alison is spot on. If an interviewer is going to judge you and not consider you for a position simply because you’re choosing to wear a mask, that tells you a lot about their safety standards and you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway. People wearing masks affects those who don’t wear them in no way whatsoever. People need to just mind their damn business. And you don’t need to justify anything. If someone asks why you wear one…”Because I choose to” No need to elaborate. Ignorant people deserve no justification or explanation.

      1. Me!*

        I experienced that in an interview at the beginning of the pandemic and it was unpleasant. It was like, I’m sorry I’m trying not to die or kill my elderly parent with whom I live! I’m not wearing a mask AT you, lady. If that ever happens again (and it could, as cases are on the rise again and Dog only knows what new pathogens are on the horizon), I’m not finishing the interview.

        The place I’m temping is maskless but everyone here is required to be vaccinated and they have masks and tests out the wazoo. One of the bosses even gave me a whole box of KN95s.

  6. CatCat*

    #1, I can’t even with these people. I wonder what would happen if she filed for UI benefits for the suspension. She’s already been out of work for a whole week (relevant assuming she’s in the US in a state with a UI waiting period). I mean… she’s ready, willing, and able to work. They’re just not allowing it through no fault of hers.

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

      Yes I wonder if that could work? I remember my old manager at an old job got mad at another manger for sending people home early with out approval. They did not volunteer he just told them to go (we found out later the reason why he had people leave is so he could sleep with his direct report, at work, but that’s a whole other can of worms there).
      My old manager said that being that people are being forced to leave they could legally file with unemployment because the company was not providing the 40 hours. I don’t know if this is true or not. this was almost 10 years ago and every state is different but it might be something to look into.

      OP friend, push back. Your friend was not calling out sick because they wanted to. They were following the rules. Sompeone must be misunderstanding the policy. I wonder is there someone in HR that could maybe talk to the boss.

  7. CW*

    #2 – I live in California too and I totally feel your pain. I don’t know where in California you are located, but I am located in the Bay Area, and the price of gas is now flirting $6.50 for regular if not already north of that – it is just bizarre. I work a hybrid schedule (3 days at home and 2 days in office) and don’t drive to work; I take BART the 2 days I go into the office and that is a saving grace.

    On your note, what is more concerning is they don’t give raises or reviews? If you are a top performer you definitely deserve a raise. Do as Alison says here, and if they keep saying no, start looking for a new job. And if you do, be picky about it who hires you.

    1. Snuck*

      I’m trying to work out how $20 is commuting? At $6.50 a gallon (is it in gallons? I’m Australian, we’re paying about $2.10/litre or $8/gallon) that should be covering (based on a fairly average for a modern car 8km/l or 24km/gallon) 4 gallons should be getting you about 96km. If that’s your daily commute then it’s time to work out another option as that’s a lot of driving unless you are rural!

      Tackle them for a pay rise, but if you are really spending $20 a day in fuel, 4 gallons a day, then maybe it’s time to find something closer to home? The price of fuel isn’t going to come down dramatically, and it sounds like your employers aren’t very open to cost of living raises. The cost of fuel is impacting all the costs of living too – groceries are going up, all your services and purchases will increase as well. If your employer can’t match the cost of living increase then it’s time to find a new employer, the market is GOOD for you right now.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Either the job or the car needs to change, because that’s a cost that was already insane before Putin kicked off a war.

        (Because the SF Bay Area refuses to densify, lots of lower-income people commute 2+ hours each way since that’s the only way they can afford a place to live.)

        1. Snuck*

          Is there public transport options? Blue Mountains to Sydney CBD can look like that sort of trip in peak hour, but you can catch a train for a lot less time/money.

          It sounds rather nightmarish! Upgrading a car is expensive, especially if you don’t ahve savings. That’s why I suggested the job change, but if it’s a big ‘gas guzzler’ then swapping for a small ‘petrol miser’ might be worth considering.

          A lot of people in Australia will drive to train stations and commute in to the city, the cost of parking in the city is usually $20-50/day depending where you are. The only way I can imagine a 100km round trip is rural driving (or being a person of seniority that gets a parking bay, works flexible long hours, and has someone else doing the school run!). (Fun fact: I used to do 100km a day school run alone, and over 50,000km/yr, but we’re rural ;) )

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I don’t know this particular OP’s situation, but I can tell you that in the US (1) public transit options are generally less robust than in other countries and (2) people generally do not consider public transit options when they need to go someplace. Obviously, those are two very general statements that do not apply to all transit systems/people in the USA but overall the US is a lot more car-centric both in terms of it usually being easier to drive places and in terms of people thinking a car is the ONLY way to get someplace.

            1. starfox*

              Yeah, I’m in the US and I hate driving so I looked into taking the bus. My 20 minute drive to work is an hour to an hour and a half on a bus.

              The buses where I live just aren’t safe, either. I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about taking the bus, and he begged me not to. I’m a small woman and it’s just not safe. :(

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Public transit in the US is generally only within city limits. I live outside of Houston, in a suburb that started out as and technically still is a separate town, and the bus stops end just south of me. I can, fortunately, drive to a park and ride and then take the bus, but the park and ride buses are a lot more expensive than the city buses (total commute per day is $10–two PR buses and two city buses, one each there and back). And currently park and ride buses don’t run midday so if I were working odd hours I’d be out of luck; ridership is way down due to COVID and work from home. If you live outside of the city proper and there isn’t a transit stop, you drive. But in most places, suburban or exurban train stops aren’t a thing.

            Also, my daily commute there and back is almost 100 km/62 miles because I live on the north side and work on the south. I can’t afford to live in the city proper and, no, the commute savings would not make up for the difference in rent. Houston is one of the cities that people are moving to from other places, too, and there just isn’t any housing available, so moving isn’t an option.

            1. Amethystmoon*

              Right, I live in a city that has finally started to built light rail in the suburbs that will go from suburb to suburb. Otherwise the options are bus to downtown, downtown to suburbia, or have your own car, or take an Uber/Lyft/etc. I was an exchange student in Germany during the 90’s and was impressed by their bus system. Even back then, it was 10 times better than ours. The US really should invest more in mass transit.

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Suburb to suburb transit is often nonexistent. “Subrural” is almost always impossible, unless yours is one of the employers big enough to provide shuttle service or have critical density of people to make van share feasible .

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              The county next to ours, most of the municipalities have “Opted Out” of transit. There have been state-wide, sometimes nation wide, stories of low-level workers walking sheerly asinine distances to and from work (typically a story because someone got wind of it and donated a used car or something…)

          4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Even in places like NY, Chicago, Boston, etc with the USian version of good public transit still have huge swaths that are not practically accessible via public transit. In theory you can make it from anywhere in Queens to Manhattan, but in some neighborhoods the number of transfers makes the time impractical. Other cities, like in the Bay Area, are even worse

            1. doreen*

              And the way the system in NYC is set up, even if your starting and ending points are both near a train but neither is in Manhattan, a trip can take much longer by public transit than driving. My mother lives a 7 minute drive from me- both in Queens. Public transit would take an hour.

          5. That One Person*

            Transit could be used to cut some costs, especially when the machines work and you get the two hours of free transfers – also just looked it up and the VTA system now uses an app instead of a physical card that’s so awesome! Can’t tell you how bummed I was losing my first card after loading $20 on it and just having to shrug and go “well someone’s day got made I guess.” I will say that there is the risk of routes being impacted from time-to-time due to things like construction and other events so keeping astride of information like that is important, and if you can stick more towards the train than the buses that’ll also help. Things tend to go more wrong with the buses I feel like because sometimes it just wouldn’t be there until basically you’re catching the next bus and that was always aggravating.

            1. AnonToday*

              I am too concerned about COVID transmission on the VTA buses to use transit, even though I drive a gas guzzler when I can’t bike, and have a free VTA SmartPass from my landlord. I used transit a lot in the Before Times, but with the high COVID rates and no masking now, I just don’t think it’s worth the risk of Long COVID if I catch it.

          6. Miss Muffet*

            I’ve got to think that a person who is doing this calculation about the commute has already investigated if public transportation would be a possibility. And buying a more fuel-efficient car may be out of reach (and buying even used cars in the US is getting quite expensive, if you can even get one!)
            In most of the US, even in the cities, public transportation can be irregular or not get you close enough to where you are going, or require multiple transfers and much longer commute times….

          7. sometimeswhy*

            In the Bay Area, I live 14 miles from work and my commute using transit is a just under an hour and a half each way. I do it because I prefer it, because my life is such that I no longer have strict times to meet (like daycare pickups or school drop offs), the transit options available to me are ones that allow me relax, and because, if I were to drive the parking would be prohibitively expensive. But it’s still a real long day.

            There was a time that I lived closer to work–could literally walk in under 20 minutes–but then I went and got hitched in the middle of a housing bubble and neither of us had a place big enough for the blended family.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Yeah I was thinking about all the letters through the years we have gotten where people ask about a long commute or believe they can do one so that shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting hire.

          Guess we add figuring the cost of the commute to calculus not just the time. If you are offered a salary of X how much will the cost of commuting impact your budget.

          1. The Original K.*

            I’ve always said that commuting isn’t free. Time is valuable, absolutely, but there’s a tangible dollar amount associated with commuting. I used to work with someone who spent $500/month on gas and tolls to work (we worked in an exurb, public transportation was impossible). The company had moved offices before I started and they lost a lot of people because the move made the commute longer, and thus more expensive, for many. You should absolutely factor in the commuting cost when you’re looking at comp for a new role.

            1. Vintage Lydia*

              It is hard to plan for gas prices that more than doubled in 3 months time, however. The OP seemed like they were doing OK until just recently. Gas prices were increasing but not at this rate.

        3. Jim Bob*

          I keep seeing this comment “just buy a more fuel-efficient car!” and have to point out how incredibly out-of-touch it is. If someone is struggling to afford gas, they can’t afford the payment for a newer-model efficient vehicle.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Also: There are no cars to buy right now. All of the dealer lots where I am are bare.

            1. Rose*

              I just bought a car and was lucky because the dealer happened to have the car I wanted. Otherwise the lot was pretty bare. I know some people who are waiting months for a car they ordered to come in. And there is no “negotiating” to be had – you pay what you pay, no discussion.

              1. California Dreamin’*

                We were so lucky… we ordered a Tesla in September or October and got it in December. I understand the wait is now a year for them. I drive a big 3-row SUV with not great gas mileage (I have to because I drive six kids to two different schools every morning… not just my kids but two carpools). I’m so excited to park that thing for the summer, skip the $100 gas fill-ups every week, and take hubby’s Tesla everywhere!

            2. Elenna*

              Yes. My parents ordered a car last November. Not only do they not have a car yet, they don’t even have a timeline for when they will get a car – all the cars that are being manufactured at the moment are being allocated to people further ahead in line than them.

              Granted, we’re in Canada, and I’ve heard the car buying situation is better in the US. But still, buying a more fuel-efficient car is by no means a quick solution, even if LW has the money.

              1. JustaTech*

                Yup. I ordered my electric car back in September. It just this week got on a boat. Chances are good that it will also have to take a train to get to me, so at least another 6 weeks.
                Now, that’s because I wanted a *specific* car. If I’d been willing to take what was around (a used Leaf) I could have had something in the summer.

                Supply chain, man.

                1. Ina Lummick*

                  I got a used Zoe last year and I was lucky I got it when I did – afterwards they all shot up in price by about 2-3k but now I have my chargepoint, I’m laughing (and that my workplace and supermarkets have free chargers!)

              2. ImGladImNotAlone*

                I ordered a Ford Maverick last summer (late July/early Aug–it’s been so long ago I forgot exactly when!) and I STILL don’t have a manufacturing date. Once they finally get back to me with the build date, tack on another 10 weeks.

            3. Critical Rolls*

              It’s Teslas all the way down, haha (joke re: put your name and money down, eventually there will be a car, we promise!)

            4. starfox*

              My car is 14 years old, and I’m just hoping she holds on for a few more years….

              1. Snuck*

                And your car is more environmentally friendly than a new Tesla ;) The most environmentally car you have is the one you currently own….

            5. AnonToday*

              I am getting fed up with my friends telling me to “buy a new car already” every time I need to do maintenance on my old eurowagon. Y’all, there is no way I can get a good used car for the cost of a timing belt service on this car.

              Yes, it’s disappointing that my water pump gave up after only 30K instead of 50K, but a timing belt service is an “every 50K maintenance” not a sign that my car is ready to be scrapped. This time, I didn’t buy an aftermarket water pump so hopefully it will last 50K and not just 30K. None of the people telling me this are driving cars on a 3-year lease, either. They all have cars over 10 years old too.

          2. Me!*


            My current temp job is about a 20-minute drive from where I live. It’s mostly highway so it’s pretty fast. But with gas prices what they are now, if the staffing company calls me for anything else, I’m going to have to factor that in, along with wear and tear on my car. It’s paid off, but it’s a 2007 model and I have to make it last as long as possible. I also didn’t plan on my dad passing away and then having to drive across the state a couple of times.

      2. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        I know of a lot of ppl who live Out of Town because it’s cheaper and they could actually afford a house. Sometimes living outside the city means only a 30 minute drive if the traffic is right; but I’ve known others who live in a completely different sizable towns or in very rural areas because the home location was right and the job was right.

        My mom, before she retired, was commuting 90 minutes each way every day for a plum government job. And there are many who take the commuter train from Toronto to Barrie for work and that’s a two-hour ride. Here in Ottawa, SO many ppl live in Quebec and all over the Ottawa Valley that it feels like none of my coworkers live in the city.

        And yeah, the gas prices are pinching their wallets hard. Our employer’s return to the office plan was not welcomed as gas prices started to balloon and I can tell you that in theory, we’re back in teh office 5 days a week, most staff are finding workarounds and individual accommodations to reduce the cost of driving in (on top of daycare issues, or elder care issues or…).

        Thing is, the job is a good one in terms of $$ and benefits so they’re grousing but it’s not an easy call to leave and find something else closer with the same pay/benefits.

      3. PostalMixup*

        $20 a day is $10 each way. At $6.50 a gallon, and assuming 20 miles/gallon, that’s a 30 mile commute. That sounds ridiculous to me, in the Midwest, but my mom and my sister live in the same metro area and they’re 45 miles apart (and only one of them is at the extreme edge – one of them is fairly central). Out West in the US, metro areas can be huge and full of sprawl.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I live 40 miles from my Connecticut office and many co-workers have longer commutes. When I was laid off during a recession the state department of labor strongly pushed against my desire for a commute under 10 miles.

          1. Becky*

            Hah, I’m also in CT and lived just over 40 miles from work until I recently switched jobs. If you know, you know.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Same in my experience living on the East coast and in Texas. It could be less than 30 miles as well, depending on how much time OP spends sitting in traffic.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Here in PHX that isn’t uncommon at all. The fastest growing parts for housing are on the western outskirts, 20 miles from the main downtown, 45-50 to some of the bigger employers. My coworkers with kids all had 20-40 mile commutes back when I worked in an office

        3. AdequateArchaeologist*

          Mine is about 30 miles each way. It’s super not ideal, but I’m in an area that apparently has 3 Of the top 10 overpriced housing markets, and that’s affecting rent too. Any closer to work and I’d either have rent go up $500+ or loose at least 300 sq ft of space. We can’t afford either, so we’re stuck where we are.

          My company also moved offices right around the time gas skyrocketed, into an area that no longer has decent public transportation. I would have to either catch a bus and change trains twice and make my 45 min commute into a 3 hr commute each way, or try crossing multiple heavily trafficked broads in an industrial area (which, no thanks, I like living).

          I feel LW#3. I’m changing jobs and my new one is fully remote. We’re going to save about $75-100 in gas per month. And I drive a pretty gas efficient car!

        4. ScruffyInternHerder*

          I live towards one edges of the metro region, and work about a 20 mile jaunt away, still in the thick of the metro region. The way my husband and my careers have always seemed to line up, we’re never even in the same proximity, sometimes not even the same direction. We literally chose our current home based on proximity to major arteries so that neither of us had an “over the river through the woods” type of commute.

          My first commute was 40 miles each way, all highway. Because suburban sprawl and two working adults.

          Public transit? In the birthplace of the Big 3 Automakers?!? The suburbs and lack of transit options are by design. I just ran my commute through the local bus system trip planner – 1 hour, 55 minutes average for the best route. Four bus transfers and a (combined) mile walk between stops to boot.

        5. Laura*

          I’m in the Boston metro area and my commute is 24 miles each way but because it’s a reverse commute on the highway it only takes me about 25-35 minutes. My job will be moving closer to the city and even though it’s about 10 miles shorter it will probably take twice as long because of traffic. Lots of people who work here bought houses even farther away from the city – one of my coworkers has the same commute as me currently but it will be doubled once we move, 50 miles each way. And of course none of us are getting a pay raise with the move that would enable us to live closer to our new location and housing prices have gone up drastically even in the past year. It’s easy to say we should be looking for new jobs but for those of us with very specialized/technical skills that can be a lot harder.

        6. Autumnheart*

          I have a 33-mile commute (one way) and I’m in the Midwest. I also lived in Iowa and had a 42-mile commute each way. It’s not like the Midwest doesn’t have sprawl.

      4. Brooklyn*

        Yeah, it’s $6.50 a gallon. A standard US car is 30 miles per gallon, although if you’re driving so much, a used hybrid will get you 50 easy. Assuming they’re not driving an pickup truck or something else ridiculous, OP is driving roughly 100 miles a day? As someone living in NYC, who commutes by twenty minute train or bike ride, if not by roll over to my desk, I’m more concerned about the time. I’m assuming Bay Area or LA (because why would you live 50 miles away from work unless work is a HCOL area), that’s an hour and a half to two hours, one way!

        Forget the $400/month, you’re working an extra week and a half every month just commuting! Definitely time for a job hunt. That sounds miserable!

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I don’t know how the traffic in that area is now, but in the before-times, driving into work (DC) would involve a lot of bad traffic/not moving much, which decreases gas mileage from what is standard.

        2. Wants Green Things*

          What standard US car is 30 mpg for rush hour city driving? Zero traffic highway driving, maybe, but the moment you introduce other cars or stoplights that moleage plummets.

          And since OP is in the Bay Area, it’s not surprising that they have to live so far outside the city – I don’t know anyone who has actually lived *and* worked if SF in the last 20 years, between just how damn expensive it is and how terrible the housing and rental markets have been.

          So no, a $20 a day gas expense is not the least bit surprising. Not is the lack of a CoL raise. Definitely time to bail.

          1. Springtime*

            “What standard US car is 30 mpg for rush hour city driving?”

            Honda Civic. Toyota Corolla. Both among the top ten most popular cars in the U.S. And a hybrid can get you improved gas mileage in stop-and-go traffic.

            1. Person Of Interest*

              I bought a 2021 Corolla (mercifully right before the chip shortage), and I can tell you with certainty that they lean reeeeeal heavy on the “up to” portion of “up to 31 mpg city”. I love the car, but I was honestly surprised at how not-great the gas mileage was once I started driving it. It’s basically the same as the 2004 Celica I used to have.

              1. Gatomon*

                Yeah the estimates are badly inflated. I have a 2011 car that is supposed to get 26 mpg city and 34 highway. I usually get 22/28-30. My previous car, a 2005, got 17 mpg city but was supposed to get 21 mpg.

                I really want to buy a hybrid sedan this year but there’s just nothing out there. I haven’t decided if I want to order a new car I can’t even test drive and won’t know when it arrives, or just buy whatever gas car I can find now.

                1. AnonToday*

                  I had a 2000 VW Passat Wagon (V6, front wheel drive) that got about 27 mpg city, 31 mpg highway. Unfortunately it was rear-ended with irreparable damage to the hatch, and I didn’t realize that the 1999 Audi A6 wagon I replaced it with (same V6) would get about 10 mpg less because it’s AWD. (I love its surefootedness on wet mountain roads, though. But I don’t need that to schlep ballots up and down the freeway at rush hour in dry weather and I’m probably going to lose money even after mileage reimbursement. At least I’m doing public service, though?)

                  My 1991 Honda Civic HB got over 45 mpg in San Diego commute traffic back when freeway speeds were 55 mph. It was a tiny little rollerskate of a car with a 1.6L engine and 4-speed manual. Almost small enough to tow with the A6.

            2. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

              I had a 1999 Toyota Corolla. The internet tells me that should have had 31 mpg City. I bought it in 2002. I can tell you that, at no time that I had it did I get better than like 27. And none/very little of my driving was severe stop-and-go.

              (A 2020 Corolla is listed as “up to 31”, by the way, so apparently they haven’t massively improved.)

              1. bamcheeks*

                Wow, my 2011 Honda Civic hybrid is around 35-38 when I’m just doing short errands around town and 50 when we do a long drive on motorways. I thought that was pretty standard now tbh!

              2. AnonToday*

                A Corolla only got 27 mpg? What engine did it have? I was getting better mileage 5 years ago in a 2000 VW Passat wagon with a 2.8L V6 with over 100K miles on it. I’m pretty sure my friend with a 2004 Toyota Matrix (Corolla wagon) gets better mileage than that. (I think it’s a 4-cylinder turbo.)

      5. Oakwood*

        Long commutes are common in the US because the cost to live in a city center can be off the charts. Even at $400 a month for gas (plus wear and tear on the car), it probably costs her less to commute 30 miles each way than it would to rent downtown.

        I’m sure you’ve heard the story of Google employees who live in motorhomes & vans on the streets by the campus in SF because the cost of housing is so high in the area.

        1. SoozMagooz*

          How is this not a gross exploitation of workers? A company like Google can WELL afford to pay their employees enough to live in a real home near where they work. This is sick. This is modern slavery and these corporations are profiting off of treating their workers like crap.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            These situations (particularly the SF Bay Area) are caused by a mixture of companies, workers, and local zoning laws. Home prices are so expensive because tech workers are paid a lot, which pushes prices higher, people are moving to the area to work for tech (and other) companies, which pushes prices higher, and zoning laws restrict building more and denser housing so the supply is more or less fixed.

            1. Me!*

              Yeah, there’s way more demand than supply. Residential zoning in CA is almost all single-family housing. And you get a lot of people pushing back against any attempt to increase density because they think affordable housing = dirty and bad. Then in the next breath, they complain about homeless people. It’s stunningly hypocritical.

          2. JustaTech*

            My aunt rented her house in Mountain View (that she bought back in ~1998) to a group of Google folks for like $4000 a month back in 2010, and had like 5 or 6 guys living in a 3 bedroom house.

            My friends bought a house in the South Bay for a million bucks that has one bathroom and to get from the washing machine to the dryer you have to go outside, and it’s in a school district with not-great test scores (which is why they were able to buy it in the first place). They both have good tech jobs.

            Housing in the Bay area is beyond insane, because they refuse to build dense housing.

          3. Nesprin*

            That’s really really not true. No matter how well FAANG pay their employees, median house price in Menlo Park is 4Million.

          4. starfox*

            It has less to do with the salaries of the workers, and more to do with the fact that there just isn’t more room to build housing.

            1. AnonToday*

              If you assume housing has to be single-family-homes or even blocks of 4 townhomes, sure. Silicon Valley needs to build UP. Even Santa Clara is replacing defunct strip malls along El Camino Real with 3-4 story condos. Upscale condos are sprouting by all the Caltrain stations.

              The problem is that the neighbors who bought in the 1970s feel entitled to live in a neighborhood that doesn’t change over time. I’ve been following a major project that’s going to replace half of a dead (though originally upscale) strip mall with a combination of housing, retail, dining, office, and parks–the neighbors are furious and trying to block it. They don’t want the towers blocking their view of the hills and they don’t want “low income tenants” in the affordable units (though the income level means this will be teachers, nurses, etc. not people who earn a living scavenging in recycling bins). The original proposal had some serious problems that the developers changed, such as having a private school with the playground doubling as a park, which means it’s off limits in the daytime, plus huge traffic with parents dropping off students. But the neighbors who show up at public meetings just don’t want anything there except the planned Whole Foods.

          5. Gumby*

            Housing in the Bay Area is insane. Insane!

            Condos run maybe $700k on the low end (less-desirable communities, less updated, not-great school district). Into the $2-3 million for something newly renovated in your Palo Alto or Menlo Park ish areas. Atherton, of course, would not stoop so low as to allow townhouses to be built within their borders.

            Houses? Over a million pretty much everywhere in the Bay Area. For example: a 1340 sq ft house fixer-upper listed at $1.4 million that will probably sell for over asking. Or a 1500 sq ft lightly updated house (replaced flooring, painted but still builder-grade cabinetry and charming 1950-era tiles in the bathroom) for a mere $2.4 million. Perfect starter house.

            Even Google can’t afford to pay its entire workforce $400k+ per year.

            1. AnonToday*

              I am so tired of hearing people say (in public meetings and comment sections on local articles) that if you don’t make that much money, you should just move somewhere else.

              THERE WILL ALWAYS BE JOBS PAYING LESS THAN $400+K/YR. Whether it’s support positions at the big tech companies, teachers, nurses, public service, or service/retail/food jobs, there is no way everyone can make the big bucks and we should not, for the sake of climate change, expect everyone else to commute in from Fresno or wherever else in the middle of nowhere housing is “cheaper.” All that does is run up prices for the locals in those towns, and pollute the air.

        2. AnonToday*

          Mountain View, not SF. But yeah, there were single young tech bros who would live in RVs because Google was providing all their meals and they pretty much didn’t need an apartment for much besides sleeping.

          I have friends who are Google contractors who bought a mobile home in a very nice park near the Google campus because they wanted to start a family. They didn’t want to be crammed into a tiny condo and the wife wanted to be able to stay home at least a few years.

        3. Koala*

          I’d like to know if there are any parking costs on top of the daily gas cost?
          I live in Australia and it’s expensive to get to and from work and parking is a cost on top of that. It is a monthly expensive of over $400 a month for both for gas (or fuel or petrol is the terminology instead of gas : ) )and parking. Parking is so expensive can be $15-$20 a day for the cheapest rates for a parking spot that is a fair distance from work. Work doesn’t cover any of these costs and can’t claim it on tax. I’d get a motorcycle but maybe I’d be in more trouble there – probably wouldn’t be able to drive it. Car pooling doesn’t work no one lives close enough. Public transport is an option but extends the trip so long. I think I wish I could work from home – would be much easier on the finances.

      6. My heart is a fish*

        Your math is wonky. $6.50 into $20 is just over 3 gallons, not 4. And the mileage is going to vary hugely based on the nature of the commute. Is it mostly cruising highway speeds? A lot of stop-and-go, low-speed local driving? Gridlock on the highway?

        1. Academic fibro warrior*

          I live in a hot housing area. Plus drivers are terrible here and it’s not unusual for entire sections of interstate to….catch fire or have massive sinkholes or multi car wrecks and you lose lanes. Here you ‘drive till you can buy/rent’ basically and roads were built to isolate areas from each other so gridlock is terrible except on Christmas day and Easter. My car insurance more than doubled when we moved here.

          Five miles on a major road can take an hour. A friend of mine one time took 3 hours to go 15 miles. Transit is being reduced for lots of reasons on top of the staffing shortage so it’s hard to know if there will even be a bus, and few stops have benches, so you could be standing and waiting an hour. The commute is the commute.

          We’re starting to vote for transit and road improvements, things that should make transportation easier rather than just more lanes, but it’s not easy to fix. I vote for the performance raise, but ultimately there may not be a lot that can be done in a reasonable time. Which is super stressful and I’m sorry!

      7. quill*

        So if we assume the car gets about 20 mpg, and the commute is 40 miles, and you do it twice a day, and gas is $4.90… that’s 40 / 20= 2, 2 x 4.9 = 9.8, doing it twice a day is $19.60… Not too hard to find a $20 commute, especially if your car is older. Especially if you live in a suburb of a larger metro area because the metro area costs too much to live in.

        Also where I used to live a 40 mile commute isn’t even an hour commute, it’s more like 45 minutes. And if you have to sit in traffic, it does not necessarily take 40 miles to eat up 40 miles worth of fuel.

        I also advocate leaving this job for one that doesn’t cost as much to commute to if at all possible but with the already sunk costs of the car and the living situation, it’s not at all weird in some parts of the US to have over an hour commute of something like 50-60 miles. (Or a much shorter commute that takes more than an hour…)

        (For more help envisioning this, 24 km a gallon is 15 mpg. So yeah, the math I did works out with a much more efficient car and a much shorter commute than you’re proposing.)

      8. Becky*

        I just left a job that was $13/day in commuting. 45 miles each way at 30mpg = 90 miles = 3 gallons. It’s not that unusual in the US.

      9. Beth*

        1) Gas prices are high right now (they’re at $6.50/gallon+ in my area as well, also in California, when it used to be rare to see anything over $4.50 not long ago).
        2) A lot of cars in the US are pretty inefficient with gas. A lot of people drive SUVs and similar cars–which they could change out for smaller, more efficient cars, of course. There are also a lot of people, though, especially low income people with limited budgets, who drive older used cars which can be really inefficient–and they likely have less flexibility to switch to a hybrid or more efficient modern car, especially since the used car market is absurdly expensive right now in the US.
        3) In most urban areas in the US, and especially in big cities in California, a LOT of people have really, really long commutes. Housing prices are sky high, and a lot of people have to move really far out from city centers where office buildings are located just to afford housing. There are alternatives, but they’re likely to be major trade-offs. Living in a studio close to work, or in a room in a shared apartment with housemates, is fine if you’re 22 and single–it’s not so workable if you’re married with a toddler and another baby on the way. We don’t have robust public transit networks, especially outside the city centers, so a lot of people don’t have a viable commuting method other than driving. If you’re driving 90 minutes each way to and from work, in stop and go traffic the whole way, consuming a few gallons of gas isn’t hard to imagine.

    2. Mockingjay*

      A lot of commenters are focusing on car replacement/travel alternatives, but OP2 seemed more frustrated about lack of raises and unsuccessfully negotiating work from home. Lowering fuel expenses isn’t going to solve those problems in the long run.

      OP2, I recommend two courses of action:

      1) Write up your accomplishments and progression in this role. Make a business case to your boss detailing why you deserve a raise. Research similar roles and pay and determine a number that will work for you.

      2) Skip the boss and use the research above to update your resume and find a job worthy of your talent, with COLA, raises, and promotional paths.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I was also thinking the LW buried the lede on this one. This place doesn’t give raises or reviews, even to their top performer. That is a problem no matter how much the commute costs. LW, I’d start looking around. If you are a top performer at your current company, then odds are another company that gives raises and reviews would be very interested in talking to you.

  8. ..Kat..*

    #1: if they are getting exposed to COVID so often at work, I would hope that the employer would provide personal protection equipment (PPE) and the training in how to use it properly. Obviously, this is not happening. This seems to me to be an OSHA type violation.

    1. Asenath*

      It depends partly on where you are in the world, as well as on local conditions. We (in Canada) are well along (at least in some provinces) the path from treating COVID as a pandemic to treating it as an endemic disease, meaning pretty well everyone is assumed to be exposed, with rates of serious illness being minimized by high vaccination rates. It’s kind of like influenza now, or at least getting that way. But of course, if that’s the case in LW’s location, the employer’s policies of forcing LW to stay home, and then punishing her for missing work, make even less sense. If it’s possible for them to make less sense.

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

        You know that is a great point. MY doctor has said that at this point people are getting “exposed” all the time now. It’s not March 2020 anymore. We know a lot more and we have a lot of good testing available.

        i think the employer should re-evaluate their policy. It should be if you are directly exposed you need to have a negative test. If you have any symptoms then you need to take a test and do not come in until your symptoms such as cough or fever, are gone.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I believe in the US that current CDC guidelines only include quarantining after exposure for people who have *not* been vaccinated. Seems like this company would be far better off all around mandating vaccines and masks if they want to have a firm covid protocol in place without having to eventually suspend every employee for constantly being sent home…

    2. Snuck*

      It needs to be more than PPE.

      The weather in America is great at the moment (getting bloody cold in Australia!) – cross ventilation, open the windows! I think the OP said they were in some kind of youth program? Temperature guns so they can check kids are not having a fever and send those home who are unwell. Masks on everyone – youth and adults, and provide sanitiser. Review the close contacts that happen and change what you do to reduce the number of them – don’t be daft like the West Australian Govt and make the rules stupidly lax, that doesn’t work, but do review what happened when the contact occurred and see if you can eliminate some of the exposures. Provide an effective leave policy. Review whether your external company is meeting KPIs you have contracted (please tell me there’s a contract!) around testing result times, and if there’s not something in place either put it in place (with a financial incentive) or accept a RAT test (or provide RAT tests at work).

      Western Australia is currently coming off the back/through the hump of it’s first wave of COVID (we held it off for two years until everyone was vaccinated) but we are still having a bunch of rules on us – generally around masks in public spaces. People are expected (retail, hospitality, teachers, general adults in crowded spaces, users of public transport) to provide their own reasonable mask. Some employers are providing them (and all health care workers are provided them), but it’s not automatic. I think the balance is about right. Responsible employers are working with their staff to minimise exposures, some employers are not good at this. To be a close contact in WA you have to spend 4hrs face to face without a mask, or live with a COVID case… which is complete rubbish, but if you actually are designated a close contact you can still go to school/work on condition you RAT every day *not positive, and wear a mask everywhere, and do not go out to anywhere but work/study, essential shopping (not cruising for new jeans) and medical appointments (although specialists won’t see you, they rebook you). We’re keeping our case numbers under 10k a day, with a population that hasn’t faced it before March this year. Doing ok. Lower deaths per capita than US as well.

    3. Cat Lover*

      It kind of depends on what the worker is classifying as an “exposure”? I know people that say they were “exposed” because their friend’s friends kid breathed indoors around them 2 days ago and has the sniffles. Not saying that’s what’s happening here, but at this point, everyone is going to be exposed at some point because of the number of asymptomatic people and high vaccination rates (area of the world depending).

      1. Cat Lover*

        I say “the worker is classifying” because it seems like this is a self-reporting situation.

        1. WellRed*

          I posted above but also wondered if the company definition of exposure is out of date with current guidelines.

          1. Cat Lover*

            I was thinking that as well!

            Either way, the employee needs to talk to higher ups. Either its a mistake that can be fixed, or the policy/policies need updating.

    4. Loulou*

      It doesn’t seem obvious the employer is not providing PPE and training — where are you getting that? They may just be classifying any close contact (even if both parties were wearing masks properly) as an exposure.

      1. ..Kat..*

        If you have the PPE and are wearing it correctly, you are not considered exposed from being around people who are COVID19 positive.

    5. Observer*

      They are getting exposed – but not getting sick. That’s the thing that makes this even more outrageous. She’s being made to stay home EVEN WITH A NEGATIVE TEST because the clearing house is not doing its job in a timely fashion!

  9. Caroline Bowman*

    OP3 – I too am in the UK, and yes masks are rarely to be seen. Thing is, it’s fairly likely, depending on what you do, that your first interview would be over Zoom or similar. If you go via an agency / recruitment consultant, you can definitely mention a first-round preference for that.

    Going on from there, if it gets to second round, I’d mention it to the interviewer or recruitment consultant, that you are continuing to mask for medical reasons (which you are – and there’s no proof required at all, so no need to go further) and then… wear your mask! I do think it’s a good idea to note it before an actual face-to-face though, because as you say, it is definitely unusual, and in a meeting situation, it might give the interviewer pause (note, not annoy them or make them think badly of you, but just be taken aback because it is unusual at this point).

    But if it were me, I’d aim to make first rounds Zoom anyway, get a sense of the prospective employer and then mention it to them when they want a second interview.

    Good luck!

    1. Weegie*

      Definitely mention it beforehand – usually invitations to interview ask if you have any disabilities that the organisation needs to accommodate for the interview. Treat your asthma in the same way, and let them know you will be masking. My organisation still recommends masks, 1m distancing, opening windows, etc, when people are in the office, and others will too. No reasonable organisation will blink at your reason for using a mask – and if they do, then you have your answer.

      1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        I disagree about this. OP doesn’t need any accommodation for the interview, so it’s unnecessary to mention the asthma. OP apparently isn’t planning to ask the interviewer to wear a mask – if they did, then of course they had to talk about that. I just don’t think the interviewer needs to know about their asthma or anything about why they choose to wear a mask. I also think it would be impolite to ask why someone is wearing one. Of course seeing a candidate with a mask could make someone think that this person is high risk and/or paranoid. If the job includes in-person contact, they might ask how the mask-wearing applicant feels about that.

        1. UK-dweller*

          Maybe OP should ask the interviewer to mask, though. That would be more effective in helping prevent OP catching covid, and would certainly be a reasonable request for an in-person interview – as well as allowing them to vet whether the employer’s covid attitude matches their own.

    2. Glassheart*

      I think they should definitely mention it – it will help the surprise. No one on our team in the UK masks anymore and I’m the only one in our US team who is. However, our offices have a vaccine mandate so I think that’s partly why. (Honestly it’s still going around the office even so, so I’m not surprised more aren’t still masking and wish more would…) I’m quick to note it’s because of a health situation and that helps, but before I mentioned that I got a “you’re kind of paranoid” vibe .

  10. June*

    Everyone who lives and breathes these days is exposed to Covid. It’s ridiculous to send asymptomatic people home. Have them mask up and take a couple of Covid tests. I work at a hospital and no one is sent home for possible exposure. No one would ever work.

    1. Cat Lover*

      Same here. It’s not that I don’t take COVID seriously- I do! I’m a first responder. But my state good vaccination rates. If we are vaxxed and boosted, no quarantine required if asymptomatic. If that were required, we would probably just have to close.

    2. Silly Janet*

      I was wondering this, too. While working on childcare in California I was directly exposed twice. We closed down the classroom with the cases and I took home tests throughout the week. I never caught it and was never sent home. I also take COVID very seriously, but this seems extreme. As long as she is fully vaccinated and boosted and tests negative, I don’t see why she needs to keep going home.

      1. Cat Lover*

        I’m interested in seeing the companies COVID policies. My company has a simple flow sheet based on symptomatic/asymptomatic, vax status, etc. A vaxxed, asymptomatic person shouldn’t be going home.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          To me, I see a huge glaring exception depending on the job&environment. If for example they’re in daily direct contact with newborns or transplant recipients. Those are just two groups of people who are probably completely vulnerable to the worst effects of this disease.

          1. Cat Lover*

            Agreed, but that doesn’t seem to be the case from what is written in the letter.

            I’m a first responder as a second/volunteer job and we are similar to my FT office job. Vaxxed + asymptomatic = no quarantine. I know our local hospitals are similar (and they can’t afford to send people home if they aren’t sick or don’t have a positive test).

          2. Anon for this*

            No, I work in the delivery room. The workers are masked up (FFP2). If you get exposed, you work unless you get symptomatic. We test regurlarly. Even without mask, fully vaccinated workers wouldn’t quarantine after only an exposition. You can’t close the whole healthcare sector down…

            1. Cat Lover*

              Yeah, there’s really no medical reason for it, even around high risk populations. Closing down healthcare causes more harm, I think.

          3. Observer*


            I think that the issue of exposure is actually a bit of a red herring here. People ARE TAKING TESTS. Friend was made to stay home WITH A NEGATIVE TEST. Exposure is not magic – if you take a test 72 hours after known exposure and it’s negative, you didn’t get covid from that exposure. What idiot decided that people need to stay home ANYWAY?

            1. Huh*

              The rate of false negatives is still incredibly high. Suggesting you can pinpoint when someone contracted covid based on testing is pretty ridiculous, honestly. I’ve seen plenty of people test negative while symptomatic for a week, and don’t test positive until after the 5th day when their symptoms are abating.

              That being said, it is silly to send asymptomatic vaccinated people home after an exposure.

    3. Oxford Comma*

      This is great for you. This is not so great for those of us who are immune-compromised.

      1. Owlette*

        Then what do you propose people do, not work? Vaxxed, asymptomatic people are less likely to spread COVID, especially if they’re masking and testing negative.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          I’m so tired.

          For the last two years, I’ve been essentially told that my life is worth less because I am immune-compromised. All along.

          “Why are you insisting that you be allowed to remote in for the meeting? It’s just a cold if you get it.” “I don’t know why you insist on wearing a mask.” “The students don’t feel comfortable if you’re wearing a mask. So what if your face will be inches from theirs. It’s just a bad cold.” “What do you mean you don’t want to go to lunch with me even though I’m asymptomatic?”

          You bring up your situation or your family’s situation and there’s this look people get. “Oh, well, you have to live your life.” I want to scream. They have a cold and they’re fine in a day or two. I have a cold and it’s a week of my life with me in bed and months of my life hacking my lungs out. Flu puts me out of work for weeks and I’m a shadow of myself for half the year. That’s the cold or the flu. That’s not Covid. Covid is gonna put me in the hospital if I get it.

          I’ve got colleagues who are asymptomatic and are coming to work and they’re unmasked because our admin has given up.

          I have accepted that I am totally on my own to protect myself and my family but I am so tired. And I am bitter. My administration where I work has given up on Covid. They were awful at it in the beginning, but at least there was an attempt. That’s all gone now. And yet they want my loyalty. My coworkers who shamed me for not going to what turned out to be a super spreader conference, they just want Covid to go away. How dare I keep acting like this might kill me?

          I am so tired.

          1. RagingADHD*

            I am really sorry you are dealing with that, but I don’t think that either June or Owlette were saying your life is worth less.

            I read their comments to mean that we have reached the point of risk-theater rather than risk management. The policies described in the letter, especially, aren’t making anyone safer. They are just discouraging people from testing and disclosing.

            1. Cat Lover*

              Yeah, no one is saying to not practice personal risk management and safety based on personal medical issues. But, we are at the point after 2+ years where things are not the same as they were in March 2020.

              Requiring people to say home if vaccinated and asymptomatic, WITH A NEGATIVE TEST, has no medical reasoning.

              1. Vintage Lydia*

                The main I issue I see with masking though is it’s far more effective for both people to mask. Like if I’m sick but asymptomatic and you’re not sick, and only one of us is masked, it’s more effective if I’m the one who is masking. So telling immuno-compromised people to just mask and don’t worry about everyone else really misunderstands the science behind what makes masking effective. It’s why my family and I mask everywhere even though none of us are immunocompromised and could theoretically get through Covid no problem (though even folks with “light” Covid can still have serious long term health effects. This pandemic is a mass disabling event even for previously very healthy people.)

                1. AnonToday*


                  I am moderately high risk and I was just stunned when my new PT scolded me for not bringing water to my 45-minute appointment because I should be sipping water every few minutes. She even helpfully demonstrated TAKING HER MASK OFF IN FRONT OF ME to drink water because clearly I just don’t understand how to take my mask off.

                  NO. I just don’t think my N95 is very effective WHEN IT IS NOT ON MY FACE.

            2. Oxford Comma*

              I wrote that from a place of frustration. I should have been clearer that I was not referring to either commenter.

              1. Owlette*

                I apologize for being frustrated as well. My boyfriend’s boss is very anti-vax and anti-mask. My boyfriend is exposed to sick coworkers all the time (and he works directly in person with the public, in a state with very high cases), and would be fired if he called off work every time he is exposed. Despite the “great resignation”, he would be unlikely to find another job in his field that pays this well. It’s frustrating wanting to do the right thing (stay home), but not having the financial means to do so.

              2. AnonToday*

                I understand what you meant.

                I am tired of all the “personal responsibility” nonsense and I don’t get nearly as sick as you do when you’re sick. But I’ve gotten pneumonia at least twice after an ordinary flu and am terrified of Long COVID.

          2. Gracely*

            I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sucks. My spouse is immune-compromised, and the indifference many people have about exposing him to Covid has been infuriating and exhausting.

            And I too want to scream when I hear the “well you have to live your life” as a response to masking because WHAT DO YOU THINK WE’RE TRYING TO DO? THAT’S WHY WE’RE WEARING THE G**DAMN MASKS!

            Anyway. Internet hugs if you want them. I know you feel alone, but there are many of us in this with you.

            1. Owlette*

              I didn’t say that people shouldn’t wear masks and I’m not indifferent about exposing my immuno-compromised friends and family to COVID. What I said is that people who are testing negative, asymptomatic, masking, and fully vaxxed should be allowed to work and support their families.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Thank you for clarifying because I did not read your comment that way. “Especially if they’re testing negative” != “only as long as they are testing negative,” so I took you comment to mean that anyone who is vaxxed and asymptomatic should not have to be quarantined even when they tested positive. That, unfortunately, is that attitude of many people who think that it’s worth sacrificing the lives of the vulnerable to ensure that their own lives are not inconvenienced, and so I had the same reaction as Oxford Comma. I’m glad to hear that I was wrong.

          3. Minimal Pear*

            I feel you, I’m in the same place. The more people move on and say this is the new normal, the LESS safe I get. My area has super high cases last I checked.

            1. AnonToday*

              Same here. I keep seeing stories in the same news feed about “COVID case rates are 5x higher than the surge last summer” and “Major music festival happening for the first time since 2019!” and all the new indoor restaurants and clubs opening.

              I am trying to avoid even buying groceries indoors but my friends are getting impatient with me. (Yes, the same friends who think I should buy a new car because mine needed a new water pump and you might as well replace the timing belt while it’s off.)

          4. Maggie*

            But neither commenter said any of those things. They said that being vaccinated, masked, with no symptoms makes you unlikely to spread covid. People have to work to eat and have shelter. If you are vaxxed, masked, and testing negative but being told you can’t come to work that puts you in a very very difficult position. It’s probably not realistic for OPs friend to continue working at this place, since work is for getting money to live and she is unable to do that here.

          5. Owlette*

            I didn’t say or imply that your life means less. What I’m saying is that it’s incredibly unreasonable to insist that someone who is testing NEGATIVE for COVID, someone who is masking, asymptomatic, and fully vaccinated to miss work and go without pay, which is a hardship of its own. It’s anti-science, medical theater.

            I have immuno-compromised friends and family. I’m vaxxed and I still mask and take all the precautions I need to take. But if I’m testing NEGATIVE and have no symptoms of COVID, then my friends and family aren’t worried I’m going to spread COVID to them. Because I won’t.

          6. Calpurrnia*

            Oxford Comma, I am not immunocompromised nor am I in regular contact with someone who is. But my heart sincerely goes out to you and all those who are in your situation who have to make these kinds of decisions. These awful, selfish, pervasive attitudes of “everyone’s going to get it sooner or later” and “it’s just a cold, what’s the big deal” are cruel and fundamentally invalidating to you and many other people like you. I hate that when society is asked to choose between minor sacrifices to protect the most vulnerable vs. total hedonistic disregard for others in the name of “freedom” they’re by and large choosing the latter. I hate it so much.

            I see you. I care about you. You may be a stranger but you matter to me.

            That’s part of why I don’t go *anywhere* in public without an N95 mask. It’s on before I get out of my car and stays on until I get back in the car, with the small exception of periods outdoors when there are literally no people within 10+ meters (ie, hiking in the woods or walking on an empty beach). I wear it opening the door for delivery people and talking to a landscaper in my front yard. On the extremely rare occasions when I eat indoors in a restaurant, my mask stays on at my table until my first bite of food and goes back on as soon as I’m done eating. My husband and I work from home and other than medical appointments we make trips into town once a week for groceries and other necessities. We’re hiking and gardening for exercise instead of going to the climbing gym – outdoor recreational activities that get us away from other people. We socialize online and game with friends all over the world without any risk of exposure. And anytime we think we *might* have been exposed, we’re using at-home tests before we go out anywhere again.

            It turns out it’s not at all hard to “live your life” while protecting vulnerable people. We’re doing it every day. Anyone who asks why we’re wearing masks (or in our case, says “you know they lifted the mask mandate, right?”) gets “we’re still being careful to help protect everyone”. It doesn’t matter if it’s me or my kid or my friend or a stranger that I’m doing it for, it’s nobody’s business what “excuse” you or anyone else has for choosing a mask. It’s the middle of a damn pandemic, we should all be wearing masks! How did the narrative get this twisted around backwards? What’s *their* excuse for *not* wearing one, other than “it’s technically not illegal anymore”?!

            People have choices. The “you have to live your life” people are making a *choice* to live their lives in a selfish way that disregards the risk they pose to others, instead of a caring way that (we hope) helps you guys live your lives too. <3

            1. balloon frenzy*

              You’re saying that as a married person. While I still wear my mask and take precautions, I have to get out and socialize for my mental health. I’m single… great for married people or people who live with their SOs or friends or family.

              I don’t think it’s selfish to spend time with friends rather than be literally by myself 24/7.

              1. AnonToday*

                Socializing on a hiking trail is a completely different risk factor than in a nightclub. Just sayin’.

              2. Calpurrnia*

                Yeah, the choice of what you do to socialize makes a big difference. You can always choose outdoor activities over indoor ones, choose masked activities over unmasked ones, choose uncrowded activities over crowded ones, have smaller get-togethers vs bigger ones, and so on. Maybe this takes some thinking outside the box if your friend group is the sort who just defaults to “let’s go to a bar” all the time, but it’s not that hard to do like… anything else.

                Depending on what’s available in your area, obviously, you could stay outdoors (weather permitting) by: hanging out in a park, helping each other start vegetable gardens, fishing, kayaking, hiking mountains or hills or just regular flat walking paths, walking on a beach, doing tai chi, wandering a battlefield, visiting an arboretum or botanical garden, shopping at farmers markets or farmstands, bicycling, going to the zoo, watching airplanes take off, skiing, exploring a cave, zip lining, apple picking, horseback riding, stargazing, using those chessboards in the park that nobody ever uses except old men in movies, visiting every statue or cemetery or historic marker in your city, systematically visiting every park in town until you find the smallest or weirdest one, learning to navigate by compass, doing a scavenger hunt… and lots of other outdoors things I haven’t mentioned here.

                Or if the great outdoors doesn’t work for you, you can all mask up and: play board or video games at someone’s house, visit a museum or historic site, “stitch & bitch” (knit/crochet/sew/embroider/cross stitch together), start a book club, sculpt, do every jigsaw puzzle you own, invent a synchronized dance routine, learn to paint, woodwork, play with cats at an animal shelter, build a pillow fort like when you were kids, make your own movie theater by blacking out your living room windows and put on a movie, play charades, dramatically reenact monologues from movies and plays… And I’m just getting started! If you’re a nerd like me, you can also do a ton of socializing and meeting new people by playing an MMO and voice chatting with other players without ever being in the same place :)

                Basically, those of us who have the privilege of a minimal need to go out should use it, and those who don’t have that at home still have *lots* of ways to socialize with a friend or even a small group to get your social interaction in without making everyone take risks. You just have to make the choice to prioritize safety (masking plus being outdoors when possible) and get creative with it. Most people don’t seem willing to do that, but acting like it’s impossible to socialize without unmasking and doing risky stuff is just outright absurd.

                1. Ann*

                  Let her socialize how she sees fit. Why do some people get the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, while others get an entire lecture for going into a small bar?

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

            I am so sorry that the people in your life are treating you this way. I completely understand where you are coming from because I have medical issues and so do my family members and we are all in the same boat as you when it comes to illness.

            And I don’t think anyone here is saying that your life doesn’t matter. You need to do whatever you can to stay safe and healthy. And I hope you can advocate for yourself.

            What I think people are trying to say is exposure does not equal illness. Especially if people are taking precautions like being masked, other PPE When appropriate, and being fully vaxxed. In OP Friends’ case, she was exposed at work but never contracted it. People are exposed every day but we don’t usually find out.

            I understand you are bitter and feeling stressed and I am very sorry.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I’m not Oxford Comma, but I’m in a similar situation. What I propose people do is to _keep masking_ when indoors in public, hold as many meetings as possible remotely or outdoors, and open windows whenever possible.

          Not just “mask if you’ve been exposed”–don’t make me guess whether you were isolated for three days before coming to the pharmacy, have been hanging out unmasked in bars every night, or spending your workdays in an open-plan office with unmasked people.

          That won’t eliminate my risk, but it will reduce it

          Yes you have to live your life, and Oxford Comma and I, and millions of other immune-compromised people, would like to live ours. Specifically, I would like to be able to leave the house, and not just for medical appointments. I may never dine indoors in a restaurant again, because there’s no way to eat those dumplings or that lobster with a mask on. I still want to be able to try on a new winter coat, go into a store and buy an ice cream cone (which I will then eat outside), or visit a museum.

          1. mf*

            Yes, thank you for this common sense. My husband is immunocompromised. There’s a lot we can do to keep high-risk people safe while still allowing low-risk people to work and live their lives.

        3. Calpurrnia*

          This is also pretty disingenuous. There are other things everybody can do to protect the immunocompromised besides jumping straight to “not work” – like *everyone* wearing masks themselves (and not just forcing the immunocompromised people to do it, which halves their effectiveness at best), working from home (and companies allowing people to work from home in as many jobs as possible, rather than forcing returns to the office for vague pointless reasons), ordering delivery and minimizing unnecessary trips out, holding gatherings outdoors, choosing takeout instead of dine-in, properly ventilating and filtering the air in shared spaces, testing regularly if exposure is likely due to your job…

          There’s a whole universe of room between “nobody can work at all” and “Covid is inevitable and everyone is exposed anyway so who cares anymore”.

          1. Calpurrnia*

            Seeing your later comments I probably read further into your initial comment than you intended, sorry about that. My frustration at the overall situation – not at you specifically, but at the general attitude of “inevitability” – stands.

      2. Raboot*

        I’m truly sorry because that sounds really hard but most people are not immunocompromised and it’s something OP would have almost certainly mentioned if the friend was immunocompromised. People who are vaccinated and not immunocompromised do not have to act as if they were immunocompromised.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Is the OP’s employer sending home a lot of people…and suspending them too? How is anyone working at this place?

  11. LilBean*

    OP#1 None of this makes the least bit of sense unless LW’s friend is only being exposed to covid through clients the non-profit serves and she’s the one who’s reporting it and they’re trying to de-incentivize workers from reporting every instance of exposure so they don’t need to hire more staff.

    Of course, who says anything needs to “make sense”. It’s just as likely the non-profit is dead set on enforcing two conflicting policies and her managers don’t feel empowered to change them or ask their higher-ups for exceptions.

    Either way, it probably doesn’t change the legality. It also sounds like LW’s friend might not have a choice to stay if she keeps getting exposed to covid at work, or if she gets sick from contracting it outside of work and needs to take more time off. I know tuition remission is important, but it’s worth weighing the odds of this non-profit making her suspension permanent and refusing to reimburse her tuition against leaving ASAP for another job. I’m serious about that – I hope your friend rereads those terms and makes sure the suspensions and time-off won’t invalidate it because it sounds like these people would use any technicality in that agreement to refuse paying it, if they are going to be this rigid about their policies.

  12. hellohello*

    OP 2: On top of your rising cost of gas, if your employer isn’t giving you cost of living raises then they are effectively decreasing your salary every year, as you lose purchasing power because of inflation. Given the state of inflation right now, you took a 6% salary *decrease* over the past year. What I’m saying is, you should absolutely look for a new job, if it’s at all possible. There are companies out there who will give you both COL and merit raises, and you deserve both.

    1. Recruiter*

      Truly curious, what companies give consistent yearly COL increases plus merit increases?

      1. FormerLibrarian*

        My library system used to, before we got a horrible director. It actually was overkill, because we’re in a LCOL area and we were paid the top market value, but it sure was nice. They haven’t had an increase in seven years, though, and it’s not happening again any time soon.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Ones that are well-managed enough that their employees don’t write in to Ask a Manager

      3. Jora Malli*

        I’m in city government. Two positive performance evaluations in a row moves you to the next step in the pay scale and we get a cost of living adjustment every 2-3 years. It’s not annual, but it happens regularly.

      4. Just stoppin' by to chat*

        Are you looking for actual examples? My employer does (can I say it here?) Think largest software company in the world. “I’m a PC” :)

      5. Turanga Leela*

        My state government employer gives consistent COL increases, and they recently implemented a formal process for asking for merit increases.

      6. grapefruit*

        In my experience it’s all been bundled together, but it does happen on a predictable schedule. Usually there is an annual performance evaluation, and at some point after that, a raise that partially depends on merit but is also essentially a COL increase though they don’t call it that. So, for example, if your performance was mediocre, you might get a raise that is basically equal to a COL increase only, while if you were a stronger performer, you’d get some higher amount. With some variation, this has been the basic policy in every post-college job I’ve had (3 over the course of 13 years). Those employers (with the exception of my current one) all had various management problems, but they at least did that right.

        1. AutoNomous*

          This is exactly how my large company handles it. It’s pretty standard for the main employers in my industry.

      7. ND and awkward*

        My workplace (a government-adjacent charity) does a cost of living review every March which has always been a percentage raise across the board as far as I know, then annual appraisals in September to determine merit increases. All salaries are in set grades and you can only get 4 merit increases in each grade, so you need a promotion or change of job description to move up a grade if you hit the cap.

      8. Emmy Noether*

        My company (not in the US) follows what the largest union here negotiates, even though we are not unionized. The last two years, the union only negotiated a one-time bonus, which my company actually converted into a permanent raise (which, if you think of it like compounded interest, is much better). There’s usually some kind of adjustment yearly. There are also individual merit raises.

  13. Luna*

    LW3 – As someone who has been wearing masks to interviews a lot, I like to think that it makes little difference? The rules were ‘mask on in indoor areas’ for a long time, so very often I and the interviewer were wearing masks. Now that the mandate has been loosened, to the point that a lot of stores and offices can decide themselves if it’s mandatory to wear a mask or just preference to each person, I still wear them.
    If an interviewer has told me I can take the mask off, as we were far enough apart in a room to talk without droplets being a worry, I did or I gave a small mention that I prefer it on/I don’t mind wearing it/similar phrasing. No big deal, and the interview proceeded.

    I know the place that did hire me, it’s up to each customer and employee if they want to wear a mask in the store or don’t. I wore a mask during the interview, and I wear it on days when I am sniffling or coughing a lot (I had the unfortunate timing of my dust allergy aggravating a minor cold I had bad enough that it made have to take a sick day early on because I just couldn’t go 5 minutes without blowing my nose noisly or otherwise having the energy to stand), but overall no colleague has said anything if I choose to wear a mask at work.
    Though an elderly man did ask me how I can stand working for hours with a mask on. I was honest: I’m just used to wearing them, even pre-pandemic.

  14. Turingtested*

    LW #1: If this is the first insane policy the company has had, I think it would be worth it to address the issue with the boss and HR. I wonder if there is an issue with absences being misclassified or information not being shared properly.

    1. Just an interested observer*

      Good point. I remember talking with a less-tenured colleague who was getting grief from her direct manager (a person at my level) for extended absences. Knowing that her manager was getting reports on the amount of sick leave she had taken, I asked her about her sick leave. Turns out that she had to be out for 2 carpal syndrome surgeries, one on each arm and her manager had told her to just book them to sick leave because each was relatively short but together added up to almost 20 days of sick leave instead of booking them to STD. When she went back and adjusted the category, her name dropped off the sick reports and all was good.

    2. Cat Lover*

      Yeah I wonder if its a policy that either was never formally updated with a COVID protocol, or her sick/covid days out aren’t being marked properly.

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

      Yes I was thinking either someone is misunderstanding the policy or they are not thinking clearly. Like if they see that the friend has missed X days of work, but don’t realize that its covid. Or maybe they are categorized wrongly. Like if the OP’s friend is submitting her time and she is putting down sick time when it should be covid.

      I really hope that the OP’s friend can push back and explain what is going on and that they make it right. Either that or they need to rethink their policy.

  15. Alice*

    For OP2 – that sounds like a really long commute, oof.
    About the cost – I get that “switch to a car with better mpg” is easier said than done. But can you check your tire inflation and speed to maximize gas mileage?
    And of course good luck seeking your well-deserved raise!

    1. NoviceManagerGuy*

      At $400/month, switching cars is pretty appealing. (You can still get a basic lightly used EV for well under $20k.) But if the LW already has a fairly efficient car and is driving crazy distances, switching commutes is even better.

      1. irene adler*

        Depending upon where in California one resides, the electricity rates are the highest in the entire nation (San Diego!). So an EV may be just as expensive as a gasoline powered vehicle (I haven’t done the math on that).

        For San Diego it is at least 30 cents per kwh and goes up to 69 cents per kwh at peak times.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          A Nissan Leaf is rated at 31 kWh/100 miles, or about $186/month at 30 c/kWh assuming a 100 mile daily commute. If the LW spends a lot of time idling in traffic, the savings would be even greater since EVs use very little energy to idle.

          1. Wants Green Things*

            And Leafs run over $20k, closer to $30k, and that’s if they’re even in stock – which they haven’t been around my parts. Not to mention the cost of getting a new outlet installed in the garage, since a standard outlet won’t work. Plus a higher electricity bill. Pretty sure those EV “cost savings” are wiped right out between all that.

            1. quill*

              The price of new cars is not going down given the chip shortage and the transportation cost to get them to the buyer.

              When you look at cost savings of these types of switches any savings are usually over a long period, so unlikely to immediately help OP.

          2. Oakwood*

            Let’s say she buys a 4 year old Nissan Leaf with 50k miles on it.

            The battery life on that vehicle is about 100k miles. If she is putting 100 miles a day on the car, then she is putting about 25,000 miles a year on it, which means the batteries will need to be replaced in 2 years. That’s a $5,500.00 cost.

            Or, to put it another way, she’s using up $229.00 in battery cost each month she drives the car. So, the total cost to LW (fuel & battery replacement) would be $418.00 (fuel & battery wear), which is more than she is paying now.

            Sure, conventional cars have maintenance costs too, but the two big costs (transmission and engine replacement) can usually be done under $3000.00 and it’s not unusual to see conventional cars well or 200k miles running on the original transmission and engine.

            Battery life is more of a hard deadline in EVs.

            Prius batteries are cheaper (about $4k replacement) and have a longer life (about 150k miles), but the cost of a used Prius on Carmax with 110k miles is $19,000.00. Not cheap. She’ll need to replace the battery in about 20 months. That makes her battery replacement cost per month about $200.00. Add that to the fuel cost and she’s still close to the $400.00 a month she’s spending now (plus she hasn’t had to spend $19k, minus the trade on value of her current car, to purchase the Prius).

            1. NoviceManagerGuy*

              The LW obviously needs to do the math for their particular situation, and a shorter commute would be unambiguously cheaper without engaging with the nightmare car market, but the fact at we can imagine a scenario where a car replacement doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean that it never makes sense.

              1. Oakwood*

                But in almost every situation a conventional vehicle would be a better financial choice than an EV.

                A Toyota Camary (which gets over 50 mpg highway) with 100k miles on it would be about $4k cheaper to purchase than an EV (Prius or Leaf). She would likely be able to get another 100k out of it without major maintenance (if she took care of it).

                I can’t really imagine a scenario where purchasing a used EV is cheaper than purchasing a used conventional vehicle.

                1. Springtime*

                  At today’s average gas price in my city, that 50 mpg Camry would be costing me $75 more per month for my commute than what it’s costing me in my EV. Plus the cost of oil changes. The additional cost of operating the Camry could be more than $1,500/year.

        2. Oakwood*

          When you figure ownership costs in cost-per-mile (which includes vehicle price, fuel, maintenance, and insurance) EVs are almost always more expensive to own than conventional vehicles.

          I live in a state that had a very high tax credit for purchasing an EV. Even combining it with the federal incentives I was unable to make it work from a financial standpoint.

          It’s rare to have to replace an engine in a conventional car, but the battery packs in EVs need to be replaced after 100k miles or so (according to Carfax, Autotrader, and Car & Driver). A Nissan Leaf battery pack costs $5,500.00; a Chevy Bolt’s $15,000.00. In either case, that’s likely to be more than the entire car is worth (the cars will, on average, be 8 years old by this time).

          Buying a car that essentially has a cap of 100k or so on its useful life makes it hard to justify financially.

          EVs are great for saving the planet, but they aren’t saving you money.

          1. Vintage Lydia*

            They’re not even that great at saving the planet considering the mining (and slave labor…) needed for the rare earth materials.

              1. Vintage Lydia*

                Oh I have no illusions about that either. Mostly just pointing out you’re (general “you”) not helping the environment as much as you think you are going EV.

        1. acmx*

          I was skeptical, too. I just did a basic nissan leaf for sale in california search and there were a few under 20k! But I have a friend that drives an older one; they only get 60 miles per charge.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            CarMax has a Spark EV for $15k in Pleasant Hill which is apparently near San Francisco. Those have liquid-cooled batteries so their range retention should be better than a Leaf.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          What’s hilarious is before the pandemic you could get 3ishyear old Leafs for like $8k.

          1. AnonToday*

            A friend of mine got a Nissan Leaf for $5K at a salvage auction because it had cosmetic body damage. He replaced the dented body panels (cars have been his hobby since age 16) but also had to replace all the interior panels because the previous owner apparently chain-smoked. Even though it only had about 55 miles of range (it had a bad cell), it was perfect for a short commute between San Mateo County to SF, with the last few miles stuck in bridge traffic.

    2. Springtime*

      Since the OP did ask, “What do others do in this situation?”, I’ll put in that in my experience living in both a very rural area and in a large city, what most people do is factor in commute cost when choosing both a job and a place to live (usually much easier to find the job first and then the home). Over the past 20 years, I think the general trend has been that Americans have become less willing to move for a job, and maybe that will stay true as WFH is more available. But, for me and many of my peers, you ultimately sacrifice on what you consider your ideal housing. In different areas, what that looks like may be different. In urban areas, it might be living and working close to public transit (and the specific public transit that goes to your job). You might not be able to afford a car at all, in order to afford the apartment. In rural areas, it might be having an additional fuel-efficient commuter vehicle even if you also need something larger, and living closer to work when you’d rather be closer to relatives.

      But yeah, ask for a raise! All kinds of costs of living go up over time, not just transportation.

      1. Observer*

        (usually much easier to find the job first and then the home

        It depends where you live. In many parts of California people cannot afford to live in or near the cities they work in because housing prices are so insane. And these areas don’t even have decent public transportation!

        1. Springtime*

          The sad fact is, then, that maybe people cannot afford to work there, either. That is, for the pay being offered. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, just that people do the math and make those decisions. The OP may be in a situation where it feels like there *should* be a math works, but maybe it just doesn’t.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    In Ireland, masks are also disappearing, though they are still required for medical facilities and that includes things like opticians and chemists, but most people seem to be using them only in those places. And most people still wear them to Mass, I guess because of the number of elderly people who tend to attend Mass – nobody wants to risk infecting them, I guess. However, I don’t think most people even really notice whether people are wearing masks or not. They’ve become such a common sight in the last two years that either way looks perfectly normal.

    It’s also common here for people to wear masks or at least bring them to new situations. When we’ve had new students, the student and their parents will often arrive to enroll them wearing masks and then ask whether they are expected to wear one when attending school. I would imagine a lot of people would at least bring one to an interview because there is more chance an interviewer at high risk would be annoyed at an interviewee not wearing a mask than that somebody would be annoyed that an interviewee did. I think at an interview, most people would assume you were wearing it because you were unsure of the interviewers’ personal situations and didn’t want to take a chance.

    If somebody wears a mask regularly, I think the general assumption is that they or a family member are probably at high risk.

    There is an ad on TV here reminding everybody that there are still vulnerable people and that we don’t always know who they are.

    1. Asenath*

      In my province in Canada, we have just removed the mask mandate, but masking is still pretty common (and still required in medical settings). Some businesses still have staff wearing them, but have been merely “recommending” customers do so for a while. I use public transportation – I’d say when I take a route with a lot of young adult passengers, mask use is around 50% and dropping; higher of course at times of day when the passengers tend to be elderly.

      I wouldn’t think that wearing one to a job interview would be seen as odd. Our public health officials (whom I think have handled things well) have consistently said that people should respect each others’ choices and actions regarding mask wearing, and I have never seen or experienced anyone being rude about mask use in person (although when the pandemic was worse, people would complain privately to their friends about the person they saw who didn’t have their mask over their nose).

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Ye sound a lot like us, except the mask mandate ended some months ago here and mask wearing is down to virtually nil on public transport here, even though the government is continuing to recommend it there, to the point that some of the announcements make is sound required (“masks are no longer necessary except in medical settings and public transport” sort of thing).

        I think our government have handled things reasonably well here too, with some exceptions, like their failure to prevent the outbreak in the nursing homes and the failure to contain things in Dublin at one point.

    2. Hamburke*

      Your whole country was generally better with masks than the US to begin with and put vaccine passports into use. We travelled to Ireland November 2021 and wished that the US was as regulated – masks indoors and on public transportation, vaccine cards/app and contact tracing if you wanted to eat in a restaurant, easy testing sites – it was a dream!

  17. I should really pick a name*

    What does the company achieve by suspending an employee?
    Sure, they don’t have to pay someone for a few days, but now they have a reduced workforce.

    This just seems bizarre to me.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Especially when you are suspending someone from following the company’s policy

    2. irene adler*

      Yes-very. And no doubt there are multiple employees in similar circumstances of being off work. So there’s got to be someone noticing that productivity is down. There’s a bottom line – somewhere- that is suffering. Somebody must take notice of that sooner or later.

    3. FormerLibrarian*

      We had an employer suspended one time that I know of and that was for going on a racist rant. He should have been fired. This is bizarre.

  18. Agent Diane*

    OP3 ~ can you swap some of your journey to public transport or start carpooling?

    I know public transport is unlikely in the States but do please look into if you can drive to a station and then get a train. There are still costs associated with it, obviously.

    Likewise, if you and a colleague both live in a similar direction, you can carpool from a midpoint by leaving one car parked and driving the other in. That reduces overall costs for both of you (one week you’re spending $20 a day by driving all the way in and colleague is spending perhaps $10 to get to the meeting point, and the other week you’re the one spending $10).

    Both these options result in a compromise on when you travel, either to fit with timetables or a colleague’s working pattern. But energy costs are going to continue to rise and everyone needs to start rethinking how they travel to reduce the energy used.

    (As someone in the UK, the epic commutes Americans think of as normal boggles my mind – my commute is a 30minute walk across town)

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I was going to suggest something similar, Agent Diane.

      OP2, here are your options as I see them:

      – Ask for a raise at your current job.

      – Look for a different job with a shorter commute and/or annual raises.

      – Look at public transit options. As Agent Diane says, this could be a mix of car/train/bus/walking/biking and you will probably trade money saved on the cost of gas for more time spent commuting.

      – Ask your coworkers if any of them live near enough to you and are interested in carpooling.

      – Buy a more fuel efficient vehicle.

      – Move closer to your job (not a good option because moving is expensive and a hassle in the best of times and I know that housing in notoriously expensive and hard to find in California, but still an option).

      These are all of the options I can think of. I hope one (or more!) of them work for you, OP2.

      1. Agent Diane*

        There’s one more but it won’t be cheaper. Yet.

        Rent a room in a house close to work which you stay in Mon-Fri. I know several people who did a variant of travelling to work on a Monday then staying in friends’ spare rooms in London until Friday morning when they’d head to work then go home. They’d pay the friend in cooking, baby-sitting, contribution to bills etc. 10 commutes became 2.

    2. anonymous73*

      I would assume that someone who is on the verge of finding a second job because gas prices have made their budget go bye bye has considered public transportation. I can’t speak for the OP specifically, but unless you live in a major city, public transportation is limited, and a lot of us live in the suburbs so we can live in something larger than a shoebox. And public transportation can be just as expensive if you have to drive to a bus/train line nd transfer a bunch of times. The only time I’ve taken public transportation in the past was to save my sanity, not to save money.

      1. Loulou*

        I find it astonishing how many commenters think OP must have an option to get to work other than driving! Probably not or they wouldn’t be doing it…

        1. miro*

          Maybe so, but I think it’s also the case that sometimes when you’re stressed out about something you can lose track of some of the options you do have. I think that’s a pretty natural thing for people struggle with and in those situations it can help to just have someone lay things out like Hlao-roo did above. I think this can be especially the case when it’s a mixed/complicated solution like you drive partway and take a bus partway–I could totally see someone (for example, me) looking up bus routes and seeing that it won’t get me all the way so I write off that option without thinking about the possibility of combining it with driving. Now, maybe this is not the case for OP and they have calmly and systematically worked through every possibility. But maybe they haven’t (and I don’t blame them, it’s overwhelming) and I don’t think that it wild for commenters to respond to “What do others out there do in a situation like this?” with information about what others out there do in a situation like this.

        2. Raboot*

          I find it astonishing how many people are being berated for giving advice, given that OP ask how others deal with it. Sure, some or even much of the advice might not fit their situation depending on details. So? They’re not obligated to take any advice they read.

      2. zfd z*

        On the flip side a lot of people assume they have no public transit options because they live way out in the burbs or far from the city so don’t even look or ask around. Even in Detroit (where I grew up) there are buses that go way out into the burbs. And I now live in MN and know people from WI that use a combo of driving and buses to commute to downtown Mpls. You can catch a bus in Woodbury, a city not far across the MN border from WI and about 22 miles from Mpls. But a lot of people would assume and tell Wisonsonites there are no public transit options because they are so far.

        1. Springtime*

          When I lived in a car-centric city and used the limited public transportation to get to work, I wasn’t surprised that I was in a small minority. What did surprise me were the number of coworkers who said, “I wish I could do that, but there’s no bus near my house.” Like I bought my house and then was surprised that it was near a bus stop? I guess it’s just one of those “I wish I could…” things people say.

        2. TrixM*

          Yep, I had a colleague who was angsting about trying to get to work when her car needed extensive repairs over several days, when I pointed out there was a bus that left from literally 50m from her front door that would get her to 200m from the office, in around 20 minutes. It left every half-hour, but it our start times aren’t rigid, so missing one wouldn’t be a huge drama m Admittedly this was twice the amount of time it took her to drive, but 20 minutes is not “long” by anyone’s measure.

          This is in Canberra, but it’s not bad in terms of public transport. But Australians seem to be almost as bad as Americans when it comes to driving everywhere.

          Me, I won’t live where I can’t commute to work in under 45 mins via PT. I’ve managed it fine in each of the four cities and three countries I’ve lived in.

          (I do have a well-beloved classic car – it’s over 40 years old, so it’s basically a gas siphon – but it only comes out for big shopping trips and weekend journeys and the like).

      3. quill*

        Parking at a train station alone, plus train faire, can be just as expensive as driving into a city if you’re in a close enough suburb. If OP spent $8 per day on train tickets and $5 per day on parking in the train station lot, the extra seven dollars might not be worth it in terms of adding hours to a commute. And they’d still need gas (though much less) to get to the train station. If there is one near enough that the option seems realistic. And some way to get to the office once they disembark, probably a bus or cab.

        I did the math for myself many times on day trips to chicago from my 1 hour away suburban hometown, and there’s a reason I didn’t even bother applying to jobs within the city proper, ever. I couldn’t afford to work there!

      4. AnonToday*

        What public transit there is in California (especially the Bay Area) tends to drive up housing costs in proximity to transit. Near BART stations, Caltrain, etc. And a lot of transit isn’t cheap, either. Caltrain fares are around $10 each way if you need to go between SF and the South Bay, less for the Peninsula. Ferries are about $10 each way across the bay. Golden Gate Transit commuter buses to the North Bay are at least $10 each way. (I found that out when Google Maps suggested I take a GGT bus from North Beach to The Presidio (a couple of miles)–I noped out when the driver said it would be $10 because those buses are meant to go to Napa or whatever.)

    3. WellRed*

      California is a very car centric state. And trains in the US generally are not a thing, especially out west.

      1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

        That depends on the specific location. In the SF Bay and LA-SD areas, buses and commuter rail are surprisingly available.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I can’t speak to SF or LA, but I live near Chicago, which has solid public transit. For 9 years I lived in one suburb with a commuter train line and worked in another with a commuter train line.

          the problem is that those were two separate train lines; the commuter trains feed into downtown Chicago and you can’t really get from one ‘burb to another. to take public transit to work, I would have had to park at my town’s station, commute into Chicago, switch train lines, commute to the other suburb, and then take a bus the last mile or so to the office — and given the spaced-out schedules it would have easily taken 3 hours.

          the moral of the story is, even in places with decent transit, they may not get you where you need to go in or do so in any timely fashion.

          1. Cat Lover*

            Same here, I live in the metro area of a major US city and while the city has decent transit, I still would have to drive to the stop that is closest to the suburb I live in. It would be quicker to drive if I worked in the city (which thankfully I don’t).

          2. Anon all day*

            Yes, the Philly suburbs have a pretty decent suburban Regional Rail for getting into the city, but if you’re going from one burb to another, it would likely be two lines and take a couple hours.

          3. Made It to Friday*

            Yes, Metro Chicago person here.Suburb to suburb public transit just isn’t practical or feasible.

            1. quill*

              Yep. Grew up the furthest the amtrak would go away from chicago and all trains lead to chicago.

        2. Wants Green Things*

          And they’re amazingly disjointed. From where my sister lives in SD, to get to her job 10 miles away she has to make 3 bus transfers and catch the commuter train. If just *one* of those are late, she’s looking at being delayed anywhere from 20 minutes to a whole *hour.* And she specifically chose to live and work in an area that has public transit connections – huge swaths of SD, LA, and SF still do not have access to a bus or train.

          1. WellRed*

            I live in a much smaller metro area and it’s the same. What takes 10 minutes to drive requires a transfer and and hourlong trip. God help you if you miss it.

          2. AnonToday*

            I used to live in San Diego. I literally could not get from my apartment in North Park to my job in Kearny Mesa by 8:30 a.m. starting time by transit, because I would have had to take a bus from my neighborhood to Downtown, and transfer to a bus (#25?) that wound its way up through the neighborhoods to Kearny Mesa. It was a 3-hr trip and the first bus started at 7 a.m. so I couldn’t make it to my job by 8:30. If our car was at the mechanic, I had to take a day off work. This was about an 8-mile trip that took 20 minutes off peak hours and 45 minutes in traffic.

            IF you live near a San Diego Trolley stop, and work Downtown or somewhere else on the Trolley line, you’re good to go. But lots of people are nowhere near transit lines or they need to go way out of their way to transfer.

        3. Anon for this*

          Depends on where. My nephew lived in LA and was carless the first 18 months after college. Film industry (trades), so was paid very little for work. It’s an industry where you “pay your dues” (= hardly get paid) and then you get steady work. Job sites were all over the LA area. Anyway, he used a bicycle when possible and public transportation otherwise. He said he left for work 2 – 4 hours before the start time, depending on how direct it was and how many transfers he needed to make.

          Other family members live in Orange County (there are buses, again, that’s going to be a long commute in terms of time), Riverside County (hahahaha is what my sister said when I asked her about public transit), San Diego (situation between LA and OC for transit, depending on where in SD area you live). Other family members live in Sacramento burbs (must have car), north of Salinas (must have car), Santa Cruz (100% WFH, otherwise similar to Orange County in terms of transit).

          If you’re somewhere on a train or rapid transit line, not too bad. Otherwise, your life is given to commuting, whether you’re driving or taking public transit. It sucks, man.

          1. AnonToday*

            Oddly enough, downtown San Jose is about equidistant from downtown Santa Cruz and downtown San Francisco, and I have pretty good transit options either way. BART up the East Bay or Caltrain up the Peninsula, and no worries about parking.

            Amtrak subsidizes a really cushy express bus between downtown Santa Cruz and SJSU–unfortunately, I am not keen on being in a bus with random hippies and tourists for an hour during a COVID surge. The last trip I made, I actually got off the bus before it left the station when the driver let a passenger on who had a serious cough, looked like she was about to fall over with fever or fatigue, and argued about wearing a mask. I had to wait an hour for the next bus, but I could afford to waste the time to avoid getting exposed to at least a bad flu. (There’s also a 2.5 mile trek from downtown to Westside where I need to go, and the last bus home leaves at 8:30 p.m.)

        4. mf*

          Hi! I grew up in the Chicago area and lived in the city for 7 years; I now live in Los Angeles.

          Chicago has pretty decent public transit and better than average (for the US) commuter trains from the suburbs.

          Los Angeles does not. The public transit options here are terrible, and even if a bus/train is available, it will often add a LOT of time to your (already too long) commute.

        5. fhqwhgads*

          Buses and commuter rail in southern California exist but will get you about 10 miles in 2 hours, unless you’re talking living and working within downtowns. But if that were the case, commute would not be super long anyway.

    4. ES*

      Just for fun, I logged my daily commute into my city’s mass transit app to see how long it would take. The shortest route was 8 hours with a 35min walk, having me leave at 11:30pm to get to work at 8 the next morning. The longest route was 12 hours.

      For comparison, t’s a 30 minute drive, and I live in the second largest city in my state. It is absolutely not feasible for a lot of us to take mass transit in the states, if it were we would already be doing it!

      1. quill*

        Public transit is only ever one out of the three of cheaper than driving, faster than driving, or convenient to access where you are, it seems.

        1. Agent Diane*

          There’s definitely a triangle here with time, cost and ”big house/garden” on the points. Right now, people are prioritising time and living somewhere nice but as the cost of energy continues to rise, people are eventually going to have to reconsider how to balance the triangle. OP is at that point.

          As I’m from a family of non-drivers, I was taught to get a map of a town I was moving too and draw circles at 1 and 2 miles from the station. That’s my walking distance, and houses within that band is where to live. Same with jobs: I only apply for jobs I can reach by either public or active transport. But again, I’m in the UK where being car-free is easier.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I don’t think that’s generally true. I live in Europe, and I’ve always chosen apartments with excellent access to transit (yes, they are more expensive and/or smaller, but I don’t have to pay for a car or gas and I save sooooo much time, which I am in the priviledged position to prioritize). I have always managed to have at least two out of the three, though lately I prefer commuting by bike, which is even cheaper and more convenient (and, where I live, just as fast as driving in city traffic).

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

        WOW! and I thought I had bad transit where I live. I think the most would be a few hours, and that’s taking one transit coming from a rural area into the city and then catching a bus.

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

      Great idea. However, from what I’ve heard of in CA there is little public transit. I know of some folx who come from UK and were shocked that they had to drive everywhere when they visited LA. Literally had to drive across the street from their hotel because it is too dangerous to just walk. There’s many places that do not have sidewalks and you could get hit by drivers.

  19. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    Is public transportation an option, even for part of your commute? (Some parts of California have better public transportation than others, and some services aren’t promoted as well as they could be.)

  20. JTA*

    #5 I understand the need to connect across generations, but doesn’t this imply an age bias? If a qualified person who happens to be older applied for the position, would they be given full consideration? Officially, I’m sure the answer is yes. But in practice, this sounds like it might play out in favor of younger applicants.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      As an older chemist, I know that when I was unemployed, I applied for technician level positions because I knew that I could do the work, but never got hired, not even as a temp. Probably the thinking was that I would leave as soon as I found a job closer to the level that my experience would put me.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      OP5 said they were looking to hire “someone very junior, preferably right out of school,” and presumably most “very junior” candidates will be younger. But also, reaching out to younger college friends and professors, as the OP did, could turn up an older classmate/student. When I was in undergrad, most of my classmates were in the 18-23 age range, but there was a significant minority of students 30+ years old.

    3. NeedRain47*

      It’s possible someone could have an age bias, but I don’t think it’s implied. My graduate program had lots of older students, including myself. Someone who is a “new graduate” in the field and has had related job experience (or even unrelated but transferrable skills) can be a really attractive candidate, more so than a young person with little work history.

    4. OP5*


      No, it does not – what a weird thing to suggest. The point was that the young people in my network provided value. There is no implication, nor was it true, that this was the only advertising method or that we didn’t/wouldn’t consider older candidates. We DID have trouble getting a good diverse pool until we started tapping those parts of our network, which was the point of my letter.

      The only way it favored young applicants is that there is a very small pool of older people willing to do entry level work for entry level pay in this field. It is technical, so you need a background/education in it, you couldn’t do the work without it, but it is still entry-level to the point where I wouldn’t expect anyone to stay in it beyond maybe 2 years.

      FWIW, shortly after we made an offer, a great resume crossed my desk for somebody who was doing a career pivot with 10+ years of unrelated work experience who had just completed education in the appropriate field. We didn’t have an acceptance, so I did a phone screen and the person was absolutely my #1 choice if our offer was rejected (which it wasn’t). I even went to my boss and said, “if X rejects the offer, we should call New Applicant ASAP because they will be awesome.” When the pending offer was accepted, I passed the New Applicant’s resume to other groups within my company, along with my glowing notes from the phone screen. They were offered two other jobs and I had 4 separate hiring mangers reach out to get details about my call with them. So, really truly, there was no age bias.

      It was just the reality of the situation that there’s not a good place to market to “people with the right background who are switching careers and are older” to make that generate a good pool (at least in this field).

      1. Loulou*

        I don’t think the comment you’re replying to is a “weird comment” — it does in fact seem like you were hoping to hire a very young employee and you specifically mentioned that the other people on your team were over a certain age (not just that they’d been out of school for awhile).

        1. OP5*

          I meant it was weird to imply that, based on what I wrote and the context of showing value young folks can bring to networking, the hiring team wouldn’t consider an older candidate. And to be specific, I find the “Officially…” part weird of since it insinuates illegal age discrimination based on a very small portion of information on our hiring practices.

          The age context was simply to illustrate how we (senior people hiring) didn’t have much direct access to the main population that would naturally be the bulk of the candidate pool. That in no way implies we wouldn’t consider older candidates. And we very much did consider older candidates.

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

            Yes, I agree that the comment was a little off. and thanks for the clarification. Plus, as you have implied,
            “someone very junior, preferably right out of school,” doesn’t necessarily mean junior as in age. But junior in the field. There are so many people who have changed careers mid life, ether because of burnout from covid, or what they were doing became obsolete so they went back to school. Those folx, even though they have a longer work history compared to the other younger candidates, will still be considered junior in the new field.

            1. OP5*

              Exactly this! The only folks with experience who were tossed out gave zero indication of necessary skills/knowledge or why they were pivoting (like HVAC technician applying for a paralegal position level of pivot with no cover letter mention of it) and folks who expressed a very large salary mismatch (like over 2x the max salary range for this work).

  21. Trawna*

    LW3: Also, just don’t apply for jobs that don’t allow fully remote work. It’s the same as not applying for a job in, say, Carlisle, if you live in Colchester. Why would you? So. just don’t.

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

      She may not have a lot of choice. It really depends on what she is looking for. And they still may want to do an in-person interview even if the company offers remote work.

  22. Michelle Smith*

    “There’s no real legal recourse for her; none of this is illegal, just profoundly stupid and wrong. She should indeed look elsewhere.”

    The answer to so many toxic and ridiculous practices described on this blog. It makes me sick to my stomach how illogical it all is. Policies can be excused and exceptions can be made. It’s not actually always fair to enforce something 100% of the time, especially like here when it flies in the face of common sense. I can’t imagine there aren’t other employers with tuition reimbursement and I hope she finds a way to one of them ASAP. It sucks to have to look for a job while going to school full time, but I hope she can manage it. I can’t imagine having to work there for an entire 4 years.

    1. Made It to Friday*

      And actually, policies are excused and exceptions are made for some. No matter how big the bureaucracy, there is always someone higher to appeal nonsense to.

      Organizations that run as stupidly as this one cannot be very effective and I would not be surprised if they failed completely. Ridiculous.

  23. Be kind, rewind*

    #1 I am 99% certain that an employer that would do this would also never actually pay that promised tuition reimbursement. Your friend has no reason to stay.

  24. Jean*

    The situation in letter #1 smells very strongly like the employer doing whatever they can to get out of their tuition obligation. I would advise that person to meticulously document every single thing that has happened so far, and to gather up written copies of all these shitty policies that this organization claims to be following. Prepare to submit a formal complaint to HR and also think about talking to an attorney. This is shady as hell.

  25. AdAgencyChick*

    OP1, I hope your friend finds a new job and then outs the organization on social media.

  26. NeedRain47*

    Hanlon’s Law: Never attribute to malice that which is explained by stupidity.
    I guess people here have had a lot of good jobs where companies weren’t ridiculously rigid with their policies. LW1 sounds like something my crummy call center job would have done. The people who make the policies aren’t the local managers, the managers have no power to change it and must enforce it despite knowing how stupid it is. I don’t think it’s to do with the tuition reimbursement at all.

    1. Joielle*

      Yeah, I really don’t think this is some conspiracy – just a suspension policy that’s still being strictly enforced even though it doesn’t make sense in this context. When the organization wrote the Covid policy, someone forgot to update the suspension policy. This is 100% something that I could see happening at my (state government) employer, but I feel confident that if I raised it with leadership, it would be corrected quickly. Hopefully the same will be true for the friend’s employer!

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

    Does anyone else think that #4 is a little odd that the employer require references to be written? We usually call references but we will have 2 people from the hiring team. Sometimes in a pinch, we have used another co-worker who may not be on the hiring team but will be working with the person. I think we do it this way to show checks and balances..

    Plus you can tell so much from the tone of voice than you can from writing. We have had to do written, via email, reference checks before because the other person was in another country and hours did not match up as there was like a 10-hour difference.

    That being said, Letter Writer you need to just talk to the employer. Say that you’ve told your references to expect to hear from you but because of their situations they would be able to get back to them easier by phone. Good luck and let us know when you have the job!

    1. Nervous Nellie*

      “Does anyone else think that #4 is a little odd that the employer require references to be written?”

      It happens. At one company that I applied to, the hiring manager required three letters of reference on company letterhead, and the three letters had to be addressed to him personally (not To Whom It May Concern). I contacted four references and asked them to mail or fax the hiring manager personalized letters of reference. I eventually found out that one of my references followed through, but I don’t know about the others. The hiring manager never contacted me again, so I never heard from him regarding how many letters of reference about me he received. All I know is that I was not offered the job.

  28. Phony Genius*

    So, if we follow #1 to its logical* conclusion, when she returns from her suspension, she’ll be further disciplined for missing so much time during her suspension, probably with a longer suspension. Repeat to the third violation where they’ll likely just fire her. Does that sound about right?

    * The concept of “logical” here is an attempt to use logic to analyze an illogical situation. This is normally not recommended and is presented here solely ad arguendo.

    1. irene adler*

      Yeah. Crazy! But it seems to be the mindset of that management. And when there are multiple employees going down the same path as this one, huge employee turnover would not be any surprise.

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

      I know. I never understood companies that suspend their workers. I mean i can understand for legal reasons, Like if there is an investigation for embezzlement or harassment. But when companies send home workers because they had a bad review from a customer or suspend them because they called in to much. That is just treating adults like kids.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I know government employers do this as part of incremental discipline for things like going AWOL or various types of harassment. Part of this is that it’s baked into the union agreements.

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

          not a union and this was not a government job. This was a call center that answered for a cell phone company. Sending people home for customer reviews and suspending them for not coming in (even if they called) was something they did as punishment. I know 5th graders that got treated more like adults than we did.

  29. Oakwood*

    “I continue to ask about the possibility of working from home one day a week or even one day a month to help absorb this cost, but I am told no every time. I am the company’s top performer, too.”

    It’s interesting that you company won’t even consider allowing you to work from home to offset the cost of fuel. Are they dense?

    You’re their top performer; you’re getting eaten up by fuel costs; they won’t compromise to keep you. You should be looking for another job, if for no other reason to start working for a company where the management isn’t dense.

    I will be money that when you turn in your notice suddenly a raise and working from home will magically appear.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, I think you are right about the company suddenly figuring it out. But the thing is that the OP almost certainly should not take a counteroffer.

  30. ESC*

    OP #3 – We are in the process of 2nd and 3rd round interviews for an open role at my company. There is no longer a mask mandate in our building, city, state, etc. A few candidates wore masks and we didn’t think twice about it. The two other interviewers and I were unmasked, appropriately spaced, and our entire office is voluntarily vaxxed and boosted. One candidate started to explain that she has some medical issues and our President immediately stopped her and said there was no need to explain and that we are happy to mask as well if it made her more comfortable. All this to say that it shouldn’t make a difference and if it does, you don’t want to work there.

  31. Observer*

    #1 – Covid related absences.

    Something that is really jumping out at me is this:

    he company seems to have a decent Covid protocol in the sense that folks who are exposed at work are immediately sent home and can’t come back until their corporate Covid hotline clears them (following a negative Covid test at a partner agency).

    This is NOT a sensible policy. The whole quarantine thing is questionable, all on its own. But the fact that they can only do the test at their partner agency and then “corporate” has to actually process the results in a such a laborious manner that things can get backed up AT ALL, much less for DAYS, says that there is something deeply, deeply dysfunctional at this organization.

    But, she should definitely kick this upstairs – an attendance policy this rigid with zero adjustments for the reason someone is out is almost certainly crossing some legal lines.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Add in that people don’t test positive immediately after exposure. It takes a couple days.

      1. AnonToday*

        Yes, there’s a lot of variability in how long it takes for the viral load to be high enough to test positive.

  32. toolittletoolate*

    #1 This is so insanely ridiculous and awful it’s hard to know where to start. However, I do in fact wonder if the OP has legal recourse. Someone who gets disciplined for FOLLOWING REQUIRED POLICIES probably could make a case for retaliation, harassment, or discrimination–maybe not enough for EEO to look at it, but enough to rattle the employer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not in the US! It would need to be based on a protected class, like race, sex, religion, disability, etc. or retaliation for engaging in legally protected conduct (such as reporting harassment or discrimination).

      1. Hookt Awn Fonicks*

        I’m a lawyer and would also like to push back on this. There aren’t enough facts to determine that this isn’t illegal discrimination. For example, my sister being fired for absences seemed jerkish but legal…. until you factor in that the absences were pregnancy related (and the company knew it). There’s just not enough info here to conclude definitively that it’s all legal.

      2. W&H Lady*

        I also would push back on this a bit… There are sick time laws (most often called sick and safe time laws) in several states and municipalities (if LW1 is in the US), and, in some cases, they may cover the situation the LW described. It is worth it for LW1 to at least check with an employment attorney or the local or state labor department about whether their situation might be covered. (Obviously sick time laws are still few and don’t necessarily address attendance policies, but it can’t hurt to check). Someone down thread also mentioned union involvement, and yes, in some cases, unions can be helpful with this type of issue.

        Unfortunately, as a note to all those who are confused about why the employer is continuing to implement an attendance policy leading to suspension during a worldwide pandemic – this is not uncommon. Many employers who typically “ding” employees for any call out (even legitimate ones, such as for illness/injury) have continued to do so or have reinstated these policies.

        Signed, A State Wage & Hour Lady

  33. RagingADHD*

    I disagree somewhat with the answer to #3. Of course, nobody should care if you wear a mask and you don’t want to work anywhere that would.

    But the idea that “the pandemic isn’t over for any of us” is more a philosophical statement than practical reality in a lot of places. Where I live, we have been at green level of very low risk for many months. Our 7-day averages are around 1 percent and our hospital bed usage is well below 1 percent. Masking is relatively unusual but accepted without comment. Everybody’s personal space in public seems to have permanently expanded.

    In many areas of the world, the WHO’s designation doesn’t have much to do with day to day life. People have individual risk or concerns at different levels, but we aren’t living in a public health state of emergency anymore.

    1. Cat Lover*

      Our hospitals where I live are filled waaaay more with norovirus and other GI issues than COVID/respiratory illness.

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

      You say that the pandemic isnt over for any of us is a philosophical statement. What do you mean by that? The pandemic is NOT over. We have a letter writer in this same post whose friend is being punished for being exposed to covid and following policy.
      Yes Covid may not be as bad as it was, but there are still areas that are high.
      You say “Masking is relatively unusual but accepted without comment. Everybody’s personal space in public seems to have permanently expanded.” This is not true. People sometimes will keep your space but not always. I work in a public-facing position and in my university department on campus, we are required to wear masks (CDC recommendation for healthcare,). I get push back all the time from the public asking why they have to wear a mask when its not required everywhere else on campus.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        * looks at the heat map of high transmission all over the US* The green map is hospital space not transmission levels.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I mean “for any of us.” It isn’t over for everybody everywhere, but for many people in many places, it is as close to a permanent stasis as it’s probably ever going to get.

        Locally to me, we have reached a low, constant level that has held steady for over six months despite surges in nearby states that passed us by. Covid is never going to be eradicated, but it will become endemic, and where I live is probably what it’s going to look like for the forseeable future.

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

          I meant why do you say it is philosophical? It is a real thing and people may want/need to take precautions. The reason why things are better right now is because of masking and vaccination status. So it makes sense that the LW wants to wear a mask and not have it be a problem for her interview.

          1. ND and awkward*

            It’s philosophical because there is no line for when a pandemic stops being a pandemic. The virus isn’t ever going to just disappear, and it’s already all over the world, so by some definitions it will never stop being a pandemic. By other definitions it will be endemic everywhere it’s taken root once infections are no longer exponential. In some places it could already be at that endemic level, in others it’s still very much epidemic. Insisting that because there’s an outbreak in one area, all areas must behave as if they have an outbreak is just not tenable.

            1. Sarah*

              I just want to push back on this. “Endemic” doesn’t mean “we quit caring because we’re bored of being in a pandemic,” it has an actual meaning and covid is not yet endemic. We are factually still in a pandemic right now, across the whole US. It is not regional.

              1. ND and awkward*

                The US is just one country, and a country the letter writer doesn’t even live in. There’s an entire rest of the world that I’m talking about.

    3. quill*

      Congrats on the pause in your risk level, but the main thing about masking is that majority masking and distancing are important tools to keeping the risks low where you live.

      The practical reality is that the virus is still out there, could return en masse to your community, and at least some steps need to be taken to mitigate that risk. That’s what “the pandemic isn’t over for any of us” means.

      1. RagingADHD*

        TBH, the thing keeping our risk level low currently around here, is that there isn’t anyone left to catch it. I was an early and late, extremely cautious masker. I was first in line for my vaxxes and boosters. I tested the whole family and quarantined at every single sniffle. But I’m quite sure we probably caught it at some point without knowing.

        Most people weren’t so careful, and the rest of us had to make peace with doing what we could and not losing our minds trying to control things we couldn’t change.

        We had the refrigerator trucks. We had the people on gurneys stacked up in the hospital hallways. And there were people who were ideologically committed to denying that it was bad, when it was objectively bad.

        Now it is objectively not that bad anymore. The intense crisis has passed for the time being. And those of us who are paying attention and ready to take precautions are enjoying the current situation so we will have the energy to buckle down again if need be.

        And now we have people who are ideologically committed to denying the current reality, just like the folks on the other side were denying reality during the bad times.

  34. Ugh.*

    LW #1 that really sucks. Something similar happened to my dad years ago pre-COVID. He was a nurse and he caught MRSA at work. He called out a couple of shifts in a row because of it and got written up so he showed up to the hospital on his next shift and got written up for reporting to work with a contagious infection. Fortunately he had a union that could push back on that and got the discipline removed from his record and clerical work he could do without interacting with patients until the infection cleared up.

    It doesn’t help your friend in the immediate because Alison is right, none of that is illegal. But it sucks and your friend’s employer sucks, and they and their coworkers might want to think about organizing.

  35. Made It to Friday*

    #2: Any way you could start old-fashioned car-pooling? Maybe your employer would be willing to connect interested parties. Better for the environment too. I am very much an introvert and would prefer to just be alone in my vehicle but if I could no longer afford it, I would indeed car pool. Just something to think about and sorry if someone has suggested this already.

  36. Made It to Friday*

    All it takes is a someone visiting a higher transmission area for your area to no longer be low. It’s low until it isn’t. Plus, with the proliferation of at-home testing, you don’t really know what the infection rate is in any given are. Until walls can be erected around to air and nobody travel anymore, thinking Covid risk is over is just denial. Folks like this makes my high-risk self resolve even more to wear my mask, a 95 no less, probably forever. But you do you.

    OP, if you are required to have an in-person interview, that tells you something right there. But in no case be apologetic about protecting your health and that of your loved ones and just being a good citizen. Wear your mask in good conscience.

  37. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    For LW1, could your friend ask the person who suspended them what they ought to have done differently? Did they do anything inconsistent with the COVID policy (i.e., go home when there is an exposure and don’t come back until we say you can)? And/or ask what they want the friend to do the next time they are exposed to COVID at work, because based on what you’ve described, it’s definitely going to happen again.

    I’m going to guess that they will be unable to identify anything your friend did that was against the COVID policy and/or anything to do differently next time there is an exposure. Has Friend actually seen the policy around suspensions? Is this a real thing or something that the supervisor made up? Could the supervisor have misunderstood an existing policy?

    My hope is that if Friend starts asking questions/informing people above the supervisor, they will be horrified at the silliness of being suspended for missing work when she was explicitly forbidden from coming in. But who knows.

  38. The crystals attract demons*

    Letter #1 might actually have legal recourse if she lives in a state like Colorado with protected COVID leave!

  39. HelloFromNY*

    As inflation and the cost of fuel continue to increase, the situation of LW #2 will become even more commonplace. This has a huge impact on people who work blue collar jobs, service/retail roles, and patient facing healthcare. Those types of jobs literally cannot be done remotely. The only option is to commute. Even worse is that these type of jobs have low pay to begin with and COLA raises are mostly unheard of. In the past few months my food and fuel costs have doubled. What do people do when they have to choose between food/rent vs being able to get to work? This problem is only going to get worse.

  40. sol goodguy*

    OP#2: Regular public transit may not be a great option for your particular needs in the part of the state that you live in, but at my day job I work with a ton of public transit agencies in California, and many of them offer more options than you may realize. Besides standard fixed-route local bus service, many agencies and county authorities also offer:
    – Longer-distance/commuter bus service – these often have park-and-ride lots so you can drive to/from the pickup point then take the bus the rest of the way
    – Vanpooling service – your local transit agency or county may offer a program where you and a bunch of people who live and work nearby one another can sign up to commute in a van together; the agency provides the van itself, and will usually cover the costs of fuel, insurance, etc. as well. This can be a good option if you have a few coworkers who live in your area. If you google “[name of your county] vanpool” you can probably find out if this resource exists where you live, and the vanpool program may be able to help you find nearby people to join your pool as well.

    As someone who works in the public transit field, I know full well that transit offerings outside of a few major cities in the US can be pretty abysmal, and on top of that there’s a pretty heavy social stigma around taking the the bus, which is rooted in racist and classist assumptions around who rides it. However, I’d encourage anyone who’s feeling pain at the pump like OP#2 to make a good-faith effort to explore the non-car options in their area before writing off public transit/carpooling/vanpooling entirely. While these options may make your commute times longer, they will definitely save you money on gas and other car-related expenses (like tolls, parking and maintenance), while reducing your carbon emissions as well.

    Hopefully this isn’t too off-topic, but if anyone here has questions about finding public transit/vanpooling/related resources in your area in the US – please don’t hesitate to reply here, and I can probably help you out!

  41. Optimistic Prime*

    #1 – My daughter’s school (3rd grade) was very strict that if you showed signs of covid you were sent home or to stay home. My daughter has allergies so that meant that she was often coughing or congested. Other times she had headaches and fevers. Each time she stayed home. She missed 30 days after school. I never heard from the teacher about missing assignments or that she’s missing too many days, etc. And I would inform them why she was missing class. The teacher told her one day that if she misses any more school that she will be held back. I was livid. I would have loved to send her to school esp when I knew it was only allergies. I asked about classwork and would get no response. I had a conversation with the principal who was trying to cover for the teacher, but she said my kid wouldn’t be held back. But just goes to show that they put policies in place but then don’t work with the parents about it. They were trying to tell me to have the kid be homeschooled next year since theyre always sick. I said she isn’t I was following your guidelines. So it’s a huge mess all over the place. And we are all caught in the middle.

  42. Essess*

    Is there any possibility of filing workman’s comp claims for loss of work/wages when being sent home after exposure AT WORK to covid? This was a work-related incident that caused the employee to be unable to work so logically it ought to fall under their health/safety violations.

  43. Narise*

    OP 1
    I feel like this is a impossible situation that will result in employees being fired. How does this end other than terminating a person?

    Come to work and get exposed to COVID
    Sent home to wait until cleared
    Come back to work get exposed to COVID
    Sent home to wait until cleared
    Come to work get suspended for missing too many days
    Come to work and get exposed to COVID.

  44. Sorry*

    Sorry to be a downer – but LW 5 will want to be cautious when specifically targeting people that are “right out of school.” It is a slippery slope towards age discrimination, and it sounds like they are on their way down the slide.

    Just my 2 cents of course, but I have had to consciously keep myself from having that mindset when recruiting/hiring for entry level roles.

    1. Agism*

      People “right out of school” can be of any age. Continuing education and late-life career shifts are a thing.

      1. Sorry*

        The post is all about searching for younger candidates. There is one mention of people who are new to the field, but the rest is all focused on finding younger people to apply for the role.

        I agree with what you are saying, and you are 100% correct. I just don’t think the original post shares your sentiment.

        1. ND and awkward*

          The context of the letter is to encourage younger people to recognise that networking is still a two-way street when you’re at the start of your career. If it weren’t explicitly for that purpose, yeah, it might be a red flag, but given the context it’s to be expected that the focus was on younger people.

  45. Maestra*

    LW 1- This almost exact same thing happened to my husband. He had multiple negative tests but the process to clear him was so long that when he finally was able to get back to work he was denied a raise he had been promised, for taking too much time off. Like your friend, he had also tried to go to work with his negative tests when it was clear the process wasn’t working and was sent home.

    Not illegal. Just wrong. He quit pretty soon after.

  46. Paul Sadler*

    The whole “I got suspended for missing work for COVID policy absences” is so ridiculous that the person writing is obviously clueless. If her “friend” got fired for missing that work, guess what? They would have had to fire themselves and everyone else too. The exposure and clearance policy would have sent almost everyone home, and they would have all been fired for the same reason. Except they aren’t firing everyone, they’re only firing her.

    Which means the rest of them did something to get back that SHE didn’t or there’s other stuff going on that she failed to mention.


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