a stolen work laptop, employee wants me to fire her coworker, and more

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

1. How to tell your boss a sex worker stole your work laptop

I have a question on behalf of a friend (yes, I promise it is actually a friend and not me). He was staying overnight on a business trip and decided to hire a sex worker. This is perfectly legal in our part of the world and he used his own personal funds. While he was in the bathroom, the sex worker robbed him, including his work laptop. How should he go about informing work what happened?

In theory he could just explain that he had an “acquaintance” come back to his room and not proactively volunteer that the acquaintance was a sex worker, but the company will likely want him to file a police report (and will wonder why he hasn’t done that already). Once that happens, it’s going to be hard to avoid the rest of the story coming out … and that could potentially be very bad for your friend (not necessarily that he hired a sex worker but that he did it on a business trip and it resulted in the theft of company property, and possibly sensitive company property). He’d be more likely to keep his job if the laptop got lifted from a restaurant or other public place. It’s a bad situation.

Read an update to this letter

2. Husband and wife owners are constantly fighting

I work for a small firm (under 20 employees). The owners are husband and wife and they are constantly fighting. She’s the president, he’s the CEO. She’s an alcoholic and he is on the wagon, part-time. They’ve owned this company for over 20 years, and they’ve taken a lot of personal issues into the office. There are days where it is all-out war with each other, which affects the team for weeks. Everyone is on eggshells and I don’t see it getting any better. There are days where my boss spends over an hour complaining about his wife, how she can’t do anything right, calls her horrible names, and just simply is unproductive. It’s to the point where I and other colleagues don’t want to come to the office anymore. It’s hard to do our jobs.

Outside of removing myself from the situation and finding a new job, is there any legal recourse or quitting based on a hostile work environment? The boss has gotten so angry that he’s clenched fists and turned colors. He doesn’t think he’s the problem and that it’s everyone else.

Assuming you’re in the U.S., there’s no legal recourse. Your work environment is certainly hostile in the colloquial sense (in that you are surrounded by hostility), but in the legal sense hostile work environment needs to be based on a protected characteristic, like race, sex, religion, disability, etc. In other words, being a jerk to someone because of their race is illegal., but being an equal-opportunity jerk or fighting with your wife in front of everyone is not.

But this sounds horrible and you should get out ASAP.

3. My employee wants me to fire her coworker for working during medical leave

I have two employees under my management, Phoebe and Monica. They are equals in the organization and neither are management. Monica went on medical leave a few months ago and Phoebe found out she was working a side job during this time. Phoebe reported Monica using our whistle-blower policy. The insurance company who was paying her is now involved and we have decided to leave it in their hands. Phoebe is angry that Monica was not fired and will not let it go. She is angry at me and the organization as she wants Monica fired and is threatening to quit if she isn’t.

I believe this is none of Phoebe’s business and she has been told to leave it alone. We have never had other issues with Monica and while this shows a level of dishonesty and a lack of integrity, I also recognize short-term disability doesn’t pay enough for most people to live on. I don’t see this as a fireable offense. Am I in the wrong here? It won’t be the end of the world to lose Phoebe if she feels this strongly about it, I just want to know how to deal with this situation should it happen again.

This isn’t even remotely Phoebe’s business, and the next time she brings it up you should say, “This isn’t something that’s up for further discussion, and it’s become disruptive for you to continue pushing for a different outcome. If you’d like to take the next few days off to decide whether you’re able to move on from it or not, that’s fine to do. But I want to make sure you understand that if you choose to stay, this isn’t something we will continue to discuss.”

And if she threatens to quit you should say, “I understand. If you decide to do that, let me know and I’ll notify HR to get the paperwork started.”

As for your decision about Monica, it’s definitely possible for her to need medical leave for one kind of work while still being able to do a different kind of work.

4. No one has acknowledged my resignation

I have been working as a freelancer for a company that I need to break ties with so I can focus on the full-time job I have managed to get. I sent a resignation email to my direct boss and their boss, since most often my emails on Friday have been ignored unless they went to more than one person. I haven’t had a reply. Not even a curt “acknowledged” message from anyone. I have contracts I am going to wrap up according to the work left on them, but there’s one ongoing contract that will need to be transferred to someone else. If I don’t get a response from my boss or her boss, what’s my next move? They’re a haphazardly organized business and I am feeling so good about my decision to leave because of the inconsistencies in their ability to do their jobs effectively, but also I don’t want to leave my clients hanging.

For context, I was tutoring so my clients are kids and their parents, with the parents choosing a number of hours of tutoring they want and I’m contracted for that amount of time. The company matched me with the kids and I organized times and content. I’m happy to finish the two shorter/easier contracts I have left, but new job starts in September and if I continue with the long and challenging remaining contract, I’ll be stuck with that student until November at the earliest.

This is time-sensitive, so call your boss. If you get voicemail, leave a message saying, “I wanted to make sure you saw my email that I am starting a new job and need to wrap up my work here by (date). I need to talk with you about how to handle the X contract since I’ll be unavailable to continue that tutoring. My proposal is that I do ___ and I want to get your sign-off on that.” If it’s reasonable for the context, you could add, “If I don’t hear back from you by X, I’ll move forward with that.” And then follow that up with an email reiterating your plan for what to do with that contract (which presumably would be alerting the family of your ending date and having them connect with the company for a new tutor, but give your boss the chance to weigh in first).

Read an update to this letter

5. Recommending an acquaintance who I don’t know well

A newish acquaintance of mine (Herbert) recently let me know he was applying for a job at my ginormous global company and asked me if I had any contacts or insight I could pass along to him. I have a coworker who used to work for the department he is applying to and that coworker offered to connect me (over instant message) to the hiring manager if I want to put in a good word. My company has a referral bonus program, so I also submitted some info related to Herbert’s application.

I’d love to see Herbert succeed and earn a referral bonus in the process, but should I skip trying to put in a good word for him with the hiring manager since I don’t really know his work? He’s a congenial guy and I have his resume and can speak to his experience that way, but I don’t have any other first-hand knowledge. Is there any benefit to trying to refer somebody I don’t really know to a manager who doesn’t know me? Is there any risk?

The risk is that if you recommend him and he turns out to be horrible, your reputation can suffer as a result; if nothing else, your referrals will be a lot less trusted in the future. You’re basically vouching for someone when you recommend them and putting your own judgment on the line. (That’s not always the case with referrals, where you’re not saying much more than “this person came through me and they seem generally pleasant.” But with a recommendation (which includes stuff like “putting in a good word” for the person, you are indeed vouching for them to some extent.)

The way to deal with this is to always be really clear about the limits of your knowledge about a candidate. For example, you can say, “I want to be up-front that I’ve never worked with him so can’t vouch for his work, but from knowing him socially I can say that he’s smart, funny, and really enthusiastic about llama grooming.” But if you don’t know him well enough to vouch for those sorts of personal characteristics either, I’d skip trying to contact the hiring manager about him altogether.

{ 358 comments… read them below }

    1. wordswords*

      I mean, even if she was and resents it, aggressively pushing for Monica to be fired seems likely to set her up for more time covering two workloads if she’s successful. (Even aside from being a jerk move over an offense that’s none of her business. It’s not as if Phoebe is pushing for Monica to be fired over something that happened on the job and directly affected Phoebe; this is about an assessment of Monica’s integrity based on actions outside work while on leave. Monica’s second job might potentially concern the company, but it doesn’t concern Phoebe.)

      Plus, OP says Phoebe wouldn’t be a huge loss, so I’m guessing that Phoebe wasn’t covering TOO much workload, if she’s that replaceable. That part’s more conjecture, though, and could be wrong.

      1. Passionfruit Tea*

        I just feel like that story is missing some info and is pushing us towards resenting Monica while keeping important info from us. What side hustle are we talking about, how much extra work did Monica have to do, why was there no part-time for Phoebe if she could have handled it. How did Monica find out about the side hustle?

        1. MK*

          I disagree. None of this information is particularly relevant to answering the OP’s question, in fact what the side hustle was and how Monica found out is completely irrelevant, the same goes for why Phoebe didn’t go part time. The only thing that might have some relevance is if Monica had to take on her coworker’s workload, in that it makes her attitude more understandable, but that doesn’t actually make it ok.

          I don’t understand what you mean by resenting Monica. Even assuming the worst of Phoebe, her behaviour is obnoxious and out of touch; she does not get a say on how her coworker gets disciplined. If she disagrees with the company’s reaction on this to the point that she doesn’t want to work there anymore, that’s one thing, but constantly pushing for another person to be fired isn’t a good look, and the OP has no obligation to make us like Monica.

          1. Prospect Gone Bad*

            I am surprised at the tone of the comments and find it disingenuous that people are saying “none of her business.” I find it unbelievable that someone would take someone’s workload because they were sick and not get upset when they found out they were working somewhere else. They told their boss because most bosses would also get annoyed by this. I don’t think we can expect people to be robots on not raise issues like this. Also, where do you draw the line? To use a slightly hyperbolic example, do you want people to not raise safety issues because they’re not QA? Do you want people to not report screwed up invoicing becuase they are not Accounting? Of course not. Sometimes people need to say things that are officially outside their lane

            1. ThatGirl*

              As Alison pointed out, you might need medical leave from, say… being a nurse, or working in a warehouse, or another physically demanding job. And you might still have enough stamina to deliver pizza part time, or do data entry, or something else that isn’t as physically strenuous.

              It’s not like Monica was pretending to work while also doing a side gig — she was on leave that someone agreed was necessary. What she does beyond recuperate in that time isn’t really anyone’s business.

              1. quill*

                Yeah. It’s entirely possible to, for example, be doing some social media marketing, translation work, etc. for a couple hours a day but not able to go back to the office full time. Or to have unpredictable amounts of workable time in a day that are split up in a way incompatible with coverage based work but if copyedits are due in two weeks, you can do it whenever you have the time.

              2. toolittletoolate*

                Working another job is also legal under FMLA under certain circumstances, such as needing FMLA for a physically demanding job but being able to work at home answering a phone.

              3. T'Cael Zaniidor Kilyle*

                Exactly. There are soooo many plausible reasons for a person to temporarily be medically unable to work one job, yet perfectly able to do some other kind of work, that in the absence of any information to the contrary, my first instinct is to assume it’s one of those situations.

              4. Big Bank*

                A million times this. I was on STD, and during the period where I was feeling a little better I agonized over sharing with people if I was going or doing anything. I could not work, and I knew that, but I was so afraid of the optics that I didn’t even want to enjoy something simple like a day at the beach. People want disabilities to look a certain way, and limit you completely, when there is a HUGE spectrum. I wish people weren’t so judgey about it, but this letter cemented my concerns about sharing what I was up to during STD.

              5. Observer*

                What she does beyond recuperate in that time isn’t really anyone’s business.

                Well, it sometimes is. Which is why it might be relevant to the OP. But it’s not relevant to Phoebe. Sure, if (and it’s unlikely) that Phoebe had to carry her workload, I would get her resentment. But pushing for a firing is waaay out of lin

            2. Kez*

              Based on the letter, we can’t assume that Phoebe was asked to pick up Monica’s workload. And in fact, it sounds like Phoebe was given the resources to report her concerns about Monica’s second job to HR, who is handling the situation from here. What most certainly *isn’t* Phoebe’s business is the full report and results of that investigation.

              To use your examples, someone could raise an invoicing issue they see, at which point HR, management, or finance might investigate and find there was some mitigating factor that means what appeared to be shady activity was actually innocuous or correctable in some way which the reporting party couldn’t see at the moment. They might issue a warning, but move on from there, and it would be extremely bizarre for the employee who reported the issue to start demanding that individuals be fired for an offense they didn’t investigate and don’t have the whole story on.

              1. Jora Malli*

                This. I think reporting an issue when you find out about it is your business. But ordering your managers to handle the issue in the specific way you prefer is not.

              2. GreenDoor*

                Totally agree with Kez. The general purpose of a whistleblower process is to allow for employees to report unethical or illegal activity – and to be protected from retaliation for doing so. It does not mean the whistleblower gets to participate in the investigation or dictate what should happen – or even that they are entitled to know the outcome. It’s fine for Pheobe to be upset about having to take on extra work! That’s natural. But the issue is that she keeps harping on it to the point of wanting to dictate the outcome. She needs to be told to knock that off.

            3. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              We don’t know whether or how much it affected Phoebe’s work (e.g. there have been occasions when my employees were out that I covered for them). The LW did not express an issue about Phoebe raising it, her issue is with Phoebe lobbying to have her co-worker fired, without knowing the full facts. I understand Phoebe being angry, but she doesn’t get to decide how Monica is treated, especially while the issue is still being looked into.

            4. Malarkey01*

              I’d be sympathetic if she raised it as “I wanted to let you know this happened and I’m having a hard time trusting Monica after this incident.” Then you leave it at that. Consistently demanding a coworker be fired after you’ve been told that it’s not your business if way over the line.
              You can judge and resent coworkers but you can’t demand the company take action. That’s the issue here.

            5. MK*

              We aren’t saying that she shouldn’t have reported it. But just because you reported something doesn’t give you any exta authority over the disciplinary process. It’s like saying that because you were the one who reported a crime, the victim has an obligation to press charges and you get a say in the trial and sentencing. In this case the company, the wronged party, decided that for whatever reason, possibly a very valid one, they aren’t interested in disciplining the other employee. The insurance company, another wronged party, is following their own process. As far as we know, she wasn’t wrong at all, and it’s over the top to demand that her coworker be fired.

            6. MBK*

              Absolutely none of this is relevant, and not comparable to a workplace safety issue. These are the only relevant issues:

              1) Monica had a medical issue and took medical leave, which is presumably a benefit offered by her employer. Determining eligibility to use the benefit is entirely between Monica and the company (and by extension the insurance company).
              2) It’s up to that employer to decide how Monica’s work is handled while she’s out. If they dumped it on Phoebe and expected her to cover both Monica’s work and her own, that’s a problem, but it’s 100% between Phoebe and the company. If Monica were using paid vacation to work a side hustle, no one would care, despite it having the same affect on the distribution of work. There’s no difference.

              And like many others have pointed out, her ability to do a particular job while dealing with her medical condition doesn’t necessarily mean she didn’t need to take leave from a completely different job due to the same medical condition.

              1. Prospect Gone Bad*

                This is what people have said, yes. I read the comments. I am saying that I don’t believe people in the actual situation would be as robotic about it and say “oh I am doing my coworker’s job while they work somewhere else, but I am happy because it’s none of my business!”

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Being unhappy about something doesn’t make it any of your business, though.

                  Also, from the letter, we don’t know that she has been doing her coworker’s job, and if she is, we don’t know enough details to know if her having to do so in this situation is unfair. But even if it is unfair, it’s still none of her business. She does not get a say in how the company handles it, and she’s only hurting herself with her obsessiveness and inability to let it go.

                2. Dorothea Vincy*

                  But we don’t actually know that’s the case. And even if it is, people aren’t saying Phoebe has to be happy about it. She just has to stop calling for Monica to be fired and threatening to quit if she isn’t. That’s still not an appropriate response no matter how unhappy Phoebe is. In fact, it’s making her look considerably worse to OP.

                3. Jora Malli*

                  Phoebe is welcome to be as unhappy about the situation as she likes. She’s even welcome to quit her job if she decides this is a dealbreaker. What she’s not welcome to do is demand that her boss fire a coworker. That is outside the scope of her employment.

                4. MBK*

                  And I’m telling you that if she’s unhappy about being handed her coworker’s workload, her only legitimate beef is with the manager that handed it to her, not with the coworker on leave. This would be true whether the leave were medical, parental, bereavement, emergency, or vacation.

                  I’m not saying you’re wrong that some people would get angry at Monica about it, but I do not believe those people are rational or reasonable, and their complaints aren’t worth entertaining.

                5. mikey c*

                  But if someone is away for any reason and you’re doing extra work, that’s an issue with you and your boss not you and the person who’s off. Sacking the other person isn’t going to reduce your workload.

                6. ABCYaBye*

                  If a coworker is out on leave, my business as it relates to that is simply to do what I’m asked to do for the company we both work for. If I have to take on extra for a period of time and that’s causing me undue stress, that is something I can work through with my boss. If that coworker was on medical leave and they’ve decided that they’ll recuperate better on the beach, that’s up to them. I can’t be upset that they’re on the beach. Or I can, but I can’t demand that they be fired.

                  The company has a structure in place for the concern about the side job to be reported. That is the extent of what Phoebe should be concerned about. She may be REALLY upset if her workload has increased to cover for Monica while she’s out. No one says she can’t be. But demanding that Monica be fired isn’t her place. What if the demands were met and Monica was immediately terminated, only to find that the insurance company had no issue because she was making origami swans and selling a few on Etsy? Then Monica has a real issue to raise… Phoebe is entitled (to a certain extent) to her feelings, but her feelings at this point have gone past reasonable.

                7. fhqwhgads*

                  IRL they’d be pissed, for sure. Feeling your feelings is not the same as pushing the company to take a particular action. I can be pissed and think a coworker’s actions merit firing, and that much is logical. If I repeatedly go to management specifically saying “but coworker should be fired” I’m out of my lane and not reasonable.

                8. quill*

                  The difference here is between feelings and action. Monica’s action is “lobby for Phoebe to be fired, presumably quicker than the usual investigation would allow” and that’s what isn’t right.

                9. quill*

                  Lol, took me a VERY short amount of time to get the names switched, you can tell that friends was before my time.

                10. Koalafied*

                  There’s a huge gulf between “be happy about it” and “repeatedly badgering your managers about how they’re handling it after you’ve had the opportunity to be heard and now have been asked to stop bringing it up over and over again.”

                11. Esmeralda*

                  Phoebe can THINK, they oughta fire Monica.
                  But she’s got no standing whatsoever to SAY, fire Monica.
                  And she for sure has no standing to say it over and over and get mad about it at work.

                  She can think and feel whatever she wants. But she needs to keep it to herself, out of the workplace. Her behavior is completely unacceptable.

                  And the OP needs to shut it down like yesterday.

                12. Observer*

                  I read the comments. I am saying that I don’t believe people in the actual situation would be as robotic about it and say “oh I am doing my coworker’s job while they work somewhere else, but I am happy because it’s none of my business!”

                  You say you read the comments and then claim that people are saying something that no one has actually said.


            7. WantonSeedStitch*

              I think it’s fine if Phoebe is upset. That’s not a problem. What IS a problem is her insistence on the issue being resolved in a particular way, and her refusal to let the subject drop.

              1. T'Cael Zaniidor Kilyle*

                Right. The thing that IS perfectly reasonable for Phoebe to ask, assuming she is an exempt employee and not already getting paid more for putting in more hours, is “hey, I’ve been picking up a lot of extra work that goes beyond the normal give-and-take that’s accepted with a salaried job, so can I get some extra compensation for this?”

              2. sarah*

                Exactly. I can be upset that my upstairs neighbors are walking around during the day but if I went up and yelled at them for it, I’d be acting unreasonably. Your feelings do not automatically justify your actions; most adults know this.

            8. Boof*

              At the end of the day Phobe really does need to stay in their lane. Are there possible factors such as increased work load, or reasons for distrust between Phobe and Monica; maybe! Phobe should focus on how the issue impacts their own ongoing work then; is it possible Monica was doing something perfectly reasonable (like a small amount if different work that’s much easier to do while on leave and won’t impact their return to work) and Phobe is crazy vindictive? Maybe! Phobe should definitely stay in her lane then

            9. Been there Done that*

              When I was on medical leave from my job, my doctor said it was okay (and encouraged) to continue working my part time job. They were completely different kinds of work and being unable to do my primary job didn’t mean I was unable to do the part time job. Yes, people at my primary job had to pick up the slack and do more work. I was not able to do that work. However it was also not the business of my coworkers to know why I was on medical leave and unable to do that job vs being able to do my side job (although it was pretty obvious). My boss also didn’t know or need to know why. I was following doctor’s requirements and providing the appropriate info to HR and to the insurance company. Medical conditions and restrictions are pretty private; even when I went back to work my boss knew about my accomodations but did not have a need or right to know about specific medical diagnosis or details. People would have been jumping to uninformed conclusions to assume being unable to work Job A meant I shouldn’t be working Job B.

            10. Mid*

              But that’s clearly a hyperbole and irrelevant to this conversation. I took a medical leave for two months. During that time, I still did my side gig work, because my STDisability insurance 1. took 3 months to pay me and 2. was 60% of my income–which doesn’t cover my medical bills plus daily living expenses. That’s not the same as not reporting an actual work issue. And the issue is not that Monica reported her coworker, it’s that she won’t let it go and keeps pushing for a harsher punishment, which is out of line to begin with, and keeps going even after being told to stop. You can’t demand that your manager punish someone in a different way because you’re mad.

            11. Ellie*

              I think Phoebe was absolutely right to inform their company about what was going on, but now that they know about it, and have presumably dealt with it, she needs to leave it alone. Its quite likely she doesn’t know all the facts, and nor should she if it concerns Phoebe’s personal information. The additional work might have been something that she felt she couldn’t get out of (caring or social work maybe), it might have allowed her to work from home which better accommodated her injury, or it could just have been that she couldn’t put food on the table without it. Whatever the reason, the company may be completely in the right regarding keeping her on, and Phoebe’s now causing trouble.

            12. Faith the twilight slayer*

              But the OP never said Phoebe took on any extra work. So we’ve got to go with information that we *do* have, which is just that Phoebe’s pretty intent on getting her coworker fired when her own manager has decided that isn’t necessary.

        2. JSPA*

          Agreeded that the missing “why would she” practically demands speculation, and could affect the specific messaging.

          I, on the other hand, wonder if Phoebe had been waging quiet war on Monica to get her to quit, with the result that Monica needed time off. Or if Phoebe had some specific disapproval towards whatever she thinks Monica took time off, for. Or if Phoebe is just very by-the-book on all things, and dedicated to fixing other people in that regard. Or if Phoebe was fired from another job for doing same. Or if Phoebe tried to blackmail (or just shame) Monica over this, and her bluff is now called.

          A subset of these would affect whether Phoebe should be staying, at all.

          1. Despachito*

            I do not really think this matters, although I am also interested to know why Phoebe is so invested to have Monica fired.

            What matters in my opinion is what was already said – is Phoebe able/willing to stop insisting on firing Monica, and to stop bringing up the subject? If not, off with her.

            1. Ness*

              My guess is that Monica knows Phoebe is the one who reported her (and maybe even confided to Phoebe in confidence about her side job), and Phoebe expects it’s going to be uncomfortable when she has to continue working with Monica.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          Phoebe’s attitude is weirdly aggressive, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a cause of that aggression outside her own personality. Sure, OP needs to make sure there isn’t/wasn’t a workload issue and generally hear Phoebe out before any final conclusions (it sounds like she possibly already has). However it’s definitely A Thing where an employee thinks they know who should and shouldn’t be fired, is passionate about this opinion, and hasn’t absorbed that it’s not their business to discern that. I had a similar issue with a colleague who reported a concern about someone. She was right to report the concern but when it wasn’t deemed more serious than a conversation, she went nuts. There were a reasons for that: she’d had to psyche herself up to report it and had convinced herself this created a “her or me” dynamic. She was pretty passionate about the mission and she felt the coworker was bad for it. But mostly it was… unprofessionalism. She came from a background of owning her own business and hiring relatives and she just had no idea of how to stand down, keep her mouth shut, or that if you do raise concerns it’s best to do it in a way that can’t be described as “angry”.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I come from a long line of hardcore rule-following, self-righteous women. Exactly the kind of people who would, maybe not go outwardly ballistic, but would endlessly resent someone not getting fired for something that did not affect them and was not at all their business to worry about. My grandmother was apparently the disciplinarian for every kid in town. So, yes, my relatives are nuts, but people like this do exist.

            1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              Yes, I feel like the self-appointed time and attendance monitor is a common thing at work, right? The person who always clocks everyone’s lunch time and whether they left 5 minutes early.

              1. Carol the happy elf*

                Wow- I just realized what happened to “Regina”, the 5th-grade teacher’s pet who was always assigned to write names on the board when that (loathed) teacher was out of the room. The idea was that the teacher would come back and see your name, take Regina’s statement, and punish you for whatever Regina claimed you were guilty of doing. (I got my name on the board because I turned around to see the next math assignment.) Regina was a foul suck up; obviously she offended the wrong cartel and now is in Witness Protection with the new name of Phoebe.

              2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

                There was a NYT article this week on how employers are monitoring remote workers. Most of the interviewee profiles were not fans, but one was a woman who wanted even more close monitoring because she was wanted proof that she was way more productive and others were slacking. Yikes.

        4. EPLawyer*

          None of it really matters. Management made a decision about how it is to be handled. Phoebe, who is not management, is now arguing over that decision to the point she had gone its her or me. This has nothing to do with Monica at this point. This is about professional norms for Phoebe. Phoebe can dislike the decision about how to handle it all she wants. What she cannot do is continue to push for HER solution only. It’s not her place to do so. Its none of her business.

        5. Nanani*

          Those might plot holes on the sitcom, but they’re none of your business in the real world.
          Like Alison said, it’s not hard to imagine being medically unable to do one type of work (and therefore taking medical leave) but still able to do another type – and needing to do so because the bills dont stop when you’re off work.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This I think is where I am as well. Phoebe was within her right to report the issue, but once it’s reported it’s out of her hands and control.

            Also, you can need some way to bridge a pay gap while being off on a medical leave. A person may need a medical break from a very physical/stressful job but can handle a couple of hours delivering food for example. In the end it comes down to what are the rules of the medical leave that Monica is off on.

        6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          It doesn’t matter. None of this has to do with Monica. She’s on leave doing her thing. This has to do with Phoebe surveilling her and using what she learned to try and get her fired. If Phoebe felt overwhelmed by work she could have, I dunno, talked to the OP or the OP’s boss about workload. Instead she pried into what her coworker was doing on leave.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            And my apologies for getting salty. I just had a similar situation except in this case I and HR knew damned well that the person on leave was doing work, so the Phoebe in my situation was extra aggravating. IRC our disability is only 70% of pay and no OT, so yeah, people work on it if they can because the rent and bills don’t get cut because you are hurt.

            (Our Phoebe got a talking to about spending work time tracking her coworkers rather than just asking a question)

            1. SelinaKyle*

              I think it depends on was her job is that she was on sick leave from and what the side hustle was. For example; she may have worked a very manual job as a carer and she’s hurt herself so she can’t do manual labour. However she was able to do admin for a dog adoption event.
              When I was off work for a back injury i once bumped into a colleague on the way back from a medical appointment on my crutches. He questioned why I was wasn’t in the office, at the time I couldn’t sit on a chair at all and couldn’t stand for long periods.
              Fair enough for Phoebe to whistleblow but she doesn’t know the full story, nor should she, after she raised the issue it’s then nothing to do with her.
              I feel like Phoebe and Monica didn’t get on before this event.

        7. Observer*

          I just feel like that story is missing some info and is pushing us towards resenting Monica while keeping important info from us. What side hustle are we talking about, how much extra work did Monica have to do, why was there no part-time for Phoebe if she could have handled it. How did Monica find out about the side hustle?

          I don’t understand why any of this is relevant. Some of it MIGHT be relevant to what the OP does going forward with Phoebe, but it’s not relevant to the rest.

          MAYBE, and it really is a big maybe – it would make Monica more sympathetic. But her behavior is still out of line and it needs to stop.

    2. Heffalump*

      Long form:

      “I understand. If you decide to do that, let me know and I’ll notify HR to get the paperwork started.”

      Short form:

      “There’s the door.”
      “Here’s your hat.”

  1. Passionfruit Tea*

    LW4 print your resignation, date it and send it certified mail sent with a witness who signs that they saw the contents and that you posted it. They are trying to fork you over.

    1. Bagpuss*

      How is this necessary? She’s already sent e-mails and presumably copied them to her personal e-mail or printed off copies if they were sent from a work e-mail she won’t have access to.

    2. Ferret*

      Eh? What do you think any of that will do that an email won’t? What kind of court case are you imagining in which this signed witness statement gets pulled out? How exactly are they trying to screw LW4 and how do you imagine your elaborate evidence will prevent this?

      LW4 already has a new job so it’s not like there’s a risk to their livelihood if this job is unhappy and there is nothing stopping them from just making their own arrangement and moving on as Alison suggested.

    3. EPLawyer*

      Certified mail is not magic. No more than having her resignation letter notarized (all notarization does is certify that the person who signed something really is that person, nothing more).

      The problem is not the last date. Its the turn over of the contract. She needs action on that, not proof of her resignation.

      1. Kacihall*

        Considering how many notaries will just stamp whatever and not actually check ID (which is not a lot but more than zero) notary is at best a placebo. (So glad I am no longer a notary. The ‘training’ I got from the state of Kansas was literally a brochure that was sent with my stamp.)

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Whaaaaat? They make notaries sit through a six hour class here (which is why I utterly declined to become one when asked).

        2. Mid*

          Yikes. I’m a notary and I would be fired if I notarized something without checking ID, unless I personally knew the person (which is explicitly okay in my state.) Even if I did it outside of work, I would likely get in trouble with my job if I was caught doing that.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Personally, if I hadn’t heard back from my boss, I’d email the parents of the kid(s) covered by that contract, with the boss copied, 30 days before I was going to leave letting them know what was happening, where you were planning on leaving off with their kid(s), and tell them to get in touch with boss (copied on email) for any information about a new tutor. After that it is out of the LW’s hands

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That was my first thought — if the employer isn’t responsive, the best thing the LW can do is tell the customer that they’re leaving on X date, and if they want information about who will be taking over, to contact their employer. It’s not the LW’s job to manage the tutoring assignments, so if no one up the chain seems to be doing that, a call from a customer will give them more of a reason to respond.

      3. Koalafied*

        Literally yesterday I found in my mailbox a piece of certified mail addressed to Dr. So-and-So at my address, Suite 450. The doctor’s office complex is actually a few blocks up the road from me; the sender had gotten the house number wrong. That said, I’ve lived here by myself for 5 years, no other mail addressed to this doctor gets delivered to me, and there are no suites at this address. I assume there’s some kind of payment or important documentation inside and the poor sender probably got confirmation that their certified mail was delivered. Because it was delivered…to me. Basically, certified mail seems to be little more than a glorified tracking number.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Well, the mail deliverer really shouldn’t have put this in your mailbox if the name didn’t match (should have returned to sender).

          However, I’ve also noticed that they often don’t care. Our mail is supposed to be forwarded because we moved, but a lot was just delivered to our former downstairs neighbour (completely different name) anyway. Things that really shouldn’t be, like letters from the bank. We’re lucky he’s trustworthy. We’ve also gotten mail for other people that moved years ago, or that live at [streetname] place, not [streetname] alley.

          So yes, certified mail is not as reliable as it should be in theory.

    4. Nanani*

      …. This is like gumption on the exit end instead of the hiring end.
      Unnecesary hassle just to keep being ignored.

      1. LW4 - DG*

        Yeah, I figure that if they can’t send an email back, the letter will just sit in a physical inbox somewhere.

        I’m marvelling that it took Alison saying it to think of actually picking up the phone, although I am actually uncertain if I have a direct phone number for my boss’s boss given that as an extra complication I now know my boss has come down with Covid.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Does your work use any sort of video calling system? Can you call your boss’s boss through Teams or Zoom or what have you? If a direct out-of-the-blue call is against the culture in your company, you could ping them through your internal IM system (assuming you have one) to ask for some time to talk.

          1. LW4 - DG*

            I video call with my students, but as a “freelance” they really don’t care to interact with us. No messaging system, and no organised teams/zoom calling system.

            As I said below, I just found out my direct boss has Covid, which is presumably what is slowing everything up, but there’s no one doing her job, so that’s fun!

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Do you have the email of the parents whose contract you need to hand over? If yes, you could email them 30ish days out from your last date with the boss copied telling them what is going on and to get in touch with the boss for more info. After all, this is more between the company and clients than you and the clients

              1. LW4 - DG*

                Oh, yeah, I’m on good terms with all the parents & I’ll be contacting them as soon as I’ve (sort of) exhausted my efforts to notify my boss. Two of the parents already know – one because they told me they were stopping tutoring due to the expense, and one because their kid is neurodivergent & will need some time to come to terms with me leaving him. I could do it on my own, I’m just having a bewilderment that I have to & that nobody has noticed that I’m leaving!!

              2. LW4 - DG*

                Yeah, I’m on good terms with all the parents, I just didn’t want to cut the “bosses” out of the situation if I could help it. I’ve already spoken to two parents – one because they told me they weren’t recontracting because of money, and the other because their child is neurodivergent and will need time to process change. I’ll handle it myself next week if they choose not to interact with me.

                Honestly they mostly are useless and this is just making me feel better about leaving.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Oh Covid, the gift we don’t want that keeps on giving (things we wish we could return).

          Given you now know boss has Covid I’m guessing that’s why boss hasn’t responded to the email. I would pick up the phone (if you have numbers) and see if you can talk to whoever is filling in for boss to get this sorted out.

          1. LW4 - DG*

            Yeah, it’s lucky I have my direct boss on FB, because otherwise I’d still not know nothing.

            My biggest problem is the disorganisation of this “organistion” essentially means that there is no one filling in for her.

            I’ll give the only mobile number I have a call & leave a message. Then it’s up to them!

        3. CPegasus*

          Isn’t it funny how sometimes you just need another brain to give you the obvious answer? I’ve been in that place so many times where I’m just left thinking…”Damn, of course”

          1. LW4 - DG*

            Yeah. I hate phone calls at the best of times, so it’s not my first choice, but I make them when it makes sense to, but it just didn’t occur to me here. Feel a bit dumb about it.

            Although, it’s dumber still that it’s been nearly a week & nobody has noticed I’ve resigned!!

    5. LW4 - DG*

      There’s not much they’re forking me over with, they can’t punish me for not turning up to sessions that I want passing to someone else because we’re paid by the session. I literally just want them to acknowledge that they know I’m leaving so I’m not leaving that one student I want to pass on high and dry.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      I was a little thrown by the official answer since the letter says this person is a freelancer. It’s responsible to make sure the company knows and try to facilitate handoff so the students aren’t left hanging, but really…you’re a freelancer, you don’t need to resign per se. You just stop picking up work. (I suspect this isn’t really a correct categorization of freelancing based on some of the other details, but regardless of if the company handled that wrong, if you’re not actively trying to freelance in the space anymore, there’s not much to be lost. And again, they already did resign, in writing, to two people. so they’re pretty much done. Following up is a kind thing to do – because of the students – but if the company isn’t organized to notice someone quit, that’s on them.

      1. LW4 - DG*

        I said freelancer as it’s the closest I’ve got in terms of names for it. You’re right in that I don’t HAVE to do anything but, also right that I don’t want to leave the kids hanging.

        Sure I could just stop interacting with the company, but that feels a tad rude!

  2. rudster*

    Monica’s situation is none of Phoebe’s business and she needs to let it go. It’s entirely possible that someone could be disabled or severely limited from performing their regular occupation but be able to perform a different occupation and/or under t work under different conditions for a different amount of time. This is for the insurance company to investigate and handle now that they have been informed.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes – I’m a bit confised that OP is saying there is an issue around Monica’s integrety. Unless the side hustle was doing the same type of work and under similar conditions to the main job, or having a second job is contrary to company policy / requires prior approval then it’s not really relevant.

      1. doreen*

        I think the integrity issue is about the insurance – I don’t know and won’t speculate about the specifics in this situation but let’s just say it’s not unheard of for people to be caught collecting short-term disability benefits or worker’s comp benefits while engaging in paid or unpaid activities that are not compatible with the medical documentation justifying the leave. Which typically means the medical documentation is not entirely truthful and will be considered fraudulent by the insurance company.

        1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          What Doreen said. “Your medical note says you require six weeks off for bedrest.” or similar. Essentially, you can’t be at work for six weeks.

          Grapevine learns that while on your medical leave, you were working on a different job. “How can you be working if you needed the time of work to heal?”

          Thing is, it could also depend on what that 2nd job is. If, for example, quite part-time and can be done from a laptop in bed, then it’s really, truly, none of my business. But based on what the medical leave is for, the insurance company that’s covering the leave could take issue.

        2. Dust Bunny*


          I could easily be unable to do the heavy-lifting part of my job but very well able to do something sedentary, but the insurance company might disagree.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I thought the integrity issue was also with the insurance. And just like the OP I also had a feeling that Monica was doing the side job because t house payouts typically aren’t the equivalent of your full paycheck, so Monica needed a bit more to make ends meet.

          However, my guess was going to something like a food delivery service or a rideshare service on a limited basis for the few extra dollars it would bring in.

        4. Anon all day*

          Yeah. There’s definitely a potential concern/reason to investigate Monica. However, how the company chooses to proceed, no matter the eventual outcome, Phoebe needs to stay out of it.

          1. Observer*

            That’s where I come down. Yes, potential issue with Monica, but totally not Phoebe’s place to insist on anything.

        5. J*

          I strangely just attended a CLE on this yesterday. The message about dual employment and leave was to definitely never assume someone is violating laws if they need to leave one job but not another. One job could offer more flexibility on work hours, not trigger a physical or mental health related issue, etc. I recently faced a dually-employed coworker who made a lot of extra work for me with her inability to work both jobs so it was a really good check for me to reconsider my initial angry reaction to hear someone could be on leave from one role and work another.

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            But I think it depends on the type of leave and the specific provisions of the insurance contract agreement.

            If the short-term disability is worded that they pay you 50/60% if you can’t work for you main job sure, but it could be that the terms of short term disability payout specify that you can’t work at all during the leave while you are getting paid, then Monica might be violating the agreement.

            The insurance might say you can’t work your main job and earn money, but you can work a different job and earn money so you don’t need any payout from us.

            1. Big Bank*

              All of this makes it a valid case for the insurer to check, but absolutely positively none of it is Phoebe’s business now.

      2. cleo*

        And it really depends on the specifics of the agreement. I know of someone on full medical leave / disability who is specifically allowed to work part-time as long as it’s in a role that is not at all related to the job that she’s on leave from.

      3. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yes I’m confused as well. I was also thinking that maybe Monica has been doing this side job for a while and it’s not something she thought was a big deal because she can easily do side job but cant do main job because of medical reason.

    2. PFPT*

      Literally this. My full time job is as a physical therapist has me on my feet and interacting with people 40 hours/week, not to mention climbing up on tables, getting down on the floor, demonstrating what I’d like a patient to try. It’s fairly physical. My “side job” used to be technical writing for a company that publishes books and materials for physical therapy students. I could have done that job practically in a full body cast. There is a huge difference between “can’t work at all” and “can’t do this specific job”.

    3. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Absolutely. My husband is right now on long term disability and it’s still up in the air if/when he could return to work. He is very bored and has thought about doing a few side projects for people. There’s a difference between being able to do a few hours of work here and there when he feels up to it vs working a standard 40 hours a week, every week.

    4. cncx*

      yes, my side hustle is translation and my day job is in onsite IT support. I’m not saying i would work if i was out on paid sick leave, but if i broke a leg or something i could very easily (depending on pain and comfort levels) do my side hustle but not do 100% of my day job which involves a lot of walking around, cabling desks and other physical things. I agree with you, this is for the insurance to deal with.

      1. quill*

        Also sometimes creative work that may be coming to fruition now was completed a long time ago, and only needed final tweaks. There’s a possibility with a side hustle that Phoebe has stumbled into something that Monica wasn’t even working on during leave.

    5. Antilles*

      This is for the insurance company to investigate and handle now that they have been informed.
      Correct. And *until* the insurance company finishes their investigation, OP’s company shouldn’t take any other action.
      OP absolutely does not want to be in a scenario where OP fires Monica immediately, then the insurance company’s report clear Monica – and now Monica can potentially try to claim that the *real* reason was discrimination over her medical condition / retaliation for using medical leave / whatever.

      1. Anonym*

        Here. This. Best, clearest explanation of why OP’s approach re Monica right now is correct.

        The issue is Phoebe, who needs to back off, let it go, or leave. Her understanding of the situation is wildly incorrect, and her behavior based on that is unacceptable. Actually, one could have this misunderstanding of Monica’s situation / medical leave and still choose be professional about it (express concerns relevant to your own work, then let it go) instead of crusading for Monica to be fired. So there’s really no excuse for Phoebe’s behavior.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Honestly, the biggest problem I see really more is Phoebe and how she is handling things right now. I have no problems with the initial report – but now Phoebe needs to make like Anna from Frozen and “Let It Go” by yesterday.

        Letting the investigation run its course is the best thing in everybody’s future interests. It keeps it fair for everybody, and it is very possible that the medical leave does allow for limited work that is different from their normal job.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yep. I have an employee out right now who I know is working. Our disability only covers 70% of pay and no OT, but her bills aren’t cut by 30%. Right now she can’t drive/walk alone so she can’t do her work with us, but she’s beading and selling her work at parades, pow wows, meetings, health fairs, etc.. She can do that just fine.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Exactly. This is the equivalent of not being able to climb up and down a ladder after breaking a leg but freelance writing at home while sitting on the sofa. The ladder job is the one Monica took medical leave from, not the writing job.

      Phoebe needs to shut it.

  3. Computer-Man*

    LW1 – whatever your friend does, report it immediately. Their IT department will want to take appropriate actions to disable the account, revoke MFA, change passwords, etc.

    The longer your friend leaves it, the worse it gets, and the more pissed off IT will be with him in general.

    1. This is Artemesia*

      If no one else knows the story, then this is one where I would lie and say it was lost in some plausible way. Better to have left it on a bus than this. Feel for the guy. Hope it didn’t contain a lot of sensitive information. And yeah, IT needs to know to see if security steps can be taken; I don’t know if it is possible to disable something like this remotely.

      1. Computer-Man*

        IT really won’t care about the details (though will certainly be curious depending on *what* they hear). A good team will want to take the precautionary steps.

        Depending on how the laptop is setup and whether or not it’s connected to the Internet afterwards, it can be remotely disabled/wiped/whatever. The main concern is ensuring that any credentials and tokens are revoked and changed so that it reduces the chances of breaches. Depending on if this guy had physical sticky notes on his laptop, or the culprit knows details about him, there’s a lot of potential that things can go south very quickly depending on his company and what he has access to.

      2. JSPA*

        If the sex worker came from an officially- registered outfit- – that’s something to report. However…”Some sex work is legal” and “all sex work is legal” are not the same thing at all.

        I’m guessing this wasn’t legal, or he would already have followed up.

        1. Antilles*

          I don’t think the last sentence is entirely true.
          Even if it’s completely legal, it would still feel really embarrassing to talk about. Hell, if we replaced “sex worker” with “random girl I met at the bar”, that would be legal pretty much everywhere – but plenty of people would still feel awkward discussing with their boss and company that they had sex with a stranger on a business trip.
          He still has to report it to the police and his company of course, but I could see being embarrassed enough to want to avoid discussing it even if it is fully legal.

          1. Books and Cooks*

            “…if we replaced ‘sex worker,’ with ‘random girl I met at the bar’…”

            Which is exactly what I would do, if I were the friend. If he says he later discovered she’s a prozzie, that’s still a little less embarrassing, even if he admits he went ahead and paid for it. And it’s not like the woman in question is going to dispute that–if she *is* found, that is probably not going to be the main question the police are asking her.

            And that’s assuming they look for her and ask questions at all; honestly, this sounds to me like the kind of crime that’s unlikely to merit a thorough investigation. Most police forces just don’t have the time, sadly, and unless the friend used a specific agency or company, there’s very little for them to go on.

          2. Observer*

            Even if it’s completely legal, it would still feel really embarrassing to talk about. Hell, if we replaced “sex worker” with “random girl I met at the bar”, that would be legal pretty much everywhere – but plenty of people would still feel awkward discussing with their boss and company that they had sex with a stranger on a business trip.

            Not just embarrassing, but potentially job threatening.

            Not because of what he was doing, but that he brought some random person into he room and left them alone for even 5 minutes. If he’s left the laptop in his room and gone to the red light district or a legal brothel, no biggie on a professional level. But if instead of a sex worker he’d brought some guy that he’d been playing cards with to his room to continue playing after the card room shut for the night, he would probably be in as big trouble. Because bringing some stranger into your hotel room is just an incredible lapse of judgement.

            1. Ellie*

              The thing is, he may well be fired over this, but at this point he doesn’t really have any options. He has to report it to the police, and his company, he can’t hide a missing laptop. And if he lies about what was going on when it was taken, it could compromise their ability to get it back. Plus its an easily discoverable lie – OP already knows the true story, as does the thief, and any form of rudimentary questioning by the police and/or his company is going to lead to problems if he changes his story. His best chance is to fess up, promise to never ever do it again, ask for their discretion, and hope for the best.

        2. NerdyKris*

          I think the big issue here isn’t exactly that it was a sex worker, but that he left a stranger alone with company equipment instead of securing it. That it was a sex worker might make it look a little more careless, given people’s biases against them. But in the end he left it alone with a stranger he had no reason to trust.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        I agree that IT needs to know immediately and doesn’t care about the details, but whoever manages the property for the company will want to know the details. Officially clear the lost laptop from the books and assign a new one. Maybe the process will require reporting information to the police even if missing. IDK putting the serial number in a list of stolen computers in case it ever turns up. I don’t think the police will investigate anything actually.

        Stolen pretty much demands that a police report be filed (I mean the company may demand one since it’s theft) whereas lost / left somewhere probably means no police report. There’s a lot we don’t know.

        OTOH if sex work is legal in his country and this particular sex work was legal, what’s wrong with saying it was stolen by someone invited in the room? It may be dumb (too trusting), but not illegal. But losing it / forgetting it somewhere is in the same realm of dumb (forgetful, inattentive) and fully his own fault.

        1. Ellie*

          It really depends on what was on the laptop. Its not completely unheard of for spies, commercial or otherwise, to deliberately target people who have access to sensitive data. Someone (not the police, but possibly a government or security agency) might want to do a proper investigation. He might get away with saying he left it on the bus, but it would mean lying on record, which is pretty risky.

          1. The Guy from Six*

            There’s nothing in the letter to indicate this guy is working in a job that requires a security clearance or otherwise related to national security.

            1. E*

              There are lots of jobs that deal with sensitive information. For example, health information protected by HIPAA

    2. Lilo*

      This was my immediate thought too. If this friend hasn’t told work yet but has had time to tell a friend and for friend to write in to an advice column? Oof, that’s bad.

      It’s not a good situation to be in, but not reporting it as soon as possible will always be the wrong choice. I have to do annual IT training and that’s something emphasized repeatedly, report all potential breaches as soon as possible, from clicking on a phishing email to theft.

    3. OP 1*

      He reported it the next day, I helped him draft an email to his manager. Data security was their biggest concern.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        What did you/he put in the letter to the manager and what was the overall reaction?

    4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      My company’s policy, step 1: file police report. Has OP’s friend not done that?

      1. recovering admission counselor*

        Their company policy might not be Step 1: file police report! My company’s certainly isn’t–I’m supposed to report it to the company first and then have them tell me if I should involve the police or not.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I have a two part Step one at my job:

          1A – call IT so device can be remotely locked
          1B – file a police report, letting them know the device has been locked remotely by company IT

          Our concern number one is security of the PII/PHI that can potentially be accessed from our computers. And IT is available 24/7/365 to do this if needed.

        2. Ellie*

          Same – report it to the security line at the company first, then go by their instructions. This might be because the majority of our laptops go missing when overseas/travelling, and you don’t necessarily want to engage the local police.

    5. Wintermute*

      THIS, very much this. The theft itself may or may not have consequences, but failure to report that potentially sensitive business information was stolen is absolutely a firing offense. In fact most places I’ve worked it would already be too late, but the longer it goes the worse it is and you’re not going to be able to hope that this will just go away.

      There is a point at which not reporting it becomes misconduct, and attempting to conceal the loss could result in serious consequences, possibly legal ones depending on the exact situation, location, details of the business data involved (whether it would trigger anything like GDPR or a specialized privacy law, or whether it might implicate payment card industry standards and practices) and a host of other things. I’m not saying he WILL be sued or arrested, but the longer this goes without being reported the greater the chance this gets bigger than just getting fired.

  4. nnn*

    Reading #1, I’m pondering (without arriving at a conclusion either way) whether it would be less bad or whether it would be worse if he said it was stolen by a tinder date or a hook-up rather than a sex worker. On one hand, that would remove the stigma of hiring a sex worker (which, even if legal, might still be stigmatized). On the other hand, dating or hooking up with someone untrustworthy could also be seen as a sign of poor judgement – perhaps even more so, because it implies some degree of personal vetting – you’ve talked to the person and gotten to know them at least a little.

    1. MK*

      I think it would be better, because, aside from not carrying the stigma of sex work, a hookup would be seen as more of an impulsive momentary mistake than a deliberate lapse in judgement. I mean, the optics of someone on a work trip meeting a person at the hotel bar and getting carried away with them is just “better” than someone deciding they will combine a work trip with a sex worker interlude, looking up someone and hiring them, etc.

    2. OP 1*

      Ultimately that was roughly the route he took, saying that it was a date he brought back to his hotel room.

      1. Cringing 24/7*

        I feel like that’s the safest option that’s truth-adjacent.

        Reading the story, I worried that lying entirely about *where* it was stolen (on a bus, in a taxi, or in a restaurant) would get your friend found out (and subsequently fired), since in any of those places, friend’s employer or employer’s insurance company or relevant law enforcement would want to contact the company, figure out who was working at that time, and/or get video footage.

      2. AnonInCanada*

        That kind-of-sort-of is true, isn’t it? Just saying it that way means OP’s coworker paid for sex a different way *wink*.

        But it’s at least good it was reported immediately.

      3. Cait*

        Oof. I guess that’s better than admitting it was a sex worker but, if I were his employer, I would be uncomfortable that an employee was taking advantage of a business trip to “have a date over” (which… they might be able to see through). I’m sure people on business trips hire sex workers all the time but you have to know you’re risking your job (even if it’s legal) if you get caught. You’re basically on company time 24/7 when you’re on a trip like that. I’d compare it to maybe getting really drunk on a business trip and having your laptop stolen from your seat as you lay there with your head on the bar. It’s not illegal or wrong to get drunk on a business trip but you’re taking a risk that could affect your employer and your future at the company. I hope he learns from this.

        1. The Guy from Six*

          You’re basically on company time 24/7 when you’re on a trip like that.
          Um, no, not by a longshot. And there have been numerous letters to this blog in which Alison says otherwise.

          1. Cait*

            I’m happy to read them if you can cite them but I firmly believe that if you are on a work trip that is being paid for by your company, they expect you to conduct yourself in a way that represents the company. It doesn’t matter if it’s after-hours. Your boss finding out you went to a sex club on a random Saturday will probably do nothing more than raise an eyebrow. Your boss finding out you went to a sex club during a business trip, where it’s possible for clients/colleagues/etc. to see you, is more problematic (even if it’s 100% legal). Is it unfair? Sure. Those hours should be your own and you should be able to do whatever it is you’d do at home. But, unfortunately, as long as they are paying your way, you are representing your company when you are on a business trip. Assumedly you wouldn’t be there otherwise. So enjoy your time off but don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see. It shouldn’t be that hard to not get drunk/hire a sex worker/take your trunks off in the hot tub/etc. for a few days.

    3. EPLawyer*

      I dunno. If hiring a sex worker is legal then I would bet dollars to donuts, the friend is not the first person from the company to hire a sex worker on a business trip. Maybe not even the first person to be robbed by a sex worker (way to make it harder for all the other sex workers there, unknown hired person). It doesn’t show any more bad judgment to hire for sex legally than it does to meet someone in a club after work then take them back to the hotel.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Hit send too soon. At least with a sex worker, you are more likely to get someone who understands professional norms — like don’t rip off the client. Clearly not all of them understand but like any job, there are good ones and bad ones. But with a random hook up from a club you have no idea if you are getting someone who is just interested in sex and then leaving, or someone who is going to rip you off.

        1. Anon for This*

          I agree with most of what you said. However, a professional thief is not a sex worker. In most situations like this, they are only pretending to be one. Chances are, since he was in the bathroom when it happened, he never even got what he paid for. (Meaning that she stole both his laptop and his fee, and who knows what else.) So it would be more accurate if the LW had said the guy was robbed by a fake sex worker. (Assuming she didn’t just suddenly decide to commit a crime of opportunity.)

        2. MK*

          That’s true, but I think a lot of people might mentally file being robbed by a hookup as bad luck and by a sexworker as bad judgement.

    4. Pool Lounger*

      If I was the person’s boss I’d be pissed they brought any unknown person to their room on a business trip with an unsecured work laptop. If you’re going to do that, lock all valuables in the hotel safe first.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        That’s what I came to say. I understand that the hotel room is basically a bedroom, but as a manager, I’d feel like employee brought a date to his work office.

        1. Kel*

          That’s not true, actually. A lot of places have policies for work documents/laptops/assets that apply no matter if you’re on the clock or not. They can’t police him for having a sex worker in his hotel room but they can police him for leaving the work laptop unattended with someone else.

        2. Katie*

          My company certainly polices it. We have tons of trainings that specifically talk about securing your work related documents while not at work. Heck, I am supposed to lock up my computer while at home too.

          I am now envisioning a training of what went wrong when having your ‘special friend’ visit your room.

        3. Cait*

          You can if they’re on a business trip representing your company and paid for (ostensibly) by the company. If you’re on a business trip, you are basically representing the company 24/7. Doesn’t matter if the last meeting ended at 5pm and your flight home doesn’t leave until 9am the next day. What you do in those “off” hours can still put your job at risk if you’re not careful. I had a coworker who got super drunk on a business trip (after hours) and some colleagues saw him (he didn’t know they were there) and how he was behaving. It got back to our boss and he got put on a PIP. If he had gotten caught getting drunk at a bar while on vacation with his family I highly doubt anything would’ve happened.
          This scenario is esp. bad because company property was involved which the company can absolutely “police” no matter what their employee is doing.

          1. The Guy from Six*

            If you’re on a business trip, you are basically representing the company 24/7.

            As someone who basically does a transatlantic commute, I disagree with this, and if taken literally it would place strong disincentives to accept any position that involves frequent travel.

            A DWI conviction or similar high-profile episode is likely to have repercussions regardless of whether the employee is on travel. Legal activity in the privacy of your bedroom with consenting partners is a completely different kettle ‘o fish.

            1. Cait*

              My point is only that, when you are on a trip representing your company (and assuming the company has paid for it), what you do during that trip (whether it is at a meeting with clients, at the bar afterward, or in your hotel room) is a reflection of your company.

              After hours on the last work trip I went on, I decided to go to a spa and get my nails done (on my own dime). I could’ve used that time to review notes or network with colleagues but instead, I decided to take some time for myself and get a mani/pedi. Would my boss get mad if she found out? Probably not. If the clients saw me at the spa would they raise an eyebrow? Probably not. So I was willing to take that risk.

              If, however, I decided to go to a sex club (assuming it’s perfectly legal) on my own dime, and my boss found out, would I be admonished? Probably. If the clients caught wind, would it negatively affect our relationship? Almost certainly.

              So you can treat those after-hours as personal time all you want, but if you are on a business trip paid for by that business, you are representing that business the entire trip whether you like it or not. This doesn’t mean you need to just sit quietly in your hotel room the whole time. Just don’t do anything you wouldn’t want getting back to your boss!

        4. Gumby*

          I suspect that lots of employers do indeed police employees on their free time when it comes to IT issues.
          For example, I cannot take my work laptop out of the country, even if I am going on vacation (i.e. free time). In other jobs, there have been IT security requirements with even more rules around when / where you can use company property or log into company accounts even using personal devices.

      2. Cera*

        How would you feel if it was stolen from the workers home by a hook-up? The hotel room is more akin to the person’s home then it is the office.

        1. Little Red Riding Hood*

          Good point! Even on a business trip, you’re not at work 24/7. You’re sleeping, showering, having meals, etc. some of the time; so I don’t see it as being the same as hooking up in the office after hours.

        2. Ellie*

          Company property is supposed to be stored securely when outside the office. During covid and while working from home, we had to sign papers to say that we’d power down and store our company laptops securely every evening, when not in use, and in a separate location from our company passes. I have no idea how many people actually did it, but I’ve had to work through the night a couple of times, and I’ve always gotten a phone call from security a day or so later, just to check that it really was me accessing the network. I’m not in a particularly important position either, just an IT worker.

          I think the fact it was stolen from a hotel kind of adds to the embarrassment, because you’d think you’d be more security conscious when travelling. But technically he’s in trouble either way.

    5. Sloanicota*

      The issue with this I think is that if the friend is required to file a police report as Alison says – are they also going to tell the police it was just a friend, or is the truth going to come out there? And is the employer ultimately going to have access to the police report and notice the difference? I have no idea what’s reasonable but that’s what I’d be concerned about.

    6. Ellie*

      I don’t think it matters either way. Inviting someone up to your room and leaving them alone with sensitive company property is bad, the only thing that would make it better is if one of the hotel employees took it or something. It was a really stupid thing to do.

      I also think someone who would judge him for hiring a sex worker on a business trip would likely judge him for a casual hook-up on a business trip, just the same. Its almost the same thing, unless its illegal.

  5. My dear Wormwood*

    You know, sometimes I think I’ve seen everything surprising on AAM and then a question proves me wrong…again.

    1. CravingLemonMeringuePie*


      I’ve never wanted to be bored at work. Often as I read AAM, I catch myself thinking, Where the hell has this site been??!

      1. KoiFeeder*

        There is a friend of mine who will write a letter when it is safe to do so regarding something incredibly wild- but there’s actually been another letter about that subject on this site!

        I will say only that the group chat has been popping popcorn (or popcorn shrimp, for me) reading about everything going down.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Okay, not that bonkers. But no speculation! When it is physically safe and my friend has their new job, you’ll see for yourself. ;p

    2. WrinkleWrinkleLittleStar*

      I thought I’d heard and seen it all, but in relation to OP 1 –
      My line of work involves case managing vulnerable and sometimes challenging clients who were formerly homeless, but now housed in social housing.

      One of my clients had allowed his ‘friends’ to squat in his apartment during his incarceration, and then when he was released, he contacted me explaining that his ‘friends’ had taken his television (supplied by our organisation) and replaced it with a s*!t quality television.
      He’d hoped we’d supply him with a new one.
      I was speechless to say the least

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Just a guess, but that’s probably not a “yes, you qualify for a replacement” situation.

        (Now a power surge that fried appliances, some sort of natural disaster that damaged the building, other damage that is not caused by Your negligence would probably qualify for help getting things repaired or replaced though.)

  6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (side job on disability leave) I thought it was interesting that Phoebe went straight to the whistleblower route instead of bringing it up with the boss or HR (why do I assume this – because if OP had already heard of it and then Phoebe raised it again, OP would have said so).

    OP also characterised it as “dishonest” so seems to see it as ‘wrong’ even if not fireable.

    Presumably the whistleblowing people also thought there was enough substance to pass it onto the insurance company, rather than just dismiss it. And now the insurance company thinks there’s enough reason to investigate, rather than say (e.g.) that side job is compatible with the policy terms so there’s no issue. There may be a clause in the disability policy about side jobs, regardless of whether “in theory” they are compatible.

    It’s a difficult situation – I’d also find it hard to work alongside someone who’d demonstrated dishonesty and lack of integrity, but I’d find it harder to work for a manager to whom I’d raised these concerns and (from my perspective) did nothing and dismissed it. I don’t think Phoebe knows about the insurance investigation, internal discussions, etc. (Do whistleblowers usually get told the outcome of the thing they reported?)

    1. wayward*

      I wondered whether Phoebe knew that it was being investigated, or if she’d just gotten the impression that it had been swept under the rug. Demanding that her coworker be fired is over the top, but if she’d just stayed silent and assumed that shady behavior was OK if you could get away with it, that could have been a big problem too. (And at this point, there’s not enough information to tell whether it was dishonest, though OP seemed to think it wasn’t great.)

    2. MK*

      I mean, ymmv, but for me, working with someone who continued a side hustle during medical leave wouldn’t rise to this level of outrage, even if there were no extenuating circumstances. There are levels in “dishonesty and lack of integrity”.

      1. TechWorker*

        Whilst in general I agree and clearly demanding this employee be fired is way over the top.. it doesn’t say ‘continuing to work a side hustle’ it says ‘working a side job’ – I think applying for a side job whilst out on medical leave – especially if you wouldn’t usually have time to work said side job ‘feels’ worse somehow?

        1. Allonge*

          I agree it can feel wrong (we actually have rules against this here) but the main point still is that once it’s reported, it’s out of Phoebe’s hands and she needs to let it go.

          1. Cringing 24/7*

            Absolutely this. Phoebe did what she felt she needed to do ethically (whether or not that was the right thing), and now that she’s reported it higher than herself, she needs to take a breath and a step back. This is not her fight. Phoebe’s fervor does make me wonder if she harbors resentment against Monica (or against the company) in some ways about something beyond this situation. Or if Monica being out has drastically increased her workload and now she’s potentially blowing up at Monica for her work not bringing in a temp to help out.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              My thing is the same Phoebe reported it – now she needs to let it go. Once the investigation starts – it’s out of her control (and I think given the reporting structure we’ve been told about here it’s very questionable if Phoebe ever had any say in what was going to happen). Phoebe needs to accept that this is not her circus, not her monkeys, and she needs to “Let It Go” yesterday.

              Ultimately, that may play into how replaceable Phoebe is – and it sounds like there is frustration with her about the not staying in her lane already.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I agree entirely, and she shouldn’t be campaigning to have her colleague fired, but it is good to know whether action is being taken or not. I’m not sure whether Phoebe knows that the insurance company is looking into it ? Of course it’s not her business, but if she then thinks it’s fine to do a side job while on medical leave for this job, she and indeed others might decide to do the same.
            In France, this is quite common since we are entitled to unlimited sick leave. When I was on sick leave for five months, my employer asked the social security to investigate whether I was really sick, because as from three months sick leave they have to pay more! A major component of my depression was an inability to be anywhere but languishing in my hidey-hole, so it was very stressful to have to go into an office miles away to explain just how sick I was. But I totally get that employees will try to game the system any way they can.

        2. MK*

          I don’t think it makes that much difference. Unless there is some specific circumstance that makes it very problematic, like the side job competing with the main one, and even if the coworker’s motivation is pure greed, I personally wouldn’t get worked up to the point of finding it difficult to work with them and the manager that didn’t fire them. Would I think the coworker untrustworthy and the manager incompetent and lose respect for them? Sure. But “how can I continue to work alongside these people”, no.

          1. Anonym*

            Yeah, I think my reaction would be more along the lines of “oh, you can do that?” and I might look at our leave policy out of curiosity, for the same reasons I find this whole discussion interesting. I suppose if I was shouldering a lot of the coworker’s work, I’d have some feelings, but a brief think makes clear that it’s the boss/company’s responsibility to ensure adequate coverage, not that of the person on disability. So I’d be mad at them!

        3. Anon all day*

          Even if Monica is doing a full time job for their direct competitor, Phoebe should still not be involved anymore.

        4. ferrina*

          There’s not enough info to speculate on what this could be, and “side job” could also refer to a side hustle. It could be driving for Uber or Doordash, it could be taking freelance work, it could be being a line chef. Depending on what Monica’s regular job is, it could be entirely possible that the side job was something she could do under disability while she couldn’t do her main job. Or it could be entirely possible that Monica was playing the system. Impossible to know based on info provided.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Doesn’t seem dishonest to me. The person is on medical leave from their job. That does not necessarily mean bed ridden unable to care for themselves. It could be that they are unable to perform functions of their job because of whatever caused them to go on leave but are able to do something else. Say they broke their leg so they can’t climb ladders which is a requirement of the job. But they can sit on the couch and do data entry.

        Whistleblower hotline probably just passes everything along to the appropriate channels. This probably went to HR who said “hmm, no idea let’s ask the insurance company.” And the insurance company probably went “well we have to investigate” meaning we have to review the documentation to see if what they are doing is comptabile with our leave policies. It does not mean a full blown investigation to show that Monica is a liar who deserves to be tarred and feathered.

        Basically, it could be a whole lot of nothing that Phoebe is making a BIG DEAL because it isn’t being handled the way she wants it handled.

        1. Cringing 24/7*

          I was thinking exactly this – just because insurance is investigating doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because something incriminating was found. It likely just means that they’re required to *look* to see if there’s a contract being broken. Regardless, it’s none of Phoebe’s business now (and honestly, was likely none of her business before).

          1. ferrina*

            +1 to both Cringing 24/7 and EPLawyer.

            Phoebe has escalated it up the proper channels. The hotline likely has to report everything to the correct channel (serving as triage rather than having the capabilities to investigate everything themselves), and the insurance company is doing due diligence. All of these steps would be taken regardless of the strength of the evidence, and there’s no conclusion to be drawn from an investigation being opened.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I started a business while on maternity leave! And continued the one I already had (took a short leave from that one).

        3. Littorally*

          Right. Part of what I do is investigate complaints. Many of the complaints I get, I can read the summary and go “oh, that’s fine, there’s nothing to this.” But I still do a thorough investigation because there may be something that the summary didn’t cover. Just because there’s an investigation doesn’t mean that the claim is actionable.

      3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Agreed. I would assume a side hustle, or job, these days could be something pretty passive like an Etsy site for a downloadable product, or income from social media videos or something. The problem will probably be if she wasn’t reporting the income; often disability payments are reduced by any other income. I wouldn’t even jump to dishonesty or lack of integrity, sometimes it’s just plain ignorance of the rules. People don’t think that money “counts.”

    3. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      Does anyone else think that it was a jerk move for Phoebe to report Monica? I wouldn’t want to work beside that person either.

      1. Chapeau*

        Yes! Short-term disability is 60% of your pay here. Without decent savings, it would be really hard to make ends meet, particularly if there are ongoing co-pays for medical appointments like PT or counseling on top if regular living expenses. Frankly, if the leave is related to mental health, I can see where getting a job that is completely unlike her regular job might actually be helpful. Like if Monica does office work or something that requires a lot of thought, concentration, etc, a job that requires no real mental effort, where you can just zone out and do the work, then leave work at work, could be healing.

        1. JSPA*

          Especially if she had always had a low-stress, low-physical-demand side hustle that had never interfered with her job. “I make and sell NFT’s” or “I do online notary work” or “I do translation piece-work of personal documents” (or whatever) isn’t inconsistent with full attention to most day jobs.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            On the other hand, I have known people out for some types of surgery that meant they couldn’t sit all day for office work but we’re fine doing a few hours a week in a not-too-hectic retail setting.

            1. All Het Up About It*

              I was thinking that maybe you can’t sit at a desk for 8 hours a day, but you can do DoorDash deliveries a few times a day. Sometimes it’s not so much about what you are doing, but the hours/flexibility.

        2. kiki*

          I was also thinking about mental health leave. I didn’t do an official medical leave, but when I was struggling with depression I took an extended break between leaving one software job and finding another. I worked at a bakery in the meantime and found it wildly helpful. It kept me on a routine, it got me out of my apartment, and it allowed me to accomplish something each day. In my depression, I was not capable of writing great code. I was capable of baking great bread.

          1. The Tin Man*

            And that’s the kind of nuance that I feel an short-term leave insurance investigation could very well not grasp, though maybe I’m selling them short based on stories I’ve heard.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          That sort of depends on how much they get paid to begin with and whether or not Monica is the household’s sole source of income, though. We don’t actually know that 60% would leave her strapped.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            60% would leave me strapped, but I don’t make that much in the first place and I don’t have a spouse’s income.

          2. Laney Boggs*

            It would, realistically, leave 61+% of Americans strapped for cash. 61% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and wouldn’t be able to weather the cut.

            It’s a safe bet to assume it would cause struggle.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          ^THIS right here. Where I live it is 70% of pay and no OT. Hell yes people try to earn money if they can while on disability. The ability to do zero work is a privilege lots of people don’t have

        5. JustEm*

          This does not change your main point, but disability payments are generally not taxed, while regular paychecks are. When I was on maternity leave I used short term disability which was 65% of my normal pay, but a much much higher percent of my normal take home pay since it was not taxed.

      2. The Rafters*

        We had an employee who was out on medical leave and claimed she needed to extend it. She was begging for leave donations from fellow coworkers, etc. Found out through the grapevine that during her extended leave, she was working another job that was *far* more strenuous than her desk job with us. Phoebe’s reporting it wasn’t a jerk move, but her continuing disruptive behavior is.

    4. Snow Globe*

      I don’t think either Phoebe or the LW even considered that the side hustle might be something that Monica is physically capable of doing, while the regular job is too much. And that is probably why the insurance company is investigating, to figure out the medical issues and whether the jobs have different physical requirements. That’s not something the insurance company could determine without an investigation.

    5. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I can see your point but I think you might be reading a bit more into it. All we know is that the insurance company is “investigating” this could just mean that they are seeing if the accusations are valid or if someone is lying. It can also mean they are just verifying information, such as what the doctors recommendations are and what the other job entails. An investigation does not mean that they think that Monica is doing something wrong.

      I think we really need more information before we say that Monica is dishonest. The OP says that its a side gig, not that she got a second job after going on disability. Monica could have had this job well before going on medical leave. We don’t know what is causing monica to go on medical leave. It could be that the main job is very phiscal and the side gig is not so she can do the side gig sitting on her couch.

      I’m Really hoping OP can give us some more info.

    6. Esmeralda*

      Whistleblower office may be required to follow up regardless of the merits.

      Same for the insurance company — they no doubt have a procedure, legal requirements, and so on.

      “Investigation” doesn’t mean guilty. It means they are looking into it.

      Just as getting arrested or going to trial doesn’t mean guilty.

  7. Aubergine*

    “As for your decision about Monica, it’s definitely possible for her to need medical leave for one kind of work while still being able to do a different kind of work.”

    This↑ all day long. I worked in the disability industry for 20 years. Phoebe needs to stay in her lane. In addition to her lack of standing, she does not have the expertise to have an opinion one way or the other. The OP may run into something similar in the future and might find it helpful to learn a little more about how disability is awarded or not. Turning to the insurance company to sort out was the right way to go.

  8. Steve*

    “the dog ate my homework”

    haha, my dog was a really great dog…

    “the sex worker stole my laptop…”

    I would love to use that as an excuse for not doing my work but I know it wouldn’t fly…

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      If he didn’t report it immediately, it does make one wonder what he’s been using to do his work since…

  9. Baa Baa*

    “the dog ate my homework”

    Years ago my aunt was a school teacher in a rural area and took in an abandoned goat, and let him stay indoors.
    One evening she was washing dishes and could hear ‘munch..munch…munch’ noises from behind.
    When she finally turned around she realised to her horror that the cheeky little goat had made a meal out of her students assignments (and a prized lace table cloth) that she’d left on the dining table.
    My aunt recalls sheepishly returning marked and half eaten papers to her students the next day.

    1. KateM*

      A child of mine had things down to pat from rather young age: book with colourful pictures – read only; book with b/w pictures – colour in; exercise book with blue scribbles in it – add scribbles in red.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I once had to hand in some homework which had been partially eaten by a hamster. It was a little paper booklet which had been folded up and then nibbled on the fold, so it had a series of little holes edged with tiny toothmarks.

      The same hamster did something similar to a tablecloth which was folded up in the laundry basket and ended up with a row of holes down the centre fold. It was a tablecloth she was fond of, so my mother neatly hemmed the holes with decorative embrodery stich and we carried on using it for years afterwards.

      (The hamster was something of a houdini and used to escape regualarly – luckily for him, our cat at the time was extremely Jorts and had never mastered the art of hunting. More than once we found the hamster sitting in the cat’s food dish nibbling keft over kibble while the cat watched him and mewed plaintively becasue she couldn’t get at her food…)

        1. Gracely*

          For real. That is a hilarious mental image.

          I also just love the description of the cat as “extremely Jorts”

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Our dog gnawed my book report once back in the day when you wrote by hand so I turned in a slightly chewed, somewhat ink run, assignment.

      2. GoryDetails*

        I love the tablecloth story! I can see my mother doing something like that – though our cats generally stuck to chewing the corners of books rather than the folds of tablecloths. (If your mother added a tiny hamster to the ornamentation that would be perfect!)

    3. Dust Bunny*

      In 1985 our puppy did, in fact, eat some of my homework. I handed in the ragged half that remained.

      1. dawbs*

        The third time I had to replace my child’s homework folder, I told her she was responsible for buying it if the dog ate this one.
        (The dog is no longer a puppy and recently unwound most of the knitting project said child had been working on…she just wants to eat whatever kid leaves on the floor. I tend to think it’s some sort of jealousy.
        If I could read her little doggie mind, I think it would go like: “the kid was paying more attention to this yarn–lets roll around in it so she plays with me”
        or “the kid just cried and spent 3 hours on these homework papers. They must be evil. I will eat them”)

        But having a sexworker steal the laptop even trumps my cat emailing my boss.

          1. dawbs*

            It was a draft, explaining a problem I was having–it was DECIDEDLY not in the proofread version I wanted to send.
            And the cat decided my lap was not for laptops, made it say adjlksf;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; at the end and somehow, hit send.
            It was less the random cat-message, and more “I need to re-write this so it doesn’t sound like I’m throwing my union rep under the bus” that had me concerned

    4. Academic Fibro Warrior*

      I love this goat (and the hamsters)! I no longer accept actual paper from my students which has drastically cut down on the number of ‘my cat ate your homework’ incidents. We have to leave out distraction paper so he doesn’t shred important papers or books. They never find it as funny as I do….

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This reminds me of a friend who likes to read in bed, and has to put down a decoy book for the cat to lie on, so he can read his actual book.

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Back when I was in High School in the ‘90s my parents had a rescue dog who was very fond of books, but well, he never returned them in a usable state. My dad accidentally put my and my brothers English lit textbooks on low shelf to get at something on the desk, and forgot to put the textbooks back up.

      He sheepishly handled getting the textbooks replaced, he figured it was his fault they got “read”(Aka chewed up) by the dog in the first place.

    6. quill*

      I remember as a kid a classmate both got his arm broken by his dog (they were roughhousing on a trampoline I think?) and the same dog took a very large bite out of one of his assigned reading books.

      We also had to replace a book once that our dog had chewed the corners of the hard cover off of – perfectly readable, not in library condition.

    7. kitryan*

      Our otherwise saintly golden retriever had a fondness for used tissues and paper money. My dad would leave my weekly school snack money on the desk in my room and she ate about 50$ in 2 or 3 installments over the course of a few months before we wised up and started keeping any folding money on high shelves. It was harder to keep her out of the bathroom trash cans.
      Our theory was that these things had lots of enticing human smells.

    8. MigraineMonth*

      In middle school, I once turned in a lightly-chewed collage. Which is odd, because my dog usually just chewed up dirty clothing.

      1. Little Bit*

        My pet bunny once retrieved and ate my paycheck from the front pocket of my backpack.

        That was a fun phone call to my boss

  10. Michele*

    LW#5. There is a big difference between referring someone and recommending someone. I made that mistake. My cousin’s husband ( I will call him AD) needed a job and we got $5oo ‘reward’ for new hires. AD had a friend who also needed a job, AKA (BC) I “tagged” my name to both of them, as they already had the certifications needed for our line of work. AD could not do any of the OJT and kept changing dep’ts until they finally fired him. BC simply disappeared one day. I later found out he was bringing contraband on to the job site. For the next FIVE years, I had to listen to the speeches about people sending job referrals “except for Michele”.

    1. Just a thought*

      That is quite a story.

      I learned to be cautious after an experience in college with referring a friend. Turned out he was a great guy, but just a meh worker. It turned out ok, but my boss was shocked that I was such a focused, hard worker and he – we’ll let’s just say we had very different work styles :) After that, I’d never refer anyone I hadn’t directly worked with.

      1. ferrina*

        I’ve had to walk that line. A friend was applying to a job at my org, but I had never worked with him and quite frankly was worried about how his work might reflect on me (he was still learning professional norms). I was friendly with the hiring manager, so I told her that my friend had applied and was familiar with the organization through me, but I had never worked with him so couldn’t recommend him or speak to his working style.

        The hiring manager gave him an interview based on his connection with me, but was put off by some of his responses. She kindly shared her feedback with me so I could share it with him (she wasn’t supposed to give feedback of any kind to candidates, hence the roundabout way with no paper trail). I wasn’t surprised by her feedback and appreciated her time, and the whole thing made our working relationship stronger. So…somehow I got a better reputation by not recommending someone but still getting him an interview.

  11. Madame Arcati*

    LW#1 is your friend sure the laptop wasn’t actually swallowed by his pet duck?

    I’ll get my coat.

      1. jean marie*

        Friends reference to go with the names.

        Joey hooked up with the stripper from a bachelor party (Ross’s, surely, although I don’t actually remember.) They both assumed the stripper stole the ring. They hired her to come to Chandler’s work and accused her. She pointed out how much more money she made a week than either of them.

        Eventually it turned out the duck had eaten it. I think there was an emergency vet visit.

        1. No pineapple on pizza*

          Thanks! I didn’t make the connection, as the Friends names were on a different question… it was obviously too early for me to figure it out!

        2. Little Red Riding Hood*

          It couldn’t have been Ross’s because the wedding was in England. It also couldn’t have been Chandler’s, because Chandler’s bachelor party was The One Where the stripper turned out to be a hooker. So I’m guessing that it was Mike’s bachelor party before he married Phoebe.

      1. WellRed*

        I’m a huge friends fan but I don’t think I’ll ever see duck on this site and not think it’s duck club.

        1. quill*

          Duck Club is for letters involving frisky risks: office turtles are for carting around like an albatross.

  12. Sotired*

    LW3 — A level of dishonesty and integrity? YEP. And that short term disability is not enough to live on is not an excuse. I would not want to work in an organization that does not value honesty or integrity.

    1. Ferret*

      We don’t have nearly enough details to decide this.

      Consider a hypothetical: the original job requires a lot of physical activity and time spent walking around. Monica breaks her leg and needs to take time to recover physically – but can still work on her other job which is entirely computer based and remote. Are you really saying you would consider Monica unethical for doing so, and stick to the rule “that short term disability is not enough to live on is not an excuse”? Is Monica expected to destroy her savings/borrow money/starve with absolutely no benefit to the company or society just to … what? Prove a point? Demonstrate her integrity to you?

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, or Monica is signed off as she is suffering from stress – she gets lots of pressure from clients, and from an uncomfortable working environment with a coworker who she feels is hyper critical.
        She is able to carry on with her side dog walking side-job as that doesn’t involve the same high pressures and her only collegaues mostly just slobber on her.

        1. quill*

          Maybe you’re on a medication that means you probably shouldn’t be doing coding that has to make sense, but you’re perfectly fine to babysit. Or you can’t type but you can walk dogs. Or you can do whatever but only for five or six hours a day, and not a 40 hour plus commute work week.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Or you’ve wrenched your back, so can’t do patient care as a nurse, but you can do a couple hours a week helping the neighbor’s kid with their homework.

            Or you’re on pregnancy spawned bed rest, so you can’t go to the office but you can write fiction from a laptop.

            (Personally saw both of those in the past – neither was ruled a violation of their employer disability insurance.)

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Yep, and aside from physical vs. non-physical jobs, there’s a huge difference between, say, 40 hours a week of desk work where you must be present and functional and 5 hours on the weekend you do in your own time.

        I had a surgery recently while I was working a 25 hour weekly job as an independent contractor. Week 1 and 2 of recovery I couldn’t do ANYTHING more complicated than feed myself and read a little without needing a nap. Week 3 I could manage 10 hours of fairly mechanical work (checking product status) but I was still not up for the additional 15 hours of thinking-intensive writing work that I usually did in a week. And by week 4 I was back to 25 hours but only because if I woke up and felt extra tired, I could just go back to sleep for an extra hour or two since my schedule was entirely flexible.

        Phoebe has fulfilled the requirements of her own integrity by reporting something that could be an issue. Now it’s time to let those qualified investigate and to remember that she’s not entitled to learn details of what they find and why they agree or disagree with her assessment.

        1. EPLawyer*

          THIS. It was fine Phoebe reported it. But reporting something does not give you the right to also determine the discipline. If discipline is even warranted.

        2. Esmeralda*

          Yes. A couple years ago I ended up in the hospital and then rehab and PT; severe back pain, unable to sit for more than 20 minutes, using a walker, chock full of pain killers that made me loopy.

          I could not do anything that required me to sit for more than 20 minutes, be attentive, and think logically. Hence I could not even do remote (zoom) appointments with students.

          But I could answer emails because I could do those in short bursts when I was lucid. I could review files. I could edit various dept documents. I could update the dept website.

          Phoebe needs to get over herself and BUTT OUT . She reported what she that was an infraction, fine. Now it is no longer her business and it is sure not her business to insist that Monica be fired and to harp on it. She’s an asshole and needs to either shut up or get gone.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Or, like my employee who is currently on disability and crafting to pay her bills. You have to get the 30% of the income disability doesn’t cover from somewhere. She can’t do her job with us right now because she can’t travel alone, but she certainly can do other things and doesn’t really have a choice if she and her family want to remain housed.

    2. Bookwitch*

      Well, hang on. “Side job” is incredibly vague and could range from an equivalent full-time job, to a couple of hours’ self-employed work in a totally different industry, with plenty of possibilities in between. Not only that, but as Alison points out, sickness can prevent you from doing some kinds of work but not others.

      It’s not our job, or Phoebe’s, to make the judgement of where this side-job stands.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly. Especially with the very limited details here. So much depends on the nature of the medical leave and the nature of the side job vs main job. There’s situations where Monica would have behaved ethically, legally and is entirely in the right; there’s situations where Monica would have behaved unethically, total conflict of interest, shady and absolutely should be fired.
        We just don’t have any kind of info to know which is which, and unless Phoebe has some serious access to Monica’s health records, it’s unlikely that Phoebe would have all necessary info.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I think even if Phoebe had valid concerns about Monica’s integrity, that’s not to say the company as a whole doesn’t value it. Monica is one person and one situation. Even if the company was not Phoebe’s jam at all, integrity wise, she could just….. leave? Seriously, what’s keeping her? Like no one is stopping her from being around the Wrongness That is Monica and her threats to quit are pretty OTT and misjudged in a way that is embarrassing. Personally I’d have more issues with the integrity of a company punishing someone for getting a doable job to “live on” as in, survive, through a crisis, but that’s just my morality and such.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Phoebe can just leave. No need for all this noise.

        Here’s the thing, Phoebe brought in the top guns for this situation- the insurance company. She can settle back and let this one work through. But that’s not what she does- she launches an additional campaign of her own.
        To me this secondary campaign means that Phoebe privately thinks the insurance company won’t find anything or won’t find anything that is a big deal.

        An interesting thing about disability claims is that insurance companies can send people out to do activity checks. My husband had to do this. He’d have to sit outside someone’s home and report them if they mowed the lawn or anything else that would not be doable if their claim were true. Later in life we had activity checks done to us, when we both fell off a motorcycle. A guy in a station wagon sat outside our house for days. It was a busy city street so he probably thought he blended, but he didn’t because we knew our neighborhood. It did not matter because neither one of us could walk that well so we simply sat on the porch and read our books while enjoying the good weather. We were pretty boring.

        OP, thank Phoebe for doing the insurance company’s job for them. You can also say that the matter is no longer in her hands. Others have taken over.

        And personally, as someone who was out of work for six weeks on disability, thank you for wanting to involve proper channels and waiting for their report. You can’t fire someone for defrauding disability without having information to back that up. My one arm and both legs were covered in (what seemed) miles of gauze. I hobbled into work to talk to my boss. (It was a new job for me and he was a brand new boss, on top of everything else.) The boss thanked me for coming to let him see that I had an actual problem and he could also see I would heal up in time. It gave him a clearer picture of what was going on. (I think I scared him, actually.)

        Last thought. She may have told the insurance company about the side gig and they prorated accordingly. If this is the case then Phoebe is going to look verrrry foolish at best. More than likely she is going to look like she is targeting Monica because Phoebe has an ax to grind.

        1. JanetM*

          Not So New Reader wrote, “The boss thanked me for coming to let him see that I had an actual problem and he could also see I would heal up in time.”

          It didn’t involve disability, but about 20 years ago I was in a serious car accident. When my husband picked me up from the ER, he decided that he was going to take a week off work (unpaid) to support me while I started to recover.

          We stopped by his employer, he went in to talk to his manager, and the manager came out to the car to take a look at me. Apparently I looked miserable enough that he agreed to the time off.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I would feel so uncomfortable your husband’s (former) job. Does he have any interesting stories?

    4. Snow Globe*

      Does the OP even know for certain that Phoebe’s claim is true? If she is so adamant to have Monica fired, maybe she made the whole thing up? And of course, as others have said, maybe there is a side gig, like selling crafts on Etsy or something, which is consistent with whatever medical reason Monica provided for not being able to do her regular job.

      That’s why the insurance company is investigating. No reason to jump to conclusions before the investigation is complete.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, I wouldn’t jump from “hasn’t fired somebody who arguably did something dishonest” to “doesn’t value honesty or integrity.” To me, valuing honesty and intrigrity implies promoting people who show those traits, etc, not firing anybody who breaches them in any way. Most people do something wrong at some point. Any employee who has “called in sick” when not really sick has shown “a certain level of dishonesty” but honestly, I wouldn’t say I didn’t want to work in an organisation that didn’t immediately fire somebody who did that nor would I think that an organisation that didn’t fire somebody for being late didn’t value punctuality or that an organisation that didn’t fire somebody who made a mistake didn’t value accuracy.

      I don’t fully understand the rules of disability here, but I will say that many, many people do something dishonest. Would Monica expect the company to fire anybody who travelled to work on a reused rail ticket? Anybody who got too much change in a shop and didn’t return the extra? Anybody who cheated on a romantic partner? All these things show a certain level of dishonesty, though they aren’t work related. What about somebody who lied to a client that their project was top priority? Who bigged up the company to get more business? I think firing anybody who has ever shown a certain level of dishonesty would mean firing a significant proportion of most workplaces.

      1. Wintermute*

        excellent post but it’s even worse than you say– it’s not “not firing them if they breach them in any way” it’s “not firing them instantly and without investigation on the accusation that they might possibly have done something that is under some circumstances unethical and in others fully permitted.”

        To say that a company who doesn’t do that doesn’t value integrity is a stretch worthy of Mr. Armstrong.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, that makes it worse. I honestly didn’t know if they had broken any rules or done anything dishonest because our laws are quite different.

    6. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I seriously hope you never are on a long term medical leave. There are many reasons why Monica may be able to handle a side gig but not well enough to return to work.

      And yes, short term disability not paying enough is a valid reason to have a side gig. Being on disability, especially if recovery is slow is a tremendous financial stress. Could you live on 50/60% of your income? Bills still need to be paid, and there’s likely increased costs due to medical bills, medications. We’ve spent a lot of money recently on mobility aids for my husband, clothing, and other items to make his life easier. Your attitude here is very much out of touch and very ableist.

    7. Dr. Rebecca*

      I’m sure that her landlord, gas/phone/electric companies, and grocery bills are going to take “And that short term disability is not enough to live on is not an excuse.” as a reason they’re not getting paid.

    8. ABCYaBye*

      Nope. Nope. Nope.

      You’re painting with an awfully broad brush. We know what was written in the letter. Phoebe has raised this to a level of questioning honesty and integrity. The employer did the right thing and is letting the insurance company sort it out. It could very well be a nothing burger if Monica is doing something that is not in violation of the policy. We don’t have enough to sort it out. We do know that Phoebe is overstepping and THAT was the reason for the letter. If Phoebe feels like you, though, she can pack her stuff any time. She’s not required to stay…

      1. Anonym*

        The company firing Monica before the insurance investigation was even complete (or if it found her not to be in violation) would demonstrate a severe lack of integrity on their part, I think.

        1. Antilles*

          I agree, especially since Phoebe almost certainly does not know the situation well enough to judge.
          Phoebe does not work for the insurance company, she doesn’t have access to the full records of the issue, she likely doesn’t know the details of Monica’s health restrictions, and she’s presumably not doing detailed observations of Monica. Until the investigation is complete, this is effectively an unfounded rumor.

          Personally, I wouldn’t want to work for a company who hears one rumor and jumps instantly to firing a previously trusted employee.

    9. The Tin Man*

      “that short term disability is not enough to live on is not an excuse”

      …what? So someone who can’t make enough money on STD should just…not eat? Get evicted/foreclosed on? Not seek medical treatment?

      It may just be your phrasing or my interpretation of it but that makes it seem like you think only people who can afford to be sick should get sick. Sometimes people end up in a bad position.

      1. doreen*

        I think some of it is the phrasing – but I also think that some of it is because there are different sorts of disability benefits. There are a few states ( I think five or six) that require most or all employers to offer short-term disability benefits . Mine is one of them – and in my state, if your employer offers only the required coverage you are not eligible for benefits if you perform any paid work, even if it is at home , and you wouldn’t get benefits if you were truthful about performing paid work. There are other policies, however, where you are eligible if you can’t work at your own job or if you earn less than a certain percentage of your prior income where you can potentially receive benefits even if you are working another job.

    10. Anon all day*

      Okay, and? The response is then to leave, not continually badgering your boss about it.

    11. Just Me*

      I’d have a bigger problem working with the person who doesn’t trust management’s decisions than someone who needs to pay their bills while dealing with a medical issues. Some of these comments are coming across as very classist.

      It’s entirely possible Monica didn’t know the second job would be a problem. As Alison said “it’s definitely possible for her to need medical leave for one kind of work while still being able to do a different kind of work”.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > doesn’t trust management’s decisions

        Remember from Phoebe’s perspective she’s reported it and the company has done jack all, though (because Phoebe won’t have been privy to HR and insurance company discussions), all she’s heard is “we aren’t going to take any action on this”. I assumed, but maybe it’s not in the letter, that it’s known to be “unethical” to work while on this leave in this company due to their rules or details of the insurance.

        A few people mentioned that disability might pay 60-70% of normal salary. In that case Monica is getting 60% of her pay but the company gets 0% of her output in return. For the period where she’s out, her ‘job’ is to recover from whatever caused the time off. Her salary for this ‘job’ is (e.g.) 60% of what she gets paid normally.

        It ought to have occurred to Monica to think/ask whether double dipping is allowed – probably it isn’t and she knows it because she didn’t mention or ask about it until it was “found out”.

        1. e271828*

          The insurer issues disability payouts, not the employer. The employer pays for the policy. The employer has taken no direct harm in this situation, other than not having a person doing work—which can happen for many reasons.

          This is why employers and insurers are relentless about getting employees off disability by “proving” they are fit to work (lying); the insurer wants to keep premium cash instead of spending it on benefits and the employers want their premiums to stay relatively low. It’s an ugly situation tilted sharply against workers.

          1. ABCYaBye*

            In some cases (like mine) the employee pays for the policy. Work pays for long-term disability, but we can elect coverage, or not, for short-term… so I’m buying my insurance. My employer has nothing at all to do with it, other than submitting a large check to the insurance company for all of the premiums people elect.

        2. Critical Rolls*

          Phoebe knows she reported it; knows it’s been investigated; and knows the employer is not taking any further action. So Phoebe takes these three things she knows, and rather than say “Perhaps the investigation turned up something other than what I expected,” she has decided she is judge, jury, and executioner based of whatever snooping she did in the first place to find out about the side job. That is not good, ethical, professional, or reasonable behavior.

          Also, Monica is probably not “double dipping” or taking advantage of the company by using a benefit they offer. As Alison and *many* comments have pointed out, there are tons of situations where doing some work while out on leave is perfectly fine.

    12. Feral Humanist*

      The layers of ableism and classism in this comment are really something to behold. Honesty and integrity are virtues; hidebound, uncritical rule-following at the expense of humility and compassion is not.

      Honestly, I myself am SO TIRED of living in a country that provides no public safety net and actively punishes people for daring to be either poor or sick (much less both!). We should all remember that there is nothing special about us that precludes us from ever ending up in such a situation; it is pure luck of the draw. I’m not sure anyone can fully predict what they would do if they did until they are.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “actively punishes people for daring to be either poor or sick ”

        Or widowed. Decades ago a woman was widowed with 6 small kids. The whole community tsk-tsk-tsk’ed at her for signing up for food stamps etc. “She should get a better job.” “She should get a second job.” “Her fault for having all those kids.”
        W the actual F.

    13. tangerineRose*

      Wait, so if Monica can’t live on short term disability, you expect her to starve? Not everyone has much in savings.

    14. Ellie*

      If she has a doctor’s note that says she’s incapable of performing her main job (say, construction worker), but she’s fine to do her side job (say, math tutor) then she’s not being dishonest and is on solid ground. We really don’t know.

  13. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, I feel like sex work isn’t really even the issue here. Even if it were a one-night stand he brought back, I think the issue from the company’s point of view is likely to be that he brought a stranger back to his room and left her alone with his work laptop long enough for her to interfere with it. I know people have to go to the bathroom, but from the company’s point of view, they have no way of knowing exactly where he was or how long he was gone and the fact that she got the laptop and other things and was out of the room and presumably out of the hotel before he realised what happened might make it sound like either he left her alone for a fairly long length of time or that the laptop was very easily available (left on a desk rather than placed in a drawer or his suitcase or somewhere else that would make it more difficult to access). This may not be true; our perceptions of time are often very inaccurate and it takes a lot less time to do many things than you would think, but…the boss might well be somebody who would think “if the laptop were stored safely, there is no way she could find it, leave the room and be gone before somebody left the bathroom. He must have been away longer than that.”

    Even if he did everything completely responsibly, I could see a boss feeling like he should have taken more care. “I left a stranger alone in my hotel room and they stole work property” is sort of how it sounds.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, the fact that the person is a sex worker does not really matter. I think this boils down to he did not secure the laptop, period. He could have put it away and out of sight, or inquired about a hotel safe. Where I work we pretty much have to have our laptops chained to our bodies- well not that extreme- but the procedures are strict. And you have to follow those procedures, no exceptions. And that is the real problem here.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Several people have suggested saying it was left in a bar or restaurant, because that “looks” better. But from a security standpoint, that’s no better and probably worse – don’t take your laptop to a public place and just leave it sitting on a chair.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Yeah. My work would be less amused with leaving it in public vs having someone I trusted enough to let in my room steal it. Neither scenario would be OK, and I’d be in deep sh*t for not having it secured around someone who doesn’t work for or with us, but forgetting in a public place? Oof

    3. Kel*

      I think we can rationally say that it being a sex worker doesn’t matter but it definitely will. There’s enough stigma that I think the situation will be treated differently.

      1. quill*

        All the more reason to focus on the results and omit the stigmatizing details. Laptop Loser brought someone back to their hotel room. Person walked out with unsecured laptop.

      2. Observer*

        Not if IT is any good. Because no matter who it was that he left with that laptop, he’s getting his head handed to him. Or should be.

    4. kiki*

      I don’t think I agree. Unless LW’s friend is dealing with government secrets or something on that level, I think most jobs have a certain acceptance that employees will not always perfectly secure their equipment. Just about whenever somebody loses a laptop or has equipment stolen, there are things they could have done to make that scenario less likely. From a security perspective, what most companies care most about is that the employee reports the lost/stolen equipment right away so that it can be wiped and hopefully retrieved. When I left my laptop on the bus, I’m sure my boss thought, “Wow, I wish Kiki were more careful about double checking that she has everything,” but they also know that stuff happens. Humans are humans.

      I think what makes this letter tricky to handle is that the truth of the scenario involves LW’s friend taking part in something personal but with tremendous stigma. To comply with the normal procedure, he’d have to reveal that activity to his boss.

    5. I should really pick a name*

      For a lot of companies, the fact that sex work was involved would make it work. It’s not helpful to pretend these biases don’t exist.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, that’s true. I didn’t mean there is no stigma to sex work or using a sex worker, just that…the employee could well get in trouble here even if the person who stole from him was a one-night stand or a guy he met in the bar and asked upstairs to play poker with him or whatever. There definitely are employers who would judge him for having a sex worker in his room, even if it’s completely legal, but unless the employer is extremely biased, I don’t think that would be their biggest problem, though it may well make them less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt as to whether he took sufficient care with the laptop as somebody with a negative impression of sex workers may feel he should have gone to greater effort to ensure a sex worker didn’t have access to it than somebody else. I just think this isn’t ONLY something to worry about if the employer is prejudiced against sex work. Even if they are not, there could still be trouble for the employee.

  14. Hiring Mgr*

    For #1, I hate to say this but I would probably lie to the company and tell them I left it in a cab, train, etc.. Especially if OP’s friend is married or has a SO they might not want to go down the path of honesty

    1. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      It is true this may be easier to say they left it on train, cab, or at a bar or cafe.

    2. doreen*

      I’d be really careful about doing this – if you lie and say it was someone you met in the bar and brought to your room rather than hiring a sex worker, that might be “safe”. You aren’t lying about what happened or where , just about how you met the person you allowed into the room who stole the laptop. On the other hand, “left it in a cab” or “on the train” could involve calls to the cab/train company to see if it was found and someone watching video footage ( because there’s actually a good chance of it existing) and finding out that there was no point where you entered with a laptop and left without it. I know a couple of people who lied about something at my last job and ended up with a choice of “you both resign tomorrow or you both get arrested tomorrow” because they stuck to the lie even while testifying in court – unknown to them, there was video proving that they were lying. And it was all pointless, because they would not have been fired if they told the truth. ( They were lying because they believed they had violated a policy but in fact they had not)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        And if it came out he lied – for example, he said he left it on a train and there was video evidence of him leaving the train still holding it – the company might well suspect he stole it himself and lied to cover that up.

        Plus there is a possibility of putting innocent people under suspicion, such as restaurant staff, though this is probably less likely.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          In general, lying on a police report (assume one needs to be filed for insurance) or to the company about something that can be disproved is a bad idea. The odds of there being video and multiple people who can say, “No laptop was left her on day X at time Y” are pretty high. Better to stick as close to the truth as possible

  15. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    #1. Yes, probably easier to say it was an acquaintance as in a person they met at the bar or something and not volunteer the sex worker part.
    Then again, if this is legal where you are, aren’t the sex workers supposed to be licensed? Thus, the police can track if they break the law?

    1. Lilo*

      On the kinds of places where sex workers are more tightly regulated, don’t you usually have to visit brothels? It’s a worker protection thing.

    2. bamcheeks*

      There are lots of different models of legislation governing sex-work. Formal legalisation usually comes with regulation, permissions and licenses, but decriminalisation simply means that it’s not criminalised.

  16. ABCYaBye*

    LW3 – It could be that Monica is dishonest and by working a side job while out on disability, she’s thumbing her nose at her full time employer and the insurance company. It could be that the side job is something that doesn’t impact your company or the insurance company. It could also be that she had no idea that continuing to work a side job could be problematic and it was an honest and simple mistake. Monica is currently not on the clock with your company and is actually on the “payroll” of the insurance company. They can investigate, and barring her committing full-on fraud and doing so with middle fingers up, nothing they find is your business either. That’s really between her and them. Not anyone at your workplace. And especially not Phoebe.

    Phoebe did the right thing in reporting, though it seems like a simple conversation with you or HR might have been a better place to start. But we don’t know exactly what the side job is, so maybe the whistleblower hotline is proper. Either way, her job is done. And if she continues to bring it up and threaten to quit, I’d not only do what Alison suggested, but formally reprimand her if she chooses not to quit. She is directly disobeying you when you’ve told her to stop pushing. Whatever happens in the investigation is going to be between the insurance company and Monica… probably not anyone in your workplace at all. Phoebe needs to stay in her lane and be reminded too that anything related to a coworker’s health, their payroll, their insurance is not something that can and will be discussed by management with other employees.

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

    OP1, your friend should ask their manager what to do, and follow the procedure. If the company asks for a copy of the police report, I’m afraid he has no other alternative but to say the truth. They have valid reasons to do so, like insurance policies, data protection and inventory. Not complying could cost your friend their job.

  18. Emily*

    LW3: It’s free to have a “what’s going on with you and this issue?” conversation with Phoebe. Maybe you will hear something unexpected like “I was always covering for her and she said it was x, but now I think it was her other job” or “the amount of work I’m doing now is overwhelming, and if she gets fired she can get replaced with someone who will be present.” Or “I don’t feel like I can take my PTO because there’s no one else to do my work.” Or maybe not. But it’s worth it to ask. The answer should still be “you need to drop this,” but if there’s a component of this that needs to be looked at, like her workload, then the fact that she’s requesting something inappropriate shouldn’t keep that from happening. Sometimes people focus on the wrong part of a problem but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      I think this is a great suggestion, and the answer(s) will be telling. I think the only things that would be worth the LW’s consideration are if Phoebe can actually show how the side job was distracting Monica before the medical leave and Phoebe was having to cover some things for her, or if Phoebe feels like she can’t take PTO because Monica is out. On the first, that is something the LW will want to consider bringing up to Monica at some point, reminding her of any policies that outline how moonlighting work within the organization. On the latter, the LW will probably need to figure out how Phoebe’s workload could be adjusted. It is a crappy place to be in if someone is out on leave and you feel like you HAVE to be there. Just because someone is on leave doesn’t mean that life has to stop for everyone else around them. But that’s a discussion that Phoebe could easily have started herself, too. That doesn’t lead to “fire Monica so I can take PTO.”

      But the conversation to get to the root of the issue… yes. Also, not absolutely necessary. If you want to show Phoebe the door, I think we’re to that point, too.

    2. Just a thought*

      Good thoughts here! You are correct that sometimes people focus on the wrong part of a problem.

    3. kiki*

      Yes, I definitely think this is worth asking, especially if Phoebe is generally a decent person and employee. It’s possible Phoebe just dislikes Monica and wants her out, but Phoebe may have been covering for Monica in ways OP doesn’t know about.

    4. J*

      Such a great reply. I think back to when I was younger in the workforce and my entire team would take Fridays off (sometimes calling out with short notice and unpaid because they were out of leave), leaving me to staff 2-3 customer windows alone. I got very fixated on one of those team members who during her days in the office would fall asleep in the break room and go missing for hours. Did I desperately need her for the 1-2 hours she was supposed to be on shift when we were nearly fully staffed? No. But was the Friday issue so big and my complaints ignored that I was lashing out in any way I could? Absolutely.

      We had a manager swap with another department and when I reported a napping absence again, she immediately asked why the naps were such a big deal when it seemed like Fridays were the problem. I explained how I’d raised the Friday issue so much and was ignored so I was desperate just for one day a week when I could take my lunch. Then through further questioning she found out I was getting disciplined by the previous manager for taking lunch or even using the bathroom on Fridays and how I’d recently had kidney issues that my doctor thought might be triggered by my inability to use the restroom on the job. She was horrified and took immediate action and actually made reports up the chain about what had gone on and while I wasn’t told, it became clear coworker got put on a PIP sooner than later. My manager immediately gave me that Friday off without docking my leave and then spent the next two weeks cross-training herself and another manager on the software so I’d always have someone to rely on. I was so embarrassed to tell people about bathroom issues and such so I had avoided spelling out how bad the situation had gotten and was looking for anyone to listen and acknowledge there was a problem.

      1. pierrot*

        I felt the exact same way working at a restaurant. I had a coworker who was a college student and she called out at the last minute constantly. She always got scheduled for the high tip shifts on the weekends because she was only available to work then. I had worked at the restaurant longer and was more reliable, but she was getting preference and it affected my income. I always ended up covering for her, or if we were schedyled for the same shift , I’d end up having to close with two workers instead of three which meant we uad to leave much later.

        I spoke to my boss about the issue several times- to be clear, I never asked her to fire this person nor did I want that to happen. I framed it as basically this is affecting my income and ability to plan my weekends, you basically depend on me to cover for people because you know I want the money.” Very little changed, i got more bitter, and it didn’t help that this particular coworker was very rude. But it wasn’t her fault that my hours were cut and that management wasn’t listening to me. I ended up quitting which was for the best.

        Phoebe is being completely unreasonable and inappropriate but it’s worth checking in with her about things overall while also telling her that the stuff with Monica is none of her business.

  19. Watching bystander*

    For LW#2: Your work place sounds like a dumpster fire about to explode. Based on your description of the owners, I would question how financially healthy the company is. It sounds like the owners spend more effort on drama than actual work. At minimum, revise your resume and scan job openings. I know you said the business is 20 years old, but that’s a lot of dysfunctional years to rot the structure, and it may be escalating faster in the past few years.

    1. Gracely*

      Yeah, I would get out ASAP. Even if the company isn’t going to implode financially, it’s clearly a horrible place to work.

    2. Observer*

      Agreed. The place is a dumpster fire, and you need to get out. And you don’t need anything in order to quite or start looking for a new job. No legal, ethical, moral, or professional requirements other than giving notice. And if your boss is actually likely to get physical, you don’t even have to give notice in person – just email your resignation, effective immediately.

  20. Just a thought*

    LW3 – We have had a similar situation when someone was out on Workers Compensation. I told the employee who reported it. “Thanks for letting me know. There can be valid reasons why someone cannot do our job but could do a different job. I’ll let the insurance company know and they can make the decision.” That simple. If she won’t drop it, I would counter her ultimatum with one of your own.

    Phoebe: I’ll quit if you don’t fire Monica. It’s just not right.
    LW3: I understand it doesn’t feel fair/honest. I’ve already told you that we are looking into the situation. Continuing to bring this up is unprofessional. So you need to decide…are you going to let this go or are you going to allow this to cause you to quit or potentially be terminated if you do not stop this unprofessional behavior?

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      I had this happen to me. Was out on WC for a torn rotator cuff. I had student loans and rent and car payments to make, and the payments were just not enough. I already had a second job reading through a slush of manuscripts for a publishing house, so I used my down-time to read through more. When I got back to work, I mentioned how much this job helped with my sanity. Unbeknownst to me, another employee took great offense to my working a job – that, again, I already had – and reported it. After several months of back and forth with insurance and my grandboss… nothing came of it. I got a letter that the matter was closed.

      Phoebe needs to mind her business.

  21. Cringing 24/7*

    OP3: It is very rarely appropriate for one employee to call for – nay, *insist* – that another employee be fired. This situation with Monica just simply doesn’t rise to that sort of level (whether or not it rises to the level of needing to fire Monica, I can’t say, but it certainly doesn’t rise to the level of Phoebe CAMPAIGNING for Monica’s firing).

    I think Alison’s advice is spot on, and I would add that it would be important to figure out *why* Phoebe is so upset about this situation. Is she just a stickler for the principle of things and also a bit overly nosy? Is she feeling angry at Monica or at your company for a real or perceived slight?

  22. Nea*

    The comments about Phoebe and Monica are making my teeth grit to the point that I’m going to out myself.

    I am a technical writer who was out on 2 months short term disability leave due to major surgery. During that time I was unable to wear professional clothing, drive, or walk more than about 10 feet (while leaning heavily on a walker.) I was, in short, utterly unable to go to an office and my work, due to proprietary reasons, cannot be done at home.

    I was not however, unable to write. I wanted to write, because it was something I could do and something that sufficiently distracted me from the pain and the constant small humiliations of being unable to take care of yourself.

    So… I wrote. It was either that or go stir-crazy. And now I’m seeing someone in the same situation described as “dishonest,” “pushing off the work load,” “lack of integrity” and the ableism is taking my breath away.

    As for Phoebe policing Monica’s recovery and employment, that’s so far out of her lane that it’s in another zip code. She needs to be told in no uncertain terms to let it go or be let go.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I’m sorry you had to go through that. My husband is going through something similar, but he’s on month six. He does a few things here and there around the house for his own sanity, but working full time is a whole different thing than mowing the lawn for 30 min a few times a week.

      I hope you are doing well.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      I hope that you are recovering, and thank you for your writing. I love the statement “So far out of her lane that it’s in another zip code”

      And to all others who are struggling with similar issues.
      Healing mojo in abundance.

      1. Nea*

        I daily thank my surgeon; the recovery was awful but the work was excellent.

        I’m glad you like the statement – after a day of writing “Press the Add Column button to add a column” I do so enjoy branching out into creative writing!

  23. LondonLady*

    #LW1 – no sex workers involved, but years ago a young member of my team left his work laptop in cab after a night out. The cab company contacted our office to let us know and we paid them to drop it off to us. Meanwhile the team member had said nothing to us but had left messages for the cab firm (which the cab firm also told us). He came into the office late and said nothing about his laptop. My boss (his grand boss) called us both into his office, presented the laptop, and explained that the real error was not leaving it in the cab, but failing to tell us right away. Years later, in a different job, I left my laptop behind in a hotel meeting room, immediately reported this to work before going back to the hotel to retrieve the laptop (which they had kept safe), and boss was fine about it. Honesty is usually the best policy (maybe not when sex workers are involved though).

  24. Salsa Verde*

    Does anyone else think that Phoebe found out that Monica has an OnlyFans and she’s mad about the TYPE of job Monica is working as opposed to that she’s working at all while on short term disability? Phoebe’s reaction just seems out of proportion to the situation.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      That was a type of side work that I wasn’t thinking but could definitely see it now. You’re absolutely right that the reaction is WAY out of proportion.

  25. Just Me*

    As an HR manager, I once had an employee bring three sex workers back to his company paid for hotel room (which is not legal in our part of the world), who then drugged and robbed him of pretty much everything in the room. He left the company as a “mutual agreement” less than a week later. That was an interesting case to write up afterward.

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    1 – How? IMMEDIATELY!

    The sex worker bit is by the by.

    Sensitive company data may have been stolen. IT needs to be on it immediately.

    If I were manager, I really couldn’t care less about what consenting adults do.

    I’d consider firing for a potential data breach. For not telling us immediately.

  27. Linda*

    I don’t think you lose your job if your laptop gets stolen!? I get that this is a much tenser situation, but once 2 family members work laptops got stolen (they had their work laptops with them on a holiday trip and were robbed) and neither had any issues with work about it. Contacted IT but that was really about it.

  28. Cacofonix*

    #2 – for note in Canada, the definition of hostile workplace includes harassment within a protected class as Alison says (race, religion, sex, disability, age etc.), but also bullying, sexual harassment, and working in an environment that makes it impossible to do your job, such as being given impossible deadline, someone sabotaging your work, or campaign against you to get you to quit. Hostile on the latter, legally, must be more than really unpleasant or working for a bad boss. It must be objectively hostile by any reasonable person. As an employee you need to report it formally to management, document their inaction and specific impacts etc.

    1. Bookworm*

      Totally agree with you. I feel #2 has a case for a hostile work environment as a witness to bullying. Never hurts to try! But since they are the owners, it’s unlikely she can do anything that will result in a more bearable place to work.

  29. Julia*

    I don’t really understand Alison’s response to LW1. Why is she assuming that a police report has not yet been filed? Moreover, why assume that once a police report is filed it will come out that the perpetrator is a sex worker? Would the employer typically request a copy of the police report in this case?

    All the employer needs to know is that the laptop was stolen. The sex worker is the employee’s personal business. Given the stigma, I think he should feel free to tell a white lie and say that the laptop was stolen in a public place, or stolen by a visiting acquaintance.

    1. kiki*

      For insurance purposes, the business usually wants the police report if something was stolen. And the police report, if LW is honest and the police officer is doing a decent job, would likely include how LW came to know the thief, which was likely through an escort service.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Insurance companies usually ask for a police report if you’re reporting something lost or stolen individually. I don’t know whether corporate insurers do the same, but it wouldn’t be that weird.

      I would guess the reason they do it is that people are more reluctant to lie to the police — partly because they’re trained to spot inconsistencies and check verifiable statements– and also the police have more reach. If I’m off in another country, it feels very easy to go back to my employer and say, “I left it on a bus!” or “Met this guy at a club, brought him up to my room and he robbed me!” It’s much hard to say that to a police officer who is local to that area knowing that they’re very likely to say, “Which bus? What time? Going which direction? Can you tell me why you were going to that part of town?” or that they’re going to ask the hotel lobby staff whether they recognised the “guy from the club”.

      1. kiki*

        I think insurance companies also request police reports because they want to see some effort the item was attempted to be retrieved.

    3. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

      the laptop is the property of the employer, and the employer is the victim of the theft–any criminal process is absolutely the business of the company and they get to be involved as the victim of the theft.

      1. J*

        Can confirm, both as someone who used to do restitution processing and as someone who was a victim of a crime where my husband’s work laptop was stolen. His employer was so small they actually gave him the insurance company’s contact info directly so no one at his employer actually saw the police report. Also, most of our items were recovered within 72 hours but the police lost it at the station for 3 years. We never could get an itemized list until one day they found the stuff and there was the laptop. Employer confirmed they’d long been paid out so we got a free old junked laptop out of it.

  30. Engineer with Breast Cancer*

    LW1 — LOCK DOWN YOUR laptop! Tell your friend to lock down their laptop. Always lock your laptop when near strangers or in a public place. Most companies pay for them, and if you have a job that issues you a laptop, likely you have the funds to pay for one.

    And while you’re at it, get a privacy filter.

  31. Shrug*

    LW 4 – it’s not clear from your letter what your actual responsibilities here are. Is the parents’ contract with the company you’re providing services for (i.e. they contract with the company to provide them with tutoring from somebody, the company contracts with you to be that somebody) or with you (i.e. the company matches you with a client and you contract with them to provide tutoring services)?

    If it’s the former, ultimately the person with skin in the game on that contract is the company. Follow whatever process for terminating your relationship with the company is set out by the agreement you have with them, and then you’re fine. It doesn’t matter if they hand over the contract before you go or not. That’s their problem. If your agreement is with the parents, you’re also fine. Contact them and follow the procedure outlined in your agreement with them for termination of services.

    You say you’re a freelancer, not an employee, which implies you have an agreement with whoever you’re freelancing for. Follow what it says in that agreement.

    Also, usually the answer to “I didn’t reach this person through this means of communication” is “first try another means of communication, then another person.”

  32. I'm just here for the cats!*

    In regards to letter 3. What??? First: what is Phoebe’s problem? Is she taking on more work now that Monica is gone? If so that is a legit concern that she can raise with the OP but not a reason to have Monica fired. After all if Monica is fired then there’s going to be more long-term work to be done. I think there is more to this and that Phoebe just dislikes Monica.

    But my biggest confusion is why does the OP feel like Monica is being dishonest and lacks integrity? As Alison mentions it’s entirely possible to have to be on medical leave but still able to do another type of work. OP mention there is an insurance company involved, I’m not sure if that means that Monica was injured at work and so they are paying workers comp or if it’s the short-term disability but it sounds like they are investigating, and I think the OP is right to leave it in their hands. But if Monica is say, a cater, and breaks her leg, she is going to have to go on medical leave but that doesnt mean she can’t also do a side gig of writing recipes for a cooking magazine.

    And I wonder if Monica had this side gig all along, and since she can still do that work, didn’t think it would be a problem to continue.

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

      Forgot to add, If the company did fire Monica and the medical issue is protected under ADA that could cause legal issues with the company.

  33. T'Cael Zaniidor Kilyle*

    Re: #3, I’m not even sure I agree with OP that Monica is showing a lack of integrity. There are so many medical conditions that would make it impossible for a person to reliably hold down a full-time job with a regular schedule, but where you still have one or two (often unpredictable) good days per week where you can do some work. If Monica is unable to commit to a M-F 40-hour schedule but she can Uber or Doordash on the days when she’s feeling OK, I don’t think she’s obligated to tell her employer about that.

    Phoebe is edging dangerously close to the same territory as those people who huff and puff about how they “know” their neighbor is committing SSDI fraud because they saw them raking leaves one day.

  34. e271828*

    LW3, you had better have an action plan for getting along without two employees while you replace them. If your insurance company claws back payments to Monica, she may leave (very understandable IMO), and you already want Phoebe to leave.

    Or you could leave and let Phoebe do your job, which you’re already allowing her to do.

  35. Little Red Riding Hood*

    My only comments are:

    1: This sounds like the plot of a bad movie!

    2. I lol’d at the term “equal-opportunity jerk.”

  36. Boof*

    Oh lw 3 – yes phobe should let it rest but such endless fodder for us! I’m thinking of how, on the one hand i did a few hours of ongoing work from home consulting while I was on parental leave from my main job, vs the lw who saw a coworker who was on paid leave for covid doing pharmacy deliveries to their vulnerable uncle @-@.

  37. OP 1*

    More info on letter #1:
    The police were contacted immediately and a report was filed. Employer’s response was chill, they were mainly concerned about data security.
    The theft happened while my friend was in the bathroom so it’s not like he left a stranger alone in his hotel room. He wasn’t expecting this to happen because it really wasn’t in the worker’s best interests as he had her on CCTV, had links to her online profile that included her face and her payment info and had her fingerprints all over the place. His attitude was that if she had just stolen the cash he probably wouldn’t have even bothered reporting it and would’ve chalked it up as a lesson learnt.
    Obviously she wasn’t a criminal mastermind because she was apprehended shortly afterwards and the laptop was recovered. So all’s well that ends well I guess?

  38. Luna*

    LW2 – “If you hate each other so much, why don’t you just get freaking divorced?” is just what I want to snap at those two over and over, until it makes them shut up. Clearly, they are not happy with each other. Now, it could be that their non-work relationship is great, just that also working with each other has soured things tremendously. In which case, a divorce would be good or one of them stops handling the firm because then they at least don’t have work and private together all the time.

    But really, if snapping at them that their constant fighting is detrimental to the firm’s workflow and that their employees don’t particularly care about their relationship problems (after all, not your relationship, not your business), just get outta there. Save yourself and leave them in their personal hell.

    LW3 – None of Phoebe’s business. And if she still won’t let it go and she threatens to quit again, tell her to do so. Walk the walk or don’t talk the talk.

  39. I Hate It Here*

    #3 OP I’ve just been diagnosed with arthritis in my lower spine. Walking/standing is getting difficult. So in theory if I could no longer work as say a cashier in a store I could in theory still work at a job that lets me sit down for my entire day.

    I actually work in an office right now. But the stairs to get in and out of my apartment are getting harder. Walking to the car is getting difficult. Working from home would be great. But that is not an option for me at my current job.

  40. Tutoring Company (Not Related!)*

    LW4 – I own a tutoring company and we contract out similarly to how yours does, I expect (though I’d like to think I’m far more organized and involved!) I give you full Owner Permission to tell the client, “I’ve gotten a full-time job and won’t be able to work with you anymore. Can you please contact the company to get switched to a new tutor?” If for some reason one of my people was quitting and I missed the email, you can be absolutely sure that a client contacting me with “We need a tutor; your guy quit” would light any fire under me that might need to be lit. And frankly, letting the family take the reins on getting someone new is right and proper in this situation: they are the ones who have a need; you are no longer a part of that calculus. (This is assuming you’re abiding by whatever is in your contract. Ours, for example, says they have to give both us and student 30 days notice so we can find new tutor – You’ve given that notice to bosses through your email, so whatever time clock you have should already be started.)

  41. Emily*

    I recommended someone I had never worked with (only went to grad school with) and HE. WAS. AWFUL. He even threatened to sue my company when they (rightfully) put him on a CAP and then fired him. Do not risk it!!

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