my company wants us to sign a loyalty oath

A reader writes:

My workplace is incredibly weird and, oftentimes, problematic. In the past there have been issues with religious harassment, sexual harassment, and general abuse all coming from management and administration. You can’t complain to HR because they are part of the harassment as well. They all answer to our CEO, who is also a religious leader in the community. A lot of management, HR, and administration are hired from the CEO’s church.

The newest issue is the Statement of Oath. It is a 40-page document all employees are required to sign and contains some vague and troubling bits. The greatest one is a new rule: “To maintain complete loyalty to [the business] and to pursue its mission and initiatives.” What does that mean? They expect me to sign an oath to maintain Complete Loyalty?

I’m worried. There have been several extremely negative Glassdoor reviews recently and even some former employees lambasting the company in Google reviews. The vague phrasing makes me wonder if they will use this document to sue or threaten to sue people who leave negative reviews upon leaving. Note that I’m not a lawyer.

What do I do? I don’t want to sign this. No one wants to be sued or threatened for a negative review. I just don’t understand.

A 40-page oath?!

What do all the other pages contain?!

Regardless of what else might be in this lengthy document, you’re right to take issue with being asked to promise “complete loyalty.” What does that mean? Can you not change jobs? May you complain to your spouse at night? Must you cover up a crime? Refuse to unionize?

Obviously it’s reasonable for companies to expect some types of loyalty — like that you’ll act in good faith, report conflicts of interest, and not divert business to a competitor. Those things don’t require you to sign an oath; they’re covered under a legal concept called “duty of loyalty.” If your company is asking for more — and “complete loyalty” certainly implies that they are — they need to spell out exactly what that means. In fact, if they don’t, this document is of awfully questionable legality.

I’m curious, too, whether the oath addresses what your company pledges to you: In return for your obeisance, are they agreeing to pay you fairly, provide competitive benefits, set clear expectations, provide development opportunities, operate with transparency, address problems forthrightly, and so forth? Or is this loyalty all one-way? (Spoiler: it’s one-way.)

As for what to do … don’t sign this without running it by a lawyer. I know that’s a pain and costs money, so you can try just not signing it and seeing what happens. If nudged you can say, “My lawyer says I can’t sign it without their review.” But assuming they continue to press you, do get a lawyer to look at it — and don’t pledge “complete loyalty” without them spelling out precisely what that means.

{ 492 comments… read them below }

  1. lost academic*

    I am here solely to see comments of anyone else who’s been asked to sign anything similar. I wish I could make popcorn.

    1. Lynca*

      Okay so not at a job but I have been asked to sign something similar at a church! I was looking at changing churches because I wasn’t happy with the pastor my former church had at the time. I went with some friends to one popular church in my area. They required about a 50 page pledge to be signed before you could join. There were various things in there about making commitments to participate and how much you were expected to tithe.

      Needless to say I did not join and threw that thing in the trash.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I think that it is a church document. I wouldn’t be able to tell more without seeing it, but it sounds very similar to some of the religious pledge documents I’ve heard about.

      1. Vivian*

        I realize I’m being nosy and of course you needn’t answer – was this the Word of Life Fellowship church? I saw their “contract” in a different forum and it was exactly that amount of insanity.

        1. Lynca*

          It was not that one specifically but I do know about them and they have churches in our area. The church in question built it’s own mega-church brand in our area and I have no doubt they borrowed ideas from others.

        2. Starlike*

          I think some of the Acts 29 churches do something similar – the recent Mars Hill podcast discussed them doing it. I’m sure they’re not the only ones.

      2. Ana Gram*

        Wow. I just converted to another religion and it was far less complicated than that. Actually, it was lovely. And I didn’t sign anything!

      3. Fishes and loaves too*

        Ah, just as Jesus said in his famous sermon on the mount. “The meek shall inherit the earth, and also sign this 40pg oath before you can hear the rest”

      4. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        I knew a person who was a member of one of the big mega-churches down south. She once mentioned casually that she needed to get her taxes done early so she could get a copy of her return to the church before a certain date. They literally demand copies of their member’s tax returns so they can audit tithing.

        To be clear, I don’t know anything else about this. I don’t know the church or how the process works. I was afraid I couldn’t ask those questions without seeming completely incredulous and I didn’t know this person very well. That was part of why it was so weird. Basically this woman was the boss’ secretary at a small organization, so I was asking if she knew or could find out when our W2s (US tax forms for our non-US friends) would be ready. And she just dropped this bomb like it was a natural part of the conversation.

        “Oh yeah, I need to check that too because of this thing I just said that seems completely normal and natural to me, but is currently blowing your mind.”

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Mind Blown.

          I’m from the US south, and I know religion is A Big Thing here, but I had no idea that this was the kind of control the megachurches are getting into. Wow.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Makes me wonder if the churches are similarly transparent with their financial records. I’d sure want to know how much was going to support poor people vs going into the pastors’ pockets.

            1. Jasmine Tea*

              Churches are nonprofit organizations. Would that not mean that there financial information is publicly available? The religious organization I belong to reads and posts the financial report every month for anyone to read. The accounts are audited every 3 months by different people and that is announced when done. No one knows how much anyone contributes unless you ask for a receipt for tax purposes. Then the congregation secretary would know. When contributions are taken out of the contribution box two people count them and sign. We know where our money goes!

              1. Baffled Teacher*

                Yeah that’s how it works at mine too! But I bet you are (like me) part of a mainline denomination that has pesky things like rules, regulations, oversight, chain of command, consequences…

          2. usually anon*

            Women’s recent loss of bodily autonomy should have been a clue to the power of the christian religion over consenting and non-consenting alike.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I am very aware of women’s recent loss of bodily autonomy and the xtian / racial / political drivers behind that; I’ve been working on pro-choice and related agendas for over forty years.

              But that’s religious entities using existing power structures (the govt) to extend their agenda. This is a church creating a new power structure. The church uses an existing structure’s tool (tax return), but is presumably handling data collection and enforcement itself. That’s a different level of control – more akin to cults than mainstream churches, even evangelicals.

              Prosperity, I am generally aware of, but I find it so distasteful that I haven’t dug into it much. I’ll poke around, thanks.

              1. pancakes*

                In recommending reading up on prosperity gospel I wasn’t trying to suggest I find it tasteful, or a model of how religion should work, or anything to that affect. My point is that it’s enormously popular and influential in the US. Many, many millions of people love the idea of lots and lots of money going to their pastors, and believe the reason it hasn’t gone to the poor instead are because the poor aren’t faithful enough, or otherwise good people.

        2. Kali*

          Yes, there’s a local megachurch near me that does this. Also, it’s so large that you get placed into worship groups of like-individuals based on your marital status (single men 30-45yo, married couples 20-30yo, etc etc) where you are required to discuss all major financial and life decisions with the group beforehand. Want to buy a house? Discuss it with the group. Feeling like you need some help with your anxiety issues? Discuss it with the group. Deciding whether to retire early/divorce your wife/kick out your kid with an addiction problem? Discuss it with the group. Of course, it’s a prosperity gospel congregation, so they want you to do whatever gets you the most money – then your tithe increases. From what I can tell, they can also tattle on you to church elders.

          I 1000% guarantee that the church that this CEO belongs to is like that megachurch. So I say to the OP – get out, get out, get out. While I’ve known kind and compassionate people who go to that church, it warps their inner ethics. You’re fine until you clash against those warped ethics, and then, you’re the enemy. It is highly unpleasant.

          1. Crumbledore*

            “You’re fine until you clash against those warped ethics, and then, you’re the enemy. It is highly unpleasant.”

            The loyalty oath in these kinds of groups usually requires that members shun anyone who leaves under circumstances like this. If you’ve been in long enough, you lose your entire community and support system. Very culty!

          2. Zelda*

            “you are required to discuss all major financial and life decisions with the group beforehand. ”

            That whooshing sound you just heard was all the blood draining out of my face. Offering support & counsel to fellow members who want a sympathetic ear or advice? Cool, have at it. *Requiring* that members submit to the control? Kids, that’s what a cult does.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I grew up in a fundamentalist city in Kansas in the 1970s. The only difference here is they have more power and more reach.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Yeah, this is my thought as well. And megachurches have been growing so fast, with so little scrutiny as our journalism gets gutted… The growth of evangelicals is concerning to me as someone who vehemently does not agree with them, but at least they are usually under a governing body that sets guidelines that people can assess and critique.

          3. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            you are required to discuss all major financial and life decisions with the group beforehand.

            Yeah, I’m shuddering right along with you. That’s not a church anymore (if it ever was); that’s a cult.


            Someone who was raised in the Deep South where “Christian” and “cult” are pretty much synonymous

        3. Darsynia*

          I don’t attend my previous church anymore but I always appreciated what the pastor used to say. ‘I think tithing is important, but it’s God’s money, not ours. If you want to tithe somewhere else but attend here, you’re welcome to’ among other things. The idea being that they do encourage giving back some of your income to church-ish stewards in some way, but in no way require it or demand it. Very refreshing, it’s a great church for being a church, heh. Still wildly misogynistic which led to us leaving.

        4. The Witch of Sanity's Annex*

          The Seventh Day Adventist church my gran went to did this kind of thing too. They actually called my Gran out BY NAME during a service for “not tithing to her full potential.” They said this. To an 85 yr old woman on a fixed income. In front of the whole church. And then weeks later sent people round to find out why she hadn’t been back.

        5. Starlike*

          Honestly… it might have been good if you’d expressed some incredulity. High-control churches escalate and normalize these things, and sometimes having enough people say, “Hold on, what? That’s not normal” can help someone realize that they’re not in a great situation.

      5. LCH*

        interesting. if a church asked me to sign something like that about pledging loyalty to the church, i’d be like, sorry, my only complete loyalty is to god. i mean, how could they argue with that?

        1. The OTHER Other*

          Seriously, there are religious groups that prohibit taking oaths (as in to the flag, or military) for exactly this reason. Perhaps this is one reason the LW mentioned there were problems with religious-based harassment at this workplace? It sounds nuts.

        2. Clisby*

          Well, people criticize Jehovah’s Witnesses for refusing to pledge allegiance to the American flag, even though their reason is that their only allegiance is to god.

          1. usually anon*

            I wish every religious group took the ‘no part of this world’ thing as seriously as JWs. At least they don’t vote hate crimes into law or run for office.

            1. Very Social*

              Do you mean “every Christian group”? “No part of this world” appears (from a quick google) to be something Jesus said, and there are many religious groups that don’t follow the word of Jesus.

          2. Yellow Rose*

            They also refuse to report child molesters in their congregations to the police, relying on the ‘two witness rule’…and will disfellowship and hard shun parents and children that do report to authorities. Because it ‘brings reproach on God.’

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              “brings reproach on God” hmm that’s a neat expression, there are all sorts of things it could cover!
              My mother’s family was rent in two when her father converted to JW, and she couldn’t get married fast enough to get out of the shitstorm of attempted conversion. My Dad was the only guy brave enough/in love enough to weather it.

      6. Spero*

        Churches do that to prevent congregants from suing them when church staff sexually abuse congregants. (Said based on my past professional experience in providing anti sexual abuse training to churches, this was often their proposed solution to ‘frivolous lawsuits’)

    2. Other Alice*

      So it was not a loyalty oath, but when I left a very toxic temp job I was asked to sign a statement that I would not be suing the company and had no ill will towards the company. I had no plans to sue or anything, I just wanted to leave. I was told this was standard procedure and they could not process my last paycheck if I didn’t sign.

      I went to a lawyer. (Once I was called a liar for telling this story because “a temp wouldn’t have money for a lawyer”… My union provides free consultations with employment lawyers.) I didn’t have a copy of the non-sue statement but I had back and forth emails with HR. The lawyer was extremely amused, even brought in a colleague to ask them if they’d ever heard of anything like that. Company received a stern letter, I got my last pay check two days later.

      1. Anonym*

        Really well done on handling that! Also, I’m pretty sure any person could reasonably decide it was worth a certain amount of money to get advice, regardless of what their job is? Temps don’t have any savings? What? I had at least a few hundred dollars saved back when I worked minimum wage, and also there are free/low cost legal services available…

        Also awesome of your union to provide legal services!

        1. Mid*

          Yeah, my local Department of Labor has free consultations and refers to low-cost employment lawyers. A friend of mine worked for them and basically half her job was, as she said, “writing scary letters to bad employers” because usually any sort of pushback was enough to stop the illegal behavior.

        2. Zelda*

          When I was offered an employment contract that, this being the US, was really just a list of obligations and limitations on me, I ran one problematic clause by the lawyer we worked with for our real-estate closing. He did it as a ten-minute phone consult for free, since we were already clients and it was just the one clause. Not an employment-law specialist and not a deep dive into the law, but some “run this past your lawyer” things don’t have to be multi-hundred dollar investments. A person could reasonably ask a lawyer, “Hey, what would it cost me to get your opinion on ***?” and, as you say, decide that the answer is worth it.

      2. Observer*

        I was told this was standard procedure and they could not process my last paycheck if I didn’t sign.

        Uh, no. That’s not how this works.

        I didn’t have a copy of the non-sue statement but I had back and forth emails with HR

        That’s just mind-boggling. They actually put that into email?! I can see why your lawyer was amused.

        1. Venus*

          Many companies may say stupid things, but it takes a special stupid for HR to put it in writing!

          1. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

            Yep! That’s how I wound up bringing a discrimination claim against ex-job. I emailed HR a question expecting to be stonewalled and they just gave me an honest answer.

            1. Watry*

              Something similar happened to my best friend–an employee admitted on tape that they wanted to fire her for being [race] and when they couldn’t find a reason they framed her for stealing.

      3. Eliza*

        Not nearly as bad as anything discussed thus far, but I worked at an agency where a coworker was poached by a client so our CEO asked us to sign non-compete agreements. And you know, I got his intention because it’s bad for business if your clients poach all of your employees and then cancel their contracts. If the non-compete had said we agreed to not work for any clients for a year after leaving or something, I probably would have signed it. But instead of working with a lawyer who understands employment law he wrote it himself and it prohibited the signer from taking another job IN THE SAME FIELD OF WORK after leaving. And the field was something very broad—think marketing—so I just read it and was like lol sorry but I can’t sign this and he immediately folded and said I didn’t have to.

        1. ferrina*

          At least the boss had a semi-normal idea? OldJob had a similar thing, but they did the more reasonabl “direct competitor”. It was in a niche industry with 5 direct competitors, so it was really easy to comply with. Except Toxic Boss quit an went to a direct competitor to establish a competing product (the product didn’t’ even exist, she was creating a similar product to OldJob’s product that she worked on)! There was a lawsuit, but the non-compete ended up being unenforceable.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            One thing I love about California is that non competes are basically bird cage liner.

            1. Berkeleyfarm*

              Probably because employers took it to ridiculous degrees.

              Now, if there was one of those “gentlemen’s agreements” to not hire people from each other’s companies …

        2. whingedrinking*

          I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but a school I once worked for actually tried to claim that by signing our contracts, we were agreeing not to teach at any other school within a certain radius basically ever. Oh, and that any lesson plans and materials we developed – which we were not paid to create – belonged to the school.
          Our management were not bright people, to say the least.

          1. Dennis Feinstein*

            The educational institution I work for in ‘Straya has something similar eg “anything you create for [name of institution] belongs to [name of institution]”, which would be fine if I could do all my planning, create all my resources etc during my paid admin time using their [very slow, old, creaky computers]. But since I create a lot of stuff on my own laptop in my own UNPAID time, I’m like: “Yeah, nah. That stuff belongs to me.”
            Anyway, if I left to work for another educational institution, they’d have no way of knowing what materials I was using anyway.

    3. Just a name*

      As a US federal Government employee, we signed an oath, but it was one paragraph. It is a statutory requirement.
      “An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.””

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Now here’s a question- I was raised Quaker, and the whole thing about oaths was that swearing by god or the bible or whatever was a no-no as your Yes and No were supposed to hold the same integrity and import irregardless of whether or not god saw it. Do federal employees get the option of an affirmation?

        1. PollyQ*

          Almost certainly, the same way jurors or anyone testifying in court do. It’d be massively unconstitutional otherwise.

        2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          “I do solemnly affirm” can be substituted in for “swear”. Been that way for ages because of the Quakers.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I didn’t take much out of my Quaker upbringing (I am so, so bad at nonviolence), but the oath thing is one of the ones that stuck. Gives me the heebie jeebies to this day.

          2. Canterlot*

            Yes – in my state, an oath and an affirmation are interchangeable and equally valid.

        3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          As a former military officer who has sworn in soldiers I can confirm that there are alternate wordings for people with objections to oaths (religious or otherwise).

        1. Just a name*

          It’s basically a form you sign when you enter a civilian federal job. Not certain what would happen if you struck that language from the form. Military members must recite it, and have the option of omitting that statement. If you google SF-61, you can see the form. It includes a statement: Note – If the appointee objects to the form of the oath on religious grounds, certain modifications may be permitted pursuant to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Please contact your agency’s legal counsel for advice.
          I was a supervisor and I know the form was handled by HR when a new employee was onboarded. I never saw anyone else’s form, not even people I hired.

          1. Hats Are Great*

            Usually you can just strike it — often it’s just there because changing paperwork is a whole PROCESS and nobody’s gotten around to it because it’s not particularly important and the courts have already said you can skip that bit.

          2. Ness*

            When I was onboarded as a federal civilian employee, I was asked to recite the oath, rather than signing a form. I wonder if different agencies do it differently, or if the process has changed in the ten years since I was onboarded.

        2. MI Dawn*

          When I was called as a juror, as an atheist, I got to affirm and drop the “so help me God” part. Judge didn’t blink an eye.

          1. EPLawyer*

            No one cares if you affirm or swear. or leave off the So help me god. It’s everything in the middle that matters.

            And contrary to Hollywood depiction, no one swears in the Bible in court. I have clients raise concerns all the time about that. One client wanted me to hand her ex a bible while he was testifying and swear on the stand whether he did X or not. I flat out REFUSED. Because swearing on the Bible is not a Thing and judges hate Stunts.

            1. Llama face!*

              Just as a random factoid, in Canada people do still swear on the Bible in court. There are other religious books (like the Quran) available if people want to swear using those and there is also the option to affirm using a statement with no religious language. But of course the choice is always on the person doing the swearing/affirming. Someone else can’t make them swear on a Bible, for instance.

            2. Bagpuss*

              interesting, I’m in the UK and people do swear on the bible (or other religious book of choice) when giving evidence in criminal trials – you can affirm if you prefer, and courts keep copies of the main religious books . Thewording varies slightly for each religion.
              If you have to swear an affidivait ts’s similar – in my first job, my office used to keep a copy of the Koran as well as the bible as we had a lot of Muslim clients.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I’m laughing because I thought of that 1970s movie “Oh, God!” where God appears to the grocery store clerk and nobody believes him, and in the end, God comes to the actual courtroom where the clerk is being sued.
          “Who are you, sir?”
          “You better swear me in; you’ll never believe it.”
          “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
          “So help me Me.” :)

      2. Eat My Squirrel*

        I had to take this oath as a volunteer on a SAR team that was affiliated with a city emergency management organization. We had to take the oath annually. If you didn’t take it, that was fine but then you were not eligible for worker’s comp if you were injured in training or on a callout.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          That sounds, mildly illegal? Or is it because you’re a “volunteer” and not an employee that they could decide not to pay for your medical? What’s the point of the oath’s wording “without any mental reservation” if you feel you’re being coerced by their withholding payment for medical care for injuries incurred on the callout?

          1. doreen*

            It’s not really a matter of deciding not to pay or withholding payment for medical. As a general rule, if I am doing volunteer work , the organization I am volunteering for doesn’t have any responsibility to pay my medical bills. They might have insurance , and would be required to have liability insurance if the volunteers are doing work on the organization’s property but when small, all-volunteer organizations clean up a park , the volunteers are most likely not covered by any insurance and certainly not worker’s comp.

            Taking that oath may have been a work around – in my state, all public officers must take an oath and it’s possible that in Eat My Squirrel’s case, taking the oath meant the rescuer was a public officer and therefore covered by worker’s comp.

      3. Anonymoose*

        Canadian public servants sign something related to the Queen of England. My first laptop paperwork made it sound like I was borrowing it directly from Elizabeth.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Now I want to know if there were, like, cute photos of her grandbabies still on the hard drive.

        2. Grumpy Old Sailor*

          You’re thinking of their oath of office; it’s pretty much the same as the oath sworn on enrolling in the Canadian Forces.

          For the Canadian Forces, the oath runs as follows:
          “I, [full legal name], do swear (or for a solemn affirmation, “solemnly affirm”) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.” (if making a solemn affirmation, the “So help me God.” may be left out).

        3. Just Me*

          Was an AmeriCorps in the US once. We had to take a pledge that in and of itself is not weird (“I pledge to get things done,” etc. etc.) but we had to do the pledge in a ballroom after a training session with 1000 other people and it was very weird hearing all of them, in unison, saying, “I AM AN AMERICORPS MEMBER AND I WILL GET THINGS DONE.”

          1. Get R Done For America 3000*

            OMG the Americorps pledge is SO FUNNY. I took it during Covid times and would pay money to see that ballroom of people reciting weirdly phrased affirmations. My supervisor, also a former Americorps member who could still quote the pledge, would fake-solemnly say “Thank you for getting this done for America” after I handed in an assignment, then we would see who could hold the serious face the longest before one of us cracked up.

          2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            I’m pretty sure that if I took this oath, I would automatically say “I AM AN AMERICORPS MEMBER AND I WILL GET SH*T DONE” and not even realize it. XD

            1. Eater of Hotdish (fka jitm)*

              I was AmeriCorps for two years and this is always what ran through my head when the oath came up. I managed to never say it out loud in public, thank goodness. Though I would sometimes head into my site for the day with a cheerful, “Bye honey! Gonna get sh*t done for America!”

      4. lyonite*

        My husband’s aunt had to take a version of this for when she was going to officiate our wedding. (It was only in effect for the day the wedding was taking place.) The funny part is that she’s Canadian.

      5. Curmudgeon in California*

        I hate the “So help me God.” crap. It’s literally not my belief to follow the Abrahamic God. Why would I swear an oath on a God I don’t believe in? It would make the oath an instant lie.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Thank you! I don’t mind swearing an oath, but I very much mind making promises to other people’s deities.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            it’s more a plea than a promise! I wouldn’t say it because what’s the point when god doesn’t even exist? can’t atheists ask someone else to help, like “so help me Mum” ?

      6. Adam*

        The UK requires that you sign a statement that you agree to abide by the Official Secrets Act when you get access to secret information, but it’s just a formality. The law applies to you whether you sign or not, it’s a law after all.

      7. whingedrinking*

        I had to sign something similar but longer when I became an associate for the British Columbia Liquor Distribution Branch – that is, a liquor store clerk. But I was nevertheless a government employee and had to fill out all the same paperwork. (One day three of my coworkers spent about an hour struggling to put up a shelf. One of them said, “Hey, I got one – how many civil servants does it take to change an endcap?”)

        What kind of tickles me is that the BCLDB also runs cannabis shops, which means there are people who are allowed to sell weed, but only after they vow to “conduct [themselves] …in a manner that maintains and enhances the public’s trust and confidence in the public service and does not bring it into disrepute”.

    4. North Wind*

      My heebie jeebies are so jeebied I’m struggling to even enjoy watching the conversation with popcorn. OP, please get out.

      But to contribute – I once worked at a major advertising firm that had a program where you had to rotate very briefly through 12 roles in the company – being paired with a mentor for each role and then also being the mentee for your own role for 12 other folks. It was really just to understand what all parts of the company did – not to seriously cross-train you for the role, and for that it was a good program. But the head of HR administering the program had a super weird culty, authoritarian, toxic positivity approach to everything. And we had to sign 12 separate agreements – one for each relationship with the exact same wording – promising to exude positivity.

      1. Grumpy Old Sailor*

        I’ve seen that kind of thing before, about exuding positivity, and I’m always, “What, do you want to see a sheen on my skin?”

        1. JustaTech*

          Like a snail? Or maybe a poison dart frog? Is “positivity” slippery or slimy or sticky? Or does it dry to glitter dust?

          I wouldn’t say anything but oh on the inside I’d be putting that person in the pigeon hole labeled “avoid if possible”.

          1. Not a mouse*

            Glitter, I’d think. Positivity is like glitter – many good things about it, but in excess, in the wrong places, or when inappropriate, can be rather a mess.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              All I can think now is about what happens if they start to doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.

            2. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

              Of course not. You want a subtle shimmer of positivity only on the places where the light would hit naturally.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        You had to promise to exude positivity? In writing? Yikes.

        The smartass in me would be asking for metrics: what kind of behaviour is considered “exuding positivity?” To what degree of intensity, and how often? For example, if I exude Level 10 Positivity all day Tuesday, can I bank some of that and just exude Level 5 Neutrality on Wednesday? Can I get a medical exemption if I have really bad period cramps or a toothache or something else that makes me feel less than Level 10 Positive?

        I mean, in reality I’d probably just sign their stupid document and go about exuding whatever emotion I would normally be feeling. But oh, I would have questions!

        1. North Wind*

          Yes, all kinds of weirdness there. I got out as soon as I could.

          I was in my 30’s in that job and it was kind of surreal. I felt like I took one tiny little wrong step in life and somehow ended up in a high school summer camp being treated like a recalcitrant teenager. I didn’t even push back over signing those agreements. All very weird.

      3. Alice Ulf*

        o__O I would certainly be exuding something by the end of that process, but I don’t think it would be positivity.

    5. Nephron*

      I am a u.s. federal employee and did the oath to defend the constitution from threats both foreign and domestic. But that is a bit specific.

    6. Alice*

      Sounds like Dave Ramsey to me…I believe currently being sued by an ex employee who was fired for getting pregnant outside marriage (they tried to spin it that she had signed a moral rule book and had broken “the contract” and so this warranted her being fired). He’s talked openly on the show about the detailed hiring procedures for his staff (including spousal interviews). These docs seem to be fairly prevalent in religious circles

    7. pantslesseconomist*

      When I started adjuncting at a public state university (in a blue state!) I had to swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, which was pretty weird, but less weird than this.

    8. Ex-Teacher*

      One school district I worked at required me to sign an oath to uphold the constitution, which was odd. That was a county requirement for any and all public employees though, and it was a one-sentence oath upholding the US Constitution and had no extraneous clauses or expectations, so it wasn’t problematic, just odd.

    9. Alexis*

      When I did a co-op at a part of my Provincial government, I had to swear a relatively short oath to the Queen. Our copies of Adobe were licensed to “HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND, ELIZABETH II”

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Right? I had no idea that cults employed people. Gives a whole new meaning to the word recruiting. OP if they ask you to buy Nike shoes and get a bowl haircut I’d make sure to quit without notice.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Bunny Girl, look up ANY of the wild stuff Scientology does to their members/employees. Truly amazing.

        I kind of wish would could crowdfund for OP’s lawyer fees.

        We have some sort of ethics/code of conduct/etc in our handbook and it’s longer than 40 pages, but that’s the handbook. Is this more than a handbook?

        1. Harvey 6 3.5*

          And a good employment lawyer might be able to identify which parts of this “oath” are enforceable and legal and which aren’t. It may well be entirely aspirational and have no legal force as against public policy (or not).

          1. Sad Desk Salad*

            I don’t know what state LW is in, but my guess is the bulk of it will not be. This is more likely an attempt to bully and intimidate their employees into silence. It’s a cult tactic.

            And their likely practice of suing bad reviewers is not going to be particularly successful, I’d imagine. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              I agree that the company would quite likely not have a lot of success in lawsuits. But even if an employee wins, it’s still a huge pain, takes a lot of time, and can cost them a lot in lawyer fees/missed work.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            My guess is that it is unenforceable for various reasons. We can start with the OP’s question of what does this mean. For a contract to be enforceable, it can’t be totally vague. But the OP should not rely on random internet commenters such as myself. A real legal review is called for. And a solid round of resume polishing.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I was so hoping to hear someone recommend resume polishing and job hunting (and was coming to recommend the same myself).

              OP – even if you are committed to the mission of this company, there have to be other organizations out there that fill the same need without this level of dysfunction. 40 page oaths/pledges/whatever this document is are very not normal. Don’t sign that without letting an employment lawyer read it carefully.

              1. Observer*

                I was so hoping to hear someone recommend resume polishing and job hunting (and was coming to recommend the same myself

                Yeah. I decided to respond before reading all the comments. But that was what I had to say. Because this is lunacy, and this is not a place any person should subject themselves to if they have any other options.

                1. Zennish*

                  This. The existence of the document and the fact that someone thought it was a good idea is a big red “Get Out!” sign, regardless of whether its legal, enforceable, whatever… it still indicates a culture wildly out of touch with reality, work norms, appropriate employer/employee relations, etc. etc.

              2. pancakes*

                For sure, but this company seems to have been very dysfunctional before the loyalty oath was unveiled. “In the past there have been issues with religious harassment, sexual harassment, and general abuse all coming from management and administration.” The loyalty oath is terrible, but by all appearances this was a terrible place to work well before the idea of staying there called for hiring a lawyer. To be clear I fully agree that’s essential if the letter writer does want to stay, but I don’t know why they would.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  The thing is sometimes some people don’t realize the dysfunction till it is either impacting them or put into writing. Or they realize that a place is dysfunctional, but figure if the dysfunction is contained to a corner and doesn’t impact them it’s something you can cope with (a la the not in touch with reality employees we read about all the time on this site) until you just can’t cope or work around the issue anymore. Feels like this document may have been that “this place’s dysfunction can’t be ignored anymore” tipping point.

          3. Kacihall*

            It’s been awhile since I took business law, but consideration was important. Both sides have to get something for it to be a legal contract. So if there are 40 pages demanding OP be completely loyal but not spelling out what OP will get for that loyalty, then it isn’t legal.

        2. Miss Fisher*

          Not just their employees. Several members of the church of scientology own businesses and employ other scientologists. I think there was a couple episodes of Leah Remini’s show where she interviewed a couple non scientologists who worked for these employees, along with former scientologists who lost josb etc over it.

        3. quill*

          Honestly these days, can you afford to run a cult that isn’t also a business? There’s not as many desert compounds for you to squat in, Manson family style.

            1. Jam on Toast*

              “Focusing on end of days, our cult has seen a year-over-year inculcation growth rate of 150%. By Q3 of 2023, we expect to have more than 10,000 hopelessly dependent devotees in 24 states, with strong, yet mindless, growth expected through 2024. Please note, our business plan does not extend past 2025, as that is when our lizard overlords will come to earth to reclaim us and the current instability of the Gorn$-US$ exchange rate makes long term business projections unreliable”

        4. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Our handbook at least also includes a whole bunch of other routine employee conduct things like expense policies & professional independence requirements, not just ethics!

          1. Clisby*

            When I worked where there was a company handbook, we did have to sign it – but it wasn’t taking some kind of oath. It was just affirming that we had read it.

            1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

              One place I worked, employees were caught stealing some of the food products that we made. “But no one ever said we couldn’t!” It was on the very first page of the employee handbook. Read the handbook, don’t steal product, don’t pledge eternal loyalty.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I shake my head at anyone who makes it past the age of eight without learning that something doesn’t have to be specifically prohibited to be disallowed. (Glaring at you, Air Bud.)

                My job’s employee handbook has zero rules against murdering coworkers, duck clubs, or defecating in office plants. Doing any of those will nevertheless result in being fired.

                1. Fitz*

                  I do a lot of policy and procedure enforcement and I have more than once pulled out, “There’s no policy saying you can’t do something stupid, but you still shouldn’t do it.”

        5. Elizabeth West*

          I’ve been devouring info about this cult in relation to a future project, and it’s gobsmackingly effed up. Sea Org members get room and board and free (mandatory) Scientology courses but if they leave the Sea Org, even if they remain in Scientology, they get billed for those courses. Oh, and let’s not forget the billion-year contract they have to sign.

          It’s not a church. It’s a business. None of what they do is legal for a business employer, including child labor (really). But because they bullied the IRS into giving them a tax exemption (no, really), they get away with it.

          The OP’s boss sounds like he’s trying to give the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard a run for his money.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Dave Ramsey’s business is 1000% a cult. This sounds par for the course for him (and maybe it is)

        1. FG*

          He did spring to mind. But his company is so notorious that I can’t imagine an employee would be surprised by something like this.

        2. Lattes are for lovers*

          One of my hobbies is keeping up with the Dave Ramsey nuttiness. His business had some negative (but well-deserved IMO) press the past few years. It would not surprise me at all if he had his employees to sign this garbage document. He is a total control freak.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            If you’re interested, the podcast Scientology Fair Game (referring to the bullying / stalking tactics the cult spends its money on to harass ex-members and anyone they deem a threat) has talked to ex-members of LDS, NXIVM, Moonies, and even a survivor of the People’s Temple. It’s hosted by Leah Remini and Mike Rinder who also did the TV program.

            1. catsoverpeople*

              There was also an A&E special on Hulu a few months ago called something like Extreme Cults and Religious Beliefs. I recall episodes on NXIVM and also that one that descended from the Moonies where they bring their AR-15s to church for a blessing ceremony….sorry, can’t remember what it’s called!

              Anyway. To the OP, yes, my first thought was “OMG get out of there! Work literally anywhere else, this is not normal!” I hope that’s not as unhelpful as I feel typing it.

      3. Gracely*

        Cults absolutely employ people. Like, a lot of them. It makes it even harder for those people to get out of them, because leaving means they won’t even have an income.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Many cults employ but don’t pay – so you can’t even save up to leave. They’ll meet all your physical needs while you’re compliant, but don’t expect to depart with more than the shirt on your back and perhaps a flea in your ear.

      4. Migraine Month*

        My first professional job was with a company that the entire city referred to as a cult. As in the first things people said were always, “Don’t they work you to death there?” and “Have you been drinking [CEO’s] Kool-Aid?”

        They’re… not wrong.

      5. DC Exiled in TX*

        Just coming in to say your name made me smile, Bunny Girl. That’s what I call my LO.

      6. Zeus*

        A court recently decided that a religious cult in my country (Aotearoa New Zealand) had to recognise some former members as having been employees, as the work they did when they were children (!!) was that of employees and not volunteers. Which means that the children who are currently in there are also being used as employees.

      1. quill*

        40 pages is approximately 20 thousand words (less with business formatting, not prose…).

        I cannot imagine writing 40 pages of anything except a dissertation or a novella. Especially not some sort of “loyalty oath.”

        1. The OTHER Other*

          I hope LW is able to post it online if possible, and also mention it on Glassdoor.

      2. Lilo*

        I’m going to bet there’s references to the Uniform Commercial Code and Admiralty law in there.

        At least, if this is Sovereign Citizen stuff.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Well, the upside would be that (I’m pretty sure) as soon as you say “sovereign citizen” in court, you lose.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          The Sovereign Citizen movement is yet another dangerous domestic terrorist group in the US that is so ludicrous it’s really hard to take seriously.

          (Which I realize is often deliberate, particularly for many White Supremacist movements.)

    2. Elle Woods*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking too. I can’t even begin to imagine what is in that document.

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

      “If it looks like a cult, and it quacks like a cult… It’s either a duck or a cult.”

      1. Calamity Janine*

        “unless it’s the duck club of AAM fame of yore, then it’s a duck AND a cult. a sexy, sexy duck cult.”

  2. Amber Rose*

    Please tell me you’re looking for an escape route OP. -_-

    Also please feel free to share sections of this 40 page document (I understand that you probably can’t of course). It sounds like a hell of a read.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I can just imagine the kind of heathen hunt that that would stir up at this cuckoo bananapants company! “WHO IS THE DISLOYAL ONE WHO REVEALED OUR SECRETS?!??”

      1. Chickaletta*

        I came here to vote “aye” to this motion. Dying to read it! 40 pages though, I hope there are Cliff Notes.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      On that escape route:

      OP, read the linked letter “my boss makes me sign personal contracts for every rule he implements” and the update. Things got better in that situation only after nearly half the department quit, and only because the HR department was able to put the terrible boss on a short leash.

      There’s no one to rein in the CEO at your current job. The only way to make this situation better for you is to start looking for another job.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And I fear that place is only improved for as long as HR has the ability to keep that manager on a short leash. The minute they get distracted he’s going to revert to his prior antics I suspect.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Agreed. OP needs to start job hunting.

      I’m expecting the lawyer who looks over this will find several reasons why it shouldn’t be signed. Though that does have some use in delaying when the employer fires OP for not signing it. But even if OP can get out of signing it, I wouldn’t want to stay working for someone this crazy.

      1. Bets Counts*

        Would the OP be able to file for unemployment under ‘Constructive Discharge’ if fired for not signing this bananas document?

      2. JB*

        Maybe make sure local media “accidentally” get a copy of all 40 pages once OP has left the company. They’d have a field day with it and any legal action taken would only make their public image worse.

  3. to varying degrees*

    WTF? My seminary didn’t make me sign something that crazy! Yeah, this might be my hill.

  4. Chauncy Gardener*

    Just when I thought we’ve seen everything here, this comes along! Holy cow. OP, please take this “oath” to a lawyer and please post an update!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It’s not that your job isn’t terrible, it’s that your job is terrible in boring ways. Whereas there are real innovations every year in how to make a job horrible in completely novel ways!

    1. Loz*

      Exactly. Establish if it’s a contract or not. If not, roll eyes, sign and move on with your day (potentially looking for a new job).

      If it is, probably best not to sign it. Play stall tactics while looking for a new job.

      Either way, I too want an update!

  5. King Friday XIII*

    You mentioned the CEO is a religious leader… if they are Christian, I’m curious how they’d react if you said you couldn’t sign it because your complete loyalty was was to Jesus.

    1. Miss Fisher*

      So off topic, but I just watched one of the docs on the FLDS and Warren Jeffs was pulling in members and asking them to pledge loyalty. Someone answered him with something similar about serving God, not him. He lost it, had the parents disown the kid and throw him out etc.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I just finished watching that and was thinking that this document is very much a Jeffs move. Not in terms of seriousness of course, but that something doesn’t have to be legal to have power over you and mess with your mindset.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        Plus don’t those types of cults want to get rid of the adolescent boys anyhow? (I think I remember that from Under the Banner of Heaven.)

        1. Miss Fisher*

          Yeah that was a thing with them. They used any excuse to kick the young men out so they could marry off the young women to the elder church members.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I suspect he would not recognize the distinction between loyalty to him and loyalty to Jesus.

      1. quill*

        Yeah they would probably be like “I am the conduit to the lord on earth” because arrogance is sort of a defining feature of this kind of person.

      2. Calamity Janine*

        sadly i think you are exactly right about how that will go down. “jesus has commanded me to be your boss, therefore loyalty to god is loyalty to me! l’etat c’est moi is old news – god c’est moi, too!”

      3. Polly Hedron*

        Then you say, “I will have to pray about that.”
        If they come back later, “I prayed about that, and Jesus told me not to take the oath.”

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      TBH, I spent many years in the evangelical community, and I could 100% see somebody doing that, in all seriousness. I would love to see how the company would react to that as well.

      1. Anonymous Lady from a Fantasy Kingdom*

        I spent many years in a medieval history club. I remember serious debate about whether ‘swearing fealty’ to a pretend kingdom was theologically acceptable.
        By the arguments I heard about abstract concepts being equivalent to a false god. I can certainly see someone refusing to sign on religious basis.

        1. Recovering Milton Scholar*

          This is (to the best of my remembrance) the exact argument Milton makes in Tenure of Kings and Magistrates. So that debate has been going on for a long time!

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Former Principal Herald of Caid here, as well as practicing Christian: fortunately, a Venn diagram of my church’s theology and these oaths pretty much did not intersect.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Former SCA represent! I was in the Kingdom of the Mists in the 80s. Even back then the SCA was decidedly not religious, and discouraged religious entanglements in the pretend.

    4. Barry*

      They would reply to the effect that loyalty to Jesus equals loyalty to the CEO, and vice versa.

    5. Chickaletta*

      The way evangelicals get around this is by asserting “discipleship” as a Biblical principle. All a leader has to do is assert themselves as a disciple of Jesus to garner followers (i.e. they’re not claiming to be on Jesus’ level, but they are claiming to be like John).

    6. yala*

      Religious leaders like CEO tend to view themselves as one and the same. What, are you saying that they’re NOT placed above you in the hierarchy deigned by God? How dare you question them. If you were meant to question them, you’d be the one in charge.

    7. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      Or, for real craziness – figure out a way to say your loyalty is to Satan /in writing/, get fired, and then sue for religious discrimination …..

      this is a bad idea don’t do it, but laugh about it a lot ….

  6. KHB*

    I’m not a lawyer, but if this “oath” is indeed all one-way, doesn’t that make it completely unenforceable? One of the key criteria that makes a contract a contract is that both parties have to offer something to the other.

    1. Harvey 6 3.5*

      There is a requirement for “consideration” but it is likely that their continued employment for pay would meet that prong.

    2. Lilo*

      I have not read the document this is NOT legal advice.

      But I’m going to say that generally extremely vague loyalty oaths are NOT enforceable. A court isn’t going to enforce a vague, undefined concept like “complete loyalty”. But people can sue for nonsense reasons and it can still be a pain.

      Get out of there, LW.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. It would almost certainly get thrown out in court, especially if your employment is used as coercion (see how many noncompetes are deemed unenforceable), but they can make your life difficult for awhile.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, personally I would sign the document and promptly ignore it (while hard-core searching for a different job). But I guess I wouldn’t unilaterally advise that to everyone. Different people have different levels of risk tolerance.

      3. yala*

        Plus, in 40 pages, I wouldn’t trust for there not to be some kind of fine print that WOULD open up OP for legal action

    3. OrigCassandra*

      It could be what’s called a “contract of adhesion,” yes. (I am also not a lawyer.) But it’d take a court case to figure that out for sure.

      OP, I smell bees bees bees BEES BEES EVIL BEES. Get all the way out of there as soon as you possibly can.

    4. Anon all day*

      I am a lawyer, but I don’t do contract law (so my next statements are even more dangerous, lol), but generally, yeah, there’s the legal concept of consideration, where both sides have to receive something. This “contract” is super sketch. I would definitely not sign it, at least not without massive revisions and thorough review by an attorney who knows employment and contract law (which is further BS because that costs money!).

      1. Lilo*

        I guess this could maybe if you squint sideways be a non compete, but given non competes must be limited to be enforceable and this appears to be vague and unlimited, I don’t know that we even get to the consideration question at all.

        But I still 100% would not sign this.

        And again NOT legal advice. I don’t have the whole document I don’t know what state this is, I just see details that make me very suspicious.

        1. Lilo*

          I’m just going to frame it as thus. If for whatever reason LW, you or a colleague did already sign this thing (which again not legal advice) don’t let that fact be used to bully or scare you.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          They also need to protect a legitimate business interest and “don’t hurt our feelings” does not meet that threshold.

          But definitely get a lawyer, OP. I agree if you did sign it you can probably just ignore it. But save yourself a headache if you can. Maybe you and some coworkers can pool some money to get a lawyer to take a look at it if the cost is prohibitive.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think the fact that they call it an oath likely makes it unenforceable as a contract.

    6. Not Tony*

      This oath of complete loyalty sounds like part of the process of becoming a “made man.” In which event, the enforcement mechanism is somewhat “extra-legal.”

  7. The Cosmic Avenger*

    LW, if you know there are other coworkers who hate this as much as you do, and you’re ready to tell the company that you need to have your lawyer review it but the cost of a lawyer is a real barrier for you, you could see if any of those coworkers would help split the lawyer’s fee. Ask the lawyer first if they would review the document for a small group of you; if there is a case there, they might have multiple clients that would require the same services, so it might be a good deal for them. (Any contract/employment lawyers out there, or anyone who knows the business side of the legal profession, who can say whether this is feasible?)

    That said, if you can run, then run far, run fast, just RUN AWAY. This employer sucks and that’s not going to change.

    1. Chapeau*

      You can also try reaching out to your state or county bar association for a referral to an employment attorney. Many bar associations offer consultations for a low fee, like 30 minutes for $30 or similar. While they’d probably need more than 30 minutes to review a 40-page document, they may be able to give you a quick review in that time frame, or tell you how legal this is in your state.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yes – when I was laid off I found an employment attorney through my local bar association because I wanted one to review the severance agreement before I signed (which my then-employer was fine with, by the way – OP, if you mention a lawyer and they give you grief, that’s a big red flag). It wasn’t that expensive; low double digits, if I recall correctly.

      2. Anonymoose*

        To be fair, the lawyer doesn’t need 30 minutes to review the document. They would need 2 minutes to know that it’s bad, and 28 minutes to write a stern letter.
        (I know this isn’t accurate, but you get my point – the lawyer doesn’t have to read every word)

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I suspect a reasonably competent lawyer would just need the first page to know if it was unenforceable or actually criminal.

    2. Mark*

      +1 on splitting lawyer’s fees. It saved me a lot of money when I first needed an employment lawyer (in Ontario). YMMV depending on your lawyer and the local laws.

      +1000 on getting out of there ASAP.

    1. Beth*

      I have a evil wish to take a red pen to the document and return it (unsigned, of course) covered in corrections and editorial notes. Maybe write “SEE ME” in red at the top.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Hours? I’m a pretty fast writer, and this would take me weeks at a minimum. Definitely a good use of the business’ time, both writing this and then making employees read it on the clock.

  8. Kagan MacTane*

    I’m astounded that Alison didn’t just say “get out”. This company sounds like it was toxic even before this “loyalty oath”, and that catapults it straight into the realm of “cult-like”.

    OP, I’d take Alison’s advice about saying you need your lawyer to look at it, but I’d also be looking very hard for another job. This place is bad and is just getting worse. Save yourself.

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I wish I could believe that it would help. This totally sounds like Dave Ramsey’s company, where he’s fired people for being pregnant, pulls guns out at meetings, and these are the things widely published! There’s plenty of press, yet somehow people still recommend him for financial guidance. It’s truly baffling.

      1. This is Artemesia*

        His financial guidance is actually excellent, particularly for people struggling to stay solvent on low incomes. But his need to be the top monkey in the troop is pathetic and risible; can’t imagine the amount of self respect you would have to give up to work for him.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          There’s plenty of other places to get the same advice, none of it is unique. I could never in good faith tell someone to listen to his guidance or pay of any of his materials. Much like how CFA or Mission BBQ may have good food, I can’t ever recommend them when their values are problematic.

          1. yala*

            Yeah, I remember my mom assuming I’d read his stuff because I was using the envelope method. Nope, I’m just bad at impulse control, and making my money a physical thing seemed like a good idea.

            (I should probably go back to that, lol)

          2. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

            I just feel like popping off on bad things, so I’ll add: Mission BBQ also commits the ultimate foodie sin of the food just being…not good. I was working next door to one a while back, and a coworker brought me a surprise plate before I knew anything about the place. The pulled pork and brisket were dripping with moisture. “Oh, it’s so juicy! That’s good!” I thought. Then I took a bite.

            I’d never had BBQ that tasted like it was dipped in straight-up tap water before. I’m 100% positive that’s how they moisten it up. The bread and sides were pretty clearly all cheap canned stuff and tasted that way.

            To top it off, a veteran friend of mine went to this “pro-military” establishment, and was told they didn’t offer a veteran discount there. *Record scratch*

      1. pancakes*

        If the other behaviors and patterns described in the letter didn’t do something locally I’m not sure this is much worse, but maybe.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Your management are batguano. Get out NOW before you find yourself fleeing from a mysterious coastal village, pursued by a giant balloon.

      1. The Princess of Pure Reason*

        No. 6 might have the answer – “I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.”

  9. Venus*

    A thought about paying for a lawyer:
    It sounds like there are potentially other employees who are troubled by this document. If other people are complaining, then suggest that you all contribute toward the cost, or at the very least if you do consult a lawyer then ask if others are willing / able to help offset the cost a bit.

    1. Tracy Flick*

      It will make that lawyer’s day. That lawyer will be tying a napkin around their neck before sitting down to write that strongly-worded letter.

  10. Sick of Workplace Bullshit (she/her)*

    Holy fudgebuckets!! Run if you can. And please update us!

    Good luck!

  11. Calamity Janine*

    i’m fairly certain that official royal retainers pledging service to the crown in days of yore had less comprehensive codes of conduct and oaths of loyalty to swear. if Lancelot can wander up to your contract and start making faces of “wow, your liege is asking for a LOT…”, it’s probably time to become a knight errant instead of staying in this court.

    though quite frankly i like the idea of simply rewriting the contract, in part, and flipping it back to them. if they expect loyalty, you *also* expect loyalty. your benefits in full and a half, a guarantee of a job, no talking badly of you to any future employers under pain of death, the business must be completely loyal and supportive of you as a person on the individual level or else it shall be drawn and quartered… oh, they won’t sign? then you also won’t sign. nothing personal, but that’s just business!

    (don’t actually do that. instead i think all efforts should be focused on getting the hell out of dodge. but that uno-reverse-card moment would be a great way to toss a bomb over your shoulder on your way out..)

    1. quill*

      If the company is going to go into arthurian mythos, does that mean having an affair with your boss’ spouse is treason?

      1. Calamity Janine*

        don’t worry, the oath covers that: it’s courtly love, so you gotta be REAL emo about the affair you have. that’s the proper procedure!

      2. Beth*

        I think it means having an affair with the queen is required. Have to live up to the mythos, after all.

        1. quill*

          I mean, if your options are “affair” or “go missing and presumably die questing for the grail” I know which one is going to be more popular.

          1. Calamity Janine*

            something, something, really good at finding *her* holy grail ifyaknowwhaddaimean, et cetera, i’ll see myself out,

    2. Beth*

      The formal oath of service to the actual crown of England is actually quite short and succinct. A 40-page document smacks of “jumped-up nobodies”, wouldn’t you say?

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. The oath MP’s take is 2 lines long

        “I (name of Member) swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God. ”

        The affirmation (version for people not wanting to invoke a deity) is even shorter because it omits the second sentence. Oaths shouldn’t be 40 pages long.

        Heck most contracts of employment I’ve had in the past have only been 3-4 pages. Usually with a longer staff handbook on the intranet to go with it which has all the technical detail of how to get your building pass and the forms for applying for things.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Two lines long, and meaningful enough that when Sinn Fein candidates are elected to the British Parliament to represent Northern Ireland, they stay home, because they will not swear allegiance to the queen, and won’t be seated as MPs without taking that oath.

          Everyone knows this up front–the voters don’t expect those candidates to go to Westminster if elected.

    3. Sara without an H*

      The official US Presidential Oath of Office is exactly one sentence long. A little online research turned up a couple of medieval oaths of fealty, all of them one sentence long.

      Forty pages? Nope.

    4. The Editor-In-Chief*

      The Magna Carta, cornerstone of English law, was basically just the barons saying “Haaaaang on a minute, here, John Lackland…. this is some bullshit and *we* are going to tell you what you, as king, get and don’t get to do.”

    5. Not Tony*

      Will the CEO vow that you will always have a place at their hearth, and meat and mead at their table, and that they will ask no service of you that will bring you into dishonor? Will they swear this by the old gods and the new?

  12. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    This company did an in house review of its major issues: harassment, insecurity, bad reviews and decided the way to fix it is to make everyone shut up about it?

    1. Pippa K*

      That’s actually pretty traditional. Harassment victims are often required to sign non disclosure agreements as part of the resolution of the matter. My employer has done this more than once, formally, and takes this general approach informally all the time. (A senior leader once took the position that talking about salary inequities is“divisive” and harmful to our community. The inequities aren’t divisive; talking about them is the problem.)

      1. Observer*

        Yes, but at least in those cases there is a settlement. This sounds like they are trying to get the NDA without the settlement.

    1. Becky*

      This is what is running through my head:
      We gotta get out of this place
      If it’s the last thing we ever do
      We gotta get out of this place
      ‘Cause girl, there’s a better life for me and you

    2. Hannah Lee*

      And as you’re heading out the door, shoot a copy of this agreement to whatever official oversees your state’s labor laws, and/or local workers’ rights organizations.

  13. EPLawyer*

    1. Tell them flat out, you cannot sign any document without having it reviewed by a lawyer. Their reaction will be very valuable information. I will bet you my fantasy quilt shop, they tell you no need to have a lawyer sign it. If they threaten to fire you if you don’t sign without having a lawyer look at it, that tells you all you need to know.

    2. GET OUT. GET OUT NOW. The place already sucks. Then this loyalty oath is basically saying “we aren’t going to change and we expect you to not complain anymore about how badly we suck.”

    3. GET OUT NOW. GET OUT NOW. if you can afford to leave without having another job lined up, don’t even bother with #1. Just go straight to 2. Tell them you are not signing such a ridulous document and that you are giving your two weeks notice or if they prefer today is your last day.

    1. High Score!*

      Actually, just put off signing the document as long as you can with vague statements of “o I’ll get to it later”, and then if approached with a pen, “mmmm my carpel tunnel is acting up, leave it on my desk”, and if they insist, “eh sorry, I never sign anything until my lawyer looks it over”
      Passively refusing to sign it as long as you can buys you time to search for another job and rally other employees to also resist.
      Yeah, get out of there ASAP

  14. LavaLamp (she/her)*

    I would post this on the internet. I’m betting a good bit of it isn’t enforceable, and it’s a pile of BS, but also seek out a lawyer because I’m not one, and GTFO.

  15. Emily*

    This is bananas, but no one is going to successfully sue you for leaving a negative, truthful review based on signing a vague agreement that you didn’t even get anything for signing except not losing your job. For sure leave because they’re crazy, but I wouldn’t worry about the legal part of this. (They can certainly threaten to sue you, but they can do that without the agreement.)

    1. Lenora Rose*

      Nuisance suits still cost a lot of time and money, and even if 90% of the case is tossed out as nonsense, it only takes them including one possibly enforceable clause out of all their complaints to force it into court or settlement. That’s the reason many people worry about legalities.

      1. Observer*

        Sure, nuisance suits are a pain and can cost a pretty penny. But what makes you think that the absence of a 40 page loyalty oath is going to keep people like this from suing?

      2. Observer*

        it only takes them including one possibly enforceable clause out of all their complaints to force it into court or settlement.

        That’s actually not necessarily the case.

        In this particular case, it’s almost certainly not the case. This was not written by a (competent and ethical) lawyer. So you can be sure that they don’t have anything in there about “severability” etc. Which means that if even one clause is unenforceable, the whole thing probably isn’t. If, as is the case, most of it is unenforceable, then the whole thing is meaningless.

  16. Antilles*

    Under no circumstances should you sign this. I don’t know if it would hold up in court or if it’s even legally binding, but I wouldn’t sign it no matter what.
    That said, there’s a good chance that they don’t *actually* want to get in a legal battle over this, so merely insisting on “my lawyer needs to look at this first” might end it right there. Or that if they still push, having a lawyer look at it and provide a letter on legal letterhead about it might get you out of it as well.

  17. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Your local newspaper/TV network would likely be interested in an anonymous heads up.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, if you’re in Missouri, they’d probably just be like, “Awww yeah, this is just what we need!” :P

  18. Watry*

    “Religious harassment, sexual harassment, and general abuse”, “can’t complain to HR because they are part of [it]”, “40-page oath”(I note that you don’t call it an employment contract!), “hired from CEO’s church” (no indication that this business is religion-related).

    This is beyond evil bees.

  19. Diana Trout*

    Not to be rude, and you may have legit reasons, but given all of the things you mention in your opening paragraph, why the F are you still working there. PLEASE tell me you are looking…IDK where you are, but if you are in the US it is quite the job seeker’s market.

    in the mean time – I concur with every other comment. Don’t sign this BS.

  20. CarCarJabar*

    Well, I’ll tell you what I’d do.
    Take it to my lawyer and have them insert similar language from the employee’s perspective. Minimum 20% annual raises, 12 weeks vacation, mandatory 10% 401k match, unlimited snacks, weekly massages, a dog-friendly office, perpetual work from home, etc, etc, etc.

    And in return, you offer your ‘complete loyalty’.

    1. Nina_Bee*

      Wasn’t there a guy who did that to a bank about a credit card? Gave himself all these great rates and perks. he he

  21. JN*

    I stress enough signing a one-page contract that makes perfect and clear sense, much less a wackadoodle 40-page one asking for my soul and future children.

    In the immortal words of Monty Python’s King Arthur: RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

    1. LimeRoos*

      hahaha, that Run Away! Run Away! Was exactly what was going through my head too. OP, update your resume and nope on outta there if you can.

    2. mreasy*

      Yeah I never signed the extremely run of the mill employment contract my old employer asked for (just kept delaying), cuz it made me too uncomfortable. This is banana crackers !

  22. Calamity Janine*

    i think it says something about how bonkers the loyalty oath is that we’re focusing on that instead of the first paragraph, which may as just well read “my office is nothing but angry bees. my coworkers? bees. my computer? it’s also made of bees. the desk? the carpet? the building itself? it’s all bees. it’s all angry bees all the way down. every time i go to the bathroom i have to bring my epi-pen, because everything is bees, that’s how bees it all is here. the name of the business is THE BEES CIRCLE OF HELL: HERE ARE BEES, and every morning i walk under our big gate emblazoned with Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here, Unless You’re Hoping For Bees. but don’t worry, this gets worse! somehow! i know you’re all already imagining me, the letter writer, in something like a sad ASPCA commercial but for people – sarah mclochlan is playing, i’m looking mournfully at the camera while shivering, the narrator is pleading how for just pennies a day you can help poor abused workers like me to not be covered in bees – but it does get worse than this pile of evil bees!”

    1. Calamity Janine*

      p.s. sorry to all who read this comment and are now stuck in the penalty box of Bees Doesn’t Look Like A Real Word Anymore with me

      1. JanetM*

        I have read (I think in a textbook, but it’s been a long time) that the first child abuse laws in the USA were patterned after animal abuse laws already in existence.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yes, that’s correct. Partially because the people who championed them were animal welfare activists who ended up with the custody of an abused child, and partly because children at the time had about the same rights as animals anyways so it wasn’t a bad comparison.

    2. Purple Chairs*

      Right, like this is not a normal company that one day decided to go batsh!t crazy. It was born of crazy, raised on crazy, and feeds upon crazy. I’m honestly surprised it took them THIS long to unleash the loyalty manifesto.

      1. quill*

        It’s just melting evil honey and evil beeswax into the parking lot, which is ALSO made of bees, each waving a red flag.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Oh, bravo.

      Best comment of the day? Heck, this could be comment of the month. Well done.

  23. thelettermegan*


    Do not sign

    Make moves to resign immediately

    This isn’t a job anymore

  24. irene adler*

    So what would happen if the loyalty oath were redacted to remove all the offending statements and then signed? Yeah, including that ‘complete loyalty’ stuff.

      1. irene adler*

        So one hands back a signed, one-sentence-left loyalty oath:

        “To maintain complete loyalty to [the business] and to pursue its mission and initiatives.” becomes

        I, [OP name] “maintain complete loyalty to” [signature of OP]

    1. Lab Boss*

      That’s what I was thinking! I’ve done that with something as simple as a lease and it caused a bit of a commotion. I can only imagine the impact of returning a fully redacted and addended copy of this… monstrosity… to management.

  25. Forty Years In the Hole*

    Unless, of course the station manager and the chief editor are “of the church.” Cue Stephen King mini-series…

  26. Essentially Cheesy*

    My only response to being required to take such an “oath” is “Oh Hell No”. Which might get me rejected as a candidate anyway.

    (I’ve been at my job for over 15 years so I do really know something about loyalty through the ups and downs but this sounds bat-shit crazy.)

  27. Bookgarden*

    Get out!! Even if the contract may not be enforceable, there is a reason they are creating these. Maybe I’ve been reading to many political stories lately, but I’m worried the reasons your company felt the need to create a loyalty oath could get the company (and by extension you) into trouble.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      It does reek of “How can we keep any whistleblowers in line? I know! An Oath of Statement!”

  28. High Score!*

    I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice but I think when you have no other option and sign involuntarily then it doesn’t count. Regardless, lawyer up and get actual legal advice.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I think that sort of thing comes up when it’s signed after violence, or serious threat of violence. Like, literal gun to the head, or “We have your pet iguana hostage, sign over the family fortune or Iggy gets it.”

      The OP and their coworkers do have an option, to quit. Or let themselves be fired, which might be better legally.

      However, you can’t sign away your legal rights. IANAL, but I *think* this means that those waivers they have people sign on adventure outings will cover genuine accidents, because those happen–people slip and break their legs rock climbing. But waivers don’t cover negligence by the company; if a rope snapped because they didn’t inspect it ever, the company is not in the clear.

  29. CatCat*

    This sounds like the kind of thing a long ago ex-job would have tried to pull. The whole company set up sounds similar (CEO and most upper management and key roles from the same church).

    They did once try to get us to sign non-competes (for a role for which that would have been extremely legally dubious). I read it and flat out refused. They didn’t fire me, but I eventually left on my own accord due to nonsense power moves like that, harassment, and bullying.

  30. kiki*

    I know the LW likely wants advice for how to deal with this loyalty oath specifically, but I think the best advice I can give is to start applying to other jobs. This workplace is so far off the deep end that it will not get better in any meaningful way.

    Check with a lawyer first, but I would guess that a 40 page Loyalty Oath is not binding or enforceable in any real way. It may be easiest to go ahead and sign (after lawyer review!!) then make your way out,

  31. A Simple Narwhal*

    Yikes this company was already bad news BEFORE this fealty pledge was introduced. And at least when you pledged fealty to a lord, half of that agreement was the lord pledging protection to their vassal! Your cult leader boss seems to just want people to sell themselves to him.

    Do not sign this, and focus on getting the heck out of there!

  32. SoarklingBlue*

    Why am I suspecting this guy is like an RPG boss that will only reveal his true monstrous form if you say no to his demands?

    Get out of there!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That is a brilliant analogy and I love it! They probably think this is a mandatory quest that you MUST accept and complete by signing…

      (‘Why life is like a BioWare RPG’ is something I actually wrote once)

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Don’t mention BioWare RPGs– this boss is going to take inspiration from the Gray Wardens…

      2. Eater of Hotdish (fka jitm)*

        Um, I would read that. 100%.

        This organization sounds like the kind of place you fling a large jar of bees into, and then RUN.

    2. Calamity Janine*

      well no wonder this situation has gone from bad to worse, the 40 page loyalty oath is the phase change! GET OUT BEFORE HE GROWS MORE HEALTH BARS, LW

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Grows more health bars and becomes resistant to all forms of attack!

        There’s no shame in backing away from a boss fight you know you cannot win. Best to log off and find a different game to play. Especially if the game code appears to be actively cheating against you.

        1. Calamity Janine*

          sometimes you can’t solo the boss, there’s no shame in that. that’s why you bring a full party – one lawyer to tank, one lawyer to buff and remove debuffs, one real shark of a lawyer to be dps…

    3. Hannah Lee*

      “… like an RPG boss that will only reveal his true monstrous form if you say no to his demands”

      Or one who will reveal his true monstrous form after the employees have pledged fealty to him.

      It’s lose-lose for the employees, no matter which way the go.

      To quote wargames “The only winning move is not to play”

      LW – please get out.

  33. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Massive problems with harassment, discrimination, probably outright abusive behaviour and they do nothing but issue you an ‘oath’ to sign?

    I’m willing to bet that somewhere hidden in those 40 pages is something they’ve put in that’ll mean you’re in breach of the rules if you so much as breathe a word to anyone outside the company that you’ve been subject to harassment. Or any other negative behaviour.

    They’ll like,y dress it up as ‘loyalty’ but I’ll bet my next tea delivery that it in fact means ‘total and utter silence on your part forever, plus you better not quit’

    1. JustaTech*

      Also probably massively unequal arbitration clauses that stack the deck against the workers.

      OP this is *not* normal, and just to join the chorus, stall until you can leave. This is not a healthy, safe or sane working environment.

  34. SweetestCin*

    Its not Wednesday yet….so….


    This is a blaring red siren alarm, not just a red flag, a flashing red light with a 120dB siren going off. Bees? This is not bees. This is a nest of those huge hornets that appeared early pandemic, a 10×10 room sized nest. This is your sign from above that this place is just not cool.

  35. Petty Betty*

    As everyone is recommending – lawyer up.

    Alaska’s governor did a loyalty PLEDGE for state workers when he took office. It… did not go well for him. You can Google for details. Anchorage’s mayor has been hiring nothing but unqualified loyalists since he took office (by a very small margin) less than 18 months ago. It has been terrible.
    Both are of the same flavor religion, both are similarly politically aligned. Both are very… uh… personality like-(empty)minded.
    Googling Alaskan politics isn’t for the faint of heart. And what the media shows is so watered down and sanitized.

    Please, plan your escape. Smuggle copies of that loyalty document out of the office. Because of your CEO’s position with the church, don’t expect the local media to pick up the story, but let your lawyer determine if it’s worth trying (national media may cover it and show how local media covers for your CEO, never know).

    1. Miss Suzie*

      I worked for the state a number of years ago and we all had to sign a loyalty pledge saying that we would defend our state. Against whom? Another state? Oh no, Illinois is attacking? Checked with union lawyers they said sign it, it was not enforceable anyway.

  36. Falling Diphthong*

    Leaving all else aside, it doesn’t make sense to have a Statement of Oath. Or an Oath of Statement. You can have an Oath (or Statement) of Unswerving Loyalty, an Oath (or Statement) of Never Taking The Last Doughnut Unless I Know Bob Had A Shot At It, an Oath (or Statement) to Uphold The Bylaws Of The Avengers.

    You don’t have an oath of statement.

    1. kiki*

      I would love to read this document because I am 99.9% certain it is absolute nonsense gussied up in phrasing overheard in TV legal procedurals. Whoever put this together wanted this to sound ~ very serious ~ so they took two serious legal words and mashed them together for the title.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        I am 99.9% certain it is absolute nonsense gussied up in phrasing overheard in TV legal procedurals.

        Yeah, that would be my bet as well. Good luck, OP – we’re all cheering for you!

    2. Anonny*

      I like imagining the malicious compliance angle where one very sincere-sounding employee marks up all the grammatical and immaterial issues like this, nitpicks them back and forth for weeks and months, concerned their signature will be meaningless until they are fixed. Meanwhile, everyone else is fleeing out the back door.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Of all the replies today, this is my favorite. If you’re going to be ridiculous, at least use language properly!

    4. Not Your Admin Ass(t)*

      an Oath (or Statement) of Never Taking The Last Doughnut Unless I Know Bob Had A Shot At It

      I read that the first time as an oath (or statement) of F*** Bob, If He Wants That Doughnut I’m Gonna Take It Out Of Spite! XD

  37. Ana Gram*

    I’m a cop and we sign an annual document that’s sorta kinda like this…except less weird! It’s like 8-9 pages and is basically a short version of our most important general orders. Stuff like not harassing coworkers or citizens, not using illegal substances, not posting pics of yourself in uniform on social media, all pretty normal stuff. But we don’t swear loyalty to the department! We’re not medieval knights, for Pete’s sake!

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      What you describe sound pretty tame. Don’t harass citizens, yeah cool. 40-page loyalty pledge is sketchy AF.

  38. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

    I would never sign that. Ever. I don’t care what they say, the answer is nope, not at all. AND I’m getting my resume together and moonwalking out while flipping them the bird with both hands, grinning maliciously.

    The absolute fuckery is going on in there!

  39. Probably not admitted in your state*

    If there was no force or threat of force used to make you sign, the advice above almost certainly mistaken. That doesn’t mean it may not be enforceable for other reasons, but coercion isn’t likely one of them.

  40. Disco Janet*

    I had something similar. It wasn’t a loyalty oath but the owner of the company (marketing) asked us to sign new NDAs. This guy was extremely sketchy. Two of my coworkers took it to their lawyers who instructed them not to sign because it allowed both the company to charge us if equipment we were using broke (so like a computer stopped working), and the clients we worked for to directly sue us (the employees) if anything we did caused harm to the company even if we did it at the direction of the owner.

    There were about 12 of us working at that company and the owner said it was sign or we’d no longer have a job there. I think 4 people ended up signing.

      1. Disco Janet*

        Yes, although he left early the day of the deadline so the instructions were turn in your door key to the manager on duty if you refuse to sign. But all 8 of us turned in our keys.

  41. Veryanon*

    Forty pages? WTAF. NO. On the occasions where I’ve been asked to sign any kind of employment agreement, it was limited to protecting the company’s intellectual property and other confidential info, and I think it was maybe two pages long.
    At the very least, have a lawyer review it first, but it doesn’t sound legally enforceable to me (depending on your state). Unless you desperately need your job, I’d recommend not signing it and making them fire you. Then sue for wrongful termination.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Or just “forgetting” to sign it and hoping they actually don’t care enough to fire you over it. Best case it’s a half-baked thing an exec thought was a good idea but isn’t a real priority.

    2. londonedit*

      In the UK we tend to have employment contracts, and in my experience what that means is that you’re given a copy of the employee handbook, which sets out everything to do with the terms of your employment on both sides like (not an exhaustive list but you get the idea) holiday entitlement, working hours, notice periods, probationary period, pension scheme, sickness/maternity/paternity/flexible working policies, disciplinary procedures, what counts as gross misconduct, anything applicable about company property and copyright, and any other things like staff discounts or memberships etc. It’s a fairly long document in most cases. You also get a letter with your own personal terms of employment, starting salary etc, and you sign to say you agree to the terms and to everything that’s in the employee handbook. But there’s absolutely nothing about swearing complete loyalty to the company (even if there is a no moonlighting clause!)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Just had a look at the IT Acceptable Use policy here that all employees have to sign and even that, strict as is it, isn’t more than 4 pages!

        (Covers everything from ‘you shall not deliberately damage IT kit’ to ‘you shall not use our network to harass others’)

      2. UKDancer*

        Same. Employment contracts are fairly short in my experience, covering things like length of notice, pay and rations, main location and working hours. You agree in it to the employee handbook which covers terms and conditions at length.

        I’ve never had anything that looks like an oath of loyalty. I mean you agree not to the bits of the handbook covering not embezzling or selling proprietary information to the main competitor and usually not trashing the company on social media. But that’s as far as it goes for loyalty.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          The company I turned whistleblower on did *try* to get me to sign something that essentially said ‘will never say a bad word about the firm ever’ but given that I’d already quit it just magically disappeared from my email account…

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes absolutely I can see why you wouldn’t want to do that. The wording in my handbook is more like “I won’t post massively bad reviews of our major teapot designs on facebook.”

  42. PersephoneUnderground*

    If (and only if) you can’t get outta there, this kind of B.S. is why unions exist.

    Union contracts can change as much or as little about a workplace as you want, but they definitely mean the management can’t unilaterally change terms like this without agreement from the employees via union negotiation. Consider forming one if there are others as bothered by this and similar issues. Large union organizations offer lots of guidance and help for getting started. (Source: my office just unionized, relatively smoothly)

  43. Beboots*

    I work for the federal government of a non-US country, and we’re required to sign an oath or affirmation (oath has religious language, affirmation doesn’t) but it’s incredibly short. The affirmation reads: “I solemnly affirm that I will faithfully and honestly fulfil the duties that devolve on me by reason of my employment in the public service of [Country] and that I will not, without due authority, disclose or make known any matter that comes to my knowledge by reason of such employment.” We are also all expected to be familiar with a longer Code of Ethics document but it’s not a legal document, it’s a part of the expectations of work (transparency, respect, things like that)… and it applies equally to all federal servants, including managers and their duties. But it’s not an oath of unquestioning loyalty that we’re required to swear or sign.

  44. WorkingMom*

    It seems there is a lot of focus on this pledge but I got stuck on the first part of the letter:

    “My workplace is incredibly weird and, oftentimes, problematic. In the past there have been issues with religious harassment, sexual harassment, and general abuse all coming from management and administration. You can’t complain to HR because they are part of the harassment as well.”

    I know not everyone can just get up and quit, but I am wondering why the LW is still working at a place like this.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*


      Run away!

      Join the circus or whatever, but get a different job with someplace sane.

  45. Observer*

    My workplace is incredibly weird and, oftentimes, problematic.

    That’s a MAJOR understatement!

    What do I do?

    Start planning your exit. Save every penny you can to create a cushion if you need to walk before you find a new job. And Start looking like mad. Your company is so far off the deep end, that they might as well have fallen through the proverbial hone in the earth to China.

    I’d be willing to bet that this Statement or Oath is not legally binding, but who needs that hassle. Don’t sign, and if they insist DO take it to your lawyer.

    Also, it sounds to me like this place has warped your sense of what it reasonable and normal in the workplace. Please start reading this site and similar, to help re-calibrate. And do understand that when you move you are probably going to have to re-learn a lot.

    Lots of luck. Please do update us.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP, why do you still work at this place? From the level of dysfunction you describe, it can’t be well run, even as a business, let alone a cult. If you hang around long enough, you may find yourself suddenly jobless when the place goes under.

      Do not sign the 40-page claptrap. If they insist, run it past an attorney first, preferably an employment lawyer. Then read everything in the AAM archives about resumes, cover letters, and job search strategy and GO GET ANOTHER JOB.

      Please send us an update when you find something.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        It’s not always easy to quit a job. It would be very hard in my small town to find a job with pay and benefits as good. Big city people have lots of choices, but those of us in the boonies can be stuck. Also, there may not be a lot of choices in your areas of specialization.

        Saying get out is good advice, but it doesn’t always mean it’s practical advice. Sometimes people have tp stay and make the best of a bad situation.

  46. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m no lawyer but I always thought an oath was verbal, so “signing” an oath might be impossible, and therefore just the legal loophole needed to get out of this. Now if they asked for a pledge, i’m not sure where that would land.

    Terrible idea regardless

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Not a lawyer, but I don’t think this is true. Where I live, government employees have to take an oath that you say out loud and sign. New citizens have to swear an oath of citizenship, but it is also signed. I assume this is for when there needs to be evidence that someone actually swore the oath (vs. mouthing “watermelon cantaloupe” or the like).

  47. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    What if you have already signed a loyalty oath elsewhere, how will they reconcile?
    Homer Simpson sold his soul for a doughnut, how will they usurp a greater power?

    I am massively curious what the point of this is, will they claim you cannot quit your job without their approval?
    Or that you can never get a raise or must accept a pay cut to minimum wage?

  48. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

    This is bonkers-and a sign that the company wants to control as much of it’s employee’s lives as possible.

  49. BA*

    Whoa, whoa, whoa!

    LW, if you can afford to leave now, do so. Please.

    If you can’t afford to leave, please definitely find a way to have a lawyer look at this.

  50. Carol the happy elf*

    My sister-in-law is a lawyer, and had their first baby while she was in her last year. The day care she found gave her a “will not sue or seek arbitration, contact the media, or disparage in any way, or penalties will be added to bill” with over 10 pages.
    Her favorite professor had a rogues’ gallery of stupid, entitled, pompous and oblivious, so he gave her extra credit and let her bring her new baby for a whole week as she found a new daycare.
    She said that he had “contracts” posted on the wall, separated into “Manifesto Contracts”, “Indenture, Apprentice, and Involuntary Servitude”, “Whackadoodle” “Hope of Heaven”, “Spousal Ownership”, and “Employees’ Souls for Sale or Rent”, and those are all I remember her mentioning.

    Ethical Contract Making is how she described the class, and her prof gave out extra credit for bad examples he could use. The winner got a gold spray-painted roll of toilet paper on a marble base. Runner-up got a wall plaque with a pooping bovine drawing in a red circle-slash. Both were much desired by students.

    She hangs her “No Bull Prize” beside her diplomas.

    1. Calamity Janine*

      i love this professor and wish to take this class, despite not being a lawyer or interested in that profession. i just wanna read tales from the wall of shame. (dear professor, please make a youtube pop-culture-style video series showing off storytimes of the utter bonkers yonkers contracts, spill the tea for us mere mortals,)

    2. Observer*

      Her favorite professor had a rogues’ gallery of stupid, entitled, pompous and oblivious, so he gave her extra credit and let her bring her new baby for a whole week as she found a new daycare.

      LOL! I see why he was her favorite professor.

      The winner got a gold spray-painted roll of toilet paper on a marble base. Runner-up got a wall plaque with a pooping bovine drawing in a red circle-slash. Both were much desired by students.

      That reminds me of the spray painted Barbie “awards”. But in this case, I can see why these were much desired.

    3. LimeRoos*

      I think Whackadoodle might be my favorite category, but wow that is amazing. Double points to the professor for letting her bring the babe to class for a week while she got it sorted. I would love to see the contract that got the Toilet Prize if hers only got second place, though I think the pooping cow is definitely a little more fun.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      I remember in my business law class some basic examples of bad contracts, but this sounds like extra bad-contract schadenfreude.

      I would love it if that professor provided a redacted rogues gallery of crap contracts with highlights on the egregiously bad passages. I love to read junk like that, even though I’m not a lawyer.

  51. laowai_gaijin*

    Okay, when I went to work for a university in China, I had to sign an absolute tome of a contract that covered basic conduct and all the stuff I wasn’t allowed to talk about, but I’m pretty sure it was under 40 pages! What the hell are they going on for 40 pages about? When you’re outdoing an authoritarian government, I think you need to take a step back and ask, “How did we get here?”

    1. Observer*

      When your “loyalty oath” covers more ground than the Chinese government’s you know you have something . . . special there.

  52. Madeleine Matilda*

    Dear OP, please, please, please follow all of Alison’s advice on this blog to polish your resume and write a great cover letter so you can find a better job and get out of your workplace. I don’t know you, but I do know you deserve to work in a place that doesn’t allow abuse and require 40 page oaths. That is not normal. It is a toxic workplace of the worst kind. Please, if you can, find something better for yourself. You deserve something better.

  53. anonymous government official*

    I work in a high-clearance government position (not in the US), and I actually did have to sign a literal oath of loyalty.

    It was, like, one paragraph.

  54. shrinking violet*

    This is one of those “we MUST MUST MUST have an update” letters! OP & Alison, take note!

  55. Delta Delta*

    I’m a lawyer. I don’t do employment law. If OP called me and told me this, I’d say, “I don’t do employment law, but this sounds bananas, don’t sign it.”

    That having been said, this is likely at-will employment, and so failure to sign could lead to termination. TBH, gentle OP, that might be the best outcome, because you could apply for unemployment. Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t (if they think it’s ‘insubordination’ somehow.) The other piece is as soon as you say you’re going to a lawyer, they could see this as a threat and find a reason to fire you. See above re: unemployment. People do NOT take kindly to hearing “I’ll show this to my lawyer.” Maybe that’s okay here.

    Honestly, why do you work there?

  56. Interviewer*

    I would scan the you-know-what out of this document, post it to Reddit’s r/antiwork on a throwaway account while not using company resources or time, then let the national press pick up the story & do all the work for me.

  57. AmandaPanda*

    Yeah that would make me look for another job. Nothing is worth all that drama and headaches.

  58. Phony Genius*

    The most important sentence in this letter (in my opinion):

    You can’t complain to HR because they are part of the harassment as well.

    This is not a sustainable environment for employment, even if you end up not having to sign the document. Start looking elsewhere.

  59. Grumpy Old Sailor*

    Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

    LW, that is your blinking neon sign to pop smoke and get out.

  60. Rage*

    So these people are all from the same church.

    And they are demanding a signed statement requiring “completely loyalty to THE COMPANY.”

    Have they forgotten the First Commandment?

    I’d be tempted to toss that one back at them and see what they have to say about it.

  61. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    Holy Yikes! I am a lawyer, but this is not my area of practice, but I think this document could be setting them up for major legal issues. It most certainly is not something they could enforce, especially as they offer no promises or other consideration in return for it. But if they are this off the walls nutso, I would not be surprised if they tried (hopefully any decent lawyer would tell them no, but we have our share of whacky and unethical members of our profession too, as everyone knows). Please update us on this one!

  62. Hats Are Great*

    I served in local elected office and upon my election when I filled out all the paperwork I was asked to sign an oath swearing that I was not now nor ever had been a member of the Communist Party.

    I just laughed and said, “I’m not signing that.”

    I asked some election law friends, who told me they’ve been trying to remove it from state paperwork since the 60s? 70s? when the courts said it could no longer be required, but, basically, since you were free to refuse, AND since every time the legislature brought it up, some politicians would make attack ads that “Joe Schmoe loves commies and wants them in YOUR state government,” they just keep handing it to you. Thanks, Senator McCarthy!

    (I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party, but I have strong objection to political/religious tests for office, so.)

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*


      When the House Un-American Affairs Committee wanted to question Pete Seeger, he refused to answer, based on his rights under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of assembly, as well as speech and religion. He was blacklisted for it, but the outcome would have been the same if he had invoked the Fifth Amendment. The first amendment says “I’m not answering that, because it’s none of the government’s business whether I’ve ever been to a Communist Party meeting, or joined the organization.”

  63. epn*

    Just wanted to add my voice to the resounding chorus, tell them you need to have your lawyer look at the document, and then start looking for a new job. This company is no good, and you need to get out of there.

  64. WantonSeedStitch*

    This gives me the serious wiggins (to borrow a phrase from Buffy and the Scooby Gang). First off, a 40-page document? I guaran-damn-tee that it doesn’t have to be that long, but that they don’t actually WANT people to read the whole thing carefully, so they sign without knowing what they’re signing. Second, ever since Cheeto Mussolini was in office, the idea of demands of loyalty to authority creep me out even more than usual.
    Get out.

  65. Elenna*

    Hey Alison, pretty sure this one deserves a spot in the “wait, what?!” category of posts.

  66. no one reads this far*

    To quote Mary from Ghosts: get out get out get out get out get out get out

  67. Flash Packet*

    I worked for a company who, after onboarding me and putting me through a couple of days of training (with senior employees who imparted their knowledge to me in a conference room), came to me with a document that said I would “reimburse” them $2000 for my training if I left within a year of being hired. This was in 1991 so it was a huge sum of money back then, pretty much a full month of my take-home pay.

    They didn’t present this during the interview process nor did they present it with my offer letter or even my New Hire packet of documents that needed to be filled out. The HR woman framed it as “just an oversight; we forgot to include it”.

    Even in my early 20’s I knew this was B.S. So I said, “Ohhhh… our family attorney* has told me to never sign a contract without running it by him first. I’ll take this to him when I get off work today.”

    HR Woman snatched the paperwork out of my hands and said, “Well, there’s no need for *that*. We know you’ll be here a long time and grow your career with us, so this was just a tedious formality.”

    Bees, y’all. House full of evil bees.

    I quit within six months.

    When I put in my notice, my coworkers were like, “OMG, what about the training fee? You have to pay it back!” They were all gobsmacked to find out that a little pushback was enough to keep me out of that crappy contract.

    *We did not have a family attorney; I lied through my teeth.

    1. kiki*

      So often these sorts of contracts are complete non-enforceable nonsense or actually illegal, workplaces just want employees to be too nervous or confused to question it. Never sign something before you read it. Always say you want to consult your lawyer (even if you don’t have a lawyer).

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        IIRC there are legal services that you can subscribe to that will provide an hour a year to just look over crap like that, plus have discount rates for more complicated stuff like wills, estates, probate, etc. I keep meaning to get one because I own a house and am coming up on retirement in about ten years.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      My father in law is an attorney. As far as I’m concerned he’s family and an attorney.

  68. LifeBeforeCorona*

    You can always respond with your own oath. That you expect in return for your loyalty a respectful, harassment free environment where everyone is encouraged to behave in an adult manner with respect to social interactions.

  69. Elizabeth West*


    And harassment coming from HR—what the what?! There is no way you’re going to be able to change this, OP. Get out of there. As soon as possible. Do not sign this thing.

  70. Quickbeam*

    I was raised as a Quaker and we do not take oaths. It has stuck with me, I ask to affirm when in a job or court that requires “swearing in”. It tends to throw people but it is a legal right in all 50 states. I think the work loyalty oath is crazy on the face of it. You trust your people or you don’t.

  71. Raw Cookie Dough*

    “To maintain complete loyalty to [the business] and to pursue its mission and initiatives.”
    This is so ambiguous to the point that it means abolutely nothing.
    Because this is a work document, read it thoroughy only during work hours. Every sentence. Don’t waste a minute of your personal time on this garbage.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Ha, you could totally do that! “Sorry, Boss – I don’t have time to finish the TPS reports right now, because I’m only on page 13 of the Loyalty Oath. It’s obviously a Very Important Document, and I want to be sure I understand it completely! This word here, does it mean “stationary” or “stationery?” I can’t quite tell from the context. Oh and also I have a question about paragraph 2 on page 36, when you have a few minutes…”

  72. AthenaC*

    So now I’m picturing the Gathering from Outlander season 1 where everyone lines up, gets on one knee, and pledges their loyalty to the clan in highly poetic, superlative terms.

    Sorry, I know that’s not helpful or advice, but the image made me laugh.

  73. Llama face!*

    OP, when reading your description of your company I was reminded of a demotivational poster I saw once. It was titled Loyalty and had a picture of an Aztec temple with the subtitle “All we ask from you is your heart”.

    This is my longwinded way to join the chorus of everyone saying, “Please get outta there (if possible)!”. That workplace is scarily messed up and that kind of dysfunction can do a real number on your health and sense of workplace normalcy.

  74. Nope*

    LW if this is indeed Ramsey Solutions please send this to Amy Fritz, Nashville Scene, or the Tennessean so it can get posted and reported anonymously. This stuff is bonkers!

    1. pancakes*

      Is the reporting revealing his empire to be bonkers or is it providing him with free advertising and recruiting services?! I’m mostly joking, but having read a bit about this guy and what it’s like to work for him, I wonder who is still waiting to make their mind up. The story about him pulling out a loaded gun at a staff meeting, one of many examples of bonkers behavior, was confirmed in 2019, but dates back to 2014.

  75. I'm Done*

    For the life of me, I can’t imagine something like this to be in any way legally enforceable. That being said, it almost screams cult at me, especially when taken in context with the CEO being a religious leader. I would seriously have to rethink my future with this company, were I the OP.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      It probably isn’t but that sort of thing is heavily dependent on jurisdiction and specific details of the agreement (some pretty bullshit noncompete agreements got enforced against *fast food workers* in a couple of states). It’s the sort of thing you really need a lawyer to tell you after reading it.

  76. nnn*

    Does anyone know what kind of lawyer OP should be running this contract by?

    (I know there are different kinds of lawyers but I don’t know what kind OP needs, so maybe OP doesn’t know either.)

  77. fhqwhgads*

    Did you accidentally get a job with a cult? I’m not snarking. This sounds like one of those businesses that claims to be a business but is actually a cult.

  78. Sue Wilson*

    Be careful with pseudo-religious or “religious” contracts OP. Scientology is out here suing because alleged victims of harassment refuse to use religious arbitration to resolve claims of said harassment after they left the church. And SCOTUS has been truly wild about both the 1st amendment which doesn’t favor religious power and arbitration which doesn’t favor arbitration. Good luck out there!

  79. Aphrodite*

    OP, if you do get out would be willing to send a copy of that 40-page document to Alison? She can hold it for six months or even a year until you feel permanently settled in your new job, then share parts of it in various posts or at least talk about it. What a journey that would be!

  80. Erica*

    Do you work for Lumon Enterprises from Severance? Don’t quit till you’ve earned a waffle party!

  81. Summer*

    OP – My jaw dropped when reading your letter. I fervently wish I could read that document! It must be wild. Absolutely do not sign it and please consult a lawyer about it. However, I would imagine if you tell them you can’t sign without your lawyer’s approval, they will view that as an act of disloyalty and may try to usher you out the door.

    There is so much that is problematic about this place that the only real advice I have is to try and find a new job. You don’t need to put up with ridiculous loyalty tests and super shady practices (all that harassment!) for a job. It honestly sounds very culty. Please get out (but not before posting the document somewhere I can read it :).

  82. Berkeleyfarm*

    I would bet good money that the church has a similarly lengthy, high-control, and vague-in-their-favor “”covenant”” with their members, that they plan on using as a weapon with anyone who steps out of line.

  83. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

    Tell HR you have to run this past your crossroads demon in case there’s a conflict of interest.

  84. Jonquil*

    “My workplace is incredibly weird and, oftentimes, problematic. In the past there have been issues with religious harassment, sexual harassment, and general abuse all coming from management and administration. You can’t complain to HR because they are part of the harassment as well. They all answer to our CEO, who is also a religious leader in the community. A lot of management, HR, and administration are hired from the CEO’s church.”

    Honestly, this is your problem. Get out!

  85. Maggie*

    What the effing eff? Run- don’t walk- to LinkedIn and start looking for a new job. And honestly, document every instance of harassment and take it to an attorney. This is a nightmare.

  86. RJ*

    No. Just no. Ordinarily, I’d advise someone to get that loyalty oath reviewed and marked up by an employment lawyer, but I think there are way too many red flags here to go that route. Find another job and don’t sign that document, OP.

    I was asked to sign a combination NDA/non-compete agreement many years back at a firm I was with for nine years. I didn’t like the way it was worded and they didn’t have an HR department cross-checking documentation so I ‘forgot’ to sign it. When I left, their newly established HR department saw that I didn’t have it on file and ‘forgot’ to schedule an exit interview.

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