updates: my coworker left her baby in the car while she worked, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

1. My coworker left her baby in the car while she worked

I temporarily put aside any decisions to call DCFS. It was an impossible situation. I fully understand both sides of the argument, and there’s no right answer as could clearly be seen in the comment section. Ultimately I felt the immediate danger had passed and I trusted my manager to hopefully ensure this particular scenario wouldn’t have a repeat, so I decided to only call if I saw further problems.

I mentioned in the comments that Cora can be prickly in general and isn’t really my biggest fan. I don’t know why. Given that and the fact that I wasn’t actually present for the incident, I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything directly to Cora. I very purposely participated in the gossip the following days hoping that if I could guide the narrative towards safer options they would reach her ears eventually, and that maybe it would stick in my other coworkers’ heads to show better judgement and speak up if something similar ever happens again.

Since then there were a handful of times Cora’s childcare fell through and she brought the baby into work, keeping him in his carrier behind the desk or taking him into a back office as time allowed. The rest of us all did our best to rally and and give her flexibility during those days. Then about a month ago Cora was let go. Our industry is healthcare-adjacent and she shared private client information in a way that blew up spectacularly. Our manager’s hands were tied.

Cora blocked me on all social media, but other coworkers that she didn’t dislike say she got a job waiting tables. I wish her the best and really hope her new employers will be accommodating if she has childcare issues while working there.

2. My boss has been really awkward since I quit (#4 at the link)

Your advice (which many commenters agreed with) to be aggressively normal was extremely helpful and affirming to me. For the remainder of my notice, I did just that. I never ended up tracking my boss down to properly discuss the transition plan, and he never engaged me either. When it did come up in passing, I merely informed him of how I was handling it and I guess that was good enough because there weren’t any qualms or suggestions beyond an acknowledgement.

In my last week, my boss did pull me aside to express his gratitude to me for my hard work and value as a team member. The department head also assured me that the company would welcome me back, so I do believe we parted on good terms, which was my goal. I stayed in contact with some colleagues, and later learned that my boss and his family were experiencing some medical challenges with their first born, so I believe that stress may have played a role in my boss’ initial response. But he was always extremely private about his personal life, so I honestly didn’t even know that he and his family were expecting until right around the time I left my position.

I am so grateful for your assurance that it was a “him” problem, and not a “me” problem, because that helped me give him a little more grace (which I later realized he needed) without being too hard on myself.

3. My boss is unreachable when I need him

The advice was really helpful. “Just talk to him” seemed really obvious once I read it, but it was useful to get the perspective that that would be okay and even good to do. That combined with the observation that I was being too passive gave me the impetus to bring it up. The solution was a combination of things: my boss committed to be better about attending our meetings or rescheduling with communication (and has followed through on that), I now won’t be called on after-hours unless it really is an emergency, which is very rare for our work, and I got more independence–there are some things that I was trying to get approval for that I didn’t need to. Also, I got a couple of non-time-sensitive research projects to work on if and when I have downtime. So it really came down to him doing some small things better and me doing some small things better, but you were right that he might not have known that it was a problem without me bringing it up.

Also… I got a promotion and now have a report of my own to manage and train! He’s great to work with, but I have a lot more sympathy now for my boss’s end of the problem in my original letter; it’s amazing how much time it takes to assign someone work, teach them how to do it, let them do it, review it, and give them feedback.

When I originally wrote in, I was pretty frustrated, which I think came across. There were also just some external life factors that weren’t directly relevant, but probably contributed to having a shorter fuse than normal. I’m glad that I was able to get the perspective that it was something to be fixed on both sides, and also really more of a minor hitch than a big huge deal. Things are going well now!

4. Nail-clipping coworker (#2 at the link)

About a month after my letter was published, we hired three new entry level employees in my group and my nail clipping coworker was moved to his own private office to make room. Before our new hires started, I did a quick wipe down of the desks and lo and behold, nail clippings … everywhere.

There were a few commenters confused as to how one could clip their nails almost daily, but these nail clippings were very small slivers, as if my coworker was chipping away little by little to create a nail sculpture that would rival Michelangelo’s David.

I was surprised at how many commenters have had similar experiences with nail-clipping colleagues. I was glad to find I was not alone with thinking that the office is a bit of an ill-suited place to be clipping your nails. If my coworker is still clipping his nails frequently at work, I have no idea. At least he can now do it in the privacy of his own office.

A couple commenters were concerned that I hadn’t interacted much with my cube neighbor. I think it just boiled down to the fact he stuck to himself. Even with social events picking back up after covid restrictions were lifted, socializing just doesn’t seem like his thing. I admit I could have made more of an effort back when we were neighbors. Since he’s moved I’ve gotten into a habit of saying hello whenever we cross paths. That seems to be enough for both of us.

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. CheesePlease*

    LW#1 – Glad we got an update about Cora and her baby! Especially that the “baby in the car” situation was isolated and did not repeat. Although I’m sorry that she lost her job, I hope things work out for her at any new job. Childcare can be really difficult, especially if you have financial constraints.

    1. k2*

      I hate to be this person, but I’m not even sorry she lost her job. If she’s healthcare adjacent, then she knows not to disclose client information — and if HIPAA applies, she had to review at time of hire and every year after, not only the rules but the consequences.

      She didn’t “lose” her job. She knowingly poured gasoline on it and lit it with a match.

      1. Dust Bunny*


        She didn’t lose her job: She tanked herself by making an incredibly bad decision.

        I mean, yeah, it sucks to lose your job when you’re already struggling with kids, but then you really, really, can’t afford to make giant mistakes like this. I can’t afford to lose my job, either, which is why I’m really careful about how I handle our sensitive materials.

      2. sundae funday*

        The only reason I’m sorry she lost her job is because that job allowed her to bring her baby to work…. I’m pretty sure she can’t bring a baby to restaurant work. tbh I’m concerned about the baby’s safety…. is the baby in the car at the restaurant???

        1. CheesePlease*

          Yeah this is how I feel. I can be grateful that a risky situation only happened once (that we know about) and still acknowledge that it was very risky. And I can understand why she lost her job (very justified) and be sorry she is without employment where there was flexibility when childcare fell through. Hopefully she finds her way to a better situation overall.

        2. inko*

          Yeah, I’m sorry purely because I think this will make it harder for her to cope safely when childcare falls through.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I worry deeply about what the authorities would do. They might try to help her find affordable, consistent child care… but they might take a child away from a mother who loves them and who is doing the best they can, and then put a thousand hoops in place that prevent her from ever getting her child back. I’ve been a teacher for a long time, and I know a lot of foster kids who ARE better off with their foster parents… but I know a lot who were fine with their actual parents, and who were removed for BS and probably racist reasons.
            I don’t trust the authorities to just do the right thing.

              1. Selina Luna*

                I get where you are coming from. I do. Even with my deep mistrust of DFCS, I’ve called them because I believed a child to be in danger. And this child was in some danger. I worry what their response would be-not education and help, but instead a “zero-tolerance” and removal of her child.
                I get that this is systemic and that there are situations where immediate action is necessary. I get where you are coming from. I just don’t trust that the people in authority would, in fact, act in the child’s best interests.

        3. JustaTech*

          My hope is that if she’s waiting tables in the evening then she might have an easier time getting child care help from family who have day jobs but can watch the baby in the evening.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Cora doesn’t sound like the best coworker in general, I’m somehow not shocked she lost her job.

    2. Douglas+Mosier*

      it doesn’t matter if it WAS isolated! What if she had done this in the summer? There was an “isolated” case of a baby being left in a car where I was a transcripionist years ago. I was the one who got the autopsy report to transcribe. It was horrendous. I finished the dictation SOBBING and had to be sent home for the rest of the day. THIS IS NEVER OK! ALWAYS CALL THE POLICE! Cora endangered her kid. Even if it wasn’t in hot weather, some whack-o could have easily come by and nabbed her.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If I remember correctly she did do this in the summer and just left the A/C on. But a lot can happen. Baby can asphyxiate, be taken, hurt themselves flailing to get out – many things.

        1. Lilo*

          The car could stop working. On a hot day in the sun a car can reach fatal temperatures in a manner of minutes.

          1. Blarg*

            This happened to a police K9 dog this summer somewhere in Virginia I think. Vehicle was supposed to be running AND there was supposed to be an alarm system, and both failed. The dog couldn’t be seen from the outside. Horrific outcome.

      2. AnonforThis*

        I have a sibling who is a prosecutor one of her duties is to go to homicide scenes. She said that bar none the worst she ever went to was a baby left in a car. And she regularly attends murder scenes and autopsies. She had to take time off after that one.

      3. Ben*

        Who, exactly, should have called the police, and what would they have done that could not have been accomplished more compassionately and with better results by someone at Cora’s workplace stepping up to help a coworker in obvious need?

        1. Lilo*

          I mean, I called the police once because I saw a dog left in a car in a parking lot on a hot day (it was seriously like 102 out). I absolutely wouldn’t hesitate to do the same for a kid. Taking time to try to find the dog owner/parent may be time the endangered living thing does not have.

          1. Ben*

            Ok but the letter was written by a coworker. Are we imagining a new scenario now where we’re stumbling on a baby in a locked car with no known parent nearby? I don’t understand why people seem to be engaging with this situation in such an abstracted way. There are actual facts here and under these facts I don’t understand why anyone would call the cops.

            1. Lilo*

              The LW wasn’t present.

              First course of action is to tell her to get the baby out of the car. If she refused, then, yes, call the cops.

      4. Poppyseeds*

        Doulglas, take a deep breath. From what you wrote and how you wrote your comment here it sounds like you are still traumatized by this. I hope you sought some type of help to move past this. I do feel for you and there is information that by association with this type of trauma it can have lasting effects. I cannot diagnose you with PTSD based on a comment but I would wonder if this story is not a trigger for what you were exposed to.

        1. Lilo*

          I think this is a bit rude.

          I think those of us who are aware of the exact detail of what a child goes through when they die this way are advocating very hard to prevent any kid from dying that way. Once you know it, you never, ever look at a kid left in a car the same way ever again.

          1. Poppyseeds*

            The field I work in deals with associated trauma. Nowhere did I make a judgment about child car deaths details that were in any way rude or inappropriate. I expressed my concern that the commenter may want to work through any associated trauma that came with his/her work on this case. Not sure how you can interpret my concern for someone’s well-being as rude?

        2. Sylvan*

          They’re having an emotional reaction, but it’s not an inappropriate one.

          I used to work at a newspaper, where I received autopsy reports and other information about just about every crime in the area. Hot car deaths are horrible. Cora could have killed her child and it would have been torture.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Their reaction is not unreasonable, though.

          Cora showed shockingly bad judgment by putting her baby in an incredibly dangerous, life-threatening situation. It’s alarming. It’s also quite likely that whatever caused her to do this in the first place (ignorance, desperation, mental health issues, sleep deprivation, etc) is still present, meaning this or something equally serious could easily happen again.

          It’s appropriate to stress the gravity of the situation. It’s appropriate to describe the traumatic emotional impact it had on them to illustrate the horror of the situation to people who don’t understand the danger. People need to know it should be treated like an emergency if they encounter it.

    3. Sloanicota*

      It’s terrible how unsupported parents and young children are right now (I am not a parent). I genuinely do not know how they do it. When I see my own middle class friends struggling to afford and maintain childcare it makes me terrified for what families earning less must be going through. Whatever we think of Cora or her choices, the child didn’t ask for this situation and I certainly don’t foresee a better outcome coming from working in the service industry. A sad update for me.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, this felt like a situation where there was no winning. I think Cora having the child behind her desk was about the best solution that there could be (beyond universal childcare and ample paid parental leave and sick time, neither of which could be solved by Cora or LW).
        That’s not going to be made better by the service industry, but I don’t see how this company could have kept Cora after she disclosed patient information. This just sucks for everyone

        1. Emma*

          Honestly, this seems like the elephant in the room for me. LW said their manager was horrified, and rightly so. While Cora’s actions were obviously deeply irresponsible, the real problem here is that she felt obliged to go to work when doing so meant leaving her baby unsupervised. If the manager is horrified, then his next steps are obvious: start pushing up the chain to deal with whatever factors left Cora unable to take a day of paid emergency/caregiver leave – whether that’s inadequate policy, inadequate communication of policies, or whatever.

      2. Ben*

        Yes. You can scream at people to call CPS or 911 until you’re blue in the face, but there are thousands of Coras, with babies of their own, who have to make dozens of equally untenable decisions every day because of our total lack of a safety net. If we cared about kids, we would not make their moms constantly walk a tightrope between making a living, keeping their kids safe, and staying out of jail.

        This is a solvable problem, but it’s a lot more comfortable to say this a bad choice by a single mom than to acknowledge how many of us are close to having to make the same kind of decisions.

        1. Lilo*

          I mean, if we’re waiting for the social safety net to get fixed, you’ll be waiting a long time.

          When someones dangling off a cliff it’s not the time to call the state about putting a fence up. The priority is getting the person in immediate danger out of danger. So baby left in car? Call the authorities.

        2. Anon for this*

          I don’t disagree with anything you said. But the immediate problem is this child’s safety and the immediate solution is to involve the authorities.

          1. Ben*

            Sure, if necessary, although as I mentioned upthread I don’t see why anyone needs to suggest leaping to that action when it appears Cora’s coworkers didn’t even talk to her about the situation. There are better and worse ways to address an immediate danger, and some of them have unintended consequences. Putting a kid’s single mother into the criminal justice system is rarely the best option for anyone. Sometimes sadly unavoidable, in the world we live in, but a lot less often than most people think. And calling the cops on someone’s working mother because she made a parenting decision that you disagree with — even a really dangerous one! — that can be corrected without the cops — the person making the decision to call the cops needs to appreciate the consequences of that decision rather than simply washing their hands of it and leaving it up to the authorities.

            Tl:dr we cannot fix all the broken systems overnight but that doesn’t absolve us of responsibility for being thoughtful about invoking them.

            1. Anon for this thread*

              Well said. Calling the authorities to report a woman who’s clearly doing the best she can in the face of a horrible situation seems so cruel. Especially given that OP wasn’t present and a lot of crucial details were either missing or delivered second-hand (was she checking on the baby frequently? Did she have a baby monitor set up? Was she in a clear enough line of sight that she could see potential distress on the baby’s face?), calling the cops doesn’t seem like the best solution. I’m glad OP didn’t do it.

            2. Anon for this*

              I guess what you’re seeing as ‘being thoughtful about invoking broken systems’ I am seeing as ‘causing concerned bystanders to second-guess themselves about involving help that they are not well positioned to provide themselves.’ So much child abuse and neglect used to go unreported because people ‘didn’t want to interfere with someone else’s family’ and still does. We’ve all heard horror stories of CPS etc botching the very child protection they are tasked with; we’ve also heard as many if not more stories of children going without help from those surrounding them due to a lack of action. I wouldn’t want anyone to second-guess themselves as to calling in help for a vulnerable person (the person in this case being an infant), and we very much shouldn’t shame them for (even considering!) doing so or Monday-morning-quarterbacking the outcome of that call for help.

              1. Lilo*

                Because I’ve been around the criminal justice system, I’ve seen the absolute horrors that happen when kids don’t get help. I’m always going to beg people to err on the side of reporting things. Trust me, parents who do horrible rings to their kids manage to maintain custody all the time.

                1. Ben*

                  And I’ve been around the criminal justice system and the child protective system and have seen horrific Kafkaesque abuses of power that tear poor families apart for the most minor transgressions that wealthy white families literally cannot even conceive of. Reporting is only as good as who you are reporting it to, and the systems you are reporting to in this country are rotten to the core. (Mostly in spite of the efforts of the individual people staffing those systems, I should add.) It should be a last resort.

              2. Ben*

                People absolutely should second-guess themselves before embroiling a stranger in the criminal justice or child protective systems. It’s an incredibly weighty decision. Someone who unnecessarily calls the police on a single working mother should absolutely feel shame.

        3. WillowSunstar*

          I agree that our social safety net needs to be fixed. If walking by and seeing a baby alone in a car, I would at least have texted emergency services and sent a cell phone photo for evidence. But in most locations, doesn’t one generally need to be a firsthand witness to call emergency services? (Might vary by state.)

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Lack of parental support, though, likely has zip to do with sharing private client information.

      4. Artemesia*

        This. My daughter pays well above the annual income of a minimum wage job for day care for her youngest child. They can afford it, but what is a single mother who has to work supposed to do for child care? Countries with social services have low cost day care; friends of ours in France pay 7 Euro a week for the day care on their block.

        The mother has to work; they make less than the cost of day care. What should they do? Certainly not leave a child in the car. But what should they do?

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

      It surprises me that Cora blocked OP on social media, though. Did she think OP had anything to do with her firing, like reporting her for what sounds like a HIPAA violation or leaving the baby in the car?

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I mean, if I don’t like someone and no longer have a connection to them, I’ll for sure block them on all social media once that connection is gone. It doesn’t take them having done anything for me to not want to see their face anymore if I don’t have to.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          I agree. I was laid off back in 2017 from a job I hated and I immediately blocked everyone. Not all of them had been terrible, but they all were gossipy. They didn’t cause me to be let go, but I also didn’t feel there was any need for them to know what I was doing or vice versa.

        2. WillowSunstar*

          I’ve only blocked a few people on social media and generally it was because they were very annoying people. I once blocked a very annoying coworker (though I did wait til a year after leaving the job because coworker was part of another organization that I am also part of).

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            Oh, I’m the exact opposite. I block liberally and quickly. Life is too short to even tolerate the simplest annoyance. Think of it like spell-check for people. Nope, no need for THAT typo…

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I’ve blocked people just to avoid seeing them all over social media if we share some friends or interests. I’ve blocked exes and their new girlfriends. I don’t actually care about the exes or the girlfriends I just didn’t feel like seeing them all over my feed all the time.

      3. Anon for this thread*

        “I very purposely participated in the gossip the following days”

        OP made a point to gossip about her. I’d block her too, in a heartbeat.

        1. Also Anon*

          I had the exact same thought…

          OP is tying themselves in knots trying to make “purposeful participation” in the gossip okay, but it’s not in any way.

          1. Anon for this*

            Wow. What I’m reading here in your message to the OP is: don’t call in the authorities; but also don’t personally involve yourself in this situation in any way to check up on the baby’s safety, the family’s situation in general, and the plan for handling any continuing child care challenges this family might face. You can’t really have it both ways; either the authorities get involved or someone closer to the situation does. Or of course you wash your hands of the whole thing and just vaguely hope the child is ok. That last one I’m certainly not ok with.

            1. Moira Rose*

              Yeah, I’m shocked by the laissez-faire attitude in so many of these posts. This isn’t a gray area; a baby can’t be safely left in a car like that.

              1. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

                Who is defending leaving the baby in the car? This happened in the previous discussion too, where people who were not enthusiastic about bringing police and CPS down on a single mother’s head based on gossip were accused of wanting to leave babies in cars. How can one discuss what to do in a situation when one’s conversational partners move immediately to accusing one of wanting to see children die painfully?

                1. Also Anon*

                  My biggest issue here is that days after OP made a point of involving themselves in the gossip in the vague hopes that what, Cora would overhear her coworkers gossiping about her? There are so many other routes that could be taken that would be better than that.

          2. allathian*

            The OP only did that afterwards. Between calling the cops/CPS and doing nothing, participating in gossip is more likely to do some good. Cora may have heard it and taken it to heart, she didn’t leave the baby alone in the car again.

          3. Kacey*

            My thoughts on this were that it sounds like this business has a culture of gossip in general. That’s how the Lw even knew it happened when she was wasn’t there. So I the face of Cora being nasty and not liking her and therefore not being comfortable being direct plus not having the ability to magically change the culture, she used it to her advantage. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em and hope for the best.

      4. Sylvan*

        OP mentioned participating in the gossip after this happened, so Cora might have caught wind of that.

  2. Shira Von Doom*

    “…chipping away little by little to create a nail sculpture that would rival Michelangelo’s David.”

    this is the funniest, and most disgusting, description of all time. LOL!

    1. Goldenrod*

      “as if my coworker was chipping away little by little to create a nail sculpture that would rival Michelangelo’s David.”

      Agreed! LOL!

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      That made me wonder if they were cuticles instead of/in additional to actual nails. When people pick a lot, the cuticles can get really hard, which the person then wants to clip off, which causes the skin to become tougher, and rinse and repeat – the problem exacerbates itself.

      I used to do this (though not at work and unfortunately no sculptures, I clearly missed an opportunity here) and the only thing that helped was moisturizing like my life depended on it. I didn’t think it would help – I thought, how could it? but it did!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I just hope the space wasn’t carpeted.
      (Ours was, and I was so happy the space where our clueless clipper used to work was coincidentally renovated after he moved on.)

    4. Katy*

      My guess is that the nail-clipping coworker has a nail-biting habit that they control by clipping their nails every time they get the urge to bite. Still gross, but that kind of habit/compulsion can be really hard to break.

      1. Rake*

        I have a family member with a really strong nail biting compulsion. Short of intensive therapy, the only thing that keeps the damage to a minimum is clipping in the way described here. Constant tiny clips are definitely better than the ragged deep rips her teeth would make. But also, she should probably go for that intensive therapy…

      2. Kit*

        Yeah, that’s my guess too. My nail-biting compulsion can be kept at bay as long as my nails and cuticles are perfectly smooth, but a broken nail, hangnail, peeling edge, chip, rough spot, etc will instantly become the only thing I can think about until I can fix it. If I can’t fix it, I will destroy it with my teeth. I carry nail clippers and a file with me everywhere just in case. I would argue that nail clipping is marginally less gross than my sticking my hand in my mouth, and it prevents a self-injury cycle that can get really out of hand (and is also visibly gross).

    5. Poppyseeds*

      I was mentoring a new colleague and we met at a local coffee shop. There was a gentleman who was a patron clipping his nails over a long period of time. I would not have been surprised if he did not do all ten fingers and all ten toes.

  3. BrillianteBrunette*

    LW1: “Since then there were a handful of times Cora’s childcare fell through and she brought the baby into work, keeping him in his carrier behind the desk or taking him into a back office as time allowed.”

    I’m glad to hear this. My gut reaction to the initial letter was confusion about why, during the actual incident, the baby was not brought inside the office as an immediate and temporary solution. Even if Cora was embarrassed about not having childcare or panicking about childcare falling through, how did none of her coworkers say “The baby isn’t safe outside in the car, why don’t you bring her inside and we’ll figure out a safe spot for her for today”? Why were the only reactions to gossip or to call CPS? I realize that LW wasn’t there during the actual incident, and only heard about it afterwards, so she wasn’t privy to all the details of how things played out. But my god, why did anyone allow the baby to just sit alone in the car?

    1. Lilo*

      I think that baby is still in danger. She’s much less likely to be able to bring a baby in to a restaurant job.

      I don’t feel good about this update at all.

      1. Moira Rose*

        Yes, the baby seems if anything to be in MORE DANGER NOW than when LW1 first wrote in. I’m getting shivers just thinking about the situation now.

    2. inko*

      SERIOUSLY. There’s no amount of disruption or awkwardness or anything that outweighs the danger of leaving a baby in a car.

      1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

        I said this when the letter first came in. I’d sooner hear crying and burping and smelly old diapers than know there’s a helpless infant out in a car alone. Cora is in an untenable situation, and for me personally I’d rather try and work out some sort of schedule with her if this was her only choice. Sharing private information, thinking it’s ok to leave a baby in a car, says she needs to work on decision making skills on a lot of levels.

  4. arthur lester*

    Oh, man. I can understand being cornered and not knowing what to do about childcare, but exposing patient data is…a whole nother kettle of fish. I have empathy for her, given that she was already in a tight situation, but I do *not* feel sorry for her.

      1. arthur lester*

        Me too. I understand how hard it is for parents right now, especially a single mother with no support, but…god, restaurant work isn’t going to be better for the childcare situation.

    1. Lilo*

      They absolutely 100% had to fire her. Their hands were absolutely tied there.

      But I feel like this is a tragedy waiting to happen, knowing what happened in the past and that the service industry will not allow her to bring the baby in. Just hope that if this happens again, someone sees the kid and calls the police before it’s too late.

    2. Portia*

      Anecdote alert! I was on the wrong end of this once, when an associate at a small insurance agency accidentally sent intake forms, including medical histories and other private health information, from each woman in our company to *every* woman in the company, not having noticed that for some reason all of our info was in the same PDF.

      I stopped reading as soon as I realized what it was, and I worked with a good group of people, so I trusted that nobody else read it all the way through either. But it was still obviously pretty upsetting.

      Our CFO came down on the agency pretty hard; we heard there was yelling involved. But the associate was new, and young, and the agency decided not to let them go but to have a Very Serious Talk about HIPAA and privacy and being careful.

      The reason I know that last part? It was part of the agency’s explanation and apology when, a few weeks later, the same associate did it again. (Got fired that time.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        We used to get faxes from a doctor’s office at our fax machine, clearly intended for a different doctor’s office that had a fax number similar to ours. Fortunately, we’re healthcare-related and also a very small department with minimal and tightly-controlled through traffic, so the actual risk was minimal, but the sender didn’t know that. We would immediately shred anything that came through and call the sending doctor’s office to let them know they messed up. Again.

        We finally got rid of the fax machine because they and one patron were the only ones who ever sent anything, so that’s been solved, but it was not confidence-inspiring. It was only dumb luck that they weren’t sending it somewhere much more public.

  5. Robert+E.O.+Speedwagon*

    Was nail-clipper saving his nails in jars and recording their length? Does he have a hand fetish and access to a spooky antique arrow? Would you say he looks suspiciously, but not entirely, quite like David Bowie?

  6. CorpGirl*

    I’m just here to say that…. I also used to think clipping my nails in the office was okay (I was 24!!!). Luckily a coworker pulled me aside one day and told me it was gross, I am very grateful for them :)

    1. Whizzer*

      Not as gross as clipping your toenails in the office. I used to work with a guy who would remove his shoes and socks during his lunch hour, prop his foot up on his wastebasket and merrily clip away, one foot after the other. I still can’t believe it.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Finding the Lemonade :

        At least the foot is over the wastebasket which is hopefully catching the majority of the clippings?

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Honestly I do not care if my coworkers clip their *finger*nails in the office. I know they wash their hands. Their fingernail clippings are way cleaner than most of the stuff we handle for our jobs.

      Toenails would be a whole other story, but I’ve never seen anyone take their shoes off here, anyway.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Why? I have clipped my fingernails at my desk – and made sure that the clippings made it into the trash. If I have a fingernail that is snagging on things I fix it before it tears off and possibly bleeds all over. But that’s once in a blue moon. I usually handle routine stuff at home, though, so it’s only in an emergency that I do it at the office.

    4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I would never have gone whole hog clipping everything, but I never thought much of a little contained clip here or there. It was an education for me to find out just how gross other people think that is! (Same with hair brushing in public which I had no idea was a problem.)

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, same here. I do carry a nail clipper, but I never clip all of my nails, or at least not anymore. I just clip any snags.

        In my teens I bit my nails until the cuticles bled. I was never diagnosed with OCD because that’s the only thing my compulsion manifested as, but when I wanted nicer nails, I started by clipping them really short, and clipping a tiny bit every time I felt like biting my nails. It worked. My nails are short and clean, and my cuticles are fine, and have been for the last 30 years. I got past my nail-biting compulsion by clipping them. I share an office with a coworker who has a hearing impairment, so I can clip the occasional nail at my desk with no issues.

        I don’t brush my hair at work, though.

  7. Koifeeder*

    Honestly, given what I remember of the comments on #1 when it was published, I’m just amazed LW came back to talk to us. It got pretty gnarly in there.

  8. ferrina*

    LW 2, sounds like you did really well! Interesting about the boss having those family health issues- a good reminder for all of us that things aren’t always as they appear. Really glad that it ended up being a non-issue and that you left on good terms! I hope your new job/whatever is next is going great for you!

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Very good point about things not always as they appear. A couple years back I had a (no longer employed at my company) direct report of min write a very scathing and nasty email to a coworker and copied a few others, including myself, to it. Essentially, the coworker had done nothing wrong, he mainly wanted to complain that he couldn’t speak to her in person at work because she so unfairly and unjustly got to work from home as much as she felt. The WFH situation was actually very recent for her, something she hadn’t done in the past. However, she was caring for her dying mother during her mom’s last month of life and had been given okay by HR and her manager to WFH as much as needed during that time. Yes, she could have used FMLA, but she preferred to work when she could to help distract her mind and keep her busy. And honestly, despite her difficult situation, I saw no concerns with her value of work during that time, she attended meetings via our online conferencing system, completed work in a timely manner, and usually answered emails within the same day, many times within in an hour.

      I spoke to my direct report (after I calmed down as I was angry with the email he wrote) and let him know the situation (I was asked to share by the coworker he wrote to), thinking he’d walk away with his tail between his legs. But sadly not the case, as he still stood by his stance that it wasn’t fair that she didn’t have to be in office to do her job everyday like he did and that if he needed to speak to her, he couldn’t just stop by her office, he had to send an email instead. And for the record, he rarely had reason to interact with her at work, so it was a moot point. Let’s just say, his attitude is the main reason he’s no longer an employee. He did leave on his own, but mainly because he saw the writing on the wall as he was close to being fired.

      1. 1LFTW*

        he still stood by his stance that it wasn’t fair that she didn’t have to be in office to do her job everyday like he did

        Wow. What can you even say to such a person? “Yes, so unfair, what a shame you don’t have a dying parent of your own…”

  9. xl*

    The nail-clipping thing is gross.

    I used to have a co-worker who would put her feet up and file her foot calluses while she was working. I hated having to relieve her on position because there would be little piles of dry filed-off skin all over the workstation. Gross.

    I was happy when she finally retired.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Now that’s gross. Doing stuff on your feet at work is a bridge too far. (If I had to do it I’d go out to my car.)

      But trimming a broken fingernail? Not gross if it’s done only as needed and over the wastebasket.

  10. Sun in an Empty Room*

    LW #2 This update is so timely. I’m in a very similar situation only… I didn’t actually leave my job. I’m on a four month special project (that includes disaster relief work) and from the minute my boss found out I was selected he was very distant and even rude including eye rolls. I know he’s a difficult person but we’ve worked together well for five years. He didn’t take the reins in a transition plan or have a meeting with the team that others requested before I left. There may well be confounding circumstances but he’s pushed me to a point of looking for other work while on this temporary special project rather than going back to my job after four months as I originally planned.

  11. Dawn*

    LW1, this is not a judgment so much as an observation, but you said you didn’t understand why she didn’t like you.

    I could be way off-base with how you are in person, but you struck me as very judgmental/disdainful of Cora (jury will differ on whether this is justified) and very quick to invoke CPS (jury will differ on whether this is justified) and I feel like she might have picked up on this.

    Again, this isn’t a referendum on whether you were validly judgmental or not, just that if people do pick up on your disdain for them they tend to reciprocate.

  12. Mailer Daemon Targaryen*

    LW1: No, I’m sorry, this was not an “impossible situation”. It was not “impossible” to tell Cora to bring her baby inside and y’all will figure it out from there. It was not “impossible” to then call CPS if she refused to do so. Imagine if that baby died in the car because your coworkers were more concerned over possible ramifications of calling for help rather than the immediate present danger. Yes, this is a nuanced situation, but when a baby is in danger, you do what needs to be done.

    Also, the fact that she was fired over revealing patient information now proves that this is less of a one-off incident and more that Cora is a person who regularly displays breathtakingly poor judgment. She is absolutely going to do this again and I’m willing to bet that her new coworkers will be much less willing/able to cover for her.

    I hope none of you are ever put in that position again, but I also hope that if you are, you’ll do much better next time. What a sad update.

    1. Budgie+Buddy*

      I know two points don’t exactly determine a line here but the combo of leaving a kid in the car for 3 hours plus revealing patient information is making me curve toward Cora just having bad judgment in general.

      The original post still haunts me and this update just makes me more worried for Baby. Poor little guy doesn’t deserve this.

      I also know a 5-month-old now and I know he would be terrified at being left alone that long.

    2. Frigate*

      Oh my god, please read the original letter before you come at OP, who agrees with you. SHE WAS NOT THERE. This was all after the fact. From the original:

      “I’m so horrified, not only at Cora’s lack of judgment, but also my other coworkers’. If I had been there, there’s no way I wouldn’t have said something”

      After hearing about it she immediately told her manager and was trying to figure out whether to escalate it to further authorities, which is the decision she referred to as “impossible”. Disagree or not but she was *not* party to the actual incident.

      1. Mailer Daemon Targaryen*

        Maybe you should read my comment more carefully. I didn’t directly blame the LW for anything because I’m well aware she wasn’t actually there. I read the original letter.

        That said, she still directly involved herself after the fact and is the one who wrote in, so she is the one who is going to receive my and others feedback. She is also the one who called it an “impossible situation” and I feel it’s important to refute that.

        1. Eyes Kiwami*

          You’re saying it’s not impossible because [actions that should have been taken in the moment, which OP was not there for]. I don’t know what you expect OP to do now.

  13. LilPinkSock*

    LW #1, commenters, and anyone who finds themselves in a Cora-type situation: there is absolutely a right answer. It’s called not leaving a baby alone in a car. Ever.

    1. Koifeeder*

      Absolutely nobody thinks that was the right answer. No one here is saying it. No one in the comments of the original letter was saying it. LW #1 is not and has never been saying it.

  14. Trixie the Great and Pedantic*

    So now we know Cora does not have good judgment, for anyone who wasn’t sure after the initial letter. No matter how tempting it is, no matter how amusing the name is or spectacular the circumstance, sharing PII beyond the minimum necessary to perform one’s job is a mega-no-no.

  15. Hello Dahlia*

    #4 I was visiting my SILs church and thought of you when the lady in front of me started clipping her nails … ALL of them, not just a quick hit for an untimely breakage. Ugh. I guess people all over learn manners in a zoo or something.

  16. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

    LW, thank you for updating us. I really feel bad for Cora and her baby, both as individuals and as a small family. This may be fanfic on my part but she sounds rather alone. I really hope she can find some help both with taking care of her baby properly and with having the space to learn better judgement in general.

    I’m sure there’s some office where this could not be done, but I’ve thought about this letter sometimes, and I still wonder why the other coworkers present didn’t tell Cora to bring her baby inside. In every place I’ve worked and in several offices I’ve visited I can envision how bringing in the baby could be made to work for a few hours, especially if he’s so young he’s not moving around on his own yet. I’ve held babies at work in emergencies (of much shorter duration).

    On the other side of wondering, though, I am sad to see the same pattern repeating where people who express reservations at bringing in powerful authorities are accused of wanting children to die horribly. I doubt anyone in the discussion, then or now, wanted the baby to be harmed. That doesn’t mean the best course of action is impossible to discuss.

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