can my employer make me wear a bra, my husband’s band doesn’t want to play my coworker’s wedding, and more

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

1. Can my employer require me to wear a bra?

I am a woman with large breasts. When I go to work, I wear a shirt/blouse and pants that are not transparent and don’t show excessive skin so private body parts are covered up.

About a month ago, my supervisor pulled me into her office and told me I need to wear a bra to work. Later that day, I asked two male coworkers who happen to be my friends if they were told to wear a bra and they said no.

Two weeks go by and that supervisor and another female supervisor again pull me into the office and ask why I’m not wearing a bra. I said that the men in the office aren’t wearing one so why should I? They told me men and women have different bodies, men don’t wear bras, and all the women in the office are wearing a bra.

Yesterday they brought me into the office again, telling me this is the last time I can come to work like this and next time I will be sent home to put on a bra. They gave me a copy of the company dress code policy, and nowhere does it say employees have to wear a bra. It does say employees are expected to be neat, well-groomed, and suitably dressed for work and that sexually provocative clothing is prohibited. I told them I have no problem with a dress code policy as long as it’s applied to everyone equally. I would have no problem wearing a bra if men were also required to wear one. They told me men don’t wear bras but women have to wear one. What should I do?

I agree employers shouldn’t be policing employees’ undergarments but legally, employers are permitted to require women to wear bras despite not requiring it of men (as long as they make exceptions for medical or religious accommodations). In the U.S., courts have generally upheld different dress codes for men and women based on traditional gender stereotypes, as long as the dress code doesn’t place a significantly higher burden on one sex. They can also, for example, prohibit long hair or nail polish on men while allowing it on women. I suspect we’re going to see more legal challenges to this, though, particularly given the obvious clash with laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, but so far it hasn’t changed legally. Until it does, employers can require bras. That’s true even if it’s not written down in their dress code (they’d likely argue it falls under general professional appearance).

So you’ve got to decide how much you want to push the issue. It’s really up to you — hell, if you want to, talk a lawyer and see if you can find someone up for testing the law — but so far they do have the right to require it.

2. My husband doesn’t want to play my coworker’s wedding

Our workplace is smallish, with about 50 employees scattered amongst separate departments. A few months ago, I had to speak with a relatively new employee, Jane. She is in a different department than I am and I rarely have to interact with her. She is a recent college grad and this is her first job out of college. She normally gives off a friendly vibe, but during my talk with her she was rather rude and basically insinuated I was stupid with the question I asked. After the interaction, I avoided her and she has said and done more things in the office that give off “entitlement vibes.” It’s incredibly frustrating.

Jane has also recently become engaged and is actively searching for vendors for her wedding. And as karma would have it, my husband has the biggest/most successful wedding band in our state. I help him run the business behind the scenes, but he is the talent and is very well known in our area.

I was replying to wedding inquiry emails recently, when it just so happens Jane had inquired about pricing. She stated in the email she’s seen the band play multiple times and in her words “NEEDS” to have them play for her day to be perfect.

I don’t think she knows the wedding band and singer she wants is my husband. (These emails are addressed to something like name@weddingband.com.) We have a pretty common last name, I don’t go out to see him play much, and he’s only visited me a handful of times at work. My husband knows all the work drama and my frustration with this woman and he doesn’t really want me to have to deal with all of her wedding details behind the scenes. Her wedding date is out far enough that he hasn’t booked it yet. He also has a calendar on their website with dates that are open so clients can clearly see if the date they want is booked or not.

My husband suggests asking for an atrocious amount of money so she will decline herself. I think we should just respond that they won’t be a good fit and leave it at that. I want to hear what you would suggest that would be professional for myself and my husband.

Asking for a ridiculous amount of money risks blowback in ways you’re not anticipating (like if she discourages someone else from hiring the band because of their prices) … or she could even say yes. And “not a good fit” is going to raise a ton of questions about why. You’re better off just replying that it’s looking very likely the band will have a conflict with that date and so you’re not able to book it. Yes, it’s open on the website but she’s not going to know what might be happening behind the scenes. If she continues to email after that, give one firm “we won’t be available to play your wedding, best wishes” and stop replying.

Read an update to this letter. 

3. Is it unprofessional to sit with my foot on my chair?

I am in my late 20’s, in my first professional role. I’ve worked in offices my whole work life but only in admin/research roles. I’ve never had any complaints about my professionalism at work (that I’m aware of!), but my new role working directly for the owner of a firm with billable hours and client meetings has me questioning myself.

I cannot sit comfortably in an office chair unless I have one foot tucked up under me. Sometimes I sit completely cross-legged. I know it’s weird, but I’ve always been this way. I wear high-heel ankle boots or strappy heels every day so my feet are never completely bare and exposed, and my legs are mostly concealed under my desk. It’s only if my boss comes to my desk to chat and I swivel to face him, that anyone would know. I also never ever sit like this in meetings or anywhere but my desk.

Could sitting comfortably reflect poorly on me? Or do other people do it too?

Some other people sit this way too! I wouldn’t do it in most meetings (unless it’s a very casual one) and definitely not with clients or if you sit in a public-facing area, but otherwise in most offices it’s not a big deal (with the exception of fields that expect you to be especially polished all the time).

4. My boss wants me to take a class when I’m already drowning

I just had my performance review at work. I have a very corporate job and am comfortable in my position. My boss said he wants one of my goals for the year to be getting a specific designation (ex: Jane Smith, CPA) which means lots of studying and a test.

I have two little kids, 18 months and four years old, who go to daycare full-time and don’t sleep through the night, and every day I am just spent. Is it horrible that I don’t want to take on anything additional right now? Maybe in a couple years I’ll be in a better head space for this but I just feel like I’m drowning and having the added pressure of this class and passing the test is already giving me so much anxiety. I know you are suppose to “always keep learning” blah blah blah, but can’t I just be content where I am at? Is this bad? Am I the only one like this? My kids are my life and honestly work for me is a job. I hate to say I don’t “care” about my career but ugh. Sorry for rambling. When I took this job there was no mention of additional education requirements. Can I be fired if I say no? I know plenty of moms work, go to school, etc. and I applaud them.

Your reaction is not bad and you are not the only one who would feel overwhelmed. Your situation is overwhelming enough as it is, without adding more stresses in! There is nothing wrong with saying to your boss, “Because of some things going on in my life outside of work, it would be difficult for me to pursue this right now. I’m open to revisiting it down the road, but realistically it’s not something I can take on this year.”

In a lot of situations and with a lot of bosses, that would be the end of it! Your boss may have no idea that you feel this way and might back off completely once you say no. In theory he could tell you it’s a requirement to keep your job, but unless there’s an obvious reason for him to do that (like the law has changed and this designation is now required in order to do your job), that’s probably not going to happen. If it does, you’ll figure out at that point if you’re up for doing it or not (and can consider saying the only way you can do it is if the classes and studying happen during work time) … but there’s a good chance you won’t need to.

Now, might there other costs to saying no? Sure, with some bosses there could be. (Others won’t care.) But it’s okay to make those trade-offs when you want/need to.

5. Relocation resources for job candidates

I’m working in HR for a company that provides utility services to an industrial park, and we are working incredibly hard to counteract the loss of about 30 long-time employees in the last three years to retirement. We are doing all the things you do in such situations, working with national recruiters, and trying to entice people to move to our location.

As such, I’m thinking about developing a small packet of resources to give to candidates who fly out to meet for an in-person interview. I thought I could include the names of a couple real estate agents, some information about school rankings in the area, and …. other stuff about our city. But what other stuff? Do other companies do this? What resources should we provide to people considering a move to a new location?

Yes, this is a thing companies do! You can include info on cultural attractions and local events, public transportation, the cost of living (including median rent and home prices), anything that might make your area especially appealing (maybe it’s the low cost of living, tons of nature, lots of cultural events, diversity of the schools, or a small community feel), and even quotes from employees about why they like living there and/or their favorite area spots. If you offer relocation help, make sure you give details about that as well.

{ 846 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A note that we don’t need hundreds of comments about whether you personally do or don’t find a bra comfortable! Some people do, some people don’t. Bodies are different. I’m removing the threads I see that are just personal experiences of bras (in either direction) since they’re not contributing to the discussion (although with 600+ comments I’m sure I will miss some) and ask that people not keep doing that. Thank you.

  2. CL*

    #4 – My boss suggested last year that I get my PMP. Besides having too much family stuff on my plate, I just wasn’t interested. I told him that wasn’t the direction I was interested in for my career and countered with a few day certification in my area of interest that I could do with little extra effort. Is there something manageable you could counter with?

    1. Alice*

      This reminds me of my old toxic boss who casually mentioned he had signed me up for a banking licensure exam and it had to be passed within 12 weeks- knowing full well I had 2 weeks of vacation and a summer full of weekend travel and weddings coming up. I made a huge stink with hr and was able to push the timeline. You MUST advocate for yourself- whether it’s having no time or no interest.

      1. Rosacolleti*

        I would have assumed you would be allocated work time to study rather than your own time if it was something your manager asked you to do. That wouldn’t fly in my business, and I own it!

        1. Alice*

          Nope! Working 12 hour days (sometimes longer) plus commute and he expected me to “make time” to study and pass the exam. He told me to get up at 6am and study like he had done in the past. I was on the verge of a meltdown when he told me which is why I went to hr and let them rip him a new one. On the positive side it was having HR validation that put me on the path to seeing how toxic the job was and getting out of there.

          1. The Star Gazer*

            But we’re talking about a licensure exam here (probably a Series 7), which is very different from general professional development. I don’t see the boss as acting unreasonably if you’re required to hold the license to do your job.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I think it’s entirely possible that the manager is required to put in some kind of developmental goals into the review, and if you are doing well overall (ie, you don’t need any training to do your current job), the manager just thought that getting this certification would help down the road. It might not be a big deal at all if you push back, but you may need to come up with some sort of alternative development plan, but you could try to think of something that you could do during work hours.

      1. I can't think of anything clever this early*

        I’ve seen this play out. Grandboss encouraged boss to go and get his customs broker license, which requires a really difficult test (much lower pass rate than the bar or CPA tests). Boss put it off again and again. An opportunity for a major promotion comes up which Grandboss has been grooming Boss for, but it requires a broker license and so he misses out to someone else. Eventually boss starts to study for the test, and successfully passes it, but an opportunity for the type of position he missed is really rare. Boss is laid off and can’t find a position in the field at the level he should be at. Sad story – I liked that boss.

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Years ago I agreed to take a certification exam I didn’t care about because my boss wanted me to take on some duties that required the credential. I told him I’d only take it if he paid for it out of the department budget and he agreed. Registration was $1700 (you read that right – I’m an MD). I put in a request for payment and the department administrator responded “We’ll reimburse you if you pass.”

      Forwarded that to my boss with a note saying “FYI – I’m not taking it” and had a check four days later. Oh, and I passed.

      1. Observer*

        I put in a request for payment and the department administrator responded “We’ll reimburse you if you pass.”

        Don’t you love when people unilaterally try to impose rules and conditions that they don’t have the standing to do?

        1. GlitterIsEverything*

          Also in medicine, though not a physician.

          Our techs have to take a test to obtain gradually increasing certifications. Company pays for the test, but not your time while taking it. If you pass, you get a bonus. If you don’t pass, the retest fee is taken out of your bonus.

      2. Somehow_I_Manage*

        Your outcome in the medical field ended up similar to corporate industry, but they gave you the run around. In the corporate world, typically the expectation is that your company pays for any mandated training in full, including necessary certification courses and exams for your job. That’s normal and standard in industry. Mandatory certifications and trainings can often run well into the thousands of dollars.

        The line is typically drawn at tuition reimbursement towards a useful, but voluntary degree or program. For example, if a company has tuition assistance to help you pursue a graduate degree part time. That is part of your benefits- it’s voluntarily available to all employees, not necessarily tied to your work, and it’s typical to require you meet a certain academic standard as a condition of reimbursement.

        1. Random Dice*

          I’ve always had to pay out of pocket if I didn’t pass. It certainly makes me not go for certifications.

    4. Somehow_I_Manage*

      @CL, keep in mind, the PMP certification is one of a handful of certifications that is often required for “key staff” on requests for proposals- especially from federal agencies. So, it may not be reasonable to “counter,” without the context for why they need it. It is however, reasonable to say no, if it’s not a fit. Or, to request accommodation to make it work. For example, OP could offer to complete the certification on the condition that they were allowed to dedicate up to 8 hours a week of paid time towards the effort.

      1. CL*

        You make several good points about context and requesting accommodations. My situation is that my manager has a PMP and thinks everyone should. I work in a slightly different area than they do, and I know almost no one on my career path with a PMP.

    5. Hummer on the Hill*

      I’ve been on the other side of this, as a manager. I’d get told by my superior about some corporate initiative that all employees must show some quantifiable improvement in their professional skills, with certain courses recommended. I’d have no choice but to mention this in a PA. So, my employee and I would both give it lip service, and by the time the year finished, the person who had dreamt up the initiative had floated on to other pastures, and we could just get back to doing what made our unit successful. That might be part of it too. As Alison and others said, just advocate for yourself.

    6. CaptainMeg*

      #3
      I’m a teacher with ADHD and I sit in so many weird ways. I eventually ordered a kneeling chair that I absolutely love, and it weirds out my students because they can never figure out how I sit in it.

  3. CarlDean*

    #1 – not to be dense, but I’ve never noticed whether someone is wearing a bra or not. I guess I sometimes notice a bra strap or the outline of a bra under shirt, depending on type of top, number of layers, body type, etc. I’m not sure how you would know if someone not wearing a bra. (I’m a woman, and I guess I’ve just never thought about it.)

    I would probably just be like – “I am wearing a bra.” With a straight face. What are they going to do? Make you strip to prove it? I don’t think they can make you take your clothes off.

    I don’t understand how asking about an employee’s bra and being over fixated on an employees breasts is not sexual harassment.

    Why not respond: “It makes me uncomfortable that you are fixated on my breasts. I would appreciate if you stopped looking at and discussing my breasts.”

    1. coffee*

      When you’re large chested, wearing a bra can noticeably change your silhouette. The apex of your bust will probably be lower without a bra, and your breasts may also sit further apart. Women’s clothing will also be made on the assumption of a woman wearing a bra/having their breasts in a particular position. (This assumption can be wrong, which is why e.g. a shirt won’t fit right despite having enough fabric to cover you. This is the trade-off of not tailoring all our clothes anymore. Clothes are cheaper but assumptions have to be made.)

      Anyway I have noticed people not wearing bras in the past but I also am aware of the arbitrary nature of what is considered “an appropriate undergarment” for a particular gender. There’s been a lot of variation of the centuries/across different cultures.

      1. CarlDean*

        I guess I’m just dense. I’ve never noticed. Or I thought a lot of women just had ill fitting bras and clothes and/or odd bodies. (I’m also ADHD and sometimes I’m oblivious to details that other people seem to notice easily.)

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Are you the kind of person who notices when somebody else is wearing a new dress, or are you the kind of person who goes “this person isn’t NOT wearing clothes” and thinks no more about the subject?

          I have a minor interest in fashion and that means I often notice people’s clothes, which inevitably means noticing something about how the clothes fit the body inside them. You can’t go “man, that dress really flatters her bosom, I really like how the designer used the princess seams, I should try some dresses like that sometime” without, you know, noticing her bosom. Which is definitely weird. But it’s nor prurient or creepy or staring or at all sexual.

          There’s nothing wrong or dense about not paying attention to this sort of thing. But there’s nothing wrong with noticing either.

          1. Siege*

            I have a very technical interest in fashion and garment construction and am actively interested in what flatters different body types. (Largely, this is because most women are incredibly poorly served by modern fits, which represent a terrible cost to fit in favor of cheap and easy to make.) I absolutely notice when a large-breasted woman isn’t wearing a bra, in the same way I noticed a former colleague didn’t wear shoes: it’s pretty obvious! It isn’t prurient or sexual, but there are so many cues around position of the breast, visibility of the nipple, motion during movement, etc. (Also, the colleague’s wife eventually convinced him to wear Birkenstocks, which was also noticeable.)

            I’m having a lot of trouble imagining how a large-breasted woman could go braless and look professional, but on the other hand, as a large-breasted woman with neurospiciness-related aversions, I am also very, very hung up on how much I would want to claw my own skin off, so maybe it’s possible?

            1. Phryne*

              I am also in the large breasts/need bra department. I would be very uncomfortable leaving the house without one, lack of support, skin sticking together, wobbliness… I wear padded and underwired bras to keep the ladies in check (though it goes off as soon as behind meets couch in the evenings)
              But not everyone is the same. If OP goes braless out of principle, she needs to wonder if it is a hill she wants to die on. If OP has any sort of condition that makes it painful or very uncomfortable, she could consider sharing that with her bosses to see if it might change their minds.
              Also there are many shapes, forms and materials of bra these days she can try out to see if they are more comfortable than the traditionally shaped ones. One thing I do notice is houw many women walk around in badly fitting ones. In my opinion, investing in more expensive but better quality/fitting bras is very much worth it if you can afford it in the slightest. And always let the staff measure and fit you, they are *really* not judging you and it makes a world of difference.
              But it all depends on what fight she wants to fight here, and to what gain.

              1. Oblivious*

                It is not that easy. I have gone through phases where I tried to find a good fitting bra and only had slight luck after trying and returning many bras.

                I was once measured at a bra store by the staff and either they got the size wrong, or I am not willing to suffer enough to wear a properly fitting (underwire) bra because both the underwire and the band left deep creases in my skin. I went back to the store and complained and they said the sizing seemed correct.

                I would love to wear a properly fitting bra that creates a lovely shape – life and seperate and also allowed airflow under the boob. I just haven’t found it yet. Maybe it exists, but its very frustrating to try and try and not have success.

                * I think it existed when I was a C cup or lower. When I was skinnier all around.

              2. Observer*

                If OP has any sort of condition that makes it painful or very uncomfortable, she could consider sharing that with her bosses to see if it might change their minds.

                Either her bosses or HR.

              3. Wenike*

                As a counterpoint, go to a good bra shop to get fitted not something like a Victoria’s Secret. There is a matrix of “standard” bra sizes and most stores only sell those sizes and will use outdated measuring techniques to get you into a bra that they sell, not necessarily one that fits. There’s a website about A Bra That Fits that has a calculator that is fairly accurate for figuring out sizes and ordering online can help get away from the matrix sizes.

              4. Observer*

                @Oblivious, you are right that it’s not so easy for some women to find properly fitting bras.

                Having said that, I’ going to say that “both the underwire and the band left deep creases in my skin. I went back to the store and complained and they said the sizing seemed correct.” is proof that they not only got the sizing wrong – very wrong – but that they are incompetent and should never be trusted on the issue of size. Not everyone finds underwires, even well fitting ones, comfortable. But neither the underwire not the band should leave those kinds of marks on your skin. Telling you that the sizing is right despite evidence that it’s NOT is . . . not good.

              5. Momma Bear*

                If I were LW, I’d clarify exactly what about my outfits were triggering this response and try to find a compromise. It may be (for example) that LW’s clothing is not as opaque as she thinks it is, or that clients have commented and that’s why she’s being pulled aside. It has nothing to do with men, so she needs to let that go. We don’t know from this what her objection to a bra is, which would also provide some clarity.

            2. Putty Tats*

              I had a condition several years back from wearing underwire bras, the lining on my ribs became inflamed and I couldn’t wear a bra, not a camisole shelf bra, not a loose soft sports bra. Nothing. It was incredibly painful. I just wore a camisole with no “bra construction” and I am not small chested. Btw I fail to see how my breasts and their position are in any way professional or not. As long as they are sufficiently covered, they should have no bearing. I bet men with “man breasts” aren’t told to get them strapped down.

              1. ceiswyn*

                I know someone with hypermobility problems who tends to dislocate ribs if she wears a bra. Apparently a lightly boned overbust corset also works, although the resulting shape is a bit awkward with most off-the-peg clothes.

              2. Perfectly Particular*

                For a lot of structured work clothes, the fit just isn’t right if your breasts are in their natural floppy position. (Unless you have a small cup size) Think fitted tops, blazers, etc. So if that’s the kind of clothes you need for work, it’s going to be hard to look professional without a bra. Also cold conference rooms and nipples are always going to be a problem without a nice thick layer of some kind.

                For guys, I think in a business casual setting, it can be challenging for men of a certain size to look professional, (but of course no one would tell them to correct this by wearing a bra,) My guy is a 3x, so this is something I know from experience. Without shapewear/bras to put everything in its proper place, clothes can end up looking baggy.

              3. Siege*

                @PerfectlyParticular, my guy was going to borrow a shirt from me because all his were in the laundry and we wanted to go work out so it just needed to cover things. It was a totally ordinary swing tank from Target and it looked TERRIBLE – the material is so thin that his nipples, which are not prominent, were incredibly visible. And yet, I’ve never thought twice about wearing it to work (I usually wear a shirt, some kind of overpiece, and leggings) because my bra hides my nipples and it’s not an issue. Fit and construction are huge issues.

          2. mlem*

            I have a coworker who notices, and often comments on, specific garments. I think I am in fact more in the “this person isn’t NOT wearing clothes” category unless something specific pokes my attention (like “huh, everyone’s wearing a blue top today” or “wow, that entire outfit is A Look and I am here for it!”). I also generally don’t notice whether someone’s wearing a bra unless there’s a significant amount of jiggle going on when they move (and even then, it’s more a guess than knowledge).

        2. Allonge*

          Not noticing does not make you dense, just as people who notice are not creeps (or at least it’s not the noticing that makes them creeps).

          It’s one of the billion ways people are different from one another.

      2. Dahlia*

        A very, very low support bralette will not significantly change the shape of your chest if it’s larger, and is still wearing a bra.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I was thinking the same thing – technically, you are complying…. Although you might get some pushback. But I stopped wearing a bra regularly a few years ago. But there are all kinds of bras out there.

      3. Hiding*

        So I’m hiding for this one, because it’s something I’m still working out in my own mind.

        Years ago I worked with a woman who went out on a couple of weeks leave an A cup and returned a permanent headlight E cup. She wore VERY tight tops, no bra a lot of the time and her nipples made us all think we weren’t in the subtropics. Did it change her professional capability? No. Did it confirm a few things about her lack of professional capability. Yes. But the boob job didn’t do it, she had a range of highly sexualised behaviours prior to this, this just brought it under a headlight.

        Then I reflect on that trans m2f in Canada who is wearing ZZ prosthetic breasts while trying to teach woodshop on lathes. Hrm.

        And I remember a co worker who was overweight, wore very little in the way of support, and a flesh toned top under a lose blazer, and every time she turned around I swear she was nude and flashing me.

        FWIW I’m a woman, in a male dominated field. Only about 5% of the workforce was female, and females were only in management roles. So this sort of things was very very visible just because we were rather rare.
        Another employee deliberately wore very very short skirts and then spent a lot of time bending over photocopiers etc, and no it wasn’t a part of her job.

        It was a workplace fraught with sexual issues, and between the non bra wearing woman, the flesh toned ‘barely there support’ and the mini skirt flirt I (and a couple of other women who expressed it to me) was incredibly frustrated at the lack of professional attitude towards us as women. I had to work three times harder to prove that as a young, professional, frankly attractive woman I was capable of doing work without the mini skirt and without underwear being discussed.

        Three women undid it for about four others. And it’s coloured my opinion of women, sexuality and professional attire in the workplace forever afterwards. I feel that wearing a bra if it’s obvious you aren’t wearing one is a reasonable thing you can do to prevent this sort of dysfunction. But I am annoyed that we ‘have to’ prove that we’re more professional than the men. (And I resent this new world where young things can demand all sorts of things that we couldn’t twenty years ago, and somehow assume they are getting professional reputations at the same time. I don’t know how that works, and I’m wildly curious if it does! – See still much to think/ponder/learn for me!)

        1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          About that person in Canada with the giant prosthetic breasts: I don’t have the link handy, but from that person’s backstory, there seemed to be reason to suspect they were hoping to elicit a dramatic argument with the school, rather than genuinely hoping to be accepted with their new giant breasts. So possibly not “good-faith breasts” so to speak.

          1. Marley*

            “I don’t have the link handy, but from that person’s backstory, there seemed to be reason to suspect they were hoping to elicit a dramatic argument with the school, rather than genuinely hoping to be accepted with their new giant breasts.”

            The source of this is ONE post on a 4chan type board. People who live in the area have observed this individual (the teacher) walking around the community like this for at least a couple of years and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this person is “anti-woke” or trying to teach the school board a lesson. I’m shocked so many people have repeated this misinformation.

        2. sookie st james*

          3 women didn’t make your workplace hostile for you or create a sexist environment in which you had to work 3 times as hard – the culture (both within your male-dominated workplace/industry and outside of it in society) did that. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have been more professional, I wasn’t there, but allowing the behaviour of 3 women to (in your words) colour your view of all women is… kind of staggering to me. Consider that there are probably well over 3 men you’ve crossed paths with in your career who also display questionable judgement, lack a grasp of professional norms, wear less-than-professional attire, etc, but men’s behaviour and their bodies are not scrutinised and judged in the way that women’s are, so their behaviour has not coloured your view of all men and their sexuality/ability to perform professionalism in the workplace.

          Unfortunately we do still place a higher burden on femme-presenting people when it comes to these things, but I agree with posters above that the shape of someone’s boobs *should not* have any bearing on whether or not they’re deemed professional.

          1. Millennial*

            +1.
            Also, their behavior did not take place in a vacuum. They were responding to SOMETHING* in the culture of that workplace that caused them to make these calculations.

            *the something is the patriarchy and more specifically an environment where women weren’t taken seriously as professionals (as you discovered) so they had to find other ways to gain influence

            Also- your closing rant about “young things” and what we “demand” is… oof. Times and cultural mores alike change, habibti, and that’s a GOOD thing.

            1. SoUnidentifiable*

              Yep. That closer was very big “I suffered so everyone else should have to” energy and I’m
              Not Here For It. Some woman in the 60s wasn’t allowed to work on your field at all, I’m betting, and because of young things demanding stuff, YOU were able to.

            2. sookie st james*

              big agree. the idea that ‘demanding’ fairer treatment/different accommodations is mutually exclusive from professionalism is actually pretty dangerous imo – the head honchos of capitalism are the only people who benefit from us thinking we have no right to advocate for ourselves

            3. Verthandi*

              Yes yes yes! And adding the following….

              I would hope that the young “things” don’t have to fight the same battles as the generation before. The world *should* become a better place for coming generations.

              1. Unkempt Flatware*

                Sorry I thought it was the thread above. Please disregard. I will add 1 point to make it 1001.

          2. Wendy*

            So, what is the best solution to this issue?

            Specifically what do women, as a whole, need to do about this issue?

            And specifically how are women, as a whole, need to do to solve the issue?

              1. sookie st james*

                I wouldn’t say it’s our problem to solve alone – it’s part of a systemic problem throughout our culture. But as for what women ourselves can/should do about it… well I’d say it’s pretty much whatever’s the opposite of judging each other’s outfits, behaviour, and ability to advocate for themselves.

                I promote questioning sexist wardrobe policies (where safe for you to expend the capital), supporting fellow coworkers rather than seeing them as competition for the ‘token female’ position, and prioritising your own emotional and physical comfort in the workplace wherever possible.

            1. Ashley*

              Dress codes that are defined by our sex should be part of the solution. How likely that is to happen depends on a lot of factors.
              Courts have held up rules regarding women in swim suits have to wear tops previously, but this is something that could be strategically fought in the courts. The current Supreme Court makeup may not make for the best timing, but it is something you want to pick a friendly lower court and work its way up. At some point a woman has to be willing to be fired and get that documented as to why they were fired and be willing to sue. Bonus points if it is a government agency or someone working with government contracts where more anti-discrimination laws apply.

          3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            +1000. I am having a hard time understanding how these three women “undid it” for the rest, in ways that (first example that comes to mind) a male coworker that crashed another team’s lunch, jumped into their team-building exercise with a totally NSFW answer to an icebreaker question, and caused several people to call HR the minute the team lunch ended, didn’t “undo it” for the hundreds of male coworkers and managers at my workplace. Literally no one said “now that Fergus did this heinous thing, we can no longer take any man in this workplace seriously, sorry, guys.”

        3. Fluffy Fish*

          I think you need to examine why other women existing in their bodies bothers you.

          We don’t get to apply our personal standards to others. And frankly its really gross to question other women’s professionalism and assign them (sexual) motivation because you don’t like how they dress or how their breasts (really?) appear to you.

          And this? “I had to work three times harder to prove that as a young, professional, frankly attractive woman I was capable of doing work without the mini skirt and without underwear being discussed.”

          That’s not other women’s fault. That’s patriarchy and misogyny and you’ve internalized and are displaying a whole lot of it. Other women aren’t your enemy. Make more seats at the table instead of pushing them out because there’s no room. Be glad that those “young things” don’t have to fight like you did – why would you want people to have to put up with the crap you did?

          1. Observer*

            And this? “I had to work three times harder to prove that as a young, professional, frankly attractive woman I was capable of doing work without the mini skirt and without underwear being discussed.”

            That’s not other women’s fault.

            So much this!

            The people you should have been judging were the people who rewarded her behavior *and* the people who assumed that “attractive woman” MUST equal “dimwit”.

            Was her behavior professional or appropriate? No. Was her behavior the cause of your needing to work 3x as hard to prove competence? Absolutely NOT.

            The fact that you don’t see that speaks to your judgement not that of your former coworkers.

            1. Fluffy Fish*

              Agreed.

              I also have to say that I’m not willing to take this commenters version of her former coworkers behavior at face value on this one. Thinking along the lines of tall girls who get dress coded for skirts too short when it’s simply because they are tall. Maybe it’s 100% accurate and without the skew of her biased lens, but there’s a good chance it’s not.

              I do believe that she genuinely believes her interpretation though. And I challenge her to revisit those interpretations without viewing other women as the enemy, the understanding that people are individuals, and thinking about why she’s so sure these 3 women ruined everything and colored her view of all working women but not thinking about all the other women she’s worked with or men who have exhibited good/bad behavior.

              Something that comes to mind when people are struggling to understand things that challenge their world view is sometimes you don’t need to understand, you can just recognize your bias, keep it to yourself, and not be a glassbowl. Acceptance, and recognizing that gut reaction isn’t necessarily the truth, can lead to understanding down the road.

              1. Hiding*

                I am trying to rethink this, that’s partly why I opened up the discussion.

                The woman with the too tight tops over a significant breast augmentation was sleeping with the boss.
                The woman with the too short skirt was actually normal height, and intentionally shortened her skirts by several inches. And when it was suggested to her that I didn’t want to see her underwear I was told “It’s not for you to care about, I can show my underwear if I want, we’re all adults”. (I felt like retorting “why does your G string belong in my workplace?”)
                She was also sleeping with one of the other managers.

                The whole place was a misogynistic hell hole of sexual and male vs female problems… but rather than rise above it nearly half the women in the workgroup ‘used’ their ‘female wiles’ (ugh, I don’t know how else to put it) and milked that workplace for their promotions and gain. The only way to get promoted was to sleep with others. It sucked, I left, along with all the other ‘reasonable’ women …. And we KNEW it wasn’t our fault, but still there were enough ‘traitors’ in the mix who were cashing in that it left a deep resentment.

                It had an impact on me, and twenty years later I am still unsure about the professional nouse of women who are ‘overtly sexy’ in the workplace. Something I’m reflecting on. I’m not talking beautiful or striking or tall women, or large breasted… I’m talking altering clothing to be tighter (intentionally running darts in to hug the breasts), shorter (hem lengths, or lowering the necklines), intentionally leaning over photocopiers in dramatically shortened skirts sort of stuff. Overtly bringing sexual poses and behaviour into the workplace, and dressing in tops cut to the belly button, or in micro mini skirts. If you have to wear that stuff to work, a place where sex is supposed to be left at the door, why? For the women from my past it was because they were all so insecure in their abilities that they did this to get attention, and promotions and benefits – they all got pay bumps, significant promotions and many small but ‘special’ benefits that others weren’t able to get, but they were also openly laughed at by the guys, and the few women who weren’t part of this ‘network’ didn’t respect them much either. (Yes, it was a hellishly toxic workplace)

                I guess the reality is that while this isn’t how this should be, that there are plenty of people out there who have been messed with over the years and it takes time to rework that thinking. Just yelling at people/telling them they should change what they think won’t do it, instead actively listening to them, and having an open conversation where they can ask questions, explain what’s lead them where they are and giving them time to reform new opinions is more likely to have a lasting effect.

                1. Random Dice*

                  With the kindest intention, this is a lot of anger at half the world population, that you should address in counseling if you can afford it.

                  You’re blaming women for having made the best of a fucked-up sexist conspiracy against them. You’re still pissed decades later.

                  This was clearly traumatizing for you, and you’d have so much peace if you could talk it out with a professional.

                2. bamcheeks*

                  The woman with the too tight tops over a significant breast augmentation was sleeping with the boss.

                  Your boss was the one with the power in this situation. You simply don’t know what kind of

                  The whole place was a misogynistic hell hole of sexual and male vs female problems… but rather than rise above it nearly half the women in the workgroup ‘used’ their ‘female wiles’ (ugh, I don’t know how else to put it) and milked that workplace for their promotions and gain. The only way to get promoted was to sleep with others.

                  Why should they “rise above it”? And why have you got far more anger for the women who “slept with people to get promotions” than the people who withheld promotions unless they got sexual favours?

                  You’ve described three groups of people here (. The first is the men, who are the larger group, and the group who hold the power both in terms of numbers and in having senior positions, and abuse that power.

                  Then you’ve got a group of women whose strategy for dealing with the abuse of power is to get out of it what they can.

                  Then you’ve got a second group of women, whose strategy for dealing with the abuse of power is to blame the first group of women for getting out of it what they can.

                  Both of those second two groups are in a shit situation, neither of you is “rising above it”, and neither of you is making anything better for women as a group. You’re not “rising above it” if you can’t extend solidarity and support to other women who are also being victimised by the sexism and power abuses of the male hierarchy! You are ALSO helping perpetuate their abuse by buying into the idea that women who are engaged in extremely unequal and risky sexual relationships are somehow worse than the men who are the more powerful parties in those relationships.

                  Put the blame where it belongs: on the people who withheld promotions and advancement unless they got sexual favours.

        4. bamcheeks*

          I really hope when you have finished working this out you are kinder to other women and yourself, and that you find yourself in solidarity with other women and marginalised gender folk against patriarchy.

        5. vegan velociraptor*

          I’m really confused by your comment about your coworker’s weight. How does that affect the situation?

          By the way, “transgender woman” is a more generally accepted term now than “m2f”.

        6. Kate*

          Minority opinion I guess, but it’s OK that you didn’t like this. Yes, flesh toned/very short clothing in the workplace is evidence of poor judgment. No, being a gender minority doesn’t mean you have to support the choices of every other gender minority on earth. Yes, it’s OK to read elective plastic surgery as reflective of someone’s values; presumably that’s what they intend by making obvious changes to their appearance. It’s possible to acknowledge that patriarchy is the cause of you being lumped together with other gender minorities (as you do acknowledge) and still wish that the other people shoehorned into the box with you behaved more professionally as it would make your life under patriarchy a bit easier.

          1. Observer*

            If that were all this poster were doing, I would not be commenting, and I’m pretty sure that this is true of others.

            But she is BLAMING the *women* for the problems she endured, which is frankly nonsense. Did it possibly make her work a LITTLE harder? Possibly. But that’s the limit. Those other 3 women could have been paragons of professional behavior, and the basic problems would have still been there.

            Also she is resentful of younger women who have the audacity to push back on things that she lived with, apparently because if she suffered they should suffer too. Let’s be real here- there is NO WAY that she can claim that the current push back is in any way a contributing factor to the problems she had. Unless she’s claiming time travel.

            1. Hiding*

              No. These women were sleeping with management. Changing their clothes in the glass walled offices (that they were ‘awarded’ after sleeping with management, more senior staff in cube farm). Showing G string underwear as they leant over copiers. A floor of 150 men, 7 women, three of them overtly sleeping with and sexualising the workplace. Getting promotions, special treatment and pay rises. It was a hyper sexualised workplace, fuelled by very nasty management, but cashed in on by a small number of women who were incredibly insecure in their professional abilities so chose to use sexual favours instead. They targeted the non-favour women as they moved up, and made sure that the few other women couldn’t proceed. I won’t go into exact detail here, but trust me, this was a complete sh it show.

              And yes, it’s left me wildly bitter. I now work in a very different environment, still male dominated, but my opinions of professional norms and what is really going on when a woman feels the need to wear a micro mini skirt and low cut top in a professional workplace were altered. The women in this workplace were as abhorrent as the men. Not all women are like this, but I eye off women who are aggressively sexual appearing in the workplace with strong suspicion now.

              1. Claire*

                You know how Alison says that a toxic workplace can really mess up your ideas of what’s normal and what isn’t? I think you might want to consider that that’s happened to you. And maybe explore why you’re so angry at the women at this workplace but not the men.

              2. RJ*

                I think the issue here is you are saying that men using their professional power to gain sexual favors is just as bad as women who are given the ultimatum of leave, sleep with them, or never get promoted; one of those things is far worse. The women are not the root problem, the men that built that toxic culture and made it so that’s what women felt they had to do are the problem.

        7. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Some Gen Zers will make missteps like everyone does when they’re young and figuring stuff out, but the kids are OK.

          I’ve thought about this a good bit as an “elder millennial.” I think this is how generational shifts play out. You have some standard that the older cohorts are fully on board with, and as the ones in positions of power, they maintain it. A younger cohort or two start coming in, and they may dislike the standard but have no power to change it, so overall they go along with it because they have no other choice.

          At some point those who disliked but went along make up middle management and a new junior cohort comes into the workplace and hears from middle management, “Yeah, I know X is silly/stupid, but it’s just one of those things you’ve gotta do, top brass makes the rules.”

          Another 10 years go by and now upper management is filled with people who never saw the point of X but went along with it because it was the way things were done, and the youngest new workers are coming into an environment where almost everyone from top to bottom is acknowledging that X isn’t really necessary for any practical reason, and because they haven’t yet spent their entire professional lives doing X anyway, it seems like a prime candidate for a standard that needs changing. And if/when they start pushing for that change, it’s now happening in a completely different environment than such pushback would have taken place in 20 years earlier. The people who ever really cared about X are largely gone from the workplace, and the upper management who have the power to make changes are the people who never really saw the point of X in the first place but went along because they lacked standing. Now they have standing/power to change things and a workplace full of younger cohorts who would welcome the change, so it becomes an easy win if they can give people what they want.

          So yeah, I often marvel at the way today’s entry level workers are pushing back against BS that I knew was BS 20 years ago but didn’t push back on. I marvel at the way it works and is the engine of social change. It’s a pretty wild thing to realize oh, this is how change happens. These audacious kids. Bless them.

          1. MurpMaureep*

            This is such a great framing of how working norms evolve over time! I’m solidly Gen-X and in a management role in my organization. I know I have blind spots, but I do try to take cues from my younger staff help older staff appreciate different perspectives. I’m thinking of a recent discussion around changes to the current dress code. We are trying to move towards general guidelines and away from (frequently gendered) laundry lists of how not to dress.

          2. Parakeet*

            Yep, I think this is about right. And I will say, I have some empathy for the people who struggle with it emotionally – I don’t think it’s always and solely a matter of “I suffered so others should too,” precisely. I think there’s often an element of “Why was I not considered worthy of this?” (and fear that it will somehow undermine hard-won gains). Intellectually that doesn’t make a ton of sense, because society changes over time in pretty much the way you articulated so well, but emotions don’t always follow intellect.

        8. learnedthehardway*

          I had to recruit a sales role once upon a time, for a manager who was very concerned about not having a woman in the role because of the same issues you mention. So, I addressed the ACTUAL issues.

          The ACTUAL issue was that a former employee had attempted to get business through sexual favours. This was unethical behaviour.

          Pointing that out and building in ways to test ethics within the interviewing process was a better and more effective strategy than discriminating against an entire gender.

          1. Observer*

            Pointing that out and building in ways to test ethics within the interviewing process was a better and more effective strategy than discriminating against an entire gender.

            Absolutely! Especially since this kind of discrimination is not going to do much to get the outcomes they say they want. I mean, do they REALLY think that only women engage in unethical sales practices? That only women engage in inappropriate sexual conduct in the workplace?

            If what you are looking for is ethics, then look for markers of ethics. Being male doesn’t qualify.

        9. Observer*

          And I resent this new world where young things can demand all sorts of things that we couldn’t twenty years ago, and somehow assume they are getting professional reputations at the same time

          Why the resentment? I mean, if they are asking for things that are not reasonable, then you can push back on that.

          But if what they are asking for (or demanding) is reasonable why on earth is your response that they can’t push for change just because you had it hard?

          I’m GLAD that there are some issues that young women don’t have to deal with so much any more. I’m GLAD that young women can *expect* to have time and a place to pump and still be seen as professional, even though I needed to have good fortune to have an especially good boss. I’m GLAD that women are less likely to have to take on unrelated admin type work and are more able to push back. etc.

        10. MurpMaureep*

          I really hope that some of the introspection and self-examination in which you are engaging leads to the understanding that it is not the other women (or the “young things”) who are the enemy/problem.

          The only ones who benefit from divisiveness between members of underrepresented groups are those who continue to hold the reigns of power. No doubt many higher ups would be thrilled to know that you feel animosity towards other women and resent younger workers advocating for themselves.

      4. Candi*

        I’m a G cup, and I’ve noticed the few times I’ve worn a shirt without a bra things move around more since they’re not held in place.

        I’ve also seen large women (apparently) not wearing bras in public, and their chests moving around as they move tends to be distracting when I catch it out of the corner of my eye. The same way a hummingbird or cat moving across the edge my vision is distracting. I think it’s the “not expecting motion and motion happens” factor.

        What I don’t get is how someone naturally large can stand to go without a bra. Ever since I hit DD as a young adult, it’s been literally painful to go without a bra of some kind. (As I understand it, implants usually provide some level of support.)

        1. This Charming Woman*

          I’m a 40GG (UK sizing) bra size, and I’m way more comfortable without a bra, unless, say, I’m running or jumping. Unfortunately, I look “better” (as in, more “normal”) with a bra on, so I usually wear one if I’m going out, although some weekends I don’t bother with it and just skip it. Someday I hope we’re all less ageist and misogynist and are more comfortable seeing women with large breasts letting their breasts hang free.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      “I’m not sure how you would know if someone not wearing a bra”

      If your breasts are on the larger side, you’ll definitely notice a difference since most underwire bras do the “lift and separate” thing, while most larger breasts don’t tend to do that naturally. The look is very different. That said, to actually notice you’d have to be staring at someone’s chest, and if you’re someone engaging in normal, workplace-appropriate, non-chest gazing, then it won’t be nearly as noticeable.

      1. ceiswyn*

        You absolutely do not have to be staring at someone’s chest to notice if they’re not wearing a bra.

        It somewhat depends on the anatomy of the person with breasts, and on the obliviousness of the person talking to them, but in the same way that you would peripherally notice if someone weren’t wearing trousers without staring at their legs, you can peripherally notice that someone’s bosom is low, angled out, and moving a lot without staring at it.

        The workplace-inappropriate part is commenting on it.

        1. abca*

          There’s quite a big range between “noticing” and “being confident enough to complain” though. I have large breasts and would also notice, but with that notice also comes an awareness that you’re looking at someones body in a work environment, and then you move attention elsewhere. For this to raise to the level of complaints it does feel like people have spent an awful lot of time looking at your breasts instead of your face.

          I am now also wondering where the line is. I don’t suggest bringing that up to the employer when you’re already on last warning, but this question and the comments made me think there really is a difficult line. Many women can get away with wearing a bralette, but could this women, with this employer? And if not, will they be more specific “we can still see your breast move”? Not seeing breasts move at all would surely be an unreasonable demand. I feel like this is the kind of thing where unspoken rules tend to work well until they’re challenged.

          1. ceiswyn*

            I don’t think people are complaining because they’ve spent a lot of time looking at OP’s breasts. I suspect they’re just conservative people who think that not wearing a bra is ‘unprofessional’, and thus are probably pearl-clutchingly horrified just by noticing the shape/jiggle in their peripheral vision.

          2. Fulana del Tal*

            This letter appeared in Reddit not too long ago and the OP’s job was interacting with customers, so it may be the customers’ complaints to the managers not necessary coworkers.

            1. bighairnoheart*

              Oh, I didn’t know this was a crossover letter–thank you for sharing that. That impacts my perception of this, I think. People in customer facing roles are often held to different standards of dress than those who aren’t because they represent the company to its customers very directly, so this situation feels less egregious knowing that.

          3. Cait*

            I was also wondering about the nipple factor. Bras tend to help keep nipples hidden whereas anyone (no matter how big their breasts are) who doesn’t wear a bra is more likely to “have their high beams on”. OP never mentioned this but that could also be part of the issue.

            1. AnonyKid*

              This was honestly my first thought. I feel like OP, based on this letter, hasn’t asked why this request is being made of her – if it’s because her non-transparent shirts are way more transparent than she thinks and her nipples are visible, there’s a lot of non-bra options to fix that. (And would be the only reason to bring this up continually that makes sense to me. I had a boss who always had their high-beams on and try as I might to avoid thinking about it, it was super distracting.)

              1. Momma Bear*

                Same. There’s a reason people are noticing and that was not expressed here. Once LW knows (and she might but didn’t want to say), she should work on a solution. Maybe it’s an extra tank top or maybe it’s a sweater but the response to ask her male coworkers about it just seems juvenile. Be a professional and find a workable compromise.

              2. Ori*

                The problem, for me, is that we don’t ask men to cover their nipples. I’ve had male coworkers walk around like that, and yeah, it’s a little distracting when you first notice it, but we all just deal with it? Why do women have to go the extra mile to cover up when it’s not expected of men in an identical situation.

          4. ferrina*

            Agree. This is a strange question about where the line is. Like… professional clothes don’t show nipples (for men or women), but sometimes it’s cold out and otherwise professional clothes aren’t doing their job, so we all politely ignore it. And some amount of movement is fine, but not above another amount.

            I’d be tempted to ask my supervisor spell out that line. Like “hey, traditional undergarments like that really don’t work for me. What are your specific concerns about my appearance?”

            That can help either A) your boss realize that it’s not about specific concerns, B) you understand where your wardrobe isn’t doing what you expect or C) your boss gets mad and blows up in a spectacular and terrible way.

            If Option A- there’s a chance that everyone can walk away gracefully. Give your boss an excuse to save face (“hmm, I’ll think about it. Can you pull me aside when you see a specific instance in the future?” while knowing the boss likely won’t pull you aside). This is where reasonable people can get caught up in societal misogyny, and it’s kind to let them have their realization and save face (also more effective- defensive people are less likely to be open to self-reflection, to coming from an approach of collaboration is more likely to change minds).

            If Option B- well, now you can get some wardrobe changes that work for you.

            If Option C- you’ll be in a bad place for your job, because your boss will become your enemy, and that can be really rough. But it sounds like this LW might not care at this point. There’s a chance the boss can give you some ammo for a harassment lawsuit, but that’s not a guarantee. Either way, it’s a bridge burnt. Whether or not that’s a good thing, only LW would know.

        2. Caroline*

          Agree. If someone has a sizeable chest particularly, the swinging about is very noticeable. I don’t say it’s bad or wrong, just obvious.

          1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            This.

            I wear a light sports bra for two reasons: sweat reduction and motion reduction. I’m somewhere around a G cup, plus or minus a cup size depending on the measurement scheme and time of year (my basic weight and girth vary a lot.)

        3. Lily Rowan*

          I once had an employee who didn’t wear a bra and other people told me to say something to her, and I still couldn’t see it because I literally don’t look at people’s bodies at work. I had to make a real point to look at her chest to see if I could tell or care. (I did not care.)

      2. RussianInTexas*

        You totally don’t need to be starting at anyone’s chest to notice. You can just glance at a person and notice.

      3. Anon today*

        I have large, no longer perky breasts. If I do any physical activity without a bra, it’s like two weasels in a sack. Kind of hard to miss and no staring required.

      4. Candi*

        I don’t wear underwires.* But while the bras in question don’t separate, they still absolutely lift. The difference between the older saggy bras I wear strictly at home and the newer ones I wear out are visually noticeable in the mirror.

        *I hate the things with a passion, and Wingslove makes larger bras without underwires.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I hate the “lift”, or anything that makes my boobs prominent. I tend to buy minimizer or sports bras to restrain motion and flatten my chest.

      5. BubbleTea*

        I’ve been wearing non-wired, non-separating bras for the last two years (they’re nursing bras, I’m breastfeeding) so that isn’t a sure-fire way to tell. I don’t think it’s made me less professional but possibly more pendulous.

        I felt that the LW was possibly going into this situation slightly spoiling for this fight. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Asking whether male colleagues were required to wear bras seems disingenuous, because she already knew the answer would be no. I feel like a more productive question to ask would be “in what way does wearing a bra make me more professional?” or perhaps “how does my underwear impact my work?” Those are really the issues that this societal standard has failed to address.

        1. Random Dice*

          That’s where I landed too. I’m down with pushback on policing of female bodies.

          Bur the whole “I asked my male coworkers and *they* were never told to wear bras” from someone with large breasts was deliberately disingenuous. They aren’t asked to wear a garment for body parts they don’t have.

          “How does my underwear affect my work” is a really good way to put it.

      6. Ace in the Hole*

        You certainly don’t have to stare at someone’s chest to tell if they’re wearing a bra.

        I don’t care if people wear bras, but I can often tell whether or not they are. They change the shape of a person’s bust, reduce the visibility of nipples, and also significantly reduce the movement of breasts (which is one reason many of us wear them – because we prefer bust support for our own comfort). Of course the degree of difference between supported and unsupported will vary a lot based on individual anatomy. Some clothes obscure bust shape and movement enough that the difference is not obvious, but many work-appropriate outfits do very little to hide it. In which case noticing is no different than noticing something like colorful shoes.

        Commenting on it? Calling it unprofessional? That’s where it crosses the line to inappropriate. The problem isn’t that people notice, the problem is that they feel it’s any of their business.

    3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Look, they can obviously tell. Some women you can. Straight up lying about something obvious isn’t going to do OP#1 any favors. Actually, it will make her look like an obstreperous liar. They can just say, “No, you are not, go home and fix it,” just like any other time an employee is straight up lying to them.

      And you can’t really turn a dress code violation problem into a sexual harassment problem. Let’s face it, a lot of dress code violations are uncomfortably personal. And the more egregious the dress code violation, the more uncomfortable and the more personal. “Please don’t wear graphic tees” is a pretty easy conversation for both parties. “Please don’t wear whale tails” is quite a bit harder. But employers have to be able to correct these things if they want to have a dress code at all.

      (Also, thank you for the chance to use “obstreperous”. It’s a good word and I don’t get to use it enough.)

      1. philmar*

        Agreed, if she lies to her boss’ face, now she is being fired for lying about doing something she hasn’t done, which is much more straightforward (and less sympathetic) than getting fired for repeatedly refusing to comply with the dress code.

        1. Stitch*

          Yes. Op, do not do this. You will get fired.

          Look it’s fun to imagine these “fight the power” scenarios online. But OP could actually take your advice and get fired. Maybe OP is lucky, maybe they’ll be able to find another job or don’t financially need their job. But maybe they’ll have trouble finding a new job (because let’s get real someone not wearing a bra to an interview could very likely cost them a job).

      2. Smithy*

        Yes, I think when it comes to a lot of dress codes – particularly for women – hoping that a rigid reading of them will defend you is far more likely to hurt your career long run unless you’re prepared to take a legal stand or have a union that can defend you.

        I’m a tall woman, and a lived reality with that is what is considered a skirt or dress “too short” for work will likely not read the same on a shorter woman. Add to this having hips/thighs/not being skinny – and that length is probably different than on a woman of the same height but thinner.

        One reading of this, is that these corrections are unfair and also not precise. Which is true. But the other reading is that for my industry, there is an approximately accepted length that is perceived as “too short”. And the more I understand what that approximate length is, it only serves to help my career dress in the long run in a way where I can also be myself as much as possible.

        Bras are incredibly fraught, especially when you have a larger bossom. But making this adversarial and including lies seems like a path to only expend more and more professional capital. It may be that even for a larger chest, tank tops with a support shelf or low impact sports bras/bralettes would provide enough bra-esque support for this job. But finding that compromise will only be through working with the OP’s job, not against it.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          hoping that a rigid reading of them will defend you is far more likely to hurt your career long run

          Yes, there’s a reason that saying the phrase “rules-lawyering” is used almost exclusively as a negative description of someone’s actions.

          1. Candi*

            The people who successfully pull off strict interpretation of the rules without ticking everyone off usually know 1) how to move between the spirit and the letter and 2) know when and how to compromise. (In other words, they’re good at good politics.)

        2. Candi*

          (Agreeing) There was a reason why my kids’ school dress codes for skirts and shorts didn’t focus on clothing length -they focused on the length on the person. There had to be no more than “two fingers” (1-2 inches in practice) between the knee and the hem.

          It’s much easier to get to approximate appropriate-for-environment lengths and sizes when the fit of the clothing, rather than size, is examined.

        3. DocVonMitte*

          I’m an autistic woman and this topic is such a minefield for me. So much of “appropriate attire” is intuitive (I know the obvious stuff like don’t wear shorts/club attire, etc) but would seriously struggle with more nuanced stuff. I wish all companies had VERY clear dress codes or managers willing to be very specific in this area.

          1. Smithy*

            I honestly think that the more you embrace *how* intuitive so much is, you will proactively seek advice from those likely to give it and those who give you advice in ways you want to hear.

            My #1 example and the area where I struggle most is with wrinkles. I have a very externally facing job, and while I’d say I’m largely ok when it comes to style – early in my career I was living in a fairly hot climate, entirely reliant on public transportation and walking, didn’t make much money, and a tall/larger woman in a country that rarely offered my size. So while dress codes want clean/professional clothes – how that applies to creases or wrinkles in clothing that occur through natural wear. Particularly women’s dress clothes made of thinner materials….

            It was a challenging context and honestly one that will always be subjective. I also happened to have a VERY blunt boss who twice told me I had to go home and change before events. While it wasn’t in a kind way, she was right and it made it clear to me my blind spots and how I can most adjust for them. So in future when I’ve bought work clothes for travel or high profile events, those are some of the “idiot proof” features I have in mind.

            I don’t think any dress code can be perfectly clear on what is an acceptable level of wrinkling and what isn’t across fabrics.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      The boss can’t make her strip, but the boss doesn’t exactly have to “prove” that she wasn’t wearing a bra. The boss can fire her because it’s clear to the boss that she’s not wearing a bra and is lying about it. If she sues over it, the boss can testify about her observations that OP was obviously not wearing a bra.

      To a lot of people (including me!), it is really noticeable when a woman doesn’t wear a bra. I would never comment on it, but unrestrained breasts tend to move around a lot, and it’s an easy thing to pick up on even if you’re not fixated on the person’s breasts. (There are ways to hide it, though–layers, boxy or bulky clothing, scarves, etc.)

      1. Unexpected Outcomes*

        For anyone wanting to challenge a workplace over bra requirements, I think repeatedly saying, “unrestrained breasts” could be fun and possible help.

        I understand our policy does not allow unrestrained breasts, I’m curious about our unrestrained breast policy, tell me more about what coworkers said about my unrestrained breasts…

        1. I Work for Cats*

          That’s going to be the name of my band. “The Unrestrained Breasts”

          But seriously, that would be a hill I would die on. What’s next, a girdle? I don’t think any employer should have control over what kind of underwear you wear.

        2. Maggie*

          No, that’s just childish and purposely obtuse. There are many solutions such as trying bralettes, tank tops, vests, thicker clothing, scarves, etc.

          1. Pugetkayak*

            I felt the argument “are you asking the men to wear them” was also kind of childish. It certainly is not going to fix the problem, sometimes intelligently arguing a point (even if you feel this is unnecessary given the circumstances) is going to solve your problem. And there could be other solutions that don’t involve wearing a bra.

            1. Candi*

              The question should at least be rephrased as “will you ask men to wear them if their pecs get big enough that there are similar issues and complaints to a woman with large breasts not wearing a bra.” Because then the question focuses on the issue of moving tissue and not clothing that is normally associated with women.

                1. Avril Ludgateaux*

                  In so far as mandatory bras – which are expensive, more “pink tax” that women have to pay and men don’t – present an additional burden on women only (which they do), it absolutely is sexist. Just because it is sexism we have grown to accept, does not make it less sexist.

      2. Smithy*

        I would also add to the whole “proof of bra” likely won’t even matter and where this will ultimately just support the bra – there are plenty of “bras” out there on the more provocative side of life that either provide little to zero nipple coverage or rather exagerated nipple shape (i.e. bringing back a Marilyn Monroe cone style bra). So again, ultimately this would be about “professional dress” and the employer could give a long list of lingerie style bras that would also be inappropriate.

        So if the OP *was* wearing a bra and rather was just embarassed to be criticized for not wearing one, that it was still indicative of unprofessional dress no different than a “whale tail”. At this point, the employer could likely also indicate having told the OP mulitple times in different contexts to have provided a space for the OP to share information like “I do wear a bra, what’s wrong with this bra”.

      3. Candi*

        In addition to other people’s points, women were binding their breasts for comfort long before the modern bra was invented. From binding their chests with wrapped cloths to built-in support in corsets, many, many women through history looked for support for their chests.

        There’s a story that the woman who designed the modern bra sewed the first out of ribbon and handkerchiefs since the 1910s’ corsets didn’t fit with the lines of 1920s’ dresses.

      1. Tiptoe*

        Good idea in theory but the result will be the bra resting on top of her breasts. If it is not a soft bra it will be very, very noticeable, and arguably draw more attention than not wearing a bra. It will be the same principle as men’s underwear so high you can see the brand name.
        Besides we don’t know if OP even owns a bra. It will be money spent in vain if she goes to buy one for this specific purpose.

        1. BubbleTea*

          My dad took this approach to the requirement that his (extremely obedient and well-trained) dog must be on a lead. She was, it was just very short and he wasn’t holding the other end of it. I’m not necessarily advocating my dad as a paragon of professionalism – there’s a reason his career was very successful and that reason is called self-employment.

      2. Caroline*

        I don’t think anyone should have to buy or wear things they don’t want to, but much like having to buy corporate wear, a 3-pack of those very soft, non-wire, ”sleep” bras (or a maternity soft cup is an option – those are actually quite effective), would solve this to the extent that they couldn’t claim she wasn’t wearing a bra, and the discomfort to her would be minimised.

        1. Candi*

          I wouldn’t buy the maternity bras -those were stupid expensive back at the beginning of the 21st century.

          I’d recommend Wingslove or another brand with a similar style.

        2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I buy those cheap, soft cup, cotton/spandex sports/sleep bras (Fruit of the Loom Women’s Built Up Tank Style Sports Bra Value Pack – a 6 pack costs around $22 on Amazon.) I have big boobs, but don’t like to “enhance” my size, or even emphasize it. They do the job of reducing underboob sweat and reducing motion and apparent size.

          I’ve known women and AFABs that don’t wear bras. If they are around my size they flop around, try to crawl out of the armholes on their short sleeve shirts, and often end up pointing prominent nipples in two different directions. I see that, and all I can do is wonder how they manage the sweat under the boobs (that for me is there even in cold weather.)

          1. Candi*

            Antiperspirant? I stopped doing using antiperspirant in the chest area because I kept getting whiteheads, and they were worse than the sweat.

    5. MK*

      You haven’t noticed because most women wear bras, or they wear something else that supports and confines their breasts, or their breasts are small. A person with large breasts wearing nothing under their shirt all day every day will be noticed at some point, and no, you don’t need to be staring at their chest.

      1. PoolLounger*

        Eh, it depends on what they’re wearing. I have large breasts and wear an undershirt, shirt, and sweater/cardigan at work. My chest doesn’t look any different from any of the other larger women I work with, especially the older ones! I think most of them wear bras, just not underwires or anything with padding. But, I’m one of those people who don’t care if my breasts are moving around or not—as long as they’re covered I don’t think visibility having a chest is obscene.

        1. Emma*

          It might not be noticeable if you and your colleagues are standing in a line, but above a certain size the movement is really noticeable, for most people, as soon as someone starts moving around the workplace, picking up or carrying things, reaching for items etc. That’s fine, of course, no-one should be required to wear a bra – but there’s often little you can do to make it not noticeable.

        2. Green great dragon*

          If OP was wearing clothes that disguised the fact she wasn’t wearing a bra then Alison wouldn’t have got the letter, and if OP had asked what options she had other than a bra it would have been a different answer. I think it’s reasonable to assume that it’s pretty obvious OP isn’t wearing a bra, and she doesn’t want to change that.

          1. Citra*

            YES. I don’t understand all the debate about whether or not it’s obvious when women don’t wear bras or if men (who IME generally wear undershirts to prevent nipples or chest hair showing through their button-down shirts; women are not asked to wear ties, either, which men routinely are) are asked to wear bras. The fact that the LW has repeatedly been told she needs to wear a bra means that it’s very obvious to everyone that she isn’t wearing one, probably because not only is there visible movement, but because there are obvious nipples.

            I am a small-busted woman who is very uncomfortable without a bra and sleeps in a bra, but my mother is large-breasted and often went without at home (and still does). It is /very/ obvious when she isn’t wearing one, and my noticing that does not mean I’m creepy, or staring at my mother’s breasts, or somehow sexualizing my own mother. I notice because any human with eyes would notice (eyes are involuntarily drawn to movement, too; you don’t have to be actively looking to notice). It doesn’t /bother/ me, because again it’s my mom at home, but it’s still obvious, and in a professional or work environment it would still be obvious and look sloppy–which is probably the manager’s main point, along with a side of possible sexual harassment caused by the OP refusing to stop making her co-workers and/or clients uncomfortable with her swinging breasts and noticeable nipples. Her co-workers and/or clients should not be forced to see her secondary sex characteristics moving around and nipples poking at her shirt.

            If a man was going commando at work and things were obviously shifting, bouncing, and moving around under his trousers, he would certainly be told to wear underwear. This really isn’t that different, and “Men aren’t asked to wear bras” is a red herring. LW is making people uncomfortable (and probably looks sloppy and unprofessional), and is now fighting to be allowed to continue making people uncomfortable.

            There are lots of soft, comfortable bras for large-breasted women these days, even outside of sports bras. It’s not all underwires anymore, at all. LW could maybe even just buy a few of those shaper-type tanks that will help hold everything in place, and wear those under her work clothes.

            1. Rebecca*

              The OP is customer facing, which is probably why this is coming up. If they’re something like, say, a bank manager, it makes sense that their clothing isn’t considered professional. It isn’t because of the breasts themselves, it’s simply that their look is unpolished.

              The closest male equivalent I can think of would be a man wearing pants that exposes the top inch or two of their boxers being told to wear a belt because people can see when they’re sitting in a chair or whatever.

              So many comments are framing it in the context of gender, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Only OP’s own color commentary suggests that it is. For all we know, the conversation was respectful and they enforce rigid professional dress codes for men just as frequently. I imagine it likely was respectful, because I suspect OP would have pointed that out if it wasn’t.

              I just don’t like the jump to “must be a bunch of misogynists”, because that isn’t necessarily the case. It may just be generally unprofessional in their workplace.

              You also made a very salient point: OP is clearly making several coworkers uncomfortable. We have no way of knowing the context of that. They may very well be misogynistic jerks, and there’s no reason to placate them. But they also may be coming from a place of something like “my client was upset that you showed up in court with a low cut shirt and no bra”, in which case they have a valid argument.

              1. Rowerrabbit*

                The employers could be acting completely ridiculously or maybe the breasts are swinging so much they are knocking people in the face and it’s a safety issue (sorry now I am laughing a lot at this picture) but there isn’t enough understanding of what is happening to know for sure.

              2. Random Dice*

                My high school girl’s basketball team had a regular guest coach who was in his 20s, and wore very loose shorts and no underwear, and his member was startlingly long and floppy. It was mortifying for us.

                None of the adults said anything to this young man about putting on underwear around teenaged girls.

                1. Citra*

                  Were the adults all around to see this? Did any of you say anything to an adult about it? Or are you saying this one story about an unprofessional young gym teacher means that no adult ever would ask a man to stop letting his ween flop around in a professional office with dress code rules beyond “gym shoes and shorts?” I am genuinely horrified that that happened, and it’s gross that anyone expects teen girls to accept being exposed to such things, but it doesn’t mean my point is invalid or that a man could walk around an office with his parts flopping around and no one would say anything.

                  Also, your story only proves my point that having parts in the “bathing suit areas” of the body flopping around makes people uncomfortable, and either is or feels a lot like sexual harassment.

                  Oh, and Gunther on Friends asked Phoebe’s boyfriend to “put the mouse back in the house,” so people do ask men to stop dressing inappropriately. See, I can come up with a lone example, too, and claim that makes some kind of point.

              3. Avril Ludgateaux*

                For all we know, the conversation was respectful and they enforce rigid professional dress codes for men just as frequently.

                But on undergarments? Or, lack thereof? I’ve seen people of both sexes reprimanded for having visible undergarments. I have never seen a man or otherwise male-presenting individual reprimanded for lack of underwear.

            2. This Charming Woman*

              There really aren’t a ton of comfortable, non-underwire bras for large-busted women these days, or at least not for me. I’m a 40GG (UK), and I’ve spent a lot of time buying and returning bras. So far the most comfortable bra I’ve found is underwire, but it’s way more comfortable to not wear one at all. I put up with it for work and other social events, but it pisses me off that I’m expected to wear one.

            3. Em*

              Seconded. I don’t like suiting up in my corporate uniform, I strongly dislike having to wear shoes all day at work, and I find it irritating when I need to spend money on clothes that I most likely won’t wear outside of the office. I am also braless in 95% of my personal life, but I have my work bras or undershirts which are soft and as comfortable as they can be. I am actually impressed that OP feels comfortable going to work with just one layer over large breasts- even as a small breasted person I would be in a perma hunch with my arms crossed constantly to avoid people noticing. I feel like OP is reacting to this as if she was told to wear a full face of makeup or reprimanded for not having styled hair or high heeled shoes, but this is not that. I feel for her because it’s probably incredibly embarrassing, but I don’t think her response is going to get her anywhere good.

            4. Ori*

              Uh, no. OP having body parts isn’t sloppy, and the fact that you’re framing it like that is weird.

              Also, I have never encountered a story of a man being asked to wear underwear, but I have, in my professional office career, encountered a bunch of men whose nipples were visible in a cold office. Somehow we all recovered from the shock and horror, and no one felt sexually harassed because it’s not sexual harassment to (gasp) have a body covered by clothing. Hell, I have full underwire bras that will still sometimes show the outline of my nipples because they’re relatively lightweight and soft.

              Your framing of OP somehow attacking other people with her “swinging breasts” is really, really strange to me. You claim you aren’t focused on other people’s breasts, but I’m not sure if that’s believable given the amount of headspace and offensive significance you seem to devote to them.

          2. Meep*

            I really hope OP looks at the more comfortable lacy bra options that exist now. Many feel like you aren’t wearing one! Though I am part of the itty bitty titty committee so I may be biased.

            1. Bookmark*

              Yeah… as a large-breasted person I will say that while the variety available in larger sizes has certainly increased in the last decade or so, there is still far less variety than there is in smaller sizes. And there are still a lot of designs that are really made for small chests that haven’t been sized up particularly well. In general, it’s not really possible to feel like you aren’t wearing a bra when you have a larger chest, just based on weight and position and stuff. I think that’s part of why you see so much divergence on here between larger chested women about whether they love or hate bras— it feels very different to be wearing one vs not.

              1. Candi*

                I’m in the hate them but have to wear them category of large.

                I remember being so, so happy when I could find larger bras in colors other than flesh and white. Especially black to wear under black tops, although the burgundy is nice as well..

                1. Candi*

                  Edit: Maybe I should phrase that as Caucasian flesh color? My apologies for not thinking things through. :(

                  (Goes off to read subconscious a lecture about bias.)

                2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

                  That tan that is supposed to be “flesh” tone doesn’t match anyone’s skin IMO. I wish they would call it “tan” in ads, not “flesh”, because it’s not. (I’m white, and it’s darker than my skin. Other folks it’s either lighter or an off shade.)

                3. metadata minion*

                  @Curmudgeon — sure, it doesn’t really match anyone’s skin, but when put on someone like me, it’s at least obviously supposed to be a sad least-common-denominator attempt at my skin color. On a black person, it is nowhere close.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              “Many feel like you aren’t wearing one!”

              There is no such thing as a bra that feels like not wearing a bra. I say this as someone who prefers bras and who doesn’t have a particularly large bust. Some bras are more comfortable or less restrictive than others, but they’re always a noticeable presence. Even the softest stretchiest bralette is still a layer of skintight fabric. Lace is even more noticeable because of the texture.

        3. MK*

          I would count an undershirt as “something that supports and confines”, especially if it’s a fitted garment in a substantialmaterial (and not, say, a loose silky one. And of course the more layers you wear the less it shows. The OP says she is only wearing a shirt or blouse, so I am guessing it is obvious.

          1. H2*

            Totally agree.

            I just think there’s a lot of context missing. I’m a college professor and the idea of teaching a class with no bra (walking around, writing on the board!) in front of fifty twenty year olds is honestly the stuff of nightmares. And it would be truly a professional problem—it would be distracting for the students. I can similarly see an issue with, for example, making presentations to clients or a lot of other examples. But if the issue is that Fred doesn’t like it as you walk from your desk to the copier, that’s different.

            But more to the point, it’s obviously noticeable and not obviously illegal for a bra to be a requirement. So I think the LW needs to comply or find a new job.

          2. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Agreed, I haven’t worn a proper bra since roughly 2016, but I have also not gone to work with only a single layer on my top half in that time either. My goal is generally to dress in a way that doesn’t make people think about the way I’m dressing, which means avoiding visible nipples and wearing an extra layer or two – whether it’s a thick cami, a bralette, a built-in shelf bra, or a cardigan or pullover sweater – that keeps my breasts from swinging when I’m hurrying to catch the elevator or dangling out away from my body if I need to lean forward.

            I have these seamless bras I love that are shaped kind of like a sporty bathing suit top (i.e. wide band and wide over the shoulders, all one piece of fabric), have some stretch with moderate resistance around the band area to keep it snugly in place, and then have 4-way stretch and 100% give for the cup area – it’s like a zero-gravity chair, or one of those toys where you can press your hand into the back of a box of small metal rods and it creates a perfect mold of your hand out the front – whatever size and shape breast you press into the cup area, the fabric will conform to that shape exactly. They’re my favorite comfy bras for lounging around the house because the main thing they do is prevent chafing underneath. But they don’t hide my nipples or contain or shape my breasts at all (and if I lean forward in one you can see two distinct breasts dangling down, not a single low mound against my chest), so I know when I wear one of those to work I need to also wear a very thick top or a sweater that I don’t take off.

            1. Candi*

              That sounds lovely, and possibly useful for when I start working in IT. Any brands you recommend?

              (I have to pass one. more. class. and I graduate! Linux/Unix class.)

    6. Stitch*

      It’s quite rare to see a large chested woman not wearing a bra in a professional setting. LW1 can choose this to make their hill to die on, but the whole “cultural norms should change!” Argument does diddly for LW1 right now. It’s a cultural norm, there’s on point legal precedent. It’s just not going to go well for LW1. You have to be realistic about the outcomes right here, right now.

      Like the whole “get a lawyer and fight precedent” thing, you’d have to have large amounts of money because you’d be talking about challenging something up the ladder beyond the trial level. That’s super expensive. Even if LW found some kind of legal aid org willing to pay for it, you’d be talking potentially years for a case to work its way up, with a pretty good chance of no success. And what’s LW going to do for money in the meantime? There’s a reason people who face even blatant legal discrimination often don’t bother to sue. It’s expensive and difficult.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        “And what’s LW going to do for money in the meantime?”

        If she wears the bra, they can’t fire her for suing them.

        1. MK*

          So, the OP wears the bra and sues the company. She now has to go to work every day with people who will think her as an enemy and, even if they don’t retaliate against her in subtle, non-reportable ways, have an incredibly unpleasant work environment, all this wearing uncomfortable (to her) underwear, till the lawsuit, which she may well not win, is settled, which won’t happen in a few weeks or maybe even months. Sounds fun.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I suspect many months to a few years.

            Courts are so badly bogged down, I probably couldn’t get a court date in Small Claims over something like a client refusing to pay an invoice in less than 6 months, maybe a year.

            And that’s assuming OP finds a lawyer willing to take the case.

      2. Another health care worker*

        I mean, this is all true, but it goes for anyone who is considering suing for workplace discrimination and trying to challenge discriminatory laws. There’s no reason LW has to do it, but there’s no reason she has to not do it either. Frankly, from her letter, she sounds like the kind of person who might be up for it! If so, I would thank her on behalf of all people with breasts who don’t want their bosses examining them in any way. Yes, I see all the comments above saying that it’s obvious. I agree, it is. I still want to wear a bra because I decided to, not because my boss said so.

        I believe in these kinds of cases, there are lawyers who only take payment out of an eventual settlement, for exactly the reasons you name: no typical working person could ever afford to sue for discrimination otherwise.

        1. Stitch*

          It’s called contingency and a lawyer won’t take a case in contingency that they aren’t likely to win. Because of precedent issues here, a lawyer is unlikely to take this case.

            1. Stitch*

              She can try. She’s extremely unlikely to find one who will take the case on contingency. Law firms are businesses they have to make decisions based on whether they’re likely to make money.

                1. Stitch*

                  People have to pay their rent. You have to be honest with people. You can get fired and there’s a good chance there’s no legal recourse. You can’t build up fantasies where everything is going to go well for someone when chances are it just won’t. This is an employment forum. You don’t do LWs any favor recommending courses of action where they could lose their jobs.

                2. Another health care worker*

                  The advice at issue was AAM saying OP can *look for a lawyer who will take this case.* This is not life-ruining stuff.

                3. Willow Pillow*

                  Having been in those circumstances for ADA issues (clear-cut discrimination based on a disability), I agree with Stitch. The burden is placed on the complainant in these cases, and it’s a significant burden. I also saw an employment lawyer who was willing to take my case but I was told that it would likely take years to resolve without a lot of return.

                  I appreciate the people who fight these things, I really do, but there are plenty of reasons not to do so and my health is a massive reason.

                4. Candi*

                  Yeah, Willow Pillow. Sometimes all you can do is file a complaint with the appropriate government agency and move on with what you can do that is likely to be helpful or successful. :(

              1. Lisa Simpson*

                Law is also a field with conservative dress standards, so finding a lawyer who’s sympathetic to the cause is going to be tough.

                1. Ashley*

                  I think finding for most of the country would be easy. There are many attorneys who fight for LGTQ+ rights and this is a issue that would impact someone who identifies as non-binary. Filing the case in a court system that is likely to side with the woman in question will be the difficult battle. (And the person needs an income plan B while this works its long long way through the court system.)

                2. Stitch*

                  LW can’t pick a court system here. Venue is determined by geographic location and subject matter jurisdiction (if you’re talking state versus federal).

                  OP can try to find a legal aid org, but frankly is OP even the best test case? Those cases are picked very very carefully.

                3. Splendid Colors*

                  In case this fails to nest properly, I agree with Stitch that it’s reeeallly unlikely a legal aid org would pick OP for a test case for dress code discrimination because OP’s bosses want her to follow a standard cultural norm. There are plenty of candidates for test cases whose bosses are being unreasonably prudish, or on the other end of the spectrum, expecting them to be overly sexualized at work. Or test cases for religious discrimination against women who want to wear headscarves at work, or ADA claims for women whose disability means they can’t wear high heels.

                  I think it would be different if OP were non-binary AFAB and wore a binder under masculine clothing but their boss wanted them to wear a pushup bra and feminine suits.

        2. MK*

          This isn’t a discriminatory law, it’s a social and cultural norm and a person’s preference not to wear underwear.

          1. Another health care worker*

            Laws are not labeled discriminatory at the outset–it happens because someone successfully challenges them as discriminatory! All discrimination starts out as social and cultural norms, until people start criticizing it and it becomes less normative!

      3. RussianInTexas*

        I agree.
        All this is great in theory, but in practice, right now, the LW has the options: comply, comply and try to sue, or be fired and try to sue. And mostly likely lose.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      It can be very noticeable, and obvious to the point that lying would be silly, but that look is something a lot of large breasted women avoid. I’m busty, (not the highest end of the scale but above what most shops will sell) and I have gotten by with a supportive cami; but I wouldn’t have been able to wear anything thin (nipples) or been able to move a lot (highly obvious jiggling), if I ran or danced. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with female nipples, or a lot of jiggling, but I’m not comfortable with it. It depends on how active OPs job is, how thick or thin her clothes are and what else is under them. There is also a lot of middle ground between wearing a thin shirt and nothing else, and wearing a fully wired up bra, so OP has some options aside from those two.

      1. Candi*

        Shops not carrying my size is why I shop online. Grump.

        I’m wondering if OP wears a suit jacket at all, since apparently their role is customer-facing. The heavier material might make various movements less obvious than just a blouse or shirt.

        (Doesn’t have to be a 2 or 3 piece suit -just a jacket and pants/skirt where the colors/shades match.)

    8. Sadie*

      I have never noticed if a person is wearing a bra or not, but I believe people who say it’s noticeable. So I suppose my question is, so it’s noticeable. So what? Why should anyone care? That’s what’s gross about it.

      1. ceiswyn*

        Why should anyone care about anyone’s clothing choices?

        But we live in a world where, for whatever reason, noticeable bralessness is considered even less professional than comical t-shirts. Of course one of these dress codes overlaps with issues of sexualisation of female bodies, misogyny, physical comfort etc; but that doesn’t *necessarily* mean that someone who feels strongly about bra-wearing is a creep or a misogynist.

          1. Roland*

            I mean, why should anyone care about wearing holey pyjamas to work? It’s not relevant to this conversation because “professional” dress codes exist whether or not you or I agree that they should.

          2. ceiswyn*

            Is it ‘gross’ if someone is told not to wear a faded band t-shirt to their bank job? Or is it just a violation of professional norms?

      2. blam*

        Agreed – it is gross. I know tons of men who wear a thin cotton shirt with nothing underneath, and the shape of their chest, including nipple, is super visible. (I don’t have a problem with this, by the way.) There are many ways flesh can move, especially as we age. But this is the one thing we clamp down on, no pun intended. It’s misogynistic as hell.

        Unfortunately LW may be forced to choose between going braless and keeping her job.

        1. Candi*

          I’ve worked in places where that wasn’t allowed, and undershirts were specified in the dress code if the shirt wasn’t thick enough. (For men and women -I wore a lot of male t-shirts because women’s are bloody expensive.)

    9. blam*

      I think the vast majority of people with large breasts do wear a bra of some sort, and that’s why you haven’t noticed. I’m a 40H and the difference between bra/no bra on me is extremely obvious. You really couldn’t miss it, and you wouldn’t have to be staring.

      1. blam*

        (I know it’s not meant this way, but ‘how would you even know’ always comes up on letters about bra wearing in the office, and it always has a slight ring of ‘surely no one is THAT large/pendulous/jiggly/whatever’. Just…please bear in mind that some of are are? And that even among large breasted women there is a ton of variation? I always come away from these comment sections feeling a little like my experience of breast ownership would be considered actually freakish by a lot of women, and it doesn’t feel great.)

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          I mean, I’m not large or pendulous or jiggly and it’s still extremely noticeable when I don’t wear a bra.

          1. Random Dice*

            My boobs are C cup, and it’s still really obvious when I’m sans support of some kind.

            And as folks mention, under boob sweat.

        2. kitryan*

          I feel like there’s a range of noticablilty from no one would be able to tell to everyone would and a similar range of observers, where some people would pick up on even non-obvious situations and some people just don’t notice anything, however obvious, so the comments sees all kinds of match ups of observer and observed generalizing those experiences all over the place. And it’s not like anyone’s getting graded on this – at the end of the day, people don’t get scored on how many braless people they noticed or how many people didn’t notice their bralessness, so there’s no way to confirm how obvious or oblivious people are.
          Personally, I don’t feel comfy in public with nothing for support but have moved to wearing mostly light to medium support sports bras. I also had a co worker who never wore a bra, it was immediately (to me) obvious, but that was her business, as far as I was concerned, my only job relating to this was to not notice to the best of my ability (the slight movement was distracting some times but that’s my issue, just as if she’d been wearing a clinky necklace or something like that).

        3. Siege*

          On top of your excellent point, there’s also the fact that it’s 1000% a moot point because someone has in fact noticed. It’s great that a bunch of people in the comments aren’t OP’s manager, but it’s not helping anything at all to stand around discussing whether noticing makes you a creep or a tool of the patriarchy or an agent of the Bra Industrial Complex or if not noticing is The Only True Feminism, because something about OP’s situation is such that :
          A) people have noticed;
          B) her manager has told her to correct the issue;
          C) OP has refused to do so and:
          C1) provided no context for why she refuses or
          C2) clarified nothing about why this is an actual need. But:
          D) she has written to an advice blog to get permission to not do something she doesn’t want to do that her employer is making a (legally-protected) condition of trouble-free employment.

          So we can debate women’s bodies all day but literally no one’s reported experience thus far seems to be as incredibly hostile as OP’s approach appears (no bra is one thing; no bra and only one layer on top is quite another; rules-lawyering that men aren’t required to wear bras so women shouldn’t be required to either (and you’re not required to wear a tie, sister) elevates the whole thing to another level) so noticing bralessness is basically the least of the problem, but the debate has the strong chance of othering people, to no benefit.

          1. ThatMarketingChick*

            This is one of the most clear, concise, and on-point comments so far. We can all share how we feel about the tyranny – or liberation – that bras provide, but that does not resolve the LW’s issue.

            Offering up justification like “men aren’t required to wear bras!” is so nonsensical that it erodes the very tiny hill you seem intent to die on.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I haven’t worked in an office since 2000, but if my boss required me to wear makeup as part of the dress code, I might die on that hill (or look for a different job). I used to wear makeup at work because that is what women do to look professional. (And wear nylons, with heels that wrecked my arches.) I am autistic and I can’t stand the feeling of makeup on my face, powder and eye makeup getting into my eyes, mascara making my lashes stick to each other a bit every time I blink, etc. It’s irritating enough that it lowers my threshold for other annoyances and makes it more likely I will do or say something FAR more unprofessional than it is to have freckles and dark circles under my eyes.

        4. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I’m a 44 G, and I am pendulous and jiggly without a boob harness (bra.) I wear cotton/spandex sports bras that contain the motion and absorb sweat. I even wear it at home, for my comfort! I’m big, but not a freak, and I agree with you that it doesn’t feel good when people imply that ‘no one really is that large/pendulous/jiggly/whatever’. Because yes, I’m enby, and stuck with these large boobs that I can’t afford to get reduced/eliminated, and it does not do good things to my head to be considered an obviously fem person with boobs that are too big.

        5. Ace in the Hole*

          I agree. Plus it just seems so out of touch, like they don’t realize the overwhelming majority of people wear a bra and the few who don’t usually take pains to dress in a way that hides it.

    10. Melissa*

      “I am wearing a bra” is hilarious and brilliant. Or, you could buy one of those real flimsy, lacy lingerie ones that offers no support, doesn’t change your silhouette at all, and wear that. So you wouldn’t be lying when you said “I am wearing one.” Is your boss then going to try to regulate what type of bra you wear?

      1. MK*

        These bras may not offer much support, but they absolutely do change your silhouette and prevent movement. It’s not the same as going braless. And even if it was, with an employer like the OP’s, who is willing to make this an issue, what makes you think they won’t continue to object? “Wear a bra” in this context means “conform to our notion of a professional appearance”, not about the specific garment.

        1. GingerNP*

          But following the letter of the demand by buying something soft, comfortable, and likely about 1/3 of the price of a heavily structured bra, means that LW1 would be able to show a bra strap indicating that she is, indeed, wearing a bra as they instructed.

          1. Simon Kershaw*

            I think a lot of commenters here have spent too much time reading “maliciously complying” stories online, and forget that this is a workplace advice blog.

            Escalating a fight with your boss is never a smart idea, even if you are semantically correct.

            1. Candi*

              The successful maliciously complying stories are successful because they are precisely within the rules as written -it’s just “precisely within the rules” in a way that is to the boss’/other donkey’s detriment. Personal favorite is “concentrate on your own work!” orders, when the author has been doing a ton of things outside their official job to help the business run smoother.

              The “use this type of bra” is playing with the rule rather than precisely complying with it in a way that hurts the rule-maker.

          2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

            A soft, comfortable and inexpensive bra is likely to accomplish want the boss wants – less noticeable boob movement.

    11. Wintermute*

      I really don’t think challenging why they are talking about the issue which is A PROBLEM FOR THEM is going to be the winning strategy you think.

      It’s quite likely to simply result in a response of “we are discussing them because you have made this an issue and we are getting complaints, if you did not want your body discussed then you shouldn’t have made a point of violating the dress code.”

      It’s also quite likely to simply result in being fired on the spot for insubordination, since it’s pretty clear the LW is already on thin ice here.

    12. Oblivious*

      I agree in that I don’t think I would notice this. How would you know for sure unless you were playing some crazy game where you were asked to guess if a woman was wearing and bra or not and then the solution was revealed to you?

      I am a woman who will almost always wear a bra for my comfort, but won’t wear really uncomfortable bras. So I wear some not very supportive, saggy bras around the house. And some somewhat supportive, but no sexy shape making sports bras pretty much almost all the rest of the time, and my boobs still sag. I do not know how they can know, FOR SURE, but folks can make a guess.

      In this case they are guessing right because based on what the LW saying she’s a large breasted woman, and it must be obvious to people who notice such things.

    13. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is what I’m getting stuck on too. They cannot prove that OP isn’t wearing a bra. It is in fact possible to be wearing an ill-fitting bra and look like you don’t, or worse (if you’re spilling out of the bra, for example – the bra is on as required, but it is not the look OP’s boss is after.) I don’t know that there is any substance to their threat to send OP home to put on a bra if they cannot prove OP isn’t wearing one?

      I wear a G/H cup now, but my size has fluctuated over the years because of life stuff like breastfeeding, weaning, weight loss, weight gain etc, as did my financial ability to buy a well-fitting bra, so I’ve had all the experiences. In my long career, I have noticed that a coworker wasn’t wearing a bra exactly once – she was also wearing a semi-sheer top that morning. Other than that, just like you, I have never noticed or paid attention.

      1. Observer*

        They cannot prove that OP isn’t wearing a bra.

        They don’t need to. Because if the argument is “I am wearing one but it’s so bad you can’t tell the difference” the reasonable response is that she needs to find a better bra.

        The fact that the dress code does not explicitly state “Bra required” supports that. Because their argument is about how the OP looks. And if she looks like she’s not wearing a bra, then that’s the issue that needs to change.

        I don’t know that there is any substance to their threat to send OP home to put on a bra if they cannot prove OP isn’t wearing one?

        Of course there is. They can send her home till she changes SOMETHING about the way she is dressed to that she looks like she is wearing a bra.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          They don’t need to. Because if the argument is “I am wearing one but it’s so bad you can’t tell the difference” the reasonable response is that she needs to find a better bra.

          The fact that the dress code does not explicitly state “Bra required” supports that. Because their argument is about how the OP looks. And if she looks like she’s not wearing a bra, then that’s the issue that needs to change.

          Good bras in large sizes are hard to find and are expensive as heck. (Cheaper now thanks to Amazon, but there was a time when my bra was the most expensive thing I had on at any given time, and yes I was going into the office wearing business casual clothes that met the dress code.)

          And I bet OP’s company dress code has something like “no visible underwear” (mine did), so if she puts a bra on and it’s showing, she’s up a creek again.

          I am not saying that this is a fight OP can win, I don’t think she can at this point. I’m saying that this requirement sucks and is discriminatory and classist in a lot of ways (are they paying her enough to buy a bra in a large size that’d be supportive yet not visible?)

          1. Observer*

            Good bras in large sizes are hard to find and are expensive as heck. (Cheaper now thanks to Amazon, but there was a time when my bra was the most expensive thing I had on at any given time, and yes I was going into the office wearing business casual clothes that met the dress code.)

            Which is not really relevant to the issue at hand. Whether or not the bra creates an undue burden is a reasonable discussion. But you don’t need to prove whether or not someone is wearing a bra or not to enforce the rule about appearance. And you also don’t need to get into that in order to have the conversation about the cost.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              All valid points if we are still talking about no bra at all vs any bra. My response was to your “Because if the argument is “I am wearing one but it’s so bad you can’t tell the difference” the reasonable response is that she needs to find a better bra.” Which, i agree, is not the issue at hand.

    14. RussianInTexas*

      Really? I have large breasts and you can ABSOLUTELY say when I am not wearing a bra, including under an outdoor jacket.
      They move significantly more, and they are not where you expect them to be, as in much lower. Also, a lot of them on the side.

    15. joan*

      There’s something women sometimes aren’t aware of: When you pose in front of a mirror, trying on clothes or checking how you look, you usually don’t look in a 3-way mirror — including from the BACK. And, when you move; it’s hard to move and walk while looking in the mirrors.
      But others can see your body MOVING as you walk. And if you’re busty but braless, it may be a lot more movement than you realize. Or cleavage may “creep” in more than you expect.
      If you’ve watched lots of video of you at work you may know you never have an issue like this, but if you haven’t, maybe you do. I’ve seen a very large person at work wearing skintight, thin stretchpants that revealed her body — her crack and creases. Cringey.
      If you see video of you walking around, picking things up from the floor, etc., will you see more than you expected? Is that blouse more sheer than you realize? Do you know to wear a NUDE bra under a white blouse? Not a white one?

      1. Candi*

        I felt bad for one woman I read about.

        The short version is the transparency of the peach-colored blouse was different under store and home lights then the new LED lights at the office.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I had a satin bra that covered everything, and a red textured blouse that looked like it covered my bra in regular lighting–but in a flash photo, that satin bra reflected back at the camera like I was wearing a transparent chiffon top.

  4. Turanga Leela*

    OP #1: If you are inclined to make trouble, you could politely ask your supervisor to lay out the specifications for “a bra.” Does it need to have an underwire? Would a bralette be acceptable? How about a camisole with a shelf bra?

    You have to hit EXACTLY the right note with these questions or they will get you fired on the spot, but–again, if you want to make trouble–asking for details can highlight the arbitrariness and lack of actual specificity in the policy.

    1. Electric sheep*

      This is likely to burn up quite a bit of capital for the LW and tbh I don’t think it will particularly change what the boss is asking her to do. She has probably already tested their patience by not doing what they asked her to while at the same time not having a conversation with the boss to explain why she wasn’t, so the boss probably already feels ignored and frustrated, which is a bad start to the convo.

      1. What's in a name?*

        She has already burned a lot of capital on this. The whole “men don’t have to wear a bra” makes her seem out of touch.

        1. L-squared*

          Right. This just seemed like such a reach to me.

          As Alison said, many places have differences in what they consider professional for men and women. It’s changing, but its not there yet. I’ve worked places like Alison mentioned where men’s hair couldn’t be longer than a certain length, or weren’t allowed to wear nail polish. I’ve even been places where women could wear sandals but men couldn’t . This just seemed like an extreme thing she was trying to prove, which of course wasn’t going to go anywhere

        2. High Score!*

          That’s not out of touch. It’s ridiculous that in the year 2022 that we are so fixated on women’s bodies that they’re attire must be policed. It’s BS. “Social norms” are a way of oppressing women. Segregation used to be a social norm too. She called them out and she’s right.

          1. Wintermute*

            it’s a part of the body with a long history of being considered sexualized. you cannot ignore that cultural context.

            It’s like complaining it’s sex discrimination if your work asked you to zip up your fly because your underwear were showing, it’s not going to be the compelling argument you really think it will be.

            1. H2*

              Yeah, my husband came home from TJ maxx once with a pair of flat-front pants in a very thin material, and I made him take them back. He couldn’t tell because standing still and looking down or in a mirror they were fine, but some movements and lights just weren’t great. I think that’s a better equivalency and I think that no one would argue that seeing the outline through pants isn’t an issue.

              1. Wintermute*

                agreed 100% it’s a very apt analogy. Clothing exists for many reasons, some are not so great (class signifiers) and some are quite necessary to society (warmth, protection from elements and hazards), and some aren’t a matter of life and death but are a matter of the comfort of others. Concealing intimate parts of the body is part of that. If your clothes aren’t doing that, it’s a problem.

                1. Anon Fed Employee*

                  Yeah – they way it’s out in the dress code for my job (which is a federal job) is: regardless of your gender we do not want to know about your underwear (or lack thereof) preferences. If you make us aware of them you will be in violation.

                  Personally I’m speculating that the OP may be either very well endowed or have prominent nipples, which their clothing isn’t thick or structured enough to make the lack of a bra obvious.

            2. High Score!*

              No it’s not the same. Men and women’s dress codes should be exactly the same. Men sexualizing non sexual parts of a woman is a problem and that’s what need addressed.

                1. High Score!*

                  No they’re not. Those breasts are there to feed babies. Now men’s breasts have absolutely no purpose so men should be the ones who have to cover them. I don’t want to see man nipples sticking out thru their shirts. Have some decency – wear pasties – you ho men!

                2. Hlao-roo*

                  Facial hair and Adam’s apples are also secondary sexual characteristics. Are they also inherently sexual?

                3. Nina*

                  By that logic, beards and Adam’s apples are also sexual and men should cover their throats. No? No.

                4. Candi*

                  “Are X and Y sexual” is ignoring the traditional context that comes from many, many, many cultures throughout history and from all over the world. The vast majority sexualize breasts.

                  Note that there have been artifacts unearthed on Crete that indicate in that day it was perfectly fine to show breasts with some outfits -that doesn’t mean breasts weren’t sexualized in their culture, it means that covering or exposing them wasn’t part of that sexualization.

                  In the modern day, breasts are still considered a secondary sexual body part. While we can work to change that, we still have to deal with the reality of today.

                5. Dr Sarah*

                  @Appletini (out of nesting):

                  ‘How do you feel about public breastfeeding, then?’

                  That it shouldn’t be done while dealing with others in a professional capacity in a workplace, and hence is irrelevant to the debate of what norms should exist in such a situation.

              1. Common Taters on the Ax*

                I don’t think most of the differences in dress codes can be traced to men sexualizing nonsexual parts of women’s bodies. So while it is true that that’s problem, solving the problem wouldn’t leave us with a single dress code. There are a lot more things that only we can wear and still look “professional” (skirts, sleeveless tops, etc) than there are for men. In fact, for men, obvious bralessness is pretty much it!

            3. Big Breasted Bra Wearer (but commando!)*

              Wintermute, thanks for saying this. In our culture, women’s breasts are highly sexual. No amount of protesting or posturing is going to change that.

              I don’t want to see the male equivalent of camel toe in the workplace either.

              Working at home for the win yet again!

          2. Another health care worker*

            +1. It’s not “out of touch,” though it may have been deliberately obtuse. She’s calling attention to their unfair policy, and to the fact that it isn’t written anywhere. I appreciate this, as someone who wouldn’t have the guts.

            Why isn’t the solution that everyone just get over their discomfort with how a woman’s body looks? Social norms can change, and some should.

            1. Big Breasted Bra Wearer (but commando!)*

              Good luck with this. It isn’t discomfort with how a woman’s body looks, for heaven’s sake.

              Workplace professional dress norms have changed since I started in the 1970s. Pantyhose (what are those?) and heels are no longer required, pants are OK, matching suits not needed, definitely more casual in many places, not all. It has been an evolution. But wanting breasts totally free is different, it’s not like the long-needed acceptance of ethnic hair styles as professional which only discriminated against one racial group.

              I never wear panties at home, but I do when going out. Same for a bra. And I look forward to ripping it off as soon as I get home. I’m not looking, but I notice very droopy breasts, which can mean a non-supportive bra (I’ve had some), and not no bra at all. If someone is comfortable like that, more power to them, but I’m not employing them. We all compromise on something to work with other people, there’s no total freedom in the workplace for men or women.

          3. Rex Libris*

            The immediate issue is that being right and remaining employed are two different things. On a philosophical level, of course she’s right. On a practical level, does she want to be fired, then possibly spend years and thousands of dollars fighting it in court?

              1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

                And it’s waste, not just spend, tens of thousands, because as laid out there’s pretty much zero chance she would win. As many other’s have noted, for better or worse there’s legal precedent for gender-based dress codes. And nothing in OP’s letter indicated she has officially requested accommodation (medical, religious, or any other kind).

          4. Observer*

            It’s ridiculous that in the year 2022 that we are so fixated on women’s bodies that they’re attire must be policed. It’s BS

            Which is really not relevant here. There is no indication that men don’t have a dress code as well. EVERYONE’S attire is being “policed”.

            I mean if the OP wants to lose her job over this, she can do that. But she’s not going to win a lawsuit. And if her employer chooses to fight it, she might not even be able to collect unemployment.

            Not recognizing this IS out of touch.

            1. lilsheba*

              ugh this ended up in the wrong place, I agree with the person who says this is out of touch and originally said this: “It’s ridiculous that in the year 2022 that we are so fixated on women’s bodies that they’re attire must be policed. It’s BS”

                1. Appletini*

                  You also said above you wouldn’t employ someone who doesn’t wear a bra, so that figures into how much we should consider your opinion.

        3. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

          Agreed. She’s already marked herself as a “problem employee.” Even if she conforms now, that’s going to be hard to shake.

        4. iliketoknit*

          Agreed. Comparing to men not wearing a bra isn’t really the winning play here – it’d be like a man in a business formal environment complaining that they should only have to wear a tie if the women have to (or in another context, jock straps). Different attitudes to bodies generally understood as male and female are even enshrined in law, in that (in many states anyway, not all) men can walk around in public topless but women doing so could be arrested for indecency. Not saying this is fair or right, but it will have to change before the LW’s argument will help her.

          A more helpful comparison would likely be “you’re not telling the small breasted women they have to wear a bra,” but since it was noted that all the other women in the office wear bras, that’s foreclosed as well. Though I do suspect at least part of the “you need to wear a bra” direction is coming from the LW having large breasts, in the vein of recent news items about curvy women getting told their clothes are too sexually revealing when they’re not wearing anything different from other women.

        5. Mockingjay*

          But let’s face it, bras are DAMNED uncomfortable, even the best fitting ones at times. I’m medium large (DD) and I can get away with a stretch cami for support most days (bless remote work), but I wear a bra in the office, simply because of the same reaction OP got.

          Fantasy Advice: Maybe a better argument for OP1 would be: “Fred has a jiggly beer belly that makes me uncomfortable. Can we make him wear a corset?”

          Real advice: OP1, you’re going to have wear something underneath. I’m sorry, I hate it for you, I hate the double standard for women’s bodies, and most of all, I HATE THAT A WOMAN’S JOB CAN BE HELD HOSTAGE BY A F*CKING UNDERGARMENT.
          Pick the simplest, most comfortable option to wear and make it clear to Supervisor that since you are complying with their directive, going forward you would appreciate it if your coworkers are directed to keep their minds off body parts and pay attention to the work you perform instead.

        6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Yeah, bras are meant to shape and support your biggest secondary sexual characteristic. Arguing that folks without that secondary sexual characteristic should also have to wear them is ludicrous.

          1. Sarah789*

            I completely agree with you. Just put on a darn bra, Lady! Is this really the hill you want to die on?

            I’m a large chested woman and I don’t want to see you swinging about either. It is a simple requirement. If you don’t like their rules then go work somewhere else.

        7. Common Taters on the Ax*

          Agree with this. She’s in a worse place than she needed to be now. She’s unfortunately been argumentative when she didn’t have a good argument. And now everyone’s upset, obviously including her, so honestly I think it’s time to decide whether any bra of any description can be tolerable and if not, leave. Those are the terms of the job.

          Is it fair? As fair as any standard of professional dress is. There were days not so long ago when women had to wear hose (shudder) to be considered professionally dressed. And before we complain too much about how clothing standards oppress us, let’s not forget that there are still plenty of jobs where men have to wear ties. At least we’ve never been subjected to a mandatory choking device.

          1. Big Breasted Bra Wearer (but commando!)*

            The only time I feel sorry for men is when I see them in those choking devices. I can’t stand crewneck tops, nothing against my neck! They also have to (typically) wear long pants and closed shoes in hot weather, Don’t envy them at all.

        8. Courageous cat*

          Yeah, I’m with you on this one. Asking your male coworkers if they were told to is… making a point (and not necessarily an invalid one in a vacuum), but not really relevant to reality.

    2. MK*

      Eh, why would that be making trouble for anyone but herself? The boss isn’t likely to be stumped by these questions anymore than they have been with OP’s “men aren’t required to wear bras” argument. And they may well come back with a detailed guide about what is acceptable with more strict requirements than they would otherwise set.

      1. Anon Fed Employee*

        Part of what I like about the way our dress code phrases it:
        Regardless of your gender we do not want to know about your underwear (or lack thereof) preferences. If you make us aware of them you will be in violation.

        In this case the problem would have been making work aware (however it happened) about the lack of underwear – not the lack itself.

    3. Allonge*

      Not quite sure how this would help – it’s a bit the “watch the world burn” approach.

      On the other hand, imagine getting a dress code with this level of detail! Quite a lot of women would not be wild about it, myself included. It does not solve OP’s problem, but creates issues for everyone else.

    4. Drag0nfly*

      That’s a pointless time-waster though, because the boss simply has to say: “a bra is a garment you insert your breasts into to keep them from jiggling and bouncing, and doesn’t expose your nipples. And you’re not five, so you know that. Dress accordingly.”

      Forcing a boss to treat her like a dimwitted child is only going to burn capital, and she will gain nothing by it. It damages her credibility and diminishes trust in her judgment. And what does she gain?

      1. alienor*

        Yeah, it does sort of have the air of asking for a definition of what constitutes “pants,” and then showing up in a pair of chaps and insisting that you are wearing pants because they have a waistband and belt and they cover your legs. I don’t think this is something the OP can get out of by rules-lawyering.

        1. Professional Button Pusher*

          I world for a remote org with staff based all over the world, and this reminds me of some hilarious confusion among my UK-based co-workers about a dress code requiring “pants” for certain portions of a staff retreat. Pants = underpants (specifically, women’s panties) in the UK.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I think this might have worked in the first instance, but OP has been really defiant on a few occasions, based on the assumption that the law requires equal dress codes. Now she’s probably on her last chance, so she needs to either die on the hill, or make sure she at least looks like she’s wearing a bra. I think she might be able to discuss alternatives if she does so apologetically and sincerely saying she doesn’t have her size, or that a true bra hurts but that she’ll do her best to find appropriate support. I don’t think half measures and point making is going to fly though. Thank you for the term shelf bra! The description of that was driving me crazy.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah, I wish OP had done a little more research before putting her foot down so she knew what her rights were, and she didn’t burn so much capital on being stubborn. I don’t think OP is wrong, to be clear, and I’m all for malicious compliance if it’s available, but I don’t think this was the most strategic approach.

    6. Green great dragon*

      I think that’d be fairly easy to answer – probably with yes, any of the above. And I don’t think OP wants to wear any of them.

    7. ecnaseener*

      It seems like the most likely outcome of asking these questions is the boss lands on “yes it has to be underwire, or at least enough lift and immobilization to pass as underwire” when they otherwise might have accepted a bralette.

    8. Wintermute*

      If this was done WAY earlier, as a way of asking what, specific problem they want you to solve, then it might have worked (e.g. if the problem is coworkers complaining of visible nipples then silicone patches could work, if the problem is too much cleavage different shirts could work, if the problem is they’re moving around and she’s accidentally exposing herself in the process then other methods could be employed or different shirts, etc).

      At this point she just needs to buck up and comply OR very delicately ask, without a hint of insubordination, what the precise problem you are being asked to solve is.

      1. Candi*

        “if the problem is they’re moving around and she’s accidentally exposing herself”

        That reminds me of a shirt I had to take back.

        It should’ve been in my size. But thanks to my cup size, it was far too short in front.

        While not wearing a bra would change the drape, are OP’s shirts still long enough to not cause her belly to be shown randomly as she moves around? As I observed with my mother’s slobbin’ around clothing, it’s far too easy to flash by accident if the shirt is too short. (She was large-chested too.)

    9. Observer*

      asking for details can highlight the arbitrariness and lack of actual specificity in the policy.

      All it’s going to do is make her look stupid or obnoxious.

      Sure, the policy is not specific. Most really good policies actually aren’t. I mean do you REALLY want dress code policies with the kind of specificity you are suggesting the OP ask for. Forget bras (or lack thereof). Do you really want a dress code that’s 500 pages long and lays out the exact materials, colors, cuts and sizing that people can wear?

    10. Iris Eyes*

      In the interest of trying to find out what specifically is the issue I like this tack. It is likely that any additional layer on the top half could solve whatever they actually have an issue with. And plenty of workplaces would have no problem telling people of any gender presentation that they should have on an underlayer (some of those white men’s shirts are REALLY sheer lol).

      To all the commenters who are so concerned about silhouette, large breasts harnessed into their “proper” place is highly likely to make button down shirts, scoop neck shirts etc to be LESS professional because of the whole cleavage thing and button popping thing.

      1. Big Breasted Bra Wearer (but commando!)*

        I gave up button down shirts years ago. Properly fitted scoopnecks and v-necks even aren’t revealing, I know because that’s my entire wardrobe.

    11. Double A*

      Workplaces can make it so simple. “No nipples or hair visible under shirts.” Bam. It applies to all humans who have nipples. Whatever undergarments or layers they use to achieve this is on them.

      I think this fight about a “bra” is the problem. Because really the problem is there is too much visibility into what is going on underneath the OP’s clothes. If she can use a camisole or bralette or layers or whatever to cover her nipples and limit movement, that should be fine. If she does that and they’re still like, “No, it must be a bra,” then it’s a problem. Right now the bra is a solution to the problem. OP should have them articulate the problem, then she can address the problem in whatever way is most comfortable to her.

    12. Jessica Fletcher*

      Malicious compliance time! They told you to wear a bra. They didn’t tell you it had to be tight. Get a loose bralette or even a crop top that you can comfortably wear. You’ll be wearing a bra, as requested. Are they really gonna dictate what your breasts look like in the bra? Cuz that’s moving into gender discrimination territory, complaining that your body isn’t sufficiently pleasing.

  5. What nonsense will 2023 bring us?*

    LW1, I’m side-eyeing how much time your supervisors apparently spend looking at other people’s chests (and not wanting to think about what they look at on your male colleagues).

    Like Alison said, it’s up to you to decide how far you want to push it. That said, the comments tend to have good advice on braless options that make it less obvious you’re not wearing a bra (not that anyone should be paying that much attention to your chest anyway), so if you don’t feel like fully pushing back maybe that could also be an option? Though admittedly, this would be a safer option if you weren’t already on a last warning.

    It might also be worth figuring out what gives away your being braless and address that instead. If you’re anything like me going braless makes jiggle physics (don’t google that on a work computer or even a work network) look tame, but that might not be the case for you.

    I’m sorry I even have to suggest any of this, however. No one should be looking that closely at anything that is not your face (except maybe a doctor in the process of examining you), but here we are.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. It shouldn’t be an issue at all, but for people who are bustier, it often sadly is. I suspect that with this employer, nothing more than fully conforming to their expectations will be acceptable, given that the LW’s on her last warning.

      Granted, I couldn’t imagine going braless, just the idea of no support makes my back and shoulders ache (underwire bras FTW!), but I have no idea if my coworkers are wearing a bra or not, and it’s none of my business regardless.

      My mom had a 40+ year career in a STEM field, and she never wore more than a bralette. Granted, she spent most of her time at work in a lab, but AFAIK she never got any comments about not wearing a bra at work.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      I think I’d notice. I definitely do not spend time looking at people’s chests. It just takes half a second to notice something, the same way you notice that someone is wearing a cute neckline, or an adorable print fabric, or that you really like the ruching effect on their dress. All of those things happen in the same general region.

    3. Not always right*

      I don’t think it’s so much that management is purposely staring at women’s chest as it is that OP says she is well endowed. As such, her simply walking at a fast pace would make it evident that she isn’t wearing a bra. I had a co-worker once who was average sized in the chest area. She was a fast walker and I can attest that it was very easy to tell she didn’t wear a bra. In a addition to that, the AC was often set on frigid, so that made it more noticeable. I am guessing that someone spoke to her about it because she started wearing scarves or pashimas. That pretty much took care of bra gate.

    4. tg33*

      For some people it’s really obvious when someone isn’t wearing a bra, without having to stare. If your coworkers can tell you aren’t wearing a bra, without staring or obviously looking, then it’s obvious you aren’t wearing a bra.

    5. Wintermute*

      There are tons of reasons that are perfectly legitimate. The most likely thing is they are getting complaints that she isn’t fully covered up and any accusation of harassment here could easily be turned around on her.

      I don’t get the people here who are like “why are they discussing her body, that’s sexual harassment”– when the same thing could EASILY be turned around on her if she’s having slips or stuff is more visible than she thinks. If no one could tell no one would care, so obviously PEOPLE CAN TELL. It’s entirely possible a co-worker has filed a harassment complaint against her because they think she’s subtly flashing them in a targeted way.

    6. Environmental Compliance*

      “It might also be worth figuring out what gives away your being braless and address that instead.”

      +1000

      Maybe the answer isn’t a bra – maybe wearing a thicker undershirt would help. Or maybe pasties. Or maybe a cami with a shelf built in.

      Or maybe they really are just being creepy and overly attentive… it’s really hard to say based on what’s in the letter by itself.

      I wouldn’t say I’m *huge*, but I’m bursty enough that it is noticeable if I am not wearing a bra with certain shirts. So…. I don’t wear that combo to work. But there’s a lot of other options that aren’t necessarily ‘bra’ on days I can’t bring myself to deal with the ribcage pressure.

    7. Quinalla*

      Since I WFH nearly all the time now, I don’t wear a bra except for the couple times I go in, go to conferences, etc. Even then, if it is cold out and I’m wearing a sweater, I don’t wear a bra as while I’m sure some people could guess, it just isn’t that noticeable in bulkier wear. I do wear a cami with no bra or structure in it, this gives me just a hint of support and I like it for warmth and coverage of my stomach/back if I am bending over/reaching up – I do that for some site work for my job frequently.

      But yeah, for tighter fitting shirts/blouses, going without a bra looks weird enough that I haven’t wanted to not wear one. I’ve been experimenting with different types, found a couple good non-underwire bras at Torrid – the shelf bras and very unstructured bras are not comfortable or don’t look right on me.

      Otherwise, only time I wear a bra is a sports bra when exercising so I don’t get the annoying/painful exercise bounce. But yeah, I’m a 42D and after 2 pregnancies/3 babies, I don’t have any of the expected breast shape without a bra on. I have to say my back, shoulders, etc. are so much happier not wearing a bra and I did have ones that fit well.

    8. Tetonica*

      “It might also be worth figuring out what gives away your being braless and address that instead. If you’re anything like me going braless makes jiggle physics (don’t google that on a work computer or even a work network) look tame, but that might not be the case for you.”

      oh hey, you know what would fix that. A br— eh, never mind.

  6. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “as long as the dress code doesn’t place a significantly higher burden on one sex.”

    The courts have apparently never bought a good quality bra otherwise they’d know how expensive it can get.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Right??? Like I know it doesn’t meet the legal definition but the price, variety of styles, difficulty of sizing properly, comfort, etc can be a pretty giant hardship on a personal level

      1. Allonge*

        I believe the (legal) argument here would be that this is not the case for all women, or even (citation needed!) for the majority of women (I would love to see some stats on this though!).

        Yes, it takes some time/effort, but is that not the case with just about any clothing item? It’s not like finding a good suit is easy or cheap. I have not found a blouse that fits well in ages – I have at least two bra brands that work well for me (after removing the underwire). Stands to reason for others it’s going to be the other way around.

        So the point is that this is part of the hurdles of getting dressed.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          “I would love to see some stats on this though!”

          I think I read somewhere that the average cup size for American women is now DD. Most clothing is designed for a B cup. Non-specialty bra stores tend to top out at DD — and even that size can be hard to find; on the other end of the spectrum, it can be really hard to get bras on the smaller end of the scale (e.g. a 26″ or 28″ band). At this point non-specialty bra stores aren’t even serving 50% of the population who might want or need a bra, and clothing retailers are doing an even worse job. [I don’t have links for any of this info; this is just stuff you glean from years of sewing clothing and the frustrations therein.]

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            As someone who went from C to DD with moderate weight gain (I’d say I’m mid-sized to small fat now), it’s a HUGE difference in the way clothes fit and the ability to find comfortable, affordable bras. Especially if I want them to be cute. There are bralettes that in theory fit my size, but once you get bigger the shape of your breasts is a much bigger issue, so they squeeze and mash in odd ways that aren’t really comfortable – unless I size up and then the bands are too loose. It’s a completely different experience and definitely a financial burden. Which only gets worse as you get bigger.

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              “Sister sizing”, as they call it, always feels like such a scam — instead of making a bigger variety of cup sizes, they just tell you to go up or down a band and hope for the best. [Cup sizes are actually relative to the band size, for those who are unfamiliar; a 34 C is going to have the same cup volume as a 36 B.]

              Bras are feats of engineering, so while a small range of sizes can be created from sizing up/down the same pattern, the further away you get from the original size everything is based on, everything gets askew. Proportions change and most companies don’t want to develop a second (or third) set of sizes based on a different set of proportions.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Yep! Clothing engineering too. My cup size has gone up way more than my band size, and I find clothes styles that were once flattering are now odd and boxy because they just added more fabric. So something that once cinched at the waist now swims around me because my boobs stick out farther, and the shape just got bigger to compensate instead of rethinking the proportions of the garment.

                I get it, it’s mass production and I could get everything tailored, but that’s such an ask when a coworker can grab something off the rack and it fits their body perfectly. It’s annoying.

                1. Bookmark*

                  Siiiiigh yes the shirts. Have resigned myself that I need to get all my dress shirts tailored if I want to look put together. But even then, lots of styles aren’t fixable even with a good tailor (why is the waist seam often in the middle of my boobs?) It is so frustrating.

              2. Chirpy*

                Sister sizing IS a scam, absolutely never have I gotten a bra or swimsuit top that actually holds things in by trying the size the store person suggests (because they inevitably don’t carry my size.) Last time I tried shopping in person, the lady told me to get a breast reduction when I told her the size she offered didn’t work.

                1. Candi*

                  The only time I heard a specific price on breast surgery was around $10,000.

                  In the 1990s.

                  I think the big clothing companies can afford spending money on R&D for properly sized female clothing far more than the average person can afford to spend on breast reduction, especially if that reduction has no medical issue behind it. (As decided by doctors.)

          2. Becky*

            As someone with a background in statistics, I’m curious about the assertion that “At this point non-specialty bra stores aren’t even serving 50% of the population who might want or need a bra”. When we say the average cup size is DD*, what does that mean – i.e., what does the distribution look like? What percentage of the female population falls in the DD bucket? 1%? 25%? “DD is the average cup size” doesn’t mean “50% is bigger” and “50% is lower”.

            *Furthermore, as I’m sure you know (but many people don’t!), DD isn’t an actual “size”. It’s a relationship of the volume of breast to the size of the ribcage. A person who is 34DD has the same amount of boob, by volume, as someone who is 38C or 40B. Someone who is 34DD may find that she can fit comfortably in a 36D in some brands, even if her preferred size is 34DD. To know how much of the population who needs a bra is being served by the current market, we’d need to know the percent of the population who is in each number/letter combination.

            I know this went off on a bit of a tangent, just something I’ve found curious over the years.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              For that matter, DD isn’t a cup size, it’s an E (this varies slightly by bra style, but that’s true for most cup sizes). It’s just weird marketing that is specific to the states.

              However, your curiosity about statistics is a real one, and it’s mostly a matter of cause and effect. The median size for a woman in the U.S. is about 18-20, or XL-XXL, but even stores that sell extended styles will sell a majority of M-XL. Some of that is that larger sized people shop off the rack less, or order online less, because the way standards sizes are sized up are typically unflattering and they’re less likely to trust online retailers. This leads to the success of specialty stores like Torrid. There’s statistical evidence that plus size women simply buy less clothing, because the market doesn’t cater to them or make them feel welcome and seen, and therefore stores use that data to justify not making clothing for them.

              It’s a statistic that doesn’t make sense because it’s indicative of a much deeper social science.

              1. Caramel & Cheddar*

                If you dive into bras from the UK and the EU (or even beyond), you’ll be disappointed to discover that all bra sizes are marketing, not just the ones in the US. EU and UK sizes don’t always correspond, both in cup size and band size, and then half the time French lingerie companies are doing their own thing all together. A company I often buy bras from has to have a sizing chart on their website comparing US, UK, and EU sizing so that you can double check you’re buying the right thing based on the bra’s origin. Bra fitting is a very tedious business!

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  I belive that. My experience and research is US based but trying to find ways to profit off market psychology and women’s bodies is seemingly universal.

              2. Candi*

                I also know that I was buying well below my size until I got properly measured. The size I was buying was the largest available off the shelf; the size I am is hard to find even in speciality brick-and-mortar stores.

                So you have to wonder how many of those sales are people who don’t know how to get the correct size for their body type, so they buy small.

            2. Caramel & Cheddar*

              I can’t speak to the methodology of how they collected the data or what distribution they were using for a stat I read many years ago.

          3. Lisa Simpson*

            Most stores reliably sell 34-36-38 BCD, and that’s it. You can find a handful of models available in 32 and 40 band sizes, and a handful of models available in A and DD cup sizes, and that’s really it.

            And a lot of the extended size online shops only sell sizes larger than what is available in brick and mortar stores, not smaller. So if you’re a 30C or a 28D you’re even more limited.

            1. Chirpy*

              And, even online they often only sell bigger cups- DDD, E, F, etc in band sizes of 40 or larger, so if you have big cups on a small size ribcage, you’re just completely screwed.

          4. Splendid Colors*

            I’m surprised to hear most clothing is designed for a B cup. I’m finally a B, and clothing still looks baggy on top if it fits at the hips and across the shoulders.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              That’s because dressmaker’s cup sizes and bra cup sizes are totally different measurement systems.

              Bra cup sizes are measured by the difference between underbust (around the ribs just below the breasts) and full bust (the widest point, usually around the nipples.

              Sewing cup sizes are measured by the difference between high bust (around the upper chest, at about armpit level) and full bust. Since the high bust is almost always much bigger than the underbust, this means a given person’s dress cup size will always be smaller than their bra cup size.

        2. Iris Eyes*

          Right but both men and women would need to purchase a suit if that’s required for the workplace, same thing for “professional” shoes. If bras are required for all women and only for women then that is an entire separate garment that they have to purchase that a male coworker doesn’t have to purchase at all. That’s probably where you would start to have an argument.

          1. Candi*

            That’s when you get companies phrasing it as “appropriate undergarments” in the dress code -though they have minimal power to enforce it, since inspection crosses into harassment territory. It’d be like someone checking if a woman was wearing knee-highs or nylons.

    2. mreasy*

      THIS. Especially if you are a non-standard size, you’re easily spending $50+ per bra just to get one that fits, let alone is comfortable and flattering!

      1. Former Girl*

        Someone should submit the existence of the subreddit /r/abrathatfits as evidence that wearing a bra can be an enormous burden in money, time, and brain space.

      2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Depends on how you define “fits”. Yes, a bra that “lifts and separates” with underwires and boning all over will cost you $50, and make you look like you have missile warheads sticking out of your chest. Many people consider that “flattering”. They are uncomfortable and emphasize your boobs. Not a thing I want as an enby.

        IME, there isn’t a bra made that “fits” me without emphasizing my boobs. I have to accept that a soft, minimizing sports bra is the closest to fit for purpose that I can find.

      3. Candi*

        Depends. I get mine for $30 or less off Amazon. Still pricey, to the point that grabbing a couple extra when they had a 12% off sale made perfect financial sense.

        If they’re asking for breasts to have a specific “look”, THAT is 100% unreasonable.

    3. Quokka*

      I was going to ask this as well. My bra size is very uncommon and in my entire state there is one bra shop that stocks it, and they only have a few bras at a time in that size. As all bras fit differently you kind of have to go in to try them on, or you are online ordering and posting back constantly. I’m lucky if my bras cost under $100AUD each. Bras only last a few months before they start stretching, even when they are good quality and hand washed. On the other hand most business attire can last quite a few years before showing signs of wear.

      Also, if my breasts do the same thing they did last pregnancy/post-birth, I am not able to get my breastfeeding size boobs a correctly fitted maternity bra. They don’t exist in the size I would need. And there are certainly women who cannot get bras in the size they would need because they just aren’t made, and custom made bras are incredibly expensive.

      Anyways, LW I would recommend a maternity singlet top with a shelf bra. That got me through breastfeeding my Bub when I couldn’t get a bra that fit, as well as some more recent rib injury issues. Just enough support to contain some movement and give some lift, but not enough to feel constrained. The maternity ones should allow for extra space in the bust than a standard shelf bra would. As a bonus they are also much cheaper! This is probably your best option. Even some men are required to wear singlets under their work shirts to prevent their nipples (or perhaps even chest hair) showing, so this seems like a reasonable compromise.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Amen to this! After I had just weaned my youngest and was left with a (very stretched out) C-cup, I used to be able to just waltz into a discount store and walk out with a bra off a clearance rack and have it fit just fine. Now that my boobs bounced back to a very uncommon size, I’m down to a handful of brands/models that will fit me and they are not cheap at all.

  7. lifebeforecorona*

    It might be a good idea to mark the wedding date as “booked” even if it isn’t. Your co-worker doesn’t have to know that it’s a phantom booking.

    1. I&I*

      That might lead to them losing out on real bookings, though. If she was obsessively determined it might be necessary, but the ‘NEEDS’ is likely just hyperbole. She can’t force them to book; they just need an impersonal no.

      1. lifebeforecorona*

        My opinion is that the co-worker will only accept that wedding date is taken. Once she realizes that her co-worker is managing the website and refused the booking then the issue is going to become an office drama. Someone else grabbed the date sounds better than “I don’t like you.”

        1. Stacy*

          If she’s pushy/won’t accept the no, the booking email address can just block her email address going forward.

          1. Starbuck*

            Still OP should probably assume bride-to-be could figure it out at some point, as it’s not a closely guarded secret. Better to have that possibility in mind.

      2. irene adler*

        True. Just say no. If countered, indicate that “sorry the date/time is taken” (even if the calendar doesn’t indicate this). If challenged, state that another client booked the date/time ahead of when co-worker initiated contact. The calendar will be updated when the booking details are complete. Then simply fill in the calendar when an actual customer is booked for that day/time.

        It’s a matter of having already booked a client for that date/time; just don’t have their identity yet.

    2. Aphrodite*

      I suggest the OP not bother to do that. Besides losing other potential bookings, it wouldn’t really solve the problem. The OP says the date is far off so the bride might be willing to change the date to get the band she wants and if so you have to deal with this issue all over again.

      Nope, this just needs to be a straightforward “thanks for asking but we cannot play at your wedding.” Add “best wishes for a lovely day” and leave it at that. Repeat as necessary.

      1. lifebeforecorona*

        Someone willing to change their wedding date just to book one particular vendor has brought a level of intensity to the equation that won’t be easily dissuaded.

        1. metadata minion*

          That seems like an odd thing to pick out as crazy when to the other types of unreasonableness she’s shown. If she’s still in the “see what stuff is available on our maybe-date” stage, and this vendor is really important to her, why *not* move the date to one they’re available if it works for everything else?

          1. turquoisecow*

            As someone who went through wedding planning, finding a location to have the wedding at which is free on the date you want is probably harder to do than finding a band, and if she’s at the point she’s hiring bands she probably has a location picked out. She may have put down a deposit. Changing that date for the band’s convenience would be wildly difficult, especially because the venue may have booked any backup dates and she may have even sent save the date cards already.

            Unless it’s a small wedding in a home (which seems unlikely if she’s hiring a band), changing dates is HARD.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          What? Um, no? Vendors are very commonly a significant part of what goes into choosing a wedding day, what an odd take.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I mean, it’s probably *most* commonly the venue, but everyone has different priorities about what they care about most when planning a wedding and I’m sure there are plenty of very reasonable people who would plan around a wedding band. (I believe that it was even a plot point on Friends that Monica gives up her dream dress so Chandler can have the band he likes–it’s all about sorting through priorities!)

        3. doreen*

          I don’t know about that – I suspect most wedding dates are chosen based on the venue’s availability but I’ve also known people who chose the date first and then picked the venue based on what was available. Is she wants this band enough, she might choose the date based on their availability and then venue-shop around that date.

      2. Lady_Lessa*

        Could they come up with an informal rule never to play a c0-worker’s wedding. That might exclude a few others, but would eliminate problems.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        They could probably switch back to “available” a few weeks later. Jane might take a look at the schedule, see that it’s booked and then start looking around for another possibility.

        If ever Jane looks again and sees that it’s available again, they could pretend it’s a “technical glitch” in the schedule, or a mistake.

        1. Anon Fed Employee*

          Or the couple who had booked them just broke up. Or the wedding got pushed to a different date. Or any other variety of reasons that a prior booking is now available.

      4. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I had thought they could temporarily list it as booked and then once LW got word that the coworker had hired a different band, could then simply re-list it as available (“whoops, original plans fell through!”) but then came to the same conclusion you did that she might change dates or, worse, fire her second choice band if she found out her first choice was suddenly available again.

    3. Hiding*

      I agree… I’d mark it as ‘booked’ for now at least (you can ‘unbook’ it later), and reply with a ‘sorry we have another commitment that date, here’s a list of other bands you might appreciate’.

      And then three months out from the wedding, unbook the date, knowing someone will probably still snap it up. I’m not sure how much income your husband’s band might lose on this date if they don’t get a gig, but it might be worth it?

      Another option is to let your husband just handle it outright, let him ‘interview her’ and then decline the gig and stay riiiiiiight out of it all. If it comes up later and she works out you are married to him just shrug and say “Oh gosh! I don’t know what happens with his band in that detail, sorry he wasn’t available” and just change the subject.

      1. Jane Brain*

        I think letting the husband handle it and pretend you aren’t involved might be a good tactic here.

  8. coffee*

    I am so intrigued as to what “entitlement vibes” look like!

    LW1, my advice here is to be as bland and unengaged as possible whenever you’re talking about the co-irker or interacting with them. It’s very easy to fall into “bitch eating crackers” mode and that can cause issues at work. Save yourself any drama and just quietly enjoy your moment of karma.

    (For anyone unaware: “bitch eating crackers mode” is when someone annoys you so much that the most innocuous thing gets on your nerve, leading to you sitting in the lunch room and saying things like “Wow, look at that bitch over there, eating crackers” i.e. complaining about very minor unimportant things which then overshadow the actual annoying things that they do.)

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I am also wondering about this. LW says herself that Jane is “normally friendly” and that they don’t interact much. So there was one (1) interaction where LW thought Jane was rude, and since then, she has observed some unspecified “entitlement vibes” from afar. I also thought the wording “I had to talk to her” was strange – sounds as if LW didn’t want to talk to Jane even before the incident?

      I know we’re supposed to take people at their word, but… it’s very possible to read this as one misunderstanding, and then subsequent BEC from disliking Jane from that one misunderstanding.

      I’m getting unreliable narrator vibes from this one.

      1. coffee*

        LW2 might have just skipped explaining all the reasons why she doesn’t like Jane? Or maybe she just finds Jane annoying in general, no particular reason. Or whatever.

        Whatever the reason, the important thing is that she wrote in asking how she can remain professional, and in my experience, she will be well served by disengaging as much as possible. Jane’s in a different department so take advantage of the distance. Instead of bringing “all the drama” home to talk to her husband about, only bring home the highlights reel.

        1. Stacy*

          I’d be interested to read about why these issues with Jane would be an impediment to the band performing.

          1. Kermit’s Bookkeepers*

            I’d be interested to hear more details too, but I think “This bride stresses out my wife and I don’t need the money that badly” are impediments enough. As long as you’re not turning down clients who are part of a protected class for no other reason than their protected class status, I don’t think you need to prove the legitimacy of your rejection, y’know? Jane isn’t owed a wedding performance from LW’s husband.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              I can absolutely see my husband determining things along these lines – “this person p!sses my wife off to the nth degree and stresses her out at work, therefore I’m not inviting any more opportunities for this same person to create stress and aggravation outside of her work into our life”

              (Mostly because he trusts me. I don’t get rattled much. If I’m rattled, there’s a reason.)

            2. Splendid Colors*

              I suspect LW’s husband’s band is popular enough he can afford not to take gigs with potential bridezillas because he can get another gig with someone who won’t be a pain to work with. If Jane is a problem at work, where she is not the boss of everything, what might she be like if she’s Boss of the Wedding?

          2. ecnaseener*

            It’s right there in the letter: the husband has heard enough complaints about Jane that he’d rather not deal with her as a client. He gets to make that call.

            1. Lunch Ghost*

              No, it says he doesn’t want her to have to do the behind the scenes work on the wedding, since she helps him with the business, I guess doing scheduling and maybe loading? Which, I don’t know, I think I’d be fine doing that sort of thing for the wedding of someone who annoys me if I was getting paid for it. (I wouldn’t want to be AT the wedding, but it sounds like that’s not part of the job and she usually isn’t).

              1. Riot Grrrl*

                I’m with you on this. I honestly don’t understand why this is a problem. It feels like LW is making something way more personal than it needs to be.

              2. The Person from the Resume*

                I believe it is the behind the scenes work. For a wedding, the couple picks songs for their first dance, parent’s dance, etc. They may also select other songs they or do not want played. The couple arranges when and how long the band will play at the reception, when there will be breaks, etc.

                It seems like there is some logistical stuff that the LW may normally deal with the bride/couple about, and it is fair that she doesn’t want to deal with unfriendly coworker for her family’s side business.

                And she also may not want to get sucked into any involvement in her unfriendly coworker’s wedding planning.

                But also LW doesn’t like and gets entitelement vibes from her coworker. I suggest the LW be very careful not to let her unfriendly coworker know this is her husband’s band or she may get pressured to get them to perform during work.

              3. wordswords*

                Maybe, but also maybe communicating with the couple, handling billing, etc. Which is crossing some streams here, since Jane is OP’s coworker, and while with some people that’d be fine it seems like something that pretty clearly won’t be fun for at least one of the parties involved.

                I might or might not be fine doing that, depending on the details, but I think it’s fair enough for OP to decide that this has a high likelihood of being stressful and annoying, and for OP’s husband to decide that he doesn’t care enough about getting this specific gig to make either of them deal with that. And it sounds like OP’s husband’s band is definitely not desperate for gigs, and can easily afford to not do this one, and is pretty well decided on not doing it.

            1. Allonge*

              Which may well be the case but there will be plenty of others also in the business of this band – I am not sure if you can be the biggest wedding band in any area without dealing with some.

          3. Lacey*

            It sounds like she’s unpleasant to work with and the OP’s husband doesn’t want to book a gig with someone he already knows is unpleasant.

          4. Lizzo*

            I do freelance work that sometimes involves weddings, and I would *not* book something involving a colleague of my spouse. If things get weird with the client (which happens, because weddings are stressful), that could potentially cause issues for my spouse at work, e.g. the couple transfers their dissatisfaction with my work onto my spouse.

            I’ve found the “I’m unavailable but here are some other folks you might contact for these services” approach to work very well.

            1. cncx*

              This is where I am at. All these people saying LW is making it personal or whatever- weddings are stressful. LW is at BEC stage with this person so from the get go their best isn’t ideal. It’s about the mixing colleagues with a stressful situation, it doesn’t matter the why or wherefor of LW’s reticence.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I felt like I missed something reading that letter. LW talks about “all that drama” because the coworker was snippy once and has a bad vibe?

      It doesn’t change the advice at all because OP’s husband doesn’t have to take any job he doesn’t want to.

      But I’m kinda wondering if the drama is coming mostly from LW.

      1. Poison I.V. drip*

        I dunno, it strikes me as unprofessional to be unable to approach this request the same as any other. What if this coworker gets transferred to your department, do you quit your job? If you share a workplace with the potential client, surely you can be composed enough to complete an perfectly professional business transaction.

        1. OP number 2*

          I replied fully to this thread but to add more context:
          Jane does Admin-adjacent work. I work in a laboratory setting. Although our desks are in an open concept office, I have a separate lab for benchwork that I’m in about 50% of the time.
          Jane and I rarely have to cross paths and would never be transferred between departments.
          The snowballing talk I had to have with her was basically Jane telling a coworker I could do “X” when in reality I could only do “Y”. I told her that was outside of my scope and she said I should “google it and learn how to do it” (not possible).

          after this encounter I told my coworker and he had similar interactions with her. It was after this that I started noticing all the complaints she seemed to have and how she carried herself around the office area.

          Hope that adds some clarity, I’m realizing the original email was missing some backstory/details!

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Oh lordy. Jane should google how to do “X” and do it for the coworker herself!

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Exactly – Jane is way off.

                Same as, in my job, you’d need specific rights and permissions to specific software in order to do “X”. Jane can google “database queries” till she’s blue in the face, but if she doesn’t have access to the database, she cannot run a query on it, end of story.

    3. OP number 2*

      To add so clarity the the “entitlement” comment (I had written and rewrote this whole email so I’m now seeing important info was left out):

      We are an open concept office, Jane has been with us for less than a year and she felt she should have been given an office, and complained when we had to share a desk. Only managers and the IT guy get offices, but she has complained loudly about it whenever she gets the chance. Jane is not a manager.

      Jane was also upset that she can’t get a parking spot closest o the front entrance of our building. She comes in at 9am, most of those people who park there get in at 6am (myself included). We have a flexible schedule and no assigned parking. About 75% of the building is in by 8am. She has also made comments about my department “leaving early” when really we just like getting in early so it’s quiet, getting our stuff done, and leaving to see our families at a reasonable time. She also has this option.

      As for the wedding bookings-
      My husband charges a decent amount of money for weddings and some couples have changed their date to have them play. I’d guess that happens about 2-3 times a year.

      I do not want to be known to Jane that I deal with the wedding stuff. I would rather a coworker not book my husband regardless since weddings get very emotional and I wouldn’t imagine I’d like dealing with it at work or after hours if I know the person.

      In theory we could mark the date as “booked” but then we’d be missing out on a lot of money during prime wedding season. And this woman seems so brazen as to ask if any Saturday in that month is available, which as of today, all but one are.

      Hope that clears some stuff up!

      1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

        I think should it ever come out that the band is your husband and Jane gets mad at you, it’s pretty reasonable to just let the reason be exactly what you said: “My husband has a policy of not working with people that we know in other contexts”

        1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

          Yes, if I were in similar circumstances I would definitely have that policy. “You don’t sh*t where you eat” is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way with co-workers/students/clients in the past.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        In my AAM fanfic, Jane is the kind of co-irker who absolutely would find out that it was yours and your husband’s business that turned her down and then raise a HUGE stink at work that would result in her looking like a fool (at best). If you do what Alison says and she never finds out it’s you, then great, but if somehow she figures it out and confronts you, you would probably be best off having some sort of prepared line to give her too. Maybe something like “My husband doesn’t feel comfortable playing weddings for professional associates of mine so we have that as a policy, sorry.” (If he’s played for your colleagues in the past you can just tell her it’s a new policy since then.) You could even tell her this now when responding to her email. And again in my fanfic Jane will raise a huge stink about it, but you will absolutely not be the bad guy and whatever stink she raises will only make her look bad, not you. Stay professional and take the high ground and you will be fine here.

        Also in my fanfic, Jane keeps making these ridiculous entitlement comments and finally gets herself fired, or else she does something absolutely bananas (along the lines of the LW who went around their boss’ back to their grandboss and changed a whole bunch of things the boss had told them not to change) and gets herself fired. Please send us an update, OP!

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think if in the future Jane learns OP is married to one of the band members it would be best to just play dumb about the whole thing–if she never talked about Jane at home there would be no reason for the band to even know about the work connection. So I’d probably just say something like “I’m not really involved with my husband’s bookings so I can’t really speak to why they weren’t available” and pretend that nobody knew there was any connection at all.

      3. Ginger With a Soul*

        Glad you posted the update, OP2!

        Before reading the update, I was going to ask whether the contrarian strategy of having your husband actually take the gig might be an option, (since it seemed like his only reservation was how it would impact you) and then having you take the credit for it with Jane (e.g. “Oh, I saw your name come through the system and even though he was on the fence about that date, since you’re my coworker etc. etc.”), under the rationale of being the bigger person as well as recasting yourself in Jane’s head as the heroine whom she owes big time (not that you care what she thinks, but to facilitate future office interactions).

        However, after reading the details, I agree with you that this sounds like a recipe for having a portion of your work day eaten up with requests from Jane to pass along to your husband (and if there are unreasonable requests in the mix — “the whole band needs to wear bright chartreuse bow ties and tailcoats, which I will not be providing!” — making dealing with her on a day-to-day basis even more of a headache).

        As others have noted, though: the whole thing will be easy to ignore if she never works out that he’s your husband, but if she does find out, then you likely will have to either deal with pleas to intervene on her behalf (if she finds out before her wedding) or bitterness that she was rejected (if she finds out after).

        So, my best advice (which still isn’t very good) is to suggest that if Jane finds out about your relationship, you say something to the effect of, “Oh, I don’t get involved in band stuff: that’s his thing and he has his own system. If it doesn’t come in through the website, it might as well not exist.” Stick to that line as an excuse for your refusal to pass along messages, etc.

        And good luck!

      4. A Non E Mouse*

        As someone who used to do the contract management & event “advance” work for a middle agency for party bands, I completely understand your hesitancy. Dealt with many a high maintenance person – but I was being compensated for that work and had a boss who could intervene on my and the bands’ behalf to help level set expectations. This particular client’s access to you could quickly become problematic – especially given her perhaps unrealistic expectations.

      5. Somehow_I_Manage*

        Ugh. OP2. This problem is a real turd. I’m not really sure what I’d do. No matter what you do, it’s likely she’ll put the pieces together someday.

        I think the safest course is to just have your husband respond, “Thank you for reaching out. We are considering other bookings for dates around that time. Good luck.”

        It’s sufficiently vague, and offers you enough shelter should it come up in the future. Even if they continue to see the date open, these negotiations often take time, fall through, and change. I’d also be sure to have your husband handle 100% of the correspondence. Consider it part of the duties of his marriage covenant to draw this boundary with this client!

      6. Modesty Poncho*

        I’m not sure how it’s “brazen” to be flexible about your date when booking? I think maybe what you mean is that you don’t think she’d get the hint that you’re turning her down completely instead of just turning down one date. Which, I wouldn’t either. If you don’t want her as a client you’re going to have to tell her, most likely.

        I agree that “I don’t do business with people we know socially” is a good blanket reason to give but wonder if Jane would then make it your problem that you’re the reason she didn’t get her band…

        1. Wes*

          I’m also confused what’s brazen about asking ‘do you have any Saturdays in September available?’.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, ultimately it doesn’t change anything for the advice here because the band does not need to play Jane’s wedding, but I admit I’m a bit curious about how this went from “she’s normally friendly” to where things are at now. Sometimes people just don’t click and if that’s what is happening here that is totally fine as long as they are professional with each other but I agree that (unrelated to any of the wedding stuff) it may be worth a bit of internal consideration regarding the relationship as a whole.

  9. Your Computer Guy*

    I really identify with letter #4. I also have small children and no bandwidth for development on my own time. Yet my company seems to think all development should happen on our own time. Manager even made some comment about “if you’ve got an hour to spend watching Netflix, you can spend it learning something instead.” Well, I don’t have an hour for Netflix. I have no hours, at all.

    I feel like there should be some allowances made for development within working hours, but I do wonder if I’m way outside the norm on that. I’m pretty frustrated by my current company’s stance and it is contributing to me wanting to look elsewhere (if only I had the time).

    1. CarlDean*

      I feel you, too. 3 year old and 2 month old. Both parents work. There is NO time. It’s all we can do to get everyone washed, clothed, fed, etc. consistently. I cannot remember the last time I got to watch an hour of TV (except to turn on Disney in desperation to distract my 3 year old bc I needed to do something with the baby). Sometimes it just all seems impossible.

      I like Alison’s advice/script. If boss does not seem understanding, then start looking for a new job. You can get a new job. You can’t get new kids.

      And I agree with comment above that should be time for this during work. Employer wants it to benefit them, not you. So it’s obnoxious for them to expect you would do it off hours for free.

      1. Crcala*

        Agreed. I really sympathize with LW #4. I only have 1 small child and I feel like I’m on top of nothing. That coupled with lack of sleep really makes work hard sometimes. Sending you support LW! And as my therapist often tells me, this is the situation right now, but it won’t be forever. (Hugs).

        1. Jzilbeck*

          I can also relate. I have a 4 month old and just went back to work and everyday I feel like I’m drowning. Was put on a brand new assignment as is, which makes getting back to the swing of things at work that much harder. Throw in sleep regressions, overnight & daytime milk pumping, etc. and baby’s general refusal to day nap, and you’ve got one fried mama. The other day my supervisor approached me with the thought of re-absorbing some of my pre-maternity leave responsibilities and I gave him a resounding NOOOOO.

    2. allathian*

      I’m very grateful that the vast majority of all the training I’ve done during my 15 years at my current employer has been on company time. I did get a certification in 2019-2020 that was mostly on my own time, but even then I was allowed to use 6 work days for seminars, and webinars after March 2020. In my case, my employer also paid for the training. All the employer-mandated training I’ve ever done has been on company time. I realize that I’m very privileged to be able to say that.

      1. metadata minion*

        Same here! I also hadn’t realized how unusual it is since I’ve had basically one “real” job this whole time and am now doubly grateful for our already pretty excellent professional development policies. Sure, I sometimes did coding homework at home so I could yell at the computer in my pajamas, but I *could* have done it at work.

    3. Plethora*

      Absolutely this. I realize I’m an abberation, but any professional development, training, certs, or coursework my employers have ever required have been done on company time. There’s never been a question of doing it off the clock. That might not have worked for classes scheduled outside of work hours, but it’s definitely a conversation worth having.

      “I’ve looked into it, and I don’t have the time after work to complete X. What should I take off my plate at work to have Y hours free to do X each week?” using Alison’s matter-of-fact, super-reasonable-person tone might be a way to broach the subject.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        If it’s a Professional qualification (i.e. one that gives you letters after your name), the chances are the awarding body will be holding its exams during the regular 9-5 work day.

        So, if your company *requires* you to get the learning done and *requires* it be done on your own time (here the implication is that you need to take a precious day’s leave, either paid or unpaid), they can be *required* to find a new employee.

    4. Jackalope*

      I’m reminded of some organization that sent me an email saying that they wanted me to use the same amount of time I used to watch Game of Thrones to [complete some sort of volunteer work for them]. I cheerfully complied by spreading exactly 0 minutes on this, same as with GoT. (Not a fan.) I continue to spend this same amount of time on both GoT and…. whatever the volunteer work was.

      1. lifebeforecorona*

        If I’m watching mindless TV it’s because that’s all my brain can handle. Compelling me to do work at home isn’t going to happen when my brain is already tired and overloaded.

        1. Fledge Mulholland*

          THIS. Having the time and having the bandwidth are two different things. We are human beings who need to rest and recharge, not robots. I mean, I have a ten month old and a four year old, so like many of the other commenters, I neither have the time nor the bandwidth, but even if I did have a spare minute that wasn’t taken up by childcare, laundry, dishes, doctors appointments, etc. I would desperately need it to rest, not keep burning myself out.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Productivity studies in show that office workers are productive for only 3 hours a day. If they want someone to study for three hours after work, that’s going to take out the entire next day’s productivity.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        I was very entertained one day when someone was waxing poetic about a similar topic (spend the time doing something “useful” rather than TV!1!, *eyeroll*), and they looked over at me and asked me how much time I could then devote to… whatever it was.

        None!

        What??? No, how much time do you spend watching TV?

        None!! We don’t have cable or Netflix or anything. :)

        *pure confusion* …..but what do you do then….?

        And then I got to talk about my craft room, which completely derailed the rant – which was mostly a “Millennials can’t accomplish anything glued to screens” based rant, and as a Millennial (TM), I took a lot of pride in completely derailing. Also, enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake is…perfectly fine??? Let people have nice things. (I didn’t mention I listen to YouTube gaming videos as I knit/weave/sew.)

        Very happy that my current employer has pushed that any required/recommended training/seminars/etc are during work hours – and has allowed me to schedule interns to attend trainings/seminars *we pay for* during work hours as well.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        So G0T is the avocado toast of TV shows now. Oh that’s funny, in a “are they out of their minds?!” kind of way.

        First time I met with this kind of logic, I was still an active member of a church and the parish council member in charge of finances gave a big talk one Sunday (in place of the usual sermon by the priest) about how the church was short on cash and we all needed to consider upping our pledges for the following year. He said “you are probably wondering how you can come up with that type of money, well here’s one way. A daily cup of coffee is $5, that’s almost $2,000 a year. If you stop buying coffee every day…” and we all just stared in total confusion. None of us bought coffee at a coffee shop every day – I made my own and never bought any at all, except when traveling. (But he apparently did.)

        1. Double A*

          Ah yes, the classic, “You’re only poor because of lattes” trope, we millenials know it well.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          A local women’s political advocacy group used the “you spend $3.50 on coffee every day, so just send us X days worth of latté money to us every month” spiel in their fundraising campaign (not for a candidate, for the group’s internal budget) back in 2016.

          I wrote back to them that it looks like I’m not part of their target audience because I can’t afford to treat myself to coffee every day. They responded that “liking to drink lattés doesn’t make us bad people.” No, but assuming that only women with that level of disposable income would be interested in your group is kind of snobbish.

    5. AlwhoisThatAl*

      This is what puzzled me, surely the company lets them do the training within work time. I am the person in charge of training at my Company and I arrange courses for people to be done in work time. Apart from anything else it allows them to learn in their work environment. Courses have generic examples, they have to. Doing it in worktime allows people to ask others who are already qualified and to work on real projects applying their knowledge – it’s a win-win situation.
      Why are some employers so dense?!

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Honestly, speaking as someone who has been doing retraining for the past few years, if you have a lot going on in your life, it doesn’t matter WHEN the time is for you to study; your brain just isn’t in the best place to absorb new information. A sleep deprived parent, a person providing care for an aging relative, a person dealing with chronic health conditions that are flaring up… all of these are situations where the employee might say “I’m not going to benefit from this the way I normally would because I don’t have the bandwidth.”

        1. AlwhoisThatAl*

          Agreed, but surely thats why you check if the person is happy doing the training. If they are OK with that, you arrange the training and get their other work covered while they are doing the training so they don’t have anything to come back to.
          This ordering training no matter what is nonsensical, people can’t learn under these conditions. They are being set up for failure.

      2. Just me*

        There’s a difference between courses for a job role, and professional qualifications that are transferable.

        It’s common (in Australia) for companies to agree to pay course fees for higher education, but for the study to be done on your own time. This is for professional level qualifications that require considerable study but also provide a life long qualification that will see you have higher hourly rates and stronger employment opportunities. Generally the company will ask for a commitment from you to stay with them for a period of time for paying for this, and they gain for a few years while you do the study and work a little longer for them, in return you’ve qualified at something that you can take anywhere.

        This includes things like bar exams for law, senior accounting qualifications, post graduated studies in Allied Health that qualify for new types of therapy, crane or riggers tickets (where this isn’t your job role but it’s nice to have another person who can do it as back up), most of these things are $5-20,000 and require considerable effort.

    6. Alice*

      I’ve been happy to learn on my own time but am not juggling kids or time consuming commitments. I have tried to persuade my company to designate Friday afternoons to learning time (typically quiet period of the week) and have met with resistance- despite the fact most people spend the day twiddling their thumbs and looking at the clock. I don’t get the obsession with wanting people to spend even more of their free time doing “work activity” when it just stresses people out and alienates a large group of their employees

    7. bamcheeks*

      Manager even made some comment about “if you’ve got an hour to spend watching Netflix, you can spend it learning something instead.”

      This is so horrendous, even if you didn’t have kids! A really unsustainable burn-people-out-and-replace-them-with-new-people mindset. Horrible!

      1. WellRed*

        Yes, I’m skeptical of the overall vibe if this place reading that but maybe it’s just one a**hole mgr.

        1. Your Computer Guy*

          No, it’s the vibe of the whole place. They’ve always had the expectation that you’ll train on your own time (must devote all working time to billable hours), and we definitely have a deficit of people to promote into higher level roles when needed. My current manager is just all-in on it. I’m definitely looking elsewhere.

      2. anne of mean gables*

        Definitely the business-casual version of “if you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean”

    8. Ellis Bell*

      So this guy thinks that if you work for him, you should be always doing work right up until the point you pass out into unconsciousness? Well, I suppose it’s one way of making sure your child free employees never have the time to make babies! Honestly, I think you should be looking for that new job during work time.

    9. Rosacolleti*

      I would have assumed you would be allocated work time to study rather than your own time if it was something your manager asked you to do. That wouldn’t fly in my business, and I own i

    10. Working Mom*

      I feel your pain. I have 3 kids. I do have a free hour. Its between 8-9:30 after my kids go to bed. And yes I will be spending it watching netflix, bc its the only time everyday I get to myself. TYVM.

      1. Fabulous*

        You can get your kids in bed by 8pm?!? HOW, haha. Even if I can get my 2 year old to lay down by 8, she still refuses to fall asleep before 8:30-9pm.

        1. Double A*

          I do have some advice on this, but it’s sadly a rob Peter to pay Paul situation: either waking her up a bit earlier or cutting back on the length of her nap could help her go down a bit earlier. But I know there are a lot of reasons that neither of those might be possible!

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And that time is super important! We all need sanity time. I hope you guard it with your life.

    11. Lacey*

      Oh wow! Your manager is super out of touch!
      Your time outside of work is your own to use as you see fit.
      If you were able to carve out a single hour for yourself, you’d clearly need it to destress.

      Everywhere I’ve worked has allowed to professional development during work hours.
      I’ve taken online courses during working hours or just done tutorials.
      Most of these were just sort of as I had time, because I wanted to learn them, but sometimes an employer wanted me to learn something specific and made sure I had blocks of time to work on learning it.

    12. Totally Minnie*

      if you’ve got an hour to spend watching Netflix, you can spend it learning something instead.

      Even if you did have loads of free time, this would still be a really terrible take. Spending an hour watching television requires an entirely different level of mental engagement from spending an hour studying. Human brains aren’t meant to be working and learning during 100% of their waking hours, people need downtime to process and absorb the information they’ve learned, and sometimes the way you rest your brain is by watching Schitt’s Creek for the 37th time.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        It’s the same “if you’ve got the time to lean, you’ve got the time to clean” mentality that a**hole bosses have which drive away good workers. They can’t crack the whip if there’s no one there to hear it or feel its sting.

    13. Fives*

      I don’t have kids, but I’ve had anxiety for a long time and my mental health has taken a nosedive over the last three (!) years. I completed some certification courses at the beginning of the pandemic (we were allowed to during work hours), but the stress of studying and taking the exams really did a number on me. My director let me opt out of some of my licensing. I am forever grateful for this.

    14. Fabulous*

      100% – I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and am due with #3 in May. What little time I DO have to “watch Netflix,” it’s MY time. I need to decompress too!!

    15. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Ugh, Computer Guy, your company is terrible, I hope you do manage to find some time to get out of there. Aside from them thinking that watching Netflix is the same as doing something complicated that requires a lot of brain power, they are completely out of touch.

      I haven’t scanned all the comments here so I don’t know if this has been said elsewhere, but I think it needs to be said that it’s not necessary to always be learning new things (like OP said in the letter). By this I mean, sometimes it’s only possible to stay afloat, to stay on top of things and make sure your job gets done and your kids are taken care of and trying to improve your professional knowledge can and should be put on the back burner. And heck, if you do think it’s necessary to always be learning new things, those new things don’t have to be work things. Right now, OP, you are learning your kids’ favorite foods, their sleep habits, and how much you can get done if you don’t sleep well because your kid kept you awake half the night. You don’t always have to be learning things in your professional field; taking care of kids is just as much a job as your work is.

      (I might need to add a caveat here that I am slightly on the lazy side when it comes to work and like to leave work at work, so I might not be a reliable narrator here, but I doubt I’m alone in this.)

    16. kiki*

      “if you’ve got an hour to spend watching Netflix, you can spend it learning something instead.”

      There are so many issues with this, but it’s also just so incredibly condescending and presumptuous!

      1. Nina*

        I watch Netflix. I usually put it on my tablet on the cookbook rest while I’m making food, or if god forbid I sit down to watch it’s because I’m catching up on mending or knitting/sewing a new garment.

    17. MCMonkeyBean*

      I definitely agree that if there is some certification the company wants you to get for their benefit then they need to allow the studying to happen during the time they pay you for. I didn’t study for my CPA during business hours, but I do all my required continuing education to keep my license during business hours.

    18. Your Computer Guy*

      I’m appreciating the validation here. I’ve always felt like it was short-sighted to not provide any support for professional development, and my manager’s comment definitely rustled my jimmies.

    19. another Hero*

      I’m expected to do professional development on work time. I sometimes allow it to spill over into non-work time because of the form my PD takes and the way my life is structured, but the idea that a bunch of studying you are supposed to do for the sake of your job (or even career) couldn’t happen at your job…is not some uniform standard, no, I don’t think you’re off base. I’m sure it varies by field and workplace; it’s something I ask about in interviews. but not weird to do on work time.

    20. My Cabbages!*

      Ugh. I do have an hour for Netflix…and that hour is *mine*. It sure as hell isn’t my employer’s.

      The entitlement over employees’ lives that some companies have is disgusting.

      1. Here for the Insurance*

        Yep, this is where I’m at. If they aren’t paying me for it, they’re not getting it, period. Doesn’t matter how much energy I have or what else I might be doing. Pay up or shut up.

        I view statements like this as similar to my mother’s opinions — yes, I could do whatever it is that you think I should, but I’m not going to because I’m a grown-ass adult and I don’t want to. If I can stand up to her, I can sure as hell stand up to you. She knows how to push my buttons way better than you do.

    21. Allonge*

      OMG. I mean what even?

      The only way any employer would have any say in staff doing training out of hours is if the training is, let’s say, 95% in the benefit of the employee as a person, and only 5% for work – and work is still paying for it.

      And even then, comments on what someone does with their free time should be a LOT more civil.

    22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My therapist (whom I adore) uses watching TV as an example of self-care. (He wants me to block some time during lunch breaks and evenings for “me time” so I won’t burn out, and said I could read or watch TV during those to unwind.) So there’s that.

      My children’s ages are in the “I had children of my own when I was those ages” range, and I still have a hard time squeezing any learning into my own time. Mainly because after my work is done for the day, I’m so tired most days, my brain is all tapped out and cannot take anymore professional development or anything else that is worklike. When they were infants and toddlers? forget it. Besides every free minute was used up by the cooking, cleaning, laundry, you know all the chores that are impossible to do when you’re actively in the process of taking care of small children.

      Lastly, to the OP, if this boss really means a CPA exam, he’s delusional. Some of my and my kids’ friends had to study for and take those recently. Both the prep and the exam, from their descriptions, sounded extremely intense to me and not something one can just squeeze in between cleaning up after dinner and putting kids to bed.

    23. Too Many Tabs Open*

      Even if I have the hour, that doesn’t mean I have the mental energy after a full day of work.

  10. idwtpaun*

    #1 They’ve never asked a male employee to wear a bra, but I wonder if they’ve ever asked one to wear different types of underwear. If a male employee has a particularly large penis, would they go as far as asking them to wear underwear that makes it less visible? I bet it’d never occur to them, but meanwhile your underwear has become a regular topic of conversation.

    And I actually do get the discomfort one might experience at noticing another person’s nipples. I switched to wireless bras rather than go entirely braless because I found that I’m personally uncomfortable going to work with just a shirt/blouse, but that’s a product of the culture I grew up in. I wouldn’t mind if we as a culture moved towards caring much less about breasts and nipples and future generations didn’t feel compelled to wear 3 lawyers in summer heat lest the reality of their physical bodies becomes apparent to other people.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I used to have a male colleague who’d wear dress shirts until they’d disintegrate and you could definitely see his nipples through them. It was definitely odd, though I’m guessing no one spoke to him about it ever.

      1. Phony Genius*

        Same here, except it was a sci-fi movie t-shirt, which he was somehow allowed to wear. And the base t-shirt was the same color as his flesh making it look that much weirder. I didn’t like it. (I am a man.)

    2. Turanga Leela*

      If a guy were wearing pants that made the outline of his penis obviously visible, I feel like people would say something! Breasts and penises are different–someone’s penis shouldn’t be visible at all in the workplace, whereas it’s normal (and probably inevitable) for the shape or silhouette of breasts to be visible. The OP’s workplace just wants her breasts to look a certain way, I guess, which feels gross.

      1. ds*

        Dunno if rears count here, but I have had 4 coworkers whose pants ended up down mid-crack every time they sat down. Zero underwear on those men. No one ever talked to them or reported them despite their chairs making it very obvious their booty was hanging out for everyone to see. (No idea why but all of them sat right where they were the first thing you saw down the end of a hallway into the open space “cubicle” zone, so unless you turned the corner with your eyes closed, you’d see it.
        The only guy I’ve known was talked to for such a thing was one who wore short shorts to work for a week, they eventually kindly asked if he’d wear lengthier shorts. The reason they talked to him at all was because it was actually shorter than the dress code allowed for, for any human working there. (One guy got told to wear a collared shirt, but that isn’t on this level, that’s just because a t-shirt is not business casual attire.)
        And I’ve definitely seen some non-undie wearing guys wandering around work in very tight pants. (Again the bane of corner turning at the wrong time or going up stairs as they are coming down them.) As far as I know no one said a word.

        1. ecnaseener*

          I’m not sure how you would know they’re not wearing underwear – I would assume their underwear rides down with their pants.

        2. President Porpoise*

          Ok, so genuine question. Does anyone know of a brand or style of men’s pants that help prevent this visible crack issue? I know the answer for most people is to wear pants that fit and use a belt – but my husband does both of those things and just has a body shape that makes his rear want to be free. Even suspenders haven’t helped!

          What I think I want is the style of pants that men wore in like the 1950s. Or pants that men wear for salsa dancing. You know, the kind that go up to the armpits…

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Do his pants only sag in the back or do they fall down…uniformly, I guess? And are they truly sagging or is his shirt riding up?

            My spouse has a long torso and I purposefully get him the longest shirts I can find (I believe they’re all under Big N Tall, which is sometimes unfortunate because Spouse is also a string bean). I think I get him med/large extra longs and it actually is long enough to tuck in properly. Regular shirts won’t hit his waistband. I do know he has a pair of thinner slacks that because they’re slicker like to droop more. His more cottony-feeling ones do not near as much (I assume because the fabric of the shirt + the pants are better at keeping enough friction). But Spouse’s issue was not really his pants falling down as much as sagging because his belt didn’t have enough holes + his shirts were too short. Leather puncher + long shirts fixed it.

            I’m pretty crafty, so I also somewhat jokingly offered to put snaps/buttons on the inside of his pants that he could attach his shirt to his waistband.

            1. anne of mean gables*

              Carhartt has “extra long” versions of their shirts! Obviously might not work if your spouse needs true business casual workwear, but if it’s a more casual workplace or for weekend wear might be a good option.

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                These are all dress shirts – he works in an office. However, I think in his new (!!) job he can get away with more Carhatt/Duluth type gear, so we’ll have to see if the local depot maybe has some better options for him.

                Otherwise he exists in athletic gear in varying stages of sag/wear. We did find a brand of shorts that cinches in much better at his waist – totally forgetting what it was, but it’s cargo shorts and has little elastic draw strings at the hips with a deeper crotch. It seems to be more comfortable + stay up better during hikes.

                But to Hen’s point below – I also got him 100% cotton boxer briefs without that slick waistband, and that seems to have helped too. The ones that are the “wicking” shiny fabric are very slide-y.

            2. Hen in a Windstorm*

              Oh, you just reminded me – my husband has 2 pairs of boxer briefs made of a shiny technical type fabric, and when he wears those his jeans slide down, even while wearing a belt. So that is also a possibility.

            3. President Porpoise*

              Pretty sure his issue is just that his butt starts higher up than other peoples’. Not by much but by enough to make things awkward. But I think the long shirt suggestion is awesome! He’s in a position where he’s mostly wearing tee shirts, so that may be a big piece of the problem. I’ll go find some longer ones and gift them to him.

          2. Hen in a Windstorm*

            Actually, this is why men’s dress shirts have such long tails. You tuck aaalll that material in and when you sit, it rides up a bit, but you’re still covered. So the answer is longer shirts!

          3. Generic Name*

            Duluth trading company sells men’s shirts that are extra long and meant to be tucked into pants to cover a plumbers crack. My husband has the problem when he forgets to wear a belt, but fortunately a belt keeps his pants where they’re supposed to be

          4. Ginger Baker*

            You can buy salsa pants! They might be a bit pricey, and definitely should be tried on (probably go a size up since they are made to be pretty tight) but salsa and other ballroom dance pants are def out there. :-)

      2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        I worked in a place where this specific issue was in fact part of the dress code. Silky basketball shorts and similar were prohibited because we don’t want to see the outline of your junk swinging in the breeze. There were other guidelines around showing butt crack and visible underwear, for both men and women.

    3. MK*

      You would lose that bet. I have known men yo be reprimanded for much less than wrong underwear, and much more bluntly than women too.

      1. Not always right*

        Same. It ended up causing quite the kerfluffle. The acoustics around my desk were such that I was able to hear private conversations going on in the big boss’s office. I was 21 at the time and kind of scarred me for a while. Honestly, until I overhead everything, I never noticed how large the gentlemen was. After that, I really had a difficult time trying keep my eyes up. Thankfully the gentlemen in question never knew what I overhead. That was 20 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. Shudder

    4. AlwhoisThatAl*

      Spike Milligan’s hilarious War memoirs speaks of Gunner “Plunger” Bailey, the only man in his regiment to be excused wearing shorts in tropical climates due to him being blessed in the trouser department.

    5. Cat's Paw for Cats*

      I never had to counsel an employee about his penis, but I did have two separate occasions where I had to ask the gentlemen in question to wear pants that did not slide down in the back.

    6. Jaid*

      On AITA, someone wrote in that he was written up because he worked at a daycare and when he bent over, the band of his (colorful) underwear could be seen. Apparently, it offended his coworkers…

    7. Wintermute*

      I think you hit it on the head. Clothing exists for many reasons, but minimizing the display of intimate parts is an important one even children know about. Acting like you don’t get that is just going to make you look intentionally obtuse or like you literally come from another universe. And the Fergus of Gor look is not a great one for the workplace.

      The issue is not “men don’t have to wear a bra”, the gender-neutral phrasing would be “your erectile tissue should not be highly visible in the workplace whatever the nature of that tissue is depending on your anatomy.”

      1. Nea*

        I don’t have anything to contribute to the wider conversation, I just had to applaud “Fergus of Gor.”

    8. Malarkey01*

      Um yes. At 22 years old, my first supervisory job was in an archival document warehouse where employees could wear shorts and I had to tell one employee that his short length combined with his underwear choice (I believe none or very loose boxers idk) and maybe his size (I did NOT mention that part) was occasionally leading to his penis emerging from his pant leg and that in certain instances the outline of his penis was blatant and “not secured” (the only word I could think to describe we could see it flopping around when he walked). We had numerous complaints.

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        All I can think about it that scene from Friends – Phoebe’s (?) boyfriend had that issue and Gunther from the coffeeshop said something like “the mouse is out of the house.”

    9. B*

      I’m feeling the malicious compliance here; I might choose to wear a bra/bralette that is ludicrously over sized so as not to actually contain or constrain the “jiggle” with the possible added benefit of being more comfortable and more undershirt like than your average bra. If management still interferes with your body image, widen your eyes and say you are in compliance and who is watching your breasts at work as opposed to getting their own work done. Extra points in said undergarments are neon prints that may slightly show through your shirts. Also did they say where you must wear this “bra”? I’m thinking a cute bra belt or scarf ? /s

    10. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

      I think you’re on to something, with the fact that often we ourselves can have surprise or discomfort at some anatomical features at work, even if we recognize that this social conditioning.

      For example, I was really thrown off during my first rotation where all my fellow students / residents / etc were wearing scrubs, to see that some men wear scrub shirts without an undershit. As many scrubs (especially the hospital issue scrubs) had V-neck tops, this meant that some men had visible chest hair showing at work. I had “men’s chest hair” in a “things seen at the beach” category, rather than a “things I see on my coworkers at work” category. Now, I worked on this by questioning my own assumptions (why does this seem sexual to me when it doesn’t have to be?), but it also helped that it was a reasonably common sight. This made it a little easier to become desensitized, so I can hope that as more people become less focused on bras being necessary for professional dress, it becomes less surprising to see the occasional nipple outline.

  11. Brain the Brian*

    LW2: Can you add a fake performance to the publicly-viewable calendar on the date of your coworker’s wedding to help “back up” your email?

    1. Miette*

      Or perhaps a response of, “That date is on hold for another couple, pending venue booking” or something?

      This doesn’t preclude her asking for alternative dates of course, if the band is truly the deciding factor for her. So it may have to come down to admitting you’re connected to the band and explaining there is a strict “no co-workers” policy, owing to past drama that you don’t ever have to explain, which seems pretty reasonable to me.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Eventually, though, the coworker might see through that ruse if the date never fills up (or if the business has a general no-holds policy).

    2. Jellyfish Catcher*

      For LW 2 – take Alison’s advice to have your husband handle declining booking the band.
      That way….you stay ALL the WAY out of this no-win issue.
      There are 2 possible results:
      1. She never connects you as the spouse: you’re home free.
      2. She does connect you. You give a baffled look of confusion, while saying “oh, my husband and I agreed long ago that he handles his business as he
      chooses, I don’t interfere.”Repeat as necessary.
      2A. If she nags you, or becomes verbally abusive more than once, make a complaint. Keep notes of times/dates, etc. Win/win.

  12. MovingMom*

    As the mom of a “well endowed” teen who detests wearing bras, I can say that members of our families as well as I aren’t in the habit of staring at people’s chests. That said, in the case of our teen, who as a theater kid has been taught to stand straight and tall, breast tissue movement (and potentially nipple outlines – sorry) can be distracting to even those who avert their gazes. In our teen’s case, we found lightweight bralettes and camisoles would often do the trick of hampering movement and thus making the people around them less uncomfortable. It shouldn’t be LR1’s responsibility, but otoh having one’s gaze caught by unexpected movement doesn’t automatically imply sexism either.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think “unexpected movement” is a good point–that is something we are just hard-wired to pay attention to in the environment, no matter how confident we are that a sabretoothed cat is not going to jump us in the supply closet. It’s why commercials jump so often.

      For a pop culture reference, Fiona on Burn Notice often went braless (I believe at the actress’s preference) and I noticed in terms of the look of her top when she was moving. Not in a negative way, and it mostly stuck in my mind because of a scene where she’s in a bra later, and it was very clear to me that the bra was added between takes.

  13. Ghostlight*

    LW1… aside from the obvious this is BS and I’m angry for you, may I suggest Evelyn and Bobbie? (https://evelynbobbie.com/)

    As a fellow busty lady, these wire free bras are the most comfortable ones I’ve tried and they also have good camisoles. (I broke a rib right where an underwire on a bra sits almost a decade ago and I have major pain when wearing about 99% of wired bras so I’ve done a lot of looking for alternatives.)

    1. mdv*

      Many many companies that advertise “larger sizes” don’t go near a size that works for me, and I have reached a point in my life where underwires are intolerable, so thanks for this suggestion.

      I would also like to recommend She-Fit (https://shefit.com/) – their ‘lounge bra’ is the best thing I’ve ever worn, and the most affordable one I’ve found so far.

    2. irene adler*

      Thank you for the recommendation. How comfortable are they when one is sweaty like in warm/hot weather or when exercising?

      1. Ghostlight*

        They’re ok in the summer but not quite as breathable as I’d like. I don’t think I’d recommend them for workouts but for everyday they’re perfect. (If you’re busty and need a workout bra, shefit (https://shefit.com/) is the way to go. They’re super customizable. They could lay flatter under a shirt if you ask me, but part of the reason they don’t is the genius of the construction. (Customizable straps and bands with Velcro and then they close via zipper up the front and they’re the only sports bra I can wear comfortably for heavy duty workouts.)

        Btw, I’m a 34G, so finding bras in general is difficult.

        Mindd (https://www.minddbra.com) are also pretty good but I like the shape I get from E&B better and they hold up better over time.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I’ve been pretty happy with “Leading Lady”. I’m busty but not outrageously so, fwiw. I got the first one when I was going to be a house guest for several weeks and didn’t know how comfortable I’d be going braless on weekends. That was in 2019, and when the pandemic thing happened I got a few more. They come in cotton as well as not-cotton. I have no reason to ever wear an underwire again.

  14. Kat*

    YES, you need to wear a bra at work. If this is the hill you want to die on, I hope you have money saved.

    1. PoolLounger*

      Or she could find a job where no one cares. OP, I’m a large chested woman whose had many jobs in my life and no one has ever caref or commented on my not wearing a bra. Maybe one aspect has been working in environments that are mostly women, another is that I’ve worked in education, retail, and artsy/bookish fields. I hope you find a workplace that cares more about your work than your body!

      1. Bra wearer*

        LW1 – I am puzzled by all the responses from people who don’t want to wear bras. I am a reasonably large chested woman – I wear a UK size 34E – and I hate the feeling of not wearing a bra. The weight and movement of my breasts when bra-less is something I find very physically uncomfortable. I really like structured bras which make my breasts “stand still”.

        I’m not trying to deny anyone else’s experience, it’s just fascinating to learn how other people’s experience can be completely different to ours.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I think there are a variety of factors playing in to what feels more comfortable, including:
          – the type of moving around one does (I definitely wear a bra for dance class, but not necessarily for sitting around)
          – how irritable one’s skin is
          – how well-fitting the bra is
          – the specific morphology of the breasts and upper body
          – and not least: what one has gotten used to. The “weight and movement” you describe is something that can feel weird and uncomfortable when it’s a change from the usual, but will feel just normal if one is used to it.

          For larger breasts, it can sometimes come down to a choice between one type of discomfort and another. It’s very personal what will tip the scales.

        2. LeahS*

          It is really fascinating! I wear a bra when I am out of my house but I hate hate hate them and have a large chest. Definitely different strokes for different folks :)

        3. Reluctant Braista*

          In my case it’s because of asthma – anything constricting around my chest is really uncomfortable.
          Up until a few years ago I was flat chested enough for it not to matter but a surprise side effect of hormone treatment for endometriosis meant I blossomed to a (UK) D cup in my mid-forties! The increased jiggling without support is a little bit uncomfortable but it’s still a lot less bad than how wearing a bra on a bad-breathing day feels.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Education is super variable. I’ve worked in schools where no one would care, and others where the culture is such that it would be a huge problem. One school my sister works at had a head who wanted to make a busty TA wear a tabard during dinner duties because the little boys were being immature (and would have made all the other TAs wear one too, without explaining the reason). Luckily, my sister was in a position to tell the head she was being ridiculous; this wouldn’t have worked if it had been a braless TA.

    2. scandi*

      My undergarments are not my employer’s business, provided all my bits are covered. Requiring bras is about requiring that my breasts are a specific shape, which is frankly gross coming from an employer. No one “needs” to wear a bra at work. Some women are more comfortable wearing one, and thus choose to. I haven’t worn one in over five years, and no one has as of yet expired from the sight of the outline of my chest.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I, too, have not worn a bra for roughly that amount of time and I’m VERY busty. I have sensory issues so I wear as little clothing as possible and nothing restrictive. Fortunaately, I do not work in an office, but if I did, I would not wear a bra. I would cover up my boobs and nipples, obviously, but it’s tiresome that in 2023, we’re still having this discussion.

        I’m not saying LW shouldn’t wear a bra if that’s the best solution for her, obviously. I just wish it weren’t an issue.

      2. Wintermute*

        That simply is NOT true.

        It’s not automatically about body shape, it very well could be that they’re getting complaints that things that should not be visible are visible or that she’s having wardrobe coverage issues, which are both quite legitimate reasons for a coworker to be uncomfortable.

        “wear a bra” is how the boss is expressing “solve your issue”. This could be because the boss isn’t going to get into the details for fear of crossing lines or it being an awkward conversation, isn’t aware of non-bra solutions to the problem, doesn’t want to out the complainantants; or, quite likely here, knows the LW is going to try to rules lawyer and obstruct and wants to give a clear and incontrovertible demand.

        If no one could tell no one would know and no one would complain.

        1. AthenaC*

          Unfortunately I think I agree with this. All we have is LW1’s perspective, but if it’s jarringly obvious and borderline obscene in appearance then I totally get why they won’t leave it alone. Or it could be the manager who’s obsessive and inappropriately policing LW1’s normal appearance – we just don’t know.

          I would be curious if LW1 has had this feedback before or if this is new – that might indicate whether either LW1 or their manager is out of line. Or maybe a mix of both – who knows.

        2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

          It could be a polish issue – if it’s an industry or role where clothing is expected to be well fitted or give an air of authority or whatever else, it’s a problem with fit or client impressions of sloppiness or whatever else.

          I’m large chested. If I am wearing a non-fitted hoodie or a loose sweater, my bra status is a mystery. If I wear a men’s dress shirt and tie with a substantial waistcoat, same. But if I’m just wearing business attire coded female, I’m going to have trouble making it look professional if it’s tailored for a smaller chest wearing a bra. There’s probably options other than a bra, but the “minimum level of polish” may be “what you’re wearing, but with a bra, or maybe and undershirt or similar”

        3. scandi*

          In that case the solution would be adding more layers, not adding a bra, right? I fail to see how “you must wear a bra” is less awkward that “your tops are somewhat transparent in the lighting here, please add additional/more opaque layers”.

    3. What nonsense will 2023 bring us?*

      As much as I can’t imagine not wearing a bra (I’d rather not get clocked in the face by my own breasts tyvm), unless you are in a job where bras are almost a piece of safety equipment (my previous job was like that – it hurts enough to have your arm pinched between boxes, I don’t care to find out what pinched breasts feel like) I wouldn’t dream of making someone wear them.

      Let people be comfortable when there are no safety reasons for discomfort, whether that means wearing a bra or not.

      1. metadata minion*

        As a librarian who has accidentally stacked books on top of boobs instead of other books in the stack, I can confirm that it is not fun. :-b (I do prefer wearing a bra, but I usually go for light-compression sports type bras, and those only do so much in the armor department).

    4. vegan velociraptor*

      Nope, you definitely don’t always! I stopped wearing bras last year, and I can’t even imagine the circumstances in which my coworkers or managers would a) comment or b) tell me that I needed to wear a bra.

    5. Essentially Cheesy*

      Yes, I am definitely of the camp that views this as part of being a professional self-respecting well-endowed woman in the workplace. There are many comfortable non-wired comfortable bra options nowadays, I even have sturdy and durable “Just My Size” or “Playtex” bras that were not expensive at the time that can still be found for $20 or less.

      1. Anon for this*

        Okay, I’m ready for these bras (of any quality) that will fit my 36H chest for less than $20! Please send me links because I spend a fortune on bras.

  15. I&I*

    OP1 – if it’s a comfort issue, you might try googling ‘old lady bras’ or ‘bras for elderly women.’ I’m not elderly but I have a couple of wireless front-fasteners that I use for lounging; the padding gives a bit of shape but they’re no more constricting than an undershirt. They don’t give the same uplift as a regular bra, at least if you’re as busty as likes of us, but they should comply with the dress code without being too binding.

    1. virago*

      This.

      If LW 1 is in the US, I suggest that she check out Fruit of the Loom’s extremely inexpensive (less than $10 apiece) front-closure wireless cotton bra.

      This bra received an in-depth thumbs up on New York magazine’s consumer site, The Strategist. The reviewer first wore it for nursing; wore it again after having a post-nursing breast lift, and now, at the age of 50, continues to wear it to accommodate perimenopausal tenderness.

      If you want to read the review, Google “I’ve Worn This $8 Cotton Bra For 27 Years.” (I don’t work for New York magazine, Fruit of the Loom, or Walmart, which sells this bra. I’m just a 57-year-old woman who is always eager to connect other breast-havers with cheap and supportive bras.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is fascinating to me, as I am still scarred from a pre-mastectomy trip to the mall (and surrounding large stores) to buy a soft, front-closing bra with no underwire: across multiple stores, I found almost none and the two or so I found did not fit comfortably.

      2. Anon for this*

        Those are for people who don’t have large breasts. I’m a 36 H. If I found an $8 bra in my size, I’d cry tears of happiness! We don’t know what LW means by “busty,” but a lot of commenters here are recommending bras that go up to a D cup at most.

        1. I&I*

          I won’t tell you my exact size, but I am definitely a full-blown titty-toter, believe me. The bras for elderly women are stretchy enough that they don’t need to be an exact fit, and the large sizes can be plenty. I personally wouldn’t wear them except for duvet days precisely because they’re not firm or tight enough to give proper support, but that doesn’t seem to be an issue for OP.

        2. virago*

          I’m the one who posted the comment on the $8 Fruit of the Loom bra, and you make a very good point! The woman who gave it a good review offered no clue as to what size boulders she’s holding.

          I myself used to be a 34F UK/34G US. I went up to a 34FF UK/34H US, then thanks to hypothyroidism and menopause, I started putting on the pounds, made a brief stop at 36FF UK, and finally landed at 38F UK.

          All this is to say that I don’t find any $8 bras in my size either.

    2. Stitch*

      I’m a smaller chested person but I cases where I couldn’t wear a bra (for a few days when I was recovering from mastitis), I just wore a loose fitting sweatshirt or jacket the whole time.

      Especially when I was nursing (except for the mastitis), I felt a lot more comfortable while wearing a thicked banded nursing bra. Extra movement could hurt.

    3. Not Australian*

      Another alternative – from this elderly, post breast-cancer bra-wearer – would be a ‘racerback sports bra’. The one I have now was the equivalent of about $35 US and is the most comfortable I have ever worn in my life – adjustable in many different ways and with absolutely no underwiring anywhere.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      I accidentally bought a nursing bra early in the pandemic when I was still getting used to doing all my shopping online, and it was so comfortable that I bought three more. So that’s another option for people who need a bra but have trouble finding comfortable ones.

  16. Plethora*

    LW5, look to your state or region’s economic development agency, site selector agency, or chamber of commerce. Chances are good they have materials or information already prepared pitching the quality of life and other intangible benefits of your area. No need to reinvent the wheel!

    1. LW5/The RED Redhead*

      Thanks! That occurred to me as I was driving home last week.

      We have a couple real estate agents that employees have recommended to us, after our most recent CO->Western NY transplant wound up needing a new place to live RIGHTNOW, so I definitely want to include them, but I don’t want to re-create the wheel.

    2. bighairnoheart*

      Yes, I was coming to comment about economic development agencies and chambers of commerce, but I knew someone else would have beat me to it!

      I’ll also add that local governments (your town, city, county) can sometimes already have materials like this, or at least information on their website that you could include yourself. Any kind of entity whose job it is to attract people to live there would be good to look at. Best of luck with the hiring!

    3. Antilles*

      If your budget allows for it, you might also consider bringing in candidates for an extra day longer than the actual interview so they can actually explore the city and see more than just the airport and your office.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Coming here to say the same thing. And it’s good that you’re thinking of this. I once interviewed for a job in Mid-Sized Midwestern City. My prospective employer had a really nice package put together about local housing, recreation, entertainment, and cultural activities. Your local chamber of commerce probably has a lot of stuff you could include.

      Does your firm offer reimbursement for at least some moving costs? If not, you and your executives need to look into this. If you’re relying on people from outside the local area to fill your vacancies, help with moving costs will make a difference to your candidates.

      Oh, and yes, I took the job, and I still think fondly of Mid-Sized Midwestern City. It was a nice place to live, it just didn’t have a glamorous reputation.

    5. Clisby*

      Yes, when I moved from SC to Ohio, the place where I was hired included publications from the Chamber of Commerce – one with general info on the city, one describing the older central neighborhoods as well as different popular suburbs, one on entertainment (restaurants, parks, sports and concert venues, etc.) Oh, and a map of the public bus system. Since I had never lived in Ohio and didn’t know what to expect from the weather, I wanted to live somewhere near a bus line that could reliably get me to work. It was very helpful.

      On our most recent move in late 2004, my husband’s new employer put in touch with a couple of real estate agents. They gave us information on the area, took us driving around to see different neighborhoods, and eventually helped us buy a house. We didn’t have to use them, of course, but had no reason not to.

  17. Heather927*

    I’m struggling to see the issue LW1 is experiencing. Just wear a bra. This seems a ridiculous hill to climb, let alone be apparently willing to die on.

    1. PoolLounger*

      Eh, I’d quit before wearing one. I’m not going to be physically uncomfortable for over 8 hours a day just because other people are uncomfortable with me having a chest.

    2. scandi*

      Requiring that all your female employees wear undergarments shaping their boobs in a specific way seems like a ridiculous hill to climb, let alone be willing to die on, yet here we are…

        1. MEH Squared*

          Agreed. I don’t care if people want to personally wear bras, but the relentless negativity towards people who don’t is disconcerting and really sad.

          1. JP*

            Part of what’s getting to me is how much people are going on about breast shape and movement in their comments and how these things must be regulated. I get that there’s a distance between how things should be and how things are, but I guess I expected more introspection from this crowd on this issue.

      1. Sylvan*

        Not everyone wants to see your boobs. It is what it is. I don’t like bras, so I wear bralettes and underwire-free bras so the people around me don’t see more than they want.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          Haha pretty sure if someone is clothed you can’t see their boobs. I bet people can still see the shape/existence of your breasts in a bralette.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Hm I don’t think that’s the issue because bra covered breasts definitely still have shape and substance; even more so than free moving breasts since they’re more hiked up and solidified. The main purpose of bras is to hide jiggles and nipples, not substance and shape. Bralettes do tend to hide J&N, if not S&S. But that’s probably all the OP has to cover, tbh. The good news is that there’s all sorts of things that hide wobbles and pointiness. Blazers, cardigans, thicker fabric tops, loose fitting clothes, Camis, under tees. The list is endless. I don’t think OP should have to; but if she wants to stay at the current job, she doesn’t have to cover up the existence of breasts entirely. That would be illegal!

        2. scandi*

          My boobs are not visible. I’m always wearing a shirt, and typically a tank or bralette underneath. If the shape of my clothed boobs bother someone, I suggest they avert their eyes. Maybe seek professional help, because simply existing in public must be extremely difficult for that person.

    3. MEH Squared*

      This is a hill I would absolutely die on. Wearing a bra for eight hours a day would be horrible for me. I can’t NOT think about the fact I’m wearing one and how much it bothers me. Physically, I mean. It doesn’t matter what kind of bra it is, either. So, yeah. I’m with the others who would quit over a policy like this.

    4. misspiggy*

      I would have to quit. Wearing a bra causes skin breaks for me (with risk of infection), and the band always sets off severe back pain.

      Thankfully I work in highly conservative settings outside the US and no one cares as long as I’ve covered my skin.

      Leaving aside the question of law, I’m always surprised how many people in these threads seem to think not wearing a bra is breaking a common norm. If LW#1 was being asked to cover her hair for a non-safety reason – because movement and visibility were distracting – how would people here react?

      Plenty of people around the world don’t wear restrictive underwear. You can commonly see ‘movement’ in both sexes. People wear loose enough clothing that you’re not forced to see outlines of anatomy. (So my advice to LW#1 would be to wear fabrics that have enough structure to drape without clinging to one’s body.)

      But anyway, if professional dress means not being able to see certain aspects of people’s bodies, put the desired outcome in the dress code and allow people to find the best way of implementing that.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I’m always surprised how many people in these threads seem to think not wearing a bra is breaking a common norm

        Why surprised? Regardless of whether or not it SHOULD be a norm, wearing a bra is definitely a norm in offices in the US.

    5. SAS*

      It seems crazier to me that the employer is potentially willing to lose an employee over this. If OP was a man unwilling to cut his hair would there be as many comments saying “just cut it!”? It has no impact on their skills. And the hair example doesn’t invoke the physical discomfort the bra request does.

      1. L-squared*

        Well, I’m a guy. If a man was noticeably going commando at work, and the managers said he needed to wear underwear, I’d say “just wear some underwear”. And some guys don’t like wearing underwear either. My advice would still be to suck it up.

        My ideal comfort level to work in would be basketball shorts and a t-shirt, but I’ve yet to find an office where that is acceptable. So sometimes yes, we have to be uncomfortable at work.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Large chested women have to deal with repercussions from uncomfortable clothing like back pain and restricted breathing. It’s not the same as needing to wear a collared shirt when you’d rather wear sweats.

          If a man was having a similar problem with underwear causing painful restrictions I’d encourage them to try to find a style or alternative that’s halfway tolerable, or pants that made it less obvious, just like many people that are suggesting for OP.

      2. Stitch*

        I mean I worked at a theme park and first day of orientation they did checks on us and, multiple young men were in the bathroom with scissors and razors because they failed the (at the time stricter) hair rules. Some women had to remove nail polish. I didn’t see anyone leave.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah I find it kind of cute that no one thinks dress codes get kind of personal and demanding sometimes. Some jobs are not all that interested in your in demand skills, they want conformity; including hair cuts. I had a coworker told to shave off his beard.

      3. Wintermute*

        We really have no idea WHY they are asking this though. Half the people are assuming it’s body policing B.S. the other half are assuming it’s because they are getting legitimate complaints. It’s even quite possible SHE is being accused of harassment because someone feels targeted for “display”.

        It might be something they really don’t have a choice over, and frankly given that these kinds of conversations are excruciating to have, I think “feels forced to have this conversation because the status quo is not okay or there are complaints” is way more likely than “really wants to have an awkward grooming conversation with an employee”.

    6. Cat Tree*

      Really? You’ve never in your entire life heard or even imagined that bras can be painful for some women?

    7. Kate*

      I second this.

      Look, I work in one of the conservative finance-law-etc fields. No one is going to FIRE you for not wearing “appropriate”… pants, let’s say, but you are absolutely going to pay a price in your ability to influence people and get things done.

      Same goes for bras.

      Is it fair? No.
      Is it reasonable? Not really.
      Is the entire industry going to change because I don’t prefer it to be this way? No.

      I’m saving my bills to die on for bigger things (and I would happily spend my days in sweatpants and an REI sweatshirt)

      1. Appletini*

        There are a lot of people in various threads here citing reasons from psoriasis to broken ribs to touch sensitivities. Would you really give every single one of them the same one size fits all, being employed requires pain, answer of “just wear a bra”?

        1. Wintermute*

          no, my answer would be “find out the real source of their concern, and engage in good faith negotiation to solve it”.

        2. gnome*

          Nothing in the letter indicated that LW1 has physical issues with wearing a bra. If so, I think she would have mentioned that to her supervisors.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I would not assume this! Obviously “I can’t wear a bra for health reasons” might be an avenue that LW could explore, but there is absolutely no reason for someone to disclose a medical issue if they aren’t sure that the request is reasonable, which is what LW wrote in to ask.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              +1.

              I have so many health issues. I hate talking about them at work. I don’t love how OP has addressed this so far, but I would also probably not jump straight to “medical accommodation”.

        3. Cat Lover*

          There was no indication of that in the letter? If so, then engage in good faith to find a solution.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Is it fair? No.
        Is it reasonable? Not really.
        Is the entire industry going to change because I don’t prefer it to be this way? No.

        Sometimes unfair and unreasonable things do change, and that usually happens because one person challenges them and others support them.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      If your employer ordered you not to wear a bra, because someone found the appearance of your chest with a bra on distracting and unprofessional, would you shrug and strip off?

    9. Double A*

      It’s pretty clear from reading the comments that there are many people who find bras very comfortable, and many people who find them extremely uncomfortable and the LW is in the latter group. No amount of sharing how wonderful bras feel for you will change how they feel for her! And no amount of those of us who hate bras explaining how terribly they are will make free-boobing it any more comfortable for people who don’t like that.

      The LW needs to find out what the problem is (nipples showing, too much movement?) and find some way to address the problem. It doesn’t need to be a bra. I basically layer on days when my brallettes are too uncomfortable (and I never wear structured bras). But I have a very different build than the LW describes, so she’ll need to figure out what works for her.

  18. rosieinlondon*

    I work on relocations pretty regularly and have a packet similar to the one in Letter #5! Most of the transfers I work with are international so it’s tailored to that, but definitely worth putting together. I’ve gotten input from other employees too – I don’t have kids so I know nothing about how schools work, but it was great to get insight from others.

    1. LW5/The RED Redhead*

      I appreciate the vote of confidence! I’m in an interim HR position right now, but am interviewing to become the Real Thing in a couple of weeks, and so I’m trying to start thinking of the ways I would like to improve things if/when I become Officially Official.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I have relocated for a job before, and the packet I got included:

      – apartment recommendations (this packet was aimed at people just out of school, so most people rented) with rough rent prices and commute times from various apartment complexes
      – recommendations for things to do in the area (local festivals, local sports teams)
      – recommendations for restaurants/bars/cafes
      – information on how long you had to change your driver’s license/car registration in the state
      – information about the closest airports (how far away, which one had cheaper parking, which one had cheaper flights)

      I found it very helpful when considering the job/move, because I could start to imagine a little bit about what life in that city would look like and helpful when I did move and started to get settled in.

      1. Linda*

        I’m in the middle of a job search right now and the relocation packets I’ve been receiving are pretty robust, but there are two things I wish they included:

        -information about DEI-related resources like queer meet-ups, cultural affinity groups, support for neurospicy folks, etc.
        -what kind of medical resources are available in the area. How far away is the hospital, is it hard to get a doctor’s appointment, where do people go for specialized care?

        If you’re based in/near a large city these points probably aren’t necessary, but I’ve been looking at and living in some pretty rural areas and it’d be nice to not have to spend so much time googling

        1. LW5/The RED Redhead*

          These are great suggestions, thank you!

          I downloaded the most recent My City magazine thing that the My City Business Council put together so that I can include it in a relocation packet for an offer letter I want to send this week.

          I like the idea of including DEI stuff, too.

  19. Kat*

    Reply that the band is not available that day. Don’t give any reasons or answer any further communication.

  20. ds*

    #1 I don’t wear a bra, haven’t in years. I have psoriasis and the bra immediately makes my underarms and underbust break out and rub horridly raw within an hour or so of putting it on. I’ve tried all kinds. Spent thousands of dollars on bras to no avail. ALL bras do this to me. As some shirts do allow for my nipples to show if they are hard from the cold, I have taken to wearing a cardigan over my work shirts so that any time I’m in a cold area or in ANY meeting, I’m wearing the cardigan pulled so that no one will have any way of knowing if I have a bra or not. This is because one coworker one time asked me “Is is cold in here” (with a haha kind of attitude) because my desk sits right under the AC unit and it blows on me all day long.
    (Before anyone suggests it, I’ve also tried undershirts, but because I’m pudgy and my hips are quite a bit larger than my waist, they roll up all day long. Big nope or I’m tugging at clothing 70% of my day which looks way sloppier than just not wearing anything under the shirt. I also make sure I buy thicker material tops and things with patterns to distract from the fact that sometimes a hard nipple outline can be seen.)
    Anyway… my point being, if someone tried to tell me I had to wear a bra to work, we’d be talking about my health and if that didn’t work, I’d be straight up searching for a new job. :/

    1. Observer*

      Anyway… my point being, if someone tried to tell me I had to wear a bra to work, we’d be talking about my health

      That’s the thing that I really noticed about the letter. You have a medical issue, and I think that it would be absurd for an employer to not accommodate that. If the OP has a medical problem like yours, the simplest thing is to discuss this with her boss or HR.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, ideally one would go the formal accommodation route before they were on their last warning.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Especially since OP’s best effort so far has been to ask a couple of men they were required to wear bras at work.

          If OP needed an accommodation, it would make more sense to go to the female coworker with orthopedic shoes and ask how she got out of the “women must wear at least 1.5″ heels” requirement.

    2. Fishsticks*

      May I recommend the Shapermint tank top/camisole for larger-sized shapewear that doesn’t roll up too badly? I have to keep it tucked under my pants, but if I do that it doesn’t roll up. I’ve also heard incredible things about Honeylove, but haven’t had the money to spend on them yet. Evelyn & Bobbie also has a great tank that has a built-in bra of sorts, but it definitely rolls up on me unless I wear fairly tight pants with a high waist. I am built similarly to you! But my stomach issue is a sensory sensitivity to waistbands against bare skin, so I wear shapewear to provide a barrier.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I love me a colorful cotton undershirt (often sold as “tank tops”) and I routinely tuck them into my underpants. But man, I hate sitting right under the A/C vent. (My scalp actually gets painful. I think I’d be wearing a sun hat all day as a sort of cold air shield.) I’ve worked places where facilities would put a piece of plexiglass under the vent to divert the air from falling directly onto someone’s desk, when it was all cubes and so the desk couldn’t be shifted. Would your building do that?

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Oh this reminded me of when my psoriasis was so bad, I had to wear coconut oil wrapped in cling film under my clothes because I couldn’t bear the touch of any fabric. Not fun.

    5. Budgie Buddy*

      I think cardigans are a good solution. Same with blazers or anything that makes your overall shape more neutral.

      I’m pretty small chested but I still have the “is it cold in here?” problem. I wear a reasonably thick bra to the office but if I’m not at the office and don’t feel like wearing a bra then a hoodie covers everything up. Or if it’s a hot day a snug tank top and band aids. It’s probably more modest because there are no bra straps to stick out of my shirts.

  21. BRAvery*

    Is there any validity to LW1 maybe going to the doctor and getting a note about how bras cause them back pain? Not in an ADA accommodation way, just in a “hey, my doctor has said this” way that might make the boss bug off? Also, LW1, I sympathize! So annoying how every aspect of women’s bodies are scrutinized and up for debate.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Sure, that might help. Unfortunately I think she’s burned a lot of good will at this point by ignoring/refusing the instruction so many times (without mentioning back pain) – boss might not be inclined to grant anything less than an ADA accommodation.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes, this might have been a good solution three conversations ago. But if OP really wants to die on this hill it probably wouldn’t be that hard to track down an ADA accommodation. Large chests can be the root of a lot of medical issues.

    2. Observer*

      It would have been an excellent idea if she had done that to start with. Now? I suspect that they are not going to believe her.

  22. Jo*

    OP3,
    I understand that you do this, but if I were working with you, I would greatly appreciate it if you took your shoe off and not rest your shoe on the cushion of your seat. Call me germophobic, but you don’t know what you might have stepped in by accident and not noticed.

    Even if you are not hot desking, it may be that a colleague might sit in your chair at some point because they’re helping you with something on your computer/fixing something/sit with your office mate while you’re away at lunch or something else, and sitting in street dirt is really….not very great. And no one knows who might sit on your chair if you decide to leave the company either (at least at my office, people don’t get brand new chairs when they start unless they have special requirements). And if it’s common that someone else is sitting on your chair (hot desking or desk booking or whatever) it would really be kind. Thank you for your consideration.

    1. Tiptoe*

      My first thought was about shoe(s) on chair as well. Maybe if you wore slip-ons you could easily take off and on so the foot was in a sock but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone deemed that unprofessional.

      I like to sit with a foot up as well but that is because I am petite and can’t reach the floor. Maybe it would be a help with a foot rest or a more ergonomic chair and/or table? That helped me.

    2. Chikkka*

      I wouldn’t put shoes on a chair either, but if you’re a germaphobe you probably want to give office chairs or any “common use” chairs a miss in general, as they’re pretty dirty.

      Seats on public transport are notoriously extreme filthy, so anyone who commutes by public transport, all that dirt, pee, poo, semen (yes, there have been studies), etc transfers from the bus/train to their office seat.

      People also might rest their handbag or briefcase on their seat to get something, when that bag may have been placed on the floor of the train or the train station and picked up all kinds of muck.

    3. Just me*

      I feel chairs are pretty filthy things. People put bags on them, they sit on public transport then on chairs, they fart on them.

      But, as a person who sits like the OP a lot, I’d say “beware the marks you leave on your own butt from your shoes”… you might well find that dirty shoes (or not buffed polish etc) marks your own clothes. It is also incredibly bad for posture over time (years) and knee and hip joints (speaking from experience). I totally understand WHY you do it, I do it myself, but I’m really aware that it’s not professional, and not good for my body.

      1. Miette*

        Coming here to amplify the bad-for-the-joints angle. OP3, I’m speaking to you from the other side of 50, and while I doubt you will change your habit, I do gently recommend you to. I was like you in that I spent all of my 20s and 30s putting my hips and legs in odd positions as I sat and while I have no actual physical ailments (yet!), I unconsciously STILL DO IT even though it hurts like the dickens when I stand or go to walk once I get up.

        Now is the time to retrain yourself to sit “properly” if you’ve an interest in it–or to begin a regimen of daily stretching–your middle-aged self will thank you lol.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          OP might want to look into a kneeling chair! My coworker has one and it seems to be pretty ergonomic, and would give a more comfortable bend to the knees.

          1. BubbleTea*

            This is the only way I’m able to work at a desk all day. I still manage to pretzel myself at least once a day but that’s typically a sign that it’s time for a movement break. I’ve never been able to sit “normally” for long.

        2. Claire*

          That’s going to be variable. I’m over 50, have arthritis, and have sat in odd positions all my life, and it’s still more comfortable for me. The pain in my back and hips from sitting “properly” is very real but there’s no pain when I stand or walk.

    4. Helvetica*

      I’m a bit unclear whether she takes her shoe off or not but as someone who also likes to sit in this position (at my desk where people cannot see!), I always take my shoe off. And if I need to put them back on, they are all the kind of shoes I can easily do it with, for example if my supervisor is coming to talk to me. Obviously, make sure your feet/shoes don’t smell and keep it in your desk area but sitting like that is not a problem, in my mind.

    5. ecnaseener*

      FWIW when I do this, I don’t usually sit on my foot (ow!) – I have my foot dangling off the side of the chair not touching it.

      1. A Person*

        Yes, I do this as well – my ankle rests on the chair and my foot dangles off the side. Nothing I’ve stepped in is coming in contact with the chair.

        I’ve also received negative comments about not sitting “properly”. My perception is that most people don’t care, but some people get really annoyed by it – often people who are kind of busybodies in general.

    6. Daisy-dog*

      I personally have had a hard time finding shoes that are comfortable and my style and affordable. Unfortunately most that I have found leave my feet a little bit smelly if I take off my shoes. So it’s a tricky balance between the desk chair being dirty and the desk area smelling like feet.

    7. miss_chevious*

      How interesting, because I have the exact opposite reaction: PLEASE KEEP YOUR SHOES ON AT WORK. I do not want to see or, God forbid, smell my co-workers feet while I’m trying to work. I would rather deal with a little street dirt, which I’m probably aware of and dealing with anyway due to my own travels to and from the office, than deal with a co-worker’s feet.

      1. OP3*

        Hi all, OP 3 here! I’ve never thought about the shoes on chairs issue like that before, I assumed more people would have an issue with bare feet. Good to know and consider.
        I don’t hot desk and have a spare “meeting chair” at my desk, so others using my personal chair isn’t a big risk. Some other commenters were right, the sole of my foot is not “on” my chair, it’s the side of my ankle that touches the cushion.
        Thanks to all who were concerned about my joints, I have a foot rest that I try to use intermittently instead!

        1. Jo*

          Good to know! I never saw anyone sitting with their foot dangling off, sorry for being presumptious.

          I had a boss who used to sit like that and he was always sitting ON his foot, with the side of his shoes resting on the chair. And I had to sit on his chair to help with things quite a bit. We were working in an industrial park in the middle of a woody area, you can imagine what all was stuck to his shoes, especially in wet weather.

          I also don’t care about anyone’s bare feet. I had a coworker (at the same job as above) who walked around the office on socked feet. Weird, but not really concerning. Not like I had to wash his socks. But this might be a cultural difference.

          @all, yes, I am aware of public transport, thanks. But on public transport, I expect this and don’t touch my face or eat without washing my hands. I don’t wash my hands every time I touched a chair before taking a sip of my tea. For anyone wondering why I might touch the cushion: I am not coordinated enough to always prevent my skirt/dress from bunching up before sitting, and I also need to adjust my chair after someone else was sitting there.

    8. Hannah Lee*

      I’m also a “sit on foot while in a chair” person, and wouldn’t do it on a shared chair or when around others.

      But also, I’ve found my need to do that to be comfortable usually means my desk, chair don’t fit me … I’m 5’2″ and having to adjust my seat up be able to comfortably reach the work surface usually means my legs are dangling and my upper-leg back angle is not great. Both of those cause discomfort after a while. Sitting cross legged or half cross legged makes things better.

      But ideally, what I need is a chair that can be raised to the right height, doesn’t have a fixed back so I can adjust it so that the front of the chair to the back rest is the right size for my upper leg and has foot rests that my feet can reach, or a separate foot rest. In a chair like that, there is no limb folding, foot sitting on required. It’s just one of the aspects of having a body that is not an “average male” body size and shape

      So, if LW is in an workplace where their sitting posture is an issue, they could request different chair/work surface options to get something that lessens there need for a “non-professional” sitting posture.

  23. Office Gumby*

    For OP #2, the country where I live is known for being rather blunt in offering an opinion, especially in a situation like this. It would not be unexpected in this situation for your husband’s reply to be, “No, we will not play your wedding,” and leave it at that, fully expecting Jane to respect it. If she pressed for a reason, she’d get back: “Your reputation precedes you. It is not a good one.” All further attempts at conversation would be ignored, unless she insisted on persisting in her annoyance. Then she would get a very justified “p!$$ off.”

    At that point, Jane, being Aussie enough to realise she’d gone too far, would definitely not reply, definitely not say anything further, beyond complaining to her mates at the barbeque, because anything she said further would ruin *her* reputation. The music industry is close enough here that everyone knows everyone else, and yes, they’d talk.

    Once the industry starts talking about you, the best Jane will get, if she’s lucky, is a high school DJ or a Spotify list.

    1. to varying degrees*

      But how would some anonymous band know about Jane’s “reputation”? It seems like an answer like this would create more problems than it’s worth. If Jane really is such an annoyance she will likely pursue it further anyway she can (and possibly finding out about the connection between band and coworker). Just make up a little white lie and say sorry already booked, forgot to place it on the calendar.

    2. Antilles*

      Outside of perhaps rural areas/small towns, that’s absolutely not the case in America. There’s enough wedding bands in any decent sized city that there’s not really any such thing as “Jane’s reputation”, when we’re talking about an activity (hiring a wedding band) that Jane is likely to do once in her entire life.
      OP’s husband can choose not to work with her and maybe if she’s truly terrible he tells a few of his direct contacts in the business…but it doesn’t spread any further than that; nobody’s going to be sitting around gossiping about how I heard from Kevin of BlissBand about his wife’s co-worker Jane.
      Especially when the description is (checks OP), “kind of rude, implied someone was dumb based on a question, and gives of general entitlement vibes”. That might be enough for OP’s husband to duck out and maybe tell a couple close friends, but it’s not the kind of story that really has legs to spread far and wide.

      1. Grammar Penguin*

        Also, while OP’s husband fronts the band, he isn’t the entire band. How do the other band members feel about turning down paying work because one member’s wife has this vague, barely describable dislike for the bride?

        1. Velociraptor Attack*

          I’m surprised I haven’t seen this come up.

          If I was in a band, even a clearly successful one, I’d be a little annoyed if my frontperson and their spouse were making unilateral decisions about things like this without discussing it with the rest of us. Do other members of the band (and their partners!) get to vet every potential client?

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Eh, people in bands can be very protective about their musical family. I’m in a (very casual) band and when someone suggested a song that happens to be a trigger for me, I said so, and they not only scratched the song from the list but the artist, just in case.

            Now, that’s perhaps a stronger reason than in the letter, but if this band is so popular I don’t think the other musicians are going to be put out by the potential loss of business – particularly since wedding season is likely to be their busiest.

            1. Velociraptor Attack*

              For me, it would more be the dismissing it without discussing it with anyone other than their spouse, not the losing business part. I see how that wasn’t super clear.

              I know when my spouse was in a band for a long time (also a fairly casual one but they recorded an album and went on a small regional tour of a 2 state area) they made decisions as a group despite him also serving in a manager-like role and handling logistics.

            2. Hannah Lee*

              I think if the behind the scenes contact knows up front that a potential client had a high probability of being demanding or high-maintenance, the other band members wouldn’t have an big issue with the band’s booking contact declining to book a gig with that client. And that’s especially true if the band is in high demand and the gig is during the busy season. If there’s a high probability the band can book a gig for the same rate with someone else (which it sounds like there is) why risk a hassle-prone gig … with a high probability the client will wind up unsatisfied and complaining (and possibility of the client being very high-contact given their easy access to LW) + uncomfortable situation for LW who is the band’s logistics person for potentially no upside?

              Years ago there was a TV movie with Jane Seymour playing a character whose affair partner trashed his life to try to please her every which way, after which IIRC she dumped him. He was baffled and wanted an explanation, to which she replied that he should know her by now “It is not in my nature to be satisfied”
              LW’s co-worker makes me think of that character. There is little chance this booking this gig winds up a good thing for this band and it has a risk of creating issues at LW’s day job.

              Husband / frontman should just say no, with a bland “unfortunately, we won’t be able to accommodate your request. We wish you the best for your big day” Maybe also include a list of alternate bands if you want. No explanation needed, no need to offer one if asked “That won’t work for us” if pressed for more info.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      Do you feel like trying to pre-emptively ruin someone’s reputation to the point where she would have to resort to a Spotify playlist for her wedding because she gives off “entitlement vibes” is a normal thing to do?

      1. Brisvegan*

        I don’t know if you saw the OP’s updates above. The “entitlement vibes” are things like being a low level employee employed for less than a year and demanding an allocated car park near the door (when there is no allocated parking) and her own office (when only managers have them and everyone else is open plan). She apparently also told people to ask OP to do something in her job description and outside OP’s job and then told OP to Google how to do it. That’s more than a vague feeling.

        At that point, I would expect a Bridezilla.

        And yes, as an Aussie, that merits leaving her to a Spotify play list if she won’t take “No, we won’t be taking your booking,” as an answer.

        I think the difference in attitude comes from two things:
        1. Aussies deeply dislike hierarchical displays and entitled behaviour (even from highly successful people: see “tall poppy syndrome”).
        2. We are often more blunt and less deferential than people in the US. After a couple if polite “no we won’t play your wedding” responses, a band would be likely to tell someone very bluntly that they should stop asking. The band would then tell mates to avoid working for that sort of twit. Play stupid games of hierarchical rudeness, win stupid prizes.

        The lack of deference difference is especially marked for service providers. To our eyes, US waitstaff seem rather creepily obsequious. The expectation of what appears to us to be high deference from shop staff or lower paid workers is frankly offensive to Aussie eyes. We are often aware of hierarchy (despite claiming we’re not), but treating people as lower status is very rude here. Acting entitled to a band’s services and expecting deference from the band in the hiring process would be reason enough to tell someone to find another band, especially if the husband’s band was in high demand and didn’t need the gig.

        1. Antilles*

          Acting entitled to a band’s services and expecting deference from the band in the hiring process would be reason enough to tell someone to find another band, especially if the husband’s band was in high demand and didn’t need the gig.
          It’s reason enough for husband to duck out here in America too.

          The difference here is that it wouldn’t go beyond that initial band. You seem to be implying that in Australia, it would become A Thing that would affect Jane’s reputation so badly she’d end up having to go with a random high schooler or a Spotify playlist…but here in the US, it’s absolutely not.

          OP’s husband’s band dips out, then Jane just ends up calling one of the several dozen (or more) other wedding bands in the metro area and hiring them instead.

    4. coffee*

      I’m also Australian and would read that interaction as rude and pre-emptively hostile by the husband.

  24. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    OP2 – I once had a pushy roommate who wanted me to do a big typing job for him on a weekend. I didn’t want to do it but I was too wimpy to just say no so I said Sure, for X dollars an hour–an OUTRAGEOUS rate for typing back then. I was certain he’d turn me down. However, he accepted my rate without hesitation, so I spent my weekend doing the job. The money was nice. But…

    1. Sebastian*

      Yeah, it’s important if you’re using a high price to put someone off to make it high enough that it would actually be worth it to you to do the thing.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Exactly. If you price it high enough that you would cheerfully ‘do the thing’ then it’s a win-win no matter what they say. But if you price it high just to dissuade them, be aware that it might not.

    2. Brisvegan*

      To clarify “her job” meant Bridezilla’s not OP’s. Bridezilla was refusing to do her job and trying to pass it to OP.

  25. Rainbow*

    I’m just honestly proud that LW1 didn’t immediately crumble into the ground and start wearing 10 layers above their nip nops every day. I would have done! I only have small boobs but I used to go braless all the time for comfort in my old job, with just nipple covers because believe me I need them. I walk fast though so you could probably tell sometimes!

    LW3: I am autistic (such that most people are not aware I am), and sitting in weird ways is apparently fairly common for us. I do it all the time. Honestly sometimes I’m more comfortable lying sideways on a chair than sitting on it, not that I do that at work. Not saying you’re autistic! But, no one ever seems to have questioned it for me other than one friend noting it’s funny.

  26. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    OP 3 —

    I do this too! I find it intolerable to sit ‘normally’ for too long.

    Just be in the habit of taking off your shoe if you can, and be mindful that certain kinds of office chairs can be damaged (the butterfly looking ones, that fold up a little at the edges) if you sit like that on them every day.

    1. Zee*

      I also find it incredibly uncomfortable to sit with both feet flat on the ground. If I’m forced to do it, maintaining that position is literally the only thing I can concentrate on (and not get any work done).

    2. J*

      Me too!! I often sit like this (I think for me the root cause is being short and having horrible posture, so I find it hard to sit with both feet on the ground without slumping). No ones ever said anything to me or noticed as far as I know.

  27. Jennifer M. Bell*

    It depends on the laws and policies of your employer and the specific circumstances of the situation.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I assume this is mis-nested but I love that it can standalone as a comment to so many letters

  28. Forgot my name again*

    LW4: I hear you. I am emerging from that period of my life (kids are now 4 and 7) and looking around me going “where did those last few years go?” I am just beginning to feel like I have the bandwidth to take on a bit more again, and you’ll get there too, I promise!

    Firstly, I think it should be absolutely fine to say “I’m not prepared to take this on yet” and revisit in a year’s time or more. Then if they’re pushing it, I would ask that you’re given time for training and study during work hours, and some things are taken off your hands to free you up. It’s unreasonable to expect you to give up your non-existent (or incredibly precious) free time for this!

  29. L*

    For #4 I’d say if the boss is asking you to get this qualification, then it absolutely HAS to be something they can accommodate in working hours. Kids or no kids. If a boss is asking you to do something, then it’s a work-hours thing. Period.

    I realise not all workplace cultures are like this, but I think if you’re being asked to do anything that’s work related (this includes things like being asked to sit on diversity committees etc) then it happens in work hours or you get TOIL for the hours you do it outside of work hours.

    1. TX_trucker*

      If the qualification is required to perform your normal job duties, I think it definitely needs to happen during work hours. When we buy a new style of truck, we allow our mechanics to study the manual while on duty. But if the qualification is for “development,” such as studying to obtain a new mechanic certification (that is is not required for the job) then I think it’s reasonable for it to happen on an employee’s personal time. That’s assuming it truly is for optional “development” and not a mandatory requirement.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      If it’s not something OP already knows, then I think the first step should be to clarify: is this something boss is encouraging because the thinks it will be beneficial for OP and he’s offering it in a general career advice kind of way? Or is it something he wants them to get for the benefit of the company? If the former, then I think that leaves you a lot more room to just politely decline and say it’s not something you have time to focus on right now. If it’s the latter, then I agree I would bring up the possibility of taking care of it during work hours.

  30. Victoria*

    I’m baffled by the idea that bra=professional dress. I do wear bras and find one specific brand very comfortable but I know that’s not the case for everyone, and as I don’t like padded or t-shirt bras if it’s cold you can still see my nipples sometimes–big deal! And since so much off-the-rack clothing doesn’t have the right fit on women *or men* without tailoring, wearing a bra won’t be a magic cure to ill-fitting work clothes anyway. Why are these people (and some commenters) so keen on bras?

    I understand that the law may not be not on OP1’s side in this, but if the company really wants every woman to be wearing a bra then they should add it to the dress code specifically, not make up additions to the definition of “professional” when it suits them. In fact, asking for it to be added so that every woman at the company is held to the same standard without “confusion” may bring to light that this issue is particular to the team, rather than a company requirement, and OP1 may find some help there. Also, if you’re a larger person in general rather than just blessed in the chest, is it possible there’s some fat-phobia/size-ism creeping in here?

    Otherwise there are people in the comments with bigger bosoms than mine making excellent and useful suggestions for bra-alternatives and I hope they are helpful, but I’m sorry your supervisors are so obsessed with your chest, they are *so* wrong and weird, and you are entirely right, OP1. Good luck.

    1. bamcheeks*

      seconding all of this, and OP1, if you find a lawyer who wants to take this to court, post your GoFundme here! I’d donate.

    2. triss merigold*

      Gosh this reminds me of the time when the vice principal at my high school called all of the girls and only the girls into the auditorium for a short assembly about how we needed to follow the dress code. She gave demonstrations to show how we could determine appropriate necklines and tank top strap width and shorts length and so on but the moment that was really special was towards the end where she was decidedly losing control of everyone and she said, “Ladies, the braless look is out.”

      “The braless look” was indeed banned in our handbook but no one knew what it meant. So a few people were like, “what is the braless look, what are you talking about?”

      She says, “It means you have to wear a bra.”

      Instant pandemonium. Never seen such solidarity before or since. Straight A goody two shoes and rebellious punks alike erupted in rage. There was no getting control back, everyone was just yelling at her until the bell rang for class.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        That’s why it’s not in dress codes to be honest. There’s multiple ways to not wear a bra without looking like you’re about to enter a wet t-shirt contest, so if you tell people it’s a must have item, you’re just going to piss off those multitudes. It’s particularly unfair with teenage girls who are still figuring this stuff out, and may not even be ready for a bra, to be told “you must wear a bra”.

    3. Wintermute*

      I think it really is a matter of “if no one can tell there’s no reason to care”. They don’t specify men must wear underwear, but if someone was very visibly not doing so they would probably have the same issue. They probably don’t specify women must wear other underwear either, but if it were obvious someone wasn’t, I bet they’d have an issue with that too.

      Just like our dress code doesn’t specify you MUST wear deodorant. If you’re not wearing it and don’t smell, that’s fine, but if you smell without it, you need to wear it. Same thing, if you need one, you need it, if you don’t use one and no one can tell, then you’re fine.

    4. iliketoknit*

      Probably one of the saddest things for me about going back to work when pandemic shutdowns ended was having to wear a bra again, after discovering HOW nice it was not to wear one when I was WFH all day. But I still wear them to work b/c I’m in a professional setting where everyone does and it’s a norm that I’m more comfortable obeying than bucking. (And to be clear, I don’t have any actual medical issues making a bra actually painful/contraindicated, which would absolutely justify not wearing one.) That’s unfortunately how norms work much of the time. The only woman in my workplace who didn’t wear one was a part timer and she didn’t have any issues, but didn’t create any broader culture around it either (she wore blazers over button down shirts over tank tops and you couldn’t see nipples/the shape of her breasts so she was “professional” in that regard, but her silhouette was clearly braless).

      So I’m not saying the LW should have to wear a bra, just people’s attachment to them comes from having absorbed a particular norm over years (often decades) of their lives. And I don’t think people are really saying what the ideal dress code should be, just expressing the general idea that it’s often not worth flouting professional norms for your workplace.

      I agree that the big-breastedness is likely a big part of this and could be leaning towards sizeism, absolutely.

    5. Dancing Otter*

      Standing her ground here will likely end with her standing in the unemployment line. After three warnings, she’s clearly insubordinate.

      Principles don’t pay the bills.

      1. Czhorat*

        And that sucks.

        I agree if she fights more she’ll probably continue to lose. She deserves better, but at some point you have to decide which fights are worth risking your livelihood over.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          A few people have commented saying they would quit if they had to wear a bra. People can choose their own hills, of course, but “I would quit!” strikes me as rash and, honestly, pretty privileged. I was just laid off, so maybe I’m biased, but if my employer told me I had to wear tights every day to keep my job I would do it. I would start a hard job search, but I would do it.

          1. Czhorat*

            There’s nothing wrong with using what privilege you have to make your life better. If you can afford to quit when your job forces you into something uncomfortable there’s no reason to not do so.

          2. Willow Pillow*

            Absolutely… Looking for a lawyer and fighting this in court are privileged options as well. I’m not saying LW should suck it up and wear a bra, but there are plenty of options in between that and how she chose to respond

  31. Green great dragon*

    LW4 – I’ve been there. There were a few years where I was definitely treading water at work, but that’s passed and I feel I’m moving upwards again, and taking on more optional stuff.

    If you have any sense at all of when things might be calmer you could consider sharing that, so boss is clear you’re saying no right now, because of circumstances, rather than a permanent no. Though that very much depends on your boss, and whether they think ‘I have a life’ is shockingly unprofessional or goes without saying.

    1. ferrina*

      Depending on the boss, I’d point to the kids in preschool. Preschool is a temporary status and is undeniably hard, and it also helps the boss mentally puts a pin in the professional development (as opposed to writing off LW’s professional development all together).
      “Hey boss, that sounds interesting, but honestly this isn’t the year. The kids are at an awful age and aren’t sleeping. Can we revisit this again in a year when Older Kid starts kindergarten?”

      (note: this would work great with some bosses and terribly with others. Use at your own discretion)

  32. FashionablyEvil*

    I feel like #2 has the potential for blowback for the LW. What happens if Jane changes her wedding date so she can secure the band? Or otherwise makes the connection to LW? “My colleague demanded her husband not do business with me because she doesn’t like me,” is not a good look for the LW. I’m not saying the LW is wrong, just that she risks looking petty if this comes out.

    1. Nate The Great*

      I think the better way to handle it is to just be semi-direct, OP should tell her that the two of them don’t feel comfortable mixing work and the band business, ie. No playing for coworkers (still a lie I suppose, but much less personal and more understandable).

      1. metadata minion*

        Given how much drama weddings can notoriously cause, that honestly seems like a pretty reasonable policy. Unless the band is actually anticipating playing for a different coworker’s event, it might not be a bad idea to make that policy real (if maybe unofficially a bit flexible).

      2. CheeryO*

        Agreed, and can’t believe I had to scroll this far to see this. That would be a very reasonable policy, and easy to stand by. Yes, LW would have to out herself, but it’s better than having to deal with the rage of an unreasonable person who will think she’s being screwed over unless they block the date on the calendar.

      3. Catwoman*

        This was my first thought! It’s very reasonable to tell the coworker who she is and declare a conflict of interest. If the band has played for coworkers’ weddings in the past, she could just say her husband has always been kind of uncomfortable with it in the off-chance things go wrong and it makes drama for her at work, and it was this request that pushed them to make it an official policy.

      4. Ellie*

        Yes, that was my first thought – she could change the wedding date, and still badmouth them for being ‘unprofessional’ with their booking website.

        Either email back to say that since you work together, you can’t accept the booking, or else suck it up and accept her business (but maybe demand payment upfront or a clear exit clause if you get the feeling she will be difficult).

    2. WellRed*

      They’ve already expended too much time and mental energy on this. Running a professional booking site means figuring out policies etc and knowing when it’s ok to say no. They don’t need a reason.

    3. ecnaseener*

      But it was LW’s husband who made this decision, LW didn’t demand anything. I’m sure Jane will spin it that way, but there’s literally nothing LW can do to avoid this (other than insist her husband takes the gig he doesn’t want!)

    4. Cj*

      My husband used to play in one of the most popular bands in our area, and people would definitely change their wedding date in order to book them.

      The engaged coworker says she has heard the band before, and she really wants them to play at her wedding. Unless there are technical difficulties that prevent the band from playing the entire night or something like that, I’m not sure what drama there would be between her and the band that would cause the OP difficulty at work.

      I don’t see a reason do not let her husband band play for co-workers events. This would mean weddings, but I
      But also mean sweet 16 parties, class reunions, town celebrations and other types of celebrations if the coworker was the person in charge of booking the band.

      And what if they did make that a policy? What about the coworkers of the partners of the other people in the band? Multiplied that by the number of the partners coworkers, and that’s probably a lot of jobs they would be turning down. Or maybe some of the band members have “day jobs”, and won’t be able to play for their co-workers events, either.

      1. Samwise*

        “I’m not sure what drama there would be between her and the band that would cause the OP difficulty at work”

        Jane decides she doesn’t like how the band is playing and refuses to pay
        Jane decides she wants the band to play this or that, they can’t or won’t, she refuses to pay
        Jane is a needy pain in the butt in the months before the wedding, calling up OP’s husband over and over and over and over
        Jane learns that the OP’s spouse is the band leader and takes all of her complaints, requests, etc to OP. Gets mad when OP redirects her.

        That;s off the top of my head. People who want to make drama will find a way to make drama. Much easier for the band to nope Jane.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I agree. I’m sure the band has dealt with all of this before (except the “bothering OP at work” part) and would rather nope out of dealing with bad clients. Knowing that Jane does things like demand a private office in an open-plan facility would be a huge red flag for her being a bad client.

          And if anything went wrong at the reception, Jane seems likely to take it out on OP at work.

  33. Nate The Great*

    Re #2: I’m not sure that a date conflict is the best way to go; if the coworker is that determined to have your husband’s band play, she very well could change the date; it is pretty far off, after all, and she said she “needs” them for her wedding to be perfect. And even if she does accept no for an answer, she could find out you lied, and it’ll create workplace drama.

    I think this may be something OP just has to address head-on; sit her down in private (or even just email her) and tell her that you understand she wants to book your husband’s band, that you manage the band, and that you and your husband wouldn’t feel comfortable mixing work with the band business, and that you hope she understands.

    1. ferrina*

      I wouldn’t. As the great Captain Awkward says, reasons are for reasonable people. Jane doesn’t sound reasonable- she sounds like she’d react in an over the top way, arguing why LW is wrong and/or punishing LW at work. It’s not worth OP’s professional reputation/the work drama to try to hash this out.

      I also wouldn’t read too much into the “NEEDS”. That’s typical bridezilla lexicon (colloquial translation is “I’d love for this to happen”). She’s not likely to change the date- venues are much, much harder to book and replace than wedding bands.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Ooh, I would not bring it up with her. It’s OP’s husband’s call whether he books her, and it’s on him to decline the booking and to convey that information. “I’m sorry, we’re not able to accept your booking,” is his line. Repeat as necessary: “We are unable to play your event, I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

      As someone above said, if it ever comes out that the two of you are married, just say that it’s a policy you and he have. Because of your behind-the scenes-involvement with the band, you’ve chosen to not book with your day-job coworkers. Conflict of interest, holding good boundaries, not mixing work with pleasure, pick your cliche.

  34. Amy*

    For the sitting position, I can’t speak for other cultures, but in the US, tucking one foot under yourself in a chair is very commonly associated with young girls. It’s extremely rare to see any men and many women past 30 sitting this way. In fact, many businesses books geared for women talk about this sitting position and strongly discourage it.

    It might not matter to you but as this is your first professional job, I’d probably err on the side of not.

    1. Millennial*

      I disagree! I understand what you’re saying about how sitting like that might evoke unwanted perceptions, but I think we should be encouraging young women to be … young women in the workplace. I don’t get why they should try to emulate how men sit? Or why how men sit is the standard of professionalism? Cis men have different plumbing down there, which often results in sitting with legs spread very far apart. Is that inherently professional? Naw it is just a way dudes sit.

      1. Amy*

        I think “manspreading” is actually a good analogy here. It’s most commonly associated with men and it’s not considered professional either.

        There are lots of things that will code younger workers as young. Pigtails, certain types of slang, overuse of emojis and exclamation marks, sparkly pens with pom-poms. And if anyone wants to die on that hill, okay fine. But it’s probably not going to be to their own benefit. Pretending that your image in the workplace doesn’t matter isn’t helpful to young workers looking for more complex work and challenges.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Manspreading affects people around you by encroaching on their space. Someone putting their feet up while sitting doesn’t.

        2. Wintermute*

          as an aside, now that people I grew up with are in upper management, it can be surreal.

          I’ve messaged a senior director about an outage and gotten a response back straight out of AOL Instant Messenger circa 2001, something like “OMG NO!!1 Ill BRT!!”

    2. Ari*

      As a short woman, when companies start spending the money to buy office chairs that fit all heights, then I’ll worry about how “professional” my sitting posture is. For now, I’ll sit in whatever position I can to alleviate the pain and numbness of having my feet and legs dangling in the air for 8 hours. Fortunately I can work from home a few days a week, where I have invested in a desk and chair that fit me. It makes a HUGE difference.

      1. Slightly Above Average Bear*

        I’m also short, but in my case due to a short torso. I sit on my foot as a sort of booster seat.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I think as long as she pulls her foot down before she swivels around to talk to her boss, she is totally fine. (And probably fine even if she doesn’t do that!)

    4. Sutemi*

      You might think about cause and effect here before drawing that conclusion. Most business desks and chairs are designed for average sized to tall men, so unless I have a lot of ergonomic adjustments and a foot stool they don’t work for me. Tucking a leg up is a lot more comfortable because the desk is poorly designed for smaller workers. The fact that teenagers are smaller also means that a lot of furniture isn’t correctly sized for them either.

      1. Amy*

        I would 100% use a footstool over the tuck.

        I’ve never seen anyone past early 30s sitting this way at the office and it’s not that people get any taller as they age.

        It’s just not a formal business look, even if you do it at home (as I do, and I’m an average sized woman)

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          “I’ve never seen anyone past early 30s sitting this way at the office and it’s not that people get any taller as they age.”

          Aside from the fact that I think it’s highly possible that you have in fact seen someone who sits like this without ever knowing or realizing, there are literally billions of people that you’ve never seen sit at all so this is a weird argument. I am 33 and very fidgety (ADHD) so I sit in a million different ways throughout the day and this is definitely one of them.

          I thought from the headline that someone was telling OP they needed to change, but it doesn’t sound like anyone has ever even brought it up and they are just preemptively worrying. Sitting so long in office jobs already does enough damage to our bodies as it is. They are fine sitting however is most comfortable to them. If you want to judge someone for not sitting like a man then I guess you are free to do so, but that’s your own issue to deal with not theirs.

        2. Angry socialist*

          I’m in my mid-40s and I do it at work. I am a short woman and the desks are sized for tall men. Sitting “correctly” in a chair at a desk is asking for intense pain.

        3. Alpaca Bag*

          You’ve never worked with me, then! I’m 58 and have been sitting with one or both legs up for my whole career. Sitting the “normal” way hurts me after 1 or 2 hours. I also alternate with a sit-stand desk. I wear long, flowy skirts in warmer weather or pants when it’s cold (or pants under a long skirt), so nobody sees anything inappropriate. I also wear slip-on shoes and put neither my shoes nor my skin on the chair.

        4. RussianInTexas*

          I sit like that about 90% of the time I sit in an office chair.
          At home and in the office.
          I am 43.

        5. JD*

          I am 37 and am sitting like this right now at work. Granted, I’m also wearing a bra, so maybe it’s a wash.

      2. Future silver banker*

        I never thought of myself as short until I moved to Europe… I bought an extremely cheap footrest. I will let other people fight to normalise various sitting postures, but it is not worth the risk of being even more discredited as a tiny African woman in a very white male buttoned up professional services industry

  35. BalanceofThemis*

    LW 5, real estate agents are fine, but not everyone will be in a position to buy. It will take some research on your part, but please also add rental agents. In some markets there will be real estate agents who do that as well, but it can also be a separate profession.

    1. LW5/The RED Redhead*

      Excellent point, thank you.

      We had a situation with our most recent transplant (moved from CO to Western NY with multiple pets and kids) and an employee recommended a real estate agent who moved heaven and earth to find the perfect place for them, within budget, within reasonable commuting distance, AND allowed pets.

    2. ILoveLlamas*

      I would suggest perhaps having a chat with that real estate agent. They might be willing to do mini tours to discuss the neighborhoods, schools, etc. That’s just what a good agent will do as part of their normal client development/prospecting. They can help secure a decent rental if the candidate isn’t willing or ready to buy. When I did physician recruiting for rural areas, this was a standard part of the candidate visit. You could always ask the candidate if they want such a tour during a visit and make sure they know it’s purely optional. That real estate agent might also have some general area info that you could use in your recruiting package. Good luck!

  36. Mittens*

    OP3, I hope this doesn’t venture into armchair diagnosing territory, but have you tried a footrest?

    I sat with one foot tucked under me the way you describe well into my 30s, and it was genuinely the most comfortable way for me to sit — or so I thought. One day a colleague down the hall was getting an ergonomics assessment, and when the ergonomics person passed by me on her way out, she was so horrified by the way I was sitting that she charged in and (with my happily given permission) adjusted my chair and shoved a spare ream of paper under my feet, instructing me to tell the office to get me a footrest ASAP.

    It took a bit of getting used to, but it turns out that I’m way, way more comfortable with my chair at a very high setting and a footrest closing the resulting distance between my feet and the floor. It might be worth trying out, and you don’t even need an actual footrest — a sturdy box will do for testing purposes.

    1. Mitzii*

      I will also chime in and suggest “footrest”. I used to sit like OP3, and in my late 30s it caught up with me. I started getting weird bruises on my feet. (The dermatologist called them “pigmented purpurae” and evidently they usually are caused by compression injuries.) The bruises took forever to fade! But using an angled footrest was comfortable and eliminated the problem.

  37. Contracts Killer*

    LW #3 you don’t mention your height, but I wonder if you are a fellow shorty like me and your feet don’t touch the ground in your office chair. I spent literal decades tucking one or both feet on my chair before I finally bought an adjustable foot rest. I was very pleasantly surprised at what a difference it made for body aches. There are tons of articles you can find about ergonomics and best placement of your legs and feet (as well as chair height, arm height, etc.)

    1. Risha*

      I’ve been hunting for this sort of reply, myself. Sure, sitting that way shouldn’t be a professionalism issue, but it’s still not a great idea! I sat this way for years too… not because I’m short, but because I’m tall! The front of desk chairs is usually too low, and too short, for me to be comfortable. Getting the right chair makes all the difference. If your office will spring for an ergonomic evaluation of your work space, go for that. (Mine finally did, after I had a worker’s comp issue brought on by poor posture). Far easier to fix the habit than to wait until there’s a problem that needs to be fixed.

      1. Contracts Killer*

        I love my company for many reasons, just one of which is their support of ergonomics. There are several informational checklists on our intranet and the company pays for office chairs and standing desks (if requested) for its 100% remote workforce. Even if an office only provides the checklists without special chairs or desks, it can have a huge impact on employee satisfaction and productivity without costing the company very much.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I’m a shorty married to a giant, and we both have this problem, though we found different solutions – spouse has a sit-stand desk, and a foot hammock underneath it, and I have a kneeling chair.

  38. I should really pick a name*

    LW#1
    I’m sympathetic, it’s really not the company’s business what kind of underwear you’re wearing…
    But you’re taking a very antagonistic approach toward this that is not likely going to get you what you want. Unless you’re willing to take this to court (and who knows what the outcome would be) your employer is the one with the power here.

    You have been talked to about this 3 times. That’s huge, and means you are likely to face significant consequences. You seem to be under the impression that because this isn’t explicitly described in the company handbook, they can’t do anything about it. That’s flat out wrong.

    Instead of just ignoring their requests, this was an opportunity to start a discussion about why they are policing underwear, and whether they can actually point to a concrete problem caused by you not wearing a bra.
    Instead, they now just view you as insubordinate.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      This very well said.

      OP: I think you’ve probably burned whatever political capital you have. You’re on a list so to speak. Unless you have the money and time to pursue legal options or want to look for a job where they won’t care if you’re braless, ask yourself is this the hill you want to die on?

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah. You only get to fight so many things before you’re viewed as a troublemaker. It’s not fair, but that’s what it is.

        I know the LW saw asking men about bras as highlighting the sexism in underwear policing, but it’s likely that the powers that be saw it as her being a smartass who knows damn well why they expect her to wear a bra and them not to.

        Is she ultimately right? I’d argue yes. Is she going to win this fight? Not a chance. If she keeps it up, she’ll almost certainly find herself fired.

        1. Cat Lover*

          “I know the LW saw asking men about bras as highlighting the sexism in underwear policing, but it’s likely that the powers that be saw it as her being a smartass who knows damn well why they expect her to wear a bra and them not to.”

          Yeah… I read that line and that definitely was not the right way to highlight sexism in wardrobe standards…

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I misread it as “asked other women” and got confused because that would be a different though also frustrating problem.

    2. Cat Lover*

      “Instead of just ignoring their requests, this was an opportunity to start a discussion about why they are policing underwear, and whether they can actually point to a concrete problem caused by you not wearing a bra.”

      Yeah, this is a really good point. What is the reason? There isn’t anything in the letter that hints to your field. Is it a safety issue? Are you patient/client facing and there has been complaints? Is it just old gender stereotypes?

    3. bighairnoheart*

      Yeah, this is where I fall as well. OP, would you rather be right, or keep your job? That might sound like a “gotcha” question, but I really don’t mean it that way–sticking to your convictions and leaving the job (maybe pursuing a lawsuit on the way out) is absolutely a valid option! But know that you’re not in a position at this point where you’ll likely have luck continuing to not wear bras and staying employed there (unless you have a medical accommodation, a very great relationship with the CEO or some other extenuating circumstance you haven’t shared yet)–so take that option off the table, and figure out what you want to prioritize. And good luck. The situation stinks and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it.

    4. ABCYaBYE*

      I was thinking this exact same thing. There were multiple opportunities for the LW to have a conversation with management to find out more and to make a valid point, but both time and opportunity have passed and it may be too far down the road to unmake the bed.

      I’m a guy, and what I know about the (dis)comfort of bras is all second-hand, so I can’t speak to that. However, I can say that if there’s a problem and an employee asks for more information about said problem, that’s a way to a solution. The LW could very easily have asked what specifically the problem is, and management wouldn’t have been able to just say it isn’t professional. There may be specific things that have come up in other conversations (as others have pointed out, perhaps there are some times where people have seen more than they wanted to see accidentally) that could have led to a solution that is more acceptable to all. I think I read upthread that the LW is customer-facing, which changes the dynamic too. There can be different standards for customer-facing employees.

      When the LW pointed out that she had approached male coworkers, I was lost and had to go back and re-read the sentence just to make sure I was understanding things correctly. Presenting to management that “guys don’t have to” isn’t necessarily the appropriate way to solve the issue. I’ll concede that dress codes can be sexist. Absolutely. However, pointing out that men aren’t being held to the same standard isn’t comparing apples and apples. If other female coworkers weren’t being held to the same standard, then we’re getting somewhere and I would absolutely side with the LW. But I’m not going to go to my boss and suggesting that because a female coworker is wearing sandals in the summer I should be able to wear them. That goes against our company’s dress code. But if another male is wearing them and that’s OK, I should definitely be able to as well. And yes, I know that’s not the same as undergarments. But starting from there, LW was starting from an antagonistic place. If she had gone in and asked why, and suggested that perhaps there were comfort or health reasons, that conversation could have gone entirely differently. But at this point, having this discussed multiple times isn’t even about the bra itself, but rather the employee’s willingness to comply with (perhaps archaic, yes) rules.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        The asking the men about bras is where she lost me. Now she looks dumb and “obstreperous,” as another commenter said above. She lives on this planet, presumably, so she knows that men don’t wear bras as a rule.

        And if a man were asked to wear a bra, it would be a shameful thing for him because he’s not supposed to have breasts. Remember the “bro” episode of Seinfeld? Strange that the OP didn’t think about how bodyshaming it would be to ask a man if he was asked to wear a bra. If he’s obese or has gynocomastia this isn’t a polite question, it’s straight up body-shaming. Women are not mocked for having breasts at all, or for wearing bras at all, but men who need “bros” will absolutely be mocked for it.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I’m giving OP the benefit of the doubt that she kind of fronted that inquiry with “of course you were not asked..” and said it jokingly to people she knew well. Buuut you’re not wrong about this being a landmine; especially if the guys were big, or chesty.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, OP’s “it’s not in the handbook” line is actually more concerning than the bra defiance and need for multiple warnings. If I were OP’s manager, I’d be pretty understanding of her balking at a bra, and I’d understand that she felt attacked and that her body had been surveilled. I’d be willing to speak to higher ups on her behalf, or speak to her in good faith that it doesn’t have to be an actual bra-bra to satisfy the dress code. Once you’ve got an employee saying “it’s not in the handbook” though? Then you’re suddenly wondering if everything has to be written down, or if everything will be rules-lawyered. There’s no way to write down all rules exhaustively. Most handbooks state that exact thing, and remind of the need to just treat it as an overall guide. I’d be concerned about that blind spot.

  39. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #5 – check with your local chamber of commerce, state/local economic development agency, or tourism promotion board. They may have tons of brochures and booklets already put together for exactly this situation.

    1. Gingerblue*

      I have a comment below, but I recommend not bothering with this sort of thing, except maybe as decoration—as a candidate, I never cared about the Gotham City Tourism Board’s opinion of whether Gotham City was an awesome place to live; I just wanted a current employee’s unvarnished opinion of what the rental market was like and how often I should expect my commute to be impacted by supervillain fights.

    2. Formerly Ella Vader*

      LW5: Also, whoever puts together the package of resources – try to imagine what message it sends to different potential employees who might be looking for clues about whether they will fit in at your company and whether their household will fit in in your community. If everything is about homeowners and public-school children and car commutes, the single transit-user will notice. Does the tourism board’s list of festivals include Pride Week and Diwali? Is there enough information in the package about other industries and employers in the area that a candidate could get a sense of whether their spouse could find work easily? For that matter, do you ever facilitate spousal hiring, or do you have a policy against hiring two family members? Hospitality provided on an interview trip should feel generous and respectful to anyone with food restrictions as well as to non-drinkers.

      On an interview trip, you can have someone drive them around the town talking about what’s there. Make sure that anyone involved in this understands the difference between responding to information volunteered, and asking for information that the hiring committee should not be considering. It’s a nice touch to have the candidates meet someone who moved from a location similar to theirs, who can say things like “the hot weather’s not as bad here as I thought it would be ” or “the choice of restaurants is as good as in CollegeTown”.

      You might also look at more generous/comprehensive relocation support – do you have an immigration lawyer on retainer? do you fund a househunting trip? (For one or for employee plus partner?) Do you have lists of family doctors taking new patients, daycare leads, etc?

      1. LW5/The RED Redhead*

        These are all excellent suggestions, thank you!

        I definitely want to be careful about not assuming that everyone has the same goals, needs, interests, and requirements, which is part of why I wanted to submit this question to Alison in the first place! I knew her comment section is awesome and it’s living up to its name! :)

        We have discussed sponsoring immigration needs and might maybe be open to doing so for the right candidate, but for now, we are trying to concentrate on US-ian people.

    3. Buffy*

      Came to say this as a former DMO (destination marketing oganization) employee! Even if the materials they already make aren’t what you’re looking for, your local org is most likely happy to provide you with area stats, photography, and other info that you can use in putting together your own packet. Working with some of the bigger companies in our area was a specific focus of corporate outreach.

      1. LW5/The RED Redhead*

        Someone in another comment suggested looking for a DMO, so that’s going on my list of things to do this week. (…it’s only a page long, that’s not too bad, right?!)(and today my AAM surfing is *work related*)

        I’m just about to send an offer letter to a non-local candidate, so I’m extra glad for all the great suggestions. Thank you!

  40. Beep Boop*

    LW 1, I so super empathize with you. I’m a 36G and started going braless during the pandemic after believing it would be the most uncomfortable thing in the world and I… have never had less back pain. I totally agree with you though that that shouldn’t matter and no one should have to wear a bra for any reason. That being said… Do you think you might be able to make the case for a Dr. to write a medical note for you stating you need to go braless? You might still accomplish some normalizing bralessness goals in your workplace just by being able to continue going braless even if the on the books reason is medical

  41. Purple Loves Snow*

    To OP #4:
    I would go back to the boss and say as this is a WORK goal then you need to be dedicating 8 hours/week of WORK TIME to achieve this goal and that the time requirement needs to be added to the work plan. It is a WORK goal that needs to be done on WORK time. If boss cannot afford to give you the 8 hours (or whatever is the right amount) then it is a WORK goal that needs to be removed or allocated to a different time when WORK can provide you with the time to take the course and do the required “homework”.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree with the idea behind this. If this a work goal, it should completed on work time. I don’t attend classes for work in my free time. It seems like, though, it is one of those extremely time consuming ones that may not be approved to be completed entirely on work time. It helps the company, but the LW would be the some certified so it would go with her if she changed jobs.

      You can look for and suggest an alternate class that you could complete during work hours if your boss’s goal is just for you to have a goal for your performance plan. If he really wants you to get that certification, then that’s a different conversation.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I get where you’re coming from, but this sort of certificate-gaining training might be something that helps her move up in the company rather than fitting her for the job at hand. I think it’s fine to say no, better to say it’s not possible right now but she’s like to discuss again when her family situation is less pressured, or, as Alison says, ask if it’s possible to do it on work time. I don’t think it’s helpful to approach it as if it’s an insult that it was discussed.

      There are many cases where additional training helps both the individual and the company, and it’s not in the worker’s long term best interest to only do training they can do in work time.

  42. Tedious Cat*

    With behavior like this it’s only a matter of time until Jane enters the finding-out phase. I hope OP #2 will send us an update when she does.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! And there’s almost guaranteed to be drama between Jane and her wedding vendors. I want that update too (my condolences to her vendors!)

    2. Khatul Madame*

      Yes, LW 2 should assume that Jane will find out about this, and devise her response accordingly. In this case, I would just repeat that this is LW’s husband’s business and she has no influence over his decisions. I am certain that she’ll have to repeat this many times. It is also likely that this contention will sour their working relationship even further.
      LW, please update us.

  43. Stitch*

    LW2, you know what you need to do here. As fun as it is to imagine karma scenarios, if husband doesn’t want to play her wedding you just need to politely decline. You don’t want either the blowback at your work or the blowback to your spouse’s band by making big demands or blatantly telling her. “Sorry, we are not available that day.”and if husband has other bands he had a relationship with “Please consider X, Y, and Z”

  44. CLC*

    A good bra can cost like $80. It’s not fair to make some people spend money on them as a condition of their job and others as not.

    1. iliketoknit*

      Nice ties cost a lot of money, too, that women don’t have to spend.

      Now, I get that men have to wear ties in the workplace much less often than women have to wear bras, and I agree that overall there’s a pink tax on women in that women have to spend more on their appearance than men do. But I don’t know that parsing out the cost of each expected item of clothing is the way to go, especially when you don’t have to pay $80 for a bra. (I get why many people are more comfortable when they do! But it’s not literally required.)

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        A lot of larger sizes actually aren’t available cheaply, so it’s not “more expensive bras are more comfortable” so much as “I literally cannot buy my size without spending a non-insignificant amount of money on one.”

        1. Quokka*

          This. Some women cannot buy their bra size at all. I’m sure if men had to spend $200+ every three months on a new custom made tie (the expected life-span of a bra before it stretches), and were expected to have multiple of these and were in a job where the salary didn’t match this, they would probably be allowed to wear a scarf instead to cover their lack of tie.

          And just buying and wearing a wrong sized bra because it is cheaper causes more problems than not wearing one. Also, wearing the wrong size bra can actually make breasts more obvious under clothing and increase the chance of a wardrobe malfunction. Ask me how I know.

          Not wearing a bra to work in a professional setting is something that wouldn’t have come easy to most women, and is likely something the LW arrived at through some desperation and lack of better options. Especially since it is hard to find avenues to discuss this to collaboratively problem solve with how sexualised society has made breasts. I would assume that this is what has prompted the type of response LW had.

          There are suitable quasi-bra options that would solve what is likely to be the issue, and it should probably have been phrased to the LW differently to highlight the issue and allow her to find a solution that works for her.

          Would it have been better for the LW to have said “sorry, traditional bra’s don’t work for my body type, not wearing is bra isn’t something I arrived at lightly. Can you let me know the exact issue to I can see if there is something else I can do to mitigate that?” – sure. But most people are not going to respond that way to a highly personal and touchy subject being raised at work that they are not prepared for.

        2. straws*

          Yes, this. For my size, $80 IS a cheap bra. If I go by the wear/wash/spare “rule”, I’m spending $240 every year or so. Occasionally I can find one for $60, but it takes scouring and tracking sales and then I also have the expense of the party that I throw over it.

      2. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Not at all the same. Less nice ties don’t cost a lot of money and cause no discomfort for the wearer. Ties don’t even come in sizes!

        No one is talking about $80 bras because they like “nice” fancy bras. $80 *is* the price of admission to a bra that fits comfortably for some women. If you aren’t one of those women, it’s not cool to tell other women their lived experience is “not literally required”.

        If you can’t come up with a counterpoint, then maybe that shows that there isn’t one – and it is in fact a burden on one gender. That was the point of raising the price issue.

      3. CharlieBrown*

        I have shopped seasonal sales and clearance for ties and have gotten some really nice (albeit not silk) ties dirt cheap. Like $5 or $10. And unlike bras, ties don’t wear out and so don’t need to be replaced on a regular basis.

      4. Appletini*

        If you discount that for some people an $80 or more bra is the difference between being in pain all day and being barely comfortable, then, no, you don’t get it.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          #1 to the pain problem. Recently had muscle spasm/cramp due to an ill fitting bra that were so bad I was contemplating whether I might be having a heart attack. Currently working on just making them my own darn self.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’m not even a particularly strong fighter against requiring bras at work but this is an absolutely ridiculous comparison, and you even included the reasons it is ridiculous in your own comment (men having to wear ties every day is much less common than it used to be; the cost of a tie is purely related to aesthetics/designer brands while the cost of a bra is relevant to actual physical comfort). So what is even the point of trying to make this comparison when you clearly know it’s not a fair one?

      6. Chirpy*

        Bras in my size are regularly $80. There happens to be exactly ONE bra style I have found in the last 20 years of searching that fits, is reasonably comfortable, and costs less (but still not cheap, and still digs in all over.) I actually don’t own a swimsuit despite looking for one for years because the only ones in my size cost over $100 for just the top. Could I cram myself into a cheap bra from Target? Only if it’s a pullover sports bra, in which case I will be bulging and falling out all over, which is neither comfortable nor professional looking. None of the cheap bra companies make anything remotely close to my size. And having at least three bras is generally considered minimum for a rotation that keeps them from stretching out early or smelling.

        I’ve found nice ties at Goodwill for $3. It’s absolutely not the same thing.

    2. bighairnoheart*

      Very true. Though I’d certainly advise OP to go as cheap as possible if she feels like she has to comply with the requirement to keep her job (and frankly, I’d tell that to anyone else in the same position). I know I’m likely to get some Not All People Can Eat Sandwiches responses here, but I’m busty and love my $20 comfy non-underwire bras from Target.

  45. Gingerblue*

    LW 5: this sort of packet is pretty common in my old field, and fwiw, I don’t think I ever read through them unless the employer was offering relocation funds and I wanted to look at the details of that. The sort of generic info that went into them otherwise just wasn’t helpful—I wasn’t in a position to buy a house, didn’t need to know about schools or churches, would have just Googled things like cultural attractions, etc. What I did find a lot more helpful was talking to current employees about the area, and the absolute best experiences I had being recruited were ones where they actually showed me around a bit. One employer had an HR person give candidates a small tour, where he drove me around the town to see it in ways I wouldn’t while interviewing, and they specifically asked ahead of time what I would want to know about—schools, real estate, religious institutions, etc. Another place had a future colleague from the department I was joining drive me around a little to get a feel for the city and give me a less PRish rundown of what she liked and didn’t like, what the rental market was like, etc., and we stopped at a local attraction. It may or may not be feasible for you, but for candidates who are flying in, this can go a lot farther towards answering the fundamental question of will I like it here? Even if you can’t get them out for a tour, could you could match them with a current employee who’s in a similar place in their life and give them an hour to get coffee (say, parent of young kids, or someone who just bought a house, or someone who just relocated there and is renting, if any of those are things the interviewee indicates they’re interested in)?

    This is obviously a lot more work than a packet, but if you can swing it, it also made orders of magnitude more impression on me as the interviewee. Either way, though, I’d say not to treat this as if you’re trying to sell the person on the area, but just give them helpful info you’d want to know if you were moving there.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I understand where you are coming from, but I would not advise a hiring manager to ask about a candidate’s family status or religion at interview.

      I remember an interview where they kept oh so casually talking about their maternity/childcare benefits and I just had to politely poker face.

      1. Gingerblue*

        They didn’t ask; they just gave us a list of possible topics if you wanted more info on them and then tried to provide it if we wanted it. But yeah, I agree making it very, very clear this is optional info is key.

  46. Czhorat*

    The bra question is my least favorite kind of situation. The LW is of course right that it should be none of anyone’s business what undergarments she does or does not wear. It’s also clear that she’s already burned a fair bit of capital on this and continuing to push is going to hurt her standing in the company.

    In their eyes I’m sure she’s already the out-of-touch loon who unreasonably and disingenuously complained that men don’t have to wear bras; In order to not be seen as a troublemaker she needs to drop it unless this is a grand battle she wants to put all of her reputation into fighting.

    I just wish there were a better answer.

    1. bighairnoheart*

      Completely agree. This is a very progressive website/comment section. OP is going to get support here. But at work, if she hasn’t done so already, she’s absolutely going to dig herself a hole too deep to climb out of by pushing the issue any more. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is. I’d argue that it’s not worth it to keep trying to get management to change their minds. Realistically the options are: 1) get a formal accommodation with HR (if applicable), 2) comply with the request, or 3) quit and find a job with a culture where this won’t be an issue. Alternately, do 2) just long enough so you can find a new job to pursue option 3) and not worry about quitting without something lined up.

  47. Helen J*

    I know you are suppose to “always keep learning” blah blah blah, but can’t I just be content where I am at?

    Thank you! This resonates with me. I’ve been in my job for awhile now, my boss & higher ups praise my work and my reviews are always very good. BUT every year our reviews want us to list goals- at least 2 professional and 1 personal- and I’m tired of thinking things up. My job is pretty much the same thing year in and year out, with very little deviation. I am not interested in moving up. I meet all the educational requirements for my job. At what point are you allowed to say “I’m good” and that just be it?

    1. ferrina*

      Hear hear! And I say that as someone who is constantly “keep learning” (ADHD, my brain is designed to constantly find new interests. Sometimes convenient, sometimes annoying).

      There’s a difference between complacency and contentment. If you’re good at what you do, stay up to date with best practices and don’t shy away from odd assignments when they are given, then why improve on perfection?
      The cheat I recommend: set goals that you are already doing/mostly done with (with your boss’s blessing). Or set a goal around updating procedure documentation. Or “examine inefficiencies” (yep, examined, my processes are still good). Or for personal goals- “Read a book a month” when you know you read 30 books per year.

    2. GreenShoes*

      I’d challenge this a little bit and do understand what you are saying. There are always things to learn in the context of the current job you are doing. Instead of thinking of professional development as ‘how do a advance my career or get a different job’ look at it as ‘how can I improve the job I’m doing now’

      Courses/Classes in existing tools is perfect for this. Do you use Excel in your job… take a class in some advanced functions, use Outlook… same thing. Work with customers… find an online class. Have remote meetings… how to host or etiquitte class. Have in person meetings… effective meetings, professionalism, class. Have coworkers… professionalism, communication, EQ, etc. Have work tasks…time management, organization, etc. class

      1. Helen J*

        I appreciate the suggestions, but I have done/do most of the things you suggested. I know how to use all the programs in our office suite and I did take an advanced Excel class. My job keeps my fairly busy, so I don’t really have time to add new things. If my boss or the C level people thought I was not doing a good job, they would have said so and suggested trainings or classes. With my regular duties and 2 annual events that I assist in planning, there’s not too much more time in the day for me to do anything else. I’m sure I learn new things just in the course of my job, but I don’t think trying to squeeze additional classes to satisfy some paperwork that no one reads is feasible.

    3. Modesty Poncho*

      I feel this way a lot. Not necessarily in my work, because I’m always learning by doing, but there are a lot of avenues where people get the encouragement to just keep going up and up and do more and more. And that can feel like pressure. Maybe (for example) I just want to go for a run and sometimes do a 5k, and maybe I don’t WANT to train for 10k and then half-marathon and then marathon running. Maybe I want to do some weight training with my 3-5 pound weights and maintain that level of strength rather than work myself harder and harder to lift more and more weight. Maybe I just want to sing karaoke and not try out for musicals or American Idol. We as a society have this idea that there’s never any “good enough”, any ‘excuse’ to stop and be content.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Honestly I wish there was more emphasis on staying current in your existing role. I have no desire to move up, but this gets me lumped in with all the naysayers who don’t want to change or improve anything.

  48. CAF*

    LW2:

    If there is a dollar value that would make playing the wedding worthwhile, just offer it. If the band is well enough in demand there shouldn’t be blowback on price if she goes on the offensive over the cost. Unless the band’s website has rates, have a statement along the lines of “estimates can be provided after a brief consultation and factors include location, date, playing thrash metal-bluegrass mashup” whatever makes sense.

    “I Don’t Want To Do This Job” rates for contractors in other fields such as construction/home repair are very normal. I generally disagree with Alison’s risk assessment on this tactic, with the caveat that this can still be viable last resort if shaking her off in other non-confrontational ways do not work

    1. ferrina*

      The problem with “I Don’t Want To Do This Job” rates is that if the customer agrees, you need to do the job (or find another reason to back out). I’ve pulled out that rate a couple times, and if they pay, I do the job. It sounds like LW’s husband doesn’t want to do this job for any amount of money. At that point, don’t prolong the conversation, just find a way to say no.

  49. Vegas Annie*

    #3 – Surprised Alison didn’t mention the most urgent consideration here, which is the chair itself. The reason people may consider this unprofessional is 1. Many people feel that shoes that touch the ground should not be touching chairs and 2. Sitting with a foot in shoes up on a chair, especially in an uneven position, can damage the chair. The people who are going to care will be 1. the office manager who maintains/replaces chairs and 2. people who think it’s unprofessional for a shoe to touch a chair. You can totally pull this off with a combination of being a valuable employee, knowing it is a quirk that will use a little bit of your social capital, and working with the office manager. I was the office manager in a large and chaotic office and we had an employee who sat like this and there was a giant gash in her chair where the foam was coming out after less than a year. They were new/nice chairs, she was just SO hard on them. She was a valuable employee with skills we desperately needed, so the “shoes shouldn’t touch chairs” people were told to mind their own and I told her it was fine to sit like that as long as she ONLY sat in her own chair and NEVER sat like that in anyone else’s chair, so no more chairs would get damaged. She was also aware we would not replace it for her. It would have been a bigger problem if she had been a less important employee. So know your audience. Consider untangling your feet and putting both on the floor when having a short meeting with someone important. And maybe throw down a cushion or mat on your chair to mitigate any potential damage.

    1. Wintermute*

      You make a great point about shoes and chairs, I’d like to add that this can be deeply cultural, too. Most people in America aren’t going to act as if you just flipped them the double bird if you show them the sole of your shoe the way they might in some countries, but it will still make them uncomfortable and make you look unsanitary.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      When you said urgent consideration, I assumed you were going to talk about posture and ergonomics. Sitting with one leg up is bad for your back and hips and will take a toll over time. She needs a chair that allows her to put both feet on the floor – although, as a shorty myself, that is often not a real solution, because then the desk is too high. In my last cube, if my feet were on the floor, the cubicle desk was at my armpits.

      So maybe she needs an adjustable chair AND a foot rest.

      1. Wintermute*

        Agreed, it may seem innocuous now, but I know someone who will suffer sciatica for the rest of his life because he carried his walled in his back pocket, if a 1″ thick wallet acting as a shim and tilting your hips can cause that much damage over the course of 30-odd years, a food can certainly do so.

  50. Lifeandlimb*

    #3 – I’ve also put my legs up (or under me) my whole life, and judging by how often my family complained about me doing it at the dinner table, I assume clients and bosses wouldn’t consider it professional, either. The lounging-around-at-home look usually isn’t respectful. So I do it when no one is looking, but if my boss were to come over and I have to swivel my chair out, I would definitely put my feet down during that conversation.

    Seconding the comment above for an ergonomic chair (one that lowers so your feet can fully touch the ground) or a good footrest. The legs habit may be a result of furniture being the wrong height, which will also (years down the line — I’m in my 30s) result in chronic aches and pains.

  51. Employment Lawyah*

    Can my employer require me to wear a bra?
    Talk to a local employment lawyer ASAP, because this would be incredibly dependent on your state. In my state, for example, I’d happily sue them if they openly fired you for that.

    “Please identify the person at the company who was responsible for inspecting breasts.” The discovery would be brutal for them. Heh.

    The real issue is that they usually don’t NEED to specify a reason for firing you (much less “not promoting” you or “not giving you a plum assignment.”) So depending on your evidence you may have a hard time: you may need to either go along with them or risk a job penalty. That’s why you should talk to a lawyer ASAP, either to help you get evidence or help you make a decision.

    2. My husband doesn’t want to play my coworker’s wedding
    I agree that a simple “no, we aren’t available for that event” would work. Give as little info as possible: You’re MUCH better off having them annoyed for what he didn’t say, then annoyed because he said the wrong thing.

    3. Is it unprofessional to sit with my foot on my chair?
    I do it, too!

    It’s fine in your own office. I would not do that in a panel, in court, in a formal meeting, etc.

    4. My boss wants me to take a class when I’m already drowning
    You don’t have to take it. But especially if you’re salaried (which has no official hours requirement) you may cause career issues if you refuse to do it.

    More to the point: If possible, try to say “no, unless _____” rather than just “no.” Is there something that would make it work for both of you? For example, could you have time for the class if you had 30 min/day to study and a one-time extra week of vacation just before the exam? If you got to work remotely 1 day/week while you were in school? Etc.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Re: #1 can they reasonably fire her for her response the bra request, rather than the bra wearing itself? Insubordination, for example? Or the attitude even? From a legal standpoint I mean, if they cited it.

  52. Kelly*

    LW1: This is a different situation than many other claims of “sexist” dress codes, because we’re talking about an anatomical difference rather than a social convention. Even with a precedent in favor of gender-non-conforming employees, an employer could probably still require an employee with sufficiently large enough breasts – regardless of one’s AGAB/gender identity/gender presentation – to have them properly restrained with the medical/religious exceptions Alison mentioned (I use that phrasing because a transmasculine person without top surgery could use a binder in lieu of a bra).

    1. Czhorat*

      Eh. Women and other breast-having people needing to hide or restrain part of ones anatomy because of how men see them*is* a sexist expectation. There’s no way around that, and nothing similar for men.

    2. ferrina*

      If this were truly solely an “anatomical difference”, then men with large breasts would be held to equivalent standards as women with equivalent breast sizes.

      1. H.Regalis*

        I was thinking this too! I know more than a few guys with medium-to-large boobs, they don’t wear bras at work, and it’s a non-issue.

    3. Quokka*

      I agree. I have been in a non-professional workplace where a larger gentleman’s stomach protruded over his pants belt and was thus visible below the bottom of his shirt. If that had been a professional environment I would have expected that he would have gotten a talking to about that. That’s despite it being about his body shape and that as a man his much more limited choices of professional clothing make managing that body shape perhaps more difficult than a woman would.

      1. Bagworm*

        This happens with my partner (although you can’t see his stomach when he is sitting or standing if he is not reaching). However, he is not a professional setting and has to wear a company-provided shirt. He’s repeatedly requested a size that does not do this but they haven’t provided one so he’s just letting them put up with it until they do. (He hasn’t had any disciplinary action or anything like that related to it.)

  53. Phony Genius*

    On #3, I used to do this until I started feeling pain in my knee. It seems that siting like this was somehow damaging my knee and I had to stop. Of course your body is probably different from mine, but you may want to keep this in mind.

    Also, see if your employer is willing to allow you to use a chair that is more comfortable for your body. I have seen non-office chairs used in some offices.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “Of course your body is probably different from mine, but you may want to keep this in mind.”

      This would be long term damaging for most bodies (said as someone with really messy joints and a lot of ergonomic needs) though the degree of damage may vary. It may manifest as minor aches later in life, or it might cause real harm.

      I definitely recommend looking into alternatives, if possible.

    2. WellRed*

      I used to sit similar but eventually wound up at chiropractor because my hip and everything else connected got out of whack.

  54. rudster*

    I’m a guy, and I’m mad on LW1’s behalf. The supervisor’s logic is weak. Substitute dresses or pantyhose for bras in “All the other women in the office wear X” and it would be absurd micromanagement. Also, what’s up with “Men and women have different bodies so men don’t need bras”? You hardly need to look very far to men who have bigger breasts than many women have.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Pantyhose is a pretty recent one that’s worked it’s way out of the norms. It used to be very much a requirement/expectation, like bras. Might still be in some fields. Makeup and heels are still expected in some situations, though that is also declining.

      One thing I don’t think everyone is fully aware of is how many of these things are still very much expectations of women, as much as we’re trying to push back on it. This isn’t a fight that’s been won.

      1. ferrina*

        I physically can’t wear heels, and I have been so grateful for wfh and more casual dress codes. Wearing running shoes is so much less likely to cause physical pain than anything else.

        I also don’t wear make-up. I’m ADHD and having to remember one more thing to do every day is a hard no. It’s a lot of mental energy that I just don’t have. But I know it’s held me back- I had one (female) CEO tell me- “you look so much better when you fix your face.”
        um….my face isn’t broken?

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          My ADHD likes makeup, it’s busy and creative, but I definitely vary the amount day-to-day based on energy levels. The days I don’t, there are often comments. Mostly from women farther in their careers than me. It’s frustrating.

        2. Bagworm*

          I got a whole you-have-to-wear-make-up-with-this-promotion speech when I first became a manager in a professional role in 2015. It made me mad but I didn’t know how to respond to it. I started wearing make-up, then gradually dialed it back until I wasn’t wearing any. I didn’t get demoted.

    2. H3llifIknow*

      I’m a woman with large breasts and I heartily disagree. Most people prolly can’t tell if I’m wearing hose, nor do they care. Heels also a “who cares?” But without a bra, a larger breasted woman is jiggling and bouncing with every movement and you do NOT have to be staring for it to be noticed. Look, I want to support other women in these fights, but the reality is that sometimes, we may hate it, but they are correct and we need to dress OUR bodies for OUR shapes and sizes to keep them office appropriate. It’s NOT the hill to die on IMHO.

  55. Save Bandit*

    LW3, fellow leg-tuck sitter here! I sit with one leg tucked under me at all times when I’m at my desk, and also frequently sit cross-legged. I don’t know when I started doing this, but it’s gone on so long that I really can’t be comfortable otherwise. Glad to know there’s others out there!

    1. ferrina*

      Me too! My sister and I both do this. I’m generally good about only doing it at my desk, but I’ve seen my sister kick off her shoes and sit cross legged at a restaurant. I don’t think she even knew she was doing it.

      fwiw, it hasn’t hindered either of us professionally.

      1. Bagworm*

        Yeah. I’m afraid I do that in restaurants, too. I never thought about it being so weird. (Also, to further gross out a lot of people I’m sure, I am pretty much always in sandals which I kick off so my little bare feet are on the seat.) I sincerely apologize. I never thought about it being upsetting to others. I will try to rein it in.

        But I’m still doing it at my desk, alone in my office, at work (although I will add socks, I guess).