my ex-boss threatened to contact my husband, his coworkers, and my father-in-law if I don’t return $48 of office supplies

A reader writes:

I received an email today from my prior boss (I left in November) requiring that I return equipment. However, there was no loaned equipment or return equipment clause that even existed for me to sign. They never provided me with anything outside of a $48 office supplies order from Amazon that included a pack of pens, a four-pack of binders, a box of sheet protectors, and a file/binder holder. I used my personal computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse – everything.

Here is an excerpt:

“I will have no other option than to reach out to your husband Bob directly as I can only assume that the lack of communication on this matter is you have become too busy with your new position, making this intervention necessary. I am happy to connect with him. I have his direct phone and email address through his work. I’d like to get this resolved and not have to start legal proceedings. Of course I will share my sympathies to him and apologize to him for needing to concern him at this stage but have no other alternative. I will attach email threads so he knows I’m not a random individual reaching out. I want him to feel comfortable in communicating with me should he have any questions of course. It is truly a small world out there and I have come to find that I actually know several folks that work in (county) and work in the (husband’s job) department. And even two others that know your father-in-law as patients.”

Is this crazy, or is this crazy?

She also said if it’s not received by Tuesday next week, she expects payment for the items. This is not even stuff I purchased or used a company card for. The purchase was arranged and made for me by the HR person she CC’d on the email.

HR is a single individual who was made aware of all issues, including me asking about being asked to work on my boss’s personal business while on company time. This HR person was also actively participating in keeping my boss’s private business a secret from the owner/president of the company.

I would love to know if there are any laws that my boss would be in violation of by acting on behalf of the company and (a) contacting my husband at his place of work (a completely separate company with no connection to this one) and (b) utilizing patients that “she knows” to get in contact with my father-in-law at his private medical practice.

Your ex-boss appears to be batshit insane.

And if she actually attempted to complain about this to your husband, his coworkers, or your father-in-law’s patients, she’s going to look batshit insane to them too. I mean, your father-in-law’s patients?! Can you imagine being contacted out of the blue by someone who wanted to complain that your doctor’s daughter-in-law hadn’t returned a box of pens? (Hell, even if she claimed you owe more than that, it’s still going to make her look like a loon. People are not receptive to being contacted about their doctors’ in-laws’ work drama, or their colleagues’ spouses work drama.) No one is going to respond sympathetically or think less of you for it; if anything, they’ll feel sympathy toward you.

You can also safely ignore her threats of legal action. She’d need to sue you through the company, not as an individual, and there’s no chance your company is going to sue you for a $48 pack of office supplies.

As for whether she’d be violating any laws by contacting your husband, people who work with him, or your father-in-law’s patients … Assuming you’re in the U.S.: maybe, but probably not, and especially not in any way that would make real sense for you to act on.

If she contacted your new employer about this, it could maybe be tortious interference (a legal cause of action for intentionally damaging someone’s business relationships) but there’s no law preventing her from contacting your husband, weird as that behavior would be. If she contacts people who work with your husband, it could possibly be tortious interference with his job, depending on what she says. If she lies about either of you to anyone, it could be defamation (although you’d have to show one or both of you suffered economic damage as a result). If she works in health care and she were getting the contact info of your father-in-law’s patients through any sort of internal resources, that would be a HIPAA violation — but if she doesn’t work in health care and just knows them socially, it wouldn’t be (HIPAA only covers health care workers and a few other very narrowly defined categories).

I wouldn’t be looking at legal solutions to this, though. Instead, email HR and your ex-boss’s own manager. If it’s a very small company, like 50 employees or less, include the owner too; if it’s larger than that, include someone else high up with authority (your department VP, a COO, or so forth). Say this:

“I am requesting your help in stopping the threats and harassment I’m receiving from Jane Smith. Below you’ll find an email she sent me on (date) in which she threatens to contact my husband, his colleagues, and patients of my father-in-law if I don’t return company equipment. I was never issued any company equipment. The only equipment or supplies I ever received from the company was a $48 office supplies order from Amazon that included a pack of pens, a four-pack of binders, a box of sheet protectors, and a file/binder holder. I used many of those supplies in my work but if you would like me to return what still remains, I’d be happy to do so; please send me a pre-paid shipping label and I’ll of course send that back immediately. However, I am alarmed to be threatened with harassment of my husband, his coworkers, and my father-in-law’s patients, as well as by threats of legal action when no previous request was made for these items. Can you assure me the company will put a stop to this immediately?”

Now, obviously there are problems with the company HR, which is why you have other people included on this email. Even if the HR person is fully in your boss’s pocket, the rest of the person receiving this message are going to be appalled when they see your boss’s message, and they are highly likely to put an instant stop to all of this. No sane company wants a manager sending messages like this, let alone running wild with the sorts of threats she made in her note. They’re going to shut that down. And I doubt very much that it’ll turn out that they want a few pens and some binders back, but if they do, go ahead and send them back.

That should take care of it — and it’s very likely your boss is going to be on the receiving end of a serious conversation about her judgment.

{ 549 comments… read them below }

    1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      This simply cannot be the first time that said boss has exhibited Jedi levels of The Crazy. Please, OP, tell us some stories!

      1. OP of Loony Boss*

        She made me getting my notary a condition of my employment so that I could break literally every notary rule in notarizing documents after they’ve been signed and without any signee present.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I hope the father-in-law, is, like, an orthodontist or chiropractor or marriage therapist or colorectal surgeon. Someone who has patients, but where their practice is wildly unrelated to anything here.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        Urologist. Just imagine this conversation:
        “Bob, I know that Dick McDoctor treats your prostate issues. You should know that his daughter-in-law STOLE a bunch of office supplies from AITA Inc!”

        1. AnonInCanada*

          ROTFLMAO! I thought I’d heard everything about batshit crazy bosses on this site, but this one takes it to a whole new level.

          And continuing the metaphor: YTA, crazy boss of AITA Inc.!

      2. OP of Loony Boss*

        OP here, he’s literally a chiropractor. And the company my ex-boss reached out from is a dermatologist.

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This line: “Can you imagine being contacted out of the blue by someone who wanted to complain that their doctor’s daughter-in-law hadn’t returned a box of pens?” made me bust out laughing.

      I think at the end of the year, in addition to the worst boss, we should have a “most full of bees” boss.

      1. Petty Betty*

        And I want them to be the cheapest, most off-brand pack of pens. Like 79 cent pack of 5 pens you’d get at the dollar store that runs out of ink within 30 minutes of using and smells like stale green beans.

        1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          Oh you know they were.

          One of my favorite things about WFH is I don’t have to use the Cheap Ass Pens anymore. I was too afraid to bring nice supplies to work, they would always disappear.

      2. Cait*

        Lol! I would love to vote on the “Most Full of Bees Boss”.

        Even if she HAD taken a laptop, cell phone, etc., why on EARTH would her ex-boss think, “I know what’ll get that iPhone back! A sternly worded email to her husband. (Gasp!) But why stop there? I could email her FIL! And her FIL’s clients!!! BRILLIANT! That’ll get her to Fedex with that equipment in no time!”

        If a former employee legitimately steals expensive property then you go through legal channels, not some weird Facebook rabbit hole.

    4. LoJo*

      This is so beyond the dollar amount. The idea of threatening to involve the husband, the FIL, the new company is outrageous…even if the LW was sitting on an expensive piece of company equipment.

      Ex-boss is bonkers. I would encourage the LW to jump out in front of this immediately. Forward this email to every level of the company. The higher-ups need to know how the ex-boss is making this company look unstable.

      1. somanyquestions*

        I agree. I think the LW has a limited view of who they can contact because when they worked there, info went through channels. Those don’t exist anymore and LW can send this to whomever they think needs to see it.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        But the dollar amount makes it extra super absurd. All of this over $48 of office supplies that get used up. It’d be bananacrackers if it was over actual equipment or stuff that was more expensive. It’s just extra bananacrackers that it’s for such little money to the company in the grand scheme of things.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Assuming even half the consumables are unused (which, c’mon), the unhinged boss has already cost the company more in her time sending this email than the value she could ever recover. Which is why the value matters additionally here.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m not certain, but it even sounds like OP might be in a different country than the ex-boss (based on “I actually know several people who work in [country]”). In which case she’s asking someone to ship the remnants of $48 of office supplies *internationally*.

            I can’t imagine that is worth the postage.

            1. Candi*

              Last time I sent a box of stuff internationally, US to UK and a few years precovid, it was $37 and change. And the stuff was worth more than $48.

            2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              It says “county” not “country” (I read it as “country” the first time too). But it’s still probably not worth the postage to send used binders across the state. I feel like the average price of a used binder is $0.25 at a garage sale.

              1. Worldwalker*

                It is. I’ve bought a lot of them.

                And pens … page protectors … holy mooing cow. This is so far from normal, it’s not only not in the same ballpark, it’s not in the same league.

              2. That One Person*

                Agreed – especially if it’s across state as at least in state would be cheaper. Even in state though it’s probably still ultimately more economical to just…place a new order than asking for some half dead pens and mildly used items. Asking to be paid back is also silly and I’d be more skeptical whether the boss would try to pocket that check or not personally, but generally companies keep some general stock like this and have budgets for employees to procure supplies so…just seems like a weird power play in the end. Hopefully OP lets the upper management see that someone’s wasting valuable time on invaluable items.

              3. LoJo*

                Let’s face it…the crazy ex-boss thinks she’s a big swinging stick in their little area. She’s flexing her “I know people who know people” threat. Who thinks knowing people in a (likely) county government/organization can force an action?!

                1. LoJo*

                  Question… did the crazy ex-boss reach out before that email? Just curious if she badgered you or went straight up nuclear?

      3. SeluciaMD*

        This kind of behavior is so weird on multiple fronts! Like the amount of time this person – who I assume is relatively high on the org chart – has spent chasing down $48 in office supplies is arguably going to be more expensive in staff time than the stuff they think they are going to recoup! And given that they have to have at least some small idea that, you know, at least some of that stuff has been used – like at least one pen, for crying out loud – they have to know the entire order isn’t re-coupable anyway!

        I really hope this LW gives us an update before December!

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          I feel like I need an update to this letter. I’m invested now and I want to know!

      4. Artemesia*

        This. First the clear and short statement that no equipment was received, that $48 of office supplies were some of which have been used and with a postage paid container, you are happy to ship them back.

        THEN. request this harassment cease and attach the original email.

        Send to all the key players — including the bosses of this boss.

      1. SAS*

        Yeah, obviously there is a history of weirdness that makes OP know this is not a hoax but if I received this and neither me, my partner or in-laws were linked to the company in any way I would just ignore it with a “crazy gonna crazy” shrug.

      2. CheekyMwnci*

        “I just received the attached email and it appears you’ve been hacked. There’s no way you could have sent such an unhinged email. Just wanted to let you know so you can secure your account.”

    5. Starbuck*

      My only guess is, boss lost / broke / misplaced some important or expensive piece of equipment and is imagining or trying to make it look like it’s OP’s fault somehow.

      1. Ex-prof*

        Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that.

        I was going more on a “boss is Interested in OP’s husaband” angle.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My mind jumped one step further–did the company buy a PC for OP that didn’t get delivered?
        I suggest this because a Bluetooth headset my old manager ordered for me during the pandemic was accepted in Receiving but disappeared.
        (We weren’t notified of its arrival, and when I called to follow up, I was told I had already picked it up. Nope…hadn’t been onsite in 3 months. No idea how that turned out because manager said she’d take care of it…for the record I’d never thought I’d needed it, I was OK with my wired set.)

        1. Antilles*

          I was thinking this too, but more in a “fraud” sense.
          Company gave Boss funds to buy a computer, Boss reported that it had been bought but straight up pocketed the money instead. Now, three months after OP left, someone finally noticed that “hey we hired someone new, don’t we have that spare computer we bought for OP last year?” and Boss is scrambling/throwing whatever at the wall.

          1. Galadriel's Garden*

            Lol, that almost makes it even better if it was an attempt to cover fraud – because of all the things to pick, $48 in office supplies doesn’t even come close to the cost of, say, a laptop or a phone. It adds a tasty frosting layer of incompetence to this dense, rich cake full of crazy that is just *chef’s kiss*

  1. Berin*

    This is wild, and an early contender for the most ridiculous AAM letter of the year. OP, I hope you trot this story out at parties from now until the end of time.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I have never needed an update so badly. PLEASE send one or even two or three as this situation evolves.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Yes, PLEASE, even if it’s “I sent an email and haven’t heard anything back in X weeks”. This is SO insane.

      1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

        I keep refreshing the page as if one might feasibly be available now.

    1. greydog*

      It’s all I can think about. PLEASE send us an update, OP.

      There’s something about being in the middle of a crazy situation like this that makes you lose your moorings and start to question what to do. Especially when threads of legal action get thrown around! That’s why Alison’s advice here is just perfect — it recalibrates everything and confirms that OP has nothing to fear. Good luck!!

      1. DJ*

        I started reading Ask A Manager in grad school. So when I ended up at a company where the CEO tracked when people badged in (among other interesting things), I knew this was Not Normal. If it weren’t for Alison, my sense of work normal would have been seriously warped.

  2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    I already long for an update to this. OP, I have a feeling that you have some really… interesting stories about working for this person. Really, REALLY interesting stories.

    1. SunriseRuby*

      No doubt. Based on the excerpt OP provided, I want to know what was in the rest of the email!

    2. marvin*

      I’m sorry that the LW has to deal with this person, but I find this email excerpt so delightfully weird. What on earth is going on behind the scenes here? I have to imagine it’s all part of some elaborate grift.

  3. Lacey*

    WOW. Just. That’s a whole other level.

    I can’t even imagine why your boss would think it’s necessary to get that stuff back at all, much less pursue it in this manner!

    1. Observer*

      Yeah. I wonder what set that off.

      Which makes me wonder if someone is not looking a *little* more closely at her expenses and time…

      OP, make sure that you absolutely cc at least 2 other people – your ex-grand boss and someone a few levels up / the owner of the company.

      1. ursula*

        Yeah, +1 to including the owner of the company at this point. Is there a downside to OP also including in this email that she was instructed by Boss to do Boss’s personal business on the clock, and that HR deflected when she notified them? Because, I mean, you’re already escalating things….

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          I’m pondering that.

          Best case scenario – OP has this in writing and forwarded the receipts to herself prior to leaving. Otherwise I’m not sure.

        2. She of Many Hats*

          And to make sure the Powers That Be are aware that HR is ex-boss’ toady hiding inappropriate behavior….”I’m bringing this to your attention as it doesn’t reflect well on the company’s reputation and seems to be part of a pattern of troubling actions as has been brought to HR’s attention in Month/Year (see attached notes). “

      2. sacados*

        I’m VERY suspicious that there was some kind of large purchase or other expense that the ex-boss got called on, and she tried to play it off as “oh that was XYZ thing that was purchased for our former employee, OP — and oh no! It hasn’t been returned!” or … something?
        Feels like this must be some kind of CYA move on the ex boss’s part.

        1. TypityTypeType*

          Oooh — that feels like a very good guess. And now Boss is caught up in the fiction and trying to cover herself. It’d be interesting to see a list of exactly what she claims OP has not returned.

          With everyone else, hoping for an update if/when OP is able to provide it!

        2. Meg Murry*

          Yes, I wonder if there were other, much larger Amazon (or other) purchases that boss had categorize under “supplies/equipment for LW” that is now being looked at more closely, and boss is looking throw LW under the bus rather than fess up on his inappropriate spending.

        3. ferrina*

          I don’t know….why would she go after husband? If the goal is to shift blame on the ex-employee, usually you try to keep it in house so no one can contradict you (though this boss may be thoroughly disconnected from reality, so would not apply).

          I’m guessing it’s a more personal power play. Boss had a major life disappointment that left them feeling powerless, someone mentioned OP, and Boss decided to take out their issues on OP. Maybe OP was even the inadvertent cause of Boss’s disappointment—bets on OP doing Boss’s job for her, and now Boss can’t function? Boss is getting called out, and decides to punish OP in the only way she can.

          1. Observer*

            I don’t know….why would she go after husband?

            Ex-boss is probably trying to panic the OP into just doing whatever she wants by threatening to spread false stories and disrupt the professional lives of all the people around them.

            1. sacados*

              This. If you stop and think about it, it’s a terrible plan and very unlikely to work. But boss may be just so much in a panic and counting on being able to scare/threaten OP into doing whatever. Like the tactics scammers use where they make the situation into such a huge urgent emergency so that your panic overrides your critical thinking and you miss the red flags.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                It’s the office equivalent of the “Hi Grandma, I’m in jail after a car accident they’re blaming me for and I need bail money!” scam calls.

              2. MigraineMonth*

                Exactly. A scammer once kept me on the phone for 15 minutes with this kind of out-of-nowhere threat that was designed to panic the recipient. (They got lucky with the timing and said that they said they were calling on behalf of the IRS about a month after I was fined by the IRS, so I was primed to worry.)

                The minute took a step back to think about it, the threat made zero sense (and the IRS doesn’t call people), but scammer relied on keeping the recipient too panicked to think about it.

                1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                  Oh my just remembering when a friend pranked me, pretending to be from the tax office. I had submitted a declaration then nobody ever asked me to pay anything and after all, I really hadn’t earned all that much money, so I probably didn’t owe any tax. The friend was making out that I hadn’t paid an enormous sum. It took me a long time to realise that the tax office wouldn’t have been open at 9.30pm on a Saturday…

            2. Citra*

              Ha, my husband (and other family members) would LOVE to get a phone call like this. It would be the hilarious highlight of his day.

              1. Pennyworth*

                A friend was once scam called about a mythical car accident – he told them he needed the details because he had had three vehicles and had been involved in several accidents.

                1. BubbleTea*

                  My stepmum, who can’t drive and doesn’t own a car, informed one of these callers that unfortunately they were too late, she couldn’t use their services because she had died in the accident and they’d called her ghost.

                2. STAT!*

                  BubbleTea – I wish I was as quick on my feet as your stepmum! Funniest thing I have read in ages.

              2. Worldwalker*

                Back before they switched to robocalls, I got one from a fake IRS scammer. I figured out rather quickly that they’re not allowed to hang up if I stay on the line. So I spent the next half-hour entertaining myself. I made fun of him, told him he was an incompetent scammer, asked if his mommy would be proud of him, the whole nine yards. I think I almost made him cry. Unfortunately I had an appointment, or I would have wasted more of his time. Any time he was on the phone with me, he wasn’t trying to scam someone else.

                Why yes, I can be downright evil, when it comes to the kind of person who makes a living scamming money out of frightened innocent people, with a special focus on the elderly. If I’d had a button that would make his phone explode, I would have pushed it.

                1. On the edge of my seat!*

                  BubbleTea – hilarious!
                  And Worldwalker – I’m with you. Any second you’re on the phone w/them is one more second they can’t scam someone else. Good for you!

            3. Grammar Penguin*

              Or he’s just assuming the men in her life are authorities over her that she is bound to obey.

              1. Woodswoman*

                Yes, I got this vibe too! In the post, I believe Crazy Boss is described as she, but still definitely giving weird misogyny energy. Maybe it’s coincidental in that Crazy Boss only happens to think she has connections to manipulate around the husband/FIL, but it did really feel as though Crazy Boss believes the men in OP’s life have outsized influence. Cannot wait for the update!

          2. Loch Lomond*

            She’s hoping OP has some kind of unhealthy relationship where the husband would get mad at OP for this. It’s a gamble on intimidation.

            1. ferrina*

              This would make a lot of sense. She seems like the kind of person who assumes everyone thinks like she does, and she likely has a ton of dysfunctional relationships that could easily work this way (highly transactional, constant power struggles). I’ve known a couple people like this, and it fits.

          3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            I think it’s less conscious/planned than others are suggesting. My guess would be be that either OP and Boss are currently in, or Boss grew up in, a fairly small community where using the social pressure of gossip and leverage through extended families is a common way to get things done, and boss has simply extended this existing tendency into a ridiculously petty business issue.

        4. Bagpuss*

          Yes, that was my thought, that boss has been fiddling their expenses and is trying to blame OP for whatever is missing, or that boss has stolen equipment and is trying to blame OP for whatever is missing.

        5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Ooh, that makes sense. Though not sure what the boss’ endgame would be with this, as she’s demanding $48 in office supplies, not whatever large purchase this would be. Unless she thinks she can get away with telling the company that the thing was returned and no one would check on it.

          1. GrooveBat*

            It’s not clear from the letter that the boss is requesting reimbursement for $48; that’s just what the LW says she received from the company. Boss is just demanding reimbursement for “equipment,” which could mean anything.

        6. Starbuck*

          This seems like a plausible motivation for it to come out of the blue after so long. Boss is in some kind of trouble and this is their creative way to try pinning it on OP somehow.

        7. Worldwalker*

          You’re probably right. Because this doesn’t make sense for office supplies, even to the kind of boss who counts sheets in the toilet paper.

        8. Dr. Vibrissae*

          But even if it is a CYA, why threaten to contact the spouse? That’s the part that truly makes the letter bizarre, and not just a petty power play over “all we’ve done for you (bought you the bare necessities for office work)”

        9. Exploding Soup*

          I am wondering if it’s not ex-boss who is the grifter, but HR. The latter clearly has access to the Amazon account and/or company credit cards. Perhaps they’ve been buying nifty gadgets and, when asked about them, claimed they were for OP and OP has been ignoring multiple requests to return them. If so, Alison’s advice should lead to the boss being asked why they are wasting time trying to recover worthless consumables and responding that, no, actually it’s a headset and a monitor and a laptop and a really nice chair that HR ordered for OP…

      3. Pants*

        Definitely OP needs to CC a few other people. Crazy Person’s boss, maybe the head of accounting, HR, and hell–throw the CEO in there too.

        1. a*

          This is exactly what I was coming here to say. I would call the supervisor’s boss and explain what is going on. Email every single person that might need to know about this.

        2. tw1968*

          This is definitely a REPLY ALL situation. EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON at that company should be emailed your exbatsh*crazyboss’s email and your reply. And possibly a Glassdoor review. Then… mail the CEO a hardcopy of the letter and include a few crusty old dried up pens, some dusty old post it notes from the bottom of your drawer, loose staples, some paperclips, roll of scotch tape that’s nearly empty, some rubber bands…and any other crap you need to get rid of in your personal desk supply stash. Include a handwritten note asking CEO to get the lunatic off your case. *Send postage due.

          1. Your local password resetter*

            Don’t actually do this of course. Just stick to contacting people, and keep the moral high ground and the effort.

        3. zuzu*

          Another way to handle this would be to ignore all the crazy and just respond to the request for the equipment calmly: “I’m not sure what office equipment you’re referring to here; can you enlighten me? As you must remember, I was never issued any office equipment; I used my own computer, monitor, mouse, phone, printer, and workstation as I worked from home. The only thing I ever received from the company was an order from Amazon for some office supplies: [list of supplies]. As I recall, that order totaled about $48 and was ordered by HR rep, who you’ve copied here. I’d be happy to return what I haven’t used in the course of my work if you would provide a prepaid envelope or mailing label.”

          Then, add the boss and grandboss/owner/VP onto the chain and perhaps change the subject line to alert them that this requires attention. Let them poke the crazy, and if they don’t handle it, that gives room for a WTF followup. They’re on notice at that point that LW 1) Never got any equipment; 2) Got some office supplies but is willing to return them; 3) doesn’t engage with off the rails; 4) needs them to put a stop to this, and is putting them on notice that something is seriously up and their HR person is also in on it.

      4. Miette*

        I would not be surprised to learn that there *is* missing equipment–and that the boss is going to accuse OP of having it when she has it/lost it herself.

    2. Tio*

      Imagine thinking you would sue someone over $48. The lawyer bill alone would be 100x that!

      OP I would send Alison’s email just in case your boss is accusing you of taking something else, you should have it on the record in writing that you only received that $48 box. I’m wondering if the boss is thinking/claiming you took something else? not that that makes this reasonable, but be on guard.

      1. Stitch*

        I mean no lawyer would take the case. The filing fees for small claims court could easily exceed it. And no judge would rule for her.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Not true that no lawyer would take the case. None would take it on contingency, and a good one wouldn’t take it because crazy clients aren’t worth the hassle, but you absolutely could find a lawyer who would take the case, not filing until the retainer check has cleared.

          1. zuzu*

            Most of the time, businesses have to be represented in small claims court, and if both parties have an attorney, it gets kicked over to regular low-stakes day court. At least that’s how it worked in New York when I was doing a lot of small claims work on behalf of corporate clients.

          2. Stitch*

            I mean, one who’s fast and loose with ethics rules. You’re absolutely not supposed to file vexatious litigation and you could easily get a lecture from a judge. Continued pattern of this and maybe a bar complaint.

            1. Candi*

              Even losing their license to practice if the bar gets too annoyed over a lawyer’s record of filing frivolous/otherwise ridiculous suits.

            2. Worldwalker*

              “Supposed to” and “Jack Thompson,” for example, don’t exist in the same world. There are plenty of lawyers out there with Thompson’s ethics but, presumably, more common sense, like not sending porn to judges and doing other things that will inevitably get you disbarred. Probably not *good* lawyers, because good lawyers can make money more conventionally, but they are out there.

            3. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Is it still vexatious if they claim OP was issued a laptop? That’s the implication I’m seeing. Something has gone missing, and it’s bigger than $48 in stationery.

        2. Sue for $0.01*

          Actually you would be surprised!

          Lawyer here and I have worked for companies/firms that would do this. The reason wasn’t the $48 or whatever – clearly you will lose more than that in the legal process trying to recover the low amount.

          Rather, there are state and federal laws that prohibit you from suggesting/threatening/promising legal action if it is something you would never do. So if you want to include a statement that “Failure to do X may/will result in legal action” then you actually have to show you would take legal action, otherwise you could face fines in the several thousands of dollars plus attorneys fees for violating these consumer protection/debt collection laws.

          It does not make business sense to do it, but some companies/clients want to always say they can so they are willing to throw away money on those low dollar actions just to be able to have that line in a letter.

    3. Gerry Keay*

      Oh I can imagine a million reasons why the boss would do this, but they’re firmly in the realm of wild and baseless speculation, so I’ll refrain from sharing my theories as to why people go on these types of power trips!

        1. Boof*

          My rampant speculation: hr person spent a lot more money and told ex boss it was on stuff sent to lw (bonus if they claim it was for the secret business so ex boss feels obliged to keep it on the DL / write it off) but actually embezzled it

    4. TeapotNinja*

      My guess is she’s being audited or under scrutiny for some sort of financial impropriety, and she’s trying to show off as financially sound by hounding after every cent she thinks she can and/or doing this to throw others under the bus to make herself look good.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Oh, we do. Desperately. Ideally, we need a play by play, as well as a full transcript of what the fly on the wall hears at OP’s former boss’ conversation with *her* boss after they get that email.

  4. Observer*

    Your former boss is out of her mind. I’m glad to hear that she’s a FORMER boss.

    BCC yourself when you email.

    I doubt that there is anything you can do LEGALLY at this point, unless your former employer is healthcare adjacent (eg a health care plan administrator) and you ex-boss knows who your FIL’s patients are because of access to that information. In which case reaching out to those patients would be a major violation. Which is something that any competent person in the company wold know. Even the HR person, who is clearly shady, might realize that the risk too great for them at that point.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’m a bit concerned for OP at this point. If you have a friend who is a lawyer, they may be able to draft up a cease and desist type letter even if it doesn’t hold any legal teeth. Just tell her to leave you alone and never contact you again. You might also be able to get some sort of legal protection against her contacting you again or showing up where you are. These will not prevent someone who is actually determined to stalk you from doing so, but it may scare less determined someone off (I believe I recall reading that orders of protection work best on people who were least likely to be a violent threat, unfortunately). I hope I’m overreacting. There is a category of stalkers that are not romantic – neighbors and coworkers are common categories, particularly if they feel they have been wronged or disrespected.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh, and if it were me I might perhaps lock down my social media / publicly available information, and warn friends/family about someone unhinged who might try to follow or contact them. You can filter her email address to go directly to a folder you don’t read but which is still saved for future evidence.

      2. Stitch*

        A trick I was taught, with permission from the relevant friend of course. Just CC your friend and list them as being CCed in the text as FriendName, Esq.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Get the lawyer letter, but addressed to the company, not the individual. The ex-boss is, after all, acting on behalf of the company, but the real reason is that a lawyer letter will attract wider attention.

    2. Kayem*

      Definitely agree with the BCC’ing! That’s something that people should always do in these kinds of situations (regardless of battiness levels). And if it requires sending an email to current employers (like if the OP’s ex-boss starts contacting their current employer which is likely, given their overreach so far), send from current work email and BCC to a personal email. Having access to these emails from more than one point might be necessary, given the unpredictability of ex-boss.

    3. to varying degrees*

      See this level of crazy would bring out my inner petty-bitch. I’d call her bluff: go ahead, contact all of those people, call random patient’s of my father in law and co-workers of my husband. Hell take out an ad in the paper. See how well that works out. I would be more than happy to let every single person I know what is happening and I’d bring receipts.

      1. Observer*

        See this level of crazy would bring out my inner petty-bitch.

        That’s fine is you like poking the bear and dealing with the fireworks. But if the OP just wants a reasonably peaceful life, this is not the best way to handle thing.

        1. to varying degrees*

          Oh I’m not recommending it, but yeah sometimes I don’t mind dealing with the bear. This would be such a situation.

          1. Candi*

            In my opinion, poking the bear is best done where the ensuing rampage is in front of an audience, and on paper and according to witness statements it’s a wild overreaction to perfectly reasonable actions.

        2. just some guy*

          Advice forums really, really need a standard tag/acronym for “I am suggesting this because it’s fun to imagine the fireworks, not because it’s actually a thing you should do”.

  5. Corporate Counsel*

    Absolutely not. At my old company we once refused to sue for an amount around $5,000, since the matter was out of state and would involve hiring outside counsel, and that along with the wages of in-house counsel and personnel dealing with it would immediately eat into whatever recovery we could get.

    1. Tomato Soup*

      In my state, it costs $35 to file a case with small claims court (mandatory for cases less than $3k). So, if they win and have no other costs, the best result they can hope for is $13. I don’t believe there’s a fee shifting provision which would cover this case, so they couldn’t make op pay, even if they weren’t batshit bananas.

        1. BubbleTea*

          That reminds me of a post I saw where someone was asking how much compensation they should request from a hotel where their toddler found a blister pack of medication under some furniture (just found it, didn’t eat it or get in any way harmed). Everyone was like… um what are you being compensated for? They apologised, nothing actually happened… no compensation warranted!

        2. TomatoSoup*

          I appreciate the note in parentheses because there are people who would ask that in all seriousness and feel very clever for having done so.

  6. LimeRoos*

    Yikes on bikes!! Please update if you do send an e-mail! This is soooo odd, and she is being super shady. I’m really hoping she’s not in healthcare, because oh my HIPAA. Though – at least she made the blackmail(?) attempt really obvious. Since it seems like blackmail from the last two sentences about knowing what a small world it is and your FIL’s patients (!!!!!).

    Also – is there an amount she’s asking for? Or just hoping you’re going to just send her a check for $1000? So odd, I’d imagine there’d be records and whatnot about the ‘supplies & equipment’ she’s looking for, so just trying to strong-arm you into paying a random amount is just, well, Alison said it best, your ex-boss is batshit.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      I have never heard the phrase yikes on bikes before. It makes me unreasonably happy. Thank you for introducing me to it!

      1. Selina Luna*

        I’ve also heard “yikes on trikes,” and while it’s clearly referring to a tricycle, in my head, it’s a triceratops because that would be awesome.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      I really wonder whether the boss thinks the LW has a company laptop or something . That would make her demands, while still over-the-top and rude, at least somewhat reasonable to request in principle. Over USED office supplies, though? Yeesh!

      1. Corporate Lawyer*

        That’s my thought too. Not that it mitigates the crazy at all (threatening to contact OP’s husband, FIL, and FIL’s patients? WTAF), but I wonder whether the ex-boss is mistaken about the office equipment in OP’s possession.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Or not mistaken, but trying to blame the OP for something unrelated — or, more probably, related to the ex-boss?

      2. Elbe*

        This is what I thought, too. Does she mistakenly think that the LW has actual company equipment and not just office supplies?

        Either way, this behavior is incredibly inappropriate. But if she thought the LW had a laptop (and that the laptop may contain evidence that could get her fired) it would at least make slightly more sense.

        1. Princess Sparklepony*

          Maybe the boss bought a laptop and gave it to one her relatives then told the company that it went to the LW and now that the LW no longer works for the company, the company is saying – let’s get that laptop back… ?

      3. turquoisecow*

        Yeah, does she have OP confused with someone else who does have office supplies? Like maybe a case of multiple people named Michelle and it was Michelle Smith who took a laptop and OP is Michelle Smythe and ex-boss got them confused?

        Suing would be a waste of money and time. Small claims court would maybe rule in boss’s favor but doesn’t have any power to compel OP to pay if OP doesn’t want to. I doubt the company would take it on, and an individual lawyer would refuse as it’s not the boss’s personal property.

        1. Lydia*

          Someone up thread posited that the boss is covering her ass for a large purchase she made that is being scrutinized and, considering the level of crazy, I would bet that’s more likely than she mistakenly thinks OP has a laptop.

      4. Czhorat*

        But if there were a laptop the boss would say “return the company laptop” not return unspecified equipment and office supplies; this isn’t a sitcom in which we carry silly misshearings and assumptions that far.

      5. Ama*

        I kind of wondered if Boss lost track of some equipment that was supposed to be her responsibility and has decided that OP *has* to be the person who has it because Boss would never just *forget* what she did with it. I’ve worked with people like this — nothing is ever their fault so they immediately convince themselves that someone else must have messed up. OP is an easy target since she’s gone and Boss is probably miffed that she dared to leave anyway.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Yeah, this tracks.
          Heck, my chain of command is made up of generally reasonable people. I’ve still had to confirm what equipment I have and it’s asset numbers several times.

          1. Anonomite*

            I used to work for a government contractor that had to account for every piece of equipment to the federal government. The amount of freak out that occurred when four VERY OLD Dictaphones disappeared between one inventory and the next was ludicrous. Higher ups were losing their shit over 20-year-old outdated equipment that we all figured had been accidentally thrown out by students doing a cleanup. It was searched for several times by on-site staff, and then by staff from a different site, and then again by on-site staff. I can understand if computers or laptops or something of value had gone missing, but these things were not any of those.

            1. squirrel friend*

              I don’t work in the gov’t but it’s like that where I am too. There’s a room that’s ostensibly supposed to be used as a reference library, but half of it is full of crap we can’t throw away “in case we need it.” We’re talking equipment that is beyond repair or is so outdated, no one knows what it was used for anymore.

            2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              Computers often are less valuable than the data on them, so the need to inventorize those is understandable.
              This might be the case with the lost dictaphones (or rather thrir tapes) as well – remember Watergate?
              Okay, I’ll see myself out…

        2. Wannessa*

          Yeah, this is the only way this mess makes any sense to me, except I think Boss and HR both know OP didn’t lose anything. Boss seems to be covering her own ass right now by sending an email that implies it’s her exasperated last attempt at retrieving equipment (despite it being the only attempt, as far as I can tell), so she can point to how hard she’s tried to get [whatever unspecified stuff she’s lost] back if OP doesn’t comply, AND she jumped immediately to *personal threats if she’s not paid* which presumably is to make OP comply quickly and quietly to avoid anyone else ever questioning it. Just…wild.

      6. GrooveBat*

        Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. It’s still way out of line, but that makes more sense than the pens and binders.

      7. Me*

        I’m also wondering if the shady HR person or some other employee has led the ex-boss to think some valuable piece of equipment that is missing was stolen by the LW when it’s actually in the shady employee’s closet…. Blaming a theft on an ex employee.

        I might first respond just by saying, “what equipment do you think I have?” And see what the response is.

    2. Mid*

      On the flip side, when I left my previous job, they didn’t want the NICE 32” monitor or printer they purchased back. I still use both of them. (And I live locally, so there wouldn’t have been shipping costs, they just didn’t need them in the office.)

  7. Ish Kabibble*

    OMG! This is complete insanity and I cannot look away! Please please please let there be an update to this story soon!

  8. Person from the Resume*

    This is absolutely looney behavior.

    I would respond to clarify that I do not have any “equipment” which makes it sound like IT hardware of some sort and CC multiple people about that. And offer to return any remaining office supplies.

    But this is so unprofessional, I imagine any professional-type person contacted would dismiss it as outragious and out of norms. Unfortunately lots of folks are not professional and gossips so I absolutely understand why you’d want to head off “LW stole company equipment” messages. My synpathies, LW.

    1. Observer*

      I would respond to clarify that I do not have any “equipment” which makes it sound like IT hardware of some sort and CC multiple people about that. And offer to return any remaining office supplies.

      I don’t think a response is worthwhile here. Better to just kick this upstairs and on their way.

    2. ferrina*

      It is important to clarify what the “equipment” is (i.e., cheap office supplies). Alison included that in her example email, probably so that LW can be clear that this is a small matter and not a laptop or other equipment.

      But don’t respond to the boss. We don’t try to reason with unreasonable people- reasons just don’t work on them. This level of animosity and blackmail needs to go up the chain to someone that is somewhat reasonable.

  9. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Your ex-boss appears to be batshit insane.

    I love a good initial summary!

    By the by, isn’t extortion still illegal?

    1. Kevin Sours*

      It is. But the law generally requires that you are demanding something of value you are not entitled to. As asinine as this is, the company is entitled to the return of any unused office supplies.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Yes, but the devil is in the details of the definition. I’m not sure this qualifies.

  10. Veryanon*

    This is nuts. Can you imagine if the ex-boss DID file a claim in small claims court for this? The filing fees alone are probably more than the worth of the supplies. This person obviously has deep-rooted issues. Yikes on bikes.

    1. Writer Claire*

      I really want an episode about this case on Judge Judy. (Or rather, Judy Justice, since that’s the new show.) Can you picture the judge glaring at the ex-boss and shouting, “Ridiculous!”

  11. Essentially Cheesy*

    I appreciate Alison’s advice and insight but a couple other things I would consider doing?

    (1) Stop engaging with former HR lady. Period. She gets no more responses from you.
    (2) Give a heads up to family members and ask them not to engage with former HR lady at all.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Sure, send it to former HR but definitely CC some other higher-up at the company, preferably one who doesn’t know about ex-boss’ shady goings-on. Because someone else at the company, assuming it’s a decent one*, really needs to know about that.

        * I am not taking this as a given. Seeing as how they didn’t give OP any actual equipment, I’m not at all convinced that the whole company isn’t shady right down to the shag carpeting on the floors.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Yes, I was going to suggest informally telling husband and FIL about Bat-tastic Ex-Boss, as BEB (if BEB has the chutzpah to actually contact them) is highly likely to be unpleasant to deal with, and there’s no need for them to be caught unawares.

  12. ThursdaysGeek*

    If the ex-boss was also doing stuff under the table, I bet there is a bigger story going on, and the boss is trying to make the OP look like a fall-guy for something she’s stepped in. Like things going missing (for the boss’s use) that need to be accounted for. “I know, OP didn’t return them!”

    So yeah, I’d sure like an update too. And do make sure your reply goes higher than just the ex-boss.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, this could be something as bananas as the situation where the boss stole OP’s food and got sick, then fired her, then it turned out that he was having an affair or something (I might totally be misremembering the details on that story?). In any case, excellent fodder for more AAM fanfic.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Forgot how actually related to this that story was, as once again it was an HR person covering for something untoward that another employee was doing!

        2. Fishsticks*

          IIRC, that story was that OP’s coworker was stealing her food and got sick because OP eats spicy food, declared OP had “poisoned” him, and HR fired the OP. Then it turned out the coworker and HR were having an illicit relationship, HR was trying to cover for him being a thieving dick, and were both fired.

          Link to the update to the original letter!:

    1. SHEILA, the co-host*

      This was my first thought as well. Boss has lost/used/misplaced something she wasn’t supposed to use or even have access to, and she’s hoping to fob the blame off on the OP.

    2. DrFresh*

      This. My first thought was that she was covering for shady dealings (particularly $$$) by putting the blame on you. Maybe she took equipment that went missing and is scrambling to cover her tracks.

    3. This used to remember my name*

      My first thought of a possibility for that? Someone authorized boss to provide a computer for LW. Boss purchased one, and then decided to keep it for herself. Now someone’s asking for that computer and boss doesn’t want to give it up (or did who-knows-what with it). Since it was bought “for LW” she might think she can get away with claiming LW actually received it.

      Or she’s just nuts. Either way, I feel like there must be way more to this story!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I thought (if it isn’t a genuine mistake) this is the most likely case, too. OP uses her own computer equipment, but not everyone will have their own equipment to use so at some point she must have made the declaration to “bring her own device”, except what if the manager or someone working with them ordered equipment for OP on the pretence that she needed it, then sold it or whatever. I bet they didn’t think the company’s tracking systems would ever reconcile that, or manager intended to (not sure how!) make it right but then OP left before they could, etc.

        1. Miette*

          My thoughts as well. OP, be prepared to request proof that they delivered any equipment to you, like a signature or something, because this has all the hallmarks of your boss trying to cover her a-s-s by scapegoating you.

  13. A CAD Monkey*

    i would also include something about the boss’s side business in the email to the higher-ups as an aside, but i’m also in a bit of a petty mood today, so take that as you may.

    1. Observer*

      Nah. I get why you would want to do this, but I think that adding to the fireworks is not in the OP’s best interests. Right now they are better off just playing it straight.

      1. just some guy*

        Yeah, the boss’s demands are so obviously unreasonable, best just to keep the focus on that. The side-business stuff looks bad for the boss but it risks distracting the higher-ups from the part that matters to OP.

        In particular, it could backfire on OP: “so you say she was running this side business, and you knew about it, but you only reported it to us after she tried to recover company property from you?”

    2. learnedthehardway*

      No – that’s just going to confuse the issue and diminish the OP’s assertion that she has not got any of the business’s equipment.

  14. Observer*

    As I’m thinking about this, and looking at everyone else’s responses, I have a thought. I suspect that someone realized that SOMETHING is fishy about her work, schedule and / or expenses. So now she’s trying to make it look like money she spent inappropriately went to you (and maybe others as well.) And that’s why she’s making the threats she is – she’s hoping that you will pay up to keep her from smearing your name.

    So maybe there is some method to this madness. That’s all the more reason to send that email and cc the appropriate people.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, my thought as well. Like a conman trying to hang all the liability on somebody else before they run out of town just ahead of the mob.

    2. mreasy*

      This was my thought. And she’s keeping it vague in the emails so she can try to “cover her tracks” re whatever expense she’s trying to foist on OP.

  15. Prof*

    I agree with Alison’s advice, as always, but could we please not use language like “batshit insane”?

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        I mean, if someone is worried about language choice stigmatizing mental illness it is totally okay for them to bring it up and ask if it’s necessary. Pretty sure Alison/Team AAM is able to think on the request and decide if it is reasonable or not without pearl clutching about “language policing”…

        1. Berin*

          I think I’m struggling to understand how calling someone “insane” is a slur when their behavior is so out of the norm that it’s remarkable. I’ve got a lovely mix of mental illnesses myself, and frankly, “insane” was the first word I thought of when I read this letter. To be clear, I’m not trying to antagonize, I’m just confused because this is the first time I’ve ever heard the word insane be referred to as a slur.

          1. Lellow*

            I’m pretty sure it’s the “insane” part that’s objectionable, not any insult towards bats?

            1. Pink Candyfloss*

              You are correct. Changing to loco does not remove the stigma associated with calling someone by a mental health slur just because you write it in Spanish instead of English.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I’m told Latin’s dead. Can we use non compos mentis de merdi de vespertili instead?

      1. Sad*

        Language that doesn’t stigmatise those with mental health conditions would be a start. Apparently that’s too much to hope for, though. Sometimes I really do give up on human beings. When apparently decent and well-meaning people like Alison can be so casually cruel? I despair!

    1. Corporate Counsel*

      On the day that people don’t go after former employees for $48 worth of pens and paper, we will retire “batshit insane” from the lexicon.

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      What is the objection to this phrase?

      I’m trying to determine if this is a situation of a previously unknown to me meaning or history (an example is gypped) or some other reason.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I believe the idea is that both “crazy” and “insane” can be stigmitizing to people with legitmate mental illnesses and not used for someone who is not mentally ill and just outragiously out of bounds.

      2. Phil*

        It’s likely they consider it ableist or offensive to people with mental illness. I understand the thinking but it’s kind of ridiculous to take it this far. You might as well stay off the internet in general if something like this offends you this gravely

        1. Frank Doyle*

          “Take it this far?” Prof politely asked if we could avoid using the term. They gave no indication that they were “gravely offended.” They don’t care for it, and they asked nicely that we/Alison refrain from using terms like that. I think that’s a reasonable thing to ask.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          Oh please, there’s a massive difference between gently requesting different language be used and being “gravely offended.”

      3. Pink Candyfloss*

        Any commentary about someone’s mental health outside of a professional diagnosis (such as calling a person BSI) is considered a slur (rooted in ableism and other prejudices against the mentally ill).

        Some terms are considered common and harmless by some people but hurtful by others; of course you can choose as an individual which side you come down on, but you don’t get to decide for others whether they should or should not find BSI a hurtful slur.

      4. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        Referring to terrible behavior in a way that conflates it with mental illness can be seen as part of a wider pattern of language choices that stigmatize mental illness, and can be really insulting to people who actually deal with mental illness on the daily. Kind of like how people started saying “Hey, can we stop using the r-word, it’s actually kind of terrible and abelist.” There’s really nothing wrong with flagging word choice and politely saying “Hey, can we reconsider using this phrase?”, but apparently some folks just have to be combative or outraged about SOMETHING in any given comment section.

        1. Observer*

          Except that the term does not actually conflate mental illness with bad behavior. No one actually thinks that the ex-boss has a mental illness. Nor would any reasonable human with the most basic understanding of the English language think, based on this term, that this is behavior to be expected of people with mental illness.

          Beyond that “can we just not use ~~X kind of language~~” with zero explanation, for a term that is not generally known / seen to be a slur is not a “polite request”.

          but apparently some folks just have to be combative or outraged about SOMETHING in any given comment section.

          Pot, meet kettle.

          1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

            I mean, I’m not combative or outraged? I’m just… responding? I also don’t think it matters whether people “actually thinks that the boss has a mental illness.” If you were to say “Your boss is r-slur,” reasonable people would not think that the boss actually had a quantifiable condition. But it DOES still perpetuate stigmatization of a vulnerable group of people, and it’s an ableist thing to say. And yes, I don’t see anything wrong or impolite with someone saying “I agree with the advice, but can this specific term please not be used” in the comment section. The people running things can come to their own decision on whether or not it is reasonable, but this isn’t an instance where an academic paper with no less than 5 hard sources is required. It’s a weird hill that you’re planting yourself on.

        1. Anon5*

          That, itself, is related to mental illness. “Slippery slope” arguments are rarely helpful, but seriously, where does that end?I’d much rather see us de-stigmatize actual mental health issues and keep “batshit insane/freaking nuts” as a reaction to wild behavior

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          “What color is the sky on your boss’ planet?”

          (Credit: Frasier Crane, Cheers)

      1. Here for the updates.*

        One option is to say “this behavior shows an egregious disconnect from reality.” It’s arguably more specific anyway.

        1. Observer*

          Too specific. And really, really wordy.

          Too specific because this behavior is not just disconnected from reality. Or perhaps incomplete.

    3. Healthcare Manager*

      Agreed. This language is very harmful and supports mental illness stigma.

      Alternatives: unreal’ / ‘out of this world’

      1. Tuesday*

        I’m really confused about this. Surely it’s more insulting to conflate terms like “crazy” or “insane” WITH people who have mental illness? We don’t refer to mentally ill people with these words at all anymore in civilized conversation and I wouldn’t have thought “mental illness” at all if it weren’t for this comment thread. Isn’t there a point at which a word has evolved into use beyond its original intention? These terms are so normal!

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          I mean, one very compelling reason would be because people in the affected communities ask us not to.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          As someone with multiple mental health diagnoses, I assure you that in civilized society, mentally ill people are still derogatively referred to as “crazy, insane, unhinged, batshit, etc.”

          Good for you that you don’t use those words for mentally ill people, but as someone who has absolutely been called those terms before, I certainly thought “mental illness” when I saw those words.

        3. It's a secret*

          That’s my thought. Saying that “insane” and “crazy” are obviously synonyms of mental illness seems awful to me (a person diagnosed with a mental illness). Thank you for not associating me with those words.

    4. Sharkie*

      Guys, can we please stop? This thread is going no where and there is nothing in here that is helpful to the OP.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s an interesting challenge as a writer to come up with something that captures this level of … WTF-ness with the right amount of color (to my mind, the suggested substitutes don’t quite do it) but I’m not offering that as a reason not to! Thanks for flagging it, it’s good for me to think about, and I’m closing this subthread now since I don’t think having people argue back and forth about it in the manner we’re seeing here is useful (and is definitely derailing).

  16. Somehow_I_Manage*

    I love how in letters like this, OP will always sprinkle a few other nuggets of ridiculous to help bring us onto their side (“she asked me to work on her side business on company time.”). Dear OP, you had me at “Ex. boss threatened to email my husband and his peers over $48 of office supplies.”

    1. Mellie Bellie*

      Honestly? The LW got me with “Ex. boss threatened to email my husband and his peers over…” The rest of it just threw me over to WTF did I just read!?!

      I join the chorus for an update. And am imagining a letter to Alison from the husband’s perspective:

      “Dear AAM: My wife’s former manager just contacted me at work about…a bunch of used pens and half a pack of paper that she claims my wife did not return to the company. What is the most effective way to block this woman from ever contacting me and/or my current employer again?”

      Or, her FIL:

      “Dear AAM: My daughter-in-law’s former manager looked up my clients and contacted them about some pens and scrap paper or something that she claims my daughter-in-law retained after leaving her former job. Is this a HIPAA violation?”

      Or the clients:

      “Dear AAM: Some random lady who said she knows someone my doctor knows keeps contacting me out of the blue to ask me to ask my doctor about a pen and half-used post-it note pack that this person my doctor knows owes to her company. Can I get a restraining order?”

      1. SeluciaMD*

        The last one is my favorite by far. A pen and a half-used post-it note! (Not a pack of notes, just one note. But the bottom half is blank.) Your examples made me laugh so, so much!

  17. Healthcare Manager*

    Whoa. On the off chance everyone you email still doesn’t understand they’re in the wrong please be assured they really are.

    Well now I feel better about my previous workplace illegally* refusing to sign my timesheet until laptop is returned…

    *illegal for where I am and the contract arrangements.

      1. Healthcare Manager*

        Things being illegal doesn’t actually stop them from happening unfortunately. Particularly when there’s no real recourse.

    1. Bad Boss Haver*

      In the jurisdiction where I work, my former boss is holding on to my reference until I « return » an encrypted, 50 dollar cell phone. It never left the building. This too is illegal, as is not blocking the phone and my email the day I quit. So I’m waiting for the « police report », or my lawyer is. This company has professional HR and they let him act like a toddler who wants to take his toys and leave.

      It’s wild how vengeful companies/managers can be about petty things.

      1. Healthcare Manager*

        In my situation HR is aware and not interfering. It’s mind blowing how much people enjoy abusing their power.

  18. Delta Delta*

    I live dangerously, so if I were being threatened with suit over $48 in office supplies, I’d say, bring it. They won’t. And they won’t, because the filing fee alone would be more than the $48, and even if they could recover it, it would necessarily be diminished because OP used the supplies in connection with her work.

    Also, show the email to Husband Bob and Father In Law, both of whom will have your back, because they live on this planet and would see this is outrageous. Also, make sure if any patients repeat this to FIL that he gets them to tell him exactly what ex-boss said, since what she says may be libelous. But since the patients also live on our planet, they’ll probably nod politely and then run away when ex-boss makes a big deal about her former employee not returning some pens.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      There is absolutely no need to involve anyone else in this and mirror the same behavior as the ex-boss is showing. Running around telling other people serves no purpose (except for possibly legal counsel, if there seems a need to retain).

      Allison’s advice is thorough and sufficient.

      1. Hen in a Windstorm*

        It’s not “other people”, it’s her family. I would definitely give my husband and FIL a heads up that this lady may be contacting them. It is in no way the same behavior. The boss is making threats, sharing those threats with the possible targets just seems smart.

      2. Be Gneiss*

        I’d think giving a heads up to LW’s *husband* and *FIL* who the former boss threatened to contact is completely reasonable. You’re equating telling one’s spouse about a wildly ridiculous threat as “running around telling other people” which serves no purpose?

        I’d go so far as to say that if the former boss is threatening to tell FIL’s *patients* about this, it’s completely reasonable to tell him, too! I really don’t follow how that’s mirroring the ex-boss’s behavior.

        Now, if the LW was taking out an ad in the paper or running a social media campaign to showcase this wildly ridiculous threat…that would be telling people with no purpose.

      3. Hlao-roo*

        I think a heads-up to the husband and father-in-law could be a good thing, but more along the lines of “hey, my ex-boss said she may contact you to get me to return some office supplies. I’m trying to handle it just between me and [old company] but wanted to give you a heads up just in case she does reach out to you.” Certainly not necessary, but the LW may feel more comfortable if the husband and father-in-law have a general idea of the situation.

      4. zinzarin*

        Informing the specific people that ex-boss has threatened to contact is very much justified and proactive.

      5. constant_craving*

        I’m not sure how telling my husband and another family member about an absurd email I received would be mirroring this boss’s behavior. That seems like a really odd stance.

        I can’t imagine being in a marriage where I wouldn’t tell my husband about this, honestly. Isn’t it pretty standard to talk to one’s spouse about what’s going on in one’s life?

        1. Be Gneiss*

          right? Like, obviously you wouldn’t share confidential information, and you probably don’t detail every single interaction you have all day….but how would this NOT be dinner table conversation?

        2. Malarkey01*

          Right? I don’t want to make assumptions on relationships but in my marriage my first, second, and probably third call would have been to my husband to say “Holy sh## you will not believe what Jane just sent me!!” Then we would role playing increasing outlandish ideas for how husband would respond to Jane. For YEARS we would probably interject “return the pens or I will be forced to email your husband” as a running joke.

          That’s beside the very real need to give him a heads up so he isn’t caught off guard if boss really does contact him or coworkers.

      6. JSPA*

        Well except for the part where it’s completely normal to give the people you love a heads up if somebody from your workplace is aiming for their inbox with afterburners lit, ready to spew flames and dump barely-veiled threats.

        The ex-manager is being aggressive and borderline scary; I’d warn any friend about that, so of course I’d also warn loved ones. (Who on earth wouldn’t???)

      7. Despachito*

        Of course she should give a heads-up to her husband, FIL and other people the Bizarre Boss threatened to contact, if she knows them.

        How does it “mirror the same behaviour”? Is telling people that somebody is threatening you (however absurd that may be) somehow equivalent to threatening back yourself?

        Moreover, that can make a delicious conversational topic (of course, this only with the closest ones) for quite some time. Why deprive yourself of such a delight?

    2. Martin Blackwood*

      Tbh I wouldnt be able to not immediately show my husband something like this. Something patently ridiculous, and she’s bringing him into this? How can you not bitch about this at dinner the same day?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Tempt not the Fates; their sense of humor is warped beyond our imaginations.

        1. Candi*

          I think it was 2017(?) that people kept saying “okay, THIS one will win worst boss award”, and the universe tossed aside its toothpick and said, “Watch me.”

  19. JSPA*

    Scapegoat, sacrificial lamb or stalking horse, OP is being roped into manager’s financial self-dealing in one way or another. I’d leave boss off the thread, and be tempted to leave off HR except on a separate mail, lest they also have someone in IT (or a couple of key admin’s) on their side. And pick the Person in the hierarchy used most likely to read their own email, Without a chance for somebody else to read and delete.

  20. Lana Kane*

    | ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ |
    | UPDATE! |
    | UPDATE! |
    | UPDATE! |
    | ______ |
    (\__/) ||
    (•ㅅ•) ||
    /   づ

    1. SeluciaMD*

      Your keyboard kung-fu has no equal. I bow to your prowess!

      (And heartily endorse the sentiment, of course!)

  21. I should really pick a name*

    However, there was no loaned equipment or return equipment clause that even existed for me to sign

    This is really tangential to the ridiculous boundary stomping of the LW’s boss, but I’d like to point out that this does not mean you’re entitled to hold on to equipment. Not relevant in this case, but good to know going forward.

    Combined with this statement:

    This is not even stuff I purchased or used a company card for. The purchase was arranged and made for me by the HR person she CC’d on the email

    I’m concerned that the LW doesn’t really understand how company property works.

    1. Observer*

      Why? The OP’s former HR made a *$48* supplies order from Amazon. What “company property” are we talking about, even potentially.

      The OP is making it clear that no one expected them to have any equipment, that they have never submitted a request for reimbursement for anything, nor ever had access to a company CC or a company Amazon account. Thus the idea that they have equipment that needs to be returned that no one knew about is absurd.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I’m not saying it’s fair or right, but a lot of workplaces (in the US at least) consider supply theft a fireable offense.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah, if every week you take home a box of printer paper, you’re stealing supplies, and maybe you should be warned and then fired if you keep it up. If you’re given $48 worth of supplies to DO YOUR JOB and some of that is ‘missing’ (potentially scavenged by colleagues when OP left, or in the case of pens used up, or binders and sheet protectors living on some shelf full of papers already), not ‘returning’ that to some spot is a pretty dumb hill to die on for the boss. But there are clearly other things happening with boss.

          1. zinzarin*

            Given that this was ordered for her from Amazon, it’s almost certain that OP was working from home. These aren’t supply closet items; they’re in OP’s home office right now.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              Also “I used my personal computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse” strongly suggests a work at home arrangement.

          2. Dr. Rebecca*

            There *are* clearly other things going on with the boss; I’m not defending them, they’re indefensible.

            But, and as Alison suggested volunteering to send the rest of the stuff back she seems to agree, “what the company buys belongs to the company” is a very, VERY common and generally understood principle. Failing to give back company property at the end of the job, regardless of what property that is, is by definition theft.

            A lot of companies in the US will ask on their intake/hiring questionnaires the monetary value of how much, including office supplies, a person has stolen from their employer in their past, and they’ll refuse to hire someone who answers with anything other than zero. Again, NOT defending the boss, NOT saying the practice is reasonable. Just that it’s widespread, and generally accepted practice.

            I’m also sensing a bit of left out info. How many times has the boss asked before escalating to contacting the husband? NOT defending this at all, but the implication is that there’s been multiple communications…so how did this get beyond the OP being like, “oh, sure, forgot I had the stuff, let me drop that by the office”?

            1. Bookmark*

              Yeah, while the boss is WILDLY overreacting, the two parts of the letter you highlighted do point to an (understandable!) misunderstanding of who owns work supplies purchased by a company. A reasonable company wouldn’t begrudge someone some pens and a binder but it’s good to offer to send those things back. (My former job let me keep the pair of 3-year-old headphones they originally purchased because they were out of warranty and who wants to use someone else’s old headphones, but still, I ASKED if I could keep them and did not assume). The other thing that is relevant (but still doesn’t justify the boss’s behavior) is how long before they left did the company buy the stuff for them? I can see being grumpy about a staff member putting in an out of the ordinary order for $50 of supplies and then putting in notice the next day, particularly if they hadn’t been at the organization long. I wouldn’t sue them or anything, but it might alter my perception of them going forward.

            2. BubbleTea*

              I’d be fascinated to talk to anyone who answers that question with a value of anything other than zero. “I’m quite willing to steal from my employer but I draw the line at lying” would be an intriguing moral stance.

            3. Mockingjay*

              These are consumable supplies. It’s quite reasonable to expect that these are used up during the course of work. If anything is left over, it’s not worth recovering. You really expect me to mail back three cheap pens and an open pack of Post-Its? No. Company-issued laptop or other expensive equipment? Yes.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            And unless she consumed all of them, she needs to give the remainder back; they’re not hers.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              No. No, she does not. She got sent a pack of office supplies from Amazon to work from home. Whole cost was less than fifty bucks. She probably used most of that doing her job, as she doesn’t mention working there for only a short time.

              If they send her a pre-paid envelope, she can run around her house scooping up a few pens and sticky-note pads, throw ’em in and send it off. Don’t put in any more effort than that. But it would be absurd for a company to do such a thing.

        2. Observer*

          but a lot of workplaces (in the US at least) consider supply theft a fireable offense.

          Which is irrelevant here. For one thing, the OP doesn’t work there anymore, so there is not issue of firing anyone.

          For another, the email is demanding “equipment” for which the company could sue. Except that no such equipment exists! Some portion of a $48 SUPPLIES order doesn’t come CLOSE to qualifying as equipment or something you can actually sue over in the real world.

          Claiming that the OP’s explaining all of this somehow equates to them not really understanding company ownership is rather odd…

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            My comment is more about the gravity with which supply theft is regarded, not implying that they’re going to haul her back and fire her again. Time was, one could use an allusion…

      2. JustSomeone*

        It’s still $48 of their stuff, not her stuff. It’s absolutely wild and far beyond reason for the ex boss to approach it this way, but technically they are the rightful owners of the binders and half-used pens.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, agreed. The company bought it; it’s theirs, even if they didn’t make her sign something.

          They’re ridiculous to want it back, but if they want to pay for shipping, they’re entitled to get it back.

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

          How much of that $48 is consumables and probably already lost or used up or given to another coworker? Pens run out, plastic covers rip. Depending on the binders they may be warn out. They may also have moved to another person.

        3. BubbleTea*

          Well, it was $48 of their stuff when they sent it to her. Now it’s worth considerably less than $48 and probably would cost more to post back than to replace.

      3. The OG Sleepless*

        Also, the stuff from Amazon was consumables, not “equipment.” The only thing that can be returned is whatever pens, file folders etc didn’t get used. Which the LW can do, certainly, and I would, with whatever wording I could think of to convey how silly this is. But it’s not like they told her “oh, and when you leave, we need this stuff back,” because that would also be silly.

    2. Tobias Funke*

      I read this as “there was no loaned equipment” AND ALSO “no return equipment clause”, not I can just keep whatever I want because I didn’t sign anything. Perhaps OP does in fact understand how company property works and there is a processing issue on your part?

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think you’re reading that sentence wrong. I think she means “there was no loaned equipment” and she didn’t sign anything about returning anything else.

      I don’t think it’s the norm to require people to return the remainder of consumable office products. No company asks for their half-stack of post-its back.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        I took it as “for further demonstration that there was no loaned equipment – even if you want to call pens and binders equipment – there was no signed agreement that I would return my 3 unused sheet protectors.”

    4. With You*

      Yeah, that was my take. LW is missing the point. Yes, of course, this boss is completely off their rocker. But how does that judgement help the situation?

      The advice is (part of) the reply Alison proposed. Reply: “I was never issued any company equipment. The only equipment or supplies I ever received from the company was a $48 office supplies order from Amazon that included a pack of pens, a four-pack of binders, a box of sheet protectors, and a file/binder holder. I used many of those supplies in my work but if you would like me to return what still remains, I’d be happy to do so; please send me a pre-paid shipping label and I’ll of course send that back immediately.”

      Frankly, I would reply with only that. Ignore the threats and the veiled, plausibly-deniable threats. Ignore the crazy, acknowledge the facts, and put the ball in their court: “I’ll send ’em back when you send me pre-paid shipping.”

      That’s all you need, LW. No need to litigate. Just offer to send back their precious binders and remaining pens, if they pay for the shipping.

      1. Curious*

        But it’s not just shipping — as we all know from the “Only on TV!” offers, there’s a cost for shipping *and handling*! They need to pay OP –in advance! — for their time in packing the materials, and taking them to the post office or UPS or FedEx. OP isn’t obligated to provide free labor!

    5. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, I didn’t get the relevance of “the purchase was arranged and made for me by the HR person”. That — doesn’t change the fact that it was purchased by the company. And whilst it’s completely normal for a company to want IT equipment to be returned and extraordinary for them to want office stationery returned, there isn’t really a legal difference between the two. The amount of clearly personal-use office supplies that LW had make it ridiculous, but if you for some reason had substantial amounts of the same or similar items, it wouldn’t be illegal or ridiculous for the company to ask for them back.

      (Of course, threatening to to contact your father-in-law’s patients would be ridiculous even if you’d walked off with a brand new Tesla and robot dog.)

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think the relevance of the Amazon purchase is that someone else decided that these were resources that the LW needed, and not the LW going off buying fancy fountain pens with the company credit card.

      2. kitryan*

        I thought that this was relevant data in that it is illustrating that she has never had access to the accounts to make any *other* purchases that might be more substantial and thus require returning and that the company, boss, and HR person should be aware of this (lack of access/use of the company accounts) since *even* the small amount of consumable office supplies was not purchased by LW but by HR and sent to her without her accessing company funds or accounts herself, so obviously there’s no further stuff like actual computer equipment or office chairs or a printer or anything that she might have purchased off of amazon or from anywhere else with company funds.

      3. kitryan*

        I’m pretty sure the point there is that she’s never made any purchases of supplies or equipment of any sort or had access to make any such purchase, as *even* the small start up purchase of office supplies was made by HR, not her, so the idea that she may have made any *other* more substantive purchases with company funds that would warrant anything close to the boss’s letter would be a non starter.
        I don’t think that this portion of the letter is trying to say that if the company really wants the pens and binders and whatnot that they don’t have a right to them, however pointless the exercise of sending the remaining portion back would be, just that there was no avenue or opportunity even for any other purchases.

        1. kitryan*

          sorry for the duplicate comment, the first one didn’t show up for ages so I thought it got eaten.

    6. JSPA*

      1. Supplies =/= equipment.

      2. The value of the remaining supplies is likely far less than what it would cost to ship them back to the office.

      3. It was therefore incumbent on the company to indicate that they wanted them back…

      4. And to provide a mechanism for their return…

      5. or to suggest a reasonable (very low) dollar amount that would cover the LW keeping the remaining supplies.

      Noting, furthermore,

      Non-return (on one’s own dime?) of supplies sent, unrequested, is hardly comparable to intentionally rating the supply closet regularly for personal use.


      Plenty of companies have been sending things as gifts during the pandemic! If some colorful pens and highlighters show up unrequested, it’s not all that nuts to assume it’s “useful gift” as opposed to “returnable supplies.”

      1. Candi*

        Most companies are sensible enough to know that sending back half a pack of four highlighters, two packs of post-it notes, and a hole punch is not worth the costs even the USPS/other gov. postal service charges, even if technically they can ask for them back as company property.

        The boss’ claiming “equipment” does seem like she’s trying to make the issue on record sound bigger than it actually is.

    7. Chilipepper Attitude*

      1. It would likely cost more to ship the items than they are worth
      2. They need to pay her for her time packing and shipping them
      3. The boss is likely covering up some missing equipment from some other cause OR is contacting the wrong person.
      4. OP Knows how this works, she used the lack of a signed return equipment doc to show that there was never any equipment given to her.

    8. Random Bystander*

      I thought the lack of “return equipment clause” was further evidence that there was no actual equipment (because I can’t imagine any situation in which a work place would provide equipment for me to use when WFH without having documentation of it–I remember going over the serial numbers for my monitors and everything when they made us permanent WFH).

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      I do actually agree with you, that the OP seems a little off base on their understanding of that–but also that it doesn’t really impact anything in this particular situation. But it is something they should keep in mind for the future.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        To clarify: I don’t think any sane, reasonable company would want to chase down $48 of used office supplies. The cost of the time and shipping would not be worth it, absolutely. But if for some strange reason a company did feel strongly that they wanted the items returned, I do think that would be within their rights–though obviously they would need to do so without insane threats of legal action or contacting your FIL patients. And as Alison says, they should send a pre-paid label to minimize what the ex-employee needs to do to get it back to them.

    10. Francie Foxglove*

      “Combined with this statement: ‘This is not even stuff I purchased or used a company card for. The purchase was arranged and made for me by the HR person she CC’d on the email,’ I’m concerned that the LW doesn’t really understand how company property works.”

      But I think the point of that comment was that no such “equipment” was ever in her hands. In LW’s shoes, I would ask ex-boss to prove that this phantom equipment *exists* for me to return.

  22. MagentaPanda*

    I’m retiring later this summer, and my boss not only said they’re not inventorying my office for office supplies and furniture but that I’m also welcome to take the office-provided lamp home!

  23. from the govt, here to help*

    what a loon. i would do what was recommended immediately, and also post the story and message the loon sent on the company’s facebook page, twitter feed, any other social media. i’d write the story up on glassdoor, any other sites i can find just to blast the story out there as much as possible.

      1. Observer*

        How slander? If this the email that ex-boss sent, then it’s not *slander* to share it.

        I wouldn’t do it, for a lot of reasons. But that has nothing to do with slander.

        1. Candi*

          I wouldn’t post it that way because it’s still the action of a couple of nitwits, not the company.

          I would post it on my personal media, maybe with the email copied and posted. It provides a record and a timestamp, especially since most forms of posting that allow edit post that it was edited.

      2. Decidedly Me*

        Slander (technically libel as explained) would require it to be untrue, though. Not saying I condone this however.

      3. from the govt, here to help*

        taking it to that level may be out of bounds a bit. but i would react pretty strongly to being threatened, and i would reach extremely strongly to anyone who threatened my family (and/or their jobs). i’d go nuclear. but (as others mentioned) it’s in no way slander if it’s true.

  24. Cheesehead*

    I would love to have the OP respond to the boss and say that she will happily reimburse the $48, but since she was never paid for the rental of her own personal equipment (keyboard, monitor, computer, mouse) to do the company’s work while she was there, she’ll just take the $48 off of the rental fees that they still owe her. :)

    1. SeluciaMD*

      I know it’s snarky and probably counter-productive in this particular instance, but I kind of love this idea.

    1. Mrs. Entity*

      I’d be tempted to obtain 4800 pennies, put them in a bag, and bring them to the AR manager with a printout of the email. And ask for a receipt.

        1. This used to remember my name*

          Or two! I can just about lift a box of pennies ($25) with one hand. $48 I’d have to split up and carry some on each side or I’d probably fall over.

          (But of course one wouldn’t provide a box of rolled coins in this petty revenge fantasy. Loose coins only!)

    1. Cheesehead*

      Good point! She needs to reiterate to everyone that she used her own equipment and nothing was provided to her, and say that if anything, they should be reimbursing her for the use of her equipment.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Maybe…. But a sane person would specify what equipment (laptop or whatever) and wouldn’t threaten to contact their spouse or FIL’s patients. And even if they thought the OP has other equipment and didn’t say what, the threatening to contact family and FIL’s patient still is makes this for a crazy letter.

  25. Hills to Die on*

    My ex-husband would have absolutely snort-laughed at the thought of someone telling on me to him. ‘Get yourself under control, woman!’ and then we would have fallen over laughing.
    This is fantastic and I would show it to everyone.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Yeah, “Of course I will share my sympathies to him and apologize to him for needing to concern him” – poor man, having to deal with the embarrassment of strangers forcing him to keep his child/wife in line.

      Such a gross mindset.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Even then I can picture a serf husband snapping “I hath been digging turnips for seventeen hours, Goodwife ExBoss, what doest thou want with me?”

  26. Hen in a Windstorm*

    I guess I must be the only petty person here, because the minute I saw “HR is hiding the fact that boss is secretly using company time for her own business”, I thought, “Problem solved.”

    “Dear Owner, please see email from Former Boss below. I never received any equipment from Company. In fact, I believe Former Boss’ threats are attempted retaliation after I refused to work on company time for Former Boss’s side business (Name of Business), of which HR is also aware. Please assure me you will address this immediately.”

    Bring it, Ex-boss.

    1. Coffee Bean*

      Speculation on my part, but I think that the former boss expensed equipment and supplies for use with her own business. Her demanding the lw “return equipment” is a bit of subterfuge.

      1. Boof*

        We could have multiple bad actors: maybe hr person spent a lot more money pn themselves, and is telling op’s ex boss it was for stuff sent to op (heck, maybe hr says to help with ex-boss’s hush hush business to try to keep it all on the DL)
        SO MANY juicy possibilities

  27. StellaBella*

    “Your ex-boss appears to be batshit insane.” has made my day. This poor lady and this crazy ex-boss. Jeeeeeeees. Great letter reply tho Alison.

  28. irene adler*

    That’s bats!
    I get that the OP doesn’t want the ex-boss bothering others about this silliness. But I’d be inclined to ignore things and see what drama ensues.

    But that’s just me. Don’t be me. Do what Alison advises.

    OP writes: “I used my personal computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse – everything.”
    And no doubt you paid for the electricity to run these too.

    Why isn’t ex-boss reimbursing YOU for the use of your computer equipment AND the electricity? I would think that cost far outweighs the balance of the supplies remaining.

  29. Dragon_Dreamer*

    The George Carlin Cheer keeps running through my head as I read this letter. I agree the boss is trying to throw OP under perhaps several busses. Looking forward to the update!

  30. HugeTractsofLand*

    I neeeeed an update! Also, OP, you might want to have your husband pre-emptively shunt emails from the ex-boss’s account into a folder. That way you have evidence if they escalate, but he doesn’t have to deal with it if he doesn’t want to.

  31. duinath*

    i just. i love how smug the boss sounds. like they’ve got a very cunning plot going here, a quite masterful scheme.

    like planting a dead rat on a chessboard and saying “checkmate” whilst evilly steepling their fingers. you’ve fallen right into my hands. my sticky, jam-covered hands. there is no way i can fail here, i’ve covered every contingency.

    sorry you’re dealing with this, lw.

    1. whingedrinking*

      No kidding. “If you do not accede to my demands to return the pens, I will use all my leverage. I will tell your new boss…and your husband…and your father-in-law’s PATIENTS!” It sounds like a line from a Mel Brooks movie.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Reminds me of Blackadder: “Baldrick, you wouldn’t know a cunning plan if it painted itself purple and danced atop a harpsichord singing ‘Cunning Plans Are Here Again.'”

  32. UKgreen*

    Alison, if OP doesn’t provide an update on this I assume you’re going to stalk her husband and father in law until she does?

      1. Phony Genius*

        That’s good, because if we don’t hear from you, we will be contacting all of your cats and their littermates.

  33. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    “I want him to feel comfortable in communicating with me should he have any questions of course.”

    The delusion is on another level here. Wow. I can barely contain my excitement for the update.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Oh, if I were him, I’d have questions. So many questions*. Boss might actually have some regrets.

      *none of my questions relate to the matter at hand, but that won’t stop me from asking. Boss is gonna have one long email.

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Right? My husband would be *very* comfortable communicating with my ex boss under the circumstances. BRING IT ON.

        1. Anonynonybooboo*

          Right? My husband would be *very* comfortable communicating with my ex boss under the circumstances. BRING IT ON.

          Honestly, this would fuel my husband for weeks. WEEKS. There’d be a group of friends recruited to help draft the questions, and a group text announcing the latest reply had been forwarded. Polls, votes on wording…the possibilities are endless.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Is the office religious in some way (the work I mean) so that contacting the male spouse, head of household, makes some sort of weird sense?

        1. Dawn*

          At the rate Twitter is apparently becoming unable to pay its rent, he probably would try to reclaim $48 worth of office supplies, just for the resale value.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Just read today that Elon Musk fired all the janitors in the NYC Twitter office by canceling the contract with the janitorial service a week before Christmas. The janitorial union says this may be illegal because there’s a law there about having to keep the current janitors if you change janitorial services (they just transfer as employees of the new company). (Presumably they should become Twitter employees if Twitter is taking over janitorial services. Except they’re not–nobody cleans the offices and the staff have to bring their own TP.)

            1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

              … nobody cleans the offices and the staff have to bring their own TP.

              So the CEO who insists! that everyone must work on site will not:
              A) Pay the rent for said site(s),
              B) Pay cleaners for said site(s), or
              C) Buy TP for said site(s)??

              The level of WTF with that guy is beyond astounding. If I was working for Twitter (almost interviewed there) I would be furiously looking for another job. Companies that can’t/won’t pay rent, janitorial or basic supplies like TP are likely to start bouncing paychecks IME.

                1. Properlike*

                  I heard about that and got so worried about our resident Twitter employee! Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me he wouldn’t keep his word about that either!

    1. ZSD*

      Oh, you just know we’re going to have someone much worse. “My boss put croutons in my salad to prove my celiac disease was fake, and now I’m in the hospital.” “My boss put cameras in the locker room to make sure we aren’t stuffing office supplies down our bras.” It’s coming.

      1. SeluciaMD*

        Anytime anyone here says in January “is it too early for worst boss?” it is ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY too early and the universe will be demonstrating that in spades in short order. We’ve really gotta stop tempting fate with that one…….

  34. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    This is so freaking … out of touch with reality … that even the Joker is mailing in from Gotham City asking, “What the heck?”

  35. Loch Lomond*

    I’m begging for an update on every step of this madness! OP please do exactly as Alison says and save a copy of all correspondence on this.

  36. Choggy*

    So wait, there was no specific equipment identified, she just asked that you return “equipment”? Have you responded back to ask what equipment specifically you are being asked to return? Could she think that you were provided some company equipment? I do agree the email is very odd and extreme over a very small cost of business expense, but I also think there are missing details.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think writing back that she doesn’t have any equipment covers that, though.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am also curious about the past communication and the email threads she’s referencing. Was this her first email to OP about this alleged equipment, or are there really email threads?

      1. Kevin Sours*

        While I would not assume that the boss is reacting reasonably in any aspect, it’s a little odd that the OP doesn’t address why the boss felt she wasn’t responding to previous communications.

        1. Observer*

          Assuming that there actually ARE other communications about the matter, I think it’s pretty obvious why there are no “acceptable responses”. Because the only responses that would be acceptable to this person is an agreement to pay for “equipment” that doesn’t exist.

          Note that the ex-boss is not actually even claiming to have emails exchanges or ever prior individual emails about the matter. They just say “email threads” with no qualifications.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            “I will have no other option than to reach out to your husband Bob directly as I can only assume that the lack of communication …”

            The boss was expecting some reply from OP on the subject and suggests some kind of previous communication that went unanswered. This communication may only exist in boss’s head but it’s a weird off note that wasn’t addressed.

        2. ecnaseener*

          When this was posted in the open thread (deleted now so I can’t check, but pretty sure I’m remembering correctly) LW clarified there had been no other emails since their resignation, boss just seemed to mean he’d attach random work emails to prove who he was.

          1. Observer*

            That’s what it sounded like to me, just from reading this. I’m glad to see that I got that right.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think the equipment may have actually gone to the manager’s house, and this is how she’s explaining to accounting why that isn’t in the office anymore.

  37. starsaphire*

    Loonier. Than. A. Canadian. Dollar.

    I agree – forward the email, CC everyone you can think of and BCC yourself, and then block her.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Loonier. Than. A. Canadian. Dollar.

      Wow. I was around when the loonie was introduced and I’ve never hear this before.
      I salute you.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Loonier. Than. A. Canadian. Dollar.

        That’s totally joining my lexicon.

      1. Enai*

        I think it would be more appropriate to complain to OP’s hairdresser’s dog groomer’s cousin’s gardener. Sympathies are very valuable, best to bring everyone into the e-mail thread(s).

  38. ChemistryChick*

    Just here to add to the “oh please please please let there be an eventual update to this” crowd.

  39. EverythingIsInteresting*

    I wouldn’t stop with an email. I’d send the same notice via snail mail, certified, return receipt requested.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      Ideally handwritten, in one of the “company pens” on “company paper,” and a recalculated balance indicating that OP has deducted the volume of ink and the price of the stationery from the amount owing.

      I mean, if the boss is going to get petty, I can show her petty!

      1. Ariadne Oliver*

        Yes – what would be great would be a letter written on the whole stack of company-issued paper – one word per sheet – divided among the four binders, separated by the binder separators, in the binder holder.

    2. Glass House, White Ferrari, Live for New Year's Eve*

      If this is the petty thread I would (in my fantasies) reply, CCing higher ups,”I feel you should be aware that some asshole has appeared to have hacked your email account”.

  40. A Simple Narwhal*

    Man, can you imagine having the time and energy to care about something this trivial? Surely ex-boss has more important things to do for their job.

    Eagerly looking forward to an update on this one!

  41. WindmillArms*

    This boss absolutely thinks you have something like a laptop or cell phone. Replying very clearly that you *do not have any office equipment* will probably put an end to all of this pretty fast!

  42. She*

    HOLY SHIT! I wish someone would try this with me, I’d be a straight up donkey back to her and copy everyone. I do not care. I hope she updates us

  43. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Interesting, I had a conversation like that with a former boss once! I assure you all that he was perfectly in sound mind. But I once had a chat with my predecessor in that job (we’d both worked as his admin assistants, but she also did some accounting for him) and she said something like “you think what you’ve seen of him is bad? Just be glad you haven’t seen his books”, implying that he was taking some liberties with the finances. (He was owner/director of a private school, but one that was heavily subsidized by our city and who knows whom else; on top of the unreasonably hefty tuition) Which makes me think that the commenters who suspect foul play and the boss attempting to cover up and blame the OP for her own financial messes might be spot on. Anyway, here’s how my chat with the boss went…

    (Eastern Europe, 90s, I get paid in cash. I decide to quit without notice on payday because I already know the man enough to realize that, if I give him two weeks, he’d make me work 24/7 for the entire two weeks and then refuse to pay me anyway. I get paid and immediately tell him that I’m leaving because my husband is now working two jobs and I cannot find childcare – just a lil something I’d made on the spot.)

    Boss “you have to give two weeks notice”
    Me “I’d love to! but I can’t. I have a toddler and no childcare and my hands are tied.”
    Boss “what about the computer equipment? have you returned it all?”
    Me, who never took any computer equipment out of his office “???”
    Boss “For example, do you have all the floppy disks that were here in the office the day you started?”
    Me “yes”
    Boss “aha! you lied. I took one home”
    Me “….”
    Boss “you are an unethical person and your sin will come back to you” (yes this is verbatim what he said)
    Me (leaves)
    Me (finds new job for 3x pay a week later)
    Boss (spends the next year looking for my replacement and unable to find one)

    1. Observer*

      OMG. That’s a hysterical story. And if you published it as fiction, you would be criticized for how unrealistic it is.

      As they say, truth can be stranger than fiction.

  44. Let's not name names*

    In college I was a PT receptionist at a company. There was another receptionist who worked more hours than me and was a bit older (not a student.) I got the impression that she thought this made her my boss, though she and I reported to the same person. She was a general bad actor, talking to the other PT receptionist about all the ways I was not good at my job, then talking to me about all the ways that other person was lacking, trying to dig up gossip; long rambling explanations and written directions for simple functions; and a lot of TMI about her and her relationships (I think she was under the illusion I looked up to her as an “adult.”) One day, I come in and there’s a lengthy email about the supply inventory, which she’d do, and how there was an “excess” of green tea. I was the one that placed supply orders so the gist was how terrible I was at my job for over-ordering and costing the company money, my lack of attention and disregard for the financial status of the company were red flags about my employability, and if I just didn’t care they would find someone who did—literally threatening my job! Mind you, this was like, an extra box of green tea, maybe 3 in storage when we’d normally try to keep 2, not like, I ordered a pallet of fine, rare tea and an accompanying tea master to prepare it. She also waited until I got to the office to send it to me the second I sat down, so I read it sitting next to her and I could tell she took a lot of pleasure in watching me react, which I was at a loss as to how to respond. I forwarded to my boss who took care of it, and it’s been years, but I still look her up on social media from time to time. I think she would be jealous of what I do now as it definitely seems like where she thought she was headed, but clearly lacked the people skills to really move up anywhere. She’s now a yoga instructor. Chill.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I would have loved simply deleting them in front of her while eating a bowl of cereal.

  45. Gail Davidson Durst*


    However, when I did some work related to collections, I learned about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act – a useful law when one gets a weird/aggressive/premature demand for payment.

    The Act is pretty strong against collectors, specifically forbids contacting the alleged debtor’s family, friends, employer, etc., and has a provision for damages and attorney fees. In this case it sounds like Alison’s proposed letter would suffice, but in general if anyone gets such a bananapants demand letter, it probably makes sense to do a no-fee consultation with a lawyer to see if they’ll pursue it for you.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Does that cover random middle managers taking it upon themselves to try to “collect,” though? or just actual debt collectors hired by the owed party?

    2. Curious*

      Unfortunately, FDCPA only applies to a “debt collector” — and excludes an employee of a creditor acting in the name of that creditor. 15 USC 1692b(6)(a).

      1. Someone Else's Boss*

        Absolutely true. I think this action would be covered by pretty run of the mill extortion laws.

  46. Petty Betty*

    This reminded me of when I left a long-time job and my co-irker “reminded” me to leave the pens our supervisor bought for us. Except our supervisor never bought my pens. In fact, since I’d started there 8 years prior, the company never once bought me any office supplies except staples and tape dispenser refills because I bought all my own. To the point that my supervisor fell in love with one of my specialty pens and started getting our company to supply HER with them (and our CEO, who also loved them), but still wouldn’t buy them for me or my co-irker. My co-irker was hoping I’d leave my 300+ colorful pens for her to use. Fat chance of that. They came with me. Some went on to my next employer, some got used by my teens (three are artists). Many got replaced over the years. Now I keep a smaller stash at work and have more permanent ink/marker pens on hand (since I work with mechanics and we are outdoors a lot). I still keep a couple hundred pens at home though. My calendar looks beautiful!

  47. Here for the Insurance*

    I would be so hard pressed not to respond double dog daring her to reach out to my husband. Who 1) would probably injure himself laughing at the idea that he has any power to make me comply, and 2) is a lawyer and lives for irrational threats of legal action. This would make his entire year.

  48. Fluffy Fish*

    I would NOT copy evil HR person nor wacky exboss.

    Something smells about this and I would not want to give either of them an inkling that someone above them in the company has been looped in.

    Send it to everyone in the company that’s above those two in the hierarchy if you want, but def leave them out of it.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Sure you could BCC everyone on your response to those two, but OP shouldn’t be engaging with them at all anymore. There is zero need.

        If one of the BCC’s replies all, the jig is up.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      I would absolutely copy wacky boss and HR, because it lets them know that their shenanigans have been escalated and they’re not just bullying an ex-employee anymore.

      1. Reality.Bites*

        I don’t think LW’s ex-boss should have the warning. Neither should HR. Go to the top and let them handle it

  49. Meep*

    (Not actual advice, but) Go nuclear. Send back a box of empty pens. Doesn’t matter if you have to buy and scribble until you are out of ink. Also let the owner know about her side business.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      LW should be kind to herself. Just remove the ink cartridges instead of scribbling them dry.

      1. Goody*

        Or maybe stick them in a low-heat oven* to cook the ink without damaging the casings. That way they *look* new but won’t write.

        *since it’s winter and LW can’t take advantage of a closed-up hot car in full sun.

  50. GreyjoyGardens*

    If I got some kind of rant on my voicemail or my email inbox about how my doctor’s thief of a daughter-in-law didn’t return $48 of office supplies, I’d treat it the same way as a ranter with a sandwich board on the street corner. I’d laugh, probably forward it to my close friends saying “can you believe this? KooKoo for Cocoa Puffs!” And then hit “delete.”

    Your ex-boss is making herself look bugnuts. I wouldn’t accommodate her. Whether you blow her off or lawyer up is your call, but I don’t think you have to placate the lives in the Crab Nebula person.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      …. but the one thing to head off is the wording in the email to the LW does not imply $48 of office supplies.

  51. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    I also want an update.

    I had the nonn-crazy version of this. Left a small company with no HR. I had a new boss in another city, and no process for out processing. I left my work provided laptop in my desk drawer, for lack of a better place (and we got desked, so if I wasn’t there, it wouldn’t block others). About six months later I got a cell call from my now former boss asking if I had turned in my computer. I just said that I’d put it in the desk drawer and made sure my teammates knew where it was. That was it. That’s what it’s should look like (aside from the complete lack of process).

    1. Observer*

      Well, that’s it’s own brand of crazy. But yes, at least your former boss wasn’t a nut-job.

    2. Meep*

      So you worked for us, I see. That sounds like our process.

      Minus the time our former “HR” rep (aka the VP who liked to call herself HR) shipped a non-employee (NE) one of our cheapest computers to help program an OCULUS (re: no graphics card let alone processing power) to run a game software the NE wrote for their capstone (Bachelor’s senior project) and promptly forgot about it until I asked where it was. NE had tried to reach out to her several times via email and phone after receiving this random package with a company laptop only to be told to “wait for instructions”. Luckily, VP is a dingbat and forgot to send the charger and NE knew VP was a dingbat so it was left dead in her closet until I reached out.

      The best part was VP insisted NE do this labor for free because we paid $5,000 to sponsor that capstone project and threatened to fail her two months after she graduated if she didn’t do it, and then just never followed up… Did I mention it had all our source code on it?

      It was from her I learned people are absolutely batshit crazy when they want to be.

  52. Empress Matilda*

    What the actual?!

    That’s all I’ve got really, except to ask Alison to add the “Wait, what?!” tag, because if any letter deserved an interrobang, it’s this one.

  53. Former Retail Lifer*

    I have a gross habit of chewing on the end of my pens. I’d be petty enough to buy a new box, chew on them, and send them back.

    1. Empress Matilda*

      You know, we could probably crowdsource some of this. I’m sure there are enough of us on this thread with half-empty pens lying around the house – and probably some of these pens have been chewed. And somebody must have an old binder or two lying around, preferably with “I <3 One Direction" and "Mrs Harry Styles" doodled all over it.

      What if we each send our used office supplies to the boss on OP's behalf? I bet she'd get more than $48 worth!

      1. showing my age*

        LW can have my binder from HS that’s covered in stickers and Panic! At the Disco lyrics (bc my parents never throw anything away)

  54. TootsNYC*

    I wonder what “equipment” this boss has claimed that she provided to OP, but didn’t–and took home herself?

  55. Ginger Pet Lady*

    I’d bet money former boss bought equipment and told the company it was for OP – but then siphoned it of for their own use. At their personal business. And told OP she had to use her own equipment.
    And now the company wants to know what happened to that equipment. And so boss is trying to threaten their way out of it.

    1. ChemistryChick*

      Oooooh, I wonder if you’re on to something here. I wouldn’t have thought of that at all.

      1. Despachito*

        If it was just to cover their own ass, why the threatening?

        I can imagine Boss writing a formal e-mail in such a case, and then blaming it on OP and hoping that the company would not find it worth suing and Boss will get out of it scot-free.

        However, this level of wildly inappropriate “investment” of the Boss does not sound logical to me were it just to cover his a..

  56. Free Meerkats*

    Having spent time sitting in Small Claims courts when I was unemployed as a spectator (hey, their AC is free and I lived in Phoenix), this wouldn’t be the stupidest, most petty lawsuit the judge would hear that day. Close, but not.

  57. MediumEd*

    This is varsity level crazy. Please, please give us an update!

    OP, hang tough, take Allison’s advice and this will blow over quicker than you think.

  58. Betsy S.*

    The letter references ’email threads’ . I wonder what is in those email threads and whether it bears any resemblance to emails actually sent at the time, or if it has been creatively edited?

    I hope OP has saved her email exchanges. Office supplies are not “equipment” and I would bet money that, as others have guessed, someone is trying to pin missing computers or other hardware on the OP.

  59. Starfox*

    My bet is that your boss ordered a bunch of equipment through the company, ostensibly for you but actually for her personal business, & is now in hot water because somebody realized that stuff is supposed to be available for your replacement but can’t find it anywhere, so she’s pinning it on you.

    1. Claire Beauchamp Randall Frasier*


      And your letter detailing the only thing you received was $48 of office supplies is going to put ex-boss in very hot water.

  60. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    LW, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to let your FIL know that some of his patients might be contacted by Batspit Crazy Ex-Boss, and show him a copy of that email. You don’t want him to be blindsided when one of his patients tells him, “Uh…do you know a Ms. LW? Because I got the WEIRDEST note last week from somebody who claims she stole $48 worth of stuff from her office!” Seriously – your FIL needs to hear about this ASAP from you and not be left with egg on his face if your ex-boss is just nutty enough to make good on her threat! (I’m assuming, of course, that you’ve already told your husband so that he can be ready if HE’S contacted too.)

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      Absolutely agree with this! It will help them shut things down quickly. And if FIL has patients contacted, he might be able to help you shut things down. I’d love a call from FIL to the boss telling the boss to absolutely, under no circumstance, to contact his patients.

  61. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    We insist on an update while we contemplate who will next bring cheap ass rolls at our own places of business.

  62. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    If you and boss are both in a one-consent to record state, it might be worth it to have your husband be ready to record any phone calls from them. Just because i would like to hear it… But maybe it also it could be useful if they threaten anything .

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      This was what I was wondering. The detail that suggests it isn’t some form of spam is the husband’s name, but the non-specific claim for “office equipment” and the over the top language makes me wonder if it actually came from the old boss at all.

    2. Rob*

      Yep, it really sounds like one of those scam e-mails, threatening to do some social stuff. Maybe calling ex-employer and clarifying wouldn’t be that bad of idea.

  63. Andi*

    I got out of a very violent and abusive marriage several years ago and this letter took my actual breath away with how familiar it sounded. It’s so specifically geared to make the OP feel powerless and silly, plus threatens to embarrass her in front of her family. I’ve gotten so many letters like this from my ex. Same wording.

    OP, I’m so glad you get the heck away from this person. This is not just bonkers, it’s dangerous.

    1. Marni*

      Thank you for sharing this reaction. I also got the feeling that this email was more about the boss being offended that the letter writer dared to leave the job, and is not “staying in touch“ with some kind of obsequious updates or taking on a role of grateful mentee, according to some script that the boss dreamed up in her head. She’s used to the LW answering to her as a subordinate, and trying to enforce that dynamic going forward. It’s ludicrous but ominous.

  64. Heffalump*

    If the ex-boss actually contacts the people she’s threatening to contact, their reaction will be a more vehement version of “not my circus, not my monkeys.”

  65. Kella*

    The really interesting thing about this to me is that the boss doesn’t appear to mention the equipment by name or by cost for reimbursement. At first I agreed with other people’s guess that perhaps she had illicitly purchased or lost some equipment and was blaming it on OP. But now that I think about it, that doesn’t track as well.

    If this was intended to bully OP into coughing up the money to cover boss’s mistake, then a dollar amount would’ve been named, or “You owe me 1 [fancy laptop]” or something. Being vague about what you want makes it hard to push someone to do it.

    But if this was intended as just a butt-covering email to satisfy the higher-up’s that something was being done about the missing equipment (that was actually the boss’s fault) and the email was *intended* to be for show only, then she wouldn’t have gone so far into crazy town in the email.

    1. Other Alice*

      My thoughts exactly. I would even include an itemised list.
      1 blue pen, cap missing
      Half a block of post its
      4 sheet protectors, 1 of which ripped…

  66. Retail Dalliance*

    I feel as though it’s usually several months at a time before I see a letter as absolutely insane as this one was. It’s such a rare and delightful treat. This was an incredible letter. This boss is an absolute LOONEY TOON. I feel like I was invited to a comedy show. Thank you for posting.

    And yes…the people will be desperate for updates…so please do keep us in the loop!!!

  67. E*

    Not a lawyer and I agree with Alison that this probably doesn’t need to get I to legal terrain (tho I liked above suggestions to have a lawyer send a cease and desist letter) — but to the question of illegality, if the boss contacted others to badmouth employee, could this not be considered libel or defamation of character? Jus t curious

    1. ecnaseener*

      Probably depends on exactly what he says. It would have to be blatantly false, not just overblown – so “LW has been holding onto company-purchased equipment for MONTHS, such appalling behavior, I’ve had to resort to contacting you because I don’t know what else to try to get this valuable equipment back” – not illegal.

      1. ecnaseener*

        (At minimum it has to be blatantly false, I meant to say. I’m sure there are other criteria.)

  68. ABCYaBYE*

    Holy Shit!

    I really want them to send you a prepaid mailing label for this. And for OP to send back a few random pens, half a box of sheet protectors and the binders.

    Honestly, all of this is consumable, work-related office supplies. The fact that the boss is pursuing $48 worth of consumables is absolutely crazy. And I absolutely think there’s some sort of CYA going on with the boss.

    It would definitely be worth copying EVERYONE above that boss and HR just to make them aware of the threats, both to include non-interested parties and to pursue legal action. It might help others start to ask some questions about what this boss is doing, and maybe uncover some of the other things that HR is helping cover for them. This seems like one of the most ridiculous things I could even imagine and I definitely want (no, NEED) to hear more about what else is happening in this workplace.

    1. Antilles*

      It isn’t even $48 of consumables given that OP says they used most of them! Like, yes, you can always re-use empty binders or the folder holder, but even so, there’s no way you’re getting enough value to break even on the cost of shipping.

  69. listen up fives, a ten is speaking*

    I couldn’t stop myself from laughing maniacally at this line: “Can you imagine being contacted out of the blue by someone who wanted to complain that your doctor’s daughter-in-law hadn’t returned a box of pens?”

  70. Zarniwoop*

    What Allison said, except I’d also cc husband and father in law. They deserve to be warned, and this will make ex-boss’s superiors even more embarrassed on the company’s behalf.

  71. L'étrangère*

    Frankly, I’d sneak in a little paragraph about “I already tried to get help from HR but they’re too involved in helping Loon conceal their secret side business”. Higher management needs to know about both these issues, because these are 2 extra serious problems here that they need to address. And Loon can’t really do any worse to the LW than they’re already planning, so they may as well be put on the defensive on more than just their mental health. So sorry LW, good for you getting yourself out of this hellhole!

  72. Jason S*

    How exactly is “Jane Smith” getting personal contact information about FILs patients? This seems illegal and a HIPPA violation.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I suspect this is either made up out of whole cloth — and “Jane” has no idea who LW’s FiL’s patients are — or she knows a few people who mentioned being his patients. Something like:

      Fergus says “I’m looking for a new chiropractor, do you know anyone?” at a party, and Valentina tells him “Oh, yes, Dr. FiL, over on the west side, he’s great, even has Saturday office hours” and for some random reason ex-boss overhears and remembers the conversation, which would be more likely if LW and her father-in-law have the same unusual surname, like “Warbleworth” or “Throatwarbler-Mangrove.”

  73. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    Unrelated to everything, but I’ve seen multiple manglings of the acronym this morning (here and elsewhere), so….

    It’s HIPAA. hipAA. Not HIIPA, and not HIPPA. It helps when you know what the letters stand for, which is:

    Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

    1. Jasper*

      Knowing what it stands for and remembering it is not actually easier than remembering that it’s spelled HIPAA, as far as I’m concerned.

  74. DramaLlama*

    I’m not a huge fan of publicizing things via social media, but I’d be sorely tempted to post this on something like LinkedIn and tag all the major company players. I’m mean, this person is already outside the bounds of any kind of professionalism, it’s not like a bridge can be burnt at this point.

  75. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    OP, like everyone else here, I am begging for an update as soon as you have any updates to share!!!! To borrow someone else’s phrasing, your ex boss is acting batshit bananapants!

  76. Gaudy Monstrosity*

    Oooh I would be so tempted to amend this line “ I used many of those supplies in my work” to include “for (company)as well as (name of boss’s side gig)”
    Surely if my boss asked me to work on it, it was totaaaaallly above board and everyone was cool with it, right?

  77. Jasper*

    I do note that the email OP has received, as far as is quoted, does *not* specify what it is about. It is entirely possible that the boss — legitimately confused or not — is asking for a laptop, a phone, 2 monitors, keyboard, mouse, and bluetooth headset, and not the 48 bucks of office supplies that happens to be what was actually shipped. Hell, for all we know, they also want a desk and office chair back.

    1. Cary*

      She might be confused about what equipment the OP has, but she’s lost any chance at resolving the situation with her I’m going to tell everybody about you threats.

      Frankly, I’m suspicious that the manager has been fiddling expenses and is trying to claim the op has equipment the manager used for her side business.

Comments are closed.