getting out of shared intern housing, why are so many executives condescending, and more

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

1. Getting out of shared housing for interns

I’m about to graduate from college and I’ve been looking at internships targeting recent grads, as well as entry-level jobs, Some of these, including one I’m very interested in, ask interns to share a house and do group activities beyond work-related training (cook meals together, go swimming). Which sounds unprofessional, I know, but is sort of reasonable since these internships are often linked to an undergraduate summer program (or even a high school program!) and are marketed as halfway between a job and a gap year.

For a lot of people, I’m sure this kind of thing is super fun and rewarding (I have a friend in one of these programs and it’s great for her). However, sharing a kitchen is an absolute no-go for me — I have celiac disease, which is an incredibly sensitive gluten allergy. Even using kitchen utensils that have been used with gluten risks making me sick for weeks, I can’t eat many items labeled “gluten free,” etc. I’m willing to live on my own or with roommates I personally vet and who know that they’re opting in to a strictly gluten-free kitchen, but I am not going to spend months of my life negotiating kitchen space with random teenagers who might forget that soy sauce has wheat in it, or absolutely need to bake a cake or they’ll go crazy, or think I’m making the whole thing up for attention.

Do you know if internships that expect this are legally required to let me find alternate accommodations? I’m worried that since this isn’t a traditional job, they’ll argue that living in a community with other interns is in some way a core part of the program. And how should I handle asking about it? My current plan is to ask in stages:
– by email before I apply, disclose that I have a disability that would affect housing arrangements but not any other aspect of the job, and ask if the housing component is considered a requirement, a perk, or part of compensation
– in an interview, disclose fully, and ask how they’ve handled disability accommodations for interns in the past
– during salary negotiations, ask how much they’ll subsidize alternate housing or raise my pay, since the posted offer plus rent-free housing is obviously a much higher rate of compensation than simply the money on its own.

It’s very, very likely that you’ll be allowed to find your own alternate accommodations; programs like this typically see the provided housing as a perk but not a strict requirement … and especially not a requirement so strict that it would trump a participant’s health needs. I can’t say with certainty whether they’re legally required to let you opt out of it, but I’d be surprised if they aren’t. Regardless, from a practical standpoint, they almost certainly will allow exceptions.

The most likely complication is that they might not be willing to pay for alternate housing for you, since that won’t be budgeted into the program’s finances. So go into it knowing that might not be on the table.

I wouldn’t send the pre-application email asking if they consider housing a requirement, a perk, or part of compensation — the person answering those emails might not know how it will impact compensation and it’s getting more into the weeds than you need to at that point. Instead, apply and include a note in your cover letter explaining you have a health issue that would mean you couldn’t live in their group housing. In the interview, explain what you’d need and ask how they’d handle that. And then if they offer you the internship, see if you can negotiate a stipend for housing, which may or may not be doable but isn’t unreasonable to ask about. (Or, if the housing stipend would be a deal-breaker for you, you could ask about it at the interview stage or even before accepting an interview.)

Also, you mentioned salary negotiations so be aware that a lot of these programs don’t do any salary negotiation; participants are all paid the same. But even if that’s the case, you can still ask about housing assistance.

2. Would I be a jerk for turning down lunch with my successor?

I just found out that the person who became my successor for a previous role is now my successor again for a job I left a few years ago. What are the chances? She got in touch with me to ask to take me to lunch to learn more about her new role.

I am normally very happy to talk to those taking over previous roles. However in her first time succeeding me, she ended up being let go by the board of directors after a disastrous few years were she burnt through half the surplus I had worked hard to build, alienated the staff, and fired (and then hastily rehired when the board found out) a key senior manager who was on sick leave.

Now she wants to meet with me and I have such trepidation about her being unleashed on another beautiful nonprofit that I adored leading. It would be out of character for me to turn down this meeting, but I’m also livid. We work so hard to build organizations but it always shocks me how quickly they can be dismantled.

Weirdly, our offices are in the same building so I will likely bump into her. And who knows, maybe she’s different now? Although I note she has not held a full-time position since that role. So, WIBTA for saying no to a lunch? If I said yes is there a kind way to be honest? Or is it worth saying anything at all?

You can turn down down the lunch without being a jerk; being a good person does not require spending your time in ways that you object to on principle or that feel unlikely to pay off in the way the person requesting your time wants. And really, since it’s been a few years since you left that job, you might not even be able to provide terribly useful insights at this point anyway (and you won’t know what has changed since you left).

Don’t get into the real reason though; there’s no constructive way to say, essentially, “You were a disaster at the first job and I’m concerned you’ll be a disaster at this one too.” Just cite busyness — “My schedule is packed and I’m trying to be disciplined about not putting anything else on my calendar, so the timing won’t work, but best of luck with the role!” And if you run into her in the building and she tries to waylay you with questions, you can always cite the passage of time (“It’s been so long that I don’t remember much that would be helpful, and things have changed since I was there”), which is probably true.

Also! If you can, try to move away from being livid. Her work was presumably a disaster because of incompetence, not intentional malfeasance. And if she’s a disaster in the second job, the organization that hired her for what sounds like a senior role bears some responsibility for that, particularly since she has a track record that could be examined.

3. I don’t want to tell coworkers my time off is for plastic surgery

I’m booked to have cosmetic surgery later this year and I don’t want my colleagues to know about it. I’m lucky enough to have a manager that doesn’t ask for details about time booked off, but any leave of a week or longer will always result in my colleagues asking about where I’m off to, holidays, etc., and I don’t know what to reply when this inevitably happens before my surgery.

I’ve been told that I’ll need two weeks off from work to recover, so I can’t just brush it off with “oh, just chilling at home and catching up with chores” and any mention of surgery will prompt a whole load of chatter about the state of the NHS (I’m in the UK), and if I mention that I’m paying for private medical care, then this just opens up a huge can of worms. So what’s the best way for me do deal with this? A blunt “I’m having two weeks off for private reasons” will NOT satisfy my colleagues and will likely just fuel gossip.

Is it an option to just say vaguely, “Just some medical stuff I have to take care of”? And if you’re asked for details, “Nothing I want to get into, but nothing to worry about”?

If not, then you are having a staycation, or your sister/cousin/college roommate is visiting, or you’re visiting family … whatever you’re most comfortable saying. You don’t owe people total honesty about things that are none of their business, and any of these answers qualifies as an allowable white lie when you’re dealing with nosy people who would otherwise push you for information they’re not entitled to.

4. I’m suspended without pay — but still getting work calls

I made a horrible decision and got a DUI after celebrating a recent promotion. I am full of remorse and recognize what a terrible decision this was. I was traveling for work and, while off duty, I was in a rental car paid for by the company. I called my supervisor the next morning, told him what happened and expressed my remorse. He shared that while disappointed, he did not believe this would result in termination and thanked me for notifying him. I have an extremely strong record with my company and am well respected within the organization and by our customers.

I’ve since been notified by HR that they are revoking my promotion and suspending me for 30 days without pay. However, I am continuing to receive calls — there are several big projects slated for when I return, of which I would typically be planning for now. Can they ask me to plan and work for these while being suspended without pay? I don’t want to be difficult and am fully accepting the consequences of my actions. I am taking every step necessary to ensure this never happens again. But is working for free a legal consequence? I am a salaried, exempt employee.

Nope, they can’t legally have you work while they’re not paying you. Is it possible the people calling you don’t realize you’re suspended? Either way, message your boss (and cc HR) and explain people are still calling you with work and say, “I assume that legally I can’t do work while I’m suspended so I’m going to explain to people that I’m on leave and redirect them to you, but I wanted to let you know it’s happening in case you want me to handle it differently.”

5. Why are so many executives condescending to workers?

Why are so many company executives so condescending to employees? I just sat through a town hall meeting where the CEO revealed that they changed the rules for this coming year to make it much harder to get a bonus than it was supposed to have been. He actually told us that it was better for us this way, like we’re stupid and don’t understand that they just want to pay us less. The whole time, he used a voice like he was a parent talking to a small child. Then the HR director stood up and did the same thing. Do they really think we’re that stupid? Why would they employ us if they think we’re idiots?

Power makes many people weird and out-of-touch and gives them an inflated sense of their own importance relative to others.

Responsible, thoughtful people with power will actively work to counteract those effects, but not everyone falls in that category (and even when they do, it seems to be tough to completely insulate themselves from power’s effects — it can be very Frodo and the Ring).

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed some comments ripping into and shaming LW #4, which I don’t allow here. Drunk driving is a very serious crime with potentially fatal consequences. However, it can’t be undone and their question is about what happens next in a work setting.

  2. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – if you are really very concerned about this person succeeding you in your role, perhaps you should have a word with your former manager about them. The person sounds pretty awful, and if you have insight about how they (didn’t) work out in the prior organization you worked for, you may help your latest organization dodge a bullet by mentioning this. Or at least, if she has already started, your former manager will know to pay close attention to her work and managerial decisions.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      I second this. I once heard through the grapevine that someone I had worked with had just been hired as the leader of a local organization that was well respected. It was a small community, and my friend I spoke with passed my comments on to someone on the hiring team, who called me for details. I shared my concerns about the individual’s judgment and trustworthiness. They thanked me for the information and promised to keep it confidential. I wasn’t surprised when the person they hired was fired within a year.

    2. I am Emily's failing memory*

      One note, that it sounds like she was in the ED role, so her former “manager” such as it was would be the board of directors.

    3. Beany*

      The letter (LW2 not 4) seems to indicate that the offer has been made and accepted: “I just found out that the person […] IS now my successor again for a job I left a few years ago.”

      While the company can probably fire without cause, I’d say they’ve committed themselves to at least trying the successor out. And for this reason, while I don’t think LW2 should have to meet them, LW isn’t really helping the company by refusing to do so; the new person is going to be doing the job either way.

      1. MsM*

        It may still be worth making sure the supervisor is aware of the issues, though. If the successor misrepresented anything during the interview process, that is something they might want to address right away. And if not, as learnedthehardway said, they can at least know what they need to be monitoring to make sure the successor’s really learned and grown since the previous job, or nip any emerging problems in the bud before they spiral out of control.

        I do think that approach does maybe argue in favor of OP taking the person to lunch and asking some questions about how the successor is thinking about approaching certain challenges or responsibilities, though. That way, if they’re seeing red flags, they can go to the supervisor armed with “my meeting with them didn’t give me a whole lot of confidence they understand what went wrong last time” – or, conversely, if the successor shows a lot of growth, maybe they can just let it go.

      2. Antilles*


        As far as I can tell from the post, OP isn’t normally in common contact with Successor and wasn’t at the first job when it crashed and burned. So it’s possible that there were mitigating factors at play that OP wasn’t aware of, in addition to the normal growth/learning process people have after they screw up. And as Alison notes, OP has been gone from this job for “a few years” so it’s possible the job has shifted in a way that Successor is a better fit for this role than she was for the first one.

        I’ll also just note that OP being this emotionally invested in her ex-role from “a few years ago” seems super weird to me. You no longer work there, not your circus, not your monkeys. Maybe they’re making a mistake, maybe they’re making an uninformed decision, who knows, but they’ve already made their decision and it’s Somebody Else’s Problem.

    4. No Drama Llama*

      Personally I’d be a bit put off if a former employee contacted me to “warn” me about a new hire. It might be warranted or it might not and it could sound like gossip or fanning flames for no reason.

      As Alison points out, the LW doesn’t know if this person has cleaned up their act, or, really, any of the circumstances of their new role. All kinds of things could have been going on when they messed up at the original organization. It all went down after LW left.

      I think it’s probably best for LW to let all that drama go but certainly avoid this person if they don’t want to have a friendship with them.

      1. hey y'all*

        I agree with you, too much like gossip. Judge the person on their performance, and don’t color your perceptions by these “helpful” people’s input.

      2. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Yes to this–I moved from one place to another, and a person who followed me from the first place to the second (actually fairly common in my small town) was someone who sat and chatted with the boss while we were overwhelmed at the counter. I bit my lip and didn’t say ‘oh hey you will actually have to work here’ and discovered we got along just fine. She failed to find another manager to socialize with and *did* have to work, so I just smiled and enjoyed it. Petty, but fun.

  3. Artemesia*

    #4 you probably saved your job by calling that morning; I know two people who were arrested in a pretty seamy bust — one went to his boss and laid out the situation and offered to take a leave for 6 months till his legal situation was sorted and received a lot of support and eventually was okay at work; the other, lied and lied and lied about the situation — he was fired.

    Hope things go well and you come through this process. You are lucky no one was hurt but you know that and your instincts were spot on about how to handle it.

    1. Jenny*

      Yep. My ex BIL was arrested for a DUI and the first thing I told him to do was call his employer. He did not and they only found out when his license was suspended and he was immediately terminated. Will it always save your job? Not necessarily but bad news should always come from you. Your employer finding out on their own is bad.

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

        curious, would an employer fire you just because you didn’t disclose a DUI and lost your license if it happened outside of work, not on company property/rental car, and you are not required to have a license for work? I know they CAN fire people for no reason but I just wonder why a company would?

        1. lilsheba*

          Because it’s the most irresponsible and stupid thing a person could do, and they would deserve to be fired, along with losing their license for life.

          1. sundae funday*

            I’m going to push back on this–only because of an experience that happened to someone very close to me, which made me realize getting a DUI isn’t as cut and dry as it seems.

            This person had been drinking the night before and was driving the next morning. Most likely, he was not impaired above the legal limit. He was involved in a fender bender (that actually wasn’t his fault). I’m not sure what made the police suspect he was under the influence, but he speculates that it has a lot to do with his physical appearance.

            Here’s the kicker, though. They drew his blood at the jail, but they only test to see if you’re over the legal limit if you get a lawyer and dispute the DUI. He talked to a lawyer and was advised to just take the DUI rather than disputing it due to the expense of hiring the lawyer.

            In the LW’s case, it seems really clear that they drank too much and drove. But knowing what I know now, it makes me uncomfortable to think of someone losing their job because they can’t afford to hire a lawyer to dispute their DUI.

            1. Najek Yuma*

              My cousin got a DUI when he was in his early 20s. He was at a house party, left, got in in his car in a public parking lot, turned it on, realized he was too drunk to drive, turned off his car, leaned the seat back, and went to sleep. He was woken by the police knocking on his car window several hours later. Since the keys were in the ignition and he had inadvertently left the headlights on, he was considered to have driven there and arrested for DUI. But he never actually drove. Similar to Sundae Funday’s story, the cost of hiring a lawyer was prohibitive for an early-20s waiter and he did not contest the DUI.

              So DUIs are terrible, they need to be prevented, and repeat offenders should probably be treated more harshly than they are. But everyone makes mistakes, and similar to most other crimes we as a society should ideally work on rehabilitation more than punishment. If someone’s job doesn’t require them to drive for work and/or they can do their job without a license, we shouldn’t take away their livelihood (which would honestly make them more likely to re-offend).

              1. Eric Christenson*

                I’m told that having the keys anywhere in the passenger compartment is sufficient for a DUI conviction in Virginia.

                1. Happy*

                  That’s true in a lot of states. I know someone who was arrested for DUI after drinking too much during a football game and sleeping it off in the car (while everyone who rode with them, including the DD, was in the stadium watching the game).

                2. Sasha*

                  Same in the UK – it is “being in charge of a motor vehicle while drunk”, so going back to your car and sleeping it off in the back seat is still illegal. I think you need to have the keys, ie you have the capability of driving. Putting your drunk mate in the back while you all wait for their taxi would be ok, as long as the person with the car keys isn’t drunk themselves.

                  Gets people every year who don’t realise and think they are doing the right thing (of course in reality if you are that drunk, it’s unlikely you’ll be ok to drive in a couple of hours).

              2. Artemesia*

                I was. foreman of a jury that convicted someone sleeping in a car drunk with keys in ignition. There was evidence he had in fact driven there drunk and passed out.

            2. .*

              And then you have my mother who totaled numerous cars while intoxicated and because of her wealth and privilege, wriggled out of all but one DUI charge. She even took me to a MADD (mothers against drunk driving) event WHILE drunk.

              So the law definitely isn’t applied fairly or consistently.

          2. DanniellaBee*

            That is very harsh. I know people who have a DUI in their pasts and each of them learned from the mistake, paid the fines, and turned their lives around. The DUI also had no impact with their jobs as none had driving jobs, used company vehicles, or were on work trips when this mistake happened.

          3. I have RBF*

            No, I can’t agree with that.

            I have a roomie who got a DUI. It’s part of what made her realize that she had a severe problem with alcoholism, and she went into rehab. She’s been sober now for over five years. She still has no driver’s license, because of the past DUI, and I’m not sure how long the ban is for. It is extremely inconvenient, and her having to go everywhere on transit during the pandemic has introduced extra risk to my household.

            They make breathalyzer interlocks for cars. I would be fine with requiring someone who has had a DUI use something like that for several years before allowing an unrestricted license. People who are unrecovered alcoholics can’t stay sober long enough to defeat those, IME.

            1. RLS*

              I agree you can’t always know so certainly. Well done to your roomie. Staying sober takes a lot of work and she clearly understands it was wrong.

            2. Ellie*

              Sometimes they can – I have an ex-friend who lost his license for DUI, then had to have an interlock on his car for 18 months. He is still, and always has been, an active alcoholic. I don’t know how he’s still driving. We’re not friends anymore.

              On the other hand, I know at least a dozen people who regularly drove home drunk 20 or 30 years ago. They’re not all bad people. Most would never do it now. People make mistakes, do stupid things, sometimes they learn from them.

              And yes, I know people who have been killed by drunk drivers too, many, many people. I don’t want to minimise it, but there was usually another factor involved – speed, youth, inexperience with a motorcycle, drag racing, and at least two that were probably suicides. There’s a lot of grief to go around.

            3. Aggretsuko*

              One of my friends said she has a breathalyzer in her car now after a DUI. So far she seems fine/not alcoholic as far as I’ve ever seen. Probably wouldn’t have known since I’ve never been in her car and I forget how it came up in conversation.

          4. An Extremely Fresh Start*

            Many years ago I was on a jury in a DUI case. The influence was not alcohol. The legal representation for the person on trial was …………bad.

            It was very, very clear that the defense lawyer hadn’t actually looked through the materials until right now in the courtroom, and he had no real points to make, but I had big questions about the evidence the prosecution showed, and I was not convinced by it (example: the prosecutor said that it was clear that anyone driving at 2 in the morning and sitting at a green light until someone honked was definitely inebriated. I was like, yo I have sometimes done that when I was tired, and while the argument can be made that driving while tired is also super stupid, like, sometimes you work a long shift and have to get home for kid reasons or something, and so you summon your attention for while you’re moving and let yourself be a little less attentive while you aren’t, you know? Anyway, the prosecutor’s position was that it was beyond doubt that a person who sat at a green light for 3 or 4 seconds was drunk or drugged. This was not the only point on which he and I were not of the same mind.)

            There was no breath, blood, or field sobriety test information presented. The officer called to testify testified that the defendant had bloodshot eyes and the car was smoky, but he indicated when the window was rolled down, he smelled cigarettes but was still sure the guy was inebriated and so he took him in at that time.

            So we sat through this prosecution and then the defense guy tried to draw a map of totally not the right place that this happened, made a couple of other poorly-conceived statements that at least didn’t help his client and maybe harmed him, and somehow did not at any point ask about anything like any kind of test result or any objective standard (I get that this could mean there WAS objective information that would damage the case but that the prosecution couldn’t introduce for some reason, but honestly I don’t think this lawyer was up to that much forethought).

            The defendant did admit that he had smoked weed the day before (so, 26+ hours before the 2am arrest), and did indicate that he had a prescription medication which could make him drowsy, but that he had taken that hours earlier.

            Then we went to deliberate. The other five people on the jury were on average about 40 years older than me (22). Of them, four held the following position: a person arrested for DUI is guilty. The fifth thought he was guilty but not only on the basis of his arrest. I made us talk about the evidence, for which two of the four tried to cajole and intimidate me (we’re going to be here all day, just vote with the rest of us so we can get out in time to beat the traffic; I don’t want to miss [event] tomorrow because you can’t understand basic obvious truths; etc.) to the point that I had to say if they kept it up I would have to go tell the judge about their behavior — this was very stressful and I felt very young and it sucked.

            Ultimately we did convict him; I concluded that I had to agree that if nothing else, being very tired, the prescription medication, the known fact that he at least sometimes did smoke weed, which was still illegal all over, and the less than alert behavior probably did add up to some significant degree of impairment. It has been 30 years and I think about him a lot, though; I think given the same set of circumstances now I would push harder on the people who didn’t understand what the point of trials is, and I would probably be a lot less convinced by the really poor evidence presented and a lot more aware than I already was that the representation was very very bad, which probably means he was not able to afford a better lawyer. I hope the whole situation didn’t 1. cost him employment or 2. create a scenario in which he was subject to a 3-strikes law or some kind.

            So: is DUI stupid and harmful and wrong? Absolutely. Is a DUI arrest necessarily? Maybe not. Is a DUI conviction necessarily? I mean, I have questions.

            1. Aggretsuko*

              When I’ve done jury duty, I’ve had this complete lying clown of a defense attorney for 2 out of my 3 cases, but mostly he just made up BS and lies. This dude, sheesh.

        2. Tired but happy*

          Some careers have a code of conduct with a duty to report any criminal charge, no matter how minor.

          I won’t do comment section fanfic, but OP could be in one of those (I’m in one of those. Even if, say, I was arrested for protesting and knew it would be cleared it would still have to be self reported. If I didn’t, it could lead to all sorts of stuff. Because of this I don’t do much boots on the ground activism.)

        3. Starscourge Savvy*

          I guess if I’m trying to look at it from an employer’s perspective, it could show a real lack of judgement on the employee’s part. If they don’t trust your decision-making skills, they might not want to risk keeping you on.

          Plus, DUI/DWI is a reeeeeeeeally fraught topic that a lot of folks have pretty intense gut reactions to. I can see it happening.

        4. Temperance*

          Because many people need to drive for work, or in the routine course of business. It sounds like BIL is one of those people.

          And this isn’t popular, but DUI is a common crime that also results in death and damage far too often, and people are way too cavalier about it.

          1. Jenny*

            I don’t want to get specific but part of my ex BIL’s job involved driving. They could have theoretically pivoted him to favoring a different part of his role but he gave them absolutely no reason to do so.

            1. Sparkle llama*

              Exactly, a lot of jobs involve some amount of driving and if you are forthcoming with your employer and are generally valuable they can arrange for you to not need to drive. If you aren’t those things it is easy to not.

        5. MassMatt*

          As others have commented, DUI, much less getting caught for it, indicates poor judgment, as the OP acknowledges.

          But the fact here is that the OP was DUI in a car the company was paying for, which opens the company up to enormous liability.

          When it comes to attorneys seeking to cover damages, who is actually most liable can take a back seat to who has the deepest pockets to pay.

        6. RagingADHD*

          I don’t think firing people for being convicted of a crime and failing to disclose it is “no reason.”

          A DUI is not a minor traffic infraction like a parking ticket.

        7. doreen*

          The thing is, your employer wouldn’t find out about a DUI and loss of license if it was outside of work, not on company property/rental car , you weren’t required to have a driver’s license for work, you didn’t miss work due to being in jail and it didn’t make the news – unless you have the sort of job that requires you to report any arrests. I have had that sort of job and while my employer would not have found out about tickets for traffic infractions, they absolutely would have been informed about an actual arrest, even if the employee involved was not required to have a drivers license. ( Those were government jobs, but the same is likely true for people who have other sorts of licenses such as physicians (although that may be that he licensing authority is notified and in turn notifies the employer)

          1. sundae funday*

            Ehh I think it’s pretty easy to discover someone was arrested without even looking for that information. There are tons of Facebook pages that report arrests and post people’s mug shots.

  4. nnn*

    For #1, how would you fit the note about disability accommodations into the cover letter? Where would you put it in the letter and how would you segue in and out?

    I ask because I’ve been in the workforce far longer than OP and it’s not at all apparent to me how to do it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Normally you wouldn’t raise disability accommodations in a cover letter; you’d wait until you had an offer (or if you needed them for the interview, you’d raise them while setting that up). This situation is different because it’s about this very specific internship program element, which is kind of its own unique thing. But for a regular job, no need to raise it so early. (And really, for this situation she could wait to raise it too, but it sounds like she wants to get clarity on the possibilities fairly early on.)

      1. Observer*

        I don’t blame them. Dealing with that stuff can be very rough. And although I would hope that any reasonable program would not make a big deal of this, well we know that not all programs are reasonable!

      2. Tinkerbell*

        Respectfully, I would avoid the word “disability” in the initial letter. The OP could get across the same restrictions with “I have a health issue that would prevent me from taking advantage of shared housing” and I’d be afraid that somewhere along the hiring chain, someone would see the word “disability” and immediately start thinking of all the ways they could get sued for not complying with ridiculous accommodation requests. An actual HR person should know that moat of the scarelore around ADA is urban legends and would know what they are and aren’t prepared to accommodate, but a lower-level manager involved in an earlier round of hiring might not.

        Obviously this SHOULDN’T be the case, but that’s of little consolation if you don’t get hired and are never told why :-/

        1. Tau*

          I get where you’re coming from, but wouldn’t “health issue” realistically set the same alarms blaring? I’m actually wondering whether OP could get away with just saying “Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to live in the shared accommodation” in the cover letter and only explain the details later if necessary.

        2. Mockingjay*

          That’s how I was leaning. Start soft/small. At this point OP is only applying, so it could be couched as info gathering: “are there other options besides shared housing?” Many applicants may not care for shared housing for myriad reasons.

          1. Artemesia*

            I’d wait till I was offered the internship and let them know you cannot be in shared housing. Putting this out up front just makes it likely they won’t be awarded the internship.

        3. Kb*

          “Health issue” and “disability” seem too vague to me, why not just say, “I have a severe food allergy that means I can’t take advantage of shared housing?” My daughter has celiac, and it doesn’t seem too personal or embarrassing, everyone there will know eventually. When she applied to a summer program last month, we described it as a severe food allergy, and it was no problem.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            I’d probably spell it out too, but severe food allergy does count as a disability (legally in my state, at least).

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Severe food allergy is also something you probably don’t want to keep confidential because it would increase the probability of being exposed to the food you’re allergic to. If nobody knows about the allergy (or celiac), they’re not going to watch out for cross-contaminating your food.

      3. AnonforThis*

        I have overseen a disability accommodation and the person in question raised it in the call when he accepted the job, then we followed up in detail (asking about really specific questions and showing examples of equipment for his office to get his okay) with an email. I do work for a large organization that has an specific ADA program so it was super easy to get the equipment/accessible office space/software we needed, but I thought this was an appropriate time to get specific. He had asked for some other accommodations before the interview (making sure the space we interviewed in worked) so we were aware he had a disability but not specifics.

        I don’t think you want to spend too much of your interview time hashing out accommodations you need as that puts you at a disadvantage to people who can spend that same time selling themselves. In my org, we are trained to not raise that during interviews to avoid bias.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          It sounds like your company is set up well to handle this, and for most circumstances, I would agree with you. But it sounds like here, the situation might be required, and even if it isn’t, part of what LW needs as part of their accommodation is tied in with the compensation, so I do understand why, in this specific circumstance, it would make sense to raise it earlier than in most other situations.

    2. Barbarella*

      I’ve seen online applications that ask whether you have a disability that requires accommodations. Sometimes people need accommodations for the interview, so it makes sense that companies raise the question from the beginning.

      In general, raise it as soon as it becomes relevant. If you need an accommodation for interviewing, raise it in the cover letter if there is no option to disclose in the application stage. If you wouldn’t need the accommodation until you start the job, raise it at the offer stage or in the final interviewing stages.

      As to what part of the cover letter, I would put it at the end. Like if you used telecommunication relay services, try something like: “Thank you for you time in considering me for this position. If there are next steps, please note that I use telecommunication relay services for phone calls.” Or whatever sounds less formal and stilted to you.

  5. Observer*

    #1 – Intern housing

    I hate to say it, but Allison is probably wrong on your legal protections as an intern. Because interns are officially not employees, they also don’t have most of the legal protections that employees get, on the Federal level. Some States have some protections, others don’t.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I just looked this up to be sure — paid interns are covered by the ADA; unpaid interns aren’t unless they receive some kind of “significant remuneration.”

        1. amoeba*

          But anyway, I understood from the letter that the programme is paid?

          “since the posted offer plus rent-free housing is obviously a much higher rate of compensation than simply the money on its own”

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Doesn’t matter since the letter mentions it being a paid internship, payment other than the housing.

      1. Nightengale*

        While unpaid interns aren’t covered by the employment wing of the ADA, I believe they would be covered by Title III which includes schools and “training programs.” This requires programs to make reasonable accommodations that do not create a fundamental alteration to the program.

  6. Observer*

    #3 – Plastic surgery

    Actually, setting people off on the state of the NHS sounds like a sound idea. You don’t have to actually ENGAGE in the conversation and add any details – just the occasional nod, mm-hm and / or “oh sounds rough” or other commiseration as appropriate. If they ask about YOUR experience, you can provide a vague “Oh, annoying but it’s all worked. Not something I really enjoy thinking about, as you can imagine! I’ll be really happy when it’s over and I’m back at work.”

    1. hellohello*

      This was my thought too – I know it can feel like you’d have to add details about your situation to these hypothetical future conversations, but you really can let your coworkers talk without giving them all your personal details. If they start talking about the state of the NHS, you say “oh yes, it does seem bad these days, such a shame.” If they try to ask you for personal details about your own surgery, you follow up with “Just glad it’s out of the way so I don’t have to keep thinking about it! Anyway, how about XYZ thing unrelated to health?” Unless they’re spectacularly rude, they’ll take the hint and move on.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think I understand the concerns about “state of the NHS” talk. Any mention of surgery and having it done privately is quite a divisive topic for most people – “going private” to jump the queue, because they don’t think the NHS is good enough, or whatever (assuming they don’t mention it is for cosmetic surgery since most “voluntary” cosmetic surgery isn’t covered on the NHS anyway).

      However it is still surgery even if voluntarily done, and if there’s any reasonable chance of it needing more recovery time, that could be quite an awkward discussion (and prompts the question of whether it should be sick leave or unpaid or what — because the argument about voluntary surgery meaning it shouldn’t be sick leave can also be applied to things like breaking your leg playing football because football also wasn’t a necessary activity.)

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I don’t think I’d mention having it done privately. I think it’s perfectly fine to lie by omission (I don’t even think it’s a lie, really – other people’s assumptions about my health concerns aren’t my responsibility) in this kind of situation. A lot of people like to talk at length about their own misandventures, so get them on the topic, make sympathetic noises, and deflect, deflect, deflect about your own situation.

      2. Meep*

        I thought American views on health care were all sorts of F’ed up. I cannot imagine griping about someone else paying out of pocket to get surgery faster. And we charge insurance $500 for an Advil over here.

      3. MassMatt*

        This isn’t directed at any single poster, but IMO this discussion of the merits and faults of Britain’s NHS are getting further and further into the weeds. Maybe this is something to talk about on a weekend thread?

    3. Well...*

      You could have a back-up bad NHS story in your back pocket to keep it going. Like, “luckily this time wasn’t so bad, but two months ago I went in and XYZ.”

      For inspiration:
      – doctors ordering and then giving wrong blood tests, nobody realizing it for over a month because they only call if they find something abnormal
      – nurse obviously showing up late for work and your appointment starting 15min late with the same nurse, no apology
      – is it annoying to anyone else how the doctor will order a test/procedure for you, and you get to the apt, and the person is totally clueless as to what they are supposed to do? And they ask you “how can I help?” Like… You all told me to come here, do you not have a chart? I’m not a medical doctor? Idk the exact name of the test?
      – I have literally called >100 times and just gotten a busy signal before i finally get into the queue to wait on hold to make an apt. My phone auto redials each time but still…

      1. Well...*

        Also this isn’t a dunk on socialized medicine. If lived in other countries that have socialized medicine and was very happy with the government provided, free healthcare. The NHS is another beast though.

        1. Jessica Ganschen*

          Something that I’ve seen play out before is that a public, government-provided service is partially privatized, it starts running worse, and the people who benefit from it being privatized try to convince everyone that the problem is not the private portion but the public one. It’s happening with the VA over here in the US, too.

          1. Avril Ludgateaux*

            ^^^ This. In the US it is the conservative strategy: choke out a public service (often through defunding), then use that service’s struggles to point out why it is a failure and should be dissolved (never acknowledging that the struggles are due to being defunded and overbureaucratized). They’re doing it to the VA, they’re trying to do it with Social Security and Medicare, the USPS, public schools…

            I am 100% sure that the NHS situation is a mirror image of what American conservatives do to US institutions. Even the rhetoric around Brexit lined up far too well with Trumpism.

        2. Meep*

          I mean… We don’t have socialized medicine over here and this all seems pretty normal. I recently paid $20 co-pay to find out that the OBGYN appointment I scheduled was in fact just a regular doctor’s visit despite repeatedly assuring it was a “lady parts” visit to re-establish BC. I waited 15 minutes past the time only to spend 5 minutes there and they still had the gall to charge me an additional $50 afterward for wasting their time!

      2. Bit o' Brit*

        If it feels bad to complain about the doctors and nurses because they’re also severely overworked and human, there’s still plenty of fodder in the non-human element. Like how NHS 111 is an online form that will tell you to go to A&E, and (at least my) GP surgery has a different online form that will say “we can’t help you, seek medical advice” (I thought I was?) and “book an urgent GP appointment”, then you do that and the actual human doctor tells you it’s nothing to worry about.

        1. Well...*

          Doctors and nurses are often in positions of privilege over patients, so complaining about their behavior when it’s unprofessional is pretty fair.

          I also think a lot of these problems are, at their core, procedural, and shouldn’t have fallen down to the point of human error entering in. They shouldn’t book appointments to start the time a nurse shows up to work, and the lack of apology gives the impression that they don’t really see that as a big deal (I almost missed a flight for what I was told was an urgent test I had to take that day, the appointment was late and took much longer than I was told, then the doctor had actually ordered the wrong test, and I didn’t find out for over a month. I had a sore arm from the blood draw on an 11 hour flight from an unnecessary test! And I needed the other test. People can die from that kind of error.)

          1. UKgreen*

            Quite. The NHS is a great institution, but as someone who almost died due to multiple instances of abject incompetence by its employees, treating it like a religion that is too holy to be criticized is a dangerous British habit that we really need to get out of.

            1. Well...*

              Also, like I’ve said, I’ve lived in other countries with socialized medicine where I have had to make serious cultural adjustments in professional norms. I had better care when I had a language barrier between me and my doctors! While it was sometimes frustrating, I never felt like my safety was compromised the way I do in the UK.

  7. Viette*

    OP#5 – I would offer that a lot of it is that nobody who’s prone to going up to the podium and saying, “we’re changing the bonus structure because it saves the company a lot of money, and we’re not interested in your complaints” is ever going to GET that job.

    It’s not simply that only sycophants and toadies get promoted. People who are prone to being blunt, critical of the company, and disinterested in toeing the company line are not going to be hired into positions where they have to represent the company to its employees while trying to manage morale and expectations.

    In fact, being genuinely honest and thoughtful about employees’ needs while STILL always prioritizing the good of the employer is a difficult task.

    1. Tau*

      But, like, there has to be a place in between just bluntly going “yeah, we’re cutting your benefits because we want more money” and treating participants like kindergarteners who can’t add 2 and 2. I’ve been generally impressed by how my current and last companies handled communicating even bad news. Example from recently: “unfortunately, the financial reality and constraints we’re operating under means that although we really wish we could, we cannot give you all raises commensurate to inflation this year. We are aware that this sucks. Our HR team has been brainstorming a ton and we’ve come up with XYZ measures to try to alleviate at least some of the pain, especially for our lowest-earning employees.” I really respected them for the way they approached that, even if obviously more money would have been better! If they’d try to frame it as “so you’re not getting raises for inflation but uhhhhh hey if you think about it that’s really a GOOD THING” we’d have been up in arms.

      In a company with a healthy culture of respect, employees will typically know and understand that sometimes the company needs outweigh the needs of the employees. Just, like, be adults about communicating it, acknowledge that you’ve had to make that tradeoff. Don’t try the stupid gaslighting employees into thinking it’s good for them games.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Back in a previous life when I worked in a Walmart, one assistant manager I worked for was terrific, in that he didn’t try to bullshit me. I remember one day when he came up to me and said “Richard, I’m going to screw you over today.” What this meant was that he was pulling me from my usual duties, which I would still be held responsible for despite being forbidden from doing them. Welcome to the wacky world of retail. By acknowledging this, he was both showing me respect and telling me that this was a considered decision. I loved working for him. The other managers, who would try to gaslight me? Not so much.

    2. Buffy Rosenberg*

      There’s a lot of room between “we don’t care about haha suckers” and pretending that the system is better and being patronising about it.

    3. NotBatman*

      People who have to apologize or give bad news are often motivated to soften the badness, because it reduces the discomfort for the speaker. Saying “I’m sorry you felt upset that I spent your pension” or “I know that insurance costs are increasing, but if you live alone then it’s barely $7 extra a week” lets the speaker feel better about themselves, without taking anyone else’s feelings into account. The latter was something our CEO said, and I think he wanted to think about it as “barely $7+”, because that’s so much better for his self-esteem than “we’re taking 28% of the paychecks of employees with kids to cover our mismanaged budget.”

    4. Another health care worker*

      There’s also research indicating that being in a position of power over others reduces people’s capacity for empathy. I posted a link in a separate comment but I think it’s in moderation due to the link. This info can be looked up in a search as well–looks like it’s widely published.

      1. UnpopularOpinion*

        Our CEO started doing monthly “office hours” (big company) in which he answers questions people post on slack for part of it. He is very dismissive and clearly thinks most of our questions are wrong or stupid. Let’s be fair, I sometimes agree, but part of being a leader is answering even stupid questions well.

        1. OP #5*

          We used to have a way to submit anonymous questions (and it was truly anonymous). The old CEO would read even the most stupid and critical questions/comments out loud during town hall meetings and would answer them respectfully. One of the first things the new CEO did was do away with anonymous questions after receiving some that were critical of a new policy. He said it’s because “we value openness and honesty, and everyone should feel comfortable coming to the executive team with questions and comments.” Yeah, right.

          1. MassMatt*

            LOL, a prior job claimed to value openness and so on, I went to my boss with rumors several of my reports were hearing about impending layoffs and my boss’s immediate response was “WHO TOLD YOU THAT!!??” And he then proceeded to grill me about who it was. Much subsequent effort was spent in deciding where the blame should lie in “spreading rumors”, and yes this was confirmation that the layoffs indeed were in the works.

            Same boss, when discussing our new retirement plan, said “it blows the old one out of the water”. I pointed out that the employer contribution was being cut roughly 40%. It “blows”, all right, he got that right at least.

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              “Being blown out of the water is fishing made easy for the fisherman holding dynamite.
              But it’s a helluva hardship on the fish.”
              -my old boss who said that, any time “New” was marketed as “Improved”….

              1. DJ Abbott*

                Don’t get me started. Marketers are changing the meaning of “improved” to “changed in ways that will make it unusable”.

                1. I have RBF*


                  IMO, “New” seldom means “Improved” and more often means “Broken in new and painful ways” or “Now unuseable”.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I laughed aloud at the part about critical comments vanishing in the new “open and honest” culture.

            1. OP #5*

              It was all I could do to not literally roll my eyes when he said that. Last year they started this new mandatory HR training for everyone in the company. It was all about how we shouldn’t “BCD” (blame, complain, defend). Which is generally a good principle to live by (and most of us learned it as children), but the way they’re applying it is truly awful. Any expression of displeasure is characterized of complaining. They always refer to the company as a family (yuck!), and I can’t help but think, “What kind of family do you have?” I know they’re envisioning themselves as the parents, and we’re the children.

          3. Another health care worker*

            That reminds me of the line in Succession about an upcoming meeting of the whole company and the anonymous question submissions. “Some of these questions are a little too…question-y.”

            A former horrible grandboss of mine insisted that we not talk about safety concerns over email. We should all just bring our concerns directly to management! Of course, we had been doing just this for years, and nothing had changed–which is why I started putting things in writing. It’s also harder to implicitly threaten someone’s job (illegal retaliation when it involves safety risks being called out) over email. But he didn’t think we had thought of that either I guess.

            1. Carol the happy elf*

              I did that, as the ambulance was carting off a coworker. Told management for the tenth time, then sent an email with all of the attempts to request a correct,
              Aaaand added, in big red letters

              CC: O.S.H.A, State health department, and the “Nosy Herald” Action Team.

          4. There You Are*

            If it weren’t for the part about terrible raises being announced at a town hall (ours are yet to come), I would have guessed you were talking about my company.

            Our Ask-The-CEO stuff used to be anonymous and our old CEO would answer pretty much any question sent in. But we got a new CEO 9 months ago and all of a sudden he’s reading the names of the question-askers in his town halls with 10,000 employees watching. Hell no, I won’t be sending in any questions.

            And I’ll be changing the way I answer our employee engagement surveys.

            What a great way to only hear what you want to hear. Yowsers.

            1. OP #5*

              Wow, reading the names?! I’ve definitely changed the way I respond to our employee surveys. I used to take it seriously, because I believed our old CEO actually listened. Now it’s just the bare minimum to get them to stop nagging me about filling it out.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I once saw the observation, in the context of Russian history, that after about ten years on the job, the Tsar more or less went crazy. This was not because of the stress of the job. That could not have helped, but lots of jobs are stressful. The problem was that the Tsar was inevitably surrounded by Yes Men. Even if he went into it reasonably well grounded, after ten years he would be completely out of touch with reality. See also: Vladimir Putin. I could mention various corporate executives as well.

        1. Skippy*

          Absolutely. I have seen more than my share of executive types who are completely out of touch with the lived reality of the people who work for them, which made it incredibly hard for me, as a department head, to successfully advocate for my team.

        2. JustAnotherKate*

          I’m sure this is true, and it also reminded me of the line from the play “Fiddler on the Roof;” May God bless and keep the czar [and, in this case, the CEO]….far away from us!

    5. Boof*

      There’s ways and there’s ways – ultimately though there’s no way to to make it sound good for the employees if it’s really not. If it is a clear business decision ie “our sales are down and in order to maintain good financial standing we’ve had to reduce our bonuses – top administration took the largest cut but we still have to reduce everyone’s some” (ideally with figures to back this up) then that can be stated, but “we’re doing great but we want more so we took it away from you!” is just bad policy and any way of delivering it is going to sound bad. At best they could get a hapless person who has no control who says “sorry this sucks but it’s what it is – I understand if you want to leave over it dust off your resumes and look around!” which… not gonna happen.
      I was impressed with how our institution handled covid austerity measures – they sent out an email, had clearly looked at the figures, cut retirement contributions and those at the top took the biggest cut, and cut those with the least salaries the least (or not at all, I can’t remember, I was in the middle group). They clearly stated timelines to reevalute the austerity measures and eventually put contributions back to where they were once things were running at speed again. It wasn’t pleasant [there were also furloughs etc, lots of services were delayed] but I appreciated and clearly communicated they were doing the best they could and there was an end in sight.

      1. OP #5*

        Exactly! If the company were struggling, I wouldn’t like it, but I would understand. A smaller bonus is better than no job at all. But the company is doing great! The way they’re supposed to determine the year’s goal is by looking at the company’s performance the previous three years and taking an average. Until last year, we did better every year, so every new year, the goals were harder. Last year was the first year we did worse in any category, and rather than following the formula and making it easier for this new year, they decided to make it harder anyway. Then they had the nerve to get up there and condescendingly tell us it was actually for our own good.

      2. El l*

        The executive team is making a huge decision for reasons they can’t discuss.

        That’s the bigger problem.

        That’s what their ham-handed attempts at messaging reveal. That they insult your intelligence is merely annoying; that they can’t actually say why they’re doing something is worse.

      3. Chauncy Gardener*

        THIS +1000! I’ve been a finance exec for years and have had to deliver quite a bit of bad news. OP’s management team sounds truly terrible. Boof’s sounds like they hit the nail on the head – transparent messaging, management taking the biggest hit and the lower levels taking the least. Perfect.

    6. Lasslisa*

      A lot of the time they’re so closely identified with the company, that they can’t imagine you wouldn’t want the company’s bottom line to be as good as possible. I’ve been in an all hands meeting where the VP of my org said we were overworked because we couldn’t meet job candidates’ salary expectations – not a good thing to admit since it’s basically “you’re all underpaid relative to the current market”. He went on to explain that keeping salaries “reasonable” was how the company managed to be so competitive and successful.

      Fine for a pitch to investors, I suppose, but there’s an interests mismatch with employees there that he just did not think about.

        1. A Person*

          I think part of it is that they spend a lot of thought, time and effort on how they’re going to pitch to investors etc – especially since their own incentives are often tied to that – and spend a lot of time with people who are also spending a lot of effort on the same thing. And so it becomes a habit to think that way and talk that way, even when it’s not really appropriate.

      1. C*

        Totally agree–it honestly feels like reality is warped. We had one year where management made a big show about soliciting feedback and wanting to hear anything and everything we had to say, only to be SHOCKED when everyone said “more money.”

        Their solution? A workshop on how to manage personal finances.

  8. Pudding*

    OP1 – my company runs a paid internship program similar to the one you described, and the housing element is optional, and a lot of the outside of work experiences are too. It’s not uncommon for us to hire interns that are local, for example, and they often opt to live at home instead of in the intern housing. Allison is spot on, the housing is a perk – ours allows us to recruit interns that otherwise wouldn’t be able to financially swing spending a summer with us, but interns making other arrangements are also acceptable. (I am not sure if we’d be willing to make/pay for other arrangements. Maybe? We rent local apartments for new relocating hires while they house hunt…it’s possible HR could decide to rent one for an intern, or at least hook an intern up with the same deals we’ve negotiated for ourselves.)

    My team’s intern last year had a volunteer conflict with all the after work events on Tuesdays, so he just didn’t go to them and it was fine. We’ve also had interns opt out of events for official accommodation reasons or just personal reasons and it’s usually find.

    1. BethDH*

      I do something similar, though mine is connected to a college for the housing. We’d actually be able to connect you with different allergen-free housing because there are other intern programs that use the same housing block and there’s a house that was set up as friendly for dietary needs a while back.
      I would be as specific as you feel comfortable with because if you say you have a “disability” without any more specifics, we’re going to have to spend part of the interview figuring out things like whether you could feasibly take the role that has conference travel as one of the key components.
      A lot of that interview is about placing you in a role that will advance your goals, and since we’re hiring for multiple roles that have overlap, there’s flexibility at the internship stage to match you with something that can handle the accommodations you need without you missing out on key internship opportunities.
      In other words, I agree that you have no reason to disclose at all until later, but when you do disclose, please just say it’s celiac or an allergy (knowing that there are people who discount celiac).

      1. anne of mean gables*

        I have the same reaction to “allergen free housing” that I do to a lot of “allergen friendly” food – a lot of times instead of just making something “gluten free,” companies or restaurants will make it “gluten, nut & dairy free, kosher & vegan!” to maximize the potential customer base.

        But from the individual consumer level, this kinda sucks. From OPs perspective, if I had to keep a vigilantly gluten free kitchen, I would not also want to cut out dairy and nuts (for example) in order to live in “allergen free” housing. GF is already a damn restrictive diet and I would imagine it might be vastly preferable for them to live alone than to live with other highly allergic folks with various allergies.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Yep. Gluten-free apple slices for my grandkids, and gluten-free raisins? Seriously? (They are not celiac, and loathe wonderbread, but seriously?)

          Also, disability, yes, but the wording I think you want is “Strict medical restrictions on my foods”, and strict cross-contamination issues on all preparation or storage areas.

        2. BethDH*

          Fair enough! Ours is set up around kitchenettes shared by 2-4 students so it would be rare for a student to have to share with someone whose needs didn’t already overlap with them, but I definitely agree about familiar kitchens/sources making the whole process easier. And about not pressuring people into situations where they feel guilty for turning down accommodations that don’t work for them.

      2. Observer*

        We’d actually be able to connect you with different allergen-free housing because there are other intern programs that use the same housing block and there’s a house that was set up as friendly for dietary needs a while back.

        If I were in the OP’s shoes and you said those two sentences together, I would know for sure that I could not trust the accommodations. “Allergen free” is not really possible because pretty much ANYTHING can be an allergen. Which means that you have to be able to make sure that the kitchen is TOTALLY free of any random item each season – A *different one* each season.

        What does “friendly for dietary needs” even mean? That you are not forced to eat the same food? Unless you have the ability to give each student their own *everything* related to food and insure that each student is the ONLY one with access to THEIR stuff, and their stuff only, all of this is meaningless for someone with the level of sensitivity as the OP.

  9. Chirpy*

    #1 – my college required most students to live on-campus for the first two years (main exception was those whose families lived within commuting distance, but they really wanted people to stay on campus for the culture). A vegan friend of mine was able to get off-campus early by writing a letter about how the food service options were insufficient to meet her dietary needs, and it wasn’t too much of an issue.

    1. rudster*

      I always thought that was more for students’ mental heath, since young people on their own first time can be prone to loneliness, depression, self-destructive behaviors, etc., and if you are in a dorm there is more of a likelihood that someone (RA, room/suite/floormates) will notice if you are in trouble, than if you are alone in your own apartment somewhere. At my large midwestern university, the requirement was technically “approved university housing” rather than “on-campus”. Then again, our campus basically covered the entire town, so no housing within the town limits, even private apartments, was technically “off-campus”.

      1. Cat's Paw for Cats*

        My university (circa 1978) only required young women to stay on campus for the first year. I suspect they were trying to ensure our virtue remained unsullied.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “No one ever sullied in a college dorm room!” the provosts assured each other.

          (Circa 1950 my mother-in-law’s girls’ dorm had a “rule” about one foot on the floor at all times, and it wasn’t because people in the dorm rooms might hold hands with their feet up.)

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            If they can’t figure out how to do other things with at least one foot on the floor, they are displaying a shocking lack of imagination. Surely the college experience is intended to provide the skills to solve a problem such as this.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          One of mine didn’t care (large university in big city). But the ones in college towns did for freshmen, unless they were older, married, part-time, or living in a fraternity or sorority house.

      2. birch*

        ….that is a wild assumption. My mental health improved tenfold when I was finally able to live alone. Not everybody does better with roommates, especially when you have no control over who they are like in a dorm!

        1. mlem*

          Oh, saaaame, but I think the logic rudster cites is what administrations think is true of all first-year students. (I’d love to see better alternatives to the typical “shove multiple strangers to share a bedroom, especially when they first arrive!” approach of most US universities.)

          1. mlem*

            (Hit post too soon.) You can have housing blocks that provide communal support without requiring everyone to share bedrooms, for examples. Opt-in suites, small single apartments, and so on.

            1. Silver Robin*

              My dorm was a bunch of tiny singles with shared bathrooms on each floor and a living room type lounge on the ground floor. There were only a handful of doubles. Sometimes those got first years and sometimes friends would pair up to claim them as second years. Still in touch with all those friends over a decade later so it certainly did not prevent socializing and we absolutely kept an eye out for anyone struggling as best we could.

            2. rural academic*

              Sure — but most colleges and universities already have dorms with mostly two-person rooms, and renovating them into a new configuration would be extremely expensive. New housing also costs a bunch of money, and tends to be highly in-demand. If a college builds a new housing block that is mostly singles, upperclassmen clamor for it and it often doesn’t get used for first-year housing.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                At a university I went to in a rural area but with a lot of students from a large metropolitan area, the (mainly) freshman dorms were tall, ugly, remote, & called “The Projects.”

      3. Anon for now*

        I always assumed it was for money. By having live in requirements they can make sure the dorms are full and generating income.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily that nefarious for many schools. My college is a four-year residential school, where there is a lottery for seniors to love off campus but otherwise required (there are exceptions). This is part of their advertising spiel and recruitment (due to the atmosphere and community it promotes), so students generally underhand what they’re getting into. Now, yes, they would lose money if the dorms weren’t as full, but that’s because the school is structured around this.

          1. Ginger Cat Lady*

            And sometimes it is about money! My daughter moved to a dorm that had kitchens, paying extra for that, because she didn’t do well with the cafeteria food and her dietary restrictions. But it wasn’t until after she moved to the apartment style dorms that she was told ALL dorm residents, no matter what kind of housing they were in, were required to buy a meal plan because “otherwise we’d lose money feeding the students in the traditional dorms”
            So she was stuck paying for a meal plan she couldn’t use AND buying and cooking all her own food.
            She moved off campus the next semester.

        2. Qwerty*

          This^ My university renovated most of the dorms to make them more competitive with alternative options.

          I wonder if it is also to lessen the housing impact on the town. When I lived in a college town, we had a housing crisis when students decided to leave the dorms. The residents couldn’t afford to rent anymore. Students were willing to pay more (by sharing bedrooms/cost), had lower standards, and would rent sight-unseen so landlords made more money while doing less upkeep. New buildings were designed for students rather than families so a lot of taxpayers got pushed out while the need for city services increased, causing tension between the town and university.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            A large university can definitely have an impact on local housing. There was outright chaos when the university I attended realized (in February) that they had guaranteed housing to far too many freshman and incoming transfer students…to the point where they enforced limits on campus housing options for anyone with > ::benchmark for upper classman credits here::

            In a city where people were signing leases for NEXT August in that September (so 11 months lead time or you were screwed on housing). Finding housing that wasn’t ridiculously priced, an hour commute, and/or did not meet local fire codes was not a pleasant experience when it was undertaken not by choice.

            1. MassMatt*

              This happened at my small college as well. It had recently been rising in rank on a widely-publicized list for quality so for a few years in a row they miscalculated how many students would enroll after receiving the acceptance letter.

              They required all freshman and sophomore student to live on campus, yet were lacking about 50 (and next year, 100) spaces. They made some larger double rooms triples (I lived in one) and had to buy some off-campus housing.

              People living in these off-campus college-owned buildings were in a weird twilight world where they were not in dorms yet were not living on their own, either. They were often far from the dining halls yet had to buy the meal plan. They had to clean their own houses (dorms had daily maid service for common areas) and yet would be inspected regularly by college residency supervisors for cleanliness, etc. It was pretty much the worst of both worlds.

      4. Samwise*

        Private apartments, even if they are right across the street from campus, are not on-campus unless the university has made an arrangement otherwise.

        I know this sounds like nit-picking, but if it’s not run by the university or contracted with the university, it’s not on-campus housing, which affects things like having RAs, being subject to the university’s policies on housing/student conduct/etc, and — if something goes wrong — having recourse through the university (or at it, if you;re talking lawsuit). We have a large housing complex literally across the street from campus, with a name that makes it sound like it’s official university housing (think, University Commons, that sort of thing), and every year I’m explaining to some parent that the university in fact cannot do anything about their student’s roommate issue, cannot move their student to another room or building, etc. Even if they have an exceptionally good reason, because they’re not IN university housing.

  10. RedinSC*

    Re: Plastic Surgery

    I had to take 2ish weeks off and work remotely for another week for plastic surgery. I just told people I was having a surgery for something that’s needed to be resolved since forever and doing it now. Then I changed the subject. When I was back and people asked how I was doing, I said recovering just fine, thanks!

    I KNOW people wanted to know what surgery I had, but I was also not going to tell my coworkers it was cosmetic surgery and no one actually asked outright. So, be vague or not – health issue, surgery, etc. And then just don’t engage.

    1. A Becky*

      It sounds like it’s more about heading off the equivalent of that one guy who talks about “Medicare for all!!1!!!11!” every time anything health related comes up, except that it’s everybody, and saying “oh I paid out of pocket” would also attract a lot of comment.

      1. londonedit*

        In the UK we have a lot of strike action happening among health care workers (nurses, junior doctors, ambulance staff etc) so it’s a hot topic. The NHS has been chronically underfunded for years by the Conservative government and as such is at breaking point, and there are many people who will definitely take any chance they can to start talking about the NHS and its current situation. The issue of private healthcare is also a cultural hot potato here, because the existence of private healthcare alongside the NHS creates a two-tier system where people who can afford health insurance, or can afford to pay to ‘go private’, can access appointments and procedures far quicker than NHS patients. There are definitely people who would take against the idea of someone ‘jumping the queue’ by going private for a medical procedure. So I can absolutely see why, in the case of cosmetic surgery, the OP wouldn’t want to open that can of worms at all.

        1. Smithy*

          I think when an issue is more culturally loaded, wanting to avoid it at work entirely means finding either a white lie or open lie that you’re most comfortable with to be easiest.

          I’m Jewish and have found that over the years, I will inevitably work with people who find the idea of me being “alone on Christmas” as deeply uncomfortable (for them). It’s certainly not all coworkers, but it’s something I’ve encountered often enough that having some kind of “hanging with friends” answer ready to go – no matter how false, is better for me socially at work. Sometimes I’ll pick an activity I’m doing on December 23rd or 27th, sometimes it’ll just be something like “seeing a movie with a friend” that has no basis in reality. But I know no one will check and the truth is more culturally uncomfortable than explaining it’s not a holiday I celebrate, and don’t mind a quiet 48 hours or so if nothing makes sense to do.

          I’m sure there are other Jewish people who haven’t had this experience, hate lying, and/or feel better highlighting their lived experience in the workplace as a Jewish person. But that’s not how I feel. If the OP doesn’t want to engage with NHS discussion – then find another staycation style excuse. I think something more administrative based, such as helping a relative or family friend who’s “going through some stuff”. That can be vague or implied to include moving/downsizing or whatever.

        2. MK*

          But “jumping the queue” is inaccurate. A person who opts out of the public healthcare system to go private won’t be receiving care before others who have been waiting longer, they are joining a different queue.

          1. Boof*

            It sounds like the equivalent of taking a private highway and paying the toll vs “avoid tolls” GPS – yes we could argue endlessly about whether there should be a private toll road at all but if it’s worth it to you to use it why the heck not

            … not that this helps the OP just dodge the questions with a breezy and vague answer!

          2. UKDancer*

            Yes. I mean, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take yourself out of the queue on occasion. I’d always go to the NHS in an emergency but the waiting lists for routiune things can be really long. Sometimes the alternative is waiting in pain for something. My mother could have waited 2 years in pain for what was considered a routine operation or had it in 2 weeks privately. I’d argue that the NHS should be better funded so nobody waits 2 years in pain but it’s not so we have to deal with real events.

            1. londonedit*

              I agree. My mum paid privately for non-emergency surgery a few years ago because the NHS waiting list was nearly a year long and by going private she had her surgery within a month, and it vastly improved her quality of life. As I said below, you could also argue that by doing so she freed up a place on the NHS list so that everyone below her could move up one place in the queue. The fundamental argument of course is that no one should have to do that, because the government shouldn’t be trying to systematically dismantle the NHS so they can sell off private healthcare contracts to their mates. But as you say, we are where we are and you can’t blame people for taking the private option if they can afford it. The NHS is incredible for many, many things (every member of my family has benefited and is still benefiting from both emergency and ongoing NHS care of a brilliant standard, and I don’t want to live in a country where people can’t afford to call an ambulance or take necessary medication). But routine non-emergency waiting lists can be long, and if there’s an option to avoid waiting longer than necessary, people are going to take it.

          3. londonedit*

            They’re still joining a different queue that gets them seen and treated more quickly (usually by the same doctors they’d have seen on the NHS) because they have the money to join that queue when others don’t. Some people in the UK don’t have an issue with that (and in fact there’s an argument that if you can pay to go private, do so, because it frees up space on the NHS) but some people do object to the fact that if you throw money at the issue you can access treatment earlier than if you’re not able to.

            I will defend the NHS to the death and I think it does an absolutely amazing job, but the fact is that it’s always going to be a massively hot topic and I can understand why someone might not want to bring up the whole issue at work. And the way things are, simply talking about the medical treatment you’re currently getting is going to bring up the whole issue.

          4. Chikkka*

            No, that’s not quite correct – and I wish non-Brits wouldn’t comment.

            What Americans don’t understand is that the British system is entirely set up to be socialised. If you pay privately, you may very well be seen in an NHS hospital with NHS doctors, who take private patients on the side to earn extra money. (Meaning they’re spending less time treating NHS patients.) You’re not necessarily in a private hospital with a private doctor who has nothing to do with the NHS.

            Yes, private hospitals exist, but they actually tend to be less advanced medically than the NHS because the NHS is where major research is happening. The really big hospitals are all NHS. Hospitals that solely treat private patients are often really small and I’ve never come across a private hospital that had an A&E department (Emergency Room). They do exist but it’s rare.

            Like if you want a nose job then obviously that can be done privately in a private hospital and it’s no big deal. If you need a kidney transplant or brain surgery, even if you pay you’re going to end up having the surgery done in a major NHS hospital with an NHS surgeon because if something goes wrong, there’s an entire emergency department, there’s an intensive care department, and all the stuff that private hospitals don’t have.

            For example my local NHS hospital is Northwick Park which is one of the finest and most cutting edge research hospitals in England. World leaders fly to have treatment and surgery there. If you wanted the best treatment that’s where you’d go, not some tiny frou frou private hospital that’s basically a posh hotel with nurses.

            So it’s not like driving on a different highway at all, it’s more like they close one lane of the highway to people who pay, and sometimes regularly highway workers stop what they’re doing to exclusive tend to people who pay meaning all the people who don’t pay have to wait.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              So it’s like the carpool lanes in California, then.

              They’re closed unless you pay (or have 3 passengers, which is pretty much nobody), and most of the time they’re not functional anyhow while CalTrans workers putter with them instead of fixing potholes in the rest of the freeway.

          5. Chikkka*

            As a Brit that’s just not correct. Many private patients are treated in NHS hospitals using NHS doctors (who see private patients on the side) and using NHS resources.

            You wouldn’t have very risky major surgery in a private hospital even if you paid since private hospitals rarely have Emergency Rooms.

    2. Storm in a teacup*

      I think in the UK though a lot of people would be surprised you’re not taking sick leave for any op.
      Maybe a white lie of visiting family or DIY projects (builders are so expensive these days I’m saving money to sort it out myself) may be a better way to go to avoid any discussions you don’t want to have.
      Also as an ex- NHS employee (20 years before I left) I wanted to say to the above thread which got locked – yes some nhs staff are fantastic and others are incompetent (thankfully a minority) and the systemic issues and chronic underfunding by the Tories mean the nhs is in one of the worst predicaments it’s ever been. But don’t assume a private system is the answer or the model we should follow, despite the Tory propaganda we get.
      There’s a lot we can learn from the Singaporean, Scandinavian or Australian or Canadian models. But they all spend more on health per capita than the uk does. As the saying goes, you cannot get something for nothing.

  11. GythaOgden*

    The only time you’d need to notify in the UK is if you were using sick leave. I’d imagine cosmetic surgery involves AL, though, since it’s not going to be seen as being ill or going through medically necessary surgery, so you probably won’t need to let your management know for reporting purposes or for the purposes of supplying a doctor’s note, unless something goes wrong. I would key people in on a need to know basis — just in case something does go wrong and you need to extend your leave — but with colleagues I’d definitely be cagey. (We lower paid NHS staff got a 10% pay rise but the better off are the ones striking.)

    However, were it non-cosmetic surgery, OP would actually have to disclose at least via a doctors note. I was off for two weeks recently with flu; doctors notes can now be ordered and delivered online rather than come about as a result of a direct consultation and then picked up, but they are mandatory where I work. Reporting by the company is also usually important, because they need to be aware of medical issues that require time off, and adapt/adjust as necessary. The culture here is not as flexible — what we gain in generosity*, we lose in flexibility. Management have a lot of discretion — my old manager didn’t require doctor’s notes, but my current management tightened things up because we merged upwards into a national organisation rather than just a local trust.

    *even that generosity depends a lot on the company you work for. There is statutory sick pay and sick leave, but a lot of small firms don’t pay anything more than that and make people take the first few days unpaid. SSP is very ungenerous, and generally speaking even with my lavish allowance, we have to keep in touch with management, fill in forms even for a single day off, and after a few months you’d be having conversations about whether you could come back or not.

    It’s definitely not a bed of roses!

    1. bamcheeks*

      I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t use sick leave simply because it’s cosmetic surgery. You’re still medically unable to come to work!

      1. Healthcare Manager*

        The point GythaOgden is making is that in the UK you have to reveal what your sickness is to get sick leave. You can’t be vague and say ‘sick’ you HAVE to say what sickness, and a doctors note is required for longer than 5 days stating why too. Therefore some employers might say cosmetic surgery is not eligible for sick leave and need to use annual leave. I don’t agree with this, but I can imagine it happening.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I am in the UK. I’ve never worked anywhere where you’d need a more specific doctors note than, “X will be recovering from surgery 16-31 March”.

      2. DistantAudacity*

        Because, if it’s not deemed medically necessary, you would not be able to take formal sick leave. Formal sick leave comes with duties and obligations on how you are paid during your sick leave (usually some sort of split between the employer and the state/social security depending on how long you are out etc).
        This only applies to things that comes with a doctor’s note deeming it medically necessary.

        For an entirely voluntary procedure you would need to take a leave of absence/use vacation days or something similar.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, same in Switzerland – we need a doctor’s note for anything more than 3 days, although that depends on the employer – some require it for more than one day, some even from the first day, although that’s luckily pretty rare. Although here, the doctor’s note does not include the reason, so you wouldn’t need to disclose to the employer (it literally just states “sick”). But of course, you need a doctor to write you one and I’m assuming a cosmetic surgeon wouldn’t?

          1. Irish Teacher*

            That’s pretty much the same as…my job at least. I don’t know how much of it is Irish law and how much is public service internal rules, but we need a “cert” for anything over three days and generally, they will just say something like “x has been treated in such a hospital/surgery and will need a minimum of however long off.” When I was in hospital, they specifically reassured me that they would not give any details beyond the fact that I had been treated in the hospital, even though I had had my thyroid removed, which isn’t something I would care about my employer knowing (and I had, in fact, told the principal myself).

            1. amoeba*

              Just checked it again and in Germany and Switzerland, you don’t get a doctor’s note for procedures that aren’t medically necessary. (If there are complications that make recovery take longer than planned, you do get one, however).

              1. bamcheeks*

                Wow! A drs note in the UK is simply confirmation that you’re medically unfit for work. It wouldn’t include any judgment on whether the procedure was medically necessary.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                I also looked it up for DE (because I was surprised). Amoeba is right. The logic is that if the procedure isn’t covered by health insurance, then the recovery isn’t covered either (health insurance pays for sick leave).

                1. amoeba*

                  Not that it’s important in this case, but only after six weeks (per sickness) – until then the employer pays, right?

                2. bamcheeks*

                  Yeah, I can’t think of any infrastructure like that that would decide whether something is medically necessary or not here— you can go private for medically necessary surgery, so whether it’s available on the NHS isn’t a guide. So any employer that wanted to distinguish would be having to make medical assessments themselves, which I think would get you into hot water very very quickly!

          2. RedinSC*

            My plastic surgeon said he would write me a doctor’s note if I needed more time than I had originally requested off. But it sounds like in the US it’s different. Employers can require them, but they just need the doctor to say, she’s sick, not coming in until X date.

        2. UKgreen*

          This would very much depend on the employer. Where I work one might be expected to take AL to have the surgery itself, but ‘recovery from surgery’ would very much be accepted as a reason for sick leave (on company sick pay – which is up to a year on full pay, depending on length of service – not SSP) as a doctor’s note should recovery need more than the 5 working days that can be self-certified.

          1. GythaOgden*

            That’s generous!

            My experience is with firms that don’t pay anything unless they have to. My late husband’s BFF got a bit caught when he got covid. He was paid well enough not to qualify for the hardship allowance for self-isolating, but only paid the £150pw SSP for the ten days he had to take off. He works as a carpenter for a small firm of artisanal builders who do historical building restoration, and so not only couldn’t work from home but was in and out of a lot of different houses and was at higher risk — but since his trade wasn’t something he could do at home or from one particular office, there was nothing much he could do.

            Meanwhile, my late husband worked for a small landscaping company as an administrator/office manager. His firm paid out at their own discretion. They did cover his full pay while he was off for an op on his kidney, but could only offer SSP when he was signed off for six months after seizures due to his cancer invading his brain. They paid for his treatment days before he became too sick to work, but six months was too long to keep him on full pay when they needed a replacement.

            So it varies a lot, particularly in smaller firms.

        3. Waiting to go in for surgery*

          I think it even depends on the type of voluntary surgery. I’m waiting to go in for two elective operations (but not cosmetic ops) and I’ve been told as it was recommended to me by a medical professional (even although I have to pay privately) I will get to use sick leave. Which I am glad about as I’m not sure how much time off I will need.

        4. bamcheeks*

          Everywhere I’ve worked, if you had a sick note saying, “X will be recovering from surgery 16-31st March” would be perfectly sufficient to cover sick leave, and you wouldn’t need to specify the type of surgery and why you were having it.

          Generally speaking, an employer wouldn’t want to get into the weeds of “did you really need this surgery or not” because it’s going to get horrendously messy very quickly! It’s not like there’s a bright dividing line between “medically necessary” and “cosmetic”.

          1. doreen*

            I think there actually is a bright dividing line between “medically necessary” and “cosmetic” but there’s less of a bright line between “plastic surgery” and “cosmetic surgery” in that plastic surgery includes cosmetic surgery. But there’s a clear dividing line between surgery performed to correct a breathing problem and surgery performed to improve the appearance of your nose. My employer didn’t care about the difference – I could have taken sick leave for cosmetic surgery but I could only take the sick leave I had accrued. My guess is that the rules are different where sick leave is not accrued – I know that my state disability plan does not pay benefits for non-medically necessary surgery and I’m guessing that government jobs that provide unlimited sick leave do not allow it for non-medically necessary surgery.

            1. bamcheeks*

              There’s a clear line between those two examples. But there are a lot of places where it’s much less clear— breast reduction? Breast reconstruction after cancer? Skin grafts or reconstructions after burns? IVF? Facial feminisation surgery?

              If you’ve got an insurance system or some other kind of bureaucratic system to decide whether an individual procedure is medically necessary try or not, then yes, an employer can just draw on that system’s definitions of what’s medically necessary and what isn’t. But we don’t have that on the UK: it’s mostly going to come down to what any individual doctor will sign off as “has had surgery, needs to recover” without saying whether the surgery was medically necessary. If an employer wants to start deciding what is and isn’t medically necessary, they’re going to open up all sorts of very complicated cans of worms and the savings from what is a very rare occurrence— purely cosmetic surgery— is unlikely to be worth all the extra admin.

  12. Laure001*

    Ha. Frodo and the ring. I love when people see the world through a fairytale filter, this is my way or considering things.

    In my experience, this attitude, people being spiteful or condescending to their employees, also comes from family education. Some people are trained by their parents, consciously or not, to see the others as “lesser” and it carries into their adult life.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Unfortunately, I am currently dealing with a new manager (both as a manager & to my office), & I think this is their belief. Apparently, being a manager automatically makes you smarter and more knowledgeable, even more so than SMEs who have been doing the work for years. Who knew?

      1. Laure001*

        People like that generally autodestruct, because everyone ends up hating them.

        Also, I love your username!

    2. OP #5*

      It’s weird, this CEO has been with the company for decades and actually started out as a non-management employee. I don’t know, maybe that makes him think he’s better than us, because he was able to work his way up in a way that most of us never will. I don’t know what the HR director’s problem is.

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    LW3, why couldn’t you say “just chilling at home and catching up with chores” for a two week recovery period? Is that an usually long break in your field? I’m a teacher so our breaks are different, obviously and that is regularly my truthful response for the two-week Easter holidays. I wouldn’t even bat an eye if somebody said it for the three month long summer break. But I guess as you have to get it approved, it may be hard to get it off without a reason?

    1. GythaOgden*

      For two weeks off in a non-education firm, generally the (legally non-enforceable, but) ‘done thing’ is that you need to give twice as much notice for time off as you’re taking. A long absence, like two weeks, in our NHS employer, would require 8 weeks for this sort of period, but admittedly we’re facilities and thus would need to have coverage in place for longer absences.

      Britain has a lot of bureaucracy surrounding all this compared to the US! We like documentation and noting things down and having clear rules, even if we share the American ‘everything not expressly prohibited is allowed’ culture rather than the reverse.

      I would think that this situation — where you might have a reasonably predictable recovery but complications could arise and require longer — would need a heads-up to management. Staycationing usually doesn’t result in longer time off the way the complications of surgery might! We have a fairly open office situation where I don’t mind sharing stuff with my team, mostly because anything that does go wrong — like me taking a week’s holiday ends in catching a nasty, nasty bug on the way home from the airport! — needs to be covered by those still at work. My colleague fell sick the week of my MIL’s funeral and we had to leave the reception unattended for that particular day; we can do that for a day or two but not for much longer. I even started as a temp for someone on long term sick leave who resigned once her months of full pay came to an end.
      Management generally like to be kept in the loop. They shouldn’t gossip about it, but a team works best if they know when so and so is likely to be back.

      So in theory, no, colleagues shouldn’t have to know and OP can avoid arguments about the NHS, which in this case really wouldn’t apply because the NHS doesn’t fund elective cosmetic surgery, and sidestep conversations about cosmetic surgery in general (and I know someone who had rhinoplasty in Croatia and felt better about herself afterwards — whatever floats your boat!).

      But if she ends up out for more than two weeks, people are going to have to know for reporting purposes, sick leave documentation and so on, which absences will cause issues among her colleagues, and so on. Random colleagues don’t need to know, but your team and supervisors might have reasonable grounds to know that you’re having a significant medical procedure and to be warned about recovery time.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      It is quite unusual in most fields in the UK to take three weeks off all at once, and people typically only do it if they have major plans such as longhaul travel or their own wedding.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          That’s my misread – I thought it was time for the surgery plus an additional fortnight for recovery. A family member is going in for surgery today and his timing starts from when he gets home, not from the procedure date. Doh!

          I still think that taking two weeks off “for no reason” would be unusual. Sometimes people will take one week off for catching up on Netflix/painting the spare bedroom stuff, but two weeks without interesting plans would be noteworthy.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Really? Granted I’m in the US, but I don’t particularly enjoy traveling and I typically take 2-3 weeks off twice a year and don’t go anywhere. People do often ask me what I plan to do, and the odd person who doesn’t know me occasionally asks where I’m going, but in either case nobody has ever reacted like it’s crazy that I would enjoy not having too work for a couple of weeks, even without travel being involved.

          2. MurpMaureep*

            Granted I work for a public university where we have pretty generous vacation time, but I know a reasonable number of people who take 1-2 weeks off for staycations and it’s not questioned. Three might be a bit much, but I doubt it would raise too many eyebrows to say “staying put, I have a number of things at home that need attention and I could use a more extended break”.

    3. UKDancer*

      Yes this is what I’d do. Just say “chilling out, catching up with chores and meeting up with friends.” Then when you get back and they ask what you did say “nothing much, but it was nice to have the time off and I got some jobs done.” Most people aren’t that interested in what their colleagues get up to. So if you make it sound bland and anodyne and not like there’s a massive secret, they usually lose interest.

      1. Curious*

        Possibly ignorant question — wouldn’t the results of plastic surgery likely be apparent to others?

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Not necessarily. There are a lot of surgeries that aren’t all that easily visible (at least fully clothed). Not every plastic surgery is completely changing the shape of a nose, or results in changing by 5 sizes in bra cups. LW doesn’t seem to be worried about this, so let’s assume it’s not apparent.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I think it very much depends on the surgery. A nose job is likely apparent to all but the most oblivious of others. But something like a tummy tuck may be way less noticeable to coworkers.

        3. Martin Blackwood*

          Depends on the surgery. Idk much about it in general, but im like 90% theres a letter+update somewhere on the site that gies something like “im worried people are going to talk about my nose job” “exactly zero people have noticed my nose job”
          Im assuming theres plastic surgery that makes you look different with no/minimal clothes on, but doesnt make a huge difference once you put on a couple layers

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes most people are phenomenally unobservant and don’t particularly notice things. I fell over and got a black eye a couple of years back and felt really self conscious. Apart from my boss (who I told about it) I had precisely 2 people notice and one of them was an extremely observant ex-copper who was trained to notice everything.

            Most people barely notice what other people are doing unless it’s really out of the ordinary.

          2. Ophelia*

            LOL, yes. I pierced my nose recently and had MULTIPLE people say something along the lines of, “but didn’t you always have that??”

    4. linger*

      I think LW3 pretty much has to mention the general category “medical” rather than lie outright, because
      (1) any procedure carries some risk of complications necessitating a more extended recovery period (and in that case it could be classed specifically as medically necessary sick leave);
      (2) HR and/or direct manager need to know the true reason — and this workplace sounds like the type where colleagues will try to ferret out details from those in turn;
      (3) if LW3’s colleagues are likely to press for details of medical procedures, they’d be even more likely to press for details of a supposed “holiday”.

      1. linger*

        It might be possible to equate (official) “sick leave” with (public consumption) “mental health break”, though, depending on how stigmatised the latter is likely to be among LW3’s colleagues.

        1. GythaOgden*

          In the UK they would need to know the details, if only for reporting purposes. There’d certainly be a reporting category for mental health issues, stress, depression etc, but it’s still data that management would need to know. The price of extended sick leave not linked to other categories of PTO is closer monitoring of what it’s being used for.

          (I’ve always asked my doctor to sign me off for stress issues for this reason, which generally happened while my husband was having his treatment for cancer and no real work would be got from me at all. No-one argues with a doctor’s note even if I could self-certify. The reason is on the note, but as I said, it’s a legal document here and in any event I work for the NHS, who are super-engaged with wellbeing and MH in the workplace. And so we should be — the trust I worked for prior to being brought under the national facilities organisation was responsible for local MH clinical and outpatient care. You can’t do that for patients and not do it for your employees as well.)

          Colleagues are an entirely different matter and it sounds like OP might be wanting a cover story for someone at the next desk who’d notice she’s been off for a week. But she couldn’t keep it secret from management if she went the medically certified route. (I’m sceptical that cosmetic surgery would come under the umbrella of medically necessary elective surgery, though, in which case she should just take annual leave.)

  14. Gavel*

    Why would you tell your boss the day after being charged with a DUI? At that point you’ve been *accused* of something but there’s no way you’ve been *convicted* of anything.

    Get a lawyer, tell nobody outside of your household, and fight the charges. There are a lot of things that can happen that result in you not actually getting a DUI – maybe the brethalyzer was out of calibration; etc. Who knows if the charges are legit? That’s what courts are for.

    The rental car company very likely won’t report you to your employer; they don’t tell your boss when you get a speeding ticket, right? Still, in the future this is a good reason to always pay for cars/hotels directly and then expense them vs having the company pay for them. The fewer places they can claim are “work related” the better for you.

    1. Not a plant*

      There are many reasons why you might need to tell your boss. These include jobs where one is supposed to hold a drivers license, any government job involving a security clearance, jobs involving registration that is impacted by criminal charges.

      It’s wise to speak first, because it allows you to control more of the narrative.

      Most people don’t want to go through the rigmarole and expense of pretending to be not guilty of a relatively minor offence in court. Particularly when they know they are in fact guilty, the charges are legitimate and there’s evidence – which is the case in most DUI charges.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Not all countries view DUI as “relatively minor”. A DUI *conviction* makes you criminally inadmissible to Canada, for example, necessitating a metric ton of paperwork before you may enter.

        1. Not a plant*

          The key work you should be focusing on is ‘relatively’.

          I’m not downplaying the seriousness of driving under the influence. I am saying that relative to crimes that carry serious prison time, such as murder or drug trafficking, there’s less of an incentive to pretend you’re not guilty and launch a costly defence when you know you are in fact guilty.

          There are many people who would simply wear the sentence and conviction resulting from a DUI and its associated limitations, but who would be tempted to plead ‘not guilty’ if the charge were murder.

      2. Gavel*

        Sure, if you’re a truck driver or a CIA agent it’s a different story. But for regular people in regular jobs I don’t see why the boss needs to know until there’s a chance this accusation will impact LW’s ability to do their job.

        If it cost LW $5k to retain a lawyer to beat that DUI but doing so saved the promotion then the associated “expense” likely would have paid for itself in short order.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          A local utility requires its office staff to maintain valid driver’s licenses to retain their positions. New applicants must have a clean driving record to be hired.

          In an emergency or strike, office staff may be called on to do non-technical portions of off-site jobs– as simple as driving vans back to HQ when techs exceed their max# of hours after a storm.

        2. Not a plant*

          You seem to have a very limited and naive view of the diversity and quantity of jobs requiring a valid drivers license. Many people need to have a valid drivers licence for work – from social workers to real estate agents to key roles in NFPs to sales to people just like OP4 who travel for work and must hire a car to get around once there.

          It isn’t just CIA agents who have security clearances. Large swathes of people at all levels working in government agencies have them. I have worked government jobs and in many agencies, everyone including the cleaners have basic security clearances that’d require disclosure of a DUI quickly.

          I think you’re offering incredibly bad advice.

          1. Gavel*

            Yes, and people in these jobs are aware that they’re subject to different rules.

            If LW was one of these people they did not indicate it, so I was proceeding with the assumption that they are not.

            So, if a person does not hold security clearance and driving is not a required aspect of their job – why would they be obligated/advised to tell their boss that they have been accused (not convicted) of a DUI?

            1. Not a plant*

              Why would they indicate it? No one provides full and complete context in a short letter focused on a specific problem.

              It seems so strange to me that you’ve jumped to the conclusion that OP4 made an unwise choice. You know nothing about their circumstances. There are many good reasons why someone might wisely choose to disclose their DUI. That could be literally anything from OP being required to conduct necessary business travel by road, through to OP working in a medical, legal or educational field where their registration would require them to report their arrest, through to working in a fairly basic job in an government agency.

            2. ResuMAYDAY*

              It’s likely the car was impounded. That means the car wouldn’t be returned within the term of the lease. The company absolutely would have been notified of this, because at that point, the fees owed to the rental company would have skyrocketed. And we don’t know if there were any damages to the car from the OP, or from the tow. More fees. Lots of them.
              And not every company reimburses for fixed travel costs, such as rental car, flights and hotels. I’ve worked for three different companies that took care of big fees beforehand, so the only items we had to expense were incidentals.

            3. fhqwhgads*

              So your advice is “go back in time, and don’t do what you already did”, which could just as easily be said about committing the DUI in the first place as it could about the telling the employer. Not possible and thus not helpful advice.

        3. Not a plant*

          I’m sorry, but it’s just so nuts to me that you think paying a lawyer 5k is magically going to make a DUI go away.

          You seem to be extremely naive about how the justice system works if you think you can throw a relatively small sum at a lawyer and send them in to valiantly convince a courtroom that the arresting officers are liars and the breathalyser is wrong. Real life isn’t Better Call Saul.

          1. Nikki*

            Exactly. This isn’t like a speeding ticket where a lawyer can plead it down and get it off your driving record. The best a lawyer can do is reduce the consequences of the DUI. It will still be on their record as a DUI.

            1. H.C.*

              Not necessarily – I had a friend whose lawyer got their DUI charge downgraded to a “dry reckless” conviction, which has far fewer consequences (esp. criminal record for future background checks.)

          2. Glomarization, Esq.*

            The $5,000 won’t make the case disappear. But it will, indeed, go a long way with a skilled DUI lawyer to explore whether the prosecution’s breathalyzer (or other) evidence is reliable and admissible, and negotiate the best available outcome regarding the crime of conviction and sentencing.

            1. Not a plant*

              You realise there is nothing wrong with pleading guilty to something you are guilty of right? Obviously you should still get good legal representation and that can help to get a somewhat better outcome within reason, and no one sensible would deny that.

              The thing people are reacting to here is the patent stupidity of saying OP was wrong to tell their employer, should somehow fight their way out of the charge existing (not going to happen in most DUI cases), and then work more craftily in the future to avoid getting caught.

              Perhaps we can have some faith in OP4’s basic intelligence and work off the belief that they made a well reasoned choice and are likely to act in their own best interests as the matter proceeds through court by seeing a decent lawyer.

              Also, not sure where you guys are getting your figures, but you’re not going to get much of anything for 5k.

              1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                Well, I’m just an anonymous internet lawyer (or am I?) but, yeah, $5,000 is a reasonable ballpark for lawyer’s fees for handling an uncomplicated DUI case, at least in my U.S. jurisdiction.

                nothing wrong with pleading guilty

                There’s also nothing wrong with diligently holding the prosecution to their Constitutional obligation to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. An arrestee can totally acknowledge that the cops had them dead to rights, but the cops still have to follow the rules for the initial stop and the gathering and custody of evidence, and so on and so on. It’s not technicalities, it’s one’s civil rights.

                Every case is different and I never say never, but I never advise a criminal defense client to just plead guilty without exploring all the reasonable pathways to reduce the charges and avoid the harshest collateral consequences following a conviction.

                1. doreen*

                  I agree with all of that – but the original comment said ” If it cost LW $5k to retain a lawyer to beat that DUI but doing so saved the promotion” . If the LW got an 30 day unpaid suspension and lost the promotion, my guess is that the only thing that would have saved the promotion would have been an outright acquittal/dismissal which is normally going to involve a trial – and my guess is that a trial will almost certainly cost more than $5K.

          3. sundae funday*

            Actually, I think you’re a bit naive on this issue. I was also naive until it happened to someone I’m close to.

            He was arrested for DUI (not breathalyzed, but I believe he was given a sobriety test, which the police say that he failed but did not provide any actual information as to what that meant) and his blood was taken at the station. He’d been drinking the night before, but was most likely not above the legal limit. They did not even TEST his blood. They won’t test it to confirm a DUI unless you hire a lawyer. This person couldn’t afford a lawyer, so he took the DUI conviction.

          4. philmar*

            Lmao you absolutely can. In my job if you get a DUI you are either fired or never promoted again, which amounts to a constructive dismissal. There is also a huge drinking culture. Everyone I know who got a DUI lawyered up and beat the DUI. It’s always things like when was the breathalyzer last calibrated or whatever, which the police never do IAW their maintenance requirements, so you win on technical minutiae.

        4. RagingADHD*

          “Beating” a DUI usually means a plea deal for a reduced sentence. The defendant is going to get convicted of something about 98 percent of the time.

          It does not mean the attorney is a wizard who magically makes the charge disappear without a trace.

        5. Avril Ludgateaux*

          “CIA Agent” is hardly the only job that requires security clearance. You’d be surprised. Basically any contractor that works for any federal agency – including people writing social media content for the EPA’s Twitter page, or whatever – need some level of clearance. That’s a lot of “regular jobs” that require clearance.

          1. Nina*

            Hell, I had to have a security clearance (a tiny baby lowest-level one, but still) to live and work on what was technically a US Air Force base when I was interning at NASA. I’m not a US national. It was a nightmare.

        6. Meep*

          I am now curious how many times you have been pulled over for a DUI. This is a lot of thought put into lying when you could just be honest.

        7. AcademiaNut*

          Or, given that the employee needs to drive on work related trips, the LW tries to hide it, is found out, and is fired. Or, they try to cover it up, are in fact guilty, are fired and denied unemployment insurance. Or they’re guilty, but in trying to fight the charge and go to court rather than simply plead guilty, they end up with a much tougher conviction and get jail time rather than, say, a fine and probation. And get fired.

          You’re advocating the approach of risking it all and hoping that you get away without any consequences. Taking that approach is a personal decision, but it does involve a significant possibility of much worse consequences than owning up right away.

      3. Snow Globe*

        Also – the LW was in a rental car *paid for by the company*. The company would absolutely have learned of this if the LW hadn’t notified them.

        1. Not a plant*

          Yes, agree. This person doesn’t seem to realise that the hire company will charge the work credit card for the bullshit associated with the DUI, including potentially an impounded car.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Exactly. The reason your company doesn’t find out about a speeding ticket is because the officer handed it to you and you returned the rental car to the company without incident. Having the car impounded, or getting caught by a speeding camera, gets back to the registered owner of the car, in this case the rental company.

        2. Mr. Shark*

          Exactly. Plus, the LW is obviously driving a rental car paid by the company for work, so it’s likely that this may be a regular thing that the company would expect the LW to drive for work. If the LW loses their license, even for a little while, that would cause issues with their job.
          So letting the company know is the right thing to do.

    2. Kim*

      I don’t even live in the the States but I know that arrest records are usually a matter of public record (except of course Florida Man). This DUI may later be found through Google. People may talk. The rental company may have a clause that they do need to notify the card holder. Who knows.
      The LW is guilty by their own admission. Calling your workplace controls the narrative. Being found out means an uphill battle. Your employer will be left wondering if you are a drunk, if you are a liability et cetera.
      What the LW did (calling their company) was a wise move after a very dumb decision.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Wow. Paying for everything up front and expensing it rather then using the systems already in place seems like a huge amount of effort just so you can drive drunk and get away with it.

      It sounds like this was a one time mistake and not habitual for LW, so they wouldn’t have expected to need to hide it in the first place. In any case, it’s seems it would be much easier to just not drive drunk than to change the whole process of work expenses.

      1. Observer*

        Yes. A better thing would be to just not . . . drive drunk.

        The LW is pretty clear that that’s what they did. Fortunately, they also are pretty clear that it was not OK, and it sounds like they will NOT do it again.

        *That* is their best protection, and it will stand them in good stead. It’s probably why they didn’t get fired.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      This is phenomenally bad advice, based on inadequate knowledge of how the legal system (to say nothing of car rental companies) work. Doing something like this will inevitably require additional time off from work. This is a great way to break whatever trust your company has in you.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It’s never bad advice to consult a lawyer for something like this! If this happened to me I would absolutely get in touch with an attorney ASAP and let them guide me as to both the courts and employer.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Yes, but this happened on a work trip in a rental car paid for by the company. Trying to cover that up probably would (and should) result in termination.

        2. Avril Ludgateaux*

          Consulting a lawyer is never bad advice, but that commenter seemed to be coming from the angle of “cover up your wrongdoing” which I can’t find myself getting behind. Especially because the company will find out, probably through the car rental agency when the vehicle isn’t returned due to being towed and impounded.

          Then again, the best general legal advice is “never volunteer more information than was precisely requested,” so I am torn. But it seems like OP was acting in good faith and honesty and I can’t bring myself to fault somebody for trying to take accountability.

          1. Boof*

            Yes, a lawyer to try to evaluate the best way to handle this; ok! A lawyer to try to pretend something that did happen didn’t – very sus. I suppose in a situation where the punishments are disproportionately harsh, maybe that’s the lesser of two evils, but a good system shouldn’t work like that.
            Informing work and talking to a lawyer are separate things though. OP did the right thing telling their work before work found out about it and called them out on it.

    5. EPLawyer*

      They were driving a car paid for by the company. If the company finds out — and they will trust me — that will be WORSE than if they just admitted it up front. Because it can affect all kinds of things like insurance or even the ability of the company to rent cars for others.

      This is not the time to play games. As LW admits their own poor judgment already got them in this mess. You don’t make it worse with more poor judgment.

    6. thatoneoverthere*

      This is pretty bad advice no offense. Also it does sound like OP already told their employer, so its kind of a moot point. Also if they were that forthcoming, perhaps they knew they were indeed too drunk to drive. It wasn’t a scenario where one glass of wine made you blow over the legal limit. Also alot of states are incredibly strict on DUI’s and don’t mess around. Even good lawyers can’t fight their way out of them in court.

      1. thatoneoverthere*

        I also worked in social services for a time. We were required to report if we ever got into legal trouble. It wouldn’t necessarily mean we would get fired (unless it was violent or sexual offense), but not reporting it would result in termination. Our backgrounds got checked every 5 years.

    7. Random Bystander*

      Maybe it is a matter that a judgment lapse is *far* better than an integrity lapse.

      I have far more respect for the LW for owning consequences to the judgment lapse (maintaining integrity). A lost promotion may be recovered, but not the loss of a reputation for integrity.

      1. VeraWang*

        Great point. The car was paid for by the company and they were in a work trip. The company would have found out. Like someone else mentioned the LW getting ahead of it and owning up to it probably saved their job.

        Also this comment is really coming across (at least to me) as minimizing a DUI, which is a little gross

        1. Random Bystander*

          I do not mean to minimize DUI, so I hope that it’s not that I sounded like I was.

          I have had personal connections to post-DUI impacts–the father of a classmate when I was in high school (40 years ago) was struck by a drunk driver when he (classmate’s father) was driving home from work–while he was not killed, the extensive physical injuries and TBI impacted the rest of his life. While it was another drug (cocaine), a young lady who had been a classmate of my middle son was struck by an intoxicated driver who had crossed the median on the interstate and hit her head on–she was 19 when she was killed.

          I meant my comment to be more in response to Gavel’s “don’t tell, fight the charge” advice which to me represents an appalling lack of integrity. The LW committed a crime due to a lapse in judgment, but those things are much more recoverable than behaving with a lack of integrity.

          1. VeraWang*

            Crap. I didn’t mean you, I meant the one from Gavel. Sorry about that – I completely agree with you.

          2. Sorrischian*

            I think VeraWang meant that gavel’s original comment was minimizing – I can’t see any way your response could be interpreted to be doing so.

        2. Willow Pillow*

          Thank you. I have a family member with a traumatic brain injury due to a drunk driver. The two others in the car (partner and best friend) were killed. There are some complicated systemic issues involved (small towns!), but DWIs have strong up-front consequences for a reason. LW is incredibly lucky, and probably privileged, that losing their promotion and a month’s pay seems to be the worst of them.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Oh, and there’s the fact that it was a company rental car. Which means the police would notify the rental company to come get the car. It’s not like they let you drive away from a DUI.

      The rental company would notify the company (and probably hit them with some kind of fees). Better they find out from the employee than third hand. It probably would be a firing offense if they found out that way.

    9. whatchamacallit*

      They were in a rental car paid for by the employer – who knows what that could mean liability wise for the company. They also may have been detained, (presumably they weren’t written up for a DUI and let back in the car to drive back) in which case it probably interfered with work in some way. We don’t know what the rental company shares with the employer, but rental companies easily add extra charges for unpaid tickets and fines so depending on the details it might even affect the bill. Sometimes companies have their own insurance for rental cars (I worked at an employer that did) and presumably an employee getting a DUI charge would affect that coverage and possibly the rates. If they were in their personal vehicle I could see not mentioning it unless necessary but if you’re in a rental paid for by the company, that’s a pretty big deal to not tell them about and they almost certainly will find out.

    10. BL73*

      This is terrible advice. LW, don’t listen to this. You were in a company provided rental. At almost all places I’ve worked, any infraction in a company provided vehicle has to be reported to your employer immediately. Failure to do so risks termination.

    11. mlem*

      My company recently updated its handbook to require immediate notification if “any charge, citation, summons or other document is issued by a law enforcement authority involving the operation of any vehicle during company time or at any time when travelling for the company.” This is among several other categories of driving incidents that require immediate notification; failure to notify is potentially a firing offense.

      We’re in software, not at the CIA.

      (I’m not even going to touch your campaigning for the LW to fight a DUI charge that the LW fully owns as legitimate. What the hell.)

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        On your last point, A DUI charge is very serious regardless of the work context – I would absolutely hire a lawyer, not to “fight” the charges but to get the best possible outcome, which may include pleading not guilty regardless of whether LW owns it or not.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        I don’t agree with most of Gavel’s comment, but I do agree with the advice to fight the charge. The LW should seek to take full advantage of any deal or diversion program available to reduce the crime of conviction that they end up with. They should hire a lawyer who is experienced in their jurisdiction’s DUI laws and rehabilitation options, so that they can get a very clear understanding of the collateral consequences (that is, after they’ve completed their sentence) that flow from the various options for pleading that the LW might be presented with.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Sure, they should fight the charge in court. They shouldn’t be dumb enough to think there will be no (or less serious) consequences to their job if they fail to disclose the charge to their employer. Particularly in a scenario when the employer is likely to find out anyway.

          It’s two separate issues.

      3. bighairnoheart*

        This is interesting. I might be reading it wrong, but it sounds like they’d need notification if you got a speeding ticket when traveling during company time, even if you were in your own vehicle. Is that correct? That feels a little over the top for me if it happened in my own car, but otherwise, I like the verbiage.

        1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

          I work for an auto maker, and they require permission to pull our driving records, with the possibility of requiring a driving course or termination based on it. I’m pretty sure a DUI would at least require a talk…

          1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

            And yes, a speeding ticket over some amount is also something that would get a talk, even in my own car on my own time. I drive like my granny these days.

    12. MillennialHR*

      This is terrible advice. Some workplaces require you to report when you are arrested for an offense (we have our new hires sign a form that states they will inform us if they are arrested). If we are not informed, it is cause for immediate dismissal – OP could be in a situation such as this and their integrity is saving them.

      Also – DUIs are VERY serious offenses. My sister was in a car with a drunk driver and was almost killed, so your advice is a little off-putting as well, considering the legal battle that happened afterwards in my personal life.

    13. Eldritch Office Worker*

      As someone said upthread, they probably saved their job by telling the employer proactively.

      A DUI is not a speeding ticket. This was absolutely going to get back to the employer, and could be a fireable offense on its own – conviction or not. Also I would urge you to seriously rethink your gut reaction that a DUI is something to wiggle out of and “in the future” pay for your own car in case you get caught again. This is profoundly bad advice.

    14. Lady Blerd*

      In my line of work, not telling the chain of command would compound the issue of the accusations. I have an acquaintance who has successfully fought DUI charges even though he admitted to me that he was guilty, he needed a clean record in order to travel to the US. It cost him 10k$CAD. Had he lost and the higher ups found out, he’d would have been sanctioned far more harshly then if he’d come clean from his arrest.

    15. Magpie*

      You clearly don’t have much knowledge of how DUIs are handled in the court system. Almost all lawyers will advise pleading guilty to DUI charges. This will allow you to negotiate lesser consequences and you’ll be able to get the charge expunged from your record after a period of time if you don’t have any other DUIs. If you fight it in court and lose (which is very likely), you’re much more likely to face jail time and the charge will be on your record forever.

    16. metadata minion*

      People generally know if they were driving under the influence; this isn’t about possibly misreading road signs. The LW seems well aware of the consequences of their actions.

    17. Starscourge Savvy*

      This is terrible advice for all the reasons mentioned below, and also shows a pretty horrid lack of integrity on your part. Not to mention, minimizing DUIs in a really irresponsible way–why are you framing it as something you should try to snake your way out of? Actions have consequences, and driving drunk is a particularly terrible action to take. It quite literally kills people.

      The LW took responsibility and has admitted they did, in fact, drive drunk, in a vehicle paid for by the company, and are triaging the situation as best they can. This “advice” not only isn’t helpful, but could be actively harmful. Honestly, shameful.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        How is it harmful or shameful to suggest calling a lawyer? The fact that this an extremely serious situation imo makes it more important that the LW should get all the relevant information before acting.

        1. Starscourge Savvy*

          Getting advice from a lawyer is fine! That’s not what I’m referencing. Pitching it as if getting a lawyer is going to solve the problem is irresponsible, and pitching it as if LW should get a lawyer to fight something they admit to doing and accept the consequences of also isn’t great.

          Having all the information is responsible. Treating this as something the LW should throw their integrity out the window to cover up is not.

          1. Starscourge Savvy*

            It’s a wildly complicated situation. Legal stuff always is. Using the system as it’s intended to be used is one thing, but the way the original comment pitches it is 1. Not helpful to the letter writer, 2. Minimizing something terrible, and 3. Really judgmental about actions that have already taken place that the LW can’t change.

            There is much more to that comment and mine than just simplifying it down to “lawyer bad.”

    18. eduanon*

      I work in public education as a Library Technician. Our province has recently changed the law regarding criminal records checks/child abuse registry checks. Every employee now has to have a full check done every three years (obviously, they’ve staggered it with x number of employees required each year). This is done via our school boards.

      In between, we have to fill out a yearly form, indicating if we’ve not been/been convicted of a criminal offence within Canada (hmm, form doesn’t ask about outside Canada…but I digress). If we don’t do the form by the set day, we can be suspended without pay until we do; if we continually refuse to fill it out every year, then there will be consequences up to and including dismissal. Casual/substitute employees who don’t do it by the set day may be taken off the sub list.

      Says it all in the online form we have to fill out. And if you have been convicted, there’s space(s) to fill out what it was for and the date.

      While we don’t have to reveal being charged if you wanted to get paid leave for court, you have to say why, ie you’ve been subpoenaed or are a witness, etc.

      So, yeah, we eventually do have to reveal any convictions and more than likely would end having to explain that we were charged with something before conviction. But then folks who come to work in this field know the expectations.

    19. Not A Manager*

      I don’t agree with much of Gavel’s reasoning here, but I STRONGLY disagree with the position of some commenters that hiring a lawyer or pleading not guilty is somehow nefarious. First of all, “not guilty” is a term of art that doesn’t mean that you are claiming to be innocent. “Not guilty” means that you are requiring the state to use its resources to *prove* its claim, rather than allowing the state to sanction you without having to provide proof.

      Responding to a criminal charge with the legalese equivalent of “oh yeah, prove it!” is a constitutional right, not a shady ploy.

      Additionally, even if you are guilty and eventually choose to plead guilty, a lawyer can help negotiate what crime you ultimately plead to, what your punishment will be, and how that crime is recorded and reported. The state has ENORMOUS power in its ability to charge, the resources that it can devote to prosecuting, and the punishment it can request. Even the most conscientious law-breaker who wants to make full amends should think twice before giving the state unfettered ability to determine what the charges are and what the amends should be.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        The legal system is super backlogged where I live (Canada), so requiring the state to use its resources to prove its claim takes those away from where they’re more needed. Insisting on things you’re entitled to but don’t need is not a great take.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          So, you are suggesting people throw away their constitutional rights because “they don’t need them”?
          No thanks.

          1. Willow Pillow*

            No, I’m saying that in this specific instance (LW driving intoxicated, being charged with a DUI, and accepting such), the suggestion to plead not guilty and make the court system prove guilt is not a great take.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              It’s absolutely a fine take.
              Everyone is constitutionally entitled to representation and a day in court. Even a trial by their peers.
              You don’t get to pick and choose who decides to utilize their rights. They are, after all, rights. And yes, the person committing the offences has every right to try to minimize the consequences, if they choose to, and I would not fault them for it.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        Not rolling over and let the state to do whatever even if you did do the thing is not unethical or wrong in the least.

    20. sundae funday*

      YES I told this story above but someone close to me got a DUI. He’d been drinking the night before but was probably not impaired above the legal limit by the morning that he was driving.

      They didn’t even breathalyze him. They took his blood at the jail… but they only test it if you get a lawyer and dispute the charges. He couldn’t afford a lawyer so he took the DUI.

      If you can afford it, go the lawyer route.

      I used to think it was cut and dry until this experience, but police make mistakes. I believe this individual was stereotyped due to his physical appearance.

      1. Velociraptor Attack*

        I know someone who passed a breathalyzer but they still booked her under suspicion of marijuana, took blood at the jail, and it was right over the limit (no marijuana though!). She got a lawyer, fought it, and there’s no DUI on her record. It was not cheap.

    21. Observer*

      Why would you tell your boss the day after being charged with a DUI? At that point you’ve been *accused* of something but there’s no way you’ve been *convicted* of anything.

      If there was an accident or a breathalyzer, it doesn’t matter if it went into court yet or not.

      Telling your boss before they see it in the papers, or they get something from the car rental place or insurance company is just plain common sense here.

      The rental car company very likely won’t report you to your employer;

      Yes they will, especially if there was an accident or there was any damage whatsoever. Remember, the company was paying for the rental. Therefore the rental company has a lot of incentive to tell the company ANYTHING that could conceivably increase their risk of damage or their costs.

  15. Melissa*

    I would give my manager a heads-up that I am forwarding calls to their number, then do so. (There’s always a way on cell phones to automatically forward all calls.) People will be confused when somebody answers “Hi, this is Mary” instead of your name, but Mary can just say “Oh, OP is out, I am working on that now.”

    1. Observer*

      Don’t do that.

      The OP is on thin ice right now. Yes, they cannot be expected to work while on unpaid leave and they are perfectly reasonable to find a way to avoid that. But they need to do more than make a decision, especially one that will have a negative effect on their boss and then just communicate it to Boss. Nor is it in their best interests to cause in ways that are unnecessarily confusing to others.

      Allison’s wording here is perfect. It doesn’t share more than the OP needs to and it’s reasonable and respectful to everyone else.

  16. rosie*

    As Bill Bryson once said, you can effectively leave a group of Brits unattended if you mention you drove down to Cornwall for a few days. Everyone will start debating which road is the best way to get there or which service stations are the best or what junction has the best little pub that does XYZ, and basically just walk away. They’ll forget that you were even the one who brought it up. :P

    Honestly #3, just tell everyone you took some time to sort out the garden or whatever and leave it at that. Or if the two weeks is in the realm of any school holidays and you have kids, claim they’re on half-term! It’s basically been half-term month at my office lately because people are based all over the London suburbs and every school runs on a different schedule.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      As a non-Brit, “sorting out the garden” sounds like a very british reason for taking time off to me. I’d buy it! Better be prepared to talk mildew resistant rose varieties, best ways of hibernating dahlias and fastest growing sweet peas when you come back though! Or maybe just complain about the #%@&€! bamboo that someone planted there that took over everything. I know someone who took a week off to fight that battle.

      1. rosie*

        Oh very. I have a back garden covered in ivy and I’ve already lost a lot of weekends to it. Also very British to complain about your neighbours and their crazy plants!

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Don’t get me started on ivy! I’m allergic (which I found out when minor scratches turned into itchy red welts), so I had to wear full protective gear to deal with it. I avoid it like the plague now.

      2. DataSci*

        Ugh, that reminds me it’s getting to the time of year when I need to do my daily
        “walk along the fence and kill any bamboo shoots coming under from the neighbor”. He decided he likes the looks of running bamboo. If I miss a day in spring I’ll find foot-tall shoots the next day.

    2. JSPA*

      “Oh, rather than try to juggle all the medical, family and house stuff through the year, I tried to compact it all into two weeks, along with some local trips. But of course everything always expands to fit the time you give it, and then some–isn’t that always how it works? Even just something simple with the drains, or one visit from a problem relative, or some small procedure, I’m sure you know how that goes.”

      There’s conversational prompts there for everyone to jump on.

    3. londonedit*

      I agree, something like ‘Oh, just taking a bit of time off to sort out some house and garden stuff that really needs doing’ sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to say and will probably invite lots of conversation about nightmare builders/keeping on top of the weeding/whether one should actually cut one’s lawn at this time of year (works at any time of year) or leave it for the wildlife, etc.

  17. JSPA*

    #1, not that I’d raise it early on, but would a separate, locking room, with a separate solo bathroom, plus professional cleaning before hand, plus a bottled water dispenser and bottle service, plus a dorm fridge, plus the right to use a hotplate and a microwave (which you’d likely have to supply yourself, to be sure about lack of contamination), and a path to the outside that doesn’t go through the kitchen, dining or TV area provide what you need? That might be possible for them to supply in the shared house, if they’re stuck on you being in that house (or contracted so it’s their only option).

    1. EPLawyer*

      UGH. First of all, wh should she be limited to a hotplate and microwave when she can get her own accomodations with a full kitchen. Second, that’s a lot of work for what would be essentially SEPARATE accomodations so just go with non-shared housing in the first place.

      1. amoeba*

        Well, I mean, if that would mean the accomodation is free (as opposed to paying for your own housing), it could still be worth considering in case it’s possible? Of course, having the company pay for different housing would be ideal, but if that isn’t available and paying for their own rent would be too expensive, it might be better than missing out completely…

        Also, would a separate entrance be required? From the letter, it appears to me that food prep/share kitchen would be the main problem and walking through public spaces etc. would be fine (not sure how working in the actual office would work otherwise?)
        So maybe a mini-fridge and hot plate setup would already be enough if there was space for it somewhere?

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          Separate entrance would be overkill. My former boss was celiac – she would fall seriously ill if even an invisible spec of gluten was in anything she ate, even from cross contamination from a food handler who didn’t change gloves before making her food, but as it’s not an allergy she had no sensitivity whatsoever to environmental gluten. We could eat wheat products in the same office as her, she had no issue leaning over my desk to talk through something if I had something with bread on the desk. She just never used the office kitchen for anything other than the hot water dispenser for her teas.

          1. JSPA*

            True for some, not for others. A few people are sensitive enough that they have to cross the street, passing a bakery; student housing with exuberant novice cooks can also become an airborne flour-fest without much warning.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Mixed feelings about this, personally. On one hand, an organization that hosts a program like this probably thinks it’s an important/valuable part of the experience to live in the shared housing (and I’d wonder for myself, socially, how it would feel to be in a program where everyone else lives together communally and I don’t). So, OP offering options that would allow them to live with the interns might be more desirable to them. On the other hand, if it basically comes down to a separate housing situation anyway, it might not.

    2. WellRed*

      I think it was be easier to get them a teleportation machine rather than a special pathway and all these other accommodations in shared housing. Hot plates might be considered a fire hazard, for example.

      1. Antilles*

        Especially the request for “separate exit to the outside” along “personal bathroom” and the ability to separately lock all of it away from your roommates? Unless the house already has an in-law suite (very unlikely), those are *not* trivial things to add.
        At that point, you’re basically just asking for your own apartment – and simply requesting a housing stipend is going to come off waaaaaayyyyy more reasonable than this level of list of demands.

    3. AE*

      I am not LW#1, but I also have celiac, and some parts of what you proposed would be overkill while other parts would be insufficient. However, I have had very good luck getting out of “required” activities by explaining exactly what accomodations I would need (it does end up sounding about this elaborate, although as I say the specifics are a little different).

      LW#1, if you’re reading this, in my experience “My gastroenterologist says I shouldn’t eat any food prepared in a kitchen where wheat flour has been used within the last 24 hours,” is more or less a magic phrase. (It’s also true, to be clear, just saying that this is one of the most efficient ways to get people to go “oh ok, you just tell me what works for you, I don’t want to be responsible for solving this problem.”

  18. Turingtested*

    #5 I used to work for a fairly well known company that prided itself on how it treated its workers. However, our bonuses and miniscule (0.25%) 401(k) match were contingent on meeting completely unobtainable sales goals. Like if we sold 5k units of widget model A in 2022 our 2023 goal was 40k units. As I rose through the organization I joined those goal setting meetings and executives would veto any attempts at reasonable stretch goals.

    It seemed to me like a blatant attempt to shift responsibility for not having bonuses and retirement match from the organization to the employees. And yet it was presented as this fantastic opportunity.

    I left for many reasons but the condescending assumption that I’d keep running towards the unreachable carrot was a big factor.

    My next job used pay bonuses quarterly based on company performance. The CEO would either say something like great job everyone we’re getting the bonus or sorry, we didn’t meet our quarterly goals no bonus let’s focus next quarter. Felt much less slimy.

    1. OP #5*

      Wow, impossible goals are just demoralizing. Thankfully my company is not that bad. Most of our goals are somewhat attainable. It’s mostly the condescension that got to me. If it had been a one time thing, I could have just rolled my eyes and moved on, but it’s definitely a pattern with them.

  19. UKgreen*

    This would very much depend on the employer. Where I work one might be expected to take AL to have the surgery itself, but ‘recovery from surgery’ would very much be accepted as a reason for sick leave (on company sick pay – which is up to a year on full pay, depending on length of service – not SSP) as a doctor’s note should recovery need more than the 5 working days that can be self-certified.

    1. UKgreen*

      Ugh, nesting fail AND a duplicate. What is my internet connection even doing this morning? Being dial up?!

  20. CatMom*

    OP 3, say you’re helping someone pack up and move house. Pick 2 boring places for them to be coming from and going to, and say it’s a university friend or cousin (most people have them and no one will expect to meet them). Good luck with the surgery!

    1. xl*

      This is a good idea.

      I use this one when I’m trying to get out of such a conversation because most people will change the subject after that because they don’t want to try to be recruited to help.

      “You have a truck, don’t you?”

  21. Kim*

    LW #3 if you are taking two weeks of, just tell them you are going to deepclean your house, sort out your garage/attic/basement, relax, visit friends et cetera. Make it boring.

    Just don’t do what a coworker of mine once did. She took a week of, we conversationally asked about any plans. She told us she was going to buy shoes with her mother(?). After a week she came back with two black eyes from an eyelid correction. It was weird. I am all for bodily autonomy, pro plastic surgery and we could not understand why she would not just tell us but then return to work with the obvious evidence.
    So just make sure you don’t have visible marks from your surgery if you don’t want to discuss afterwards. And good luck!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      “Make it boring” is great advice. A lot of people want to know something just so they have something to discuss/gossip about. “Clearing out the attic—finally” is not something most people will want to spend time talking about.

    2. Scott Christian Simmons*

      Or visible results, which (given that we’re talking about cosmetic surgery) seems fairly likely. You don’t want to be in a position where consistency demands gaslighting your coworkers.
      “Wasn’t your hump on the other side before?”
      “What hump?”

    3. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Why she might do that — I can imagine not wanting to discuss my upcoming plastic surgery beforehand because I would dread all the horror stories about PS that I might get . Once it’s over, yes, I look pretty bad and it’s obvious that I lied about why I’d be out, but … it’s over.

      1. I have RBF*

        Just say you’re out for minor surgery to correct a problem. Whether it’s plastic surgery or a gall bladder removal, it’s just surgery to correct a problem.

        When I had a hysterectomy it was several days in the hospital and 6 weeks at home to recover. That wasn’t minor. All people did was wish me well and that was the end of it.

  22. Invisible fish*

    I’m making “My schedule is packed, and I’m trying to be disciplined about adding more to it” an out of office signature and then setting it up to respond to ALL emails …

    I’m going to use that phrase, and it will be glorious. Thank you so much.

    1. sundae funday*

      I love this response because it really sounds like “oh I would absolutely LOVE to go to lunch with you but ugh I have to be more DISCIPLINED.”

  23. bean*

    OP #1 — I had a celiac roommate a few years ago and she kept a separate set of cookware/utensils/etc in a small cabinet just outside of the kitchen that the rest of us knew not to use or even touch. Would this be a workable solution for you? Even keeping them in your room could be an option if you don’t trust others not to use your stuff.

    Otherwise, I worry that it’d be super difficult for you to be able to afford separate housing on internship pay, even if they give you a stipend that covers how much your rent would be in the shared housing (which tbh I think is unlikely)

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      My sister is celiac and that is how she manages her own home where her family sometimes eats gluten. When she comes to my place I wipe the counters and wash all the utensils etc before cooking for her. She is very rigid about her diet (she has other issues as well as celiac) but it works. I understand completely the need for a truly gf space but there are ways around it while cohabiting vehemently you can’t rely on others to follow your guidelines. Good luck with the internship!

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I think we should take LW at her word that her celiac is serious enough that she requires a gluten-free kitchen, rather than a gluten-free nook. She knows her situation far better than we do.

      1. EPLawyer*

        THANK YOU.

        LW knows how to manage her disease and has her own doctors. She does not need us commenting on solutions for her other than what she asked.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Yes to this! Celiac disease affects people differently. I know a handful of people with celiac (and I have it myself) and we all have different reactions to eating cross-contaminated food. The LW definitely knows the level of gluten-free her kitchen needs to be.

      3. Underemployed Erin*

        I came to the comments to see if letter writer is here and how other people have navigated this. I have a child who is allergic to multiple foods, and I am worried about how he is going to navigate this type of early-college housing requirements.

        LW #1 may have the financial resources to live alone, but knowing what the options are for people who do not is also important.

        1. just another queer reader*

          I had a friend in college who lived in a co-op house (20 people with a shared kitchen with shared meals). She did a ton of education for the other residents, and washed dishes (without a sponge) before she used them, but it seemed to work out well. The other co-op residents were conscientious, which was critical.

          Also! I’d venture that it’s a relatively small subset of colleges that require you to live on campus (the small liberal arts type), and even then it’s usually just for the first year or two. State schools don’t care where you live: on campus, off campus, with family, or otherwise.

          In my experience most internships don’t offer housing.

          Good luck to you and your kid as you navigate this!

          1. Samwise*

            Not true about state schools.

            However, most if not all schools with a live on campus requirement have a proviso for students who cannot live on campus — especially for an ADA accommodation. Underemployed Erin, get your paperwork together, and have your student contact the disability services office at the school well in advance of attending. You can contact that office at any school your student is considering while in the Just Looking or the application stage. They are very helpful and will give you the straight story about what that particular institution can/can’t do.

          2. ThatGirl*

            Some state schools do require freshmen to live on campus, at a minimum. It really varies. And my SLAC required everyone to live on campus all 4 years, with a very small handful of exceptions. They now offer a lot more apartment-style living for upperclassmen (I lived in a duplex townhome my senior year) but it’s still owned by the university.

          3. sundae funday*

            I went to a state school that required first-year students live on campus unless you still lived at home with family (which was really annoying because I worked for a few years between high school and college and had been living independently in my own apartment for 3 years so going to living in a dorm made me feel like I was being babysat and it was incredibly annoying BUT that’s not really the point here).

            I suspect you could easily get an exemption, though, if you had a doctor’s note that said you can’t use a communal kitchen or eat in a dining hall that isn’t totally gluten free.

        2. Vampirephysicist*

          Definitely ask this during tours regarding college! I have severe peanut and tree nut allergies and the cafeterias were fortunately mostly nut free. I also requested a roommate who was willing to be nut free and was accommodated, and his avoided public kitchens until senior year when I could get a suite with friends I trusted. If it’s common allergies the college may very well be prepared and experienced in dealing with them.

        3. Hlao-roo*

          I mentioned above that I have celiac (though I am not as sensitive as the LW). When I lived in the dorms, I ate at the dining hall so I didn’t have to worry about what my roommates were eating (none of us were cooking anything more elaborate than microwave dishes in the dorm room). When I shared an apartment with roommates, we all bought and cooked food separately. I had a few utensils that only I used (so I was sure they were gluten-free). My roommates knew that I was gluten-free and respected that and I never had any issues.

          Roommates are generally random freshman year (depends on the college and if your child knows anyone else who is going there), but most people choose their roommates after freshman year so your child can select to live with people who know about their allergies and will respect them.

        4. Observer*

          and I am worried about how he is going to navigate this type of early-college housing requirements.

          Depending on your child’s issues, it may make sense to choose a school that doesn’t have those requirements, will make an exception as an accommodation or go to a school that is local, in which case most schools will waive that requirement if it exists.

          I know that it stinks to have to narrow your choices like this, but no matter what works for other people, if YOU kid can’t safely share a kitchen with strangers, that’s what you have to work with.

      4. Anne of Green Gables*

        I also think that in some of the examples above, the others in the kitchen are close family members. Part of what LW is concerned about, if I understand correctly, is that they will be living with strangers, and young strangers at that. Those strangers are unlikely to realize the full extent of what a mistake could mean for the LW. While some of these work arounds sound reasonable in a single family home situation, I agree that they wouldn’t work as well in a temporary shared living space with unknown roomates.

        1. sundae funday*

          It also requires a lot of knowledge that random 18-year-olds probably don’t have unless they’re also gluten free. Like LW mentioned, soy sauce has gluten… which is something I only know because I have friends with gluten intolerances.

          Also it sounds like LW can’t tolerate being in the same house while something with gluten is being cooked, and it’s a really big ask to forbid roommates from eating gluten.

      5. Smithy*

        While that’s definitely true – I also think it may be helpful to know how others with the same or similar conditions have approached shared living spaces. This isn’t to say that the OP doesn’t know her situation, but knowing more about how others have approached this situation may apply to accommodations this internship has provided in the past. And therefore what the OP can and cannot expect.

        Part of the OP’s request for the gluten-free kitchen is requesting alternative solo accommodations or additional funds to obtain that. This internship’s response to that may be that the only accommodation they offer is a locked cabinet, private utensils and separate mini-fridge in your room due to the range of medical and religious dietary needs they want to be able to accommodate among all interns should that be needed.

        Being aware of this possibility in advance, can only help the OP further articulate their specific accommodation needs should it be needed.

    3. Observer*

      I had a celiac roommate a few years ago and she kept a separate set of cookware/utensils/etc in a small cabinet just outside of the kitchen that the rest of us knew not to use or even touch. Would this be a workable solution for you?

      The problem is that in theory it should work for most people with celiac. But the key is that the others MUST COOPERATE. And the OP doesn’t have any control over this. They don’t have a chance to vet who is going to be sharing the space and they have (legitimate) concerns that they will be stuck sharing a kitchen with people who just don’t get it.

  24. Barry*

    In terms of condescension, I may be cynical but IMHO that’s part of the HR head’s job. I do not say that in an approving way.

  25. KT*

    LW2, I followed the same person into two different jobs. Not nonprofits like you, but a small, niche field where entry level jobs don’t open up often. The person before me left the first company due to lack of advancement, then wasn’t a good fit for the second company and was let go. My first several weeks with Company 2 were spent fearing I was going to be negatively compared to that person until another coworker pointed out my new manager also started as the same company as the two of us (Company 1 is known for hiring a lot of recent grads).

    Facebook’s figured out the connection and is constantly prompting me to add the person, but we’ve never actually met, as I started with both companies after they had left. We do have a number of work friends in common though, so I do wonder if an awkward meeting is inevitable. It’s weird as hell though finding their name on past projects or files.

    Idk if anyone played the old Nancy Drew computer games in the early 00s, but it feels like they are my Sonny Joon

  26. I should really pick a name*

    I’m not really sure what suspending without pay accomplishes for the company.
    It really just results in work not getting done.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I agree. Barred from driving company rented vehicles, sure. Promotion pulled, okay. Suspended without pay for 30 days does what exactly?

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        It makes you think seriously about your wrong doing. (and gives you the chance to think about job hunting.)

        I was given 1 week because of performance issues. When I came back I was given the choice of leaving with a nice severance or a chance to stay with unreasonable expectations. I can keep my mouth shut, but my eyes straight not a chance, especially with a boss who thinks that grooming wild horses is the same as grooming lamas. (My expertise is horses, but willing to learn lamas, but they were not willing to do the reverse.)

      2. HR Friend*

        Nine times out of ten, a suspension isn’t a punishment, but a way to get an employee out of the office while manager/HR figure out what to do with them.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          ^ they’re probably doing an internal investigation of some kind, making decisions about whether or not to keep the employee (perhaps even hoping the suspension pushes them to quit), deciding whether or not to create and implement policy, deciding whether or not to do any company-wide communications, etc.

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

          I’ve worked in places that threatened suspension with no pay as a form of punishment. And this was for things that were really beyond employees’ control. (think bad customers give employees bad reviews because the company chose to not continue a specific service. but the employee has to be the one to tell the customer and they get in trouble)

        3. Ann O'Nemity*

          I agree that suspension without pay is likely a stalling tactic while the company figures out what to do next. If I was the OP, I would be dusting off my resume and shoring up references in case the suspension turns into termination.

          1. sdog*

            Hmm . . . I think it really depends. In the US public sector where I work, the suspension would be the discipline and can’t be imposed without actually doing the investigation, etc. So if that were already imposed, then the employer wouldn’t be able to come back and do something more for the exact same incident.

        4. Aitch Arr*

          True, but even in those cases, my experience (and advice) would be to put the employee on a paid suspension.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      It is probably a company policy that allows them to conduct an investigation without the employee being around.

      1. mlem*

        Maybe also preemptive PR? If they fear a story might hit the news, they’re prepared to proclaim that, yes, they recognize the seriousness — see, they suspended without pay! (And, with less snark, if that further investigation determines that someone was injured or killed — or that any reporting employee’s story was incomplete — they haven’t been paying that person at the same time. And in *some* cases, time away from work gives the employee more ability to work through personal legal stuff, which the company wouldn’t want to be paying them to do — though forced use of PTO might align better with that.)

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      It keeps the suspended employee away from the worksite and other employees, bars them from remote access and communications, and prevents them from participating in work while the company proceeds with an investigation over what’s going on. It’s a safety protocol, and it also prevents the employee from contacting others to try to influence whatever investigation or decision making is happening regarding the incident.

      In the context here, I would imagine that the company wants to avoid possible legal liability in the event that they would allow an employee with a known outstanding DUI charge to be driving around on company business.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    Suspending someone for 30 days without pay seems like a weird disciplinary action. For many people the loss of income would be unsustainable and I don’t really see how it benefits the company in any way. If it were me I’d probably use that time looking for something new.

    Also, it’s strange that this hadn’t come up already – you would think someone would have thought about what to do with your current projects, clients, etc

    1. Pierrot*

      Yeah, when I have heard about companies doing 30 day suspensions without pay, it was because the company was doing an investigation or deciding whether or not they’d fire the employee. Someone I used to know actually had this happen and was fired at the end of the 30 days. It sounds like in the LW’s case, it is strictly punitive since it’s pretty clear that they will be returning. I wonder if the company has a policy where if an employee is arrested, they’re suspended for 30 days without pay and they’re just sticking to their policy. It might also be a matter of policy for drinking or substance use related suspensions if they expect the employee to seek some form of treatment.
      A 30 day suspension makes sense if an investigation is needed, but I think a week or two on top of the demotion would have sufficed here.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      That’s probably somewhat intentional. If they haven’t decided what policy changes might come of this, or if they are investigating OPs history of conduct, or if they’re still noodling around whether or not they want this to end in termination – they may be hoping that OP quits in the meantime.

      I’m not advocating for that approach but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    3. Avril Ludgateaux*

      I wonder if the OP is a public figure in some regard, or the DUI made the news and the employer was publicly dragged into it, so the suspension is the company trying to save face. Or what others have said about an internal investigation the may well end in termination.

    4. kiki*

      I think it’s to make the company look like they’re taking action/ not taking this lightly. News of the DUI is available to the public. If for some reason it gets a lot of attention, the company wants to be able to say, “He was suspended without pay for 30 days.” Suspended with pay doesn’t go over well with the public because is that really a punishment or extra PTO?

    5. Tesuji*

      Some companies prefer to ‘quiet fire’ or otherwise passively-aggressively hope an employee takes a hint. If the person leaves voluntarily, that means no one actually has to make a decision to fire them.

      We really don’t know the employment context here, but outside a job with robust contractual/union protection, I have to think that their career at that company is essentially dead: Having a promotion revoked that quickly is going to reflect badly on whoever approved or pushed for it, which means that getting promoted again is unlikely in the near future.

  28. Another health care worker*

    Re condescending executives, there’s research indicating that being in a position of power actually does erode your empathy for others. Thinking your employees are stupid is not quite the same as lack of empathy, but it would dovetail well with a feeling that their not getting expected bonuses is A-OK. Example is linked below.

    I also agree with the comment earlier that people who are willing to sell out their employees to toe the company line are most likely to have gotten management positions in the first place. This is why I’m not management material, and I say it proudly.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “This is why I’m not management material, and I say it proudly.”

      Heh. My father was a US Navy chaplain. He held the same rank (Commander) from the time I was old enough to be aware of such things to the day he retired. Only years later did my older brother tell me the story of why he would never again be promoted. He was assigned to a Marine unit (the Marines not having their own chaplains or doctors), on a troop ship sailing to Vietnam. While on the trip, his CO ordered him to go on the loudspeakers and tell the Marines that God wanted them to kill commies. This probably wasn’t a legal order, but that is a delicate approach to take. Instead, he went on the loudspeaker and said “My commanding officer has ordered me to tell you that God wants you to kill commies.” The way the system responds to this is to insert some carefully worded code language in the transgressor’s personnel file.

      1. Another health care worker*

        Good for your Dad. That command was repugnant, maybe equally to those who believe in God and those who don’t.

  29. amoeba*

    LW1, Just brainstorming here – would there be any gluten-free restaurants/food options in the area that you trust? Of course I understand that not being able to prepare your own food for the entire time would suck, but I guess eating out/getting takeaway every day might still be cheaper than separate housing?
    Plus maybe your own mini fridge in your room for stuff that doesn’t need cooking?

  30. Eldritch Office Worker*

    LW4 – You seem genuinely remorseful and I’m sure this is incredibly stressful. I’m curious though – do you not have an out of office, or outgoing voicemail, set up to redirect people reaching out to you?

  31. TomatoSoup*

    LW1, I don’t necessarily agree with Alison’s advice. Look at how each program talks about the housing. Is it mentioned in passing as a perk or as an important element of the program? If it is leaning towards the latter, I would recommend contacting someone ahead of time to ask, even generally, how important the shared living is to them.

    Many years ago, I did a program like this and it was very important to the program that participants all lived together. It was a stipended training program (related to but not quite AmeriCorps), so they had a lot of leeway in what they could require. If you had a reason that you couldn’t live with other participants, then it wasn’t the program for you. The application process was a lot of work, so they encouraged reaching out with these questions ahead of time.

    Also, my program was in a very expensive area and I simply wouldn’t have been able to afford housing (even with a dozen roommates). You might not be able to find roommates that you feel comfortable sharing a kitchen with in the timeframe you need, so be 100% sure that you can afford and access solo housing in the area. One of the reasons these programs often offer housing is that the local market is expensive and competitive.

  32. Susannah*

    Ugh, college grad intern applicant… I’d be a little creeped out by the forced intimacy this group is pushing. You’re adults.. and they want you to live together and cook together like you’re on The Real World or something? If they have an intern house and you’re on board, great. But the idea that because you’re all interns there, you’re going to be a “family’ they created is just overstepping…

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      It may be unavoidable at some internships – two of my classmates had a summer one that was on site in the middle of a national park during the week, home for the weekend (they hated that, meant they never felt settled). They did active physical work in a park starting pretty early. There was no option but to stay in park provided housing.

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

        I think the point that Susannah is making is all of the other stuff they ask “interns to share a house and do group activities beyond work-related training (cook meals together, go swimming)”

        You can share a house, even cook meals together but there is no reason why they have to do non-work activities like swimming! Yes it might be unavoidable at some internships but it almost seems like the company is trying to force a bond.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Also, intentionally hellish for introverts. Even if you have some personal space, the (quasi-?) mandatory socializing could well mean you never have a chance to breath.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right? I mean, for my first job out of college, back in my home country, I was assigned a bed in a room with two other people, by my work. One of my roommates worked at the same place I did, the other somewhere else but all three of us were fresh out of college/trade school. But that was strictly because of a housing shortage. We didn’t have to cook together or go swimming (what weird level of detail). PS It was absolute pure misery and I was happy to escape the roommate situation 1.5 years later into my own (admittedly bad) apartment and (admittedly also bad) marriage.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I think this really depends on the company’s expectations. If it’s forced bonding and togetherness outside of work, then, yeah, that’s not ideal.

      However, if the housing is being provided to make the internship more accessible to people whose families cannot afford to subsidize their living expenses to participate, that’s entirely different. And, though perhaps not implemented well, it’s also possible that having all interns share the same space is an off-the-mark attempt at equity.

      When I was in college, internships were primarily unpaid, located via nepotism and parental business contacts, and entirely subsidized by families who could put their kid up in another city for the summer. My family was not financially able to do that nor were they well-connected, so I missed out on a lot of opportunities, and I’m glad to see that a number of organizations have abandoned that system of internships. I like the offer of provided housing a lot more, but I’d hope they can be flexible with OP1’s needs and aren’t expecting a Real World situation.

  33. Avril Ludgateaux*

    #3 Can you make your colleagues uncomfortable for the asking? Like, “I’ve had the worst, most raging case of hemorrhoids (piles) to the point I have to have them dealt with surgically. Oh boy let me describe the process to you, and then the anticipating discomfort of recovery…”

    Come up with a different (but equally overly, gruesomely detailed) condition for each person who asks! Make it a game!

    1. Valancy Trinit*

      I am not the LW, but I feel confident that someone who doesn’t wish to disclose cosmetic surgery details doesn’t wish to disclose ass-related details either.

    2. Esprit de l'escalier*

      This could easily backfire if the other person has had that same problem, or someone close to them had it, and they’ve been longing to talk about it in great detail but it was never politely or professionally feasible.

    3. Observer*

      Why would you do that?

      There is zero up side to doing that, especially if people realize that you are just playing gross mind games. And it’s not as if normal questions about where the LW is “disappearing” to are so outrageous.

      The people who say “make it boring” or “let them talk themselves till they’re blue in the face without engaging” are right.

  34. Cut & Run*

    For LW #2: I agree with Alison. You don’t owe anyone anything. If you wouldn’t consider this person a friend, you can honestly say whatever you want (even “no.” end of sentence). While that will probably be considered rude, do you really care? Unless circles in your industry are small, will there really be a consequence of never having this person ask for something again?

    This person is clearly trying to gain something from this lunch with you, and the price they’re offering is just a meal. It’s fair to consider this a bad deal and decline like any business transaction.

    LW#3: While I’m not asking what you’re having done as it’s none of mine or anyone’s business, I have to ask, is your appearance going to change where the procedure will be obvious? If so, it won’t really matter what you say. People are going to know.

  35. HonorBox*

    OP2 – I think the last bit of Alison’s advise is perfect. You need to let the feelings go. That might not be easy. I was the head of a small non-profit for years and was absolutely, obviously (and justly) thoroughly invested in the organization and its success. I left. While I absolutely want to see the successes continue and I have nothing but great feelings toward the organization, I can’t be emotionally invested in the present leadership making staff changes, spending down some of the reserve I worked hard to build, doing things differently, etc. The staff that is in place and the board leading the organization are professionals and capable. They trust one another to do the correct thing for the organization. They’re on the ground. I’m not. If something goes badly, I can’t take that personally.

  36. Mary Smith*

    OP #3 I had plastic surgery to fix a deformity on my ears (they stuck out like Mikey Mouse). Mine was over a long weekend so it wasn’t as obvious other than I had to wear headbands to keep my ears pinned back for 2-3 weeks.

    BUT, the thing I don’t see commented on so far is that, if there is a major change in your appearance, people will notice. I’m sure they first noticed that I was all of a sudden wearing headbands in a weird way for weeks. And then the change to my ears was pretty dramatic. Only one of my coworkers had the guts to ask me about it. We were in a 1:1 meeting and she said “Can I ask you something personal?” I said, “Sure” and she said “Did you have your ears fixed?” and I said “Yes” and she said, “Well they look great” and that was the end of it.

    In contrast, I had a boss that went on a 2-week vacation and came back obviously having a facelift. There were comments behind her back about the fact that she’d had one, but nothing nasty, just “oh, that’s what she did on her vacation.”

    So, moral of the story for me is that if it’s something that people are going to notice, you don’t need to shout it from the rooftops, I think it’s ok to just say “I’m going on vacation for 2 weeks to have a minor surgery” but if there is going to be a big change to your appearance and people ask about it (as they shouldn’t, but if they do), then just say “Yep” and usually that will diffuse it.

  37. I need a name*

    Re: intern housing- my husband did an internship that offered housing during his first degree, but was able to opt out of housing because he was bringing me and our then 18 month old. However, as far as I can recall, he didn’t even need to give a reason for declining housing- just clicked a box in his hiring paperwork. We found a suitable apartment for the semester instead and he still was paid the same as other interns.

  38. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – re employee suspensions.

    I once worked in a place where a guy was suspended for misconduct. I think it was insubordination. This was before cell phones, and answering machines at home were not all that common. Now this was many years ago, and I heard this second hand.

    The suspension was, IIRC, for three weeks. Now, let’s call him Fergus, went home and told his wife. She had just been put on a temporary furlough for a few weeks from her job.

    “OK – let’s go to Florida and ride this out!”

    Long story short, Fergus and his wife drive down to Florida from the northeast.

    From Florida, he calls to check his phone box – maybe four days after his suspension. It’s the boss. Wants him to come in immediately. Long story short – a personnel shortage (unexpected crisis/emergency)

    Boss = “Why didn’t you answer your phone??”

    Fergus = “I couldn’t. I was traveling. I’m in Florida now.”

    Boss = “Florida? FLORIDA!!??!!! How dare you!”

    Fergus = “You suspended me from work, and, there is nothing that says I’m under house arrest.”

    They worked a deal, to reduce his suspension to a week.

    Now, in OP 4)’s case, it is possible for management to reduce the suspension BUT it also would demonstrate a “loss of face” on the part of management. He COULD ask for reinstatement but management would appear very wishy-washy/indecisive. So it’s a tough thing to do ….

    Managers face these situations often. They fire the wrong guy. They pass over a qualified employee, he/she leaves and chaos ensues. Glad I was never a manager.

  39. Syl*

    OP1: As someone who is disabled, never mention your disability (however mild!) before having an offer in hand. Don’t mention it in interviews or cover letters, it’s not necessary and may take you out of the running for a position.

  40. John Wick's Beard*

    LW2, I rarely disagree with Alison’s advice, but in this case, I have a different take. I’d agree to the lunch, and do what you can through that conversation to prevent a repeat of the mistakes from the first position. You don’t have to be confrontational to say “I’ve stayed in touch with some of the people from Job 1, and it sounds like things didn’t work out very well after I left. How would you characterize the experience?” You don’t have to become a full-time mentor to this person–but taking a bit of time to help them potentially do better carries with it the reward of looking out for an organization that you still feel affection for, and coworkers who deserve that small bit of effort from you. Difficult conversations aren’t fun–but they are often quite useful and productive, and given that your successor knows things didn’t go well the first time, perhaps they want to learn more about how to do better?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The successor asked to learn more about the new role, not a critique of their past performance. If the critique hasn’t been explicitly invited, I don’t think it’s going to go over well.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think, given how egregious the conduct was at the first organization, if I had affection for my prior organization, I’d be warning them, not taking on the burden of mentoring someone with suspect judgment and work history.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I guess I wonder how OP knows what actually happened when she, you know, didn’t work there anymore. Maybe Successor deeply screwed up. But maybe OP got the glossy version from her former work friends, and the truth lies somewhere between. Who knows.

  41. CAF*


    I help run my department’s undergraduate internship program (have not yet graduated). In the past, before I was involved with the program, we had an agreement with a local university to use their university-owned “off campus” housing where each intern had their own room but shared a kitchen. During that same time I know we had interns who lived locally and did not use that housing option. I do not know if they were paid more or not.

    The question as to whether you can get paid a housing stipend in lieu of using that shared housing is going to be a case by case basis. If the rent agreement the company has in place is paid per occupant you should (unless inexplicable and dumb reasons prevail) get a stipend no problem. If it’s a flat fee the company pays for access to the housing and is occupant-agnostic, then you will likely need to ask for that accommodation. There may be flexibility in the company’s budget that you are not privy to knowing but may exist to help you. It might be the case that relocation (if covered) expenses are lower and they can help you out.

    I can’t comment on taking the legal-minded approach but would 100% suggest taking the rational-human approach of simply asking if you can be provided a stipend rather than share housing because of health reasons. There are nebulous forces beyond any of our control and a simple question might just get you the positive solution you deserve.

  42. The Happy Graduate*

    LW #3 – I’m also taking time off soon for plastic surgery, which for me is actually a medical reason but will have a very obvious change to my body. While our country’s healthcare does cover this surgery, I have to pay private to choose my doctor and get a faster time. For me I plan to just be matter-of-fact about it since it will be very obvious what had done. My OOO message won’t allude to anything but leading up to it and when I return something along the lines of “It’s something that has needed to be done for a while, but I’m very happy to be pain-free! No need to worry about me.” and followed by an immediate change the subject.

    Best of luck LW, fingers crossed the results are all that you hoped for! :)

  43. One HR Opinion*

    LW 4 – I’m glad you took responsibility as far as telling the company right away. I’m guessing this and your clear remorse are what saved your job.

    I’d definitely reach out to your manager and HR to see how they suggest handling being contacted by coworkers. It’s entirely possible that they are not aware that you are suspended, nor should they be. You don’t want to get yourself or the company in hot water by performing work when you aren’t supposed to. They can direct you on how to word an out of office message, voicemail message, etc.

    I hope you will be able to get back on track and re-earn their trust and a chance at a future promotion.

  44. Carol the happy elf*

    I had a boob reconstruction (cancer), so I had one up, one down. (Before insurance companies were required to give you a matching pair.)

    Then “It”came back and claimed the other boob, which needed reconstruction, but because “we” saved the chest muscles, this one didn’t look the same. So I needed to have them matched. (I called my surgeon Dr. Frankenboobies. He was great.)
    The last surgery was for my face; I had been scowling in my sleep for years.
    That was nobody’s business, so when I took personal leave of 6 weeks, some people wanted to know why-
    I told the worst one that a doctor was going to surgically remove a nosy person’s anal sphincter from around my ankle. (That was when I had slipped on ice and was wearing an ace wrap on my foot- but in my defense, he was looking straight at my chest as he asked….)
    But it got to be a game with my friends and good coworkers. “Why are you going on medical leave?” “To have Goobert’s nose removed from my backside.”
    What are you having done?
    Donating an ear, because Rudith got hers caught in the door! (She had been fired for looking through files.)
    Having my throat stitched up from a sword-swallowing injury.
    Having my appendix replaced.
    Heart transplant surgery- I’m a donor.
    Having my eye muscles loosened, so I can do THIS (eye roll) as long as I need.
    Having an attitude replacement, and recovery will take WEEKS!
    Having hand surgery to replace my hands with someone who can play the piano.
    Having my ears reversed so I can hear “Crawford” coming up behind me.

    Usually the person asking realized they had no business in my business.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I think I would use this!

        And then when people say “well, your attitude doesn’t seem to have changed” I could just say “yeah, the first one didn’t seem successful. Maybe the next one will.”

  45. Raida*

    3. I don’t want to tell coworkers my time off is for plastic surgery

    Since it’s going to create questions I’d just say it’s a holiday, make sure I did a few things for fun that I can talk about.
    Playing gartic phone online for example is a really easy one that’s free, doesn’t need you to move, and can interact with friends/relatives as an event.
    Having someone over to watch a movie – you don’t need to go to the cinema.
    Getting a nice massage – even just feet can go a long way to an enjoyable day.
    Cooking something special – even if you are limited to nibbling on food you can enjoy a sundae.

    Then you say you had a holiday, did these things, got some things around the house finished off – a very satisfying few things like labelling all the spice jars, rearranging the lounge room, spring cleaning the curtains, donating clothes, all stuff that doesn’t need photos and you don’t actually need to have done.

  46. Therese*

    For #5, you might find it interesting to dig into some of the American founding fathers’ writings. One of their biggest concerns was figuring out ways to curb and balance power in their political leaders in the system they were designing. It was recognized that power is often a very corrupting force.

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