HR won’t do anything about a coworker who’s angry about my weight loss

A reader writes:

I just came back to work after a month-long emergency medical leave. The tl:dr is that after a decade of medical gaslighting, a new doctor ordered an emergency MRI during a routine visit and discovered a mass in my abdomen. I was rushed into surgery within 24 hours. I ended up having an 18-pound benign tumor pressing on my vital organs and I was about a week away from multiple organ failure. I’m lucky to be alive and time will tell if I have any lasting organ damage but right now everything is fine.

Mentally I’m struggling with a few things but the only outwardly noticeable impact is that I’ve gone from a size 20 to a size 8. Nobody on my medical team anticipated a change this drastic but I’m healthy and lucky. I was expecting to get a lot of questions from my coworkers because curiosity exists. I had a basic “emergency surgery but I’m fine now” answer that almost everyone accepted but one coworker who I hardly speak to, Aubrey.

On my first day back to work, Aubrey came up to me and said, “I wish you had come to me to lose the weight instead of resorting to such drastic measures. You’re going to gain it all back, you know. I’ll be waiting.”

I was aware of Aubrey’s reputation, but since we never work together I didn’t think it would be an issue. She’s one of those people who think they’re a fitness expert and calls herself a “health coach” (nothing to do with the company we work for). She has a reputation for giving out unsolicited and incorrect “health advice” and is always commenting on people’s food choices. I was speechless when she asked why I “opted to get butchered instead of putting in the hard work to lose the weight.” There’s nothing wrong with someone choosing surgical weight loss options, but that’s not what happened to me and I really resented her aggressive attitude/spreading rumors.

During my second week back, she came by my office at the end of the day in athletic gear offering to go with me if I was “too afraid to go to the gym alone.” At the time I wasn’t even cleared to lift my kid, do laundry, or climb a flight of stairs, let alone go to the gym with this crackpot. I don’t remember what I said to her, but she left saying I’d gain the weight back because I’m lazy.

The next day Aubrey ranted angrily about me in a meeting I wasn’t in (missed it for a follow-up, ironically). I don’t know everything that was said, but the gist was that if I can’t dedicate myself to weight loss, I obviously can’t see my work obligations through. HR called for a red flag mediation. At our company, mediation can go against your bonus opportunities for the year. I have no idea why I’m in mediation when she’s the one being an asshat.

At the mediation, Aubrey stated that she was triggered by my “new body” and I should have “thought of other people’s feelings and warned” her before my surgery. I hardly had time to warn my husband and get my kid out of daycare. I don’t owe Aubrey anything. I have empathy that she’s obviously struggling, but that does not excuse her behavior.

HR said that while they can’t ask me to explain my medical history, it might clear the air if I told her what kind of surgery I had and why. I said I wasn’t obligated to share my medical information with anyone and that Aubrey having bad coping skills doesn’t entitle her to a coworker’s personal health information. Their response was kind of “well, then we can’t stop her from bullying you.”

After Thanksgiving, my doctor helped me put in ADA accommodation paperwork so I could work from home. I was having some mild complications from surgery but also to avoid Aubrey. This company hates remote work so they’re REALLY not happy. Aubrey still emails me workout videos and diet plans and when I forward them to HR their response is, “Noted. Do you know when you’re coming back to the office?”

I’ve been thinking about escalating this to corporate with an employment lawyer. Is that overkill? I’m still in a sensitive place after my surgery and I have no energy for this, especially since Aubrey is fixated on weight loss which was the primary way doctors gaslit me for years. I’ve been with this company for five years and I’m just exhausted and disappointed in how they’re handling this and I want it over yesterday.

What on earth. Aubrey is obviously batshit bananapants and wildly offensive and out of line — but having one bananapants coworker is less surprising than how much your company’s HR team is dropping the ball.

Aubrey is welcome to have her own private feelings about weight loss, but she needs to keep those feelings to herself at work (and preferably everywhere else too). She is not entitled to harass a coworker about their body, their weight loss, how she thinks they achieved it, or what she thinks they should do next. She is definitely not entitled to refer to someone’s surgery as “butchering” themselves (!) or claim their body triggers her (!) or proclaim that their weight has anything to do with their follow-through on work obligations. (And the whole “you’re going to gain it all back, and I’ll be waiting” thing?! As if after this you’d obviously go to her if you did gain weight? What?)

But, as I said, she’s clearly bananapants. HR’s response in some ways is weirder, because you’d assume they don’t have whatever problems Aubrey is dealing with.

HR should be fully aware that they can’t legally allow an employee to harass another employee about a medical condition — a real one or one that exists in Aubrey’s mind. (The ADA specifically calls this out; you can’t discriminate against or harass an employee because of their protected health condition, or because of a condition they are perceived as having.)

Telling you that they can’t help you unless you share your private medical information with Aubrey … no. They might not be wrong that it would shut her up, but (a) Aubrey isn’t entitled to that, nor should they support the idea that she needs a “good enough” reason to stop, and (b) they’re obligated to shut her down regardless. And making you do mediation with her? No.

And now they’re being weird about your ADA accommodation — and in that context, are blowing you off when you report Aubrey’s latest harassment? That’s a huge problem. The entirety of the picture — the mediation, the vibe you’re getting about your remote work accommodation, and how they’re raising it when you attempt to discuss Aubrey — is concerning enough that talking with a lawyer about your options is a reasonable next step. Not necessarily because you’re going to sue (hopefully it doesn’t get to that point) but because lawyers can be enormously helpful in negotiating with your company on your behalf or advising you from behind the scenes on how to protect yourself.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 891 comments… read them below }

  1. WhoKnows*

    Oh boy. OP, I am going to need an update ASAP on this. Considering HR is being the opposite of helpful, my best hope for you is that you someone comes to their senses very soon, or you find a new job with more reasonable people.

    Have any other coworkers told Aubrey to buzz off? Because it sounds like she needs to hear it – a LOT.

    1. Tuesday*

      Yeah, she strikes me as one of those “always commenting on other peoples’ dietary choices” coworkers. AKA, the worst.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        OP said she literally does comment on people’s food choices. Audrey’s behavior should have been shut down by HR before it ever got to this point.

      2. sundae funday*

        She also clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about because even if LW had had gastric bypass, she wouldn’t have lost enough weight in a single month to go down that many sizes….

        1. Tiger Snake*

          I think OP is implying Aubrury thinks she had liposuction, no a gastric bypass. Her comments make sense with that context. I guess I could even understand how someone would come to that conclusion; unless you’re paying attention to OP’s actual recovery, it probably looks similiar.

          But even if the OP had had liposuction this wouldn’t be 0kay behaviour. Its not a moral failing to have cosmetic surgery, and its not Aubrury’s business to be judging and policing. That’s why HR suggesting that OP correct Aubrury’s assumption on the type of surgery she had is so outrageous.

          1. Eevee*

            Splitting hairs here because it’s a comments section so why not!, but (as far as I know) liposuction isn’t an emergency procedure- you probably wouldn’t suddenly disappear from work for a month without warning. So Audrey assuming OP had an elective procedure is pretty misguided… I’d guess most people would assume OP’s been extremely ill, but it seems raging body/food issues have blinded Audrey to the obvious and blunted basic social skills like empathy and respect for others.
            100% agree re: HR suggesting OP share the reason for her change in size- you’re entitled to your thoughts about elective and cosmetic procedures as they relate to you and your body.. beyond that your opinion ceases to have any value and you should know to shut tf up.

          2. Seashell*

            I don’t think even the most aggressive liposuction could change your size by anywhere near that many dress sizes. If Aubrey thinks that, she’s not that bright, in addition to bananapants.

            1. Eevee*

              Agreed. I am not any type of expert when it comes to weight management or fat removal surgery but it seems wild to jump to any conclusions beyond “wow, that person must have been severely unwell” in this scenario.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      There’s 2 kinds of buzzing off that should be delivered to her.
      1) General “you’re not a nutritionist or personal trainer, and I’ve had enough of your opinions about how I should eat, exercise, etc.”
      2) Specific “what the hell is your problem with OP? Leave her alone for crying out loud.”

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        Unfortunately #1 will not work because “She’s one of those people who think they’re a fitness expert and calls herself a “health coach.” Aubrey will argue as to why she is qualified to offer nutrition and fitness advice.

        Not that she is, but she thinks she is and you need to recognize that arguement won’t go anywhere.

        1. ecnaseener*

          True – and more to the point, even if she is qualified she still doesn’t get to force unwanted “advice” on people. I get how the “you’re not a nutritionist so back off” thing works in a lot of cases, but the better approach is “you’re not MY nutritionist and I don’t want you to be.”

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            This was exactly the tweak I was going to suggest. I mean, for all we know she took some kind of certificate program in her free time. But even if she does have a credential of some kind, that doesn’t entitle her to scrutinize and lecture and bad-mouth anyone. It’s less important whether she is or isn’t qualified and more important that her behavior is unwelcome.

            1. Mongrel*

              ” I mean, for all we know she took some kind of certificate program in her free time.”

              Personally, and speculatively, I’m getting a strong MLM vibe from her.

        2. XF1013*

          Agreed. This is why management and HR need to be the solution here. They can definitely tell Aubrey that her opinion about her qualifications is irrelevant, and that since “health coach” is not her job title, she must leave all of her health advice at the door, period, end of conversation.

        3. Hannah Lee*

          Or also “The company is not paying you to be a fitness expert or ‘health coach’ in general, or specifically to play that role to any of our other employees. Your job is something completely different. Focus your attention and effort on that while you are at work”

          1. Rex Libris*

            This. It’s no different from coworkers playing ad hoc supervisor, or therapist, or spiritual advisor, or any other unwanted, overstepping role that’s way beyond their purview.

            Management and HR needs to have the “Do the job we’re paying you for and leave everyone else alone” talk. Given how incredibly basic a problem it is at the core (employee assuming authority not in their job description) I’m amazed they somehow don’t think it’s theirs to solve.

        4. Dutch treat*

          Stop being polite.

          “You are to stop commenting on my private health matters.” (Note: no “please,” “thank you,” etc.)

      2. Phenix Azul*

        For #1 I’d draw the line at you’re not MY doctor/nutritionist/personal trainer, etc. While they’re lack of education in this field is important–this is a way to get around that as they dont have all the necessary information and then OP can align with the idea of keeping work and personal separate with a ‘nothing against you ‘ approach

        1. Worldwalker*

          “You’re not a qualified [whatever]” is something that the Aubreys of the world can argue against. But “You’re note MY [whatever] and I don’t want you to be” is (or would be, in a sane world) a clear “no”.

      3. CLC*

        Even if she were a nutritionist or a personal trainer she has ZERO right to talk about other people’s bodies and food choices in an unrelated workplace.

      4. zuzu*

        Even if she were a nutritionist or trainer, she’s not OP’s nutritionist or trainer, and OP didn’t ask her for advice.

    3. The Original K.*

      Yeah, if I’d been in the meeting that OP missed & in which Aubrey was ranting, I’d have spoken up. “OP’s weight is none of our business, so I don’t understand why you’re bringing it up.” And if she stepped to me with any of her health coach nonsense, I’d shut it down immediately.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It might take a couple of minutes for me to pick my jaw up off the floor, but I’d definitely speak up as soon as I did. What an awful way to talk about another human being.

    4. sookie st james*

      I’m also shocked no manager or coworker seems to have stood up for OP!

      This might be like throwing a glass of water on a wildfire at this point, but is there someone at the office who could advocate for you? A manager/supervisor/even just someone with some pull who could attempt to push HR in the right direction?

      I suppose it’s probably gone too far by now and if the office culture is as toxic as it seems, it maybe entirely moot, but I’m just surprised there’s been no mention of whether OP’s direct managers and coworkers have been in the least bit supportive or not

      1. Mike*

        This. My first thought when I read this post was “where is OP’s manager in all this?” If someone were harrassing one of my employees like this, I would go completely scorched earth, and escalate up to the moon.

        1. I AM a Lawyer*

          Based on how badly HR is failing here, it doesn’t surprise me that the manager is failing also.

      2. ferrina*

        Right?! Where is the manager in this? If a member of my team were being treated like this, there would be WORDS.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I think the manager is working hard on proving “People don’t leave bad jobs; people leave bad managers.”

      3. bighairnoheart*

        Yeah, I really hope OP can find advocates/sympathizers at her office. I doubt it would help much with the underlying issue that Aubrey is horrid, but it may help OP get some peace of mind to know she’s not alone in thinking that.

      4. Robin Ellacott*

        I thought the same. I know a lot of people are infuriatingly moralistic about weight but with this level of crazy you’d think even someone with prejudices of their own would be shocked.

        Aubrey needs to be fired, and it’s crazymaking that nobody is acting like she is out of line.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Repeated violations of ADA seem like grounds for firing to me. Though I suppose first someone in HR needs to learn what ADA is.

          1. Nysee*

            My first thought. I’m wondering why everyone is so afraid of this outrageously boundary-crossing manic. “I’m triggered by your weight loss?” indeed. @@

          2. Mangled Metaphor*

            Not upper management, HR. Which is why they’ve not done anything about her bananapants behaviour before.

      5. Elle*

        I was thinking the same thing. If something like this was happening to one of my people I would be insulating from it as fully as I could. Aubrey would no longer be allowed to even email her. This is absolute lunacy.

      6. Just Another Cog*

        Good for you, OP! Stick to your guns….no one has a right to know anything about you that you don’t want to divulge. In many work environments, there is way too much sharing anyway. People get the attitude that since we are together often more than with our families, that everyone needs to know every little detail about us. She seems envious of your weight loss with seemingly little effort and wants you to spill the beans. Why is HR so ineffective? I know they are not really tasked to help employees, but what the heck? I’m with Alison’s last piece of advice – consult with an employment lawyer. That might make HR take notice. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Your tumor(!) removal good news is being usurped by this weird-ass person.

        1. zuzu*

          Could be HR is ineffective because it’s weight loss related and HR has bought into diet culture and fatphobia, and doesn’t see this as Aubrey bullying OP over a perceived medical issue in violation of the ADA. Just some girl talk.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            HR may see Aubrey as their ally in “reducing insurance costs of obesity” because of the common (and contested) assumption that obesity causes health problems, rather than being a symptom of health issues. Such as having a tumor the size of full term twins, in LW’s case.

        2. ObscureRelic*

          Yeah, it’s definitely lawyer time. Maybe not actual lawsuit time, but lawyer time for sure.

          1. Wilma Flinstone*

            My inner voice started saying lawyerlawyerlawyer in the second paragraph. And by the end it was shouting at me. Lawyer up and out, OP!

      7. MurpMaureep*

        Yes exactly this. How on earth can Aubrey get away with ranting about OP to others, in a work meeting no less, and not be shut down hard and fast? Both OP’s manager and anyone else with any authority should be speaking to Aubrey, her management, and HR about how this has to stop now.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I have a pretty good brain-to-mouth filter in business environments, but in this case, it would fail me utterly. And I’m an individual contributor, not management, but I’d have read Aubrey the riot act and started listing examples *from my personal experience* of ways that people can lose weight and not have meant to and not have it be “good news” of any sort. I am seeing red thinking about her nonsense.

          1. bleh*

            I mean, cancer comes to mind. Is she that insensitive?! And frankly some people (read me and half my family) react to stress with nausea and inability to eat. What an ass Aubrey is being.

            1. Kyrielle*

              I broke my knee and it needed surgery, and oops a clot got loose and I spent ten days intubated and unconscious. Whether or not one needs to lose 20 pounds, *no one* needs to lose 20 pounds *that way*.

              Or the kid I know who lost 1/3 of their body weight, to well under a healthy weight, before their IBD got diagnosed.

              Or several people I’ve known dealing with cancer, or autoimmune diseases, or….

              1. GlitterIsEverything*

                Or when I lost 10# after having my tonsils out. Or the teenager I know who lost 10% of their body weight because they had undiagnosed abdominal migraines paired with SVT. Or any number of things that can cause chronic weight gain that results in sudden weight loss when it’s fixed.

              2. Anon for this one*

                Cancer *and* an autoimmune disease here! I acquired an autoimmune disease as a rare side effect from immunotherapy for cancer that resulted in me losing 25% of my body weight before the docs figured it out. (Symptoms were exactly the same as chemo side effects which made it tricky to track down.) Super-rapid weight loss is almost never a good sign. I’m actually seeing a nutritionist next week to talk about how to regain a portion of the weight at a healthy pace.

                (No detectable cancer left after surgery – my docs refuse to say “cancer free” because they can’t promise there wasn’t undetectable spread – and the autoimmune stuff is totally treatable with medication.)

            2. MigraineMonth*

              I have the same reaction to stress. Shortly after my grandfather died, someone complimented me on my weight loss. I’ve never wanted to punch someone in the face more.

          2. Federal Worker Drone*

            Yes. I lost weight last year. A lot of weight. From a medical condition, so it was NOT a good weight loss. All I had to deal with were coworkers who wanted to celebrate with me (while I was trying to build back the muscle mass necessary to walk from my work building to my car in the parking lot, as a result of that weight loss. I heard a lot of “But don’t you feel GREAT???” Um, no, not so much.

            At least in MY case, people just wanted to celebrate with me. I can’t even imagine how crazy I would be if I were getting harassed by a coworker as if I owed her my medical history.

            OP, get your lawyer. And start looking for a job with a company that’s not entirely people by crazy taters.

            1. Capybarely*

              Yup, I found that (when I had that bandwidth) responding to “you look great!” with “I was seriously ill and spent over a week in the hospital” helped curtail some of the size-ist “compliments.”

              I still feel very fortunate that my workplace 1) supported my month(!) of absence, and 2) no one there commented on my body.

      8. Paulina*

        Especially in that meeting, where Aubrey brought up her projections about OP’s attention to their health as though it’s related to work qualifications. Who was running that meeting, and why didn’t they shut that down?

        Aubrey is a crank and it sounds like everyone has just accepted her crankdom.

    5. Just Another Zebra*

      Based on OP’s comment that Aubrey’s reputation has proceeded her with all this nonsense (though obviously not to this extreme… I hope), I suspect it’s one of those cases of gradually worsening to this point. That the office who works with her is used to snide comments about working out or eating pizza or (probably) being overweight in general. When things progress, they can sometimes seem not AS bad because it’s just part of a pattern.

      To be clear – this is wrong and Aubrey is awful and somebody should have shut this down a long time ago.

      1. sookie st james*

        it also seems like Aubrey is weaponizing buzzwords like ‘triggered’ and has shown a willingness to go totally scorched earth once she sets her mind to something that HR might be seeing OP as the ‘easier’ option to neglect – like they think Aubrey (based on her current behaviour and standing reputation) will try to make their lives hell if they go against her?

        1. LCH*

          I actually don’t understand what Aubrey’s standing is. It’s baffling why HR doesn’t shut her down.

          1. sacados*

            Probably exactly what sookie said. They know that OP is a reasonable person and Aubrey is not, so it’s “easier” to get OP to capitulate because the chances of getting Aubrey to listen are zero.

            Rock the boat theory in action. I hope OP stands strong cause this is definitely bananapants.

            1. Sopranohannah*

              This is why a lawyer is probably the best option. I imagine it will be amazing how fast HR can tackle this problem behavior if a lawyer is breathing down their neck.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                Yeah, lawyers all the way. It takes an outside force to move a rock as coocoo bananapants as Aubrey and this HR “department.”

              1. I AM a Lawyer*

                I’m wondering the same thing. Is she the CEO’s daughter or something? I oversee HR for my company, and we would have fired Audrey already.

          2. Kelly*

            I worked for a large hospital and had a major problem with sexual harassment. HR entirely blamed it on being from different cultures and told us to have a diversity potluck. I completely believe they would handle something like this just as badly.

                1. KylieHR*

                  You’re right. If HR is doing their job properly, you shouldn’t notice them at all really. This HR is bananapants and I’d absolutely get a lawyer involved.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  My current workplace had two HR people in a row who were absolute gems. Unfortunately, one retired and one quit, so now I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it’s not just a fluke, and really due to our big boss being good at picking them.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                When it comes to following employment law, the vast majority of HR departments understand it. The entire reason they exist (other than hiring and payroll) is to keep the business from getting sued into oblivion.

                I’m not saying that they’re all proactive enough or don’t try to sweep things under the rug, but it takes a special kind of incompetence to ignore an email that states “Aubrey’s harassment of me based on a medical condition is a violation of the ADA”.


              LAWYER UP! Ask your atty to write a cease and desist letter that you can attach in an email to Awbrey and all parties of HR. Make it clear that you are NOT playing with this and they are treading on ice that has already cracked and started to fall apart. Make it immediately known that ANY further mention of your physical health is damaging to your emotional andxmental health and violates laws pertaining to harrassment in the workplace. And then sue the pants off of them!

          3. TootsNYC*

            it may be one of those “the first person to get HR’s ear is the one who gets to frame the situation.”

            So Aubrey rants in a meeting. about how LW has been so inconsiderate to her by not informing her, and that’s the lens through which HR is seeing it

            It might take a lawyer or a doctor or a mental health professional to get HR to see it through a different lens.

            or a colleague who could go to HR and say, “LW hasn’t said anything to me, and I don’t think she’d come to you on her own behalf, but I’m really tired of hearing Aubrey berate her and call her lazy. There’s obviously some serious health thing going on, and it’s beyond rude for Aubrey to butt in the way she’s been doing. It’s hard to hear. She seems obsessed.”

        2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          ” seems like Aubrey is weaponizing buzzwords like ‘triggered’ and has shown a willingness to go totally scorched earth once she sets her mind to something that HR might be seeing OP as the ‘easier’ option to neglect ” This was my thought too. I’d be using buzzwords right back. “Aubrey is harrassing me and trying to violate my HIPPA rights. My personal health issue is covered by ADA and I need to know (in writing) what HR is doing to prevent this. Any and all further harrassement by Aubrey is being documented for legal purposes.” I’d become the squeaky wheel that HR is afraid of suing them and see how fast they go tell Aubrey to lay off.

          1. Mischa*

            Although HIPAA would not apply in this circumstance, the ADA certainly would, along with any relevant state law (assuming OP is in the United States).

            1. Susannah*

              HIPAA might if they are even thinking about disclosing OP’s health condition/surgery to Aubrey…

              1. Squishmallow*

                Also the fact that HR is actively counseling OP to disclose private information – which means waiving her right to privacy, at least in this case – to her bully in order to defuse the situation.

              2. Grumpiest Chipmunk*

                It wouldn’t because HIPAA only applies to your heath providers releasing info without your consent. It doesn’t apply to your job releasing info. That’s for ADA now that she has that paperwork.

                1. GreenDoor*

                  HIPAA also applies to organizations that are self-insured. Regardless of whether that’s the case here, the *spirit* of HIPAA should certainly apply. The general consensus is that medical information should be private. What would it do to employee morale at OP’s workplace if people learned that HR thinks nothing of disclosing employee medical information – or that they will pressure employees to do it themselves just to avoid a hassle that HR doesn’t want to deal with?

                1. Rosemary*

                  But surely the employer could not disclose OP’s health information to Aubrey. OP can decide to herself, but HR certainly couldn’t. I imagine that would get them in some very hot water.

                2. Mischa*

                  @Rosemary: The ADA prevents discrimination on the basis of disability or the discrimination on the perception of disability. Employers are required to keep disclosed information confidential, but disclosure is not, on its own, discrimination according to the plain text of the ADA. I think an argument could certainly be made that disclosure led to discrimination (if the facts support it). Is it crappy behavior? Absolutely, but not illegal from what I can tell, though I haven’t researched the issue in-depth.

            2. Miss Kat*

              I am also one with no filter. If someone asks my age, appropriate or not, I don’t have a problem telling them. I also don’t have a problem telling people to step off. If this were me, I would wait to make sure there were a bunch of coworkers around, including management, and tell her I was tired of her crap, and then say that “I don’t know where you get off harassing me about my medical procedures. My body is my business and you need to shut your mouth. If you really need to know, I had a freakin’ tumor removed that would have killed me. My weight loss is triggering for you? How do you think it made me feel?” Just go off on her. I would also then tell her I’ve retained a lawyer and I will be suing her personally for harassment. Hopefully it would embarrass her to the point that no one will take her seriously and she will have a reprimand in her file. If not, then at least she would hopefully think twice about judging other people…. but I doubt it.

              1. Dana Whittaker*

                I was with you until “If you really need to know …..”

                Aubrey does not “need to know”. Period. Fullstop.

                Saying anything beyond that will reinforce HR’s erroneous request to share personal medical details with a harasser.

                And, in the spirit of lessons from The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker, it will simply reinforce with Aubrey that going to these lengths in harassing someone will garner the information she seeks. Even if she stops harassing OP, she has now learned that HR will do nothing and she will push the envelope even further with her next victim.

                OP, I wish you well in your recovery, and encourage you to quietly gather your evidence and absolutely contact the top employment litigators in your state to put a stop to this ridiculous situation at your company’s expense (aka asking that they pay your legal fees).

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            The fact that OP has to do any of this after NEARLY DYING and being harassed about when she’s coming back for more All Aubrey All The Time is just so insane. She should definitely do it so her case is as strong as possible, but my God.

        3. Mark the Herald*

          You’ve hit the nail on the head. OP’s HR doesn’t want to deal with this kind of nuclear-level toxic. You can put pressure on someone who cares about their reputation, or the quality of their work, or their relationship with others. You can reason with them or ask them to compromise or get them to think through consequences.

          You’ve got no tools apart from firing when it’s someone bullheaded, poisonous, completely blind to their own behavior, and YOLO blow-it-up nihilistic like Aubrey.

          The correct course of action is to explain clearly to Aubrey the behavior changes she needs to make to keep her job. And then follow through. But that’s a pain in the neck, so it’s easier for HR to just needle away at the OP until she cracks and leaves.

          This, folks. This is how you wind up with an organization where assholes run rampant and decent, competent people get churned through in a year or two like so many chew toys.

        4. Hosta*

          They’ve clearly not thought about the places someone could go with this. What happens if Aubrey gets triggered by someone in a wheelchair and their refusal to work out with her? Or someone being fat, or a particular race or color? What happens if she decides all the food of a particular nationality are unhealthy? Or if she decides that existing accommodations for someone with a cane is just encouraging laziness?

          1. Zweisatz*

            The thing is, she already went there. She is already discriminating based on illness/disability. A smart company would already be doing everything in their power to stop her so they don’t get (rightfully) sued.

          2. Nysee*

            Then HR will harass the person in the wheelchair, the overweight person, the person of color, and the foods they eat, and the clothes they wear, and their favorite color, etc. until they all quit, or move to another department. It sounds like Aubrey and her completely insane ideas are what HR panders to.

            I’m no doctor, but Aubrey sounds like she has mental health issues, and HR is afraid of her.

      2. Yvette*

        Kind of like the frog in the boiling water with the company being the frog and Aubrey being the boiling water.

        1. higheredadmin*

          THIS – totally agree. This is lazy HR and probably in the type of environment where it is perceived as difficult to fire an employee over anything that is not directly work-product related. Also, the reason Aubrey is behaving the way she is is in part because nobody stepped in and stopped her before.

    6. Worldwalker*

      I wonder how she’s treating other people in the office? While some people like Aubrey focus on one target, a lot more of them find ways to harass multiple people. And if she considers herself some kind of health expert, it sounds like she might be one of those. If so, maybe a group pushback is possible. “Aubrey is interfering with *all of us* when we’re just trying to do our jobs.” That might get the company’s attention, since it sounds like nothing else will.

      But, honestly, I think a company that says “we won’t do anything to stop workplace bullying, but we encourage you to share your private medical information with the bully, because we’re sure that will end well” is a place you don’t want to be working for.

      Aside from that — and totally not relevant to the bullying — what part of “emergency surgery” didn’t Aubrey get? Bariatric surgery isn’t done on an emergency basis. And it doesn’t make you go from a size 20 to a size 8 overnight.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        Aubrey is clearly dead certain LW is lying and it was scheduled bariatric surgery, not emergency surgery to remove a massive, life-threatening tumour. Probably because she has never heard of such a thing therefore she is positive LW just made it up.

        1. MurpMaureep*

          I don’t think that LW has disclosed the nature of her surgery to Aubrey, that’s what HR is pressuring her to do.

          What Aubrey sees, and what she’s using as ammunition in her horrible campaign, is that LW went out on medical leave and came back having lost weight. LW, rightly, doesn’t want to give Aubrey the particulars of her medical issues and treatment, but HR is saying “if you just told Aubrey it was a tumor and not weight loss surgery she’d leave you alone”. Which is a horrifying answer!

        2. Mark the Herald*

          I think you’re right. Someone this awful wouldn’t believe the OP regardless.

          And also – what if it WAS bariatric surgery? Aubrey would still be 100% out of line.

      2. CLC*

        Aubrey is 100% harassing other employees and treating them horribly. Something should obviously be done about that, but the company only has a legal obligation in the LW’s case because Aubrey is specifically targeting her about a perceived medical condition (weight loss surgery). To the great displeasure of us all, it’s not illegal to harass coworkers about their lunch and work out habits.

      3. Fiona*

        I’m getting mlm vibes. Either a coaching one like beachbody or one of the shake/supplement ones. They tend to be convinced they are health experts when what they think they know is nonsense and sometimes downright dangerous. They also tend to be delusionally persistant, both because of the cult like mentality and because they are mostly not making the money they were told they would.

    7. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Aubrey sounds like the known missing stair (though I almost want to call her the missing staircase) that everybody works around or avoids because it keeps you from being on the receiving end of her vile comments.

      Hoping we get an update here as well – that has OP even healthier than she is now – and no longer having to deal with Aubrey….however that ends up coming to pass.

    1. Pointy Stix*

      Right. I have no advice to offer, but I’m absolutely seething over this. OP needs to tell Aubrey that she’s triggered by her harassment.

    2. Just a different redhead*

      My brain is in what did I just read and in what world is it happening mode…
      OP you seem more than reasonable and I hope you do manage to get some specific advice from a lawyer. Aubrey is… even if she were in your immediate family (goodness forbid), you got emergency medical intervention and her response is to grill you for not being the imaginary person she thinks you are and not following her imaginary advice to get the imaginary outcome she wanted to “give” to you as a reward for you “putting in the hard work” for *her*!? And because she imagines that you got the outcome that she wanted to see you achieve through her imaginary assistance, without her… That’s “triggering”!? I mean, jealousy is hard to deal with when you legit feel it, but she’s drawing this whole wild narrative straight from her imagination, and presumably she’s an adult who’s supposed to have some shreds of professionalism, somewhere…
      Just how lost in her fantasy is she? O.o

  2. Introvert girl*

    Yes, Please seek advice from a lawyer. She should be fired and the company should pay you a settlement for the stress they’ve created with their toxicity.

    1. AGD*

      Agreed. It’s HR’s responsibility to stop this. Telling Aubrey that it’s not what she thinks wouldn’t actually stop this the way they suggest, because it doesn’t crack down on any of the real problems (fatphobia, boundary violations, terrible advice, etc.).

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Yes, even if Aubrey can be brought to believe OP has a “valid excuse” for her surgery (!?), she is obviously going to harass any employee whose weight/eating she has strong opinions about.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Or whatever else she’s decided is her “expertise” lately. Allowing one employee to decide that they know better than their co-workers about something — whether it’s weight or pandemic precautions or what kind of video game console is best — and then harass those people when they don’t acknowledge that “expertise” and comply, is a recipe for office disaster.

          If this isn’t stopped, the primary criterion for working there will be “ability to tolerate Audrey” (see: HR’s response) instead of whatever skills and abilities are actually important for the job. The star sales person, best researcher, top engineer, most creative designer, or whatever, will go work for the competition because they don’t want to deal with constant harassment. Even from a strictly business point of view, this is very bad indeed.

      2. Nessness*

        Yep. When HR says they can’t help OP if she doesn’t tell Aubrey what really happened, what they’re really saying is that Aubrey is free to harass her coworkers if they have weight loss surgery.

        1. Rosemary*

          Ding ding ding. Seriously, what if OP HAD had weight loss surgery?? Would Aubrey be allowed to continue with her harassment?

          1. Worldwalker*

            Apparently, yes.

            The company’s policy on bullying seems to be “If you can’t convince the bully to stop on their own, it’s your problem.”

            Which is why the employees’ policy on bullying needs to be “If you (HR) can’t convince the bully to stop, it’s my problem all right, and I’ll solve it by quitting.”

            1. Bob-White of the Glen*

              Prefer she solves it by lawyering up. It takes time to get a new job, and not everyone wants to, and the victim should not be the one leaving in this scenario.

        2. MurpMaureep*

          Yeah, what strikes me as particularly bizarre is the conclusions one can draw from HR’s response to OP

          Can Aubrey harass people who want to lose weight, just not using Approved Aubrey Methods? Can she berate a coworker for starting a diet or exercise program without consulting her? Is she allowed to yell at someone for joining Weight Watchers or taking up hiking or buying a Peloton or signing up for hot yoga?

          Alternately, what if a person lost weight due to another medical condition? Would an employee be asked to disclose a cancer diagnosis and prove to Aubrey they were undergoing chemo? What if they are medication that causes weight loss, does Aubrey get to have insight into their prescription history to “prove” they are not doing something she doesn’t like to lose weight? Do they have to tell her why they are taking a medication?

          The list goes on!

          1. Paulina*

            Well Aubrey claims that those things are triggering to her, so yes. “I’m triggered by how you live your life so I get to harass you” is absolutely bananas.

          2. elle *sparkle emoji**

            Also, Aubrey seems to be harassing her fellow employees to work out with her and follow a diet and exercise plan of her choosing. There isn’t anything that directly suggests this in the letter but I wonder if Aubrey is trying to bully her coworkers into paying for her “health coaching”? If so, I wonder if HR take action at that point, or if they just would continue allowing Aubrey’s shenanigans.

        3. Mill Miker*

          I really want to know what HR would have done if OP had asked in the moment “What answer would justify Aubrey’s behaviour?”

          Or, what they would have done if OP had looked Aubrey right in the eye and said “I got a new experimental thing where they combine the lipo and gastro surgeries. It’s going to make diet and exercise obsolete, and I feel amazing.” Would they have just sat there like “Okay then, it’s perfectly fine that she just through herself across the table at you.”?

    2. ferrina*

      If nothing else, a lawyer might help you get a settlement (or lots of severance pay) and ensure that the company is restricted to what they say to future employers.

      LW, I think you’ll need to find a new job. Given how awful HR has been (and the mediation that Audrey caused and you shouldn’t have had to be in might go against your bonus?!), I can’t imagine that they’d ever treat you well at this company.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I’d bet a shiny dollar one of the many reasons Aubrey has targeted the OP is she knows damn well how hard it would be, in her circumstances, to job hunt. So does HR, for that matter. “We can rattle your chain all we want because quitting and trying to get hired elsewhere while recovering from major surgery is going to be harder than just dealing. So, when are you coming back to the office?”

        1. Enai*

          Urgh. That didn’t even occur to me. May they step on Legoes whenever they’re blearily stumbling to the toilet at night, until they mend their ways.

    3. Tupac Coachella*

      I was so glad when OP indicated that they were willing to talk to a lawyer. No, OP, that is not overkill-you have been very reasonable. Situations like this are literally one of the reasons employment lawyers exist. This company’s HR is hot garbage. After this gross mishandling of the situation (with someone who’s KNOWN for being inappropriate about people’s bodies at work!!!), I’d be done looking for solutions and looking for a lawyer to negotiate a severance and a reference.

      Of course, I’m petty enough that I probably would have told Aubrey about the real reason for the surgery, down to the last detail, on the off chance that it would send her off with her tail between her legs never to speak to me again. But people like that are often too clueless to be shamed. OP’s “she is not entitled to my medical information” was the smarter choice.

      1. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

        Unfortunately, telling Aubrey the truth would only have led to her giving the OP more unwanted, medically worthless advice about how to recover from surgery, what she should be eating now, how to gradually regain her strength, etc. ad nauseum.

        Alison was right: Employment lawyer NOW!

        1. Troutwaxer*

          Maybe the OP can do a limited hangout here? Simply telling Audrey that “this wasn’t weight loss surgery, it was emergency surgery” would hopefully be enough. And yes, I know the OP isn’t required to tell the OP anything. Or maybe say to HR, “You can tell Aubrey that the surgery I had was emergency surgery, not weight loss surgery when you tell her to keep her mouth shut so I don’t sue the living fuck out of you.”

            1. Troutwaxer*

              I don’t necessarily believe in this strategy myself, but it seemed like a possible way forward, so I suggested it, prefaced by the word “Maybe.” But whether it’s a useful strategy depends on a lot of factors you and I probably don’t know about, so I suggested it with the idea that the OP could evaluate the possibility for themselves and reach a better decision than you or I could.

              1. Susannah*

                Trout, I know you mean well – and it’s true, sometimes the principle of the thing isn’t worth it if you can shut down a problem by giving something up you have no obligation to give. But in this case, the repeated harassment and inaction by HR (and denying a bonus if the victim is forced into arbitration? WTF?) makes that not an option, I think. The harassment would not stop, and would just give Aubrey (and Bad HR) some twisted justification for their behavior.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  And Aubrey would just find something in the explanation that she can fasten on to. “Well, you wouldn’t have had a tumor if you ate enough kale!”

                2. Troutwaxer*

                  I had an insight about this which I addressed way down below. (And Aubrey telling the OP they don’t eat enough kale is probably an improvement over her current behavior.)

                3. Troutwaxer*

                  I should have written “I have a possible insight.” It’s an interesting thought, but I won’t claim it’s more than a theory.

          1. Sal*

            The only way I would tell Aubrey that it wasn’t weight-loss surgery would be preceded by the words “Not only are you offensive and out of line, you’re also a delusional f***ing idiot because” and followed by several paragraphs beginning with “AND EVEN IF I HAD.” And while that would be momentarily satisfying, I agree that OP has taken the smarter path.

          2. Caroline*

            Yeah, no. When you give an inch to toweringly entitled people, they want more. They feel entitled to what they want, when they want it, all the time.

            The trick is to never, under any circumstances, give Aubrey anything, even if you legit don’t care what she knows about anything. Hard no. Lawyer letter no.

          3. JSPA*

            OP did exactly this.

            From the letter:

            “I had a basic ’emergency surgery but I’m fine now’ answer that almost everyone accepted…”

          4. Lisalou6950*

            My concern with this is that it still buys into the false belief that it’s ok to harass someone who had weight loss surgery. This behavior is 100% inappropriate regardless of the cause/type of surgery.

            I definitely recommend getting a lawyer. Your company is worse than clueless and you deserve better! I’m sorry you’re going through all of this while you should just be recovering!

        2. Empress Matilda*

          Totally. I imagine she’s full of “helpful” advice that OP doesn’t need or want. OP, have you tried yoga? Forest bathing? (That’s the new “sound bathing.” Nobody is sound bathing any more you know!) Green tea? Supplements? Have you had your chakras cleansed lately, and are you eating a diet of nothing but potatoes?

          If not, why not? And can you wait until this afternoon for Aubrey to run to the store and pick some things up for you?

          Aubrey is absolutely the kind of person who will weaponize any little piece of information OP gives her; and therefore she should be given no information at all. I’m sorry HR doesn’t have your back on this, OP!

          1. SleepyWolverine*

            Proving how dangerous unsolicited health advice can be, there has been a run of liver damage/failure here in the US from people abusing green tea extracts in an attempt to burn fat.

          2. Enai*

            Or Turmeric? It helps agains everything! So long as “everything” means “the food is insufficiently yellow”.

          3. TomatoSoup*

            To be honest, hanging out in the forest and eating potatoes sounds like a pretty good time to me but probably not in the way unbidden advice-givers intend it.

        3. Flabbergasted*

          This. Aubrey isn’t being rational and will make up a new way to approach it that is equally intrusive. She already bullies other co-workers. There is zero reason to believe she would stop.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. A sternly worded letter from a lawyer should make company management sit up and take notice that their HR is totally incompetent and not dealing appropriately with this situation.

      And the letter should be addressed to the company management, not just HR.

      1. ABCYaBYE*

        Yep. Because company management needs to know that their HR team is opening them up to HUGE legal issues.

        1. Tired but happy*

          Yep. I had to slide the Human Rights Act over for where I lived with the relevant act highlighted when I was dealing with transphobic nonsense (both where I worked and for the professional colleges that guide me) including pushback on working under my not yet legal name so as not to out me (part of The Act) and “Please don’t make me make a human rights complaint”.

          Wouldn’t you know that they followed The Act to the letter pretty damn fast and I got the language changed in both the national and provincial college for my career.

          So, OP, yes to lawyer.

          It takes courage and energy. You have courage. You probably are running low on energy.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            I’m so glad you had a good result with this! While “complying with the bare minimum of the law after having it explicitly pointed out to them” is a low bar indeed, we know how that often works out.

            Thanks for your activism.

      2. Lydia*

        Exactly. When OP asked if she should go to corporate HR instead, my immediate thought was, “YES!” I worked at a place that had a terrible local HR person. She was awful and several people had to deal with her BS. One of my friends finally said forget her and went to the corporate HR office. I had to for an FMLA request she didn’t process or send up to them. She was awful at her job and finally corporate HR started taking a closer look at how she was doing things when people started going to them directly.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have to really strongly agree with this – HR can get a copy – the the leadership needs to be the ones getting the original. HR is letting Aubrey harass the staff (because you know she’s not just picking on OP – a person like this has multiple targets), and Aubrey is taking it for all she’s got.

        Sadly also predicting that Aubrey is one of this personalities that will never learn or grow – because she is always the victim of people who “don’t understand all the wonderful advice she has to give” whether they want that advice or not.

    5. AllieJ0516*

      Absolutely. This is a hostile work environment, violation of ADA, and harassment. If HR is not addressing the source, OP has every right to bring in an attorney. I’d recommend ASAP!! Good luck, OP, sounds like you need it! Will anxiously await a WONDERFUL update. So happy they found the tumor when they did!

      1. Lexi Lynn*

        Ok, may not be applicable, but are you working with the head of HR? We’ve seen lots of letters when the head was appalled when they learn what their directs are doing.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Which simply means that the head is appalling. Either they know, in which case they’re bad for condoning it, or they don’t know, in which case they’re bad for not paying attention to what’s going on. Either way, they’re wrong.

    6. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

      If I were a high-level manager, and this fell under my purview, there would be a Stalin-scale purge at that office. To the point where I’d have security watch people clean their desks out, one at a time, and take the long route through the office on the way to the front door.

    7. JSPA*

      Indeed! the only part of Alison’s advice that I do not understand is why a lawsuit would not be a desired outcome in this particular case. OP, granted IANAL, But as much written documentation as you probably have by now, This seems a fine option to take the money and run (to a decently run workplace that doesn’t prioritize the feelings of bullying, over-stepping, drama-creating jerks).

      1. zuzu*

        Because lawsuits suck and are expensive and are best avoided if you can get what you want without having to file.

        You can also lose.

        1. JSPA*

          Sure, but this is so, so eggregious. And it’s already living hell. And the chances are pretty good that someone higher in the company would have the sense to settle.

      2. Res Ipsa Loquitur*

        No, a lawsuit is not the desired outcome unless you are truly passionate about the principle or have no other options.

        Assuming LW finds a lawyer willing to work on contingency (meaning LW doesn’t have to pay them upfront, instead they get 1/3 of the award or settlement), if it doesn’t settle it will take years for LW to see any monetary compensation. Lawsuits are matters of public record and, unless LW had another job lined up OR felt comfortable early in the interview process explaining this whole situation (which is a massive burden on her), it may make it very hard for her to land a new one. Additionally, LW would be deposed, possibly multiple times which means she would be subjected to intrusive questions about her health and forced to relive these legitimately horrific instances of Audrey’s behavior and HR’s lack of response. Her medical records WILL be demanded and, while I cannot think of any way they could be introduced at trial, they may have to be handed over to the judge or to opposing counsel. Her employment history, any small infraction or disagreement with co-workers WILL become a point of contention and used as an attempt to discredit LW. As LW has already been gaslit over her health, it is in no way a desired outcome for her to have to put up being gaslit about her job. A lawsuit is a massive emotional and time consuming effort that usually ends in a settlement anyway because pre-trial is expensive, but a trial and appeals are even more so.

        The other thing is that the THREAT of a lawsuit often works better than actually suing. As noted, anyone with a PACER account can get a copy of court filings. Want to bet Company DOESN’T want their clients, employees, and competitors to know they let someone harass their employee for having a tumor and almost dying?

        The desired outcome here depends on if LW wants to stay at this company. Lawyer can try and straighten out HR, or they can negotiate with the company a reference and severance/settlement for LW in exchange for LW waiving her right to sue the company. Based on how HR has acted, I am hoping for a significant payout from Company and that LW will be able to take some well earned time off to continue her recovery without dreading the next Aubrey email and HR non-action.

        Seriously though, people think it only sucks to be sued, in a case like this, it would also suck to have to sue someone.

    8. KC*

      Completely agree. I can’t believe HR hasn’t intervened because this has liability written all over it in big, red letters. You’d think they’d want to protect themselves!

  3. Tuesday*

    Oh. My. Goodness. OP, I am so sorry you’re dealing with this nonsense on top of what I’m sure was a very scary and dramatic medical issue! I am dying to know what a lawyer would advise. Aubrey is definitely going through SOMETHING but I can’t say I have much compassion for her when she’s being this much of a jerkbag!

    1. Hannah Lee*

      In my dream word, OP talk to an employment law lawyer about this situation and get a real pit bull to go after the company for their egregious handling of this entire thing, and then that attorney would get one of their colleagues to go after the awful doctor who misdiagnosed, mistreated OP for a decade! leading to the OP developing a life threatening condition, leading to emergency surgery, time off from work, life changing physical impacts.

      OP should be able to walk away from this cavalcade of idiots and a-holes with a couple of huge settlements and a fresh start.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      You’re a nice person to think about what Aubrey’s going through but as someone who had a much smaller tumor removed resulting in scarring on my neck that got a lot of comments from folks asking if I’d tried to hurt mysef, there’s no excuse for any adult of sound mind to ask. I wish I could have just carried around my tumor -ridden thyroid in a jar to whip out when needed to shut folks up. But it’s sad she can’t even get support for medical privacy!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I thought I had it bad when I had an emergency eye surgery and had to wear an eye patch to work and a coworker in all seriousness asked if it was my Halloween costume… In early September. (But wait, it gets better! Her husband was on my team, knew about my surgery, and started greeting me with an “Arr!” every day after I returned to work in my eye patch. And when I told the wife “no, I had to have an eye surgery, didn’t Husband tell you?” she looked appalled and said “we don’t talk about work at home.”) But between your story and OP’s, I am dumbfounded. Dear lord, why are people?!

        1. Zweisatz*

          Wow. That “arr” reaction is what I received with a minor wound on my face… in kindergarden!! Some people.

        2. Lydia*

          I remember when I worked at the campus bookstore in college a woman came in with the BIGGEST SHINER IN THE WORLD and I must have looked appalled (which I do feel bad for, but I had never seen a black eye so huge and distinct ever) because she explained she had got hit in the eye by a softball and wow. Anyway, I have since learned to keep my face neutral when someone has an injury or bandage or something.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, I can’t bring myself to care about whatever Aubrey’s “going through”. She is being an asshole and the company is breaking the law.

      3. Eat My Squirrel*

        Oh god, thyroid removal is an awful one. I had mine out twice (in halves, 4 years apart.) Both times I had this huge red slice across my neck that looked like my throat had been slit. To make matters worse, I was allergic to the adhesive bandages they used to close the wound, so the first time it was huge and red and puffy from the reaction, and the second time it had a wet look from the surgical glue they used instead. I wore scarves in public but they were uncomfortable at work, so I just sat there in all my “no-I-didn’t-try-to-kill-myself” glory. The looks on people’s faces, ugh.

      4. Sel*

        I had a thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer in my late 20s and I always tell people I fought off a guy trying to rob some nuns at knife point and he tried to slit my throat. (Because I have a morbid sense of humor like that I guess.) You’re welcome to use that instead if you want! It’s extra good if you can deliver it with a straight face.

      5. anycat*

        i had wrist surgery for a broken wrist and a coworker out in the field asked me if i had missed… so i feel ya.

    3. Rosemary*

      I have zero compassion for Aubrey. My compassion is reserved for OP and Aubrey other victims (because you know OP is not the only one to suffer Aubrey’s wrath)

    4. Worldwalker*

      Not everyone who is a [insert preferred epithet here] is “going through something” — some of them are just bad people.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think she’s “going through” being a terrible person with entitlement issues. Hopefully she will get to the other side soon, but I’m not optimistic.

  4. Justme, The OG*

    OP, I’m really glad that your new doctor listened to you and that you’re on the mend.

    Your workplace is bananacrackers and you don’t deserve to be treated the way you have been by all parties involved.

    1. MK*

      I am afraid to ask where the OP lives, where doctors dismiss abdominal pain and a tumor is allowed to reach the weight of 3 babies before someone deigns to do a scan. I get MRIs are expensive, but don’t these people have untrasound machines?

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Speaking as a fat person, medical gaslighting is a thing. “It will be fine if you lose weight” is something I hear a lot, and I’m a smaller size than what the OP started at. I’m willing to bet she’s in the US.

        1. littlehope*

          This is common just about everywhere, I’m sorry to tell you. It’s by far the least remarkable part of the story.

        2. FG*

          Welcome to my entire life. Took ten years for a doctor to consider my symptoms were not due to being overweight but due to PCOS, even after I said, “Hey, I think I might have PCOS.” I ended up with ovarian cancer (successfully treated.) Wonder if being treated earlier might have prevented that.

        3. Zap R.*

          Hear hear. The doctor who diagnosed me with sleep apnea wouldn’t prescribe me a CPAP machine and told me to “try keto” instead. They treat fat people like trash.

          1. Junior Dev*

            That is terrible for a whole host of reasons—sleep apnea shortens your life if it goes untreated, keto is not healthy for people who would suffer from a lack of fiber or saturated fat, and there’s a known relationship between sleep deprivation and increased appetite—other than being just a failure of human decency all around. I really hope you were able to get care from a doctor who didn’t suck so hard.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Lol yeah right. Zap R., check w/ an ENT for a CPAP or radiofrequency ablation, I’ve been finding ENTs to be more responsive than sleep specialists or GPs. Ablation is less intrusive than Inspire, so that’s what I’m thinking I may try next. Keto is expensive and unsustainable, unless you really really really like fish.

              Side note: I managed my apnea for about five years with the exercises in the page below (remove the spaces after https). Per Consumer Reports, about 30% of people who do them end up with lower blood pressure and less sleepiness. Blood pressure is what I use to objectively test how effective my apnea treatments are, a home bp cuff is worth the investment.

              Good luck, the weight / apnea spiral sucks so much.

              https: //

              1. Enai*

                Thanks for the exercises, Jules. I’ll try them to see if they help against my mild snoring problem.

          2. Satoris' Evil Henchman*

            *facepalm* apparently that “doctor” isn’t keeping up to date. gaining weight can be a symptom of sleep apnea (not necessarily the other way around like a lot of people have thought for a long time). they should try working out after getting terrible sleep, every night, for (probably) years. it’s really freaking hard is my point.

            1. E*

              Kinda opposite to your answer but I got a “good lose more” after talking to a doctor about extreme weightloss. 10 years later I’m going through it again, and it turns out that extreme weightloss is a sign of Diabetes and DKA and can be serious, even fatal if not treated.

              Now i’m left wondering just how long I’ve had T2 Diabetes because doctors pushed me to lose weight but never tested or took notice when it was happening too fast.

              What I definately haven’t been is well supported by my doctors over that time, despite pleading with them (and its the UK, trying to trace responsibility to sue for over a decade of mismanagement from different doctors isn’t a sensible idea).

              1. Freya*

                This is one of the reasons I pushed for my husband to get a bunch of baseline bloods done (that would point to various things in family medical history) when I went with him to the appointment he set up with a doctor to discuss sleep apnea. He didn’t show up with any of those things, but they were possible root causes of weight changes that needed to be checked. And now he has something that they can compare to if he gets tested again in the future, which is kinda important if, for example, you want to catch a slow decline in thyroid happiness before it goes kablooey.

          3. ArtsNerd*

            I’m sorry.

            I had a friend who was even denied a sleep study (by a specialist) because obviously she was just fat and needed to lose weight.

            As though sleep apnea isn’t well known to cause weight gain. Same doc told me my fatigue was a conversation for my psychiatrist but condescended to humor me with a sleep study. Surprise: you can have depression and sleep apnea at the same time! Someone alert the BMJ!

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              I had a friend who thought her weight was why she wasn’t sleeping and her joints were killing her every morning. She got a new mattress, the problems were gone.

              Her doctors all told her that all her labs were perfect and she is super body positive, but still the fat phobia was so ingrained she figured it must be the weight…and not that her decades old mattress might need to be replaced because the springs couldn’t have cushioned the weight of a toddler, let alone a grown adult.

        4. Dances with Flax*

          And that “medical gaslighting” / neglect / malpractice goes double for Black women (of any weight), I’m sorry to say.

        5. Nea*

          OMG, the horror stories I could tell. I just fired a doctor for nagging me about my weight even while he admitted it had nothing to do with my condition!

          The trick, I’m told, is to insist on them putting in your record what tests they would run on a thinner person, why they did not order them for you, and to wait, physically, in the office until you get a copy of that record.

          I haven’t tried that yet, but I wish I had on the guy who told me that the “cure” for my pinched nerve was bariatric surgery. I think of him every time I check for injuries I can’t feel…

          1. IDIC believer*

            I (67F) had to see my vacationing GP’s (50F) partner (58M) for a suspected UTI (have stage 2 kidney disease so am very proactive). I’ve had over 20 UTIs so I’m very familiar with the symptoms.

            The asshat doctor said my history of anxiety was the real issue; he also asked about my education level – I’m 65+ yo (I didn’t complete college so apparently I’m a moron!). I was so caught off guard that I just sat there until I asked if he was saying my symptoms were in my head, he then went a diatribe about older women getting paranoid and ending up in nursing homes.

            I insisted on lab testing not just the in-house test strip which was negative – not unusual in early infection stage. Well, bingo I needed antibiotics for my infection. Now I just need to calm down before my next GP visit to discuss that misogynist ageist classist whack-a-doodle!

            1. UnpopularOpinion*

              he then went a diatribe about older women getting paranoid and ending up in nursing homes

              I’m baffled. A raging UTI in older people can cause dementia like symptoms. All the more reason to do a urine test!!! Cheap! Easy! Treatable! Ugh.

          2. zuzu*

            I was so pissed when recently I fell off my bike and whacked my elbow. My concern? Potential fractured elbow. Was my weight involved at all? Only insofar as its team-up with gravity to pull me to the sidewalk.

            Why was I pissed? Because when I went to urgent care, the nurse insisted on getting my weight. It’s my practice to decline, because if my weight isn’t in my chart, my insurer can’t start bugging me with weight loss programs and there’s no numbers to support a diagnosis that can lead to denial of coverage. Besides, there are very, very few medical procedures for a non-pregnant adult where your weight is actually relevant, and getting your elbow X-rayed is not one of them.

            But this was my first time at this urgent care with this insurer/HMO, and I was concerned that if I didn’t follow their rules, I wouldn’t get treatment. So I fucking did it, after an argument (he had the gall to tell me that medication is based on weight. I was prescribed ibuprofen, which is … not). I filed a complaint about it afterwards. And fortunately, the doctor didn’t give me any shit for my weight, just a sling and a referral to Imaging.

        6. Hannah Lee*

          Justme is sadly absolutely correct. Medical malpractice, mistreatment, gaslighting of patients who are perceived as fat is rampant. I’ve heard more than one story of someone with an ear infection or strep or an orthopedic injury (like a broken bone) being dismissed or receiving zero treatment for their actual medical issue, and being sent away with curt “lose weight”

        7. De Pizan*

          I broke my ankle in three places and had to have surgery and hardware put in. I was non-weight hearing for 3 months and using a wheelchair and walker to get around. And then in a boot with a cane for another few months.

          I got some blood work done while still using a wheelchair, and even though I had done a video visit with my primary doctor two days before the blood work and we had talked extensively about the surgery and how much longer I was going to be non-weight bearing, she still sent me a letter saying that I needed to watch my exercise activity. Sure doc, as I’m hopping around in one foot, I’ll try to get right on that.

          1. There You Are*

            My orthopedic surgeon, the person who repaired my shattered ankle with tons of hardware, told me at the first cast-changing visit that I needed to exercise more and lose weight. I pointed to my re-casted leg and said, “How???” He said that I could lay on my back and “do bicycles” in the air.

            But he’s also the guy who missed the hairline fracture going up my shin, which led to additional months of recovery wearing a bone stimulator thingy.

        8. Not a nepotism baby I think*

          Coworker of mine missed 1 or 2 days of work a month for years due to debilitating joint pain. Her son was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis that’s almost always genetic. Guess what it turns out coworker has? Doctor had been telling her for years to just lose weight. She did one last appointment with that doctor to point out that she could have been saved years of pain if the doctor had looked for causes before saying lose weight. Response was “you needed to lose weight anyway”.

          1. Goldenrod*

            “She did one last appointment with that doctor to point out that she could have been saved years of pain if the doctor had looked for causes before saying lose weight. Response was “you needed to lose weight anyway”.”

            Holy shiz. This is horrifying.

        9. Kat*

          Often this is the recommended treatment because it’s the least invasive, and (speaking as a fat person myself) it often DOES reduce a lot of health problems.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            But it does nothing if you’ve got a tumor or most infections or a broken bone or a non-functioning thyroid, etc etc. Maybe physicians could look for those things as well and actually treat them. And then if they like give some weight loss advice.

            Least invasive is fine … failing to bother treating something which can be treated effectively and quickly (reducing patient suffering, loss of function and heading off complications) is not.

          2. Oxford Comma*

            Yes, it does. It can help with a lot of things, but it isn’t going to help with cancer or infections or migraines or a whole host of other conditions and for doctors to dismiss those symptoms with a “you need to lose weight” is irresponsible at best and malpractice at worst.

          3. Lizzianna*

            Except my knee problems (which started as the result of a cross country injury that happened when I was running 6-7 miles a day) were the reason I couldn’t exercise, and dumb college me decided not to deal with it, and ended up gaining about 50 pounds over the next few years.

            When I finally decided to deal with it, trying to exercise was exacerbating the injury. But my doctor just wouldn’t listen and refer me to a sports doctor or physical therapist because he was so convinced that if I just lost weight, the knee pain would go away.

            When I finally got a physical therapist who would listen, he gave me a specific program that helped my knee feel better, even at my heavier weight. He also told me that no amount of weight loss would heal my knee. And because my knee feels better, I was able to start getting active again. Not 6-7 mile daily runs, but I am able to walk my dog 2-3 miles a day now. I’m still overweight, but I feel great and healthy.

          4. Chirpy*

            Sure, but I had chronic knee pain for 10 years until I finally started googling for answers, because the doctor just told me to lose weight. I had gained that weight largely because I was in too much pain to exercise…

          5. kitryan*

            If the condition they won’t look for is causing or contributing to either weight gain or inability to maintain previous activity levels which then in turn contributes to weight gain, then the doctors are trapping people in a Catch 22 where you have to lose weight to have your weight gain causing condition diagnosed and treated.
            These blinders that a large percentage of the medical establishment are wearing as regards weight and health are killing people.
            And that’s even leaving out the rock bottom fact that there’s no reliable way to lose weight and maintain the loss, and that yo-yoing has been shown to be very harmful in itself.

          6. iliketoknit*

            Except the problem is that intentional weight loss programs are overwhelmingly unsuccessful, so prescribing weight loss as a solution is pretty counterproductive.

          7. JSPA*

            I mean, yes, my pinched nerve is marginally less pinched when it’s my most active season, and there’s less adipose sharing the channel. But given there’s an entire displaced bone mashing on the nerve, and some unusually-routed tendons, focusing on the fatty tissue is a way to avoid treating the major underlying problem.

            I think we’d all be a lot more forgiving if the message was, “as a noninvasive stopgap, some people find partial relief with weight loss; if you’re someone who sheds fatty tissue easily and without distress, that’s something to try.”

            But the message is almost never delivered in that form.

        10. Susannah*

          Yep. A tragically common thing. The host of the podcast Maintenance Phase (I highly recommend it!) talks about how she went to get an ear infection treated and the aftercare instructions were to lose weight. And it’s been documented in many studies, how doctors assume anything you complain about physically is due to your weight – and then don’t bother ordering tests they would order for thin people. It’s disgraceful.

          1. SadieMae*

            I once went to an urgent treatment center because I had strep throat. The provider diagnosed that, wrote me a scrip for it, then read, off a piece of paper, a lecture about how being overweight is unhealthy and can lead to certain health conditions, etc. He looked really uncomfortable as he was doing this. When he was done, he looked up sheepishly and said, “I’m sorry, but it’s company policy that if you are clinically obese, we have to tell you all this stuff.” Let me tell you, I never went back to that UTC again. How incredibly cruel and condescending.

          2. Well...*

            Did you notice the irony that problematic co-worker is named Aubrey? Maintenance Phase Aubrey is (understatement of the century) the better Aubrey.

          3. TinySoprano*

            It’s really interesting where doctors set the line for “you just need to lose weight”. I’ve always paid attention to whether or not docs mention my weight because I (a scrawny bean) have several best friends who are fat, and who face medical gaslighting and discrimination on the regular. So I found out where the line is from the other side during my weight gain journey. And it’s impossibly low.

            So I spent the past ten years with my regular (great) doctor actively trying to get me to gain weight (I was horrendously underweight). Most other doctors never mentioned my weight at all. Well I got the underlying cause treated, and have now reached a healthy weight, which honestly is that I’m about the same size but with added boobs. The difference in kg is so small it would count as carry-on luggage on even the cheapest airline. Recently I saw a new doctor and for the first time ever, I received a lecture about not eating “crap”! Like, I finally fit into grown up clothes, and THIS is where the line is? The line for a “healthy weight” for some doctors is literally where the “malnourished” BMI starts. No wonder you can’t win if you’re fat.

            1. Balboa Park*

              I was diagnosed as “morbidly obese” when I was 5’6″, 135#, 36-25-36. (I think that’s about a size 10. I’d gained 10# from my post-puberty weight and size 8.) Doctor insisted that if I didn’t get down to 102#, I would get breast cancer and DIE.

              When I was 106#, my collarbones looked like a hanger and strangers thought I was male. (I have huge shoulders, long arms, and huge hands, so I guess my silhouette looks more male than female? Good thing I didn’t have bathroom laws to deal with in the 1990s in San Diego.)

              1. Birdie*

                Had a very similar experience. I’m 5’8″ with a really muscular build. Broke my foot when I weighed 165 pounds, a few months after I had a kid. The ortho gave me a lecture, solely because of BMI, about being overweight and needing to lose at least 30 pounds, “but 40 would be better.” Excuse me? When I was 125 pounds I was in the hospital with an eating disorder, my face was utterly sunken, you could count every rib with ease, and my collar bones could be used as handholds. When I got out of the hospital at 135 pounds, my hip bones were still visibly protruding, although I no longer looked like death warmed over.

              2. JustAnotherKate*

                Some doctors are seriously unable to shut up about weight! I’m thin and I’ve still recently been chastised for gaining three pounds (in two years!) by one doctor, and told to “watch the sugar” by another — who, if she’d asked, would know I don’t even like sweets. (Perhaps one of them was named Aubrey and had some shakes to sell on the side.)

                Not to say it’s ever OK for a doctor to chastise anyone of any size about their weight; I have an intense dislike for any doctor who thinks it’s acceptable bully a patient for any reason. But I swear some doctors say “lose weight” reflexively, like they’re a trained parrot and these are the only words they know!

                1. Well...*

                  On the other side of this, I know someone with an ED who was seriously underweight, and in the end she had to diagnose herSELF. Doctors kept telling her she was fine and totally healthy even after very clear symptoms of being dangerously underweight.

          4. anon for this*

            cw cancer

            My family has a history of aggressive early-onset breast cancer. I won’t go into the full details but several people died, it was traumatic, and it took twenty years before we were finally able to find a genetic cause and start getting screened. When I saw my general practitioner in order to get the referral I needed for screening, he didn’t know anything about our family’s condition (that part’s not his fault, it was rare and newly-discovered, no reason a GP would be expected to know about it) so instead after I’d finished correcting the mistakes in his referral letter, he filled out the appointment time by playing me a YT video on a non-evidence-based fasting diet.

            As opposed to, say, “that sounds really harrowing, have you considered therapy to help deal with it?” Which in hindsight would have been EXTREMELY useful advice to hear at that point.

            (I got the therapy eventually and I’m dealing a lot better these days, but I’m still mad at that guy.)

        11. Oxford Comma*

          Yep. You could go in with a gunshot wound and they would tell you “if you lost some weight, it will be easier on you.”

          1. Hannah Lee*

            If you lost some weight, the bullet wouldn’t have hit you. (with no actual treatment for the bullet wound) And that’s setting aside the fact that in some cases, the weight gain is actually a symptom of an underlying health issue – ie a tumor in the LW’s case, or many endocrine disorders.

            1. Oska*

              “You know there are exercises you can do with a bullet wound, right? There’s no point in removing the bullet if you don’t show a will to change first.”

        12. Burn It All*

          Amen. I’m currently searching for a new doctor now because my current doctor won’t look at anything but my weight.

        13. Molly Coddler*

          Yup, I went in for an ear infection once and was told to diet. It took them years to listen to me about my symptoms AND me bringing in a PubMed article for my doc to believe I have arthritis.

          1. Seashell*

            Insurance pays them to address patients being overweight. That’s probably why it was a topic that day.

        14. Narvo Flieboppen*

          So much. I had a doctor who ‘promised’ I was going to have high BP in by my mid-30’s because of my weight. I’m well past that point and my BP has actually gotten lower even as my weight has gone up.

          I ran into him at the pharmacy, of all places, and he asked me how I liked being on BP meds now and suggested I lose some weight to better control it. Dude hasn’t been my doctor for nearly a decade and still weight-shaming me in public.

        15. Therese*

          This is for the fat-person medical gaslighting folks – fellow fat person here who gets surprisingly good medical care. One thing I’ve (sadly) found really effective is cutting them off at the knees by bringing up being fat before they do. So for example, I had an issue that can be worse in fatter people (though not necessarily) – I brought up the fact that I was heavy as a possible cause, with a sad tone/look on my face. So that way, it forces them to come up with other things it could be – they usually do! I’m sad the world is that way, but a pretty effective trick if you want to try it. You do have to be pretty comfortable with your weight (I am) to not have it bother you.

          1. merula*

            I’m really glad you found something that worked for you, but I have to say that the fact that this is needed is one of the saddest things I’ve read in this thread, including all the stories of terrible medical malpractice.

        16. MigraineMonth*

          I’m lucky that I started out with a BMI in the normal range, but I went to appointments about abdominal discomfort, bloating, distended stomach, unexplained weight gain even when I was on a diet, etc. for 2 years before anyone gave me an ultrasound.

          It turns out it wasn’t “stress” that was causing the issue, it was an 8lb (thankfully benign!) ovarian tumor. Yes, people asked me “how far along I was” in the pregnancy. Yes, one of them was the ultrasound tech after I told her I was there for abdominal bloating.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            Friend of mine went to ER because she was fainting from blood loss from her period, which was “just a normal perimenopause”.
            Turn out to be a 7lb ovarian tumor, thankfully also benign.

            1. Anon Supervisor*

              I’m in perimenopause and I’m lucky that my period isn’t heavy, but it’s just never ending spotting. Which kind of scares me more because it can be a symptom of cervical cancer. Luckily, I have a good care team that has NEVER mentioned my weight even though I am overweight.

      2. Z*

        Fat people are discriminated against by medical providers *all the time* in the US. Sadly this is a really common thing, where doctors miss serious medical conditions because they assume symptoms are caused by weight.

        If this is surprising to you, I’d strongly recommend reading “You just need to lose weight (and 19 other myths about fat people)” by Aubrey Gordon

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I just started this book last night and I was also going to recommend it. It’s sooooo good so far and I only stopped reading last night because I fell asleep. Anti-fatness is real and infuriating, especially the medical biases against fat people. InFURIATING.

        2. Relentlessly Socratic*

          +1000 for Aubrey’s book. There are thought questions and suggested actions in many of the chapters as well.

          1. kitryan*

            Relentlessly Socratic and Slow Gin Lizz- I am on the fence regarding reading it- do you think it’s the kind of thing where if you are already sad n’angry about fat phobia and related crap you will just be sadder and angrier or what? I’m worried about getting more stressed and anxious but otherwise am interested too. I don’t know anyone irl who’s read it or would read it to get a check in so if you care to give an opinion, it’d be appreciated.

            1. Sorrischian*

              I can’t speak for the book (it’s on my To Read list but I haven’t gotten to it yet) but Maintenance Phase, the podcast she co-hosts, manages a really good balance of rage-inducing facts to humor and hope.

            2. Modesty Poncho*

              It’s interesting because it’s largely written toward people who are not fat, people who are learning for the first time. She has some reflection questions and things aimed at getting people who aren’t aware of their anti-fat bias to think it through. But there’s not much good news in it, it’s a lot of things she’s already talked about on Maintenance Phase.

              1. kitryan*

                Thanks. Sounds like maybe not for me (or not for me right now) then, because I do listen to Maintenance Phase (skipping some eps that seem possibly triggering) and am fairly well informed already. Maybe something for my parents, who maybe could use some learning and bias checks.

        3. IAAL*

          I’m having trouble with the fact that this author’s name is the same as the evil coworker in this letter!

          1. Goldenrod*

            “I’m having trouble with the fact that this author’s name is the same as the evil coworker in this letter!”

            Me too! Aubrey the author/fat activist/podcaster is amazing and wonderful.

        4. MK*

          I do understand there is prejudice, but it’s still schoking to me. I am plus-size myself (12/14 US size, I think), and I have had doctors commenting on my weight. But I have never had a doctor dismiss symptoms because of that! At least they rule out the most common causes, like cysts, apendicitis ect, first.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Not to sound like a jerk, but 12-14 isn’t really considered plus size; most “straight sizes” stop around 16. Certainly that doesn’t stop doctors from commenting on your weight. But the fatphobia gets worse the higher size you wear.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Yeah, maybe I’m taller than MK, but I wasn’t getting the weight comments at all when I was size 12; and only meek suggestions like “your BMI is over limit, would you mind losing ten pounds?” at size 14. But a close acquaintance, who had a much larger frame as well as a host of medical issues, was getting those comments on the regular. No matter what he’d go to a doctor with, the response was always “lose weight”.

            2. Balboa Park*

              Well, Land’s End sent me a marketing email about “plus size robes” after I ordered a size 14 nightgown… But yeah, I thought plus size was anything over an XL (so more like a 20 unless you’re under 5′ or something).

            3. Magenta*

              In the UK most plus size ranges start at a UK 16 which is a US 14, there is an overlap as most adult womens shops go up to a UK 18 (US 16) but a lot of high end brands or brands aimed at teenagers/young adults will end at a UK 14/16 (US 16/18).

        5. Hannah Lee*

          Aubrey Gordon, is she the person who does the Maintenance Phase podcast?

          That’s a fantastic podcast and she is amazing.

          1. Crazy Plant Lady*

            Yes! I haven’t read her book yet, but I listen to Maintenance Phase religiously. Such a great podcast!

        6. Robin Ellacott*

          I read her first book (What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk about Fat) and I was getting so mad I couldn’t read it before bed because I wouldn’t be able to sleep. It did prompt me to make some changes at work I never would have thought of before.

          A fat activist would make an interesting guest interview on here. I’d thought I was pretty aware of the issues but learned quickly reading the book that what I knew was the tip of a huge iceberg of nastiness.

          (ironic that the pseudonym Aubrey is used for the villain of the story here)

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            It would be awesome if Alison interviewed Aubrey Gordon. She has so many excellent, eye-opening things to say.

            1. Lizzo*

              I was just thinking this exact same thing yesterday! Particularly because Aubrey was being interviewed on the Nerdette podcast about her new book and mentioned the fact that the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is advocating for legislation to create a protected class for…fat people? I don’t recall the exact terminology (someone please correct me!). But it would impact the interpretation of the ADA.
              Maintenance Phase also had a recent episode on workplace wellness programs.

      3. Dona Florinda*

        Unfortunately, weight is often treated as the cause, not a symptom (or even not related at all to whatever the problem is), and I think it’s pretty worldwide.

      4. Modesty Poncho*

        Sounds like the US. I’ve heard many horror stories of people being told to come back after they lose weight when they had tumors or cysts or even completely unrelated problems

      5. Selina Luna*

        Speaking as a fat person who is, in fact, just fat, I get told all the time that medical problems would be solved if I just lost some weight.
        I have two medical problems that would totally be solved if I lost some weight-bad knees and a sometimes sore back.
        However, most of my other issues are caused by me not having a thyroid, taking medication to replace that thyroid, and the medication dose often being the wrong one, sometimes because I gained weight but more often because I am having other issues. When I was pregnant, I had to get blood tests literally every other week for my thyroid issues, and since I gave birth, I can’t get a doctor to order one unless I specifically ask for it.
        I dread finding a doctor because I’ve been told so many times that all my problems are because I’m fat. They aren’t.

        1. Time*

          I had similar, though my bad knees, ankles and back were also dismissed by doctors as being weight-related when they were actually strength-related. I’ve now actually gained weight and they’re better than ever after I got them checked by someone who listened and went to physio. It took much longer to get to this point than it could’ve if I’d seen better healthcare professionals earlier, though. Seeing new doctors is terrifying. It’s so hard to know if I’m overreacting to something or if I need to advocate for myself because they don’t listen.

          1. Selina Luna*

            My knees “badness” initially began in middle school, when I was an athlete (even though I was still fat). I was warming up for practice and I had to dodge a wildly misthrown shotput. Since then, I’ve had bad knees. But they have gotten worse in the past six months as depression has caused me to eat worse, causing me to gain weight. I’m treating my depression, but obviously, weight doesn’t just melt off. I’m hoping I can get a doctor to treat me in such a way that I can gain muscle healthily, regardless of whether I lose weight.

        2. Burn It All*

          We need a nationwide database of doctors that do not reduce patients to their weight or at least a blacklist of the worst doctors.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Hear hear. And those doctors should lose their licenses for not treating the whole patient and only seeing one aspect of the patient/person.

          2. Selina Luna*

            We do need that, but it might not help me. I’ve always lived in rural areas. There are way fewer choices for doctor in rural areas. There are more choices in urban areas, but there are also higher costs for everything, and pay for teachers doesn’t necessarily increase.

            1. Balboa Park*

              I finally found a Health at Every Size doctor and my managed care plan keeps trying to talk me into seeing someone else because at age 57 I’m supposed to go to a geriatric clinic with a day program. One of the social workers from the managed care plan tried to file a grievance against my doctor for not treating my obesity (after their dietitian triggered an eating disorder relapse, so I researched someone in-network who followed HAES.)

        3. Chirpy*

          My knee problems were actually more because of constant re-injury than weight – I had over-used it immediately after the original sprain which meant it probably took much longer to fully heal than it should have. What got me started on googling for answers was finally noticing that it hurt worst the week before my period. It’s apparently a known thing that women are more prone to knee injuries during period related hormone shifts. While weight loss may have helped de-stress the tendons as well, the bigger issue was definitely just making sure that I wasn’t constantly reinjuring myself so it could finally actually heal (also by taking better care of flat feet, which weren’t helping the situation.) I’ve since gained a bunch of the weight back and the knee problem has not returned with it.

      6. Llama Llama*

        Lol. Doctors are idiots. My daughter had a minor surgery to install a GI tube. a they put the thing in the wrong spot. It took them a month to figure this out. In the meantime, she lost 25% of her already low body weight, visited the hospital 4 times, and was in the ICU for a week!
        A doctor didn’t even figure it out. It was a PA who suggested it. It took a quick scan to figure out.
        So yeah, doctors are not that good as people want to think.

        1. Sopranohannah*

          I’m shaking my head at this. I review medical charts all day. Everyone coming through the ED with abdominal pain/nausea gets an abdominal CT and maybe an ultrasound, even if you think you know what the problem is. CYA and all.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I had an ovarian cyst so large you could feel it from the outside even though I’m fat and my doctor missed it for 6+ months even though I’d been in her office complaining about excruciating abdominal pain three separate times. She finally sent me for an ultrasound to shut me up and the ultrasound tech kind of freaked. I’m lucky I only lost half of the ovary.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I went to my PCP multiple times for abdominal discomfort (more bloating and constipation than excruciating pain) over the course of 2 years before my first ultrasound. The ultrasound tech didn’t freak, but I did when she asked me how far along I was in my pregnancy.

            When they took out the ovary, the tumor inside it was 8lbs. But sure, the symptoms were probably from “stress”.

      7. Robin Ellacott*

        My friend had years of agony from a very, very unrelated issue because every doctor just told her to lose weight. Horribly, this s really common.

      8. Empress Matilda*

        More anecdata:

        I had a doctor who was supposed to be treating me for ADHD, who insisted on weighing me at every visit. She made a note in my file that I’m overweight, and asked me directly “how did you get this way?” When I told her I have a healthier relationship with my body when I’m not fighting with it all the time, she tried to diagnose me with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

        1. Goldenrod*

          “When I told her I have a healthier relationship with my body when I’m not fighting with it all the time, she tried to diagnose me with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.”

          Oh HELLS no!

        2. ADHDSquirrelWhat*

          holy gods.

          getting weighed makes sense – because stimulants can reduce appetite to the point of danger, making sure you’re not LOSING too much is important. Note. LOSING.

          “disagreeing with doctor” is not oppositional defiance. sheesh.

        3. Susannah*

          How dare you not hate your body as much as your doctor does!

          So sorry this happened to you. And glad you moved on from her.

      9. ADidgeridooForYou*

        My good friend actually has a colleague who just discovered she has this exact same problem (a benign tumor on her abdomen), though she hasn’t had it removed yet. She’s been going to doctors for over a year, and they’ve been telling her it’s just gas and bloating. She had to visit dozens before one of them finally did an MRI and found the tumor.

        Although everyone can suffer from doctors’ dismissal of their pain, women and POC have it the worst. It’s even harder if you’re someone who society considers overweight.

      10. Oxford Comma*

        And one other thing I forgot, imaging like ultrasounds and MRIs have to be approved by insurance companies, who are usually evil.

      11. It's very very common*

        My spouse had a very serious, life threatening metabolic condition that went undiagnosed for some time. One of the symptoms was unexplained weight gain. It’s also a condition that could be caught with a very common blood test.

        When he tried to get help, his doctor told him “you are getting older, exercise more and eat less”. His eating and exercise habits hadn’t changed and he was generally pretty active anyway. He also had other clear symptoms. On top of this, he has a lot of innate privilege (white, cis, male, high educational level). And yet the doctor’s go to was “you are getting fat, stop being fat”. When he got a new PCP, she, thankfully, realized that none of this was normal, got him on medication, and he’s been fine ever since. But if this had gone on for another few months he could have easily died! And again, this is someone who checks all the boxes of generally being heard. But again, he presented as “gaining weight” and he solution was “stop gaining weight”.

        It’s incredibly common and I’m thankful every day that he got the help he needed, but I can easily see someone not.

      12. RussianInTexas*

        Friend of mine had a tumor pushing on his trachea. He was always short of breath.
        2 doctors told him to exercise more and lose weight and he’ll be ok. The 3rd doctor thought it could be a heart attach and ordered tests.
        Fat people can’t have other medical issues besides being fat, don’t you know?

      13. Taketombo*

        It happened to a friend of mine in Wyoming close to a decade ago. (It could happen anywhere) The local hospital couldn’t find the problem, and when she said she was still in pain labeled her “drug seeking.”

        I can’t remember if it was a new doctor at that hospital, or if it a new doctor & hospital just after they moved, but they found a huge tumor on/in her small intestine with a simple ultrasound. It was cancer, and she’s in remission, but she was lucky to live.

      14. Anon for this*

        A family member had a 12-inch tumor go undiagnosed until it caused ovarian torsion and required removal of multiple organs :/

  5. Let me be dark and twisty*

    what in the world. I have no words, just enormous sympathy for OP. I hope it gets better for you soon but you may have to leave the company or escalate to a lawsuit for that to happen.

    Meanwhile, may you find all the peace and healing you need at home.

  6. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    Oh noooooooooooooooo. Lawyer up, lawyer up, lawyer up. This situation was what very scary letters saying “get your act together or else” were specifically made for.

      1. Nea*

        Save everything in writing from Aubrey and HR and what other people have reported to you. Every single bit, and hand it over to the lawyer along with everything a doctor told you about recovery needs.

        I hope your recovery goes well.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        Yes, document, document, document. If you have access to a printer, I would advise printing them because I have seem some things on this site (and others) about companies deleting people’s emails that they were saving for documentation. At the very least, put them in a password-protected folder.

        This HR department is extremely unprofessional.

        1. Peppercat53*

          Definitely either print them or forward the emails to a personal email to protect them from being deleted.

        2. Silence Will Fall*

          From an IT prospective, we can easily delete a password protected folder from anywhere in the system. Password protecting won’t protect the data from deletion, if the company chooses to go that route.

          1. WillowSunstar*

            Thanks for letting us know that. I figured IT would have access, but a boss would at least have to put in the request, which would be documented by someone else.

          2. Galadriel's Garden*

            Yup, agreed. Best bet is a physical, printed copy and a digital copy that was forwarded to outside of the network.

        3. Nesprin*

          It’s also worth keeping notes of conversations + who was present+ what was discussed to show that there’s a continued pattern here+ identify witnesses.

      3. Sales Geek*

        Screen print emails and save them on something you can take out of the office (if you’re back in the office). But definitely store these emails in some form that can be used by your lawyer. And yes, you’re in “call a lawyer ASAP” territory.

      4. Lizzianna*

        Don’t just save the emails, keep a notebook or a running log (save to your personal phone or email) and note every time Audrey says something to you. When I was dealing with a harassment situation, I used my personal phone to email myself so that the email would have a date and timestamp. But even a small notebook where you note the date and time is better than nothing if you need to recreate a timeline of the awful things she’s said to you.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Echoing this…

      Make an appointment with a lawyer. Compile documentation on everything that’s happened thus far. Copy it all to your home computer and print hard copies as well, and bring it all to the lawyer. Document all new events, especially emails where HR says “Yeah, so Aubrey sent you crazy emails but there’s nothing we can do about that. When are you coming back into the office?”

      I admire your self-control around Aubrey and HR in all of this. Good luck and let us know how it all goes.

  7. Meep*

    Nicer than me, OP. I would’ve told Aubrey and HR that I nearly died and that surgery wasn’t optional in addition to a few choice words in the moment.

    I hope all is well and you are on the road to recovery! It will be long, but we are glad you lost the dead weight for your health.

    1. Bee*

      Right, you are under absolutely no obligation to share your private medical information but there is NO WAY I could have resisted telling her for the sole purpose of making her feel bad. Or, well, the dual purpose of making her feel so bad she shuts up about it. Respect to the OP for the self-control, honestly! I hope your recovery goes smoothly and you also get a better job!

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        Same. Knowing myself, I probably would have told everyone the story when I got back. But that ME and my choice.

        OP absolutely does not need to disclose this if she does not want to. And she doesn’t want to! HR is being ridiculous. I also hope OP recovers well and finds a better job.

        1. Someone Online*

          I’d like to think Aubrey would be contrite with this new knowledge, but she would probably try to find some way where OP is responsible for her own tumor and still somehow at fault. Someone like Aubrey is always going to twist the facts for her own narrative.

          1. Kelly*

            She would probably blame it on wearing antiperspirant or not eating a raw diet or something equally loony. My ex told me my genetic health issue would be cured by eating raw vegan.

          2. Tau*

            Same. These “oh snap” moments are fun to daydream about, but I highly doubt it’d work that way in real life (especially because I’ve observed that the reflex when you’re feeling defensive and attacked is typically to double-down). And then OP has disclosed private medical information involving a traumatic experience to a proven harasser and gossip. Bad idea.

            1. iiii*

              Yep. Those snap back confrontations work on tv because one person is writing the dialogue for both sides. In real life, yelling “Gotcha!” at someone with boundaries and impulse control this bad is not apt to end well.

          3. Overit*

            I gained weight due to a medical condition and foolishly thought that telling the folks who were bidy shaming me would make them stop.
            Nope nope nope
            I then got told that my medical condition was nonexistent or was my fault because
            1. I must not pray enough or the right way.
            2. I was of the wrong faith.
            3. I was not obedient to god’s will in other ateas of my life (unspecified) amd so god was punishing me.

        2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

          You’re probably right. She’d probably think OP was lying. People like her can’t be reasoned with, even when you do give them facts.

          1. constant_craving*

            Or that her diet and exercise plan would have prevented the situation, or that her methods are now the best method for recovery, or….

            She’s demonstrated herself to be extremely unreasonable. I don’t think any new information given to her is going to change that.

      2. Mark the Herald*

        You’re assuming Aubrey is capable of feeling bad, and she honestly sounds like someone who never does.

        I’m also really respecting the OP’s decision not to share her personal medical information just because her life would be easier if Aubrey thought she lost weight in a “legitimate” way.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        I would have said exactly what it is, because she looks like even more of a public ass if she keeps on bitching after THAT comes out. I know it’s OP’s right to keep private and some people say any information will still be used for coworker’s crazy, but if she looks even worse when she harps on weight loss due to *tumor removal*, I’d be all for it.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        I doubt someone as rhino hided as Aubrey would feel bad for one second. She’d just pivot “well, you CLEARLY need diet and exercise advice because look what you did! Grew a whole tumor by not listening to me!”

    2. HailRobonia*

      I suspect if OP told Aubrey what the health situation was, Aubrey wouldn’t believe them and continue her horrid behavior.

      1. T.N.H.*

        Yea, I think telling at this point will just make things worse. She’ll either decide that OP is lying or that the tumor was her fault or that it will come back if she doesn’t do what Aubrey says. If she is a little embarrassed that may even increase the harassment because she won’t want to admit she was wrong.

        1. starsaphire*

          10,000% agree.

          If she’d just tried whatever brand of essential kale oil coconut smoothie protein MLM shake Aubrey was pitching, y’see, she’d NEVER have had that problem to BEGIN with… *eyeroll*

          1. 2 Cents*

            I had been friends (notice the past tense) with someone who attributed my SO’s congenital heart condition to his diet. I was like, um, no, he was literally born with the condition. I don’t think the mediterranean diet would’ve helped here…

            1. SadieMae*

              When I had cancer I had a few people tell me what alternative treatment I should have instead of surgery/radiation – they meant well, I know, but it was annoying; I can manage my own care in my own way! – but the ones who really left my jaw on the floor were the ones who told me I likely wouldn’t have gotten cancer if I’d just eaten healthier or exercised more or not worn deodorant or whatever. And a friend of mine had someone tell her that she got cancer because she had been sending negative vibes out to the universe instead of manifesting good health (or something nutty like that).

              I think that partly those people deal with the natural fear of serious illness by telling themselves, “That would *never* happen to me, because I do X, Y, and Z.” (You see the same thing with the “mommy mafia” who lecture other parents about breastfeeding, sleep schedules, what type of baby food, etc…. IMHO it’s very much a way of beating back parental fears by telling themselves, “Nothing bad could ever happen to my kids, because I’m the best possible mother.”) But whatever the cause, it’s really hurtful and condescending.

              1. Enai*

                The just world fallacy is very persuasive to people who are comfortably healthy/wealthy/insert privilege here. They clearly enjoy their health because they live right, and conversely, people who aren’t healthy must’ve done something wrong and thus they don’t need to notice the fact that life is capricious and unfair. It’s easier to ignore other’s misfortune that way.

                I’m sorry that happened to you.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah, Aubrey is awful, including the gloom and doom predictions about OP’s future self, health. Giving her more information is like adding fresh strawberries to a bucket of toxic waste.
          It’s not going to make it any less toxic or more drinkable and within seconds you’ll never know they are in there, it’s just going to add to the sludge being spilled out and waste perfectly good strawberries.

      2. Meep*

        Agreed. I would still be hard-pressed not to shame Aubrey, though.

        Aubrey: “Your weight loss is not sustainable. -starts spiel-”
        Me: “I lost weight that was literally killing me. If you don’t want to be the next pound of dead weight I lose, f*ck off.”

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I would have done this too, but OP is no fool for resisting the temptation. Aubrey has seen a really easy win in OP – someone who’s lost a dramatic amount of weight is the holy grail client for kook health quacks and any information about OP or engagement from OP would make Aubrey sink her talons in deeper. The fact that OP “lost weight” before ever having a conversation with her is no barrier to a charlatan.

  8. Anon for Bras*

    Wow. They called you into a mediation that might affect your bonus because of Aubrey’s behavior‽?! This whole situation is awful and I’m so sorry you’re dealing with it. but that stood out to me that your company is legally penalizing you, with a paperwork trail, for nothing you did. i second the recommendation to look into a lawyer.

    1. LCH*

      Seriously. I would have spent the whole mediation stating that I had no idea why I was in it. What had I done wrong that required mediation? Spell it the fuck out, HR.

    2. Bye Academia*

      Penalizing you not only for nothing you did, but specifically for having a protected medical issue!! I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this from your coworker and HR. It’s definitely lawyer time.

      1. yala*

        For real. If the mediation is because of the outcome of a medical procedure OP had…, even someone’s incorrect and ridiculous perception, that’s definitely lawsuit territory.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I’m shocked that Aubrey is leaving a paper trail of this harassment, what with sending OP emails with diet and exercise info, and then HR is leaving a paper trail of saying they’ve read the emails OP has forwarded to them but not actually doing anything about the harassment? IANAL but this case seems pretty dang strong to me.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        IANAL either but I can’t picture one not simultaneously enraged and positively drooling at the thought of taking on a company/employee this obtuse.

    4. MeditationOverMediation*

      That was the part that caught my eye as well. Penalizing people for being involved in mediation, actively promotes a “don’t rock the boat” policy. Which is just crazy, to me.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Or in this case, a “don’t try to steady the boat that someone else is vigorously rocking and don’t even think about trying to get out of it” policy

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, of all the problems in the letter this is a distant, like, 7th, but “we have a mediation process! also, you will be punished if you use it” really says something about this company!

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      It was a threat–“we can mess with your bonus and also, we really HATE accommodating your WFH needs.”

  9. Office Cheetos*

    I’d seek some legal counsel because both Aubrey and your HR need to be put in their place from a legal perspective.

    Aubrey is certainly not in any way, shape, or form to give medical or health coach advice if she thinks someone can drop from a Size 20 to a Size 8 in just weeks. That rational mind took a sharp left out of her skull a while ago.

      1. MassMatt*

        Right–even surgery like a gastric band takes time to take effect. It’s just more evidence that Audrey is both ignorant and unhinged.

        I hope this company gets sued into bankruptcy, and its reputation ruined to the extent that no one working for their HR is able to find work in the field again.

    1. Ginny Weasley*

      OP I am so, so sorry for what you are going through. To have an emergency surgery like that is traumatic enough but then to be treated so terribly by someone you tangentially work with. I cannot even imagine. If I was an employment lawyer – unfortunately I am not – I would be signing up to represent you pro-bono because this situation is so out of this world. I’m generally not of the mindset that lawyers should have to be involved but hearing your story makes me truly hope you sue them (hard for me to not insert mean words here) for all they are worth (although I’m sure that too would add add to your stress, which is very unfair after all you have been through).

    2. gmg22*

      Aubrey clearly thinks that the OP had bariatric surgery, which can in fact result in some fairly quick and quite noticeable weight loss for some patients in the early weeks after the procedure.

      I of course state that by way of trying to explain what is at the root of her assumption here, not to somehow excuse her WILDLY inappropriate, intrusive and bullying behavior. If the OP HAD in fact had bariatric surgery, the response to this should be exactly the same — HR should be shutting it down immediately and disciplining Aubrey for putting the company in a position to violate the OP’s protection under the ADA. Basically the opposite of what they did.

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        Bariatric surgery doesn’t make somebody go from a size 20 to an 8 even in those early weeks. They do visibly lose weight, but it takes months or more to get to a “slim” weight.

        1. gmg22*

          Right, but I think it’s safe to assume OP didn’t tell Aubrey the details about her clothing size. All Aubrey is seeing is visible weight loss. (Her extreme audacity is doing the work from there.)

      2. Emby*

        also, even though Aubrey would still be wildly out-of-line, bariatric surgery is one of the few things actually proven to not cause weight yo-yo-ing. (note not promoting the surgery or weight loss, just noting that even the most basic of her “knowledge” is wrong)

      3. Office Cheetos*

        Yes. I had bariatric surgery. Im well aware of what it is. Not every patient has “quick and noticeable” weight loss immediately after. In this case, going from a size 20 to a size 8, would not happen with bariatric surgery. I didnt need the entire thing patronizingly explained to me, but do you.

        1. Worldwalker*

          You are not the only person reading these comments, though. Many times commenters explain things for benefit of the lurkers.

          1. Jessica*

            Given how much patronization and condescension and invasive questioning and ‘splaining overweight people have to deal with on a regular basis, I can understand why Office Cheetos is annoyed at having their own experience explained to them.

            1. STAT!*

              Sure. But presumably gmg22 didn’t know Office Cheetos had had bariatric surgery. I also found gmg22’s comment useful and Office Cheetos’s response rude.

    3. Jaydee*

      It sounds like Aubrey thinks LW had bariatric surgery. And the weight loss immediately after those procedures can be pretty dramatic. But not dropping 6 sizes in a couple of weeks dramatic.

      Regardless, it is none of Aubrey’s business. If she has body image issues or a history with disordered eating or whatever, she might genuinely feel triggered by LW’s sudden body change. But those feelings are something she needs to be dealing with herself, ideally with a therapist, not taking them out on LW. People don’t lose weight *at* other people, and in this case LW certainly didn’t lose weight *at* Aubrey.

      If I were LW, I would probably go back to HR and say* “I had a medical procedure that caused significant changes to my body, and Aubrey is repeatedly harassing me about that even after I’ve asked/told her to stop. If an employee had a limb amputated and another employee harassed them about it, would you put a stop to that? If an employee had an injury that left visible scarring and another employee harassed them about it, would you put a stop to that? If an employee had a mastectomy and another employee harassed them about it, would you put a stop to that? Of course you would because the company would be legally liable if you didn’t. So you need to do the same thing here. Aubrey doesn’t need to know the details of my medical situation. She just needs to know that repeatedly commenting about my body is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated at work.”

      *I would email HR so there’s a paper trail. Because if this didn’t work, my next step would be to talk to a lawyer, and I would want to be able to show them exactly what steps I had already taken to try to resolve the problem.

      1. Bearly Containing Myself*

        Based on their behavior so far, I think it would be a waste of time trying to reason with HR, and I wouldn’t trust them to deal with this appropriately no matter what OP said to them. Her best bet is to talk with a lawyer so she can have someone advocating for her with these bananacrackers crazypants people.

  10. King Friday XIII*

    OP, I hope at least some of your coworkers are pushing back on Aubrey, though it sounds like this is just the escalation of a pattern with her.

    What’s up with the thing where mediation affects your annual reviews? I haven’t heard of something like that before.

    1. Zap R.*

      Yeah, it assumes automatic guilt of both parties while also penalizing them for actively trying to resolve the conflict.

      1. Lilas*

        Yeah and “mediating” between the harasser and the target is so kindergarten. Only one of them needs to be dealt with.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        It sounds like they are working on the “it takes two to tango,” “there are three sides, yours, theirs and the truth” typed logic and assuming that in every conflict there is some degree of wrong on both sides. That isn’t even true with young siblings/classmates and certainly isn’t true in a workplace situation.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          “We understand that you’re upset, Timmy, but can you think of any ways to make your face less punchable?”

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        I’m guessing it’s designed to do exactly that, to avoid any kind of actual action that might be messy or litigious, because nobody wants their actual money endangered.

  11. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    “Audrey, my weight and health are absolutely none of your business.” Repeat as needed.

  12. ZSD*

    Worst HR of the Year award.

    Regarding Aubrey: ?!?!?! My jaw dropped at “I’ll be waiting,” but then things just got worse from there.
    But your HR’s non-response is simply beyond the pale.
    Best wishes on your recovery, OP.

    1. Ex-prof*

      Quite possibly of the decade. They’re competitive with the HR that came down hard on the worker for having their lunch stolen by a guy who didn’t like spicy foods.

      1. Venus*

        Not that their behavior was at all excusable, but at least the HR person for the lunch stealing was having an affair with the lunch stealer. Completely wrong for so many reasons, but there was clear motivation in hindsight and it was only one person. The fact that OP’s HR department, the OP’s boss, and all the coworkers seem to be part of the problem makes this such a bad workplace.

          1. Phony Genius*

            Normally, I would say that we shouldn’t make such outlandish suggestions without evidence. However, that was the explanation for the spicy food thief situation. It would not surprise me if there was some kind of deliberate misconduct going on here by HR, for any number of motives.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              They may be trying to make her quit to save money on medical insurance. Their behavior is so outrageous I wouldn’t put it past them.

              1. Selina Luna*

                That wouldn’t work, though! Companies don’t pay more for health insurance based on the health of individual employees. That’s literally one of the things that the ACA did-make insurance companies cover everyone regardless of their medical issues.

    2. Jessica Fletcher*

      Yes, I’d argue this should be in the running for Worst Boss, since it’s still the employer doing it.

    3. Appletini*

      Isn’t this a pretty usual HR response? The one who complains is the one who’s punished, rather than the one causing the problem, and so on.

      1. ferrina*

        No, this is not normal! HR’s job is to protect the company, and Audrey is very much putting the company at risk (see: violating ADA). Any decent HR would immediately take steps to ensure that Audrey didn’t put them at risk of a lawsuit.

        Of course, plenty of HRs won’t take much action if there isn’t a legal issue, but some will. I’m HR adjacent, and I get a good look at the inner working of HR at my company. They genuinely want to know what’s happening and doesn’t want to punish folks for coming forward (or even appear to punish, because that will discourage folks in the future). They really want to provide coaching or take appropriate steps. Inevitably, someone will complain about something they can’t able to take action on (complaining about a coworker who is already on a PIP, but HR can’t say “they’re on a PIP”, or the solution is already in the works but not ready to be announced, or the complainer is out of touch with business norms, or that’s just not what our company is designed to do and we’re not going to change it for a single person, etc.)

      2. Observer*

        Isn’t this a pretty usual HR response?

        Not with competent HR, it’s not!

        And the OP is not even the one who complained! Aubrey went off during a meeting where the OP was not even present and HR call a mediation meeting.

      3. Mill Miker*

        Was the mediation even in response to a complaint by OP? I got the impression that after Aubrey went off in the meeting, either HR acted independently or someone else who was present flagged the issues. But Maybe I’m just assuming because those are in the same paragraph.

        Either way, this sounds like the exact opposite of the “usual” response to me: HR is taking the word of the complainer (Audrey) and immediately assuming OP is the one causing the problem. Just as bad, in the other direction.

        1. EPLawyer*

          See I was thinking that AUBREY requested mediation because she was so “triggered” by OPs weight loss and unwillingness to work with her. Which HR should have said “WTF, no we are not mediating because you don’t like the fact someone lost weight. Do not mention her weight EVER AGAIN.”

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yes, the mere fact that Aubrey went off in a meeting about OP’s weight loss and how it reflected on her work follow through, and HRs solution was MEDIATION?? HR should have said “listen, this sounds like a personal thing you’re going through, and while you can feel your feelings however you want, you cannot harass a colleague about ANYTHING the way you have been doing. You either have to stop this, or you will be looking at termination for cause.”

          2. Squishmallow*

            That was my read as well. Aubrey used the magic words, making it out like OP is the bully and Aubrey’s the victim. HR then has to investigate, but because of the spin, OP is now on defense when they shouldn’t be.

      4. Name*

        Not at all. I’ve worked in HR for 8 years and I was blown away by how incompetent OP’s HR is behaving. Although they don’t always act like it, they have a duty to the employees just as much as they do to protect the company from liability. Sadly, some places hire people to work in HR who have no HR experience. They get put there because the company needs to move them from where they are and don’t/can’t terminate them. I’ve had to explain to Executive Directors that decisions they wanted to make would violate HIPAA, FLSA, FMLA, and laws regarding storage of personnel documents.
        I hope OP contacts a lawyer and would love to get an update.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          And even in a case where HR is 100% trying to focus solely on protecting the employer at any cost, they are ignoring and even making worse a situation that is putting the employer at legal risk in multiple ways.

    4. Observer*

      But your HR’s non-response is simply beyond the pale.

      The thing is that it is NOT a “non-response”. That would be bad. This is worse. It’s an active statement that 1. In the BEST case, the OP is going to be considered as culpable as her bully and 2. that the OP is actually required to share highly sensitive personal data, despite saying that they “can’t ask her” to share it. They are actively and officially penalizing her for refusing to share this data.

    5. WillowSunstar*

      Agreed, we should have a separate category for worst HR responses. Maybe the good HR departments can use them for what not to do examples?

      1. Worldwalker*

        Maybe the awards have grown to the point where they need actual divisions. Worst boss, worst HR, worst co-worker, worst overall company, etc.

  13. Corrigan*

    OMG eff this lady. I’m sorry you’re going through that AND that your employer is handling it the complete wrong way…

    But I’m glad you’re ok…years ago I had a little extra weight in the stomach and other than knowing I wasn’t pregnant I didn’t know what was going on. I was fine until one day I wasn’t and ended up in the ER where they found a basketball sized fibroid tumor, also pressing on my organs. Mine wasn’t as drastic as yours, but it was rough (and 2 weeks before my wedding). It was hard enough but I can’t imagine dealing with Aubrey’s nonsense on top of all that.

    1. ferrina*

      Wow! I’m glad they caught that and that you’re doing okay! That’s so scary and stressful in so many ways! Hope your wedding was amazing!

    2. ECHM*

      FWIW … my husband gained 12 pounds in a week and it turned out to be kidney failure. Just in case any of the readers are experiencing unexplained quick weight gain and wondering if they should get it checked out.

  14. old curmudgeon*

    I don’t often see Alison advise letter-writers that it’s time to lawyer up. In this case, I fully agree that it’s justified. Do take the time to find an attorney who specializes in representing employees in cases like this. Depending on the state where you live, it might also be worth checking in with your state’s labor agency, although that might be handled by the attorney.

    Sending good thoughts your way, and I hope to read an update from you very soon.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, definitely. The horrible coworker needs to be fired yesterday and HR needs training at the very least.

  15. Callie*

    As others have explained, I don’t see any reason to think this could be the case (particularly since the two Aubreys are polar opposites) and I’m removing it and the replies since they’re derailing and not a great thing for the LW to read. – Alison

    1. Zap R.*

      The Aubrey in this letter appears to hold the exact opposite of Aubrey Gordon’s views on pretty much everything.

  16. Tiredpuppy*

    Wow, everyday AAM continues to surprise me. I would absolutely contact a lawyer to ask for guidance or them to deal with the company (but admittedly I am not certain how these things work). I am very sorry this is happening to you!

  17. Nathan*

    Idealistically, HR is there to make the workplace safe.

    Cynically, HR is there to protect the employer from being sued.

    It’s an absolute masterstroke of incompetence that they’re failing on both ends.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      Right? They are handling this in just about the worst way possible, with confidence! It’d be impressive if it didn’t make me so ragey.

    2. Snell*

      Yeah, sometimes people get so deep into the “HR is there to protect the company, not the employees” thinking and assume that HR is always fine with treating employees terribly that they completely miss it when terrible treatment of employees is actually putting the employer in legal peril…you know, the exact opposite of protecting the company.

    3. BasketcaseNZ*

      After the jaw dropping horror of the OPs story, this comment made me laugh again.
      Thank you.

    4. iglwif*

      Right?! So often those 2 things conflict or appear to conflict, in this case the Venn diagram between them is a circle, and HR is *still screwing it up*.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      They are dousing the company in barbecue sauce and whistling for the bears at this point!

  18. soontoberetired*


    Have no co-workers stepped up and told Aubrey to back off? HR is being **** but someone in this company should tell Aubrey to back off if she is doing it in front of other people. It astounds me how many grown up people will let things like this just go on.

    I am so sorry LW. A letter from an employment lawyer may be the thing to turn things around.

    1. Emily*

      I’m actually not surprised that no co-workers have stepped up. From what OP wrote, it seems like Aubrey is well known for behavior like this, and clearly HR is willing to enable her. It’s not surprising that people aren’t willing to speak up, given that Aubrey can trash someone at a meeting who isn’t even there and then *that* person gets pulled into a mediation that could hurt their chances for a bonus. I’m not saying that OP’s co-workers shouldn’t speak up, but I can see why they wouldn’t under fear of reprisal, It also seems like a lot of people are unwilling to rock the boat. My observation at jobs have been that people are willing to complain to each other, but as soon as it is suggested that some sort of group action is taken, like a group of people going to the boss/HR together, people don’t want to do it. I realize that is just purely my own experience, and very likely not universal. If a bunch of people as a group stood up to Aubrey earlier that may have helped, but it seems like it has gone too far now. I think OP seeking the advice of an attorney is definitely the right way to go.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        My work place had an Aubrey. Different MO then this one. But problem gossip stick stirrer type. Over stepping into others duties even as her own was never finished. All management was aware that she was a problem. They kept passing her from team to team and rearranging the seating to move her away from people she had targeted. They spoke to her about several issues, but there was never any consequences. When WFH started we never had to see or hear from her again. I’ll never understand why employees like the Aubreys are tolerated.

      2. Goldenrod*

        “I’m actually not surprised that no co-workers have stepped up.”

        Agreed. Co-workers and peers can be extremely disappointing in terms of how they respond to witnessing abuse. In my experience, most people – even nice people – don’t have the courage to intervene.

        1. soontoberetired*

          Very early at my company when I was still new to the biz, I had a bully and didn’t know what to do. The Bully had connections, too. I was lucky enough to have a senior person on my time step up for me and I learned from that, and have done it myself for other people even to people who appear untouchable. Untouchability is frequently an illusion. My original bully thought she was, and a lot of people thought she was but in the end, she wasn’t.

          the chair of those meetings needed to shut her down, and they could have done so with redirecting.

          That HR sucks though.

        2. Aggretsuko*

          Well, it’s more likely that Aubrey finds a new target in any coworker that stands up for OP than Aubrey will listen to a coworker and shut up.

          Keeping out of crazy and not poking the bear is a strategy.

      3. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

        I am incredibly anti-diet and pro health at any size so I’d be first on Aubrey’s shitlist AND I would be incredibly vocal but likely rude to her because she’s so obtuse. And then get in trouble myself b/c *I* would feel triggered by her idiocy and react. But I still think I’d be on the line for it. LW, I applaud you for not losing it on this woman. I am so, so sorry.

      4. Oxford Comma*

        I worked with an Aubrey. On one of those take your kid to work days, she decided to tell a co-worker’s seven year old child that she needed to lose weight. A seven year old.

        1. Good Enough For Government Work*

          I am infamous for having the maternal instinct of a dazed stick insect, but if I saw/heard that… Someone would have to hold me back.

          Or better yet, hold my earrings.

    2. Julia*

      It’s quite possible co-workers have told Aubrey to back off and they got dragged into mediation. Alternatively Aubrey escalated her harassment and the co-workers decided they didn’t want to deal with the hassle any more.

  19. OrigCassandra*

    OP, I am so glad you got treatment and you’re recovering okay. Hope it continues!

    As for Aubrey, I have NO WORDS. Please lawyer up, with a lawyer who understands the ADA. Your workplace’s HR needs a serious come-to-$DEITY discussion with someone who is not you — you have enough on your plate and then some with your recovery.

  20. Just Another Zebra*

    Step 1 – Employment lawyer
    Step 2 – Update your resume
    Step 3 – Leave this beehive with your head high and a better opportunity on the horizon

    OP, I am so sorry you are going through this. Medical gaslighting is so real, and is so difficult to overcome under the best of circumstances. I think an employment lawyer is the best next move for you. If nothing else, they can negotiate what is said when new employers call for a reference check.

    The really, REALLY petty part of me wants you to have another mediation meeting with HR and Aubrey on your last day, and lay out all of you MRIs / scans showing this tumor, and asking if having this mass removed qualifies as an “acceptable” reason for weight loss (don’t do this). I would love to see their faces (but still don’t do this).

    1. Ex-prof*

      That is a tempting scenario. But having known a couple Aubreys in my time… this may be exactly what Aubrey wants.

      1. Ex-prof*

        PS– I mean laying out the scans and all is a tempting scenario. Your three steps are excellent advice.

      2. Snell*

        I agree with this. Sharing medical info with Aubrey? Why? It’s satisfying to imagine her feeling shame for her outrageous behavior, but she won’t. She already steamrollers over other people (see “She has a reputation for giving out unsolicited and incorrect ‘health advice’ and is always commenting on people’s food choices”) and considers herself appallingly entitled to LW’s body (“she was triggered by my ‘new body,'” and “[LW] should have ‘thought of other people’s feelings and warned’ her”????).

        Sharing the actual medical info with Aubrey—that’s making yourself even more vulnerable to someone who is attacking you, in the hope that they’ll stop attacking you…except if your efforts don’t succeed, you are now even more vulnerable and still under attack. Bad idea all around. Further, LW /shouldn’t/ have to share personal details to justify their existence, and in this case, the moral “shouldn’t” and the legal “shouldn’t” are actually in agreement.

        LW’s HR’s choices here are bad and weird. This isn’t even a case of HR only looking out for the company. HR’s actions and inaction here endanger the company.

        1. WillowSunstar*

          I’ve worked in a place where a coworker shared medical information and it backfired. She was believed, but it was the sort of medical information where people get brainwashed by popular media that it’s all the person’s fault they have that condition. So she was very harshly judged by many until she eventually got fired (not for the condition itself but related attendance issues).

      3. Frankie*

        Yes, because Aubrey as we understand her does not live in any realm of reality, showing all the medical info probably wouldn’t chasten her, but would likely validate her/feed the fire. It would reaffirm that yes, LW’s medical history DOES involve and concern her.

        I’m concerned there might be some gross beliefs within the HR team as well, conscious or subconscious. Many subcultures and contexts view illness as shameful and the fault of the person who gets sick. This may be present here on some level, because they seem to be making LW responsible for her own medical-related harassment.

        But obviously fun to fantasize about shaming them all. I’m worried they have no shame, though.

    2. gmg22*

      I’m envisioning a fantasy scenario where HR gets their act together and fires Aubrey, and OP gets to quietly stand by and wait until she’s walking out the door, then very calmly say, “Oh, by the way. IT WAS A TUMOR.”

      I’m petty like that, though.

  21. lost academic*

    Obviously all the lawyers right now but I also just imagined an all hands in person meeting where HR and Aubrey have to sit on a stage in front of everyone while you explain in a detailed, slow fashion the emergency surgery and Every Single Thing they have done to you since.

    1. greg*

      Ha this was my first thought (I don’t think a lawyer would love it). A full on meeting where you just detail everything (not that Aubrey feels shame) followed by a “you will also be hearing from my attorney.”

      1. ferrina*

        yeah, this feels great in a movie, but IRL would cause more drama for LW to deal with. I agree with your suspicion that Aubrey doesn’t feel shame in the normal way, and she would probably find a way to blame LW for her (Aubrey’s) bad behavior. Then blame LW for the natural consequences of her action.

        1. lost academic*

          Yeah, that’s why it’s just my imagination. Since none of us are (probably?) living a movie script like that.

      1. ADHDSquirrelWhat*

        no, /beat them/ with the extracted tumor. “does this feel imaginary to you? how about now?”

        beat the doctors that gaslit with the tumor too. all of them.

    2. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

      As others pointed out upthread, Aubrey, being a psychopath, will feel no shame nor will she learn anything. People like that never do, and the best you can do is isolate and ignore them, pushing them as far away from normal humans as possible. The “I’m triggered by LW’s weight loss” is most likely a BS, flimsy excuse made up on the spot to cover her bad behavior, and if it is actually triggering, that’s still an Aubrey problem to deal with.

  22. Stitch*

    Wow, your HR is basically blaming you for your harassment and fighting an ADA accommodation with clear medical documentation.

    Yeah, it’s lawyer time.

  23. Aphra*

    I’ve seen lots of posts about awful co-workers here, and have unfortunately experienced them in the workplace and Aubrey is right at the top of that unpleasant bar chart. I’m so sorry OP is having to deal with this in addition to what must be a worrying situation with their health, plus a child to care for. My admiration for OP’s courage in not caving to Aubrey’s nonsense and especially HR’s (the only thing I can think of to say about HR is ‘WTAF??!’) is boundless. Alison is absolutely right that OP should escalate this, with the help of a lawyer, to put a stop to Aubrey’s shenanigans and clue HR into the shitstorm they are leaving the company wide open to. To OP, I wish you well in your continued recovery.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      My admiration for OP’s courage in not caving to Aubrey’s nonsense and especially HR’s is boundless.

      I want to second this! If I were in a similar situation, I most likely would have shared some details with Aubrey/HR to try to get Aubrey to drop it. But sharing details of the surgery reinforces the ideas that (1) your private health information isn’t really private and (2) that there are “good” and “bad” reasons for weight loss. So I also have a lot of admiration for OP keeping their medical information private!

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        TBH, I probably would have done the same, hoping that a blunt, direct description of the truth would shut her up. But you’re totally right that people should be able to keep things private if they want and that there is *never* a good reason to say awful things about someone else’s body. The LW is tough AF.

      2. Snell*

        Tbh I’d give it very uncertain odds that Aubrey would drop it even if she has the details. Her described behaviors (not only towards LW) are entirely unreasonable, but she goes about doing that to others anyway. If she was a reasonable person, she could be shamed over her bad behavior into dropping it, but if she was a reasonable person, she wouldn’t be harassing LW to begin with.

  24. Lacey*


    Lawyers, for sure.

    You work for a company with a weirdly horrible HR. And I know they exist, but this is a whole other level.

  25. All Het Up About It*

    Holy Guacamole!
    It still amazes me how much HR can fork up a situation. Even if you want to talk about them protecting the company instead of an employee… the right way to protect the company is to shut Aubrey down NOW. I understand some when it’s smaller companies and it’s just someone who fell in to an HR role, but this sounds like a big organization and you would think these people should have a modicum of training.

    Good luck OP with your continued recovery and getting that lawyer!!!

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    So sorry you are dealing with this!

    You may find getting a lawyer to drop them a letter may have the added benefit of reducing your stress? In that it isn’t your job to fight it – leave that to the lawyer.

    I hope someone up the chain in HR stamps on this hard.

  27. WantonSeedStitch*

    Holy carp, this is absolutely appalling. OP, have you spoken to Aubrey’s manager? I know that if someone told me one of my employees was behaving in this way, I would ABSOLUTELY want to know, and would let them know in no uncertain terms that if if it didn’t stop immediately, their job would be in jeopardy. Regardless of how HR handled things, I would put the fear of WantonSeedStitch into anyone who acted that way in the workplace.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup, and LW’s own manager.
      If HR won’t do anything, perhaps LW’s manager can do stuff like insist that any communication from Aubrey to the LW has to go through the manager. It doesn’t really fix the problem, but it might minimize the impact on LW. If/when you go back to the office, could you be given a space that Aubrey can’t invade easily, like an office with a door?

  28. Veryanon*

    HR people like this give the rest of us a bad reputation. Ugh. If I were the HR person handling this situation, I would make it very clear to Aubrey that what they are doing is in violation of our bullying and harassment policies and it needs to stop, or they will be terminated.
    I’m sorry you’re experiencing this after a traumatic medical event, LW.

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

    Wow, this is bonkers. I know this is a generally clean blog, but I feel that “bananapants” is entirely too weak of a phrase for this situation and maybe an insult to bananas and their pants.

    OP, I am SO SORRY this is happening to you. I don’t have all the triggers around my weight and my struggles with it that a lot of people do, but I guarantee you, I’d have lost my cool over this reaction from a coworker and situation with HR. Please, do what you need to take care of yourself- both physically and mentally.

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      “This is an insult to bananas and their pants!” is a phrase I will now be pulling out in all moments of outrage, thank you.

      1. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

        I say, these bananas have NO PANTS! *said like the dead parrot Monty Python sketch*

    2. Sal*

      I believe AAM is (at some commenters’ request) trying to move away from ableist language (e.g. describing outrageous, nonsensical actions/people as “crazy” or similar). I appreciate the effort even if we do lose a certain amount of connotation/vibe/je ne sais quoi.

      1. Annarosa*

        Yeah ableism’s everywhere and very visible for those of us with severe mental illness. They’re all mEnTAL hEAlTH adVocATeS until someone does something egregious then they distance themselves as far as possible from the person with their little quip delegitimizing our illness and lumping us in with garden variety jerks. Would be nice if I weren’t still seeing “crazy” in these comments but I don’t expect much at this point

  30. The Eye of Argon*

    Holy cats. Calling Aubrey “batshit bananapants” is being far too kind. I’ll bet she felt all kinds of smug and superior to you while you were a size 20, and now that you’re so much smaller she can’t do that anymore and can’t cope.

    I hope you will find a good lawyer who will give hell to your wretched HR department and get Aubrey off your back you get the space you need to recover. And that there are no long-term consequences thanks to the horrible doctors who wouldn’t believe you.

    If you feel up to it someday, please update and let us know how you’re doing and what happens with Asshole Aubrey.

    1. Office Cheetos*

      As someone who has steadily lost weight over the past year, it has become difficult for one co-worker to continue to be the Lord of the Diet. Thankfully mine got shut down by a hasty exit after she criticized our managing partner’s diet but there are people who thrive on superiority based on body size.

      1. Observer*

        One can hope that Aubrey gets into the face of the wrong person, too.

        That does sometimes have very good results.

  31. Rage*

    Going to agree with all of the others echoing Alison’s suggestion to speak to an attorney, but mostly because: you were a week away from total organ failure. Seriously, your body does not need this level of stress hormone flooding through it right now. Whatever a lawyer will cost you is far, far less than a stint in ICU will. Get one to fight this battle for you, while you focus on healing.

    1. AGD*

      YES. This kind of treatment from a workplace is the last thing anyone already dealing with recovery-from-a-near-death-experience needs.

    2. Office Gumby*

      Also, an attorney will be able to carry on the fight for you, taking the weight of trying (and failing, in spite of doing all the correct things) to do the right thing off your shoulders.

      Someone else can carry this weight while you finish healing.

  32. SuprisinglyADHD*

    Wow, I’ve heard of some pretty blatent fat-phobia, but this might be the worst I’ve ever seen! Not from Aubrey (although she is completely awful, she is one jerk with no self-awareness/self-control), but from HR (representatives of the company, who’s job description includes making sure the company and its employees are not violating the law)! Allison’s advice about seeing a lawyer is solid, they can help you find the best solution. You deserve to be treated properly at work!

    Aside from that, congratulations OP on finally getting the diagnosis and surgery you needed! I’m sorry you had to wait so long. Sending you best wishes on your continued recovery!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      The hatred is just palpable. OP was clearly pegged as lazy long before the surgery, and having an “unearned” body is making Aubrey feel the laziness is now provable and needs to be proclaimed. HR is like “yeah you must admit this just looks like fat laziness, tho, unless you explain your excuse”. Perfectly disgusting behaviour and attitudes all round.

  33. Warrior Princess Xena*

    WELL. My inner Hulk decided to wake up early today.

    Best wishes for continued good health OP and huge sympathies for the absurd hive of bees you apparently work for.

  34. HowdyHelp*

    Wow, this is so challenging. I will say that speaking with attorneys in various matters has certainly helped me, even just to get solid advice and good wording! Much love to you.

    1. Emily*

      HowdyHelp: I agree. Speaking with a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pursue legal action. I was dealing with a landlord/tenant issue a few years back and seeking the advice of an attorney was HUGELY helpful (it turned out my lease was illegal). I didn’t have to pursue legal action, and just getting the attorney’s advice on how to approach the management of the apartment complex helped me solve the problem. I do hope OP seeks the advice of an attorney. How OP is being treated by Aubrey and HR is disgusting.

      1. Emily*

        I forgot to add, I know money can often be a barrier to seeking legal advice, and if that is a barrier for OP, OP should see if there is a lawyer referral service through the bar association in their area. I went through a lawyer referral service from the bar association in my area and only had to pay $35.00 for a 30 minute consultation (this was 6-7 years ago, and I realize costs could have gone up, and it could vary greatly based on the area you live in).

        1. The Original K.*

          Seconding. I found an employment attorney through my bar association years ago when I was laid off and wanted a lawyer’s eye on the severance agreement.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            Agreed. My state (NC) has an attorney matching service through the state bar association. They match you based on type of law you need and your zip code, and if you make the appointment with a lawyer found this way, it was a flat $50 for a 30 minute consultation. At that consultation, I was told what future fees would be for their services. I’ve used it for 2 different types of law and was very happy with my lawyers in both cases, and I know others who have used the service successfully.

        2. Wendy the Spiffy*

          My employer’s EAP includes legal consultation across a variety of law fields. This would be a great use of that service, if OP’s EAP has a similar offering.

          1. Rage*

            Except that EAPs generally will not provide a legal referral for a workplace situation (since the company itself pays for the EAP service). I’m all for EAPs – used to work for one – but in a situation like this, with HR being openly…hostile…I’d steer clear of any company-supplied services.

            Check with the state bar association, or just Google “employment attorneys [your city]”.

  35. Ex-prof*

    Man, I could feel my whole body tensing up reading this, and that never happens. This is bad, LW.

    I think that your HR department has not had ADA training.

    People don’t usually want to consult lawyers because lawyers are expensive. If you’re in the US, there are legal organizations that provide simple answers/guidance for free on their websites. This service varies by state and is income based. If you start googling for this, be sure to put ADA in your search.

    If you can afford a lawyer, though, that’s a more reliable way to go.

  36. Colorado*

    Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I’ll bet Aubrey also has a side gig with an MLM. She’s disgusting and you are the better person for not plotting her demise. Best of luck to you!

    1. Same Same!*

      Came here to say this. She sounds like she sells some of those shakes or pills or powders or whatever the current flavor of diet culture MLM is going around these days.

      1. Rebecca1*

        Yes! Which also makes me wonder, does your company have a policy against selling non-company products at work? HR may be more amenable from that angle.

      2. Lunch Ghost*

        I’m pretty sure. One of my relatives is in one that does indeed call their people “health coaches”. (She now promotes herself as a “health coach” on social media and talks a lot about this great program she’s on to lose weight and encourages people to contact her to learn about it. A little research confirmed my suspicions– apparently the “program” is replacing most of your meals with their shakes…)

        1. Former Young Lady*

          This was my first thought as well. Does your relative’s pyramid scheme rhyme with “Leech Toddy,” by any chance?

          (Come to think of it, that’s what they should call their shakes.)

          1. JustAnotherKate*

            Just the name bugs me — you want a beach body, take your body to the beach. Done! Although at least they don’t try to hide that they’re 100% about appearance.

            I only engaged with them once, but it was WILD. Many years ago, my sister wanted their workout DVDs for her birthday. I didn’t know then that they were an MLM, but they were off-the-charts unprofessional! I started getting emails from someone who claimed to be my “coach” and asked to discuss my fitness goals. I said thanks anyway, but they continued to pester me, concluding with a message saying I’d be sorry I turned them down, because they’d run a google image search on me and “at your size I couldn’t even tell if you were a man or a woman.” (Not that it matters, but I’m thin…and google image search at the time produced no images of anyone with my name.)

            Oh, and then my coworker brought her shake powder into the office and it attracted every bug in America. I don’t know if it wasn’t closed all the way or the bugs could smell it through the bag, but…ew.

  37. Squishmallow*

    I definitely think OP should schedule a consultation with an employment lawyer. Find out if there’s a possible case (I mean, it seems pretty obvious but a professional opinion is required) and hopefully get some guidance for dealing with it in the interim. Also, I have personally found that a letter on law firm letterhead can go a VERY long way towards waking up sleeping idiots and obtaining appropriate resolution.

    Both Aubrey and the HR team are made of bees. I really hope this isn’t indicative of the entire company. Good luck!

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I’ve heard the same thing about a letter from a law firm sometimes being extremely effective at getting people to realize that they could be in serious trouble if they don’t fix things, like, yesterday.

      I can imagine a scenario where HR just doesn’t want to have to deal with Aubrey because they know she’s going to be extremely difficult. So instead, they’re forcing the LW, as “the reasonable one,” to put up with awfulness because they don’t want to do their jobs. Hopefully there will be some movement when it becomes clear that you’re not just going to take it and they realize that not dealing with Aubrey is no longer the path of least resistance.

      I’d also be very tempted to ask them, in writing, something like “are you saying that you are unable to tell Aubrey not to make comments about my body?” Get really specific about their behaviour / decisions.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I suspect this is what’s going on, coupled with a big avoidant dose of, “But it’s a personal conflict and they should work it out between them”.

        It’s not–it’s bullying. HR absolutely can step in here and that they haven’t means it’s time to turn up the heat.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Yeah. I got the impression that they’re dealing with the squeaky wheel. Aubrey is the one complaining, so they’re accommodating her because they don’t want to deal with her.

        OP, you need to be the squeaky wheel. You are in the right and have an actual legal issue. Make enough noise that they deal with YOU correctly.

    2. Bad Penny, Bad Thoughts*

      Yeah, it feels like this might be a moment where even though Aubrey is the shittiest, most toxic part of a company… she’s still representative about how management feels. They’re putting you guys on equal footing and using her harassment as an excuse to bother you about remote work while you recover from a medical emergency.

      They’re not shutting her down because on some level they agree with her: you cheated somehow at something (the weight loss), and now you’re double-dipping with WFH (which you need to recover) (but they don’t see it as recovery time, they just see it as a second advantage on top of the first advantage, which was the weight loss). Slam that escape button, you deserve so much better.

  38. NeedRain47*

    Aubrey sounds like the kind of person who wouldn’t even believe you if you told her the truth at this point.
    I hope a lawyer puts the fear of god into the employer and you never have to hear from her again, LW.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, this. Aubrey isn’t interested in what is true, only what she believes to be true.

      Which is fine (she has a right to believe what she wants to believe), but she has no right to bring that into the workplace and shove it down her coworkers’ throats. This is beyond just being unprofessional.

    2. ferrina*

      Exactly. Aubrey wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped her in the face. And she’d still find something to complain about and blame LW for. (I’m going to guess- Aubry would say LW should have gone to Aubrey before going to the doctor’s and Aubrey could have somehow magically exercised the tumor away?) Reality and responsibility are not things that Aubrey is interested in.

    3. Francie Foxglove*

      Aubrey, to her diet-shake downline: “And finally she gave me this sob story about how she had a tumor or something! Yeah right. Don’t let people fool you like that.”

      1. Snell*

        If I know my MLM, the diet shakes are the solution to LW’s tumor.

        (omg one of the most recent discussions on MLM here was so weirdly pro-MLM. Like, it’s nice if you have nostalgic childhood memories of your aunt slinging Avon or Tupperware or Mary Kay in the 60s, 70s, 80s, but how they operated then is most definitely NOT how they operate now. OG’s like Mary Kay trade on the good reputation they established decades ago, but in the present day, the reps’ practices are nasty as any of the newer MLMs. And they don’t limit the number of reps for an area anymore—something I saw as a pro- or at least soft-to- MLM argument in that discussion, mentioned as how it was practiced 50 years ago.)

        1. Susannah*

          It’s funny, because I never thought of Avon as a MLM, probably because the product is good and I think of MLMs as scams offering trash. But Avon! Loved looking through that little book! And their moisturizer – Skin So Soft – that has the unintended advantage f repelling mosquitos.

    4. Cohort 1*

      The kind of person that if you told her the truth would turn around and disparage OP to anyone who would listen: “Can you believe OP would claim it was a tumor when obviously she had bariatric surgery and is just ashamed to admit how weak she was. If only she had come to me!”

  39. William Carmichael*

    This is a horrifying story. OP, I’m really sorry you’re having to contend with this. I hope that reaching out to a lawyer and having them communicate the seriousness of the *multiple horrifying organizational failures* here is your next step, and whether you choose to update us or not about the outcome, I hope it results in productive changes. Which, I would have to assume, would include firing Audrey with all due speed because dear Lord does she sound like a gigantic legal liability going entirely unchecked.

  40. One HR Opinion*

    You mention escalating this to corporate. If you have been dealing with a local HR representative, definitely take this to corporate HR. If it is corporate HR, definitely talk to a lawyer. There is no scenario where I could even fathom this being an appropriate response to your situation.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      This is a good point! If this is a situation with local HR and corporate HR (with local HR being the unreasonable ones), it is definitely worth escalating to corporate HR. There could be some weirdness around local HR knowing Aubrey and agreeing with her worldview or not agreeing but not wanting to poke the bear, and corporate HR might be willing to tackle the problem (to be clear, by “the problem” I mean Aubrey, not OP).

      1. The Eye of Argon*

        Yes, like the letter where one employee threw a positive pregnancy test at another, who (rightly) got all grossed out, and was subsequently bullied and shunned by the thrower and her friends. Local HR was less useful than a lead lifejacket because the rep was having an affair with Ms Preggo. When the LW went to corporate HR they were horrified and got the whole thing straightened out sanely.

        1. Observer*

          I forgot about that one. Yes, local HR was bad news, but corporate did clean up the mess.

          Yes, they did it for self interested reasons, but at least they did it!

    2. Cobol*

      I’m glad I did a crtl f for corporate because this is my first thought. I’m pretty sure this is a local branch of a big company and local hr is there mainly for payroll, but handles everything. Hopefully the letter writer has their lawyer reach out to corporate HR. Pretty sure the quick response will be a sympathetic corporate HR person and Aubrey and local HR no longer at the company.

    3. Aitch Arr*

      Great point.

      The local HR or HR Rep may be dismissive., but the HR Manager/Corporate may act differently.

      I can hope on OP’s behalf anyway.

  41. Goose*

    Absolutely WILD. This is lawyer time. OP, please check in when you can because I am too shocked to say anything more.

  42. bamcheeks*

    Aside from all the other ways HR is out of line, you could have had the bariatrickest bariatric surgery and Aubrey would still be 100000% in the wrong. Like how is, “actually it wasn’t what you’re thinking” remotely relevant?

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      THIS. It doesn’t matter AT ALL what medical procedures the LW had or why. Aubrey needs to STFU immediately.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This: It doesn’t matter if the LW is fasting on lemon water and hemlock–it’s not Aubrey’s business.

    3. lunchtime caller*

      yeah this is what’s sticking with me too–the HR response seems to be that “sure of course it’s wrong because you didn’t have that surgery; but if you had, which she is assuming and you’re not denying to her, her treatment of you would be justified” which is so wrong

      1. whingedrinking*

        Exactly! “Of course we would allow Aubrey to harass you if you’d gotten illegal butt implants from a shady back-alley surgeon, so it’s really on you to prevent her from making that assumption” is…not the flex they think it is.

    4. NeedRain47*

      It’s not relevant as far as “it would be okay for Aubrey to harrass a person who had certain types of surgery”, but it’s relevant b/c Aubrey seems to have very specific problems directly relating to weight loss and appearance, that should be addressed if anyone in this situation ever tries to correct Aubrey’s behavior.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, I would say the reverse. Because Aubrey has these problems she needs to hear VERY, VERY clearly that it does not matter what SHE thinks about someone’s sudden weight change. She STILL doesn’t get to harass someone about it.

        HR doesn’t need to get into anything beyond that, unless they have an EAP in which case they could refer her to the EAP.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, agreed. Aubrey can figure out what is driving Aubrey’s behaviour! HR’s job is to say absolutely Not.

      2. Snell*

        Aubrey just wants to be in control of LW’s body. If LW did diet/exercise to lose weight and didn’t involve Aubrey, Aubrey sure as sugar would have made her (oppositional) opinion known.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      I would be super keen to get HR on the record about that: “Is it your decision that staff can harass others about their surgeries, as long as they think it’s a certain kind of surgery?” But that’s probably just me being angry, it’s probably far better to get a lawyer to do it.

  43. Shelley Frivolous*

    A bit frivolous, but remember that the best defence is living well. You probably won’t put the weight back on by the sound of it. As part of a balanced diet, make sure you are holding a bag of doughnuts every time you walk past her desk. Watch her fume. She gets mad but you can stay sane.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      This is a little weird. “Put the weight back on” is a thing that happens after people lose weight by dieting. Which means they lose fat. LW lost a *tumor*. She might *gain weight* after this, but she wouldn’t be putting it back on.

  44. Emily*

    OP, I am so so sorry you are dealing with this. Aubrey and your HR are all indeed “asshats” and I sincerely hope you seek an employment law attorney’s advice. If you are able to, please update us.

  45. I edit everything*

    I wonder if hiring a lawyer might actually relieve some of your stress, LW. If you find someone good, can explain the situation and just turn over all the emails and paperwork, and let them do their thing, it might be a relief. An expert to share your burden can help *a lot*.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This makes a lot of sense. Having a lawyer means there’s someone else to handle these things / advise on how to move forward, rather than it just being the LW trying to figure it out.

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Agree! Once a lawyer is on it, you don’t have to tell the story over and over, they do. But I wonder if OP has to hire a lawyer. If this happened at my company, I’d take it to the corporation counsel first. She has a vested interest in stopped HR from doing anything flagrantly illegal and this “tell Aubrey your private medical history so she can judge” would have our corp counsel levitating to get to the head of HR’s office. HR people here have been fired for less.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        this “tell Aubrey your private medical history so she can judge” would have our corp counsel levitating to get to the head of HR’s office.

        This is beautiful. I am recalling specific past general counsels when I think of this image and I can absolutely believe it.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I would become an archangel, just so I could bilocate and appear in the HR head’s office without any loss of time.

  46. jane's nemesis*

    OP, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through and so glad you’re on the mend!
    I really, really hope we can hear an update on this!

  47. SereneScientist*

    Absolutely bananas on Aubrey and HR’s part. Yet another example of how we can’t assume or know why someone’s body changed.

    1. Observer*

      That’s true. But not really relevant.

      It makes absolutely NO difference WHY the OP’s size dropped so drastically. Aubrey still needs to keep her mouth shut, and HR needs to rein her in.

      1. SereneScientist*

        We’re on the same page, Observer! My point is that there are a gajillion reasons why people’s bodies change, it’s not just a question of diet, exercise, etc. It seems Aubrey unfortunately won’t see the wisdom in that.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah absolutely, which makes it so infuriating. At the start of this letter I was expecting OPs colleagues to react with misplaced optimism or curiosity about what happened, or “you look great!” Which would have all been bad enough, and super inappropriate because it’s making comments about someone’s body and ultimately it’s all no one’s beeswax. This, however, is an extra level of bad… just jumping to fitness stalking and labelling OP as lazy as though Aubrey is the arbiter and owner of all bodies is truly, truly creepy. HR’s “well what do you expect” nonsense is adding insult to injury.

      1. Bearly Containing Myself*

        Ah, yes, I remember all the “You look great!” comments I received when I lost 40 pounds in 6 weeks once when I was grieving.

  48. justpeachy86*

    OP, I am so sorry. As someone who did have weight loss surgery over 8 years ago, and only told one person at work, I can’t imagine having someone say those things to me. Much less if you had emergency surgery for a life threatening illness. HR should back you up. Get some teeth in the form of a lawyer (and hopefully a new job). Best wishes on your continued recovery at home.

    Honestly I would have all of her emails routed to their own folder and have my husband forward them to HR once a month/quarter.

    1. Jen MaHRtini*

      Life is difficult enough for decent HR people, we can’t police everyone in the industry. I would bet money that the HR person in the story has no real education or qualifications.

      1. It's Marie - Not Maria*

        THIS! There are so many unqualified “HR People” out there that make the rest of us look bad.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I know what you’re saying because so many HR departments are as much use as chocolate teapots, but I think it’s really more why capitalism has a bad rep. HR is only as good, or as well trained as the owner of the company insists on them being. Also, you can have superb HR staff and the owner of the company might overturn or limit them from doing what’s necessary if it affects their own misbehaviour, or nepotism, or biases. People like to think of HR as though they are always the police force of a great democracy, but sometimes they’re really more like the advisors chosen by a despot in some of the worst companies.

  49. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    What the f***?!

    What’s so hard for HR about telling Aubrey that she is not to comment about LW’s body, exercise, or food at all, ever? (Nothing. The answer is that there’s nothing difficult about that for HR that is even marginally competent).

    LW, do you feel able to shut Aubrey down when she starts up with her nonsense? Can you gray rock her? Just “I will not be discussing my body / exercise / eating habits with you” on repeat. “As I said, I will not have this conversation with you.” Make it so, so boring for her to persist with this. Walk away if she starts really getting going to grab something from the printer / go to the bathroom / do an errand / talk to a coworker about some work stuff / end the conversation.

    I hope that a lawyer or someone in management who isn’t a tool is able to shut this down HARD very soon.

    1. Carlie*

      I would be tempted to do the opposite – blatantly start up a recording app on your phone, and ask her to speak a little more slowly and clearly so you can accurately document every. word. she. says. Ask her to repeat the most noxious parts, and ask her to state her name at the end of the recording. Start being proactive and record every time she gets within 15 feet of you no matter what she’s talking about. If you hear her saying something about you to someone else, interrupt and ask both of them to repeat it on record for you. Visibly take notes and ask her to sign them. Smile sweetly and do not explain why you are doing it.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d do a combination:
      At every email from her, I would respond with blatant cc to HR. “Information on this topic is not welcome. I request that you refrain from communicating with me except for work topics.”

    3. Ellis Bell*

      This is such a creepy overstep by Aubrey that I’d be using the full on Gift of Fear silent treatment method for stalkers in this situation; particularly since OP is at home and only reachable by email.

  50. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

    [gesticulates wildly to username]

    1 billion % agree to all those echoing Alison’s lawyer suggestion, as well as those recommending you save your emails from Aubrey and HR. In fact, print out hard copies ASAP.

    Also, if/when you’re ever well enough to consider this, and only after your health and mental wellbeing allows, this company is begging to be named and shamed.

    Good luck to you, OP — I hope you get the resolution you want soonest!!

  51. yala*

    “HR called for a red flag mediation. At our company, mediation can go against your bonus opportunities for the year. I have no idea why I’m in mediation when she’s the one being an asshat.”

    That last sentence made me do an actual double-take because I assumed that if an employee started calling another employee lazy because of their weight, that THEY would be the ones getting called up to HR, like wtf.

    Honestly, I would’ve told her flat out. Not because she deserves to know, but because she deserves to FEEL BAD ABOUT HER ACTIONS. And maybe this wouldn’t actually make her feel guilty, but it would probably make her feel embarrassed.

    Though tbh, at this point if I told her, I think I would just flat-out lay into her over all of this horribleness.

    Like. This seems illegal, but also, she can get all the way bent.

  52. unlucky shopper*

    Hi OP, I just wanted to send you healing wishes. I also experienced a massive non cancerous tumour a few years ago, but mine was 10lb and I was believed quickly. I’m so sorry you experienced such poor medical care, it was hard enough for me when I was treated appropriately so I can’t imagine how much worse it was for you. And it’s a really weird mental process to realize that such a huge part of your body… wasn’t supposed to be there.

    You mention HR, but I am wondering where your manager is in all of this? Did they just go along with HR / the harassment? If so, I think this situation might not be salvageable, but if they are more supportive (even neutral) that might open an avenue for you to go higher up about this. Either way, I suspect the lawyer is a good idea. Best of luck to you!

  53. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    Can we have a worst HR of the year at the end of the year?? Because I think this qualifies.

    1. mlem*

      I would love a special award category each year of … let’s say up to five cases Alison really thinks needs to be remembered for the year. I think this one might well collect “Special: Worst Coworker” and “Special: Worst HR”.

  54. KatEnigma*

    Translation: The Lawyer sending HR a nice letter on company letterhead (or from their legal email address) citing the law under the ADA and reminding them of their obligation to stop you from being harassed for this perceived medical procedure should get HR off their collective rears to tell Aubrey to STFU.

    Personally, I’d job hunt while the lawyer is drafting the letter.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I would job hunt like crazy and I would also ask the lawyer to request a personal apology from the HR people who refused to stop the bullying and defamation. I don’t usually care much for apologies but they really need to be grovelling to OP for the harm and distress they caused her by failing to do their jobs.

  55. JustKnope*

    Please save every single email from Aubrey AND HR’s replies and forward them to your personal address also. Document, document, document.

    Also please consider leaving if you have the mental space for a job hunt at some point soon. You deserve to work at a place that does not allow you to be harassed for months on end.

  56. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    Weight is a protected characteristic in some states. LW should check if they are in one of those states. Even if it isn’t one of those states, as an HR Professional, “Human Resources” people like this give our whole profession a bad name.

      1. Lizzo*

        I just listened to a recent interview this morning with Aubrey Gordon (from the Maintenance Phase podcast), and according to her, it is still only two states. Aubrey also mentioned in this same interview that the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is working on making body size (?) a protected class in other states. (The (?) is because I’m not sure of the exact wording as it pertains to the class definition.)

  57. Llama Identity Thief*

    I think the rest of the commentariat is handling the insanity of the OP involved very well, so I want to shout out something not directly for the OP. (I understand if this gets removed for off-topic.)

    Alison, I want to commend you for how you handled the feedback 2 weeks ago with regards to the use of the word “crazy,” and how easily you’ve seemed to pick up using “bananapants” as a non-ableist term for “this behavior falls so far outside of the realm of reasonability that it should shock most people.” It isn’t a big thing, but your willingness to listen and update your own behaviors is why I trust your advice, so much more than the content of the advice itself.

      1. AGD*

        And me. I’m trying to drop this one and “nuts” and one other one from my own usage – it’s possible for me to convey that things are outrageous without throwing a big subset of disabled folks under the bus while I’m at it.

        1. Llama Identity Thief*

          Same. I mean I just proved I still have work to do in this very comment by using “insanity.”

      2. MEH Squared*

        Same. I appreciate that Alison is willing to hear the feedback and act upon it when she agrees it’s necessary to change. Without fuss and/or muss.

    1. Baron*

      Yes, agreed. It’s a tough situation. It’s deeply ingrained in our culture that “behaving outside norms” = “mentally ill” = “bad”, and I don’t know how someone can write an advice column where so many of the letters are about, “My boss’s behaviour is outside of norms – is that bad?” without playing into that paradigm. Like, I don’t even know what that would look like. I don’t know if using a synonym for “crazy” does it – but I don’t know if there’s anything any of us, even the staunchest anti-ableist allies, could come up with that would fully do the trick. So, absolutely, 100% full points to Alison for trying in this small way to make things better. I think it’s an important and kind concession and I appreciate it very much.

    2. iglwif*


      And “bananapants” (which I use myself for this purpose) is just such a satisfying way to describe “something that falls so far outside the realm of what is reasonable that it should shock people”.

  58. steff*


    I had weight loss surgery in September. In case anyone is wondering: it is NOT the easy way out. The aftereffects of the surgery are difficult, and I had to immediately and permanently change almost everything in my life having to do with eating, drinking, and exercise. It’s worth it, but really hard. I was very open about it, but now I understand why most people are not: because of jerks like Aubrey and everyone who staffs that HR department. I wanted to be open so that others know they are not alone, and so people could feel free to talk about these issues and not have misconceptions and judge others. I’ve been lucky that everyone in my life has been kind an supportive.
    All this to say: call that attorney, reader! You deserve better!

    1. Office Cheetos*

      I too, had weight loss surgery a year ago. It is not the easy way out. My entire life had to change; not just physically but mentally and emotionally. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done for myself but also the most challenging.

      1. steff*

        We’re part of the same #losersclub, Office Cheetos! Hope everything is going well for you… I’m just 4 months out and made it to Onederland yesterday (199 currently and 74ish to go).

    2. steff*

      And, I should have started with: Reader, I sure hope you are feeling better soon! I know that must have been difficult to deal with and I’m glad the doctor caught it before it made your health any worse. Holding you in my heart while you deal with this awful work stress.

  59. CheesePlease*

    OP I am SO SORRY. For Audrey’s behavior. For the mast medical neglect. I am so glad someone listened to you and saved your life!! but wow that is A LOT.

    I would be so tempted to tell Audrey. “I had a f***n tumor that put my life at risk. You are not my doctor. Please shut up and never speak to me about my health or body again”. UGH. People like here AND YOUR HR!!! REALLY SUCK!!!! you deserve so much better!!

    1. NotRealAnonforThis*

      Having actually responded to an irritating coworker who snarkily asked me how I’d enjoyed my month vacation (“yes, spending a month working bedside with a child in the PICU with sepsis was greatly relaxing, fvck straight off”) may or may not help. I was dealing with an irritating class clown type, not a POS like this Aubrey. In my case, he gives me a very.wide.berth and does not even say hello to me. I’m fine with that.

      I agree. I so want a script where Aubrey feels remorse and awful and quits. I suspect it will not happen, sadly.

      1. AllTheBirds*

        I think it’s pretty clear that people like Aubrey feel no remorse whatsoever for the shit they lay on others.

  60. Presea*

    OP, it hurts my heart that you think for a moment that you could be going overkill with a lawyer here, especially considering your history of being gaslit and disbelieved in a way that had extremely serious consequences for you.

    I hope that when all of this is over, you can get out and you can get some competent help with re-adjusting your professional norms (its hard to believe there aren’t other massive issues at this workplace). And therapy if that’s a route you want to/can take. Best wishes for your health and recovery.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      OP’s professional norms seem perfectly fine to me.

      Her bullying, intrusive, egotistical coworker, who railed on in a meeting about how the OP can’t possibly keep the weight off (which BTW was due to a watermelon-sized tumor in her abdomen, not an addiction to Chicken McNuggets) and therefore can’t possibly fulfill her professional obligations, somehow, and who is trying to blame her own failings on the OP to the extent of putting OP’s potential bonus etc. in danger, wouldn’t know a professional norm if it bit her on the nose.

      Neither would that farce of an HR department who are letting Aubrey bully her and not honoring her ADA accomodations.

      Those should be what hurts your heart, not the idea that someone might contact a lawyer in order to protect themselves under the law.

      1. Somebody Call a Lawyer*

        What hurt Presea’s heart wasn’t that OP was thinking of getting a lawyer, it was that the OP was worried a lawyer might be overkill.

        And from reading the rest of Presea’s comment, it wasn’t saying OP was behaving outside of professional norms, but rather that OP’s sense of normalcy and what’s acceptable or has to be accepted by OP in a professional setting has probably gotten skewed from working with so many batshit bananapants, including the numbnuds in HR. Basically, what Alison warns can happen when you stay too long in a highly toxic workplace.

        1. Presea*

          That’s precisely what I meant, thank you for adding this defense. It wasn’t my intent to come off as shaming the OP in any way, shape, or form. (And trust me, my own history with weight and food makes me the last person to judge anyone for their weight for any reason anyway, else I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world)

          1. The Eye of Argon*

            I apologize for misreading you and going waaaay over the top in my response :embarassed smiley face here:

            1. Presea*

              No worries whatsoever ^.^ I appreciate you apologizing though! Besides, I agree with the substance of your response, and you were perfectly civil. Not to mention, with a letter like this which brushes against so many sensitive topics and is such an awful situation in general, it’s pretty understandable for there to be some emotionally charged misunderstandings and comments!

      2. Seashell*

        Even if she was addicted to chicken McNuggets, her weight or lack thereof or how to medically treat her condition is none of Aubrey’s business.

        1. Presea*

          +1 agreed. That being said, I think The Eye of Argon might have just used some awkward phrasing there rather than deliberately trying to imply that there’d be a situation where OP’s treatment would be justified.

  61. 1-800-BrownCow*

    What the actual CLuck?!?!?! My jaw is now bruised from hitting the floor each sentence I read, which I totally blame Aubrey and HR, NOT the OP! I’m thankful the OP has this site to reach out to for advice, because WOW!!! Who in their right mind thinks any of this is okay??? Reminds me a coworker who once made a rude comment to me about another coworker’s weight loss that she assumed was surgery that didn’t work so well for him because he gained his weight back and then some a couple years later. Since I knew it wasn’t private information and he shares his cancer journey with people at work, I had no problem shutting rude coworker down by informing her that he had lost weight due to cancer and his chemo treatments, not weight loss surgery like she assumed. And because of on-going issues from the surgery to remove the cancer, he can no longer work out like he did all the time prior to his cancer diagnosis. While it shut up that person about the coworker’s weight, she still goes around and makes comments about her perceived assumptions about other people. Ugh! Some people are dense and never learn.

    I agree, a lawyer is the way to go. And honestly, I’d be updating your resume like others mentioned. If they handle bullying and your ADA requirements this way, I can’t imagine how they handle other HR issues.

    I’m so sorry you’re having to go through with all this. Everything that has happened is obviously stressful enough and I’m happy to hear that it was caught and dealt with before it got any worse (which sounds like it was bad already) and that you’re recovering. I really hope you get some help and things turn around for you for the good. Sending good vibes your way!

  62. starsaphire*

    What, and I say this with the greatest restraint, the actual fuck?

    Aubrey needs to be shut down, and your company is way out of line.

  63. Observer*

    OP, please kick this upstairs. We’ve seen stories where HR has mishandled an issue significantly, and then when it got kicked upstairs it turned out the lower level HR folks involved was incompetent and not following procedure as the company required.

    Think the woman who kept on calling a coworker by the wrong name “out of respect for their mother”. The original HR response was that unless the woman explicitly said that she doesn’t like trans people it doesn’t count as discrimination. The head or HR saw things VERY differently.

  64. Avril Ludgateaux*

    This whole letter is a cascading sequence of boiling rage. First the medical negligence (to allow a tumor to get to 18 LBS! before thinking “huh, maybe we should, uh, at least have a look at that?” especially something abdominal! There are so many organs there! And there are so many dangerous, systemic issues that result in abdominal swelling! GAH!!!). Then, Aubrey. Everything about Aubrey. THEN HR pours gasoline on the flame by asking you to disclose private medical information (NO.) and telling you they can’t do shit about Aubrey’s bullying (which they seemingly acknowledge is in fact bullying??).

    I have no advice but to echo what Alison said about speaking to a lawyer, even if only to get some legal advice about how to proceed. Sometimes a strongly worded letter on the right letterhead can make the desired impression even when you are dealing with clearly incompetent, potentially malicious HR staff.

    LW best wishes for your health and your career. I hope some day we get a positive update.

    1. JelloStapler*

      My guess is a lot of the gaslighting is due to “Aubry”s as doctors- just telling OP/LW she is just fat and needs to lose weight. :(

      1. gmg22*

        Yep, that plus anytime OP complained of abdominal pain or other symptoms she was likely essentially told to suck it up and that that kind of pain is just part of being a woman. It is straight-up hazardous sometimes to navigate being female and having healthcare needs.

    2. Toolate12*

      The medical gaslighting is honestly one of the things that most sticks in my craw from a letter that has a lot of things that stick in the craw. Incredible!

  65. MsClaw*

    Great Caesar’s ghost, this is bonkers!

    A couple of suggestions.
    1. Create an email filter that puts anything from Aubrey that contains words like ‘diet’, ‘weight’, ‘gym’ etc directly to a folder (not to junk or trash in case you need the evidence for later) so that you don’t have to see it. Mute her on any social channels you have in slack, etc. Protect yourself from having to deal with her nonsense.

    2. If you are connected with Aubrey’s on any communication network that isn’t work-related, unconnect and block.

    3. The next time she brings something up tell her very clearly that your body is none of her business and that this is the last time you’re discussing it in any way with her. And mean it. Walk away, walk out of meetings, ignore her ass.

    4. Lawyer up because Aubrey is one thing but HR saying they can’t do anything about her is next level.

    1. JelloStapler*

      Not only “Can’t do anything about her” but then dumping it back on OP/LW’s lap to “fix” by sharing personal information to appease Aubry. Probably because HR is too scared to say “Boo” to her.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      I agree with all of this, but I would still forward Aubrey’s emails to HR. Every. Single. Time.

      I would want a paper trail of HR being informed and doing nothing (while also violating ADA).

      1. MsClaw*

        Oh for sure, I would just check that filter folder on some regular basis and then forward them on, but at least then OP doesn’t want to worry about being bombarded by Aubrey’s foolishness every day.

    3. Seashell*

      I don’t think the filter is a good idea. Aubrey might send an e-mail that says, “I’m going to the gym at 1PM, but I want to discuss the Teapot project with you when I get back.” LW shouldn’t risk missing an actual work-related email from Wacky Aubrey. A standard response that she doesn’t want to hear from Aubrey about diet, exercise, or medical matters with a CC to HR would be better.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Might be worth setting up the response as an email signature, if Outlook is the default.

  66. Dust Bunny*

    Can we institute a Worst HR of the Year category? And maybe a Worst Coworker?

    Aubrey is batsh*t crazy and your workplace is . . . words fail me.

  67. LondonLady*

    Agree agree agree with Alison’s advice and those of other commentators – a lawyer can assist with a strongly-worded letter to top of the HR chain which will make clear that it is Aubrey who needs to be reined in and that you are not responsible for fixing a problem of her making.

    I hope your recovery continues well and that your better future includes a better workplace!

  68. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    OP, I agree that a lawyer is a fantastic idea for all of the reasons that have been listed by Alison and the Commentariat. But also, I AM SO ANGRY FOR YOU. I’m angry about the medical gaslighting. I’m mad about Aubrey and HR. I am just… ENRAGED. Look, if you ever want a total stranger to walk up to any of the people involved in this and just… I don’t know, give them a good and vicious kicking with no preamble and then disappear into the shadows, I am your girl.

    1. Appletini*

      I’ll contribute to your bail!

      LW, I have nothing but good vibes, but you have all my good vibes. This whole situation is a compendium of bull***t, and may you come out on top.

    2. I edit everything*

      Heck, yes! Surely someone here is in the general vicinity of LW and could pop in and strike a blow for justice.

    1. Tib*

      And if anyone tries to shame you for being extreme, say you almost died or that you’re still recovering from major surgery and this was the most efficient way to protect your health and your rights.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Oh, it’s just lovely when people accuse someone like the OP for being “extreme” for seeking legal advice; like, if the situation they were dealing with wasn’t extreme to begin with, they wouldn’t be looking for a lawyer! But yeah, THEY’RE the ones to blame for “escalating the situation.”

  69. Ex-prof*

    To the people suggesting telling the whole story and offering proof– I think that’s probably what Aubrey’s hoping for, and I get the sense that LW thinks so. It would be feeding the Aubrey-troll.

    If you’ve ever had a co-worker whose office nickname was “The Angel of Death” you know what I mean.

    We once had a department secretary who you never, ever, wanted to let know that you weren’t feeling well. If you had the sniffles, she’d ask you about your sniffles daily, in sepulchral tones suggesting that she was ready to ring up a funeral parlor if need be. If you said you were feeling much better thanks, she’s point out the possibility of a relapse. If you said it was just a cold, she’d say that’s what her late Aunt Gertrude thought when she turned out to have the galloping three-alarm pneumonia that laid her in her grave.

    LW should definitely not tell Aubrey anything more than she’s told her already.

    Besides, we don’t owe proof to the people who refuse to believe us.

    1. Becca*

      100%. There’s a very small chance Aubrey would see sense and decide that OP’s medical events are a “good enough” explanation for the weight loss and leave her alone, which would potentially solve the immediate problem. But even if that worked, OP should NOT have to divulge very personal health information to anyone, let alone someone who has been harassing her and who clearly has no sense of appropriate behaviour or discretion.

      In any case Aubrey does sound delusional enough that she could easily carry on harassing (you wouldn’t have had a tumour if you’re diet and exercise were better) and HR are clearly not currently able or willing to put a stop to it.

      At this point I think the only sane options are to engage a lawyer in the hope that will get HR to see sense (or possibly get someone higher at the business to realise HR are failing to protect the business from risk of successful legal action and make some very drastic improvements) or get a new job somewhere not run by complete idiots.

  70. JelloStapler*

    What the everlasting gobstoppers???
    Aubry can terrorize people, get into their business, try to impact their career due to her own agenda and assumptions and HR is telling LW to tell Aubry personal information so AUBRY behaves?????

    Your HR is terrible.

  71. nm*

    Oh my god. I have nothing helpful to contribute but if I was even a bystander witnessing such behavior I would want Audrey fired that very minute

  72. Kay*

    OP, I’m so so sorry you’re having to deal with this. I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s advice, but wanted to wish you a speedy recovery and quick resolution to your workplace woes! My jaw was literally on the floor reading this – I’m SO enraged on your behalf (at the medical community, at Aubrey, at HR… the list goes on)

  73. Karen*

    It seems like Aubrey is probably some managers niece. It seems like HR doesn’t really wanna deal with her. I would definitely talk to a lawyer and start looking for a new job. I think it’s saying a lot that nobody stood up for you and it’s gotten to this point seems like a really toxic situation.

  74. Save the Hellbender*

    Alison, is there a phrase OP can use with HR that might get them to take this seriously? It’s really annoying that they’d have to speak to an employment lawyer (and maybe pay for some time) on top of the surgery recovery when HR should just be taking care of this headache for them.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Would “Hostile work environment” do the trick? Because it is, particularly since the OP has ADA accommodations.

    2. It's Marie - Not Maria*

      “I have been speaking with an Employment Attorney about the ongoing ADA Violations taking place at this office. I am being retaliated against due to a documented health condition, and bullied by a coworker due to this same condition. I am documenting this formal complaint to you about these violations, and will be sharing this information with my Attorney.”

    3. Dr Unemployable*

      I think this is a benefit of having a lawyer handle it- whatever phrase the lawyer uses will have a lot more power than anything the LW could say. Plus, the lawyer will enjoy every second of the conversation :-D

  75. Betty*

    OP, I just came here to say that I am internally screaming on your behalf. Yes, please talk to a lawyer ASAP. I hope they can get this resolved for you quickly, because just WOW.

  76. Indolent Libertine*

    I… I just…

    I think your grossly incompetent HR has been triggered by Aubrey’s use of the word “triggered,” and they are running scared because they have somehow decided that her batshit nonsense has equal claim for accommodation with your legal right to be free of actual harassment and bullying, and all they can think of to do is to tell *you* to play nice while they retire to the fainting couch. Get yourself a real shark for a lawyer, bring them to the stupid “mediation,” and enjoy watching them eviscerate the idiots.

    All the good wishes to you for healing and peace.

    1. Phony Genius*

      “Dear HR:
      Employee Aubrey has a condition that causes her to be easily triggered upon the sight of another person who has clearly lost weight. Due to this condition, a reasonable accommodation must be provided to her in the form of allowing her to bully employees who show visible signs of weight loss.”

      Said no doctor, ever.

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Yeah, “I’m triggered by your body” is so far out of the realm of reasonable.

  77. Nook Nook*

    OMFG. I’m not the “sue happy” type, but in this case, as everyone else mentioned…lawyer up! I’m so sorry you are going through this, OP. Please be sure to give us an update, which could end up be you OWNING this company!

    1. Rosemary*

      Right?! My hope isn’t that lawyer sends threatening letter and everyone shapes up…my hope is OP sues the pants off the company, wins a huge settlement, finds a wonderful new job (or not, because huge settlement), and Aubrey and the HR idiots are fired.

  78. Melonhead*

    This is just awful! No one deserves this, and your company’s response is appalling.

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I am glad you finally were able to get the medical help you need!

  79. Scott*

    Yikes. On. Bikes.

    We have left bananas a while back and arrived at full fruit salad. I’m just so sorry you’re having to go through this and you’re undergoing this harassment. HR has dropped the ball so hard I’m surprised there aren’t dents in the floor.

    While talking to a lawyer might help in the short run (at least to tell them to do their freaking jobs), if you’re well enough then I’d consider looking for another job – especially if they’re going to tap the brakes on *your* compensation because of *her* outrageous reaction. Looking for a job while recovering from surgery is easier said than done, but it is ABSOLUTELY a reasonable mid-term goal, because YIKES.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      Lawyers can also help negotiate references (ie – what they’ll say to inquiring employers). I think that may also be useful here.

  80. Kel*

    Rarely do posts on AMA make me rage, but this one is making me so angry on your behalf LW. Aubrey is a menace; I hope she gets fired for the good of everyone around her. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and I’m sorry for anyone else she’s concern trolling to an aggressive degree.

  81. I&I*

    So they want a mediated compromise between ‘Aubrey wants to dictate your diet’ and ‘You want to be left alone’?

    Since I assume Aubrey herself is lean and full of vitamins, I suggest you eat her. It’s the perfect compromise.

    1. Emily*

      If you set “I want to eat her” as your starting position, at least you might wind up at a “you’ll leave each other alone” compromise.

    2. Starfleet HVAC Engineering*

      I don’t know, lean meat can be difficult to cook; if there’s not enough fat, braising isn’t going to do much. I guess you could try smoking it and turning it into jerky.

  82. Mehitabel*

    Lawyer. Up. Find yourself a good litigator with expertise in employment law and the ADA.

    LW, you’ve got one hell of a lawsuit here. If you haven’t documented all of these interactions, do it. Forward emails from work to your personal email address and bcc every communication with or about Aubrey to your personal email going forward.

  83. Book lover*

    I am so sorry you are going through this. And that it seems like your coworkers have never stood up for you.

    And for any of the rest of us who witness the Aubreys of the world, repeat after me, “We absolutely will not be commenting on anyone else’s body for any reason. This conversation is over.”

  84. The Crowening*

    Wow. There is so much wrong happening here it’s dizzying. OP, I hope you’ll keep us posted as things progress! Rooting for you.

  85. Gigi*

    Other than echoing all the support for the OP, can I also just take this opportunity to ask people to, in general, STOP COMMENTING ON PEOPLE’S BODIES. At work. At home. At school. In life. This includes “positive” comments about weight loss. Most major weight loss is due to trauma, especially if it’s fast. Also, let’s not glorify skinny bodies over fat bodies. Also, it’s none of your beeswax. A simple “You look great” when appropriate or “it’s great to see you” will suffice. Specific comments on accessories are welcome. BUT PLEASE DON’T COMMENT ON PEOPLE’S BODS.

    That’s all. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

    1. starsaphire*

      Can we get an AMEN.

      Please. I am *not* flattered when you say, “Wow, you look like you’ve lost weight!” I am enraged that you think about my weight rather than about me.

      I’d much rather hear you comment on the lovely scarf/hat/whatever I’m wearing that I just finished making. I worked really hard on it!

      1. Chirpy*

        Once I lost a bunch of weight and saw a friend’s mom who I hadn’t seen in a while. I had basically dropped back down to the weight I was when I first met her, years earlier, by severely cutting calories. She just would not stop gushing about how “good” I looked. I was not eating a healthy diet and shortly after realized if I continued at that daily calorie level I was about to veer into eating disorder territory mentally. Sure, it my have been a better weight for me (I once did a full medical fitness assessment that suggested my ideal body weight was in that range, and had originally gained weight due to stress and an injury) but I was getting there in a not-great way. It was very uncomfortable the number of people who praised me for it.

        1. iglwif*

          THIS RIGHT HERE is why it took me over a year to get diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was 21.

          When you are a university student losing weight for no discernible reason, you should be worried about that. Instead I kept getting compliments, so I figured I was just lucky. (I was not lucky. Also, the people who complimented me were, in retrospect, bananapants: I didn’t look good, I looked like I had a disease that was messing with my insides and making me lose way too much weight.)

          1. Giant Kitty*

            Your last paragraph resonates with me so strongly. I knew someone who lost a great deal of weight between grief from a sudden, devastating loss and a long misdiagnosed/gaslit health issue coming to a head- they needed a critical surgery for it that same year and had complications for a long time.

            They got so many compliments for being “thin” and it was disturbing to hear because they looked drawn, shadowed, sucked up, and obviously very ill. They were emotionally fragile enough that it caused a fear of gaining any weight back that resulted in a lot of less than healthy behaviors that further hindered their recovery. It was an extremely worrying time and I breathed a sigh of relief when they finally got well and reached a healthy weight again.

    2. anxiousGrad*

      YES. Last year I had an endoscopy and colonoscopy to figure out why I was having malabsorption problems and as the anesthesiology nurse was wheeling me off to the procedure room she started teasing me about how skinny I am. And then the anesthesiologist joined in. As they’re preparing me for a diagnostic procedure to figure out why I’m so underweight!

  86. Khatul Madame*

    LW, getting a lawyer is a good plan and should take care of the aggravation. The letter from the lawyer should go to the company’s legal, corporate HR, with a copy to the HR office that “mediated” you. If there is a DEI officer, they should receive a copy as well. Be sure to mention that unprovoked (by you) mediation is a direct threat to your compensation, as your bonus may be impacted.
    But I still don’t understand why your manager wasn’t your first stop in escalating this, and where he/she is in this whole situation. I suspect that they are staying out of this because you going on a month-long medical leave and then securing the WFH accommodation somehow got them “in trouble”… even though it shouldn’t.
    Best of luck LW, and I hope you’ll recover quickly and completely.

  87. irene adler*

    Wow. Shocked at Aubrey’s gall.

    I’d be all for some way to plop that 18 lb tumor right into Aubrey’s lap.
    But I get that keeping the PO’s medical information private is key here. So don’t actually do this.

    Protect that bonus!
    Get written assurances from management that your bonus has been in no way jeopardized from your being brought into mediation.

    Ideally your attorney would already know to include assurances that your bonus is completely protected.

    1. Junior Dev*

      My friend got her uterus out after years of medical gaslighting and it was full of tumors. She wanted to keep it and send it to the doctor who told her it was just constipation, but they wouldn’t let her.

  88. Interested Party*

    Oddly enough, I saw a presentation recently about the EEOC complaint and investigation process. A co-worker is harassing you based on a perceived disability, and your work is not only allowing it, they are retaliating against you by putting your bonus in jeopardy.

  89. chocolate lover*

    holy crap on a cracker. I have nothing useful to add, I’m sitting here trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.

  90. lb*

    Honestly, I’m not convinced that explaining the whole “emergency surgery” thing would actually chasten Aubrey at all. OP would probably just get rants about how her terrible life choices that only Aubrey could fix lead to surgery, or something.

    1. Chirpy*

      Aubrey seems like the type to say “well, you wouldn’t have gotten a tumor if you were eating (whatever diet she’s pushing)” if OP did tell her what actually happened, so absolutely don’t give more info to Aubrey.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      This. At best, she’d be like, “well, how was I supposed to know you had a ‘legitimate’ reason for dropping that much weight that quickly? You didn’t tell me until now, so of COURSE I had every right to assume you were a fat lazy person who took the easy way out and was now as skinny lazy person who would soon get fat again, and thus every right to shame you for it!”

  91. Shrike*

    Wow, I really hope we get an update on this in a few weeks saying the HR rep she’s dealing with got fired along with the harasser and the LW got to telecommute full time along with a raise.

  92. ABCYaBYE*

    OP I’m so sorry that you’re going through this at work after what you had to go through medically. Had I been in your boss’s shoes or HR’s shoes, I don’t think there would have been mediation or a conversation of any type. There would have been a box and a chance to walk out the front door.

    I’d absolutely second the idea of talking to a lawyer. And then I’d absolutely suggest finding a new job. None of this is your fault. At all. So it sucks to say that a new job is probably the best course of action. But everyone in this situation sucks and I can’t imaging you’re going to be happy going forward. Aubrey of course sucks. She’s THE WORST! Your coworkers who were witness to Aubrey’s suggestion that you work is going to be influenced by your inability to keep your weight off and said NOTHING suck. Your boss not putting an immediate stop to all of it sucks. Your HR team is not stepping in, potentially costing you money because of mediation, suggesting that you could clear the air by telling Aubrey about your medical situation, and then disputing your ADA accommodations suck. The challenge is that everyone not having your back in this situation where it would have been so damn easy to have your back will continue to be your coworkers even if Aubrey and HR are all let go. This isn’t my call to make, but I can’t imagine feeling great about being in that workplace knowing that not one single person stepped up to defend you.

    You should say something to corporate… through your attorney.

  93. Kaye*

    Quite apart from Aubrey’s general awfulness, which has been discussed extensively elsewhere in the thread, shouldn’t HR be more worried about her hawking her very non-work-related ‘coaching’ services at work?

  94. Weight, what?!*

    Ooooohhhh my god, what a nightmare to deal with when you’re recovering from surgery. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Not going against Allison or the other commenters’ advice to seek legal counsel if that’s what OP wants to do, as it’s fully justified and could make things better for others in future too, but if I were in this situation I think I’d put my energy toward looking for a new job instead. This company sounds like a whole mess and I would want nothing to do with it after this nonsense. Surely there must be a supportive, remote-work-friendly place out there. Good luck, OP!

  95. Some Dude*

    This reminds me of Tig Notaro’s standup bit about having a life-threatening medical condition and being asked by someone how her stomach was so flat. She responded, “Oh, I’m dying. Yeah, dying really melts the pounds away.” Or something to that effect.

    I’m really sorry you are dealing with this on top of the stressful medical condition, and it is terrible your work is being so unhelpful about it. At least you seem to recognize that Aubrey is Not Well and this is a her problem, but your work is really making her problem your problem.

    That said, have you considered not having a life threatening medical emergency? Something to think about for the future.

  96. Meghan*

    This is so banana pants crazy.
    First, if you haven’t save every communication with HR and record every instance of Aubrey’s harassment. Second, do contact corp HR. If their response isn’t a swift kick in the ass to local HR and Aubrey, contact an employment lawyer.

  97. Really?*

    My first reaction was Holy Shit! That hasn’t changed. However, I would suggest, like someone upstream, that you print every one of the harasser’s e-mails, along with those of your HR department and others in management related to this matter and your ADA accommodation,
    and start (if you haven’t already) taking contemporaneous notes of every conversation related to this matter. Make sure you keep those in a file of hard copies or on a thumb drive or other media not connected to your office network. And yes, it’s pro boy time to call an attorney. I, too, tend to think that Aubrey must be related to someone, because if this is a pattern of conduct, she should be gone.

  98. Ellis Hubris*

    I’ve used an employment lawyer for a medical situation that went wildly wrong. The lawyer was my counsel as I navigated the workplace, she never contacted my employer directly. It was worth every penny I paid. She beefed up my severance package and future reference check responses. And she helped me understand how out of line the situation was.

    Keep copies of everything. I would send them to an outside email address. Keep a journal of any comments made to you, who was present and responses. This isn’t likely to end with your job unfortunately but you can figure out how to get the accommodations you need as you heal and possibly a great severance.

    Best of luck. So happy the medical part was figured out in time.

  99. MissLoveJoy*

    I wish I could say I was shocked about HR’s behavior but I saw something like that before with my old company; shaming people who took sick leave or needed accommodations assuming they wouldn’t ask for time off again if they felt embarrassed about it. Labor lawyer all the way.

  100. Empress Matilda*

    Audrey can FOAD, and your HR can follow her. Good grief, what a horrible bunch of people. Good luck with the lawyer, and I hope you feel better soon!

  101. EPLawyer*

    OP, I know you are worn out and trying to recover. This might not be the time to fight. You might not have the energy to look for a new job either. IF you are financially able, it might be a good idea to just quit. You need to focus on your RECOVERY not dealing with this insanity.

    You can go to a lawyer when you are recovered. The statute of limitations probably won’t run before you are up to speaking to a lawyer. Although speak to one as soon as you have the energy to do so.

    IF you have the energy right now, look for another job. This place sucks. Even if you straighten out HR and Aubrey you are stuck with a place that holds MEDIATION against you. A perfectly good tool — if used properly — for resolving work place conflicts is weaponized against being used. But then you can be forced into and have it affect your INCOME by a crazy person. That is not going to change. Something is fundamentally wrong with the culture of your company. So no matter what happens, you need to look for another job — when you are strong enough to do so.

    1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Quit…and lose her health insurance? This is bad advice. I will reiterate: send a professional email to your corporation counsel, OP. HR is blowing it in six different ways, and at least a couple of them are probably illegal.

  102. KatEnigma*

    I am reminded of a previous time when HR was so wildly out there and protecting the harasser, LW (and upper management) later discovered that the lead HR person was having an affair with the person who was causing the problems….

      1. Zap R.*

        What was the one where Coworker A refused to tell Coworker B that his wife was having emergency surgery and somehow HR sided with Coworker A?

  103. Jojo*

    What on earth did I just read?

    I agree, I think a lawyer is your best bet at this point.

    I also want to wish you continued healing and I hope this entire nightmare is resolved quickly so as to give you the emotional space you need to heal after all of this.

    Wow, WTF?

  104. Txag18*

    I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this on top of recovering from such an invasive surgery OP!

    Your coworker and HR are way out of line in how they’re treating you. I recommend the podcast Maintenance Phase which talks a lot about navigating conversations about “health”, weight stigma, and anti-fat bias in society and the medical profession. I hope it can give you some rebuttals to this kind of nonsense if it comes up again.

  105. EverythingIsInteresting*

    Just like AAM has “worst boss of the year” we need “worst coworker of the year.” This needs to be at the top of the list.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Also a “worst HR of the year,” since HR is technically not a boss most of the time.

      Speaking of bosses, is there any chance the writer’s boss can back her up and speak to HR? Or could Aubrey’s boss say something to her?

  106. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    I’m sure it’s been said, but I’ll say it again: it’s not overreacting to get a lawyer. Do it. Your HR sucks and they need to stop sucking. They’re giving the rest of HR a bad name. So, if you have the bandwidth, call a lawyer. They’ll put a stop to it all right quick.

  107. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

    The unmitigated GALL. The EFFRONTERY, I swear to heck. OP, on your behalf I want you to get a lawyer who will go for the jugular and get you a massive settlement. I don’t know if that’s what you actually want, but I personally would find it satisfying. I send you positive healing wishes, both for healing from your surgery and from the bananas offensive behavior.

  108. Wilbur*

    Gotta love/hate all these letters where HR goes, “We can fix this, this person is crazy. We’d rather make you do it”

  109. tg33*

    1. Best wishes for a quick and complete recovery, I don’t know anything about abdominal surgery, except that the recovery can be long, I hope it goes as well as possible for you.

    2. It seems like the correct response to any comment from Aubrey is “My body is none of your business.” then look at her until she goes away. She is not your doctor, your nutritionist or any other professional. It doesn’t matter if she’s qualified in any way or not. It’s simply none of her business.

    3. Where I’m from Aubrey is a boys name. That’s not even slightly relevent, but it amuses me…

    1. Frustrated Front Desk/Also an Aubrey*

      It usually is a boy’s name. There was a song in the 70s by Bread named Aubrey. “And Aubrey was her name/I never knew her, but I loved her just the same/I loved her name” I was named after it, and so was every other female Aubrey around my age I have met. I guess it’s gender-neutral now?

  110. VibesGirl*

    First, my deep sympathy for the struggle you’ve been through in seeking appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your medical situation. The daughter of a close friend of mine went through something that sounds almost identical over the past three years. The gaslighting from medical professionals, the body shaming, the tacit (and not so tacit) insinuations that she was making the entire situation up, etc., etc.. It will take years for her to heal from the emotional damage…long after the surgical healing is complete. I am so sorry.

    While my initial instinct was to say, “Get that lawyer! Scare the bejeezus out of them! Make her and HR pay for this! Send an update ASAP because I’m on the edge of my seat!” I want to emphasize that the most important thing in this situation is for you to take care of yourself, even if that doesn’t involve a big legal fight (as satisfying as that might be for all of us on this thread who would likely go marching through the streets on your behalf to fight this insanity). You don’t owe your coworker any personal/medical information, nor do you owe us a satisfying conclusion. My hope for you is that you are able to get free from this ridiculous situation, whatever that looks like, and however that is safest and healthiest for you. Good luck and take care of YOU!

    1. Lenora Rose*

      I don’t think the lawyer needs to *scare* anyone but Aubrey, though getting HR to pay some damn attention to their job would be nice.

      But I think imagining consulting a lawyer as leading to a lawsuit with the attendant drama and cost is part of why people are uneasy with consulting a lawyer in the first place, and this definitely looks like a time it would be warranted to at least get a consultation and, if the lawyer deems it appropriate, a strongly worded letter.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        I respectfully disagree. Legal counsel needs to put the fear of the law into the HR department, which seems not to understand that, under the ADA, Aubrey’s being “triggered” by OP’s weight loss is not and never will be equivalent to OP’s medical disability due to her emergency surgery. The only way this HR department is going to understand that is by outside counsel getting involved and explaining to the company’s general counsel just how much this could end up costing them in court.

        I hope OP will update us and I hope that update includes news that the HR department has been invited to find employment elsewhere.

        1. Foxy Hedgehog*

          Right. Weirdly, Aubrey isn’t the one breaking the law here, the employer is. It’s the employer allowing OP to be harassed at work in violation of the ADA. (I’m presuming OP is working in the USA, as Alison and the other commenters seem to be).

          There is no reason for the lawyer to be in contact with Aubrey at all.

        2. Lenora Rose*

          Fear of the law is different from “fear of a big scene in court”. Because I definitely agree that the fear of the law should be put into everyone here (except the OP), but fear of the courtroom* is often the thing which makes the person who needs the law on their side (like the OP) avoid getting legal help.

          * which is also an intentional side effect of the propaganda campaign that paints people as overly litigious, and suing as something greedy people do, or greedy lawyers try and talk people into. While there ARE people who commit frivolous lawsuits, that stigma is an intentional design of an active attempt to discourage people from using one of their better weapons against a company.

    1. Megan*

      My work’s EAP has a legal option where you can speak to a lawyer, but it specify says you can’t speak to the lawyer about workplace issues hahah

  111. BlueWolf*

    I agree that you should get a lawyer and it doesn’t have to be a big thing. I had an issue with a home improvement contractor and all it took was a letter from my lawyer to get a full refund from the company. It was a way better result than I was expecting.

  112. MuseumChick*

    Talk to a lawyer ASAP and DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. Save all the emails (print them and I would even forward them to a personal email). I would go so far as to email HR and say something like, “Dear HR, the issues discussed in mediation between me and Audrey (listed specifics) where the final results was to either reveal my personal medical information or there was nothing HR could do are continuing to be a problem. Audrey has sent me (number) of workout/health/lifestyle videos and (number) of diet plans. I’ve forwarded most of these to you as they have occurred but I have continued to receive them the latest one being on (date). I am requesting that something be done to stop her from continuing this behavior toward me.” And again, print a copy.

  113. Raging Iron Thunder*

    I bet an employment lawyer would lap this case right up. Document document and document! And then see a lawyer!

  114. Jules the 3rd*

    A lawyer is a reasonable step at this point.

    I’m kinda surprised Alison didn’t also recommend that OP stand back and think about whether the company’s failure to deal with Aubrey is an isolated issue or evidence of more dysfunction in the company.
    1) Where is OP’s manager in this?
    2) HR’s pressuring OP to come back because the company ‘doesn’t like’ remote work, despite the ADA component is a huge red flag.
    3) How did they treat people during the ‘remote work’ period of COVID
    4) How have they handled return to office, masking, etc?
    5) Is there other evidence of bad management, like clearly bad employees / managers being not fired, or even promoted? Favoritism?

    OP, think hard about the overall company picture, and whether you really want to stay with this company. Maybe your goal should be lots of severance (6fig min) so that you don’t sue.

  115. ijustworkhere*

    I am appalled at your HR team. This is so basic that even a minimally competent HR person would shut it down in about 15 minutes.

  116. FattyMPH*

    The only response to “when are you coming back?” is “when my work environment isn’t hostile and I’m not being harassed about my body and medical history, and I don’t understand how that’s a f***ing question.”

  117. Echo*

    OP, I don’t have much advice, I can only say I’m sorry you have to deal with this. On top of the medical stress and stress of dealing with remote work, I can’t imagine dealing with people nitpicking your body or health.

    I went through chemo resulting in rapid weight loss and chunks of hair following out. I met with a client twice over a period of two weeks, and management pulled me aside after the second meeting to comment on my appearance and say I looked disheveled and “Wow, what happened to you?” They scheduled an hour long meeting to criticize me and when I mentioned chemo, they blew right past it and kept making it seem like it was my fault anyway, despite receiving positive feedback from the client directly the week prior.

    I have had some success with prying coworkers by being vague or making up thanks. I’ve joked “Well, I don’t want anyone to pity me so I won’t name my condition, but I’ll give you a hint that it’s one of the ones covered by our Critical Illness policy!” Or in another broader team meeting, I’ve said “Thank you so much for the team who has reached out about my health. I greatly appreciate the concern and how everyone has been so respectful of my privacy. I don’t anticipate having more treatment or surgery, and can only ask that you treat me the same as you typically would in the meantime.”

    I would (unfortunately) agree with others about pursuing options to protect yourself. Similar to you, I was in a position where performance was tied to perception and presence in the office after treatment, and I didn’t want to immediately rock the boat, nor did I have the energy to fight back. If and when you feel up to it, it may be worth consulting with a legal resource, especially since HR has dropped the ball tremendously.

    Good luck!

  118. SunriseRuby*

    Ultimately it may not really matter, but I wonder who told OP about the meeting where Aubrey ranted in such an ugly way behind her back. Was it a co-worker who has also been on the receiving end of Aubrey’s bs and wanted to warn her, or was it someone who likes the drama and wanted to stir the pot? Worse, was it OP’s own manager who told her but did nothing to shut Aubrey down in the moment? I’m curious about that missing detail.

    1. Moose*

      If HR pulled them both into mediation because of Aubrey’s meeting comments, there is a good chance she found out because of that mediation meeting.

  119. MEH Squared*

    OP, I’m really sorry that you’re going through this. I went through my own life-threatening medical crisis in September of 2021 that had every medical person I met telling me that me surviving it was a miracle. I work for myself, thankfully, but I can only imagine how I’d react if a coworker questioned me in the way Aubrey is doing to you.

    You’ve handled it perfectly so far, but it has got to be such a stress to you right now–which you do not need, obviously. Your HR is awful, and I echo the others to at least consult a lawyer. Wishing you the best and that Aubrey gets put emphatically in her place (which is nowhere near you). Good luck in your recovery!

  120. Manns*

    Based on all the stories I’ve read here on HR, I’m trying to figure out how companies pick their HR team. Do they choose the worst person they’ve ever interviewed and go “yep, this person has no idea what they’re doing, has no sense of tact and is abrasive and rude. Must be the right choice”

    1. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      The only thing I can think of is that HR is soooo convoluted, that only people who have done it for several years should be in charge of it. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen in my own experience, is that HR gets hired on peppiness and looks, rather than skill (I’m talking in generalities, obviously there are PLENTY of exceptions and I’m one of them). Peppiness belongs with recruiting, and ONLY recruiting. The professional types that actually know what the heck we’re doing, we’re not as pretty nor peppy (applies to all genders, mind you).

      Or… you only hear about the bad ones, and (almost) never the good ones. I dunno!

    2. Anon for this*

      I have a large extended family, with its share of real characters. One distant cousin is especially grating to me. Gossipy, cliquey, abrasive, materialistic, you name it. Cousin graduated from college 10-ish years ago and had trouble finding work. Was finally hired as an HR generalist. I was mystified. Why, of all jobs in the world?

    3. Jamtoday*

      You know the saying “if you can’t do, teach”? In the employment law world, I’ve heard the joke “if you can’t do, HR.”

    4. Aitch Arr*

      HR has long not been taken seriously by companies as an integral part of the business.

      So they don’t take seriously the recruitment, hiring, and training of the HR employees.

  121. Kat*

    as someone who HAS recently had weight loss surgery, I would be livid at comments about how I had “butchered myself”, that I’d gain it all back to Aubrey’s delight, etc etc. OP is smart for not engaging her on what kind of surgery she had, and this HR department is BEGGING to be sued. I hope you’ll take all the advice here and lawyer up, OP. No one deserves to be treated this way.

  122. goddessoftransitory*

    Man, Aubrey is lucky as hell you have empathy for her, because I would be burning down her house by this time (NOTE: do not actually do this but if anything happens, we were together the entire time, and you are totally in the clear.)

  123. Paris Geller*

    Ugh this letter makes me so angry! It is, as people have said, reminiscence of the spicy food thief letter. . . I only hope the update turns out to be as satisfying for everyone involved. I am mostly commenting to say how angry I am, but I also do think one thing OP could do would be to see if she can find an ally to loop in–ideally her manager or someone in management, but even just having another coworker on her side could help in the battle that has become HR & Aubrey (what??) vs. the OP.

  124. El l*

    Getting the lawyers involved and sending legal letters to corporate is the last line of defense.

    But sadly you are there.

    HR has been at their best complicit and at times actively unhelpful to you. I don’t know where your boss(es) are in this, but given that this many meetings likely raised some smoke and it still ended up here, they’re probably not helping you much. I don’t think you’d be out of line to even throw in to your boss informally that “This business is making me reconsider my future with the company,” though doing that will totally depend on your level of political capital. Bottom line, the normal dispute resolution processes have completely failed you.

    So, yes: Get a lawyer to write an ADA letter – and make sure your boss, HR, and all of corporate sees it.

  125. Moose*

    Obviously even if OP *did* have elective weight loss surgery, Aubrey’s behavior and HR’s reaction to it would still be Not Okay. But without the ADA accommodations angle, would a lawyer still be able to help? What avenue would a person take? Or could this still fall under ADA?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      It would have to be related to a “perceived disability”. Obesity would be tricky, right? Maybe a disability, maybe not. Especially as in this case LW isn’t “obese” any more, although she does have ongoing health issues that affect her ability to function, so …

      If she’s recovered from surgery and Aubrey continues to poke at her, then maybe it’s all about professional boundary setting and then possibly hostile workplace environment is the angle that comes into play.

    2. FattyMPH*

      Aubrey’s inappropriate behavior based on OP’s absences and physical changes is illegal under the ADA regardless of what OP did or didn’t do while she was out. Regardless of what surgeries OP has or hasn’t had, the issue is that she’s being harassed because Aubrey *thinks* OP had weight loss surgery. In that kind of situation, a lawyer should be able to help regardless of the facts of the complainant’s medical history. In many other situations, US law does make it very difficult for fat people to get any kind of recourse for workplace mistreatment or for antifatness in the built environment.

  126. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    HR is supposed to protect the company, not expose it to possible legal action for ADA violations.

  127. Seashell*

    I can understand wanting to keep certain medical stuff private, but if I were LW, when Crazy Aubrey made the first remark about how LW’s going to gain the weight back, I don’t think I could have restrained myself from saying, “I had a benign tumor removed!!!”

    I would continue to document. Any email with exercise or weight loss links should be responded to with “Please do not send me anything regarding exercise or weight” with Aubrey’s boss & HR cc’d.

    1. Snell*

      Beyond wanting to keep such things private, it’s actually very far from certain that telling Aubrey it was a tumor would get her to back off. In fact, the tumor is just another vulnerability for Aubrey to pick at; she’s determined to be the sole guidance in LW’s health (according to the letter, Aubrey is like this with everyone else, too). Complaining to HR about how terrible LW’s body makes her feel is Aubrey lashing out in response to LW losing weight without Aubrey’s counsel as well as rejecting any further counsel on weight loss (as LW should). The point gets discussed more deeply above.

      1. Snell*

        But I totally understand an outraged outburst in response to Aubrey’s heinous behavior, it’s untenable.

      2. CLC*

        I’m 100% sure Aubrey is the type of person who would simply turn around and say she wouldn’t have had the tumor in the first place if she were smaller before the surgery.

  128. Erin*

    This is such a shocking letter. I mean, wow.

    Yes, Aubrey is completely out of line. However, HR is totally unaware that they are actively breaking employment laws by not intervening. HR exists partly to protect companies against this sort of harassment, and avoid law suits.

    I’m sorry you are dealing with this, and I’m relieved that your health is on the mend.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      They aren’t even not intervening – they put OP in mediation which threatens her bonus (… for what?) and are now badgering her to return to the office despite the proof of the office being a hostile environment – literally in response to being sent that proof.

      Hoping for an update where those in OP’s HR that are doing it, meet with the consequences that they deserve.

  129. nobadcats*

    Wow. I mean, just… wow.

    A little over five years ago I had to have emergency surgery in a situation similar to yours. Before I left for the hospital, my co-irkers gathered and presented me with a care package (lots of crossword books, pens and pencils, etc.), and I was only a contract employee at that point! I came back thin as a rail, and everyone was supportive, they had a general idea of the type of tumor and my resultant anemia which caused continuing fatigue as I recovered. I shared this with them by my own choice. I’m still working for the same company, they hired me as a full-time employee with full bennies two months later.

    This situation you’re going through is an absolute clownshoes sh*tshow and no one, no one EVER should have to put up with this harassment.

    Aubrey should be told to mind her own damn business and get off your back (and as seems likely, stop harassing other employees). You deserve to recover in peace and support.

    I know you’re exhausted, and feel like you don’t have the spoons to deal with more action and that’s your right. I would suggest that a good ADA lawyer might be able to lift this burden from your shoulders with a sternly worded letter or two, alerting the company of their non-compliance with Federal law. Document everything.

    Again, I am so sorry that you’re being subjected to this utter nonsense. Please take good care of yourself. This sucks.

    1. FattyMPH*

      Thank you for sharing what an appropriate, compassionate response to OP’s medical situation would have looked like. I’m sorry you had to go through it but I’m glad your workplace was a source of support rather than stress.

      1. nobadcats*

        I just missed a client deadline on Monday evening because I fell down a half flight of stairs, completely racking both shoulders, elbows, hips, bruising several ribs, then was incommunicado because my phone died and I couldn’t get to my phone charger to call my boss, nor my laptop.

        This morning I let them know, this was another nobadcats ridiculous once per year Stupid Injury. I am a klutzy woman. (If I told you the extent of my stupid injuries over the past 10 years you wouldn’t believe me.)

        Their response was “That’s awful, just let us know where you left off, how we can help, if you can do anything today, and we’ll manage client expectations. Hydrate, eat, nap, take your meds, and HEAL.”

        I think this should be the norm. I’ve also stepped in for other co-irkers in similar situations. Everyone of us is carrying a really large massive awesome heavy load either personally or professionally, so when can make someone else’s load lighter in even the smallest way, we should when/where we can.

  130. DJ Abbott*

    LW, I hope you’re also looking into suing the doctors who didn’t treat you for all those years, for malpractice. Maybe at least find out what the statute of limitations is if you don’t feel up to doing it now.
    If not a lawsuit, maybe plenty of internet reviews and maybe reports to the appropriate government and certification agencies. I’m furious for you and would be helping with this if I knew you personally.
    If you end up leaving this job, plenty of employer reviews, too.
    Good luck!

  131. Salted caramel*

    I had to stop and re-read parts several times because I was sure I didn’t read things right. If it wasn’t for the mediation part which made it sound like it was three of you in the room, I’d have suggested the HR person was actually Aubrey in a wig. Her behaviour is already so… ridiculous doesn’t seem strong enough (”I’m triggered by her body” WTF?!?!?!), but then HR somehow managed to outdo her. What in the what. I.. can’t even react properly to this, words escape me. It’s like a parallel universe.

    I agree you should find a lawyer. Also, Aubrey is clearly harassing you, maybe also in the legal sense? Maybe you could look into getting a restraining order? Her unhinged behaviour is escalating, if she keeps on being ”triggered” by your existence even when you’re not there, she might start showing up at your door.

  132. Problem!*

    I would bet Aubrey is a “health coach” via some predatory MLM diet scheme, and she wanted OP to join her program so she can take credit for OP’s weight loss. I would create a sock account on social media or have a friend keep tabs on her to make sure she’s not slandering you online for “cheating” instead of doing her program.

    1. CLC*

      Oh. my. goodness. I think you may be SPOT on. If you are right the LW has even more recourse with her company as I’m sure they wouldn’t look well at aggressively soliciting for side businesses on company property.

    2. Troutwaxer*

      I expressed my own insight below, but this is also a possible explanation for Aubrey’s behavior. I wonder whether the HR people might be Aubrey’s customers?

  133. Ian*

    OMG I had that exact same emergency surgery and the exact same complication where I lost a ton of weight. I was miserable and people at work kept coming up to ‘congratulate’ me on the weight loss. It was so frustrating.

    1. CLC*

      I absolutely HATE this. I had a coworker who lost their spouse very young. For months after they couldn’t eat from grief and lost a ton of weight. Even people who *knew* about their loss would start spouting about how “great” they looked and “good for you.” It was awful just to witness. I really do believe that people are getting a *little* better about this kind of thing but we still live in society that says everyone should always be trying to lose weight, all weight loss is good, and everyone is free to discuss the bodies of other humans whenever the mood strikes them.

  134. CLC*

    This one is a DOOZY. Sets off all my alarms. Aubrey’s behavior fits the general and legal definition of workplace harassment and HR is doing nothing…worse than nothing. Wow. I’d call that lawyer. If nothing else employers need to be made aware that this type of thing needs to be taken seriously. I’m so sorry this is happening.

    And also—-fat and “small fat” people put up with all kinds of BS like this at work (and everywhere else). This might be an extreme example but it happens to some degree everywhere, every day. Back when I worked at the office we had a gym on-site I would go to if I couldn’t get to the one near my house in the morning. There was a woman that seemingly spent all day lurking around the gyms and the locker rooms, essentially stalking all the people she thought could stand to loose weight (I have no idea what her actual job was in the company, but she definitely didn’t work in the gym). She’d say things like “oh I haven’t seen you here this week, you’ll feel better if you work out more often.” One day I had been on a new medicine and told to monitor my weight as it could cause sudden weight loss. I kid you not this woman looked over my shoulder as I used the locker room scale and before I could react, made an audible gasp. I couldn’t do anything about this because I didn’t know this person’s name or what department they were in or anything, and I didn’t want to start an argument with a mystery coworker in the gym, so I would try to just shut her down as directly and curtly as possible. But thinking back it’s letting people get away with BS like this *all the time* that leads to the existence of Aubreys. If you are in position of power in your organization, please shut this kind of behavior down. No one should ever be talking other people’s bodies or going on about weight loss and diets at work.

  135. CSRoadWarrior*

    Wow, just wow. I am beyond words. OP, you just went through a stressful time medically, and the last think you need is an Aubrey doing this to you. Plus, HR isn’t helping matters either. I would have lost my temper at her by now and yes, it would be unprofessional. But nobody has this kind of patience after going through what you had to go through.

  136. Puzzlehead2219*

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you. Even if this Aubrey person happened to be a physical trainer/doctor/nutritionist (as others have mentioned) NOTHING makes it okay to comment on a coworker’s weight. It double sucks that HR doesn’t understand this? Hopefully some legalese will help them get the situation.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think it’s possible that she’s actually a credentialed professional in a diet / health related field. Because besides being awful, this would be a ridiculous level of incompetence.

    2. CatWoman*

      ANY qualified person in those fields would know that bariatric surgery will not result in that type of change in such a short time. (not that it’s anyone’s business if it did)

  137. Jasmi*

    What the what the what the F….

    Even if OP had had weight loss surgery, that’s her choice to do that and none of Aubrey’s business.

    Bananapants is also my new favourite word!

  138. Frankie*

    I do think talking to a lawyer is a good idea here, and to be perfectly honest, my trust in this company would be so damaged that it’d be hard to imagine staying on much longer whatever the legal result. Embedded dysfunction allowed this to escalate to this point and even legal action probably won’t solve the dysfunction. And whatever the law says about protections from retaliation, I think once you involve legal you usually have a target on you.

    If I didn’t need THIS job for some key reason, I would absolutely start looking.

  139. Lady Knittington*

    Oh yuck, yuck, yuck. What a horrible situation and I’m so sorry that you’re having to deal with this. I agree with others; nothing you say is going to shut up Aubrey and a lawyer is the way to go. I hope you find one that makes heads roll. Good luck.

  140. I edit everything*

    I think Aubrey must be miserable most of the time. She sounds like someone whose life is full of fear and insecurity about her own body and weight, her relevance, and who knows what else. It’s sad. And it’s horrible that she’s venting all of it onto others.

    LW, I know this isn’t a solution and Aubrey doesn’t deserve any sympathy or understanding. But if you can use Alison’s “change your mindset” trick to see her as someone deserving of pity or some kind of alien creature, I wonder if it would make things any more bearable for you as you work through it. And if there is proper fallout for HR and Aubrey, we can only hope she wakes up to her cruelty.

  141. Essess*

    Absolutely see a lawyer, especially since you say that the mediation went into your records and has a negative effect on bonuses. You are having work penalties assigned to you as a result of being a victim of harassment in violation of EEOC hostile work environment rules

  142. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    People have mentioned a couple of past letters that apply – I recall the one where the management/HR person didn’t believe the LW’s dog was a real service dog, implying the documentation was fake, etc. I believe that was resolved starting with a letter from a lawyer as well. Hoping this is resolved in OP’s favor fast (and update posted).

  143. BellyButton*

    This is truly one of the most appalling things ever posted here. I just can’t imagine how OP feels and how no one is doing anything about the bananapants coworker. No wonder everyone thinks HR is useless, because so many of them are.

  144. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    “well, then we can’t stop her from bullying you.”
    To which I would reply, “Well it says here in my attorney’s letter that you actually CAN.”

    I don’t know, commentariat, we’ve got “cheap ass rolls,” “I will confront you by Wednesday,” and now, “You’ll gain it all back, I’ll be waiting.”

    OP I throw everything I have into the universe that keeps you staying healthy and well and see yourself out of this situation in a way that works, legally, peacefully, and with an update that we now so righteously beg for. Best of luck to you.

  145. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    In addition to all that was said, I’m chuckling at the audacity of Aubrey suggesting OP go to the gym with her if OP is “afraid to go alone”. I love working out and am a regular at the gym at this point in my life, and I would not go with Aubrey. She just does not like a good person to work out with, even for me, much less for OP. “If you’re afraid to go alone, you can go with the one person in the office that harasses you every day” how does this make sense?!

    1. Frankie*

      This specific instance is what is taking the weirdness from like 70 to 3000–Aubrey is pressuring LW as if there is any weight left to lose–but LW has already dropped a lot of weight. It’s like her brain refuses to compute that LW’s body HAS changed? The harassment is and would be disgusting regardless, but the added element of willful delusion is…a bit frightening.

      This is also where I think I’d have to leave the company–this is such dangerous harassment for them to allow to continue–think of people with eating disorders or body dysmorphia being pressured in this way and the potential results. I’m glad LW at least sees how completely messed up this all is and I’m so sorry anyone would be subjected to this.

  146. CLC*

    I just wanted to call attention to Problem!’s comment above suggesting Aubrey may be involved with an MLM. It doesn’t make it ANY better (it makes it worse?) but it would explain why she fancies herself some kind of health guru and some of the language she has used. In any case, LW, we NEED an update on this as soon as there is one to share. I really hope Aubrey goes down.

  147. batcat*

    oddly, i had something similar: I lost 50lbs, diet and exercise, and my cowoerker ‘fee’ was SO MAD! she would cry at her desk, how unfair it was, she bullied me, and generally made life horrible. We used to work out together, boss and us ‘admin’ but she could not stop commenting on my body. things like, now you have no ass, or – stop showing off – and i would address her and stand my ground, but for some reason, both bosses in my small Vancouver BC law firm, just coddled her and told her nice one stopped her. i left, and life has only gotten better. I am still angry that i received such horrible treatment: my boss once told her ‘oh she (me) only lost weight due to extreme calorie cutting’ and how ‘she would never get surgery herself’ (i had a tummy tuck – only to later get a mini face lift herself. it was a place full of terribleness, but for some reason they directed a lot of it at me.
    i wish there was some justice, and fairness. All i can do is move on and shake my head at these grown adults: with so much wonderful in their lives: deciding to use their energy to take someone down who is just trying their best, like they SHOULD be.

  148. lifebeforecorona*

    It sounds like a new category is needed for the end of the year. Worst co-worker of the year.

    1. Frankie*

      In the future it could just be named the Aubrey Award. This is among the more shocking things I’ve ever read on this site.

  149. Kiwi Leslie Knope*

    I feel like I’d end up just saying “shut up Audrey” any time she opened her big mouth. Not very professional but I dont know how anyone wouldn’t be driven mad by that.

  150. David's Skirt-Pants*

    OP, I hope you’re reading these and can see how many complete strangers on Al Gore’s Internet care about you and are incredulous and upset on your behalf. You have our best wishes for good health.

    Our wishes as to what should befall Aubrey are also clear.

  151. Delta Delta*

    I feel like if I worked with OP and on Day 1 OP was her prior size, and then a couple weeks later was drastically different, my first reaction wouldn’t be that she lost weight to spite me, but more that I hope my coworker is okay.

    And yes, go to a lawyer. Bring all your information that you have in writing. You know what lawyers love to do? Write FU letters. I mean, we get very few professional thrills. But writing, “you have blatantly disregarded an ADA accommodation” and “by your own admission, required OP to engage in mediation that she did not seek, thereby involuntarily negatively affecting her year-end bonus” is our favorite thing to do. Also, look for a new job, because they are NOT going to be nice to you if this is going on while you still work there.

    1. Observer*

      I feel like if I worked with OP and on Day 1 OP was her prior size, and then a couple weeks later was drastically different, my first reaction wouldn’t be that she lost weight to spite me, but more that I hope my coworker is okay.

      Yes, but assumes that you are a REASONABLE person who is ALSO not a total idiot who knows nothing about health and weight.

      See, anyone who knows about this stuff knows that even with bariatric surgery, you don’t drop from a size 20 to a size 8 in a month. So, for a person who actually has a clue, this is a huge fat signal that this was not weight loss surgery.

      Which makes this all the worse – because not only is she a major league jerk, she’s also dangerously incompetent and is almost certainly giving TERRIBLE advice to the people she “coaches”. Not that it’s the OP’s problem. It’s just an added layer for all the onlookers to groan about.

    2. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Or, the HR fool will be fired, the “account to me for your very own body” fool will be fired, and OP can return to work on a rose-petal-strewn red carpet with the words “please don’t sue” embroidered on its edges. Surely some of the coworkers are also appalled? But with HR saying, “This is OK,” maybe no one dares say anything?

    3. Roja*

      “more that I hope my coworker is okay.” Right?? My first thought on seeing this kind of drastic size change would be life-threatening emergency, not weight loss. I would assume something was or is seriously wrong, and be very worried!

  152. Bookworm*

    I don’t have any advice for you, OP (or words, really) other than I am so sorry you’re dealing with all of this. This seems to be a pretty clear cut case of harassment so I’m totally ??? at why HR isn’t DOING SOMETHING.

    Would also agree that it’s time for a lawyer because WTF! I only wish you well, OP, and hope that if you’re willing/able, you might give us an update at some point because this is totally baffling.

  153. TWB*

    I know that nobody is entitled to anyone else’s private medical info, and I respect OP for standing her ground in not disclosing it, especially under these extra bizarre HR “solutions.”

    I just know that if this was ME, I would have responded to “I wish you had come to me to lose the weight” with “Oh, pardon me! The next time I have an EIGHTEEN POUND TUMOUR REMOVED VIA EMERGENCY SURGERY, I’LL BE SURE TO CONSULT WITH YOU FIRST!!” loud enough for the entire office to hear me. But, I’m a petty bitch like that!

    OP – I’m glad you’re recovering, and sorry you’re having to deal with this co-worker/HR circus. Hopefully you return with a positive update!

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I would also end up yelling about a tumor even though it was none of her business, just like I ended up yelling “I JUST HAD MY WISDOM TEETH OUT AND I’M ON SO MUCH PERCOCET!” at the person who wouldn’t stop calling me when I was home sick and the person covering for me was in a meeting and couldn’t respond to him for a whole hour.

    2. DEJ*

      While I don’t blame the OP for not wanting to share her medical information, I admit this would totally be me too.

  154. iglwif*

    OMFG, OP, that is horrifying and I’m so sorry.

    I thought I knew what to expect when I started reading, because when I was 21 I lost an enormous amount of weight — as a result, it turned out, of having a slow-growing ovarian tumour that had grown large enough to adhere to my bladder, my large intestine, and various other miscellaneous parts — and for at least a year I didn’t seek medical attention because people kept telling me I “looked great”* and how good it was that I was losing weight.

    Weight loss wasn’t my only symptom — I would be hungry but feel full after a few bites, I had terrible “gas pains”, I was tired all the time — but I didn’t do anything about it until it became painful to pee (because of the bladder adhesions) and I went to the doctor thinking I had a bladder infection. Treating that didn’t work, so she sent me for an ultrasound and some blood tests, and the ultrasound found a mass the size of a grapefruit.

    Anyway, I thought I knew what to expect, but this is SO MUCH WORSE. Aubrey is UNHINGED and your HR team is TERRIBLE and I think you should document all this stuff and then call a lawyer.

    *I have seen photos of myself during that period; I did NOT look great, I looked like a person with no muscle mass and sticky-out collarbones.

  155. Skippy*

    If LW came back in a wheelchair HR would know what to do. How people can refuse to acknowledge that fatphobia is the most socially acceptable form of discrimination is beyond me. (Cue apologists for judging other people for their weight and how this is totally different in 3… 2… 1…)

    1. Observer*

      If LW came back in a wheelchair HR would know what to do

      Don’t bet on it. Sure, fatphobia is probably playing a role here. But, unlike Aubrey, they DO know that the OP had serious not-weight loss surgery and has serious medical problems. And they are STILL refusing to do their job AND absolutely penalizing the OP for not sharing her personal medical information.

      In short they are not only terrible they are also incompetent. Which means that they could easily be equally terrible and incompetent with someone coming back in a wheel chair.

  156. Sussbot*

    See, she’s called Aubrey, which in the context of weight loss makes me wonder if letter writer has named this person after Aubrey Gordon, in which case, way to misunderstand her point, letter writer. Aubrey Gordon would never do that to you.

    It’s very weird to me that the first time the fake name Aubrey has been used is in the context of weight loss. It feels like a fatphobic dog whistle. Although I could be misinterpreting.

    1. iliketoknit*

      There is absolutely nothing else in the OP’s letter to suggest fatphobia though. Nothing at all.

    2. Ho-ho-holey hose*

      This feels like quite a jump….I see absolutely nothing else in the letter that is fatphobic or points to Aubrey Gordon.

      1. Well...*

        As I was reading, I was worried it was going to go along the lines of, “reverse discrimination, Aubrey can’t handle that I’m thin now!” But after getting to the end I think LW was being sincere. It’s a nuanced situation.

    3. new year, new name*

      Nah, I think you’re just reading too far into it (we all do it!). I think this is just a coincidence.

      (Aubrey’s actually a pretty common name these days – I think it’s been in the top 100 for girls in the U.S. since the early 2000s. I’m in my 30s and there were at least two Aubreys who were in high school around the same time I was.)

    4. Gov manager*

      Since I have never heard of Aubrey Gordon I can’t make the jump to why LW chose that name.

    5. NR*

      Aubrey is a very popular girls name now. And this Aubrey is the opposite of the other Aubrey so it would make no sense as a dog whistle.

    6. Former Young Lady*

      This is a lot of far-reaching, bad-faith speculation. The LW is not the fatphobe in this story.

      1. Well...*

        I don’t think that’s fair. I wondered about it too at first, but by the end I was convinced it wasn’t the case. It’s not that much of a reach though, the beginning of the letter does come off as “Aubrey doesn’t like that I’m skinny, reverse discrimination!” Then it gets more nuanced as it goes on.

        1. Observer*

          No, there is no nuance here.

          the beginning of the letter does come off as “Aubrey doesn’t like that I’m skinny,

          And that would make the LW fatphobic? It makes zero difference why and how the OP lost that weight – NO ONE at work has any business whatsoever to express any opinions on the matter. Objecting to that doesn’t come close to being fatphobic. Claiming that it does is not quite the “balanced” look you are trying to claim.

          Once you get past the basic issue and get to just how badly Aubrey and the HR enablers are behaving, the claim of “nuance” begins to look like active bad faith. Aubrey is bullying and trying to sabotage someone over something that is NONE OF HER BUSINESS. What exactly is the “nuance” here? That somehow, when someone actually loses a lot of weight it’s legitimate to poke your nose there? And it’s only because you approve of the “reason” and Aubrey is maybe going too far that makes it not so ok?

          At no point does the LW say anything remotely fatphobic or that can be considered a dog whistle.

          1. Well...*

            Whoa, what I meant is that at first I wondered if the letter was pure fiction written as a weird stab to Aubrey Gordon, not that the LW as described was fatphobic.

            I think there IS nuance in that the LW’s situation is so layered it’s hard to believe it’s not real. That convinced me it wasn’t meant as a direct reference to Maintenance Phase.

            I think you’re reacting really strongly to a comment that was just wondering if mayybe this could be the case, and now to my comment that was saying, “Yeah, I can see why you’d think that, but I don’t think it is the case”

    7. Observer*

      in which case, way to misunderstand her point, letter writer.

      . . .

      It feels like a fatphobic dog whistle

      This has been bothering me since I saw it. Someone writes in about workplace abuse she is suffering because she lost weight “too quickly” and in an “unapproved” fashion. And all you can come up with is to scold the OP and accuse her of being fatphobic.

      If there are any dog whistles at play, they are not coming from the OP!

      1. Well...*

        I think people are wondering if the whole thing is made up, and the use of Aubrey’s name is meant specifically as an attack on Aubrey Gordon.

        This is probably because of certain statements made often on Maintenance Phase like (paraphrased): “crash diets don’t work long term,” “fat people very rarely can lose large amounts of weight and keep it off,” and a general fact-checking and debunking of what most people would consider standard nutrition (I love the show and I think what they do is great, for the record).

        The LW!Aubrey is particularly perturbed by OP losing weight and claims that this weight loss can’t be permanent. I think that’s why people are worried the LW!Aubrey may be some odd caricature of Aubrey Gordon. Also this is the first letter in my memory to ever use Aubrey as a fake name, and it’s a letter about weight and body stuff.

        I think the real Aubrey Gordon would never do what LW!Aubrey is doing, and would 100% see LW as being horribly attacked by LW!Aubrey. I don’t think anyone is saying that LW as described is fatphobic. They are just worried it’s a contrived story. I don’t think it is, because it seems pretty realistic to me, but I think that’s what people are wondering on this thread.

  157. MurpMaureep*

    OP, use the emails you have received, including HR dismissing your complaint and then trying to pressure you to come back into the office, and have that be the start of a file to share with an attorney. I’d also ask HR to document in writing why mediation was required, what they proposed solution was (disclosing your medical history to a bully!), and the result. None of this is remotely normal.

    Also you are not under any obligation to keep quite about Aubrey’s behavior*, especially since she’s ranting about you in meetings with others! I’d bring up early and often that she is harassing you and that HR’s answer is for you to share personal information to make her stop.

    *unless that’s part of mediation, in which case she’s violating that by still talking to/about you

    1. The answer is (probably) 42*

      This comment makes me wish that there were a way to upvote comments or sort by popularity. This should be on top! Force HR to document in writing that they pressured OP to disclose personal medical details, and then absconded responsibility when she rightfully refused. Honestly, even the act of asking them to put that in writing may spur them to realize that their conduct was deeply inappropriate. And if it doesn’t, well then that’s just additional documentation to present to your lawyer.

  158. Edward Williams*

    HR is living up to its reputation among legions of workers as being utterly incompetent to do anything but push paper.

  159. Rainbow*

    I’m an atheist but my brain just auto-cycled through every religion in turn in its attempts to understand what the hell Aubrey is about.

  160. Who Me?*

    Ooooh… I’d be so mad.

    Maybe it’s because of the bullcrap my work is putting me through right now, but I’d tell HR, “You won’t deal with her? Fine. Then you won’t have a problem with how I deal with her.”

    And then I would proceed to let her know very publicly how unwelcome and inappropriate her comments are. I’d also inform her of how she knows about as much as a door nail about me and my conditions. Then I’d tell her to butt out unless she’d like a repeat of this lecture.

    And when she complained about it to HR? I’d remind them that they gave me permission to deal with it by NOT dealing with her violating my rights by harassing me.

    Yeah, I’ve been a bit stressed lately. Lol

  161. WantonSeedStitch*

    Oh, and in addition to Aubrey being bananapants, your HR department is an absolute soup sandwich and is going to cause your company to implode if they keep acting in a way that exposes the company to legal action.

  162. Elizabeth*

    Fact: your HR is terrible and Aubrey is a God-awful human being. Most certainly involve legal assistance, and document document document! Lastly – and simultaneously – look for a new job if feasible. But mainly, very happy you’re recovering and I wish you continued good health!

  163. CatWoman*

    I’d be tempted alert Aubrey before each time I used the rest room, you know, just in case I “lost another pound” while I was in there…

  164. Troutwaxer*

    I was driving to a jobsite today when I had a sudden insight into a possible reason why HR is behaving so badly. Consider the story from HR’s (absolutely wrong) POV: OP says, “I’m leaving early to go to the doctor” then doesn’t return from a month. When they do return, they’ve gone from a size 20 to a size 8, and Aubrey, the local employee who’s obsessed with health, weight, and all that stuff is screaming about how the OP had weightloss surgery without talking it over with her first. So from HR’s point of view, the OP went off for previously-scheduled surgery (you don’t do weight-loss surgery spontaneously) and didn’t request medical leave despite having scheduled the surgery for months in advance. The OP did this without informing management, HR, or their coworkers, then was gone for a month, and as a result X-number of emergencies occurred.

    Obviously HR (and possibly management) is completely wrong about what happened, but their theory fits the available evidence – OP disappears for a month and comes back a size 8 – and there’s an employee who insists the OP did, in fact, have weight loss surgery. So maybe HR is giving the OP a lot of crap because they think the OP misbehaved. If this is the case, then the OP needs some very different advice than they’ve been getting.

    My apologies, BTW, if this has been discussed above, but I’m very time-short today and thought this possibility was well-worth discussing.

    1. Observer*

      No, it doesn’t. Because the OP would have had to document some of what happened in order to take a month of emergency leave, and also to request (and get) the accommodations in place now.

      Also, it’s obvious that HR knows what is going on. They told the OP that they the OP needs to share the actual details before they will try to make Aubrey behave. Because officially, telling her the truth will make her act like a decent human being.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        But is HR believing the OP’s documents or Aubrey’s bizarre theories? From what I read above it looks to me like HR is taking Aubrey far more seriously than they’re taking the OP.

        1. liquidus*

          I don’t get the impression HR believes Aubrey or gives her story any credence, but they are taking an unbelievable laissez faire attitude to the whole incident. HR’s stance seems to be “well bullies are gonna bully if they think they have a valid reason what can we as HR do about it”.

        2. Observer*

          So, according to you, they actually know what happened and have the documentation. But somehow they live in an alternate reality where what ACTUALLY happened is this fairy tale.

          I’m not going to say it’s impossible. But the old line about horses vs zebras applies here.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            No. I was addressing your idea above that the OP had presented some documentation. You wrote: “No, it doesn’t. Because the OP would have had to document some of what happened in order to take a month of emergency leave, and also to request (and get) the accommodations in place now.”

            Personally, I’m neutral about whether the OP presented HR with documentation and what documentation the OP might have presented, because we haven’t been told about that, though I think you’re correct about the idea that they must have presented SOME documentation. Either way, the OP’s HR is badly in the wrong. I was just considering their motivation – might they be trying, in a very clumsy, horrible way, to manage the OP out because they they think the OP lied about the surgery?

            I’m not saying I’m absolutely right. But I think it’s worth looking into because it’s a theory that explains HR’s behavior _without_ going beyond anything the OP told us.

    2. BabaYaga*

      Even if that were the case, HR is beyond in the wrong here. Allowing an employee to harass another for medical reasons (regardless of what they are) is unacceptable. The ONLY correct way to hand this situation, regardless of what HR thinks is happening, is to immediately tell Aubrey to cease her behaviour.