employee lied about his mom dying, coworker is a magpie, and more

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

1. Employee lied about his mom dying

Last year I hired my first-ever direct report. From the get-go, there were red flags I overlooked. Everything bad seemed to happen to this guy. He had to change the date of our interview because he got hit by a car. Within three days of starting the position, his older brother passed away and he needed to help his mom get back to her home state for the services. Two days later, his car was stolen and he couldn’t get to work. We were so understanding that crazy stuff does happen and gave him plenty of leeway.

The weird things cooled off for a couple months. Then he let me know he got Covid. He sent me a picture of a positive Covid test on the morning we had a mandatory joint staff and board meeting. Covid had him out for almost two weeks, during which he would send me updates of high fever thermometer tests (I did not ask for this or proof of positive tests), ongoing symptoms, and that he was transported to urgent care a few times.

He returned to work after that, but just over a month later he said his mother was in the hospital after a heart attack, and later that day she passed away. I was devastated for him. We gave him an extra week of bereavement so he did not have to use PTO/sick time (he was almost wiped out of both). We had detailed conversations about his and his mother’s last interactions and his plans for a service. When he returned, he asked for the afternoon off to pick up her ashes. I, of course, gave it to him.

Two weeks after that (while I was on vacation), he came down with Covid again and emailed a picture of a positive test. When I returned, my boss let me know of some strange communications with him, and I asked if she thought we should look into the image of the Covid test, because it looked a little off. Sure enough, after a reverse-image search, we found it was a picture of the test from the internet. After being confronted with this, my employee at first doubled down that no, this was his test. He took the picture on his counter. After being shown the image we found, he apologized and insisted he did have Covid but thought we needed proof of a positive test. We gave him a final warning, and two days later he resigned, effective immediately.

After his departure, we find out he is telling folks that we fired him. He gets a position at another business in our field. They never called to confirm his previous employment with us. A few months later, I found irrefutable proof that his mother did not die back in November when he worked for us. She is still alive to this day.

I am struggling on what to do. I have informed the folks involved at my company, who are obviously livid (as am I). Do I have a duty to inform his current employer somehow? Our CEO suggested this (but is leaving it up to me and my supervisor), but I’m not sure this is the best route.

Nope, you don’t have any duty to inform his current employer, nor should you. If they wanted to check in with you, they would have checked references. They chose not to. He’s not your problem anymore (and unless you think he’s going to burn down their building or endanger minors under their care or something similar, as a general rule you shouldn’t try to interfere with people’s employment at companies that you don’t work for).

I would try to look for lessons in this, though. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to accommodate people who are going through a rough time — some people will genuinely need it even though this guy took advantage of your kindness — but I’m curious whether, in retrospect, there were other signs you should have paid more attention to. How was the quality of his work when he was there? Were there other red flags? Maybe there weren’t — sometimes jerks just play people, and that’s how it goes — but a lot of times you’ll realize that there were other signs beyond just “he needed a lot of time off” that, in combination, could have rung the alarm bell earlier.

2. My coworker is a magpie

My office is almost fully remote, but we have a lot of random items in our workspace that we store and use for various projects. We’re getting ready to move to a smaller space and have been cleaning these items out, with a designated space for items that are up for grabs.

We have a new-ish colleague, Earl, who has been working almost fully in the office since he came on board. I noticed a few months ago that he’s decorated his desk with random items he’s found around the office — stress balls, an old department award, cups, pins and lanyards he found lying around. A few of us have noticed and thought it was kind of odd, but it was stuff no one cared about, so no one said anything to him.

A few weeks ago I noticed he added an item from one of my ongoing projects to his display. It’s not an expensive item, but not one that I can give away freely, and not something I’d put in our “free” spot. To find this item, he’d have to dig through multiple boxes in a low traffic part of the office and unpack the item from its shipping container and wrapping. I thought it was very weird and planned to ask for it back when I started formally packing to move my stuff.

Today, I came in to the office and a coworker told me Earl had asked about a box of items in my cubicle, and whether he could take them. Again, he’d have needed to intentionally enter my cubicle and look through my things to find this stuff. My coworker told him it wasn’t something he could have and Earl put it back, but it’s left me concerned. Is Earl assuming that everything in our office that isn’t labeled is fair game? How do I ask Earl what he might have of mine beyond his desk decor without accusing him of stealing or making things awkward? I don’t want this to reflect badly on him, so I’m hesitant to elevate it to management, but I also need to know my stuff isn’t going to go missing unexpectedly.

This is odd! But while decorating his office with random things that don’t belong to anyone is just mildly quirky, digging through your stuff and claiming whatever he wants isn’t okay. It’s reasonable to ask him to stop and to return your things!

You could start by saying, “Cedric mentioned that you’d asked if you could have my ceramic turtles. How did you even come across those? They’re stored in boxes in my cubicle.” It’ll be interesting to hear what he says, and then you could say, “It sounds like it wasn’t clear, but please don’t go through boxes in my office; a lot of that is my own personal stuff. I also need to get the Etch A Sketch back; that’s part of a project I’m working on.” Depending on how this goes, you might add, “Anything on the break room table or in the supply closet is up for grabs, but otherwise most things will have an owner you should check with first.”

3. My new job is scolding me for my hours

I have been at my current job for about four months after being a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. I wanted to go back to work part-time after my youngest started kindergarten and found an admin job through a neighbor. I told them during the interview that I only wanted part-time hours and they said that was fine.

Once I started the job, I realized I am the only part-time employee. I originally was asked to work six-hour days, five days a week. 30 hours a week was a little more than I had originally planned on working, but it worked out fine with my children’s school schedules and the work was pleasant enough. After a couple months, I asked to go down to Monday-Thursday, which they accepted but did not seem thrilled about.

My children both have chronic health issues that require appointments with specialists a minimum of every three months. These appointments are scheduled out several months in advance. I’m getting a lot of pushback when I ask for leave for these appointments because I have Fridays off now, so I should be making all of my appointments for Fridays. I was reminded sternly that I am still on my probationary period and they are watching my hours. I was up-front with all of this during my interview and was assured it wouldn’t be an issue, but it obviously is becoming one. The job is decent but I’m frustrated by the change in attitude since my interview, and I can see a lack of communication has occurred (this is evident in several other situations). I’m lucky that I don’t have to work, I’m here because I want to be working, but my children come first. It seems like a little thing, but I don’t appreciate being threatened with my probationary period and am considering quitting. Am I being silly?

You’re not being silly — you don’t need the job, you took it with a specific understanding about your hours and how much flexibility you’d have, and now they’re acting like you’re trying to get away with something. I’d be pretty aggravated too. And the idea that all your kids’ appointments can easily be scheduled on Fridays is the belief of someone who’s never had to make many medical appointments.

If you’re not already fully set on quitting, it could be worth trying to address it head-on first and see what happens. You could say, “I want to make sure that we’re both on the same page about my schedule. When I was interviewing, I was up-front that I would need XYZ and was assured that would be fine, but from our recent conversations it sounds like it might not be working for you. I do need XYZ and wouldn’t be able to stay without it. Does that no longer seem workable to you?”

Read an update to this letter

4. Can my husband’s firm require him to report my political donations?

My husband works for a very large, not-for-profit financial firm. Whenever I have mentioned wanting to make a donation to a political candidate, he asks me to let him know before I do it because he has to report the donation to his company. I find this ridiculous and possibly illegal. What business does his company have with who I decide to donate to? I don’t work for them! I’m not even sure they should be allowed to know who he donates to (if he actually donated, which he doesn’t because he doesn’t want to go through the reporting process). I’m not sure if he misunderstands the rule about reporting spousal donations, or if it is possibly legal for them to require him to report my donations because we have a joint checking account. We’re talking about donations of maybe $100 at the most. Do you have any insights on this?

Yes, they are legally allowed to require this — and they might even be mandated to. Depending on the type of work they do, they may have disclosure obligations for political donations from employees and their spouses and minor children. It gets easier to see why if you imagine, for example, a company bidding on a government contract and not disclosing that a member of their leadership (and/or their spouse) had made large donations to the legislator who will award the contract. The regulations extend to some family members to prevent nudge-nudge agreements where the donation is made through a spouse or child because the employee themselves isn’t permitted to donate.

In finance firms specifically, the rule is often there to prevent investment managers from making campaign contributions to elected officials who can influence decisions about who to hire to manage public funds.

5. Should I ask for accommodations for an unpredictable medical condition?

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic migraines. They are mostly managed with medication, but occasionally and unpredictably one will get through anyway and when that happens, I need to deal with it immediately before it becomes completely debilitating — leave work, lie down in a dark room, and basically do nothing until it gets under control. Usually I’m fine by the next day, but rarely these episodes last a couple of days and so I do miss some work.

I’ve had a terrific job with a supportive boss for a number of years now, and they have been very accommodating and understanding of this situation. But now I am a finalist for a new job that I am really hoping I get, and should I get an offer I’m unsure of whether or how to bring this up, never having had to deal with accommodations before. It feels a little weird to bring it up in negotiations before even taking the job, but NOT bringing it up feels like hiding something. (Just to be clear, though, this isn’t a very frequent thing — in the last year, I have had to leave work early twice, I think, and missed one two-day stretch due to a migraine, and I take very little sick time otherwise — but it’s unpredictable.)

I don’t think you need to bring it up at all! If in the average year the migraines mean you leave work early a couple of times and miss an occasional two-day stretch, that is a solidly unremarkable use of sick leave. If it were happening every month, that would be worth negotiating accommodations for to ensure it wouldn’t be an issue… but you are talking about sick leave usage that’s on the lower end of the typical range! Not mentioning it isn’t hiding anything, just like you wouldn’t be hiding anything if you didn’t warn them that you get an occasional cold.

If that changes at some point and it becomes more frequent, you could talk about formal accommodations at that point (here’s advice on how to do it as a candidate and as an employee), but this doesn’t sound like anything you need to worry about right now.

{ 615 comments… read them below }

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I was intrigued at this completely new spin on How To Convey Office Norms.

      2. Phony Genius*

        I was more disappointed that the fake name for the magpie was neither Heckle nor Jeckle.

    1. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

      It’s been a while since the bat story, I feel like we’re due for some fun.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’m thinking if it were, they’d be focusing more on shiny objects.

        But the going through boxes to see if they could find a shiny object certainly would track.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Exactly. I understood the reference and was delighted by the story. Earl is indeed a magpie, and he is exhibiting typical magpie behavior by building a nest of shiny things.

        1. Continental Blvd*

          I was disappointed that the things he collected weren’t shiny. I was expecting a complaint about a cube decorated with disco balls or some such.

      2. AussieMe*

        You are correct. As an Australian, I knew instantly that it was going to be about someone hoarding/pinching small, mostly-unremarkable-but-sometimes-important things from others.

        It was either going to be that, or the OP’s colleague throws themselves out of trees at peoples’ eyeballs, beak first, in September/October. The former seemed more likely though.

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              La gazza ladra!

              Never heard of it until now, but I did some digging because I was really curious. Google translate told me that “thieving magpie” translates to “gazza ladra” in Italian. I then pulled up a list of Rossini operas, and there it was.

              I just love diving down rabbit holes like this one. (In case anyone wonders, I used to be a librarian.)

        1. Mel*

          I love how people outside of Australia are concerned about our snakes and spiders and sharks, but most of us just want to get through paring without being dive bombed by a homicidal bird. Bracing myself for the lovely park and walking track behind my house to turn into an attack zone in a few months. Got my protective hat with cable ties ready.

          1. londonedit*

            I seem to remember an episode/period of time on Neighbours where everyone had to go around with ice-cream tubs lashed to their heads to ward off magpie attacks. Thankfully the magpies here are less murderous!

            1. Sasha*

              Yep this is super-weird – we have magpies in the UK. Loads of them. They don’t regularly dive bomb people! Very occasionally, if you disturb their nest or something, but 99% of the time, no.

              They are surprisingly fond of monkey nuts too.

          2. I am Emily's failing memory*

            I’m in an online group for sharing memes related to nature/wildlife, and a while back someone posted a series of photos of magpies dive-bombing people, chasing people on bicycles, fighting other birds in mid-air, and each photo had a caption that went something like:

            “So you’re a heck guy
            Really like to peck guy
            Just don’t give a feck guy
            Always screaming back guy

            I’m that mad type
            I’ll F up your dad type
            Give your girlfriend big fright
            Attack your mama mid-flight

            I’m the maaaaaaaaagpie

            The last photo with “SQUAWK!” had a magpie on the ground with his chest puffed up and head tilted back letting out a ferocious squawk. It is now THE photo that appears next to the word “magpie” in my mind’s dictionary.

          3. CommanderBanana*

            We have homicidal geese here in the US during the spring. They return and nest in my neighborhood and certain trails become no-go zones while the goslings are hatching and growing up.

            1. Chauncy Gardener*

              In New England we have homicidal turkeys in the spring. No joke, and those dudes are BIG

              1. Ann Onymous*

                They’re kinda nuts in the midwest too. I used to live in an apartment complex that backed up to a wooded park. We had turkeys everywhere and they weren’t scared of cars or people. They also liked to sit in the window wells of the first floor apartments. Fortunately, I was on an upper floor so I never opened my curtains to see a turkey staring me in the face, but I imagine it would be quite the experience.

                1. Le Sigh*

                  My cat doesn’t like it when other cats show up in our window, let alone a turkey. He was go ballistic.

                2. MassMatt*

                  An area near me has at least one family of turkeys that frequently walks around a surprisingly busy intersection/commuter rail hub and hang out in the parking garage. I’ve never seen them be aggressive but yes, they seem very unimpressed by people or honking cars, and yes they are BIG. And they know what you eat on Thanksgiving.

                3. Aitch Arr*

                  I’m in Metrowest Boston in a suburban neighborhood and at one time we counted 28 turkeys in our yard.

                4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Grew up across the street from a pine swamp. Turkeys are some of the most aggressive birds I’ve ever seen. Watched a flock of them evict a pair of barn owls from nests the owls had used for a decade (I can still hear the screeching almost 30 years later). The owls were much better neighbors than the turkeys – because the owls never attacked our chows, the turkeys would.

                  And don’t get me started on the raptor chickens (my pet name for Canadian Geese). Those things are unbelievably vicious and territorial, especially when they have goslings. They nested on the quad at my university – and I lost track of how many freshmen had to be rescued from the raptor chickens during my four years there.

                5. Sopranoh*

                  I live in the mid Atlantic in a not quite semi-rural area. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wild turkey. Maybe, they just have more places to hide. Now, suicidal deer, those I have to watch out for.

                6. Elizabeth West*

                  I was gonna say, turkeys in the Midwest do that too. I used to have a pet turkey and we had to get rid of him because he would try to beat up the dogs.

                  Anywhere near the coast you have to defend your lunch against seagulls. I was sitting out on the office deck eating a few weeks ago and heard one and was like, nope, buddy, don’t even think about coming over here.

              2. AngryOctopus*

                Oh man the visitors from not New England who come for the hospitals (Children’s Boston, Beth Israel, etc) often feed the turkeys because 1-they’re there, 2-they’re cute/novel to the visitors and 3-why not? Then those of us who work there have to navigate aggressive turkeys who think/know that you’re carrying food and THEY WANT IT NOW. The hospitals finally started asking people to not feed the birds, as they do become aggressive.
                Not to mention that if you honk at a turkey in the road, they just put up their feathers and stare at you/peck at your car. Just keep driving slowly towards them. They’re not dumb, they’ll get out of they way.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Mentioned above, we had a flock of turkeys move into our neighborhood and evict the Barn Owls from their nest. The owls never attacked any dogs. Those turkeys would attack dogs – even larger or guard breeds like Chows and German Shepherds. And yes, most of the dogs were scared of these things. They don’t call turkeys “Thunder Wings” for nothing, the wild ones are so loud when they fly.

              3. goddessoftransitory*

                Yeah, they defend their babies with great ferocity, plus all the showing off for potential mates.

            2. Lydia*

              In Salem, Oregon, people running along the river were being attacked by a fairly large owl. While I really felt for those folk, the photos it produced were hilarious.

            3. Quill*

              Wear stompy boots and a large jackets. (Midwestern college experience is bulldozing past geese clustered around the main walkway through campus. Usually, they will hiss at you but eventually move. Preferably, annoy them into moving the nest before they lay eggs!)

              1. negligent apparitions*

                I personally like to talk sh!t to the geese, uttering empty threats to establish my dominance (hint: if they came at me I would run away so fast)

            4. nobadcats*

              Here in the US Midwest we have evil Redwing blackbirds. If you venture anywhere near their nest they will dive bomb you. At Old Job, I had to use a walking path (which was a lovely paved path lined with trees) from the train that had one particularly aggressive blackbird. I got into the office once and someone said, “Your head is bleeding.” After that I was a delicate Lady Person who carried her parasol everywhere. That damn bird ripped an entire hole in it one day. Don’t build your nest on a fairly trod walking path you… [thousand swears]

              Don’t get me started on swans* and Canadian geese, they’re homicidal maniacs.

              *Insert your own “Hot Fuzz” jokes here.

            5. Lenora Rose*

              My experience is that the geese hiss and you keep a few feet distance and don’t run, but I could walk along the river walk without getting attacked even when dealing with a flock with goslings.

              On the other hand, I opted to dash back to a boulevard rather than cross a busy street at running speed right into a batch of them…

            6. Elizabeth West*

              At Exjob they had water features on campus and of course that attracted Canada geese, aka cobra chickens. You can’t do anything to them since they’re protected. One guy got fired for kicking at one when it attacked him.

          4. MigraineMonth*

            A former employer had this beautiful building where we brought customers for on-site training, and a little landscaped pond with a lovely bridge that you used to get from one part of the building to another.

            A red-winged blackbird nested in a tree next to the bridge and dive-bombed any customers foolish enough to try.

            1. Too Many Tabs Open*

              I have been dive-bombed by a mockingbird while walking around the side of my house. I’m sure it had a nest nearby, but being attacked by 50 grams of outrage is a disconcerting experience.

          5. AussieMe*

            There is a gentleman in my area who rides his bike on the same route I drive to work every day. Regardless of the time of year, he has a helmet COMPLETELY covered with cable ties. He also has what looks like those spikes you put on the top of fences to stop cats getting over/birds resting, all over his back.

            I feel he may have some trauma around magpies, which is completely valid. I’d take a spider over a magpie ANY day.

          6. coffee*

            This is true, although we have also voted the magpie as Bird of the Year 2017. We’re scared but we still love them.

          7. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Don’t ever eat pizza or French fries at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay or at Fishermen’s Wharf in San Francisco. The seagulls will not be kind.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              Oh, where did I read that letter about a seafood restaurant where you COULD NOT take food out on their deck lest you lose it and a limb to the gulls? Apparently some tourist couple didn’t listen to strenuous recommendations while the LW was in the store, and went out on the deck. The counter person wearily started counting ” one…two…three…” and they scampered back in, pale and chastened.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’m in the US & understood the reference. (Magpies aren’t where I currently live, but I do remember them from when I lived in a different part of the country.)

            But the bird image for a moment was delightful.

          2. Silver Robin*

            from the US and the reference made perfect sense; I have an acquaintance (also American) who refers to themselves as such even!

            1. Victoria Everglot*

              I had a teacher who called me Maggie in elementary school because I could be counted on to always keep everything interesting I came across. I’m in Florida.

          3. Artemesia*

            I’m from the US and it made perfect sense to me as well. I think it makes perfect sense to anyone who know about Magpie s.

        2. I Need Coffee*

          That is why I love this site. Not only do I learn about workplace issues, but now I know details about the magpie. Fascinating.

          1. Goldenrod*

            I know! I love that, while the OP’s letter was just using magpie as a metaphor, all of a sudden we’re hearing actual magpie stories.


          2. coffee*

            If you have not heard it before, the morning birdsong of the Australian magpie is really lovely.

        3. Selina Luna*

          In Colorado, we also have a bird that we call a magpie. It’s similarly famous for stealing small shiny things, but its diet is very different from the Aussie version, I think. I don’t know what the Aussie version eats, but American magpies are supposed to be insectivores with occasional carrion tendencies, but they often subsist on sandwiches they’ve stolen directly out of the hands of children instead.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            This made me curious, so I looked it up – there seems to be an Eurasian magpie, an Australian magpie, and apparently an American magpie. They don’t seem to be related, it’s the thieving aspect they have in common.

            1. DataSci*

              Not sure where you looked it up, but they gave you bad information – the European magpie and the American species (of which there are two) are closely related and may in fact all be the same species, and there are several Asian species which are also related. The Australian ones aren’t related to any others, true.

              1. Quill*

                Everyone called a magpie is a corvid, except the aussie magpie, which is a shrike.

                Shrikes are also known as butcher birds and the realization that dawned on me when I realized that the austrailian magpie was NOT a particularly angry crow was sweeping.

                1. MassMatt*

                  This makes sense, shrikes kill prey by colliding with them at high speed beak-first. And rather than collecting shiny objects, they collect heads and other body parts, displaying them as trophies on a bush or fence near their nests as way to attract mates. One of the grislier courtship rituals of the animal kingdom.

                2. Quill*

                  @MassMatt also, they detoxify bugs / other toxic prey by turning them into jerky! Hence their habit of creating a gristly spike pantry.

                3. Continental Blvd*

                  Australian magpies are in the same family as butcherbirds, but they are in a different genus.

            2. Continental Blvd*

              So now I got curious. There are a good dozen+ kinds of magpies. Most of them are corvids, but at least one, the Australian magpie, is in a different family but the same order. I thought all magpies were black and white, but some are quite brightly colored! Fascinating. I love corvids.

        4. DataSci*

          There are magpies in places other than Australia, though as per usual the Australian version are more aggressive. Elsewhere they’re known for collecting shinies, not so much for divebombing people in spring.

        5. Quill*

          Living in the american west my guess was going to be “dancing around in the trees outside my window and annoying the pigeons.”

    2. Random Dice*

      When I worked for the government, we were all office supply scroungers. Someone would leave, and we’d descend like locusts.

      Now I work for a company where I can just… order office supplies, and it’s amazing. I still get the “oooh grab it!” urge.

      But even as a Grade A scrounger, I wouldn’t dig through an occupied cube, or dig through boxes! That’s stealing, not scrounging.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      I thought calling someone a magpie meant they were really chatty.

    4. My Name is Mudd*

      I once worked for a guy who would randomly pick up things when he was talking to employees, and then walk away with them. On Fridays, one of the Admins would go to his office and collect the random objects from him, and we would go through the box to get our stuff back. He once picked up my car keys, and started to walk away with them. I had to stop him, because I needed them to get home. I never left my keys on the desk again. That place was mostly good to work for, the boss was just a klepto, but not in a malicious way.

      1. jadetaia*

        This is how I learned to have decoy pens in the pen cup on my desk and my good pens in my drawer. Had multiple bosses who would take a pen while talking to me at my desk … and then it would disappear into their lair and never be seen again. I collected those free pens you get at events and kept those in the pen cup. Ahhhh memories!

    5. MagpiesAreKnownForHoardingRandomStuff*

      huh, I expected a hoarding/foraging for random stuff story when I heard magpie (the unpacking other people’s boxes to do it was not on my radar). wonder what the difference in our cultural clues is.

    6. Princess Sparklepony*

      I wasn’t sure if it was going to be stealing or being a chatterer. Magpies are known to be quite vocal.

  1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP4, this is not only legal, but mandated by the Federal government for many types of government contractors. I was with a company that did less than $20,000 worth of business with a federal agency and we had to report all political donations by management and their spouses.

    One other note: every political donation is part of the public record. When you say “I’m not even sure they should be allowed to know who he donates to”, the law says the opposite. Everyone is allowed to know who donates—and how much—to every politician, PAC, and party organization.

    1. Meghan*

      Yes! This!

      At my company we have this “trick” hypothetical question on our ethics compliance. The scenario is that we’re meeting a government/not for profit manager at a job site we’re bidding on. It’s July, it’s hot, sunny, and the job site is outdoors. After walking the site you buy two waters from a vending machine and offer one to the government employee. Is this allowed?

      No, because it’s a “gift” with “value”. Seems ridiculous but literally any gift of value could theoretically be considered swaying (bribing) the entity. (Maybe he really loves water and you’re the only company bidding that offered this $2 bottle of water)

      Even though you think it’s “just $100” you could lose your husband his job if it comes back to him that his immediate family was making undisclosed donations.

      1. JSPA*

        “Hospitality gifts” are usually capped at twenty dollars? (I believe it’s a specific carve-out for food and refreshment.)

        1. Phryne*

          I’m not in the US, so no idea about the rules, but at my mothers work before she retired (a semi-indepedant organisation in charge of a certain tax) gifts under something like 20 euros could be accepted but had to be given over to the department and they would have a lottery to see who would bring it home. Anything above that range could considered bribery and had to be refused. She once ‘won’ the full assortment of a local large cordial factory, we had lemonade for months. :D

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yup. We go through extensive Bribery Act training here in the UK. I think De Minimis applies — pharmaceutical reps’ swag is fair game, although that dried up years ago for us receptionists. I luckily recognised a trap set by a taxi company who wanted to give us kickbacks for each order I sent their way — I could have done with the extra cash but no way was I even going there.

            WRT politics, we can’t even advertise local political debates to our staff where all the candidates will be present. My mum tells me that in the highly fraught atmosphere that was 1960s-70s Northern Ireland, my grandma joined the Alliance Party, a party which sought reconciliation and peaceful settlement rather than supporting the actual divide. Grandad was a high court judge and bankruptcy lawyer whose obituary ended up in the Belfast Telegraph and my school friends applying for law degrees (which are done at undergraduate level in the UK) had heard of him because he wound up the DeLorean company in the 80s. (My grandparents met at law school — my grandmother was among the first women to get a law degree in the province but alas, she never practiced, so she became an old-school amateur bedroom coder for the Spectrum and Amstrad instead. I had a Cyber-Granny before most people did :D.) So when he turned up at an Alliance meeting he got a lot of side-eye. A lot. Civil servants are supposed to be neutral, particularly those as prominent as he was.

            It turns out he thought that because he was neither Unionist nor Nationalist, he thought that political neutrality meant he could support the Alliance party. He wasn’t a stupid man — far from it — but in that kind of atmosphere he was disappointed that he couldn’t take part in any public reconciliation work. That obviously hurt him inside but he had to leave.

            It was very important to my whole family, I actually worked for the main non-political reconciliation charity and spent a summer volunteering in the Alliance offices while trying to get back on my feet after I got sacked from the charity because of my mental health. I don’t believe my grandma had any issues being publicly associated with Alliance, and to the extent that my mum’s more strident reconciliation work overlapped with my grandad’s career, that never mattered. Grandad won the OBE for his legal service and was a decorated war veteran (he did the hard part of going out to East Asia and seeing the carnage left behind by the atrocities of war, so I’m not surprised he wanted to try and put a stop to it in his own backyard). He died when I was in my first year at uni and it’s a shame I never knew him as an adult because he was an amazing man in many ways and had some incredible experiences now lost to time because the only writing he did was his legal textbooks. The naivety actually makes him much more adorable than anything else but yeah…it was a surprising moment from someone whose heart was in the right place but his head, unusually, took a wrong turning at Albuquerque.

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              Nanny, that’s a very interesting story, PLUS a great comedy reference in the last sentence. Thank you.

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I was once in an US Air Force procurement office and the most we were ever offered was a fine selection of doughnuts from a retired former officer who went into business. The evidence (burp!) soon disappeared. (We read the bribery scandals about the GSA with great indignation and despair that nobody *cared* to even try with us).

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          Yeah, that company is wrong. Federal employees can take small amounts of food and drink as you say. There’s a per-occasion cap and an annual cap.

          1. RVMan*

            I used to work for a state agency where I was required to reimburse regulated companies for coffee, sodas, bottled waters, etc. if they were given to me during a meeting or whatever. Other gifts (of any, even nominal value) had to be returned. I now (in a state agency in a different state) can accept gifts of ‘nominal value’ (i.e. tchochkies). There is literally a statutory exception allowing the employees in the restaurant at one of our state parks to accept tips, otherwise that would be illegal.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            They can take very small amounts, but my experience on both sides of the table is that they tend not to and generally prefer that you not offer. My spouse had to do federal ethics refreshers every few years and feels that it’s more of a hassle to track/report than to just say “no, thanks”.

        3. KatieP*

          It really depends on which government entity you’re working for. I work for a state entity, and we’re capped at $50. My husband used to work with City of Houston employees, and they weren’t allowed to accept anything at all back in the 90s. The rules may have relaxed since then.

          1. Frickityfrack*

            $50 has always been the cap at the agencies I’ve worked for, too (state, county, and municipal levels). I generally avoid accepting anything if I can head it off before something is purchased, but we occasionally have someone come in with like, a gift basket or something, and we just take it as long as it’s small. I did have a client say she was going to buy my whole office lunch one time after I got her a huge payment on her case, and I was like, “NOPE, please don’t!” We definitely couldn’t have accepted that and it would’ve sucked to waste food.

        4. Quinalla*

          That may be true, but every government official or person working for a public university I’ve dealt with just doesn’t let anyone give them anything – not a coffee mug, not a cup of coffee, not a cheap lunch, not even a pen. It’s just easier to make sure they are in compliance to not accept anything.

          1. DataSci*

            Mugs and pens are different. For the US federal government there’s a specific exception for small amounts of food and drink. (Universities and state/local governments may be different.)

            1. JustaTech*

              And if you’re in Pharma pens to Health Care Providers (which includes receptionists and schedulers) are Not Allowed. (Just took my annual training yesterday.)
              Textbook, yes, scientific paper, yes, mediocre sandwich, yes, pens, no!

              The training is so intense and the paperwork so convoluted that the one time I met an MD at a conference (we were talking about a shared tangential interest, not our primary professions) I made a point of standing by the conference buffet so we wouldn’t wander off to the coffee shop where I might accidentally pay for a coffee. (The MD understood instantly what I was doing and was both amused and kind about it.)

        5. Observer*

          “Hospitality gifts” are usually capped at twenty dollars? (I believe it’s a specific carve-out for food and refreshment.)

          According to every compliance training I’ve taken on this issue, you are correct, except about the amount. That seems to vary. But concept is correct.

          So an expensive lunch or a big fancy fruit platter is a no. But a Starbucks coffee around the conference table is generally ok.

        6. Hudson*

          I worked for a state government in America and we weren’t allowed to accept anything over $15 dollars, and we weren’t allowed to accept any gift of any value if it was brought to us as a thank you for doing our jobs. So if you helped someone with a tricky permit situation, and they brought you homemade bread, ethics law dictated that you declined it, because it could be seen as prejudicing you against people with tricky permit situations who do NOT bring you homemade bread.

        7. Sam*

          This depends on the state or local municipality – some states have pretty generous allowance policies (I.e., California only has a yearly limit of $590) while in Iowa you can’t give more than $3/day, and Detroit prohibits ALL gifts even of nominal value.

          I manage our company’s political activity policy, and am the one who has to regularly research requests to hand out 20 cent pens or take a public official to lunch (in addition to the more traditional campaign contributions).

          In addition to the general need to get permission, we also need to track and log all of these requests, because when our teams submit RFP responses for various business, we often have to list out all “gifts” previously given to that public agency as part of the responses.

      2. BrainWeasels*

        I know I am being overly hypothetical and possibly weird but does that gift with value include things like a situation where giving a person the thing was necessary for their health. Or like, lifesaving stuff because you saving their life could sway them.

        Like, it’s July, sunny and the job site is outdoors. After walking the site, the government employee who is diabetic has dangerously low blood sugar so you buy a sugary drink from the vending machine and give it to them to tide them over until they can access their necessary medication.

        Or you and your government employee are walking the site when they have a heart attack and fall over. You give them CPR and they survive. I know that’s not bribery but I’d be pretty swayed to award the contract to the company of the person who saved my life.

        I’m not deliberately trying to find loopholes, my brain just jumps to weird hypothetical situations like that.

        1. Let's use a little common sense*

          Yes, you have to let the person die as it’s more important to preserve every appearance of impartiality.

          Or, you could go touch grass and recognize that sometimes other rules go out the window when it’s literally life and death. If you save his life and he’s then reasonably biased, he can recuse himself from future decisions involving you.

        2. Sasha*

          Nope, you are fine to provide first aid to people (candy to a diabetic having a hypo would come under that).

        3. HR Friend*

          You’re equating CPR with a donation. That’s absurd. Even if you accept the absurdity, then your choices in this scenario are to a/make an ethical political donation, or b/save a life. Is that really a hypothetical situation worth considering?

        4. Courageous cat*

          You are being overly hypothetical. Saving the life of another human being I’m pretty sure is exempt from like. Everything? I’m not sure what you honestly think could potentially be the answer here other than “of course you give them CPR”.

        5. coffee*

          In such a situation, you resolve the conflict of interest afterwards. The diabetic would disclose the received drink & it would be logged. Same with CPR. For the CPR in particular, likely the government employee would then be removed from the decision making process, since there could be a perceived or an actual conflict of interest. The drink, depends on the situation but probably it could just be registered rather than needing to replace anyone, since it’s low value.

          1. coffee*

            Also, I think some of the replies to this question have come down a bit hard on BrainWeasels!

      3. LW 4*

        Letter Writer #4 here. So far as I know, my husband’s company is not a government contractor. They provide retirement plans, primarily to educational and other non-profit employers and employees. And he’s not an investment manager so he’s not making decisions on how to invest anyone’s money. But it looks like I’m going to have to wait for him to agree to go thru the reporting process before I can donate $100 to a candidate. Sigh.

        1. suspicious_swan*

          Yes, I’ve worked at a financial firm. Even though I wasn’t the one managing money, we still had reporting obligations. It’s a similar idea to what Alison said about family members- someone not managing the money could just make an undisclosed donation otherwise.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          I also work with retirement plans, in a government office. There is a law that governs what we do.
          Your husband’s company might have this in place in case they ever do work with government, or with people who work with government, etc. The laws/rules I’ve seen about such things usually have a clause that says it also applies to subcontractors.

        3. Snow Globe*

          I work in finance and can confirm that there are similar laws that apply to anyone working in finance, even those who do not make investment decisions. If your husband has access to non-public financial information, he’s probably covered by these laws. The main point is that it is not the company being nosy; the company is trying to comply with regulations.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Same here. Note while they may still need to be reported, the policies may be less strict about small donations to candidates where you can vote in their election.

          2. Anonym*

            Same. My job has absolutely nothing to do with the business side, but every employee is bound under these rules since we’re part of the organization. It’s occasionally annoying, but I think the rules are appropriate and correct in that they exist to prevent things like bribery and other forms of corruption. Hope that’s some comfort!

          3. MassMatt*

            I’m in finance and have to report political donations given for local candidates but not national ones, on the theory I guess that it would take a very large donation to influence national policy whereas local politicians can be swayed with smaller ones? I’m not involved with government business but if I were (in particular, issuing local government bonds) the restrictions and reporting requirements are MUCH stronger.

            On the other hand, while I have to report gifts, and can only accept low value gifts from clients, there is a de minimus exception for stuff like pens, hats, calendars etc. Which is good, because at any meeting or convention vendors are shoveling tons of them at us.

        4. Stacy*

          Schools are public sector entities and have to follow the same sort of strict bid process for contracts with businesses, which includes your husband’s organization. They also have elected officials, school board members, so it makes sense that donations would need to be included.

          If your husband’s org was bidding for a new contract with a school district and an employee made a large donation to a school board member, that would matter because the school board member could sway who the contract goes to.

          1. Armchair Analyst*

            this and… there are categories of nonprofit tax exemptions and organizations must prove every year that they still belong in that category. one category does expressly give donations to politicians. many other categories may be required to state “we are not that category and as evidence here are the contributions given by employees and their households but not by us as an organization; clearly we should continue to be the nonprofit category that we are in.”

        5. Random Dice*

          In the US, literally anyone can look up the campaign donations of anyone else.

          I did that once for a neighbor who kept making cryptic but slightly weird comments, looked it up, and yup sure enough he was donating a lot to the conspiracy theory party. Helped me know to fade out quietly rather than pursuing anything.

          So the company can look up all your donations anyway.

        6. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          For a 501(c)(3) to maintain tax deductibility of donations, they cannot be used for partisan political purposes. I assume your reporting is part of their compliance efforts–ie they have to also show they’re not evading the law by funneling $$ through employees and their spouses.

        7. BethDH*

          Have you asked your husband what “reporting” entails? When I’ve had to do this, it’s been a two-minute process — if I recall correctly, it was amount, date, donor name, donor relationship to employee, and the name of the person or org it went to. He may be assuming it’s a bigger deal than it is.

          1. amanda*

            Yeah, it sounds like the problem isn’t really the reporting requirement but the husband’s reluctance to figure out how reporting works and get it done.

        8. RunShaker*

          I’ve been working in financial industry for over 20 years. Had my FINRA licensing for many years (gave it up) and now my CTFA working with a Trust Company, all for profit companies. He is absolutely required to report political contributions and may be limited in the amount donated per year. Especially with FINRA license, he would have to report all personal investment accounts and their activity, including LW 4 for whomever lives in his house and/or has power of attorney over. FINRA and SEC are strict with these rules. These rules are not only for government contractors/employees but for anyone that has investment licensing. This is verify typical. Also, even if he doesn’t have FINRA licesnsing, his firm are more than likely regulated by FINRA (and other regulators) so that all staff must follow the requirements.

          FINRA & SEC control brokerage firms, RIAs, investment advisors and even supporting staff. These licenses are typically referred to as Series 6, 7, 65, 66, etc.

          LW#4 trust your husband on what he needs to do for his job. If you’re not sure as to why, it’s good thing to ask him for better understanding.

        9. Captain Raymond Holt*

          I work for a for profit firm in the finance industry that also does retirement plans. I have the same donation restrictions, even though my role is not related to any investment advice (I work in technology).

        10. JSPA*

          So far as I know, there’s no ban on volunteering (though being “identified with” a campaign can again become problematic). And a few hours of stuffing envelopes or making calls (without using your name or phone number) is worth at least that much, to a campaign. If you have the time, it’s worth checking…

        11. JSPA*

          education often includes public schools and public universities, so yeah, that falls under the same rules (or near enough as makes no difference).

        12. Observer*

          o far as I know, my husband’s company is not a government contractor.

          It doesn’t matter. If they provide services to If you provide services to government contractors you are often covered. Also, the field matters.

          They provide retirement plans, primarily to educational and other non-profit employers and employees.

          Which almost certainly places your husband’s company squarely in the second group of companies that have these kinds of rules. Not just its customer base, but the fact that it’s a financial product means that they are almost certainly required to have such rules in place.

        13. Former Red and Khaki*

          Yeah, unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if your husband’s firm doesn’t work with government or will never work for government – FINRA and the SEC has pretty strict rules about EVERYTHING and disobeying them would result in fines at best and the company tanking at worst. I work for a small financial advisor firm, and the amount of compliance we have to do day in and day out is mind boggling, and most of our clients are in the medical field. They do not mess around.

        14. A Simple Narwhal*

          I work for a financial firm that isn’t a government contractor, and I don’t work at all on the finance side, but the compliance and reporting rules apply to absolutely everyone at the company, regardless of their role.

          But we also have a very straightforward and simple process for reporting these things, it’s literally a line asking the amount you want to give and to whom. There are also compliance officers whose job it is to answer these questions and move things along – it should be pretty quick and easy for your husband to get the approval needed to make your donation. It sounds more like your husband is stonewalling things, not his company.

        15. Quill*

          Yeah, if he’s in any financial institution in any role, that sounds about right. It’s mostly about future-proofing. If your husband got promoted to the point where he did make some kind of monetary decision, AND it involved the government even tangentially, giving Mayoral Candidate Bob a hundred dollars seven years ago may have made enough of an impact that Now Senator Bob, whose political career has advanced, that there is an appearance of impropriety.

          If you want ridiculous, I had to do a financial disclosure when I was an intern in charge of color matching paint once. I just wasn’t there long enough (or paid well enough) for there to be anything to report.

        16. Sam*

          If they’re providing retirement plans to teachers, those are absolutely public/government employees and covered by these rules. In addition, even if your husband is not an investment manager, he may be considered a covered employee or municipal finance professional if he deals at all with these clients, in which case there are additional federal restrictions on how much money he (and you! ) can donate to political candidates.

      4. Dilly*

        It is absolutely acceptable to give that gov’t employee that bottle of water if they are a federal employee. I have spent 20+ years of my career in US federal gov’t compliance and paying for a soft drink/water is very typically used as the example of what is acceptable. State and local gov’t requirements may differ.

    2. T*

      My husband works in finance. I believe he does have to report political donations but he also has to report if u do any stock trading to prove no improprieties with insider trading. Better safe than sorry.

      1. Coffee and Plants*

        Yeah, my husband’s in finance for a big firm and we both have to report all of our stock activity so there’s no conflict of interest. I think it’s just the nature of the beast, unfortunately.

      2. Clisby*

        Same here. We still own a handful of Walmart shares because he doesn’t want to go through the reporting needed to sell them. (We already owned the shares when he got this job.)

      3. Ally McBeal*

        Yep, I used to work in finance – in an admin role, not even the kind of role where I’d have much access to material non-public information – and had to fill out disclosure forms for myself as well as anyone living in my household. (I didn’t own any stock and lived alone, so at least it was a short process for me.)

      4. Beth*

        Yep, and not just stock — pretty much anything other than cash savings and government bonds. We’re still trying to establish precise reporting standards for crypto.

        I try to make the reporting process as easy as possible for our firm, but there’s nothing to be done to make the reporting go away.

    3. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yup. And using spouses and kids as a way to to try and backdoor bribe people is historically a pretty common form of corruption. I think funneling money through your parents/kids/spouse is also historically a fairly common form of money laundering, too! This is what happens when you become a legal unit.

      I wonder if OP is thinking of how privacy around voting is a thing and conflating that with political donations?

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, your first was my immediate though, that if they couldn’t track donations by spouses, the obvious thing for somebody who wanted to bribe a politician to do would be to get his wife or her husband to do the donating. And with a joint account, they wouldn’t even have to do that. They could even donate themselves and claim it was their husband/wife.

        In Ireland, due to the scandals of the 1990s, the term “brown envelope” has become a joke so I can’t fault regulations that try to prevent stuff like that happening again.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        You mean like having a spouse who — I don’t know pays for busses to the Capital of supporters of a certain losing candidate on January 6. When your job is going to be ultimately to rule on the prosecutions of those arrested for actions that day?

        Or your wife headhunts for employers who hire people who regularly appear at your job?

        LW4 – there are very good reasons for this rule playing out right now in the US. You might think it is intrusive or that your husband’s job doesn’t really work with this stuff. But, the Rule is there for a reason. Make your husband’s life easier and don’t make a big deal out of this.

        1. Head sheep counter*

          Yes the idea that the Supreme Court has less ethics requirements than the average person … has been … alarming to say the least. I had the funny assumption that the rather strict requirements for judges would apply to them.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Unfortunately, while these regulations for lower-level government employees are often enshrined into law, the higher up you get, the more it seems to be bound in “tradition.” As in “No one ever did this before so we didn’t think they would!” Time to change a few things, imo.

            And someone probably said this already, but private sector businesses that work on government contracts also have strict rules about accepting gifts, etc.

        2. Quill*

          Yep. Though most people will equate whatever political or financial power they personally have to not a big deal compared to the cruises, political action donations, etc. of the highest court in the country… when the rule applies all the way down it not only provides a way to cut down on much smaller examples of potential corruption, it also lets literally everyone in the country point at the big ones and go “this is a thing you should have known not to do since your first day of work in this entire industry” so that some people can’t convincingly claim ignorance.

    4. Industry Behemoth*

      A previous boss, who was an attorney, had to take a federal government contact to lunch at a restaurant instead of her club.

      Government ethics rules required the fed to pay for his own meal directly, and the club required members to charge their use to their accounts. Reimbursing my boss afterward wasn’t allowed.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      This. If you don’t like the scrutiny, then confine your donations to non-political recipients. There are plenty of organizations doing good that wouldn’t fall under the reporting requirements.

    6. Beth*


      I’m the Chief Compliance Offier at a financial services firm. The spouse and immediate family of all employees are subject to most of the same restrictions as the employee on everything that’s covered under compliance. The reasons are exactly what you think they would be.

      Many firms do have a “de minimus” value for things such as gifts and entertainment — the $2 bottle of water that Meghan mentioned upthread would NOT be a reportable item for my particular firm — but political donations are likely to be reportable at every level.

    7. Artemesia*

      Also for conflict of interest reporting, business interests and such of spouses are reported. I had to fill all that stuff out.

    8. Tio*

      I am always fascinated by the letters where someone is so sure that This Is Wrong only to be told that not, actually, that’s not wrong and sometimes is in fact the only legal option.

    9. Littorally*

      Bingo. When people ask about why things are so intense around monitoring/reporting, my answer is that finance is the industry of “we can’t have nice things” — ie, we cannot be treated on trust because when large sums of money are involved, people’s ethics get severely compromised. C’est la vie. You can make a very comfortable living in finance, but you have to accept the trade-offs that come with it. My company has to know all my investing and I’d have to jump through a bunch of hoops if I wanted to invest through any brokerage firm other than my employer, because we can’t have nice things. I have to get their prior permission for any side hustles and even certain kinds of volunteer activity, because we can’t have nice things.

      1. Xantar*

        I wasn’t going to bring her up, but yes I thought of her. LW, you don’t want to be compared to Ginny Thomas. Just disclose your donations.

    10. tamarack etc.*

      #4 is really interesting because it illlustrates two sides of an issue. On the face of it, each side is reasonable!

      If someone really is just professional about their spouse’s job – not involved, doesn’t even know, and at the very least not care, who bids on what and what potential projects might be out for bidding in their larger org – then it’s completely sensible to feel somewhat offended and infringed in their privacy when the spouse’s employer wants to know about one’s own donation history. However, the other side of the coin quickly can mushroom into headlines in the media about how some org executive’s spouse gave large donations to the exact politician whose program has bearing on some contracts or funding decisions that make a difference for the org!

      So in this case, the benefits of transparency for the functioning of democratic control trump the desire of an individual for privacy about their money matters and political choices. And by making all (*) donations public and all of the families of (high enough?) employees of particular organizations reportable, at least there is no favoritism.

      (*) TBH I’m not sure how “dark money PACs” factor into this. They clearly are a problem for the democratic process in the US

    11. kittybutton*

      I work in banking and have substantial reporting/preclearing requirements, but nothing compares to auditing. When my husband worked in Big 4 accounting we had to report EVERYTHING – our car insurance provider, any and all bank accounts, etc etc. This was required for all employees so they could understand any conflicts with their audit clients

  2. RLB*

    I’m not so certain the LW with kids is in as good a position as they seem to think. If you took a job that scheduled you 5 days a week then negotiated Fridays off in service of your kids, I too would expect you to have planned for most kid related things to occur on Fridays. If the appointments are only an hour or two a couple of times a month that’s understandable, but if she’s leaving work for the majority of the day or full days several times a week I can see the stern warning. It’s one thing to have flexibility every now and again, something altogether different when an employee thinks they get to show up and leave at a whim AND gets all defensive when they’re expected to actually work the shifts agreed upon.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      I think you may have missed the part in the letter where the LW says, “I was up-front with all of this during my interview and was assured it wouldn’t be an issue.” She talked to them about this before being hired and they were well aware of it. She is not “leaving at a whim.”

      1. Jackalope*

        In addition, she’s scheduling the appointments months ahead of time. It’s not like she’s showing up in the morning, saying, “I need to take the kiddos to an appointment,“ and then being gone the whole rest of the day. That’s plenty of time for her employer to work around the appointments. And given how tough it is to get doctor appointments these days, she really might not be able to get them all on Fridays.

        1. Christine*

          My doctors keep limited hours. I have to conform to their schedule. A doctor who sees patients on Monday and Wednesday afternoons is not going to see a patient on Friday.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I have to see a specialist once a year who only works at the local office on Wed/Thurs. LW may not have Friday as an option!

          2. Rose*

            I think the expectation would more likely be that she picked that one day off a week based on when she can get appointments then shoehorn all of her appointments into Fridays.

            1. Quill*

              If the kids have multiple specialists it’s possible that the most frequent appointment time is a friday and there are still other things with non-changeable other appointment times.

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                And it may also be – can I have Fridays off, I will schedule as many future appointments on Fridays as possible, but ones that were scheduled prior to taking the job aren’t on Fridays. If they were scheduled months in advance she may still be dealing with these previously scheduled appointments.

                1. Quill*

                  Yeah, precisely. I still have X months of previously scheduled appointments to go but in the future moving most things to fridays would help is a different conversation that would probably help to have.

            2. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

              Or that Fridays are least busy days in their office and so missing those days would be the least disruptive.

        2. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I recently got an auto generated notice of a medical test that is scheduled for 330pm on the Friday before a holiday weekend. My first thought was that no one was going to believe me but someone from the clinic called to confirm the date and time.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            In my experience, those are the only Fridays that are easy to get appointments for.

            Alison is right – I see so much advice to schedule appointments for what are the most desirable times, & I always wonder when is the last time that the person giving advice made any kind of medical appointment. (Don’t even talk to me about scheduling for the gyno.)

          2. Lisa Simpson*

            This is how I get most of my appointments with one of my doctors. I have my appointment, she tells me I’m due for a follow up in 3/4/5/6 months, and a day later I receive my assigned appointment for 3/4/5/6 months later in my patient portal.

            I haven’t selected an appointment with her since 2019, I think.

      2. Snow Globe*

        But, since the LW originally agreed to 5 days per week, 30 hours per week, then requested 4 days per week (presumably now just 24 hours), I don’t think it is accurate to say she was upfront about this during the interview. If she is working only 24 hours per week, and they needed 30, then I can understand that the company is not quite as accommodating to additional requests for time off.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > If she is working only 24 hours per week, and they needed 30

          I think they probably actually needed 40 (or whatever counts as full time) but offered her the 30 as the minimum that would still work for the company. So with 24 hours she’s only working just over half of what they had originally envisioned when they started recruiting.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            If that’s the case, then maybe they shouldn’t have hired her, or shouldn’t have agreed to the reduction in hours…

            1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

              THIS. If they wanted full time, they should not have hired someone who only wanted part time. Its the flip side of someone accepting full time in the hopes they can negotiate later to go part-time. You hired for what you hired. If you needed something else, you should have hired someone else.

            2. Rose*

              But if they hired her to be there 30 hours a week and she’s now working 24, minus frequent doctors appointments, that’s a significant deviation. I think the issue is that the letter writer wasn’t super clear about what the actual agreement was.

        2. Random Dice*

          I got the impression that they were surprised by how many hours they were scheduled, but that since it turned out to be workable (other than the previously disclosed regular medical appointments) they rolled with it.

          “Once I started the job, I realized I am the only part-time employee. I originally was asked to work six-hour days, five days a week. 30 hours a week was a little more than I had originally planned on working, but it worked out fine with my children’s school schedules and the work was pleasant enough. After a couple months, I asked to go down to Monday-Thursday, which they accepted but did not seem thrilled about.”

          So the job pushed for more than they had negotiated, and then also were less flexible around family medical accommodations than negotiated.

          I really like Alison’s script (shocking, since she’s a wizard at scripts) for this situation. She was upfront, they thought they could handle it but as their only PT employee they actually don’t know how to handle it.

        3. Colette*

          Yeah, I think she’s already requested a change, and they didn’t understand that she’d still need more time off with the reduced hours. It sounds like she was unhappy with the original hours, and they’re unhappy with the new hours. This job probably isn’t a good fit.

          If she wants to keep this job and this is the problem, she might want to suggest working 4 days a week but working Fridays on the weeks when she has appointments. But it sounds to me like this isn’t a good job for her; she needs one that’s more flexible.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            Agree. I think LW would be better off looking for a job that’s actually designed to be part time. I used to work in libraries, and there are a lot of jobs that are only for 20-24 hours a week, and they’d love to get someone who wants to work during the school day.

            1. Chauncy Gardener*

              Came here to say this too. I think this company actually doesn’t want a true part-time employee. She sounds like she’s been upfront about what she can and can’t do. I think she needs to find a “real” part-time job.

          2. Smithy*

            I think this is likely a good review of the tension – and it may also impact if what she was hired for included coverage support as opposed to “extra hands” support.

            If part of what this employer was hoping for is someone able to cover a front desk, help desk – then every time they need to be out, is less time getting that additional support they were hiring for. And the unpredictability of coverage is also often unappealing.

            However, positions more designed to be around extra hands (i.e. data entry, shelving books, etc.) – more may be better, but delays and gaps aren’t as disruptive to weekly operations.

        4. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I disagree with this assumption. LW did not negotiate this schedule up front. LW agreed to a part-time job and was then told her hours would be 5 days, 30 hours. It was more than she was expecting but thought it might work. When it was too much, she negotiated 4 days. That is perfectly reasonable and logical for someone who is up-front and clear that they are looking for part-time work.

          It also doesn’t sound like she has been at the company long enough to reschedule/set up upcoming kids doctors appointments, so the need for flexibility would be unchanged by her negotiated reduced hours. So any assumption on the company that agreeing to the 4 day work week would mean LW didn’t need time off for the already scheduled appointments is unrealistic.

        5. Hannah Lee*

          We have a variation of that situation in my company.

          After recruiting for a particular full-time position, we found a candidate with good skills, experience who said she could work part time. The hiring manager accepted that, and she came on board 5 x days a week for 6 hrs per day. Everyone else in the role is full time, 5 days a week 8 hrs per day, but the manager was able to focus her work on certain tasks that can be done in that amount of time. None of the work in the department can be done remotely.

          But she also has young children, and their schools have shut frequently and unpredictably off and on throughout COVID, so she’s needed to take time off to be home with them for that. One also has a chronic medical condition which means time off for specialist appointments, and various unplanned medical appointments, child care needs when she has an episode.

          So it winds up that the 40/hr per week position, which was negotiated down to a 30/hr per week position averages 20 or 22 hrs per week of actual work, with the absence often being on short or no notice.

          She does good work when she’s here, and there is some ability of others to pick up some of her duties in an emergency, but because it is so frequent and unpredictable, it does create issues with scheduling, workflow of things that are her primary responsibilities.

          She did negotiate the PT schedule when she was hired, and her manager is understanding of the need to prioritize her children’s needs, and everything that’s gone of with COVID. But, that doesn’t change the fact that her actual work hours are 20-30% less than her scheduled work hours.

          What is different from LW’s situation is that the hiring manager says they’d agreed the PT schedule she had at the beginning would be temporary, and that she’d convert to FT at some point (no date given, but mentions of several things related to logistics, how she/spouse handled childcare, etc that would settle out over time) but a) this wasn’t in writing and b) COVID happened which threw everything in the air.

          It’s become a bit of a sore point between her manager and her manager’s manager, as well as others who rely on output of that department. “oh, she’s not here again? Really? does that mean the dates are going to slip?”

          I’m not in the chain of command on decisions about staffing, direct management in that department. And the people who are have some strong management skills in some areas but aren’t the most direct or definitive communicators (hence the not nailing down any agreements about ongoing hours) But when they’ve mentioned it to me I’ve advised 2 things: figure out what the real requirements are and talk to her about whether or not she’s willing or able to meet those requirements.

          Based on her actions so far, it seems her priority is her children’s needs, her husband’s FT job schedule, her PT job schedule (ie, if there’s a family need during normal work hours, she deals with it, not him) – which is a completely valid choice for her and their family. It’s one that many families come to when there is a primary and secondary wage earner and dependents.

          But if that’s the case and she’s not planning on increasing her hours to full time or having a more reliable work schedule even PT, face that fact and deal with it.
          Either carve out a role that won’t impact other groups when she’s out, add depth of coverage or make clear that the position needs to be a minimum xx hours per week going forward and is she able to commit to that or not.

          So for LW, I’d suggest do a variation of that: think it through and be clear for yourself what schedule you can and want to commit to, review what you’ve agreed to verbally/in writing and then approach your manager about what’s going on, ask for clarification on expectations, let them know what you’ll commit to and take it from there.

          (my suspicion is that your manager, team lead was okay with your schedule, but someone up the food chain never bought in, or your non-standard less than FT schedule is not accounted for in the workload so someone’s seeing you as not pulling your weight. Or you’ve got a ‘well, we ALL wish we could work part time, why does SHE get to?’ person in your midst whose grousing without having all the facts and your boss isn’t a great push-backer. )

      3. umami*

        They also were upfront about scheduling her 5 days a week, and she accepted. She later asked to move down to just M-TH, and they accommodated her. So I can understand the pushback on her also wanting to take additional time off when she already knew going to 4 days was not ideal on their end.

    2. Meghan*

      I disagree. That LW indicated the appointments are about every 3 months and she’s providing plenty of notice. I would expect accommodations for that.

      Also, many doctor offices don’t work Fridays, or don’t work the same days. (Like your dentist might be open until 5 Friday, PCP maybe only until 12 on Friday, maybe psychiatrist only open M-Th, then maybe physical therapist only open Tues-Thur). If giving plenty of notice any workplace should be able to accommodate.

      Also it sounds like in the interview OP wanted less than the 30 hours but was sort of shoved into the 30 hour schedule: She then got it down to a more reasonable 4 days but it sounds like her plan was never to be a full time employee and that she was pretty clear about that.

      If the schedule doesn’t work for the employer they can also say “I’m sorry but we just need someone who can do more hours” and OP can leave, but threatening/pressuring/deceiving her does not seem a professional way for them to handle it.

      1. AJ*

        Yup! My kiddo’s neurosurgeon does surgery Thurs & Fridays (normally) and appts are a different day of the week. It has somewhat changed over time and he will get in on certain unplanned surgeries when he has a day or two of warning. He’s triple booked so I have never figured out how they make it all work. He’s visited kiddo in the hospital on a day he’s worked at another location so he’s very patient oriented, just cannot time travel.

        1. Random Dice*

          Exactly. Specialists for kids tend to be so incredibly dedicated and see lots of kids. You schedule months in advance because you need to.

          Good luck just getting Fridays, for ped specialists, for multiple kids!

          Tell me you don’t have chronic health conditions, boss, without telling me you don’t have chronic health conditions.

          Why yes I will choose my kids’ health over this job.

        2. Armchair Analyst*

          our pediatric GI is terrific and does telehealth appointments! but only on Thursdays. during regular office appointment times – aka school hours. have to leave work, get kid, get connected, have appointment on a phone, get kid back to school, parent back to work. could be 45 minutes if traffic cooperates. traffic never cooperates. it’s 90 minutes or more at beginning or end of the day.

      2. Mockingjay*

        I don’t think they are deceiving or threatening her. She’s the one who changed the conditions. They hired her with the understanding of X days/hours; she changed work days/hours to Y, then needs additional days off. She’s no longer meeting the needs of the business.

        This scenario is why companies have probationary periods. She wants/needs to work less hours; company wants her at stated hours. If she can’t demonstrate the ability to meet the company’s need during that period, she’s going to be let go.

        This is a job mismatch, not malicious intent. She wants fewer hours and more flexibility when to work those hours; the company wants standard coverage of X hours M-F.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          The problem with saying “well she changed the conditions” is that 1-she was upfront about the medical appointments, 2-she negotiated her schedule and *they said yes*, and 3-if they’ve found the new schedule doesn’t work for them, they should not be threatening her job, they should be having an adult conversation with her about what they need to make it work.
          If they wanted standard coverage M-F, they shouldn’t have hired someone for part time, and they shouldn’t have accepted her negotiated modification.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            They agreed to 30 hours with medical appointments. There was a miscommunication or misassumption where they did not understand the 24 hour weeks would still include the medical appointments. So saying “well they agreed” is missing the point a bit.

            Should they work with OP to make this feasible for everyone? Yes, I think so. But if in practice they were already making an accommodation and she continues slashing into what they felt they could accommodate, it might not be sustainable. I’m not blaming OP, it just might not be a good fit for everyone’s needs.

            1. No Need for a Villain*

              Sometimes things just aren’t a good fit and it’s nobody’s fault. That’s the entire reason we have probationary periods, and it’s ok if LW and the business’ needs aren’t aligned right now

          2. Continental Blvd*

            I don’t think “threatening her job” is the right take away, either for you or for OP, even if they were stern when delivering the message. The probationary period is the time to impress your employer bc being kept on is not a sure thing. Reminding someone that the probationary period is not over should be taken really as just that–a reminder. Instead of reading a threat into it, OP should reflect on whether this job meets her needs bc probationary periods go both ways.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I mean, there’s a big difference between “let’s sit down and discuss how this schedule is working for everyone. You’re still in your probationary period so if we decide that we actually need more hours than you can give, it’s easy to make a clean break for both of us” and “Remember you’re still ON PROBATION and we’re WATCHING YOU AND YOUR HOURS”. One is what a nice grown up business would do. One is slightly unhinged and treats the employee like a transgressor.

        2. Grammar Penguin*

          She said before hiring that she was only available for limited hours and they said this was fine. Then they started her working more hours than she was actually able to do, a 30 hour week. She tried to make it work at first but couldn’t. So she asked for a reduction in hours, a schedule she could work. And they gave it to her along with the assurance that it would not be a problem.

          Turns out it actually is a problem. Rather than accept that they were wrong in assessing their needs, they’re turning their own mistake into LW’s fault.

          They’re not treating it as a simple job mismatch, they are acting like she misled them when in fact they misled her, saying her schedule was fine when it wasn’t. The only job mismatch is the mismatch between what they told her and what it actually was. That’s on them.

          Maybe not malicious intent on anyone’s part but definitely malicious effect.

          1. ObjectivePerspective*

            Everyone keeps saying she asked for a reduction in hours but LW never stated that, she asked for a reduction in days and unless it was specifically stated that the reduction in days equated a reduction in hours, most employers would expect the agreed upon hours to be completed in the 4 days rather than 5. Many commenters are assuming facts not provided in the letter, especially about the reduction of hours.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Anyone who says oh just schedule the appointments for a convenient time for ME has clearly never scheduled doctor’s appointments. You take what they offer. If they are scheduling months out, the next appointment if they offer you a Tuesday is not that Friday, its Tuesday in 4 months.

        I get this a lot in family law. The non custodial parents wants doctors appointments scheduled ONLY when they are available. But, of course, can’t be bothered to be the one to make the appointments. Like, yeah, your kid needs to be seen by a doctor, its not about you.

        1. Grammar Penguin*

          Exactly. I have to schedule appointments for my elderly parents all the time. You take the first immediate appointment available at whatever time is offered, often 4-6 weeks out. If you ask for a specific day of the week or time of day, expect your appointment to be months away.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          There’s nothing here about the LW wanting to do things “on a whim.” The employer’s desired schedule is no less whimsical than those of the LW or the various doctors involved.

          We’re not discussing a last-minute invitation to a picnic, or “if I don’t have this coming Tuesday off my child won’t be able to go on this field trip.” But nobody is demanding that the employer demonstrate why they need three months’ notice to clear a few hours on a Tuesday: the assumption tends to be that the employer’s scheduling desires are obviously reasonable, and the doctor or dentist’s might be reasonable, and the employee can be expected to contort themselves and bend spacetime in order to be at work and in a doctor’s office at the same time.

    3. A*

      I think the notion of “just schedule all appointments on Fridays” would maybe be fine in a functional medical system — but two of my kids have had specialist appointments within the last six months. I have to drive them out of town, and availability is scheduled several weeks or months in advance. Even non-specialist appointments can be tricky. One kid needs to check in with the local pediatrician every 4 months, and his pediatrician isn’t in the office on Tuesdays. It wouldn’t shock me if trying to get all appointments for multiple kids, with some in specialist offices, only on Fridays, is simply not feasible.

    4. MK*

      OP is in a great position, because she doesn’t need this job, and the company’s stern warning was inappropriate because in my view their expectations were off in the first place. If you hire someone for part-time work, who told you specifically that they only want part-time work, and then schedule them for 30 hours, which is technically part-time, but only just, you should expect pushback.

      That being said, both parties made a mistake in not coming to a clear understanding about what part-time meant before OP started work. Or, OP made a mistake; I suspect the company was trying to get an employee as close to full-time as possible without offering the benefits of full-time.

      1. Somewhere in Texas*

        Agree that this is just barely part time… Having to go into an office every day and work *2* fewer hours than everyone else is the same level of commitment. Those magical 2 hours at either end (or split) of the day doesn’t give you a lot of leeway for appointments or errands, especially when school schedules are factored in.

        I went “part time” at a job, which was supposed to be 20 hours, but they wanted 25. For a whole year every few months my hours were increased until I finally caved to full time. I miss those part time days.

      2. My Useless 2 Cents*

        I agree. If I’m looking for part-time work, I’m not expecting a 5 day work week and 30 hours. While technically part-time, the company *starting* at 30 hours sounds like they are wanting someone full-time but don’t have(want to spend) the money to pay someone for full time.

    5. Annie*

      For all we know, maybe she DOES schedule all the kid stuff she is able to on Fridays, and it’s just the medical appointments that can’t reliably be scheduled for Fridays. Maybe it’s That One Specialist has no/limited Friday availability; maybe she’s “competing” with any number of other families for coveted Friday appointment slots; maybe each kid has to see a different specialist; maybe there’s another reason.

    6. Dahlia*

      I mean this kindly, but I really think you have no idea how little choice you get in appointments with specialists that are booked months in advance. That is very much a case of you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

      1. Jujyfruits*

        100%. I called to schedule my January physical on Nov, and was able to schedule it for June at the earliest. I took whatever time was open.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I schedule once a year with a specialist, and my next appt (on one of the two weekdays he works in the area) is 16 months out, scheduled at my previous appointment. My choice was of several times during the day, which was kind of surprising (a lot of times they say “we have time X if you want day Y. Next after that is time A on day B). Sometimes you get what you get and you definitely can’t get upset.

      2. Other Alice*

        Yeah absolutely, it’s not like running errands or going to the hairdresser, it’s often whichever opening they have or the next opening is in four months. I would love to schedule my phisio appts on Friday but my doctor is only available on Wed/Thu. I go on Wednesday at a very inconvenient time and I’m very glad he could fit me in because he’s great.

          1. Ermintrude (she/her)*

            Have you ever tried to make an appointment with an in-demand psychiatrist for a diagnosis of neuro-divergent disorders? There’s more moving parts to negotiate.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            Ha! I had to schedule the roots color 3 months in advance, at my previous appointment. The stylist is a part of a brother/sister team, and his sister is booked up literally for the rest of 2023.

          3. Quill*

            The consequences of waiting months longer for a hair style are much less dye-er than waiting for a doctor’s appointment.

      3. Llama Llama*

        My kids are in wheelchairs and see a specialist for that. They partner with with the wheelchair company and have wheelchair day on Tuesdays. So guess what, they go on Tuesday.

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*


        Specialists do not fit into YOUR schedule. You fit into theirs.

      5. doreen*

        I’m not going to say it’s always possible because nothing is , but I’ve always had a bit of choice in my appointments , no matter how far ahead they have to be booked in advance. I’ve never found it to be the case that I’m calling in January to make an appointment in June and I have to take the first Monday in June at 1:30 pm and can’t get a morning appointment or a Tuesday if I am willing to wait until the third week of June. I have always been able to get a different day/time as long as I am willing to wait a bit longer.

        And while I completely understand that not every doctor is available every day ( especially Friday), I also wouldn’t have negotiated Friday off if my kids’ doctor(s) were only available on Tues/Thurs. Or I would have asked for a schedule change the week of the appointment so I would work Friday and be off Tuesday for the appointment – it’s a part-time job and the LW doesn’t mention PTO, so I assume that there either is none or it hasn’t been earned yet.

        The LW is in a good position because she doesn’t need the job and can quit if it doesn’t meet her needs – but that doesn’t mean the company is being unreasonable. The way the LW says she told them she only wanted part-time sounds like they originally wanted full -time. They hired her for 30 hours a week, and then a couple of months later she asks to drop to four days a week – which is something she didn’t tell them about during the interview. Maybe she didn’t know at the interview that she would end up dropping to four days – but maybe she wouldn’t have been hired if the company had known the LW was going to ask to drop to four days.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I think the OP is focused on what she needs, but isn’t remembering that she’s been hired to do a job, and the employer has their own needs for what that means. She doesn’t need the job, but they do need an employee to do the work.

          1. Lydia*

            That doesn’t mean they handled it well. Don’t threaten someone with the probationary period nonsense, because that street runs both ways and she could just as easily walk.

            1. Colette*

              I don’t read it as a threat, just a statement. They’re evaluating whether this is going to work out, just as she is.

              There are certainly ways the company could have handled it better – but I also think the OP is a little quick to take time off (particularly with the “moving from 5 days to 4 days”) in a way that makes me wonder if she really wants a job. I’ve seen that kind of thing in teenagers, and I think it’s because she doesn’t financially depend on the job.

            2. KC*

              It’s not a threat, they would remind any other unreliable employee that they’re still on probation as a courtesy before they fire them.

              1. Lydia*

                Reminding someone you’re annoyed with that they’re still within their probationary period is an implicit threat, no matter what.

        2. Jezebella*

          This is some serious armchair quarterbacking here. YOUR experience scheduling medical appointments is not at all universal. And it’s just you; LW is scheduling for several people. Also if you have several doctors with varying availability, you can’t just pick one non-Friday day of the week for appointments. Finally, you may be able to wait three weeks longer for checkups etc., but that’s not always an option. Things like infusions, labwork, and so forth have to be done on a precise schedule.

          1. doreen*

            As I said, I’m not saying it’s always possible because it absolutely isn’t . But that doesn’t mean the LW had no choice other than to ask to work four days with Fridays off and then ask for additional time off for medical appointments. There’s no indication that she was even willing to change her day off to whichever day the appointment was.

        3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

          Lucky you that you’ve never run into the issue of making appointments. Have you ever had to see a very in-demand specialist? I have and loads of other comments here support this.

          Also, factor in that often these type of appointments are made months in advance. so the appointments that she had with her kids probably were made before she took the job. it sounds like the boss is now telling her to reschedule the appointments to better fit the company’s needs. She might be able to schedule future appointments for her days off, but it really depends on the clinic and the doctors hours.

        4. JustKnope*

          I’m glad for you that you’ve had flexibility with your doctors appointments but that is NOT the norm. Especially given that her kids have chronic conditions where they’re being seen by specialists. My endocrinologist books out 6mo in advance and rarely has flexibility in what they offer me. And it’s not like you can say “oh this specialist is always available on Tuesday that’s the day I’ll ask off” – if her kids have multiple doctors, there’s just no practical way to manage that.

        5. Eldritch Office Worker*

          ” I also wouldn’t have negotiated Friday off if my kids’ doctor(s) were only available on Tues/Thurs. Or I would have asked for a schedule change the week of the appointment so I would work Friday and be off Tuesday for the appointment”

          That’s a fair point – granted that might not be doable either, it’s possible that random days on given weeks wouldn’t work with the employer’s needs. But there are ways to enter into good faith negotiations here, at least.

          I do want to point out though how many people on these comments are saying they have had exactly the same experience as LW when it comes to making appointments (myself included – I had to make a cardiologist nine months out just a few days ago and they will ONLY do Tuesdays) so “not impossible” is certainly more skepticism than the situation calls for.

        6. 2 Cents*

          It’s impossible to know when the doctors are in for certain. I’m glad you have never had issues with scheduling. My husband was diagnosed with a chronic, life-threatening illness, and even knowing this, it still took 3 months for him to see the specialist. He took whatever the first appointment available was at whatever location the doctor was. And yes, we’re in the U.S.

          Also, I guess you haven’t had to see A doctor before you can see B doctor but B doctor is available before A, so you go back and forth between the offices, only to finally see B doctor months later than you originally intended because of A’s schedule. And no, you can’t just “go somewhere else” for a variety of reasons.

        7. Jujyfruits*

          Good for you. Ever since Covid it’s taken months to schedule with my doctors. My PCP is only in the office one day a week, otherwise she does virtual appointments and a physical is in person.

          All I was saying was that I understand the challenge of taking the doctor appointments that are available. I’m one person. OP is doing this for her 3 kids. It is unrealistic for her employer to think she can schedule all appointments for 1 day. When they’re booked that far in advance, I’d also think the employer could come up with a plan for coverage.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      She’s not scheduling a manicure. It’s difficult to insist on one day only when appointments are for serious things.

    8. bamcheeks*

      I don’t really get the “stern” part of “stern” warning. If this doesn’t work for the company after all, they could sit down and have a straightforward conversation about whether this is working, whether there is anything either side could do to change, or whether the business’s needs and OP’s availability are no longer aligned.

      Organisations should treat people like adults engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship, not like badly behaved children who need to be reminded of their place. They didn’t need to make this relationship adversarial.

      1. Phryne*

        Yes, that framing is really weird. ‘Stern warning’, like she is a toddler.
        Also LW was really clear: they don’t need the job… they can just walk away form it if it does not work for them. Their position is as strong as it gets.

        1. bamcheeks*

          It’s so fascinating how people default to this parent/child style relationship (in transactional analysis terms, not saying all parent relationships are like this) in management settings. You can have a collegiate relationship with your employees and work with them! You don’t have to treat them like naughty kids who need a firm hand!

          1. Phryne*

            Right? You can even have a fundamental disagreement about stuff like work hours without falling into that kind of relationship. It is perfectly fine to professionally agree that this does not work for either side… like adults.

    9. amoeba*

      “but if she’s leaving work for the majority of the day or full days several times a week I can see the stern warning.”

      As was already mentioned above: it’s not though, it’s roughly every three months with advance notice? That… should not be a problem with a reasonable employer even for a full time employee who didn’t mention it before (as she did!)

      1. Green great dragon*

        It’s at least every 3 months for each child, so unless they’re both going together it could easily be once a month. Not that that changes the answer.

      2. Colette*

        The specialist appointments are every 3 months; we don’t know how many specialists there are.

        But a part-time employee taking time off is missing a bigger percentage of their time than a full-time employee. If you work 40 hours a week and miss 4 hours for an appointment, you’ve lost 10% of your work week. If, like the OP, you work 24 hours a week, you’ve lost 17% of your work week. And that’s out of a work week that’s already 20% shorter than they negotiated when she was hired.

        1. Enai*

          And if your company’s needs can’t accomodate that, you hire someone whose schedule fits better instead of browbeating the person who was upfront about her families’ appointments and her own capacities. What’s the LW to do? Magically have healthier children and more time in her week?

          1. Colette*

            Sure, but she said she could work 5 days a week when she was hired and then she went back and asked to go down to 4 days a week. It’s possible she wouldn’t have been hired for 4 days a week, and the employer is already accommodating her with that.

            Now, they could have said no, but I don’t think they’re wrong to try to accommodate their employees – and I don’t see a similar attempt on the OP’s part (by, for example, switching her Friday off to the day of the appointment, if that works for the business).

            It doesn’t sound like they’re browbeating her, it sounds like they’re pointing out she’s not actually at work much.

              1. Colette*

                More hours than what? She moved from 5 days to 4 days – I assume that reduced her hours from 30 to 24, although she doesn’t directly say it. And she also has to go to appointments during her 24 hours of work (again, we don’t know exactly how often).

              2. KC*

                No, she’s not. She was at 30 hours a week minus all the appointments to start, before she decided that didn’t work for her. So she’s now currently at 24 hours minus all the appointments.
                I don’t see how she’s working more by any reasonable metric.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              I mean, they already started out putting her at more hours than she had said she could/wanted to work (it’s not clear if the exact hours were set beforehand, but she does say it was more than expected, which, as others have said, 30hrs is skirting close to full time. Some places consider 32hr/week FT). She worked that, it was OK, but she didn’t want to, so she went to them and said “Hey, I’d like to work X instead of Y.”. And then they agreed to it! She said they were reluctant, which, then they SHOULD have said “well, let’s try it for a month and see how things work out” instead of saying yes and then being like “YOU’RE NOT WORKING ENOUGH HOURS REMEMEBER YOU’RE ON PROBATION!”. It doesn’t seem like LW expected a 30 hr week when she came on, and she worked it to settle in, and then negotiated something closer to what she originally wanted/thought she was getting (again, not clear that they settled on hours/week, which is an oversight for both of them, looking back).
              It does seem a little like the company was hoping she’d just say “oh you know what I will work FT since I’m already doing 30 hrs” and LW thought “gee I can work 30 hrs to start but that’s kinda more than I want, so I’ll just ask to go down when they know me better”. But the company needs to handle this like any other business need, not by acting like the LW was bad and wrong for being upfront about things and negotiating what she wanted.

              1. Colette*

                That’s now how I read it. I read it as she didn’t want 30 hours when she was thinking about getting a job in general, but that this job was offered her at 30 hours a week. And she accepted it, and then asked to reduce her hours.

                Yes, the company probably should have said no, and communication wasn’t great overall (on either side), but I can’t fault them for erring on the side of accommodating their employee.

    10. Emmy Noether*

      Eh. Besides the fact that it’s neither “several times a week” (she mentions every few months), nor is it “on a whim” (it’s scheduled months in advance), even if it were, what you say is not universally true. I have a similar part time schedule with fridays off, and my employer does not care at all how I manage my hours. I have swapped my friday for other days, I have taken afternoons off on a whim because the sun was shining. Now, this is obviously not possible for all jobs (may be more tricky for an admin job), but it sounds like LW was upfront about her needs from the beginning, so if there’s a mismatch, that’s on the employer.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Yes, I don’t work Fridays, and I manage it exactly this way. If I need to finish early or start late on a Mon-Thurs, I can either take it as annual leave or work a couple of hours on Friday morning to get stuff finished. (And sometimes it’s *very* short notice because school is not great at giving us advance notice of things like sports day!)

        Obviously depends on the type of work you do and any coverage needs, but it’s not intrinsically obvious that this wouldn’t work for an employer.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        I was coming down to suggest something like this. I understand if the position isn’t suited to this or if OP isn’t interested in offering, but switching what day you’re off on appointment weeks seems like it could keep everyone satisfied.

    11. JSPA*

      You’re presuming that the LW was somehow vague during hiring and negotiations. While that’s not impossible– people can be less clear than they believe they’re being–questioning LW’s self- reported facts is frowned on, here.

      Now, if the hiring manager had said, “does leaving early every day give you all the flexibility you’d normally need?”– well, hiring manager is still hugely unrealistic (kids in general, let alone kids with regular extra appointments, require more than after school supervision), but I suppose they could then argue they’d explicitly addressed the needs expressed during hiring. Ditto the Fridays off conversation.

      We have zero evidence that they said any such thing, though. The LW specified part time AND flexibility (then, part time, AND fridays AND flexibility). Fridays ≠ flexibility; part time ≠flexibility.

      If LW had negotiated a raise and more vacation days and dental coverage people would not treat that as one fungible thing! “Flexibility” is just as real a thing as “paid dental.” And neither one are the same as “fridays off.”

    12. NumberBlocks*

      I can’t help but think that arrangements like this could go a long way towards shortening the gender pay gap. This LW was not in the workforce for a long time and has now re-entered with needs for flexibility. Like many women, she’s the primary caregiver for her children; her other option is to not work at all.

      At a macro level, inflexibility like this is a contributing factor to why so many women choose not to work. In my ideal world, there would be *more* positions with flexible hours, not less. Accommodations like this would allow not only more women to (re)enter the workforce, but all types of folks for a variety of reasons.

      Also, if the employer *does* need this position to be full time, why did they hire her in the first place?

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > if the employer *does* need this position to be full time, why did they hire her in the first place?

        Perhaps she was easily the best candidate, so they discussed it internally and agreed that they would offer her 30 hours a week even though the role would normally be full time, and that would work for the company. She accepted (that’s the “originally” in the letter; there was never a time before that where the agreed hours were less). Then a few months later she asked to go to 4 days a week. I can completely see how the company feels bait and switched.

        1. Silver Robin*

          But they kind of bait and switched themselves. LW3 told them she wanted part time, and flexibility because she has kids to take care of. The company agreed. Then she just asked for more of the same. Unless they said to her “we really need this to be full time but you are great so we will compromise to 30 hrs”… but even then, if you need full time then hire for full time. OP would still just be asking for more of what they already said they needed.

          1. umami*

            That makes sense, I just see the earlier request for moving down to M-Th and having Fridays off as something that would then have required a little less flexibility from the employer during the M-Th workweek. I see her POV, but she doesn’t seem to see the employer’s POV (she accepted 30 hours over 5 days, and then asked to move down to 4 days, and that’s still not enough?) If she truly wants to be working fewer hours with as much flexibility as she needs, this is just not the right fit. I don’t see any reason to be made at the employer for it.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              She’s mad at the employer because they *agreed* to the changes. She says they didn’t seem thrilled, but they didn’t say “we can try that out” or “let’s give it a month to see how it works”. They said “OK”. She’s working based on her previously negotiated and agreed to metrics. They’re snidely saying to her “you’re still on probation and we’re watching you” instead of “hey, this schedule isn’t working that well for our end, can we have a discussion about it?”.

              1. umami*

                It’s not clear that they agreed to the changes and still expected her to need to take additional time off during her M-Th workweek. Both sides should have clarified what the switch to 4 days would mean, and it doesn’t seem like that happened. I’m not saying OP is wrong, but she’s only viewing things from her perspective, and it is valuable to see the situation in toto. She doesn’t have to work and she feels they are unhappy with her cutting back on her availability and also needing additional flexibility. The employer has every right to accommodate to a point and then decide that they can’t keep accommodating beyond what they already agreed to. There are no bad guys here.

            2. Office Lobster DJ*

              This. OP wasn’t looking for a 30 hr/week schedule but decided it would be worth trying. The employer wasn’t looking for an employee with a 4 day schedule, but decided it would be worth trying. If it’s not working, it’s not working.

          2. Totally Minnie*

            I agree. If four days a week wasn’t going to work for them, they didn’t have to agree when she asked.

      2. Synergetic symbiont*

        This is a good point. In research published by Claudia Goldin, and economist at Harvard, the top two factors that impacted the gender pay gap were number-of-years-worked and number-of-hours-worked per year. Down time and part-time work can have a significant impact on wages.

    13. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I was in the exact same position as OP, working part-time in order to prioritise my kids. I had Wednesdays off because in France kids don’t have school on Wednesday (sometimes in the morning). I did try to always schedule appointments for the Wednesday, but all mothers did, so it wasn’t always possible. If I needed time off on another day for an appointment, I would swap that day for the Wednesday and the kids would have to go to the kids’ centre on that Wednesday. (Or, since I often ended up doing overtime, I would take time off in lieu of payment for that overtime).

    14. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      This is a bit far-fetched. She said they need to see specialists a minimum of once every 3 months and that the appointments are booked months in advance. Translating that to full days several times a week borders on fanfiction. Also, she can TRY to schedule on Fridays but she likely can’t reschedule the ones that have already been scheduled. Expecting someone to never take time off is ridiculous.

    15. fhqwhgads*

      She also applied for what she was told would be a part time job and was then promptly scheduled 30 hrs a week, which in a bunch of contexts, still counts as full time. So that coupled with the other stuff OP said about having discussed all of this with them before tells me what they’re saying their expectations are and what their expectations actually are, are not in alignment.

      1. Colette*

        She wasn’t told it would be a part time job; she asked for it to be part time. They agreed on 30 hours, and then she asked to go down to 24 – with additional time off when her kids have appointments. I feel like her employer has been trying to be flexibile (both with the 30 hours, and then accommodating her when she wanted 24 hours instead), but they’re fundamentally mismatched on what they need. She’s looking at it as “I don’t need this job, so anything I can work is good”, and they’re looking at it as “I need a full-time (or close to full time) person in this role, and her hours keep getting smaller.”

        Yes, they could have said no when she asked to go part time or down to 24 hours, but by the same token, she could have said no to a job that was 30 hours a week when that wasn’t what she wanted.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          But if they wanted a FT person, they should have hired someone for FT. Instead they hired a part time person, they keep saying “yes” to what she asks for, and now they’re mad about it. If they need a FT person, they need to put on their big kid pants and say “hey we’re realizing we really need a FT person to cover everything we need in this role, so it doesn’t make sense to continue with this” instead of issuing vague threats about time and monitoring and OP still being on probation.

          1. umami*

            I don’t know that they are mad about it, they have just reached the limit to what they can say yes to and have reminded her that even as a PT person, she is on probationary status and can be let go if she can’t honor their revised agreement. She called that a ‘stern’ warning, but it just sounds matter-of-fact to me.

            1. Colette*

              Yeah, I agree. They’ve been very accommodating; they seem to be reaching the limit of how accommodating they can be. And I don’t think they’re being unreasonable.

              1. Dona Florinda*

                I agree. OP has only been at the job for a few months and is already asking for a lot of leeway, it makes sense that the employer is reminding her that the probationary period works both ways.

                Ultimately, I think this is just not the right job for OP, since she wants more flexibility then they can offer.

            2. Lydia*

              They’re holding the probationary period over her head. And I trust someone to know the difference between matter-of-fact and stern, especially when one of the first things they come out with is essentially that they can fire her at any time.

          2. Colette*

            I agree they should be clear about what they need – but I disagree that they shouldn’t have attemped to be flexibile with what their employee needs.

            It sounds like they were OK with 30 hours over 5 days – but the OP then asked (very soon after starting) for 24 hours, which was less OK. Now she needs additional time off for appointments – but it seems like the flexibility is only going one way, because she doesn’t mention shifting her hours or coming in on her Fridays off when she needs to take other days off.

      2. amanda*

        30 hours a week is absolutely not full time. And then she asked to reduce it to 24…and multiple appointments with multiple specialists for multiple kids…I’d ask LW to calculate how many hours they’re actually working on average over the past, say, 3 months. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re actually working 15-20 for a job that hired them for 30. If that’s all the hours they can feasibly work, it doesn’t make them a bad person, but it does mean they’re not able to do this job.

        Also…the real problem here is doctors who only work business hours. We need more medical practices willing to take appointments in evenings and weekends.

    16. Artemesia*

      In what world is it possible to schedule all the appointments with a chronically ill child on Friday only?

  3. Synergetic symbiont*

    LW3, as a part-time employee, it seems like your boss is expecting you to use your non-work hours for appointments. It might be a tradeoff that they thought would be made by bringing you on as the only part-time employee. In addition, cutting back from 5 to 4 days might have been more of a concern than they let on.

    In the end the coverage you can provide might be less than what they need. As Alison says, talk to them about being “on the same page about my schedule,” but don’t be surprised if the role isn’t a fit for the part-time schedule you are looking for.

    1. Ganymede*

      Someone I know was hired with the full agreement that she would leave every day at 3pm because she had to pick up her children. A part-time job with everything clearly explained and set down.

      What happened was that when she left at 3pm every day, there were sighs and objections – oh but we need you to go to x at 4pm – can’t you stay a bit longer? etc. Even though everything was absolutely up-front at interview, it just wasn’t realistic on the ground. It’s the employer’s fault – I sometimes think there is a severe lack of ability to really understand what other people’s lives are like. This was a woman boss too, working in a legal field (which was part of the problem – legal stuff is notorious for hard deadlines/short-notice court visits etc). My friend had to leave the job.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        For a while I left every day at 4 to pick the kids up. I had people sighing that they wished they could scoot off early like me. I responded with a curt “you want a cut in salary to match the cut in your hours?” or “actually the hard work starts now for me” because haring across Paris to get to the school on time, dealing with kids stressed out from school, signing notes, helping with homework, getting dinner on the table, getting the kids to have their bath and getting them off to bed at a decent hour so they’d be fresh for school the next day was all much harder work than sitting in a cool office working on a translation.

        1. Artemesia*

          Parents who work full time have all those burdens as well and less time to do them. But I still get the point. For a period when my youngest was a toddler, I negotiated part time work at a hefty salary cut; my boss whined ‘I tried to find you yesterday but I guess you were Christmas shopping.’ I explained to him that I took a hefty pay cut to drop a quarter of my job responsibilities — he was genuinely surprised. It didn’t occur to him when I dropped out of a grant funded major project that my income showed that. And FWIW he was an excellent boss otherwise.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yes of course most parents do deal with all of that. At that place of work, my colleagues were all young women fresh out of uni. The boss had kids but his wife did everything, and they often left the kids at the nanny’s overnight if they worked late. So nobody else in that office had much idea how hard it was for me (my partner only ever got home at bedtime).

      2. KatieP*

        I had a similar experience, many years ago, when I was hired for a 30-hour-week position. The Admin Assistant would always schedule staff meetings for after I left, then get snippy when I couldn’t make it.

    2. umami*

      Yes, it seems like they were willing to offer her part-time work at 30 hours, because that is the amount. She decided she wanted Fridays off, and they agreed. Then she brought in the issue of ALSO needing to take additional time off for medical appointments. I sense that she was not as clear about how much flexibility she needed, and they granted the Fridays off assuming they could rely on her M-Th. No one is wrong, it just isn’t working for either side.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this is my read: This isn’t working for either side, even though neither of them is really out of line.

    3. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      That might be doable in the future, but when you have to see a specialist every 3 months those appointments are booked in advance up to a year. And it can be almost impossible to change them. I’ve gone through this.
      So I can understand that the boss thinks that she be making the appointments for fridays when she is off. But in reality she might not be able to change those upcoming appointments.

      1. A person*

        If the work isn’t coverage based is there a reason they couldn’t compromise and have her do whatever day the appointments are as the day off on weeks where there are appointments?

  4. Hank*

    #1 if it makes you feel any better many years ago I was the exec director of a non profit. We had a staff who claimed she was having a health scare, that she needed to be off work for a few days due to getting biopsied for rectal cancer. Years later after she had been fired I found out that she had made it all up. She just wanted time off and figured “No way they’ll turn down my request if I tell them I may have butt cancer” (her phrasing, not mine). The crazy thing is that we almost never turned down time off requests. I turned down only one in my 11 years in that position. Some people are just that way.

    1. Yvette*

      “No way they’ll turn down my request if I tell them I may have butt cancer” How do people come up with this stuff? But I swear it sounds familiar. Have you ever told it here before?

      1. GythaOgden*

        It’s also offensive to anyone has been through real cancer. Ask me how I know.

        Seriously, some people are complete wallies, using a word that honestly is much milder than I actually want to use. It’s like with migraines — they’ve been used so much as cover for people shamming that no-one takes them seriously, and yet at their worst they can be debilitating and frustrating (I have to wear a hat almost all summer just to ward them off, because I’m triggered by bright light, and good old climate change is turning Britain into a tanning bed between May and September :(((…).

        1. Yvette*

          Anyone who thinks a migraine is just a bad headache has obviously never had one. Half the battle with them is if you can determine your triggers and the other half is if you can control/prepare for them. I really feel for anyone who is triggered by stuff like barometric pressure or sudden exposure to certain scents or allergens.

          1. Lauren*

            My accommodations when I could work with a migraine were:

            – Shutting off a light above my desk that flickered.
            – Earplugs before noise cancelling headphones were available.
            – Lying down on the reception sofa or in an office if we had people coming through if I wasn’t able to leave. This was in extreme cases where I could not leave because of a call or meeting that could not be missed.
            – Ice pack under a hat (later one of those velcro ice packs)
            – Rigging ace bandages with a small massager to be head. Later to be combined with velcro ice bandage.

            The last 2 were straight up awesome for when people would walk by my desk and start laughing.

            1. GythaOgden*

              The absolute worst of both worlds is when a flicker starts in the afternoon in winter. If you keep the light on, you get a banging headache from the flicker. If you turn it off, given that the sun sets around 3pm in December here, you will be hurting in other ways from just working with the screen glow in the thick gloom. Thankfully we now go home at 4 rather than 5, so in the winter we miss having to sit around in the dark and in the summer we miss the one point in the day when the sun gets round to our north facing atrium and makes our screens unusable. Most of the time I love where I sit because it’s an atrium and three sides of the building is daylight, and I’d miss it a lot if I find another in-person job in a back office like the one I turned down yesterday for other reasons, but I don’t miss those parts of the day.

              My supervisor sits in the half darkness due to the same issues, though. I only get headaches from artificial light if there’s a flicker, which has definitely happened from time to time. Annoyingly, my co-receptionist likes brighter lights and will put the lights on if it’s even a little dull at the start of the day. I’ve yet to get through to her that at the beginning of June you don’t need even more artificial light, but I don’t want a lighting war on my hands with the person I have to interact with day in day out, so I just put up with it if it’s not flickering.

              We got LEDs throughout the building a few months ago, however, and the difference is subtle but amazing. No more flicker for one, and there’s just that tiny, tiny feel that the lamps are closer to daylight than the old fluorescent bulbs, and thus the frequency of the light waves is what we evolved to be able to cope with. I can’t fall asleep in artificial light but I can in daylight, I find it easier to do cross-stitch on summer evenings when it’s light until 9pm because I can see the colours more clearly, and it may be down to the difference between artificial and natural being something we are not yet fully equipped to handle.

              1. I have RBF*

                LED lighting is glorious for ditching the flicker, and some of them adjust the “temperature” of the light so you can get what you like.

          2. I have RBF*


            I get migraines. Stress, weather shifts and red wine are my triggers. The only trigger I can honestly avoid is red wine.

            I can usually tell when they are going to hit, but not always. I have to take medication and try to sleep in a cool dark place for about 5 hours, and my brain is slow for the next day, too.

            Fortunately, my company doesn’t nickle and dime people over sick hours. As long as I let people know I’m going to be AFK, it’s fine.

        2. ErinW*

          Yes to the migraine thing! I have terrible sinus headaches at various times throughout the year. Sometimes they’re so bad I have to stay home or even stay in bed. I NEVER call them migraines, because they are not that. But I know a lot of people who say they have migraines, when they really have some kind of semi-recurring (even very mild) headache, and that is detrimental for everyone involved.

          1. HCW*

            I have chronic migraine that went untreated for years, because I didn’t know that was what I had. Treatment has changed my life for the better. Just in case this might apply to you, per the American Migraine Foundation:
            “Self-diagnosed sinus headache is nearly always migraine (90% of the time). Migraine is commonly associated with forehead and facial pressure over the sinuses, nasal congestion and runny nose.”

      2. Ganymede*

        I bet her previous employer was completely dysfunctional, and that asking for leave there was like taking your whole life in your hands. Reminds me of that recent update about the lady who scraped her company vehicle and lied about it, because at her previous job it would have been an automatic firing. As Alison often points out, draconian, toxic management makes people behave as if they expect a whipping for every tiny infraction.

      3. Random Dice*


        “Butt cancer… that’s a direct quote from my cancer doctor, yes.”

        “Your oncologist?”

        “Yeah that one.”

      4. lilsheba*

        When I started at my current job almost 3 years ago we had a co worker who straight up lied about her son being in an accident and killed. She said for days she was in the hospital sitting by his bed side, and she ended up taking bereavement leave when he “died” and we all gave her our sympathies and whatnot. Turned out it was all a big fat lie. She was already a terrible worker and really couldn’t hold onto information for more than a minute so I’m surprised she was able to come up with this ruse but there it is, and it was kind of the last straw that got her fired. People that lie about that kind of thing are horrid human beings.

        1. Yvette*

          If she had only put half the effort into her job that she put into her lie she could have been a decent employee.

          1. Lydia*

            It’s amazing to me that they take it all the way to death. You know, just saying your kid was in a car accident and you need to stay home to take care of them is enough. They don’t have to be dead!

            I realize that some of the people who lie to such extremes are doing so for the attention as well as the time off, but it just seems like you can get what you need without going to the absolute extreme to get it.

            1. AnonORama*

              WTF? I’m wracked with guilt when I have to say I have a dentist appointment instead of a job interview for 45 minutes, or if I sneak out for lunch with a friend on a WFH day. I guess these folks are just low-conscience, at least about lying at work?

              1. Lydia*

                I don’t feel any particular way about lying to your work if you need to, for whatever value of need you deem is okay for you. It’s not generally my go-to when things come up. I just don’t get why someone would have to go that far. It just complicates things unnecessarily.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          My God.

          If I was her kid I don’t know if I’d ever speak to her again if I heard that.

    2. Phryne*

      I once had a co-worker who made up her brother being in an accident and being in a coma after. I had worked with her for a couple of years before, and she was a completely normal functional employee. At the time this came out she was in a different department so I never learned the why of it, but it was so weird and not at all expected…
      Sometimes people just snap I guess…

      1. NotBatman*

        I have a coworker whom I mentally referred to as Calamity Jane, because in 6 months of us working together she said she a) had her car stolen, b) had her laptop stolen, c) had a health scare, d) had to miss work for her dad’s health issues, e) had her car broken into and work documents stolen, f) got diagnosed with a different illness, g) had her laptop smashed by a fall, h) had to miss work for her grandma’s health issues, and i) had her hard drive accidentally wiped. I’m 99.99% sure some of it had to have been made up, but there were never any obvious holes in her stories so I settled for passing it all along to our boss without comment other than “Jane let me know she won’t make it due to an emergency” … “Yes, another one.”

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, I knew someone like this, and when I got to know her better I realised a lot of it came down to coming from a family which was both poor and kind of dysfunctional, and having got a degree and professional stability herself. Which meant that if anyone in her family got ill, had a domestic emergency, needed to get to an appointment etc, she got the call, but that there was no reciprocity when it was *her* emergency. So it looked like an implausible amount of emergencies for one person, and it kind of was, but only because she was actually trying to manage about six people’s emergencies. Really tough!

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Exactly this. We hired someone who had a string of legitimately horrible things happen in their family, including the murder of a family member that left several parentless children behind. They also made some choices that resulted in a lot of other issues in their personal life, but it was because they were the most functional person in a very large, very enmeshed, very dysfunctional family that legitimately had no safety cushion.

            1. Quill*

              In a lot of dysfunctional families there is one person who looks like a flake to outside observers, because they are the only one capable enough to deal with any crisis. And the less functional the family is, the more crises they generate.

          2. Lydia*

            100% this. When I worked in adult education, we saw this a lot. The students were the ones that had it together enough to work on their training and education, which often meant they had it together enough to deal with their family’s calamities.

        2. lilsheba*

          Yup and people who pull that crap never change. It’s all bullshit because they don’t want to go to work. I call it “the dog ate my homework” excuse. My hubby had a worker like that, and I’ve known them myself. It’s always something, yet it’s stuff that never happens to anyone else, especially at the frequency it does them, amazing!!

        3. Bunny Girl*

          I do have some sympathy for people like that so I try not to judge too harshly. My 2022 was literally the year from hell. I kept having migraines, I ended up in the E.R., I had two surgeries, I had a flair up of another chronic illness, my pet died, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and then I got a kidney infection as a bow on the whole thing. I was trying my best but my best wasn’t fantastic.

      2. Who can tell*

        Some people are just chronic liars, and lie for whatever motivates them, whether it’s sympathy, more time on an assignment, etc. I lived with one in college and I’m not going to armchair diagnose OP’s co-worker, but my roommate had some mental health issues and an eating disorder that the lying helped her mask.

        1. Phryne*

          I have worked with a person who was totally unreliable too. It later turned out she was paranoid schizophrenic, and it was more an escalation of her as yet undiagnosed disorder rather than deliberate lies.
          But the co-worker above I worked with quite closely for several years and at no point did I ever see anything strange about her behaviour. But the incident did occur during a very messy reorganisation (which is why we were no longer working together by then) so I imagine stress was a big factor in this case.

    3. Ellen*

      where my boss at my old job not only turned down every vacation request that I made, when I found coverage for a single day off that I wanted, she tried to make me work extra other days that I was always off. man, some bosses can give the rest of them a very bad name. im at a new job. I not only landed the new .job, bur also put in a full two week notice before the day off that I found coverage for. and yes, vacation time was use it or lose it.

    4. Overgrown Patio*

      My company hires another company to do some work for us during our busy period and this year I spent one day a week for seven weeks working out of that business’ location. They had a new-ish employee who had called out the week before my first week there and then proceeded to call out for an escalating series of problems the entire 7 weeks I worked there. The last I heard they were waiting for him to show up to return his company cell phone so they could officially terminate him. Every Tuesday when I came in, my contact there would be like, “Well, guess why he’s not here THIS week!”

      1. Artemesia*

        There are people like that. A friend hired a woman as an admin with heavy typing responsibilities. She immediately had a finger injury and couldn’t do the work and they went with it even though it meant the work they had just hired her for couldn’t get done. Then when that was healed, it was one thing after another. Literally months in, she had been collecting a paycheck but done virtually no work and they finally terminated her and she sued for racial discrimination. There are people who make their life’s work, not doing any.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      I used to know a guy who turned out to be a compulsive liar. Among other charming things, he somehow would “slip, fall and hurt his knee” on the first week of every job and always end up on workman’s comp. I think he honestly believed what he was making up on some level, but there was always something.

      1. Quill*

        I feel like someone needs his knees and spatial awareness checked. (Because if he’s lying it won’t do any harm but if he’s got something else going on it will probably help… and being a person who spent my entire childhood re-injuring my ankle I should have had someone look at it a good decade before it completely gave out. Turns out it wasn’t built to code.)

    6. Dust Bunny*

      We had somebody do something like this years ago at my current job. We also offer generous PTO and medical leave and are encouraged to use it. And this person wasn’t taking a ton of time off otherwise so she wasn’t out of either, it wasn’t a problem for her department that she wanted time off, and department heads here aren’t in the habit of grilling people about why they want to use vacation time.

      It was the weirdest thing–all she had to do was schedule it! She didn’t need an elaborate story!

    7. Web of Pies*

      Yeah I dated someone exactly like this, they would lie about the most obviously disprovable things, like describing the ‘major car accident’ they got into (like, the car flipped onto its side) then picking me up days later in the same car with zero damage on it.

      It feels bad because they’re using your trust and goodwill to get what they want. Maybe he was working a second job, or just getting to sit around playing video games all day. Who knows. It’s tough because you feel he ‘won’ since he successfully took advantage of your goodwill, but him resigning and taking the trash out himself was actually a win for you.

      Try and just celebrate that this idiot is gone forever instead of stewing on it.

      1. Web of Pies*

        OMG AND I ALMOST FORGOT that person also applied to a creative job with a fully fake portfolio including pieces stolen *from the portfolio of the creative director who would be interviewing them* Like, straight up presented the CD’s own work to them as if they’d made it. Wild!

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Oh to be a fly on the wall during that interview! I can just imagine the CD’s face.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          That’s like the old joke about the guy who kills his parents, then throws himself on the mercy of the court–because he’s an orphan!

    8. LW #1 (employee faked mom's death)*

      I’m LW #1 and what’s nuts is we actually work for a Cancer Nonprofit, maybe something in the water.

  5. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – As Allison said, having a random debilitating migraine that takes you out of commission for a day is a normal use of sick time.

    More fundamentally, though, accommodations aren’t something to be negotiated during a hiring process, so you shouldn’t bring it up. You either have or don’t have a documented need for accommodations, which the employer is (generally speaking) obligated to provide, so long as the accommodations are reasonable for them to provide. (There are limits to what is reasonable, of course.)

    If/when you get an offer and have accepted it, and when you’re being onboarded, then is the time to disclose to HR that you have a documented issue that allows you to have accommodations. Avoid discussing your accommodations needs in the interview unless you feel like your need would make it impossible or very difficult to do the job, or unless you feel that your needs would make it impossible for you to be evaluated fairly for the role. (eg. someone with a speech impediment might flag this as an issue in the interview process, so that they can be interviewed in writing, rather than be considered so nervous that they couldn’t speak in the interview.)

    1. LondonLady*

      Seconded! I get migraine every 2-3 months, not always in working hours. Many people with migraine get a warning aura which in my case enables me to alert colleagues and get to my place of safety if I’m not already wfh to take meds and sleep it off. No one chooses to get migraine and if you manage it responsibly a reasonable boss should completely understand as with any illness.

      1. Lovepotion*

        I get migraines and I apply for FMLA at any job I have due to it. they’re basically managed but my job recently introduced an attendance “points” system (which is treating a bunch of professionals like children who can’t be trusted) so I found having FMLA necessary. my neurologist was incredibly generous in filling out my forms with leave I may be.

        I think anyone with any medical condition should apply for FMLA when eligible since employers often act unreasonably about attendance.

    2. Random Dice*

      I really go back and forth on disclosing during the job offer stage, though that’s because my reasonable accommodations are more extensive than this.

      For migraines, no, don’t disclose until after you have the job. That’s a lot like my friend’s awful periods (pre-babies) that meant she had to have a coworker drive her home while she could barely walk. Just something that happens to human beings sometimes, and reasonable workplaces deal with it.

      1. VI Guy (Visually Impaired)*

        For LW: No need to mention anything about occasional days for migraines.

        For situations that need accommodations I agree with disclosing during the job offer stage. Absolutely not during the interview (unless it affects the interview or is very obvious, for example a guide dog). I prefer to mention it during the job offer because my requirements are very specific and I feel better requesting them before starting the job so they don’t feel like it’s an imposition later to have me.

      2. Quill*

        I generally don’t say anything until the job is completely in hand. Because it should not be difficult for employers to accept “I will not be conforming to your dress code regarding shoes because the foot support I need is very specific” and in many cases they actually don’t care so I don’t have to let them know anything unless they need me to carry things or walk a long distance. But a non-zero amount of time they get hung up on how things “look” that I’m wearing an athletic shoe, and I’m always afraid that if I bring things like that, or less obvious things up, they’ll decide I’m a difficult personality, long before I can get on their insurance and actually go to a doctor to get documentation of “yep, Quill’s feet grew weird, let her wear whatever shoes she’s wearing,” or “please do not keep Quill in a windowless room, she will wilt like a plant.”

    3. KatieP*

      The few times interviewees have mentioned accommodations they might need, during an interview, I’ve always wished they hadn’t done that. As an interviewer, it’s now in the back of my mind, “Did it influence my decision in any way?” So, an interviewer might actually appreciate the candidate waiting until after they get the offer to disclose.

      The only time I would recommend disclosing an accommodation need during the interview phase is if you need an accommodation to participate in the interview.

      Also, migraines are understood better by the general public, now, than they were 30 years ago. There’s a good chance that if the boss doesn’t suffer from the occasional migraine, themselves, they’re close to someone who does.

      1. Mom2ASD*

        My son has ASD and I’ve suggested to him that he consider disclosing this in interviews, as he’s an awkward penguin and his ASD needs to be taken into account in hiring decisions. With diversity now more of a focus for companies, having an employer know he has a documented disability may help level the playing field for him. And if a company isn’t willing to accommodate his needs, then he won’t be successful or happy there, anyway.

        1. Former Red and Khaki*

          As a person who’s on the spectrum, this advice makes me deeply uncomfortable. There is still a lot of stigma and misinformation surrounding ASD, and while everyone’s experience with it is wildly diverse (it is called a SPECTRUM, after all), neurotypical minds immediately conjure up the worst case scenario. For instance, there are many countries (UK, AUS, NZ among them) that will deny a work visa to an individual with ASD, regardless of their support needs, because they fear they may be a drain on their healthcare system. For this and similar reasons, those of us who made it into adulthood without an official diagnosis are often advised to NOT obtain one, because it does way more harm than it does any good. I obviously don’t know your son’s exact circumstances, and this advice may very well be good for him, but as general advice I’d be extremely wary.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          FWIW, I also have ASD and I will no longer disclose it to employers. I understand the logic behind your thinking but it hasn’t been my experience.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            (The above was in response to Mom2ASD; Former Red and Khaki, completely agree with you.)

          2. snailsharkk*

            Also ASD here and agreed.

            I wish I could disclose during the interview stage so my interviewers had an understanding of why I’m so “awkward” (and why I take so long to process verbal stuff) but the reality is I’ve faced real discrimination after disclosing (even from DEI “focused” employers).

            IMO (based on my own experiences) an ASD adult is better served by masking as best they can during interviews and only disclosing post-hire if accommodations are needed.

      2. InterviewingWhileDisabled*

        I’m legally blind and I’ve never disclosed at an interview, but I used to put something in the last section of my resume that might lead a savvy person to guess. It was my way of diffusing later annoyed “you should have told us” comments. I had people catch on and say something three times, each time asking an illegal question that made me really uncomfortable. I didn’t get any of those jobs.

        I mostly come across as clumsy and a bit socially clueless (I’ve had people tell me later they wondered if I was autistic). When I was much younger I would have invaded personal space; I didn’t even know there was such a concept until I was in college and I naturally stood really close to people so I could kind of see them.

        The only times I’ve had problems at (onsite) interviews were when someone unexpectedly handed me a photocopied paper application to fill out and every once in a while with bad handwriting on whiteboards. Ironically, I have more problems with video (screen sharing makes text smaller). The other issue I’ve run into is around arrival/departure times when an office building unexpectedly has no public space to wait in or no way to use the restroom without going to the actual company office. I usually have to arrive really early to ensure I’m on time (long convoluted public transit or unpredictable ride shares/cabs). I once arrived an hour early for an interview after traveling for 2 hours in a bad thunderstorm only to find there was no lobby at all, the outside door to the office was locked, and the receptionist was at lunch. I stood in the doorway to get some cover and 20 minutes later someone showed up. They were super annoyed I was there but at that point all I cared about was using their restroom. I did, then they had to figure out what to do with me because they had no waiting area at all. I guess they didn’t expect anyone to use public transportation (it was a bit of a hike from the nearest bus stop but not horribly so). But it’s these types of things that trip me up at interviews and 99% of the time they’re not an issue. And what type of accommodation could I ask for? In the rare case that your building doesn’t have a lobby, be aware I’ll likely arrive very early because I can’t drive? I don’t even tell most of my employers I don’t drive unless it comes up in the context of job duties (it’s none of their business how I get to/from work).

        Anyway, the point is, I agree with don’t disclose, but be ready for it to cause issues some of the time.

    4. umami*

      Agreed. Basically the only time I take sick leave is when I have a migraine, but I have never mentioned the reason to my boss because it’s not a monthly occurrence. I have realized it almost always happens on a Thursday though … But it still isn’t something that seems to rise to the level of needing to request an accommodation. I would definitely make sure I understand the rules (both formal and informal) for requesting all types of leave, though.

  6. Det. Rosa Diaz*

    LW3 – I don’t know that I agree with Alison here. OP isn’t clear if her number of hours changed when she cut back on days, but it sounds like they may have — in which case as the employer, I’d be annoyed too! I know appointments can’t always be stacked on a single day, especially a Friday, but as the only part time employee, doesn’t seem that there’s a larger pool of shift workers to slot in when OP is out. I also don’t know that OP “not needing” this job warrants her frustration. She’s not doing the business a favor nor are they doing her one – they’re paying her and she’s providing work. That remains the case whether she needs a job or not. I tried to reread this from the POV of it was the employer writing in, and I imagine that the advice would be similar — that they’d be right to be frustrated given the multiple changes being asked for from the terms of the original agreement. Seems like both parties need to assess if this is the right fit!

    Re: LW4 – I always find it a little funny when people write in saying they’re sure something is ridiculous and illegal, without having done a small bit of legwork to see if it is either. Of course, Alison is almost always better than Google, but the righteous indignation on things easily answered always gives me a little chuckle.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      that they’d be right to be frustrated given the multiple changes being asked for from the terms of the original agreement

      But the OP spoke to them about her situation in the interview and “was assured it wouldn’t be an issue.” Her being able to go to these appointments is the original agreement.

      1. Snow Globe*

        But she originally agreed to 5 days per week, then asked to change to 4 days per week. When she changed that part of the agreement, it shouldn’t be surprising that they are changing their part of the agreement.

        1. ecnaseener*

          But they needed to actually say so before agreeing to the new hours. If she had asked for Fridays off and they had said “that’s going to be tough for us to accommodate, and we would need you to reliably show up for all your M-Th hours and move your medical appointments,” that would be fine – LW would’ve either kept to the old arrangement or resigned because she couldn’t meet their scheduling needs. Instead, they seem to have said yes to Fridays off and expected her to read their minds on what trade-offs they needed.

    2. Green great dragon*

      I think it does change things that LW agreed to a 5 day week then quickly asked to go down to 4 days.

      Stern warnings about probationary periods isn’t a great way to go about it, but if they wouldn’t have given LW the job on a 4 days a week I can see why they’re not happy.

      1. MK*

        But the 5-day week wasn’t agreed before hiring, they set it afterwards. If you need a part-time employee to be there specific times/hours, you should tell them beforehand, especially if they tell you their availability is restricted due to childcare obligations.

        1. Snow Globe*

          The LW states that they started out at 5 days per week, and asked to go to 4 days per week after a couple of months.

          1. Random Dice*

            No they set the 5 week schedule after the negotiation, LW says she was surprised by it.

            1. MW*

              She was originally asked to work 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. The LW wasn’t surprised by it, she just stated that it was more hours than she was originally looking for. She accepted the job knowing it would be 30 hours a week. She didn’t accept the job and then get told how many hours and days she would be working.

        2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          yeah it sounds like they kind of bullied OP into working 30hrs a week once they had hired her. 30hrs is quite a lot for part-time work, most part-time jobs are abou 20hrs here.

          1. Snow Globe*

            It sounds to me like they were advertising a full time position, she negotiated 30 hours (“they weren’t happy about it”), then she requested 4 days per week (likely 24 hours) after working there a couple of months.

            1. LCH*

              I can’t find what you are quoting in the OP’s text.

              “I told them during the interview that I only wanted part-time hours and they said that was fine.”


              1. Hlao-roo*

                Snow Globe is paraphrasing the end of the LW’s second paragraph. The verbatim quote is:

                After a couple months, I asked to go down to Monday-Thursday, which they accepted but did not seem thrilled about.

                1. LCH*

                  ah, i was confused since asking for 30 hrs happened before they went down to four days a week.

          2. bamcheeks*

            Not sure whether you’re in the UK, but 30 hours / 0.8 is a really common working pattern here. It’s often quite straight-forward for an employer who has started off with a full time role to convert it to a 0.8 role, especially if it’s a clerical / office-based because there really isn’t that much difference in workload. As well as being on a 0.8 myself, I’ve worked with lots of people on 0.8 FTE in the public sector and NHS.

          3. WellRed*

            It does not give any indication that she was bullied. Honestly that word gets so over used here.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Yeah, I agree there’s no indication of bullying here. LW says it was a little more than they wanted to work, but they seem to have agreed to reasonably happily and they’re coming from a position of power, since they didn’t *need* a job. I think it’s really important to reserve the word bullying for situations where there’s a significant power imbalance, not one where someone persuades you into something you later change your mind about!

            2. Courageous cat*

              Agreed, there’s no reason to assume that’s happening just because there’s a disagreement

            3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Yes, I was maybe projecting my own experience a little, I was definitely bullied. It probably looked like a normal conversation to most people but the boss has the upper hand and knows it and exploits it to the full. It might not be fully-fledged Mean Girls bullying but I found myself agreeing to more hours than I really wanted and having to pay a babysitter for those extra hours, and not actually earning anything because my pay wasn’t that much more than what I was paying the babysitter, especially when factoring in the commute time.

          4. MW*

            The letter seems pretty clear that they offered her a job working 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.

            She only said she was surprised about learning she was the only part-time employee

        1. Snow Globe*

          They probably should have, but may have agreed thinking that if she worked fewer hours she’d be able to take care of stuff with her kids on the extra day off. It’s pretty clear now that this isn’t working out, but I don’t think the LW was as clear upfront as she thinks she was.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, that’s where I land. If she said something like “my kids have medical appointments that I’d need to be off for”, they might have been thinking things like orthodontists, allergy shots, or physio, which are more easily scheduled for her day off than specialist appointments.

            Fundamentally, I think this job isn’t a good fit for the flexibility she needs. Maybe it can be – but I think she already got a big concession (4 days instead of 5), and they’re probably not terribly receptive to more.

          2. Joielle*

            Yeah, I think this is right. Lack of communication on both sides and now everyone is unhappy with the outcome.

    3. bamcheeks*

      It’s completely legit if LW’s schedule and availability doesn’t work for the business, but I don’t get being annoyed or frustrated by this — or, if you are, why you’d think it was appropriate to show that the employee. LW isn’t doing anything wrong, or committing some dereliction of duty: they’re being absolutely as upfront and straightforward as they can about their needs and what they can do for the organisation. The organisation should meet that with the same candour and sense of cooperation, not be scolding and issuing threats.

      Things like this are so much easier for everyone if you depersonalise it and assume everyone is working in good faith towards a common goal. “Hello, thanks for meeting, LW. We wanted to talk about your schedule and availability. Unfortunately, despite the fact that we said we’d be able to accommodate your family’s needs, we’re struggling: going down to four days and then losing further hours of your time is having some impacts on our business. {be specific about what these are– X reports aren’t getting written, Y isn’t being released from front desk coverage to do the work she needs to do, Angie in Accounts is spending a disproportionate amount of time adjusting LW’s wages and it’s creating a burden, etc.) We do appreciate your work, though, so we wanted to find out whether there’s a better way we can all manage this or whether it isn’t really working out.”

      LW might disagree with the impacts the business specifies– that’s definitely a thing that happens! But the more candid and cooperative you can be in this kind of meeting, the more likely it is that you’ll find new solutions that do work for everyone and create an enduring employee relationship. (Primary care-givers of young kids who DO find employers willing to work with their availability tend to stick around, and that’s a net saving for the business too.) And if you can’t find a solution, hopefully you can end the relationship with everyone feeling there’s been a decent attempt to find one.

      TL;DR You don’t have to go into this annoyed/frustrated/scolding parental role. You can treat your employee like an adult.

    4. Chria*

      OP may not be doing them a favour, but neither are they doing her one. Threatening reminders that she’s still in her probationary period are not an appropriate response to the situation. She also mentions a frustration with lack of clarity around communication, so I’m wondering if the person hiring her promised one thing and the warnings are now coming from a different person.

      1. M*

        It’s interesting how little benefit of the doubt LW3 is getting here re: her communication about the flexibility she needed. I have a feeling it’s more the employer who isn’t communicating well here, just based on how they’re passive aggressive about her hours instead of directly stating their issues when they come up.

        1. AD*

          I agree, and I also say it’s on the employer that they seem to have clearly wanted a full-time employee and didn’t hire for that — five days a week and six hours per day of work is no part-time role I’ve ever heard of (at least in the US).

          As others have commented elsewhere, this job doesn’t sound like a great fit for either party at the moment.

    5. Peanut Hamper*

      I think you are being unnecessarily harsh toward LW#4. The Google is full of garbage these days; AI only seems to make it worse. And knowing what to actually search for in a case like this is not obviously to everybody. It makes sense to go right to an expert.

      You say this is easily answered, but I highly doubt that.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          And you usually find the official websites through the google, which means you have to sift through a whole of garbage and sponsored links to find what you are looking for.

          Alas, there is no website called doesmyhusbandhavetodeclaremypoliticalcontributions.gov

    6. umami*

      I think the hours went down because OP says she ‘moved down to M-Th’. I also agree that I find it a little surprising when people use such strong language as ‘ridiculous’ or ‘shocking’ and/or ‘illegal’ over something that sounds … normal or at least reasonable?

  7. CL*

    #3 – Being a caregiver and being an employee at the same time is hard and requires a lot of flexibility and patience. I agree with Alison that thinking you can schedule all specialty medical appointments on Fridays is absurd. I’m happy when I can schedule them in the month I want (4 months in advance). It’s not clear to me if your employer needs you in the office at certain times (for meetings, deliveries, etc) or that they just need you more hours each week. Can you see about working Fridays to make up the hours if you have an appointment a different day that week?

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, doing a Friday every few weeks/months could be an easy solution if they’re flexible! From the description they don’t necessarily sound super flexible though – but might still be worth a try if it sounds ok to you!

    2. Le Vauteur*

      I agree with that suggestion about swapping out your non-working Friday with a different day on weeks you have an appointment scheduled. Of course this depends what sort of job it is in terms of coverage needed.

      I do get why your employer isn’t happy – you signed on for 5 days with flexibility for appointments, and now you’re down to 4 days and still wanting the same flexibility. Another possibility is see if you can return to 5 days with shorter hours and the original level of flexibility.

      I can see both sides of the situation, but it really depends on what the job requirements are as to what may work best for both sides.

    3. JSPA*

      It does make sense to me that “flexible = shifting hours worked,” not “flexible=working far fewer hours than scheduled, on a regular basis”

      Hmmmm…I wonder if there’s a chance that LW meant “flexible number of hours,” but said only, “flexible hours”…which is more likely heard as, “a flexible schedule, but a set number of hours.”

      (“hours” is one of those words that’s more complex than ideal: “what are your hours” is a schedule question, not a total hours question.)

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, this. Also it’s a matter of pay — when I did flexitime, my part time hours actually really helped my case because I could do longer days Mon-Thurs and have Fridays off. If coverage was needed — which in my job is non-negotiable — then I worked Fridays at the additional hours tariff (basically additional base pay — overtime is anything over 37.5 hours).

    4. Washi*

      This is what I was thinking, making up the hours on a Friday seems way more doable than trying to fit every appointment into one day.

      I feel for OP. My son is 1 and it’s turned out that he has some hopefully mild but very time intensive issues. Between the daycare illnesses and therapies, we are at the doctors often multiple times per week. I don’t know how people with less flexible jobs or single parents do this, let alone with multiple children.

  8. Zarniwoop*

    It may not be only your office from which he’s taken things he shouldn’t; maybe tip off your coworkers to check his desk for things they need for their ongoing projects.

        1. Chauncy Gardener*

          I really hope they got that caboose back.
          That whole thing really stuck in my craw

      1. That wasn't me. . .*

        also LR3 should push back wit Dr’s. office. They may be used to giving her any old appointment since they know “she doesn’t work” but that’s changed! She needs to try saying “That time doesn’t work for me. I need Friday, or late afternoon! ( if doc doesn’t work Fridays or does only half days and has limited availability, maybe she should see a out changing her regular day off to Wednesday or Thursday or something.) If she lives in an affluent area, the doc’s office may be used to dealing only with the stay-at-home-parent and the executive/exempt parent. The plight of therestaurant/retail/warehouse/support-staff parent may not be something they ever need to consider. Saying “this doesn’t work for me” may be a wake-up call they need to get!

    1. OP2*

      This is definitely a concern, especially as we pack up items to leave our office for a new one, but I also don’t want to think too badly of him, maybe he’s just an odd duck!

      1. Arthenonyma*

        If he’s just an odd duck then I’m sure he would much rather somebody said “hey, I think you’re misunderstanding what’s up for grabs and what isn’t” than everybody keeping quiet to give him the benefit of the doubt and meanwhile low-key seeing him as a thief.

      2. Catalin*

        Being an odd duck is one thing, but this is some advanced-level behavior. He’s not picking stuff off the floor or collecting stuff that was left next to a dumpster, he’s apparently 1) going out of his way to 2) dig through actual boxes 3) repeatedly for 4) collecting bobbles.

        Most of operating in society means controlling your behaviors, rather than your thoughts or preferences. Either he’s not trying at all or he can’t control without external impositions (i.e. witnesses) or he’s so deeply into his world that society is a foreign concept. He may need help.

        Source: Being an odd duck

        1. JustaTech*

          When I was in college it was very, very common for there to be a ton of free stuff lying around at the end of the year when people were moving out of the dorms and they didn’t have room to take everything home/stuff it in storage.

          But all the free stuff was clearly labeled (with a sign that said “free” or in a box that said “free”).
          One summer I stayed on campus to work and was woken up at 2am by security because the police were there because some non-student had come onto campus and were helping themselves to everything that wasn’t nailed down (ie, not the “free” stuff).

          “But everything on campus is free in the summer!” whined one thief.
          I might have been furious at being woken up in the middle of the night for other people’s stuff, but the joke was on the thieves, as they all had outstanding warrants. (The cops mostly needed me to say that, no, this stuff wasn’t abandoned, and to guess at the value to see if they could charge those knuckleheads with grand theft.)

          1. Snell*

            Palm, meet face. Someone who sincerely believed that “But everything on campus is free in the summer!” garbage would have done it in broad daylight.

        2. Observer*

          Most of operating in society means controlling your behaviors, rather than your thoughts or preferences


          I don’t care if he’s an odd duck. I *do* care if he’s grabbing stuff that isn’t his to take, and if he’s snooping where he doesn’t belong.

    2. Observer*

      It may not be only your office from which he’s taken things he shouldn’t; maybe tip off your coworkers to check his desk for things they need for their ongoing projects.

      Yeah, I was thinking that, too

  9. Ann Furthermore*

    LW4: Are you familiar with SCOTUS justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginny’s political activities an her involvement with some of the people who orchestrated the January 6th insurrection? Yes, a spouse’s involvement in political activities can be very relevant.

    1. Clara*

      And not even with that, it’s a joint account – every pound she spends is as much hers as his!

    2. nonprofit llama groomer*

      This one! I wanted to read all the comments before I said this exact thing.

  10. Indisch blau*

    If I were LW1 and happened to meet someone from the employee’s new firm who said, “Poor guy! He’s had such a string of bad luck lately, tragedies even. And now his mom just died!” I’d be really tempted to say, “Oh, again? That *is* a tragedy.”

      1. LW 4*

        Reminds me of when Manny Ramirez played for the Red Sox. He kept disappearing because “his grandmother died.” At one point the joke in Boston became, “How many grandmothers does he have?”

        1. Delta Delta*

          Ah yes, “Manny being Manny.” See also: leaving the field to take a phone call in the monster during a game, keeping a water bottle in his back pocket, high-fiving a fan as he caught a fly ball, and other things I don’t immediately remember.

          Unlike this guy, though, Manny being Manny also included being incredibly competent at his actual job.

          1. My Name is Mudd*

            I thought he stepped off the field at one time to take a pee in a bucket inside the Monster.

            Ahh, Manny days.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I used to know a guy whose girlfriend went into labor multiple times and somehow still hadn’t managed to have the baby yet. That one got fired after awhile. I note he was also coming onto girls by luring them outside of the building. Talented guy at what he did, but too bad he was a skeeze.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          To be fair, false alarms do happen for births, including going to the hospital and being monitored for a while before being sent home. The second part is more concerning.

    1. desdemona*

      I’m sure LW has verified this and it’s not the case with the ex-employee, but I know many people with 2 moms (or a mom + step-mom!), so it is very possible for someone to have their ‘mom’ die more than once.

      1. Lydia*

        “To lose one parent […] may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        And in Ankh-Morpork, you can have any number of grannys’ funerals.

        1. Quill*

          Depending on how many divorces and remarriages are in your family you can have an infinite number of grandmothers!

          Every time a parental couple remarries you can potentially double your number of living grandmothers.

          If F+M = 2 Grandmas, then F+SM + M+SF = 4 Grandmas, and if F = GM+GSP + GSM+GP… it’s an equation that potentially never ends, and that’s only taking strict heterosexuality into account. (And being raised by at least one blood related parent in all cases…)

          1. desdemona*

            I said this elsewhere, but I indeed have a friend who technically has 8 grandmas. (Multiple remarriages & lesbian grandmas too!)

  11. muffled*

    OP1, I’m sorry you dealt with this, and please don’t let this erode your innate kindness, compassion, and preference to give people the benefit of the doubt. Not only because these are such critically important qualities in a manager, but also because this person is very much an outlier.

    1. 55 burgers 55 fries 55 tacos 55 pies*

      I had a co-worker who was hit with a string of horrible events: she lost her brother suddenly, her dad and mom not so suddenly, and had a series of health troubles culminating in cancer, all over the course of maybe 3 years. The whole thing took a toll on her mental health and I can’t imagine how much worse it would’ve been if people at work were skeptical of her on top of that.

    2. infopubs*

      I came here to say the same thing. The frustrating part of this story is not that a few people can be such manipulating liars, but that they can make others cynical. OP, your kindness toward this guy was the right thing to do at the time. I hope you’ll continue to have a warm and open heart.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yeah. My boss started questioning the overtime I had logged and I freaked out at him, saying I would only work my hours and not a second more if he couldn’t take my word for it. I had plenty of proof of e-mails sent to show that I had indeed been working, but his wife (the former boss) had simply said to make a note of overtime worked and he had absolutely zero reasons to doubt my integrity.
        (He would have cheated the system of course, he was totally projecting.)

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Not long ago I ran across the observation that one person in the group trying to do harm has a much bigger impact than one person in the group trying to go above and beyond in a positive way. (Picture each of them armed with a hammer.) It’s resonated in a lot of situations.

    4. Seahorse*

      Agreed. I’ve had a couple stretches where life seemed to be nothing but disasters and emergencies for a few months. I doubt I was a good worker at the time.
      It made me a lot more sympathetic to other people’s issues, even if I’m a bit suspicious. I’d rather give grace to someone who doesn’t actually need it than be harsh to someone who is already overwhelmed and grieving.

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      I teach at university and this is where I have ultimately come down when the 6th grandmother of the semester has died during exams.

      It is inconvenient to me and unfair to the rest of the class that someone is trying to game my sympathies and have extra time for the exam. HOWEVER, it would be way worse to make things harder for a person who has just lost a loved one or is going through some other hardship.

      If I get taken advantage of, it’s not great, but I’d much rather have that be the price to pay (knowing that a lying student has to live with the fact that they need to lie, cheat, and steal just to pass my relatively easy class), than to be actively burdening someone who needs help at a very low time in their life.

      1. desdemona*

        This seems like the best route!
        When someone’s grandmother dies for the 6th time, they may be lying – or they may have a weird family situation. I have a friend who, through various parental & grandparental divorces and re-marriages, technically had 8 grandmothers; other friends with great-aunts they also called ‘grandma’, and so on.
        Better to act with compassion and maybe ‘be had’ than to come down hard on the one student who really DOES have 6 grandmothers & is having a string of bad luck.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          (I meant 6th grandmother in total from all students. Not all from the same student. If it were the 6th from the same student, we’d be having a meeting.)

          1. Quill*

            Who’s the ancient greek hero with seven mothers? Because I think that would be your student’s dad if they had 6 grandmothers die in the same finals season.

      2. umami*

        Agree! Spouse was a professor, and he spent what I deemed an inordinate amount of time looking at videos of his students taking exams to see if they were cheating. My stance was, they are cheating on themselves, not on you, why does it bother you to the extent of wanting to ‘catch’ them? YMMV, I guess!

        1. Peacock*

          I detest cheaters, it’s so unfair to those who get their grades legitimately. I don’t understand your perspective, but your spouse is right-on. We end up with so many mediocre and worse managers (exhibit 1: this site) because of cheaters and liars. They aren’t just hurting themselves, they hurt others.

          Life indeed happens, and with the complexities of life now it’s possible for any number of things to happen in close proximity to one another. We should always be as compassionate as possible. As with so many other things on this site, the bottom line is, is the job getting done in an acceptable manner? Is fair weight being carried? Focus on performance.

          1. umami*

            Well he was teaching hundreds of students every semester, so you have to assume a certain number of them are going to be dishonest, I didn’t really understand the investment of time in trying to catch them all. You can’t change someone’s character, so my point was they are ultimately the ones harmed by not knowing the material. It’s quite different in the workplace where others are impacted by your actions.

      3. Aelfwynn*

        When I was in school, there was a guy I went to school with who was FAMOUS for suddenly having something come up around exam time (illness, etc.) so that he could get an extension on his exams. This was a highly-competitive environment (law school) where your grades SUPER matter. He was in a class with me where he pulled that shit, got extra time to study for his exam, got a very slightly higher score than me on the exam and got the highest grade in the class (and the accompanying award). Honestly? I felt like I got cheated there because I didn’t try to game the system the way he did.

        There are people who aren’t lying and need compassion. 100%. And I agree that we should err on the side of compassion. But I think unfortunately the liars do sometimes get advantages over folks who play by the rules (and make people skeptical of people who are honestly having a rough time), and that also sucks. In a fair world, karma would come back to get them, but in reality, those people often get rewarded for being dishonest.

        1. Observer*

          But I think unfortunately the liars do sometimes get advantages over folks who play by the rules (and make people skeptical of people who are honestly having a rough time), and that also sucks. In a fair world, karma would come back to get them, but in reality, those people often get rewarded for being dishonest.

          In most cases, though, these shenanigans do come back to bite people. Not always in ways that outsiders can see, and often not in a time frame that you might see.

          Like this guy got the award. But what happens when he blows deadlines at work? These emergencies might not work quite so well then. You wouldn’t know anything about it because you’re not keeping track of him, and even if you were you might not know what foes on behind the closed doors of his employment.

      4. Artemesia*

        I had a student who was consistently dishonest and so when his grandfather died during finals, I sent a brief note of condolence to his parents. yeah. he lied.

    6. Ama*

      Yes, this. I was flat out told recently by a C-level exec at my employer that a particularly unpopular new policy at my workplace was the way it was “because we have to make sure people don’t take advantage.” So instead they’ve left this policy in place to demoralize all of the people that *aren’t* taking advantage and it has eroded a LOT of trust in senior management (I used to think much more highly of that exec and now I’m not sure what she could do to regain my trust aside from openly admitting she was wrong to think that way).

      OP1, it will be tempting to try to find a way to prevent this from happening again, but sometimes people are going to game whatever system is put in front of them — please don’t let this experience change the way you treat other employees who really are going through tough life issues.

  12. Sue Wilson*

    #4: People are going to reasonably assume that you and your spouse are people don’t work against each other’s interests unless you do so on a professional level. So if any interests can be something that lead to dysfunction (corruption) in somebody’s job, they’re going to want to know both of yours. The historical implication of marriage (and frankly many of the legal implications) is that you two are a common unit and so regulations assume the same.

    1. JSPA*

      History’s important and interesting, but this situation is even more basic: with few exceptions (e.g. one US and one foreign national spouse) shifting money between spouses is invisible to the government (has no reporting requirement nor tax implications).

      There’s no need for a presumption of aligned political goals, or even a presumption of goodwill; the reporting barrier HAS to be set where the ability to track money otherwise ends.

      1. Artemesia*

        all sorts of kids make huge political contributions in the US as parents shift money around the family to funnel to politicians. (less of an issue post Citizens United, but still an issue). It is common for a husband to make donations in the wife’s name to distance himself a bit. Money in a family is easily shifted around.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Does the US do gift taxes? I get the impression that it doesn’t between spouses (some countries do, albeit with very high thresholds), but what about other family? That will limit the shifting around somewhat.

          1. Anonomite*

            The US tax code and many states have very high thresholds for inheritance as well as gifts for non-spousal family members. My MIL gifted my husband and I a significant amount of money to use as a down payment for a new house and we didn’t have to pay taxes on it because even though it was large, it was well under the threshold in my state and for the federal government’s threshold.

  13. Sue Wilson*

    #1: Like Alison says be careful not to over-correct. All rules assume that there’s a basic agreement on appropriate human behavior, but there will always be people who don’t hold with that for good or ill. That doesn’t mean your rule wasn’t the best for all the regular people involved.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yeah there will always be people who abuse the system, which doesn’t mean you should deprive those with integrity of whatever the thieves have helped themselves to.

  14. TG*

    LW#3 – I’d give it that last try and explain you were very transparent in the interview process. If the continue to push it, I’d quit if you don’t need the job.
    I had a FT job where the exact things happened and I had a young child. I quit after being micromanaged for a year and it was awesome.
    There are other jobs that will welcome your contributions and provide the flexibility you need. Good luck!

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, but things have changed since then. She went into the actual job agreeing to a five-day week but recently changed to a four day week. It’s not terribly presumptuous for people to raise an eyebrow, particularly if she’s not offering coverage at other times to make up for the flexibility she’s being shown. That other people need to be reminded that medical appointments do need a bit of grace is not her fault, but it’s also her responsibility to work with her colleagues rather than against them rather than be stubborn and find she now has a five day week to do what she pleases.

      Businesses have needs and their approach stems from the fact that the other personnel also have personal lives and families, such that OP’s needs don’t come before their needs and responsibilities in their minds. She needs to be mindful of where she could take on extra work if someone else needs to be out and if she has a day off in the middle of the week she might need to work a Friday.

      Humans aren’t robots — but that extends beyond the immediate letter writers we’re assisting to those who are impacted by this change. The least she could do in return for their understanding is either suggest she does a Friday when necessary or finds somewhere else that can better accommodate her day by day needs.

      1. Awkwardness*

        I was imagining that my new colleague was 3 months in, maybe not even done yet with all her training, and was already requesting a permanent schedule change. Even though it would be completely in her right to do this, it would leave me a bit irritated.
        And I am wondering with how much sensitivity LW3 did approach this. Was it with a mindset to compromise and find a solution that would work for the employer too or was it with the attitude that it is her right to do so as she does not need this job and her children come first? This could explain the employer’s change in attitude she was describing.

  15. Roland*

    > I’m not sure if he misunderstands the rule about reporting spousal donations

    I’m struggling to understand what a “rule about reporting spousal donations” could possibly mean other than the husband’s current understanding of “husband needs to report OP’s donations”?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      This is very unlikely to be the case here, but it is possible that the “rule about reporting spousal donations” says something along the lines of “employee must report spousal donations to political causes that are over $1,000” or some other amount of money. It could also say something along the lines of “employees in X Department must report spousal donations to political causes” or “employees at the VP level and above must report spousal donations to political causes.” I can see the OP assuming there is some clause about amount of money or position in the company that would exempt their donations from being reported.

      1. LW 4*

        LW 4 here. My husband is someone who bends over backwards to follow rules and not cause a problem. He’ll jump thru 4 hoops to help someone else avoid one hoop. That’s why I was thinking he was possibly extending this reporting rule further than it really needs to go, “just to be on the safe side.” But apparently not!

        1. Van Wilder*

          A) My husband is like that too. Total obliger, if you’re familiar with the Four Tendencies. You have my empathy.

          B) I work for an audit firm (but not on the audit team) and we can’t get insurance, open a bank account, buy stock, or more, without clearing it with my company. I’ve had to force my husband to sell stock before when he forgot to clear it first.

        2. Littorally*

          I definitely hear you about wondering if he was veering too far to the side of safety. And working in a compliance-y finance role, I’ve found myself more and more leaning toward an over-correction mindset even in areas where I didn’t start there. I’ve gotten so many on-the-job examples of people deciding to ask forgiveness rather than permission and finding out that forgiveness couldn’t be granted.

          That being said, in this case, he’s right on target. Finance is the industry of zero trust, because too much money all together in one place has a way of deeply eroding peoples’ ethics and common sense.

      2. Alex*

        FWIW, my employer, which is an investment manager, requires all political donations, including donations to PAC’s and political parties, to be pre-cleared by the chief compliance officer by me or any member of my household. The policy even defines contributions made by a family member as having been made on my behalf. LW 4’s husband’s policy is actually on the less restrictive side for investment managers.

  16. GythaOgden*

    In the situation of number 1 the guy will probably either have learned from last time or get fired eventually. It will catch up with him without your input but it would reflect badly on you in the mean time.

    As regards covering your bases in the future, restrictions here on sick leave are fairly common because we’re so generous with actual open-ended sick leave and statutory sick pay (although it’s a bit derisory). We do run on an instance system (not days but consecutive time off, like I could be out for almost two weeks earlier in the year and that only counted as one instance; I needed a doctor’s note after 7 days but that was a cinch now we can do it electronically) and it is like 5 issues in a year or 3 in six months, and there’s a clear procedure for reporting and checking in with management while on long term sick leave — partly for monitoring and partly to make sure the company can make adjustments for an employee to come back or ultimately to ensure that their needs are covered in the event of someone being unable to return at all.

    In the US culture, I’d say just give people ample sick leave or PTO and look for excessive usage. It’s like the old clause in internet or phone provision that excessive use might be throttled even if things are theoretically unlimited. Microsoft did have to row back its promise of unlimited cloud storage to a 1TB cap because of a few dorks who basically downloaded the whole internet onto their servers. But in those cases it’s bits and bytes which don’t have feelings or family. You need to work with your employees rather than against them and while it might make you more inclined to probe — and for us in the UK that’s normal and expected when the leave policies are amazingly generous in return but in your case might not make as much sense.

    Best of luck. This is a hard thing to navigate and you sound like you want to do the right thing.

  17. Chria*

    OP3 – you’re in an enviable position in that you were up-front about your desired hours at the beginning and you’re in a financial position to walk away. I think Alison’s advice is perfect. You want to reset expectations and get everyone on the same page. It sounds like the company was maybe not prepared to handle a part-time employee the way they thought they were.

    If you do need to end up leaving this position, working in a school (either your children’s or another school) might be a good option. I know schools in my area are always looking for bus drivers, recess/lunch supervisors, EAs, etc.

    1. just a random teacher*

      Working in schools can be a good option for the shape of your work year and vacation days matching those your kid gets, but it can be a more difficult fit in terms of hours worked or ease of taking days off for appointments. For example, a bus driver’s day starts before that driver’s own kid would normally get picked up by the bus, and ends after they would normally be dropped off by the bus again. (There are some jobs where this is less of an issue, particularly cafeteria jobs where what they really want is for most positions to work for a few hours around lunchtime each day, but some of the aide jobs may also include before or after school times depending on how that district staffs various things. I think a part-time aide position is more possible to fit within a school day than a bus driver, though.)

      It’s also very difficult to get a substitute for any of the jobs where they can’t even fill the regular positions (since anyone interested in subbing will be encouraged to apply for a regular job if their schedule at all permits it), so there can be a lot of pressure to not take days off. This could make the appointments piece an issue.

      It could still work out, though! I just wanted to flag some common issues that might come up working in a school.

  18. Turingtested*

    LW 3, I’ve seen a lot of managers claim flexibility won’t be an issue and then get really annoyed a few months in when the employee (obviously) continues to need flexibility. It really sucks and is terribly unfair.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      “Flexibility” often means “we expect you, the employee, to be flexible” and not “we, your employer, are okay when you need time off”. It’s good to be as transparent as possible about this in your interview and ask a lot of questions, which LW apparently was and did. Their job is being ridiculous and it would serve them right if LW quit.

      1. Gyne*

        I think of “flexibility” as “sometimes I come in late, but then I stay late” or leaving early & making up the work other times. A lot of admin type positions aren’t inherently flexible due to the nature of the work. Like, it doesn’t do me any good if my front desk person comes in 2 hours late and wants to work late – the office closes at the same time regardless, so there isn’t work to do later on. I think from the start this sounds like it was a mismatch and it doesn’t seem salvageable. I’m not getting the impression from OP’s letter that she actually is all that flexible with her time either – she has a pretty rigid end time due to her children’s school schedule, so can’t easily do appointments in the morning and then work later into the evening (assuming there is work to be done then.)

        1. umami*

          For my part-time staff, flexibility means we can shift their scheduled 19 hours throughout the week if either they or we need to and we agree to it. If I had someone consistently needing flexibility to work fewer than 19 hours a week, I would need to replace them.

      2. Lisa Simpson*

        Yeah, flexibility usually means “If we need you to work extra hours or on a weekend or evening you’ll do it” not “If you have personal obligations we’ll allow you to not be here to tend to them.”

  19. Manfred Longshanks*

    #3: I don’t know how this works in the US (I’m in the UK), but my dad once negotiated a part time working week, specific days only, because he needed to be home for childcare purposes for my disabled sibling. They (retail) tried to change this on him a few years later when management changed, but legally they were obliged to accommodate him? Sketchy on the details (I was a child at the time) but this might be worth exploring with whatever your equivalent of Citizen’s Advice Bureau is, or a union rep/someone who knows how employment legislation works (double check this online, this is the sort of thing that’s on the govt’s website to read about).

    1. bamcheeks*

      I’ve both managed and been on this type of contract, and there’s a few ways of doing it in the UK, and how it can be changed will depend on the contract:

      – zero hours / casual contract, no contractual obligation on the organisation to provide you with hours (and technically no obligation on the employee to accept hours / be available, but a lot of companies try and abuse this part)
      – substantive contract which specifies hours, but not days — eg, your contract says 0.8 or 30 hours, which days are “to be agreed with manager”. It’s obviously in the manager’s interest to work with you to find days that work for you, but if there’s a business need to change the days, that’s a discussion between you and your manager, not a contractual change.
      – substantive contract which specifies hours and working pattern — eg. your contract says 0.8 or 30 hours, Mon-Thurs 9am-5.30pm with an hour lunchbreak. Your employer can’t change your days without your agreement, and if they needed to change it without consulting you or changed it and told you to like it or lump it, you might well be entitled to formal redundancy or have a case for constructive dismissal.

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

      Unfortunately there probably is not a union and employment contracts are not a thing here in the US for most jobs. OP is not even covered by FMLA (Family and medical leave act) because you have to have worked at the company for 1 year and a certain amount of hours.
      I think the best thing here is the OP looks for a different job. One that specifically wants part time hours. Sounds like this company wants more full time.

  20. Kelly*

    I appreciate LW #1’s kindness towards the employee with all the personal tragedies, even though it turned out he was lying. When I was in grad school all of my grandparents and another relative died within 18 months of each other. I only had to reschedule two exams for the wakes (I completely missed the funerals because they were a couple hours away and I knew I would get a lot of pushback), but the dean’s assistant started accusing me of making it up until I burst into tears and angrily offered to provide obituaries. Her words were, “You’ve certainly had a lot of grandparents die recently, huh?” I replied that I was all out of them now so I hoped she was happy. I still don’t know where two of my grandparents are buried.

    With an employee that pathologically lies like that it’s not going to take long to figure out they’re not a good employee and get rid of them.

    1. There's a G&T with my name on it*

      This is ridiculous and it’s awful that it happened to you. High school/uni is frequently a time that people lose grandparents simply because they’re at that stage of life. The insensitivity of this is ghastly.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      How awful!

      Also, my grandparents are all around the same age, so I don’t think it’s THAT implausible that they would die around the same time?? I mean, all my remaining grandparents are in their mid-90s, so it would not be weird if both passed around the same time, because they’re the same amount of old!

      1. Quill*

        Yes, also – it’s not uncommon with elderly couples for one dying, to start the other one’s final decline. There’s often a wall of both medical and work of living things that were workable when there were two people around, but not so when someone is suddenly alone and dealing with funerals, etc. Add in the fact that a lot of diagnoses that disproportionately affect the very elderly are progressive diseases (see: Alzheimers, for one example) and every year has a higher chance of being fatal.

        If you assume that a student of 19 or 20 has parents 25+ years older than them, and that THEIR parents are at least 25 years older than them (kind of sketchy math but even when people have kids young, there are more non-firstborns than firstborns in a population) the minimum grandparental age is 70. Life expectancy for someone born in 1950 – 1960 is, indeed, in the early 70’s. Some of this is taking into account their peers who died young, but some of it is taking into account their access to medicine in all the years they’ve been alive, and the cumulative effects of things that are only now treatable or preventable, such as a lot of viral diseases. It’s just plausible that if you have a class of 20-40 nineteen year olds, all with grandparents about seventy years old or older, that more than one student will have a grandparent die during the school year.

        My grandparents on my mom’s side would have been 97 this year. The other set would not have hit 90 yet, and they both died significantly before the older ones.

        TLDR: We do not control the rate at which lobsters die. Or grandparents.

  21. Wait what*

    The magpie concerns me. Taking what is clearly other people’s property – not items from the giveaway area – suggests a lack of boundaries or understanding of professional behavior. Displaying someone else’s old award may be quirky, but only if it was on the giveaway table. It sounds like he is taking advantage of the absence of colleagues and spending time on non-work tasks. Unless LW fears this person is dangerous, a frank conversation is needed to correct the behavior. He is taking advantage of other people’s expectation that their property is safe inside sealed boxes in their cubicles. Taking something that belongs to another person is not a quirky decorating style, it’s stealing.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Agree! And the fact that he didn’t just snag something off someone else’s desk (coffee mug, whiteboard markers) but he deliberate went through storage boxes? That’s not a “unfamiliar with office social norms” action. That’s “I don’t care about rules” actions.

    2. Lexi Vipond*

      It depends how old and how personal. Taking someone else’s Employee of the Year 2022 would be weird, stumbling over the Llama Classifications Board’s award for the Tidiest Office of 1996, when you’ve been 3 other things since then and are now part of the Ungulate Award Authority, is just a bit of historical silliness.

    3. OP2*

      Thankfully, he’s definitely not dangerous, he’s a bit of a quirky guy, but seems nice overall. But I agree – it’s the taking items from places that aren’t obvious “this is up for grabs” spots that seemed a little off-putting. I’m going in to finish packing this week and planning to chat with him about it!

    4. Artemesia*

      this is a job for the manager to handle; he is digging through people’s personal stuff and taking it. This is pathological or at least way out of bounds. It can only get worse.

  22. London Lass*

    “I wanted to go back to work part-time after my youngest started kindergarten and found an admin job through a neighbor.”

    That’s one advanced toddler!

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Sunny Baudelaire, a baby in A Series of Unfortunate Events, worked as a secretary, so it’s not unprecedented :P

    2. ecnaseener*

      LOL Sunny Baudelaire had a stint as an administrative assistant pre-kindergarten age!

      1. Stopgap*

        London Lass is jokingly reading it as the youngest starting the admin job, rather than the LW. “Started kindergarten and found an admin job”, rather than “go back to work… and found an admin job”.

        1. London Lass*

          That is honestly how I initially read it, before I realised it was probably not the case..

  23. Bookworm*

    #4: Just adding to the chorus: yes, it is legally required. Also, since it is your husband’s workplace and your husband specifically asked you to update him, did you ask your husband? He would presumably know a bit more about your particular situation/his workplace so I’m not sure what you think he misunderstands.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Given some of the stuff we’ve seen on this site (mortification week comes to mind) it’s not at all out of the realm of possibilities that someone could misunderstand a workplace rule.

      1. LW 4*

        LW 4 here. My husband is someone who bends over backwards to follow rules and not cause a problem. He’ll jump thru 4 hoops to help someone else avoid one hoop. That’s why I was thinking he was possibly extending this reporting rule further than it really needs to go, “just to be on the safe side.” But apparently not!

  24. Aelfwynn*

    LW1 — Oh. My. Gosh. I managed this guy. Maybe not him exactly (although that’s certainly a possibility) but a couple years ago I had a guy come on our team who had tragedy after tragedy befall him. His dad got sick, he got COVID, and this, that and the other thing. We tried to be accommodating, but he would come back to work for a couple of days at most, get trained/re-trained, and then the SECOND we would follow up with him because he wasn’t actually doing his job, he would have something else come up that would take him out of the office. I think he worked for the company for a few months and was on PTO/leave for the vast majority of it.

    We eventually put him on a PIP that required he consistently, you know, come to work and do his job, and was fired (during his PIP he took an “emergency PTO day” and openly admitted it was for his birthday…)

    This was also the beginning of my management career and I honestly feel like it has made me skeptical of people when they tell me things. I’ve managed a lot of people since then and have been lied to a lot as well, but generally still try my best to take people at their word while being on the lookout for red flags. I’ve taken advice from this site and have largely used their work as an indicator of their success, but it’s admittedly hard when you have someone who is… well, never at work. I do my best, but, MAN, that experience shook me as a baby manager who was just trying to be compassionate.

    As you manage people more, you’ll be more attuned to the red flags these kinds of people show. It sucks that you were trying to do the right thing and someone took advantage of your compassion.

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      I think his sister worked for my company at one point. She had the lovely additional trait of trying to get other people fired for all sorts of made up reasons. I think she knew her work “ethic” was suffering by comparison. She voluntarily resigned a few days before the boss planned to fire her.

      “trying to do the right thing and someone took advantage of your compassion” is an accurate description of the whole thing.

    2. Up and Away*

      We’ve had a few of these as well. One employee kept getting Covid and his proof also involved sending us photos of positive at-home tests. Unfortunately, we got to the point where we had to require the test that were administered and resulted by a third party. It’s a shame that few bad apples make you question everyone.

      1. Quill*

        The repeated unsolicited proof via photo is one of the things that made me assume he was lying. There’s being trained to document your health excessively by bad workplaces, and then there’s pre-emptively establishing an alibi you really don’t need.

    3. Adalind*

      Some people really just have a run of bad luck. It’s a shame others use that to their advantage. Reminds me of someone at my part time job who called out saying her car was messed up and sent a photo. She was someone who called out A LOT. The manager found the image on google. Needless to say the girl calling out was not pleased.

    4. DCLimey*

      I worked with him too! It was a constant string of family emergencies, illnesses and deaths! Often after he was talked to about not fulfilling a work obligation. When upper manglement finally called him on it, he rage quit!

      I ran into him again about 10 years later (he was running some project on Reddit), and what do you know? He’s still running the same deal, endless excuses, long absences followed by more excuses.

      I think some people are just like that, and it’s more common than you think.

  25. JR*

    LW4 one reason for the required reporting I haven’t seen mentioned is if your husband’s nonprofit applies for and/or receives government grants. This is another case where political donations have the abilitity to (or appearance thereof) of influencing decisions about who gets how much money.

  26. Also-ADHD*

    With things like LW1, I’m never clear on why people want to “chase down” bad employees and “punish” them. (I guess the “stern warning” from LW4 falls under the same weird principle, though LW4 is reliable and upfront, unlike the lying employee.) The problem is solved with the employee if they are gone, now you just need to make better hiring and management decisions if you contributed to the issue. Why actively try to sabotage their future opportunities when no one asked? It feels like a punitive mindset people often bring into work, which is a transactional relationship but people attach bizarre authority and “disciplinary” stuff to that feels awkward. I mean, LW1’s employee seems pretty terrible (though for all I know, they weren’t laughing at getting away with stuff as much as covering crippling depression or whatever— I don’t really know their thoughts or inner life, just that they were a bad employee in that job and a deceptive one that LW1 is lucky to be rid of). But I really don’t get people who want to seek to deliver some kind of retribution in the form of a bad reference. It’s weird to be upset someone says you fired them (and I mean, it feels like you were going to potentially, they were on thin ice, and the resignation was a positive thing that helped you avoid that process and helped the company avoid fighting unemployment insurance increases etc—you probably could argue cause and such here but a resignation is still cleaner) when you had cause to fire them and want to give them a bad reference! It feels weird to find “evidence” of their lies after they leave (perhaps this was purely accidental) and hold onto caring. I think LW1 made it personal and they feel personally betrayed but that’s not the dynamic I bet the employee felt at all. It wasn’t about the person who was their boss most likely, whether they’re just a terrible lazy pants who likes to push boundaries or have mental health issues or whatever.

  27. Sweet Pea*

    #1 – I think I briefly dated this guy, or at least someone with a similar pattern….Mom was dying (she had actually been dead for 20 years), ongoing custody battle with the ex (they had no children), etc, etc. He was very likable and very believable. I’m definitely not gullible and I had no reason to doubt these stories because who lies about these kinds of things, right? I felt pretty dumb and bad about myself for a long time. I heard he got married several years later and had the same instinct – to warn his new wife about all of his bs. I did nothing, but a few years later got an email from his wife pleading for me to let him see “our child” that I apparently had been keeping him from seeing. I did tell her there was no child, but didn’t get into anything else. Somehow it made me feel better that I wasn’t the only one out there that fell for his crap, but deeply sad for her as well. But last I heard, they are still married. Don’t beat yourself up too badly.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Wow! That is one heck of a story.

      But yep, sometimes people get through your filters. It happens. You gotta lick your wounds and move on with your life.

      (I would have been very tempted to send his wife a picture of me holding up the cat.)

    2. Random Dice*

      Oh my goodness!!

      I dated one guy who has all of these over-the-top stories and the details didn’t line up. Once I realized he was lying, I kept dating him just to see what he would say next.

    3. Ffs that loser and predator*

      I’m happy for each of you who only dated that guy. Sadly, I married mine. (And divorced him yay!)

      During our few years of marriage, I found a letter on our printer that he’d written to his previous thesis advisor, describing his thrilling life in the French Foreign Legion. In then-husband’s mind it was apparently better to spin the (absurd) FFL narrative than “admit” he’d moved with me to Canada.

  28. MissGirl*

    OP 1 reminds me of the classic MASH episode where Klingor is trying to get sent home from the war for emergency leave. “And here’s an oldie but a goodie, half the family pregnant, other half dying.”

    1. Trixie Belden was my hero*

      BEST SHOW EVER!!!!!
      Coincidentally, I found my MASH baseball cap yesterday from the series finale viewing party, back in erm…. nevermind.
      My favorite is the one where they are going through military/government red tape to get a needed piece of medical equipment. “Give me an incubator or give me death!”

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        I liked the one with 5 o’clock Charlie when they switched out Frank’s gun with a plunger.”That’s it, Frank! Plunge ‘em out of the sky!”

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I use running like a pig on stilts as if it were my own creation.

  29. E*

    I’m in a situation with an employee where I can’t tell if he’s making stuff up about being sick, constant random injuries, doctor’s appointments, that kind of thing. It’s frustrating because I don’t want to be a jerk about it, and I do think he has actual medical issues. But he’s not the most reliable person even when he’s in, and it sucks feeling like your goodwill is being taken advantage of.

    1. ruthling*

      Focus on the work when they’re in. My crisis magnet coworker was also a poor performer in many other ways. If my boss hadn’t been so nicey-nice and lazy, this dude could have been fired for performance alone.

      1. Ama*

        Yes — I have a direct report who has had a lot of personal life issues over the last couple of years. She has a child with a chronic illness so that causes a lot of absences, last year the report herself needed foot surgery twice after an accident, their apartment flooded from a burst pipe and caused enough damage they had to move suddenly.

        BUT in the midst of all of that her work has been exemplary (maybe a few minor mistakes during the most high-stress periods but nothing we couldn’t fix), and I’ve never felt like her absences have prevented her work from getting done or added excessive work to my own plate, in fact sometimes I’ve had to tell her NOT to worry about a particular project because I can either change the timeline or easily cover so her being out isn’t an issue.

        If your employee’s work isn’t good even when he’s in the office, that’s where you start addressing it with him.

  30. Buttons and Bells*

    The migraine letter got me thinking about my own sick time. How much sick time is “normal”? I also suffer from migraines, mine are a bit more frequent. In addition, I have 2 small children in daycare that are constantly sick. I am lucky in that I work from home and can usually manage a full day when migaines/illness happen by working in chunks during the day. This year has been ok I think as I have only had to miss 3 days thus far. Assuming the same incidence the next 5 months, that is about 6 days in a year, is that too much? My boss has never mentioned it but I always feel so guilty. Looking back on prior years, I am usually out sick 6 to 8 times a year.

    1. Contracts Killer*

      I think that’s normal. My old office (state government) provided 9 sick days per year and 3 personal days for a total of 12 days (1 per month) of time off that WASN’T holiday or vacation time. My feeling was that roughly 1 day per month of sick or personal is ok, as that is what was allotted.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Normal is hard to judge, but I would say 6 to 8 days a year is normal. I also sometimes feel guilty about taking a sick day, but I ask myself “how much good would it do for me to drag myself to the office today?” If the answer is “not very much, I’ll sit at my desk and stare blankly at my computer,” that’s a good reason to take a sick day and it lessens the guilt to know that staying home is the better choice for me (and better for my coworkers, if it’s a contagious illness).

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Ah yes, there’s also the calculus of (a) going to work, but at 20% productivity and high error quotient because feeling like crap for three days or (b) truly resting up for one day and feeling better and more productive the next. Often (b) is better for everyone in the long run.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      From my experience observing colleagues, that sounds fairly low-to-average to me, and definitely lower than average for someone with small children.

      From what I’ve seen, there’s a fairly large spread in what people take, probably depending on things like chronic conditions, how good one’s immune system is, if one has children, and how likely one is to drag oneself to work despite feeling like crap. People take anything from zero days to about 15 and are considered normal – above 20 it may start raising eyebrows. Google tells me the average here is 11 days. Btw where I am sick leave is unlimited (but requires actually being sick), so I’m positing it is a more natural distribution than in the US where it is a benefit with a set number of days.

      You sound like you are taking less than you should due to feeling guilty.

      1. bamcheeks*

        How physically stressful your job and your commute is too– I do office work and there have been plenty of times where I felt well enough to do the work, but I couldn’t have managed the walk / bike ride / negotiating busy public transport to get there. If you’ve got a physically demanding job, then the “I actually can’t do it today” is going to be a bit lower.

        Before I had children, I had a sick day every other year or so– this is in the UK where sickness is specifically for being sick or a scheduled operation / appointment or something, you have annual leave for any other kind of planned absence, and where most decent employers will let you take retrospective annual leave for something like an unplanned but non-medical emergency (washing machine exploded etc.) Since I’ve had kids it’s been more like 3-4 days per year for myself, and another 3-4 for children’s sickness, although now I’ll sometimes cover that by working from home.

    4. Colette*

      In a past job, I got 5 days a year and typically took less. In 2018/2019, I was in an open-plan office and typically took a day a month – I don’t think there was a single day when no one was off sick. I’d say 6 days is in the normal range – but normal varies widely from person to person and in different environments.

    5. nm*

      With daycare-age kids, 8 times a year is sounds super low to me! Obviously different workplace, different culture, ofc.

    6. Third or Nothing!*

      When I worked in an office I used up every bit of my alloted 10 sick days per year. I have absolutely awful periods (even threw up once at work…that was embarrassing!). I thankfully have a strong immune system and rarely get sick with communicable diseases so it wasn’t too big of an issue.

      Now that I work from home, I barely use any sick leave at all. I think I’ve taken about 3 days since I was hired on to my new job last September. I can do lots of stuff at home to help mitigate the worst symptoms. It’s been so helpful.

      How much sick leave is typical really depends on so many factors even for an individual person. How much sick time do you estimate the rest of your colleagues take? I bet it’s between 5-10 days a year just like you.

  31. Qwerty*

    OP3 – Are you willing to work Fridays for the next 3months to get through this round of appointments, scheduling future ones on Fridays?

    Your employers view is probably the same as yours – they were upfront about the job being 30hrs M-F. Then you renegotiated down to Mon – Thurs and it sounds like 24hrs a week? The begrudging agreement sounds like a breakdown in communication – they thought it was an accomodation to avoid lots of time off for appointments by building it into the schedule, you thought you were getting a shorter schedule + time off.

    If you wanted to keep the job, my recommendation would be to find out what isn’t getting done – is this a coverage issue? is there work that isn’t getting done that you don’t know about? perception issue where they are wondering if they got someone like OP1 had? Then work with the employer to address that (going back to M-F schedule, making up the time on fridays if you have an appt that week, talking through the appt schedule and when it will clear up, etc)

    1. HonorBox*

      While I’d agree that perhaps working some hours on some Fridays might help provide the coverage the workplace needs, I will push back on the idea of scheduling future appointments on Fridays. It might not be possible. One of my doctors is closed on Fridays. My dentist closes at noon on Fridays. And sometimes we’re at the mercy of a busy appointment schedule and need to just take what we can get. But generally, if the LW is willing to come in on Fridays to cover time on a random Tuesday for those appointments, that should be something the workplace is willing to accommodate if it is just about getting hours covered, whether that’s the original 30 or the 24.

      1. umami*

        Someone had recommended OP could use the day that appointments are normally scheduled as her weekly day off, which makes sense. Wanting to be off on Friday plus an additional day for appointments doesn’t seem like something that works for the employer if they began needing fulltime, agreed to 30 hours, then agreed to 4 days a week. It doesn’t sound like OP is considering their side at all and wants all the accommodation on her end. Which is fair, but their stance is fair as well if they need someone working more hours.

        1. Observer*

          Someone had recommended OP could use the day that appointments are normally scheduled as her weekly day off, which makes sense

          Except that this doesn’t exist. Especially when you are talking about multiple doctors.

    2. Awkwardness*

      In my opinion, the second paragraph is the most reasonable take on the situation.

      They agreed to a schedule change within the probationary period to accomodate LW3, but she still needs additional hours off. She wad already out of sync with the office culture due to being part-time and now her days are different from the rest of the office too.
      The communicaton from the employer was bad. But this is not so much about being right or wrong but expectations from both sides that do not match.

    3. Observer*

      OP3 – Are you willing to work Fridays for the next 3months to get through this round of appointments, scheduling future ones on Fridays?

      This is just not realistic. Many doctors don’t even do Friday appointments. And even if they do, it doesn’t mean you can get a Friday appointment in the time frame you need.

      1. Anonomite*

        It is realistic, it’s just not a guaranteed solution. Some doctors don’t schedule on Fridays, but many, MANY do and the OP hasn’t said her doctor does not. It’s possible the doctors her kids see don’t have appointments on Fridays, but it’s not impossible they do.

        1. Calamity Janine*

          i’ll be honest, when you’re going to specialists? it isn’t realistic. it would be nice if it was, but it’s really not. i can go through and look at how many of my doctors are open on fridays for appointments, and quite frankly, it’d be slim pickings. those that are open are usually only in the mornings. most tend to use it as a day to be doing catch-up charting, or as a confirmed regular surgery day.

          i’m afraid that there’s also a level of specialist where quite frankly, being able to choose when your appointment will happen is… something of a luxury not all conditions can afford. quite often, you are told when and where to be. that’s your chance for at least four to five months. you can hope for a cancellation to get seen sooner, but that’s likely going to mean a schedule you are even less in control of (because it’s be there or not at all, whenever that happens to be). and if you have to do any sort of driving – extremely likely if the specialist is, well, specialized, which for kids is likely to be even more of a drive to the local pediatric hospital – what would be the sort of appointment where you could do it in a long lunch and come back becomes… well… emphatically not that.

          “just put your appointments on fridays!” is something that is just not realistic, as someone who is in similar trenches on the regular thanks to being disabled and professional patient lol.

          1. Lydia*

            I do go to specialists. It hasn’t been an issue for me and there are very, VERY few of the particular specialist I see in my area. It isn’t guaranteed, but it’s also not crazy to ask if the OP can see about it. And if she can’t, she can’t. I’m just pointing out the OP didn’t say anything about not being able to do it on Fridays, but everyone has assumed Fridays are right out.

    4. MassMatt*

      I’m wondering whether the whole issue comes down to different expectations on exactly what “part time” means. LW says they talked about the need to be PT specifically, but did they actually talk about specific hours or number of days per week? It sounds as though LW thought PT meant 20-25 hours, four days a week, tops, and the employer thought it meant every day for six hours a day. Technically that is part-time but it’s a lot more hours than most PT work.

      At least LW aid getting a regular schedule. A frequent issue we see with people working PT is they only get PT hours but the employer expects full-time availability at very short notice, as though you should put your life on hold waiting for the call to come in to work for 3-4 hours today.

  32. Melissa*

    I have been in the position of LW3 before. What happened was that at the time of interview, they were feeling desperate. So when I said “I only want to work 24 hours a week, and leave at 3pm” they went “Okay great!” because in their minds, they were thinking “Okay whatever! Someone is better than no one and I’m sure we can figure it all out later!” But then when I was actually working wad when the rubber hit the road, and my coworkers were left holding the bag. I would constantly have to say “I’m so sorry, but I have to leave at 3pm” and my coworkers would be mad (and reasonably so; they had no say in the hiring). I eventually left because the schedule just wasn’t a good fit.

  33. Contracts Killer*

    OP5 (and anyone else with chronic migraine), I was lucky enough to be part of the office remodel team in my old job. We had several chronic migraine sufferers, including two on senior staff and me, 1/4 of the remodel team. We were able to convince the office to convert the fluorescent lights to LEDs and provide certain offices with dimmer switches. It was a game changer. After a few months, many migraine sufferers reported back to me that they had fewer attacks at work, and they attributed it to the new lighting. If it’s ever an option to forego fluorescents, it can really improve quality of life when you’re in the office.

    1. NoOneSizeFitsAllSolution*

      LEDs make my migraines go crazy and adjusting lighting with clear advance warning would make me non-functional for hours if not a couple of days, probably to the point where I’d have trouble getting home without assistance.

      I have two other migraine suffering friends who can’t tolerate LED lighting either.

      I’m glad it helped you but beware of generalizing :)

      1. NoOneSizeFitsAllSolution*

        without clear warning….I need to close my eyes when the lighting is brightened and slowly open them over about 3-4 minutes so they can adjust.

  34. HonorBox*

    OP4 – Regardless of the reason behind the rule, it is the rule in your husband’s workplace. It could be for some sort of reason mentioned above (government contracts, grants, etc.) or it could be that they have reporting that they need to do, internally or externally, to show how employees (and by extension, their household) are supporting candidates. My workplace forbids us from making a public endorsement of a candidate. I can’t put a sign in my yard to support my friend who is running for office because we have to work with all elected officials, and don’t need to spend time repairing a relationship with a politician who ran against someone a team member publicly supported. Are there times I wish that was different? Of course. But that’s the rule.

  35. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    #1 sounds 100% like someone I used to date. Everything awful was happening him to non-stop.

    It was a complete lie.

  36. Extra anony*

    We have a wonderful PT employee like the LW returning to work after kids and she had a child with special needs. What works is that first of all she is an excellent, incredibly efficient worker; she communicates really openly and clearly about her daughter’s needs and how it will affect her time; and she flexes the days/times she worked to meet the demands of projects (in our case, it’s less about hours and more about getting certain time sensitive things done). So for example, if she was scheduled for half day Thurs but can’t do it because of her kid’s appointment, she would make up the work on Friday. I wonder if this is something LW would be willing to propose.

  37. Risha*

    LW1, you are a good manager that’s willing to give your employees extra time off for family emergencies and you didn’t even expect proof (like some managers do). It’s very unfortunate this one person was a liar, but please don’t let it change how you are or change your view on other employees who have misfortunes. There are some people who truly do have bad luck back to back to back (like me several years ago) and would really appreciate a manager like you. And most people won’t lie like this guy did. One day, it’ll all catch up to him.

    I once worked with a guy like this too. His dad died under very mysterious circumstances. Then his mom died from a broken heart because she missed her husband. Then his sister got breast cancer. Then a couple more things happened. All of this was in about 8 months time. Once of my coworkers was FB friends with his sister (unbeknownst to him) and when she went to give the sister condolences for their parents, the sister said their parents are still alive. And she never had cancer. He got fired the very next day. And the industry we work in is a small world type, so it was very difficult for him to be hired anywhere else.

  38. Somewhere in Texas*

    I enjoyed the informational side of Answer #4. Great for highlighting the legal precedent for some company policies.

  39. Lemon Zinger*

    Greta advice for LW #5. It’s perfectly normal to need to leave work early occasionally because you aren’t feeling well, or your child isn’t feeling well and you need to pick them up from school, or your mother isn’t feeling well and you need to take her to the doctor, etc. In good workplaces, this is what sick time is for and you don’t need to provide lots of details or documentation.

  40. BellyButton*

    I worked in an office that was really big on personalizing your cubicle. I like my desk clean, neat, and I hate knick-knacks. I don’t even have knick-knacks at home. I like surfaces to be clear!

    People would comment on it and I knew it was being interpreted as I wasn’t “fitting in” or “embracing the culture.” Every time I was in the supply closet I would dig back to the very bottom and dustiest box and find something. Most boxes were labeled with people’s names who no longer worked there or programs that no longer existed. ( I never went rummaging in people’s desks/offices/cubicles)

    I stand by my right not to have junk on my desk! ;)

    1. Risha*

      I’m the same way. I don’t want junk on my desk. I don’t want anything that doesn’t have a purpose. I also don’t even have any artwork or decorations in my house. If it doesn’t actually have a use, I don’t want it or need it. I’ve gotten so many comments over the years because I choose not to decorate. Comments range from “you should at least hang a picture in your living room” all the way to “women usually decorate their homes, what kind of woman are you?” (said to me by other women)

      Why can’t people leave others alone? Why does a person’s choice to not have junk on their desk (or in their home) bother others? They act like it’s a personal offense to them if you don’t do things the way they think you should. I just don’t understand why people worry so much about things that do not affect their lives whatsoever. If you like knick knacks and artwork, that’s great! But leave me alone, I don’t want it and it’s no one’s business.

      1. BellyButton*

        I have art work on the walls at home, but nothing generic and mass produced. It is all art I have picked up on my travels. But there is nothing on my kitchen counters or end tables except lamps! It is also easier to clean when you don’t have a bunch of stuff on every surface.

        At the job I mentioned above, they started giving me knick-knacks for birthdays and every single holiday. When I quit I left them all in an unused file cabinet.

        “You know what, Stan, if you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, like your pretty boy over there, Brian, why don’t you just make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?” (Office Space quote)

      2. Aquamarine*

        I can really relate to this! I don’t like to hang anything on my walls – at work or at home. In my first job, people would walk into my office and say, “Your walls are so plain. You need some pictures!” Some people said the same thing over and over. So aggravating.

        My boss’s boss kept complaining that it didn’t look like I was making myself at home, so I thought it might be better for my career to bring something in. I brought a plant, but he told me that a plant didn’t count. Then the plant got infested with gnats, so I gave up and went back to enjoying my undecorated office in peace.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I hate having junk on my desk but am not self-disciplined enough to NOT accumulate it if I’m working at the same place over time. Having to clear away the junk and have a clear desk is actually one of the big advantages of hot-desking for me!

    3. nm*

      This is so funny to me! The closest I get to desk knick-knacks is like. Work supplies that I only actually use once a year, defunct work supplies, things of that nature.

    4. OP2*

      I think I live in a world of weird office knick-knack culture, because a few years ago, at a former workplace, I had a colleague who was the same way. Our chief (who was so problematic in so many ways that I could write a whole book about her) saw this as a problem and went to a home decor store and bought a whole bag of decorations for her desk. Think a snow globe, a little sign with an inspirational message on it, one of those big letter initials…it was extremely awkward!

    5. JustaTech*

      At my work folks tend to fall into two categories: neat desks that are clear of thing every evening, and desks with things (some work materials and some knickknacks).

      I am firmly in the second camp (though all my knickknacks are from work events or are leftover prototypes), but I would never hassle anyone in the first camp because 1) not my business and 2) it’s an ideal for me to aspire to (even if I know that I’ll never manage it for more than maybe 4 hours).

      My work also went through many years where there was no swag at all (starting right after I started) so a lot of my swag is stuff I acquired from coworkers after they left (a cup, a visor, that kind of stuff). But I would never help myself to the stuff of someone who still worked there!

  41. Ann Perkins*

    For #4 – there have already been a lot of great comments, but I actually work in securities compliance directly handling political contribution activity and trading activity for an investment firm, and want to say how much I appreciate Alison’s response as well as the comments reiterating the need for these policies, and OP #4’s replies willing to adhere to them rather than pushing back. Firms have to set policies related to the applicable regulator’s (FINRA, SEC, state securities, OCC, etc. depending on what type of investment firm) rules and then apply them across the board to the firm. The more exceptions you try to make or the more you try to make distinctions between job functions, the more holes there are for a regulator to come in and find that the firm does not have reasonably designed policies to achieve compliance with a specific rule. Even if the reasoning behind a particular rule doesn’t apply much to one individual’s job function, having that person comply still helps protect the firm from any enforcement action by a regulator. And some SEC and FINRA rules really do just apply to all registered persons and immediate families regardless of what their job function is. A firm can decide to be MORE strict on a rule if they feel like their business model warrants particular scrutiny in an area but they can never be less strict.

  42. Observer*

    #4 Political donations

    2 things for you to be aware of.

    Assuming that you are in the US, you should always default to the position that the employer is *legally* allowed to demand the most private information, outside a few significant carve outs set out in law. (eg genetic information) If something is genuinely intrusive then your question is could there be a carve out, but do not ever assume that there is. And given that most political donations are public record, asking for reporting on this doesn’t even come close to being intrusive.

    Secondly, people have give a few current examples of how bribery via spouse works. But don’t kid yourself. This is absolutely NOT a “right wing” issue (or left, center or any other political designation). It’s an issue of people who have too much access to power, information, and allocation of resources. There are always people in that class who will try to abuse their situation, and these are rules to try to make it harder.

    1. bamcheeks*

      There are always people in that class who will try to abuse their situation

      There are also lobbyists and strategists in practically every industry whose *job* is to find their way around the rules or find the people who can be persuaded to bend them. I mean, these gifts aren’t giving themselves!

      1. Observer*


        I mean does anyone REALLY think that Burisma hired Hunter Biden because of his deep management knowledge?

        I’m not trying to slam the President here. My point is that no matter where on the political spectrum, there is always going to be someone who is trying to get influence with you if appear to have power or if you have a close connection to someone with power. Sometimes it’s a spouse, sometimes it’s a child.

  43. MassMatt*

    #1 You mention the problem employee’s next/current employer did not contact you for a reference. I am wondering if YOU contacted this person’s prior employer before hiring them?

    In my experience people who routinely lie to get out of work or evade responsibility for mistakes rarely start doing so just on their current job. Unless a recent addiction kicks in, it’s usually a life-long habit.

    People like this often have a string of short term jobs in their history, mostly lateral moves. In this case I always ask why they left and am very skeptical of answers that are vague or sound as though they have a string of employers out to persecute them. This might be among the red flags about this employee you might have missed.

    Part of the stigma of having several short-term jobs on your resume is due to hiring managers being unable to distinguish whether you just had a bad fit in a couple jobs vs being someone like this problem employee, and not being willing to take the chance.

    As another commenter said, the damage done by one bad employee can far outweigh the benefit of several good employees.

    1. Ama*

      I made a disastrous hire once that I think *could* have gone the way of OP1 (she quit after nine days– on the very morning I was planning to have a “this isn’t working, I need to see X from you if you’re going to stay on” conversation with her). She said all the right things in the interviews and her references seemed fine, my boss and our COO also interviewed her and thought she seemed great. But she showed up and didn’t seem to have any of the skills her resume claimed she had (I’ve never been fully sure if she was lying or if her plan was to feign helplessness to try to get others to do her work for her). I did find out that the reason she gave for needing a new job — that her employer was losing funding and closing — was not true.

      In hindsight, and after a few more hiring processes, I now realize I didn’t really understand what a really great and enthusiastic reference sounded like — what she had were lukewarm positive, more “I didn’t have any problems with her work.” In later processes, when I had truly strong candidates, references would go out of their way to describe specific examples of how a candidate had helped their own work go more smoothly — with this candidate it was more “she was fine, I didn’t have any problems with her” kind of comments. (And while I know some references are just not great at giving references, now I would ask more follow up questions to a “I didn’t have any problems with her” comment rather than taking that as a “good” reference in and of itself.)

      1. MassMatt*

        It’s a shame so many employers are bad at giving accurate references, probably for (mostly bogus) fear of being sued.

        Did this employee have a lot of short term jobs, or gaps, in their work history?

  44. K in Boston*

    LW1: I think all of the advice about looking out for/being aware of red flags is good, but just want to put it out there that I hope this doesn’t make you less flexible and trusting of other employees who need time off for life things. Obviously there was a lot happening with this particular employee (both in terms of what he was reporting and what was actually happening), but you sound like you have a good heart so please don’t let this harden it!

  45. Salad Daisy*

    When my father died I was require to provide the obituary notice from the newspaper to get my bereavement leave/pay.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’m going through that, too, with a passing in the family–and I still ended up having to work 2 of the 3 days the handbook offers for grieving.

    2. just a random teacher*

      I had to provide an obituary to explain my use of bereavement leave when my grandma died, too. Well, technically I got this “why are you taking bereavement leave?” email from HR at the district office (that did not include any sort of “we are sorry for your loss, but need the following paperwork” kind of softening language, and kind of gave off a “are you sure you’re using the right leave category for your vacation, with btw you shouldn’t be taking right now?” kind of vibe), even though my principal had been very much in the loop about my grandma going into hospice and eventually dying, and I just emailed back the obituary URL in response rather than asking how much info they needed. (My mom made sure to list all grandchildren by name in the obit specifically so we’d have documentation to get leave from work, so I guess this is typical?)

      Upset me quite a bit at the time, since I basically never took time off and didn’t need my motives questioned while I was trying to support my mom through planning a funeral and packing up grandma’s room at her house. Yes, I suddenly need multiple days off in December. That’s because grandma died right after Thanksgiving, at home at my mother’s house, and I am my mother’s only child. You can tell this isn’t a pattern with me because I’ve worked here for years and have never taken a bunch of days off in December before, nor have I ever taken bereavement leave before while working here. (I was also, of course, grieving and short on sleep because I’d been driving over each evening to see my grandma and support my mom after work all that November, so not at my best in terms of not being upset by everything. There should really be some kind of “hospice leave” or something for these things.)

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Which is extra rude because you have to create it yourself, and pay to have it “printed” in the paper. It’s not anything official, it’s not a requirement, it’s not monitored, it doesn’t have to be truthful.

      1. snailsharkk*

        This requirement always annoys me too because not everyone does obituaries. We didn’t write one up for my brother at all and I ended up using PTO to attend his funeral because my job wouldn’t give bereavement without one.

        1. AnonAnon*

          Oh wow. We didn’t have obituaries when my parents passed away either. Fortunately, my employer accepted letters from the funeral director on funeral home letter head as proof of bereavement.

        2. I have RBF*

          My father died in December, but his obituary wasn’t done and printed until his memorial in April. I was able to go to the hospital to see him before he died, and then go to the memorial a couple months later. I still ended up getting a work call while I was driving back from the memorial, so that kinda sucked.

      2. negligent apparitions*

        This is what I was going to say. It could very well be financially prohibitive to have it ran in the newspaper! My dad died a few months ago and we ended up shortening the obituary I’d written because going even one word over the word count cost an extra $300.

      3. Joron Twiner*

        Yeah that doesn’t even make sense as a requirement. A lying person could lie in the paper. They’re just relying on the reticence to socially declare a real person dead, but social shaming doesn’t work on brazen liars.

  46. Delta Delta*

    #4 – While the rule feels like an affront, think about how it actually plays out.

    Politician gets elected.
    Company is giant government contract to do Big Task.
    Someone cries corruption.
    People discover Politician received donations from Company Spouses.
    Allegations of bribery/corruption/kickbacks/laundering donations through family.

    Sure, the donations from spouses might be $50 or $100, and no, each individual donation probably didn’t move the needle with Politician. But you never know, and sunlight on this is always better than not.

  47. A Simple Narwhal*

    #4 I also work for a financial institution and they are insanely strict about compliance not just for employees, but for everyone in an employee’s household. The monthly/quarterly affirmations I have to complete asks about our political contributions, volunteering, are we on the boards of any organizations, what publicly traded accounts we have/actions taken on them, and so much more. There are rules we have to be aware of (you can put a candidate’s sign in your yard but you can’t donate money or time to their campaign without pre-approval, you can list you work here on a social media profile but you can’t share any of our content, things like that). It might seem annoying, (and it is) but they have to take these things super seriously, and it’s unfortunately par for the course of working for a financial institution.

  48. kiki*

    LW 3: I feel like I see this a lot with workplaces that are mostly full-time but hire a single part-time employee. Especially when they were really looking for a full-time employee but concede to part-time because a candidate requests it. I think a lot of managers treat the part-time schedule as a perk the employee should be grateful for and not a mutual agreement that both sides have opted in to. When they agree to the part-time schedule, a lot of managers aren’t thinking through the fact that their part-time employee will likely still need time off and they have to be very explicit about expectations. What are expectations of time off? What are expectations of making up time?

    1. umami*

      That’s a good point. Our PT staff work 19 hours, and the expectation (which even when explicitly stated isn’t always fully understood by staff) is that you can have flexibility in shifting your hours, but not necessarily in reducing your hours, at least not on an ongoing basis or without some approval. It’s one thing to not be able to make it to a shift for some reason, but I was a bit surprised at how often PT hires believe that not showing up only impacts them, as in, they don’t mind foregoing the money to have the time off arbitrarily, but if they are scheduled to work, it’s because there’s work to do.

      1. kiki*

        Right, I think sometimes PT hires can have a different mindset about their part time job than someone at a full-time job. It can also be genuinely confusing to know how much time off is acceptable to take and for what. In the US, most full time jobs have PTO, which sets the expectation. Whereas a lot of PT jobs aren’t eligible for PTO, but PT employees are still people with lives outside of work who may have something come up that prevents them from working.

  49. Elevator Elevator*

    LW4: I used to work in compliance for a financial services company and I was actually the one reviewing these donations for my firm! It’s been a few years so I’m a little rusty, but the gist of it is that firms have an obligation to ensure that if they manage funds for government entities, none of their “covered associates” have made contributions to those government entities beyond set de minimis thresholds. (Broadly speaking it’s $350 per election cycle if it’s a candidate you can vote for, but $150 per election cycle if it’s a candidate you can’t vote for. You can give more money to someone who’s running to be your mayor than you can to someone who’s running for mayor in the next city over. Please don’t take this as a green light to not disclose if you’re keeping under those limits, as there can be other factors in play!)

    Every firm is responsible for adhering to the rules set forth by the SEC, but it’s up to each firm how exactly they’ll implement that. (Some smaller firms might just skip the hassle altogether by never taking on government accounts.) Your husband is subject to whatever his specific firm’s policy is, and that’ll be a condition of his employment. My firm required covered individuals to have their contributions pre-approved. It’s easier for everyone to say “you can’t give that candidate $500, but you can give them $150” than “I know you gave them $500, but that’s an SEC violation, so you need to tell them you need $350 back.”

    At my firm, we didn’t require reporting on certain types of contributions. For example, we didn’t require reporting of contributions made to PACs or to candidates for federal office unless, like Mayor Pete in 2020, they currently held a state or local office. I know you mentioned in a few comments that you thought your husband might be applying the requirement more broadly than he needs to, and that’s possible! I know a lot of people were just vaguely aware that contributions had to be approved but never learned the ins and outs of the policy. It is POSSIBLE some of your contributions don’t need to be reported, so maybe you can ask him to get some clarified guidelines from his compliance department or a copy of the policy so you can see for yourself what the expectation is. We were always happy to clarify that for people, because it was less work for us if people stopped telling us about their contributions to Joe Biden or whoever.

    I do want to be clear, though – his firm may indeed require ALL contributions be disclosed or pre-approved, and if that’s the policy then that’s the policy. The potential consequences to the firm for a violation can be massive depending on what funds they’re managing, so they’re not going to play around on something like this.

    1. JRL*

      THIS is the comment I was looking for! I’m a compliance specialist at a financial firm, and while there are these firm dollar amounts set in the regs, I have yet to run across a firm that doesn’t require over-reporting to be completely safe. In addition to political candidate donations, my firm makes me report donations of goods and services to fundraisers that benefit PACs and candidates as well as political non-profits (think voting rights non-profits). An abundance of caution is way better than sanctions and fines!

  50. NNT*

    LW3 seems to have a classic dilemna that I have seen happen multiple times when I’m hiring- so much so that I now screen for it in the interview process. In my experience, people will get offered a job after they’ve invested time and energy into interviewing. They are excited to get an offer, and a detail like the schedule or the commute or some personal conflict or whatever presents itself as a dealbreaker. This is a bummer, and so they tell themselves they can work it out and agree to things they should not (in this case, LW3 should never have agreed to work 30 hours- it’s clear she never wanted to!) I think this is some variation of the sunk cost fallacy, and its a very human behavior, so LW3 is certainly not a bad person or employee for falling into this if that is what happened. (I once did this and accepted an overnight shift even though I’m always in bed before 9pm- most miserable four months ever) In the future I’d be wary of taking jobs where it feels like you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole- especially considering you have the luxury of not needing to.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, I think both sides did that. The OP didn’t want to work 30 hours; the employer didn’t want her to go down to 4 days a week.

      1. NNT*

        I agree! The employer probably should have just told her it was a mon-fri job, take it or leave it. But I do think it’s a little different- she asked for the accommodation after she already worked for them. Getting rid of someone for changing their hours isn’t quite the same as not hiring them because they can’t work the agreed on hours, and in general I don’t think we want employers getting rid of people immediately when they request scheduling changes that they theoretically could accommodate. No one communicated well here, I don’t think, but no one is bad.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, I think the employer was trying to accommodate what their employee asked for, which is good! And the OP is asking for what she wants, but I think she’s a little naive about what having a job entails – you get paid because you don’t always want to show up. (Specifically I’m thinking about moving from 5 days to 4 days, not the appointments.)

    2. I should be working*

      I’m glad you mentioned this as I was thinking about it as well. all the job offers I’ve had have stated the number of hours per week in the job offer (i.e. 40 hours/week performed Monday-Friday). This seems EXTRA IMPORTANT for a part-time employee, both based on the number of hours per week worked (30 vs 24 in LW3s case) as well as what the hours are (i.e. 3×8 hour days, 4×6 hour days).

      It sounds like this wasn’t clearly negotiated or documented for LW3, so if things don’t work out for LW3 at this job and she decides to find a new place to work, it’s probably worthwhile for her to get the specifics in writing.

  51. Formerliarpantsonfire*

    As a person who also has pulled what #1 did…sometimes it’s not just that they’re being jerks. I had (and have) genuine mental health struggles and sometimes I just can’t do stuff. It’s unfortunate that work is often the first thing to go. And when I told those lies, it was only because I didn’t want to lose my job, but I ALSO couldn’t really tell people “also btw I’m actually frequently out because my mental health is the worst but I love this job but sometimes I can’t get out of bed.”
    Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they ARE jerks. But I think more often, especially in elder millennials and older, we’re just afraid that telling the truth about the mental health struggles we have is going to get us fired.

  52. CSRoadWarrior*

    #5 – My boss has migraines too, and it has never been an issue. Granted, for him, it usually hits once or twice a season and usually doesn’t last for more than a day. He had to leave work early a few times as well. His boss, as well as me and my colleagues that report under him, never held it against him and never will. To be clear, he has full blown migraines – you know, the aurora, sensitivity to light, needing to lay down in the dark, a splitting headache… I’m sure you get the message. But to make it short, my boss has never had an issue with this with anyone.

    I wouldn’t think too much about this. I am not sure how frequent it happens, but it seems like it is just occasionally. A reasonable employer would not hold this against you.

    Now, as Alison said, if it does become more frequent, you can talk to your employer about accommodations. Chances are that they will be more than happy to comply.

  53. Exme*

    You don’t describe how you know he lied about the mom’s death and it is a moot point because he’s not your employee. But in general people should be verrrrrry cautious with ‘gotchas’ around relatives’ death. People can have lots of relatives in many combinations. We are not limited to one mom and two grandmas.

    If he was still your employee, you might ask more questions or start requesting more documentation for future bereavement requests but don’t go in blazing in with an accusation of faking a death just because you know he has one living mother. (Again you may have had more info than that like exact names and birthdates of a specific mother and that he a faked an obit or whatever, I’m just cautioning everyone to check your assumptions.)

  54. Nutella and banana on toast*

    #3 You and your workplace are both a little wrong here (more them and less you). Them for not communicating clearly what they need and what the changes to your schedule mean for them, and you for taking a job you knew was going to be too many hours. Maybe they thought they could work with you, or really like your neighbor, maybe they are just bad at communicating, or maybe they are bad employers. Whichever reason is correct its not working for either of you and no one is communicating that. Take away the red flags for your next job.

  55. Usagi*

    OP1 as someone who did just experience a month of one major and four minor emergencies randomly coinciding, I appreciate your willingness to believe your liar guy until red flags came up. Sometimes life really does rain down a storm on you all at the same time, after years of smooth sailing.

  56. mbs001*

    Re #3: Sorry, but if I’m an employer an you’re already part-time at 6 hours each day with one weekday off each week, I’d be annoyed too if you were repeatedly taking off early on one of the 4 part-time days. Unless it’s an urgent appointment of course, you can certainly schedule appointments on Fridays and/or before or after your work hours if on a day you work. It just seems as though this job isn’t a good fit for you or for the company — which is fine. It’s neither one’s fault — just not the right mesh.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Unless it’s an urgent appointment of course, you can certainly schedule appointments on Fridays and/or before or after your work hours if on a day you work.

      That is not true at all. Some doctors, especially specialists, have very specific days and hours of availability.

    2. Quill*

      On the other hand, LW 3 is already doing a schedule she didn’t bargain for. And medical appointments with specialists have months of wait times (And hospitals and doctors offices are not known for universally having hours of operations that go into the late afternoon, or necessarily on fridays, etc.) So it’s worth reiterating to the employers that the schedule she originally accepted was the one that would work, and the medical appointments, which often cannot be rescheduled without waiting weeks to months for another opening, were factored into the original proposed schedule.

      At that point, if the company decides that the availability she originally stated isn’t actually what they need, that’s their problem, but it was shitty of them to not be forthcoming that the agreed-on schedule was not what they wanted and to change her hours around twice after the fact.

      1. Colette*

        The only change of hours I see is from the OP’s side – she asked to reduce her hours to 4 days a week instead of 5. I don’t see that they changed her hours at all.

    3. Observer*

      Unless it’s an urgent appointment of course, you can certainly schedule appointments on Fridays and/or before or after your work hours if on a day you work.

      It sounds like you have been very fortunate in life that you haven’t had to deal a lot with specialists offices. This is just not the case.

      And before the usual comments on the US healthcare system, this is true in other countries as well.

    4. YouHaveNoIdeaWhatItsLike*

      How fortunate you are to have few health issues. I know you don’t because you have no concept of how doctor appointments work. I have one specialist who only sees patients every other Monday afternoon. I have another who only sees patients on Tuesday mornings. I have a third who only sees patients on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I have to schedule even my primary care appts months in advance because they’re so overbooked (acute illness visits are available daily with residents and NPs in the clinic but even those sometimes take 3-4 days to schedule). I scheduled a test in March 2019 for the next available appt in June 2020 which I still haven’t had because of the pandemic (it’s scheduled for Dec I think). And so on. And I live in a major city with lots of medical providers.

  57. Umiel*

    Re: LW 3, I was told once by a manager that since I had the privilege of working 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM that I should schedule all medical appointments for after 4:00 PM. The same manager also expressed irritated surprise that a recent vacation day I had taken hadn’t been just to get all of my medical appointment taken care off. This was about 10 years ago, and I’m still kind of angry about it. It’s hard enough to have medical problems that require multiple appointments a month without getting shamed about it by my manager. Many of my doctors don’t even have hours after 2:3o in the afternoon. I have a lot of sympathy for LW3 trying to juggle a job and taking care of her kids and their medical appointments.

  58. Laura Charles*

    LW #4: it seems ridiculous, but is true nonetheless. My husband works in finance and not realizing how very VERY particular this rule about reporting is, I bought a pin from a campaign (so, arguably not a donation, as the cost was about the same as other similar-quality pins) and he had to report it. When his company did a search for all political donations, the pin purchase came up, which I really hadn’t expected. Seems weird, I know, but it’s better than not regulating at all and having finance firms & employees functionally bribing elected officials via donation, right?

  59. Quill*

    #4: You and your spouse are considered a financial unit. Any actions you take that could benefit a political candidate, like a donation, are therefore potential conflicts of interest if said candidate later has business with your husband. His workplace is doing a LOT better at this kind of disclosure already than the Supreme Court.

  60. morethantired*

    LW1 — Your empathetic and trusting approach to a series of unfortunate events is the right way to go, even if this one guy abused it. Just as I was starting a new job, my grandmother died. And then, I caught the flu from someone at the wake and was horribly ill for a week. I will never forget how kind and understanding my new supervisor and company were to my situation, and I had been terrified of what would happen when I had to tell them I was going to be out sick after missing part of the previous week for the funeral. It was a total contrast from one of my first office jobs where, when I got strep throat my 3rd week, they required a doctor’s note before they approved my sick time use.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yep. My practice philosophy is always “say yes until it’s not sustainable”. Life happens, life sucks. One summer when I was a teen working retail I had two grandparents die within a month of each other and it was devastating – and of course ‘teen saying their grandparents died’ and the general retail vibe, my manager was awful about it. Sometimes you just hit a string of bad luck and the way your boss handles it can make or break your morale at a company.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      When I was doing my master’s degree, I had a research assistant to help. The semester she was there, she was constantly having to reschedule her time because of some unfortunate event. I will say that her work was always good when she was there. After a while, I did get suspicious that there might be some shenanigans going on. How many crises could one person have in like 4 months?! A lot, as it turned out! She did her undergraduate thesis in our research group the next year and was excellent and has just defended her PhD dissertation with no revisions (no revisions is super rare and a big freaking deal). Sometimes awesome people just have a period where a lot of bad stuff happens.

  61. That wasn't me. . .*

    re LR3: I think we need to be more sympathetic to LR’s employer. While a non-parent may not get that “all appts on Friday” is not realistic, I don’t think they are being unreasonable. She was hired for (and agreed to) a 30hr/wk job, but is now working a 24 hr/wk job. Assuming these appointments occur approx weekly, rather than, like monthly, she’s down to 20hr, only 2/3 of what they hired her for!, The job is probably just not a good fit, but if you wants to keep it, she could try offering to make up the time on Fridays. Or Saturday mornings, if Dad is a 9-5 5-day-week worker or an “exempt” type. Often stat-at-home parents get into the mode of thinking these problems are theirs, and only theirs, to resolve, but they are family issues.

  62. Observer*

    #2 – Magpie coworker

    In reading the responses here, I got to thinking of another possible issue. Do you have any sensitive materials in your office? Whether your personal stuff, or work related? This guy is combing through your stuff. How do you know he’s not looking at stuff that none of his business?

    In fact, I think you have to assume that he IS looking at any paper he sees. He’s proven that he does not respect or space. Why would this be any different?

    So, as others mentioned, you might want to tip people off, even if he didn’t try to actually *take* any of their stuff.

    1. OP2*

      Thankfully, no – all of our company’s sensitive material is digital and protected through restricted access by law. Our company is really against printing sensitive materials out at all – anything in print in our office is fine for anyone to see.

  63. Petty_Boop*

    I’ll likely get flamed for my opinion, since God forbid we don’t ALWAYS side with employees, particularly Moms but…. the OP asked for part-time and got it. THEN she asked for even less with EVERY Friday off…and got it. I don’t see why the OP can’t say, “Instead of every Friday, may I have one day per week off depending upon my appointment/family reqs that week? I would let you know 4 weeks in advance what each day will be that month,” or something. I think that on the weeks the OP has appointments, asking for THAT day PLUS that Friday could be seen by the employers as … a lot. If it were ME, I’d work to increase the flexibility of time off, versus the amount of it and use the day I need off instead of every Friday. But, maybe that’s just me. And before anyone assumes I am not a Mom, I have 3 grown children and I worked and/or attended school full time throughout their entire childhoods, and am still working.

  64. Heather*

    LW #3 – I think I’ve read all the comments regarding this letter and haven’t seen a single mention about PTO. Is the LW using PTO for these appointments? Is she expecting the same pay per week regardless of PTO availability and her time in office? Is she willing to take unpaid time, but the company is not willing to accommodate her?

    If she is using earned PTO offered by the company, then they have no business making comments about letting her go. If she is expecting to be paid for time away, that’s not an appropriate ask. If she wants unpaid time for the appointments, that should have been addressed upfront before taking the job.

    I had a part time co-worker who scheduled every appointment possibly during her three work days – personal, medical, kid related, etc – because she was very open about not wanting to cut into her personal time on the other two days. It was not tenable to ask the rest of the team to cover her appointments on the days she did not work AND cover for her on working days because she spent so much time out of the office. I know there was a lot of timesheet fraud going on and the rest of us who worked the hours required were so frustrated that the powers that be allowed it to happen.

    1. NotEveryoneGetsPTO*

      not all part time workers get PTO. I didn’t in either of my part time jobs. In fact, that’s why they were part time – six part time employees were a lot cheaper than 4 full timers who got PTO to boot.

  65. Berlina*

    LW1: This is probably not the case here as you seem to have dealt with a chronological liar, but please bear in mind that people can have TWO moms, so unless you know the name of the presumedly dead person (who is actually alive), please never acuse somebody of lying in those circumstances.

  66. Just a girl in the world*

    Isn’t it amazing when you’re reading these posts and you somehow manage to find what you need to see right now? I have a condition which does not affect my work at this time but requires am operation which then means I will need 4 to 6 weeks off. I don’t know when that will be and am just waiting for the doctors to tell me. After that time I will not have any ongoing medical issues. My current employer knows this, but I recently applied for another job and wondered if I am shortlisted when I should let them know. Of course, Alison’s advice makes perfect sense.

  67. Doing the right thing*

    I applied for an internal position that was a 12 month role, and competed with 2 of my colleagues for the role. The one who was offered the position was pregnant, which I knew, but the recruiting team did not. She didn’t tell them until she was offered the role and then said to me, well I knew they couldn’t really take it back at that point or it would be discrimination. I remember at the time thinking that wasn’t right, she should have disclosed the information upfront, and it seemed like she was taking advantage of legislation. However, after reading this post and also the one linked in the article, it actually does make sense. I guess I was thinking about it differently because it was an internal position and we were all already employed by the organisation.

  68. Susannah*

    LW with political donations- such donations are public record. They could find out easily on their own, anyway. Asking your husband just means they fund out earlier.

Comments are closed.