is employee lying about being sick, my boss slept with my boyfriend, and more

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

1. Employee called in sick on a day I knew she didn’t want to work

I manage a department which operates 24/7. To be honest, the job is low pay and the work is challenging and stressful and under strenuous conditions. This leads to high turnover, plenty of call-ins, etc. In short, it is not my company, so there is little I can do to change the pay, but I do my best to improve the working conditions and make it more friendly and inviting to work there.

I have an employee on one shift, Amanda, who rarely ever works weekends, since she took care of her mother-in-law with cancer on those days. Of course I was accommodating to this.

Her mother-in-law passed away 1-2 weeks ago. When I was informed of this, I started to schedule her again on the weekends and she was surprised and not happy and requested a change via email, though I explained I needed to be fair to others on the team who do not get weekends off as often as she did in the past. Amanda has a lot of personal issues and calls in sick more frequently than the average individual.

Today is Saturday and she has called in sick due to vomiting. I have a hard time believing that she is being honest based on the fact that she does not want to work Saturdays. I saw her last night and she looked fine, but obviously things can change quickly. The interesting thing is that she mentioned she would be okay to come in on Sunday (tomorrow) and she knew this, as though she can 100% work that day, but not Saturday due to feeling unwell. Not sure how someone can be positive they’ll be fine the next day, but not today.

Should I drop this and accept it and see if a pattern arises on the days which are less preferred for her or ask for a doctor’s note (even though she has said she cannot get one)? I know little good can come from arguing about how reliable and trustworthy she is being, but I worry that letting it go sends a message that people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed.

There are two separate issues here: First, Amanda’s mother-in-law, who she’s been caring for, only died one to two weeks ago! That’s much too recent to have just put her back on the schedule for weekends without even discussing it with her first. Why not give her some time for bereavement, and then have a real conversation about her schedule before changing it? If I were Amanda, I’d be feeling pretty put off by that — like you weren’t treating me as a fellow human who had just experienced something awful.

The sick day is a separate issue. As a general rule, you should default to believing your employees unless there’s a clear and compelling reason not to. If someone develops a pattern of unreliability, then you address the pattern — but in general, pushing back on a single sick day is a bad move. If Amanda’s overall reliability is an issue, talk to her about it (although ideally you’d give her some grace right now because she just had a death in the family), but wait to see if there’s a pattern before you act. Don’t ask for a doctor’s note for a single day of sickness, for all the reasons here.

2. My boss slept with my boyfriend

I recently had a horrible break-up with my man of four years, and we just had a baby boy back in October. When I came back to work because we really needed the money, shortly after I found out that my boss was the reason for all this. She was sleeping with him, and when he left he moved right in with her. I’m devastated and heartbroken. I had to quit because I could not bear to think of working and having to listen to her tell me what to do. What do you think I should do? I lost everything because of her?

I’m sorry that happened. It would be awful under any circumstances, but to find out that your boss — someone with whom there’s a certain vulnerability built into the relationship and who you generally assume isn’t actively working to destroy your personal life — was the person your partner was cheating with would add a whole additional level of betrayal to an already horrible situation.

When you ask what you should do, I think you’re wondering if there’s something official you can do professionally — like filing a complaint? In theory you could try that (most companies do not want their managers sleeping with employees’ partners and it’s possible they’d be interested to know that’s why you quit) but there’s not really anything for you to gain by doing that (and the potential for a lot of drama on top of what’s already happened). I’d rather see you leave her in your past and focus on moving forward.

3. Was I wrong to be bothered by my coworkers’ coffee clique?

Years ago, I worked on a small team (six people) that would have several meetings a week at the beginning of the day. Often just the six of us, sometimes with an extra few people from other teams. We were very tight-knit and worked really well together.

Three of the people on our team were a little more social outside of work — they attended the same church. I was also closer to one of those three; we had attended grad school together recently. The thing I’m wondering about is that every Friday those three would all show up to the meeting with coffee for each other, and not anyone else. It always had one of their names on it so it was obvious it was like a rotating, reciprocal scenario. I am not saying I expect other people to buy me coffee, but it 100% made me feel left out and sad about not being included. I was young and it was my first real job so I never spoke up, but I’m wondering if I was too sensitive and should have just let it go, if it really was as rude as I perceived it, and if there was anything I could have said or done.

I’d say it was mildly rude.

Not if it only happened a few times, but because it was a regular thing it feels a bit cliquey — it sends the signal (presumably inadvertently) “we’re our own closer group of three that the rest of you aren’t in.” Of course, it’s absolutely fine for people to have closer relationships with some coworkers than with others; that’s natural and there’s nothing wrong with it. But when you have a recurring meeting of only six people and three of them are constantly bringing coffee for each other, there’s a point where politeness requires asking if the others would like to be included.

Ideally it’s something that you would shrug off — some people are closer with others at work, and the coffee thing is more thoughtless than anything else. But in theory you also could have said, “Hey, can I get in on this coffee rotation?” (And ideally they would have asked.)

4. Putting projects that went badly on your resume

I am applying for jobs at the moment. One thing a lot of roles I am interested in ask for is experience planning projects. While I was part of a team that created and implemented projects in my most recent job, there is one project I took charge of. However, this project went very poorly. It was intended to get feedback from our user base about how we could support them during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic and not one person responded. My job at the time was intended for young people just out of college and I can very clearly see now why it went so badly. However, I estimated staff time needed, I figured out how to get the technical side working, and I gave the awkward presentation where I talked about a dozen things we should have done differently.

Does this experience need to stay relegated only to answering “tell me about a time you failed” or can I mention it as an example of leading a project? Is it okay to talk about some of these things in a cover letter and gloss over the outcome?

Unfortunately you shouldn’t use it as an example of leading a project — it’s very likely that interviewers will want to delve into the details, and “the one project I led failed badly” won’t make you a strong candidate for an employer who’s looking for someone with a track record of leading projects successfully. That doesn’t mean the experience is useless — it sounds like you learned a lot and, as you said, it’ll be a good answer if you’re asked to talk about a time you didn’t succeed. (It also sounds like your employer didn’t set you up to succeed, and that’s not on you.)

5. Can my employer make me use PTO if I’d rather take the time unpaid?

I took time off for my wedding this year before I had accrued any PTO. I told my employer I would be more than happy to take it unpaid, but they said that it’s not allowed as “the expectation is that I am here 40 hours a week.” As such, I know have a negative PTO balance that I would have to pay back if I left, which I am trying to do. However, when we close unexpectedly early, we are not expected to us PTO on those days so I’m confused what “expected to be there 40 hours” means. I guess I’m wondering: (1) can employers force you to use PTO you don’t have? and (2) is it legal to make you pay back a negative balance even though you didn’t want to use that time in the first place?

They didn’t word it well, but I think what they meant by “we expect you be here 40 hours a week” is: “We’ve planned our staffing with the assumption that you’ll be here every day minus your annual allotment of PTO — so we don’t want you to take additional time off unpaid, because then you’ll be working (for example) only 45 weeks a year rather than the 47 we were counting on. Therefore, we’re going to deduct this time from your annual PTO allotment rather than add to it with unpaid time off.”

To answer your questions: They can indeed require that your time off come out of your annual allotment for the year, even if that gives you a negative PTO balance. In most states, you can be required to pay that back when you leave (although check to see if your state is an exception to this).

{ 476 comments… read them below }

  1. EPLawyer*

    OP1 — you are not making the job as inviting and friendly as you can if your first response to your reports MIL dying was to immediately put her back on weekends. I know you thought you were just being fair to everyone else, but what everyone else will see is that if things are rough you get accomodations only up until the very minute you don’t need it anymore. Not a second more. Not even a conversation about whether the accomodation might be still be needed.

    I would have called out too.

    1. IDIC believer*

      I disagree and assume actual bereavement leave wasn’t taken/available. The special accommodation granted her every weekend off specifically to care for MIL. That need no longer existed, so assuming she was working full-time, being put back immediately on weekend rotation seems reasonable to me. After all, it’s not like her grieving or recovery from caretaking requires a weekend as opposed to a weekday. And if I was a coworker who had had to work most weekends due to her accommodation, I’d expect it to stop asap once the stated reason no longer existed. (The handling of calling out sick is a separate issue for me.)

      1. Rayner*

        When someone dies, often that doesn’t mean your caring role ends. There is paperwork to complete, maybe a house to clear up and sell, grief to be processed, and perhaps other family to support, and a funeral to prepare. Changing someone’s schedule at short notice because you assume that the flexibility is no longer required is both cold and frustrating in these circumstances,

        1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          Right, but you can clear a house and do paperwork on weekdays. We (the readers) don’t know details of why the weekends were particularly important while the sick person was still alive, but from what we know so far, it is indeed possible that the specific reasons no longer apply.

          I think it would’ve been good for the letter writer to have talked with the bereaved person before rescheduling them. Then they’d have more data for deciding when to put them back on weekends.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Speaking from recent experience, you often want several/all family members there together to clean out the house, so everyone can agree on who gets what (if most of the deceased’s belongings were left jointly to their kids etc.) It’s quite likely that weekends were the best time for the rest of the family, and Amanda said yes that works for me too because I don’t work weekends.

            Put simply, talk to someone before changing their schedule, even if in your mind it’s obvious that it’s time for the schedule to change, because people make plans for their days off.

          2. EPLawyer*

            Yes. A converesation would have been nice. But to simply say okay your schedule is changing as of right now is not good managing, no matter the reason. For example a company that wants to change the work hours from 9 to 5 now wants to make it 830 to 430. A good manager would let people know as much in advance as possible so people can make any changes necessary. Not just announce, effective immediately everyone has to come in at 830.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              This is key, I think. You don’t want to change a person’s schedule out of the blue with no warning. You want to tell them as far in advance as possible so they can rearrange things in their personal life to accommodate it.

            2. Lily POtter*

              Yes, a “heads up” notification would have been appropriate. Not “is it okay if I put you back on weekends”, but rather “I’m going to be putting you back on the schedule for weekends starting (X date)”.

                1. Yorick*

                  Sorry! I missed that she put Amanda on the weekend schedule and Amanda was surprised.

              1. yala*

                I would also say maybe be open to changing that if the person asks for an extension for reasons ecnaseener mentioned above–just because MiL is gone, it doesn’t mean the work is Over, and she may still need a few weekends to handle things.

            3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              While I agree that the LW would have been better to talk to the employee first and give her a couple more weeks, I don’t see this as a schedule change so much as a reversion. The employee had a schedule that included working on weekends but had a special exception from that schedule for a while.

              1. Lydia*

                You’re arguing semantics to make the inconsideration okay, and that’s not how schedules work.

              2. Chase*

                The ending of an exception should have advance notice as well. Never spring a change of working hour expectations on anyone – to not do so ruins motivation and enthusiasm and may have the person scrambling to fulfil existing responsibilities. The person the employee was caring for died less than two weeks ago and to throw a sudden change in routine on top of what is very likely a very stressful and disorienting experience is an extremely unkind thing to do and doesn’t speak well for LW1’s ability to manage people effectively.

              3. Insert Clever Name Here*

                “Oh good, she’s dead so you can work weekends again” is not a good look.

          3. Jessica*

            I think the lack of notice is what makes this seem so callous and cruel.

            It’s one thing to have a conversation and acknowledge that the situation has changed, ask whether Amanda still has responsibilities from caring for her MIL that she is finishing up, etc.

            It’s another to do what it sounds like the LW did, which was just to decide that since the MIL is dead now, Amanda can immediately revert to her old schedule, no advance notice, no discussion, the end.

            If I were Amanda, that would make me feel like my manager saw my MIL being alive as an inconvenience that now was happily ended, rather than as someone I loved and had just lost.

          4. DisgruntledPelican*

            It’s possible, but certainly not definite. Which is why OP should have had a conversation with the employee instead of just immediately changing her schedule with no warning.

        2. DataSci*

          This. The immediacy of scheduling Amanda for weekends as soon as her MIL died sounds like LW viewed the cancer as an inconvenience that was resolved by death, so that everything is back to normal now, no lingering issues. Give her a few more weeks!

        3. Wait_For_It*

          I agree with this to a degree… BUT, this was the employee’s MIL. We sadly, recently lost my MIL. It is doubtful that as an in law and not a blood relative, she had standing to take care of a lot of the paperwork–presumably next of kin, say her husband or a sib-in-law, or even the FIL if he were still alive would be doing the bulk of that. AND even if she were, law offices, probate court etc… would not be open on a weekend. My husband and his siblings had several meetings with lawyers, etc… that I and the other in laws were not included in. In fact, it seems it might be better to have a few weekDAYS off in a row to get things taken care of. Having said all of that, I DO think the manager SHOULD have said, once the employee returned to work, “I’m so sorry about your MIL, I am going to presume you’re able to work weekends now and will start scheduling you as such the first of next month” or whatever.

          1. Calpurrnia*

            When my dad died, my brother and I had lots of meetings and stuff to clear out the house, but my husband was included in every one of them. I was so devastated it was very very helpful to have someone with a bit of mental distance there to help keep me functional. It’s entirely possible this employee is still needed to help with family caretaking related to the MIL’s death – maybe helping her spouse & family function in the wake of everything, maybe taking care of the kids while the spouse does what they need to do, who knows.

            I don’t like the “I am going to presume” language. It would be more compassionate to ask, “I’d like to get you back on the weekend rotation to be fair to the rest of the team, would you be able to accommodate that starting next month?” and let her tell you what accommodations she needs for her life.

          2. Lydia*

            If the employee was the caregiver, it’s possible she had some legal responsibilities, too, especially as the DIL.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Exactly – that was how I spent my bereavement leave for my dad (which overlapped a weekend, so I had five consecutive days, and believe me I was running around nonstop for all five). Didn’t even have the time or energy to process that I’d lost my father.

          Either way, changing it without talking to the person and after just one week is wild! The message I’d get from this would be “oh yay FINALLY! your MIL is dead, congrats on your loss or something and this means you can come in next Saturday, right?” at a bare minimum, that’d cause me to mentally check out of work and never take my manager seriously again. I might start looking for an internal transfer or another job too. Not even because of the inconvenience, but because of the message it sends; that my manager sees me as an inanimate cog.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Adding to this – I have been divorced 13 years, but I love and miss my ex-MIL and would be devastated if I learned of her passing. Maybe LW assumed that MIL meant there wasn’t a close bond between Amanda and the deceased person, that’s not always the case! some of us have been blessed with amazing MILs.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Some of us are considerably closer to our MILs than our mothers. I imagine this is not unlikely in a case where someone was providing care.

              1. Lime green Pacer*

                Yes. I felt the loss of my FIL much more strongly than the loss of my father. This isn’t because I dislike my father, but rather I had been seeing my FIL regularly before his sudden death. My father’s death was the result of a terminal illness and I had dealt with much of my grief while he was sick.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I once blurted a variation of that out to my mom (a few years ago, we were reminiscing about the past for some reason and she said “we didn’t want you to marry him because of his parents”, and out of my mouth came “what’s wrong with his parents, I had a better relationship with his parents than I did with mine”) and she was none too happy.

                Agree with your last sentence.

            2. Tupac Coachella*

              I agree. When my MIL passed, I was (and frankly still am) heartbroken. We’d been family for almost 20 years. Being together was important, and the logistics were a lot for the first few weeks. I was absolutely involved with the paperwork and estate management in the same way as any of the other family members who weren’t the designated legal representative. We all helped each other during that time, the power of attorney didn’t just get stuck with everything.

              1. rayray*

                Yeah, while some people might be more stoic, realistically death in a family is a difficult and sad time and the grief can be especially hard in the beginning. LW should have at least had a conversation with the employee rather than assuming things.

        5. Chirpy*

          This, it took well over a year to finish everything involved with the house after my grandparents died. And much of it had to be done on weekends, as that’s when everyone was available- we all worked during the week, and not everyone lived in town. There’s only so much you can do in an evening after a full day of work.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I think the bare minimum is that OP should have met with this employee to speak to her about needing to put her back onto the weekend rota before doing it, that allows you to explain that you need to be fair to other employees but also gives the employee a heads-up and the chance to explain if there are still any ongoing issues that mean that they can’t mane that adjustment immediately.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree, absolute bare minimum. And one or two weeks of grace before changing the general structure of time for someone who just went through a huge change or loss also feels like bare minimum to me, but I can see from the comments that’s not universal.

          It doesn’t surprise me she called out – and honestly she may have really been physically ill. Stress does that to people.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            “and honestly she may have really been physically ill. Stress does that to people.”

            YES this. I’ve had all kinds of weird physical reactions to stress and grief. It is normal. Maybe the reason why she said she will be fine on Sunday is because she now knew her body had this reaction, and could plan to keep it under control. No reason to jump straight to “oh she lied”. And, if she were lying, wouldn’t she have said she didn’t know if she’d be well the next day, to make it look like a real case of stomach flu or food poisoning or whatever?

            1. Mianaai*

              OMG yes, bodies can have WILD responses to stress. After my mother passed away, I immediately got a sinus infection – that in and of itself wasn’t surprising, I’m pretty prone to them. What *was* surprising was the anaphylactic reaction I had to the antibiotic… I’d never had an analphyactic reaction before, and have never had one since – including to the same antibiotic! I almost always get sick after major stressful events (finals week, stressful family visits, deaths, moving…) – it’s like my immune system can keep itself together up until the stress is over, and then just opens the floodgates.

              1. Chirpy*

                Same, I often get sick right after a stressful event, at the first day where I finally have a chance to relax. It’s like my body goes “oh, good, there’s time to collapse now.”

              2. Lydia*

                At the beginning of the pandemic when everything was shut down and nobody knew anything, I broke out in huge hives. I hadn’t had them since I was a kid, but knew exactly what they were and why they were. The body is weird.

          2. Not Siri*

            Extremely this! I often get vomiting in reaction to stress, so this whole series of events is definitely reads completely normal to me.

          3. Insert Clever Name Here*

            YES. My grandmother died recently and I was physically sick, actually vomiting, at one point because I was so struck with grief.

      3. Also-ADHD*

        If this job consistently requires weekend coverage (and it does), why are there not some people hired who want/don’t mind working that. It’s not universal to want Sat/Sun off, especially in coverage fields. You can hire to address that and give schedule stability too though.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          When I worked retail, we had a couple of college students who were only available weekends and also a guy who was a father to small kids and wanted early shifts (he worked 7am to midday on weekdays) or weekends, when his wife was presumably off to mind the kids. (The kids were early primary school aged so probably at school from 9am to around 2pm in the week, so he was home before them.)

          This may or may not be an option for the LW. It may be something she doesn’t even have control over. But students in particular are often looking for weekend work and so do parents of young children sometimes, especially if they are primarily a stay-at-home parent but would like to add to the family income when their partner is home.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This is the way to do it. Not everyone wants a M-F 9-5 sort of job, and it’s helpful to find some of those people rather than try to force people into a schedule that is problematic for them for whatever reason (especially for low pay and a stressful work environment). My mom doesn’t celebrate holidays and is the most popular person on her team at work because she is always willing to work the days other people want off (which also means she typically gets the days SHE wants off, too, because she’s helped out so many other people with coverage).

          2. theletter*


            It’s probably a lot easier to hire people for specific shift sets than to force people to change their schedules every week.

          3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

            I briefly worked retail when I was between jobs last year. I put down that I was available all 7 days and literally only ever scheduled M0n-Thurs, because SO MANY people need weekend shifts due to school, childcare, full time jobs, you name it.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          ^This. This is a very normal approach to a job that requires weekend coverage–find people looking for weekend work.

          OP1, you admit up front that everything about this job sucks, as framing for why as soon as the person an employee is caring for dies they need to work more weekend shifts. You can leave too! There are probably local jobs that are not as low paid, not as stressful, etc.

          You’ve been in there so long you’ve accepted a lot of things as Just How Things Are With Jobs, when outside your workplace those things are not normal.

          1. blerg*

            I fear this job has already warped OP’s expectations of what’s normal.

            This is why: OP writes, “I worry that letting it go sends a message that people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed.”

            OP, that’s exactly as it should be. Nobody should ever have to discuss this. It’s not something to worry about, that’s just treating people with decency and respect.

            Some companies assume their low paid employees deserve neither decency nor respect because they’re low paid. It comes from the top and is reflected throughout management in ideas like the quote above. OP is literally worried about her employees thinking they can be treated like adults.

            1. McThrill*

              LW 1 – “I worry that letting it go sends a message that people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed.” Yeah, that’s how it should be. No one should be forced to discuss their reasons for needing sick leave outside of a doctor’s note for an extended absence. Even disregarding the specifics of this situation – youa lready admit that everything about this job sucks – high stress, low pay, weekend hours. Forcing people to disclose private medical information in order to be deemed “sick enough” to be off of work would just be adding an exponential multiplier to how much that job sucks. Treat the adults you hired as adults who can judge for themselves when they’re well enough (mentally and physically) to come in to work.

        3. Siege*

          Because you don’t want to rely on only the people who want to work weekends. When I worked at an Amazon warehouse, you were assigned a shift and the process to change that was arduous at best. I got a good shift that worked with my schedule (mostly because I needed Sundays off, I was part of a huge cohort, and the clear expectation was that I meant “for church”) but for the bulk of new employees, it was very much “we have vacancies on back-half nights so you work back-half nights now”). Shift work isn’t like office work, and you cannot assume that all times on a schedule are equally desirable, especially since so many leisure activities cater to a weekend-off schedule. Or a weekday-on schedule. My understanding is that weekend childcare is hard to find compared to weekday childcare.

          When you need 700 people to consider a shift fully staffed and have three night shift patterns to fill … good luck finding 1700 people who preferentially want to work nights, or weekends, or weekend nights. You need to be able to assign people to those shifts and have them work it. Obviously it sounds like LW is working with a smaller shift need, but you still need people on that shift, and you just utterly cannot assume that there are enough people who want it to let everyone get their preferred shift.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I don’t think anyone here is saying that Amanda should never work weekends again, but scheduling it after a week or two without talking to her first is… not cool.

            1. Yorick*

              Siege is replying to a comment about hiring people specifically for the weekend shifts and (presumably, this is the logical conclusion) not giving those shifts to Amanda and others who don’t want them.

          2. blerg*

            Ok, when we’re talking about what is or should be considered normal and humane treatment of employees, Amazon warehouses shouldn’t even be part of the conversation except as a warning of how bad it can get if we let it.

            ” it was very much “we have vacancies on back-half nights so you work back-half nights now” ” That’s crappy. Amazon is crappy. Decent employers don’t do this. PLEASE don’t hold up Amazon as an example of how that’s just how it is.

            You absolutely can fill those shifts. By paying more. People who don’t want to work nights and weekends often change their minds when they’re offered a few bucks more per hour.

            What you describe, a new employee is suddenly assigned night shifts without any compensation for that change, is absurd. Amazon knows those shifts are less desirable and harder to fill. So they pull a bait-and-switch on new employees, rather than offer an incentive. All stick, no carrot, that’s the Amazon Way.

            Why on earth you think that is, or should be, the norm escapes me.

            (Yes, I’ve done shift work, I’ve never worked in an office. Night shifts in warehouses paid more than days, always. If Amazon’s not paying more to work the less desirable shifts, they suck, period.)

            1. Ali + Nino*

              “You absolutely can fill those shifts. By paying more. People who don’t want to work nights and weekends often change their minds when they’re offered a few bucks more per hour.”

              Nailed it.

              1. I have RBF*

                When I was in college I would have killed for a grave shift job that wasn’t retail/restaurant. It was the Reagan recession, and the only ones available were experienced security guard jobs, and I didn’t qualify. Because of that I could only take evening classes because I had to work days. Rotating/variable shifts were absolutely a no go for me, because of school.

                In general, I consider bouncing people’s schedule around like they were a ping pong ball is just plain nasty. Sure, sure, “the business needs” yada, yada. But unless the workload timing varies significantly week to week, it’s just bullshit. It is hard on the body to keep changing what your active hours are from week to week.

            2. Allonge*

              Amazon sucks.
              OP cannot change the pay structure at their company.

              Two things can be true at the same time.

            3. kiki*

              You absolutely can fill those shifts. By paying more.

              Yes! This is outside the scope for LW– it sounds like they’re a lower-level manager and/or don’t have a lot of power to change the system they’re in.

              But it frustrates me that a lot of businesses act like scheduling less-than-sought-after shifts is an impossible problem to solve. You need to pay more. When I worked retail, I wouldn’t work Thanksgiving for normal pay, but I would have for double pay. And keep in mind, double pay isn’t some audacious value– it was $20 compared to my normal $10. But companies wouldn’t do it! And then they’d complain about being understaffed on Thanksgiving/Black Friday.

            4. Becky*

              YES THIS.
              Thank you – I couldn’t coherently form a reply and you did brilliantly.

              I’ve been working an office job for 10+ years but in college I sought out night shifts so I would have more flexibility for my classes during the day.

            5. Siege*

              I’m very curious why you’re attacking me for pointing out that Amazon, a MASSSIVE employer in the warehouse space, is writing their own rules. Did I say that I thought they were doing a good job? Did I say that I liked what they do? Did I say that I hoped their work ethic becomes the norm? Did I even say that I still work there?

              I said none of those things. I said that when you need to fill X number of positions, you cannot assume that you will be able to only hire people who want to work undesirable shifts, which is what the comment I was responding to was suggesting as a solution to Amanda not wanting to work weekends, and used as an example what Amazon does, whether you like it or not.

              1. Lydia*

                Nobody said you will only hire those people, only that you can make it worthwhile for someone to work that shift, or you find people who are looking for that shift.

          3. me... just me*

            Lots of companies have 24 hour shift work. And, they specifically hire for the shifts that need covering. They usually add higher pay and bonuses for commitments to work these less savory shifts so that people actually want to work them for the additional income.

          4. Also-ADHD*

            I would not assume everyone is happy necessarily but I think overall people are more likely to stay if they are either electing into shift times or being consistently assigned (I’ve worked with both models) rather than assigned intermittently times they have said they aren’t really available. Low paying jobs especially people often need to work two jobs and childcare is another reason people may need consistency. Sharing the pain of Saturdays makes sense to me where Sat work is intermittently required but not where you know you’ll always need Sat. I agree all times aren’t “equally desirable” but if you’re not paying well especially and have lots of turnover and call outs, just scheduling as you want is not necessarily easier on management due to the turnover and call out issues it creates and the loss of good employees who need consistency and the toxicity it creates. Yes you may need to look harder to fill overnights or Sundays or whatever (and maybe that’s what new employees always have to fill) if your company won’t pay more for undesirable shifts. But there are people who want to work weekends in the world, and you can’t really complain about call outs or turnover if you’re scheduling capriciously for low paid work and losing staff all the time. You have to work harder to keep people happy in other ways. I mean, Amazon may not but many places do need to or else they are continually dealing with shortage.

      4. kiki*

        I think it at least merited a discussion and not something Amanda would just suddenly find on the schedule. Especially because Amanda may have been scheduling her life, appointments, and maybe even things relating to the passing of her MIL, with the assumption she’d still have weekends off.

        It also sounds like Amanda’s MIL passed 1-2 weeks ago at the time of writing this letter. LW started putting Amanda back on the weekend schedule before that and Amanda called out within that 1-2 week span. To me, it sounds like LW heard Amanda’s MIL passed and LW nearly immediately put her on the weekend schedule with no discussion. While the accommodation was made to allow Amanda to care for her MIL, having no adjustment period (or discussion!) after a death in the family seems a bit lacking in empathy.

      5. Zap R.*

        It’s one thing to say “the need no longer exists” but that gets a lot more complicated when the “need” was an actual human being.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah, this isn’t “oh your kid doesn’t need rides to Intensive Sports Camp anymore because they started at the HS in Varsity, so they can walk there, therefore you can go back on weekends”. This is an actual person who is no longer in someone’s life. Very very very different.

        2. metadata minion*

          Exactly. Maybe the LW just left this out of the letter because it didn’t seem important, but even if it’s absolutely necessary to get the employee back on weekends as soon as possible, there’s a huge morale/emotional difference between “I’m so sorry for your loss. I want to give you as much time to grieve as you need, but given how tight things are we really need you on Saturday shifts as soon as you’re able. Would you be able to resume on the 7th?” and “Oh, great, you don’t need weekends off anymore; you’re back on schedule as of the 7th”.

          Even if there isn’t any practical change to what happens, it can make an enormous different just to acknowledge the humanity of the situation out loud.

          1. The Person from the Resume*

            But it is not like Amanda is not working. This is not telling her to “get back to work ASAP.” She just prefers to work Monday to Friday which I think we all understand her preference. But many of her coworkers also have that same preference too.

            1. My Useless 2 Cents*

              As a coworker, I think I’d understand the need for Amanda to be off weekends for a few more weeks at least. She just had a death in the family! There are still things that need to be handled and I’d assume a funeral to go to.

              Unless there is absolutely no alternative in the area, if I saw that happen to a co-worker, I’d be job hunting pronto. If I was in Amanda’s position, I’d probably have quit on the spot (and I am very much the “have another job lined up” kind of person!)

              1. The Person from the Resume*

                but, but, but why does she NEED to be off on Saturday to handle things? I do not understand why so many commenters think she must be off on the weekends instead of some days during the week in order to grieve or handle things.

                Many funerals are held on weekdays, not weekends. It depends, and she should 100% be allowed off for the funeral which I am assuming already took place because most take place a few days after death.

                As an in-law she’s probably not the surviving family member with legal authority, but if she was it would be convenient to be off on a weekday so she could go to the bank, lawyer, government office. If she’s off on the weekday she could accompany her partner the surviving child to those activities.

                1. Zap R.*

                  The issue is that LW didn’t ask give Amanda the heads-up about the schedule change – they just went ahead and did it because they assumed a scheduling obstacle was now out of the way.

                  If I’m Amanda, it looks to me like management was waiting around for my MiL to die so they could immediately start scheduling me on weekends. It might not be intentional on LW’s part, but I can see how it might seem extremely callous to someone grieving.

                2. Eater of Hotdish*

                  As someone who officiates a lot of funerals, I will say that I’m seeing more and more scheduled for the weekends, and often weeks or months after the death. (Cremation used to be unusual where I am, but it is quickly becoming the norm.) Travel is a big reason–families like to have the service when the roads are likely to be passable, the ground isn’t frozen/covered with three feet of snow, and people are more likely to be off work or school. I think a lot of folks are taking the opportunity to turn the funeral into the sort of family reunion that wasn’t possible during the height of covid.

                3. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                  It’s not that she necessarily needs to be off on Saturdays to handle things (though I’m sure we could think of situations where that might get the case); it’s that she probably needs to handle things and she’s been off on weekends, so absent any discussion from the LW about changing her schedule she would probably arrange to handle things on the weekends.

                  I will say when my dad died, my husband was absolutely necessary doing things like figuring out food and logistics for my siblings and I, while we focused on our mom and getting her to make the necessary decisions. Dad’s funeral took a week to arrange; stuff with the bank and the lawyers wasn’t even started until we had the death certificate some weeks later. Cleaning out the house had fortunately been mostly done over a series of long weekends with all the siblings and their spouses months before.

                4. McThrill*

                  The question here is not “should LW never have to work weekends again?” but rather “should I have changed her schedule without notice less than a week after someone she spent her days off caring for died?” and “Should I just accept sick leave requests without prying into why or how they are sick?” (my answers are “no” and “yes,” personally).

                  Any comments or speculation about the employee’s scheduling needs, funeral plans, legal obligations, etc. aren’t even relevant to the answer. This isn’t about the meployee’s needs, but the manager’s handling of the situation.

                5. Also-ADHD*

                  She was surprised which means she would have scheduled for that time off to deal with any MIL stuff. We don’t know why she pushed back in the schedule but as soon as she did LW1 should’ve worked out a return to weekend shifts (if Amanda is needed there truly) in a human way rather than just assume it would be okay since the current established rule was Amanda needed those days not scheduled. There are lots of reasons why Amanda might need time to transition back to working after the MIL died, from logistics to emotional ones (literally that is a time she’s most likely to think about MIL and feel grief, in some cases, since she is only at work on Sat because she is no longer caring etc). They’re all speculation. But as soon as she pushed back, LW1 should’ve fixed it for the short term and talked about it. Even if Amanda wasn’t sick, I support her calling in. She said she couldn’t be there really by pushing back and LW1 is now only thinking about that in terms of how it makes Amanda suspicious, not how LW1 messed up in scheduling her as a surprise.

                6. Chirpy*

                  Several of my grandparents’ funerals were on weekends. One was seven months later to allow for family members to travel.

                7. I have RBF*

                  My dad died in December 2018, just before Christmas. The memorial was on something like a weekday in February 2019, because of travel for a far flung family. I still ended up getting called by my job when I was on my way back from his memorial service. I was ticked.

                8. WestsideStory*

                  You make it sound like it’s all so easy and solvable. It’s not. You may not have life experience dealing with chronic care of a family member making that slow March to death. And afterwards, a lot of the paperwork is emotionally draining. A little more compassion please.

                9. Petty Patty*

                  Another posted replied to a similar comment above which a situation that was similar to mine: I had been off on FMLA for the last 3 weeks of my mom’s terminal illness. But even after she passed, it took us more than 2 months to empty the house -sorting through stuff, setting up for the estate sale, having the sale, then many multiple trips to Goodwill and other misc errands; then another few weeks replacing the flooring in the house with my brother and a friend doing the work. There were us 3 siblings and 4 teenaged grandchildren helping. It took us that long because we could only do it on the weekends, as my sister and I worked office jobs and brother is an OTR truck driver and the weekends were the only time we could all get together. It would have been impossible to do most of what we did, on our own at random other times during the week, it took as many hands as possible to be efficient.

                  On top of that, I was the executor and did still have to take random mornings off for visits to the bank, post office, real estate agent, etc.

                  What the LW did was a really bad look.

                10. Jessica*

                  You don’t need to know why she needs to be off Saturdays.

                  It’s not for outside parties to judge the needs of the bereaved *1-2 weeks* after a death.

                  It might just be that after both working and dealing with her own grief and that of her family and whatever follow-up she needs to do as one of her MIL’s primary caregivers, she needs one day off per week where she’s not working, whether working is MIL-related or hell-job-related, and due to when businesses are open and so on, Saturday is the day of the week she can box off to tend to herself.

                  Who knows? The LW doesn’t need to know the details. What the LW needed to do was preferably have a conversation, but at the very *minimum,* give her notice that her schedule would be reverting.

            2. blerg*

              Which is why most employers that have undesirable shifts PAY MORE to people who work them. And also talk to them first before changing their schedules.

      6. The Person from the Resume*

        I agree with you.

        As a coworker who has been working extra weekends because Amanda was caring for her MIL on weekends (probably when the home healthcare person was off or another family member who cared for the MIL on weekdays was unavailable) so was getting extra accomidations at work, I would be frustrated that once Amanda’s reason for being unavailable had passed she still kept getting the weekends off.

        It’s not cutting into Amanda’s grieving time or time to take care of post-death tasks to say her work schedule is Wednesday – Sunday instead of Monday – Friday. She is still working or not working the same number of hours.

        It’s very clear that the majority of the employees would prefer to work Monday to Friday so fairness dictates that once Amanda’s legitimate reason for being off those days ends, she go back to pulling her weigh and work the same number of them as her coworkers.

        1. Zap R.*

          “Jeez, Amanda. Your mother-in-law’s been dead for like, two weeks. It’s really selfish of you not to be completely back to normal.”

          1. Zap R.*

            Apologies for being harsh but I think the issue here is that LW is framing a very real person whom Amanda probably loved very much as an annoying obstacle to scheduling. I can understand how this would make scheduling frustrating and I can understand how this might seem unfair to employees who don’t have the full picture but this woman was giving palliative care to a relative. Annoyance and frustration can’t take priority over fresh grief.

          2. McThrill*

            “Working Saturdays really sucks, I wish that *I* was getting an entire weekend free to spend time with a terminally ill family member in failing health who I knew was going to die soon and suddenly.”

        2. Observer*

          It’s not cutting into Amanda’s grieving time or time to take care of post-death tasks to say her work schedule is Wednesday – Sunday instead of Monday – Friday. She is still working or not working the same number of hours.

          That’s actually something that you don’t know. And, as others have noted, because of the way the logistics of some of this stuff works, it’s not unlikely that for a few weeks after that would be legitimate need.

          And the real problem here is that the OP doesn’t have the faintest idea because they never spoke to Amanda about it. Not even to TELL her that the schedule is changing.

        3. DataSci*

          We’re talking about one or two weeks after a painful loss. That’s not “still kept”, that’s acknowledging the reason for the issue is not purely a logistical one. I’d agree if it had been a couple months.

        4. Office Lobster DJ*

          While you may be right that the co-workers are frustrated, I don’t think we’re at the “kept getting weekends off” point after only 1-2 weeks. If the co-workers are in a situation where they are so resentful or overwhelmed that they can’t handle another week or two, that’s a much bigger problem.

          I would also point out that it’s not just the after death tasks or grieving time. We all structure our personal lives around our work schedules, and a change to that– especially an abrupt one — will require some degree of re-configuring, even in the best circumstances. These are obviously not the best circumstances.

          1. blerg*

            It’s really common for employees to lose any hope of changing their job situations or their employer’s policies so they turn on each other. Coworkers are frustrated with their employer but are powerless. So they turn against anyone who they perceive is not being treated as badly as they are. They blame the unfairness on the coworker and not on their bosses who are actually making the decisions.

            Like getting mad at the one coworker who has human needs rather than get mad at the bosses who treat them all like replaceable machine parts.

        5. blerg*

          And if your employer were paying, say, a dollar more an hour for people to work the undesirable shifts, you wouldn’t have to cover those shifts because you’d have other coworkers begging to take them.

        6. jasmine*

          If I was a coworker, I’d be a lot more concerned about Amanda being put back on the schedule right away. Giving her some time before that happened would help assure me that my manager was compassionate.

        7. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          I hope Emma Goldman would rise from the grave and haunt my bedside if the thought that the co-worker who’s been working extra unpaid labor to care for a sick loved one has an unfair advantage over me if she gets extra time to adjust in bereavement ever crossed my mind.

        8. DisgruntledPelican*

          God forbid I ever become this callous that I’d want a coworker’s schedule to be changed to make sure she picked up the undesirable weekend shift THE VERY NEXT WEEKEND after her loved one died.

        9. Anonomite*

          It’s kind of telling that you view someone dealing with an extremely painful situation as receiving “extra” accommodations as if it’s some sort of perk. You can feel frustrated all you like, but I hope as part of that frustration you’re also checking your own attitude, because it ain’t great.

        10. Mouldy*

          You see the accomodation someone received for a intense hardship as a boon. It wasn’t.

          Nothing changed for you. Someone died for her. It simply isn’t about you, and I can think of no worse a reason to be so callous to someone’s hardship than ending how inconvenient their years of caregiving have been to their coworkers.

      7. Jade*

        Have you ever planned a funeral and had to deal with a grieving spouse or deal with an estate?

        This has to be healthcare. I’m guessing a long-term nursing facility.

        1. me... just me*

          Usually those schedules come out several weeks in advance, though. So a last minute change like that would be out of the ordinary. Unless, of course, there was an open shift and they just couldn’t find someone to cover and stuck the bereaved co-worker in because nobody wanted to cover (including management).

      8. FrivYeti*

        At the *absolute* minimum, if I had a standing, weekly engagement to take care of a person who I loved and cared for deeply, and then that person *died*, I would not remotely be in a place to work two weeks later when the event that was part of my routine looped around and I was reminded that I wasn’t doing it because they were, and I cannot stress this enough, *dead*.

        Grief is stronger when you’re reminded of the person that you’re grieving, and that is an *incredibly* likely thing to trigger it. I cannot imagine being so heartless as to say, “Well, it’s been one or two weeks, that reminder is probably not one that bothers them any more.”

        Hell, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the person was vomiting due to stress and grief upon waking up, having a moment of thinking about the routine they were used to, and then remembering that said routine had been shattered.

        1. connie*

          Not to mention between working this job and then having caretaking duties on weekends, Amanda’s own health may have taken a backseat and she may be feeling the affects of that.

        2. Set999*

          Absolutely, all of this. And we can’t know, but that’s my suspicion on the vomiting, especially since she thinks the next day will be better. In my experience, you try to keep going as much as possible, but some things just hit hard when you’re reminded, especially in the second week when all of the chaos of the funeral has mostly settled.

      9. Artemesia*

        A thoughtful boss would sit down with her and discuss the transition back to taking her turn weekends and show some sympathy for her loss and some appreciation for the burden she carried. It isn’t putting her back on the rotation that is wrong, it is the callous way it was done. Managing should be done with some sensitivity to people’s feelings.

      10. Eukomos*

        The last thing someone needs when going through a horrible experience is an abrupt schedule change. Yes, she COULD work weekends now, but the decent thing to do is give her a week or two of her old schedule and then some warning that the new schedule will be starting.

        1. blerg*

          At least a week, preferable two, is a basic and necessary thing to do whenever you change someone’s regular schedule under any circumstances. If a sudden change is necessary (and I mean it’s actually necessary that THIS person work THIS shift because nobody else can do it) then you still give them as much warning as you can and you acknowledge that you’re asking a lot.

          If they offered any kind of incentive to workers to take those shifts, this wouldn’t even be a problem.

      11. yala*

        This seems very Efficient, but not very Human. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to give a caretaker some time to adjust, and maybe a heads up or discussion before bringing in another change.

        Just because her reason for not working weekends was caretaking, that doesn’t mean that was the only thing she was doing. She’d likely structured her daily/weekly routines in a specific way. And that’s not accounting for the bone-weary exhaustion that caretaking can result in, or the mental shake-up that happens once said caretaking is no longer needed (it can be its own kind of trauma, tbh)

        It also feels just kind of…callous? Like the response to “My MiL that I was taking care of died” is “I guess you’re free to work weekends, then?”

        Just feels like it could’ve been slightly better handled.

      12. MCMonkeyBean*

        It’s probably true that she won’t need the weekends off anymore in the same way that she did before. But it comes across pretty crappy if your primary response in this situation is not “oh no, this horrible and sad thing has happened to my employee, what can I do to help support her in this time” and instead is “thank goodness this person is available to work weekends now.”

        I’m sure that’s not exactly how OP saw this situation, but that is definitely how it must have felt to Amanda.

        Combine that with the first response to someone calling out sick is suggesting they must be faking, and that is pretty far from an “inviting” environment. Unless Amanda has a significant history of unreliability then I think OP needs to do some self-reflecting here.

      13. Too Stunned To Speak*

        This reads as “Your MIL finally kicked the bucket? That’s great, it was really causing some scheduling issues for us. Oh, and my condolences.”

      14. Elizabeth West*

        I would have at least had a conversation with her first. To just pop her back on the schedule without a word feels a bit cold. Maybe the OP didn’t mean it that way, but I imagine that’s how it felt to the employee. That’s how it would feel to me, anyway.

        It’s not like she was out on weekends because she was in a production of Fiddler on the Roof; someone died.

    2. coffee*

      I feel like this is a good example of how working somewhere dysfunctional can warp your sense of professional norms.

      1. coffee*

        To add a bit more context, I think LW1 is trying to balance a bunch of factors, including keeping things fair for all employees, and the job is taking so much from the LW and from everyone else that it isn’t leaving time/space/the mindset for extending compassion and space to employees as fellow humans. Also realistically the LW is probably under a lot of pressure from above to get people in to work, and I don’t think you could escape internalising that as a professional norm.

        Also, to be fair to the LW, for that kind of industry it probably is a professional norm that they drag you in come hell or high water, with limited exceptions? Certainly in my experience that’s one of the key duties of managers in those kinds of environments. (Which I would hate as a workplace culture, personally, but it’s not uncommon.)

        1. M2*

          What if it’s healthcare? You can’t just make a manager come in every time.

          I don’t know but I think giving her the no weekend accommodation for a long time is a sign of a good workplace especially since other people had to cover. I think the LW should have spoken to the employee before putting them back on weekends, but you can’t have continuous leave. Other people probably want that weekend time and have family obligations too. I think two weeks is really fair as long we you speak to the employee and maybe try to work with them for a few more weeks to give the grace (unless they haven’t worked weekends for years). But I do think the LW should have spoken to the employee and offered condolences and then explained why they needed them back on the weekend schedule- covering for other workers who need the days off, etc.

          If it’s part of the job requirement and you know that going in, it’s part of the job.

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

            But it sounds like there was no heads-up? The OP says that the MIL passed 1-2 weeks ago and when the OP was made aware of this they immediately started to put Amanda on the schedule for Saturday and that now her first Saturday she called off.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              It sounds like she was rostered for a Saturday on the first roster created after MIL’s death. If MIL’s death had fallen elsewhere in the cycle of posting the roster, Amanda might have been rostered for a Saturday even sooner.

          2. coffee*

            Sorry, I guess I didn’t explain it well – I didn’t mean that managers should come in. I meant that, in those kinds of industries, it’s a key duty of management to enforce the workplace norm that staff turn up for shifts unless there’s a really pressing reason. They enforce a default of people coming in, including on weekends. And, as you say, staff working in those environments know it’s a job requirement and that it’s part of the job.

    3. Observer*

      you are not making the job as inviting and friendly as you can if your first response to your reports MIL dying was to immediately put her back on weekends.

      That was exactly my first thought.

      And the fact that you just *did* it without a conversation, not even a heads up makes it a lot worse.

    4. MassMatt*

      I disagree, and disagree with this part of Alison’s response, which seemed to be more geared towards someone having a leave of absence cancelled abruptly. The employee was not on leave, they simply were not working weekends due to taking care of a family member.

      I’m assuming weekend and evening/graveyard shift availability was made clear as part of the job description.

      Yes it would have been better to have a discussion with the employee first, but IMO this employee’s desire to not work weekends shouldn’t be considered sacrosanct. Most people would prefer not to work weekends (unless they had a weekday job) and this burden has been carried by all the other employees until now.

      1. blerg*

        See, I would assume a company with weekend and graveyard shifts that have to be filled would offer an incentive, like a marginally higher hourly rate, for people to work those shifts. Like pretty much every other company does. Then it’s not such a burden or at least it’s a fairly compensated burden.

        1. I have RBF*

          Yeah, putting someone on a weekend shift arbitrarily and with no warning, even if it was “usual” for that workplace, just sucks. Talk to people before you change their schedules.

          You say you have high turnover, etc. While I know you have little control over pay, your company is making your job harder by not paying a shift premium, and requiring you to bounce people’s schedules around. Good workplaces have consistent shifts, and a shift differential for undesirable shifts.

          Maybe you need to change jobs to one that treats people more like people, not machines.

        2. MassMatt*

          Some places do that, others do it by rotation or seniority. In any case, the employee would have had to work weekends but was not due to her family situation.

      2. yala*

        “this burden has been carried by all the other employees until now”

        Then what’s a few weeks more, for the sake of humanity and compassion and not sending a message of “Glad that’s over.”

        If they just needed the Saturday off for a Thing That Happens on Saturday, and then the Thing is over, that’s one thing. But if the Thing is over because someone died, especially someone close to the employee, maybe just…apply a bit more empathy?

    5. Jade*

      It’s brutal to put her back on weekends right after a significant death in the family. Is there no bereavement leave? And was it one week or two? One week is absolutely heartless and appalling. This kind of behavior encourages call offs.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        My company does not have a specified bereavement leave at all.
        And the previous job, large employer, massive PTO, had it at 5 days for spouse/sibling/parent/child, and 3 for any other family member.
        I’ve never heard of a bereavement leave over 1 week.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          Really, 3 days is the common leave. The leave is for going to and from the funeral, possibly deal with some paperwork.
          It’s not for grieving, and estate settling, and what else have you with a death in the family. That is done on your own time/PTO.

      2. MassMatt*

        I agree that the LW should have had a discussion wit( the employee before changing the schedule, but why is it “brutal” for her to work on a Saturday but not on the Thursday or Friday before? The employee wasn’t on leave, she was already/always working, she just wasn’t working weekends.

        1. Expelliarmus*

          It’s brutal because it sounds like the employee now has to work weekends AND M-F right away, without any courteous acknowledgement of her loss and/or her input on if she needs more accommodations.

        2. DisgruntledPelican*

          Your loved one that you have spent every weekend for the past however long caring for has died. The moment she is dead, your work says “your free on weekends now, so you can work that shift.”

          I don’t just think it’s brutal, I think it’s inhumane.

    6. Rainy*

      This is one of things where the letter says “we have a lot of turnover” and then goes on to lay out exactly what they’re doing to contribute to that turnover.

      I’d imagine that when Amanda quits without notice, LW is going to be all *shocked Pikachu face*.

      1. Ben*

        Precisely. I couldn’t help thinking that the business is lucky if Amanda only calls out one day and not, say, the rest of her life.

    7. Dawn*

      I know that I’m probably not saying anything that hasn’t already been said, but OP, please, PLEASE consider the optics of, “Oh, your relative that you were caring for died, how convenient.”

  2. Kelship*

    1. so,
    a. the job absolutely sucks and you’re giving an employee grief on calling off.
    b. ‘I worry that letting it go sends a message that people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed’….yes. That is how it should be. No wonder the turnover is so high, my goodness.

    1. Also-ADHD*

      Yeah LW1 says they can make the conditions as good as possible, and then described a thing they did to make the conditions worse (suddenly changing an employee’s predictable schedule with no notice, because “hey your MIL is dead now”) and this attitude of investigation of absence definitely would make conditions worse. It’s sucks managing low paid positions with lots of call offs and turnover (I’ve done it, a long time ago) but this isn’t helping conditions.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, I’m not sure how to parse “people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed.” The reason you call in sick is that you are…sick? How does a ‘discussion’ factor into this?

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I agree. there was a whole thread here a while ago about how people expressly prefer that people who call in sick do not give any information aside from “I’m sick.” (IIRC it was in response to a LW who wanted to normalize talking about periods so would make a point to say she was sick with her period, and someone told HR that she was making them uncomfortable.) There should be no discussion of sickness because it’ll make employees feel like they have to justify being sick or that they have to pass a certain level of sickness in order to call out, and that should never be the case. People get to decide if they’re too sick to work.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I remember going to the deputy principal to tell him I needed to leave early for a scan. I was about to give a bit extra information, just that I was undergoing tests, as a hint that there was a possibility I might need further time off if the worst occurred and he cut me off with an “I don’t need to know that.” I think he assumed I felt I had to justify myself.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          I’m in the don’t-give-me-details camp. If you’re too sick to work, you’re too sick to work. It’s less that I don’t want to hear the ins and outs of someone’s stomach virus (I have kids, it takes a lot to gross me out at this point) and more that I feel like it’s putting me in a place to judge whose leave is worth and whose is not. I had someone for a while who was out a lot and basically wanted validation that their need was greater or more important than their coworkers’. It was very uncomfortable for their coworkers who they were trying to press for details to compare illness/family emergency with, which is a different kind of gross. They got very angry when they were told to stop doing it because they didn’t think we could “be fair” about prioritizing leave requests if we didn’t know *all* the details.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            The only reason to give details is if it will make a difference to staffing (eg if it indicates that you’ll be out for a month rather than a couple of days) and even then it requires only a minimum of detail.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think the LW thought a discussion entered into it because she had reason to suspect that the employee was not sick. Wanting sick leave to apply to sick people is not really out of bounds. It’s just that there’s nothing to be done about it in individual instances, because then you get into interrogating people’s illnesses.

        1. Lydia*

          Sick covers a lot of territory, though. Was she actually feeling incredibly sad about her MIL and not mentally up to working? Because that counts as being emotionally unwell. Was she crying so hard she had been vomiting? Because that would count as emotionally and physically unwell. Even if it wasn’t either of those and the sudden, unannounced schedule change messed with some some other plans she had, it comes down to having to let a few folk take advantage so the rest of the people who need to call in sick can do it without it being an issue.

      3. theletter*

        +1 considering there was little discussion about adding her back into the weekend rotation.

      4. Orange You Glad*

        Yup, there is no discussion other than I hope you feel better.

        I called out sick yesterday and it lead to 2 separate calls from my boss with unsolicited medical advice. He is not a doctor and we do not work in any type of healthcare field. I only mentioned that I needed a sick day. Nothing about what I was sick with or my health but he decided I needed a COVID test and then later that I “just needed some sun”. Actually, I needed to sleep for about 6 hours and have a relatively inactive day because I had extreme cramping and dizziness related to my period.

        It’s none of your business what your employee is sick with or what conditions might cause a random call-out.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      At my workplace, only sick time can be taken at will (assuming the employee has sick time to use). All other time is up to the supervisor’s discretion. So if the employee is told “No, you can’t have Tuesday off because Fergus asked first and we need X people to open to the public”, and the employee really needs Tuesday off, the employee will call in sick on Tuesday.

      As far as part-time employees go, my workplace says that they work when we need them. So they can be asked to come in at a moment’s notice. Why yes, we do have lots of turnover in part-timers. How did you know?

      1. I have RBF*

        As far as part-time employees go, my workplace says that they work when we need them. So they can be asked to come in at a moment’s notice. Why yes, we do have lots of turnover in part-timers. How did you know?

        “How did you know?” indeed.

        It’s amazing how many US employers will do the abusive schedule thing around shift work, then bitterly moan about how “No one wants to work anymore!” when they have a lot of turnover. People need consistent schedules and hours, who’d o’ thunk it…

        My condolences on the situation at your workplace.

        1. Lydia*

          The state where I live passed a law that jobs that are covered in shifts (all of them, retail, restaurant/fast food) are required to provide a set schedule at least two weeks in advance and cannot change it without advance notice without paying a penalty to the employee. I know there are still businesses out there that pull that last minute stuff, but at least now people have a form of recourse. Link below.

    4. Rob*

      I think the LW has a very inflated sense of how much she is doing to make up for it being a crappy place to work.

  3. nodramalama*

    LW1, for someone who says they want to make their workplace friendly and inviting, you have given very little understanding or sympathy to this person! Your immediate response to finding out that the person they have been caring for long term has died was “oh they’ll now be available for the shift”? Of course she doesn’t want to work Saturdays…

    1. nodramalama*

      I guess for construction advice, to add to Alison’s point, even if you’re asking for a doctor’s note they will not generally give you any further details than your employee has. They will usually say “xx is unfit for work on x day to x day inclusive.”

      So if you’re looking for insight into why someone has called in sick or to check the reasonableness of their excuse, I don’t think requiring a doctors note would get you any closer, and all you’re doing is creating more hoops for your sick employee to jump through.

      1. rudster*

        A doctor’s note for a 1-2 day absence is not just a hoop, but a basically insurmountable obstacle. If you can even a get same-day appointment, your PCP probably doesn’t work weekends, and even then it would probably cost 100 bucks or so. A visit to urgent care would cost several hundred and the ER several thousand. At that point it makes more economic sense to simply shrug and say “whatever, just dock my pay”.

        1. kiki*

          Yeah, I can understand requiring a doctor’s note for an extended leave or ongoing accommodations, but logistically it doesn’t even make sense to get a doctor’s note for the kind of illness that lasts a day or two. Who are the doctors who have last minute time in their schedules to tell someone, “yes, you are indeed throwing up and prob should not go to work.”

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I’ve seen posts online from doctors who beg employers not to require a doctor’s note for short absences. That was before the pandemic happened, and I imagine it’s even worse now since so many places are experiencing a health care shortage. It doesn’t make sense for a busy doctor/PA/NP to take time out of their schedule dealing with sick and injured patients to write a letter verifying that someone vomited.

          2. metadata minion*

            And for things like migraine, the doctor is just going to take you at your word anyway. (Or not, if they’re a jerk.) I think in theory they could clinically determine that you’re having a migraine with a CT or something, but that’s not usually done even when first *diagnosing* you with migraines, since the symptoms are often pretty unmistakable. At that point it’s a question of whether you trust your employee, or decide that you’re going to trust a random doctor to trust your employee.

            1. Jade*

              A CT scan does not confirm migraine. The history does. I practice medicine. To ask an employee to have a note for a one day absence is an abuse of the health care system.

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              Yeah, ToxicBoss1 required a doctor’s note when I was out for the flu, and the doctor just wrote a standard note for five days. Then she took my blood pressure and said “wow is there any source of stress in your life?” I told her about my boss harassing me and she tore up the sick note and wrote another for two full weeks.
              With ToxicBoss2, I was off for several months, mainly for depression caused by him trying to force me to work all alone in a co-working place one and a half hours away, but I did also have surgery for something else in the midst of that. So I had a first sick note from my GP, then one from my psychiatrist, then one from the surgeon, then another from my psychiatrist, then another from a random doctor because the psychiatrist made a mistake in the dates of the next sick note and was no longer reachable. The boss claimed I wasn’t really sick and was just getting random doctors to give me a sick note, so the healthcare authorities summoned me for an appointment where I had to prove that I was really sick. At the appointment I just burst into tears and the doctor said, OK don’t worry, I’ll tell your boss he’s wrong. She barely glanced at the sick notes, just took my word, or rather tears, for it.
              People choose to be doctors because they want to help, they’re not going to refuse to give you a sick note, they know the chances of you faking it are very slim.

          3. Eldritch Office Worker*

            My doctor lets me request a doctors note online and just writes it without seeing me. Luckily my job doesn’t require that, but I think it’s indicative of how Done doctors are with this kind of thing.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Pretty much. They became doctors to heal people, not to serve as an employer’s truancy officer.

            2. NZDoc*

              I’m a doctor and we do this also. The wording is slightly different – “this person reported to me that…” vs “I have seen this person and…” but realistically even if you come to see me in person I am going to be largely working off what you tell me, it’s just how medicine works. I can’t look at someone and say for certain that they were *not* vomiting three hours ago, so what’s the added value in seeing them unless they clinically need to be seen?

          4. Shandra*

            Yes. My then-employer required a doctor’s note if you were out sick for more than three days.

            I had a scheduled surgery requiring four regular sick days off, not even an LOA. But the surgeon couldn’t write the note until I was medically cleared for the surgery. My PCP had to do the exam; an NP wasn’t authorized. And my PCP couldn’t see me till the day my employer ideally wanted the note.

            They wanted a note, they got it. But they had to wait for it.

          5. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

            Yeah, at my old job I had to get a doctor’s note when I had a bad virus and was out sick for 3 days. I was not in a job where it should have been a problem (like working with medically vulnerable people who could get extremely sick from lingering illness).
            Compared to my current job where I had to send a doctor’s note after my surgery because I was on restrictions.

        2. Littorally*

          Right, plus if someone is vomiting (or experiencing similar urgent discharge from other orifices) then getting in the car and getting to urgent care would be… decidedly sub-optimal. No one wants to be cleaning horror out of their car’s upholstery just so they can get a doctor’s note.

          1. LtBarclay*

            Not to mention spreading it to the staff and other patients at the urgent care unnecessarily!

          2. yala*

            Yeah, the one time I needed a doctor’s note from work (at the 3 day mark), I had the worst cold/sore-throat I’d ever had (I seriously thought Covid, but multiple tests including the one at Urgent Care came back negative), and my condition was not improved by spending a few hours in the Urgent Care waiting room when I could’ve been sleeping.

        3. Usagi*

          Every doctor’s office I’ve seen holds the same-day appointments for actually urgent acute things, like a panic attack or a cat bite. It affects all those other patients if those thoughts are taken up with someone who just needs a note saying “you have a cold” or whatever.

          1. Dahlia*

            I can speak from experience here – the only clinic where I live does not. If it is an emergency, they might let you wait but they’ll probably tell you to go to the ER. When I broke my spine, I got squeezed in between two appointments for maybe 5 minutes of examination and then sent to the local ER to wait for 5 hours, because the clinic doctor is also the doctor who goes to the ER. Which is like 15 miles away.

            Rural areas are fun.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          I used to work under a system that required a doctor’s note from day one. It was set up to work that way, so it was possible to get an appointment, and covered by insurance. The doc would ask what’s wrong, I’d describe general flu/cold symptoms, he’d look in my mouth for 2 seconds and write me a note for a week and prescribe bedrest (no kidding).

          Knowing that I would have probably only taken a day or two if the note was not required, everyone lost in this scenario: my employer because now I’m out longer, my health insurance for paying for this nonsense, and me for dragging myself out of bed. Awesome.

        5. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

          Also, the medical system is overwhelmed and I can see a nurse or doctor be ticked that they had to waste time seeing someone just so they can get a doctor’s note to go back to work. I’ve read things where doctors were really maliciously compliant and wrote an excuse for several days when the person only really needed 1-2 days (with their permission). And I’ve also heard doctors write letters that scold the boss for making an employee have a doctor’s note.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        My Dr has no time for this type of nonsense and will add a day or three to the unfit for work timeframe, and will inquire where to send the bill for “occupational health services”.

        My constructive advice is: don’t do this.

        1. Risha*

          I like your doctor. Mine is like that too, she has no tolerance for employers that require a note for 2-3 day absences. I wish more doctors would do this. Requiring a note for only a couple days is beyond ridiculous.

      3. Duchess Silver*

        Also, if someone is throwing up, the last thing they want to do is go to the doctor where they may throw up in the car or in the waiting room. Not to mention, it can be difficult to get a same day appointment with many doctors.

    2. Colette*

      Well, working Saturdays may be a part of the job that she was exempted from due to her circumstances (that no longer apply), so whether she wants to work Saturdays isn’t really relevant.

      But it should have been a discussion and a plan to put her back on the Saturday schedule after a few weeks, not just putting her on the schedule immediately.

    1. lyonite*

      If anything, LW2, I’d say you’ve done the best thing you can do, which is to get away from the people who were hurting you and started to rebuild your life. I imagine you might feel like you’re due some justice–I get that!–but what’s important is making your life as good as it can be, and let their lives be their own punishment.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yes, OP2 has made the best move possible and cleared the decks for something better. It does feel like you’ve “lost everything” when you’re in this situation, and unfairly having to start from scratch. What they’ve actually lost is a deceptive relationship and a terrible boss whom there no doubt would have been other issues with.

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

        Yes! I do think that OP should let HR know why they left so that they can be sure to get a good reference for future jobs. And hopefully she has other contacts at the company, even just co-workers, who could serve as references.

      3. Marna Nightingale*

        It’s basically the self-revenging ex + boss scenario. That relationship is going to be a hotter mess than Mauna Loa.

        If they cheat with you they’ll cheat on you. If they screw other people over to be with you, you’re gonna be other people at some point. And so on.

    2. I have RBF*

      Seriously. What kind of a boss thinks it’s okay to sleep around with a direct report’s partner/spouse?? Sure, they don’t manage the partner, but they do manage the person that they are screwing over.

      LW2, you are better off being away from that dumpster fire of a manager.

      Move away, get a better job for more money, rebuild your life, then post pictures of your happiness to social media. The best revenge is living well.

  4. Huh*

    I’m curious about LW5s aversion to this outcome. It’s essentially what they wanted. They wanted the time off and were willing to forgo wages for that time. Having to pay back a negative balance for the paid time off is mathematically the same outcome… unless I’m missing something…

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Yes, that also seemed to me a strange aspect to focus on. If the problem was more along the lines that now they can’t take sick days because they come out of the same PTO and they’re already in the negative, that’d be more logical.

      I’m guessing it comes from a general discomfort with being “in debt”. A lot of people don’t like that, even if it’s essentially a zero interest loan and thus all to the debtors advantage. It also means one has to be conscious of putting that money aside to be in a position to pay it back.

    2. Allonge*

      A lot of people think that unpaid leave should be easy to take (“if I am not paid, what’s it to you that I am not working”) because they don’t consider what Alison spelled out (they hire people with an expectation that they are generally available 40 hours a week, so it’s not just about paying an employee it’s also having one there).

      So maybe OP was just not considering this as an issue for the employer and was surprised at the pushback. It happens.

      1. mlem*

        And another factor to unpaid time: Benefits. My company pays 85% of health insurance premiums; if someone takes a month unpaid, the company still has to pay that month’s premium (or find a way to bill the employee for it, though they’ve indicated in the past that they don’t ever want to be in the position of billing employees). So that unpaid month isn’t actually free for them.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Also billable hours. I work on a government contract and the hours allotted for PTO have to be balanced against the total work hours required to fulfill the contract and still earn the fee. A large company may have the overhead to absorb such a cost (loss, really), but small or medium (mine is the latter) does not. The only unpaid leave permitted by my company is FMLA.

          Note: My company recently updated their policy to immediately front new employees several days of PTO when first hired, because they recognize that new employees still get colds or have DMV appointments before leave has been accrued. But it’s not enough to take a week or so off.

        2. SpaceySteph*

          Yes it gets very complicated if you are out for a whole paycheck. When I was on maternity leave, I had to write my company a check every 2 weeks for the portion of the benefits typically withheld from my salary.

      2. Littorally*

        Right, that makes sense. I think a lot of people just aren’t aware of what things look like on the employer side — which is reasonable, since it’s not something that’s systematically shared with people! If it weren’t for a solid decade hanging out on AAM I wouldn’t know a quarter as much as I do now.

        1. Allonge*

          Oh, sure. Just as I learnt a lot about, e.g. being paid hourly here, and still don’t have an instinct for all its implications – I never needed to know and so I don’t. OP found an excellent place to ask that question indeed.

    3. Cat Tree*

      A lot of people don’t budget their money that way though, even if it works out the same mathematically. For many people, it’s different to never receive the money in the first place than it would be to make a large lump sum payment at a later time from money you already have.

      If I was in that position, I would have taken that set amount of money and put it away in savings, pretending I never got it. Then I just wouldn’t touch it until I left that job or had accrued back all the PTO. But many people don’t budget that way.

      1. Decidedly Me*

        Paying back unpaid leave is deducted from a final paycheck in all the cases I’ve seen, not literally writing a check to your job, so it still is like never receiving that money – just done at a later time.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, it seems likely that in practice this will basically just look like your last week was unpaid rather than the week of your wedding. That seems better honestly to space it out a bit from all the wedding expenses!

    4. Loose Socks*

      I know this probably doesn’t apply in this case, but my employer will do a leave payout once a year. For leave that doesn’t roll over, they give employees the option to cash it out, usually around November- December, and a lot of our employees count on that payout for money for the holidays. It is taxed at a higher rate, so financially it isn’t quite as beneficial as just taking the leave, but I understand that it can be very helpful to get a lump sum that time of year. I’ve had employees ask if they can just take unpaid leave so they still have that payout (the answer is no, by the way). They have to have a certain amount of specific types of leave (types that DO roll over) so if they do have to take leave for any reason, the payout doesn’t affect that. They have to apply for that leave about a month ahead of the payout

      1. H.C.*

        That’s my employer’s system RE: leave & end-of-year payouts, but I would clarify that the payout has tax withheld at a higher rate, not necessarily that the payout itself is taxed at a higher rate (unless that payout is enough to push an employee up a bracket).

    5. Colette*

      It’s not really the same. The OP was thinking she’d be able to “buy” some time off by giving up her salary, and still have paid time off later. Now she has the money, but is limited in how much time she can take off.

      If she gets 12 days vacation a year, started the job in October, and took 10 days in November, she’ll accumulate 3 days leaving her at -7 when the new year starts, which means she only gets 5 days next year. She gets her full salary, but little vacation.

      1. High Score!*

        My company allows us to do this. I prefer it because sometimes I need time more than money. Two weeks of a year is not enough.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        LW specifically says, “I [now] have a negative PTO balance that I would have to pay back if I left, which I am trying to do.” Instead of losing a week’s pay at the time of the wedding had they taken the time unpaid, they will have to pay back a week’s pay when they leave the job.

        I agree that this seems like a wash – instead of having to save up an extra week’s pay before the wedding to make sure they could cover their normal expenses during the unpaid week, they got an extension and only have to save up the extra week’s pay before they quit, to make sure they can pay back their leave balance.

        As you allude to, the salient difference between paid and unpaid time off is that unpaid time off allows one to take more annual vacation than their PTO allotment, but LW seems specifically annoyed that she can’t quit and walk away with a negative leave balance, having gotten more vacation than she was allotted before quitting.

    6. NewJobNewGal*

      My husband had a hard time understanding PTO when he moved from a lifetime of restaurant work to an office-like job. He never had PTO in 30 years of working, and thought he could save it and take time off unpaid instead. It was a completely foreign concept to him. He thought it was more like a perk that he had control over and not a regulated requirement.
      There were a lot of times he would need to take off for a dr apt and would assume that he could just not be paid for the time. I would need to remind him that he had to make up the time or use PTO because his hours at the end of the week need to add up to 40.
      If you never worked in that kind of environment, then its a hard idea to grasp.

  5. Jessica*

    LW1, please bear in mind that there are indeed plenty of illness situations where you could be very unable to work today, but pretty confident about being back in action tomorrow. For instance, food poisoning–you might be barfing your guts up and feel like death, but it doesn’t normally last more than 24h. Or maybe an allergic reaction, which would likely be something the person has experience with the duration of.

    I think a common mistake, and certainly one I’ve made, is to base our thinking about employee illness situations around what we’ve personally experienced. Turns out that might be a relatively modest subset of all the health/illness situations that could and do exist.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I’ve had plenty of times when I felt fine quickly after vomiting. Basically, as soon as the problem food is out, the symptoms go away.

      But the scheduling habits of LW1 are a common complaint of fast food workers. Meaning there may be a rule/law about how long an employee must wait after vomiting before coming back into work. Since these should be know by everyone, there is no reason for the employee to mention them when calling out sick.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I have had this before with shellfish (which is why I don’t knowingly eat them). Once the shellfish is gone I can usually pull around quickly.

    2. Not Australian*

      Ditto period pain and migraine, both of which have relatively predictable patterns. Explaining these, especially to managers who’ve never experienced either, is only likely to make one feel worse. The default should honestly be to trust the worker unless they give you reason not to.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah, those were among the issues I was thinking of when I said that Amanda might not want to get into too much detail about what’s actually going on.

    3. Crystal*

      My migraines are so bad that I vomit. However, they don’t last more than 9-12 hours. I know that I will be 100 percent fine the next day. However, I always worry that if I were to call in sick with a migraine, people who have never had a migraine may mistake it for a headache when it’s 1000 times worse than that. So I always mention that I am vomiting.

      1. umami*

        Same. I can be out one day because of this but know for certain I will be fine the following day. The worst is when I get a migraine at work because if the vomiting starts quickly, I won’t even be well enough to leave work for a few hours.

    4. JSPA*

      if you have vomiting without diarrhea soon after eating something suspect, it’s often going to be from bacterial toxins (that are cleared) rather than the bacteria infecting you (or something viral). You can also know there’s a 12-24 hour “thing” going around. Or it’s due to bad period cramps or migraine or allergies or bad medical interactions (etc etc etc). Which is to say, don’t penalize her for trying to be helpful and predicting that she can come in Sunday!

      Also, the fact that a death is not unexpected doesn’t mean you don’t want and need to grieve with friends or family, which is more realistically possible on a weekend.

      (And if there was the drinking sort of wake or remembrance or departure ceremony or what- you- will…this would be ENTIRELY the wrong time to penalize an incapacitating hangover.)

    5. summerofdiscontent*

      Stress as well- our bodies handle stress and grief in a lot of strange ways, particularly after prolonged periods of it (on top of working a high stress/low paying job). Not to mention how it can mess with your immune system over time.

    6. Delta Delta*

      Ugh. There was a time I ate some soup with kale in it and got food poisoning (I blame the kale so I never have to eat it again). The vomiting was so violent that I was simultaneously worried and laughing. This went on intermittently for a couple hours overnight until the evil kale was dispensed. The next day I felt okay but was exhausted from the experience. Thankfully this happened on a weekend but I really wouldn’t have been functional the next day for work.

      tldr: don’t eat kale.

    7. EPLawyer*

      If I get a sinus headache, its usually a one day thing. I might not be able to work that one day, but the next day I feel well enough, if not 100% to work. I know this because of years of dealing with it. So it is likely the employee knows this too.

      Or she just called out sick because she was upset at being put back on the weekend schedule immediately without having time to re-arrange her life from the old schedule.

    8. Knope Knope Knope*

      I was also thinking she can probably tell her boss is miffed that she got sick on a Saturday and could be overstating her certainty about being able to work on Sunday to show that she will work weekends. But it’s landing exactly how she didn’t want it to.

      Ugh I’m trying really hard to be respectful to OP 1 but I really feel she is creating and environment that breeds mistrust with her approach here.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        That’s my thought exactly, that the LW feels she can’t be sick for the whole weekend, given that the LW knows she would prefer not to work weekends, so she feels she has to be back for part of it, to show that she is willing to work weekends.

    9. Littorally*

      Not to mention that ‘vomiting’ is pretty frequently (at least ime) a code term for more indelicate situations that nevertheless are comparable in terms of ability to function. I know that every situation of crippling menstrual cramps I’ve ever had has been “”””food poisoning”””” to my employers.

    10. Totally Minnie*

      I have a chronic digestive issue, and when I have a flare up I usually just need a day to get myself back on track and then I’m okay to go back to work. It may have been something like that.

    11. Jackalope*

      Yes, this. There are a number of chronic medical conditions that people can have that cause them to be incapacitated for a brief period of time, but they know through personal past experience won’t last more than a day (or even more than a couple of hours, but it’s better to take the whole day off so you can recover). As others have pointed out in this thread, it’s also possible that she had other symptoms and just mentioned the throwing up as the most severe.

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, I have the occasional migraine and/or IBS flare. Migraines will knock me down for 24 to 36 hours – the medication I take kills the migraine, but leaves me feeling not very smart or focused for about a day after. IBS puts me on the toilet multiple times a day, and I don’t really want to bring my laptop into the bathroom.

        It has taken me years to not overshare, because in school they always wanted details so they could decide if you were really allowed the absence. Really bad lesson to pass on to kids, IMO.

    12. Lexie*

      I have a chronic condition that causes occasional flare ups. During the flare up I am pretty much useless. However, having lived with it for years I am fairly accurate at predicting when it will end. I’m pretty wiped out for a few hours afterwards but by the next day I’m fine. So if I had a flare as I was getting ready for work I’d at least be late and depending on the type of job it might make more sense for me just to take the whole day but I’d be confident I’d be in the next day.

  6. Nacho*

    Ignoring what LW1 should do, is there really a whole lot they can do? You’ve got a low paying, high stress job with huge turnover and callouts. It doesn’t sound like you’ve got a whole lot of bargaining power here to make her work weekends if she doesn’t want to.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yep. This is not a job that anyone seems to stay at long. If she doesn’t want to work weekends, she will just get another job. Changing the schedule without at least a discussion, even if the discussion is, I need you to start working weekends now, and then questioning someone calling out sick is a guaranteed way to ensure turnover stays high.

    2. Risha*

      Exactly. And maybe the huge turnover is partly due to management’s distrust and lack of communication with their employees. Imo, workers will tolerate a stressful job, even a lower paying job, if they have a great management team. Usually, people quit because of managers, not because of the job itself. I hope LW reads all these comments and changes the way they approach their employees’ sick time/scheduling.

      1. Shandra*

        Yes. I heard of one fast-food location whose manager had a great team, and they could have effectively covered all work shifts if Corporate would authorize OT. But that was just it: Corporate didn’t want to pay OT, or hire enough people to do the work without it.

    3. Yorick*

      Well, LW can definitely require her to work weekends and then she can quit if she doesn’t want to. Unless the employee is so stellar you can’t afford to lose them, it doesn’t make sense not to include them in the normal rotation for the less desirable shifts.

      1. Tie Dyed*

        Yeah, OP says, “Amanda has a lot of personal issues and calls in sick more frequently than the average individual”. Which doesn’t sound like someone you’d give extra special nice shifts to keep.

        1. I have RBF*

          It sounds like Amanda needs to get a new job with more predictable shifts and better money so she can take better care of her own health, now that she’s done being caretaker for her MIL.

        2. Rainy*

          If I were OP even if I thought “this woman working for me and taking care of her dying MIL has a lot of personal issues” I sure as heck wouldn’t say it out loud where other people could hear me.

          Yes, people who are caring for dying family members have a lot of personal issues. They probably do call out more often than the average person. Because they are caring for a dying family member.

  7. BuildMeUp*

    #1 – I really try not to jump to conclusions with letters, but to be honest, I’m getting the feeling that this is one of those situations where the house has been so full of bees for so long that you don’t notice the buzzing anymore. It sounds like your workplace is toxic and you’ve been there long enough that you’ve normalized it.

    1. Melicious*

      In the interest of being constructive, the problem that most people are reacting so strongly to here is that you don’t seem to have discussed it with her first. You can do that now. Apologize for not discussing it with her first, say sorry for her loss, and ask how her schedule limitations will be changing now. You can definitely tell her that working weekends is important and start requiring it, but maybe ask if she needs a little more time on her regular schedule, etc.

  8. Healthcare Manager*

    Op1 – it sounds like the toxicity of this job has turned you into a person that you’ll look back and wish you weren’t.

    I think you need to quit and learn managing skills somewhere much more positive and supportive.

    1. Siggie*

      I agree with this comment. Very, very, VERY strongly.

      OP1, with the greatest of respect, you are not Amanda’s treating medical doctor, nor do you own her. Empathy and objectivity are two of the most basic fundamentals of good and effective management and leadership. Your letter does not indicate that either of those qualities are being utilised here.

      1. Allonge*

        I would argue that OP can be feeling and exercising plenty of empathy, but towards other employees on this team, who could be, for example:
        * a father who has not been able to see any of his son’s weekend games this year because he had to work more weekends
        * someone who would like to visit their parents over the weekend as their spouse is only off then and their mother is not feeling well
        * someone wiht a graduation ceremony this weekend
        * someone who worked all weekends in May

        …and who were all being told for weeks now that they have to consider that Amanda is just not available for weekends. It sucks!

        But let’s keep in mind that the rest of the team has their own issues too. It’s just a bad situation overall.

        The illness and the doctor’s note is a different question, there I would indeed suggest to address a pattern and not a single instance.

        1. Ruby*

          That would still require a conversation with Amanda before things randomly showing up on the schedule.

          1. Allonge*

            Oh, absolutely! I am not arguing that OP is handling this perfectly (under the circumstances I am not sure what that would look like!).

            It’s just so easy to focus on the part of the story we have in front of us and to ignore that there are other issues ongoing at the same time we don’t have an insight to.

            1. BethDH*

              Thanks for this, I caught myself forgetting this even though I’ve been in the same position as Amanda’s coworkers. People who are exhausted and burned out often make errors like not communicating well, and I think OP should take that as one more sign that they need to get out. Being the only empathy buffer between employees and bad policy isn’t sustainable.

        2. Observer*

          It’s just a bad situation overall.

          It is. But it seems to me that the OP’s perceptions and norms have been warped by it.

          Because while it’s reasonable to put her back on the rotation, most of the rest is *not* reasonable. It’s not reasonable to put her back on the first week she’s no longer care-giving, put her back without discussing it or even telling her directly, or essentially accuse her of lying and considering penalizing her by requiring a doctor’s note. It’s also not reasonable to think that people should expect to have to “discuss” the reasons they need to take sick time with their boss.

          1. Allonge*

            A huge amount of these may not be reasonable, but they are really really common, especially in low-paid, crappy jobs. OP most likely had a lot of these happen to them!

            I guess I am not willing to condemn them – sitting at my cushy office job that has a privacy officer and normally no need for a weekend coverage – for not getting everything right. OP at least wrote in to check.

            1. Observer*

              A huge amount of these may not be reasonable, but they are really really common, especially in low-paid, crappy jobs.

              So? A lot of actual abuse is also “common” in certain types of situations, but that doesn’t make it OK. So, saying that it’s common is not much help, except perhaps to point out that the OP needs to not calibrate their behavior by what’s common.

              OP most likely had a lot of these happen to them!

              Could be. But in that case, they would be better off using that experience to help understand why it is a bad and unreasonable way to behave.

              OP at least wrote in to check.

              True. And I hope that they take the feedback on board.

              1. Allonge*

                So? A lot of actual abuse is also “common” in certain types of situations, but that doesn’t make it OK. So, saying that it’s common is not much help, except perhaps to point out that the OP needs to not calibrate their behavior by what’s common.

                I pointed out that it’s common because you say that it’s “not reasonable to think” that people should expect to have to discuss the reasons they need to take sick leave.

                If this is all that OP has seen – which is where the common thing comes in – than this is what they know. It’s helpful to tell them this should not be so, it’s not helpful to tell them they should have known this… somehow.

  9. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    LW1: I have a feeling the comments are not going to be kind. It sounds like the job sucks, works sucks and pay sucks. I see folks coming down hard on you and they have little to go on. I am not sure if 2 weeks is enough to put Amanda back on weekends, but I do get that you feel you need to for fairness to others. I also get if coverage is an issue callouts being a big deal since those who are there have to make do. I think watching how sick time is being taken is reasonable if you see a pattern develop with the callouts, ex. every Saturday.

    It really seems you are in a unwindable situation.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, OP1 – I actually would like to commend you for writing in. I totally see that, expecially in a job like this, the thinking can easily go: ok we made an exception for Amanda about weekends because of a family situation but that is now over, so exception is over.

      Not because OP (or even the company) wants to punish Amanda, but because of Beverly, Ceila and Deirdre who also work there, also would like to have weekends off frequently but have not been able to do so that much because Amanda’s situation had to be accommodated.

      Anyhow, I agree that there is no good solution here. I hope that both OP and their team find better jobs relatively soon.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yeah. Working a coverage based job myself and having had a much more traumatic bereavement than the worker, I’m more sympathetic to LW1, and here’s why.

      Firstly, the work has to be done. It’s not going to stop because Amanda’s mum died, and that’s awful, but it’s true. LW1 has a different set of priorities to Amanda, presumably can’t hire any more people (because no business can have infinite staff on the payroll or on call) and needs help reconciling the two, not condemnation as some heartless witch.

      Secondly, Amanda needs to talk to LW1 about what she needs. It’s hard, but I’ve been there with my husband. In my case, it was easy to take paid sick leave and get a doctor’s note when I was coping badly with the ups and downs of cancer. But I’m also part of a small team with little room in the budget for temps: if I’m off for two weeks on sick leave, my colleague can’t take any holiday. I actually replaced someone who went on long term sick so my colleagues could take their earned leave, but it had apparently been difficult to get my predecessor to do her job properly due to personal issues and my workplace had reached the limits of how much she could be present but not actually doing the job she was being paid for. She might well have had other issues, but that was piling the crap on top of the other two in the team.

      Hiring multiple people on just to sit around and do nothing is not practical for most businesses, so LW1’s other employees are carrying the can here. She has as much of a duty to them as she does to Amanda.

      So fast-forward five years to when the brown stuff hit my fan. I’ve built up a reputation for reliability and stayed longer than my predecessor. So now I’m the one whose personal crisis is disrupting the job. My manager and supervisor had a responsibility to my colleague because not only was I out sick a few times at short notice, but I also had multiple incidents of long term sick after my bereavement leave in 2019, because of my grieving process coinciding with the pandemic putting extra stress on us in-person workers without any kind of acknowledgement. So my boss had to triangulate my needs with D and C, my two colleagues multiple times in four years.

      Thirdly, I did put in for flexitime over the summer of 2019 — Fridays off and a condensed work week, which I could do because I was part time. I was beginning to have certain thoughts of self-harm — my husband was naturally getting the attention, I was struggling to focus at work but not allowed to do anything to relieve the boredom of reception, I was getting boxed in in a number of ways by people trying to curtail my ability to occupy myself, my mum was nagging me about how much I was spending on yarn, and that didn’t seem to help me focus on my husband. When someone dies after needing a lot of care, you’ve done the hard work but are left with the booby prize. I was in Amanda’s situation, and it led to several breakdowns at work…

      …because although my flexitime was approved for that summer (I applied in May but with a sunset date of September because that was when we got busier again), my supervisor still needed me to work occasional Fridays so my colleague could take HER holiday. I know, terrible, right? Here am I in the midst of a personal crisis but I can’t take all the time off I want because other people need time off too. But it’s business. LW1 needs to be fair all round.

      Things got worse as my husband deteriorated and in July my manager had to give me an ultimatum: take a six month break from work to look after Jeremy or buck up. And these are the people who were incredibly supportive, but they couldn’t have me try to cope with things as they were as they needed some coverage certainty. They weren’t in my headspace. They needed someone on reception who wasn’t crying all the time and struggling to be actually there when they needed me to be and while my colleague was taking her turn at having some leave…just like what had been happening when I replaced my predecessor. The compromise was that I got signed off for a week while hubby was still at home, then I came back the week he was in the hospital for the last time and took a day of AL in the middle after I’d got my own head together in that time. Then I was off on the Friday as agreed, so when he went into the hospice (to die on Saturday morning) I was there. My mum did a lot of the heavy lifting so I could hold my job down, but it was — very briefly — in jeopardy. Because as nice as my colleagues are, they’d been through this situation before and could not operate the building without someone who could commit to be there when they needed me.

      Then I had legit bereavement reasons to be off, but got bored and lonely at home and came back within about three weeks ready for the September rush, because it helped to be busier. I did my grieving when lockdown the following year gave me a chance to pick up the slack because I live a two hour public transport commute away from work and it wasn’t easy to do that during proper lockdown. (It eased up over subsequent periods and staying at home was a bit boring after that.)

      It stinks to high heaven all round, but either way LW1 needs someone who can do the job when she needs them to. In an ideal world there’d be a large pool of spare workers — but as someone who is still effectively just the relief receptionist after nine years and struggling to get good opportunities to show my skills, I’m thinking of actually quitting to find a better job where I’m actually active during the day and not just hanging around so I can be called on to cover for my colleague. We’re too slow now for there to be any point taking on a third receptionist, and money in the public sector is always right. It’s not practical for a business to have an infinite pool of temps, and since these temps would likely only be paid for what they worked, good luck finding someone on a regular basis if they’re not a full employee. I’ve been in that situation as a temp as well and it’s hard to answer a call from a job I genuinely enjoyed but who couldn’t give me enough hours and say sorry, but I have a position where I have a stable work week and chances are very good that I’ll go permanent.

      I feel for Amanda, I really do, but the contempt LW1 is being shown is unwarranted. From her perspective, she needs coverage at the weekends and she can’t keep the other team happy while giving Amanda too much leeway. It’s a shame the US system doesn’t give people sick leave (although it’s badly paid here unless your company funds a generous package) but it’s not LW1’s fault that she has to make decisions for the health of her situation as well as being compassionate towards Amanda.

      There are very rarely heroes and villains in this situation — just two people with needs that set them on a collision course. It’s stressful for both parties, particularly when someone like LW1 wants to make it work but can’t, and I also sympathise as a migraine sufferer…but there’s occasions where I can’t let my team down either and remain employed.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It sounds like your manager was communicating very clearly with you about what their needs were and both of you were engaged in figuring out how to balance your needs with the business’s needs. You clearly understood that whilst you didn’t want to work on Fridays, it was important that Sue got her time off too! It’s not clear that LW had that conversation with Amanda since her mother-in-law died, but if not that would definitely be worth doing. People are a lot more accommodating when they understand the reasoning and feel like they’ve been involved in the decision-making: that’s a lot less of a shock than just looking at a schedule and seeing you’re back on weekends without any discussion.

      2. Jackalope*

        I feel like we aren’t reading the same comments. (Maybe Alison deleted some of the worst?) All of the comments I’ve seen have been supportive of the OP’s need to balance things out, even if they’ve told her that she’s not making the right decisions.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        I’m not sure it’s so much about OP putting Amanda back on Saturdays itself per se, as the way it was done – it would have been better to have had a discussion with her about starting Saturdays again from X date, rather than “Here’s your Saturday shift, get on with it”. I think also a lot of it’s about the way OP seems to have jumped to the conclusion that Amanda’s lying about being ill – as has been discussed, there are a lot of reasons she could possibly be pretty sure she’ll be fine for Sunday, and once isn’t enough to make a pattern of lying. A lot of us have probably had illnesses at inconvenient times and been worried about ringing in sick, or struggled in anyway – I’ve definitely done the latter on Christmas Eve in my first post-uni job because there wouldn’t have been anyone else to cover (as it turned out, that day was quiet enough that we could have probably put the team mascot – my colleague’s nodding dog Toto – on to cover and managed).

      4. Courageous cat*

        Yeah… I get the feeling a LOT of people here haven’t worked coverage-based jobs, and don’t know how difficult it is in retail/food service (if you have worked a coverage-based job, then I’m not directing this to you). Sure, you should ordinarily believe someone when they have a sick day, but when it absolutely screws you and/or the rest of the staff over, I can understand why there can be frustration. One employee being gone can have a major ripple effect. These jobs are not like office jobs. At all.

        Yes, they can be inherently toxic because of the way they work, but … that’s coverage-based jobs for you. I can’t work them again because it stresses me out significantly. But I don’t know what other option people want, if they want to go into a store and have there be a person to ring you up.

        It sucks all around.

    3. Siggie*

      I think I’ve been in the workforce for too long to have much sympathy and empathy left for people with power or influence who do not wield it with great care and caution. Purely because I’ve seen, and experienced, what happens when assumptions, suspicions, or accusations that are not only subjective but also completely baseless are allowed to play out until someone undeservedly loses their job, or has no option other than to leave.

      If LW1 is concerned about fairness, that’s great, but they need to practice empathy and objectivity, not allow knee-jerk assumptions based on bias or subjectivty to win the day, and remember that equity and equality are not the same thing, and that only equity really results in true fariness.

      1. Agnes*

        OP, you’re going to hit the contradiction of this comments section.

        OP: I have a problem with coverage due to employee’s personal life.
        CS: Humans have needs outside of work! If you hire humans, they’re going to need time and space for this sort of thing.

        OP: Humans sometimes lie about being sick to get out of work.
        CS: No, they don’t! Employees only skip work for good reasons.

        1. EPLawyer*

          No one is saying employees don’t lie to get out of work. I even said I would have called out too. No one is saying that the employee can never work weekends either.

          The issue is the LW just assigned the employee to weekends without even a conversation their schedule would be changing. That is where I have an issue. It would have been good management to have that conversation first, to explain why the schedule needed to change and the effective date. So the employee can decide if they can live with and make the changes in their personal life they need to make OR they can say yeah I will never work weekends consider this my 2 week notice.

          The same with wanting to explore a call out. Even if they are lying, what are you going to do with the information? Fire them immediately? Okay now what, you are still short a worker and for more than the 1 day they called out. It also affects others when they figure out that their call outs will be questioned. It won’t get people to call out less, it will just cause them to get more creative so they are believed. OR they do come in sick because they can’t get a doctor’s note, thereby infecting everyone else. Aaaaaaand you still have coverage issues because everyone is out sick.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Nobody here says that humans never lie about being sick to get out of work. But we do point out that it’s complicated, often related to company policies that end up encouraging people to come in sick (or when completely overwhelmed by other things), and the solution is certainly not to assume that every employee calling out sick is lying to you and therefore how can you punish them all for such transgressions. It can be complex and you need to give your employees grace as humans. You should also note that Alison ALWAYS tells managers to look for *patterns* of disruptions, as one-offs, while hard to cover, are generally not a cause for any concern at all, and the comment section largely agrees.

        3. Irish Teacher*

          I definitely don’t think nobody ever lies in order to take a day off for no good reason. I just don’t think this particular situation is an especially suspicious one. Is it possible the employee is lying? Sure, but that’s true whenever anybody calls in sick and honestly, this situation sounds very credible to me. People tend to be more susceptible to getting ill after a stressful event. And the fact that she is adamant that she will be in on the Sunday makes me think it’s unlikely this is a protest against working weekends.

          Yes, people lie but I’d need more reason than “somebody who didn’t want to work weekends got sick for one day of a weekend at a point of their life when they were under a lot of stress” to think lying is likely.

          Now, if this continues and over the next few months, every time she calls out is on a weekend or if in the next four months, she calls out sick four times at weekends and she’s scheduled to work ten weekends, then I’d get suspicious.

          I do understand how it looked to the LW. Her impression was “somebody complains about working on weekends, then gets sick when asked to work them.” But when you take the whole situation into account, it really isn’t as suspicious as it might at first appear.

        4. Eldritch Office Worker*

          People definitely lie to get out of work. And in this circumstance, I would have lied to get out of work.

          I have sympathy for OP because managing a shift coverage job is hard and at times requires you to be a bit ruthless. But the contradiction people are reacting to is “I do my best to improve the working conditions and make it more friendly and inviting to work there” and “as soon as I heard her MIL died I stuck her right back on the schedule”. “Heard” also implying a conversation didn’t take place.

        5. SpaceySteph*

          This employee is likely skipping work for a “good” reason, even if that reason isn’t the reason she told her boss.

          Maybe its that she already had something scheduled with the expectation she would have Saturday off since as of a week ago she DID have Saturday off and was put back into the Saturday rotation with no discussion from her manager.
          Maybe its that a close relative who she had just cared for through the end of a terminal illness just died and she’s grieving or exhausted or has to help her grieving spouse/children or has to make funeral arrangements.

          Lying about being sick does happen, but it doesnt mean you don’t have a good reason to call out, just not good enough for the employer.

      2. virago*

        “People with power or influence”?

        Only relatively speaking in this case. Drawing up schedules is a no-win responsibility that requires LW 1 to juggle the needs of myriad employees against the requirement to cover a 24/7 department.

        While I agree with Alison that LW 1 should have given Amanda a heads up that she was now going to be on the weekend rotation, I think it’s unfair to cast LW 1 as an unfeeling overseer. I would wager that she isn’t paid much more than than the people she is scheduling, for one thing.

      3. BethDH*

        This is very true, but I don’t think we can know whether OP is being equitable here, because we don’t know what needs the other coworkers have. It’s a lot easier to identify inequity than it is to balance what makes equity, and in issues of workplace time off it gets quickly into bosses judging the relative merits of their employees’ time off requests.
        I do think a lot of us in the comments are responding to OP’s tone and comments about judging the sick leave, which have the sound of someone who is straying from some of the tenets of empathetic management — especially trust your employees. Probably a sign that OP needs some time off themselves!

    4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      +1. People are being really harsh on LW1 in a way that seems very unfair. “Could have handled that a little better” is not “toxic.” LW1 was trying to balance Amanda’s needs with fairness to the rest of the employees, which many of the commenters are not factoring in.

      1. Lydia*

        People are extrapolating the environment being toxic based on some of the things OP wrote seemingly without understanding some of them are actually red flags.

        1. Low pay (One of the things OP does see as a problem.)
        2. High turnover – It’s probably not just the low pay.
        3. Not discussing the schedule change – There was very little self-awareness about how changing Amanda’s schedule without notice would be a problem.
        4. The thought she might want to ask for a doctor’s note – Yes, the OP did write in to gauge if her reaction is reasonable, but even if the OP isn’t the cause of the toxic environment, the environment is changing her perception of what is normal and that is a red flag.

        Based on all of those things, it’s not unreasonable for commentors to believe this workplace is toxic.

  10. Expiring Cat Memes*

    #3 Coffee clique: I see both sides of this, having done many a coffee run. There is a (sometimes literal) tipping point where more coffees on the run becomes an absolute nightmare.

    I don’t mind picking up an extra one or two, but I’ve also had the whole team throw their order at me and suddenly I’m dealing with multiple sets of cash and cards, I have to write all the skinny-half-strength-soy-milk-extra-hot-small-vanilla-also-get-me-a-sandwich-whatevers down on a post-it, order each one separately because of the mixed cash/cards, track who needs what change and who gets what loyalty card stamped, the first coffees get cold while I’m waiting for the rest, and then I still have to wrangle my way through the security door with both hands full, distribute coffee and change and by then my 10 minute coffee run has become an hour of my morning gone. With a regular 3 you can just remember the orders, take turns paying and you still have one hand free which makes it SO much simpler.

    So, it is a bit rude, but I can also understand why they might not have wanted to put out the invitation to 6 people, plus random extras each time. If you want to get in on someone else’s coffee run I think you need to be ready to offer yourself as a second set of hands – in which case you may as well just get your own or do a separate run with the rest of the team.

    1. Yoli*

      I agree and would add that not only is 6 drinks physically unwieldy, but for some people it likely crosses the “potentially an awkward money situation” line.

      FTR, I’d also find it awkward if the OP had asked to “get in on the rotation” since the meetings were at the beginning of the day and so they ostensibly could just get their own drink. It feels like someone asking to be my friend, I guess? But it’s also hard to tell from the letter how much of this was a production of passing out, verbal thanks, etc. vs. just 3 people with the same label on their cups, so I think letting it go was the best option.

      1. Hijinks*

        “It feels like someone asking to be my friend, I guess?”

        There have been a lot of letters regarding an officemate who wants a closer relationship than the LW desires. This is my own trauma speaking, but I would never ask to be part of a clique. I will be warm and friendly to the clique, and if a closer relationship develops, then so be it. I would never ask or even hint, though. Accept that some people have closer relationships with each other, and let it go.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Well that’s why if you want in on a drinks round, you need to offer to help carry on occasion!

    3. LifeBeforeCorona*

      This is exactly why I never offered to pick up group coffees. It was one thing to go through the drive-thru with my one coffee. Any more meant going into the store because I hate being that person holding up the lane while reciting a laundry list of coffee requests. Also, it didn’t help that the person who ordered the largest and most expensive coffee never had money to pay for it when finallg receiving it.

    4. Curious*

      Speaking of a “tipping point”: I see 3 as the magic number here. A drink carrier generally has 4 slots, so 4 is the tipping point. But, there are 6 people on the team, so 4 would be more than half the team, leaving the remaining 2 to really feel left out. So, 3 leaves the other 3 able to form their own co-op.

    5. Constance Lloyd*

      Picking up more drinks will also take more time! I stopped doing lunch time coffee runs at my first ever professional job because it got to the point where jot only was I trying to carry 8+ coffees myself (and often being short changed by coworkers who earned more than I did), I was struggling to make it back to clock in on time! If I only picked up a drink for one or two other people I was back with time to spare.

      1. I am Emily's failing memory*

        This isn’t super relevant to LW’s situation, but your comment made it occur to me that one of the nice things about the ubiquity of Venmo is how easy it is now to say, “Yours came to $5.14 with tax,” and not have to worry that if someone doesn’t have change you’ll be pressure to cover 14 cents of their coffee to avoid looking like a tightwad.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          Oh the best part is this job was in retail banking- EVERYONE had easy access to exact change, there were just a select few who still always “forgot”! So I guess to bring it back around to being relevant to the LW, there are plenty of people I genuinely like and appreciate working with who I still won’t pick up coffee for. I just require a degree of closeness you can’t find with most coworkers, which doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or unlikeable about them!

    6. lunchtime caller*

      This was my thought exactly—in situations like this you have to ask yourself if you actually want in on the coffee run (or whatever) and all the annoying logistics and commitment it requires (what if they just covered the other two during their week and you don’t always want to pay for 3 extra coffees in your week?). Or is that you just want proof that they like you as much as they like each other—which no one can provide and frankly is not that big of a deal if presumably they also do still like you just fine and treat you well overall.

      1. L-squared*

        To me, it seems like the latter. The coffee seemed to just be the physical representation of the fact that the other 3 people were closer, and she didn’t like that. But that happens. People get closer. Whether the representation is coffee, or pictures on each others instagram, or just private group chats, it really doesn’t change anything. This isn’t kindergarten. Everyone doesn’t have to be equal friends with everyone else.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I would probably offer to pick up coffee for the other two members of the group next time and see where that got me. Seems more productive than fretting about the clique you’re not part of.

        2. Not my real name*

          It’s not that they are closer, it’s that OP is excluded. Having been the kid that was left out of everything, it can be hard to get over that heart sinking feeling that “here I am on the outside again.”

          1. L-squared*

            “Its not that they are closer, it’s that OP is excluded”

            I mean, that is really just a matter of semantics and how you choose to look at it right? Looking at it as OP being excluded is a very self centered/main character way to look at it. As opposed to “These 3 church friends who I know hang out together happen to pick up coffee for each other on a rotating basis”

            1. Not my real name*

              I mean, I was just trying to explain why the OP might be feeling hurt, but I guess having childhood trauma is “being self centered/main character.” People get to feel things, FFS.

              1. Eukomos*

                Childhood trauma frequently causes us to react or behave in unreasonable ways. It takes a great deal of therapy to be logical about situations that remind you of trauma! We should be kind to ourselves and those around us when they’re unreasonable out of pain, but just because a reaction is understandable doesn’t mean it’s the logical or useful approach to the situation.

                1. Not my real name*

                  But OP didn’t react or behave in an unreasonable way. Years later, she is reflecting on the experience and trying to analyze the situation. OP has said in the comments that this wasn’t the only example of this group acting in an exclusionary manner.

            2. Lydia*

              I mean, the OP is the main character of her life, so she does get to have those feelings and be that self-centered.

              My favorite part of this whole thing is how the OP says, “Hey, this made me feel this way” and Alison acknowledging there’s a reason to feel that way, and that it is cliquey, and everyone on this thread being okay with crappy cliques and suggesting the OP just get over it. It’s great.

          2. BethDH*

            I think noting how many others are also “left out” is relevant. Being “that kid who was left out” is isolating, being one of 3 in a group of 6, especially when it sounds like they are included in other ways, is not centered on OP. Given the way OP talks about how close they were to one of them from grad school, it sounds less like they are objecting to the exclusion of all 3 who don’t get coffee and more to how OP should be one of the chosen.
            Which doesn’t make OP a jerk! Part of coming to terms with very real exclusion is that gut check of whether you’re actually singled out or whether you feel the same when you notice all the others who also aren’t participating in X.
            If OP suggested that 2 people go and bring back coffee for 6 and got rebuffed, I’d feel like calling it exclusionary was different.

        3. Lucy P*

          It happens. I’ve been on the inside and outside of these kinds of groups. It’s tough to try to accommodate everyone when you’re in. Plus, accommodating everyone doesn’t always guarantee you an in. It also stings a bit when your out, particularly if you’ve got only a handful of people in the office to start with. In the end, you just forget about it and move on.

    7. Usagi*

      Yes, from a practical standpoint, I would be comfortable getting coffees for two close friends, but not for someone I’m not as close with, in case I mess up the order or have questions about it or something. That would tip it over from a nice thing to a chore.

      I still wouldn’t do this coffee trade system so openly in front of a small team, because that is rude, but I definitely think it’s reasonable that someone not as close to them adding on a coffee order would be unwelcome.

    8. Sparkles McFadden*

      Plus you’d only want to do this with people you trust to pay you back somehow (or if you won’t care enough to keep close track). If you implement “Everyone takes a turn buying coffee” I can assure you that some people will call in sick when it’s their turn (really) or otherwise “forget” and it becomes annoying.

      I do think it’s a bit insensitive to be distributing the coffee in front of other people, but if everyone is meeting up in a central location, it’s easier to do it that way.

    9. Lola*

      My thoughts exactly. Managing the order and paying of 3 drinks is one thing. 6 is a whole separate beast. And what if someone always partakes but either “forgets” or just doesn’t participate in the buying?

  11. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, you say the work is “challenging and stressful and under strenuous conditions” with “high turnover, plenty of call-ins”. That kind of situation, where you are not supported yourself by the structure overall, makes it very difficult for you to support others in the way you seem to want. Here you are, second guessing one sick day from someone whose health is likely burned out from caregiving for so long on all her off days on top of her “stressful” job! I get that it’s also stressful for other employees, including you, but if the slack is not there to give, but it’s not the fault of the employee that this sounds like a pretty unsupportive place to work. If you really want to be the kind of manager who is fair to employees you might look for a different situation where there’s more fairness to go around.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      *but if the slack is not there to give, it’s not the fault of the employee.

    2. High Score!*

      Depending on the kind of business it is, encourage the owners to pick a day to be closed. Since COVID, many small business and even some large ones are closed 1-2 days a week and many have shortened hours on top of that. They can’t find enough employees to cover more.
      MAYBE if businesses treated people as though they were human then employees would be easier to find.
      MAYBE if enough people walk out of high stress jobs, including managers then jobs would improve.

      1. MassMatt*

        The LW says the work place runs 24/7. There are many many places like this, from hospitals, fire departments and law enforcement (and their support) to utilities, air traffic control, nursing homes, and airlines or highway control. These many places can’t just “pick a day to be closed” or shorten their hours.

        1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

          24/7 operations also includes customer service call centers, fast food outlets, truck stops, taxi driving, convenience stores, etc. In the resort city I used to live in, there were 24 hour tire stores and hair salons. And every liquor store, cannabis retailer, and most neighborhood bars were open 24 hours.

          The employer’s requirement for 24/7 coverage isn’t always a situation where someone could die if the position isn’t covered. I’m not going to assume that’s the case here.

          1. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

            I also know from my own experience that it’s entirely possible to manage such schedules without undue hardship for anyone, IF the owners/upper management are willing to make the effort and treat their people with respect.

            It’s amazing how hard people will work at difficult and even dangerous jobs for surprisingly low pay and zero benefits IF they’re treated like responsible adults, shown some respect, and given their dignity.

      2. Observer*

        Depending on the kind of business it is, encourage the owners to pick a day to be closed.

        The word “depending” is doing a lot of work here. I highly doubt that the OP has the least bit of standing or leverage to make this happen. 24×7 businesses generally have a good reason for being that way.

        If the OP has the ability to encourage the owner(s) to make any changes, it would be around scheduling and hiring – especially trying to hire people who PREFER these typically difficult shifts.

        1. Jessica*

          I do wonder whether it’s possible to let each employee have a day of the week where they’re not on-call so that they can schedule normal out-of-work stuff and not have to worry that they’re going to get called up to work on that day on short notice.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Encouraging owners to care about high staff turnover, when that isn’t a secret issue and has always been obvious to them, is really tough. They either care or they don’t. It should definitely be attempted, but it’s tough to pull off when so many businesses operate on churn through principles. I was going to suggest the OP drop a few select balls if the owners aren’t providing her with enough hands to catch them, but that can also be really tough to do humanely in emergency, life or death situations. Not sure if that’s why OP’s department is 24/7 though.

  12. Sundae funday*

    OP 5: Are you salaried? When I worked at a large state university, I was told taking unpaid days created havoc for payroll as they had to calculate the change, deduct it from your paycheck, and adjust taxes and contributions. Taking unpaid time could also impact your benefits. For those reasons, I had to burn through all my PTO before moving to unpaid. Actual payroll people can chime in and say if this is actually true.:)

    1. lemoncakedesign*

      Payroll person here! For my company, it’s fairly easy—at least for hourly people, since our time off database records paid and unpaid time. Salary people gets a little messier, because we have to subtract it from their total hours for the pay period, and typically our salaried people don’t take unpaid time (most of them are at our PTO cap and need to be burning it anyway!)

    2. sewsandreads*

      Payroll-adjacent (payroll is at our head office; I’m just the person who delivers the news): this is also how our office handles it.

    3. Phryne*

      That sounds reasonable, but would ‘create havoc’ be, it cannot be done without messing things up (in which case their system is bad) or ‘we don’t want the extra work’ in which case employee morale is the problem. I live in a country where the law and our collective work agreement allow for all sorts of paid and unpaid leave for various situations, and at an employer were everyone is on a monthly salary, and the majority of people work part-time to boot. Dealing with thousands of requests for all sorts of leave, parental, birth, medical, changes in fte, changes in claimed benefits, is just simply part of the job of payroll… it is literally what their job is.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        But your situation is wholly different, as unpaid leave is allowed/required. It’s not like every system will account for/be set up for every type of leave, whether or not a company requires it, and updating the system to allow for a one-off situation is likely to be a massively large task beyond just “we don’t want the extra work”.

        1. Phryne*

          Any HR system that does not allow for some flexibility is a bad HR system. Which, sure, exist. But ‘computer says no’ is a very bad way to treat your employees.

          1. Happy meal with extra happy*

            There’s a difference between flexibility and introducing an entirely new category of leave that is treated completely differently. Come on now.

            1. Phryne*

              My point is rather that any kind of leave for any reason should be possible in the systems. After all, the why or how are not important for the most part, there is pretty much 2 types: Paid or unpaid. If an employer wants to be difficult about it, that’s up to them and still pretty stupid. But to have your policy decided by a bad system is even more stupid. It is only a problem because people have decided it must be one.

    4. Zarniwoop*

      My employer charges you for their share of health insurance costs for all of any month during which you have unpaid (non sickness related) time off, because of the extra costs it imposes on them due to our insurance provider’s policies.

      Sucks, but that’s US health insurance for you.

  13. anxiousGrad*

    Gah, LW1 reminds me of my elementary school gym teacher. One time when I was in 2nd grade I was having asthma trouble during gym class and asked to sit out. At the end of class, after I had been sitting on a bench for 30 minutes while my classmates had been running around, apparently I walked to the door slightly quicker than other people (I was also feeling fine at that point because I had been sitting for 30 minutes and not doing exercise, the trigger for the asthma symptoms). The gym teacher called this out in front of everyone and accused me of lying to get out of class. So then for the next three years I was always too afraid to tell him when my asthma was bothering me. Which just meant that I would end up in the nurse’s office after class. Just because someone doesn’t present illness in the way that you expect doesn’t mean that they aren’t really ill.

    I also don’t agree that any of the things LW1 points to as evidence of Amanda lying actually indicate that she’s lying. As for her seeming fine on Friday, most vomiting illnesses come on really quickly. As for her saying she would be fine on Sunday, most stomach bugs don’t last super long, so that’s a reasonable assumption for her to make. Or maybe she’s vomiting because of something more predictable, like a medication, and she knows from experience that this won’t last more than a day. Also, if she’s willing to come in on Sunday and is already saying that she plans to come in, it doesn’t sound like she’s trying to get out of working on the weekend.

    1. Tay*

      Gah, that’s awful. LW reminded me of a similar (former) boss. I fainted at work one day. I recovered but could not finish the main task I had been assigned that day. She did not even check on me to see if I was okay. Talk about a complete lack of compassion.

    2. Jessica*

      Yeah, saying “I’m sick today but I can work tomorrow,” doesn’t mean you’re lying. It just means you’re familiar with whatever health problem you’re having.

  14. Use it in the interview*

    LW4, I wouldn’t put the project on your resume, but I would absolutely suggest prepping it as a case study for job interviews.

    Because as an employer, I am highly likely to ask you to tell me a story about how you dealt with a difficult issue at work.

    And a failed project like this (together with what you learned) would be a great answer.

    As a datapoint, I am about to hire a candidate who gave us an answer not unlike yours. The candidate’s answer showed impressive self awareness.

    1. Trout ‘Waver*

      I agree! In my industry (STEM manufacturing) we routinely undertake projects that may fail. Metrics like “time to kill”, and “fail fast” are important. I wouldn’t lead with the experience on my resume. But acknowledging a project was a failure and being able to point out why (poor concept, bad timing, not enough resources, etc) in an objective and not defensive way is a valuable skill.

    2. UKDancer*

      Definitely! I almost always ask people about a difficult issue and what they learnt as it’s really interesting to see what people have done that hasn’t worked and how they learnt from it to improve in future. This is a really good example to have ready for that type of interview question.

    3. Ama*

      I ask a similar question, and I’d really like to hear LW4’s story as an answer — particularly the part where they talk about having to give the presentation where they explained what went wrong. I have found that people who can own up to making a mistake or a bad decision (and figure out how it happened) are really well suited for roles on my team — due to the nature of our work I need people capable of saying to senior staff “I understand *why* you want to handle this project this way but we did that two years ago and this bad result happened” rather than just doing it because they were told to.

  15. Lirael*

    interestingly for OP5 that’s effectively how it would work in the UK. here you are given your leave allowance from when you start working, even though you accrue it monthly (so I get 33 days, sorry us people, but I only accrue it 2½ days a month or something). you are able to take your leave from day 1 (… obviously not literally) but yeah if you leave before you’ve accrued the leave you take you have to pay it back. I understand that it’s frustrating if it effectively means you’ve used up most of your leave allowance in one go right at the start, but that’s how it goes sometimes.

    1. Healthcare Manager*

      Just adding that you can literally take it from day 1, I did that! Had first 2 weeks of my role off. One of my fav things about working in UK.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Strictly speaking that’s up to the employer. In your first year of employment an employer is allowed to quire you to accrue leave before you take it off. In subsequent years you become entitled to it from the first day of the holiday year and you can’t be forced to accrue it before you take it (but you do off course have to pay it back / have it deducted from your final pay if you have used more than you have accrued at the time you leave.

        A lot of employers employers do allow people to use it before accruing, even in the first year, but they are not legally obliged to.

        (Of course, someone taking the first two weeks off may be less disruptive than them taking time off not long after starting, although a lot of employers would have just arranged for you to start 2 weeks later! )

      2. Grith*

        Yeah, I think you’ve actually done your work a massive favour there! If I needed the first two weeks of a new job off, I think I’d just negotiate a start date 2 weeks later and hold onto that leave – by taking the holiday, you’ve massively reduced the amount of time they’ll lose a trained-up version of you for later in the year.

    2. amoeba*

      Yup, same thing here. I never really think about “accruing” PTO because it basically only comes into play when you change companies. So would be very surprising here for sure if somebody wanted to take unpaid leave instead of using their PTO for the year…

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, same. We only have to take unpaid leave if we’ve already used our holiday allowance for the year. Of course you do technically accrue leave, but you’re given your allowance (pro-rata) when you start a new job, and generally you don’t have to wait to use it until you’ve accrued enough days. Some companies do have rules about not taking leave in the first three months (which would also usually be your probation period) but if you have something pre-booked (like your own wedding!! Or even just a pre-planned holiday) and you alert your new employer to it when you start, it would be an extremely miserly employer who wouldn’t agree to the absence even if it is within the first three months. Then when you leave a job, any leave that you’ve accrued but not used before your leaving date is paid out in your final pay packet, and conversely if you’ve already used more leave than you’d technically accrued then you can be asked to pay it back when you leave (though again, many companies would choose to overlook this).

    3. Happy meal with extra happy*

      It’s also not an uncommon setup in the US. My company operates the same way.

  16. philmar*

    LW3: I think 3 of six people is a small enough proportion that it’s not really cliquey. Did the other 2 members of this meeting feel any sort of way about it? Plus as mentioned above, juggling more than 3 drinks is where it starts to get difficult.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Eh, I think it’s on the cusp and I can see why LW was a bit put off by it.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, I think six people is a small group, and if three of those six are all getting coffee for each other then that’s half the group. In that situation I think it would start to feel like they’re excluding the others. It’d be different if it was just the odd ‘oh I sometimes pick up a coffee for Mary on the way in because I go past her favourite cafe’, but when half the group seem to have their own little coffee round going on, and they’re not including other people, I can see how that would come off as a little rude. Of course they have no obligation to, and yes six drinks would be more unwieldy, but I can see how it would grate.

        1. Pugetkayak*

          I really don’t think anyone should feel obligated to do anything with coworkers or for coworkers. These people are clearly more friends and its just coffee. So yeah, maybe the optics are a little weird, but just let people do what they want to do if it doesn’t involve actual work.

          1. Lw3*

            I think the thing that hurt my feelings is that I was friends with one of them. We’d gone to grad school and she’d been a big reason I got the job. Then to show up and be so clearly excluded hurt my feelings. Obviously I would have had an easier time rolling my eyes and shrugging it off, but I was young and thought I was really close with this person.

            1. takeachip*

              It sounds like you had expectations about how your relationship with this person would go in the workplace based on your grad school relationship and you were disappointed when things didn’t work out the way you’d imagined. It’s important to remember that people & relationships are different in different contexts. You joined a preexisting group where your friend had closer friendships with others. It’s sort of like moving to a friend’s town–they’re the only person you know and they’ve told you they’re excited to have you around, so you expect to be hanging out all the time, but then you show up and they’ve got a whole life that doesn’t really involve you. I’ve seen this play out a few times and even been the ‘friend in town” who disappointed someone because I wasn’t as available as they’d imagined, and wasn’t ready to just bring them into all my social circles as an outsider. You really shouldn’t take it personally when this happens or have a grudge against someone who didn’t incorporate you into their work life the way you would have wanted. Being close with somebody in one context doesn’t automatically translate to being close in another context or being included in plans they have with others.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I like the “either invite less than half or invite everyone” rule of thumb. Here it’s exactly half, so it’s right in the cusp of feeling exclusionary.

      1. L-squared*

        That rule of thumb is great in kindergarten when dealing with children. These are adults who should understand that sometimes some people are just closer than others.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I don’t think it’s a bad rule of thumb for adults either. Now, I do think with adults, one can have more leeway and three out of six is probably OK, but even with adults, I think if five of the six were invited and one wasn’t, it would be problematic or if there were 20 people working there and there were three being left out.

          Yeah, sometimes people are just closer than others and that’s reasonable but when more than half of a company are close, especially if it’s either a small company or when the number is significantly more than half, then it becomes less “well, that group is really close” and more “everybody is close except for you and a couple of others.”

          1. Pugetkayak*

            Which also is fine though? I mean, it has nothing to do with the work or how well people work together. Often people work the best when not having additional friendship.
            I just have trouble as an adult at a workplace worrying that what I am doing outside of work (grabbing coffee) is somehow to be managed because other people might care? Unless you are a manager of some sort. But I also don’t understand why the person “excluded” would care. They aren’t close to those people, so why would they be offended if they didn’t include them?

          2. L-squared*

            But, that just happens.

            I was a teacher. One of only a handful of male teachers at the school I was at. I was also shockingly one of the older people even though I wasn’t THAT old at 30 (it was a school that hired a LOT of first year teachers). Most of the 22 year old women weren’t exactly inviting me out every weekend with them. And that was just life. It wasn’t some big deal. Its just they were closer than I was.

    3. LW3*

      Yes, the other 2 people and I started calling them the “cool kids club.” I think there were a lot of other examples of the clique-iness, this was just the most blatant.

      1. DisgruntledPelican*

        So one clique of three got coffee for each other, and the other clique of three talked about others behind their back.

  17. Lasslisa*

    LW1’s situation reminds me slightly of a coworker who seemed to consistently call in sick with terrible migraines on the days I had scheduled with him to catch up on his project planning. I felt a little like I was being avoided, since it was a miserable task, but I didn’t say anything and figured I was imagining it. And some time later I overheard him mentioning that he gets “stress-related migraines” and I thought, ah-hah!

    Sometimes being really stressed out can make you honestly sick. And sometimes you’re just powering through and get sick the minute it ends and you sit down. Bodies are tied to our minds in ways we don’t consciously control, even if we wish we could…

    1. Not Australian*

      Consistent stress can also cause physical changes in the brain, and I doubt very much that they’re ever for the better!

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, the thing that occurred to me is that is Amanda is working all week and then caring for someone at the weekend, it’s not surprising she calls in sick a lot. Caring for someone and grieving is exhausting, and wreaks havoc on your body. You are naturally susceptible to a lot more stuff that someone who is less exhausted and has real time for rest and recuperation can just shrug off.

      That doesn’t change LW’s coverage problems, but LW, a really good trick for dealing with workplace issues is to assume goodwill on both sides, and think of problems as external realities and position yourself and your colleagues as team members who are working to solve the problem together. In this case, the external problem is Amanda’s health and personal issues not being great, and your need for coverage. You and Amanda need to work together to figure out how to deal with that, and you will get the most good will from her if you assume good will is there and treat her with good will.

      Speak to her about her availability now that her mother-in-law has died with gentleness and sensitivity. Find out what she’s able to do, what she’s *happy* to do, and explain what your needs are. Maybe there are solutions that the two of you can find that work for you both.

      Good luck!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      When my son was in middle school he was routinely sick on Fridays. I am certain he was not faking because he would give the bug to me and then I would be sick on Monday. Sometimes a weekend pattern of illness is just about built-up stress and lack of sleep over the course of the week.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        Every year in elementary school I would get horribly sick in late spring…which just happened to be right *after* state testing and competitions for groups I was in, and the spring play, girl scout cookie sales, and all the other activities. It was like my little body would hold it together to get through all the important stuff, and then WHAM!
        Now my grown-up body tends to fall apart right after big-deal, high-stress stuff, but at least I can usually see it coming. It’s really not that hard to imagine that she was legitimately sick.

          1. JustAnotherKate*

            Yes! after the bar exam, and I generally don’t get sick!

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              Straight up the reverse, the lead up to the bar exam I dropped like, 35 pounds in 7 weeks and lived on booze, ice cream and pizza. I have an immune condition so my temp was fluctuating between 95 and 101 degrees. My body was basically melting down from graduation to Thursday when I handed in the afternoon essays. Once it was over, my whole body pretty much said “and now back to our usual programing.” But the point holds– stress can make a person physically quite unwell.

        1. I have RBF*

          Hmmm, I had this pattern too. I got really sick for one week a year, either in November or March, usually the latter. In my case, it partly had to do with allergies and partly due to stress build up – I was bullied for 95% of my K-12 years. I was seldom out for only one day – it was a week long cold/flu thing – because my body just finally said “enough!” and got a bug.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          There was a fascinating podcast on falling sick right after a big push that came out when the shutdowns started. Basically the researchers had noted a truism amongst marathoners that leading up to a big race they felt almost protected from disease, but right after the race they always seemed to get sick. They tested this and found it was true: protected during training, much more likely to get sick right after. If you qualified but then couldn’t make it, no more likely to get sick during that post-race stretch.

    4. Meow*

      When I was in school, I would legitimately get sick around exam season and felt guilty for calling out sick during tests, because I felt like it would make me look like a slacker to teachers. But the stress of preparation really got to me sometimes. I could’ve also used help for testing anxiety but it was the 90s.

  18. Janet Pinkerton*

    LW1, your job sounds fairly similar to jobs in my organization. It’s a rough job. I know you’re in a tough position. Here’s some guidelines I’d put in place in your shoes:

    1. If you can wait a month for “okay now your personal crisis is over we’re putting you back on the regular schedule/reporting requirements” that feels pretty fair in both directions—it’s not immediate but there’s a time frame involved.

    2. Don’t question sick leave unless there’s a pattern of using way more leave than allotted or something like “can I have three days off during a mandatory-attendance period to go to Coachella?” “No” *calls in sick those days*.

    As much as you can divorce your emotions from caring about one instance of leave for any reason, even if it’s a person with regular leave issues, try to do that. People aren’t doing it *at* you. They’re just trying their best to be a whole person in the world.

  19. AngelS.*

    #2: Boss did cross major boundaries, that affected LW economically.

    Coffee LW: I would have offered the other two employees coffee before the meeting, or shown up with three cups! Better yet, I would have asked EVERYONE if they wanted something from (Starbucks?). “Oh, no thanks. We already have our drinks ”
    “Yes, I know. I just thought it’d be nice to offer.”
    I can be petty!

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It sounds like you intend that as a slight, but I don’t think it would read that way to a lot of people.

  20. Nonprofit321*

    LW1: I recently left a job that had 5 days of bereavement leave for immediate family, and 3 days for in-laws. My dad died on New Year’s eve when the company was closed anyway so I used my 5 days beginning January 3, and my spouse used his 3 days the same time (we worked for the same company). We had to travel across states with young children to go help my mom with the tasks that follow after someone’s death. My boss left me alone. My husbands boss however, emailed called and texted nonstop about when his projects would be complete, what is the status of XYZ, etc. Even the day my mom called to say “get here as fast you can” my husbands boss kept him on a Zoom an hour longer than scheduled AFTER being told that we were having a family emergency and I literally had to come into the room and say “my dad is dying, we are leaving right now.” So she would end the call. We have both since found new jobs, and his boss’ behavior during our bereavement time was no small reason why. A little bit of grace when your staff are having a real-life moment goes a long way; and the opposite is true as well. I’d be willing to bet your staff member will be giving you notice as soon as she finds a new job.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      My crap job right before I started grad school:

      My grandfather was sick and dying. I knew this, and therefore specifically asked my boss (who was the head of the very small satellite office I worked in) the policies around bereavement leave, and told her specifically WHY I WAS ASKING. She told me that we got three days, which is pretty standard.

      My grandfather (who, not that it matters, was basically my father growing up as my mother and I lived with him and my grandmother until I was 15; we were EXTREMELY close) passed away on Memorial Day. I called in first thing Tuesday and informed them as such and also said I’d be taking an extra day of PTO so I’d have the week. (Again, something I specifically know NOW is totally normal.)

      Got back the following Monday. Learned 1. a major rush project came in while I was out, making my absence inconvenient (there were often major stretches of downtime, but they needed 2 of us to do the work (proofreading manuals) for quality checks), and 2. Apparently, bereavement was only “immediate family” and grandparents “didn’t count.”

      In hindsight, I knew I was quitting in a couple months to go to grad school, so I wish I had just walked out that day, got in my car and driven to my PT retail gig at a now-defunct bookseller that competed directly with The Ampersand and just asked them for full time hours until September. (They, in an amazing twist, were absolutely WONDERFUL and accommodating to me.)

      Anyway, tl;dr – I can only imagine how thankless your job is given the constraints you’re dealing with. But it costs you very little to extend compassion.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I decided to leave my last job the moment they denied bereavement leave to one of my direct reports because cousins aren’t on the list of family members they allow leave for. My report was clearly distraught and needed a few days to come to terms with what had happened, but their list was more important than the human being on their staff. It took me a few months to find a new job and actually leave, but that’s when the decision was made.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I ran into this when my great grandmother died. I was in my early 20s, which is pretty old to have a living great grandparent, and the policy didn’t outline great-grandparents as close relatives. In my case, thankfully, my manager successfully argued that this should be included in “grandparent” which was on the list.

        Its foolish for a company to think they can unilaterally define what is a close relative. Some people have a cousin like a sibling, some have a mother they don’t even talk to. My newest employer has a generic clause “Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association is equivalent to a family relationship” which is awesome.

    3. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

      I once had a manager demand a doctor’s note after I’d called out sick for one shift. It was a restaurant that, like most, had trouble keeping people. I didn’t give him a note. I quit and was hired the next day at another restaurant. (All the area restaurants were pretty much always hiring, it was a regular revolving door in some kitchens.)

      Another job, cab driving, was really cool about it. They always had drivers on standby (paid minimum wage to be present for the first two hours of the shift unless a car came available, most ended up working that shift) so coverage was dealt with. If you were out more than 3 consecutive days, they needed a doctor’s note. If you didn’t have one, you wouldn’t be fired unless it happened more than twice.

      The reality of the labor market meant they couldn’t pay more or offer benefits so they did what they could to keep people in a difficult, dangerous, often low-paying job (sometimes very well-paying) by treating us with decency and respect. And it worked.

  21. LifeBeforeCorona*

    OP2 My suggestion is to get your child support and any formal visitation/custody arrangements nailed down now or as soon as you can. Take control and take your power, think about what YOU want for your child and yourself. Good luck to you both.

    1. Redaktorin*

      Yeah, these are sick people with poor boundaries, and they are likely to try and mess with you in the future (scapegoating you is likely the foundation of their relationship, and treating you poorly helps them distract themselves from the fact that they’re the real villains of this story).

      They are counting on you being a stuck emotional mess without full information who says yes to any financial and/or custody arrangement they propose. You need to gather your strength for your child, stop looking for professional or career-related justice, and start making your life as un-mess-up-able, at least by these two, as possible. Give your family stability.

      Go check out the Chump Lady blog while you’re at it.

      1. Redaktorin*

        PS. They will eventually have a dramatic split as well, because of course they will. Your goal is to heal so completely you don’t even care when that happens.

      2. BlueSwimmer*

        Yes, please get a good family law attorney. My friend was so blindsided that she didn’t fight back legally and her children have suffered financially (her ex and the woman he cheated with (and eventually married and then divorced put into the divorce agreement that they wouldn’t pay for college for his son, for example.)

        1. Pugetkayak*

          Yes. Fighting for everything is essential. I went through a messy divorce that took years, but it was worth it for my children. It is HARD, especially if they are constantly shooting emotional abuse your way, but you absolutely should not allow you to control you with that.

    2. High Score!*

      This! Remember your former boss will be out of your life as soon as he cheats on her but you are likely stuck with him until your child is an adult. Prioritize your mental health. Remember the best revenge is living a happy life with your beautiful baby leaving the anguish he caused you behind.

      1. Tatooine*

        Or she cheats on him. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        People get weirdly hung up on the notion that because only one person is breaking their marital vow, it somehow makes the other person less of an a-hole despite knowingly being part of the affair.

    3. Risha*

      Yes to all this. I commented below but forgot to mention these things. Make sure you only communicate with him via text or email, no phone convos. You’ll need written proof of what you talked about with him. If he calls you, don’t answer. Just tell him you want to text or email only, or you can follow up the convo with an email outlining what you talked about.

      Go to court right away and secure child support payments, you don’t really need a lawyer for that (but of course it always helps to have one if you can afford it). If he’s the type to try to antagonize you, do not fall for it! Just ignore, ignore, ignore. If you play into those games, he can try to make you look unstable. Save any communications from him or her, if they are the type to keep trying to bother you.

      Finally, don’t hesitate to ask for help if you have family/friends around you that are willing to help. Take them up on the offer of whatever it is they’re offering. Don’t be afraid to apply for assistance if you need it. Good luck to you and your little baby, things WILL get better for the both of you.

      1. Pugetkayak*

        I would agree with this. Always remember that you are writing for a judge in all your communication. Self control is key – at least in front of the legal system and with the other person. Unload with your friends definitely. And totally agree, I would not speak in person to the father of my kids. everything was in writing. Also easier to call out his outright lies or accusations when I could just send back texts to him.

      2. Scandinavian Vacationer*

        I also wonder about terminating/offering him to give up parental rights. He may go for it now (thinking he is getting out of 18 years of child support), which has the potential to make your future life so much better. Caveat: I’m not a lawyer and have never been through this process. Just for your consideration.

  22. Not your typical admin*

    OP 3 – you mentioned these three go to the same church, so I’m wondering if they could possibly be coming from an early morning Bible study. It wouldn’t be uncommon, at least in my area, for a church to have that. I still think it could be considered mildly rude and cliquish, but not worth waisting your emotional energy over.

  23. Turingtested*

    To all the commenters being so harsh to LW 1, it’s unlikely that they have any power to change the situation by raising wages or having a set schedule.

    I would also ask you to consider all the benefits you get from such low wage high stress work. if you or a loved one has ever been in a hospital there are teams of people cooking, cleaning and doing laundry for low wages all the time. Same goes for hotels. It’s not clear what industry OP is in but there are reasons those types of positions exist and it’s not because people love being petty with their employees.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yes, but the one thing that LW1 does have control over is scheduling.

      She also has control over not being petty or suspicious about an employee calling out sick for a single day.

      None of the positions you have described are typically “challenging and stressful and under strenuous conditions”.

      1. Colette*

        I’m going to disagree with your last line. Unless you have worked in those roles, you don’t know how strenuous or stressful they are; I suspect most (if not all) of them would quailfy under that description.

      2. Observer*

        None of the positions you have described are typically “challenging and stressful and under strenuous conditions”.

        You can’t be serious.

        These jobs are almost the poster child for that description.

      3. Lola*

        What?? Unless you’ve spent time cleaning hotel rooms or cooking in a kitchen for an entire hospital, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Hotel cleaning staff are dinged if they take too long, and the amount of time allotted per room is ridiculously short. Hospital kitchens have to get out food at the same time for hundreds of patients, many with dietary restrictions, plus hundreds of staff. Dishwashers’ (the people, not the machine) effiencies and ability to quickly turn around dirty dishes to clean can make or break a kitchen’s ability to function.

        I’m not even getting into cleaning staff at hospitals, who deal with all sorts of clean ups and standards that are literally life or death.

    2. EPLawyer*

      She has control over whether she has a conversation with someone before changing their schedule. That is what this comes down. A simple conversation and this all could have been avoided. OP tells employee the expectations going forward, employee knows the expectations going forward. Done.

      1. HonorBox*

        Absolutely! And (speculation here) that conversation may have revealed that Amanda had family coming to town to go through MIL’s house, or a pre-set appointment of another type, because she was used to having Saturdays free. And so when the schedule got changed without her notice, perhaps there was no way to make a quick adjustment. Easier to call out sick since the boss doesn’t seem to want to have those conversations on the front end.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is where I came down on it. It sounds like a miserable situation all around, and Amanda did need to go back on the regular rotation. OP#1 just needed to have a direct discussion with her about it first (that hopefully started with an expression of sympathy for her loss and how challenging caregiving must have been and not with, “well, since you no longer have to care for your MIL, back to the grind!”).

    3. Also-ADHD*

      LW clearly has control over the schedule. LW doesn’t say that they absolutely needed this employee that particular Saturday and asked because they know the caretaking role is over and this is the only employee who can accommodate. It says they found out (not even discussed) the MIL had died so put the worker back on the schedule. Out of “fairness” but not even clear necessity. LW1 does not have control over wages. They may not even have control over everyone needing to provide weekend coverage sometimes (though I’m not sure that everyone actually does—sometimes “fairness” means hiring new folks who want expect to work most weekends, in roles like these, I’m unclear if the schedule can be more set, etc.) But they do have control over how they think about this employee, having conversations before making big schedule changes, and over scheduling itself as far as I can tell from the letter. I do think sometimes people have toxic ideas about “fairness” that are actually counterproductive.

    4. Observer*

      To all the commenters being so harsh to LW 1, it’s unlikely that they have any power to change the situation by raising wages or having a set schedule.

      True. But that’s not what most people are commenting on.

      The fundamental problem is that the OP recognizes that there are issues, which is good, and wants to make things better in the areas where they have control, which also very good. But then they turn around and act and think in a way that is the reverse of making things better in the small area that they have some control over. *That* is why people are being harsh.

      I don’t think the OP is a monster. The fact is that they wrote in here for a reason. But I do think that they need to change some of their mindset.

    5. Jessica*

      Sure, but while LW1 may not have control over wages or how often employees have to work, they *do* have some control over scheduling and, more importantly, *how* they convey news.

      What struck me in the letter was that it sounded like Amanda was surprised by the reversion to her original schedule. If someone’s grieving the loss of a loved one they’ve been caring for, “cool, your MIL is dead now, so you’re working this Saturday,” is not the way to handle it.

    6. Moonstone*

      Setting aside the scheduling issue, my back is up over the comment regarding sick time. She doesn’t want people to think they can just get away with calling in sick whenever they want and *not have to discuss it*?? Seriously? Are these little kids or adults that are employed there? Unless there is a documented pattern that you can point to and address, leave adults alone when it comes to managing their sick leave. Sorry but that absolutely sets me off.

  24. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, given the whole situation, I see no reason at all to disbelieve the employee. The weekend comprised two days out of seven, so there is essentially a one-in-three chance that if she is sick, it will be one of those days. And as regards her looking fine the day before and expecting to be in the next day, that doesn’t seem at all unlikely with a tummy bug. It may well be something she gets occasionally and she knows how long it lasts. Given the recent death of her mother-in-law and the fact that you have mentioned she has a lot going on, it’s very likely to be stress related and in my experience, stress related stomach problems do tend to come on suddenly and be short-lived.

    I also think it very likely that she is as aware as you are of the fact that this is a day she prefers not to work and my guess is she reassured you she would be in on Sunday, not because she was 100% certain but because she was thinking, “I have to go in on Sunday even if I’m still not fully recovered as boss knows I don’t like to work weekends and if I am sick for the entire weekend, she’s definitely going to think I’m just trying to get out of it. If I reassure her I will definitely work Sunday, then hopefully she will see this isn’t me objecting to working weekends.”

    I will add that I have sent a text to work saying, “I have a bit of an upset stomach so won’t be in today but should be back tomorrow.” In my case, this was because it was at a time of an upsurge in covid, a year and a half ago, and I wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t covid and they didn’t need to plan for my being out for a week or more. And yeah, I was pretty sure, based on previous experience.

    I can see how it might initially look suspicious, but I don’t think it’s at all unlikely that somebody would have a mild illness after a stressful event or that that would happen on the weekend. I’ll add that my sister got sick her first Monday in a new job. I bet that looked suspicious, but it was genuine and I don’t think she took another day off for a number of years.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yes, I agree! She was in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation here — missing both Saturday and Sunday would have pissed off LW1, but coming in on Sunday has made LW1 suspicious.

  25. mlem*

    LW1, Amanda could also be using a sickness excuse because she had an appointment that Saturday (which she would have made under the expectation she’d have the day off) that couldn’t be changed on such short notice. (Or, frankly, she could be sick from a stress migraine or similar; it sounds like she’s dealing with a lot of stress right now!) Moving forward, I suggest you try to be more open with your staffers when you’re changing up how you schedule them; don’t just assume you know their situation.

    LW2, you say, “I lost everything because of her?” Try to remember that your former boss was an accomplice to your former partner; you “lost everything” because of him, with her help. As other commenters have recommended, lock down your custody and financial situations; and try to look on her with pity for being stuck with such a cad. (There’s a decent chance she’ll be in your position before too terribly long, after all.)

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Oh, she definitely has it coming, but pity and sympathy are two different things.

        The most important thing is that LW2 needs to remember that it takes two to tango, and this is not entirely her former boss’s doing–her former partner was the one who did this to his pregnant/recently-gave-birth partner. Both the boss and the partner suck, but the partner is the one who had made an actual commitment to and had a child with LW2. LW2 no longer works for that boss, and can/should forget about them; LW2’s focus should be on taking all the steps possible to legally/financially protect them and their child in regards to their former partner.

    1. Jessica*

      This. It’s always weird to me when people blame the person their partner cheated with more than they blame their partner.

      I don’t approve of cheating, and in circumstances where the other person knows the person who’s being cheated on, it’s even less forgivable, but your partner is the one in a relationship with you, your partner is the one who made a commitment to you, and your partner is the one who knows the status of your relationship and your feelings about exclusivity.

      I understand that it’s easier to hate a third party and view them as the evil seducer who stole away your partner, but adults can’t be “stolen.” Your partner chose to cheat on you, and they are the primary doer of harm to you here. They’re not a fellow victim of the person they cheated with.

  26. DJ Abbott*

    LW2, I’m so sorry this happened. I hope you can move on to better things, and enjoy your baby as much as possible.

  27. Good Luck*

    #1 – Please believe your employees when they call out sick. Its very possible Amanda was indeed sick. But its also possible she needed a mental health day. Can you blame her? She works a tough job, cared for a dying family member, buried that family member and then returned to work only to be put back on weekends. So its entirely possible she needed a day to herself.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      For every person who abuses sick leave, there are probably twenty others who don’t, so don’t base management policies on the lowest common denominator.

      My personal experience is that the person who actually takes advantage of sick leave is also doing a lot of other screwy things. I’ve called those people out on that behavior and avoided any comments on sick leave. If you make it about sick time then other people end up worrying about calling in sick.

      …and really…changing someone’s schedule without a discussion after a death in the family is orders of magnitude worse than someone taking a mental health day.

  28. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #2 Op2, your ex-boss is an utter shit who deserves a mountain of manure to rain down on her.
    Normally I blame the spouse 90+% for infidelity because they are the one who promised loyalty. However a boss is in a position of power & authority so they have a definite responsibility not to wilfully damage your life for their own private indulgence.

    Alison is 100% right in advising you prioritise moving forward with your life. However, personally I would struggle to do so after letting her skip off happily with her prize into the sunset leaving my life in ruins.
    I’d probably EM HR to state you felt forced to leave because your boss was having an affair with your husband and had broken up your little family.
    Maybe it would stop her doing this to another employee, or warn other managers they would be damaged by doing similar.
    Or maybe that is just me not being able to be the bigger person?

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I think Alison mentioned notifying management or HR? It would be a good thing to do…IF HR or management would handle it right by protecting LW2 and keeping her name out of it. If LW2 feels up to evaluating the possibilities and whether she can handle them.
      Good luck!

  29. mbs001*

    Regarding OP#5: What difference does it make? You were willing to go unpaid when you took the time off earlier but in fact were paid in full. So if you leave before working enough hours to pay back the PTO, you will just have to forfeit that pay they “advanced” you. It’s a wash. And as an employer, I certainly do not want to allow any LWOP. Everyone’s annual leave allotment is based on them working all of the other days of the year. So if they don’t, their leave should be docked accordingly at the very least. And unless the circumstances are extreme such as a serious illness, using more leave than you are allotted is cause for termination.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Exactly what I was going to say. If LW has budgeting issues, set aside the “extra” money now so it’s available for the payback later.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        It’s likely way too late for that. I feel like a lot of the comments here don’t realize how paycheck to paycheck some of us live. If that money was paid, it was likely spent.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah at first I had this same thought – it’s actually better for you to get the money up front, even if you end up having to pay it back! – but a) I do understand how demoralizing it is to be PTO-negative and working for weeks just to get back to zero leave – and b) a lot of people would struggle to budget correctly if they had this money in-hand. People are living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, it’s a privilege to set funds aside for the future TBH. So I sympathize with OP although there’s nothing else to be done here.

  30. Knope Knope Knope*

    OP1… wow. I want to be respectful of Alison’s note. So as someone who has both worked on 24/7 teams and managed them, I am struck by how you responded to your employee’s death in the family. In your position, the very first thing I would have done was gone over your employee’s bereavement leave options, give her info about the company EAP and connect her with someone in HR who could help her navigate any questions about additional benefits. A mother in law can be like a second mother to some people. Even she wasn’t, your employee was caring for someone who died of cancer. And of course her partner must be grieving. Obviously some people have strained relationships with in laws, but I’d defer to treating it similarly to the death of a parent. My heart goes out to your employee and hope you can find it in yours to give her some grace.

    And for reference I have worked every shift imaginable, overnights, weekends, swing shifts. Sometime going up to two weeks without a day off, or back-to-back quick turns from late night to early morning. It was in news, and the tasks could be grueling and devastating. Like looking through photos from wars or mass shootings to see what was and was not appropriate to air. If your employee were on my team in such a situation, I would want do what I could to support her. If I knew my manager were putting schedules over humanity I would think poorly of her.

    1. Good Luck*

      Also if Amanda had children their grandmother died. So she could be navigating that. I am very close to my inlaws and MIL in particular. I will be mess when they pass.

  31. ecnaseener*

    I hereby nominate LW2’s boss for the worst boss of the year tourney! Sleeping with your employee’s partner, while she’s on maternity leave of all times?! So horrible.

  32. L-squared*

    #3. Yeah, I think you are just taking this a bit too personally. Its coffee. That is it. You already know these people go to the same church, so they have an out of work relationship you aren’t a part of. But again, its just coffee. I don’t even think its rude. Sometimes its just not practical to include EVERYONE in things. I’m in the office a couple of days a week. Me and 2 coworkers do a coffee run most days. We don’t invite everyone because going with 12 people becomes a lot more of a THING than going with 3. And again, its just coffee. The other option was “be the change you want to see”, and you could have offered to get EVERYONE coffee before the next meeting. But I’m guessing you would’ve found that to be a lot of work and didn’t want to do it.

    Part of being an adult is learning you won’t always be included in everything. It sucks sometimes, but you have to deal. Something I’m dealing with now, I’m single and have no kids. Many of my friends are now parents. They sometimes do parent stuff and I’m not included. Does it suck to see pics of all my friends out at times with their kids and I wasn’t invited? Sure. I don’t think its rude of them though, nor am I going to ask to be included.

    1. High Score!*

      You could’ve also teamed up with the other two and formed your own coffee club. Personally, I’d rather just get my own coffee bc doing things like that with groups usually ends poorly:
      “AK! I said decaf – NOT espresso!”
      “Karen never gets it right!’
      “Fergus owes me $20”
      Yuk, I’ll pass.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right. Getting 3 coffees for yourself and two close friends when I know what they like and I know for a fact they’ll get me one next week is easy. Getting orders for, picking up, and carrying six coffees back to the office, with no guarantee that none of the other five people will skip their turn to get coffee for everyone is… suddenly expensive and a heck of a hassle. This isn’t elementary school, you don’t have to invite the whole class.

    2. Username required*

      Yes – I wouldn’t have thought them rude for not getting me a coffee. It’s a lot easier/quicker to pick up 3 coffees for friends than have to get 6 coffees to include coworkers and worry about getting payment from other people.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, this kind of thinking is very middle school – with this kind of stuff you have two options, either make an effort to be included if you want to be, or accept that this probably isn’t about you and move on. I don’t think it’s productive to try and decide objectively if other people’s behavior is “rude” or not, as if there’s one standard and *everybody agrees* so the other person is clearly in the wrong and should have brought you coffee. You can note that it hurts your feelings, but no good comes of deciding the other people are therefore wrong. Speak up, or live with it.

    4. I'm Just Here for the Cats!*

      Also, remembering 2 coffee orders is a lot different than 5. And the cost is different. I would be able to buy an extra 2 cups on my way into work if it was reciprocated another day but I don’t know if I would be able to pay for 6 coffees without people giving me their money first.

  33. NNT*

    , I’ve had a job quite similar to yours, and I’m going to say something potentially unpopular- Amanda indeed might very well be lying about why she needed that Saturday off. People lie about things like that in coverage based jobs like you’re describing all the time, not because they lack morals/ethics/”don’t want to work”, but because no one likes those jobs, and they are often interchangeable with each other if you get fired from one. But the thing is, you don’t have to get into whether she’s lying, and you shouldn’t. Document every time she calls out, like you should be doing with everyone. Air on the side of giving her a little more grace than the policy requires. But once the pattern reveals itself, you can then speak with her and let her know that the pattern of her call outs is such that you’ll need documentation going forward from her when she does an unsanctioned call out. Ask her if there is anything you can do that would make it easier for her to work her Saturdays. But don’t get emotionally tied down in “I think she’s lying, so I’m going to look for the proof she’s lying in this particular instance about needing off!” That gets you no where. Monitor the pattern, respond accordingly, remain calm/professional and don’t take the “lying” personally. She might quit over this. That happens. Be kind and fair, but you can’t change that.

    And in this case, I hope you have learned the importance of up front communication. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting her back to work on Saturdays considering she accepted the job under those conditions(and if the job you work is similar to how mine was, you probably wouldn’t have hired someone who couldn’t work weekends to start with) but a five-minute conversation would have saved you a lot of grief here. I’m not saying you’re doing this, but make sure you aren’t falling into the coverage-based manager trap of viewing the employees as machine pieces- you have to communicate with them the way you want to be communicated with. People will still lie about why they want days off and quit randomly, but that’s the nature of the work and you don’t have to take it personally.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I agree with some of this, but please do not require employees to get documentation. It’s incredibly infantilizing, it causes them to lose money, it wastes time they could be resting and recovering, and it risks spreading disease to other people. Have we not learned anything from the recent pandemic?

      Even as a salaried employee, I lost money when I had to get an in-person PCR test to prove to my employer that I had COVID. I cancelled my trip home to celebrate Christmas and my dad’s retirement, had taken a home test that turned positive in under 30 seconds, and spoke to my doctor over the phone to get a prescription for Paxlovid, but I still had to go out and get a test at urgent care in order to get my sick leave approved. The Uber rides there and back cost me about 20 bucks before tip and then I had to pay a $50 copay to get a test to confirm what I already knew. I wore a mask, but I got COVID while wearing a mask. They aren’t 100%. So I risked getting the Uber drivers, everyone in the waiting area, and the PA who tested me sick, just to satisfy an HR policy. Forcing someone to go out unnecessarily when they are sick is cruel and wrong.

      If you can’t trust your employees and feel the need to police how they use their time off/call outs, then you have a bigger problem than needing a note.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        Oh and also, mental health days are perfectly reasonable uses for sick leave and that’s not something you can get a doctor’s note for the same way you can for strep throat. If you let your employees occasionally call out to sit at home and watch Netflix or run errands or whatever it is they need to do to feel better mentally, you might have less turnover. Just saying.

        1. Good Luck*

          I really agree with this. There are times I have been really sick, but I knew a doctor wouldn’t be able to do much other that say rest and go back to work when you feel better. I don’t want to waste a $40 co-pay on that. A few months back I had a terrible stomach virus. If I would have gone to the doc, my husband would have had to bring me. I was throwing up so much, there is no way I could have driven. I would be so much better off just resting, instead getting a doc note.

      2. NNT*

        I understand why you’re saying this, and in most cases I agree that documentation isn’t necessary. But when you’re managing people in jobs like this, some of them ARE calling out excessively because they’d rather not come in and they’ll be able to find a comparable job if they get let go. I don’t blame them for this (who wants to work a crappy low-wage job?), but if someone is going to claim they are sick every other Saturday, for example (and again, that’s so, so common for jobs like this), you need a means for accountability on the other end. One Saturday, no reason for documentation. But four or five? I don’t love doctors notes but I haven’t seen anyone here ever come up with a better alternative when someone calls out sick in excess. It’s all very well to assume that people are never lying about being sick/ abusing the time off policy, but that’s just not always the case. We should give people time and benefit of the doubt, but people call out excessively from jobs like this because they understandably don’t care about them as much, and I just think advice for this OP should live in that reality.

  34. Risha*

    LW1, I don’t think you’ve been very compassionate for your employee. Even my super toxic last job was very flexible with me when I had deaths in my family, and I’m in healthcare where it’s urgent for people to be working certain times/days. Amanda’s MIL just died a couple weeks ago and you put her right back on weekends without even talking to her first. I’m not sure if your other employees are thinking bad about her, they may be thinking bad about you. I understand weekends are part of your business needs, but Amanda is a human, not a worker drone. She needs time to process what happened and to grieve.

    Then you go on to say that you don’t want employees calling in for any reason without it being discussed. That’s usually how it works. Why give sick time if your employees cannot use it? Just take it all away then. Employees can take sick time even for their mental health, they don’t have to be physically sick and it’s truly not your business anyway. Amanda didn’t even really have to tell you she was vomiting, all she needs to say is she’s taking a sick day. It sounds like your job is stressful enough, the employees don’t also need a manager that makes them justify sick time and doesn’t believe them. You will find yourself with no employees, or you’ll only have the type of employee that couldn’t get hired anywhere else.

    It seems like you’re saying that you can just change schedules without discussing with the employee, but they MUST discuss their reasons for sick time with you. A job is a business relationship, not a dictatorship, and discussing/respect goes both ways, not just to you. People are usually more willing to put up with a stressful job if they have a great manager.

  35. Living That Teacher Life*

    #3 – I am in my 50s and work with someone (close to my age) who actively cultivates two others as her work BFFs and purposefully sends the message “we are closer than everyone else” to the rest of the staff. They do things like wearing matching outfits. It is maddening for grown adults to act like this. I get along well with everyone, but I cannot help feeling excluded at times. Then I just remind myself that I am NOT in middle school anymore, and they (especially the ringleader) are making themselves look ridiculous. In the coffee situation, they may not have been so blatant about presenting themselves as a clique, but they still came off as rude to any observers. Be glad you were not part of that.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      The last time I coordinated matching outfits with someone, I was in 6th grade. That is…a lot.

      1. Delta Delta*

        The last time I had a matching outfit with someone it was last summer, and we laughed a lot about the fact we’re grownups and looked like 6th graders.

    2. L-squared*

      In no way would I find that rude if people were grabbing coffee for each other, especially if it was clear it was a rotating thing. That isn’t something I’d necessarily need to be a part of.

    3. Jackie Daytona, just a regular human bartender*

      And on Wednesday’s they wear pink…. That is what I would say every time I see them in coordinated outfits… Mean girls unite.

  36. Risha*

    LW2, I’m so sorry about your situation. I’m sure many people here can relate to the pain you’re feeling right now. I’m sending you hugs if you would like them. But don’t blame her. It was his decision to do what he did, she may not have even known about you. Even if she did, it’s mostly on him.

    Take it from me, the pain does get better eventually and you will find peace. If you’re able to, move away and start somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be very far, it can just be a couple counties over. I know that may not be possible though. Just take it one day at a time, and soon enough, you’ll feel better.

    1. Observer*

      But don’t blame her. It was his decision to do what he did, she may not have even known about you. Even if she did, it’s mostly on him.

      No. Obviously he gets most of the blame. But that does NOT exonerate her. “She’s not as bad as he is” doesn’t mean that she is blameless.

      As for her not knowing about the OP? How is that even possible in this case?

      1. Risha*

        I misread the LW’s post and thought she only recently started the job and the manager didn’t really know anything about her. But re-reading it, it looks like LW was already employed there.

        Also, I still stand by my point to not blame her, she wasn’t in a relationship with LW and didn’t just have a baby with LW either. The partner did. The person who has the commitment to you is more to blame than the affair partner. Even if she came on to him, it would not have went anywhere without him choosing to go along with it. The other person has no loyalty to you, only your partner does. It doesn’t matter if they knew about you or not. It was his choice to stray, he could’ve chose to be faithful and let LW know the boss is coming on to him (if that was the case). There’s no affair if the committed person does not go along with it. Personally, I would never blame the OW, even if she knew about me. Put the blame squarely where it belongs, with your partner.

        1. Observer*

          Hard disagree.

          The idea that only one person can be at fault is not reality based. Nor is it emotionally or morally healthy.

          There is a reason why reasonable societies have legal ramifications for people who are accessories to a crime. Sure, those accessories are not equally culpable as the criminal, but they still bear blame. The OW made a choice of her own. And it was a blameworthy choice. The fact that someone else made an even worse choice doesn’t change that.

        2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          I disagree.
          The partner bears most of the blame, but the OW/OM who knowing collaborates in infidelity bears some responsibility too.

          In this case, the manager bears additional blame because she behaved so unprofessionally when in a position of authority over the OP. It’s not as serious as if she were the OP’s doctor or lawyer, but it is much more serious than if she were a random OW.

  37. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m very lucky in that my health coverage is fantastic, but many many people aren’t so lucky. Even with good insurance, when I’m feeling barfy/headachey/crampy, THE last thing I want to have to do is try to get a doctor’s appointment, drag myself out to the car, and pay a $20 copay to be seen for a minor illness that can’t be cured and will likely go away in a day or two anyway.

    If the pay at your job is poor, and ispecially if your health insurance isn’t great or you don’t have it, the cost of getting the doctor’s note could be too big of a financial hit for someone to take. Plus if people have to use public transportation, that risks spreading things like colds and stomach bugs to others.

    Personal anecdote: I took care of my mother during her final illness, and by the time she died (in August, during one of my busiest times of the year) I was a burnt-out nervous wreck of a basket case – “caretaker burnout” is a real problem. Between the stress tanking my immune system and (I assume, because my doctor says it’s common) cooties I caught from the huggers and kissers at the funeral, I wound up with laryngitis, a sinus infection, and pinkeye all at the same time. I was on so many courses of antibiotics that, in plain English, I couldn’t go #2 normally until January.

    The one thing that made it all bearable was that my bosses’ response was “Go, take all the time you need, and we’ll figure things out here.” Even though it was during my busy time and no one really has any clue how to do my job*.

    Amanda has had weekends off that her coworkers had to work, true. But she was taking them off to do a stressful and heartbreaking job on top of a hectic and stressful job during the rest of the week. That takes hella toll on your mind and body. A little compassion goes a long, long way.

    If she makes a habit of it, by all means address it then, but if it’s a one-off give her some grace.

    *During COVID, people in my position had to assign and train a deputy so that if we were sick or had to quarantine someone could take over, since our reporting is time-sensitive. So if something similar happened now, I’d come back to way less of a mess :D

    1. CommanderBanana*

      My sibling died very unexpectedly in early 2020, and after the initial wave of having to deal with everything in the wake of their death ended, I felt like I had the flu for about a week and a half. I was so fatigued I couldn’t walk up the stairs in my house without having to stop and I slept 14+ hours a day. Grief and stress do manifest themselves physically.

      1. no one reads this far*

        LW 1 not to add to the dog pile but I’m adding my anecdote anyway.

        During my tenure at my last job, my dad needed open heart surgery. I asked my boss for some flexibility that week since I didn’t know how long the surgery would take, what kind of recovery he would have, etc. She only granted me the day off for the surgery. Meanwhile her little minion could take time off for anything. And I mean anything. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I resented them both. (Not the most mature response but hey, I’m human. Shoot me.)

        New job, my dad was undergoing chemo and then surgery. Went to my boss and she told me to take all the flex time I needed. Felt much better and much more supported.

        Leading with the stick only breeds resentment and high turnover.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      One of my colleagues had a sibling die tragically around last Halloween or maybe a little beforehand. Between that and Christmas, she managed to contract pneumonia and then covid and then a post-covid infection. I think most of us assumed it was a case of her immune system being tanked. Probably combined with the amount of illnesses going around last Christmas.

    3. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah just want to underscore that a mere $20 copay is actually quite cheap for an urgent sick visit. I’d wager most people in the US don’t have coverage that good (In my time, I have worked for a fortune 500 company, a small company, a higher ed institution, and in government and NEVER had health insurance that good).

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Yeah, I hit the lottery on benefits here. The insurance and PTO are incredible. Truth be told, it’s the main reason I’ve stuck around so long because the pay isn’t great, the work is monotonous, and there’s zero chance of advancement. But I do get 4 weeks vacation, most of my prescriptions are free, and we get a bonus for unused sick time…

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      While there’s certainly a barrier to going to the doctor if you’re just playing hooky, even going is not proof that you’re “really” sick. The doctor is going to take your word for it that you’re puking, not require you to puke in the exam room. So the job can and should skip that extra step since it’s onerous and it’s not proof anyway.

  38. HonorBox*

    OP1 – The two issues may seem separate but could be somewhat combined. Perhaps her call out for that Saturday, with assurance she’d be there Sunday is just because she had something scheduled already. You wouldn’t know because you didn’t talk to her before the schedule changed.

    If her attendance is a continuing problem then have a conversation about it with her. But you owe her a conversation anyway about her schedule moving. And frankly, is it absolutely necessary for her to work weekends? I get the idea of fairness and equity, but if things worked well enough while she was off weekends to care for her MIL, and her work is good enough when she’s there, maybe you just figure out how to cover those weekend hours without her.

    1. Colette*

      I’m going to disagree with your few sentences. The job involves Saturday shifts. She got an exception because of her circumstances, which have changed, so the exception no longer applies.

      But her not working Saturdays meant other people were, and it’s likely they also would like an occasional Saturday off. So taking her off the rotation isn’t a good solution for the team, and it’s the OP’s job to look out for the team, not favour one individual. (If the OP talks with people and they say “actually I prefer Saturdays”, maybe she doesn’t have to take shifts for the moment, but otherwise the weekend work should be shared fairly.)

      1. HonorBox*

        I didn’t add this part after the last sentence, and I apologize for not having fully-stated my thought process. OP might consider looking to hire for just weekend coverage. It sounds like there’s a fair amount of turnover, so perhaps hiring with just weekends in mind would help them long-term. Maybe that causes more trouble than benefit because maybe they’ll have too many people trying not to work weekends. But it is something to consider and it may help long-term because you’ll have people self-identifying that they want weekend work.

  39. No one person*

    #5. in some states you cannot be required to pay back PTO that was advanced to you. Some places will give unpaid time and others just won’t let you take the time.

    I worked with someone who used all his PTO and complained that he couldn’t take unpaid time because it would mean that no one else could take vacation during the summer.

  40. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I’m very sorry this happened to you and I hope that you go on to lead your best life with people you can trust.

    One thing stood out to me from your letter – “I found out that my boss was the reason for all this”.

    With all gentleness, yes, your boss betrayed your trust and she absolutely should NOT have slept with your boyfriend. She’s more at fault than a random woman your boyfriend might have met, simply because of the professional relationship. She DID hurt you. BUT – your boyfriend is still the one primarily at fault. This was your ex-boyfriend’s choice – as painful as that is. Realizing and dealing with that will make it clearer for you on to decide how to move forward, and how to deal with him in future. Being very rational about whose responsibility this is will serve you best.

    1. Lauren*

      Ok, the OP should definitely contact HR ask that they discuss a solution based on her leaving before getting lawyers involved. Discuss severance, unemployment to be granted, HR only reference including a YES answer to would you hire OP again, and health insurance extension for 3 months (not COBRA). An email will do wonders to HR and the owner or managing director of this company. You ask for exactly what you want, and they will confirm with the boss when they question her. They might just give her everything for an DO NOT SUE vs. NDA, which she can sign but with caveat that the boss is not off limits to discussing – only the company which comes off great with ‘they gave me a settlement’ if ever brought up.

      Anyone who asks why OP left that job, she should deadpan – my boss and boyfriend started a relationship while I was still with him. She still works there, I don’t, and they are now living together. HR gave me a settlement and here I am applying for this job.

      ^^ this is concise and to the point, and no one can fault you at all.

      1. Redaktorin*

        No, you cannot sue anybody over your boyfriend cheating, no company will do anything to keep you from suing over this because you can’t, and you absolutely should not tell potential employers about the most dramatic part of your love life during an interview.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Yeah, under the circumstances, even though I am not sure mentioning your child/family situation is the best plan in an interview, you could easily cite a combination of wanting something different career wise, but not knowing exactly what that would be, with post-Covid challenges related to childcare as a reason it made sense to leave the job and then figure out next steps. Do not announce a whole telenovela situation as part of a first impression.

        2. Lauren*

          She has a case though, but ultimately just mentioning lawyers is enough for HR to give a reasonable amount of severance and unemployment to close the case. They know it is a cluster and they will be found at fault for something the manager did including potential for retaliation if OP had stayed.

    2. MEH Squared*

      I agree that it’s primarily the ex’s responsibility. I’m glad you added the part about how in this case, the boss did have some responsibility to the OP, though. Especially as the boss was in a position of great power over the OP, it was doubly worse that she slept with the OP’s partner. Especially when they just had a child together.

      I do think it’s best for her to focus on doing what’s right for her child and not getting down in the weeds. But I also think that the HR of her old company should know what the boss did because it is not a good look to have a manager sleep with their report’s partner. I just don’t know if it’s in OP#2’s best interest to be the one to bring it to HR.

      Lastly, OP#,, you have every right to be pissed at your boss. She betrayed your trust. Talk to your friends about it (and maybe a therapist) because you’ll need to work through that grief. I hope you can heal and go on to a better life without either of these assholes in it (or to a limited amount in the case of your ex).

  41. 867-5309*

    As a manager for LW2, I would want to know that a boss slept with an employee’s partner. OP could approach it as, “This situation has happened and it’s something I’ve not encountered before. Can you help me navigation…” versus ‘telling on.’ I would spring into action.

  42. The Person from the Resume*

    LW#1, I support you and think you are doing your best in a tough situation. I DO NOT think anything in your letter signifies your empathy or compassion has been warped by a toxic environment.

    I actually feel that you’ve been accomidating in scheduling Amanda for a Monday – Friday schedule when presumably the majority of your employees would prefer that. You worked with her to allow her the schedule she needed to care for her MIL. I think that it’s fair that once her reason for the special accomidation ends she goes back to normal scheduling process.

    And also it is very suspicious that Amanda wanted Saturday off, was told she couldn’t have it, but then called in sick last minute. It sure does sound like she’s lying. I don’t think there’s anything to be done about it now, but if she has a pattern of this you can address the pattern.

    ** I think part of the problem is many of the readers work Monday through Friday and see working weekends as unusual and a hardship. But Amanda was hired for and accecpted a job that including being regularly scheduled for weekends. Her schedule of not working weekends WAS the accomidation. I don’t think there’s any need to ease her back into her regular schedule. Especially since her coworkers have been working more weekends because Amanda was getting most of them off.

    1. NNT*

      I totally agree! I feel like most of the people here work white collar/desk jobs, and don’t understand that LW1 already accommodated this employee to give them weekends off to start with! Should she have communicated the schedule change, absolutely, that’s not cool. But acting like OP1 is some horrible monster for needing her employees to work the shifts she hired them for/keep things fair to everyone else is off base.

      1. Admin Lackey*

        You’re putting words in people’s mouths, people are taking exception to the lack of communication. It costs nothing to give people a heads up and since that seems to be one of the few kindnesses op CAN show their staff, that’s what they should do going forward

        1. NNT*

          I’m reading the same comments you are. We don’t have to agree, but I’m perfectly capable of reading tone in the majority of the comments that were left.

    2. Tay*

      That… is a good point which I hadn’t considered before, and I’m curious what Alison would say about it.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      Having worked in both environments, I still concur with the comments saying that there needed to be a humane conversation before the schedule included weekends again. The issue is less “scheduling Amanda on weekends” and more “immediately reverting the schedule with no discussion as soon as the ill family member died.” There is a LOT of work that accompanies a death, there may be memorial or funeral services or family gatherings, not to mention grieving. A kind conversation was absolutely necessary, and another week or two of accommodation wouldn’t have hurt anything.

      And, of course, assuming she’s lying about the illness and considering demanding a doctor’s note for a single day’s absence is… not great.

    4. Admin Lackey*

      I’ve worked in shift work environments and it was no great hardship for management to give you a heads up on scheduling changes. It’s practical, because then the employee isn’t been caught off guard, and it’s respectful, because you’re taking a few seconds to say, “hey, I see that you’re a person too.”

      In fact, you can build up a lot of loyalty in these types of environments by just not treating your employees like cogs in a machine. In my experience, people in shift work will put up with A LOT of nonsense as long as they get as much of a heads up as /possible/.

      I don’t think LW is evil or anything, but not taking a couple minutes to say “hey, just to let you know, I’m going to start scheduling you on weekends again” to someone who was caregiving a person with /terminal cancer/ IS uncompassionate and they should handle it differently next time

    5. K8T*

      +1! I’ve worked in a similar situation where everything wasn’t great and everyone was just trying to keep their heads above water. A convo beforehand should’ve taken place but she also should have expected to go back to weekends. The fact she’s okay with Sunday does seem like a good sign to me.

    6. nodramalama*

      Has it occurred to you that even if Amanda was lying about the actual cause of her illness, she was sick? Her mother in law just died. She is grieving. It is very possible she needed a mental health day. It is also likely that as LW wouldn’t accept that as a genuine sick day even though it is, so Amanda lied about throwing up.

      Nobody said they can’t go back to their old scheduling. The point is that LW did not even tell Amanda that was the plan, they just did it.

  43. Former Red and Khaki*

    I have no advice for LW1 that hasn’t already been said, I just want to say as someone who switched from an essential retail role to an office role during the first year of the pandemic: recent letters that have come from the retail/fast food side of the world have showed me that those industries learned absolutely NOTHING from the pandemic. Absolutely nothing. And that makes me really sad. I was in that role for nearly 20 years, and retail could be a viable and enjoyable career if only the people running things chose to treat their people like human beings.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      You are so right. Every day I am grateful that I escaped my customer service & retail career when I did, even though I actually loved the work at my retail job. It was just the working conditions I couldn’t stand. Employees are so dehumanized and management seems to only put effort into catching them out for rule violations or inconsistencies.

      It really seems like that’s a common mindset in all low-paying and/or shift-based work and it’s just awful. People are miserable in their jobs and try to blame each other for their misery rather than the company that’s creating the miserable environment with their miserable practices.

    2. Observer*

      recent letters that have come from the retail/fast food side of the world have showed me that those industries learned absolutely NOTHING from the pandemic. Absolutely nothing.

      I think that you are right, and it’s really stupid and unfortunate.

  44. Observer*

    #1- Employee called out sick.

    I’ve only had time to read (and respond to) a few of the comments, but I want to highlight something. It seems to me that your sense of what a workplace and reasonable conditions are have been warped. If you are serious about improving things to the extent in your power, I think there are a few tings to take note of.

    1. Scheduling. I find it notable that you just changed Amanda’s schedule without even telling her, and only explained once she reached out to talk to you. That’s incredibly disrespectful to people. Even if you had zero choice about putting back on the weekend rotation 2 weeks after the death, there is simply no good reason to not tell her.

    It also indicates that you don’t discuss scheduling and that it’s quite unpredictable. There is TONS of information about the stress of unpredictable schedules for people. Even people who don’t like weekend shifts will do better with PREDICTABLE weekend shifts (eg the first weekend every month, every 6th weekend, etc.) because then they have a chance of planning for it in a way that you can’t when you don’t know what’s going on.

    2. You say that you “ worry that letting it go sends a message that people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed.” But why is this actually a problem? Why SHOULD people have to explain why they are sick? Why would you want people to have to come up with excuses that you find acceptable?

    This reminds me of the LW who stated that they require people to find their own coverage to keep people from taking sick time. If that’s what you are thinking, you *really* and totally need to rethink that. Don’t force people to make up stuff or come in sick because you don’t think that their reason is good enough.

    Also, what exactly could Amanda have told you that would make you believe her? Are you going to interrogate her till you get her to contradict herself, or try to? Because pretty much anything else would be meaningless. I mean she could give you all sorts of details, but they could all be made up. So what is there to “discuss”?

    You also suggest making her bring in a doctor’s note. I’m going to assume that if you were in a locale where this is illegal, you would be aware of this. But even if it’s legal it’s stupid, and self defeating, unless your *real* goal is to keep people from taking off sick even when they are really sick.

    Even assuming that Amanda can get a doctors appointment for the same day, what is the doctor’s note going to tell you? Exactly nothing. “Amanda was seen in our office for vomiting.” doesn’t actually tell you that Amanda was vomiting, or what the problem may have been. And many doctors offices won’t actually give someone a same day appointment for vomiting, because it’s generally not something they consider an emergency or something that needs immediate *medical* care. Just “stay in bed” and “be careful about what you eat and drink” kind of care.

    But if you are going to retroactively require Amanda to have a doctor’s note, which will tell you nothing, she will probably have to be out a SECOND day in order to get that note. And again, many doctor’s offices won’t give her an appointment on Sunday, so what does that leave you? That she takes of on Sunday and Monday so she brings you a note? It’s just ridiculous.

    Lastly, you assume that she’s lying because how else would she know that she’ll be ok on Sunday. Except that it could be that she doesn’t KNOW. She just hopes and thinks it’s highly likely and she’s saying that she knows because she wants to get you off her back. At this point she knows that you don’t want to hear it, so she could be figuring that she’ll say whatever she needs to to get you off the phone and hope that it works out. Or this is the kind of thing that has happened to her in the past and she knows the pattern. But she’s not going to give YOU the details.

  45. Katy*

    LW #1 reminds me of my boss at a bookstore who made me go get a $120 doctor’s note for a cold. Why? Because as I was leaving early on a Friday, with the manager’s permission, because I had a sore throat, I looked at the schedule, realized I was supposed to work that weekend and said “Oh no,” because I knew I would probably be too sick to work. She heard me say “Oh no” and concluded that I had gotten my schedule wrong and made weekend plans and was now calling in sick because I wanted the weekend off. I told her I could come in and show her how sick I was, but she said, “If you’re genuinely sick we don’t want your germs.”

    It was particularly frustrating because days off were unpaid and my bike had been stolen that week so I was going to have to replace it, and the last thing I actually wanted to do was work fewer shifts. And of course we didn’t have benefits, and IIRC this was pre-Obamacare, so requiring a doctor’s visit meant requiring me to spend a lot of money for the privilege of keeping my job. But she thought a few days off, unpaid, were such an amazing commodity that I was clearly lying to her to get them, and I ended up having to drag myself to a clinic, pay $120, and get a doctor’s note. It was an awful cold, too. A few days later, still visibly sick, I went in, met with her husband (they co-ran it), burst into tears, and quit. He ended up reimbursing me the $120 and persuading me to work the rest of the summer, and she and I just avoided each other as much as we could.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Managers really do behave that way and then are shocked – SHOCKED – when people leave.

  46. Jules the 3rd*

    LW2: My deepest sympathy. That double betrayal is atrocious. He *sucks* so much.

    It is best to put her behind you, for your mental health, but there are, and should be, long-term consequences for this.
    1) She’s stuck with the loser, at least until he cheats on her.
    2) Their unethical behavior = you should not trust their word on *anything*. File for full custody and child support. Run everything through the courts, get everything legally documented, and *hold him to the court mandates*. Don’t let him off because it’s ‘hard’, don’t buy his excuses. He’s lying, just like he lied during the affair.
    3) File for unemployment if you’re in the US.

    Take some time to recover, and try to focus on what’s good for you (baby snuggles!). Consider therapy to help you process it all, it’s helped me a lot. Best to you, and let us know how you’re doing pls.

  47. Critical Rolls*

    So, this is a hindsight thing, LW5, but if the reason you hadn’t accrued PTO was due to being newly hired, the time to discuss how to handle your planned time off was during the hiring process. That’s the point when you have the most leverage, and the company has the most leeway.

  48. Delta Delta*

    #3 – This is hard, because it feels hurtful, and it feels like meanies in middle school all over again. Probably the best way to deal with this is to ignore them and do your own thing, and to ensure you’re being as inclusive as possible in your own situations.

  49. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    LW1 – You’ve taken a bit of a beating in the comments but I have one thing to add that I haven’t seen said yet.

    It seems like you’re trying to do good when all you’ve been given are bad tools. I would advise you, the next time you get frustrated with or suspicious of an employee, to get curious about your own emotional response. Ask yourself if you’re feeling unhappy or frustrated with your job and then examine if the employee really is the source of that.

    Bad company policies work kind of like a chain of fender benders on the highway. Your emotional response is initially directed at the person who rear ended you because they’re directly impacting you. But if you look, you can see it was someone six cars back who caused the accident and by the time it reached the person who rear ended you, there was nothing they could have done to prevent it.

    When you get frustrated with your staff, get curious what the real root of the issue might be and try to redirect your emotions there. I can’t tell you what you’ll find, but making that self-assessment will probably make you a better manager and give you more peace. I wish you the best of luck with what sounds like frustrating understaffing.

  50. SpaceySteph*

    LW1, one thing kind of embedded in here is that you’re only doing the schedule about a week in advance, if her MIL just died and she’s already back on weekends a week or two later? One thing that might help your employees on a general level, is more advance notice of their scheduled shifts. If you can change to more advance scheduling I bet it would go a ways toward both concerns about call outs and with that welcoming environment you’re trying to cultivate.

    I worked a 24/7 coverage job (albeit white collar/salaried) and our schedule was done about 2 months in advance, and for the winter holidays we got assigned around August, which gave us enough time to plan around our work schedules accordingly.

  51. K8T*

    LW3, I personally think the word “clique” is used too often. People are allowed to be close with whoever they like and are also allowed to /not/ be close with people they don’t. (inb4 manager/friend discourse – not referring to that as it’s not relevant to this letter)

    My question do you bring your own morning coffee to the meeting? If so, do you bring it from home or do you grab it from somewhere? If I never see someone with coffee – I assume they’ve already had theirs and/or don’t want one. If someone always brings in coffee from home, I assume they don’t want to pay $5 for a coffee. If you are bringing Starbucks for yourself everyday then offer to bring in the next round for everyone and that may be able to shift the dynamic.

    Ultimately I think this is veering towards BEC and you may just have to decide to not let it bother you

    1. L-squared*

      I very much agree with your first sentence. I feel like it used to be just an accepted thing that in a work place different groups hung out together and socialized more. Now its a “clique” and
      “exclusion” if everyone isn’t invited to everything. Its gotten out of hand

  52. Marna Nightingale*

    OP1: from personal experience, your employee is so tired right now. So very, very tired. Tired enough she could be legitimately throwing up from exhaustion.

    Grief is work, real physical work, and it frequently arrives, as in this case, right after the exhausting work of caregiving.

    After my mother died I kept saying I’d expected more crying and less feeling like I had an anvil on my back.

    There was a lot of anvil, especially right afterwards when there was so much admin on top of the grief. There was a lot of feeling like a zombie and not a lot of good sleep and I ached all over.

    All with a topping of niggling guilt at feeling relieved at not having to do the care and see her go downhill anymore.

    All of which is to say, it’s entirely possible she was throwing up, or using that as a euphemism for other digestive awfullness, because it’s very probable she isn’t sleeping or eating well, and exhaustion and shock and stress can do a number on your digestive system, AND that she knew if she could rest for one day she’d be able to deal.

    Or, equally possibly, she just absolutely could not make herself get out of bed and ready to work and out of the house and in lieu of being able to articulate the problem clearly she went with “throwing up”. And that’s a sick day. That’s legitimately a day you can’t work.

    Drop it like a rock, and keep a bit of an eye on her for small mistakes and general minor underperformance for the next few months — NOT so you can discipline her, but because you’ll probably know before she does when she needs a bit more time off.

    And also, maybe give the rest of your staff a bit more credit. People resent unfairness, but they also generally understand that compassion isn’t unfairness.

  53. Admin Lackey*

    For LW1, another thing to consider is that managers in shift work environments can build up a LOT of loyalty from their staff by giving them a heads up about scheduling changes. Nothing demoralizes people faster than having your schedule messed with without your knowledge, it can make people feel like their managers don’t really see them as people.

    Even if you don’t have to, don’t owe it to them, and they should have expected it, giving people a heads up on a change says to them, “hey, I know you’re a person who has a life outside this job and plans for your own time.” Even if the scheduling news isn’t good or isn’t what they want to hear, people really appreciate the respect it shows ESPECIALLY because it’s so rare in environments like this. I have seen and have myself put up with a lot of scheduling nonsense just because we knew that we would always get as much advance warning as possible and that meant our managers had some respect for us. It won’t fix the turn over problem, but it might actually help

  54. Phoebe*

    “…people can call in sick and give literally any reason why without it being discussed.”

    Ideally, this IS how a request for sick leave should be handled. You shouldn’t interrogate your employees and treat them like a child trying to get away with something. PTO is part of their compensation, and they shouldn’t have to justify taking sick time to anyone. Ultimately, unless you can site a legitimate business reason that you are unable to grant an employee requested sick time, you should grant it, period.

  55. Synergy*

    Shortly after lockdown, my office got really strict about RTTO but my coworker had an exception because she was caring for a sick family member. Well, the family member died and uppn being informed, HR immediately reached out to make sure she’d be in the office, since she obviously no longer needed the accommodation. She called me via zoom and broke down crying. I quit shortly after, partly because of how they handled that situation.

  56. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

    LW #2 – If you can bear it and it would please you, I want to second the suggestions here that you reach out to HR purely in the interest of preserving a positive note of your work history, because (although it’s certainly the lesser of the many shitty consequences of this event), losing a good reference is not ideal for your career and this is one consequence you can possibly salvage.

    Frame it as “I’m concerned that I won’t be able to call on my employment history with [company] in future due to the circumstances of my departure: as my direct boss was revealed to be conducting an affair with my partner, my employment was no longer tenable. For obvious reasons, I do not feel comfortable using her as a reference; is there another contact I should use in future to verify the dates of my employment and my track record with [Company?]”

    (Will this have the possible side-effect of negative consequences, officially or unofficially, for Boss? I truly hope so, but it’s not the point.)

    1. I'm fabulous!*

      Also, seek legal counsel in terms of family law to make sure your former partner pays you child support.

  57. Kae*


    Unfortunately, I can think of a perfectly plausible reason for her to be debilitated on Saturday but know she’ll be able to get it together by Sunday.

    There’s a funny thing with grief and first/second/third/etc times. It can be absolutely gut wrenching when you realize you are doing something for the first time in the absence of the person you lost. I cared for a loved one with cancer for over a year and I did all of our cooking. After they passed, family and friends brought us lots of food and I didn’t have to cook for almost a month. When I finally went grocery shopping again, I broke down sobbing in the middle of the aisle because it suddenly hit me that I was shopping for one less person than before. I was hit with debilitating waves of grief each time I experienced another “first”, and the second time doing the thing was only marginally easier. For months I could count the number of times I had done certain things since my loved one died. Each time, the grief was lesser than before, but it took years to do basic tasks without experiencing even small pangs of grief.

    Her weekend routine was taking care of her MIL and this is the first or second weekend after losing her. Waking up and realizing that you don’t have to do the routine you’ve been doing on that day because the reason for that routine is gone is a horrific feeling. Maybe she was sick, maybe she wasn’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was not in a place emotionally to be able to work either way.

    She is still dealing with a lot of grief and all the logistics of a loved one’s passing. Have a genuine, empathetic conversation with her and lay out your eventual need for her to enter the weekend coverage rotation, and ask her what she needs right now. And I really do mean eventual. You’ve covered weekends up to now without her, so it’s hard to believe you actually need her working Saturdays and Sundays immediately.

    As others have said, I hope you can make it out of here without your sense of healthy workplace norms being too warped. You deserve a better work environment too!

  58. umami*

    So the MIL died about a week ago, and Amanda is already being put back on weekend rotation? That’s generally not even enough time to have scheduled a funeral yet. I get that the reason for the accommodation was to care for the MIL, but I doubt Amanda could have known precisely when the MIL was going to die and be prepared to jump right into a new schedule immediately after her death. That is incredibly insensitive, and she very well could have felt sick because of being made to come in so quickly. It’s never a good look to assume your employees are lying about being sick, especially when you say she tends to be ill more often than other employees.

  59. TootsNYC*

    Re: the coffee

    One of the basic tenets of etiquette is:
    Do not discuss a social event in front of someone who was not invited–but who might have been. (like, you can talk about your family reunion at work, but not the outing with only a few colleagues; you can talk about your church softball league at the holiday table, but not your shopping trip with just two of your cousins)

    They coffee brings have created a mini social event right in the middle of the company meeting. And because you’re at the office, there’s a reasonable expectation that you might be included–but you weren’t.

    So that’s kind of rude.

    The rest of you ought to set something similar up, though.
    Or maybe ask, “If I give you the money, can you pick something up for me?”

  60. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*


    Please don’t make people go to a doctor in order to get a note confirming that they were sick, but not too sick to leave the house. Making someone drag herself out to urgent care may “prove” that she was sick on Saturday, but that trip also means she’s less rested, less likely to make it to work on Sunday, and less likely to do a good job if she does go in. (Even a good waiting room isn’t exactly restful.)

    There aren’t enough doctors (and other medical staff) to satisfy genuine health care needs. If the doctor is seeing someone who just needs a doctor’s note, that’s time they aren’t spending on someone who needs medical care.

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