update: my boss told me I’m “not a good human” when I asked to be paid for my time

Welcome to the mid-year “where are you now?” event at Ask a Manager! All this week and next, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss told them they were “not a good human” when they asked to be paid for their time? (First update here.) Here’s the latest.

As I mentioned, I stuck around working for these miserable people because my husband and I were trying to have a baby. Those efforts were successful, and we had a healthy child. Yay!

My job offered paid parental leave, which I took. It wasn’t particularly generous, but better than $0 (and not optional – I tried to opt out bc I very much knew there was no “free lunch” with these people, and they were the last people to whom I wanted to be indebted, but I was told I couldn’t opt out and take unpaid leave.)

A few days after I returned from parental leave, my boss handed me a bill. For the amount he expected me to pay him back for my paid parental leave. You read that correctly. He demanded that I (a W-2 employee) reimburse him (the owner) for my “paid” parental leave. I was like: “Uh, then it’s not really paid leave?” He said, and I swear this is an exact quote: “Yes, it was paid. Believe me, I know because I had to pay it. That’s why you owe it back.”

I know it seems like I must be leaving something out here. I’m not. Employer has a clear and unambiguous policy in the employee handbook, for paid leave for which I clearly qualified. I did, in fact, birth a child. I had, in fact, worked at the firm well more than long enough to qualify for the leave. I took less leave than was allowed – both by my firm and by law. No weird facts here. I had a baby and went on a short maternity leave, nothing fancy or complicated, song as old as time, and no one claimed otherwise. The only dispute was that my boss claimed it is “generally understood” that “paid” leave is essentially an advance, which the firm pays but then the employee owes back. The firm’s policy says nothing about reimbursement and just says “paid” leave, but boss contends that it is inherent in the concept of “paid” leave that the employee will later reimburse the firm. (You don’t even need to tell me he’s wrong and I’m right because, obviously, he’s banana crackers.)

I was dumbfounded but not really surprised. I tabled the conversation for a few months because I hoped that he would decide this wasn’t a nickel he could squeeze with a straight face. But I was wrong. He kept bringing it up, demanding to know my plan for paying him back the money I “owed,” and saying things like “this isn’t something I can just let go.”

This finally came to a head one day, when he popped into my office for the umpteenth time, unannounced, wanting to know my plan for paying him back, while I was in the middle of prepping for an important meeting.

I just had enough. So, I told him my honest thoughts on the matter. This started gently, just explaining that he was wrong – factually, logically, legally, ethically wrong AF – about the meaning of “paid” leave. He doubled down. The conversation escalated in tone and intensity. There were other issues too, so what the heck, while we were at it, I went into those. He played dumb, and told me that I was off-base and that no one had ever disagreed with him on these issues and no one had ever questioned or tried to discuss these issues with him before.

Except, I knew for a fact that someone had quit a month or so earlier, over a dispute about one of these issues, after REPEATEDLY trying to discuss with boss to no avail. I just couldn’t. So I called him on that. And he LOST IT. He stood up, said that never happened, demanded that we call former employee immediately to confirm this never happened, stormed out of my office to grab his cell phone and call this poor woman. Well, that backfired for him, because she answered and she said, “Uh, yeah, that happened.”

Boss then calmed down and reflected and said, “Wow, I’m wrong and also what sort of a lunatic calls a former employee out of the blue to settle a dispute?” Just kidding! Boss did none of that. Instead, he hung up the phone, and looked at me and said, “See, I told you?!”

That’s when I LOST IT. This wasn’t a nuanced issue. It was like I was saying “black,” boss was saying “white,” and former employee was saying “totally black.” Then boss hangs up and declares he heard “totally white”? I know it sounds crazy, but that’s what happened. I’m rarely speechless but I just stood there for a while, with my eyebrows on the ceiling and my jaw at my knees.

Which, brings us to the point of no return. After asking “are you serious?” a few times, I just started screaming at him. He started screaming at me. This spilled out into the common area of the firm. The good people of the world got up to discreetly and politely shut their office doors, embarrassed for us both. It was bad. It was a scene. I’m not proud of it, and I definitely lost my cool and that’s not how I typically handle myself. I eventually ended the “conversation” by screaming “this isn’t productive” a few times, then walked back to my office, grabbed my bag, and left.

On the way home, I was like — wow that happened and this isn’t healthy. So I made one phone call, and in less than 3 hours, I had a better job with a competitor for more pay. (I’m in a niche field, so everyone knows everyone, and they were already familiar with my work.)

I’m not going to lie, it was extremely satisfying to give notice the next morning. Mic drop moment for sure. That was six months ago, and I couldn’t be happier at my new firm.

Also a positive note: Apparently the only way to get that “paid” maternity leave at my old firm is to leave before they can take it out of your bonus, so I got the last laugh on that one.

{ 405 comments… read them below }

  1. Mitford*

    I’m only surprised that it took you that long to scream at him. He deserved all of it, and more.

    1. MsM*

      I’m surprised the former employee didn’t just laugh in his face and hang up. Assuming she even bothered taking the call.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        I’m surprised that she did answer. If I’d left a job like that, one of the first things I’d have done was blocked every number and email address of the boss’ that I had because I don’t need that kind of bananapants in my life.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          It’s likely enough that she didn’t have that number saved or that it didn’t show up as from the business so, to her, it was just answering a random number.

          1. OP*

            OP here.
            She knew who it was. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s a niche field and she’s very networky, so she tries to maintain the professional connection. I think former boss knows this and that’s why he called her so confident – he assumed she’d respond with the answer he indicated he wanted, to avoid burning the bridge. When she responded with the truth, he was caught off guard.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              This is a level of misguided self-assurance that I have seen before but still cannot comprehend.

      2. Rose*

        I’m not sure why they’d pick up (my hope is that they’ve emotionally moved on and now it’s just hilarious story fodder for them) but I imagine once they had they must have guessed why he was asking (if it wasn’t explained explicitly) and been more than happy to help prove this nightmare human wrong.

        1. MM*

          My two guesses are 1) the number wasn’t one they had in their contacts, 2) morbid curiosity.

    2. libellulebelle*

      And I’m surprised that the OP did not contact an employment lawyer when the boss started demanding to be paid back for the maternity leave.

      1. Bagpuss*

        YEs, I was a it surprised at that, but I guess if you are coping with a dysfunctional workplace and all the stress of being a new parent it may not have occurred to them!

        1. Zombeyonce*

          If I were her, I probably would have waited until they forcibly took it from a paycheck/bonus check. Just see if it’ll go away first and then take action if they actually do something.

            1. OP*

              OP here. Yes, it didn’t occur to me to hire a lawyer. One, his position was so clearly wrong that I guess it was hard to take seriously. Two, I knew he was smart enough not to just withhold my paycheck, which would have been a big problem for him (my state has strong employee protections). He was clearly eyeing my bonus (which was a few months away) and/or a temporary paycut (which he would not be able to impose retroactively.) So I felt like I had time and could wait for his next steps.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Yeah, I think your employer can *ask* for you to return half your salary (or donate 10% to the church or whatever). As long as doing so doesn’t drop you below minimum wage, violate FMLA or similar, it’s probably legal.

            It’s banana crackers and ever employee should quit en masse in protest, but probably legal.

            1. jojo*

              They cannot legally ask you to repay a benefit that is listed in the company handbook. Plus, prenancy job protection is federal law in the US.

              1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

                Currently, the only federal job protection for pregnancy is FMLA which has a bunch of restrictions and doesn’t apply to many types of businesses. That will be somewhat changing at the end of this month with a new job protection act but that doesn’t help this OP.

                1. BrainDrain*

                  I misspoke and should clarify. Any pregnancy related issues are covered under ADA. Not just being pregnant.

      2. EPLawyer*

        That would have been my first step. Well second after I said, let me just check with an employment lawyer on that.

        Seriously how many other employees just paid back the leave to avoid a scene?

        Screaming is not good. But that’s how dysfunctional places warp your sense of normalcy.

      3. Momma Bear*

        I would have consulted a lawyer as well, but it’s possible LW was concerned about the cost.

        And while the screaming match was not “professional”, neither was his behavior. I’m glad she was able to quit and is at a better company.

      4. Dawn*

        Unless I’m off-base in my reading here I think this actually is a law firm of some stripe, and probably, people have tried it before and it hasn’t gone well.

        OP was already clearly underpaid and without a lot of liquid funds, or a lot of energy (they just had a baby!) and unfortunately even with everything they were doing wrong there, it can take a lot of resources to go up against a law firm on a point of law.

        1. OP*

          OP here.
          I don’t know if others have tried to push back. I suspect not, for a few reasons (that are specific enough that I can’t explain without giving too much away).
          For me, the main impediment to a legal claim is that this is a very small niche field, and I would be worried about affecting my own reputation by bringing a claim. In my mind, better to just walk away.

          1. MauvaisePomme*

            You are very smart to have done so. It’s a sad reality that sometimes doing the right thing can burn you, and I know people who have suffered major career setbacks from pursuing completely valid and just grievances against their employers.

      5. Certaintroublemaker*

        This. Tell Boss to write down his expectation for repayment. Take that and the employment handbook to a lawyer for a half hour consult and a cease and desist letter. If Boss is stupid enough to persist, lawyer will take it from there.

      6. demmzzz*

        This. I know US companies don’t have to give paid leave, but it sure sounds like the company is in violation of their own contract and legal policy.

    3. ferrina*

      Truth. That is someone who well deserves to be screamed at. The audacity to lie so blatantly….that guy is something else.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Just adding that *his* behavior does sound crazy, OP, but all of us believe you. Some people learn that the more outrageous the lie, the harder it is to dispute.

        Congratulations on finally getting out!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          How did Sherlock put it, “when everything else has been ruled out, what remains however unlikely, must be the truth.” How many of us through the years have discovered that some people no matter how much contrary evidence gets presented just live in their own world where up really is down to them.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Yes, he was actively delusional. And I’m sure he was working at it. You don’t get that delusional without making an effort.

            1. Mister_L*

              He sounds like the “as long as I don’t say I’m wrong I’m not wrong” type.
              Like the people who say they are leaving the premises at their own will and security just so happens to be there.

    4. Youngin*

      Im surprised they could’vepicked up the phone and had a job in 3 hours at any point during that and still CHOSE to stay and scream. Bizarre

      1. OP*

        OP here.

        I didn’t know I would be able to get a better job so quickly.

        I was reasonably confident I would be able to get some job for at least some pay pretty quickly, which is why I was willing risk being fired.

  2. Ssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Oh, wow. “with my eyebrows on the ceiling and my jaw at my knees.” Yeah, that’s where I’m at too.

    Pay back a paid leave. What planet is this person from?! I’m so glad you left that place.

    1. This_is_Todays_Name*

      I thought it was bad enough when I was at *Big Name Auditing Firm* that although we had a generous PTO and sick leave policy, you were expected to make up the hours over the course of the year (because it diminished your billable utilization), and ALSO work an additional 400 hours per year in order to qualify for your annual bonus, but this made THAT almost seem normal.

      1. Dinah*

        Oh hey, utilization rate high five! I actually showed last year that it was mathematically impossible for me to have the production level demanded because I’d been out sick too much, and it got me…nothing. Well, no, I got a PIP.

  3. RJ*

    Wow….that is a lot of pure stubbornness and ignorance to deal with, OP. So very glad you are out of there.

    1. Generic Name*

      No, the boss isn’t ignorant or merely stubborn. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is lying to OP’s face to make her feel crazy. It’s a common tactic used by abusers to control and unbalance survivors. I’m glad the OP got out.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep, 100%

        The gaslighting usually starts small and grows from there (though sometimes the gaslighter gets impatient and skips straight to the big lies). Part of the gaslighting technique is to wear down the target, hence the repeated statements. It’s also about bullying and pushing the target into a metaphoric or literal corner so they can’t think straight and react in abnormal ways (like screaming at the boss).

        Super glad OP is out of there!

      2. Flax Dancer*

        AND you can bet that he’s personally pocketing whatever money is repaid by any employee who DOES pay him back for their “paid leave.”

        1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

          Bingo. My wife got laid off for a job before the employee match for her 401k vested. The HR rep laying her off said that since the match didn’t vest, she also had to pay back all of her paycheck deducted personal contributions. But he would be happy to take care of that and let us leave it in the 401k if she wrote him a check for the current value of the retirement plan. Yes, he wanted the check made out to him personally, not the company… He told her that if she didn’t do this, he would end our health insurance immediately, rather than the two months that was offered in the severance package and that she would be ineligible for unemployment. No, we didn’t write him the check and she got UI no problem, but also the company did nothing when we reported it.

        2. OP*

          OP here.

          I’ve always suspected there is some sort of shenanigans going on with him, and “creative” accounting, and things his partners may not know. I suspect this is the reason the official handbook says one thing and he wants to have private conversations about something else.

          1. HigherEdAdminista*

            It definitely sounds like he was mad that you took the leave, and was hoping you would pay him for the “inconvenience.”

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        100%. This dude is a horrible person and I hope he has the day he deserves.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    Boss then calmed down and reflected and said, “Wow, I’m wrong and also what sort of a lunatic calls a former employee out of the blue to settle a dispute?”

    Me: Wow, that is an astounding plot twist I never saw coming.

    LW: Just kidding.

    LW, I love the closing detail. Though hopefully the person who discovered it had a legal case that they pursued?

    1. Drago Cucina*

      I was thinking a call to the DOL (if US).

      I kept thinking of the commercial with tag line:
      “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.”

      1. ferrina*

        Agree- this is definitely worth a phone call somewhere.

        Post on Glassdoor too- this is a whole new level of bonkers.

        1. Anonny*

          I have a horrible feeling it might end up like Ms Trunchbull in Matilda. The whole story is just so bananacrackers that people don’t believe it. Kinda like the Chokey.

    2. Bacon Pancakes*

      I re-read the sentence three times because I was so astonished that the boss had finally found reason.
      Then “Just kidding!!” made me legitimately gasp.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This totally got me, too. Because I can imagine a reasonable person being shocked at going too far. What I forgot is that we’re not dealing with a reasonable person here.

  5. EMP*


    One of the most bizarre and satisfying updates I’ve ever read here. Your boss is a real piece of work and I’m glad you’re out of there!

  6. esra*

    Genuinely I just blinked, stunned, at my screen for like ten full seconds after reading this. This was a *journey*. So happy to hear OP has moved on.

  7. Rex Libris*

    Do we really need to have a vote this year, or can we just award “worst boss” by general consensus?

      1. Rex Libris*

        Really, if he had argued that the baby now belonged to the company because they paid for the leave and the insurance, would it have been any less insane?

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

      I think we need to have more than “Worst Boss Award. I think we need Most Delusional Boss, or Weirdest Boss. I think we should have some good awards too, like best HR/Boss awards.

    2. Biotech guy*

      Well this one will definitely be on the list. But then he’ll lose to a boss that demands a kidney from one of his employees.

      1. EPLawyer*

        On the list, but this guy is just a bananapants suit. Just in the last few weeks we have had full on banapants tuxedo with a jaunty hat.

            1. Lucien Nova*

              If a bee wears bananapants…does it wear them over its tiny bum, or do they cover its underside? (thinking of that meme “if a dog wore pants how would it wear them”)…

      2. Southern Ladybug*

        At this rate the boss that demanded a kidney probably also would have wanted to be reimbursed for the “sick leave” from the surgery of the employee/donor.

      3. My Cabbages!*

        I almost hate to ask, but is this referring to the infamous “liver boss” from a few years back, or did I miss a letter where YET ANOTHER person demanded actual organs from their employees?

    3. Winston*

      It would seem so. But this site had shown me that there’s no limit to what we might see in the next six months.

    4. TeapotNinja*

      I don’t know. We could still get someone who wants a kidney as payment for a paid parental leave.

      1. Weirdo*

        “Obviously now that I’ve paid for your baby, I’ll expect you to make them available for any needed blood, organ, or tissue donations I might need”

    5. Mister_L*

      Considering there are more than six months left I’d rather not hand out the award just yet.
      There is always someone who knows how to go lower.

    6. Just a different redhead*

      We could just have an open thread with the topic “Worst AAM situations of the year” and discuss all the ones we all deem most nuts from the year, and Alison could maybe take highlights from the letters and/or updates and/or comments from those if and only if she felt like it and mske a post of them like for the “stories of pettiness and food weirdness” and so forth…

  8. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Do you hear that? Its Netflix calling for the rights to this batshite reality show special! OP, you are my hero!!!

    1. Zombeyonce*

      It would start from the boss’ point of view (with very heavy editing of the gaslighting conversations) and explain away his reasons for doing things until his actions got more and more unhinged, then switch to the employee’s POV where you see him acting completely out of control and deranged.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        why do I sometimes feel like the plots of major novels come through this blog?

    2. Under-Caffeinated Jen*

      Netflix: “No, this is too bananapants. Stuff like this doesn’t happen in real life.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        The difference between stories and real life is that stories are supposed to be realistic.

  9. The Original K.*

    What in the cheapskate hell? This is *lunacy.* That resignation must have felt glorious.

  10. Juicebox Hero*

    My goodness. Ex-boss is not living in the real world.

    Congratulations on your baby and new job with reasonable people!

  11. Berin*

    The catharsis you must have felt. Screaming sucks, but I doubt you’re gonna get anyone pushing back too much on how you handled it, bc your ex-boss sounds like a truly terrible person. I’m glad you got out, and I hope your new role is helping to cleanse any toxicity and trauma leftover by your last one.

    Congratulations on the little one as well!!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I love that OP managed to get herself a new job THAT DAY with one phone call. Take that, toxic horrible old company!

      1. Grith*

        The only sadness is that she didn’t make that call months (or years) ago, but at least we can all enjoy her getting there in the end!

        1. EPLawyer*

          At the moment he demanded the money back is when she should have made the call. But, I can see not wanting to right away after just returning from leave.

          I love how paid leave is MANDATORY so you can’t take it unpaid. But ooops you have to pay it back so it really is unpaid.

          1. HA2*

            Yeah, I definitely thought the way that story was going to go was that OP used some of the leave time to job-search and then never came back.

          2. Slow Gin Lizz*

            It’s also pretty telling that OP could smell a rat and could tell that the paid leave was going to mean she was beholden to the company in a way she didn’t want to be. It’s kind of NUTS how much worse it actually was than what she suspected it would be.

            1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

              Seriously. I kinda expected that she’d resign and the boss would be like “oh, you can’t resign for a year because we paid for your leave.” That would be bad, but this is worse.

          3. Anonny*

            Also like, parents of very young babies often don’t have their heads on completely because of interuppted sleep etc. Wouldn’t be surprised if OP and OP’s spouse were in straight-up sleep deprivation “this may as well happen” mode.

            (Never had a baby, have had sleep deprivation due to stress. Your brain goes completely wonky.)

        2. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Yeah, but as one who has stayed in jobs longer than I should have because of my overall life situation, I can completely understand this. OP said in her last update that there were some qualities the job had that made IVF easier (and as one who has gone through IVF myself, albeit unsuccessfully, I know all about that) so I can see why staying there through IVF, pregnancy, and leave would be easier than trying to do all that and have a new job, no matter how awful this job was.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I’ve definitely stayed in jobs I didn’t like because of reasons like that. Decisions about jobs can (and should!) include thinking about how work fits into someone’s life as a whole.

        3. So they all cheap ass-rolled over and one fell out*

          I don’t understand why the LW didn’t find(get) a new job the second or third time Boss asked her to pay him back the money. She just hoped he was going to drop it? Personally, I wouldn’t have stuck around long enough for him to find some way to withhold it from my pay.

          1. As If*

            Going back to work after maternity leave can be exhausting and logistically complicated. For me at least, it was a really rough time and I needed the flex schedule I had set up and the accumulated goodwill of my boss to make my life work. I would have had no capacity to job search and interview, let alone learn the ropes and build capital at a new job. The stability may have outweighed the craziness for LW (up to a point).

            1. OP*

              OP here – yes, I just didn’t have the energy to job search (and I didn’t realize how easy it would be.)
              I’ve also never left a job to go to a competitor before. This was only my third job ever, and my two prior job changes were due to a move and a field change.

              1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

                Fair enough! Even as just a father (so not physically recovering from pregnancy and birth and everything) the first six-12 months were a blur.

  12. Mercurial*

    Holy Hanukkah balls. I am so, so glad you are out. And congrats on your baby too! Cheering for you and hoping that firm goes bust asap.

  13. Gwen Soul*

    This is amazing and feels like it could only be fiction because no one is that banana crackers (please tell me this is fake even though I had a boss just like this but there can’t be two right?… right!?) What did he do for PTO?

    I don’t think have ever felt so much second hand vindication…

    1. The Original K.*

      Right – did people come back from a week at the beach and he was haranguing them to pay him back for the time off? What if they had pinkeye?

    2. Hannah Lee*

      Banana crackers

      And wearing a bananas jumpsuit, bananas skort, bananas snowshoes, bananas poncho, bananas curtain rod shoulder pads while riding on a bananas themed parade float

      And all of the aforementioned bananas are old and smooshy

  14. Caramel & Cheddar*

    It’s a certain kind of wtf to not let you opt out of the paid leave and then to try to charge you for it after the fact!! I’m so glad you found something so quickly, LW.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      It was only so they partners could say they offered paid leave to people who asked (especially at interviews), knowing no one would ever think you were supposed to pay it back.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I think it’s this combined with tax fraud–I bet they deduct the wages paid during leave and don’t report the repayment.

        1. shannanigans*

          Yeah, and exactly what amount would the employee be expected to pay back? The gross pay or what they actually netted after taxes and benefits. This sounds like an accounting mess (on top of everything else wrong with it)

          1. J!*

            Truly. I am so glad the LW is out of there but I kind of want her to make a report to the Department of Labor about it because that can’t possibly be compliant with Wage and Hour regulations in practice.

        2. jojo*

          I was thinking the same. And I would have reported the deduction on my taxes if it had happened to me. Then they eould have to explain it to the irs.

      2. OP*

        OP here.

        Yes, I believe the reason you can’t decline is they want the public goodwill of having a maternity leave policy. It’s fairly standard in this area/field to offer paid maternity leave of some sort, and they want to meet the market. (They are definitely not offering to be “good humans.”) They also had a few women leave shortly after having children, which lead to “rumors” (both within company and in professional community) that you can’t be a woman with children and stay at this firm, and that perception caused a highly valued employee to leave the firm in anticipation that she was going to be starting a family soon. Shortly thereafter, the maternity leave policy was announced.

        1. Observer*

          which lead to “rumors” (both within company and in professional community) that you can’t be a woman with children and stay at this firm,

          Those quotes are doing a LOT of work, aren’t they….

          It sounds like some of their bad behavior is coming back to bite them, but instead of learning from it, they are just doubling down on it.

    2. Observer*

      Given who and what we are dealing with, it makes a lot of sense to me. Can you think of a “better” way to get the tax benefits of paying a salary while not actually having to pay that salary?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Could always leave one locked in her desk drawer on her way out and throw away the key! /jk

  15. one time at band camp*

    Why do I suddenly feel like lighting up a cigarette, despite never having smoked in my life? Good for you, OP. Well done.

  16. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    I can hardly fault OP for screaming after all of that. Congrats on the new job and the baby!

    1. Mf*

      Yeah, there aren’t many times when screaming at work is excusable but this is one of them. Boss was gaslighting her so much that there was hardly anything she could do except completely lose it.

  17. Lirael*

    honestly I’m quite proud of you for screaming. he totally deserved it.

    I’m so glad you’re out!!

    1. another Hero*

      the screaming is so valid, and also kudos to lw for recognizing it as a sign that this place was messing with her head

    2. littlehope*

      Right? Rarely, very rarely, do I say this, but I’m glad you yelled at him. You were correct to yell at him. It was completely appropriate to yell at him. He needed to be yelled at. You should feel good about yelling at him. I hope you can look back on the yelling with satisfaction. I hope you tell your baby about yelling at him when the baby’s old enough, and the baby thinks Mom is a badass.

      1. pope suburban*

        I mean…what is any human being *supposed* to do in this situation? Yelling is a perfectly proportionate response to being harassed and cornered over and over again. No one on earth could be serene in the face of that kind of treatment forever and ever. OP was in the right in every way here. If the boss did not want to be yelled at, he should not have engaged in appalling and threatening behavior for months on end. Simple as that.

    3. AngryOctopus*

      Oh yes. Once in a blue moon screaming is totally 100% justified, and this was one of those times.

  18. sharrpie*

    Whhhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat tf? I think this ranks up there as one of the most jaw-dropping posts of AAM. Right up there with the “left a work-related note at someone’s grave” letter. Holy moly, this guy is a snake.

  19. Magenta Sky*

    Paying back paid leave? How is that not illegal? Why didn’t you file a complaint with the labor board? Particularly since you had it on paper?

    In California, that could possibly end up with *criminal* charges.

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t blame OP for not taking that route but I was wondering about reporting this to someone (I’m not from the US so I’m not sure who exactly would be the proper authority here) as well.

      1. Student*

        I don’t blame the OP at all for not going the legal complaint route.

        I do blame our legal system, though.

        To have a working capitalist system, we absolutely need complaints like this to be reasonable to file. We absolutely need a reasonable return-on-investment for the complainant on such incidents. Otherwise people like this boss distort the labor market and cheat people like the OP unchecked.

        This is a great example of how and why the system is broken. If workers don’t have the power to call out people on brazen wage theft, then we don’t actually have a capitalist economy – we have serfdom and oligarchy.

        1. I have RBF*

          If workers don’t have the power to call out people on brazen wage theft, then we don’t actually have a capitalist economy – we have serfdom and oligarchy.

          This, this, a thousand times this!!

          When this shit becomes the norm, it’s not a stretch to understand why people say “Eat the rich!” and start talking about guillotines.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          This is a disagreement I have with my friends. They think that the US is in late-stage capitalism. I don’t think we can even claim to be capitalist, with the way corporations are allowed to buy politicians and industries write their own regulations.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I wouldn’t trust anyone in management there to have enough of a hold on reality for contacting them to be useful.

        1. darsynia*

          They would a million percent lie and then try to sue OP for defamation. Probably they would charge all of the employees for the lawyer fees, as well, as it’s in their best interests, or they’ll lose their jobs! I wouldn’t put ANYTHING past this particular employer.

      2. Kara*

        That was my first thought as well, but the original letter states: “(Notably, all partners are men and all employees are women.)” Since the boss is referred to as male, it sounds like there may not be anyone who outranks him. Also, there is bad behavior referred to with the other partners, so there’s not much hope of even another partner saying something.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Given that the “reasonable” folks just closed their doors – I’m going to bet there wasn’t a whole lot reasonable people above the screaming boss.

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

        You would think so, or at least ADA. Sounds like this boss would fit in with my moms old job. She had to go on medical leave for a month. She didnt qualify for FMLA (hadn’t worked long enough yet). Took 1 month off, had to call in every single day she was scheduled. But she did. Then when she returned she was in trouble because she was supposed to show up an hour earlier for mandatory OT. No one told her this, and she was in communication with her boss. Then she was told she had to make up all the hours she “missed”. She later got fired.

        1. Pugetkayak*

          Absolutely because he claims those as business expenses that he actually never paid because he is “reimbursed.”

          1. Magenta Sky*

            Tax fraud, too, in that sense. Unless he’s reporting the reimbursement as income, which I’d bet he’s not.

            (Suddenly flashed back to Al Capone going to prison for tax evasion.)

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I don’t fault OP whatsoever for not wanting to go that route, but it seems to me that it would be entirely possible to screw the heck out of old horrible toxic company by reporting them. And boy, would that be satisfying for us AAM folks, wouldn’t it?

      1. Pugetkayak*

        Now that OP is gone she could go forward with this, not for her own benefit, but because this guy is a literal menace to society.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Absolutely, but I wouldn’t blame her either if she decides she doesn’t have the bandwidth for it.

    3. Indolent Libertine*

      I was coming here to say just this, but honestly, I wouldn’t put it past this boss to “amortize” any fine he was assessed by deducting it from all his remaining employees’ paychecks, so…

  20. Middle name Danger*

    Being forced to pay back a paid leave that was not optional sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Glad you’re out, OP.

  21. mb*

    Just what in the actual f***? Of course you screamed at him – he deserved it. You cannot win with someone who refuses to deal in logic and facts (I am related to someone who would say black is white right to your face as if it were actually true).
    So glad you got out – and congratulations on your baby and new job. But seriously you should report him to whoever the relevant authority is – if he’s taking money back for paid leave, he’s probably doing a lot of other shady stuff as well.

  22. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Don’t worry about losing your cool, OP; if you had handled this calmly and quietly, the other employees still stuck there might not have known what happened, and trust me when I tell you that you heartened and probably emboldened almost every employee within earshot…if not to stand up to him, then to find another job ASAP. Sometimes you live in CrazyPantsWorld so long that you forget how NOT normal it is, and you did a good thing in helping remind everyone else how bad your former boss really is.

    1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      Since LW quit without returning though, I wonder what narrative is being spun about the sequence of events after they left, and before they started shouting. Maybe someone will call them in a month to confirm the truth in the middle of another argument, and they can spur on a third quitting.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I suspect that the other workers are fully aware of the type of person the boss is, and would take his tale with a truckload of salt.

        His behaviour reminds me a little of a boss I had when I was fresh out of universality, who used to scream and shout at staff, blame them for his own mistakes, and then tell clients and his colleagues in the other branches as really …interesting version of events (e.g. he’d tell them that ‘Jane’ shouted at him and walked away when he was speaking to her, but would totally miss the whole part where he blamed her for having done what he had instructed her to, lost his temper and screamed at her, threw stuff at her , and she *then* shouted back and walked away)
        It was a horrible place to work and really did a number on my self confidence, in hindsight I can’t belive I stayed there nearly 2 years.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I love ‘universality’ as a typo! Now I’m wondering what kind of high falutin’ conversations you have in text where that is an autocorrect over ‘university’!

      2. Leenie*

        She said she gave notice the next day. So it sounds like she may have returned for a short period.

        1. OP*

          OP here – I gave 2 weeks notice. I’m also friends with and remain in touch with many of my former co-workers, and believe me, they have all heard the story from me.
          I’m sure former boss told “his truth” to the other partners, but I don’t think he would bad mouth me outside of the firm. It’s a small professional community, and I think he’s smart enough to realize that bad mouthing me outside the firm will likely just reflect poorly on him.

          1. Observer*

            Besides, what is he going to say? “She took paid leave and refused to pay it back”? He knows that’s not how it works, so he can’t say that without outing himself.

    2. WittyName*

      Completely agree with this. I think this may have been the “superhero movie moment” that rallies the team together against the villain.

      1. RVA Cat*

        I hope ALL her co-workers closed their doors to work on their resumes and/or resignation letters.

    3. Bronze Betty*

      Excellent point. At the barest minimum, if OP losing her cool prompts at least one employee to realize their job is in CrazyPantsWorld and then leave, it has been worth it.

    4. Owlet101*

      Yeah, sometimes it take one person to take the leap before others realize that they can do the same and leave.

      I was that person for my last workplace with a boss who yelled. I still work for the same university but a different department. At least 3 people, that I know of, out of an office of 8 full time workers have quit since I left that office. That was in one semester. Another person got let go. Of course it was not the one that actually needed to be let go, but whatever.

      Sometimes people just need a reality check that it’s okay to move on.

  23. The Dude Abides*

    The portion that has me furious – where was HR/upper management at? Surely someone had to have caught wind of this.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      In the original letter, the OP says she works for a firm managed by partners. Her ex-boss is one of the partners so unfortunately there’s no one higher than him to appeal to.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, it also sounds like the entire staff has quite en-masse before, so I imagine that HR may not have a lot of experience. I would also guess that they don’t feel like they can push back against a partner even if what he is saying is bananas without risking their own jobs.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I think it’s very likely they either don’t have HR or their HR is only there to do paperwork and has no power to do anything about this type of situation.

  24. Rowan*

    “Apparently the only way to get that “paid” maternity leave at my old firm is to leave before they can take it out of your bonus”

    Wait, so this has happened to someone else, and he did in fact force them to “pay him back” by taking it out of their bonus?

    1. Observer*

      It sounds that way to me, too. Which makes sense. Because how else could he make it happen? I don’t care how much badgering he does – they simply can’t take it out of the paychecks, and even people who are beaten down aren’t writing checks.

    2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

      Now that sounds like the easiest place to bring legal proceedings against this firm. Since there is no written policy or prior agreement about paying back paid leave, and it is definitely not a normal and expected thing in society, deducting it from a bonus is essentially discrimination in pay against a protected class for taking legally protected leave (since they require the mandated FMLA leave to be paid, so there’s no avoiding the circumstance) if it can be shown that the bonus amount is decreased because a birthing parent took that leave in that year and other employees did not have a decrease in their bonus amount.

      Often bonuses are a good way to get around some laws because they can be discretionary but if you have several employees and it is clear you are systematically targeting some through the bonus structure, the vulnerability closes up.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I think they mean the firm itself was mandating that the leave be paid, not that FMLA is paid.

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        It feels like the boss is saying the quiet part loud. Instead of “oh, yes, your bonus is a little smaller this year, due to [metric you couldn’t meet due to the leave that just happens to work out to the same amount as the leave]” with enough variance and set up to exploit the grey area of bonuses to discourage anyone from challenging it, he’s just outright saying they’re going to recoup the money by hook or by crook.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I’m guessing that it was paid out in the interim, as the boss was hounding her to pay the amount back.

      2. FairweatherAdventures*

        I think the point is that LW got the paid leave, did not repay anything, and wasn’t around long enough to have a bonus docked, not that she got a bonus while leaving.

  25. b-reezy*

    I would have had a hard time not laughing in his face before calling an employment lawyer the first time it was brought up. Good luck to him, I guess, and congrats OP on a new job!

  26. No Tribble At All*

    You gave him what he deserved, OP! Congrats on the new job and on the baby. Hope the new job treats you like the rockstar you are.

  27. AreYouBeingServed?*

    LOL. I had a former boss try to bill me for the salary he paid me, asserting it was a “loan” against future earnings. He had set up this sketchy company and tried to pass off employees as “contractors”, and when he stopped paying me, I stopped doing work for him, and starting doing my own consulting.

    He sent me a “bill” for $28,000, saying he had advanced me that much, and documented how many hours I had put in as a “consultant”, and asking me how I was planning on paying it back.

    So I took screenshots of my calendar (before he cut off access) documenting a great many MORE hours than he noted, and sent HIM a bill for $39,000 with documentation of the hours, with the suggestion that we let the IRS decide whether I (and other employees) was a misclassified employee or a “contractor”.

    We eventually settled on him giving me $5,000 to go away.

    There are lying scumbags all over the place, sadly.

  28. Lady_Lessa*


    You did good, and this bodes well for being a parent as well. Your mama bear works.

  29. Veryanon*

    I’m just completely flabbergasted that he expected you to reimburse the firm for your paid leave. I’m so glad you left.

  30. Director of Nonsense*

    This story should show up in all Google searches as the standard example for gaslighting.

  31. Peanut Hamper*

    The boss is what happens when parents never tell their children that they are wrong to draw all over the walls with crayons.

    JJoaPS! I am so glad you are out of there. I’m kind of surprised you even gave notice.

  32. Daily Fan*

    Except for the hassle factor – I almost wish the old boss would try to sue you to pay back the paid leave. Imagine a judge smacking him down in court, awarding you court costs plus a harrassment bonus award!

        1. Magenta Sky*

          It’d have a good chance of being greenlighted. They’ve linked to AAM before.

  33. WittyName*

    Fantastic update, OP and congratulations on the little one! Good for you for standing up for yourself and finding a place that values you (and isn’t completely banana crackers).

  34. Jezebella*

    Based on her terminology, I’m guessing this is a law office. So not only is this fckery illegal, THEY KNOW IT. They know better. Infuriating. Everybody that ever lost a paid leave by having it deducted from a bonus needs to band together and meet with an employment attorney.

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

      I’m guessing the partners have this “that applies to OTHER PEOPLE, not us” mentality.

    2. Gwen Soul*

      I once went for an interview at a bankruptcy law firm headed by two women that told me in the interview that they don’t like hiring men! They knew I was coming from an employment firm…

    3. Avery*

      To be fair, there are a lot of types of law out there, and if it’s not a firm for employment law specifically, they may not know the details there.
      They SHOULD, certainly… but they may not.
      But they definitely know that ignorance of the law is no defense, at any rate…

      1. ecnaseener*

        I would expect just about any type of lawyer to have a working understanding of what a contract is, what a loan is, and why you can’t just randomly claim someone agreed to a loan with no evidence they knew it was a loan. They know it’s not enforceable, apparently it works often enough to be worth trying.

        1. WTF????*

          which is why he continually and only asked her verbally, he never put it writing that she needed to pay him back.

    4. Anon for this*

      You would be surprised what nonsense actual attorneys who should know better can try.

      Employment law is a specialism so one can be forgiven for not knowing about it, but not for failing to check with someone who does. But the law also produces a fair few megalomaniacs!

      1. Mister_L*

        LegalEagle recently had a story about a lawyer that tried to let ChatGPT do his job.
        The result was…not so good.

  35. stacers*

    I know yelling isn’t professional and all, but when someone is just point blank refusing to acknowledge reality (the former worker confirming what OP said) AND making ridiculous demands (paying back PAID leave), I’m at a loss what other options there are. I mean, sure, turning in notice that you have another job.

    But that is for a human much, much more controlled than I. Yelling seems perfectly reasonable in this situation, and I will stand by that.

  36. Bookartist*

    So all I took was one phone call and three hours later you had another job? Why didn’t you do this before everything went to hell?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The autonomy that the terrible job provided made it easier to do IVF treatments (mentioned in the first update)

      1. Agog For This*

        But there are other jobs in the world that offer autonomy. People get warped into thinking that Bad Place is the only possible place that could offer Minor Silver Lining, but it’s not true.

        1. Observer*

          Which is all good and fine. But at that point in her life, the OP was not in a place to look for the right job. That takes energy and bandwidth that she didn’t have at the time.

          Keep in mind also that while 6 months ago, one phone call was enough, the same was probably not the case when she was looking 16 months prior.

        2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          OP also had no reason to expect it would take a single phone call.

    2. Bronze Betty*

      So, this was a few months after returning from maternity leave. You’re talking a period of new baby, serious lack of sleep, lots happening in OP’s personal life. Looking for a new job at that time, even when the old job is horrible, probably seems like it requires more energy than is available. Sometimes it takes A Defining Moment to make a big change like finding a new job.

      1. Agog For This*

        But it only took three hours? I get what you’re saying, really, but… in this case it took literally three hours.

        1. Observer*

          But she didn’t know that it would only take 3 hours.

          Also, again, immediately after coming back it might not have taken so little time.

        2. Mianaai*

          I suspect that the OP was surprised by how fast it was. They likely called up someone in their network to put out feelers for what might be available, and did not expect the response to be “fantastic you’re hired!”. Even if you have a reasonable expectation that finding a new job will be fast and relatively easy, that’s a way faster timeline than most people would expect.

            1. Observer*

              It must have been SO affirming!

              You obviously did know that your employer was bonkers and that you deserved and were capable of better. But it must have been such a lift to realize HOW much that was true. I’m really, really glad for you.

          1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

            “Relatively easy” to me means updating your resume, reaching out to your network, filling out a bunch of applications, multiple rounds of interviews with multiple companies, all to get at least one offer in a “fast” timeline of maybe a month or less.
            I don’t think most people would expect “fast” = 3 hours and “easy” = one phone call. That’s an extreme outlier.

    3. CSRoadWarrior*

      The place was already hell, and I am surprised that OP didn’t quit during those two times that all employees quit en masse. I mean, I would have.

    4. The Ginger Ginger*

      Before it was because of the IVF and then I assume because of having qualified for paid maternity leave, which may not have been the case anywhere new.

    5. marvin*

      Especially when you have a lot going on elsewhere in your life, it can be really easy to get accustomed to mistreatment and to weigh the unknown risks of something new greater than the known problems that you’ve already figured out how to manage. It’s often not until after you’re out of there that you can really process how bad it was, even if intellectually you were aware of the issues. This has happened to me a lot.

  37. Observer*

    I’m s glad that you are out of there and in a better job! And, absolutely congratulations on the baby!

    Did ex-boss put any of this in writing? Because if you have copies of any of this, I think an email to someplace like the DOL or EEOC might have a salutary effect on this guy’s business.

  38. chocolate lover*

    Holy moly, that boss is unbelievable. I don’t have any other words for him.

    I see a future candidate for Worst Boss of 2023.

    1. MsM*

      Niche field. Also, I’m guessing from “firm” and “partners” that OP is a lawyer, and abuse from higher-ups is sadly somewhat normalized in the field.

    2. pope suburban*

      I would bet that they have high turnover, and that they are a lot of people’s first job out of school. I worked at a place that was a lot like this, and both things were true of that job. No one lasted if they had literally any professional work experience to compare it to. The people who stayed had never had any jobs other than retail/food service, which are known for this exact kind of fuckery, abuse, and dysfunction. They had their normal meters permanently warped because they were told that these things were professional norms, and that other offices would be the same or somehow worse. Just bog-standard exploitation and lying, really, but it works when people need money and haven’t had the opportunity to know better.

        1. pope suburban*

          Yeah, I went back and looked, and 120% turnover seems about right. Possibly a little light, even. The job I had, the longest-running employee in my position (before my three years of hell) made it just under nine months. Everyone else would last maybe three months, or a week, and a few people- a few! Not just one!- went to lunch and never came back. It was pretty clear who knew what was up and what actual office norms are, and who was hired on right out of school and just gaslit into thinking that nonsense was standard.

  39. Lady Ann*

    I know you say you aren’t proud of it, but I think most people would have started screaming at that point. You’re only human. Congrats on your baby and your new job!

  40. Three Pandemic Kids*

    I am AGHAST. I mean well done OP. And as a parent myself, I’d offer to “pay back my leave” with piles of dirty diapers – that shit costs money, so therefore they must be able to be used as currency with someone as bananapants as this!

  41. learnedthehardway*

    What on earth!!!??!! Please – Glassdoor review them. People need to know before they apply to the company.

    Congratulations on your new role!!!

  42. Lola*

    Not sure if anybody else has mentioned this because I haven’t had time to read all the comments. However, now that you’re gone, it may be a good idea to drop a dime and put a bug in somebody’s ear about those PPP loans. From what it sounds like in the original letter I’d be betting that they were not used for the intended purpose. We just had to well respected and well-known restaurant owners end up in jail for misappropriating over $100,000 of PPP loans.

    1. SweetestCin*

      I’d like to wish a highly visible pox on ALL PPP mis-users. My spouse went through all sorts of heck to get one in the second round (owns a business that actually was essential…like told by the state that they did not close, but were to be open, due to the nature of the business). The PPP received was actually used FOR payroll in a time when invoices weren’t exactly always paid in a timely manner and shipments/prices were all suddenly out of whack…which means it kept them open during a very scary time. What it was meant to do. And every hoop, hurdle, and “how high you want me to jump” have all been handled exactly on this side of it. Its been stressful to say the least.

      So to all of the abusers of it? I’d like to offer a “Go fornicate yourself”.

    2. All Het Up About It*

      This was my thought too. An employment lawyer situation is a lot of work and the OP would have to deal with and face the old boss. But if there was anything OP could do to drop an PPP investigation down on these clowns that didn’t require very many spoons…. oooh, boy! Would love to see it.

      I would be like the old school 90’s Dark Knight, watching from the shadows and thinking “Justicccccce.”

  43. CSRoadWarrior*

    Wow. Just when I though the place cannot get anymore bananacrackers, it gets worse. He wanted you to pay him back for paid maternal leave? That’s just…wrong. And everything else you said as well.

    Glad you are out of there and congrats on your new role!

  44. Slow Gin Lizz*

    The fact that we are starting Midyear Update Weeks with this AMAZING update gives me hope that it’ll be an unbelievably fantastic couple of weeks!

    And OP, you are my absolutely HERO for giving your horrible toxic old boss and company the what-for. I bet you are the hero of a lot of your former non-partner coworkers too, and I hope you are being treated fantastically at your new job.

  45. SMH*

    I am really hoping the next morning notice was a 20 minute notice while OP cleaned out her desk. Also I am hoping all of this is on Glass door.

  46. Bagpuss*

    OP, I am not sure on timing but it may be worth you having a quick chat with an employment layer to see whether there is anything in this nest of killer wasps that would entitle you either to make any king of claim (is constructive dismissal a thing where you are?) or whether there is anywhere you can report this – the attempt to demand back maternity pay, the loans which it sounds like were used for personal holidays rather than the business etc.

  47. knitandpurl*

    I hope your nice field involves writing, because this? Perfectly constructed lunacy. What a story! Glad you’re out of there.

  48. bunniferous*

    If my jaw wasn’t attached to the rest of my head it would be lying on the floor right now.

    When you look up the definition of “bananapants” in the Ask a Manager glossary, this post is beside it.


  49. Spearmint*

    Wow crazy stuff.

    I’m curious why the LW took so long it leave this job though? Even after their tabby was born? If this is truly a field where you can get a new job with one phone call, why put up with the BS?

    1. Cafe au Lait*

      Because as a new parent it takes a lot of effort to make your brain and body coordinate. I had a dream baby (slept through the night from a month on, ate well, didn’t have colic) and it still took me a better part of a year to feel like my body and brain were on the same page again.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Check out the second update. It’s really interesting. OP felt this was a better option at the time. She went on one interview for one job. It didn’t fit her professional needs at the time. Reflecting, she determined that the absolute banana crackers atmosphere left her with time and lack of management that made it EASIER for her to do IVF treatments. Focus on that.
      Apparently nobody cares what the non partners do if the work gets done. As long as she didn’t upset the horses(ass), she could put in 2/3 of her energy, get the treatment, have a baby.
      Now that she had her family life together, she went to work with a fresh head and fresh energy…which they promptly crapped on. That’s when she looked for real and got the hell out.

      1. Alternative Person*


        I stayed at my previous job longer than was probably good because management was mostly not on my case and I could work on my certification in my downtime. Once I had the certification, it was a matter of waiting for hiring season at my current company to come around. Now, my current company has issues, but they’re paying for an extension certification and generally let me get on without a lot of oversight while I work on my MA. We’ll see where things stand when those wrap up.

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      OP had gotten used to the bananapants and probably figured she could stick it out until the child was older, job searching with a newborn would be too stressful, she needed the autonomy that job gave her to take care of the baby and everything else, etc.

      A lot of people stick out bad situations even when they know better alternatives are available because making big changes is scary and hard. Better the devil you know, and all that.

    4. Catwhisperer*

      I realise this was a typo, but I’m really amused by the idea of a human birthing a tabby cat. Puts a whole new spin on the term “pet parent.”

    5. Kyrielle*

      In addition to the IVF factors up to the baby, OP says they didn’t use the full leave they could have taken. Every week less than the full twelve would still be available to them for FMLA purposes if the baby (or the OP) had a health crisis in the next twelve months – and the full twelve weeks would be available after that. After starting at a new employer, it takes a year to qualify for FMLA, so there would be 0 weeks of job-protected leave available in the case of a serious illness or injury of some sort. Which would also influence my thinking in OP’s shoes…and exhausted mother brain is not good for thinking to begin with.

    6. constant_craving*

      The fact that OP managed to get a job after one call does not necessarily mean that’s the norm in the field.

  50. carcarjabar*

    That’s got to be some sort of fraud, right? Maybe more than one type? Payroll tax, insurance fraud. Someone please hire an employment attorney to take a look into this company.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Like the partners using the PPP money for themselves? Like the magic accounting that takes the money earned by non partners and distributes it to partners?
      Yeah, this is place is criminal and OP should really report them.
      Can she call an IRS hotline instead of the labor board? That way she doesn’t have to go back and relive this crap.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I don’t think the pay structure is illegal. It’s not good or right or humane or decent, but I don’t think it’s illegal.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This place is so shady I have to wonder if they’re money laundering for the Mob or something.

  51. Oh come on.*

    The only thing missing from this story is the entire office applauding as OP walked out.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      They couldn’t. They were all hiding in their offices with the doors closed (I’m sure so that they could eavesdrop without being seen. I know I would have been :D) Applauding would mean admitting they’d been listening to the whole thing.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I felt that way once.
      Until the woman wrote in asking how to recover from biting her coworker.
      Or the story about the manager who would jump scare employees with dynamite and defecate in their lunch boxes.
      Not to mention the job candidate who pooped in a plant.
      The fist fight at the office party, the bird phobic person who pushed a coworker into a moving car, the coworker who would kick and pencil stab an OP during meetings. And the entire Hellmouth saga.
      And this is the third letter. If none of it is true, then OP has a very interesting pathology that makes this storyline pretty freaking interesting in whole different way.

      1. Observer*

        Or the story about the manager who would jump scare employees with dynamite and defecate in their lunch boxes.
        Not to mention the job candidate who pooped in a plant.

        And these two didn’t originally show up on AAM. They are documented cases that wound up in court.

        And it’s shocking how many poop stories show up. Seriously weird!

    3. are you f*King kidding me*

      Learn to advice column, friendo. Treat the story as if it’s true. Humans are 900% more batshit than you think anyway, but it does no one any good and is a giant waste of everyone’s time to get up on a high horse and play “is it real” detective.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Two things I keep in mind when I read letters here:
        “It may not have happened, but it’s the truth” and “nowt so queer as folk.”

    4. Casper Lives*

      As a lawyer, I’ve heard stories of office dysfunction where this fits right in. Fits in so well that LW could’ve come back to work the next day and no one would say a word.

      There’s a reason I don’t do big law.

    5. Mr. Shiny*

      I’ve worked with people who would gaslight and manipulate you to your face, and my wife worked with someone who was super nice until my wife needed parental leave, and then the boss did a full 180 and started laying traps and sabotaging everything, lying about performance, etc. So honestly this story isn’t even that unusual. It’s bad, but honestly it’s just run of the mill abuse that manifested in a particularly blatant way.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I’m really glad you’ve never had a company try to scam you or a boss try to exploit you. We can’t all say that.

    7. ENFP in Texas*

      Having worked in Corporate America for 30 years, this actually does not surprise me at all, and I can completely see this happening. There are some batshit crazy people out there who are in positions of power.

    8. Jaybeetee*

      Clearly you’ve never worked in a place where the boss got into screaming matches with people ;). Or known/been in a relationship with someone who tried to deny reality right in front of you (which… if you haven’t, then good).

      This letter may or may not be real. But I find it eminently believable.

  52. Bookworm*

    This was a bananapants update, OP, but thank you for updating us anyway. O_O I’m so sorry that this was your experience but glad you got the last laugh.

  53. CL*

    This is horrible. And yet, I could 100% see this playing out at my old job with CEO. No question about it. There is more than one awful boss like this in the world.

    Congrats OP on leaving the dysfunction!

  54. A Simple Narwhal*

    …what. WHAT. WHAT?!?!?!

    Words have failed me. Exboss is clearly not human, just a bunch of bees in a trench coat.

    Lovely update though, congrats on the new job and the baby!

  55. Hills to Die on*

    Well, it wasn’t great, but sometimes too much is just Too Much. I am sure a lot of your coworkers were glad you threw it back in your boss’ face, even if it wasn’t the height of professionalism.
    All that matters is that you are Long Gone from there. I hope all of the partners step on Legos.

  56. Quokka*

    Makes me glad that Western Australia has Psychological Hazards in our Work Health and Safety Laws now. Gives another avenue to go down when it’s the boss/owner and there’s no one else to report to.

  57. Mim*

    I hope you recognize that being provoked into a screaming match after dealing with so much ongoing emotional abuse is all on your despicable boss. The level of gaslighting you were dealing with was on another level, and especially since it was at least in part about how your boss was trying to steal from you and that former employee that corroborated their reason for leaving. Please don’t carry any guilt or related negative feelings about the screaming match. I think that is something that many of us reasonable people would have found themselves doing, depending on which way our fight/flight response tipped in that moment. I have to think that if your co-workers who closed their doors were at all reasonable people, they’d clearly recognize what was happening, and would probably be happy that someone was standing up to GaslightingBoss. If it were me, I’d probably be closing the door to decrease the chance of me getting roped in. I’ve had an emotionally abusive boss before, and he would absolutely rope anyone he noticed into one of his tirades. Staying invisible was a survival tactic. It sounds like the only person who should be embarrassed in that situation is your ex-boss, though I doubt he’s capable of it.

    Congrats on escaping. Another pro of the screaming match is that it might have given some of your former co-workers the courage to start speaking up, themselves. In my former job, my boss exploded on me when I gave notice, and the scene he caused had a trickle down effect with other staff. I usually avoid confrontation, so hearing stories after the fact about how that interaction (that turned into a confrontation despite my best attempts to avoid one) caused real change for others is something I will hold with me forever. I choose to take that terrible experience as a reminder of the power that one person can hold by insisting on a reasonable reality in the face of dramatic, ill-willed liars.

    1. Old Admin*

      * clap clap clap * Well done on anybody who escaped.

      It’s a well worn trick to provoke an employee into an emotional/noisy/unwise reaction and then fire them.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      That’s why I said above that too much is too much. My wasband would push and push and push and if I so much as snapped at him, he would scream and call me a bully, tell me I was emotionally abusive, and mean. Even for minor things like ‘Just tell me what you want for dinner’.
      It’s ok that you just couldn’t take it anymore and acted the way a normal person acts when they are abused and traumatized.

    3. Observer*

      It sounds like the only person who should be embarrassed in that situation is your ex-boss, though I doubt he’s capable of it.

      I think that this sums up the situation SO well.

      Congrats on escaping.


  58. Old Admin*

    This sounds like a law firm – casual sexism (only male partners), crazy work hours, superiors gaslighting employees and screaming abuse. Lawyers are especially good at disregarding labor law.
    This would also explain why the OP can’t sue or file a complaint, life would become Hell for her. Yell once and walk away. Have a real life. Congrats on GETTING OUT!

  59. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    “So I made one phone call, and in less than 3 hours, I had a better job with a competitor for more pay.”

    This is one of the most satisfying sentences I have ever read.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      Thanks, Alison! This guy has a, um, unique take on maternity leave. And everything else. Bananacakes is an understatement.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Is there a “banana” tag yet? I’m too lazy to go looking. Or maybe the “wait, what?” tag needs to be updated to “wait, what?/bananapants” or something like that.

    2. Tammy 2*

      Is there some sort of “more satisfying than pulling the label off a Bonne Maman jar completely intact with no sticky residue” tag? Maybe there should be?

  60. are you f*King kidding me*

    I hope you and other former employee get together and contact the DOL about that.

  61. Essess*

    Please Please Please speak to an employment lawyer about the attempt to demand payback for the paid leave. And let them know that you lost your job because of it since you wouldn’t have needed to quit if they hadn’t tried stealing your paid leave back. And let them know that others have had the same situation even though the company documentation says it is paid. Also making it mandatory to take the leave and then forcing to pay the money back seems like a serious EEOC violation for pregnant woman since others aren’t forced to leave work for X amount of time at a loss of pay.

    1. Observer*

      And let them know that you lost your job because of it since you wouldn’t have needed to quit if they hadn’t tried stealing your paid leave back.

      That would only be relevant if the OP didn’t get another job right away. MAYBE if she got another worse job.

      Reporting this to the DOL, IRS or EEOC if there is anything in writing is one thing. Lawyering up is another. And while they absolutely deserve anything the OP and her lawyers could do, the reality is that it’s highly unlikely that the OP could gain much. And it is very likely to be financially costly as well as an emotional and energy drain. Not worth it.

  62. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I’ve been wondering why the firm required her to take paid leave and then repay it (because she even tried to take it unpaid and they wouldn’t let her) (also, IAAL). And what I think it might be is tax fraud. Her salary on family leave was a deductible business expense, but I bet they weren’t reporting the “repayment” as income or undoing the tax deduction they took for the salary “paid” during the leave. If they wind up taking it out of someone’s bonus, it’s a wash (because bonuses are treated like salaries), but that would explain why he was harassing her so hard to repay it rather than just wait and take it out of her bonus. That’s my guess anyway.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, that’s the only thing that makes sense.

      I mean from their point of view. Except that they wouldn’t consider it fraud.

  63. Alisaurus*

    Reminds me of a former private landlord who told me pro-rated rent means I pay the full month and they refund me the remaining days’ rent once I move out. They countered my argument of “no, this is the actual definition” with “this is non-negotiable, I will be taking legal action.” (I called their bluff (have a lawyer friend who could help me out if I ended up needing it), most likely any lawyer they contacted laughed at them, and I only had to pay the prorated amount up front.)

    LW, I’m glad you finally got out of that environment! If you’re still in contact with any former coworkers, maybe make them aware and let them know to contact an employment lawyer if something similar ever happens to them.

    1. Sophia*

      I once had a landlord who only shoveled shared entrances (per the lease). I lived in a double with one shared front door. They told me that “shared entrance” meant the buildings that had a separate entrance for each apartment and were built that way. Because we had a building that used to be a house, it wasn’t shared.

  64. Monty*

    And I thought it was egregious that my relative’s boss sent work home when she was on leave after a high-risk pregnancy and delivery because “well, I’m paying her for something. And besides, it’s not like babies do very much.”

  65. She of Many Hats*

    LW 1 – I suspect you would have a case with an employment lawyer for some of the abuses including FMLA/Parental Leave. It may be worth the headache for the compensation payback.

  66. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    I forgot to get my popcorn ready!! (also kind of relieved to know I’m not the only person who has felt justified in a work screaming match) Totally embarrassing, totally bad idea….but there are just some lines that, when crossed, justify calling out banana pants with banana pants!

  67. Agog For This*

    There are some letters/updates where after each new update I’m left wondering, what on earth are you doing sticking around for this crap? I know you wanted autonomy, but I promise you those things exist at other companies. As evidenced here, when you finally snapped and had a better offer so soon.

    It’s frustrating to see. I hope anyone else in a seemingly untenable situation can read this and realize they can move on sooner.

    1. searching for a new name*

      I mean in the US at least, FMLA does not kick in until after 12 months. Not to mention the health insurance aspect either. I think having some empathy for this LWs family planning situation helps to explain why she stuck it out.

  68. Zarniwoop*

    “I’m not going to lie, it was extremely satisfying to give notice the next morning. ”
    Was he surprised you left?

    1. OP*

      OP here.
      He was pouty. Acted all sad puppy, feeling sorry for himself. (This may not have been just an act. Ironically he cost himself a lot of money by running me off. I had a book of business that went with me.)

  69. HotSauce*

    Did you work for a certain “blonde” man, hefty build, uses made up words like covfefe?

  70. Canadiangal*

    I would have had the tax office in your country on speed dial. The next time your a-hole boss brings it up, just say, one moment I looked into how best to do this. Call the number, put him on speaker phone and name yourself, name your boss and your company. And explain the situation and ask him if there are any legal tax implications of doing this, and let that person on the phone take down your boss’s info and tell him how this is not legal.

  71. Observer*

    It was a scene. I’m not proud of it, and I definitely lost my cool

    I just want to say that while I don’t think you have anything to be ashamed of here, I’m glad you realized how bonkers this was. Not for your former boss who deserved all of this and more. But for you. It got you to move on to a better situation. And it hopefully will help you keep from bringing the dysfunction with you. Because that was some wild ride!

    As I said in my other comment, I’m glad you’re out of there and in a reasonable workplace!

  72. Anne Wentworth*

    The thing that surprises me the most is that LW didn’t immediately walk out and consult an employment attorney after the boss first demanded she reimburse him for her parental leave. Everything after that was sort of a blizzard of disbelief.

    1. Observer*

      It makes a lot of sense. The OP, reasonably, believed that if she ignored it the boss would drop it. It’s one of those things where people figure “I can try”, and I can see why the OP would think that.

  73. H.Regalis*

    OP, you don’t owe the world perfect calm in all situations. You’re allowed to get angry. Don’t feel bad for telling this waste of flesh where he can stick it.

    Also, I’m so glad you are free from this place.

  74. Isabel Archer*

    Not to detract from the glory of this update, but if the OP could have gotten a new job with a better salary by making one phone call, why didn’t she do that a long time ago? Sounds to me like Dorothy had the power to go home all along.

    1. Rosyglasses*

      She mentions that at the top and in previous posts that she and her husband were trying to have a baby. When you factor in healthcare, length of tenure for taking leave, etc, it makes sense why she waited.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Because most of the US doesn’t get paid (or unpaid) parental leave for 12 months, flexible schedules are needed for IVF and pregnancy planning is unpredictable.

  75. 1-800-BrownCow*

    I’m flummoxed about the firm’s, and especially ex-boss’s behavior!!

    On another note, congrats on the baby and new job!

  76. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    Nice going, OP, and congrats on your baby. I kind of hope that you email these letters to him so he can see how banana pants he is to so many people.

  77. Courageous cat*

    Man, I don’t read updates much, but I’m glad I read this one. What a shitshow of a boss

  78. TeapotNinja*

    You shouldn’t have given any notice, just ghosted this a-hole and had him wonder as long as you possibly can about whether or not you’d be coming back.

    This called out for the most disruptive way to quit as possible. Maybe resigning by cod.

  79. J!*

    What the actual hell is wrong with this man. I’m glad you finally got out of there, and congrats on your family.

  80. Ollie*

    Doesn’t the IRS have a tip line of sorts for tax fraud? She probably won’t get any money out of that but it would be satisfying because there is certainly some tax fraud going on here.

  81. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Please tell me you reported this firm to the appropriate labor regulatory agencies at the state and federal level. Please.
    Also, Worst Boss of the Year competition has a new front runner.

  82. I have RBF*

    Okay, cussing time.

    What. The. Everloving. FUCK?!?!?!

    Pay back “paid leave”?????????

    That’s not how this works. He is at best, deluded, and at worst a penny-pinching con-artist taking advantage of people who work for him. He also has a whole bananasuit, not just bananapants.

    The thing with calling someone up, hearing their response, then saying that what they said meant the opposite of what they said is just… incomprehensible. That man has lost touch with reality and the truth so much that he might as well be on Mars.

    You are very fortunate to be out of there.

    I don’t blame you for yelling – in similar circumstances I’ve yelled too. Gaslighting and lying to your face, plus trying to make you “pay back” a statutory benefit, is definite cause for violation of the workplace decorum. Too often bad bosses use the “professionalism” hammer to get away with garbage, knowing that if anyone pushes back they can just call them “unprofessional” and shut them down.

    1. Zarniwoop*

      “That man has lost touch with reality and the truth so much that he might as well be on Mars.”
      1st name”Elon”?

  83. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Alison, is there any chance you could add a note asking commenters to stop asking why OP didn’t resign much earlier? She already gave reasons in her first update and it’s getting a bit frustrating to see people keep bringing that up. Thank you!

    1. Observer*

      That’s a good point. It’s getting to be a bit much.

      Also, it feels a bit like victim blaming.

    2. OP*

      OP here.

      I’m fine with the question. I think it’s a fair question, and I have the same question myself.

      There are several reasons, but the biggest reason is probably just inertia. And while getting a new job turned out to be easy, there still has been a lot of work involved in actually implementing the change (moving clients, etc.).

  84. JKateM*

    If evil boss was SOOOO concerned about the cost of this “paid leave,” why in the name of all that is holy did he not just allow her to . . . take it unpaid. like she asked.??? Absolute banana crackers is right.

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      They get to write off as an expense. Asks for it back in cash. That amount is untaxed income to him.

  85. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    A strong contender for the worst boss of the year. A glass bowl that shatters when merely looked at.

  86. Keep that Man Away from My Bagel*

    If I am understanding this correctly, it seems like LW worked at a law firm. If that is so, I would want her old boss working even less! While FWMLA is a far from a perfect law, it at least mandates *unpaid* leave, not *less than unpaid* leave!

    If he is so out of touch with even the most basic of laws, I would not want him anywhere close to anything legal. I would barely want him near a bagel, as it is just spelled too similarly with “legal” for my comfort.

    You did the right thing OP, and congratulations on the little one!

  87. Aspiring Great Manager*

    totally understand why you stayed while IVFing and getting through that part of life. While it can seem bananas to others, I too know the feeling of going to a job you can almost do with your eyes closed is a godsend when trying to focus on big things on the personal side. Good on you for seeing the opportunity there and making it work, and expanding your family, hope everyone is doing well in the fam! Too bad about the yelling for you because that can leave the soul sore and sad, but the thing is you were ready and given the situation, it was a logical consequence. Hope the new job is great!

  88. WhoKnows*

    If you are in the US, please please please report them to the Labor Board and help save others from this monstrously unethical and illegal bananapants firm.

  89. Rainbow*

    I’ve never screamed at anyone in my post-toddler life, and I swear I’d have screamed at him sooner than you did. Good. Lord.

  90. Critical Rolls*

    Hey, OP. That’s stupendously awful and I’m so glad you’re out. I would encourage you to consider some therapy. It’s difficult to imagine being in a situation like that for three or four years without having it do some damage to your psyche, or at least your professional norms. You deserve to shed any baggage those terrible people burdened you with.

    1. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Aaaaaaaaaaagreed. Your expectations and professional norms are totally out of whack – I’ll be honest, when your first update was “eh, I stuck around, it’s not so bad”… NO, actually. It was that bad. You just couldn’t see how bad it was because you’ve been swimming in it for years.

  91. D B B*

    Can you say “Hostile Workplace”?? It is not too late to, and you should for your sake and everyone left working there, consult an attorney about what you went through. The guy was obviously targeting you because you had taken maternity leave and broke a quite a few labor laws by targeting you this way. (Bonus if you can show that they were withholding this paid leave from people’s bonuses!!) Consult an attorney and consider this a great head-start to your child’s college fund.

  92. Mimmy*

    Dang, between this and the employee harassed about her weight loss and ADA accommodations (yes, I’m reading in reverse order lol), this is a very satisfying update day!

  93. commensally*

    LW, if you haven’t yet, report your old employers to the feds for PPP fraud: https://www.sba.gov/partners/contracting-officials/contract-administration/report-fraud-waste-abuse

    The program was set up to get people the money fast with a minimum of bureaucracy in the crisis and then figure out who cheated later. Right now they are actively investigating & indicting people for much PPP smaller fraud than cutting back employee salaries and sending the senior partners on vacation with the money.

  94. Jay*

    I’m having a vision:
    The pay for your Maternity Leave came out of the general business account.
    The “Repayment” would go…..somewhere else.
    Maybe a similar, but not quite the same, name, at a bank the company doesn’t usually use.
    And as it was a “personal repayment”, it would have been well below the amount that sounds alarm bells at a bank.
    That crazy level of aggression is a pretty great way to make sure that people are either too afraid to ask questions, or so fed up they just leave.

  95. Bubbles*

    I really, really want to know the name of this company so I can avoid them for evermore.

    So glad you got out of there, happy trails!

  96. ijustworkhere*

    This is one instance where I think screaming just might have been the right response. Some bullies only respond to similar tactics.

  97. jojo*

    I would have called the labor board and filed a complaint. You still can so it is on record. So can the other person. If it is on record it gives credence if it another person has a problem with this jerk.

  98. Matt*

    Wow. A proper case of full on gaslighting! Black is white, and nothing you can do or say will change this. Proper reality shifting stuff. Glad you got out!

  99. Observer*

    #3 – Alison is right. Regardless of what you do with this guy, amend your nepotism policy, and also add something about people you live with.

    However, you don’t need to have a formal policy in place to actually act on what you see as reasonable boundaries. It’s poor management to limit your management to explicit policies – it’s simply impossible to have a policy of every possible situation. And the more rules you have, the more *reasonable* exceptions you are going to need to have.

    In this particular case, it seems to me that you are also dealing with factors that wouldn’t be in any reasonable policy anyway, because normal policies don’t generally have that much stuff on interpersonal relationships. You say that you “don’t think it’s wise for him to supervise his aunt, ever, for lots of reasons.” That means that in a sense the issue is not just that she’s his aunt, which also means things that probably wouldn’t show up in a formal policy. Unless you want to wind up with one of those policy manuals that shows up on threads about “I wonder what kind of crazy stuff happened to require this kind of policy.”

    But also, I think you need to think clearly about a related issue. You also say that “I know from supervising him that he would absolutely bend rules for family.” That is a major issue, and should limit his promotability even into positions that don’t have nepotism problems. This is someone who bends rules when he sees fit. What makes you think that family is the only reason he’ll bend the rules? The bottom line is that you can’t really trust him.

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