our building is full of bats and sewer smells, company requires us to notify HR when we go to urgent care, and more

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

1. Our building is full of bats, sewer smells, moths, and more

Do you have advice on how to get upper management to take concerns about our facilities seriously? My coworkers and I haven’t been successful in communicating what seem like very obvious, major problems. For context, our employer is one of two tenants in a seven-story building downtown. The other floors have been vacated. The building is clearly run down and not maintained — e.g., the escalators are barred off and the awning is crumbling. The building itself is very outdated, but frankly, that’s the least of our concerns:

– There are bats in the office. Twice in the past month, there’s been a bat on the ceiling above our receptionist’s head (she is very freaked out). This has been an intermittent issue for years. At one point, someone discovered a bat in the office popcorn machine.

– The HVAC is spotty at best. If the AC is running, it creates a loud, distracting rattle on my side of the building that I need noise-canceling headphones to work through. Other parts of the building don’t seem to get AC, and it’s not unusual for most offices to be over 80 degrees through most of the summer. In the winter, we don’t have the ability to turn the heat down. I used to work with my window wide open in the middle of winter, but the windows have been replaced and don’t open now.

– The public restrooms — the ones we send our guests to use — smell like a sewer. One of the two stalls in the public women’s bathroom has been broken for over a year.

– Our offices adjoin to an empty space on the same floor. (We think this is where the bats live.) We think non-employees are accessing our space after hours through this empty space; for example, we found a man’s wallet left on the couch in the non-public women’s restroom.

– The air quality sucks. You get hit with a blast of musty/mildewy smell when you walk in the front door of the building. An upper floor flooded at one point, and we know that because of that, at least one of the director’s offices has mold in the walls.

– Dead cockroaches and moths on the floor and in stairwells are a common sight.

– We technically have a cleaning crew, but they’re spotty at best. We’re lucky if they take the trash out. They don’t vacuum.

Our lease is up next year, and upper management was exploring the possibility of moving to a different floor in the building that was renovated to our specifications. Those negotiations broke down, and now it sounds like we’re just planning to renew our existing lease. I can’t wrap my head around this — for what we’re paying for a downtown space, we could absolutely move to a newer, better maintained building anywhere else in town. I don’t think our director understands how bad this space is for morale, because he has a military background and has said in all-staff meetings a few times that our building conditions aren’t that bad compared to the spaces he worked in while he was deployed. We’re at-will employees, not service members.

I’m at a point in my career where it would make sense for me to move on soon, and the building condition is high on my list of reasons. I don’t understand why these issues aren’t being taken more seriously. Am I being unreasonable to want to work in an office free of bats and mold? How many times can I express displeasure at our circumstances before I get labeled as a whiner or a diva? If upper management has already said what course of action they plan to take, is there any point in me continuing to speak up?

Good god, no, you are not being unreasonable! It’s one thing to work in a building that’s on the older side and has some of the normal issues that come with that, but you work on what sounds like the set of a horror movie. Some of this is an actual health concern.

Your best shot at getting any movement on it is to organize a group of coworkers to all speak up and say the problems with the building have become untenable. It’s possible it’s not too late for your management to change course — but also there’s power in numbers, and you’re a lot less likely to be labeled as the problem if there’s a whole group of you pushing the issue.

Some of this is likely reportable to your local health department as well; it’s worth a call to find out.

2. My company requires us to notify HR when we go to urgent care

My workplace apparently has a policy of having staff notify HR when they go to urgent care. HR’s reasoning is so that they can proactively assist with accomodations if needed. This makes me uncomfortable, as I don’t really like the idea of HR knowing when I go to urgent care. I’m wondering if this is a normal thing for an HR department to step into.

No, it is not normal. Moreover, requiring that you inform them of medical issues will, in some situations, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (depending on the reason you’re seeking urgent care). There are lots of types of medical information that you can’t legally be required to disclose.

It’s also nonsensical since if you have time to alert HR you’re at urgent care, you would have time to instead alert them about any accommodations you need as a result of whatever brought you there. They can just ask you to inform them if/when you need accommodations (which you would presumably do anyway); they don’t need to monitor or track your urgent care visits.

3. How do I remember to follow up on emails I’ve sent but haven’t heard back on?

I work in local government, where we are generally under-resourced and trying to spin too many plates at once. This means that emails sometimes go unanswered and need chasing up.

I’ve had success using your chasing script in the past, but how do I keep track of which need to be followed up on in the first place? For example, I recently emailed April asking her to provide data on the number of flowers in our parks, to be included in a public document. April did not reply, and by the time I remembered that we still needed this information we were two days from the deadline and the wider Parks & Rec team ended up having to rush to get us the data we needed. We also had no time to ask April follow-up questions or for more detailed data on specific flowers.

Ideally everyone would always respond to every email the same day, but in reality this is not going to happen without a change in how we are funded. Is there a way I could keep track of emails I’ve sent that still need a response without spending ages making some kind of behemoth spreadsheet?

You need a “waiting for” folder in your email — a folder where you drag any messages that it will be important to hear back on, so they’re all in one place and you can see at a glance what you’re still waiting for. You can achieve this with labels too, depending on the email program.

The key, though, is that you need to commit to going through the folder regularly or it won’t do you any good (I go through mine once a day to see if there’s anything I need to follow up on).

you need a “waiting for” folder

4. What if I really really REALLY know I don’t want to return to work after I give birth?

I know the advice is never say you’ll quit your job instead of taking maternity leave because you don’t know how you’ll feel once your baby arrives, but what if I feel really, really sure about it?

I have always wanted to take a year or more off after having kids, and while no one knows how they will feel, I have nannied and babysat and helped out my sisters pretty significantly after their babies were born, so I don’t feel like I’m going in totally blind. We have also stepped up our already aggressive savings plan to put away the equivalent of my take-home pay for a year to both build up a buffer of short-term savings and to see how easily we can live on my partner’s salary alone, and it is eminently doable, even if we have to step back on saving as much for a few years.

Also, I don’t like my job. I don’t like the company I work for, which is news-making levels of dysfunctional, and my team is understandably a mess. The idea of returning here after giving birth makes me feel physically anxious. I also know I might feel bored and want to work, but I can’t imagine any universe in which it would be here. I was aggressively applying to jobs before I got pregnant and would have set a hard deadline to leave by the end of the year if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, even if it was to go back to freelancing. And really, if I do find not working incredibly dull or we do find money tight, I’ll transition back to freelancing at the end of my self-funded ‘maternity leave’ whenever it feels right.

So where does that leave me? Plenty of friends have suggested taking the maternity leave knowing I won’t come back and just telling my boss things have changed at the end of it, but even the thought of having to talk to them ever again also makes me feel anxious. I really just want a clean break and to never have to deal with these people again. I know it’s a huge privilege to even be able to entertain this thought, but since I can, is there a reason not to just go for it? And if I do, when should I tell my boss? I know there’s a chance of being pushed out before I’m ready, but there is a hiring freeze at my company (see: high levels of dysfunction) and I would be really surprised if they were even able to maneuver to replace me any sooner than they had to.

The advice not to decide anything ahead of time is just meant to highlight that once the baby is actually on the scene, things can change in ways you didn’t expect. Often people assume they know what they’ll want but then their circumstances change — and they can end up regretting it if they already locked themselves into not returning.

In your case, you’ve already thought all of that through, and you were ready to leave even if you hadn’t gotten pregnant. The one thing I’d suggest thinking about that you didn’t mention is whether you’d want to hold onto the job as a safety net in case something happens with your partner’s job. If so, then the safest course of action is to hold off on your announcement that you’re not returning until you’re closer to that date.

But you also get to balance that against the anxiety you’re feeling when you think about having to talk to them again. You might decide that outweighs other considerations, and you’re allowed to make that call. Just make sure you won’t wish you could backtrack later if your circumstances do change between now and then.

5. Advice for former Hollywood freelancers

I have seen a lot of people looking to leave Hollywood because of the triple threat of writer strikes, actor strikes, and Covid after effects, and searching for “real” jobs when we have finally had enough.

In my case, my main question has to do with resumes: On my resume I list a lot of my production credits, but it kind of looks like I am a job hopper and that I really didn’t have much of an impact in these roles. Would it be better to combine all my credits into one large “Freelance Production Coordinator” role and just list the highlights?

You attached your resume so I could see exactly how you’ve done it, and it’s pretty clear that each of the jobs were show-specific; it doesn’t look like job-hopping, just a normal reflection of how jobs work in your industry (and even people outside that industry, like me, should understand that).

That said … it could be interesting to experiment with a resume that combines them all under one umbrella heading and see if you get any more bites with that version. Do some A/B testing and see if there are differences in results! Or it might even end up that when you see the revised resume, it will obviously be stronger or weaker than the other one. Try it and see what you think! There are no hard-and-fast rules on how to present stuff like this.

{ 713 comments… read them below }

  1. Gemma*

    #1 if you and your colleagues have already complained and given them a chance to remedy, you could try OSHA or your states labor board. If the building is straight up unsafe for anyone (sounds like maybe not if they have at least some habitable floors) you might try reporting to the local municipality’s health department or building inspector. I bet you could find some local agency to take it on.

    1. CL*

      The bats alone deserve a call to OSHA and/or the Health Department. Once they are there onsite, it doesn’t sound like they can help but find additional problems.

      Of course, if your employer closes the office (temporarily or permanently), will you and you coworkers be ok financially? Start job searching. It’s only a matter of time before this place gets shut down.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I have no idea what enforcement is like, but:

        OSHA regulation 1910.141(a)(5): “Every enclosed workplace shall be so constructed, equipped, and maintained, so far as reasonably practicable, as to prevent the entrance or harborage of rodents, insects, and other vermin. A continuing and effective extermination program shall be instituted where their presence is detected.”

        1. Rosyglasses*

          OSHA is generally really on top of these things and I’ve even heard of employment lawyers getting involved in these types of cases although IANAL and can’t speak to specifics.

            1. THE PANCREAS*

              I hadn’t seen it before this site, but it’s used frequently in the comments. I laugh every time I see it.

              1. Quill*

                It’s from reddit, I think. Disclaimer is “I Am Not A Lawyer” (but it might help for you to find one because this does not sound legal) for all sorts of advice threads.

            2. Grandma*

              Must be that you don’t read political websites with extensive comments! “I Am Not A Lawer,” but…

              Also, I’m a homeowner with 1-5 bats under the patio rafters for most of the year. They poop. It looks like small rodent droppings and needs to be swept away every day. I can’t imagine having that inside a building where people live/work. We like our bats because they eat all the flying insects in our vicinity (and don’t bother us). We’d like them better w/o the poop, but you can’t have one without the other. What are your bats eating, BTW? Are they going out to dine or do you also have an insect infestation? Your building sounds disgusting. Aside from everything else, a bat colony smells terrible in enclosed spaces. I’m surprised that you have walk in customers/clients at all. Has your director thought of that?

              1. pope suburban*

                Poop. In the popcorn machine. No thank you. OSHA would be an excellent resource for these poor souls.

                1. Never Boring*

                  Not just poop, but rabies risk ( or at least that’s what my vet tells me). And nobody really wants rabies.

              2. VivaVaruna*

                The LW mentions they also have roaches, so it’s a safe bet that’s what the bats are living off of.

        2. Syfy Geek*

          This is good to know. Today I’m dealing with a situation that involves a large rat in the ceiling, and what exactly the response from our facility people of “treated” means. But at least it’s not bats.

        3. Bats R Integral to Ecosystems :)*

          Friendly note from a bat biologist, bats are not rodents, insects, OR vermin. I don’t know where OP is located, but they may even be a Threatened or imperiled species (bats are on the decline worldwide, sadly). Still not advisable to share a living space with them, but basically, an expert exclusion service needs to be called, NOT an exterminator.

          That’s not OP’s responsibility, but I thought y’all should know. Bats live a very long time (20-40 years) and are quite intelligent and non-aggressive, so please be gentle with them!

          1. Hrodvitnir*

            ❤️ To be fair, I sort of resent the word “vermin” for any animal, but thank you for your comment!

            It remains true that you should not be cohabitating with bats, and surely OSHA would move on this (yikes!), but they are good little dudes.

          2. Quill*

            Like many adorable and ecologically important animals they need their own space and not to be handled by Critter Getter Joe from the local exterminator.

        4. Vincent*

          I would consider calling a bat rescue organization to see if they have any ideas for a nonlethal solution first.

      2. CarlDean*

        I hear bats, and think: RABIES. “Bats are the most common source of human rabies in the United States,” to quote my google search that probably isn’t that scientific. But seriously, don’t F with bats. If you hang out with bats, you probably maybe won’t get rabies. But if you get rabies, you probably definitely were hanging out with bats.

        I’m not trying to malign bats! It’s not their fault. I’m sure if we offered them the vaccine, they would be smart enough to take it!

        They almost certainly don’t pay you enough to hang out with bats.

        Can’t you find a better job where the place is just infested with something statistically less dangerous, like pythons or black widows or cougars?

        1. Dog momma*

          That’s what I think of too. and as far as other vermin… bugs and mice/ rats..they spread disease too. I’d look for another job.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Yes, and bat bites are extra scary because you don’t necessarily feel it. That said, we at least know so far none of those bats have been rabid, given rabies is 100% fatal if untreated. So if a coworker were bitten by a rabid bat and didn’t know, they’d be dead by now. Still, this is a When not an If scenario given the bat infestation described.
            Nobody should be working in that building.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Rabies progresses through your body at different rates, depending on how far from the brain the bite occurs. And it just takes one bat bitten while hunting and returning here to spread through the colony.

              (From my long-ago Peace Corps training: Rabies enters through a bite and then goes through your nervous system toward the brain. (Not the blood, so a blood test won’t be any help.) From the brain it spreads to your salivary glands, and then you have the urge to bite (in usual form) or die more quietly (a rarer form). Symptoms only appear after it’s in your brain.)

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              That’s not entirely true. Rabies can lie dormant for years before causing symptoms. That’s part of what makes it so scary – you don’t even remember the tiny bite you had a year ago but it’s there. Lurking. And we can’t test for it.

            3. Esmae*

              Rabies can be dormant for 6-12 months in some cases! It’s unlikely that anyone has been bitten at work and not realized it, that’s usually only a concern if there was a bat in the room while someone was sleeping or otherwise incapacitated. But if there’s any chance that someone was bitten, they should absolutely still go in for a rabies shot even if it’s been a few weeks or months.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              Yes, and bat bites are extra scary because you don’t necessarily feel it.

              OMG yes! I’ve gone round and round on Twitter TWICE with people who were like “A bat in my room, y’all!” and pooh-poohed the suggestion to get vaccinated pronto.

              Bats are so beneficial but unfortunately there’s that pesky viral thing.

              1. Quill*

                The proper protocol with bats is to get the dang vaccine. Unfortunately health care in the USA is definitely not making that easy (though telling a local hospital hey there’s a bat in my bedroom can help with that!)

              1. Mad Harry Crewe*

                The main concern for secret bites is if a bat is in the room with a sleeping person (or a baby, or someone else who might not be able to clearly communicate or recognize what happened).

              2. Quill*

                Very small mouths, also they don’t necessarily have to draw blood for potential rabies-saliva to get into you. That and the fact that they’re most active when most people are asleep so if one falls on you while you’re in bed and chomps your finger it can be hard to tell if you woke up from being bitten or if you woke up from a bat falling on you.

        2. Constance Lloyd*

          Chiming in to say that I’ve had to receive the rabies vaccine simply for being in the same room as a wild bat, because you often cannot tell if you have been bitten. Bats are a very very big deal.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            ^This. A friend had to take her kids for rabies shots when they found a bat had set up in the hall between their bedrooms.

            I’m all for outdoor bat houses etc, but the bats should not be sharing reception with the receptionist.

            1. Constance Lloyd*

              Also!! If you ARE in the US and covered by workers’ compensation, look into filing and having your employer pay for the vaccines. They’re not cheap and your exposure occurred in the performance of duty.

              1. Observer*

                If you ARE in the US and covered by workers’ compensation, look into filing and having your employer pay for the vaccines.

                Do that. Workers Comp will almost certainly not pay. *BUT* once they hear *why* you are asking to have them pay for this, they will be there in a flash and they are NOT going to go for “well it’s not as bad as a battle field”. The insurers who provide Workers Comp *absolutely* want safe spaces because is significantly reduces their payout costs. So that’s going to be another piece of pressure on your idiot boss.

                1. AnonForThis*

                  Observer: Workers’ Compensation is state specific, and we should not be telling LW what Work Comp will or will not do. If LW has questions about WC, she should consult a Work Comp attorney in her state, assuming she lives in the US (spoken as someone who is not a Work Comp attorney, but works for a Work Comp attorney).

                2. Dog momma*

                  Don’t know about WC, but I worked for a large health insurance company years ago (RN Reviewer) ; and every summer there were several requests for coverage for rabies prophylaxis dt exposure/ possible exposure. I always approved those as urgent care bc ya know.. rabies. Fatal if untreated 99.9% of the time.

            2. ThatGirl*

              Hmm. We had bats in my house when I was a tween/teen. Nobody ever suggested rabies vaccines, but it’s been almost 30 years, so hopefully I’m good :P

          2. WantonSeedStitch*

            Yes, this happened to my boss once! There was a bat in her bedroom, and she had to get a rabies vaccine.

          3. Trillian*

            That was my first thought too. A bat flew into me in daylight, making skin contact. Rabies is endemic in the local bat population, so protocols said I had to have the full series of immunoglobulin and vaccine, even though I had no apparent bite or laceration. Public Health made sure I got every one, on schedule.

            1. Lydia*

              It’s much nicer to hear about the proactive approach to making sure rabies is locked down. A few years ago, I read a story about a woman being bit by a raccoon that clearly had rabies and the runaround she got about the vaccine because nobody wanted to have to report a rabies case in their jurisdiction.

              1. Zephy*

                I feel like the fallout/paperwork nightmare of having a person die of rabies in that jurisdiction would have been worse, though.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Yep, when my cat bit me before she passed, the animal control person was quite aggressive with me about testing — all she knew at that point was “cat bite.” I gave her my kitty’s vet name and number so she could confirm the shots were up to date.

                2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  Very true.

                  Maybe the idiots in that jurisdiction weren’t aware that rabies is almost 100% fatal. That information might (SHOULD) have lit a fire under them!

              2. Double A*

                I believe that’s an episode of This American Life! Yes, the runaround she got was horrifying when she has clearly been bitten by a rabid raccoon (it been staggering around, then chased her down).

            2. Wendy Darling*

              Yep, a guy I went to grad school with had a bat crash into him while he was jogging and he had to get rabies vaccines too. Apparently it was expensive and not fun, but definitely better than rabies!

        3. Kitters*

          Histoplasmosis is another concern. It is spread through airborne spires in bat droppings. This could blind someone and cause other severe symptoms. Rabies is bad enough. Plus, bats bring other pests with them, a “bat bug” which looks and functions like bed bugs. (Thanks Reddit!) OSHA needs to be a call made soon!

        4. GrooveBat*

          It is almost impossible to know whether or not you have been bitten by a bat. ***LW and everyone in that office needs to get vaccinated for rabies ASAP.*** By the time you start showing symptoms, it is too late. And rabies is a horrible, horrible way to die.

          The shots are not that bad. Based on my user name, you can tell I have a little experience with this!

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Generally the shots are offered prophylactically if you’re in a situation where you are asleep and there are bats present, as you won’t necessarily know the bite has happened. If you’re in a situation where you know the bat is there, but you haven’t come into contact with it, you won’t need the shots.
            In this exact situation I think it might actually help to bring up rabies vaccination, so the higher ups really start thinking about how bad the office situation is? Hopefully? It’s hard to tell when things are that bad and they’re basically ignoring you, but maybe this would be the push they need.

            1. Susan-shaped beehive*

              I would hope so, but if not, this is an “everyone start job searching immediately” situation. Management is being recklessly callous about worker health and safety.

              1. goddessoftransitory*

                At this point I think it crosses the line into Criminal Negligence. Obviously IANAL, but to say hey, nobody’s been shot so who cares? about this level of danger is insane.

            2. She of Many Hats*

              If someone starts panicking at the sight of a bat and causes it to panic, the probability of a bite increases. Since the receptionist is freaked out and there’s the presence of (unpredictable) clients in the same space as the bats, this the time to bring the liability and costs to management.

        5. Thatoneoverthere*

          There is a doctor on tiktok called Dr. Beachgem. She did a video about Bats and Rabies a few weeks ago. She claims that even if you are in the vicinity of bats (like in the same room) you should consider getting treated for rabies. I am not a doc, so I don’t know the validity of that statement. But its def worth researching more or talking to your GP about.

          1. Honestly, some people’s children!*

            I’ve read somewhere reputable, though I don’t remember exactly where, that if you realize you have a bat in your house you should at least talk to a doctor about rabies treatment. Apparently bat bites aren’t obvious to the point that you could be bitten in your sleep and not realize it. You’d probably know in this work situation but I think it’s still a consideration! We also found the local Health Department to be helpful when management took an “everyone has them” attitude toward mice. Yeah, we all get them occasionally but most of us put out traps and sic the cat on them!

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yes, this is true, if you have been unconscious or asleep in a place where bats are known to be, or if you have handled them; you could have easily been bitten without knowing it. I’m not sure OP and their coworkers need to rush to get treated if bats are around but definitely had no contact (and you were always awake), but it’s definitely worth asking a real doctor. And maybe if work has to deal with this inquiry 500 times, they’ll decide to switch offices.

            2. metadata minion*

              I’ve heard from a bat researcher that the whole “you can’t necessarily feel a bat bite” is apocryphal, but you know what? Rabies is horrifically fatal, so I’m completely ok with encouraging people to get the vaccine if there’s any chance whatsoever that they were bitten. I’m actually mildly curious why we don’t just give it to everyone as a standard vaccine.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Yes, there’s a bit of exaggeration I’m sure, since it makes sense to err on the side of caution when you have a preventative that works against a disease that is otherwise fatal … I’m guessing a doctor wouldn’t recommend OP’s whole office just because they’ve seen bats from a distance (but do check). Right now bats are generally blamed in cases where the person doesn’t remember being bitten or have marks, particularly if they’re known to be about. Would I be totally surprised if we eventually learn some other vector could be involved? No.

              2. Keymaster of Gozer*

                It’s an expensive and time consuming and physically unpleasant vaccine. If there were people getting bitten by bats and other vectors often enough in day to day life then I’m sure it would be offered more often.

                But then again, we only need to look back on the last few years to see how well that works.

                1. GrooveBat*

                  It’s expensive (if you don’t have insurance) and requires multiple visits, but it’s not really that physically unpleasant.

              3. Esmae*

                From what I’ve heard from bat experts, you can feel a bat bite if you’re awake when it happens. It’s not painful enough to wake you up if you’re sleeping, though, and since bats have such small and sharp teeth there generally won’t be a noticeable mark or bleeding afterward. So if there’s a bat in your house, it’s safest to assume it could have bitten you in your sleep and get the vaccine. For adults without any cognitive disabilities, awake, and not under the influence of anything, you’d almost definitely know if you’d been bitten.

                But still, err on the side of caution! Nobody wants rabies!

                1. Sloanicota*

                  I guess I’m also not clear how often bats are randomly biting sleeping people. But I still wouldn’t want to take chances with rabies!

                2. Princess Sparklepony*

                  Also nobody wants to become a vampire inadvertently….

                  (Yes, I have seen too many movies about Dracula.)

              4. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

                It’s expensive, it’s a four dose series with a specific schedule (one of my first jobs was trying to get people in for a two dose series vaccine six months apart…not easy), and rabies exposure isn’t common. Also, quite literally one of the beauties about the rabies vaccine is that it’s effective post-exposure — eliminating the need for pre exposure administration like other vaccines. Not to mention that it’s not a life long vaccine, you would need to be re-upped — which repeats points 1-3 above.

          2. br_612*

            That was in response to another TikToker, KC Davis/domesticblisters, making a normal video and suddenly spotting a bat in the bedroom she was staying in and panicking.

            Both Dr. Beachgem and I were obsessively refreshing KC’s page until she followed up saying both her and her young children (who were sleeping) were getting vaccinated. Dr. Beachgem is a pediatric ER doctor and I just . . . know a lot about rabies due to projects at work.

          3. LCH*

            sometimes i think about how i discovered a bat in my kitchen sink one morning and never got vaccinated. but.. i figured at the time i would have known if it bit me. now i’m like, whew! argh, past me!

          4. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

            The advice I have seen floated by more reputable sources is if you have been in close contact and you cannot ascertain if you’ve been bitten or scratched, that you should get treatment. For instance, if you are asleep and wake up to a bat flying around, you should get precautionary treatment as bites and scratches aren’t visible. However, to ease LW’s mind, you are more likely to get rabies from a rabid dog or other mid-size animal like a fox than a bat. Bats are not asymptomatic carriers of rabies; they exhibit symptoms, become unable to fly, and die of rabies. Not entirely sure LW has close encounters of the biting kind, but the bat in the popcorn machine (hello, new screen name) might be a transmission source from exposure to bat fur on their food or potentially bat excrements if popcorn from this machine was eaten by anything with the bat inside.

            Ideally, you’d want the animal caught, euthanized, and tested for rabies on the county/state’s dime though, if possible. It might not be a carrier of rabies (which makes the euthanizing part a little sad) and you save yourself a $15k+ series of shots & hospital visits. Not to mention a whole lot of worry.

            LW, call your health department so they can 1) facilitate the capture of these bats and 2) test them.

              1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

                I couldn’t help it! Waiting for the inevitable “did the bat write this?” comment.

                To which I say, no ( but we’re out of butter.)

                1. On Fire*

                  It sounds appropriate for Nightvale. The bat in the office popcorn machine could be a great companion to the Faceless Old Woman…

                2. Sloanicota*

                  I’m totally imagining a Flintstones-type machine where the fluttering of the bat is what keeps the popcorn kernels bouncing around …

            1. Hit By A Bat*

              Having just finished the shot series I want to reassure anyone reading this that if you have health insurance in the US you will almost certainly NOT pay $15k for the series.

              In many places the prophylactic treatment for exposure is only available at the ER so you will probably pay your ER copay for the first visit and about half that for the follow up shots also at the ER. You may have to double check that the hospital bills it correctly to your insurance since it’s a required series of visits and seems to confuse billing. It is still FAR too expensive and the fact that you must go to the ER multiple times makes it exclusionary for many but please take it seriously, do not eff with rabies.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                My series of (prophylactic) shots was around 600 Euros (about $650) in 2015, administered at a world-renowned tropical medicine facility. My (public) insurance happily paid for it as said facility had recommended the shots for an upcoming field trip to India. I never met any animal there that looked rabid, but many friendly and fascinating people!

              2. Orv*

                It might also depend on how your insurance handles ER visits. For a while I had a plan that would only pay if I was admitted to the hospital.

              3. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

                It’s not cheap is the point – the 15k number came from the Capitol Hill rabid fox story last year. Depending on how you view insurance, you will not personally pay it, but that is how much a combo of the patient + their insurance was forking over, hence it’s a 15k+ series of shots and hospital visits.



        6. Hot Flash Gordon*

          You don’t just have to worry about rabies. If there’s a significant number of them in your building, you’re also contending with their poop. Breathing in dried bat guano particles can create serious health problems.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Yes and it’s the origin of the phrase “bat-sh!t crazy” – which perfectly describes thus situation.

          2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

            Thank you. The low grade panic of rabies exposure (which is, again, rare and your local health department is very swift if you report this since as a whole the US has very few people dying of rabies from domestic exposure and they’d like to keep it that way) compared to the casual attitude toward something that unequivocally is more of an issue along with the already poor air quality (smells like a sewer) is interesting to see.

        7. JenLP*

          Honestly? My first thought with that article was that the office should all get the rabies vaccine because sometimes you don’t know if you’ve been bitten by one. And the office should pay for it.

          1. Dek*

            YES! It should at least be offered (and paid for by the employer). iirc, rabies can show up way after the initial bite too.

        8. Dek*

          That was my first thought too. And I love bats. But, like…wild bats are a great way to get rabies.

          It’s utterly appalling that they haven’t done anything about that. Might as well have a dripping faucet next to an exposed wire.

          1. br_612*

            The sky-puppies are definitely an “admire from a respectful distance” type animal lol. They’re adorable, I love them too. But rabies scares me almost as much as prion diseases so I’m good from here, a dozen yards back, thanks.

            1. One Potato Two Potato Three Potato Four*

              Am I the only one who upon first reading your post thought “prison diseases”?

        9. Bartok*

          “Oh sure blame the bat, what the heck, we’re easy targets.”

          /s of course but I couldn’t resist ;)

        10. br_612*

          It’s a big deal to find a bat in a home while your sleeping or a baby is unattended (such as sleeping in their crib). You can be bit or scratched in your sleep and not notice because their teeth and claws can leave such TINY wounds. They’ll usually suggest the humans all get the rabies vax (which is . . . NOT cheap) and the animals be quarantined for a set period.

          And people who work with bats or are frequently exposed to bats at their jobs (where the intent is to be exposed to wildlife . . . like idk a caver or wildlife conservationist) are Tier 1 when it comes to pre-exposure rabies vaccine administration. They’re supposed to get their antibody titers checked pretty frequently. Vets are like Tier 2/3 (new guidelines were released last year).

          Maybe someone needs to show the director the rabies fun run episode of The Office. Or that episode of Criminal Minds where the unsub used rabies as the weapon.

        11. Beth*

          Bats are absolutely a rabies risk–to the extent that if one is found in a space where someone’s sleeping, that person has to get rabies shots. (Teenage me found this out while working as a summer camp counselor!)

          The good news is, if the person in the room was awake, they would almost definitely know if the bat bit or scratched them. Bat bites can be pretty subtle–painless and without obvious marks–but when you’re aware of your surroundings, you’d almost definitely notice a bat swooping close enough to you to touch you. But even then, this isn’t the kind of hazard that should come with office work.

        12. MagicEyes*

          I would not be okay working in a place that has bats. Their bites are very small and can be hard to see, so sometimes you don’t even know if you’ve been bitten. I was bitten by a bat (not at work) and had to get rabies shots. They are expensive and not fun, and I don’t recommend it.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I just like that you clarified “not at work”, because we all know this blog has seen some doozies!

        13. zuzu*

          Many people don’t feel bat bites when they’re sleeping because their teeth are so small and sharp, and even if they’re awake, they may assume they’re insect bites.

          Fun fact: the saliva of vampire bats contains an anticoagulant called draculin.

        14. CommanderBanana*

          Bats are absolutely fabulous animals and integral to our ecosystem – as in, it would collapse without them, especially in places like Australia where they are the only long-range pollinators.

          That being said, they are also evolutionary marvels and are reservoir animals, meaning they carry lots of diseases without it seeming to affect them, but they can spread them. Most of the recent zoonotic diseases I can think of were found to have originated from bats – COVID-19, Nipah, lyssavirus, Ebola, and Marburg, to name a few.

          I think bats are adorable, like little tiny sky puppies, but coming into contact with bats or their effluvia can be a serious, serious problem!

          1. coffee*

            Hendra virus is another good example. Spread from bats to horses to humans.

            But you are right about how important they are to the ecosystem!

        15. Nina*

          In my home country or its nearest neighbor (where we have no rabies, never have, and are incredibly careful with precautions to make sure we never will) I love bats, bats are awesome and adorable and if you’re super super lucky one might land on you and you can go awww at it for a sec before gently brushing it off.

          In the US I would lose my entire shit if I had to work in a place that had bats not just in the ceiling but in the office space.

        16. Bats R Integral to Ecosystems :)*

          It is really sad that people immediately think rabies when they think bats, because the incidence of rabies isn’t any higher in bats than it is other mammalian carriers (in fact it’s extremely, extremely rare). Worldwide, people are much more likely to get it from a dog. Pet vaccine programs in the US have really worked.

          The CDC does say that bats are the most common vector of rabies, but that’s because rabies is so insanely rare. It’s less than five people a year on average, and typically zero people a year. It makes headlines when people get rabies, and that’s for a reason. People just don’t take bites from a bat seriously because they’re so small, when they would be more likely to visit the ER for a dog bite or a raccoon scratch.

        17. Anonymous for This*

          Can I hang out with the cougars? They’d probably leave me alone as they tend to be rather solitary creatures.

          I live in SoCal and our beloved P22 (P for Puma) had to be put down a while ago due to a combination of disease and old age.

      3. Anonys*

        Yes, also if there is actually mold and mildew in the building that is a health concern which OSHA will likely care about.

        Filing an OSHA complaint and requesting an inspection is definitely the right move. management seems to be lazy about finding a new office so even an inspection/adding some hassle for them might put them into higher gear.

        I would also start logging/documenting issues and taking pictures of any insects/rodents/mold.

        Just an aside, LW how did this employer handle Covid restrictions/safety? If they don‘t even care about having the offices vacuumed and pest free, I would imagine terribly?

        1. Hannah Lee*

          The apparent regurgitation of sewer gas or sewage-adjacent material into occupied space could also be an issue (if the bathrooms frequently smell of sewage)

          When was the last time this building was inspected for an occupancy permit? With the issues LW described I would be surprised if the sprinkler systems, emergency lighting was functional and I’d be surprised they could pass a building inspection for occupancy.

          Another angle is the company’s business insurance- if they’ve got property or liability insurance, allowing their premises to remain a) unsecured from random people and b) infested with rodents and insects could be flags that would cause their carriers to cancel coverage,

          Dropping a dime to city building inspectors and/or the insurance company could cause some improvements.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            If the sewage (I’m trying not to be too gross here) is starting to ferment and smells strongly of sulphides or methane then get the heck out. Immediately.

          2. Observer*

            Dropping a dime to city building inspectors and/or the insurance company could cause some improvements.

            Yes. Depending on the locality, the insurance route might be even better than the government inspections. Because the latter can get backed up, but the insurers want to reduce their risk, the sooner the better.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          Report this to both OSHA and to the city/county/state health department, whichever has jurisdiction where the office is located.

        3. LW #1*

          Weirdly, our office was really great about Covid safety. We’re in a part of the US that didn’t take Covid as seriously as I would have liked, but I have no complaints about how Covid was handled at this office.

        4. I Have RBF*

          Yes, between the mold, the bats, and the sewer outgassing you need to call OSHA or the city building habitability inspection people (Health Department, I think.)

          IMO, as a former Health and Safety person, this is not an environment that is safe for work:
          1. Mold and mildew can cause long term damage – see https://health.ri.gov/healthrisks/mold/ plus other sites (search terms: long term damage to people from mold)
          2. Bats inside can result in bites and rabies, as discussed above
          3. Sewer gas contains hydrogen sulfide, which is toxic – see https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/air/sewergas.htm
          4. Having an inability to secure your area to the point where you’re finding odd items in the restroom is a physical security risk, and generally frowned on by business insurers
          5. Cockroaches and other insects in an area where food is prepared (like a popcorn machine) in not good. The Health Department would put the kibosh on that, IMO
          6. Not having the office regularly cleaned can be a hazard if you have employees with allergies, like those exacerbated by mold…

          IMO, if they keep you in that building you should probably all go on strike or something.

          Military people end up with long term health issues from the types of environments that they are exposed to on deployments. They get medical benefits for it. Civilians don’t get that. Your director is being an ass. IIRC, the conditions you are working under wouldn’t be acceptable in a prison, much less a workplace.

          It is not acceptable to expose you to those kinds of environments. If they do not fix this, I suggest that you and your fellow employees contact a lawyer, as well as OSHA and the Health Department.

          But what you need to do first is start collecting documentation – pictures with time and date stamps, jars full of bugs, logs of what smells when. That entire building sounds like it should be condemned.

          1. zuzu*

            Can’t sewer gases cause explosions if they don’t have a proper outlet? I’m a little worried that the windows have all been replaced and they can no longer be opened.

            This situation sounds horrifying, and the director needs a reminder that folks in the military get hazard pay as well as housing, medical care for themselves and their families, and pensions to put up with this. Is he offering all that?

            1. Nina*

              The explosion risk is mainly the methane – methane has an explosive range of 5-15% in air, and is odorless, the other products of sewer… contents… fermentation are definitely not and are in fact highly odiferous and your nose can detect them at very very low concentrations. In general unless there’s something weird going on, if the smell is tolerable to work in on a Monday after two days away from it, it’s not an explosion risk.

            2. I Have RBF*

              If the building was sealed enough to prevent the bats getting in I might worry about the explosion risk from sewer gases like methane. But even in relatively low quantities the hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are still problems.

      4. Oogie*

        When we were having facilities issues at my work that we were going unaddressed I told my employer I was going to contact OSHA and what do you know, it was suddenly a priority. You may not feel safe doing that where you work though. I think there are definitely issues that warrant contacting OSHA.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yeah, in the OP’s situation I wouldn’t bother telling the boss that she’s going to contact OSHA. Just call them and have them come in. That way she can be sure to avoid any blowback from her boss.

        2. Antilles*

          That may have worked in your case, but it’s absolutely NOT the case here.
          he has said in all-staff meetings a few times that our building conditions aren’t that bad compared to the spaces he worked in while he was deployed.
          A dude who thinks it’s reasonable to compare your generic office building to being deployed in Iraq (or whatever) won’t care one bit about a threat to call OSHA or the health department.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Frankly, I don’t care where he was deployed in this context! Playing Oppression Olympics with his employees’ health and lives is beyond asinine into “I’m calling the cops.”

            1. Observer*

              Frankly, I don’t care where he was deployed in this context! Playing Oppression Olympics with his employees’ health and lives is beyond asinine into “I’m calling the cops.”

              True. But not really the point. The point is that it is SO ridiculous that you can’t expect this guy to react like a reasonable person to being told that someone is calling OSHA. So, the OP should just do it.

            2. Antilles*

              I don’t care either.

              My point was exactly as Observer notes: His response is sufficiently absurd that he’s clearly not going to listen. No sense in giving him a heads-up when his previous response indicates he won’t care.

          2. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I read military.com and you would be horrified beyond belief what condition military barracks are in these days, and some naval vessels. That being said, you guys are civilians and should have higher standards.

            I will admit to joking about not knowing what to tip the cockroaches when they brought in my luggage on a TDY to an Air Force base no longer in existence…

        3. LCH*

          at this point, it is so very terrible, just contact them to get the ball rolling. don’t stop to notify. they already know; it’s bad.

        4. B*

          You can report to OSHA anonymously, AND it’s a violation of federal law to retaliate against someone for filing a complaint. Not that it doesn’t still happen but fyi.

      5. Sarah M*

        I don’t know where you live OP, but in many places in the US, the local bat populations are infested with rabies – to the point where its better to assume they have it vs not if you encounter them.

        Also, the sewer smells (absent visible sewer “mess”) can indicate a leaking sewer line. At a minimum, you should all have access to working toilets while you’re at work. Your boss is an idiot. You can try one last time to get him to see reason as a group, and if he refuses, then you can contact OSHA and the police cap building inspector for a start. This is nuts.

    2. LouiseAnn*

      Some of these worries can be addressed in writing… creates good problems. Hello boss, I’m writing again to address the bat situation. Do you know if we may have any budget available to hire an exterminator or otherwise deal with the bats in that have inhabited our office this year?

      Thoughts and prayers;)

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I would report this shitpile to every agency in the book! It sounds actively dangerous to life and limb, and if their boss decides that anything that isn’t actively on fire isn’t “that bad,” he needs to be spoken to by officials who can levy fines and journalists who can provide lots of bad publicity.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m not in a country that has rabies but from my understanding bats in the US can often carry that disease which makes it a severe biohazard (rabies is the only infection with a 100% kill rate once you start showing symptoms).

      Add on the mould which can also be lethal (certain types of black mould are ‘breathe this in and you are in serious trouble) and you’ve got a building that should by all rights be shoved in an autoclave before use.

      It’s just as concerning as if you turned up for work to find feces and blood all over the place. I can’t say this enough: this is a Serious Biohazard.

      1. Scottish Teapot*

        #LW1 please look at the cases in the UK on mould in local authority and social housing homes (look for Rochdale). I’m not going to put the consequences in this in case it triggers anyone. This is why mould and damp is highly dangerous. Please go to environmental health or the equivalent where you stay. You cannot and should not be expected to work here.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yep, mould spores once in your lungs are very very hard to eliminate and seriously dangerous. I’d honestly put it up there with carbon monoxide poisoning for unpleasantness that’s actually avoidable.

    5. WheresMyPen*

      I just read an article about a woman who nearly died after being bitten by a rabid bat, so the bats alone would be enough to get me out of there

      1. Kelly*

        99.99% of people die from being infected with rabies (didn’t get the vaccines/immunoglobulin injection promptly). The people who do survive are so impaired neurologically you probably wouldn’t want to, and that itself is incredibly rare. Once you show symptoms you’re toast.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yep. I just recently read a story by a survivor of rabies–he has spent years in rehab learning to walk and talk again, and he’s never going to be 100% the way he was. And his story is a success because he didn’t die!

        2. metadata minion*

          Yeah, unless there’s been another one lately, there are less than five documented cases of surviving rabies, all due to a very experimental procedure involving medically-induced coma. And that’s not less than 5% — less than five individual humans.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Pretty sure the instructions I’ve heard for “what to do if there’s a bat in your house” all go along the lines of “get everyone out of the house immediately and call animal control”. And their director is just… chill about it?

        1. Emikyu*

          To be honest, I’m even questioning his assessment that it’s not as bad as some of the places he was deployed. I can honestly say I’d much rather have to sit in the mud or whatever than deal with bats and sewage all the time. Even being actively shot at sounds… maybe worse than the high risk of getting rabies from a bat, but not by much.

          None of which should matter of course, because in most civilian jobs you do not sign up for being deployed to the wilderness. This is why I didn’t join the military – I’d much rather sit in an office and complain that my keyboard isn’t quite to my liking than sleep in a tent and complain about the lack of mosquito netting. Different scenarios warrant different expectations.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, as others have mentioned above rabies is virtually always fatal after symptoms appear. I thought the Milwaukee Protocol had proven effective for some patients but reading about it now I see that it has only worked once (ONCE), and the girl who actually survived rabies had many other severe medical issues afterwards (among them, she spent years relearning how to walk and talk). Do NOT mess with rabies. If anyone gets bitten, they need to get vaccinated asap, that very day in fact. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get the shots now if anyone is worried about possibly getting bitten, but that’s up to each person to decide on their own and maybe after consulting a physician.

      1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        The wacky thing about it is that I would refuse to work in the building the moment I saw the bats. I would not be able to focus. The receptionist has nerves of steel, even if she is freaked out, if one is just chilling above their head all day…

        1. Miette*

          I would honestly be captivated by the bats, but seeing the commentary here today, I now know to gtfo. What has ME concerned is that the space is apparently open to whatever randos that may come in off the street. As a person who’s typically the first one in many mornings (when I work in an office), that would freak me tf out.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            That is appalling! Who knows what’s going on in that building after hours (or during the day!) or what kind of dangers like fires set to keep warm or drug residues might be around?

          2. AngryOctopus*

            Bats outside? Yes. Bats inside in a controlled environment (zoo)? Yes. Bats inside my residential or commercial space? Absolutely not.

            Also, FWIW, randos (who may or may not be incapacitated by drugs or other issues) and bats in the building–BAD potential for all the reasons already elucidated. Huge liability.).

            1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              Speaking of the random, I would have filed a police report after finding that wallet in the bathroom. That is tangible evidence of trespassing, and that is against the law.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Agree, there’s got to be a way of addressing this through legal or similar channels. I swear I said WHAT?! so many times while reading this letter. Bats? smell of mold? no working AC and no way to turn the heat down and THE ONLY CHANGE that was done to the building was seal the windows?? random man’s wallet found in office women’s restroom? The leadership basically says that it’s not all bad as long as there isn’t active combat happening in the building and OP is worried about being labeled as a diva or a whiner? is this hell disguised as an office? Is this a set of a horror movie and nobody told OP’s team that they are the cast? But there’s a popcorn machine, so it’s all good!

      I’d look for another job, this office is not safe by any means. And I would STILL report them even after I leave. This is one of the most horrifying letters I have read on this site.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Adding this as a separate comment as it will be tied up in moderation – a friend grew up in Mountain View in the 70s and told me about an abandoned office building they had downtown, that had packs of dogs living in it (intentionally) and was known around Mountain View as “Dog City”. That was the first thing I thought of after reading OP’s description of their office. All these years, I thought my friend had embellished the Dog City story to make it sound better, but here is one of the several articles I found about it just now! https://www.mv-voice.com/news/2009/01/05/mt-bay-plazas-muddy-beginnings

        1. MigraineMonth*

          That’s quite the history!

          It’s amazing to me that someone saw the vacant building and immediately saw the issue that there might be vandals/looters. Yet they couldn’t see any issues from letting a bunch of aggressive dogs roam the building with nowhere to relieve themselves?!

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        My cynical sarcastic thought as I was rolling my eyes was, well, at least they got the windows replaced.

      3. Observer*

        I’d look for another job, this office is not safe by any means.

        That, and there is a boss in place who has absolutely zero concern about the safety of his staff – or for the legal requirements to keep a safe workplace. “Better than deployment” is NOT the standard that any government agency, insurance carrier, or court is going to find reasonable.

      4. Never Having Popcorn Again*

        Uum, yeah. This is a sexual assault waiting to happen to the women, a robbery (or worse) threat for the women and the men, and it just ruined popcorn for me, which is a huge travesty. About 6 or 7 years ago, spouse and I woke up to a baby bat in our bedroom- Google helpfully informs that’s most likely to happen in August (which it was) bc they’re learning to fly. We had a window with no screen so it got separated from the herd. We caught and released it. Animal control and/or a sleep bite didn’t cross our minds. I guess if it was going to be curtains it would have happened already, but now I legit feel weird. Dang my suggestible brain.

        Seriously, OP, your managment is deranged.

        1. Pat*

          Maybe get rabies vaccines now anyway, just in case. Someone said in an earlier comment that rabies can lie dormant for a long time.

    7. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Literally all I could think while reading #1 was “OSHA OSHA OSHA!” said like “Marsha Marsha Marsha” on the Brady Bunch.

    8. Pip*

      YES, my god, I’d have the OSHA phone number, hopefully a safety hotline, on speed dial and I’d call and report every safety issue, and I’d keep calling every time something happened. Your workplace is totally unsafe. The bats and mold alone are huge health hazards.

    9. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

      I haven’t read through all 150+ comments on this thread, but YES, OSHA!!

      5 years ago, I did one day of temp labor doing demolition work on an old house without any PPE. There was rodent droppings in the roof space. Bat droppings. Insect poop. Piles of dead bugs. Rat and bird nests. Numerous dead animals. And mold. Everywhere mold.

      A few days later, I came down with pneumonia that the doctor says showed signs of being both bacterial and fungal infections. My breathing was at about 25% capacity for a few weeks. Even now, there are still nodules on my lungs from this and my doctor has ordered annual CT scans until they’re gone.

      Your employer is horrible to have you all risking this.

      Call your local county health department as well as OSHA. I guess your state labor department will have an Occupational Safety division.

    10. Quill*

      Bats in the popcorn is a MAJOR risk of zoonotic infections. So even if the building is “habitable” by municipal standards someone may be on the hook for not keeping the bats (roaches, moths, mice, etc.) under control.

  2. Goddess47*

    For LW #1 – If you don’t get any traction with your supervisor, contact the municipality building inspector about the building conditions. I don’t know enough to know if you should also call OSHA.

    Call animal control, for the bats. They will probably tell you to contact an exterminator but get an estimate of what it will cost to support the need to get that under control.

    Ask the guests to complain about the bathrooms. Your management should be concerned that they are complaining.

    Who manages the building’s general security? Document the fact that there are after-hours people in the building and that you feel unsafe. You can also point out that people in the building after-house have access to company assets and information.

    At the very least, that will get management’s attention.

    Good luck!

    1. Pat*

      Caveat: everything I know is from HGTV, but I think that, at least in some municipalities, bats might need to be relocated and not exterminated. But regardless, something has to be done about the many issues in OP’s office area. And mold is not good for anyone to be around.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Correct. At best it’s going to give people a cough. At worst it’s lethal. There’s a lot of environments where mould can thrive (there’s one growing inside the destroyed Chernobyl reactor!) and some are very unfriendly to the human respiratory system.

      1. Bluebird*

        This is correct, several species of bats are endangered. The problem here is that the building is partially vacant and that’s a huge draw for bats – they don’t want to live where people are.

      2. Victoria Everglot*

        The exterminator would most likely be aware about the bat rules and would either handle relocation themselves or refer OP to someone who can.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

          They could also help batproof the building. Like if there is an opening in the HVAC system that they are getting in, they can put screens up to prevent it.

        2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I wouldn’t count on that. Plenty of exterminators will play fast and loose with what they will offer. Search for “bat relocation” instead and you should be able to find someone. (I’d do this before calling in an exterminator for the bugs – poisoning the bugs is likely to end up harming the bats as well, since they’re going to eat the bugs.)

    2. The answer is (probably) 42*

      Honestly I’d skip straight to the OSHA call or equivalent authority. LW1’s management has shown that they’re not receptive and have no plan to address these issues. Plus, you don’t need a unified group of coworkers (who may be reluctant to speak up out of fear of retaliation) to report an issue like this to the authorities.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        F****** THIS. Go to OSHA, go directly to OSHA, do not even mess with anything else.

        Bandaid solutions like removing the bats are NOT what is needed here. This whole situation is an unmitigated disaster and a global solution is called for. OSHA is the place to start.

        Good, LW1, and please be sure to update Alison on what happens. Personally, I will not be satisfied until I hear that building has been condemned and you and you coworkers are comfortably ensconced in a clean, safe, healthy workplace!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t think removing bats from their office suite alone will make a difference for more than a couple of weeks, given that they seem to infest the rest of the building.

    4. Miette*

      Yeah, the fact there was a MAN’S WALLET in the LADIES ROOM should be a giant red flag. I cannot believe how dismissive your management is being, OP. Document and report.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          At this point I would readily believe the LW’s boss is recruiting for Jigsaw or a similar horror film villian.

  3. soontoberetired*

    Letter one – aren’t some of those things a city inspector would be interested in? Both health and safety. I grew up in a bat filled area – worked in a place where bats would routinely swoop by while waiting we walked out the front door at closing. I remember a business being closed for a while because of a bat infestation. I thought it was the city that ordered it closed but I am old now, and was 18 then.

    1. Ashley*

      Depending on the size of the municipality this is where I would start. You have the added advantage of having someone from the public submitting the complaint if you are worried about retaliation for an OSHA complaint. (And by someone from the public can be someone you know who happened to visit the public bathrooms.)

    2. La Triviata*

      Because bats are actually fairly small, bites and scratches are easy to miss. There was a case a while back (in Florida, I think) where a young boy was scratched by a bat. He didn’t want the shots (what kid does?) so his father let it go and the child died in pain. Rabies is horrible and highly communicable, so be very careful.

      1. Dek*

        Ugh, I remember that. Utterly heartbreaking. And scary.

        I was literally an adult when I learned from a friggen tumblr post rabies is always fatal.* I think in cartoons/comedies it’s just always portrayed as “foamy-mouth funny acting.”

        *yes, like, maybe two people have survived it. barely. but not well.

    3. Ann*

      This building sounds squatter-level bad. I hope LW is in a functioning city that would put a vacate order on it once they get a complaint. Bet there are also fire hazards everywhere, and possibly structural issues from the flooding.
      I wonder what the building used to be. Sounds like it was fancy once (couches in bathrooms? popcorn machines?) but that’s neither here nor there. It’s decaying and it’s not safe.
      It sounds like there’s budget to move to a different building, but management won’t do a thing until their hand is forced. Time to force their hand, then?

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Even a call to the local fire department would be a good start. They check for alarms, smoke detectors and accessible exits. They’re very diligent because they see first hand the results of neglect.

      2. Dek*

        I’m suddenly remembering finding some tupperware in a back room of one of our buildings. There was a window with a sheet tacked over it. Everyone thought someone else had put it up. Then we realized that…no, and also there was no window there anymore. Someone had just been squatting in one of the university buildings, probably for a *while* and got away with it because no one thought to check the sheet.

    4. Emelius*

      I would definitely make a report to the local code enforcement agency. your company should not be operating its business in that building at all. It sounds to me like that building should be condemned.

  4. desdemona*

    i’m not in film, but a similar freelance-based project-based industry, and my “normal job” resume lists my main role in this industry, somthing like this:
    “Industry Llama Wrangler (Freelance) start year – current”
    and then bullet points below trying to highlight skills / numbers as per Alison’s usual instructions for resumes!

    I did this because I can do 30+ projects in a year, and I wanted to summarize in a way that better shows the number of years I’ve been doing this as opposed to the most impressive or most recent projects.
    Then, I have other roles I do in this industry laid out similarly.

    1. Ganymede*

      As a former theatre producer and performer, I would instantly hire someone who had been in production or stage management. The skills are *insanely* transferable and anyone who has had a successful career in that sector usually has an excellent work ethic too. Same with techies – the flexibility, omnicompetence and stick-to-it-iveness they have is valued everywhere.

      If your cv highlights your skill set, including the managerial/admin/team building aspects, you should do OK! I wonder if some hirers might make negative assumptions about “show biz” people, but they’re probably not the ones you want to work for.

      1. Chelle*

        I studied stage management in college and worked as an SM for a year and a half afterwards before switching to corporate life (project management) and honestly, I think it prepared me significantly better than my peers who studied business! I started my corporate job with seven years of experience actually leading peer groups over whom I have limited formal authority, running efficient meetings, problem-solving under pressure, etc (counting school, because studying theatre is IMO much more like doing the thing for real than most fields).

      2. Big Time Functionality*

        So nice to read this (as a theatre producer looking for my next career step) and I very much agree.

        Recently I read about the interview question, “Can you describe a time when you were flexible in response to changing circumstances at work?”, and I can’t even think of a specific time when that happened, because it happens every week or more often. I am flexibility and practicality in human form. (But I do not know how to professionally say that without using hyperbole. Suggestions very welcome.)

        1. cabbagepants*

          If you have a friend or two with whom you ever share work anecdotes, ask them! They probably could recall many examples and since they’re not swimming in it like you are it will be easier for them to pick it out.

          It might also help to just think of a few projects in general and then try to remember the initial circumstances vs how things ended up. That way you’re not asking your brain to pick a specific example out of the background sea.

      3. My own boss*

        Seriously. I was in theater and adjacent work before my current career, and I tell everyone the theater background is the reason I’m so successful. People who have theater (especially backstage) experience are great problem solvers, are flexible and adaptable, and know how to pull a group together around a common goal. Plus, if they were in the field long enough they probably have some performance experience, which comes in handy in meetings and presentations. I will always hire theater folks!

      4. AnonyNurse*

        As a stage manager, if you are one second late, someone is talking in the dark. I credit having been an SM and a waitress to my success now as a nurse. Working in hospitals, bedside nursing is just like waiting tables. And now, in public health, juggling multiple projects with varying areas (the lab people need different communication styles than the health educators, for example) doesn’t seem like that big a thing.

        And while physicians can be challenging to work with, actors, directors, and designers are way more difficult to manage.

      5. Lore*

        Totally. I am sort of a specialist in the kinds of complicated, lots of moving parts projects that make a lot of my colleagues want to tear their hair out, and when anyone asks why I am so calm about them, my answer is always “The most complicated book has nothing on a 22-show theater festival.”

      6. summerofdiscontent*

        Total agreement! I had a whole career on and off stage before I transitioned to my current clinical role (and now consider my on/off stage stuff my professional hobby :)). I agree that these skills are wildly transferable. A successful SM, ASM, producer, designer, technician, PA, etc., can balance dozens of spinning plates at once, retain a cool head, carry info from Dept A to Dept B and make it make sense, etc. We tend to have excellent and flexible communication skills and are used to keeping a cool head in the face of deadlines. Stage managers and PAs are particularly well organized and used to handling a million details. I find my background (along with my years in food and beverage) have made me uniquely qualified to handle aspects of my job that my graduate degree didn’t quite cover. Best of luck, OP- I believe you’ll make it work wherever you end up!

        1. Ganymede*

          So nice to see all these responses to my post!

          I’m just going to add, that once I’d seen a few clips of his acting, and realised how big and how varied his producing cv was, I have been completely unsurprised by the achievements of that famous communicator, team leader, negotiator and logistics expert Volodymyr Zelenskyy…

    2. Itsa Me, Mario*

      This sometimes works for entertainment freelancers, and sometimes doesn’t. I think for someone who, for example, day-plays across a lot of different shows, or who mostly does commercials or branded content campaigns, this could work really well. But a lot of film/TV freelancers may work in a “freelance” capacity on one job, day in and day out, anywhere from 6 months to several years. That said, these are the jobs that tend to be the most “resume friendly”, so maybe if someone has dozens of little 3 day gigs, that’s a good solve.

    1. Goober*

      And do not delay. Rabies is *very* common in bats, and they do not get sick from it.

      But be prepared to be laid off when they health department condemns the building until the bats are taken care of. With a toilet that hasn’t worked for months, they will quite possibly involve the code enforcement people, who will also possibly condemn the building until *all* the code violations are fixed.

      But it really needs to be done. Rabies shots are very, very, very not fun (though better than not getting them).

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Also bat bites (depending on the bat) can look similar to insect bites. Rabies can also be passed through scratches. This may be less of a concern when you’re not sleeping where the bats are but it’s still of significant enough concern that the CDC says “Rabies postexposure prophylaxis should be considered when direct contact between a person and a bat might have occurred, and a bite or scratch cannot be confidently ruled out.” So if a bat has even flown near someone in your building they might possibly be exposed without realizing.

        The CDC specifically recommends contacting your local health department so bats that are found in doors can (hopefully) be captured and tested for rabies.

        1. Heart&Vine*

          Honestly, I would encourage everyone in that office to go get rabies shots and not go back until the situation is fixed. It doesn’t take a big, dramatic attack by a bat to be exposed to rabies, and by the time you become symptomatic… you’re already doomed. Rabies is probably one of the worst ways to die. You. Do. Not. Mess. With. Rabies!

          Please get out of that place and encourage everyone else to do the same!

      2. Anonys*

        I don‘t know if something similar applies to the health department, but at least when filing an OSHA complaint, OP would be protected:
        „It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker who complains to OSHA and uses their legal rights“ if the employer violates this, a whistleblower complaint can be filed with OSHA.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The comment “be prepared to be laid off” stands though, because a losing their building abruptly can mean the business closes.

          1. Mongrel*

            Also, just because retaliation is illegal it won’t stop an idiot boss from doing it.
            At times “It’s illegal” just means you have a good case to take to a lawyer after you’ve been fired

            1. Observer*

              Also, just because retaliation is illegal it won’t stop an idiot boss from doing it.

              True. And in a case like this, where at least one member of management has shown that he’s willing to ignore the law, what makes you think he’s going to be more respectful of the law in this case?

        2. Observer*

          „It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or otherwise retaliate against a worker who complains to OSHA and uses their legal rights“

          The problem is that if the building gets condemned, a layoff won’t be retaliation. It’s going to be a direct result of the fact that this company will almost certainly not have any sort of backup plan.

          In fact, I would not be surprised if the business closed up shop – the liabilities here are enormous, and it’s not going to be inexpensive to remediate the problems under the best of circumstances.

      3. Chestnut Mare*

        Eh, rabies vaccines today aren’t too bad. Four shots over two weeks; they felt like a tetanus shot.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          For you. They felt like a tetanus shot for you. For someone else, they could be significantly impactful, and regardless it’s good practice to either relocate the bats or the humans whenever there’s a cohabitation issue.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

            Also, we don’t know who might have other medical issues where the shots could be really hard on their immune system and cause other problems.

            1. Emikyu*

              This. I have a weakened immune system and do not want to have to find out what rabies shots would feel like for me.

              Also, just in general I prefer to work in places where I don’t need rabies shots. That seems like a pretty reasonable expectation for most office jobs.

          2. Dek*

            I think it’s just compared to years ago when it was, like, several large shots in the stomach?

            tbh, tetanus shot isn’t exactly a walk in the park either.

      4. Rob aka Mediancat*

        Very common being a relative term: less than 1% of bats carry rabies. The problem is, though, is that unlike a lot of other potentially rabid critters, it’s close to impossible to track down the specific bat that bit you, so all bat bites are presumed rabid to be on the safe side.

      5. Ann*

        LW says that the company is paying quite a bit for the space, and could afford to move to a better building on the same budget. If that’s accurate, operations might be disrupted for a while but it shouldn’t come to layoffs. At least, it shouldn’t if management actually needs and values LW’s department. Hard to tell if they’re valued when they’re allowed to work in awful conditions like that.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Best case would be that the code violations let the company break their lease and move immediately. It’s the landlord who needs to go out if business.

          1. Observer*

            It’s the landlord who needs to go out if business.

            *BOTH* need to go out of business. The business could have broken the lease a long time ago, because the basic terms of any lease is that you are providing a legally habitable space. This is not legally (or ethically) habitable. The problem was not the lease, but the fact that management does not think that this is a problem. We know that because Idiot Director has actually said so.

            We (employer) were in one of the areas where phone service was totally obliterated after Sandy. When Verizon finally started getting its act together, they came up with a pretty good plan, but they were being a bit obnoxious about what they wanted building owners to sign. Our landlord dug his heels in and said that he’s not going to sign or allow us (and the other tenants) to sign, and we were going to have to figure something out. That lasted about as long as took the lawyers from the City agency that was funding one of the other tenants to send him a letter. (Our Lawyer had said the same thing to us, but told us to let the City do the letter writing – It would cost us less and move a lot faster….) Basically, they told him that access to usable telephone service was a base line requirement for a building to be fit for use, and refusal to provide that would mean that he had effectively broken the leases of *all* of his tenants.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Great point. Landlords can’t offer properties “as seen” without meeting minimum standards.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          What the hell are they paying for? This place sounds like it’s run by Joker Enterprises and the boss thinks his employees need to “toughen up” so he deliberately rented the most horrific, unsafe space possible.

          How does he still have clients? If I walked into this space I’d turn around like Grandpa Simpson spotting Bart and flee.

      6. Pescadero*

        “Rabies is *very* common in bats”

        No, it is not.

        Bats are the most common source of rabies in the US (70% of cases), but rabies is still very uncommon in bats – less than 3% (and by most accounts less than 1%).

      7. JR 17*

        My son and husband needed rabies shots this summer. Their experience was that it was a standard shot. I thought it was a big needle in the stomach, so I was relieved! They didn’t get the antibodies, though (per standard WHO guidance, which differs from CDC – we were traveling at the time), so maybe that makes a difference? Just sharing in case it makes a difference for people who don’t necessarily need the shot but maybe better to be safe, which was our situation with my son. (My husband had known direct contact, my son was sleeping so probably not, but guidance is to get the vaccine if you wake up with a bat in the room and bat isn’t tested.)

        1. Trillian*

          For me the immunoglobulin was given as a divided dose intramuscularly into one deltoid and both quads, leaving one arm for the vaccine. (Making me resolve, once again, to work on keeping some bulk into the latter.) More volume than the standard flu shot, otherwise not horrible.

      8. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        Not sure why this is getting floated about but bats do indeed get sick from rabies — bats are a common reservoir for rabies, but most bats don’t have rabies. There no evidence to support they don’t succumb to illness themselves (although they can transmit before that.)

      9. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        My rabies shots (precautionary, not after-contact) were neither painful nor otherwise problematic, just time-consuming (it needs two or three shots with a few weeks waiting time in between).

    2. Pippa K*

      Yep, bats are great in the ecosystem, big fan, but indoors my first thought was ‘rabies exposure.’ Which is possibly also a phrase that would force your employer to act….

      1. CarlDean*

        89.4 percent of US rabies cases are linked to bats. Many of those people didn’t know they had been bitten until it was too late. Rabies is 100% fatal in humans once symptoms appear.

        THEY DO NOT PAY YOU ENOUGH TO WORK WITH BATS HANGING OUT ON THE CEILING BEHIND YOU. (I don’t know what you make, but there is not a number high enough.)

        1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

          There have great strides in vaccinating other common wildlife for rabies like raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and feral cats and wild dogs. But it’s much harder to implement these protection programs for bats.

          Curious on that statistic though. I found one article that says 70% (media release from CDC from 2022: “ Exposure to rabid bats is the leading cause of rabies in humans in the U.S., accounting for 70% of people who become infected”) and another journal article with this:

          “During 2021, 54 US jurisdictions reported 3,663 rabid animals, representing an 18.2% decrease from the 4,479 cases reported in 2020. Texas (n = 456 [12.4%]), Virginia (297 [8.1%]), Pennsylvania (287 [7.8%]), North Carolina (248 [6.8%]), New York (237 [6.5%]), California (220 [6.0%]), and New Jersey (201 [5.5%]) together accounted for > 50% of all animal rabies cases reported in 2021. Of the total reported rabid animals, 3,352 (91.5%) involved wildlife, with bats (n = 1,241 [33.9%]), raccoons (1,030 [28.1%]), skunks (691 [18.9%]), and foxes (314 [8.6%]) representing the primary hosts confirmed with rabies. Rabid cats (216 [5.9%]), cattle (40 [1.1%]), and dogs (36 [1.0%]) accounted for 94% of rabies cases involving domestic animals in 2021. Five human rabies deaths were reported in 2021.”

          Ma X, Bonaparte S, Corbett P, Orciari LA, Gigante CM, Kirby JD, Chipman RB, Fehlner-Gardiner C, Thang C, Cedillo VG, Aréchiga-Ceballos N, Rao A, Wallace RM. Rabies surveillance in the United States during 2021. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2023 Mar 8;261(7):1045-1053. doi: 10.2460/javma.23.02.0081. PMID: 36884381.

      2. Mister_L*

        Mister “military background” already didn’t care about anything else, his answer will probably be “get your rabies shots”.

          1. New Mom (of 1 1/9)*

            I think there was (reasonably) some doubt that the letter was, uh, reflective of reality as most people would define it.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          The director is talking through his hat. US military does care when there is bat exposure. That’s a clear, present danger.

          Source: Friends & family in US military including senior officers. And I reconfirmed with Google anyway… OP there are public documents òn armed forces websites like this from the Marines: “HUMAN RABIES RISK MITIGATION
          Date Signed: 10/13/2011 | MARADMINS Number: 607/11”

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I wonder if he is giving out the sort of vaccines and training that the military issue. Vaccines are expensive, and it doesn’t sound like moving buildings is expensive. I really doubt this guy is basing his decisions about the building on his military background; I get a very strong smell of bullshit here.

      3. Rebecca*

        Also: Guano. Where there are bats, there is a secret pile of bat guano which absolutely affects air quality and can cause lung infections.

        1. Jojo*

          I came here to mention that bat poop is also a health risk, but it looks like several people have already mentioned it. So instead, I’ll point out that this is how you get vampires…

          1. Pippa K*

            And insurance companies almost never cover preventative measures like garlic, wooden stakes, etc. (Can you use a health savings account for this? There’s a question for HR!)

  5. Spiders Everywhere*

    Holy shit, LW #1, if you’re reading this GET A RABIES VACCINE! Even if you never go back in that building again it would probably be a good idea, the vaccine can prevent the disease after exposure if it’s before symptoms show up. After symptoms appear, rabies is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT FATAL.

    1. virago*

      True true true!

      Friends of mine went camping at a state park that has little cabins.

      They awoke one morning to see a mother and baby bat hanging in the corner of the ceiling. YIKES.

      After booking it out of there, they called their primary care provider first thing Monday morning.

      Explaining that my friends could not be sure that they hadn’t been bitten, the PCP sent them directly to the ER to start on the series of rabies shots.

      You get four shots over a period of 2 weeks, and from what I heard, they will leave you feeling somewhat drained.

      And it goes without saying that your employer should a) pay any cost associated with getting the rabies vaccine and b) not mind the accompanying malaise. Because it’s better than, um, DEATH.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        That’s almost a mass worker’s comp claim in the making since the exposure to bats is a regular feature in that workplace

        1. I Have RBF*

          IMO their workman’s comp insurer needs to get an anonymous packet of photos of bats, mold, broken toilets, temperature readings at various times, etc. The same packet should go to their business insurance, if different, as well as OSHA and the city Health Department.

          Document, get your coworkers to document, and get an employment lawyer to help the lot of you navigate the shitstorm.

    2. virago*

      Edited to add after reading other comments:

      Just being in the same room as a bat doesn’t mean you’ve possibly been exposed to rabies. For example: *One* bat was caught in my old office. We all gathered around to look at it. We did not go get rabies shots.

      You’re considered at risk of exposure if you’re in a room with a bat and you’re asleep or incapacitated in some way (you’re drunk; you can’t talk; you’re a baby) OR if you’ve had prolonged exposure in a setting where bats are just hanging out (for example, OP 1’s office).

      1. RVA Cat*

        There’s squatters sleeping in the building and they definitely need to be vaccinated. Rabies is a vicious death I wouldn’t wish on a mass murderer, much less someone living on the street.

        1. RagingADHD*

          While true, I don’t think OP who has never actually seen the squatters is going to be able to do anything about that. Actually, I don’t know who could. They have certainly seen the bats. If they don’t choose to get vaccinated, it can’t be forced on them.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            OP should take care of herself and her colleagues first. After that, if she wants to, she could contact an organization that works with the homeless and let them know. They might be able to get in touch with the squatters and let them know about the need for a vaccine.

            1. Dek*

              This is a VERY good point and a good idea. Sure, no one can be forced to get a shots, but they should at least have the option, and be made aware of the risk.

              It may be difficult for someone without a permanent address to follow a schedule though, but hopefully an organization focused on helping unhoused folks would have something in place to deal with it.

    3. kiki*

      I’ve heard of some insurance companies being a pain about paying for rabies vaccines, especially if you’re not certain you were bitten/scratched/etc. If insurance doesn’t pay, make your organization pay for it– they are exposing you repeatedly.

      1. Elansha*

        FYI, paying out of pocket for the rabies vaccine can be VERY expensive (>$1000 I believe? at least where I am). That cost alone may convince your employer they should do something about the bat situation (i.e. it will be less expensive than paying for the entire office to receive a vaccine!)

  6. nnn*

    What strikes me about #2 is you have no idea what accommodations you might even need until you’ve finished receiving medical care!

    You don’t know what your diagnosis is, you don’t know how well they can fix/cure you, you don’t know what the aftercare instructions are going to be…there is literally no information whatsoever you can provide to help HR proactively assist with accommodations until you’re at the point where you can say “These are the accommodations I need.”

      1. Everything Bagel*

        Would you recommend the letter writer ignore this directive from HR? I’m wondering what are they going to do about it if they find out after the fact. I suppose I would just tell them I didn’t know if I’d need any accommodation (and confirm that I didn’t need one). Do you think this is a ploy to get information about employees’ use of insurance benefits? I can’t figure why they would need such advanced notice about the need for an accommodation.

        1. Emikyu*

          “Do you think this is a ploy to get information about employees’ use of insurance benefits?”

          That was my first thought upon seeing this. Not every visit to urgent care means the employee will need an accommodation – probably most visits, in fact, won’t require any accommodation beyond normal use of sick leave. Conversely, a lot of accommodation needs won’t involve an urgent care visit at all. I have a disability that requires accommodation, and I’ve never been to urgent care for it (it’s a chronic illness, so that wouldn’t even make sense).

          This smells like an attempt to get you to disclose information they do not need and don’t have any right to get, under the guise of “we’re just trying to help!” Personally, I would ignore it completely and never mention urgent care when calling out sick.

          1. Sara C*

            This! The reasons I have used urgent care are UTIs and asthma flare-ups. Neither of these are things my employer needs to know about or accomodate beyond potentially taking sick leave, which doesn’t require urgent care anyway.

        2. nnn*

          I think it would be fairly simple to ignore it while acting like you’re complying.

          If you go to urgent care outside of work hours, you can simply say that you didn’t need any accommodations so there was nothing to report.

          If you go during work hours, you can say you’ll let them know as soon as you know specifics.

      2. LW#2*

        I’m the letter writer for #2. I told my boss I was not coming into work that day because I was going to urgent care, with no other details, and my boss then told HR, because that is what HR told our managers to do. Then HR emailed me to ask if I needed any accommodations (which I found invasive).

        1. Observer*

          I’m the letter writer for #2. I told my boss I was not coming into work that day because I was going to urgent care,

          What would happen if you didn’t tell your boss that you’re going to urgent care? Just that you are going to be out sick.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Do they expect you to tell them you went after work, on a weekend, on a national holiday, while vacation?
          Are you supposed to tell them when you kids or spouse go? They are 100 using this to track medical costs.
          Because urgent care is an umbrella facility, far more than other doctors. Oh, you went to your PCP. No worries. Oh, heart doctor, orthopedic, oncologist. They can quantify that data.
          They can’t be sure why you went to urgent care so they they want you to tell them…”to help you.”
          I’m calling shenanigans.

      3. Chinookwind*

        I read it as a way too broad interpretation of notifying HR is you go to urgent care from work (i.e. you left the workplace and were to injured or sick to go home). For my workplace, where injuries can and do happen, HR/Safety wants to know if someone goes to urgent care so that we can a)freeze the scene of the incident that caused an injury/illness for further investigation, b)not have someone leave work prematurely without telling someone (the same reason everyone is supposed to sign out at the end of the day) and c)not have people pressured to not report that something happened.

        Go to urgent care on our own time – we don’t care (beyond caring about the general health of people you see regularly). Go during work hours/directly from work – someone in HR/Safety absolutely needs to know in order to ensure everyone else is safe. And if you are going for reasons that are 100% not work related, then telling that person that you know why and work doesn’t need to know/react would be enough in our workplace and your absence would just be noted (you k now, in case we later have to evacuate).

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That, and going to urgent care can be as straightforward as “I have strep throat and need to get antibiotics now, not at a regular appointment two weeks later”.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This! The last time I went was for a sinus infection. I just needed timely antibiotics, not accommodations.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Yes! Every time I’ve been to urgent care it was for something straightforward but time sensitive that couldn’t wait a few days to be seen by the regular doc. Strep throat, my kid’s pinkeye, that sort of thing.

      3. LIZZIE*

        Exactly. My last two urgent care visits were for bronchitis and to rule out COVID, etc., and for antibiotics after being bitten/scratched by a very unhappy kitty (who wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t take kindly to me poking her litter box to make sure she had pooped, as that was her issue.)
        In both cases the only “accommodation” I needed was WFH until my bronchitis was mostly gone. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

      4. Wilbur*

        US Healthcare:
        “You need to get a primary care doctor to get the best and cheapest care!”
        “I need to see my doctor for X health issue”
        “Hmm, your doctor is fully booked for the next 3 months, but you can see a nurse practitioner in 3 weeks.”

        I just wish we could stop pretending that urgent care and the ER are not part regular care by design.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          That’s right, and it was an adjustment when all my life I had been able to see my doctor whenever I needed to.
          Now I see her 1-2 times a year for tests and go to urgent care when I’m sick. That’s how they have it and I can’t change it.

        2. Broadway Duchess*

          OMG, yes! I’ve now started booking my annual exams in January for and October appointment. And even then, they sometimes get cancelled in August and the next available is February.

      5. Totally Minnie*

        This is what I was going to say. Most of my urgent care visits are for things like waking up on a Saturday with symptoms of an easily treated infection and not wanting to wait until Monday to call my regular doctor. I wouldn’t need any accommodations for that, not even sick leave, since it’s Saturday, and getting medication early would make me well enough to work by Monday.

      6. Miette*

        Which is why I’m side-eyeing it hard. Sounds like they’re trying to control expenses (by adding odious requirements) and want access to information they shouldn’t be getting.

        If your employer requires you to give them sensitive medical info as a requirement for a covered service, isn’t that a HIPAA violation, in spirit if not letter?

        1. Elsewise*

          In spirit, but not in letter because your employer isn’t your healthcare provider, and only healthcare providers are covered by that act. However, I believe that employers aren’t allowed to access private medical information (or require disclosure of medical diagnoses outside of certain circumstances) under the ADA.

      7. MigraineMonth*

        I went to urgent care to get a splinter removed from my finger. Didn’t require any sort of accommodation.

      8. Random Bystander*

        Yep–years ago, I went to urgent care for just that reason. My case was so obvious that they didn’t even run a test–doc listened to me describe how it felt, took one look at my throat and said, “You’ve got strep; here’s your script for a z-pack.” I don’t think I could have suffered through more time to get to the antibiotics.

      9. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, there is not a single thing I’ve ever gone to urgent care for that would require any kind of accommodations. It’s usually just like I want medicine asap rather than waiting for an appointment with my regular doctor. Or one time I went in to have them remove a cyst on my scalp that had been annoying me until I hit a point where I was just suddenly like “I want this freaking thing gone right now” lol.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The only time I notified a job I was going to Urgent Care it was because it was going to be a Worker’s Comp claim, and I also needed someone to drive me (I had tripped* and sprained an ankle) to the Urgent Care office.

      *I tripped over the contents of the office pack rat’s “collection of things that we might maybe one day need if a zombie apocalypse hit the office” because they knocked over a pile of things and it spilled into my path out in the hallway while I was helping to carry boxes to storage. The managers and HR aparently had a “clean all this up and get all of it out or we’ll throw it out tomorrow” chat with them about the state of their office. I was back two days later on crutches.

      1. Shiara*

        I was wondering if the policy was meant for “if you’re going to urgent care because of an injury at work” and has gotten misapplied/misinterpreted since.

        1. Dr. Vibrissas*

          When I read the title, that was my initial thought, too. I work in an environment with lots of hazards (knives! power tools! biohazards!) and any in the job injury or trip to urgent care requires documentation at the time, for safety and insurance reasons.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Yeah, our work has a policy that you can go to our onsite health, but if that’s closed you can go to either a specific urgent care (because they have an agreement that streamlines the paperwork for Worker’s Comp) or the ER if you’re injured on the job. It’s literally only to make paperwork easier, and it’s not a disaster if you end up somewhere else. I do wonder if current HR has misunderstood the policy and has made a sweeping generalization when it’s not warranted.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Yes, for example if it was originally “if you leave work to go to urgent care” and three important words were omitted.

        4. Broadway Duchess*

          This was my first thought, too. I used yo work in Occupational Health and a lot of places has this guideline, but it was for workplace illness or injury, not for the flu that you got from your preschool kid.

      2. Also-ADHD*

        That’s what I was wondering. I’ve worked in HR roles and we had a policy that if you went to Urgent Care for a workplace injury, you had to notify HR (or ideally work with us to get care, in some cases) but that’s for WC insurance purposes. It wouldn’t apply outside a workplace injury or areas of liability. I don’t understand why HR would even use UC for accommodations as many (I imagine most) UC visits are acute issue not requiring accommodations.

      3. doreen*

        I was wondering about that too – otherwise I can’t figure out why my employer would want to know I went to urgent care for a strep throat or a sprained ankle but not if I saw my PCP for the same reason.

          1. Not my coffee*

            I would offer (in the United States) the combination of health insurance coverage and physical proximity to a hospital that can treat what ails you as the reasons.

            1. doreen*

              I think the issue is why the employer wants to be notified about urgent care visits but apparently not ER visits . ( As for why to go to urgent care rather than a hospital, in my case, it’s the wait not insurance coverage or distance)

              1. Elsewise*

                They may also want to be notified about ER visits, but only mentioned urgent care because that’s where LW said they were going

              2. Chinookwind*

                My first thought is that is because, if you are going to the ER from work, odds are that some type of emergency personnel are already on scene and HR would have been notified by someone else. For us, if it requires an ER, then you call 911. If it just needs to be looked at, you call the WCB urgent care clinic so that they are ready to receive you when your co-worker takes you there).

          2. Totally Minnie*

            That’s a good point. I’ve been to urgent care many times over the years and not needed workplace accommodations afterward, but the one time I needed to go to the emergency room, I needed FMLA and adjustments to my work station after the fact.

      4. WillowSunstar*

        I can see notifying HR if it’s work-related, but for things that happen outside of working hours, you should be able to have some privacy about that.

    3. Hannah Lee*

      I wonder if someone misinterpreted “if something happens while you’re at work and you need to go to urgent care, you should notify HR so they can open a worker’s comp claim for treatment/reimbursement” and are just applying that urgent care = notify HR guidance broadly, and inappropriately.

    4. Little Sushi Roll*

      Similar topic, but not the same…but alarming enough.
      My new job requires me to choose my illness from the drop-down list as I’m (retroacvtively) applying for sick leave.
      Instantly that had my infuritated. Not in a HIPAA country, but still. HR doesn’t need to know.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh yeah, that’s annoying and unnecessary. I would probably choose “bad cold symptoms” every time regardless.

      2. Ann Onymous*

        This wouldn’t be a HIPAA issue anyway. HIPAA prevents your medical providers from disclosing your medical information without your permission. It doesn’t prevent anyone from asking you about your medical information or prevent your employer from requiring you to provide your medical information (although in some cases the ADA would prevent that). That doesn’t make this policy smart or reasonable, but it wouldn’t violate HIPAA.

        1. Little Sushi Roll*

          Thank you for that clarification!

          I choose “medical condition” every time, because that’s all a Dr would put on a general medical certificate (unless I were to request otherwise e.g. for a return to work injury mgmt plan). Other than “let’s give everyone free flu shots”, and HR having more data to report, I can’t see the validity of asking.

      3. Hannah Lee*


        Make them panic, running around disinfecting every surface or waiting in dread for it to strike them

    5. londonedit*

      Yeah, I’m not 100% clear on what level of care Urgent Care is, but I’m imagining it’s the equivalent of our Minor Injuries – you’re not a medical emergency (in which case you’d go to A&E) but it’s something that can’t wait for a GP appointment. Often there wouldn’t be any medical accommodations needed at all! My mum’s been to Minor Injuries for a wasp sting, for example, because she’s allergic and her hand swelled up and she needed to have her rings cut off and get some decent antihistamines. Not much a workplace could do about that! Either you’d be fine to go back to work, or if you needed to stay off work it’d just be normal sick time. Where I am employers aren’t as invested in their employees’ healthcare as in the US (because we don’t have health insurance tied to employment) but still, it seems bizarre that they’re not happy for people to just ask for accommodations as and when they need them, rather than assuming that every visit to an urgent care unit would automatically need some sort of accommodation afterwards.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That’s a pretty good description of Urgent Care – you need the Dr fast enough that you can’t wait on your Primary Care dr, but not such an emergency that you have to go to hospital. It’s like the in between level of medical care.

      2. Engineer*

        You’re pretty much correct about Urgent Care – it’s for stuff that can’t wait for an opening at your doctor’s office but isn’t so serious you need a hospital. There was a great series of billboards here that helped explained when to go to Urgent Care vs the ER – pictorials showing someone falling down a couple steps (Urgent) or a flight of stairs (ER), one bee sting vs a swarm, slicing a finger vs removing a finger, etc.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, sounds similar! In my mum’s example, she needed treatment because her hand was swelling and her rings needed to be cut off by a professional, so that was a job for Minor Injuries. If she’d been at risk of going into anaphylactic shock, or she was unable to breathe, etc, then it would have been A&E instead. A&E is meant to be for emergencies where there’s a threat to life or limb, really. A lot of people don’t realise, but the NHS even recommends Minor Injuries for simple broken bones – the sort of thing that’s just an X-ray to confirm the break and then setting in plaster.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Part of the problem with mixing up terms in the UK is that not all regions are equally served. Where I grew up there was no Minor Injuries Unit so any emergent condition meant going to A&E. Where I live now, A&E is a major drive but Minor Injuries is easy and local, so people expect to go to the little hospital unless their limbs are obviously half-amputated.

      3. tamarack etc.*

        Yes, exactly. It’s either “can’t wait for a GP appointment” or literally minor injuries that don’t require the emergency room (think, small lacerations that may need a staple or a few stitches; abscess; nail infection; insect bite or similar) or at least something that may or may not be more serious but can likely be handled outside ER, like allergic reactions, pain etc.

    6. hbc*

      I think they want you to report any visit so they can follow up with you later and close the loop on accommodations. Basically, they don’t trust their workers to make the judgment call. Which is dumb, because these same workers are the ones judging whether or not to go to urgent care.

      My best guess is that it stems from a desire to dodge liability if someone comes in with an unreported injury, makes it worse on the job, and then tries to claim all of it is the company’s fault.

      1. Observer*

        I think they want you to report any visit so they can follow up with you later and close the loop on accommodations.

        That’s baloney. Really. The vast majority of Urgent Care visits have absolutely NOTHING to do with anything that needs accommodations.

        If they are so convinced that they can’t trust staff to ask for accommodations, they should be looking at their hiring; make sure that they accommodations process makes sense and is reasonable to navigate; make sure that people don’t get penalized for asking for accommodations; make sure information about what requires accommodations and how to request them is easily available to everyone; and train managers to spot situations where accommodations make sense and to act on that. They are not doing that. Instead, they are asking for information that is none of their business, and not actually likely to be related to accommodations.

        1. Emikyu*

          And yet they expect you to trust HR to know better than you what you need. Lovely.

          I’m sorry you work for an employer that isn’t willing to treat you like a competent adult. That’s absurd.

        2. Observer*

          There is very little trust of employees in my experience.

          I can imagine!

          But I still suspect that it’s not about not trusting people to know if they accommodations. Although I could see how it might play into trying to avoid liability for accommodations. Because it’s a LOT easier to play this charade than actually do something to make sure that people can and do access reasonable accommodations.

    7. kristinyc*

      I wonder if they’re actually just trying to see how many people are using urgent care vs having a primary care physician for insurance cost purposes. But yeah, it’s weird – I’ve had times where I’ve gone to urgent care in a hurry because it was the closest and open/didn’t need an appointment (for things like UTIs, child having a 105 fever, neck pain, etc…). Some of those things I don’t really want to discuss with HR because it’s none of their business.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I don’t have a primary care physician. The one I had retired a decade ago. I haven’t found one that I can stand. Any issues I have I go to urgent care.

        Yes, eventually I need a primary care doctor, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth to hunt for ones who aren’t patronizing, sexist, ignorant, and/or arseholes.

    8. Just another Reader*

      Like many on this thread, I suspect this requirement may be for ER/Urgent care for a workplace injury and the wording from the employer is not clear.

      At a previous employer who was in an impoverished area of the US, they required an EHS person to go along with any employee that went to ER/Urgent care for any workplace injury. In that region of the US, it was common for a doctor to prescribe over the counter medication so it would be paid for by governmental assistance. However, I was told by that employer if a doctor prescribes any medication, even aspirin, for a workplace injury, that injury becomes an OSHA recordable. I knew most of the EHS people, and they told me they were there not to change anything on medical plans or even pry for information, but to inform the employee that the company will pay for copays and all over the counter medications to help avoid a prescription triggering an OSHA recordable.

      This may give people an idea as to why LW’s employer might be taking this approach and not explaining it that well.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My US company stresses that for non-emergency situations, they want you to contact them about any on-the-job injury. They have their own network of doctors/occupational therapists they want you to use for workers-comp (which isn’t the same network as their health insurance).

        Of course, if they later deny the claim, you’re on the hook to pay for the treatment as out-of-network for your insurance. The real kicker? They denied my claim because the doctor they sent me to gave an insufficiently specific diagnosis. *still angry*

    9. Observer*

      What strikes me about #2 is you have no idea what accommodations you might even need until you’ve finished receiving medical care!

      Yup. Which is why I don’t believe that HR is actually looking to be “proactively helpful.” They are making up an excuse to poke their noses where it doesn’t belong.

      OP, be *verrrry* careful around your HR. They are dishonest and apparently are either ignorant or careless of the law.

    10. Kyrielle*

      Yeah…things we have gone to urgent care for in the past include badly infected toenails (on a weekend), sinus infections, covid testing (result was negative!), injuries severe enough to call for a doctor’s office but not a hospital on days when the doctor wasn’t open, etc. I don’t think we’ve had more than one urgent care visit that resulted in anything that would require accommodations after the fact. Heck, we’ve had ER visits that wouldn’t have. (When I get GI viruses, I often end up dehydrated, despite my best efforts. I need IV fluids in the moment, but a GI virus is “off work until better” and I don’t need accommodations after!)

    11. ferrina*

      Could I get an accommodation to not provide notification of my urgent care visits?

      I have ADHD, and the added burden of any undue paperwork is deeply taxing. I don’t have the spoons for these shenanigans.

    12. Jaydee*

      And you might not need *any* accommodations except a couple of days off for sick leave? The last time I went to urgent care was for a sinus infection. I took my kid to urgent care for a strep test earlier this year.

      Is this employer assuming that trips to urgent care are for possible workplace injuries and worried about possible worker’s compensation claims?

    13. HalloQueen*

      Here in local government (Florida, of all places!) we’re still supposed to call HR when we’re calling out sick, including if/when we’ve been cleared by a doc to return to work after a respiratory issue, because they had so many people coming in with Covid, not saying anything to anyone (“oh, it’s just allergies!”), and then also not masking – and we’re so leanly staffed, one person with Covid can take out an entire County department for half the month in just a few days (basically when the policy went in place – 10 of 12 people in that department were out for 2 weeks. Freaking nightmare.). So that was my first thought, and the “accommodations” is just for show.

  7. Delphine*

    #3: You can have a zero inbox system where every email gets filed away into a folder once it’s “complete.” Then your main inbox only contains emails that are in progress/waiting for a response/etc.

    Alternatively, if you (like me) have trouble keeping your inbox at zero, you can leave emails that are waiting for a follow-up “unread,” even after you’ve responded to them. The “unread” reminds me that the email thread is not complete and that I’m waiting for something.

    You can also schedule reminders related to emails. Respond to the email and then set a reminder in your calendar to check with coworker X about task Y.

    I like these methods because I would always forget to regularly check a separate “waiting for” folder. Out of sight out of mind!

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I use tasks for this – most email programs nowadays have them, and you can directly create a task out of the email so that the two are linked. I use outlook, and it’s about 2-6 clicks to do it, depending on if and what date you want to set. There a various ways to set them and visualize the list, depending on preferences. It’s well worth to take the time to find and set up something that works for you.

      1. ThreeSeagrass*

        Was coming here to suggest Tasks if you use a program like Outlook. If emails need follow up, I drag them over to tasks, then set an appropriate due date (like a week out). Then I can just to to my task list for that day, and see what needs follow up that day.
        (The key is not to delete the emails, though. Put them in a folder so you can go back and reply to them if needed)

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I also use Outlook Tasks, but I would note that the current newest version is *terrible*. If you use Tasks extensively and are tempted by the toggle to switch to New Outlook, I would advise resisting.

      3. Salsa Your Face*

        To add to this, if remembering to get the email out of your sent folder is a barrier for you, you can CC or BCC your own email address so the email shows back up in your inbox. Then use that email to create the task.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yep, tasks has been a HUGE help for me and my ADHD to remember to follow up on things. You can even tell it to remind you about a specific email, so maybe you could set it to remind you if you haven’t heard back from someone like a week before you need the information or whatever so you can remember to follow up.

    2. Storm in a teacup*

      Agree re scheduling reminders to emails – super useful to do.
      I have Outlook and have set up colour coded tags so I have a reminder to chase for follow up tag. Easily seen in my inbox and I can check it regularly.
      Once resolved the email is deleted /filed

    3. Catwhisperer*

      +1 to marking emails that need additional follow-up as unread! That’s what I do, and I’ve set up my inbox so my unread emails are always on top so I can quickly see what needs to be responded to.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Came to suggest scheduling a reminder to follow up — inbox 0 and marking emails as read until I get a response don’t work for me, but scheduling reminders does!

      1. Sloanicota*

        I spend too much time dealing with low-value emails when I try to do inbox zero. I’m cc-d on so many things without my input being required, and I get a lot of listserv / contractor stuff that’s maybe-potentially-interesting-someday/maybe-not. Reading these emails enough to file them appropriately is more attention than they warrant TBH.

        1. Emikyu*

          Are you able to set up a filter to automatically send those to a specific folder? That may not work if, for example, some items from that sender need your attention and others don’t, but for things like listserv emails I find filters extremely useful. I have them skip the inbox (but not get marked as read) and go to a folder that I can peruse at my leisure, while the more important stuff actually goes to the inbox and can be dealt with appropriately.

          This also means that my inbox is not nearly as overwhelming if I’m out sick for a day or something, since the less important/urgent items tend to bypass it completely.

      2. StressedButOkay*

        I used to rely heavily on Outlook flag reminders but the new Outlook has killed the ability to set personalized dates for those. :( I’m now floundering and trying to figure out new ways to organize my inbox because using that seems impossible now. The ‘waiting on folder’ seems to be a good way to stop me from losing my mind…

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I mentioned this above, but honestly switching back to “old” Outlook appears to be the best and only workaround.

          Such an important functionality, and they just ditched it.

        2. OutlookFollowUp*

          That’s strange. I have outlook 365 and I’m able to change the date for follow-ups. I was going to recommend it. I wonder if it’s the version you’re using?

    5. lunchtime caller*

      Even better than a reminder—a lot of email programs (both gmail and outlook) have a “snooze” feature that buries the email out of your main inbox and brings it back whenever you set it for. I use it for anything I need to nudge on, or remember when I’m back from vacation, etc.

    6. Ally McBeal*

      I’m an inbox-zero person and the “everything in my inbox (and not in a folder) is pending in some way” rule is how I’ve kept organized on email for at least a decade if not longer. It’s not 100% foolproof and everyone’s brain works differently but it’s the best solution I’ve tried. I also sometimes supplement this with a post-it or other written list. I would never trust myself with a “pending items” subfolder unless I marked everything in there as unread, and even then I’d probably forget about it occasionally (the coordinator at my volunteer gig told me yesterday she would send me an email about something, and it occurred to me that I haven’t checked my *personal* email in at least two weeks… oops).

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

        This is what I do. And if it’s an email that I’ve sent and I need a reply, that goes in my inbox. Nothing is kept in my sent folder- I always sort everything to either my inbox because it’s pending or to their own folders (customers, vendors, etc). I now have my own personal email address and two shared inboxes and keeping everything at 0 is helpful for me.

        The primary users of one of my shared boxes is a keep everything in the inbox but read kind of person and it sort of bugs me, but we deal. Come to think of it, I don’t think she puts her sent via the shared inbox emails into the inbox (because they default to the personal sent folder, regardless of which account they’re sent from). However, I rarely need to see her sent emails, so I guess it works?

    7. Mim*

      Yes yes, another person who literally puts follow-up reminders into my Outlook calendar! No idea about the OP or anyone else here, but I have ADHD, and one of the common ADHD superpowers is poor object permanence. Out of sight, out of mind. I love using folders in Outlook, but for me those are for storing emails that contain information I will have a reason to go refer to in the future, not for things that are a to-do list item in and of themselves.

      Related to the object permanence thing, I use a *physical notebook* with a hand written, running to-do list. I’m not going to lose it amongst the nearly infinite digital clutter, I’m not going to be tempted to create a new one and then inevitably lose track of which is the current list, and at least for my work setup and habits I will be able to have it with me to add to even if/when I wouldn’t be able to conveniently update a digital list. It’s this actual object in the world that sits next to me every day, all day. I can start my day by looking through the things that haven’t been crossed off, and figuring out what I need to do that day. (An erasable way to mark those items can be key, too — pencil, erasable pen, erasable highlighter, etc.) If there is a “bug someone until they do the thing” task, I can just see every day that it’s not crossed off, and if I’ve made a note of the last time I bugged them about the thing, I can decide if it’s too early or just the right time to bug them again today.

      I know the physical handwritten list doesn’t work for everyone. Honestly, I avoided it in my current position for a while, because my job is so varied and complex at times that I didn’t think a single list would work. But at least for me, it turns out that a single brain-dump, everything-lives-here list is what I need. I can break up my tasks and organize info in other places. (Such as the afore-mentioned way I use my Outlook email folders — project/category-specific info receptacles and archives, not to-dos.) But the One List thing means that I always know where to put things as I think of them, and don’t have to worry about whether there’s a place I’m forgetting to check to remind myself of the to-dos. They’re just next to me at all times.

      1. I Have RBF*

        one of the common ADHD superpowers is poor object permanence. Out of sight, out of mind.

        Yep. This has been my most troubling issue. I have labeled storage, and most of my storage bins are translucent. My house is cluttered, because if I put stuff “away” I can’t see it, and can’t find it when looking for it unless I have a labeled place for it.

        To do lists: When I worked in cube land I had a whiteboard with a basic Kanban grid. I used either post-it’s or markers to track and move along my status on things. At a prior workplace where I was working on multiple billable projects, I had “ToDo” list pads made, with checkboxes, space for project number, and task description.

        Currently I use a text file, by week, to track what I’m doing/have done.

    8. Turquoisecow*

      That’s similar to how I do it, if I need to follow up on an email. I mark it unread or flag it. For awhile I was using different colored flags for different tasks – llama pricing had a blue flag, llama grooming had a blue tag, llama housing had a green flag, and then I would put them into folders corresponding to those colors, but only move them once they were “completed,” so the only things in the Inbox were things that needed follow up. You can also trying setting a reminder on emails that will pop up in a few days/hours/whatever to remind you to follow up.

      For me, the easiest thing is always to leave it unread, because that would constantly draw my eye to it. I hate unread emails, text messages, etc, the little number icon is always nagging me to do something with the items there, so it was pretty much guaranteed I wasn’t going to forget to follow up.

      (If you’re a person who has 1,580 unread emails at any time and that little number telling you that doesn’t bother you, that method might not work.)

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

        My former boss had an unread email count of over 15k one time and I about *lost my mind*. She also had folders and moved stuff to them- she was just horrible about clearing out junk email and/or stuff she didn’t need. I had to cover her while she was on vacation and fortunately, her inbox of infinity wasn’t an issue, but boy, it was insane to me.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I set “custom follow-up” (that little red flag thing) on my Outlook emails that I want to follow up on at a later date. You can set a date and it’ll pop up a reminder on the date that you set it to. I usually do it for corporate required training classes that are due (two months from now), but just checked and you can set these reminders on your sent emails also. (Or BCC yourself and set a reminder on it when it comes to your inbox.)

    10. ErinWV*

      I don’t like the feeling of unread emails in my inbox, so I use color-coded categorization (a useful feature in Outlook, but YMMV with other email systems. When I’m waiting on a response or a situation is unresolved, it’s one color; if there is no further action required, it’s a different color and also sorted further down the inbox.

      For emails that I send to someone and need to remember to follow up, I tend to BCC myself so my request is in my inbox.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I will use the little flag thing to highlight stuff that I need to handle still. I also note who sent what when in my work log (text file that I use to track what I did that week.)

    11. RagingADHD*

      I am simultaneously supposed to respond quickly to any new ping, and also cc’ed on a lot of stuff that doesn’t require a response from me. So I triage anything that requires me to do more than just say “yes” or “no” into an Action folder. Then I have a “waiting/follow up” folder, then project folders, and reference folders by topic.

      The search in Outlook is good, but it doesn’t help if I can’t remember the exact name or spelling of the person or thing I need. Having things divided by topic helps because if I’m looking for something I will have a reason, therefore I know the topic.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I find I am not good at checking folders or other task lists and prefer to us my Inbox as my to-do list. Outlook also has a feature where you can set up categories and color-code them. For me yellow = needs research; red = with Boss; blue = awaiting reply
        I sort by color category every morning which gives me an at-a-glance of where my pending work is and makes it super easy to prioritize my next steps.

        1. Afterschool Allstar*

          I use Boomerang, it is an a Google add-on that you can use to resend yourself the email in whatever period of time you need. Need to follow up in two weeks? Have it resent to you then. It also hs nudges, so if you send an email after a few days, it will ask you if you need to follow up. I love it.

  8. Parker Posey's Poker Face*

    #1 If LW is in the United States, the CDC says you should contact your local health department about the bats immediately! They need to trap the bats and test them for rabies. Histoplasmosis from their droppings is also a concern. This is likely an OSHA violation too.

    1. Properlike*


      Bat exposure is serious. You don’t always know if you’re bitten. Doctors and wildlife professionals FREAK OUT when good Samaritan’s get around potentially rabid creatures, thinking they’re helping a sick animal. I think any call to an exterminator will be met with a string of curse words and a “why are you in there?”


      You are in very real, physical danger.

      1. Properlike*

        Speaking of direct experience with friend in contact with bat who didn’t know whether or not they were bitten. Animal control came out on a weekend night and trapped the bat. It was rabid. Health department DID NOT PLAY AROUND. They kept calling my friend until they went and got the shots. Because rabies is a horrible way to die.

      2. Shiara*

        The “not sure if you’ve been bitten” is primarily a concern if you’re asleep and find out a bat was in the room. In an office, that’s likely not as much of a concern, though you do want to give the bats wide berth.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

          Rabies can be transmitted by scratching and the saliva. Being that a bat was found in the popcorn machine, it could very well be that people ate popcorn with bat spit on it.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. I follow a lot of bat rescues and I think bats are stinkin’ adorable and would love to smooch their nergins, and I would still not handle a bat in distress without protective gear (and would preferably leave it up to the experts if they could be summoned). The rescues have cautionary language on every post reminding people that they’re trained and vaccinated and to never handle bats without gloves and protective gear, or preferably not at all.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      There are also almost certainly rats and mice, so the LW and everyone else may be exposed to hantavirus as well. This letter appalled me.

    3. Mockingbird*

      My dad is a veterinary epidemiologist and let me eat raw cookie dough and do things like hand rear wild rodents. He drilled into me from childhood to never go near an injured bat and as an adult to call animal control if there’s one in your house. That entire building is a massive health hazard and you need to be calling county, city, and state authorities about it. Also, please find a new job immediately. Any boss that would expect you to work in such a building is mistreating you in many other ways.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Also, if you see a bat active in broad daylight (not twilight) something is very wrong. I saw one once at a local botanical garden flying around at 2 pm and told staff immediately. (It probably helped that I’m a birdwatcher and had my binos so they were less likely to dismiss me as being confused by a swift or something).

        1. AngryOctopus*

          It’s not as much of a concern with the bat being inside, as they can be disturbed by noise/vibrations of people around them, causing them to be active when they aren’t normally. However, this does raise the chance of incidental contact, so you still want to get out of there ASAP and get a relocation specialist in.

          1. RagingADHD*

            It’s the darting movement and the bend in the wings. Someone who is familiar with either swifts or bats is unlikely to confuse them, but someone who is only vaguely aware could easily get confused.

      2. Observer*

        Any boss that would expect you to work in such a building is mistreating you in many other ways.


        Very often people write in with a “small” problem, and they are surprised how many people point out that that “small” problem is probably a sign of bigger issues. And then it turns out that, yes, it’s a sign on bigger issues.

        In this case it’s not a small problem at all, but I still suspect that it’s the visible part of the iceberg of dysfunction in that office. Because there are multiple *serious* safety (and legal) issues in this building that upper management has to know about; the director doesn’t care about this because it’s better than being deployed; and the OP is so used to this utter disregard for safety and sense that the only thing they note about the director is that he doesn’t get the hit to morale.

        OP, get out! Find a new job if you can. But start saving till you have a few months worth of savings, so you can walk even if you don’t find a job so fast. Because this building is a metaphor for the rest of the problems with your employer and it’s already warping your sense of what’s normal in a workplace. And in the meantime, please try to immerse yourself into exposing yourself to information about what decent management looks like and what a reasonable workplace should look like.

    4. Darkwing Duck*

      Thanks for mentioning the Histoplasmosis. For those that aren’t aware, it’s a fungal disease that can cause issues up to and including long term breathing issues, or if you’re one of the rare lucky ones like my mother, blindness. The fungus drops in and your body attacks it to fight it off, but in doing so it leaves scar tissue. If it’s in your lungs, breathing will get worse but it usually recovers. If it makes it up to your eyes, it scabs over your retina in your eye. She’s been part of experimental treatments for 30 years to stop the advance in her left eye after she lost vision in her right to it. As she’s getting older, she’s not winning the war like she used to.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I’m so sorry to hear that. My grandmother spent nearly a year in a sanitarium when she was in her 20s for histoplasmosis, likely from chickens.

  9. Chelle*

    LW #3, I have set up an Outlook rule for this purpose that automatically flags messages sent by me where I’m CCed; then I can reassign the flag to whatever due date is reasonable and it’s on my to-do list to follow up. I’ve seen people do something similar with a specific signature that includes “[followup]” in white text, etc — but cc’ing yourself is benign enough for me.

    1. JR 17*

      Similarly, Gmail’s snooze feature is good for this issue. (My email is at my work’s domain, but it’s through gmail.) If I snooze an email, it will show up at the top of my inbox on the date I select, or the snooze will be cleared out if the person replies in the meantime.

    2. Staja*

      My team of 5 works out of a shared email box, and every email we receive is tagged. If we’re sending out emails, we generally CC or BCC the shared email address and either file the copy for audit purposes or keep in the inbox to follow up. I’m then able to keep the box sorted by my name (or a different tag, if I am working on something specific) and can see the stuff that needs actioning/waiting for reply.

  10. Andrea*

    #3, for the email, try using Streak! It’s a chrome extension that turns your Gmail into a spreadsheet, and you can tell if someone has opened your email, set reminders to follow up, even create whole workflows. I’m a project manager and I think more people should use it. (I think it’s mostly used by salespeople but it has a ton of free features I think are useful for everyday stuff.)

    1. 2 Cents*

      UGGGHHHHH my org is chained to Outlook — I’d give anything to go to Gmail! My last company had it and it’s been so annoying to step back in time to the worst email system ever LOL

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        My company went to Outlook from Gmail after a merger, and it suuuuuucks. Nobody can find anything anymore! Even the lower execs (think senior VP level, not C-suite) are complaining!

  11. TechieBoss*

    LW1 – It sounds to me like your company has shown you who they are and what they stand for. You should believe them and get out as quickly as possible. I can’t fathom a job where those physical conditions and the manager’s response of “I’ve seen worse when I was deployed” don’t override any other consideration. If I were interviewing, those two data points along would send me running for the hills.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I’m IN the military, with two combat deployments; my husband is in also and has six combat deployments plus also spent about 2 cumulative years over his career sleeping on the ground. No problem. Embrace the suck.

      But why the heck would we want to recreate those conditions in our daily normal lives, on purpose, if we had a choice, and then inflict those conditions on others?

      Also, we never had bats while we were deployed so this is a new one. And if we had, the veterinarians would have been sent out there immediately to relocate them and gives us all rabies shots. I’m seconding the advice to get rabies shots (sorry! But if you’ve been bitten you likely won’t know, and if you wait till you know there’s a problem you’re literally good as dead already) and refuse as a group to go back in to the office till the bats are relocated.

      1. Never Having Popcorn Again*

        Yeah, on top of everything else, manager is giving me the vibe of a guy who washed out of basic in week 1 and spent the next 20 years building a fake “I was a Navy SEAL, chicks dig me” life bc I’ve known a lot of military people and they feel like you do.

    2. LW #1*

      Yeah, getting out is kind of non-negotiable at this point. The building conditions are really just the tip of the iceberg, although it’s an issue that makes me feel crazy because I seem to be the only one who hates this building this much. I’m within a few months of PSLF loan forgiveness, though, so it’s worth it to me to stick it out just a tiny bit longer.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        You are not crazy, you are in a crazy situation and being asked to pretend it’s normal because you aren’t being shot at by terrorists.

        If there is any way, any way, you can walk out sooner, please do it. I am crawling with anxiety just reading your letter and cannot imagine trying to function as a working adult in that space, with leadership that is so openly contemptuous of my health and life.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        Maybe call OSHA and the health department and they’ll shut the place down, solving the problem for everyone.

    3. MigraineMonth*


      But seriously, it’s worth trying to push back as a group, then the Health Department and OSHA. This is completely unreasonable!

  12. HSR*

    LW1 – go direct to your Occupational Health and Safety watchdog without delay. All of what you have described would be cause for intervention by an enforcement authority. If I was the health and safety rep at your workplace I would have closed the place down by now.

    I am in Australia where we don’t have rabies but my first thought was that you should go get a rabies vaccination if you are in a place where rabies is endemic. Rabies is fatal, and it’s a terrible way to go.

      1. Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton*

        The UK has bats with lyssa viruses too and the numbers seem to have increased slightly over the past few years. Very sadly, there was a death from lyssa virus following a bat bite in 2002. Anyone who regularly comes into contact with bats is entitled to a free rabies vaccine via their GP.

        Brits should be aware of advice not to handle bats unless you know what you’re doing and are wearing thick gloves too!

    1. Dog momma*

      Rabies is endemic in North America but the only people routinely vaccinated are veterinarians & …maybe folks that work with wildlife or exotics. Not sure. To clarify, if you’ve had an exposure its not A rabies vaccine, but A SERIES of rabies vaccines..?6, 8?
      Also, keep your pets vaccination up to date. Titers are no good to show the health department with an exposure, & they may need a booster. You can get 3 yr, preservative free rabies shots for your dog & still be in compliance with state law, but you have to ask for it.
      We have active rabies in the town & county where I live , and multiple exposures this year in GA/ SC.. more than usual. The culprit is the same & very common.. raccoon. Our hometown up north had the same issue, it cycled through , then seemed to burn itself out. But here in the South, it seems more consistent, & seems to have increased this year.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        The Capitol Hill fox from last year was rabid–they had to get everyone it attacked a rabies vaccine, and they also had to hunt down and euthanize the kits, who were also rabid. Routine vaccinations are indeed for vets and those whose jobs (exterminator, bat researcher, wildlife relocation) require animal contact.
        Fun fact: opossums cannot carry or spread rabies, so if one is out during the day, it’s not rabid!

      2. Engineer*

        Yes, it is a series of shots – 4 shots over 2 weeks. It *used* to be 18 shots over 3 weeks applied to the abdomen just a few short years ago, but thankfully the vaccine had a breakthrough.

      3. La Triviata*

        There was a rabid racoon in a suburban neighborhood outside Detroit a while ago. The people living there were worried (with good reason) since not only was the animal running around loose, but it was near a school. The video – taken from a local TV station – was horrifying. They couldn’t get animal control or anyone else to help, so they got it into a dog cage; a commercial pest control worker took one look and confirmed that it was rabid. It was terrifying. Animals die in extreme pain. The rabies vaccine is unpleasant and expensive; the shots after being exposed are very painful, so protect yourself.

      4. Nightengale*

        I have a friend who volunteers at a wildlife center who got rabies vaccinated before she could work with some of the animals. So – some people who work with some wild animals.

  13. Goldie*

    #4 you might want to verify your workplace policies on benefits if you quit after maternity leave. You you carry them you might have to pay the company back for your time on leave if you don’t come back.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      My thought as well. My previous employer had a 100% paid parental leave plan with both recovery & bonding leave time. But the requirement was to come back for a whole year afterwards to prevent payback. Now, LW4 could just move all that money to a savings account and then be ready to write a check when giving notice. But that is a lot of additional back-and-forth communication with toxic job.

      Good luck on this decision!!

    2. 2 Cents*

      If this isn’t the case, OP#4, I’d strongly suggest you take their benefits, then just have the convo when it’s time to come back that, nope, you’re not coming back. You earned those benefits by working there.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        Yeah, if there’s no clawback in place I can’t imagine not wringing every penny out of that place before I sailed off into the sunset. If it makes you feel better, OP, draft your resignation email now, and then when the day comes just hit send.

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      Came here to say this too – even if the mat leave isn’t employer-paid, if the employer is still paying for your health insurance + baby’s, they could have a policy in place where you owe them for that $$ during the months you were covered but not working, IF you leave before returning to work.

    4. Garblesnark*

      Also if you have employer-funded short term disability insurance, that often applies when folks have just given birth, and would pay you some money if you didn’t resign.

  14. Reminding reminder*

    LW3 here is how I handle this: I open my email request, click “create an appointment” and add it to my calendar with the specific follow up date for me and a reminder. This calendar appointment will appear in the calendar as a meeting but I make sure it shows my time as available.

    Also, if my work has a deadline but I need a response from a coworker before, then I’ll adjust the follow-up due date.

    For example: In order to provide the final report by 10/1, I need the info from a coworker and I need to compile the report. I sent a request to my coworker on Wed 9/20 at 4pm. I opened that email, created an appointment due Monday 9/25 at 9am. On Monday, I email the coworker a follow up.

    Hope this makes sense.

      1. OrdinaryJoe*

        Yep – same here! And I love the fact that it links to the original email so I don’t have to go hunting for it. I can adjust the ‘time’ by when I need the information.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I just drag emails into the calendar icon and it’ll pop up the appointment box, then change up the date. (I put them as “all day” so they sit in the box on top of my calendar.)

  15. Enough*

    #2 Having to tell HR that you went to urgent care makes no sense. Do they require you to inform them if all your Doctor appointments? The point of urgent care is for those times you can’t get to your regular doctor and going to the emergency room is over kill.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah I am very confused. They want to know so they can make accommodations? make them how? last time I went to one, I had fractured a bone in my hand a week earlier and needed an xray to tell me why the “hand sprain” wasn’t healing. What can the HR do for this?

      1. metadata minion*

        That one is actually one of the few situations I can think of where you might need an accomodation, but I’m imagining something like getting a wrist wrest or swapping out your keyboard or something like that where you shouldn’t even need to go through HR.

  16. Decidedly Me*

    LW1 – I definitely agree with trying OSHA or a city inspector. I’m surprised that building is allowed to have tenants, honestly, and your director having to have dealt with worse in the military is a ridiculous reason to think this is ok for the rest of you (and himself!).

    I do want to add that there are a lot of mistaken comments about bats in the comments here, though. Rabies in bats is not common and they definitely can (but won’t always) appear sick. Rabies in humans in the US is also incredibly rare.

    This is not to say you should want or have to have them as office mates, though :)

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      What you are saying here is counter to CDC advice when seeing bats in your home or workplace. The mentions of rabies are not because it’s so common in either bats or humans, but because it’s nearly 100% fatal once symptoms appear, and because people can be bitten by bats in their space without realising.

    2. CarlDean*

      Essentially every case of rabies in the US in the last decade or so is linked to bats.

      So much that, if a child is found alone in a room with a bat, that is an indication that the child should be immediately treated for rabies. Don’t believe me – believe the CDC or your doctor!

      Do I think everyone in the office now has rabies? No.

      Do I think that everyone who drove drunk tonight crashed and killed an innocent family? No.

      But, some will. Risk management. Don’t take unnecessary risks!

      1. Shiara*

        Bat exposure for the purposes of rabies isn’t just “was in the same room as a bat.” You have to be incapacitated or impaired in some way such as being drunk, being asleep, or being too young to understand/communicate reliably, while the bat was in the room.

        So don’t take naps at work, and avoid the bats while awake.

        1. Dog momma*

          I know someone who was sitting out on his deck in the evening with family. Grilling outside. Bats were swooping at dusk looking for insects. One brushed up against his leg..he wasn’t sure if he was scratched or bitten bc it was a very small area. He went to the ER just to be safe..bc that’s where you get your 1st shot..and they immediately started rabies prophylaxis. You don’t mess around with this.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            But that’s actual contact. If you are not 100% sure that an animal who is a rabies vector hasn’t bitten you, it’s safest to get the shots. If I know a bat is hanging out in the ceiling corner of the building, but I also know it’s never come into contact with me, I’m more at risk of respiratory issues from the guano than rabies.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          It’s not always absolutely clear that you’ve been bitten; if you’re basically working in the same room as the critters, and actively being deluded about their dangerous potential, that risk of someone not knowing they were bitten is highly magnified.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          It’s more than that tho. If you’re awake and came into contact or near-contact (like if it swooped near you) you can’t know if it bit/scratched you or not. So “I know for sure I was 20 ft away from it the entire time” OK you probably don’t need a rabies shot. “It got close to me” = go get a rabies shot.

          1. Orv*

            You’re starting to make me nervous about walking outside at night. I see bats swooping through the trees all the time here.

    3. BubbleTea*

      Rabies isn’t common, but it’s extremely serious. Risk assessing means you factor both probability and severity into your calculation. In this case, the severity is so high, the probability is way higher than average (the vast majority of people are never in an enclosed space with a wild bat), and there’s no good reason NOT to act.

    4. Bluebird*

      Yeah generally if your county has bats the health board already knows if they’re rabid or not and if you call animal control or the health board about them you get informed right away if you’re at risk or not. So as long as you actually call and don’t just let the bats chill in your employees space forever like OP’s company, it’s usually fine.

      1. Dog momma*

        That’s incorrect. The ONLY way you know that any animal has rabies it to euthanize and send the head in to the state agency who will check the brain. Turnaround time is 48 hrs. The DOH gets back to you.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          This is true. There’s no blood test for rabies, no non lethal way of confirming that an animal has it. Brain examination is all we’ve got.

          (It’s not only a very lethal virus, it’s exceptionally good at hiding and going dormant too. People have developed rabies years after being bitten)

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Wow, I didn’t know it could take years. That combined with the popcorn machine bat definitely seems like maybe the entire office should get rabies shots ASAP…

        2. Dust Bunny*

          Seconding. I used to work for a veterinarian and, mercifully, sending animals heads off for rabies testing was rare because preparing them sucks. Vaccinate your pets, people–your vet does not want to have to behead them because you didn’t and they died of something that caused neurological symptoms.

          (Everything I remember us sending off turned out to be distemper, not rabies, which we kinda knew at the time, but legally we had to prove it.)

    5. Phryne*

      Yes, obviously you do not want bats in your space, but a bat quitly snoozing near the rafters is no more a health risk as one flying past you when outside and completely different from having one in a bedroom.
      Obviously you want to take swift action against bats in your office space but that all caps ‘EVERYBODY WILL DIE, FLEE’ comments up there are not helpful at all.

      1. bamcheeks*

        But this isn’t “bats roost in our building”, it’s bats seen in the office space itself and in spaces where food is prepared. That’s MUCH more like having one in the bedroom than ones in an uninhabited roof space.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Not really. Rabies isn’t transmitted by touch or droppings, so while “where food is prepared” may up the ick factor it doesn’t up the risk. (There are probably other diseases bats carry that could be more casually transmitted, but I don’t know for sure – COVID is thought to have originated with bats, after all.)

          1. bamcheeks*

            Right, it might not be a rabies risk but it’s an everything-else risk, same as mice or rats. You don’t want wild mammals chilling out in your living and food-preparing spaces even if they don’t have rabies!

            1. Phryne*

              No, no one is denying that I think, I am certainly not. The situation is appalling. But I’ve seen people yelling in caps at LW to not ever enter the building again or they will die. As it seems at this point, refusing to work in the building will probably make LW lose their job, I think being realistic about risks is better than starting freaking them out to the point where their life could be derailed by it.

              1. AngryOctopus*

                But also, report all this to OSHA. OSHA will not be impressed that LW is being asked to work in a space with an active rodent infestation that is not being treated in any way.

      2. Ganymede*

        I don’t know, I feel like OP has got bogged down in that state where the terrible has been normalised, so a few CAPS might help break the spell. As you say, the risk for rabies may not be high (nobody there has caught it yet) but if an ill-advised close encounter occurs that would be alert-worthy.

        There was a very animated thread on Twitter recently where a nice lady was showing sweet pictures of herself cuddling the darling little injured bat she’d rescued. She seemed quite taken aback at the ADVICE coming at her in the replies – not everyone knows the stakes.

        The health department will advise about the necessity of vaccination, I’m sure.

      3. Susan-shaped beehive*

        I think the issue has been minimized enough by OP’s boss. Some all caps “do not go back into that hazard-infested building” is warranted here.

        1. Phryne*

          No, not really. Refusing to enter the building would probably result in OP losing their job. Report to health authorities? Yes, right now. Start a new job search? Most definitely right now. But losing their job is a serious consequence and OP should take that step informed by reality and not blind panic.

    6. Beth*

      ” . . . he has a military background and has said in all-staff meetings a few times that our building conditions aren’t that bad compared to the spaces he worked in while he was deployed.”


      Is he prepared to up everyone’s salaries to the equivalent of hazard pay? Is your presence in this building remotely connected to national security? Is he a complete and total Class A banana dress uniform? No, no, yes.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        This is the thing. This is what it comes down to. OP’s office could move to a bright shiny new location, but the boss would still be a Class A banana dress uniform.

        Call OSHA, call the Health Department, shape up that resume and get out.

        1. Observer*

          This is the thing. This is what it comes down to. OP’s office could move to a bright shiny new location, but the boss would still be a Class A banana dress uniform

          Exactly. No matter what happens with the building, the director and upper management are terrible.

    7. Observer*

      Rabies in bats is not common and they definitely can (but won’t always) appear sick.

      It’s common enough that when your building is essentially infested – and some of the bats are acting oddly (hanging out in an occupied space) there is a lot to be worried about.

      Equally import is that it is totally irrelevant if bats CAN appear sick. Because they often do NOT, so just because these bats don’t look sick, you just can’t know.

      Rabies in humans in the US is also incredibly rare.

      In general? Sure. In people who have had a high exposure to bats? Absolutely not.

      And that’s aside from all of the other serious health risks involved.

  17. Free Meerkats*

    LW 2, is it an actual written policy or is it something that someone once thought was a ‘good idea’ and has become entrenched in the culture? I have a bit of trouble imagining a competent HR person putting that in a written policy; but from what I’ve seen here and Evil HR Lady, not that much trouble.

    LW 1, it would be a shame if the building just happened to catch fire, as poorly maintained it is with the obvious security problems. Just make sure you are all at a party together so everyone has a solid alibi.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Do they have a guy whose desk is in the basement and who keeps looking for his red stapler? He can take care of it.

  18. DataNerd1010*

    #3: if you’re using gmail, BCC yourself using a specific email alias created just for this. (If your email address is example@gmail.com you could use example+waiting@gmail.com. Pro tip: add this alias email to your address book so you just have to type in part of it or “waiting” or whatever you’ve named it.)

    Then create a filter where any emails that are BCCd to the alias email get automatically moved into your Waiting folder. I use the multiple inboxes set up for gmail so this is one of my inboxes on the right side of my main gmail screen.

    I calendar time each day to take a quick scan of that folder.

    When the folder gets rather large (eg when I have a lot of concurrent projects with extended deadlines), I schedule our calendar reminders for each one individually. Otherwise, as long as it’s under 15 or so, I find a quick scan each morning ends up being faster than putting individual reminders into my calendar.

    Similar moves can be made in outlook. It just lacks the ability to create email aliases simply by adding a +whatever to your existing email address, so a different workaround would be needed there to filter these emails rather than any other email someone else BCCd you on.

  19. EA*

    OP4 I think a lot of people stay to get their maternity leave at least partially paid. It’s worth having one awkward conversation for several weeks/months of pay! If that isn’t the case for you and it would be unpaid anyway, it’s just like quitting your job for any other reason. I’d say giving 2-3 weeks notice before your intended last day is fine.

  20. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (resume for Hollywood producer) – if you are going to a different industry, this is just like any other freelance or gig work from a hiring manager’s perspective, so the “freelance producer” with the different projects under it seems to make the most sense and would be most easily understandable to me as a hiring manager far from showbiz.

    1. AVP*

      Hi #5 – I did something similar a few years ago and grouped them all into one heading, and it worked better. I actually was getting paid through the LLC I set up to do production work so I listed it as “Producer, NAME OF LLC” and then made the arrangement clear through what I put in the bullet points below it.

      It also helped to focus on results and impact (worked on X number of things per year in with a budget range of X-X, everything on time and on budget, maintained X% client retention – ie, how many people called me back for repeat jobs…). It feels hard to convey impact sometimes in coordinator roles because if you did your job right, everything just rolled along as planned, but focusing on hard facts like money and clients seemed to work.

    2. zuzu*

      I did something similar as well when I did contracting work as an attorney. I had previously had all my various short-term “substantive” contracting gigs listed individually on my resume, because I was doing substantive legal work (vs. document review). That was fine when I was still contracting. But when I switched to law librarianship, I was told I was a job hopper, even though the gigs were minimum 8 months up to 2 years and I explained in my cover letter what I did. So I lumped it all under a heading of “Contract Attorney” and listed the overall dates for the heading, then listed the firms and skills underneath. It wasn’t as important when trying to get a job as a law librarian where I worked as an attorney than that I had consistent experience doing legal research, and each of my contract jobs gave me that experience over a number of years.

      It made a huge difference, and now I’m just about to hit 13 years as a law librarian. Never did get hired by the place that called me a job hopper, though, and that was where I went to law school. No contributions to the annual fund for you!

  21. Brain the Brian*

    My employer legit has a policy against moving any sent email out of the standard Outlook “sent” box. Our annual auditors frequently ask for email backup of instructions and approvals for financial transactions, and apparently one year they didn’t believe that someone had actually sent an email that our accounting department provided them, so now we each have to keep every sent email in the default folder in Outlook — no exceptions, ever. Some days I swear that company policies are written specifically to drive employees insane.

    1. DataNerd1010*

      In this case: Highly recommend BCCing yourself on any email that requires follow up or you would otherwise want to move it from the Sent folder to a Waiting folder! The email stays in your sent folder, while also giving you another copy of it to move. Added benefit: can create rules or filters to move any email that you BCC to yourself into a waiting folder so it’s there automatically.

    2. Bit o' Brit*

      Some auditors really have no clue what they’re doing. A guy I know who is no longer an auditor recently was in a protracted battle of wills with his former company on what the auditors actually needed from him that ended in him sending them their own company’s manual before they’d back down. They hate auditing his new workplace for some reason.

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      You can go to your sent folder in outlook, right click on the flag to the far right, and set a reminder for whenever you want it to remind you to follow up. I’m sure other email programs have similar options.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        In my company’s Outlook configuration at least, this only checks the primary mailbox. Unfortunately found that out the hard way.

    4. SarahKay*

      At least in MS Outlook you can set up a rule to automatically copy emails from your Sent folder to another folder of your choice. You could then go through this second folder and save relevant emails to a ‘to do’ folder, etc.
      Also in Outlook, when sending emails, you can set it to add a reminder to yourself *and the other person* if desired. You can choose the timing and you can set different timing for yourself and the other person/people.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Another wrinkle: my company has also disabled the ability to set separate reminders for ourselves vs the recipients. So if I set a reminder for myself, the recipients get that reminder, too. I realize there are workarounds — and I use several of them! — but it’s still annoying for no good reason whatsoever.

  22. Squidhead*

    #2- I worked somewhere that had a “standing contract” arrangement with the local Urgent Care. I think the deal was that for minor injuries the employer would just pay Urgent Care directly instead of processing it through their Workman’s Comp insurance. (This sounds shady but I don’t remember it being shady so much as thrifty…they weren’t trying to deny WC to employees who actually needed it, but didn’t want their coverage to go up just because someone needed an xray to check out a strain). Anyway, in that case it made sense to notify HR “hey I jammed my wrist on the teapot lathe, I’m going to go get it looked at” but not for non-work related injury or illnesses. If I felt ill I would just let my boss know I needed to leave & whether I thought I’d be able to come back after being seen.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The only time I notified a job I was going to Urgent Care it was because it was going to be a Worker’s Comp claim, and I also needed someone to drive me (I had tripped* and sprained an ankle) to the Urgent Care office. And I was telling them so I could get the claim process started – and also so somebody knew where the two of us were (this was back around 2003 – cell phones were common but not ubiquitous or “Smart”).

      *I tripped over the contents of the office pack rat’s “collection of things that we might maybe one day need if a zombie apocalypse hit the office” because they knocked over a pile of things and it spilled into my path out in the hallway while I was helping to carry boxes to storage. The managers and HR aparently had a “clean all this up and get all of it out or we’ll throw it out tomorrow” chat with them about the state of their office. I was back two days later on crutches.

    2. Grey Coder*

      Yeah, if I saw that policy I would just edit it in my mind to apply only to Urgent Care visits arising from incidents at work. Because that’s the only thing HR has a legitimate interest in.

    3. Hamburke*

      Concentra is a provider that does a lot of workplace medical care – physicals, drug screens and urgent care. I’m pretty sure you can’t go there without an order from your employer. so this kind of urgent care does exist.

      the other thing I thought about was self-pay insurance where the company pays to use insurance negotiated rates but pays the claims themselves. urgent care visits are often costly and might trigger your employer to need to pay into a fund.

  23. B*

    Bats are a serious health risk—they are the biggest source of rabies exposure in humans because we have a harder time rooting it out than we do with dogs. If there’s even a chance a bat has bitten you (and they can be small and unnoticed so pretty much if a bat touches you just assume they might have bitten you) then you need the rabies vaccine

    The bat infestation could kill your colleagues or your customers, it’s really serious. I agree with everyone saying to complain too OSHA or to the city

    1. Pescadero*

      “they are the biggest source of rabies exposure in humans”

      They are the biggest source of rabies exposure in humans IN THE USA.

      Worldwide – dogs are BY FAR the biggest source of rabies exposure in humans, and it isn’t even close.

    2. ER Doc*

      I’m an ER physician. Bats are a huge health and safety concern. They can leave bites so small that people don’t feel them. The CDC recommends that if a bat is found in a room with a sleeping person, that person should get rabies shots, because the risk is so high. If anyone in your building comes into contact with a bat, they should go to the emergency room for shots. Rabies is 100% fatal and 100% preventable with quick treatment.

      For the record, I love bats. They are critical to the health of our environment and should be protected. But humans should not share indoor spaces with them.

  24. Ren321*

    lw3: In Outlook I categorise/class emails with color codes (right click ->categorize). I have a basic trafficked lights. green handled, yellow pending, red haven’t started yet. or just using the flag that’s above the sent time.

  25. Where’s the Orchestra?*

    For OP2-
    The only time I notified a job I was going to Urgent Care it was because it was going to be a Worker’s Comp claim, and I also needed someone to drive me (I had tripped* and sprained an ankle) to the Urgent Care office. While I was waiting for the coworker that was going to drive me to get her and my things I figured I may as well start the claim process with HR. All I was doing otherwise was sitting on the floor and icing my ankle till we could leave – which took like 15-20 minutes. But otherwise – sorry my employer really doesn’t need to know I’ve gone to Urgent Care before or as I am going.

    *I tripped over the contents of the office pack rat’s “collection of things that we might maybe one day need if a zombie apocalypse hit the office” because they knocked over a pile of things and it spilled into my path out in the hallway while I was helping to carry boxes to storage. The managers and HR aparently had a “clean all this up and get all of it out or we’ll throw it out tomorrow” chat with them about the state of their office. I was back two days later on crutches.

  26. Elle by the sea*

    #4 in my experience most of us feel like we will feel the same way about our career when the baby arrives, but in most cases, once the baby arrives, the baby will become first priority. Wanting to take off at least 6 months (minimum necessary time for breastfeeding) or even more, like a year, is completely sensible and would not set you back in your career as well. In many countries 6 months, 1 year or even 3 years of parental leave is the norm and the government/employer gives support for that. In the US it’s a bit harder and you might need to quite your job if you wish to take a longer leave. If you liked your job and needed the extra financial support, I would recommend waiting until you are sure. But if you really don’t like your job, would quit it anyway and really thought it through, then what you are considering might be the right decision for you.

    1. Cat Tree*

      That’s not true though. Plenty of moms and the majority of dads don’t want to take such a long time off. Some do, but not all. Let’s normalize moms making decisions for themselves instead of assuming that one way is normal. Personally I was very ready to go back to work at 3 months and take the rest of my paid leave intermittently throughout the first year. I would have gone back even sooner but had to wait for childcare to be available. I’m just as normal as any other mom. Everyone is different.

      1. cabbagepants*


        Going back to work and putting my daughter in daycare was a huge, positive turning point for our relationship. Newborns are exhausting and while one generally loves them very much, many people don’t find them very likeable yet. I needed some mental space back.

        Like you, I took my leave intermittently through the rest of the year and I’ve loved doing it this way. I get to hang out with a fun 10-month-old rather than just marathoning between naps and bottles.

      2. a mom*

        Agree, I went back after 4 months and was very ready (though I started back 4 days a week for a couple months to ease the transition). I dislike when people state or imply that all parents would prefer 6-12 months of leave. Also, lots of people don’t breastfeed or even pump (I did neither) and therefore find that they have more flexibility when it comes to returning to work.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Let’s not shame parents for not wanting to spend six months 24/7 with only a newborn for company. When we adopted our son I was so eager to get back to work! (Because parental leave policies are heteronormative crap, neither of us was eligible for real parental leave – I was a top performer and negotiated for ten weeks, half paid and half unpaid, and my wife cleared out her accumulated leave. We did alternating breaks of a few weeks at a time.) People can be great parents – yes, even great moms – and not want twelve months without a job.

    3. Ann*

      In many US workplaces, taking 6 months off is (sadly) Not Done, and will set you back in your career. I got mommy-tracked for less when my oldest child was born – I took 4 months off and then worked mostly remote for another couple of months. Turns out, back then if you were remote you were invisible. People I didn’t work with assumed I’m taking a very long vacation or something. The situation around remote work is very different now, but long leaves are still Not Done.
      That said, LW seems very burned out by this job and past the point of caring what looks acceptable or will help her career in this company. If she does take a year off, that would be a really good time to look at changing jobs…

    4. Buzzybeeworld*

      There’s so much wrong with what you wrote here. Plenty of working moms want to return to work shortly after having a baby. While they baby may be the first priority, it certainly isn’t the only thing in many women’s lives. A lot of women work and breastfeed for 6 month and beyond (2+ years in my case and I’m not alone).

      It’s fine the LW wants to stop working, that’s her choice to make. But don’t make these sweeping statements about how “most moms” feel, because moms feel all sorts of ways about working while parenting, and all of them are ok ways to feel.

    5. My own boss*

      A weird fluke of timing and childcare shortages meant I was home with our daughter for the first 9 months. Our plan was my spouse would be a stay at home parent, but life didn’t work out that way. I enjoyed spending time with her, but I was also losing my mind. All I wanted was to get back to work so I could feel like a full person again. I thrive when I have meaningful work outside the home and my daughter thrives in daycare.

    6. Observer*

      Wanting to take off at least 6 months (minimum necessary time for breastfeeding) or even more, like a year, is completely sensible

      It’s sensible, but it’s fine to not want to do that. And it’s completely untrue that you need to take of at least 6 months for breastfeeding. Please don’t spread misinformation about nursing!

      would not set you back in your career as well

      At least in the US, that’s so far from the truth that it’s simply delusional. It does depend on the specifics, of course, but the reality is that for many women this absolutely would set them back. It should NOT set them back, but I’m talking about reality, not what I would like reality to be.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        I agree that all options are fine. But these days mothers and fathers who think like me get more shaming and hostility even at work. 6 months is the medical recommendation, what is ideal for the mother-baby bonding. I am only saying that for many of us that’s the natural instinct and we don’t dare to follow it because of shaming from people who feels otherwise. And again, no one should shame anyone – you have to know for yourself which option works best for you and your baby.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          Correction : you don’t need to take time off for breastfeeding but not everyone can both work and breastfeed.

          1. Broadway Duchess*

            I don’t know what your experience is with being shamed, but mothers who have jobs outside the home get shamed for NOT wanting to be with baby for months and months after birth. Not breastfeeding for 6 months (or at all) does not mean the baby isn’t the priority, but your comment implies that it is. And in the US, a 6 month gap *can* (even though it should not) be an unwritten disqualifier to promotions. There isn’t only one right way to be the birthing parent.

        2. cabbagepants*

          Interesting — I received a lot pressure and shame to stay home and to breastfeed. My male colleagues with stay-at-home wives expressed shock that I had put my child in daycare at the end of my disability leave rather than… ?quitting my job, I guess? My actual doctors have been very reasonable about the fact that my daughter was not able to nurse effectively (starting from the day she was born) but the nurses in their offices were jerks about why I wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding her.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            This is wrong, too, and yes, they are being jerks. Where I live, parents, especially mothers, are pressured to return to work very soon after the birth of the baby, even though legally, a longish parental leave is offered and recommended. You are made to feel regressive and weird – the same feel I got from most of the reactions here. No one should be shamed, being accused of spreading misinformation, being regressive or having no family values.

            1. Elle by the sea*

              I went back and reread my first comment. There is nothing that indicates that my views and preferences are the correct ones and others should not have the right to make their own, different decisions. It looks like you are triggered because you assume that anyone who has these preferences are judgy, heteronormative and regressive. Sadly some people are, but I can assure you I am not. But at the same time I am proud to have these views and preferences and I would like to reassure the letter writer that her choices are perfectly fine and she doesn’t need to be pressured into what the majority viewpoint seems to be here on this forum and in the working world in general.

              1. Bantam*

                People are disagreeing with you because tried to speak for “most of us.” If you had only spoken for yourself then you wouldn’t be getting this level of disagreement.

                1. Elle by the sea*

                  Most of us – most parents I know have changed their priorities. Most people I know didn’t think about parenting before having children the same way they do after parenting. Priorities really shifted for most people I have seen. “Most” doesn’t mean “correct viewpoint”. It means the vast majority of people I have seen – and I have quite an extended friend and family circle, ranging through three continents.

              2. Celeste*

                To me it sounded like you were suggesting that if the baby becomes the first priority, people will want to stay home longer.

                But for a lot of people going back to work and using daycare, the baby remains the first priority! Going back to work earlier doesn’t mean you’ve prioritized your job over your baby.

                1. Elle by the sea*

                  I have yet to meet a parent who put their very young baby in daycare because it’s best for the baby. It’s a necessity when both parents have to work and don’t have the flexibility to work part time or from home. It’s because governments and employers fail to support families, parents and, first of all, mothers.

    7. Non-prophet*

      My babies DID become my first priority when they was born. However, that does NOT mean that I necessarily wanted to stay home with them for six months or longer. I’m a better parent and partner when I have a non caregiving job to provide me with mental stimulation and adult interaction; I would be a terrible stay at home parent. And, the financial benefits of me returning to work were clear. I returned to work after 6 weeks with my first and 8 weeks with my second. Despite my short leave, my daughters and I are well bonded and very close. Also, I breastfed both of them to a year (or longer, in the case of my first daughter) despite having returned to work when they were quite young. Although returning to work makes breastfeeding harder, it is possible for many mothers to do so. Yes, our pediatrician recommended 6 months of breastfeeding. But they didn’t have any opinion or medical recommendation about whether I worked outside of the home or not.

  27. Caroline*

    OP4/ I think you need to frame this differently. You clearly are very unhappy at your job and want to leave. That’s fair! You have been planning so that you can have an extended maternity leave because that is what you and your partner want to do, and clearly have wanted that for some long time, saved up etcetera.

    You don’t want to go back to THAT job. You want to take some time to settle into being a new parent – which is quite an adjustment, no matter how wanted – and then to consider your next move for your career. That’s how you frame it. If people get strident about ”you NEVER KNOW” you say ”yes. That’s true. You don’t. No one ever could. Thing is, this is the decision we have made and I plan to look into going in a different direction when WE are ready for me to return to paid employment. Don’t worry Karen, I’ve got it as figured out as it can be.”

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. LW4, you mentioned in your letter that you’ve done freelance work in the past. You and your partner have done a lot of financial planning, can you spend some time now figuring out what it would take to restart your freelance work? Or some kind of plan for reentry into the workforce at a later date? (N.B. That later date to be determined by you.) It might give you peace of mind in the short term and could also be useful in dealing with opinionated friends and family.

  28. IndigoHippo*

    OP#4, I just want to say that it is TOTALLY normal and reasonable to want to spend a year at home with your baby. You are reasonable, the USA is bananas. In much of the world, a year off or thereabouts is entirely standard, and it is completely reasonable to expect that it takes around a year to recover physically from birth plus of course if you are breastfeeding to need to be there to do that (pumping as a norm is entirely the product of the USA’s substandard mat leave policies, it’s just Not A Real Thing in many places). Signed: career driven, love my job, still took c.10m off with each kid and that’s considered on the short side in my country which guarantees 12m of leave. If on top of all this you also don’t even like your job, then the idea of taking a year out then finding something else after that seems eminently reasonable. Again: you are reasonable. The USA is bananas.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I would have gone insane if I had to give up working for an entire year. Some women aren’t cut out to be SAHMs.

      Also, not breastfeeding is a completely legitimate choice and we should stop assuming that breastfeeding is the default.

      1. Ganymede*

        I hear you – but it’s not compulsory! Also in many countries the leave can be shared with a partner if desired. But you don’t *have to* take a year off, it’s not obligatory.

      2. Anna*

        That is fine for you, but OP #4 specifically says she WANTS to give up working for that period of time and wants to be a stay at home parent. Neither she nor IndigoHippo are saying that you personally are wrong for feeling the way you do, just that the USA’s mat leave policies are forcing some people to go back to work sooner than they otherwise would want to.

    2. Victoria Everglot*

      Lots of women pump for reasons that have nothing to do with work. I know there are some breastfeeding advocates who will tell you you’re just not trying hard enough if your baby doesn’t latch or you aren’t producing enough, but all us normal people know it’s perfectly acceptable to “give up” and pump so we can at least supplement formula with breastmilk and not have to watch babies starve. And it’s honestly fine to just not want a baby hanging off your chest, I didn’t, I hated every second of it the few times we tried just because I didn’t like the sensation, not because anything was wrong. Or to want to pump so you can stock up and let other people feed the baby while you’re busy doing things that may or may not have anything to do with work. Or to want to pump because cracking nipples suck.

      It’s also fine to not want to do any of it at all.

        1. Victoria Everglot*

          I forgot to add, I’m a SAHM. So it truly had nothing to do with work! And even if I hadn’t planned to pump I’d still have had to because having a preemie means it’s a lot harder to get milk going at all!

    3. Nancy*

      OP is asking about the best time to quit her job because she knows she hates it and doesn’t want to come back to it. She mentions nothing about being in the US or her company’s leave policies.

    4. Punk*

      The US may have lousy worker protections, but people of my ethnicity/religion have historically not been wholly welcome in the Country Of Europe, which is something Europeans conveniently forget about when they play this game. Europe gives longer leaves? Cool! How does someone like me gain citizenship and qualify for those benefits?

    5. Ann*

      Yeah. I’ve done a couple of long leaves in the US, and I’m sure people thought it was weird, but someone had to care for the kids – why not me, as their mom?
      I got a really good reminder a couple of years ago that even a career you love is, in the end, only a job. I could always put it first, but it will not put me first. I’m really struggling to forget that lesson, and I really feel LW’s burnout. Maybe I’ll be looking for a different career too.

  29. Kate, short for Bob*

    I just want to know what sort of work OP1 does that clients are *visiting* this death trap (do they not have a choice of non-deathy companies they could take their business to?).

    Also an update, ASAP please.

    I hope you get a better job, somewhere with an infestation of kittens or something instead OP.

    1. el l*

      That’s also the part I find strange about this. If anything, upper management normally tilts towards the vain and gold plating side – having a too-nice office – rather than a slum.

      Which is why OP needs to leave: What it says about management generally. Even if you don’t believe this is a health and safety problem, if management is so oblivious/set in their ways that this is acceptable…then what else is management saying “Eh, good enough” to?

    2. EGGO*

      IDK what type of company OP1 works at but if I was visiting this office… I’d be finding a new provider ASAP.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I’d be like, what are we paying you for if you are headquartered in this OSHA nightmare building? I imagine that maybe the clients don’t have a choice in the matter (like they are providing a necessary service) but if they do have a choice, why are they still going there?

    3. LW #1*

      It’s a state government office.

      Infestation of kittens sounds great – I’ll make sure to add that to my job search criteria =)

      1. Observer*

        It’s a state government office.

        Oh, wow!

        That gives you two more options here.

        1. Leak to the press.

        2. Find out who is higher up on the command chain in your organization and go there. Also, find out what government entity oversees your agency and go there.

        PS Does anyone in management (including your director) have any sort of relationship with the landlord? If so, also go to you AG’s office.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I would go to the press pronto. This sounds like the tip of “actively mischanneling assets” and other types of fraud if your bosses are paying market rent rates for this teardown slum.

      2. Capybarely*

        A state government office?! It seems like that would be even more of an incentive to management – it’s a really bad look for state employees to be exposed to rabies, let alone visitors to the office.

        And with the possibility of unauthorized visitors, that’s a serious security risk. Without sounding too much like a spy novel, entry into secure systems through lower-risk offices is absolutely a strategy that’s used.

        I hope you and your colleagues are able to speak up and get results. Please know that none of this is normal, and that your employer is the one to blame here!

      3. SpringIsForPlanting!*

        But…but kittens have *incredibly sharp little teeth* and they pee everywhere. Source: have raised 2 litters of kittens.
        They ARE cute and fluffy though.

      4. I Have RBF*

        It’s a state government office.

        Holy bats in the belfry, Batman!

        This makes it worse!!

        State offices are even more required to follow the law.

        Identify the reporter most concerned with corruption in your state or area. Mail them pictures, with time, date and location, of: the mold, the broken toilet, the bats, the cockroaches, the dirty carpet, etc. Send them multiple pictures spanning weeks, then tell them what your director has said. Yes, you may need to identify yourself to the reporter.

        Do this along with dropping a dime to the state OSHA and the local Health Department.

        Before you do this, it is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the whistleblower protection laws in your state and get a lawyer on a small retainer. Because IMO you and your coworkers probably have grounds for some sort of suit or formal complaint, but IANAL and I have no clue about your state’s regulations anyway.

        But you need to raise a stink, because this situation literally and figuratively stinks.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      How on God’s green earth do they still have clients? This place sounds like the Overlook Hotel if it was run by Jason and his mom! Anybody who offers me bat feces popcorn and a chance to inhale sewer fumes while being attacked by someone who snuck in and is hiding in the bathrooms isn’t going to get my repeat business, and you can bet I’d be calling any agency I could think of after I fled.

  30. Rebekah*

    The only way I could see #2 being halfway reasonable is if HE meant urgent care visits that happen DURING THE WORKDAY. That might impact how they adjust pay, and if there were any workplace injuries they would absolutely want to know (even if an employee was inclined to not report).

  31. Quandong*

    LW1, apart from the gross negligence shown by your employer around health and safety – the lack of security of your offices is a HUGE deal.

    Not only is this risky for you and the other people on site, it’s a tremendous issue in relation to information security.

    All the training I have received about how to avoid phishing etc, includes repeated warnings about physically securing offices and all computers, paper files, and archives.

    If data and information relating to your clients is stolen because the building is insecure, your employer faces severe legal consequences. Whether or not they perceive the issue isn’t relevant, if they already brush off your extremely valid concerns about the health issues in the office.

    If you can I would seek advice about whether you would be eligible for any benefits if you resign immediately due to unsafe conditions at work. Your health and wellbeing is more important than sticking with this negligent employer.

    1. Ganymede*

      Agree. The bats issue is weirdest, but the wandering strangers issue is awful. You’d think a military person would be more vigilant.

        1. Observer*

          I can’t say I’m shocked.

          That’s another thing to bring to the AG / the agency that is supposed to oversee other agencies / the higher ups in your own agency / the Feds, depending on the specific data you’re handling.

        2. Barb*

          I work in in a state government office and our state has a confidential tip line to report violations
          Does your state have something like that?

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          Good God, LW, I think you need a lawyer.

          Your management is so horrific on so many levels you will have to count on them throwing you under the bus once the data you have is stolen (and that’s a when, not an if.) Even if your life and health weren’t actively being endangered, they are holding your professional future and and reputation over a pit and laughing.

          1. Observer*

            you will have to count on them throwing you under the bus once the data you have is stolen (and that’s a when, not an if.)

            Yup. There is no way that they are managing their data security properly. In fact, even if they have most typical cyber security measures in place, it still is not possible for them to be properly protected. Because the first rule of cybersecurity is that you you need to secure your equipment!

  32. bamcheeks*

    Just make sure you won’t wish you could backtrack later if your circumstances do change between now and then.

    Just wanted to pick up on this, LW4, because I think the idea of regret is really weaponised against women and other marginalised genders, and used to make us doubt our own decision-making and push us into normative life paths. Don’t miss the chance to have children, you might regret it. Don’t have an abortion, you might regret. Don’t transition, you might regret it. Don’t tell people about your pregnancy before 12 weeks, you might regret it.

    And obviously, “what if I regret this act” is a perfectly reasonable thing to think, but it’s never presented as a real choice to support us making carefully-thought-out, real decisions, with regret possible on both sides of the coin, but as a way to push us into particular paths. It’s always implied that ~~regret~~ is this terrible consequence that must be avoided at all costs by following someone else’s set of rules, not a completely normal part of life as an autonomous adult who is empowered to make decisions for themselves.

    So I just want to emphasise that you can’t ever indemnify yourself against regret completely. What you can do is carefully consider a decision from all angles, and decide what kind of regret you are willing to risk, according to your personal situation, your values, your desires, and your goals.

    It sounds like you’re doing that, and good for you! So I hope you can feel confident and happy in whatever decision you come to, and if the circumstances do change wildly, you can still feel that you made the best decision with the information you had at the time. In my experience, that’s a much easier form of regret to live with than the, “I followed the rules and the rules let me down” kind.

    1. IndigoHippo*

      Thank you so much for this comment, it’s incredibly insightful and something I’m going to try to sit with whenever I have big decisions to make in future.

    2. Beka Cooper*

      Wow, I’m not the OP, but I’ve been struggling with regretting leaving my job months ago to freelance, and also worried about regretting it if I give up and go back to a different job, and reframing regret and decision making in this way just helped me a lot. So thank you!

    3. Emmy Noether*

      This is very well stated.

      I’ve also found that “minimizing potential for regret” is not a good way to think of major life decisions. Pretty much all of those do close off some avenues, and that always comes with the potential for regret – but if we try to avoid that, we never really do anything with our life, or live a default sort of life, and probably end up regretting that. And for a lot of things, avoiding the potential for regret isn’t even possible, because all options have it. Having or not having children is a prime example of this. A decision that changes so much, and that has to be taken without a lot of information (never know what you’ll get with children), and there are no do-overs.

      Also, we can never truly know that the other path would have turned out better, so it’s pointless dwelling on it. I tend to think of it in a butterfly-effect sort of way. Maybe if I had made the other choice, that would have randomly led to me being hit by a bus! So this choice isn’t so bad after all.

      I’m not saying be reckless, but if one has a plan, and a backup plan, it’s fine to go ahead and do the thing! Every path will have good parts and bad parts. It’s best to make a choice and then let go mentally of the other choices.

      LW, you already made the big decision (child). It sounds like you have a good idea of what you want and a plan how to do it. This job doesn’t sound like an option you actually want to keep open – it’s probably better for your backup plan to be “finding another job”, if your plan A doesn’t work out for some reason.

      1. I Have RBF*

        This. There will always be “woulda, coulda, shoulda” stuff in life, but it should not lead to analysis paralysis. Sometimes any decision you make will have potential for regret. That’s just life.

    4. Curious*

      Great comment.

      I agree this form weaponisation is used often against women and the people who engage in it, don’t like to thought of as one of the “those” people. They’re only expressing concern. The inertia of doing nothing might be good for you.

      Some examples for decisions affected by this:

      Don’t send that email, it might not be well received.
      Don’t have that conversation, it might go badly.
      Don’t say anything, they might think you’re mean, dumb, incapable, etc. (this list is endless, really.)

      and so on and so forth.

      You can’t ever indemnify yourself against everything completely.

    5. doreen*

      I agree that you can’t avoid regret completely – for many choices , you might regret either one. But those are generally choices where one option eliminates the other – if I have children because I might regret not having them, I no longer have the option of not having children. If I don’t have an abortion because I might regret it , at some point , I will lose the ability to have an abortion. But some choices are not like that – for some decisions, one choice is to leave your options open. If I decide not to tell anyone I am pregnant until 12 weeks have passed, I can change my mind and tell people at four weeks. If I postpone making a final decision about leaving my job until my leave is over, I still have the option to stay if circumstances change. Now, this particular letter writer may be certain that there are no circumstances under which she would regret quitting this job. It’s possible that she would have quit this job by the end of the year even if she hadn’t gotten pregnant , hadn’t found a new job and could no longer could count on the partner’s income. But she really should think about all the possible circumstances – because “I don’t want to go back to this job and we can live without my income for at least a year” is not the same as ” I don’t want to go back to this job and I can survive with no income until I find one”.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        It sounds like their family can in fact survive without her income. They lived on one partners income while saving her income to have that nest egg and while their financial plans would necessarily change they have the luxury of her potentially going without an income for an extended time period beyond that year.

    6. Lana Kane*

      And obviously, “what if I regret this act” is a perfectly reasonable thing to think, but it’s never presented as a real choice to support us making carefully-thought-out, real decisions, with regret possible on both sides of the coin, but as a way to push us into particular paths.

      Gonna cross stitch this and hang it up.

      First I need to learn how to cross stitch.

      1. bamcheeks*

        see, now you regret not learning to cross-stitch. :D

        (also I’m super happy this resonated for so many people!)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          It’s terrific! It reminds me a lot of Cheryl Strayed’s essay “The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us,” in her Dear Sugar collection. There’s always going to be paths we didn’t choose. It doesn’t mean we’re bad or wrong, only human, with only one life.

    7. Emikyu*

      Adding to the chorus of people saying this is AMAZING advice.

      Also, as someone who was a rule-follower for a long time, most of my biggest regrets in life stem from making the choice I “should” make, as opposed to the choice I wanted to make.

      That doesn’t mean never listen to anyone else’s advice/always defy societal expectations, but it’s worth considering. For example, I heard a lot more “what if you regret getting divorced?” than “what if you regret getting married?” – but the divorce is the choice I don’t actually regret.

  33. JaneLoe*

    Bats are a serious concern not only because they potentially carry disease but because their urine is dangerous to smell and inhale (if contains a high amount of ammonia-like material). This building is seriously harming your health and I’m surprised more of your colleagues aren’t complaining about serious health concerns. Some of you might find some mundane conditions (itchy skin, dry eyes, etc.) will go away when you get this fixed – or rather, move offices !!!

  34. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    Is there a company softball team and someone ordered the wrong type of bats to be delivered to the office? Obv this is untenable and needs to be addressed

    On the plus side though, you guys have a popcorn machine??

    1. LW #1*

      It hasn’t been used in the 5 years I’ve been here. The bat in it might have been the reason – I certainly am not interested in firing it up.

      1. Cheshire Cat*

        OMG, no one threw it out after the bat was found in it? That’s an even deeper level of dysfunction than I imagined. Because with what you’ve said about the casual “cleaning” there’s no way the machine was sanitized afterwards.

  35. Felicia Fancybottoms*

    LW #4. One thing to think about is health insurance and coverage. If you are already on your partners insurance this might not matter, but switching insurance while you are pregnant can be hard and lead to more medical bills. Sometimes having that continuation is worth it, because the sometimes the transition doesn’t go well! Having a baby in the US can be so expensive, depending on your coverage.

    1. Paige*

      And retirement contributions! Taking a year-ish off those can have a shocking impact on your savings in a bad way. Yet one more thing to include in the math of taking time off in the dumpster fire that is the US benefits/safety net system. It can still absolutely be the right decision! There’s just a LOT to think about that has nothing to do with enjoying your life as a worker AND as a parent.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ Ugh, this is so true. It’s not just the salary that you’re forgoing (and I agree that it’s a dumpster fire). I am not saying the LW should do this, but as someone who has no children, it was something that had literally not occurred to me until I read an article about the financial implications of being a SAHP and retirement. The author recommended that if you are agreeing to become a SAHP (and let’s be real, the parent is usually the mom) to factor that into your retirement plans and have your earning partner contribute to your 401K in addition to having a ‘salary’ that is only yours.

        I have a very jaundiced view of this because I’ve worked in the domestic violence sphere for years and have seen so much financial abuse, but I personally don’t think I could become a SAHP without a partner willing to both pay me a salary and fund my 401K, and honestly that’s such a financial stretch it’s pretty unrealistic for the vast majority of couples.

      2. Felicia Fancybottom*

        I didn’t even think of that, that is so true! It’s sad that we have to make these choices, but I think it is important to remind people that this is the reality a lot of us face in the US.

  36. Sally Rhubarb*

    LW 3: I don’t know what email client you use but have you tried Boomerang? Basically you can schedule an email to come back to you if you haven’t received an answer in X days/weeks/whatever.

    I have to chase down vendors and it’s a real blessing!

  37. Zarniwoop*

    The “I quit “ convo is going to be uncomfortable whenever you have it, so why not put it off as long as possible?

    Once you’re been on leave and not talked to those people for a few months it will probably be easier than it would be now.

  38. mreasy*

    OP3 – I have just been looking into this for my company, and there is an email plugin called Boomerang that you can set to send a sent email into your inbox if you haven’t received a response in a specific period of time. There are probably other plugins out there depending on your email program that do the same thing.

  39. Sean*


    That’s really all I can manage right now. I’m so sorry for you LW1 and hope you can get the hell out of there right now before one of your coworkers decides this is their supervillain origin story and blows that place to smithereens.

  40. ecnaseener*

    FWIW, LW3, a spreadsheet wouldn’t have to be behemoth. One column for who you’re waiting on, one for the date you sent it or last followed up, and optionally one for the next date you will follow up. Add emails to it as you send them (or in daily batches) and it won’t be time consuming.

    You’d still need to remember to check it, like you would a folder, but I’m assuming you don’t have outlook or anything else with a reminder feature or you’d be using that. You can easily set conditional formatting to highlight the ones due for follow up, which is one benefit over a folder.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I actually prefer keeping a separate list vs most of the suggestions to manage this in email. I tend to just add stuff to my to do list (“follow up with Fergus if you don’t hear back by Friday) because all this email flagging immediately becomes moot if they respond really quickly or there’s additional back-and-forth required and it’s now the *third* email in the chain you need to follow up on, so you’re unflagging the first and flagging the third. This just lets you record it once and reference it in case you need it without having to keep on top of replies to replies that go unresponded to.

      1. Echo*

        This is what I do too. I have a “Waiting for response” section of my to-do list, which lives in a Google Doc so I can easily add, remove, or reorder things.

        1. EngineeringFun*

          Yep I have weekly to do lists in a notebook that I carry everywhere. I take notes in it as well. I use a highlight (in my favorite color) to denote complete. This way I can track back when I did things.

    2. KittyGhost*

      This is what I do in Notion. I track what I’m waiting on/from who (usually something like Team Name: Deliverable), when I last followed up on it, and a due date (if that applies). I prefer this because I usually batch follow up on things in a sitting each day.

      At my old job, I used Microsoft To Do but with the same concept. I set the due date for the task to be when I next needed to follow up on the thing.

    3. Astor*

      Agreeing that it doesn’t have to be big. I tend to change my to-do list with each job, because each one works in different conditions, but my last one where I had a spreadsheet: I’d make a new tab every month and then a new file every year, so that it never felt too big. So on the first day of each month, I’d copy the most recent tab and then delete all the completed items from the new copy.

      For that job, I did actually have more columns because I found them useful, so that I could sort the spreadsheet based on things like the kind of task or which person/department I had to follow-up with. I had at least three columns for date: added, last touched, and due. I also had a column for notes, so that I could quickly see how I last followed up and how often I’ve followed up. But I’ve also had jobs where none of that was useful, I just needed a list of topics and dates.

      I’ve also had jobs where I made a waiting-for folder, ones I used outlook’s (apparently older) flag/date options, ones where I add things to my calendar, ones where I’d have a long-running list in a notebook, ones where I kept to-do list for that week only, and ones where I just needed the occasional post-it note. I think some people can keep these things in their minds better than others, but I’m not one of them so it’s really important to me to figure out exactly what system/combination will work best for me with that particular job.

      It’s worth it to try a few systems and figure out what works best for you. I desperately wanted OneNote and similar programs to work for me, and have never ever been able to. But I found good uses for so many other systems.

      I’ve also heard anecdotally from friends with ADHD that what works best for them is to switch systems as soon as one stops working for them. They move everything from one system to another and then keep going, and report that it works for them because if they keep using the same system for a really long time they end up finding items on it invisible. For me, the really important part is making sure that the things that I’m supposed to ignore at any given moment are easily distinct from the things that I’m supposed to pay attention to, because consciously ignoring things will immediately turn into unconsciously ignoring things. For example, in jobs that are so busy that I regularly have to snooze tasks in outlook, that system isn’t going to work for me because I’ll just stop paying attention to any reminders.

      Good luck!

  41. badger*

    LW3 – if you’re using outlook, it has a function where you can ‘flag’ emails, including giving it a due date that will give you a notification on that date (including emails you’ve sent). I use this on exactly these kind of emails! The flag/to do function is super useful

    1. GirlThursday*

      Second this! That is the same process I use, too. Flags and follow-up reminders work well for those kind of emails and issues.

  42. Clara*

    For #5 I don’t work in show biz but in a similar project-based industry, and I did combine a few of them under a specific header (“2022-2023 Broadway Season” or whatever is actually accurate). This has definitely worked out well for me – even people who would have issues with job hopping don’t because its obvious what I was doing.

  43. OrdinaryJoe*

    Re: #1 … meshes up nicely with the earlier in the week question of … Can I ask to see my work space before taking the job. Nothing really to add but good luck, LW! You’re not being overly dramatic and it sounds like a horror show.

  44. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Imagine at your next job interview when they ask why you left your last job. “Well, it stank like a sewer and was infested with bats, so it felt like time for a change.” Seriously, though, the director’s response is troubling, not just because it’s so willfully blind to obvious problems (blind as a bat, maybe?), but also because it is probably a signal for how he deals with other issues. Also, “this is better than where I was when I was deployed” is probably true but isn’t really the standard. Last thought – y’all could be developing respiratory problems. If this appears to be the case, see a doctor, and make a workers comp claim. If you are in the US it is your exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, which this very much could be causing. And make sure to document everything. Take photos of the nastiness, the bats, keep emails if they say anything about all this, etc.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s so deeply, openly contemptuous! “Well, when I was deployed it was worse so you all deserve what you get!”

    2. I Have RBF*

      Also, keep your documentation of all of this off site. Maybe even in the possession of your lawyer…

      Because this is whistleblower levels of fucked up.

  45. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Re: maternity leave

    One reason to hold back is because your maternity leave is either paid or your employer is covering your health insurance. That may not be LW’s situation but other folks may hold off on declaring so they don’t lose their health insurance and need COBRA right before they give birth.

    1. anywhere but here*

      I wondered about that as well. If a company offers paid parental leave, are there any restrictions on quitting once the parental leave ends? And if there aren’t, then why can’t someone just proactively notify the employer that they’re not returning and still get the paid parental leave? I don’t have any experience in any of the leave categories but it doesn’t make sense to me that someone would have to withhold info about whether or not they’re returning to get the paid leave. Either way, the employer would be paying them for X days/weeks/months while they aren’t able to work, so why does it matter?

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I suspect that in that situation, the employer would be able to move up the resignation date so they wouldn’t have to keep paying if they wanted.

      2. doreen*

        My guess is that depends on exactly what sort of paid parental leave it is – if it’s legally mandated , it probably won’t matter if a person notifies the employer that they won’t be returning. It also probably won’t matter if the “paid leave” consists of PTO that was accrued and saved. But if a company just gives people four or six or twelve weeks of paid parental leave, without any legal requirement , I’d be really surprised if they gave it to someone who was not in fact taking a leave but who is actually resigning. Companies give paid parental leave because they expect to benefit in some way – they aren’t going to benefit from paying me for X weeks after I effectively quit and it’s unlikely that they will have retention problems because of it when most employers don’t provide paid leave at all.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Yes, LW, it’s important that you make sure you know how the company’s maternity leave policy works. Do they pay it out regardless? Do they pay out but only if you work 6 months after the leave ends? And so on. You may come to the same decision, but it’ll negate any nasty surprises if you make 100% sure you know how the system works.

    3. nonprofit writer*

      Also, a lot of companies don’t technically do “paid” parental leave, but allow you to go on short-term disability and use your sick days in combination with that, so that you get paid for most of your leave. That’s what I had and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to give it up–I think with both kids I got my full salary for maybe 10 weeks out of the 12 I was off. It will give you an extra cushion of a couple months pay before you need to dip into your savings. It seems worth putting off the conversation just for that reason alone.

  46. I should really pick a name*

    One thing to consider:
    If you don’t officially quit until you’re done mat leave, there’s always the chance you’ll get laid off and get severance before that happens, which would be a good thing in your situation.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Happened to two people I know in the UK (despite the protections, though if you’re making whole departments redundant it’s easier to prove you’re not discriminating), including a friend who did the whole “going to be a SAHP, saved enough for 2 years no income, used to work in a nursery, had friends with babies at the same time, kept up non-work social events” thing to help keep herself sane and still realised 9 months in that though she’d rather be a SAHP than go back to her old job, she’d actually rather have a different job than be a SAHP – being made redundant really brought that home to her!

    2. KToo*

      That happened to me, but I actually did want to return after mat leave. I’m in Canada so I was off for a year, and about halfway through I got a call from HR that as a courtesy they were letting me know I would be laid off as of my return-to-work date. Basically they had to do a layoff, looked at numbers of who wasn’t performing, and because I wasn’t in the office I was one of the chosen few. So I got to finish my paid leave then was given severance. Best part was after 2 months I get a call asking me to come back – they needed someone in the same position I had been in and one of my boss-level people and my grandboss specifically asked for me. So for a 4 month period I was being paid to work and not work by the same company.

  47. Heather*

    For emails that need follow up the Boomerang extension (works with gmail and outlook) has been the best tool for me. You can mark and email to boomerang (return to top of your inbox) on a certain date if there’s been no reply. It’s the only thing I’ve found that’s effectively managed my inbox! Life changing for me!

    1. Snarky McSnarkerson*

      Just FYI, unless you need less than 10 follow ups a month, this is a pay service. $4.99 or $14.99 per month. I was very sad because if you need follow up reminders, you likely have more than 10.

  48. Just Working*

    #5 – Combining makes a lot of sense to me and would be a favor to those of us who need to tally months of relevant experience when we screen resumes.

  49. Juicebox Hero*

    OP1, it might help to drop a hint to your local media’s consumer affairs reporter, if they have one.

    At the store I worked at after college, the air conditioning didn’t work at all in some parts of the (five story) building, including the department where I worked. On hot days it could get up to around 85 degrees F on the sales floor. Complaints were met with “we’re waiting for parts.” Even customer complaints were brushed off. But once a reporter from a local news station (tipped off by a customer) called management, the parts they’d been waiting for for most of a decade magically appeared.

    It was also the only thing that got the owners of a local shopping center to repave their parking lot, which was a minefield of potholes, some of which were nearly 10 feet across and 2 deep. People’s cars were getting wrecked but the owners refused to do anything; once the news did a piece on them the pavers were there the next week.

  50. Working mom*

    #4 I have been in your shoes. I knew I was not returning to work after our oldest was born (lots of planning went into that to become a single income household, especially since I was earning more money than my husband – so it’s not something we did on a whim). I chose to take my FMLA maternity leave and gave notice 2 weeks prior to the leave ending. Aside from the additional income during the leave, here was my reasoning:
    1) the pay was from my short term disability insurance which I have paid for myself and have never used so I didn’t feel like I was taking advantage of my employer to pay my salary
    2) the birth was covered by my health insurance and I wanted the continued coverage during my maternity leave should there be any additional needs. Our baby was added to my husband’s insurance after birth but I wanted the advantage of having my pregnancy and birth related expenses to be under the same deductible and not have to start all over on a different insurance plan.

    I think employers expect that an employee may not return from maternity leave – whether it is planned or not.

  51. 123*

    Next time boss says the office is better than a deployment, remind him that on a deployment you get to go home after a year. And you don’t have a VA to cover the chronic health problems you get from inhaling mold.

  52. Jay*

    Also, a nice little something to add to the Bats Issue:
    There are these things called Bat Bugs. This is not, as the name may imply, a superhero comic/cartoon rabbit crossover episode, but rather a close cousin of BED BUGS. They are endemic to bat colonies, but, if they over populate to the point where the colony can’t support their numbers, they will go out in search of fresh prey. And they find humans perfectly tasty. Physically, they are nearly identical with only the color being a give away and that’s not really very obvious. They itch and hurt as much as bed bugs do. They only real positive is that they only breed properly in bat colonies, so, without the bats they will eventually die out, eventually.
    The building I live in had a brief infestation by bats due to a broken window in a rarely used storage space. When they removed the bats, the bugs migrated down the heating pipes looking for food. Keep an eye out on the things and watch for any unwanted critters following you home.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I’m flashing back to one of the early episodes of Dirty Jobs where Mike Rowe goes into a cave filled with bats. He and the guy with him had to wear respirators, hard hats, and boots, and were up to their knees in guano. All around them were skeletons of bats that had fallen and been stripped to the bone by the bugs.

      I’m getting the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it :O

  53. workingparent*

    LW4 – I’m here to say that “If you know, you know.” When baby 2 was on the way, I spent a lot of time working up the courage to admit that I just did not want to go back to the job I had when my first was born. This was partly informed by the toll that going back to that job after my first had taken on me. For me, post-partum had enough physical and mental challenges that I decided having Old Job on the brain was just too much of an added mental cost. Resigning before my maternity leave was about to start was the best thing ever. I timed it so that I’d still have COBRA health coverage for the birth, but after that it was the clean break I needed. Luckily, everything health and financial worked out, and I stayed home with bub for about a year. There are tradeoffs to everything though, and I am forever thankful to my partner for supporting us with one income in that time. I returned to a new job in a related industry with a clear sense of what kind of work and what kind of employer was going to work for the “new me”. I like this new chapter way more than I could have expected. That resignation and year at home was one of the biggest leaps I’ve taken in my life– but ultimately really freeing! Seek a counselor, coach, or postpartum specialist to help you through if you need it.

  54. Drive the bus, but not if you are a pigeon*

    LW #5 – To Hollywood freelancers looking for a “real” job – Public transit is hiring!

  55. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW1, sorry to hear that you seem to be working on the set of a low budget horror movie (full of bats not bees). I hope you and your coworkers can manage to get something done before you leave (especially the security risk of non-employees accessing your workspace) but I also want to spare a thought for the cleaning crew. They are expected to clean up a place that sounds like a public health hazard and management’s attitude is “what are you complaining about, I’ve dealt with much worse”. What’s the point of vacuuming when literal bats are roaming the building and probably pooping on the carpets? I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the cleaners feels the same way you do except even more powerless.

    1. Woebegone Wednesday*

      ” I also want to spare a thought for the cleaning crew. They are expected to clean up a place that sounds like a public health hazard and management’s attitude is “what are you complaining about, I’ve dealt with much worse”. What’s the point of vacuuming when literal bats are roaming the building and probably pooping on the carpets? I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of the cleaners feels the same way you do except even more powerless.”

      This times a few million. Plus I wonder how often they encounter or have been hassled by people unauthorized to be in your offices or even the building.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an illicit method lab in it somewhere too.

      1. Woebegone Wednesday*

        That should be meth lab. My phone likes to autocorrect me and in the process completely bungles it.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Honestly I’m guessing the building condition is why the cleaning crew is like “yeah, no, we’re not being paid enough to try to clean up this disaster”.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Add me to Team “I totally support the cleaning crew in not wanting to deal with this.” They’d be even more unsafe trying to clean that place than OP’s team is working there.

  56. Woebegone Wednesday*

    Bats in the building means the risk of exposure is too damn high. Contact every government agency. OSHA, building inspector, animal control, your physician – everyone.

    I love bats, and they need our help to survive (and we need them too as many are pollinators) but they do NOT belong in a building with people.

    Your building sounds as though it could also collapse at any time. There is still more mold than you can see and breathing mold is BAD too.

    To hell with talking at your employer. It has gone FAR beyond that point.

    Good luck.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Mould definitely impacts upon the structural integrity of a place if it’s any of the ones I’m familiar with if it’s been allowed to grow for years. Moulds can survive and grow in a stunning amount of environments which is part of what makes them so difficult to eradicate once they’ve got a hold on a place.

      There’s moulds that can survive a human lethal radiation field.

      Fun fact: for testing to see if a complete building decontamination of a bacterial or viral infection has worked we’d use a few mould spores in dishes in the building before it was taped up and the gas sent in. If the spores were killed then it’s pretty much guaranteed that any bacteria and viruses were dead too.

  57. Maotseduck*

    LW3-if you use outlook you might look into Microsoft Todo. You can seamlessly add emails to the todo list then set reminders in it to follow up. I have a separate list in my todo that’s waiting on someone so I know what’s waiting for who.

    I think it’s all about creating a workflow.

  58. KT*

    #3 – in the Google workplace/Gmail ecosystem, there’s an add-on called Boomerang– you can schedule an email to come back to you if no one has replied. I use it instead of a Waiting On Folder (because I would forget to check the waiting on folder…). Super helpful!

    1. Jezebella*

      Thank you for reminding me of this! I used it at a previous job and had completely forgotten about it. +1

    2. Gmail Help Please*

      Maybe not the best place, but can I create a mailing list for my personal gmail?

      Also can I crate a mailing list for scheduling a meeting on my personal gmail (gchat)?

      I’ve tried googling this, but the answers aren’t helpful. Please and thank anyone who can help.

  59. Teapot Librarian*

    LW 3, one thing I did in a previous job where I had one specific colleague who always required follow up was that I set up a rule in outlook to always BCC my productivity app on emails that I sent to him. That way I wasn’t having to go through my sent mail to find those emails, and even though not all of the emails I sent him required follow up, it was easier to delete the tasks created from emails that didn’t require follow up than to manually create tasks where they did need it. (Obviously a different strategy would be necessary if you don’t use a productivity tool, either at all or one that doesn’t have an “email to create a task” option.)

  60. KToo*

    LW #3 – the advice for a waiting folder is fine, but if you’re like me where out of sight can mean out of mind, it might not be helpful. In which case just CC yourself on the emails you send and keep it in your inbox until you receive the reply. Or, if you’re using Outlook or another email program that has flags, you can also flag them and set it to keep flagged items at the top of your inbox, or use the categories to set a specific colour to ‘follow up’. If even this doesn’t work for you, create a calendar reminder, tell your phone to remind you at a specific day and time, keep a small whiteboard at your desk, write it in a lined notebook, etc…. anything that works with how *you* work that you know you’ll be able to check daily and makes it easy to use. The point is to keep it in front of you and create the habit of checking in daily.

  61. MCMonkeyBean*

    Oh my god, I know it’s easier said than done but I feel like everyone at the office of letter 1 should quit yesterday!!! That is insanely not okay. Also–try telling your boss that the insurance rates will probably skyrocket if he has to pay for rabies shots for all of his employees.

  62. Choggy*

    OP 1 – If you are not getting the action from management, you should go over their heads, and contact one (or more) of the agencies other posters have already recommended. This is not a safe environment for you and your coworkers, and the lack of response from management speaks volumes how much they care. The perspective of the director is so short-sighted. He *chose* to work in those conditions, you did not!

    1. Choggy*

      I also wanted to add that you should be taking pictures and documenting every issue that is occurring so it’s laid out very clearly for management and the other agencies who may get involved. You don’t mention what happened to the bat(s) that were in your office, were they removed by someone, or did they leave on their own?

      1. LW #1*

        A certain staff member has been removing them. Apparently if he calls animal control, he has to wait with the bat until they arrive, so he’s just been catching them with a cardboard box and releasing them (no idea where, I didn’t want to ask).

        1. Observer*

          A certain staff member has been removing them. Apparently if he calls animal control, he has to wait with the bat until they arrive,

          That sounds odd. Call animal control and check their procedures. But if even if it turns out to be the case (which would not shock me), you should still document each case, take pictures and perhaps call to say “There is a bat here and I’m not getting near it. I don’t have the gear and I’m not dressed in a way where it’s safe for me to be near it.” If they tell you that unless you stay with the bat they can’t come to get it, tell them “OK. I hope someone gets rid of it. But please put this on the record.” Because this is the kind of thing that you can point to when your agency finally gets pushed to do something. It could be useful to point to it as an external record of what has been going on.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          OH MY GOD. That coworker needs rabies shots yesterday, and if he’s releasing them anywhere nearby they’re probably just flying back to the building.

          This has become nothing but missing stairs on the way to rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs.

  63. ZSD*

    #3 I thought I’d chime in with yet another option for handling this. I see you’re getting lots of suggestions; I hope you find one that works for you! What I do is create calendar items with reminders for myself. Like, if I had sent that email to April on Monday, then I would create a calendar item for Thursday that said, “April responded re: flowers?” That will remind me to ping her on Thursday, and then instead of dismissing the calendar item, I snooze it for one day at a time until the to-do item is actually complete.

  64. Follow up? I don't know her...*

    OP 3: If your work uses gmail, you can install the Boomerang plug in and set emails you send to return to your inbox in X days if no response. It’s been a lifesaver for my ADHD self. Something similar may exist for Outlook if your work uses Microsoft instead.

  65. Laura*

    LW4, it’s unclear if you would miss out on maternity leave benefits if you told them you weren’t coming back. I get that it might be an awkward conversation but if there are benefits, they are something you earned and you shouldn’t feel guilty taking them. My last job, I had a coworker we all knew wouldn’t be coming back (surprise twins made childcare unaffordable) and our supervisor has us quietly pass along the word to her to just not say anything until her leave was up so the company wouldn’t push her out before she’d received all the benefits. In case anyone is wondering, our “maternity leave” was just a short term disability policy we had to opt into and pay for.

    Would it be possible to resign via email or by talking to HR instead of your boss and would that mitigate the issue?

    Whatever you end up deciding it sounds like you’ve done a great job figuring out your next steps – best wishes for an easy pregnancy/delivery/newborn phase!

  66. Govt Employee Spouse*

    #1. Your working conditions sound horrific. Are you by any chance a government employee in the USA? Many non-federal government organizations are exempt from OSHA regulations (though most states have their own version of OSHA). That’s the only reason I can think your working conditions have been allowed to continue this way. However, code compliance regulations are local jurisdiction and generally apply to everyone. I would suggest contacting them. If you are worried about retaliation, you can pretend to be a client who was exposed to these conditions when visiting.

    1. Observer*

      However, code compliance regulations are local jurisdiction and generally apply to everyone.

      Yeah. Building codes apply to the landlords, regardless of who they rent to. I can’t imagine that once a building inspector gets a look at the place, the building will retain it’s COO (Certificate of Occupancy), whatever it’s called in the OP’s jurisdiction.

  67. I never leave comments (x2)*

    Use Boomerang (or a similar tool) — you don’t need to be manually checking folders at all. It will just email you back if you don’t get a response. Yay technology!

  68. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Oh #1 that is truly horrible! Even if management does begin to address the many issues with the building, these things take time and lots of money to solve, and you’ll have to work in those conditions until they do. I suggest leaving when you can.

    I know. I used to work in a very old building in downtown LA. Every morning there were mice droppings all over my desk! You could not even leave a mint in your desk drawers, or you’d have mice invasion. Downtown LA is also known for having rats the size of opossums and those would get into the restrooms and run across floors, even with tons of feral cats around. It was so disgusting! It wasn’t that management didn’t care; actually they were nice people trying to fix up the property, get pest control, put up fencing, etc., but you can’t build Rome in a day I suppose. Needless to say, I did not work there long and this was a big part of the reason I left.

  69. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #1 – I thought the owners of the building were trying to force you out until I got to the part about renovating the floor just for you. Although that fell through. The owners could well want the old tenants all out so they can fix up the building (or even demolish it) and rent for a lot more than your company is currently paying or willing to pay.

    There might not be a lot your company can do if the owners won’t fix the obvious issues. Your best option is 1 – call the health department and 2 – get out of there as quickly as you can.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      If that was the case then the landlord wouldn’t have renewed the lease for the current floor. I think they just are lazy slum lords and don’t care or won’t do anything until the city gets after them.

  70. Jay*

    LW #3, I struggle with similar issues as well. What has worked for me is creating a separate spreadsheet to track things I’m waiting on. It does create a small amount of additional work to keep it updated, but the amount of time it saves is absolutely worth the extra work for me. I keep a log of what the problem is, what I’m waiting on, who I’ve contacted, and any notes that I have on that specific issue. It’s saved me a bunch of time and hassle.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yeah, OP3 sounds a little self-defeating. “I have a problem, I think the solution might be a spreadsheet, but it would be *so much work* to set up.” Try it and find out? If that doesn’t work, try something else? Because stewing definitely isn’t solving the problem.

  71. Generic Name*

    Letter #1 reminds me of the company I just left. The buildings they occupy have leaking roofs (“solved” with blue tarp that has been up for a year), flooding issues, faulty hvac, lack of basic cleaning, peeling paint, holes created by animals on the exterior, etc. the difference is the buildings my former company occupy is owned by the founder and the company rents it from her. Super shady setup, if you ask me. It’s insane that your boss is comparing conditions inside an office building to an overseas deployment! Your company is poorly run by loons. Get out before you get rabies.

  72. Correct.*

    As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t handle ordinary levels of cleaning, definitely don’t have an OFFICE POPCORN MACHINE.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      You couldn’t pay me enough money to eat popcorn out a machine that lives in a place infested with roaches and rodents. Starch and grease are two of your basic vermin food groups, and no doubt they’d infiltrate the guts of the machine as well. Disease aside, I’d be afraid the thing would start a fire due to mice chewing on wires or peeing on the components, things blocking the air vents, all kinds of stuff.

  73. I'm just here for the cats!!*

    #1 I haven’t even read the rest of the letters and I need to comment. Call the city! Have all your coworkers call the city. This building needs to be shut down! Mold, bats, crumbling walls! My God this needs to have the city inspector look at it immediately. Especially being that it is open to the public there is even more need for safety.

  74. WheresMyPen*

    I feel like we should start saying something is “full of bats” instead of “full of bees” to really highlight a terrible situation

      1. Goldenrod*

        ha ha! LW1, I can’t even. I can’t even.

        Bats?? I am having such a hard time even absorbing this. I mean, I’ve worked in some places that weren’t exactly high-end but….A bat in the popcorn machine??? Seriously?

        This is my favorite line: “Am I being unreasonable to want to work in an office free of bats?”

        YES THAT IS CLEARLY SO UNREASONABLE. What a diva. Now brush those bats off your desk and get back to work! :D

  75. lilsheba*

    OP 5 — I just want you to know that your jobs in Hollywood ARE real jobs! They are the backbone of any production. I fully support the strikes and I hope they get resolved soon!!

  76. Lau*

    LW1 – I’m in a similar situation except I am part of management. I can say on my end, I do know that we are trying to get out but have not been able to close on another space yet. We ended up resigning a lease here, but we got it on a month-to-month so we will be able to leave when we manage to get a new space. We have fixed as many problems in our own space as we can, but that only helps so much. The building is going to be knocked down within two years, so the owners/property management just don’t care that the roof leaks (through the drop ceiling and into our space), that the building is moldy and mildew and smells that way, that lights are out in the common area, that the parking lot is torn up (even after they’ve been sued at least twice because people have fallen and been seriously injured), that the public bathrooms are not cleaned regularly (not sure if they’ve taken the cleaners’ schedule down or if the cleaners are just skipping it). We continue to make noise, we continue to be ignored. My bosses don’t want to put rent in escrow and withhold because they are concerned about how that will be viewed to a new landlord as we are actively trying to move.

    While no one should have to work in these conditions, I do wonder how much is being done behind the scenes that you don’t know about. I’m open with my employees about what we’re trying to do, but not all upper management is. Sometimes you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    It sounds like you see clients (we see patients), so you may not be able to work from home, but is that something that could be feasible at least a few days per week? I’m also wondering how much you can discuss the impact of your health with management – or HR would be best. Physically and mentally – I would start to document this formally.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Given the boss’s views on the hazards, I feel confident that mitigation/relocation strategies are not a high priority in the highest levels, here.

  77. MG*

    Dealt with this when bats were in the apartment building at a university. Students with bats in the building had to go get rabies shots because the bats were not caught to be tested and bats are the leading cause of rabies. You do not always know when you are bitten by a bat, and since this was in their apartment, they had the added exposure of sleeping with bats there. Report it, Department of Health/OSHA. I mean – RABIES should not be a risk factor at work for an office job.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      OMG yes! I never thought of this. Also, bad guana is really toxic and can cause lots of health problems.

  78. Abogado Avocado.*

    #1, The conditions you describe are public health risks. This is not merely a landlord not having a good cleaning crew; this is a landlord who is neglecting legal responsibilities that puts their certificate of occupancy at risk. The sewer smells are concerning because they suggest that sewer gas is backing up into the building and THAT is a plumbing issue the landlord should be dealing with. As regards the bats, that means there are openings in the building that they’re getting into. Bat bites are the leading cause of rabies in humans in the U.S.

    Call your Public Health Department, describe the conditions in detail, and ask that your building be inspected. If possible, do it in writing and ask that your name be protected. (In many jurisdictions, informants are protected.)

    If you have a life-safety issue, such as exit doors being blocked or locked or not clearly marked or the lack of a fire extinguishing system (sprinklers or extinguishers or hoses), also call your Fire Marshal’s office. In many jurisdictions, fire marshals have the right to enter any building to where there are threats to life safety. And, the inspectors for the Fire Marshal’s office usually are very good at noticing public health threats.

    Good luck and let us know what happens.

  79. I'm just here for the cats!!*

    Ok time for my thoughts on the other letters.

    #2 This is so odd. Sometimes you go to urgent care and don’t need accommodations. Like I cut my hand and need stitches. That’s not going to affect me working. And there are lots of times where you might need accommodations but you go through your regular doctor, not UC. So would they require you to tell them every time you go to a doctor? In fact, I can’t even think of times you would need to go to UC and then need accommodation, except maybe if you broke your foot and need a space to put your foot up at work. This is really overstretching. I would just not report if you go to UC. How are they going to know?

    #3 Can you snooze emails so that they come up again later? Or could you put something in your calendar to send you a reminder email to follow up?
    #4. It doesn’t sound like you are relying on this job for insurance, but if you get any sort of sick leave or payment when you are on maternity leave from the company, they may have a requirement that you pay that back if you do not return. I have heard of times when people had to pay the company back because they did not return from their parental leave.
    #5 No additional advice but if anyone is interested in working in Hollywood I highly recommend the podcast Happier in Hollywood. Liz and Sarah are WGA writers and showrunners and they talk about working in Hollywood, the strike, and other fun things.

  80. Woebegone Wednesday*

    LW1 – Also, do not drink the water. I doubt anyone is making coffee or tea at work, but just in case, put up signs indicating it is unsafe to drink.

    I wouldn’t take the risk.

  81. M-Dub*

    LW3: I have a category In Outlook that’s for ACTION. When I categorize an email as Action, it changes the text to bold and red and enlarges it, so it’s extremely easy to see in my inbox.

    I also bcc myself on any email where either I ask for something or agree to take an action, and then mark my email as action so I know I either need to do something, or follow up on something.

  82. Jack McCullough*

    LW1: Two observations.

    First, your post indicates that you aren’t being successful in communicating your concerns to your employer. Don’t take that on yourself. You’ve done everything, the employer just doesn’t care. I suspect that even if your efforts get results it’s only a matter of time until the next workplace health and safety comes up and the employer ignores that one, too.

    Second, the suggestion to go to OSHA is a good one. There is also a good chance that your state has a state OSHA, and you should also try them.

    Good luck.

  83. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Everyone here talking about bats and parental leave, and I am sitting here with my mind blown at the concept of a “waiting for” folder.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Last year I set up a CC filter after a colleague suggested it and it was LIFE CHANGING. I have big expectations for this too!

    1. Never Having Popcorn Again*

      It’s the little things for quality of life. Re Outlook, I’m glad it’s not just me. I have 1 outlook email left and I was just thinking “It’s 2023, how have they made email confusing?” I hate the snoopy overlords that are G Mail but at least you can, you know, use it without wanting to cheese grate your knuckles.

      1. Phony Genius*

        The biggest surprise to me here is that a company that treats its employees this badly would even have an office popcorn machine.

        1. Observer*

          The biggest surprise to me here is that a company that treats its employees this badly would even have an office popcorn machine.

          The OP says that it’s not a functional machine. I’d be wiling to bet that some employees purchased it many years ago.

  84. Jackie Grow*

    Re #3, there are software solutions for this, if your company permits email add-ons. I use Boomerang where the email gets returned to my inbox if I don’t get a reply in a specified period of time.

  85. Jojo*

    LW 4. I am a really risk adverse person, and would typically never advise someone quit before going on maternity leave based of of how they think they may feel. However, I know how hard it was for me to return to a job I love after spending several months with my newborn. I cried so much. It’s probably fair to say that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In my case, it was worth it, and I’m still at that job even though my little baby is taller than me now. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to return to a job I really didn’t like. So, if you are in a position where you can afford to make that decision, and you have clearly done that math, I think you may want to follow your gut on this one. (Unless you have some kind of short term disability coverage for your pay during your leave. If you have that, you might want to wait until you have returned to give your notice.

  86. SpicySpice*

    #3 – I personally cc myself on those kinds of emails, and then red flag it as a to-do once it hits my inbox. Or if you’re not cool with your contact seeing that you cc’d yourself, forward yourself a copy once it’s sent. (I personally am not a folders fan because I have ADHD and “out of sight, out of mind” is a real issue for me. Everything stays in my inbox haha!)

    1. Veryanon*

      I go into my sent items and flag it as a follow up, along with the date. I also put a reminder on my calendar.

  87. TCPA*

    LW4: I’d like to share my experience, as someone who chose to not work while pregnant OR after my child was born! If you are able to take that much time off after having a baby, go for it! You don’t need to stay tethered to a job you don’t want to be at, and it may bring a lot of peace of mind that is extremely helpful for the birth process.

    My husband and I saved up for years so that we could both stay home with a future child for the first few years. So, we saved up, quit our jobs, got married, took a long honeymoon, and then got pregnant at the beginning of COVID. Neither of us worked while I was pregnant (which was glorious!) and we lived with a family member to keep our costs down. After my daughter was born, I had some freelancing opportunities I decided to take on, slowly, and now I am employed in my dream job, working part-time from home. My husband is still not working, we live on my salary and our savings, he gets to be a full-time stay at home parent, and I get to spend tons of time with my family! We are living our dream life, and I feel very happy and lucky (and grateful for planning/saving) that we are able to do this. I can also say that thinking about/planning/waiting for labor/birth was far more relaxed when I didn’t have to worry about a job or returning to work. It really put me a positive state of mind where I could simply focus on my family and bringing my baby into the world. I wish you all the best, and a positive birth experience! I’m also happy to share any further info/thoughts with you, from someone who has been there :)

  88. Veryanon*

    #4: Please don’t quit your job yet! If you tell your company before you leave that you’re not returning (depending on the state you’re in; I’m assuming you’re in the US), they could deny you any disability or other paid leave benefits to which you might be entitled, since they’ll treat the day you leave as your termination date. Additionally, if you are currently using any of their health benefits, those would end, too. Not to mention that anything could happen – your partner could get hit by a bus tomorrow, or one of you could become seriously disabled, or your partner could lose their job, etc., etc. I get that you are not planning to return there, but don’t quit until you absolutely have to give them an answer about your return date.

    1. TCPA*

      What if that paid leave and those benefits are simply not worth the mental space and anxiety staying tethered to this job is giving LW4? They have savings, their partner currently has a job, and presumably they have backup plans. Personally, I don’t think LW4 should stay in a job they’re not happy in and don’t want to return to, just to get some extra pay (even if they are entitled to it). There seems to be a lot of societal pressure to always have a job, but sometimes folks plan their lives differently, and that’s ok! Sounds like they have a good plan in place and taking a year off is something that would significantly improve LW4’s life :)

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Personally, I’d be in this camp — yes, I could quit later but having it hanging over me for months would use a lot of my brain energy. It’s the way I’m wired. Certainly take stock of the risk / benefit / income implications, but in the end it’s okay to just set yourself free!

        1. TCPA*

          For sure! Setting yourself free can be priceless.

          (And reserving brain energy is 100% necessary when your whole life suddenly revolves around keeping a tiny newborn human alive!)

  89. CSRoadWarrior*

    #1 – Good god. I am speechless. As Alison said, some of this is a public health issue. And even if it is not, everything else OP has mentioned… I cannot even. Bats? Cockroaches? Moths? And the sewer smell? I will not repeat everything said in the letter, but my goodness. Management certainly knows, they just don’t give a damn. Eventually, either someone will get sick, safety will be compromised, or this will reach a point where a lawsuit is going to happen. Or worse, all three.

    Also, it seems like the building is well on its way to being condemned. Which means nobody should be going in there at all. Let alone an employee.

    #2 – Totally not normal. Suppose you are having a heart attack. How in the world are you supposed to inform HR when you need emergency bypass surgery or else lose your life? You absolutely cannot inform HR in these emergency situations. Of course, this is just an example. And as Alison said, a lot of it will also violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Which is obviously breaking the law.

    More importantly, medical issues/records are very personal. Unless it will affect your job or you need accommodations, your health is nobody’s business but yours, your doctor’s, or any medical staff that has to know, like your surgeon, for example. You can share if it you want to, but you shouldn’t be forced to share it.

    1. I Have RBF*

      IMO, the Director for LW #1 should be in jail for negligence toward his employees or something. At the very least his executive career should be toast.

  90. Barbara Eyiuche*

    #1 Is there any chance you could ask clients or customers to complain to your management? I worked in a place where the boss laughed off any suggestions from his workers, but he took complaints from clients seriously.

  91. Veryanon*

    LW1 – Seconding the commenters who suggested contacting your state’s local department of labor, department of health, and/or OSHA. I’m pretty certain that your employer legally has to provide a reasonably safe and clean workplace. Also, BATS? Holy smokes.

  92. Snowday*

    OP1, call animal control every time you see bats. The CDC normally follows up for rabies control and I bet that’ll get some attention.

  93. TongueTiedMS*

    #3 – I have 2 more strategies (because I organize my inbox by task and a general “waiting” folder would disturb that system) – 1) calendar reminders for when you need to check in, and attach the original email for reference, and 2) color-coded to-do list. An email that needs to be sent is highlighted in yellow; once its sent I remove the color and strike it out. If it requires an answer, I highlight it in green and mark who I need a follow up from and by what date. Then I can reference the list each morning for what dates are approaching.

  94. Environmental Compliance*

    HSE with a background in environmental/heath department.

    For #1 –
    1) Bats/cockroaches – bats/cockroaches are a health issue and a disease vector. This is a Health Dept issue. If local isn’t getting back to you, escalate to the State HD. You could also point out that OSHA sanitation code does require the place of work to be free from vermin hazards (1910.141).

    2) HVAC & air quality – OSHA doesn’t have standards for office temperature/mold/humidity. Instead, look at the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 55 which does specify both temperature and air flow under properly controlled/engineered conditions. This may fall under your local building code though – talk to the local Building Department. Feasibly, depending on type of mold & potential harm… maybe under the OSHA General Duty Clause. Using the GD clause as a framing for management is actually how I got a pump house HVAC system redone to prevent humidity causing mold.

    3) Restrooms – this may also fall under local building code.

    When you go to health/building departments, I would use the phrasing that you are concerned regarding disease exposure from vermin infestation and poor indoor air quality from lack of proper building maintenance. Also mention to the building department any concerns you have re: building safety – safe access (security *and* those escalators!!!), crumbling of structure, etc.

    This is way more than a morale issue. This is an health and safety *liability* that is opening the door for significantly impacting the health and welfare of the employees, which is also incredibly expensive for business.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      And since this is state government, wouldn’t the government be liable for any health issues or injuries caused by to a client by a visit to these offices?

  95. Caryn Z.*

    #3 sorry if someone said this, but most email systems have priority type flags too. Outlook has specific follow up flags Today, Tomorrow, Next Week, No Date, Custom, Etc.

  96. CJ*

    For #3: I have this issue. Any sent email I _need_ a reply to, I move it to my inbox and then I use Gmail or Outlook’s Snooze tool so it resurfaces when I tell it. (Yes, I use my inbox as a de facto to-do. In addition to my separate to-do list. Don’t judge.)

    Also in Outlook, you can right-click an email, and under Advanced, flat create a task.

  97. M*

    LT 1

    I’ve worked in nonprofits for my entire career and unfortunately some nonprofits have a point of pride in having cheap and poorly cared for facilities. They don’t think things should be too nice because they don’t to appear extravagant or need donations.

    Facilities like this are so disrespectful to not just your staff but ultimately the people you serve. People accessing services (depending on the nonprofit and mission) often have low incomes, may come from a traumatic background, are people of color, and deserve to be treated with dignity. Services should be welcoming and trauma informed.

    If your boss doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal because they’ve worked in worse places, maybe emphasize that the people you serve deserve better.

  98. Pretzel Day*

    OP #4 – I was in your shoes before. I had gotten pregnant while at a job that I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to. We were in a great position financially to have me stay home if I needed to. I ended up deciding to just remain at my job, take my maternity leave, and not make any rash decisions. My last day of maternity leave was March 13, 2020 (the day the world shut down) and I was scheduled to return to work that following Monday, March 16, 2020. Needless to say, I was incredibly grateful that I had held onto that job during the uncertainties of COVID-19. My role was safe, and I was able to work remotely for a few more months while I looked for a new job. I resigned in June 2020 after accepting a decent job offer. I was happy to have that steady paycheck when my husband’s job was looking uncertain. Just one data point for you.

  99. Ann O'Nemity*

    OP #1

    You may be able to find similar rents for better spaces, but don’t underestimate the financial and disruptive cost of moving. As an example, my last company estimated it would cost us over $100,000 to move! I still think you should fight to move, but you may need to be more compelling about the dangers of staying.

    Regarding the manager who worked in worse places while deployed, well… yikes. If a manager gave a bs excuse like that, I’d be tempted to retort, “So you think it’s acceptable to expose our team and our clients to unnecessary health risks and liability because you survived worse while in war zones? Do you think OSHA will be good with that?”

    1. Observer*

      but don’t underestimate the financial and disruptive cost of moving

      Sure. But what about the liability costs? The danger of bad publicity – I mean, sure they are a State government agency, but in some ways they are even more beholden to good PR. What about the hit to productivity?

      And as disruptive and expensive as moving are, it is a LOT more expensive to deal with that when your office building either gets condemned with no notice, or it collapses or becomes otherwise unusable? Government agency or not, they *will* have to deal with that, in either of those cases.

      I remember, many years ago, somebody called in an Asbestos complaint to some building with a city agency tenant. The inspectors came in, gave a look at what was going on and were “Out of here NOW!” The agency was basically locked out of the building along with all the other tenants. People were told to leave and take their stuff with them. Anyone who was not in the office that day, had to go through a whole process to get their stiff back, because only people in appropriate hazmat suits were going in there, so the priority was people doing the mitigation and getting out stuff that the tenants absolutely needed to continue operating.

      THAT cost them a pretty penny! As for the disruption and negative effect on their work? Don’t ask!

  100. Josie*

    LW 5 – when I left television I had a lot of success with a resume that listed skills (writing, project management, etc) and bullet point accomplishments in each category. Then I had a list of jobs at the end. Good luck!

  101. Dek*

    “he has a military background and has said in all-staff meetings a few times that our building conditions aren’t that bad compared to the spaces he worked in while he was deployed. We’re at-will employees, not service members.”

    Ah, one of my favorite useless statements from folks in charge. Like. A famously abusive, draconian entity should not be the low bar to clear.

    1. Never Having Popcorn Again*

      Eh, well known that with military people or veterans, the amount of hardship and risk they endured is usually inversely proportionate to how much they talk about it. Betting this guy was a fobbit who served 1 tour. I respectfully have to push back on Draconian. Just curious if you’ve been in the service, or known people who have? I ask because there’s so much misinfo out there.

    2. Indolent Libertine*

      OMG yes. Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but “marginally better than a foxhole” is just… not really an acceptable standard of cleanliness and/or amenities for an urban office, in an urban area during peacetime.

  102. Summer Bummer*

    OP1, I don’t know what kind of terms you’re on with those clients that you’re sending to the sewer bathroom—but is there any way you gently suggest they complain about it, and give them the contact info of someone higher up? When I’ve had (deeply reasonable) problems that were invisible to employers no matter how often their employees complained, sometimes a client raising those same problems will be heard. That’s usually the mark of a bad employer, but you already know this guy sucks, so good luck on your exit!

  103. Cinderblock*

    LW1: Complain to your local health department (as others have said) *and* your local building inspector’s office. You probably have some serious code violations; when the inspectors come in, they *always* find things, even if it appears that nothing is wrong.

  104. TJames*

    It doesn’t sound like anything you can do is going to change the working conditions. If your building is a fall down dump filled with health and safety hazards and your manager’s response is “toughen up, maggots, it’s not as bad as Tikrit, and you don’t have to worry about IEDs,” then they don’t care.

  105. Elizabeth West*

    #3– Well there’s your problem; you emailed April about flowers. That should probably have gone to Jerry. ;)

  106. NotARealManager*

    LW #5 – Former freelance production coordinator here as well. I list it as one job on my resume with job duties and accomplishments like I would a regular job.

    Sometimes I explain a bit in the cover letter (if there’s one required), especially that I was consistently employed. If there’s space on my resume, I highlight a few key productions as well. This combo seemed to translate the best when applying to the 9-5 world.

  107. Never Having Popcorn Again*

    Can you imagine Bat Manager at home?
    Daughter: “Dad, I just got bitten by 3 black widows”
    Manager: “Adversity is a part of life girlie. I slept with 9 Egyptian Cobras in my tent on X deployment. Now go milk the cows.”
    Daughter: “We don’t have cows.”
    Manager: “Go round some up.”

    Also, this business must be highly specialized or really good at what they do, bc if I were a client and I visited this Mad Max office I wouldn’t be going to the competition immediately.

  108. P-Trap Troubles*

    OP#1- Quick tip to at least address the sewer smell in the bathroom: If there is a toilet that has not been used in a bit of time, the odds are than the P-trap has dried out. When that happens, there is nothing to block the sewer gas from coming up. While the obvious answer is to fix the toilet, the temporary fix is to simply pour a good amount of water in the toilet bowl or flush the toilet (if it is flushable). This will fill in the p-trap and keep that gas smell at bay. Make sure someone (ideally your facilities person) is doing this regularly until the issue is fixed.

  109. Long time lurker*

    I know this has been said a lot, but to reiterate BATS ARE A MAJOR HEALTH HAZARD AND NO ONE SHOULD BE WORKING IN AN OFFICE WITH A BAT COLONY. This is the kind of thing that a health code inspection would result in the building being designate unfit for habitation.

  110. Cloud CEO*

    OP #2
    Before reading Alison’s response, my first inclination is that the company is having trouble tracking and managing workplace injuries.

  111. Itsa Me, Mario*

    Re #5 – I was an entertainment industry freelancer for 10 years, and because I only switched over 6 years ago and have only had 2 non-freelance jobs, this thorny resume issue is still something I deal with even now. The way I’ve set my resume up — as someone who does now have some non-freelance work under my belt — is to have my production credits in a column on the side. For those jobs, I list my job title, show title, relevant network/production company info, and dates.

    Because this is now 5+ years in the rear-view mirror for me, I have eliminated any job I did for less than about 6 months. I now just list the years in the date area. So, for example, while during my freelance years I would list “Best Boy Llama Groomer – Coca Cola Commercial – May-June 2016”, I would probably not put that job on my resume at all anymore. For “2nd Assistant Llama Coordinator – The Brady Bunch Season 3 – June 2016-March 2017”, I would now just write 2016-2017. Nobody really needs to know that, between working on Gilligan’s Island Season 1 and Brady Bunch Season 3 I did 4 commercials and an un-aired pilot. Or that I had a gap on my resume for 6 weeks between that indie feature and the pilot I worked on getting picked up to series.

    I pivoted from entertainment freelancing to an in-house job at a studio. I think if I were going entirely outside the entertainment industry, to a law firm, insurance company, tech company, defense contractor, etc. I would probably remove the production freelance column entirely. But, again, doing that when it’s literally your whole career is difficult to do.

  112. Smol Stage Manager Bean*

    LW #5: I had a similar experience when noting my freelance stage management experience. I had one company that I worked with consistently for several years and listed them as the job location, described my duties, and added an asterisk noting that I had also stage managed X projects at a range of theatres and could provide my theatrical resume.

    I liked using this format because it gave me somewhere to point to for references, describe the duties I took on that would be relevant to the position, and also note that I had a *ton* of experience in that field (twenty plus shows over four years! Don’t miss that!)

  113. JB*

    #3 I use a spreadsheet to keep track of things like emails I’m waiting on responses from, including what I need in the response and the timeframe I’m waiting in for each one.

  114. Follow-Up Queen*

    LW3 I am the QUEEN of following up on emails I’ve sent in my office (Everyone hates me. Not really, but maybe a little.) I don’t know if task management software is your jam, but here’s what I do: I use Todoist as my task manager. It has an addon for most email clients, including Gmail and Outlook. Pretty much every time I send an email, I click the little Todoist icon that sits right in my email client to add an email as a task, and then I make the task something like, “Follow up w/ April re: flowers” and set the deadline to whenever you want to follow up next. This also works well when you receive an email that you don’t want to deal with right away.

  115. Seconds*

    For #1:

    There’s a chance that the bathroom odor issue might be easily dealt with. Try pouring a few cups of water into the drain. Floor drains need water in the trap, and if it dries out, gasses will escape.

    I assume that regular mopping usually keeps these drains filled, but I guess some places either don’t clean often enough or use a different method. More than once I’ve been able to fix this problem in a public restroom this way.

  116. New Senior Mgr*

    LW1 – Happy (early) Halloween!

    Seriously, you have to get out of there but start with Dept of Health first, maybe a local newspaper writer next.

  117. Business Pajamas*

    LW3, if you use Outlook, I recommend using the To Do list functionality to track items you are waiting to hear back on. After you send your request, right click on the email in your Sent Items folder and select “Follow Up.” You can then set a specific date or date range (using the Custom option) for the task in your To Do list and can even create a reminder at a specific time. I usually set a Start Date for when I’d ideally like to hear back, a Due Date for the deadline by which I need the information, and a Reminder somewhere in the middle when I feel like it’s reasonable to send a second nudge if I haven’t heard back from the person. You can also shift any of the parameters if additional follow-up is needed (i.e., you hear back but have more questions, or you send that second nudge and want a reminder to send a third, fourth, etc. prior to the deadline). Once you do have all the info you need, you can mark the task complete to clear it from your To Do list.

    For a slightly more aggressive option, you can also set the Follow Up details when you draft your email or reply. The option is right above where you would mark the email as High Importance. This route will let you add reminders for yourself AND the recipient so that they get an automatic reminder about your email from Outlook on the reminder date you set. As a manager, I use this method with my team (with their buy-in) if there is an important deadline within the business (i.e., corporate training due date, open enrollment deadline, etc.) that will occur when I am out of office. Outside of my team, I sometimes use it with people who frequently disregard emails to save myself some effort on follow-up…but this is definitely a bit petty and I would not suggest doing it with anyone higher up on the org chart.

    I send dozens of emails a day requiring follow-up and live & die by this method to keep track of everything, as one email folder with all my requests would quickly get out of hand and require more energy than I want to invest in organizing it to keep track of when I actually need to hear back on each item. Sorry about the lengthy comment, but I hope you see this and it helps!

  118. Me1980*


    I just discovered a game changing function on the new Outlook. It is called “Follow Up” and you can set a date for it to remind you to do just that if a response hasn’t been received. I have been using it for a month now and I love it!

  119. Global Cat Herder*

    LW1 – Lots of great suggestions for different agencies to contact because this is horrific. Unfortunately some of those agencies might take time before they respond.

    The FIRE MARSHAL usually shows up in 1-2 days. Your boss can’t tell them to go away and can’t avoid whatever they mete out, which might be important since you said your employer is actually state government. And unlike OSHA, the fire marshal is acting on a report from the public.

    We had a period where management was spectacularly stupid – and one of the worker bees was married to a fire fighter, so they knew the fire marshal existed. The fire marshal visited a LOT. Actual things my company was fined for, that might help you think of things that you could report:

    – Extension cords that ran across the hallway
    – Extra office furniture stored in the hallway
    – Carpet that came apart at the seam in a big enough hole that someone could trip on it
    – Missing tiles in the drop ceiling (iirc, the tiles are fire retardant and having the open space meant there was no longer a fire break between rooms?)
    – Hoarder co-worker who had so much stuff piled on her desk and in her cube that was it was cited as its own fire hazard
    … and those piles literally touched the lights in the ceiling – a separate violation
    … and those piles blocked the entrance to her cube so she had to step over piles to get in / out of her cube – yet another violation, for impeding her egress
    … and while the fire marshal was there, one of the piles fell over (they did that sometimes) into the hallway, which was another violation for impeding everyone else’s egress
    – Instead of spending money on redoing the wallpaper in the hallway they decided to cover the walls in butcher paper and give everybody markers to “personalize” it
    – File boxes stacked in the hallway until you had to turn sideways to get through it (“but records storage is too expensive, we saved $X by putting the files where we had extra space” – the fine was at least 5 times $X)
    – Badge reader required to get OUT of the restroom, as well as to get IN (“but people are spending too much time in the bathroom, we need to make sure people don’t send more than 10 minutes in the bathroom!”) – the fire marshal showed up THE NEXT DAY and cut the badge readers off the wall with a fire ax

    Is there ANYTHING that could catch fire easily and/or ANYTHING that could spread fire easily room-to-room or floor-to-floor? Piles of paper, stacks of boxes, space heaters, lots of extension cords, holes in walls, missing doors, missing ceiling tiles, holes in ceiling? Fire stairs with doors that don’t close all the way?

    Is there ANYTHING that might possibly in ANY way slow you down in leaving the building IMMEDIATELY in case of fire? Anything stored in the hallways, anything stored in front of the fire exit, carpet that comes up, doors that stick, elevators/escalators that don’t work, exits that aren’t well lit? Fire stairs that are blocked / locked / full of debris / full of squatters / slick with mold or humidity?

    You’ll still want to report to the board of health, to the building code inspector (the warrant of habitability or whatever it’s called in your jurisdiction may be revoked), to OSHA, to an employment lawyer, and to anyone else recommended above. But calling the fire marshal should be on that list too, because they might get there soonest.

  120. Georgia*

    I used to work in homecare management and I’ll say I had some premie babies needing nursing at home and there’s no way either parent could quit their jobs. Sometimes the mom couldn’t quit because she had better insurance. Sometimes the parent with most flexible job needed to keep their job while the other parent quit to stay home. Another example is sometimes children are born with expensive needs, premie or not, and both parents had to work. There’s examples in general of moms not having a mentally healthy time staying home in the beginning and they are completely shocked at wanting to return to work. I also used to work with someone whose husband left her when she was pregnant! And one of my former clients lost his wife in a car accident and he then had a baby to raise on his own. It’s good not assume so far out. Things happen that you can’t predict but you can mitigate risk by not making the decision until you’re closer to the deadline of needing to let someone know.

  121. Audrey*

    For the mat leave one: I just got back to my job after maternity leave. I thought I would be a SAHM, but my husband was laid off when I was at 36 weeks, and (the good part) my employer decided to change my job around so that I’m 90% WFH instead of 90% in office, change my work schedule so that it is baby friendly, *and* gave me a pay bump because they just wanted to keep me. I know this isn’t a normal situation, but I could not have predicted this.
    Also– especially because you’re in a toxic workplace, girl use their disability insurance! Most worker’s comp plans cover maternity leave and the state will send you back to the employer (that’s what mine did!).

  122. Anonymous for This*

    Since OP#1 didn’t join the military and assuming that they aren’t a member of a cult, their working conditions are unacceptable.

    I doubt they are receiving hazardous duty pay, either.

    The director who is former military is being just as obnoxious as people who say that anything that we see as an issue here in the US that isn’t something experienced by people in remote villages in underdeveloped nations is a first world problem.

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