I think my incompetent coworker made up her work history, my office told me to pump in the bathroom, and more

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

1. Should I have told anyone I thought my incompetent coworker made up her work history?

My organization hired “Jane,” a coordinator for my department, about six months ago. I didn’t interview her or knew anything about her before she was hired. I am one level below her manager, who is in my department but on a separate team. I interacted with her mostly by helping her with a few tricky process things that are hard to understand if you’re just starting.

While working with Jane, I noticed that she seemed pretty unprofessional for a person with her work experience, and she seemed to have kind of weird email etiquette. For example, she basically just declined to do a training because she didn’t want to, and instead kept asking me to do her requests even after I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the capacity to help you with this, you need to do the training so you can do it yourself.” She told a very long, overly personal story about her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend at a company happy hour. We have a pretty informal email culture at my workplace, but her emails were super casual, along the lines of “heyyyy girl” to higher-ups. When she was in charge of organizing a team retreat, she forgot to order lunch (so other team members ran out to pick up food for everyone) and was 30 minutes late to the first session (about 90 minutes after she was supposed to be there to set up breakfast) because she didn’t plan for traffic.

All of this added up to some red flags for a person about 40 years old who claimed on her resume that she had worked as an executive assistant at several large, well-known companies and had managed large admin projects. Because I am nosy and probably unwise, I did a Google deep dive and couldn’t find any evidence that Jane had worked at the companies she claimed. She does not have a LinkedIn profile. I couldn’t find anything at all to support her professional history, although I did find tons of other internet trails (social media profiles, etc.). But, of course, I had no real evidence that she had lied on her resume, I don’t want to be a person who goes around assuming someone is lying, and in any case, I wasn’t her manager or even directly on her team so it was probably weird for me to be spending time on this in the first place! I also think that, while making up a work history on your resume is obviously a big deal, it’s a more immediate problem that she was not doing the basic duties of her job. And that part was visible to her manager (including the training stuff, which I had filled in her manager about) so I figured there was no reason for me to get involved.

Cut to this week. I got an email saying, “Jane is no longer with us as of today.” My organizational culture is really forgiving, so I assume she must have done something pretty serious to be let go with no notice and so quickly that her email was still active (in my six years at this large organization, the only other instance I know of someone being fired without notice involved embezzlement). I don’t know what happened. Should I have brought my concerns about her resume to her manager or my manager before things got to this point? Since Jane’s manager definitely knew about her performance concerns, was there any reason for me to bring up my nosy internet sleuthing?

Nah, I don’t think so. The performance issues were your business since you were training her, and hopefully you didn’t sugarcoat those when you brought them to her manager. But it’s up to them to do their due diligence before hiring someone — and, as you point out, the immediate problem was that she wasn’t able to do her job.

It would have been different if you had clear, incontrovertible evidence that she had made up her work history, but you didn’t have that. And really, lots of people don’t have LinkedIn or don’t talk about their jobs online. So maybe she did lie about her experience or maybe she didn’t — but either way she couldn’t do the job, and that was the thing to focus on.

2. My coworker uses everyone else’s trash cans

I have a coworker who tends to throw away their garbage in other people’s bins. Everyone has their own trash bin at their desks, including this person. But they still make the rounds to “chat” while also taking the opportunity to throw away anything in their pockets or in their hands. Yes, including stinky lunch leftovers. I don’t want to sit next to someone else’s smelly food for the rest of my day. How can I tell this person to stop without sounding like excessively controlling?

For food: “Would you mind not putting that in my bin? Whenever there’s food in it, I smell it all day.”

For other stuff: I don’t think you can reasonably stop him from throwing, like, scrap paper in your bin since it’s a trash can and that’s what it’s there for. If he’s filling it up, that’s a different story — in that case you could say, “Could you take that to your bin so I don’t have to empty this” — but otherwise let that part of it go.

3. My office told me to pump in the bathroom

I recently had a baby and am currently work from home until the new year. My child is exclusively breastfed, and I pump and store milk regularly.

I went into the office today to pick up some items, and I quickly came the realization that my breasts become full and painful rather quickly if I’m not pumping or around my child. This prompted me to ask HR what accommodations would be made when I come back in January. I jokingly typed “(not in the bathroom please)” when asking where I could pump.

To my surprise, he said I would actually have to pump in the bathroom until other accommodations are made. I am not doing that (for a multitude of reasons), and I’m not sure how to respond.

Nope, that’s illegal. The PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, signed into law in late 2022, requires employers to provide nursing employees with a private place to pump, and the law explicitly says it cannot be a bathroom.

Send HR a message saying something like this: “I wanted to make sure you know that federal law does require us to provide nursing employees with a private place to pump, which cannot be a bathroom. (Details here — the law just passed last year so the company might not have been aware of it.) Can we arrange for me to reserve times in a private office space or locking conference room once I’m back in January?”

Read an update to this letter

4. Using a pet photo as my Slack profile photo

Most people in our internal Slack have icons of themselves or no icons. My boss and I both have pictures of our pets. We work not directly with animals, but in an animal-focused area of a much larger business. The great majority of our communication is internal within this animal-focused subsection. Is this a bad idea? It really is a job focused on animals and everyone’s pets are an incredibly common point of friendly conversation in the office and online. Mostly I think its funny, but I’m newer to this kind of job and my boss is known to be a character (he’s great!).

I think you’re fine. You work in an animal-focused area and your boss has a pet photo as his image. Even if those things weren’t true, it still wouldn’t necessarily be a problem — but because those things are both true, you definitely don’t need to worry.

5. Explaining why I’m quitting with nothing else lined up

I have been using your tips to land a different role but have come to the conclusion that I am just too burned out at this point to put in the hours needed to successfully pivot to a new-to-me, competitive role. Thus, I am gathering my wits to resign from my current role without another lined up. What is a fast, truthful, information-lite way of conveying this to my current job (they will ask due to concerns about competitors) and to interviewers? “Taking time to explore my options” seems trite.

To your current employer: “I want to take some time off for some personal projects and to think about what I want to do next.”

To interviewers: “I was in a position to be able to take some time off in between jobs so I can be really thoughtful about what to do next.”

{ 492 comments… read them below }

    1. MassMatt*

      We did? Where?

      Clearly the organization in #1 did not check references; yet another case of FAFO, and also continues keeping terrible employees around forever unless they steal. Sounds like the kind of place that attracts George Constanza type employees.

      1. Exile from Academia*

        I think “Jane is no longer with us” is being considered technically an update to the “someone I trained is raising red flags that they faked their work experience” situation?

        And I think “continues keeping terrible employees around forever unless they steal” is speculating way beyond the info we have. LW only says the embezzlement thing was the only other time they saw someone fired without notice, it’s quite possible that the company has a slower but functional process for firing people who shouldn’t be in that job but who aren’t actively committing crimes. Actually, since it only took 6 months before Sketchy Jane got fired, I think it’s more likely than not that they stay on top of performance issues.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > since it only took 6 months before Sketchy Jane got fired, I think it’s more likely than not that they stay on top of performance issues

          I don’t think she was fired for the ongoing performance issues as such. It happened so suddenly and without notice (and that is out of step with what the company typically does) leading OP to conclude that it must have been something egregious. And I think it must have been a specific incident (or discovery of something), rather than a pattern of poor performance over the 6 months.

          As such – it seems like Jane was underperforming for 6 months and the company did nothing about it – so I can see why the parent commenter said the company “continues keeping terrible employees around forever”.

          I would have brought up my suspicions, actually, I think. It isn’t really “sleuthing” to do things like search for someone on LinkedIn (although of course that isn’t conclusive in itself). I would have said something like “it seems inconceivable that she has all this EA experience but writes emails with heeeey girl to higher-ups and doesn’t know how to organise a team event, which really made me wonder if she did actually have all that experience”.

          1. KHB*

            Just because there was no notice to OP doesn’t necessarily mean there was no notice to Jane, does it? If my employer put me on a PIP, I would hope they wouldn’t broadcast that fact to the whole company…so I wouldn’t expect to have that information about a coworker who was on thin ice either.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*


              If someone is on a PIP, the company doesn’t tell co-workers. same if someone fails a PIP.

              Many people on a PIP decide to job hunt —especially if it is going poorly. When they leave the company doesn’t say WHY Jo Schmo is leaving!

              Entirely possible Jane just failed a PIP, and that hasn’t happened while OP was at that company.

              1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                Also entirely possible that they were addressing the performance issues – 6 months isn’t that long especially with a new hire — then someone higher up decided to do what OP did. They found out that Jane, did in fact, fake her resume. Which is an instantly fireable offense.

            2. amoeba*

              I think the OP assumed it was sudden because Jane’s e-mail address was still active? Doesn’t mean she wasn’t already on a PIP though, sure.

              1. Buzzybeeworld*

                There are all sorts of reasons an email might be left active. It could be due to a specific business reason, it could be an oversight, it could be due to an absence in IT, it could be due to the suddenness of the departure- which could be a firing or just a quit-on-the-spot.

                The LW has put together a narriative in her head based on a coworker being bad at her job a d having out of step communication styles, and has then decided any clue she can find backs up that narrative.

                1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

                  And is Internet sleuthing instead of spending her energy on things that might help her in her job.

                2. Jennifer Strange*

                  @Stuckinacrazyjob there’s nothing to indicate the LW needs help in their job, nor that they spent a lot of energy looking Jane up online.

                3. arthall*

                  To paraphrase a Normal Gossip episode from a while back, it’s important to create a narrative in your head and then refuse all evidence to the contrary!

            3. MCMonkeyBean*

              It sounds like OP was assuming that based on the fact that Jane’s email account and maybe other access had not yet been locked out as it usually was for departing employees. It’s not exactly a smoking gun but it is a reasonable conclusion to jump to.

              1. Observer*

                It’s not exactly a smoking gun but it is a reasonable conclusion to jump to.

                Not so much. There are a lot of ways this could have played out where the company was going its due diligence then something blew up. Like on letter here were a guy was having ongoing issues and when he was put on a PIP, after a bunch of complaints and an investigation, he blew up so badly that he had to be “escorted” from the building.

                That’s on the extreme side, but you do get situations where the due diligence process starts and then you find something that changes the situation and you need to do an immediate firing (it happened to us recently.) Like the possibility that someone pointed out, that because of her performance issues someone started digging and found the lies. Or the person gets warned / put on a PIP and they just quit. Or they find a new job and walk out. etc.


                update one: https://www.askamanager.org/2022/04/update-my-coworker-wont-take-corrections-the-swollen-face-and-more.html

                John was to be put on a PIP and ~~SNIP~~ . He did not like this and ended up having to be walked out.

                Update 2: https://www.askamanager.org/2022/06/updates-my-coworker-wont-take-corrections-raising-ethical-objections-about-a-client-and-more.html

            4. Lacey*

              Yes, exactly. I’ve had several coworkers leave without notice to me but there’s no reason I would be told about on going problems with them. I’m not their manager, we just work on some of the same projects.

              Once I thought a coworker MUST have done something criminal because I knew there was no good reason to fire her. Though the criminal explanation kinda blew my mind too, because it seemed so out of character.

              When I found out the real reason, years later, it was incredibly banal.

            5. WantonSeedStitch*

              That was my thought. Just because the OP didn’t see the process doesn’t mean there wasn’t one. But I guess they felt the still-active email was indicative of a more abrupt departure. Not sure how good or bad of an indicator that is, as I don’t know how things are usually done at their office.

              1. kiki*

                Yes– a ~6 month timeline would actually line up well with a PIP-style process. The first 3 months may have been considered onboarding. About a month after, maybe it was super clear to all management that Jane was not performing as needed, so then she was put on a 60 day PIP. That would put Jane’s last day at the 6 month mark.

                The still-active indicator could be indicative of something, but it could also mean the IT person was a bit busy that day, there was a technical issue, etc.

                It’s hard because we all want to know what exactly happened, but sometimes you’ll never know.

            6. LW1*

              Hi! LW #1 here. It’s very true that she could have been on a PIP and I wouldn’t have known about it – but the reason I thought her termination must have been because of something egregious was not just because of her email still being active, it’s because the company culture where I work means that even if someone is being let go for performance issues or a “bad fit”, you still would typically have an announcement that they’re leaving a few days from now, a chance to say thank you and goodbye, etc. In this case, Jane left the organization “effective immediately” which is quite unusual for us. But as other commenters are pointing out, this is entirely speculation on my part and just me being nosy! It’s very possible this deviated from the normal procedure for some extremely boring reason.

              1. sparkle emoji*

                Given that it sounds like Jane was still quite new, they may have either felt it wasn’t necessary to prolong things for a goodbye to colleagues of ~6 months, or Jane could have declined the goodbye tour. If I was in her shoes I’m not sure I’d want those extra days where everyone knows I’d been fired.

                1. Lydia*

                  I think the OP knows the culture of the company best and it seems they would still give some information out, except in cases where the situation is suss.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I think it was best not to bring it up because the important part of the sentence “Jane is so bad at her job that it made me do some digging and I think she lied about her work history” is the “Jane is so bad at her job part.” As long as that was visible to everyone, the rest of it doesn’t really even matter imo.

          3. Fluffy Fish*

            Its also pretty common for employers to have probationary periods and 6 months is a typical time.

            People will be let go if they are not working out generally with no warning and no pip. The thought process being if you are that bad that early then its better to fire you and find a new person.

            1. MassMatt*

              Probationary periods are common, and often last 3 to 6 months. That’s a period of heightened scrutiny, where the employer can cut their losses quickly on someone who doesn’t work out without the bureaucratic process of a PIP and documentation ordinarily required for firing. It’s not a minimum time frame for keeping someone in the job. IMO it sounds as though this person was very obviously not working out, and six months were lost that could have been spent finding a qualified candidate.

              In the long run, companies are only as good as their hiring and training practices, and from the (admittedly limited) info in the letter, practices at this company are lacking.

              1. Fluffy Fish*

                Yes, I wasn’t saying that probationary periods meant people must be kept on for exactly that length of time. However they often are as the end of the probation period is designed as the evaluation point.

                I’m not sure how you are getting that company practices are lacking. There is zero information on what was or was not provided and OP would not be in any way privy to that information as they were not this persons manager.

              2. another_scientist*

                In my organization, the 6 month time frame turned out to be very prescriptive. We had a case that has a few similarities with LW1, with the new hire clearly having played up some prior experience during the application (and a reference check corroborated that, although in hindsight maybe things were all a bit too vague).
                We did a formal review during the probationary time, that concluded the current performance to be insufficient. However, per internal policy, we had to give the new hire some time to course correct (even though it always looked like a stretch), and could only let them go at the end of 6 months when progress was insufficient and performance goals were being missed.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Probationary period at my job is a year, because we cover lots of tasks and it takes time to get folks fully trained and independent.

              We however have a Jane at the moment, she’s been with us since June – and I’m not sure how much longer they’ll be with us. In fairness to my Supervisors though – she wasn’t interviewed by us. She was a long term employee in another department, got hurt, and our organization’s Voc Rehab department stuck us with her. While I applaud the attempt to find a new role for a long term employee injured on the job – this person was set up to fail, because they claim the never used a computer before this current job, and we are a remote you are on the computer for the whole shift…….

              1. Worldwalker*

                Who, in 2023, has never used a computer? Especially someone who has been an employee for so long, instead of out of the workforce somehow.

                I’d start suspecting weaponized incompetence there.

            3. Lydia*

              I’m willing to bet LW#1 would know if there was a probationary period and know if that lined up with Jane being gone suddenly.

        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          Maybe the company has a probationary period and they dumped her just before the probation time was over. You never really know the whole story of any weird work thing.

      2. hbc*

        Six months isn’t really that long for the things the OP included. Heck, I know a few really good, valued employees who are of the “heyyyy girl,” long personal story persuasion. And you get a pass on quite a few mistakes at the beginning when you might not know all the ins and outs of things. Eventually you use up your plausible deniability and learning curve excuses, but that can take quite a while if you’ve been doing well at executing most of your job most of the time.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I think things like not organizing lunch, not setting up breakfast, and coming late as the coordinator or not doing training and performing essential job functions are a much bigger deal than the “hey girl”.

      3. Orange_Erin*

        I recently learned that my company doesn’t do any professional reference checking for any positions they label below “grade 60”. Our “grade 60” jobs are management and highly-skilled SMEs, most employees and supervisors are in the 55-59 job grade category. Now that I know this, I feel I need to be extra diligent when interviewing candidates so that we review their resume and create specific behavior-based interview questions tailored to the role.
        This is a large US company (over 2k employees).

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I’m intrigued by this “grade 60” etc. What’s the scale – 0-100? Are there really 100 (or at least 60 anyway) distinct job levels in a manner that couldn’t be better handled by having salary bands for a smaller number of levels? Are there salary bands for each grade or do you get a merit raise by going from grade 56 to 57 or whatever? I have come across a fair amount of bureaucracy but not this.

    2. Don't Hate The Office*

      We just had a very similar situation to #1 at my workplace. But it only took 6 weeks to resolve and not 6 months.

  1. Stephen!*

    I work in ag and my coworkers have pictures of themselves, themselves with various animals, or just animals. Because I work from a state farther away then a lot of my coworkers, I decided to go for a regionally specific plant (along the lines of a smiling redwood.) Don’t overthink it!

    1. Joron Twiner*

      If you tend to have cameras on for calls, I think it’s fine. If you rarely have cameras on, I think it’s nice to have a photo of your face. It helps create warmth and if you are ever in the same office they know what your face looks like. Some orgs never have a photo or cameras on, but I find it helpful to have one or the other.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        Agreed—if you are mostly remote, I recommend actually using your face, because it really does help register that you are communicating with an actual person. If you have a lot of fact-time interaction regardless, then it will probably be fine to use an animal photo.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          While I agree with this, I had a coworker who used a picture of his poodle in a company-branded blazer for his profile picture. It always made me smile, and I felt very warmly towards him (didn’t hurt that he was good at his job, too).

          I’ll admit that when I actually met him, I was someone disappointed to discover that he was not, in fact, a poodle in a company blazer.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        One compromise is to do both— a couple of co-workers have a closeup of their face AND their pet’s face.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        There’s a teammate I see in person about once a year, and because he doesn’t have a profile pic or webcam, I don’t recognize him. He thinks it’s hilarious that I introduce myself to him each time.

  2. Terranovan*

    I apologize for the probable stupidity of this question, but – why is it a problem to pump in a restroom? I know there has to be a problem, or 1: there wouldn’t be a law against it, and 2: LW#3 wouldn’t have written in.

    1. Lizard the Second*

      Restrooms are primarily for waste elimination. Kind of a dirty environment if you’re preparing food for a baby.

      1. MassMatt*

        I sincerely hope that attitudes continue to change so that years from now, the idea that a law had to be passed requiring a room for pumping and it had to SPECIFY it could not be a bathroom will be viewed as a bizarre and awful anachronism, akin to using leeches in medicine.

        1. linger*

          You do know leeches are still used in modern medicine? (e.g. to reduce chance of necrosis by maintaining bloodflow)

          1. MassMatt*

            I actually thought about this when I wrote it but “bleeding to adjust the bodily humors” was just too awkward. Leeches as used in medicine today (which is very rare) for their anti-coagulant properties doesn’t really correspond to how they were used historically.

            Perhaps witch trials or segregation would be a better metaphor.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              To borrow a joke from BJ (or was it Hawkeye?) on M*A*S*H, “akin to proctologists using candles.”

              I might have to revisit that episode Thursday evening after the day’s festivities.

            2. Worldwalker*

              Leeches are more common than you might think. They’re used after plastic surgery and reattachment to prevent blood coagulation in the affected area.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Adding to the other comments — most pumping rooms add a tiny fridge so milk temp can be brought down quickly — without going into the lunchroom.

    2. Exile from Academia*

      Put simply: gross and also uncomfortable! You wouldn’t prepare food in a public bathroom, would you? Also, it’s a pretty involved process and unless it’s one of those fancy bathrooms with a mini lounge area, there’s no good place to sit.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I was a temp admin at the World Bank for a few months. We spent a lot of time preparing for onsite retirement parties. I was horrified one afternoon to see another admin – an older woman who should have known better (not because she was a woman but because she was old enough to know better) – washing strawberries in the ladies’ room sink.

        Much like the chicken the other day, I wanted to yell people “Don’t eat the strawberries!”

    3. Panhandlerann*

      Well, for one thing, in many cases, one would have to sit on the toilet while doing it (pumping, that is).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And public toilets often don’t have solid seats to flip down over them, the way home toilets do.

    4. PNW cat lady*

      Imagine sitting on a toilet with no shelving or hygienic place to put your pumping tools and containers. Now also imagine if that isn’t a single bathroom and other people are using the facilities while you are preparing food for your child.

      1. KateM*

        For people who can’t think of this on their own, it would probably help more if they imagined preparing their *own* food in a bathroom.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            “Imagine you have to make a sandwich for lunch every day, while sitting on a toilet.”

            … where there are no clean surfaces to put your utensils, supplies, sandwich on.

            … while some portion of your body that you don’t typically expose at work is unclothed, with a contraption attached to it sucking out your bodily fluids, noisily and uncomfortably. Multiple times a day.

            That’s not great Bob, even if you’re doing it in a small one person bathroom with a locked door.

            And and if it’s happening in a multi-stall bathroom, where not only are you sitting on a toilet, it’s one of those bathrooms where all the stalls and doors have 1+inch gaps, so if someone else comes in, they will see you somewhat, possibly sit right next to you divided by a small panel while they use the toilet.

            Bonus if it’s an old, wobbly set up, the kind where a locked stall door randomly swings open when other stall doors are opened and closed.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Take a 1/4″ or 3/16″ bolt about 2″ long, a matching wing nut, and two fender washers. Put washers on bolt, add wingnut.

              When you get one of those stall doors that don’t lock, back off the wingnut to leave a suitable length of bolt, then slip this into the gap between the door and the frame, on the opening side, starting at the top of the door, with a fender washer on each side. Slide the whole works down and tighten up the wingnut a bit.

              It doesn’t take nearly as long to do as it does to explain. And it beats things like jamming wads of toilet paper in the gap, etc. There’s been one of those in my purse since I invented it, and I don’t have to worry anymore about stall doors that don’t stay shut.

              1. Worldwalker*

                (p.s. This is not relevant to pumping — which should never have to take place in bathrooms — just to stall doors that won’t. stay. closed.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Also, imagine your co-workers sharing the same facilities while you’re trying to pump. My opinion of the company would plummet if I see someone struggling to pump in a shared washoom. If they can’t organise something as basic as a private pumping room how are they doing in other areas? It’s not rocket science.

        1. Bathroompumper*

          12 years ago I worked for a company that didn’t have pump rooms yet and most of the employees were over 50 years old. A younger woman was using her breast pump in the handicap stall and an older woman thought someone was in there using the shredder . An older ex navy Director (in his 60s) barged into the ladies restroom to investigate what was happening. He quickly came out and was red faced. This was at a defense contractor and the employees were predominantly male and ex military.

      3. Amy*

        And many office toilets don’t have toilet lids. You’d be sitting fully clothed on the seat. Ugh. Disgusting

        1. Helen Waite*

          Not to mention, the hands-free ones with motion detectors that will spontaneously flush if you move wrong.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            There’s one stall in my office restroom I avoid because it flushes if you so much as look at it. It’s so sensitive! I was fixing my skirt one day and it flushed like 3 times. I’d hate for someone to be pumping with that dumb thing going off!

      4. Texan In Exile*

        Damn. They often don’t even give us a hook or shelf for our purses and coats! Does anyone ask women what we need in a public restroom?

        (No. No they do not.)

      5. The Past Isn't Nostalgic*

        I don’t have to imagine this, I did it in the mid eighties. So glad things have changed legally. OP, bring your employer into 2023, and good luck.

    5. Sunny*

      Pumping isn’t the same as the baby latching on and drinking (which is also problematic in a bathroom, but, to my mind, less so because the food goes directly into the baby and there’s less chance of contamination). There’s equipment involved – bottles or other containers, and pumps – which you have to be able to put down, potentially pour things, attach and detach, etc. You also often have to disrobe to a different degree. So a high need for sterility, counter space, and general privacy.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        yes, this. I have a pump with containers that sit within the bra, which is very convenient/comfortable, but it does mean there is a pouring step into a bottle or breastmilk bag involved. There are multiple receptacles, all of which are prone to tipping over and wasting all that hard work (seriously, I’ve cried over this). I need a flat, reasonably big, clean horizontal surface to do it (could probably juggle everything with just my hands and a clean bag in a pinch, but it’s not easy). I’ve never seen that in a public restroom.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          According to my sister, the phrase should be changed to “There’s no use crying over spilled cow’s milk.”

      2. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

        Not to mention fussing about with pumping bras, tubes, a very loud vibrating object (the pump) against a tile bathroom floor…it really is an operation!

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Also access to a plug, which you probably could not find inside a stall. So you might have to stand at the counter and pump, breasts exposed, while you co-workers walk through.

        1. Fabulous*

          I’m surprised it took this long for someone to mention a plug. This year (my 3rd baby) is the first time I’ve had a rechargeable pump!

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Thanks for asking! I think many many employers also do not understand why a woman wouldn’t want to pump in a bathroom. It’s so important to ask.

    6. Justonepancake*

      In addition to it being dirty… where are you supposed to sit? On an open toilet? And there’s nowhere to actually put your pump and your bottles and stuff. You need a table or something.

    7. Astor*

      I don’t think it’s a stupid question, especially if you haven’t had to think through the logistics before. I think it’s easy to picture it like eating a granola bar in the bathroom: not ideal, because you don’t want to eat there, but sometimes it’s necessary and as long as there isn’t anyone else actively using the bathroom, it’s probably not any worse than being in the bathroom and then eating the granola bar.

      But it’s actually more like making sushi in the bathroom. There’s no way to do it without touching multiple surfaces, you need to have a place to put things down, it’s a whole production, and it’s really really important that everything is clean because bacteria can get serious easily.

      Some other information you might find useful: when I was growing up there was a foyer with a sofa in a LOT of woman’s washrooms and often there were women breastfeeding their children there. But that infrastructure is really uncommon now – mostly because women fought against being asked to stop breastfeeding in public when they wanted to, but also because family washrooms became more prevalent so that children didn’t only use the women’s washroom. Because of that change, expecting people to do it now is actually worse than a lot of us remember it being. It’s been a really slow iteration towards making it easier for people to breastfeed more conveniently while still living their lives.

      1. fanciestcat*

        Yes, I’m honestly glad Terranovan asked because I wasn’t sure what the issue would be with, say a single stall bathroom with a counter but I realize now I was thinking of breastmilk primarily as a bodily fluid and the main issue as privacy. But it totally is food for the baby and now I get the sanitation issues and why bathrooms don’t work. I didn’t realize the extent to which I’ve avoided thinking about babies and how they work.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          When I returned to work and was pumping, I initially pumped in a conference room set aside (with brown paper over the glass door panels). But I hated it for its awkwardness, and eventually preferred to pump in the bathroom – single occupier, accessible bathroom on a different floor and out of the way.

          Two very important points for context:

          1. my long commute and the age of my baby (by then 14m+) meant I was pumping for comfort only, and dumping the results, so keeping sterile was less critical

          2. I left that job within a year because of their sexist treatment more generally

          Pumping in a bathroom is better than pumping in a poorly set up conference room, but that’s like saying parking among broken glass is better than parking on molten lava.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Yes, first child was mix-fed so I was only expressing for comfort and to manage supply, and I didn’t mind doing that in a loo because I was just throwing it away. Second child refused to take a bottle ever, so I was expressing milk hygienically, taking it home, freezing it, defrosting it, sending it to nursery and then THEY threw it away. >_<

            1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

              Wait, what was the nursery feeding them if they wouldn’t take a bottle? (I guess it depends on the age.)

              1. bamcheeks*

                She was 7 1/2 months when I went back to work, so still getting most of her nutrition from breastmilk but could take a cup of water and would pick and gnaw a few finger foods for fun. I was on a 0.6 contract, so she was with me for 4 days a week, and then for the three days at nursery she’d have water and maaaaybe a bit of solid food, and then have a huge feed when I picked her up, and feed extra at night. There was about 4-6 weeks where we were pretty anxious about it, but by the time a month and a bit had gone past, it was obvious that she was getting enough one way or another, so I gave up worrying and expressing!

                1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  I believe it’s called “reverse cycling” when breastfed babies make up for not nursing all day by nursing all evening and sometimes all flipping night. I remember it well.

        2. Ana Gram*

          The other issue is that the person pumping has to occupy the stall or restroom for a good 30 minutes to pump. Obviously, the hygienic issues are more important but it can be really inconvenient for everyone else in a place within limited facilities.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          The primary reason is it’s unsanitary, as everyone discussed above. A secondary reason is, especially in the cases of single stall bathrooms: pumping takes time. So, say there’s one single-stall bathroom on the floor, and you’re making someone pump in there (which is gross), they also might be occupying that bathroom for 30 minutes, leaving no option for people needing a bathroom for its intended purpose, potentially several times a day, for weeks if not months.
          The grossness reason is, to me, much more important, but the “actually this affects even more people than you think” angle is sometimes what makes it sink in.

        4. Ann*

          Our bathrooms at work are actually like this. One-person rooms with a counter and a plug. I actually did pump in the bathrooms quite a bit, because it was a lot less embarrassing and difficult than our actual pump room setup. The “pump room” had no sink to rinse off pump parts, no fridge, and worst of all it was always locked, and the person who had the key was on another floor and usually not at he desk. Plus it was just awkward to have to ask her for the key 2-3 times a day.
          But this isn’t a typical bathroom setup at all. Your average office bathroom doesn’t have any privacy, and might be pretty unsanitary if coworkers are in the habit of making a mess.

      2. No Tribble At All*

        That’s what the futon in the fancy bathroom was for?! I remember seeing that at Lord and Taylor at the mall and being so amused that there was a fainting couch in the bathroom antechamber. But it makes SO MUCH SENSE that it’s for nursing.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Actually it was originally because it was decided that weak, fragile women needed a place to lie down during that time of the month. I never saw anyone doing that.

          It became a place to pump when women were able to go back to work after becoming pregnant instead of being fired.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I miss those little foyers, lol. Bring them back so I can sit and send a text message in relative privacy.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        This is a really good explanation. (And I was thinking of that nice foyer from Lord and Taylor (in the 90s) and that I’ve never been in an office building that had that.)

      4. Random Bystander*

        Yes, I think that the underscoring that you are talking about either food prep (pumping) or food consumption (direct feeding of baby), then the idea of doing food prep or eating in the bathroom makes it easier to explain why it isn’t an appropriate spot.

        I still remember when my middle son (now 25yo) was an infant, there was a time when we had gone out to eat at a fast casual restaurant. Middle son wasn’t yet starting solid foods, so very young, and he got hungry while the rest of us were eating. So I start nursing at the table and continue eating my food. Someone came over to tell me that I needed to “do that” in the bathroom. (State law there had been written so that if I had the right to be in a place, I had the right to nurse my infant in that place.) I just looked at her, and said, “I don’t know how you do things in your family, but in our family, eating in the bathroom just *isn’t* done.” She sputtered and retreated. For what it’s worth, when I was nursing I would wear a nursing bra (the cups open up), a nursing shirt (slits down both sides for access), and then a regular button-up shirt, unbuttoned over it, so you couldn’t even complain about seeing anything. It was mostly the speed at which middle son stopped crying that was the dead giveaway as to what I was doing.

        1. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

          I LOVE your response! IIRC women have the right to breastfeed in public, any place we’re allowed to be, in all 50 states.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Good for you! The country I grew up in DGAF about exposed breasts or public breastfeeding, and it was so weird moving to a country where breasts are treated like nuclear bombs.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I love the Victorian portraits of upper-class women in these huge gowns with full skirts and a neckline that goes below the nipples. Not a daring plunging neckline with a nip-slip, just “why would we bother covering those?”

      5. TootsNYC*

        those waiting areas in women’s restrooms also went away because of money–companies didn’t want to give up the floor space.

        1. JustaTech*

          The one place I’ve found them now is (bizarrely) in the parking structures at the fancy shopping center/outdoor mall in Seattle. (University Village).
          The bathroom stalls are rooms with full doors and their own sinks (!) and the women’s room at least also has a “lounge” area with several couches and some toys.

          In case anyone ever needs a nice public place to nurse!

          1. Tammy 2*

            Your kid will be making their own sandwiches by the time you find a parking place, though. :)

            The Macy’s downtown also has a very fancy old-fashioned ladies’ lounge, or at least they used to.

      6. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

        Unrelated: We have two one-seater bathrooms in our building near my office, and a month or so ago we came to work to find large ottomans in both of them – about the size of a typical coffee table. I cannot imagine what they are there for. I don’t want to put my feet up while I’m in there (although they’re positioned so I could) and no one is bringing a friend in there. Truly baffling.

        1. interplanet janet*

          Does your office by chance have any bike commuters? As someone who used to have to change in a bathroom because there were no locker rooms, I would have loved something like that to set my clothes, etc. on

      7. 1-800-BrownCow*

        The one restaurant near me has a HUGE lounging room before entering the restroom area. Lots of sofas and comfy chairs, great place to nurse a baby. And the changing table area in the bathroom is built into the wall, with a thick cushion surface that can easily be sterilized. They provide disposable pads (like puppy pee pads) that you can lay under your child as well for changing. There’s also wipes if you don’t have your own, an easily accessible trash bin so you don’t have to walk away from your infant to throw out the diaper/wipes, and hand sanitizer. When I was breast feeding and while my kids were still in diapers, it was my favorite public bathroom for having to take my children for feeding or diaper changing. It was probably one of the cleanest public bathrooms I’d ever been in, which is actually pretty amazing for how busy this restaurant gets (all-you-can-eat tourist trap buffet restaurant).

      8. Silicon Valley Girl*

        Agree, it’s not a stupid question – if you haven’t done it or seen the equipment, how can you know what’s involved?

    8. Dark Macadamia*

      In addition to all the hygiene comments, it’s time consuming! You don’t want to be in even the cleanest bathroom for any longer than necessary, and it’s inconvenient to coworkers/embarrassing to the person pumping if they’re monopolizing it for long periods of time (and possibly several times a day).

      1. Dark Macadamia*

        And most pumps are electric. Public bathrooms often have really minimal and awkwardly located outlets.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Another problem is that almost all public toilets have some sort of forced flush mechanism. This is better aesthetically; the bowl stays less objectionable visibly, but the more powerful flushing means that there’s an invisible geyser of aerosolized water and microscopic particles of waste. Depending on the air exhaust system, microscopic droplets remain in the air for hours, and slowly settle down on every surface. Someone of could theoretically infect an infant with E. coli, Shigella, etc. (My sister is a microbiologist. Brother works for the Health Department, and my husband works in a lab.) Family gatherings and dinners quickly turn into shop-talk, and people new to us have been known to slowly turn green and refuse dessert.

          1. ReallyBadPerson*

            I would enjoy dining with your family! But if anyone brings up actual insects, I’m out of there.

          2. LCH*

            yeah, public toilets without a lid are so gross. so gross. i always try to get out of the stall asap in the vain hope of avoiding these particles. like, put all my clothes back to rights, unlock the door, flush, and sprint.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, I was thinking – if it’s a very clean single stall bathroom, I’d honestly not be super worried about hygiene. But pumping can take quite long and sitting in a bathroom for, like, multiple 20 minute stretches without a comfortable seat, a place to put things, etc., sounds like a nightmare!

        1. Delta Delta*

          It also just crossed my mind that if there’s only a single stall bathroom that pumping will make the bathroom unavailable for a period of time. Then the pumping mom would be sitting in there, uncomfortably pumping, and probably made to feel guilty that she’s taking up the room for so long. This is a no-win.

          1. amoeba*

            Well, I mean, having only one single stall bathroom sounds like a recipe for disaster even without adding pumping into the equation! But yeah, it’s certainly not a feasible option either way.

      3. New username who dis*

        Also if OP is American and using a multi-stall bathroom, there’s a high chance of door gaps in the stalls. Not only would your coworkers hear what you’re doing, they could make eye contact with you through the door while you’re pumping. No thank you!!

    9. BubbleTea*

      For a few months, in addition to pumping for my son’s bottles, I also pumped to donate to the milk bank. The hygiene rules were really strict – I had to shower, dry with a clean towel, wash my hands well with soap, use sterilised equipment, not allow any clothing to touch the pump parts… now that was because the milk was being given to other babies (although not sick ones – I take medication that meant my milk wasn’t suitable for NICU babies, it was only given to babies who weren’t able to nurse for whatever reason) but it shows how important cleanliness is.

      1. dawbs*

        yes–my kid got the milk I was careless with, because her body could handle it.
        But the milk for the milk bank was only on times when I had zero meds (not even an advil) and it was promptly refrigerated (breast milk can be at room temp longer than people realize, but not for the milk bank–only for my kid)

        I pumped in the car a lot (i mean a LOT) because it was often easier than finding another spot. That milk was for my baby. The evening pump at 10:00 PM was the pump that I donated. (I think I sent 3? shipments of full coolers in the year+ I donated. I actually pumped for them specifically for a month or 2 post weaning, but had to go back on meds, so had ot give it up)

    10. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Can you just take a moment to imagine that you’re a breastfeeding mother. You go to the bathroom to pump. First off, there’s nowhere to sit except the loo. Next, there’s nowhere to plug your electric pump in. Then, since you do have batteries, you start pumping but it makes a racket, and anyone else who comes in will wonder what the hell is going on.
      There is a place for you to wash your hands, but that’s just about the only amenity available. There’s nowhere to sit, there’s nowhere to store your milk.
      It’s great, isn’t it?
      Then, imagine giving that milk, pumped in that place full of tiny particles of your colleague’s faeces and urine, to your beautiful fragile baby whose immune system isn’t working properly yet.
      Appetising, isn’t it?

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Most people who haven’t actually fed an infant don’t realize how involved pumping is! If anything you’d occasionally see some mom on a park bench serenely holding the baby up to her chest (that’s how nursing is portrayed in the media). Pumping with an electric pump is way different! I’m glad people are asking.

            1. Wolf*

              YES! One of the reasons I ended up pumping was because nursing was very difficult. So many tears were shed, by both me and the baby.

          1. JustaTech*

            The pump doesn’t bite me, but the baby doesn’t have to be weighed, dated and put in the refrigerator.
            I’m lucky to have a reasonably large room for pumping with both a sink and a fridge, even if it is technically shared for drawing blood (eww). It was also a shared pumping room (we had our facilities folks put up curtains so the two pumping folks could have some privacy) that ran incredibly cold until I pestered the head of facilities so much he got it fixed.
            But having a dedicated fridge meant I didn’t have to wash the pump parts twice a day, which really saved time (I put them in a clean zip-top bag in the fridge between pumps and washed them properly at home).

    11. Perihelion*

      It’s actually a good question, because before I was pumping this year I might have wondered too. In addition to the hygiene stuff people are mentioning, depending on your pump you might need to be sitting quite close to it. The tubes on mine are short enough that it needs to be sitting within a couple of feet of me—on a desk in front of my chair, on an end table next to a chair, or on the same sofa as me, generally. The few times I’ve had to pump in a place where I couldn’t do that, I just sat on the floor with it. Anyway, I just can’t even really picture doing it in a bathroom, in terms of the physical set up, unless I was just sitting on the floor (near an outlet. . .).

    12. Lily Potter*

      Commentariat, Terranovan asked a question in complete sincerity and several posters replied with factual, non-judgmental answers (thank you). Terranovan has replied with his/her thanks for the information. Further replies along the lines of “ You just don’t know what’s involved here, you idiot” or snarky comments about eating in bathrooms aren’t necessary. Terranovan has the information requested. I can’t imagine anyone providing insight on the topic that hasn’t been stated already. May I suggest we instead spend speculate about what happened Jane the admin from letter 1 or brainstorm sample language for LW5 to use as they leave their job? I think we’ve killed the pumping room horse for today.

    13. thelettermegan*

      There’s spaces for stuff that goes in the body one end, and spaces for stuff that goes out of the body from a different end. Never the twain shall meet.

    14. Neurodivergent in Germany*

      There’s also the emotional aspect:
      Pumping can be unpleasant and grueling, while also requiring you to be reasonably relaxed to get milk flowing. A safe, comfy environment is super helpful.

    15. kiki*

      There are a lot of great answers here, hygiene, logistics, etc. I also just wanted to add that a comfortable, non-stressful space is crucial for a successful pumping experience. A lot of people who haven’t done it think pumping just means a person simply hooks up to the pump, the milk flows, bing bang boom, it’s done. Studies have shown stress can reduce a person’s ability to express milk. Pumping in a bathroom is stressful! People are knocking at the door if you’ve been in there a while, if it’s a multi-stall restroom, you can hear people using the bathroom around you, it’s uncomfortable, you wonder if the other people are confused by the noise of your pump, etc.

      And pumping, for most people, isn’t going to be something they do every once in a while at the office– it’s a regular thing that this person will need to do for several months. It’s not a, “in a pinch, just do this in the bathroom” kind of thing. This would likely be months of subjecting somebody to a bad experience every day.

      1. Betty*

        Yes, I do think this is the one other consideration that people who haven’t pumped might not be aware of– expressing milk is more like crying than peeing, in that it’s not controllable muscles that manage the release, and because for many people you have to also be relaxed (some people even need to do stuff like look at a picture of their baby or sniff the baby’s blanket to trigger a “letdown” aka start milk moving). Doing it in at best an uncomfortable chair in a bathroom corner and at worst perched on a stall makes it that much harder to even have things work properly.

        1. AnonEmu*

          Yeah as a biologist, stress inhibits the hormones that trigger milk letdown. It’s a thing across mammals – it’s built into the neuroendocrine control of lactation!

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            I remember an LLL leader telling me “if a tiger pops in the jungle, you need to jump up and run, without leaving a trail of milk for it. Sadly, our bodies haven’t yet evolved to deal otherwise with the stress of pumping”

    16. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Flushing a toilet riles up bubbles of bacteria. Without lids, they float into the air. In addition to people who have just used the toilet, putting their hands on the counter, the sink, the soap dispenser. This is where a woman is would put her infant’s food.
      Additionally, pumping takes time. Women would have to sit on a toilet, balancing the equipment on their laps for half an hour while toilets flush around them.
      The best comparison I read was “make a peanut butter sandwich in a toilet stall with your shirt half off.”

    17. Lenora Rose*

      Do you prepare your lunch in a restroom? Pumping, like lunch prep, involves trying to get useable food without excess contamination.

    18. AthenaC*

      Once upon a time, about 10ish years ago, I was a pumping mom and I did pump in the bathroom. There was literally no other space for me to pump and I wasn’t going to switch jobs, so I just decided not to make a ruckus. So here’s how that worked:

      – There was generous counter space for me to use as a staging area (I brought towels from home so nothing was directly touching the surface of the counter)
      – There was an outlet by the sink
      – I would pump with one hand and play Candy Crush on my phone with my other hand
      – I think I really freaked out some of the young interns who would walk in and see me

      So my bathroom pumping situation was better than most, but it was still at least pretty uncomfortable for the other people using the bathroom!

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Athena if it’s any consolation, in 30 years as a counsellor I have never heard of a baby getting sick because their mother pumped in a bathroom.

    19. InHigherEd*

      In addition to the hygiene and privacy issues… For some, it takes a bit of relaxing and being in the right mindset to pump (some people even look at photos of their babies). Way harder to do that in a bathroom.

    20. not nice, don't care*

      Seems like a great opportunity to invent a portable, rentable, pumping pod/booth for businesses.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Given that anyone who needs to pump is likely going to need it every work day, multiple times per day, likely for a year (maybe more) it would be more cost-effective for the company to simply build a spot rather than rent one. It’s not like porta-potties where you may only need them during a single event or while maintenance is happening on the bathrooms.

    21. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      Why should a woman prepare her child’s food where other people are eliminating waste from their systems? The woman is not relieving herself, and she likely does not want her equipment and the child’s food near those who are. It is also not a “gross” bodily fluid elimination or dirty in some way, as with most functions bathrooms are designed for. It perpetuates a stigma. Plus, there are no lounges or sitting areas, except on the toilet, in the restrooms at my workplace. It would be extremely uncomfortable and burdensome.

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I am going to join people here in thanking the original commenter for asking the question politely and with genuine curiosity though. I agree with others that part of the problem is that many employers also don’t understand and have not considered the logistics or hygiene issues. They also are not viewing breastfeeding or pumping as food preparation. Honestly, I do not know what training or education people who work exclusively in HR get, but this comment section should form the basis of a presentation or portion of a training for them!

        1. rollyex*

          Everything is you say is true, but at it’s heart the issue is about power. Consciously or unconsciously, HR (and many people) think “What’re women going to do? Quit. LOL. We don’t care. A new mother is going to want to job search? Nah. We don’t care.”

    22. Warrior Princess Xena*

      TBF, there have been some VERY FANCY restrooms I’ve seen (the kind where there’s a whole entire lounge in there) where I wouldn’t object to having to sit and eat/pump. But those have always been in, like, super high end restaurants or swanky stores. Every workplace I’ve been in has had serviceable stalls w/ toilets and nothing else. Nowhere to sit!

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Most of those lounges though are off to the side, slightly walled off, though not with a door always. But they are distinctly separate. And I would still think it best if they had a separate door.

    23. AG*

      If I cooked food at the sink station in your workplace’s bathroom, would you eat it? It’s cooked, it hasn’t come into a stall. Would you eat it?

      Now why would you feed a newborn uncooked food that has been inside of an office bathroom stall?

    24. Nina*

      Pumping is preparing food for a tiny human whose immune system is not up to scratch yet. You wouldn’t prepare food for an immunocompromised adult in a bathroom (which, in case it’s not obvious, contain toilets, which are known to spray fecal matter onto every surface in the room); so it’s not okay to prepare food for a baby in a bathroom either.

  3. Biglawex*

    Hmm. My experience in using the explanation of #5 for interviewing led to questions about outside income (did I really need the job?) or lowball offers. I had to work really hard to manage this one.

    (I’m in SoCal and had to give my {gifted luxury} car details for parking do that was it’s own problem).

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I would say something like “luckily I had saved up some money, so I was able to take a few months between jobs.”
        Make it clear it’s not something you normally would get to do but in this case, had a little luck.

        1. KHB*

          See, if I were an employer who was inclined to low-ball, I’d take THAT to mean that your savings would be drying up soon, so you’d be desperate to get some income coming in, so maybe I could get you for cheap.

          Employers who play games like this are going to play them no matter what you do. On the flip side, employers who are serious about paying people what they’re worth are going to do that, no matter what you say about your employment gap.

      1. Biglawex*

        I realize these are all red flags now…but when I was desperate to pay off my student loans…I didn’t feel like I had the luxury to quibble…

    1. Your Mate in Oz*

      I used to say “I took a long holiday trip to {far off land}” because a lot of people will accept that as reasonable. But you need to be ready for “how long do you intend to stay in this job” type questions.

      These days contracting, consulting etc are the white collar version of gig work and hardly anyone asks. If you’re a consultant (ie, self-employed one person ‘company’) the idea of switching to salary for the regular income is obvious and rarely needs to be gone into. SO list your “current employment” {cough} as consultant and move on.

  4. MassMatt*

    #2 I had someone in a cube across from me do this with his leftovers and trash from lunch. It was so odd, and I wasn’t always there, so I wasn’t sure he’d done it the first couple times. But finally I was at my cube and he stuffed his leftovers in my wastebasket and I just looked at him and asked what he was doing.

    He said he didn’t want to smell it all afternoon. I said “and you think I DO?” He was sheepish and said he wouldn’t do it again, and never did.

    There’s nothing rude about asking someone to stop throwing their trash in your wastebasket, especially not compared to… throwing their trash in your wastebasket!

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Honestly, I think this is a variant of main character syndrome. Some people seem to somehow be blissfully unaware that people other than them can experience discomfort.

      It’s really weird, and it’s tempting to think that they just don’t care, but the way they look at you when you make them aware leads me to think that they have literally never thought of the possibility at all.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I used to be like that. It was because my parents operated that way. They consistently denied my normal responses until I had the impression I was the only person who felt things.
        Yes, I was surprised when other people brought it to my attention. I didn’t want to be making people uncomfortable, so I made an effort to learn.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Not-so-blissful ignorance in your case then. I’m sorry you went through that, and I’m glad you turned out an empathetic person anyway. I wish you all the support now that you missed out on growing up!

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          “They consistently denied my normal responses until I had the impression I was the only person who felt things.”

          Damn, I had never thought about that before but that does totally seem like a reasonable consequence of parents who try to downplay your feelings!

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I mean reasonable in the sense of a totally expectable consequence. I’m sorry you went through that but I think it’s pretty cool you were able to make that connection. I don’t know if you came that that realization on your own or with help but it kind of blew my mind.

            1. Observer*

              I mean reasonable in the sense of a totally expectable consequence.

              But also reasonable in the more conventional sense. Like if a doctor you trust tells you that symptom X is very unusual, it’s reasonable to believe it.

              I’m sorry you went through that but I think it’s pretty cool you were able to make that connection.

              Very much.

            2. DJ Abbott*

              Thank you! My motivation was and still is to treat people better than I was treated and have healthy, supportive relationships and friendships. It’s a long road from where I started, but well worth it.

        1. Hohumdrum*

          I mean…no. Just talk to them.

          I had a coworker who felt it was the height of rudeness to use someone else’s trash can. When I would meet him at his desk if I generated trash during that time (used tissues, scrap paper, gum wrappers, etc) I would use the closest bin (his) without a second thought. Apparently he was seething about this, so he started coming by my desk to “talk” but then would dump his trash in my bin to teach me a lesson. Except, I did not notice or think about it at all because I do not share his belief that it’s rude to use another person’s trash bin. I think it’s actually much weirder and grosser to hold onto dirty stuff for longer to get back to your bin. He did not get the desired results, and eventually someone clued me into what was happening by just speaking to me directly and that was the only thing that worked. I never ever in a million years would have put any thought into his or my trash habits without being told directly he didn’t like it and was trying to make a point to me. I to this day still feel nothing about someone using my bin, and do not pay attention to who is putting trash where.

          Secret lessons do not work, just tell the person directly. Not everyone has the same aversions or passions you do, or puts the same thought into things you do. Just speak up if you don’t like something.

          1. Random Dice*

            It’s hilarious imagining him VENGEFULLY FILLING YOUR TRASHCAN and you, blissfully unaware and happily bopping through your day, while he was consumed by his fury.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            We were talking about people with main character syndrome aka narcissists. They literally cannot understand other people’s viewpoints until you turn the tables and it happens to them. You are probably not a narcissist, you were simply disposing of your waste (and presumably it wasn’t leftover fish right?)

            It’s hilarious that your colleague was trying to pay you back and you were perfectly oblivious though!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I imagine there is a significant number of people who have never connected “I do not like to smell this stuff all afternoon” to “… my coworker probably feels the same way, only doubled because it’s not even their garbage.”

      1. hbc*

        That’s why I like giving them the benefit of the doubt. You usually got a response like MassMatt got, where everybody wins (no more garbage for MassMatt, a little more enlightenment for Coworker.) And if this is a jerk being jerky, you’ve forced them to make it clear with a response. “I don’t care what you want to smell” means I know exactly who I’m dealing with.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I worked with a horrible human who also did this. Except she didn’t have a trashcan in her office because for some reason she was allowed to bring her dog to work (nobody else was, and this was another whole arena of drama), and she didn’t want her dog eating her trash. So she would put her food trash in other people’s offices. One day she found a moldy dog treat, and instead of walking the 15 steps to the kitchen trash, she put it in the big boss’s trash. He didn’t empty the trash for several days, and it began to stink. He rained down fury on people for not using the kitchen trash for stinky garbage, until he found out who did it, and then just quietly told her not to do that again. I forgot that I’m still annoyed by this, and it was like 10 years ago.

    4. LCH*

      also, businesses need to get trashcans somewhere other than at people’s desk for this sort of thing. yuck.

      1. soont*

        We have specific trashcans for food waste now in my office. First reason was to control pests (we have a mice problem), and the other main reason is to contain the smells!!! It is so nice.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        That doesn’t help with people like this. They’ll still dump their old food garbage in your little bin, and when you call them out on it and suggest bringing it to the 30 gallon trash can that’s specifically for food garbage, they’ll say “I don’t want to walk all the way over there.”

      3. Orange_Erin*

        We have this in my office because our building management changed it about 10 years ago. The small bins at our desks are for recyclable paper only. If anything else is in those bins, we get a nastygram left on our desk as first strike and it would escalate with the company after that. We have a few trash stations set up around the office with a “wet trash”, “dry trash”, and recycle bin (for everything recyclable) so no one has to walk more than a few feet to toss something out. We also have a kitchen with ample trash space. It mostly works out, but it can be hard to train new folks. I’ve had people leave non-paper trash in my bin when I wasn’t there and the complaint came to me. Very annoying. I have no problem pointing people to the proper trash about 10 feet away.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      My first full-time ‘real’ job, my boss would start to eat a banana every day around 9:30.
      And every day around 9:35, he would decide he had something to tell me, face to face, in my office, while he finished the banana.
      And every day he would toss the banana peel in my trash.

      Like, did he think I didn’t notice? *
      Or did he just see me as so lowly that he was entitled to us my trash for his smelly trash and didn’t care if I noticed?
      Or did he enjoy using someone else’s space to dump his smelly trash like some kind of unbalanced power play?

      I was young and timid and didn’t ever say something. But I absolutely noticed and it did not make me think better of him.

      * he was one of those MIT engineer, can’t imagine anyone who is not an MIT engineer could have any intelligence kind of people. He used to get impatient with me that I couldn’t do math in my head like he could, and instead used a calculator/my PC.

      I was (in my head) thinking: Dude, I went to a crappy public school system that never taught speedy math tricks, especially not to girls, and I put myself through school working as a teller. It’s faster and more accurate for me to type numbers/operations into a keypad (without looking BTW) than it is for me to do long addition in my head. Bragging rights about who can calculate square roots or net margins faster in their head aren’t really at the top of my grown up-priority list (or on it anywhere, TBH)

      He was a good guy, aside from those two annoying behaviors.

      1. Observer*

        It’s faster and more accurate for me to type numbers/operations into a keypad (without looking BTW) than it is for me to do long addition in my head.

        In my book, choosing the more accurate way is a whole lot more “intelligent” than showing off.

        I work in the non-profit sector, and a number of years ago (before computers and spreadsheets were totally standard items in any desk job) I saw a funding application form that specifically asked people to make sure, and confirm, that they had used either a spreadsheet or a calculator to do their totals. This form was being filled in by people with degrees – often Masters level or higher. When I asked our contact at this funder about it (we were routinely using spreadsheets anyway) the response was “People make mistakes. Even highly educated ones. This cuts down on the mistakes and saves everyone time and effort.”

        They were right – and so are you!

  5. Turquoisecow*

    Most of my company doesn’t bother with profile pics on Teams but my old boss had his dog as his, so I put my cat as mine. Two other people who used to be under the same boss (he’s since left the company) have pictures, not of pets, no one else does that I’ve seen.

    No one has commented to say they disapprove of my picture (although my grand-boss thought I should use my daughter instead); I figure if it was seen as unprofessional, someone would have said something, since I am often on meetings with my boss and a few other people above me.

    So I think you’re fine, OP, especially since you work in an animal-related field!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My Teams picture is me AND one of my dogs, making the same face. I’ve gotten lots of positive comments on it in my org. We have some folks who use just them, some who use just their pet, some who use flowers or decorative clip art.

    2. TootsNYC*

      >> I figure if it was seen as unprofessional, someone would have said something, since I am often on meetings with my boss and a few other people above me.

      I wouldn’t assume this. I do think your profile pic is fine, but operating on the “nobody said anything, so they can’t be thinking it” is a bit of a logical fallacy. Even with C-suite people; they can think you’re less than professional and still not want to bother with it, or not have it on their mind when they. meet with you.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think OP is probably fine, but I do think it’s smart that they are not 100% assuming that because their boss did it it is fine because they know their boss is a “character” and might not always be the paragon of professionalism.

        (Though again, in this particular case I think following the boss’s lead is totally okay, but it’s good to keep that in mind as part of the decision making process)

      2. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

        Yep. In OldJob I had a bit of a privacy scare after getting 15 minutes of fame, and people from my 10,000+ employee organization found me and emailed me on my work email…one guy repeatedly…at CurrentJob the norm is very much a photo of your face on Slack, but I noticed one or two other people had something else, so that’s what I did. My manager never expressed her *dis*approval, but when I got more comfortable and changed it to my face, she did express *approval*. (I also told my team why it had been that way, so hopefully people were more understanding!)

    3. Big Ba Da Boom*

      Honestly there are a number of people at my job who use pictures on Teams that annoy me. But I would never never say anything about it. People don’t want to police other people, usually. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings about it! :)

      We don’t use video so mostly I just like to actually have an idea of what the person I’m talking to looks like. I can’t even articulate why it matters. But when someone has a cartoon, or pet, or their kid (??), or some landscape I have a harder time connecting with them conversationally.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        I’ve only seen people with pictures of them AND their kid(s). If it was just a picture of their kid, that would bug me.

    4. mlem*

      My company has a specific policy that user icons/profile pictures have to be either a professional picture of yourself (such as your badge photo) or one of the default generic options (such as the single letter the Google suite uses). My point is that companies that care can set policies; if the company doesn’t have a policy, I think anything cute and non-edgy should be fine.

    5. Wintermute*

      we have a guy at work last name Lard, and he has a can of Armor-brand (which is/was a local brand made here in Chicago) lard as his profile pic. No one’s had a problem with it and he’s had it for YEARS.

    6. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

      Half my fully-remote team has our pets. It’s great and normal and adds a bit of cheer.

    7. Silicon Valley Girl*

      It’s prob. a ‘know your office’ thing — if everyone uses corporate headshots OR everyone uses the generic non-image, then stick with that. But if it’s a free-for-all, go for it ;)

      I’ve always used a photo of my black cat, which coworkers know me as now, & in video meetings, she joins in. So it’s become my thing. And I work in totally non-animal related tech.

      1. Sunbeam+Naps=winning*

        yep, “know your office”. In my company, you can actually get an idea of who is from a previously acquired company (me, my boss, many other IT and a few marketing folks) vs who is in the parent company or a newer hire just by our Teams avatars. The old company culture encouraged interesting stuff – my boss is Godzilla ( the old Japanese movie version), I’m a black kitten with bat wings, lots of sports references, etc. The now parent company people are all personal photos or default company logo/ first initial stuff. So boring LOL! I dread the day someone decides to make headshots an official requirement, you communicate a lot more about yourself by the picture you choose vs the face you happen to have.

    8. Parakeet*

      My Slack profile is a photo of a my replica suffragette pin that I bought in a steampunk store, that has the “Deeds Not Words” slogan on it (I work at a nonprofit that does, among other things, policy and social change work, so I figured a lot of people would find it relatable!). It never occurred to me until I found old AAM questions about it that a non-face would be considered inherently unprofessional in some places! Most people in my organization use their faces or the default but there’s definitely some pet or other non-self pics. I’ve never heard comments on anyone’s profile pic, though there is an extremely active pets channel on the Slack so people are getting plenty of compliments on the pets themselves.

  6. nodramalama*

    LW, this is just a fun and weird anecdote, but at my work interviewing was done in person for people who would then work remotely. Someone i know on the hiring panel interviewed someone, offered them the job, which they took. Both of them normally work remotely, and met each other again about six months later at a planning day. The person on the hiring panel swears the person we hired is not the person they interviewed. They remember someone tall and this person is quite short.

    There’s nothing anyone can really do about it because there’s no proof, but it is wild to think about.

    1. Goody*

      I’m on mobile so I can’t easily search, but there was a letter writer a few years back who relayed a situation her husband was seeing where a new hire was not the same person who had been interviewed. It was actually QUITE the saga.

    2. bamcheeks*

      As funny as that situation was, it still blows my mind that that was published. So many identifying details! In real time! Letting your partner overhear those conversations and share them with a third-party for PUBLICATION would be a major offence everywhere I’ve worked. I realise OP’s husband was already in his notice period but wow, I still wouldn’t risk it.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t think it’s identifying from the “random person could identify LW” side, but I think anyone involved in it could absolutely recognise the situation, and it would be incredibly hard to argue that another fraudulent mulesoft architect just *happened* to be found out and fired on the same timescale around the same time.

          1. Not Your Sweetheart*

            I’m not sure that’s true, either. Alison published a letter a little after this one: A letter writer had found a job ad for a job-hunter stand-in. Basically, one person would do all the interviews, assessments, etc. under the someone else’s name. Person 1 would then get a percentage of the person 2’s wages/salary it they got the job. It was wild.

    3. Johanna Cabal*

      With the rise of remote work, I can see this happening if candidates are afraid of being perceived as too old or too awkward. Find a family member who looks like a younger version of you or who looks like you but interviews better. I can’t condone it but I’d understand why it happens (and my cousin who teaches high school sees a variation on this…some of her students “lend” their criminal record-free identities to family members trying to get work and don’t understand why this is considered fraud).

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Stuff like that is never a situation where a very qualified candidate who doesn’t interview well gets a stand-in. (Though, that’s also fraud.) It’s an unqualified person getting someone else to stand in and BE qualified so the unqualified person can get the job.

        I had someone ask me to be off camera during a video interview to give them the answers to technical questions. I asked why the person would want a job she could not actually do. She looked at me as if I were crazy and said “Every job gives you training so you know how to do the job. I just need to get them to hire me and I’ll be fine.”

        1. Wintermute*

          I am not so sure about that, I think it’s an availability heuristic bias issue– we HEAR about the hilariously bad disasters where everyone goes “how could they POSSIBLY have thought they’d get away with this?!?!” because they’re obvious.

          If you do it right, no one ever knows amd even if it’s not done perfectly it’s not going to be internet gossip fodder.

          This is not common practice but also not rare in some fields and areas, and most of the time it is not caught.

          1. Roland*

            Yup. Like people who say they “ALWAYS know when people are lying”. No you don’t, because when you don’t know, you… don’t know that you don’t know.

  7. Name*

    LW1 – we are currently dealing with this only we found out their resume was fraudulent. I wasn’t in on the interview panel (no clue why) but am their supervisor. They submitted a close to 3 page resume with extremely narrow borders for an entry level position. I was reviewing that compared to their job description to see what they’d be able to do and what we needed to start training on. Nothing in the “Objective” section sounded like anything they’d write. I copied a few words and googled it. Found the whole sentence, verbatim, on a LinkedIn profile. So I took the whole sentence, googled it, and found it on two LinkedIn profiles. Did the same with the second and third and found them on more LinkedIn profiles. When confronted, they said they paid someone to write it for them. That made sense because no of their work section was specific to what they did, more about the business they worked for.
    We took this and other behavior to the person who made us hire them. Still weren’t allowed to let him go. So now, we get to deal with someone in their 30s who’s grammar is atrocious, is rude to people who don’t speak English, and thinks we can’t say anymore Black Friday because there’s negative connotation around the word Black.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I’m curious now, what justification/response was given for still not being able to let the employee go?

      1. Name*

        We hadn’t given them enough guidance and coaching. That said,
        – I gave them a list of commonly used phrases, translated them to Spanish, and put it where they could easily see it. They threw it away.
        – They accused a Spanish speaker of conveniently knowing English once they got what they wanted (the person said “thank you” in English). I had to explain that people tend to pick up key, repeated phrases faster than the whole language.
        – I frequently say with them when they had to write something to provide basic grammar fixes (“We will be Closed on veterans day” vs “We will be closed on Veteran’s Day”)
        And the person they know is the head person and didn’t realize they were in their 30s. Big Boss thought they were still in early 20s.

    2. Cheshire Cat*

      “Black Friday” is a positive term! It refers to the accounting term being “in the black” (not being “in the red”), or turning a profit.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I think they have associated it with other terms (like ‘blacklisted’) that have generally been replaced with alternatives in most speech because of the use of ‘Black’ anything to describe it negatively.

      2. londonedit*

        I always assumed it was because it was the darkest day of the year for anyone working in retail (genuinely – we don’t have Thanksgiving here so Black Friday makes no sense anyway, yet retailers are still trying to make it a thing).

        1. Jackalope*

          When I was a kid I thought that Black Friday was the name for the Christian day normally referred to as Good Friday. It made sense to me; it was a terrible, sad day because Jesus had died, and your heart was dark with grief. I was so confused when I got older and learned that that day was called GOOD Friday because it was celebrating such an awful thing (even though I know why – Jesus saving us through death, etc.), but it still feels off to me and I still get slightly weirded out by the day after Thanksgiving.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think I had this reaction as well.
            I lived in a small town, so nobody was going shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, and that was many years ago

            And per an article on History-dot-com, the term began to apply to shopping only in 1961, and became more widespread in the 1980s. So I probably invented an etymology on my own.

          2. New Mom (of 1 3/9)*

            Yeah in Orthodox Christianity it’s called “Great and Holy Friday” which seems to make a lot more sense!

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        That is one of the proposed origins of the term, but it has been superseded. This is an excerpt from the entry at wordorigins.org:

        “Use of Black Friday to refer to the day following Thanksgiving got its start in the 1950s in the Philadelphia police department, whose traffic division referred to the day as such because of its unusually high volume of traffic. In addition to it being a heavy shopping day, the annual Army-Navy football game was held on next day—the city being neutral ground, roughly equidistant between West Point and Annapolis—and out-of-town crowds would stream into the city on that Friday.”

      4. thelettermegan*

        +1 this. Most retailers make their revenue in the holiday shopping period. Suddenly there’s 150% more products on the shelves. Excel sheets that were parades of red flags become glorious, satisfyingly black. Bonuses appear in paychecks. We all go home to see Grandma. Kids put extra marshmellows in their hot chocolates. All is well with the world.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      There’s your answer. You were made to hire them. This person is connected to the hiring person in some way. Their resume mattered not. They were guaranteed the job. So they (and probably the hiring person) saw nothing wrong with it since the resume was just a box to tick.

      1. Name*

        I know. The funniest part is that they applied for two management positions that clearly stated they needed a bachelor’s degree and so many years of experience. They had neither.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t think that LW1 would be well advised to claim that Jane was a fake hire – there’s not enough information to do so, and Jane may simply be very unprofessional and incompetent. Kind of a “when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras” (unless you’re in Africa).

    5. Caliente Papillon*

      Oh ffs people are so annoying. I’m black and have no problem with black ball or whatever else. Who cares? What we care about is people not being racist.
      Here’s a fun anecdote tho, we had a field day with different team colors and when they were calling for team black, I literally thought You do not want all of us in a team cuz we’ll kick your assess….oh wait, you mean those with black bandanas. Ok.

  8. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, I don’t think anything you’ve mentioned is really evidence she made up her work history and it sounds like her boss would have access to all the information you had and probably more. It is likely they called at least one of her previous employers for a reference.

    I don’t think you would find any evidence of my work history by googling. It does sound like she had roles more likely to leave evidence, but I still don’t think there’s anything that was really actionable for you. “There is nothing online about the work she did” isn’t really reportable.

    1. MK*

      And, also, I think it’s a mistake to assume someone’s perfromance must be consisent. Just like someon can turn around a bad work history, it’s not unheard of for workers who were downright brilliant in the past to start not perfroming well at some point in their careers for a variety of reasons (burnout, disillusionment, personal struggles, addiction or illness, etc.). Two of the more brilliant colleagues who entered my present career with me 15 years ago ended up fired in the past 2 years, and our role is a life-appointment, it’s incredibly hard to be let go. Life happens.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Agreed. While it’s not as extreme, I have a colleague who started around the same time I did, about six years ago and for the first couple of years, he was extremely enthusiastic, willing to put in extra work, etc. Now, he just turns up for his classes, has actually said in staff meetings that he is not putting himself out for the school, starts arguments in staff meetings, constantly complains about students, the way the school is run, etc. It’s now hard to imagine him actually asking to take the minutes in meetings, saying he loved doing it, staying late to help another member of staff prepare for an inspection, volunteer to be the staff representative to the board of management, all of which he did his first 2-3 years in the school.

        I don’t know whether he felt he was taken advantage of in his first years here or whether he has personal issues that mean he now has less time to give to the school and less patience for the ordinary hassles of school life or what, but he is definitely a very different coworker than he was four or five years ago.

        1. allathian*

          Sounds like he burned out, and his volunteering to take on so much extra stuff when he started probably contributed to that. Starting arguments at staff meetings simply for the sake of being argumentative and constantly complaining about students is unprofessional. Showing up to do your job and not volunteering to do anything extra *should* be fine.

          If this means that some events the students are looking forward to have to be canceled because there are no staff volunteers, so be it. As long as the students get the appropriate teaching they go to school for, anything else is extra “enrichment.” (I have *opinions* about this, my son’s 14 and it seems to me that his schedule’s interrupted pretty much every other week with something extra. Some of it is no doubt valuable and they learn a lot outside of class, but sometimes I wonder if less would be more here too.)

          It’s one reason why I stopped volunteering to do extra stuff at work. I’ll take on a stretch project if I think it’s beneficial to my career, but I won’t volunteer to organize parties for our department, or bring in baked goods just because, etc.

      2. Johanna Cabal*

        I excelled at my first role after college. Following a layoff, I found myself in a bad fit position where I performed poorly and got fired. The next job I excelled at and was promoted. Same with the next. Then, I found myself in a job that placed me in the middle of a war between two different department heads with two different visions and the department head with the most power tried to destroy my reputation. Now, I’m back to a role where I’m excelling.

        I’m sure some folks from my second job (which, honestly, at times I don’t count as my second job it was so short) and the job with the Department Head from Hades think my work history was made up too.

    2. tg33*

      Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

      Yeah, the bigger problem is that she couldn’t do her job.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Yeah, I was wondering what kind of evidence LW expected to find?!

      I just googled myself and I do have a LinkedIn, so that turned up, as well as a professional qualification I have. Also my thesis and related publications, but those are quite old by now. If one doesn’t have those things, which isn’t unusual, I’m not sure what’s supposed to turn up?
      For example, there’s no evidence online about the 3.5 years I spent at previous employer, but I can assure you that I did indeed work there.

      1. MK*

        It is very job- and person-dependent, I think. In some roles it is usual to use your personal social media for promotion, and in others you often participate in events and your name pops up in the coverage of the event. E.g. I am a lawyer and the first google results you get for my name and title is the announcements for a handful of conferences I spoke at years ago, so a google search would verify my resume that indeed I am a lawyer that has some specialization in that particular area of law. Also, people’s social media usage varies wildly; from not having them at all to documenting every day; in addition to the conferences I spoke at, I also attended dozens of others that I never posted about, however I have colleagues that post “Having a great time in X city at Z event!” every single.

        In short, I think finding nothing means nothing, but it is possible to find confirmation that a person did in fact do the job they say they did, IF it is a job where posting about it is usual and/or the person is very into social media. That being said, I would think that an EA isn’t a job that would be likely to get a ton of attention.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          True – I was thinking specifically of EAs, who aren’t that likely to have stuff like publications, conference talks, be on certification lists etc. (they might! and more power to those that do, but I wouldn’t *expect* it). They may well have organized conferences, but that type of behind-the-scenes work often isn’t publically attributed to a name.

          I’d also expect someone who doesn’t have LinkedIn to not post much about their job on other social media either, or to have their stuff set on private if they have social media at all.

          I’m curious what type of thing specifically the LW was imagining they would find.

          1. Anonymous Tech Writer*

            Yes. It happens in other professions too. I have published several dozen books, all easily available online, but my name is not associated because copyright belongs to my employer.

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I have a name so common it might as well be Jane Doe. Good luck getting anything out of Google about me.

      3. LW1*

        LW #1 – thanks for your comments and I can shed some light on this if you’re curious. I do think it’s unusual for someone with a 20 year work history, at, say, 10 different jobs, who also has a very robust internet presence (the type of person who posts every day on Facebook) to show zero mention of the employers she claimed. She DID mention other employers, but along the lines of one-off mentions of roles that could’ve been seasonal or short term (like working retail). I will also point out that she has an unusual name. So while obviously this isn’t a smoking gun (as many commenters are rightfully pointing out!), it made me wonder. Obviously, I DIDN’T report anything, so I came to the same conclusion that it wasn’t worth bringing up!

        Also, just to acknowledge – I fully recognize and agree that doing this Googling was a waste of my time! All I can say in my defense is that I’m a human being and I was curious. But I’m glad to say that I never brought it up to anyone else at work or gossiped about it.

        1. Silvercat*

          While I do have a LinkedIn profile, I intentionally never talk about work except in the most general way on any other social media.

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Yeah, I’m wondering what sort of evidence LW was expecting. I do have a LinkedIn profile (outdated) but other than that? It’s not like companies routinely have all former versions of their org chart archived on the public net.

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

          Question about that. Does that mean that there isn’t a list of employees on the company website? Like many places, especially public-facing, we often see an about us page with the employee’s name, role, and company contact info. Sometimes there are pictures. Are you saying that the Data Protection Act specifically prohibits that info? My understanding was the employee would have to give their permission and that there are rules about removing the information if asked.

          1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            I’ve never worked anyplace that had that! Maybe tiny companies with less than 20 employees would but I can’t imagine it for a larger employer.

            1. Orv*

              It’s very common in academic departments at American universities. In fact if we leave a grad student or visiting professor off by mistake they usually ask for us to add them, because other universities looking to hire them will expect to find them listed somewhere.

    5. kiki*

      Yeah, it’s possible Jane made up her work history, but a lot of people who are not good at their jobs are still able to find employment time and time again.

      It’s also possible Jane’s previous jobs were structured differently, Jane is going through something right now that means they are having difficulty focusing on their job, or myriad other scenarios.

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        Plus, as we’ve seen time and time again on this site, toxic jobs do exist and within these jobs, bad behavior can be implicitly encouraged and supported by senior management.

    6. TriviaJunkie*

      Yep. My company has an incredibly strict social media policy, so much so that I’ve been here five years and never put my current employer on social media (except LinkedIn) because it’s just not woth meeting their regulations about it. And my role is very not-public-facing, so I wouldn’t be on their website even if they had more than the CEO mentioned. Due to the nature of the work we’re just that tight on privacy and security. Except LinkedIn, there’s basically no evidence online that I work here.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Same. I’ve worked at 3 companies and you’ll only find their names on my LinkedIn. It’s not worth the hassle of being hassled.

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

      that was my take too. I’m wondering if the LW even knew what was on the resume or was going off of what the coworker said? Because the coworker could have been lying verbally to OP or inflating their experience. But when it counted, the resume was correct.

      1. LW1*

        LW#1 here – I saw her resume after she was hired, that’s how I knew what work experience she claimed. Thanks for this question!

  9. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 If you are training someone or assigning them work, it is your duty to report to your manager if they are far below the expected competence.
    I find it extraordinary that so many posters here do “detective work” to check up on an incompetent coworker. It is a gross overstep and invasion of privacy that would make me think very badly of them if they reported to me (unless the poster is in HR and part of her job is to check up when fraud is suspected)

    Also, when you report a coworker, just report the facts you haveobserved; don’t indulge in speculation or fantasy.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      By “detective work” I mean deep dive online searches and social media trawling, not checking what they do at work.

      1. MK*

        How do you define “deep dive inline searches” and “social media trawling”? Looking at someone’s LinkedIn and googling “Coroworker+company they claim to have worked at” and looking at their sc profiles, when you have some reason to doubt them, isn’t an invasion of privacy and I would consider that attitude odd in 2023. This is information these people have voluntarily put out on the internet to be seen by others with their full knowledge. Now, is someone has gone through their coworker’s face book post-by-post since 2004, yes, that’s weird. But if you think people shouldn’t google other, I have to tell you that ship has sailed.

        1. MsSolo (UK)*

          Trying to find them on linkedin to connect is fine, because that’s the purpose of the platform. Googling their name plus companies is weird, and searching through all of their social media that you can find, is excessive. It’s a time sink that goes beyond the purpose of either social media platforms or corporate websites – neither is intended to be used as confirmation of employment, and failure to find confirmation of employment on either does not prove a negative – it just means that like the majority of people the person doesn’t list their employer on social media and the corporate websites are careful about what they share about employees. You could lose hours to searching for information that’s not there because of perfectly reasonable privacy concerns (like, say, concerns about people trying to track down your employer!) and have less information than you would have had it you’d spent the same time managing the person on their poor performance.

        2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Maybe a cultural difference US/Europe wrt privacy at work?
          Someone can of course quietly search anything online if they wish, but if they actually reported the results it would harm their reputation anywhere I’ve worked (UK, Germany, Sweden, NL)

          We are expected to report performance issues at work, if it affects our own work or we are supervising the person and e.g. state if this doesn’t fit their claimed capabilities, but hunting down info outside of work, whether online searches or in-person questioning their neighbours would be thought nosy and creepy.

          1. Billy Preston*

            I’m in the US and it would also be creepy any place I’ve worked. It shows you’re a bit too interested and not focusing on work, just digging up dirt.

          2. Sparkles McFadden*

            I am in the U.S. and I am 100% with you on this. It’s intrusive and, yes, people will judge you if you say “So I did a bunch of Google searches on Jane and here’s what I found…” They will also ignore everything you say after that (unless they are also creepy and nosy).

            It’s something totally different to report what you observed, especially if you are training the person. “Jane said she trained everyone at her old job on Excel but she didn’t know how to select a column of cells” is something you should report. “I couldn’t find evidence online regarding Jane’s credentials” is not.

        3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Googling my name + current or previous employers would turn up nothing. Are you expecting that everyone has public social media and that they post about their jobs?

      2. OP2*

        Yes, that seems odd to me as well, especially for a person who isn’t in the employee’s reporting structure. I don’t know that I would consider an invasion of privacy, per se, but I would consider it a strange thing for someone to have done if they were to report it to me.

      3. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

        Googling someone out of curiosity, including looking on social media, is very normal. Getting sucked into a “deep dive” about it is more of a guilty-pleasure type vice that you know you shouldn’t do- it can be tempting when someone is bafflingly awful, but if you do it, you can’t share what you find because you obtained the information in an embarrassing way.

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          Really? The only people I’ve googled or searched out on social media (that I’ve met IRL) are my long-time exes, and I understand why this is not healthy behaviour. However, I *can* report that the ones I’ve found are holding up marvelously, and one of the ones who sold pot in college moved on to politics, in the same riding. ;)

          Agreed, it is a guilty pleasure, and somewhat embarrassing to admit.

          No, wait, I’m wrong… I have googled a few of my former grandbosses, because I wanted to confirm our relative titles during the time we worked together. But this would only work with senior management, at least in that industry. The admin staff are invisible on the websites. I worked in an executive office with 12 people onsite, and 9 were listed. Myself (accounting, clerical), the legal secretary, and the one other admin didn’t appear. Same with all my other roles. And I don’t list my employers on social media, or post about them by name, or add my colleagues. And I keep it all pretty locked down, in case any of my exes are into googling back!

          Fortunately (for me), a few of the other possessors of my rather unusual name have impressive accomplishments that are well-documented online. (Because yes, I also google my own name from time to time.) If anyone were to fall into confusion and think they were me, in spite of geography, I wouldn’t be offended. ;)

    2. münchner kindl*

      I wonder about that, too: beyond the nosiness, it’s also never useful. We’ve had several letters in the past of people googling or otherwise searching for data on new colleagues, and it always ends “I don’t want to tell my manager that I snooped, so how do I bring it up?” and Alison mostly advising “don’t bring rumors you found by being nosy, just bring problematic behaviour you observed”.

      So why snoop at all if you’re not in the direct line to take action? Why not report the actual problematic behaviour – in this case, not going to training, not learning enough, being late to the event – to the manager who can take action?

      Some people pay “experts” to write their resume for them, who then lie. This is obviously a bad idea, but people who have been fired often for poor performance or who have been out of work for a long time, may feel anxious about not getting a job the normal way, and believe the experts that this is the only way. Similar to how young people get bad advice from parents or college centers, we try to forgive and go on.

      So if a person makes a mistake by lying on their application, but is good at the actual work, then often it doesn’t matter (except if it’s a licensed job); if the person lied and is bad at their actual work, then that is the problem to bring up and solve, not the lying itself. (Yes, it is a character and trust issue, but a good manager can have a honest talk after the person has proven themselves).

    3. Despachito*

      What privacy?

      If someone posts something on the internet, they are voluntarily making it public. Looking for it is by no means invasion of privacy. Imagine a person posts on their public FB profile a swastika and claim their sympathy to nazism, or fills it with racial slurs/ promoting violence. Would you still consider as a breach of privacy if a coworker found out about that and expressed their concern?

      Another question is what the looker does with the information. I would hope they will use discretion and only tell the manager if there is some truly egregious discrepancy relevant to the work or something what I mentioned above.

      I would side-eye a person judging a coworker for their ABSENCE on the internet. I am quite a private person and feel no need to have a FB profile or any public profile. I do not want to imagine this could be held against me.

    4. Clare*

      The internet isn’t a diary, it’s a public billboard. I don’t google coworkers myself, but I can’t fault anyone else who decides to wander over and have a look at what’s been nailed up in the metaphorical town square.

      In this case the absence of information proves nothing and the letter writer acted correctly. However, if they’d won an award for ‘Auckland’s Best Teapot Painter’ when they were supposedly running the Alabama Administration conference, that may have been worth mentioning to someone. I don’t think it’s egregious to decide to check.

      1. Lily Potter*

        The internet isn’t a diary, it’s a public billboard….. I can’t fault anyone else who decides to wander over and have a look at what’s been nailed up in the metaphorical town square

        This wording is golden. I’ve become much more aware of everything I post to the internet under my own name in recent years. Even Facebook and Instagram “likes” are forever – go into your Facebook history, and I guarantee you’ll read old posts that you don’t remember writing! Going forward, I’m going to think “town square” whenever I interact with the internet!

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Sure, but assuming someone is lying because they didn’t proclaim all previous jobs in the metaphorical town square is a bit of a stretch!

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I don’t think Clare or Lily Potter *were* assuming that. Just that the idea of thinking of the internet as a public billboard is a really useful framing — it is not the only place to find information, it is one of many places to find information, and that btw the information you put on it is not private.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          I was just watching a video with my Digital Media Literacy class today that discussed how the Internet creates a “digital town square.”

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Here’s the difference:

      Google, public information, social media profiles (unlocked) are all fine and not snooping.

      If you at any point have to get past a security barrier (a friends only lock, email password, personal data that is protected by law held on a server or a physical barrier like following them in person) then that IS beyond acceptable.

      Should OP have reported her finds? No, I don’t think so. But they’re not wrong for doing the search.

      1. Parakeet*

        This might be a US vs UK difference here since I know you all have much better privacy laws than we do, but (though many people don’t realize this) most adults’ home addresses, current and past phone numbers and email addresses, relatives’ names/addresses/etc, sometimes job history, sometimes vehicle information, sometimes social media handles that aren’t the person’s real name, bankruptcies, any data that could be bought and sold and isn’t considered high risk for identity theft, can be found on people search sites that come up in Google searches. You can opt out of them, but most people don’t realize that, just like they don’t realize that they’re there in the first place. I don’t think the LW did anything wrong necessarily, I just wanted to mention that in the US there’s a lot of sensitive information on people that’s not behind a security barrier, and situations where I would consider intentionally accessing that information to be snooping.

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      It’s not an invasion of privacy to search for publicly available information. Maybe a little excessive, but definitely not an invasion of privacy. Anything posted on the internet is not private.

      Considering the belief many have that you must have irrefutable proof beyond a reasonable doubt before you go to your boss with a concern, I can see people wanting to do some due diligence before raising the issue. BTW, you don’t need that kind of proof.

    7. Snow Globe*

      If someone claimed they had 8 years experience as a llama groomer, but clearly had no idea how to use llama clippers, I would not fault their trainer for checking Linked In to see what that person’s actual experience was. When something just doesn’t add up, it is not unreasonable to want to try to figure out why.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Just report if someone has no idea how to use the clippers. You could ask them why, but no need to hunt online for this info

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Sure, but humans are naturally curious creatures. This isn’t hiring a detective to trail them or buying a background check on them; it’s just looking at what they themselves have chosen to make public online. It sounds like Jane has chosen to make very little public (which is her right!)

        2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Humans are curious people. We like to know why. So we go look for answers. Again nothing on the internet is private.

          1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            That’s just an excuse though. Being “curious” doesn’t mean you have to act on it, just like being angry doesn’t mean I have to shout at someone. Saying nothing on the internet is private is also excuse-making. You can choose your behavior and indulging in gossip and snooping is poor behavior we should all try to rein in.

            Humans *also* like to invent stories to fill knowledge gaps. LW1 is doing that right now. Humans also like to shun people they perceive as different from them. Humans also like to use other humans as scapegoats for their own foibles. We’d all be better off curbing those impulses instead of shrugging and saying, “that’s just how I am!”

        3. Onomatopoeia Cornucopia*

          But just googling someone doesn’t qualify as “hunting”. It’s basic and should be expected will happen sometimes.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        But the outcome is the same whether or not they have 8 years of llama grooming experience as claimed or not: they can’t currently do the current job that the person training them is helping them with. That’s an issue to bring to the person’s manager, not to Google.

        1. Dek*


          I dunno, but trying to “catch” coworkers always feels icky to me. If there’s an issue, there’s an issue, so focus on that.

          1. Sparkles McFadden*

            Yes, exactly. The “why” of it doesn’t matter. The answer to why the person would lie is to get a job. Is someone going to do a bunch of online searches and then say “I *was* going to fire Jane for being totally incompetent but what I found matches her resume, so I guess she’ll have to stay.”? Nope. (Or maybe someone might do that. I’ve seen equally ridiculous things at work.)

          2. sparkle emoji*

            Maybe LW was trying to “catch” someone which I agree isn’t great, but I can also see the urge to search this coworker coming from a place of just wanting to know what has happened– did they lie about their experience in llama grooming or did they know how and then somehow forget?

            1. LW1*

              LW#1 here. Just wanted to say – I’m not proud of my Googling here (definitely a “guilty pleasure” type activity as one commenter noted) – but I wasn’t really trying to “catch” Jane per se. I never mentioned my Googling or even wondered aloud about Jane to anybody else. I was more trying to match my expectations of Jane based on her resume with my experience of working with her – and, yes, being nosy too. But I want to be clear that I was just trying to figure out what was going on and I wasn’t actively hoping to get Jane fired. If I were, I would’ve brought my concerns up to her manager! It was only later that I thought maybe I should’ve said something, since possibly the situation got even worse. Despite her performance issues I actually liked Jane and was sorry that she found herself out of a job, even if it was because of her own actions. And I do have empathy for anybody who finds themselves so desperate for a job that they feel the need to lie, whether or not that’s what Jane did.

    8. ABC*

      I think it’s understandable to want to do a simple Google search or maybe even a social media skim for a new coworker, but a lot of people take what they find (or, even worse, what they don’t find) way too seriously. I only have a problem with it when people think that their google-fu is something like a background check and want to escalate what they found (or didn’t find). That would definitely get me asking “What was your motivation here?”

    9. Unkempt Flatware*

      Invasion of privacy?! For looking at publicly available information that we ourselves put up on the public internet for others to see? You would think badly of them?

      What about a date? Wouldn’t you google the holy hell out of the person before agreeing to meet? I don’t see the issue.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I wouldn’t consider it invasion of privacy either (though it’s not the route I would go in this situation).

        But actually, I’ve never googled someone before a date (and I’ve never known more than their first name, so googling would be tricky).

        That being said, I’m a man who was dating men, so I totally get the the dynamic is different if you’re a woman dating men. Just adding a data point.

      2. Eff Walsingham*

        Re: googling before dating. No, I never did this. Mostly, I either met people spontaneously, or through online sites where everyone used a pseudonym. Only once we *had met* (in public places, naturally) and introduced ourselves by name, would it even be possible to google, and I don’t recall that I ever did. Like the work situation we’ve been discussing, I believe that the more valuable information is what’s going on right before one’s eyes. If the date is rude to the server, or the employee doesn’t do the job correctly, there’s no need to dig deeper for evidence of incompatibility.

        I wouldn’t think badly of someone who does either – as being an ‘invader of privacy’ – I just… question the wisdom of relying on most of what could be found, or what wasn’t found there, to make important decisions. The internet is a cesspit of misinformation at best IMO.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Checking someone before you date them is a matter of personal safety, whereas it’s icky to hunt info online about a coworker who you are not meeting alone, but whom you want catch out on something. Nosiness or malice, not self-defence.

        e..g. if a coworker calls out sick a lot, it’s oppressive to search the internet for photos of them at the pub / clubbing /otherwise enjoying themself when they claim to be ill. Public info, but icky.

  10. Helvetica*

    LW#5 – I am always slightly fascinated by questions like this, which must come down to difference in work culture because taking time off between jobs is so common in my (European) country that I wouldn’t even think anyone would notice. Of course, plenty of people leave for another job but plenty also quit deliberately early, or leave a gap between two jobs to take some time off. I recognise not everyone can do that, for financial reasons, but if you can afford to, it is perfectly normal. Do employers in the US (making a broad sweep here) really find it so odd that you’d be asked about it in interviews?

    1. Cookie Monster*

      It’s not that they’ll find it “so odd.” It’s more like curiosity. Like, “I noticed your last job ended [x] months ago. What have you been up to since?”

  11. Johannes Bols*

    Viz. the pumping. Ooh, the first thing I noticed about the HR response was ‘he’. I’d so want to tell him if he had pump he’d arrange to take the day off WITH PAY to do it!

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I caught the he too. It is possible he just doesn’t know the new law and highly possible he has no clue what pumping entails.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It’s generous to give benefit of the doubt due to the “new law” though. My understanding is many states had the same restriction for ages. It’s only new that it’s federal. I realize HR people don’t necessarily know other states’ laws if they’ve never worked somewhere that had employees there, but I’m still side-eyeing a bit.

        1. Quinalla*

          Correct, came here to say this. Most states this was already law long before the federal law (which was a good thing to make sure it was consistent), but there are still far too many employers who ignore or are unaware of the law especially in male dominated fields.

          I’ve brought it up at both places I’ve worked at as someone who has pumped milk and works in a male-dominated field. My current one the main office had a space, but regional offices did not. They were aware, but were just not dealing with it until it became a problem and we’ve since gone all WFH and closed the physical regional offices so not a problem anymore! My first place I had a locking office door and we actually had several offices with locking doors, so I just used that space. Don’t know that it has come up there since (I’m don’t work there now) but the boss there was aware since his wife had to pump, though I don’t think he was aware of the state law at the time.

          But yeah, pumping in a bathroom is a no go. I’d pump in my car instead of that (and have in a pinch with a cover) as a car is much more sanitary than a bathroom and has places you can set things down, etc. while you are juggling a pump. There also are not usually outlets located anywhere you can use them with a pump, you really need an outlet as a lot of pumps have batteries, but they don’t pump as strongly on battery typically. And ideally a sink in a pumping room so you can just wash your pump parts there and not have to carry them to the break room. And yes somewhere to sit and some kind of table/surface to set things up on.

        2. JustaTech*

          My city has had pretty strong requirements for pumping spaces for at least 5 years now, before the federal law. When we renovated the building the dedicated pumping room was removed. I asked my department head about it in a meeting and he sort of shrugged it off as “eh, whatever”, even though we’d had plenty of people use it in the past and no reason to think other people wouldn’t need it in the future.

          When we did need a pumping room I had to explain the law to the head of facilities because he had no idea (and we don’t have on-site HR).

          So it’s entirely possible that folks can be ignorant of the law, but what they shouldn’t be is difficult about implementing a fix promptly.
          (My coworker and I gave the head of facilities 5 month’s warning that we would need two chairs moved and two curtains installed, and he did neither until my coworker was back from leave. Very irritating.)

      2. Observer*

        It is possible he just doesn’t know the new law

        Maybe. But the essential legal issue is not new. So that’s a problem to start with.

        highly possible he has no clue what pumping entails.

        Sure. But it doesn’t matter. Plenty of people have no idea – look at some of the conversations here – but they *still* know that the law doesn’t allow it / people have strong objections.

        And it’s clear to me that the guy is playing games. He knows that the LW is coming back. He has lots of time. He *says* that he’s going to make other accommodations. But somehow he doesn’t know what they are but he does know that it’s not going to be in the next 6 weeks. At minimum, if no active game playing, it’s a decision to not bother.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Yeah, and it was likely the law has been effective at the state level where they are for years already. He certainly should know it’s the law, and more importantly, he should understand why it is not an acceptable thing to do.

          But I still don’t think he is playing games necessarily. There are plenty of bad HR employees out there, and this kind of thing is still more common than many people realize. And a commenter above sincerely and politely asked what the issue is about pumping in a bathroom. There were so many great responses and explanations on that thread, and the original commenter thanked everyone. Clearly they had not considered that pumping is really food preparation, that there are no truly clean surfaces for equipment, that in most office bathrooms, the woman would need to sit on a toilet, probably one without a lid, while pumping, etc. There is a good chance that he really does not see the big deal. That’s unacceptable, especially in his current role, but still very probable.

          1. Observer*

            There are plenty of bad HR employees out there

            Sure. And playing stupid games qualifies.

            And a commenter above sincerely and politely asked what the issue is about pumping in a bathroom

            And they ALSO explicitly say that they know it’s the law. There is no indication if they are in HR. But nothing in their question indicates that they would not make sure to actually follow the law if they were in HR where someone is asking for a pumping space.

            That’s the thing here. It doesn’t matter if the HR guy understands or not. It matters that he is indicating that he’s not planning to take care of the matter.

  12. Canada*

    #1: Could it be that your employer let her go due to performance issues before the six-month probationary period was up? Where I live in Canada, we have a six-month probationary period where an employee can be let go if it is determined they are not a good fit for the job.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Note: speaking for Ontario only

      The probationary period is a company policy, not a legal requirement.

      If your company has a probationary period, they don’t have to pay you severance if you’re let go within the first 3 months (you’re still owed severance after that even if the probationary period is longer).

      You can still be let go pretty easily outside of the probationary period (unless your contract specifies otherwise)

  13. Jane*

    LW4 An opposing view: think about the purpose of the photos – are they being used to help people identify you, rather than share your personality?

    I’ve recently joined a company with hundreds of employees, and am surprised at the photos of grandchildren, cartoon avatars, etc. being used on Teams and Outlook. If I’m emailing someone and then going to an open plan office to speak to them, or attending a large meeting that they might be at, it would help me if the image in Outlook was a photo of the person so that I could recognise them

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this.

      I work for a government agency with 1,800 employees in 30+ offices around the country. Profile photos are strongly recommended rather than mandatory, but if you post a photo, it has to be a “recognizably you” photo. Most people use the photo that’s on their employee ID card.

      1. Pet Icon LW*

        Ah, in terms of internal teams, the majority of us are in the office every other week and are on calls with video on at least once a week, if not more. It’s a small team within a larger org, where due to the nature of our work (think, making pet clothes where everyone else makes human clothes) we don’t intersect much! And when we do, it’s likely to be on a video call. So I think in my case I’ll keep the dog icon, but if I ever switch employment it’d probably be changed!

    2. I should really pick a name*

      A lot of the time, they’re just there because the software allows them. So, the company doesn’t really care what you do with them.

    3. TootsNYC*

      in my office, I think they’re useful for being a quickly recognized image that helps you realize more quickly who is commenting. So it helps that they’re unique, but there’s no need to know what someone looks like.

      Right now there’s a union action going on, and all of us have one of two icons. Which means it is hard to tell who has participated in a thread (except for the non-union people, like management).

    4. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I work for a huge company with offices across North America, and I really appreciate people’s profile photos. It feels more personable, even if we’re not on video.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        Especially if we’re not on video! Or if that person isn’t on video. That’s a time when having a face pic really matters to me, so I feel like I’m talking to humans instead of black rectangles.

    5. Nina*

      I used to work in a company like that. The default photo was the one on your employee ID, but you could change it and there was no real policy.
      One guy had Bruce Willis (who he slightly resembled) as his profile pic for years before anyone noticed.

  14. Washi*

    When I was pregnant I was working for a home hospice where I was in my car all day and while technically I made my own schedule of patients to see, my caseload was such that I restricted my water intake a bit to avoid the time consuming process of trying to pee. I’m sure the organization would have offered me a space to pump at the main office but how would I have used it, other than extending my day by multiple hours to drive back and pump? I assume there would be no recourse right?

    (I quit that job and found another when my son was 9 months and didn’t pump there for other reasons.)

    1. boof*

      I know these are newer things and maybe more expensive (not the kind insurance usually provides) but I shelled out for the wearable/battery pumps; they weren’t quite as good as the medical grade wall pump but they certainly made up for that with sheer convenience. You do have to occ wash and pour though.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Not ideal to pump in a car, but doable. I have an external battery pack for my pump and some pumps have an adapter that will plug into the thing that was once a cigarette lighter.

      1. kiri*

        yep – when i went back to work i spent every morning commute for three months pumping in the car. my pump motor charges like a phone, so it doesn’t need to be plugged in. it SUCKS and i was so glad when my baby’s feeding schedule shifted enough for me to drop that pumping session – but it’s doable (and, to my horror, something that lactation consultants actually recommend, because of limited time and pumping options at work).

        1. Washi*

          Yeah I actually exclusively pumped and pumped in the car, but doing it once per day where you can then go and wash and refrigerate everything etc is very different from doing it 3x per day while constantly on the go!

  15. Pet Icon LW*

    Thanks for all the reassurance. A fun fact about my boss and I both having pet icons – he’s known as a bit of a grump, something that is entirely role appropriate, whereas I’m sort of the friendly face of the department. This is also reflected in our dogs – his is a dog that’s often seen as a Scary dog making a face (his dog in reality is very silly and can often be seen sleeping on a desk chair behind him on a call) and mine is a fluffy little silly crossbreed.

    In terms of calls, we normally do cameras on, apart from when I join in calls with the IT department who don’t seem to do that. People do see my face regularly!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      From the IT Department: with us it’s usually because we need to access your screen and it’s a pain in the bandwidth to have a Remote Desktop session and a video call open at the same time.

      BTW my teams icon is a Star Trek character. I think you’re fine.

      1. Pet Icon LW*

        Regrettably, mine is hard to photograph as he’s a little mop of curly black fur! but if you look up border terrier poodle mix, he basically looks like that, curly black fur! he’s 10 years old but still looks and acts like a puppy!

  16. KathyG*

    LW 5: Interviewers seemed satisfied enough when I described an extended post-graduation period of unemployment as “taking time to turn back into a human.”

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      *nods* Sometimes you gotta. I once told my editor that my dissertation would be a good book “once I un-f*cked the language,” and thought she was going to die of holding in laughter.

  17. WellRed*

    I was under the impression that appropriate pumping space had been the law for a few years. Did the bill passed in 2022 go further or was I just mistaken?

    1. SW*

      The initial federal law only covered non-exempt employees (aka mostly hourly), and the new law almost entirely closes that gap to include exempt employees (aka salaries). There was a carve out for airlines, but hopefully that gap will also be closed soon! (Source: I worked on the bill)

      1. Distracted Procrastinator*

        thank you, SW, for your work on that bill. I know every bill that passes through the government process has a lot of hands on it. It’s awesome the work you do and this one is particularly meaningful.

      2. JustaTech*

        Thank You!
        Even though I was already covered by city and state laws, it is so good to know that now almost everyone is covered and normalizing asking for pumping space.

    2. the Viking Diva*

      yay for you, SW!
      to WellRed: The Center for WorkLife Law has lots of info and a guide to state laws too. See pregnantatwork dot org

    3. Engineer*

      It wasn’t codified into federal law into 2022. There was a lot of pushback for years before, of course, with companies and industries setting their own standards and then I believe some states (Cali, naturally, and others) passed state-level laws, but there was no binding federal law until last year.

      1. Observer*

        It wasn’t codified into federal law into 2022.

        Nope. It was federal law, but for the most part exempt employees were also exempt. But if you had hourly employees, then federal law most definitely did require such facilities.

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Which is absurd, because exempt employees need to be in the office if that is part of their job and they need to be able to pump too! It was an absurd distinction in the first place.

    4. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      It has been the law in most states for many years. This is just the first time it became federal law.

  18. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

    LW1: I’m reminded of the time that Jane, the office manager, hired Sansa to be the receptionist. It was my responsibility to train Sansa. Jane told me that Sansa was absolutely wonderful, that Sansa’s former manager had told her that Sansa was let go because of employee cutbacks, and that the former manager had said that she (the former manager) had cried and cried over it, because Sansa was such a fantastic employee. Jane told me to be extra nice to Sansa, because she was so wonderful.

    On Sansa’s first day, I noticed that she didn’t seem to have any idea about how an office was run. Plus, she was rude to a number of employees, including me, and when I tried to explain to her how to replace the toner in the fax machine, she shouted, “What do I care! I’m not going to do it!” I didn’t want to argue with her and get Jane involved, because I was sure that Jane would have said to me, “Couldn’t you go for even one day without getting into a fight with Sansa?”

    So I replaced the toner when necessary, until the day that Jane saw me and asked me why Sansa wasn’t doing it. I told her what Sansa had said to me on the first day, and Jane told Sansa that it was HER job. Sansa said that it wasn’t her fault, claiming that I hadn’t made it clear that it was her job, and then she upped her rudeness towards me.

    Eventually Sansa told me out of the clear blue sky one day that she had never had a job before working at her company. She said that after finishing high school, she just sat around at home and watched TV and lied to her parents about going out on job interviews. She said that she told her mother, “They didn’t want to hire me, Ma. Nobody wants me.” And then she would cry, and her mother would cry, too.

    Eventually, her mother said that Sansa should tell interviewers that she had worked at XYZ Company, where her mother worked, and tell everyone to call Mrs. Wainwright for a reference. Her mother said that she would tell everyone at her company, “If a call comes in for Mrs. Wainwright, give it to me.” (Because their last name was not Wainwright.) So Jane wound up calling “Mrs. Wainwright” and was given a glowing reference for Sansa.

    There was no way I could tell Jane about this. I couldn’t be sure that Sansa would be fired, because it would be only my word against hers, and even if Sansa admitted the truth, Jane was the type of person who just hated to make a mistake, so she would have said, “99 times out of 100, I would fire you, but this is the hundredth time, so you’re not fired.” Then Sansa would have upped her rudeness towards me. But I was afraid that Sansa might decide to quit one day and tell Jane that there was no “Mrs. Wainwright” and that she had told me about the big lie, and that the two of us had laughed and laughed at Jane for being so stupid that she actually believed that she had talked to “Mrs. Wainwright.” I couldn’t be sure if Jane would keep this information to herself, or if she would get angry at me for not having told her about the big lie, and I wondered if she would have believed me if I had admitted that I knew about the big lie, but I hadn’t told her because I didn’t have any actual proof, and that I certainly hadn’t laughed at her.

    Fortunately, Jane eventually got tired of Sansa, and Sansa quit with the guarantee that she could get unemployment. Sansa told me this, and I was happy, because that meant that Sansa wouldn’t tell Jane that I knew about the big lie (Sansa wouldn’t have wanted to give Jane the opportunity to go back on her promise that Sansa could collect unemployment), and I wouldn’t have to deal with Sansa any longer.

    And that is one of the reasons that I don’t put much stock in references.

    1. Heather*

      I get that this is all in the past and not actionable now, but you should have told Jane! what where you going to do if Sansa told someone else and Jane found out, lie and say you never knew?

      1. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

        Yes, I would have lied. If Jane found out because the other employee told her about it, or if that employee told another employee who told Jane, I don’t see why Jane wouldn’t have believed me if I had said that Sansa never told me about it.

    2. Seashell*

      Yikes! Maybe employers should ask for a company e-mail to contact former employers. That would at least be a little harder to fake.

      1. pally*

        If nothing else, hold very regular check-ins with the trainer(s) and co-workers to ask how training is progressing. Ideally with an eye towards remedying any small issues that might come up. But, more importantly, for the co-worker/trainer to freely express any concerns regarding the new hire.

        We had a temp who bragged -repeatedly- how the VP had told her she’d be hired on after the temp contract ended. This had me very concerned as she clearly lacked any knowledge of chemistry yet claimed to hold a bachelor’s degree. Yeah, I was helping her with all of her work.

        Due to budget issues, all of the temps were let go. So no one would be hired. Whew!

        I asked the VP about why he said he would hire her when she was completely incompetent. He was surprised to hear this as he’d heard nothing to the contrary and assumed she was doing well. Lesson learned; now we are invited -early on-to express any concerns to management regarding any new hire.

      2. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

        You’re right, but my company did not have company email. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Sansa’s mother’s company did not have company email. It wasn’t a thing back then. When I started working at another company in 2000, they didn’t have company email. After a few years, they got it, but some of the owners didn’t use it, because they couldn’t remember their password.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      This is wild. I had a similar recollection when reading OP1’s letter. Sometimes you meet a new colleague and you just know their entire history is totally fabricated. In my case, I heard similar gushing reports of the new colleague from my boss – and I was pretty pleased about the rave review, because we’d be sharing a workload. This is before they even interview her – but we struggle to arrange the interview because she didn’t put any contact details at all on her CV. I already have one of my fox ears up at this point, but my boss is so deep into the con that she is only upset that we “might miss out on a chance to hire her”. So, we find and hire her and she is a terrible dodo who cannot do basic office work; I cheerfully take on her entire workload because it means I am too busy to talk to hear and hear all her made-up nonsense. The entire time she worked there she was always talking about her past fancy titles and how she worked her way up from nothing…but she wasn’t capable of basic office work. The jobs she spoke of changed details all the time, and the dates clashed like cymbals. I ended up finding out that she was related to someone senior who had covered up the relationship and vouched as a former boss of hers; hence the rave reviews. I never did google her myself – I knew what the deal was to my bones anyway – but I can see why someone would do that.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Scarlet Ribbons, I feel really bad for you that you had so little trust in your manager or anyone else around you that you could only imagine scenarios where you were punished either way! I think it must have been a pretty toxic environment even prior to Jane to make you feel that way.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        The venn diagram of “companies that hire random people” and “have a toxic environment” is pretty much a circle.

      2. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

        No, the company wasn’t toxic. It was just that Jane just hated to make a mistake (or let it be known that she had made a mistake). I’m sure that she saw that Sansa wasn’t working out, but she (Jane) had made such a big fuss about how wonderful Sansa was (based on her reference from “Mrs. Wainwright”) that she felt that if she fired Sansa, she would be admitting that she had been wrong to hire her.

        Knowing Sansa, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had decided to quit without any assurance that she would be collecting unemployment (that’s why she was so rude to everyone – she hated working there and was as obnoxious as possible, hoping that she would be fired so that she could stay at home and watch TV), she might wanted to get a final dig into me and say that I knew all along that there wasn’t any “Mrs. Wainwright” and might even lie and say that I laughed about how stupid Jane was to believe that there really was a “Mrs. Wainwright.” I couldn’t be absolutely sure that Jane would believe me about not laughing at her.

    5. Busy Middle Manager*

      “There was no way I could tell Jane about this?” why? Seriously, not being snarky. I just see so many made up rules on the internet!

      I am glad to see few comments in the vein of “this is none of your business” because IMO there isn’t much harm to do in raising the issue about Jane (Jane in the letter, not your Jane).

      It’s not completely true “oh it’s in the past, it doesn’t matter anymore.” We need to find the holes in our processes to figure out if someone didn’t check the veracity of the resume, didn’t check references, or simply does not have a good enough BS meter to be screening candidates. These are actually very important things and not gossip or stirring the pot!

      1. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

        I didn’t feel that I could tell Jane about it, because it was only my word against Sansa. I had no proof. As I said previously, Jane just hated admitting that she had made a mistake, so I don’t think she would have fired Sansa just because I accused her of something without any proof, plus Jane had made such a big deal about Sansa being so wonderful because of her reference. If she had talked to Sansa about it, Sansa most likely would have denied everything, and she would have stayed in her job, and she would have been nastier than ever to me. I didn’t think that it was worth it to tell Jane.

  19. Delta Delta*

    #5 – I quit a job without another job once.

    What I wanted to say: I am beyond BEC stage with you all and if I stay here one more day I may actually lose my mind.

    What I did say: I’m looking for new opportunities and I want to take my time figuring out what I want to do.

  20. Eagle*

    LE#2 While working in accounting, we frequently pulled documents back out of the trash and so nothing but our own work product ever went in it. The saying was “it’s not trash until it’s collected and taken away”. You could try a similar tactic with this coworker and simply tell him you cannot have any other items in there because you may need to retrieve something. Also, move the bin so it’s very inconvenient for him to get to. Finally, if this guy annoys others, you could all start throwing your lunch away in his bin to send a message.

    1. Hohumdrum*

      I said this above but I’ll say it again: don’t do this. The guy is not going to notice or care. Just tell him directly.

      I worked with a guy who felt it was rude to use other people’s bins. I don’t share that belief- trash should go in a bin, whichever bin is closest is usually the best one to use because holding on to dirty items spreads germs and mess. If I generated trash while I was at his desk I would toss it into his bin without a second thought because I do not think about trash like that. He started putting his trash in my bin to teach me a lesson and it absolutely did not work because I did not notice or think it was odd or annoying for him to use my bin. Someone else had to finally explain to me that he expected me to hold my snotty tissues and such in my hands until we finished meeting and I could take them back to my desk, and that when he put things in my trash it was a message I was supposed to notice and be perturbed by.

      For these kinds of things secret messages do not work because not everyone cares about this stuff enough to even notice. Just tell the guy to stop directly if it bothers you. It’s the only way.

      1. rollyex*

        “For these kinds of things secret messages do not work because not everyone cares about this stuff enough to even notice. Just tell the guy to stop directly if it bothers you. It’s the only way.”

        This. It’s simple: tell people what you want.

  21. kiri*

    No advice beyond Allison’s, LW3, but SOLIDARITY. Figuring out pumping at work is so hard in the best of circumstances – you’re leaving your baby so it’s often emotional, you’re figuring out the logistics of the feeding schedule with your childcare, you’re hoping your colleagues don’t judge you for taking what looks like multiple extra breaks a day – it always makes me SO angry when there are extra hurdles thrown in the way. I’m glad you have the PUMP Act to point to, and I hope your HR is able to come up with an alternative solution ASAP!

  22. The OG Sleepless*

    #1-I’m pretty sure this happened at a former workplace, and it apparently got resolved the same way. My employers hired someone for a support role that has a licensed certification after a formal school program, but there are a lot of unlicensed people in the role who just don’t do certain tasks or do them under supervision (which is totally fine, and I’ve worked with several who were very good). This person claimed to have gone to school, but hadn’t gotten licensed yet because there weren’t enough people applying for the degree that year so they didn’t give the exam. I had more experience with people with this license than my employers did, and I thought that was odd…there are several dozen people taking the licensing exam every year, plus I knew some of the administrators at the school she supposedly attended but she seemed a little vague when I asked if she knew them. I wasn’t sure what to do, because she was good at her tasks; she clearly hadn’t been lying about her job experience. She wasn’t in a position to do anything that absolutely needed formal licensure. And, I liked her. I just…had questions. Well, one day she was just gone, and the bosses were very tight lipped about what happened. I’ll never know what happened, but I assume somehow she finally got caught. I’d just love to know how.

  23. Rosacolleti*

    #3 what is the issue with pumping in a bathroom? I did it for 3 babies and never gave it a second thought.
    Thankfully we don’t have either those workplace requirements (as a small business owner I’d have to sack staff to allow for a dedicated pumping room) and women can take off the tone they need to breastfeed and not rush back to work weeks or a few months after giving birth.

    1. Perihelion*

      See an extensive thread above about this—short answer is, bathrooms are absolutely not an acceptable place to require people to pump. For hygienic reasons, mainly, but also because it’s not reasonable in terms of convenience or comfort.

      People have done lots of things that they never should have had to.

    2. Admin Lackey*

      Love how reliably you comment in favour of firing pregnant women because you’re a poor little small business owner

      If you wouldn’t prepare food in the office bathroom, then you shouldn’t make someone pump in the office bathroom. You doing it without a second thought isn’t relevant. And I’m sure American women would love not to have to go back to work so soon after birth, but they do and they should have a clean place to pump

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I had a college professor who would pump in the bathroom. She told us it’s mostly because she’d lose track of time, then not want to rush back to the building where the pumping room was before she had to come back and teach another lab. But she was pretty clear that it was her 1-time management and 2-personal choice which made these things happen. She was not EXPECTED to pump in the bathroom.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          Yeah, if it’s something you want to do for whatever reason, go for it. But as you say, it shouldn’t be expected because it’s the only option provided

      2. boof*

        As an american woman I’m going to say I was SO HAPPY to go back to work 6 weeks after having my first – the whiplash from work to 24/7 mom was severe, and while I’d rather it wasn’t required for eveyone’s sake (more choices are always better!) – though as far as the actual point having time and a quiet place to pump was definitely required (I went into a research rotation where I could set my own schedule and had access to a nice place to pump with a computer to work while I did so)

      3. Rosacoletti*

        What? I would never fire a pregnant person, I can’t imagine where you got that idea? In over 20 years we have fired 2 people (both male incidentally). I’m not a poor little business owner, I’m one who has to make decisions and invariably I do that with the welfare and careers of my staff in mind. I’ve had people off on mat leave continually for the last 5 years and each of them has returned in a different capacity to their original contract, ie part time, which we have always been able to accommodate. I don’t know of any other companies in our industry who accommodate this.

        Most of them have taken the full year off and those who are still breastfeeding, pump in their car. We have sometimes been able to free a private area up on a case by case basis but to be honest, they have always preferred to go to their car.

        I do understand that pumping in a bathroom isn’t ideal, but I was in that position, I simply made a clean area and used that. I love the idea of a dedicated area but as a wholly open plan workplace, it would mean a significant building project and loss of space that would mean less employees. It is what it is.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      You were literally commenting on another thread about how businesses should be allowed to fire women for becoming pregnant so they don’t have to take on the costs of finding a replacement. You don’t sound like you care too much about women taking the time they need.

      Also, if you have no problem with it I suggest you start preparing all of your own meals in a bathroom. Shouldn’t matter, right?

      1. boof*

        While that sentiment is pretty gross, i will point out that most countries with generous parental leave the government pays for a good chunk of it – I do think it’s a really bad model to expect employers to cover so many employee needs from healthcare to unemployment to various leaves and wellness etc – I didn’t used to be so “socialist” (actually “social welfarist”) but pragmatically it makes more sense to me than expecting employers to do it or having the inefficient rube-goldberg machine of supports we have now in the USA :/
        … of course where we are right now employers should just do what’s right by their employees and lobby congress for change :P
        And yes I have been a household employer who gave my nanny paid parental leave even though I didn’t “have to” because heck yes it was the right thing to do, even if it was a bit of a strain on me/my fam. And yes I tip well even though I think it would be better if we eliminated the separate “tipped wages” bucket and min wage applied to everyone and tips were really only for “Extra” service – until the law changes we have to do what’s right by the people around us.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I don’t disagree that in an ideal world the government would pay for that, until we live in that world advocating for being able to fire (or simply not hire) someone simply for being pregnant is a gross attitude.

        2. Rosacoletti*

          Fortunately in Australia we have state funded parental leave – if employers needed to pay this, it would definitely affect the employability of childbearing age women. That’s just an economic fact, and terribly unfair.

          1. Rosacoletti*

            Thank you. I never ever said I’d fire someone who was pregnant – unless of course it was incidental to a very very serious performance issue. Even then, you really can’t in this country.

            What I did say is that it would affect whether I hired someone who was pregnant. I have a small team (15 people) and only hire when I need someone. After funding their training, if they then leave for parental leave, I need to pay a recruiter around $20k to replace them, and then, assuming the employee returns, I’m saddled with another permanent full time employee I don’t need and can’t afford. In our market, people are so in demand, there is no option to get a short term contractor.

            I would much rather pay my current employees well and look after them than have to scrimp and save to pay a salary of someone we do not need. I hope that explains it better.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*


      I’m sure you fully pay for your staff’s maternity leave then so they don’t have to “rush back to work weeks or a few months after giving birth”?

      1. amoeba*

        I mean, apart from the fact that maybe some people… want to go back to work after a few months? And I’m typing that as a European from a country where one or more years of maternal (of course. Never paternal. Because patriarchy.) leave are the norm. Also as somebody who’d go crazy if I did that.

        I mean, I’m all for a lot of parental leave (for both parents!) but please not because going back to work is made impossible for women!

        1. A Simple Narwhal*

          I’m a bit confused by your comment, I’m not at all saying women shouldn’t go back to work after having a baby? Rosacolleti says their employees shouldn’t come back to work quickly so I’m saying they better offer paid maternity/parental leave for them to do so.

          But I’m guessing that someone who advocates for firing pregnant employees and claims they’d have to fire staff in order to afford a pumping space probably doesn’t offer paid parental leave, so my comment was made sardonically.

          1. amoeba*

            No contradicting you, just adding to the point! (Sorry, “in addition to” probably would have been better phrasing…)

      2. Rosacoletti*

        We have publicly funded parental leave here (20 weeks, which is often paid at a higher rate than their usual salary) and yes, we do top it up.

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      As you probably wouldn’t prepare & eat your own meal – with utensils & cutlery – in the bathroom, it seems grim to feed a baby there.

      Very small businesses are exempt because it is generally unreasonable to expect them to always find a spare room. Once an employer is large enough to have several rooms they need to allocate one for pumping.
      I agree it’s much better to allow 1-2 years paid maternity leave to remove the need to pump at work, but if that’s rarely available in the US, they have to work with what’s feasible.

      1. Seacalliope*

        It’s great to allow 1-2 years of maternity leave. It’s untenable and cruel to require it, so there will always be women who require pumping space.

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          I’ve never come across a woman who didn’t want to take at least the year paid (equivalent job legally has to be held open) but that’s probably the custome / cultural / health view where I am.
          So I’ve never had a workplace where any employee pumped.

          I don’t know what the legal minimum is, but I’d expect any workplace of any size here to require women to take a minimum leave of several months for health & safety reasons; not just because they are fluffy & kind, but also to make it more likely that the worst of the sleep deprivation etc is past and the employee is match-fit.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            You have now come across me! Here we have 1 year paid and up to 2 years unpaid leave. I enjoyed the leave at the beginning, but by month 5, I was making excel speadsheets for fun and helping my brother grade homework while the baby napped because I need to engage the logic/scienc part of my brain once in a while or I will be bored out of my skull. I returned after 7.5 months, planning on 6 this time.

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            My best friend was eager to get back to work at the end of her maternity leave. I think it was two months? She alternated FMLA weeks with her husband (a teacher) until summer break, but she was glad to be back in the office.

        2. amoeba*

          Yup. Also – I’m all for 1-2 years of *parental leave*. I live in a society where it’s 95% women who take the year or so off and the consequences for equality are… not good. Both at work but also for lifelong care work, mental load, etc. That’s very much not something to strive for.

          1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            The 95% of women who take the full paid leave should not have to worry they are damaging equality by prioritising their own health and sleep. Women need time to recover physically and bf can be a job in itself.
            Paternal leave is becoming much more common – my former boss was very career-oriented but still took 4 months (maybe because it was the norm at work and he would have been looked at oddly otherwise)

            1. amoeba*

              Staying at home for a full year while the father takes no or very little leave is anything *but* “prioritising [ones] own health and sleep” though. Care work is work, and both dull, sometimes unrewarding, and both mentally and physically really, really hard. It’s very definitely not easier for women to take on the majority of that instead of going back to paid work and sharing the care work equitably with their partners. Do you really believe taking care of a newborn child alone for 8 h a day is better for health reasons than an average office job?

              And there’s been multiple studies showing that a fair division of labour is much more common when the dad takes significant paternal leave by himself (!) Like, long-term. Because those roles tend to stick, and then you go back to work and are still stuck with the majority of the care work in addition to your full time paid job.

              The reason the labor is traditionally divided like that is absolutely in no way to protect women, but a deeply ingrained societal inequality that women suffer under. A lot.

              1. Emmy Noether*


                Also, Switzerland is really, really crappy and backwards about this. At least in Germany it’s equal leave on paper, even if few men actually take it.

                1. amoeba*

                  True. Although at least in my (urban, career-oriented) bubble, that does appear to have the upside of it being more accepted for women to go back to work after a few months, and surprisingly good (though expensive) child care. Bit like the US, I guess, haha.

                  Not sure how to solve that problem, but having generous parental leave that’s (in a significant part) conditional on both parents sharing it seems like it could be a good start…

    6. bamcheeks*

      Honestly, in my job I deal with a lot of small business owners grappling with problems like, “how do we compete with large businesses to attract good employees”, and I always want to point to posts like this. You might even have decent policies in your business, but you’re still out here perpetuating the idea that small business owners cannot afford employees with actual human bodies or lives.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I honestly think that any application for funding for a small business–start up loan, VC investment, whatever–should be required to include in the business plan how you’re going to be fair, inclusive, and go beyond the applicable laws to treat your employees correctly and pay a living wage.

        (And while we’re at it, put freakin’ kick/press plates on the doors–it doesn’t make a business accessible if the person in the wheelchair/scooter still has to pull open the doors.)

          1. Be Gneiss*

            I’m guessing because a lot of laws – state and federal – only apply to a business with above a certain number of employees.

          2. bamcheeks*

            Because that’s the context of this thread! And whenever there’s any pro-employee, pro-H&S, pro-consumer, pro-environment or anti-corruption legislation announced, there’s always some representative of small businesses popping up to say, “Look, my small business is a terrible place to work and it’s simply unaffordable for us to not give people asbestosis, but you should definitely support us anyway because small businesses are for some reason counted as a social good.”

            Not that larger businesses are necessarily better, but “think of the poor hardworking small businesses who will be impacted by this change for the better!” is a really common media talking point.

            1. Dr. Rebecca*

              Also this, thank you.

              My first experience of this was in my teens/early 20s, where I encountered the following, from small businesses, in various configurations: not being able to make payroll/bouncing payroll checks; minimum wage/no benefits for what should have been a salaried position; “we can afford YOU, we just can’t afford the proper amount of sanitizer for the dishes/enough stock to entice customers into the shop”; innumerable health and safety issues that their size exempted them from.

              Sorry, but if you can’t meet the needs of your workers, and you can’t properly serve your customers, and you’re operating in the red, you don’t have a business, you have a very expensive hobby.

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Ah, there it is! Back in my day, I did it and I never even thought of complaining. You kids are all soft!

      Civilization will never advance if we never do anything differently in the future than we did in the past. We’d all be living on other planets by now if women were treated with the same respect as men. We are literally hobbling ourselves by constraining half the human population.

      You are a crab in a bucket. Do better.

    8. AngryOctopus*

      Or, and this may come as a revelation to you, people could SHARE SPACE in the relatively small amount of time a woman needs to pump while she’s at work, thus freeing up a room.

    9. Lexi Vipond*

      I’m assuming that Rosacolleti isn’t in the US (pumping rooms not required, long maternity leaves usual), and I’m curious – are dedicated pumping rooms common in any other country? I don’t think I’ve ever come across one.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I’ve never come across work pumping in 40 years working in Europe.
        However, implying pregnant women be sacked is also wildly untypical (and would be illegal just like in the US)

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          I read it as ‘would have to sack someone else in order to free up space and money’ – but sacking on a whim is also kind of unusual. So who knows. Random curiousity still stands!

        2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          It is not illegal in the US if the business is small enough, but it doesn’t mean it is not terrible practice or that Rosacolleti’s attitude isn’t despicable.

          1. Rosacoletti*

            I truly don’t understand what is despicable about my attitude. Something has been seriously misconstrued. My staff always have and always will come first. We far exceed legislative responsibilities toward our staff. If putting current, loyal staff members careers and livelihoods before an applicant who is pregnant and unable to actually perform the job when I need them to is despicable, OK, we can agree to disagree.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I only heard of them online (but I don’t know much about corporate norms here). Ireland has very low breastfeeding rates compared to many other countries though, so that may be a factor.

      3. amoeba*

        Pumping is less common in Germany, but you do have the right to paid pumping breaks (2×30 min/day) and the employer has to provide a “suitable room” for that. In Switzerland it’s 90 min/day if you work more than 7 h/day, same for the room. But yeah, the fact that women tend to go back to work much earlier in the US certainly makes pumping more popular.

      4. bamcheeks*

        I’ve just looked up UK law and it’s wildly complicated! As far as I can tell, there’s no specific right to space or paid breaks, but it is strongly recommended that an employer support breastfeeding parents by providing a hygienic and private space and one who doesn’t might be liable to a claim under either the Equality Act or Health and Safety legislation. You *do* have to provide extra rest breaks and a place to rest to a breastfeeding employee.

        In practice, it doesn’t come up nearly as often as it seems to in the UK. Most people who have given birth will take at least six months off, because that’s the length of statutory maternity pay, and everyone has the right to take 12 months off + four weeks of annual leave. The Venn diagram of people who are still breastfeeding enough that they want to express AND who return at six months is pretty small. If you are going back to work at six months or earlier, you’re much more likely to be exclusively formula-feeding or mix-feeding, and if you’re still breastfeeding beyond six months, you’re more likely to stay on maternity leave for 8 months or more. I did it myself (went back to paid work at seven and a half months with an exclusively breastfed child, gave up that nonsense after six weeks because it became she could cope for a day on solids & water ), and I probably only know one or two other people who did.

        It’s also way more unusual to have electric breastpumps here– I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in real life! I’ve known a couple of people who used them because they couldn’t feed the baby directly but really, really wanted to feed their baby breastmilk, but if you’re like me and just express to keep up supply or for a few weeks between 6-8 months, a handpump is pretty much fine.

        1. amoeba*

          Interesting! I don’t have children myself, but in my German bubble, the electric ones are definitely the ones that tend to be recommended if pumping is necessary.

        2. UKDancer*

          Yes. My large UK company provides a room for nursing mothers. I’ve no idea how many people use it because that would be weird to ask. I mean I guess some must do but it’s fairly near my desk and I’ve never seen a massive queue. Most people in the company take about 1 year parental leave so I don’t know how many continue to breastfeed.

    10. Observer*

      what is the issue with pumping in a bathroom?

      I get that a lot of people don’t read the comments before they post. But this is a conversation that has happened more than once. But if you really have missed all of them, you have some good answers up right on this page.

      I did it for 3 babies and never gave it a second thought.

      I suffered, so everyone else should? That’s toxic and how serious problems get perpetuated.

      I also doubt if you actually “never gave a thought” about it. I know that we’re supposed to give people the benefit of the doubt, but the logistics of this make really hard to believe that you actually did not *think* about it. What I suspect you meant – and I want this to be clear to everyone who looks at this and thinks that people are over reacting- that you never gave a second thought to the idea the idea that it’s not ok to make people do this. That in your mind it’s just FINE to put *all* of the burden of trying to do the best for infants on the mother and any hardship involved is something the mother should just deal with.

    11. Observer*

      On a separate note:

      as a small business owner I’d have to sack staff to allow for a dedicated pumping room

      I call baloney. Even in small businesses, there are ways to comply with the law. And if you are in the US, you ARE actually covered by the law. Yes, even small employers are covered.

      women can take off the tone they need to breastfeed and not rush back to work weeks or a few months after giving birth

      Not in the US, the can’t.

      And even in countries with good paid maternal leave, there are good reasons why women would go back to work.

    12. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Just to clarify comma it doesn’t need to be a dedicated pumping room. That’s a luxury for large companies. What it needs to be is available, private, and a hell of a lot more hygienic than a bathroom.

      You could, for example, allow a nursing mother to use your office with the blinds drawn.

    13. tg33*

      I pumped after two of my children, and while I could feed my children easily, I can’t pump much, so I needed an electric pump. Since toilets don’t have electric outlets, it wasn’t possible to pump in the toilets (and I wasn’t asked) not to mention room for sorting out bottles and stuff.

      This was Ireland, mid noughties.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It would be pretty rare to still need to express at the one-year point though, wouldn’t it? At that point your child is almost certainly getting the majority of their nutrition from solids and your supply is firmly established and will respond to fluctuations in demand over 24-48 hours. I breastfed my elder to 14 months and my younger to 18 months, but I didn’t need to express beyond 8-9 months.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yup, coming up on nearly a full year of nursing and pumping, as recommended by the WHO (for everyone in the world, so of course YMMV).

        If I had an office (and it didn’t have glass walls) I could have used that. Instead I used a shared “wellness” space.

        I feel like we had this whole conversation a few weeks ago about how pumping spaces need to be reserved for pumping, but they don’t have to be totally unusable for anything else ever, just that pumping gets priority.

  24. RVA Cat*

    Jane didn’t order food because “she pulls her dinner from her pocket.”
    Besides the Gen X reference, it is possible she didn’t lie on her resume but she is now a very different person. Substance abuse issues would be one of many explanations.

    1. arthall*

      “Jane didn’t order food because “she pulls her dinner from her pocket.”

      I didn’t know it was Make Up Whatever We Want Day! I guess my admin assistant was too busy trying not to pass out from 5 coworkers purposely farting around her because they can’t be bothered to manage their own dietary needs.

      Anyway, I’ll do you one further, RVA Cat: Jane quantum leapt and that’s why she’s gone.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Is this a reference to the admin who refused to order things everyone could eat, despite being handed a list of local restaurant options? Because that was on the admin, not the coworkers who “can’t be bothered to manage their own dietary needs.”

  25. TootsNYC*

    Re: Slack profile images

    Their primary purpose is to make your participation instantly recognizable, even without your name being visible. So when people look at all the little icons for the comments in the thread, they can tell who participated. Or when a message from you pops up, it’s faster to tell who it’s from.

    My union is doing a union campaign right now that involves everyone putting up the exact same image, and one of my colleagues/fellow members said that the uniformity makes it frustrating because she can’t tell who’s in the conversation right away.

    So maybe in an investment bank, a pet would be a problem. But in almost anywhere else, it’s an image that would speed that recognition process.

  26. cassielfsw*

    Re LW3 (pumping in the restroom)

    If the company has until January to get a space ready, why are they not already working on it? Why is the bathroom being presented as an option at all? The letter sounded like the HR guy had no intention of even thinking about the issue until after LW was back at work.

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

      Yeah, really. It’s not like they need to have some big fancy room. A small office or even a larger closet would work. Just put a comfortable chair in there and a small table. Make sure it locks. thats really all that is needed.

    2. Lily Potter*

      It’s completely possible that the HR person didn’t intend to think about a pumping room, or even know that a pumping room is something needing thought. Especially if it’s a small business that hasn’t encountered the situation in the past. The company can’t be faulted for not having a pumping room ready for the LW on the off chance that she’d stop by during her maternity leave. But it’s a good thing that she did stop by; the company has 6+ weeks to figure something out before she comes back.

      1. cassielfsw*

        I don’t think anyone was actually expecting them to have a pumping room ready to go in case LW visited. But my point was, why is HR guy saying “oh lol you’ll have to use the bathroom until we can be bothered to work something out, eventually, maybe” instead of “of course we will have a room set up for you, that is absolutely NOT a bathroom, as we are *legally required to do*, and since you’re not back until January, we will have plenty of time to set that up for you.”

        It’s not as if it takes that long to find or create a room with a door that locks.

      2. Observer*

        It’s completely possible that the HR person didn’t intend to think about a pumping room, or even know that a pumping room is something needing thought.

        That assumes wild incompetence. Which *is* possible. Because it’s either that or someone who doesn’t care about the law.

        But for a competent HR person who cares about the law, that’s just not tenable. The problem here is not that they didn’t have the room ready *now*. But HR said that there won’t a place *in six weeks*. Not only that, but that they don’t even know *when* there will be a proper place or where it will be.

    3. saskia*

      Just HR trying to avoid thinking of a solution for as long as humanly possible! I used to wear many hats in a small startup, and nobody above me liked finding solutions when someone realized we were out of legal compliance. It always became the problem of the person who originally raised the issue. Not a great way to operate, but pretty common, probably.

      1. Lily Potter*

        Yup. I was once put in charge of HR functions when I was twenty-freaking-five years old with zero HR training. It was a small organization so everyone wore multiple hats, and I “got” HR. There’s no way that I would have had any clue that a private pumping room was legally required; it just wouldn’t have crossed my mind. I wasn’t incompetent, I wasn’t mean-spirited – I was a 25 year old non-parent with no HR training. As Saskia notes above, this kind of ignorance is not uncommon in small organizations. Sometimes affected employees just have to speak up. As Saskia says above, “not a great way to operate, but pretty common, probably”

        1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

          Well, you were incompetent, in HR. That was not your fault. Your company should have gotten you training. I am sure you were very competent at the work you were originally hired to do and properly trained to do. But you were not competent to do HR, and that means that your company, by having you do this task without ensuring you were properly trained, put itself at greater risk of violating the law and facing legal consequences or losing employees over it. Not your fault, but still the employer’s responsibility to follow the law.

    4. Observer*

      The letter sounded like the HR guy had no intention of even thinking about the issue until after LW was back at work.

      I suspect that he actually had no intention of thinking about it even *after* the LW was back at work.

  27. Dinwar*

    #4: I had a coworker who loved trains and used a train as his Teams photo. Other coworkers use their kids, or a particularly interesting jobsite, or the like. As long as it’s reasonably professional, I don’t think most people will care.

    I did have one coworker tell me that my desktop was unprofessional. It was a photo of my kids, one of those posed photos at an amusement park. I informed him that this was due to instructions on a jobsite. A previous safety manager told the crew I was on to put a photo of the reason why we have to be safe on our phones, our desktops, wherever we would regularly see it, as a reminder that while WE may be willing to take a stupid risk, THEY would not. Hard to argue that following a work instruction is unprofessional.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Because any evidence that you are a person outside of work is unprofessional. Sure. /sarcasm.

      My PCP has family photos in all her exam rooms. Never seemed unprofessional to me. Not sure how that is different from a computer desktop. People need to stay in their lane.

      1. Dulcinea47*

        I’m VERY curious as to the genders of the family photo posters vs the people who think that’s unprofessional. (I’d be surprised if women thought family photos were unprofessional.)

        1. metadata minion*

          Eh, as a general rule I think you’re right, but there’s a significant minority of women who have internalized the “any evidence of having non-work needs or priorities is unprofessional” bullshit and then enforce it particularly strongly on other women.

        2. Avery*

          I wouldn’t be that surprised. Internalized misogyny is real, as are women who have deluded themselves into thinking that they’re better than other women for prioritizing their career over their family.

          1. Kara*

            It’s not even necessarily that. Women in particularly-male-dominated fields will often adopt a heavy work-only persona because we’re already dealing with people questioning whether we’re up to the job, and even the slightest mention of outside interests (unless they’re heavily male-coded) will earn you a reputation of being focused on trivial hobbies rather than your job.

    2. Delta Delta*

      This is so bizarre. People have families, and people like to look at photos of their loved ones and have nice thoughts about them during the day. Heck, I work for myself, alone, in a basement office. I have a wedding photo near my desk because it’s nice.

  28. Ghostess*

    Re LW4: My workplace is not at all related to the animal/pet field, but our Slack has many profile photos of animals and it brings me the truest joy. Some are pets on their own, some are pets with their human, and some – like mine – are pets in party hats. I will never fail to be delighted when I get a Slack message about something mundane like an expense report, accompanied by a profile photo of an unimpressed cat

  29. kiki*

    For Letter 1, it’s definitely possible Jane did something really bad, the company followed up on her references and realized that she was lying about where she worked, or a bunch of other scandalous things.

    I think it’s just as likely that Jane has just not been doing their job well, maybe even worse than LW can tell from their vantage point. Sometimes, if an employee is just completely missing the mark within 6 months despite a lot of support and training, it makes the most sense to let them go. And when somebody is that new (and, frankly, bad at their job), it often doesn’t require much notice because there’s not much to hand off and they haven’t become deeply ingrained in the organization yet.

  30. leeapeea*

    LW 5 – I left my previous role with nothing else lined up. I like Alison’s suggestion. In my case I was changing directions (student transportation to HR) and was able to explain that it was in the best interest of both previous employer and me/my family that I not try to job hunt while still on the job (because I was working 70+hour weeks and still spinning my wheels). Some employers might even appreciate your availability for interviews and a start date that doesn’t require waiting to give notice. Good luck!

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

    #3 makes me think of my former employer which is no longer in existence, so this isnt affecting anyone anymore.
    We had a pumping room but it was inside the womens bathroom. It was like a nook, and at one time had a door but then changed to a curtain and then it was no longer available (I suppose someone could ask to be let in?) It became not available because people were found s doing NSFW activities with their coworkers.

    I’m wondering if this would have followed the new law? It wasn’t the bathroom, but it was in the bathroom. And then there was really no privacy since there was not a locking door and only a curtain.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      The federal law states: “The space must be shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing employees’ use, it must be available when the employee needs it in order to meet the statutory requirement.”

      I don’t think a curtain would qualify as free from intrusion. The law in Texas does specify a locking door.

    2. Kara*

      I don’t know about the ‘inside the bathroom’ part nor how it would fly with various state laws, but I would think that the curtain would be acceptable given that a pop-up tent is a suggestion by the federal government for women working in literal fields.

  32. Toledo Mudhen*

    Wow, you have trash cans?

    Seriously, my office does not. We have to bring our trash and recyclables into the break room and dispose of everything there. It cuts down on vermin (and they also cut costs by having the cleaners come in fewer days a week.)

    1. Dulcinea47*

      Do you work for the state of Kansas? They took our trash cans away in about 2016 and replaced them with a tiny bin that hangs off the side of a recycling bin. We have to take them out ourselves and we’re not allowed to have trash bags. They also don’t clean anything else and it’s actually pretty gross.

      1. Toledo Mudhen*

        Not the state of Kansas, but I do work for a government agency.

        I have a co-worker who tapes a grocery bag to their desk every morning and tosses it at the end of the day. Silly that they should have to.

    2. Cranky-saurus Rex*

      Same! My workplace has little signs at every cube reminding you to empty your desk trash can at the central bin before leaving each day….. but no actual desk trash cans.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Ugh. I’ve never been anywhere that didn’t have individual trash bins for the office, rather than traipsing back & forth.
      However, they’re intended for paper only (so they needed to be emptied far less often than 20 years ago) We had a bio bin in each kitchen, so even fruit peelings were supposed to go there. Also a bottle bank in each building.

      1. Distracted Procrastinator*

        same. I actually have a little passive-aggressive mini battle with maintenance every six weeks because I don’t want a full sized trash can at my cubicle and they keep trying to put one in. I just quietly move it somewhere else when one shows up. Six weeks later they try again. I move it again. It’s great.

        I like the knee room under my desk as it is and my little desk top trash can works great for the small amount of trash I generate. I have always put food trash in the break room anyway and nearly everything I do is digital.

    4. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, same here. Plus, we always had wicker waste-paper baskets when I was growing up, and my mum used to rage at us if we did something like throw away an apple core or satsuma peel in them, because they would turn the wicker damp and then mouldy. So it’s kind of engrained in me that open-topped bins are for paper and dry waste only, and food has to go in the kitchen bin with a lid and a proper liner!

  33. Observer*

    #3- Pumping the bathroom

    Please make sure to not sugarcoat or soften your language in the least bit. Your HR has no intention of making “other accommodations”. He’s clearly planning to run out the clock.

    I know that sounds paranoid, but look at the facts at hand. You have a baby at least a couple of weeks ago, and there is another 6 weeks till you get into the office. But yet, he is explicitly planning to have you use the bathroom, rather than working on something in the interim.

    Keep in mind that the PUMP act did not create a new obligation for employers. All it did was broaden the obligation and close some loopholes. So this should not have been something that he’s just figuring out now.

  34. Pita Chips*

    Regarding Slack, if it’s internal-use only and you aren’t required to be all formal all the time, I see no problem with having a pet picture, especially if your boss is doing the same.

    I usually use a photo I’ve taken of a flower or one of my local squirrels. I hate 99% of the pictures that exist of me so only rarely share them. During lockdown I used one of me in a mask that had a kitty nose & whiskers.

  35. Anony466*

    2. My coworker uses everyone else’s trash cans

    Had the same problem. I moved my trashcan to make it inaccessible to anyone else, like under my desk away from the door. Problem solved!

  36. Shirley You're Joking*

    #1 – I cannot believe it never occurred to me to start an email to my manager with the opening: “heyyyy girl.” I feel like there’s something brilliantly naive there that is almost inspiring.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yep. I now regret I chose a STEM field that is 95% male, so I never had the opportunity to EM like that. “heyyy boy” doesn’t sound so cool.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I mean, there’s always “heyyyyyy dude” but if they’re a 90s kid they’ll just think you’re referencing the Nickelodeon show.

        1. metadata minion*

          Yeah, in this context the masculine equivalent of “girl” is definitely “dude”, not “boy”, and you could get an entire sociolinguistics paper out of analyzing that ;-)

    2. Shan*

      I regularly correspond with my provincial government, and there’s a woman who has recently taken to starting emails with “Hiiiiiiii Shan.” Like, emails informing me of a verdict on a multi-million dollar application I’ve submitted. From the government. That I need to put on file. It is a TRIP, every single time.

  37. Billy Preston*

    There has been an unspoken rule at most offices I’ve worked in to not throw food trash away in your cubicle trash cans, but take it to the break room. Let’s all do this- no one wants to smell anyone’s food trash.

    1. Ana Maus*

      I support this. I loathe bananas and the smell of them turns my stomach. If a cubicle neighbor eats one, I have to ask them to just that or I can’t concentrate

  38. Daisy-dog*

    LW5 – Good luck!!!!!

    I quit my job without a new job lined up last year. I did intentionally fill the first few weeks post-job with “cup-filling” activities: a roundtable event with some close connections in my field, a conference that I find really inspiring, and a professional development class. I explained to my previous manager that this role was something I no longer saw for myself long-term. Because I had the opportunity to do all of these activities, I wanted to take advantage of it. (My role was entering a extremely busy season, so I couldn’t have done any of those activities if I’d stayed in the role.)

    At the conference, I met some recruiters from a staffing agency. I explained to them that I wanted to have some time off to focus on my own development and also because my job search wasn’t going well when I was working – they fully understood that. I found my current role through this agency and my new manager didn’t even ask about my resume gap. Not sure if he got the spiel from the recruiter or if I was a good enough fit for it to not matter. (I was also not working for only 6 weeks at time of interviewing and 10 weeks total once I started the job.)

  39. Pizza Rat*

    I would like to sneak a copy of The Rules of Work onto Jane’s desk. I read it years ago and found it a good guide to professional behavior. Not all of it may be relevant today, but judging from Letter 1, It would still be helpful to her.

  40. Hot Water Bottle*

    OP1, I am kind of curious about the “long,
    personal story about her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend” – remember any details?

  41. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – No reason to have brought up internet sleuthing as you didn’t find evidence of anything. If I didn’t have a LinkedIn profile, you would probably find the rest is all similar for me. You could suggest that that they do employment verifications and reference checks on future hires, citing her performance and not your suspicions as a solid reasoning for why it would be helpful.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      exactly – once someone leaves a job, the company usually removes them from their website – you’re not going to find evidence someone worked there ten years ago. Unless they’re high-profile or wrote credited blog posts or something? There’s nothing weird about not having a LinkedIn, either.

  42. The OG Sleepless*

    I had to very kindly ask my coworkers not to throw banana peels in the trash can near my workstation. Why? Because for whatever reason, I absolutely hate the smell of banana peels. And I work in a field where some FUNKY stuff can get thrown in the trash cans. But banana peels were where I drew the line. :-)

  43. THAT girl*

    I admit that I’m a little surprised people have to ask why someone shouldn’t want to or need to pump in a restroom. I’m not mad that anyone is sincerely asking if you don’t know as long as they are open to learning but I’m sad that it’s even a question and that we are still in a place where employers think this is acceptable. Sigh.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I think part of it is that people tend to forget that breast milk is food. They think of it as just a bodily fluid, which it is, but so are all animal-based milks we consume, this one just isn’t sold in your local grocery store.

  44. WorkingGirl*

    Re #4- Pet pics are the one personal detail i’d like to share with coworkers / have them share with me. More pet photos, please.

  45. NotARealManager*

    LW3: Until other accommodations could be made?! They’ve presumably had some lead time. When we learned our employee was pregnant, we arranged an office to work as a pumping room right away. We didn’t know if she’d be breastfeeding or even working in the office (she ended up going remote full-time). But people need to know that accommodations will be in place.

    1. Observer*

      Until other accommodations could be made?!

      That’s telling, isn’t it?

      They’ve presumably had some lead time.

      You don’t even need a “presumption” here. Even if no one put 2+2 together, the OP just *informed him explicitly* At that point the only reasonable and appropriate response would be “I’m working on and will have something figured out by the time you get back”.

  46. Bookworm*

    #5: Thank you for asking this question. I was in this position but was too afraid to make the leap, to my detriment. I’ll keep this in mind for the future.

  47. AG*

    I am sickened that bathrooms are so often offered as pumping stations that a law was actually passed to stop that. What do these people think?

    If I cooked food at the sink station in a workplace’s bathroom -cooked food, hasn’t gone inside a stall- who would eat it? Who would not think that I am some disgusting unhinged person?

    How come these people are suggesting that this uncooked food be bottled inside a workplace bathroom stall, then given to a newborn raw? What is this, the company’s new “No Healthy Babies” initiative?

  48. Observer*

    Pumping at work.

    It’s so exasperating to me that this is still a battle. I remember after Sandy (so well over a decade ago) our site had been mostly destroyed, so we had to do an almost complete rebuild of most of it. Some of us were doing a bit of a walk-through of what was being done and planned. At the time the bathrooms were actually in a part of the building that had not been totally destroyed, so it looked like the essential layout was going to remain. At the time you came into a fairly big are with some sinks and space for a changing table and from there you went into the are with the stalls and (more) sinks. So there was a wall between the two areas, and an open doorway.

    Big Boss, who knows nothing about pumping, but knows that it’s been an ongoing issue (which we really had for the most part been able to accommodate – but sometimes barely), proudly says that he suggested setting up a comfortable pumping station in a corner of that larger room. I mildly point out that it’s probably not something most women are going to be comfortable, and that also it’s almost certainly not compliant with the law. Big Boss does NOT argue. “Oh, OK. We’ll figure something out.”

    And into the plans for all of the new space appears a small pumping room with a light a some electrical work. Big enough for a comfortable armchair, small table and fridge. Then our CFO weighs in. They are worried that some of our funders are going to give us grief about spending “extra” money – especially since this was something that we’d never had before. Unfortunately, they had good reason to be worried. This was before New York had anything strong in place, but we were *absolutely* covered by the Federal regs, because most of our staff was hourly (so non- exempt and covered.)

    So I sent them a link to the relevant regulation. They were very happy.

    I’m not in HR, but I’m a big believer in the power of information. And I’ve learned that when people are worried about push back (even when they are wrong) pre-emptively providing sources that they can use before any push-back happens smooths things over very nicely.

    But that was much earlier days – and the fact is that because everyone was acting on good faith, the minute I brought up the relevant rules, things got resolved. And even the Big Boss’ original suggestion was not *in* the bathroom!

  49. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    #4 – my Linkedin profile photo is definitely my dog sitting in my (home) office chair looking over my shoulder while I work. (I did this because she was regularly hopping up during video calls during the pandemic!)

    … and I have now just outed myself to anyone who might have had an inkling of who I am here. Oh well. :)

Comments are closed.