I can’t carry coffee at work, employee refuses to do a critical duty, and more

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

1. An employee forced an unwanted kiss on my employee — and now they want to do mediation

I run a nonprofit. Six months ago, a male employee of another nonprofit began kissing my female employee on the lips at the end of a series of remote events when they were closing down the day’s activities. Both are married. My employee was deeply upset because she thought the guy was her friend and was afraid she had encouraged him in some way. She finally told me what was going on, and I contacted his boss and told her that my employee will no longer work with her employee, and why. This keeps him away from my employee, but also forces my employee to give up projects she has invested a lot of time and effort in.

Most of my employees are women, and I’m not comfortable asking them to risk similar behavior from the man, but the two organizations have several joint projects that we have equal responsibility for.

My wife believes that the unwanted and non-consented kissing is assault, and that the person who should be removed from the projects is the male from the other organization. The manager at the other organization has suggested mediation between the two employees, but that seems to imply there is some middle ground to achieve, and I can’t see what that is. Our workplace policy is clear that any non-consensual touching is out of bounds and grounds for termination, but that has no power over the employee of another organization. What do you suggest?

Listen to your wife. Your employee shouldn’t be removed from projects she’s invested in because of this man’s behavior; he’s the one who should bear the consequences, not her. It’s true that you don’t have power over another organization’s employees, but you have control over what situations you send your own employees into. You should tell the other organization that you won’t send any of your team members to work on projects where their problem employee is present, so they’ll need to staff your future joint projects differently. (Be clear about this: It’s not just “Jane won’t work with him again.” It’s “I won’t subject any of our employees to that.”)

And mediation? Mediation?! Absolutely not. Their employee harassed and assaulted someone. They need to deal with him on their own, not expect your employee to somehow work through this with him.

2. How to handle an employee refusing to do a critical duty

Our team is required to work on-call after hours to handle client emergencies. It’s an eight-week rotation, so one week out of every eight. Everyone hates it, but we do it. It is unpaid; we are salaried.

Our newest team member claims that he had no idea this was expected, despite the fact that we talk about it all the time. He has stated that this does not suit his lifestyle and he will not work on call.

Whether he was informed about this before he was hired is a point of contention. He says no, but it is in the job description. The way he was brought on was odd in that he never met with our manager; HR interviewed and hired him and then assigned him to our team.

Our manager asked for his resignation. He essentially refused, sending an email that equated to “I won’t resign; fire me.” Outside of regular layoffs, no one ever gets fired. He has called in sick every day for the last two weeks, since this happened.

How would you handle such a situation, especially knowing that the rest of the members of the team would surely also refuse to work on call, if that’s allowed for one person?

I’d be willing to believe HR never discussed it with him during the hiring process, given how strongly opposed he was once he found out. Sure, it’s in the job description, but it’s pretty common for people not to scrutinize those (or to assume there’s more to it, like that they’d only be on-call rarely, like once a year versus every eight weeks, or that the time would be paid). Either way, with something like that, an employer should make sure anyone they’re considering hiring is fully aware of the requirement and on board with it … because otherwise you end up with the situation you’re in now.

As for what to do now, your manager really only has two choices: hold firm on the requirement and fire the guy if he won’t comply (which doesn’t need to be punitive; it can be a civil discussion where she explains she’s really sorry if he wasn’t informed but she can’t bend on the requirement), or exempt him from it and figure out a way to keep it fair to everyone else who’s still doing the on-call shifts (which presumably means adding some kind of incentive, like extra pay or extra vacation). There aren’t really other options at this point.

3. I’m not allowed to keep coffee with me at my job

My work has a coffee machine that we’re allowed to use. I’ve been making my coffees on break, and then leaving it in the staff room to take sips of throughout the day. I’ve been told I can’t do this, and I’m not allowed a coffee in a flask, but I can have water or juice in a bottle/flask I can carry with me throughout the day. Can my work forbid me from drinking coffee?

Legally? Yes. But it would be interesting to ask why they object, if you’re allowed to carry other beverages with you throughout the day.

4. We have to cover for another team’s weaknesses

At the beginning of last year, I was hired into a brand-new team to work on a new project. A month later, a new team was also hired to do the same work, as there was quite a lot to do.

I’ve met people from the new team, and they’re all incredibly friendly, nice and seem like generally good people but their manager is a lot more laid-back than ours. I get the impression that they’re struggling with a number of the tasks that we do on a regular basis, to the point where my team often has to redo their work alongside our own. When we’ve approached our manager about this situation, separately in our one-to-ones, she first explains that the team is new, which is true, but only by a month, and that she doesn’t have any say over that team since they have their own manager. I also get the sense that she doesn’t like talking about the other team with us, which is understandable, but it leaves us feeling a bit demotivated because it seems like they could really do with some additional coaching, and it feels as though our concerns are not being taken into account. Is there anything we can do as a team to approach our manager, or is she right in her view that she can’t discuss another team’s performance with us.

Her view that she can’t discuss another team’s performance with you is a bit of a cop-out, because you need to be able to discuss things that have an impact on your team’s ability to do its work. Sure, she shouldn’t say, “Yeah, Gene is really a crap manager” — but she does need to hear you out about problems you’re encountering and figure out how to manage those things (which should include her speaking to the other team’s manager if necessary, or to her own manager).

On your and your coworkers’ side of things: Focus on the impact on your work. Bring her the specific problems the other team’s work deficiencies are causing for you (like that you’re having to spend time redoing their work) and ask for her help in solving that.

5. An organization for helping job-searchers sucks at responding to job-searchers

Over the last decade plus, I’ve been a full-time student and a stay-home parent. I haven’t had a full-time job in over decade. Now, pushing 50, I have my degrees, my kids are at an age where demands on my time are fewer, and I’ve begun looking for casual or part-time work as I try to transition back into the workforce.

In my town, there’s government-funded nonprofit that help folks find work. They offer resume services, interview training, career counseling, all that stuff. I wandered in last autumn and they were very helpful. My early attempts at plugging back in to the workforce had been met almost exclusively with radio silence from employers. Working with them, for the first time I felt encouraged, supported, and optimistic. In November, my caseworker let me know a part-time position in their organization was opening up and encouraged me to apply. I didn’t even get to the interview stage — it went to an unexpected internal candidate. Disappointing, but the hiring manager let me know a casual position was opening up and would I like to apply? Yes, I would!

I was told in December to expect an interview the first week of January then … silence. I sent a follow-up in early January, then again in mid-January. I received an apology and an interview for late January. The interview went well. I was nervous, a bit rusty, but prepared. There was much smiling and nodding on the part of the hiring team throughout. I left feeling positive. A few days later, the hiring manager emailed me that another candidate’s interview had been delayed but I would hear from her the following week. Then, again, complete silence. Fair, perhaps. People are busy! Still, in my insecure little heart, I am annoyed and discouraged. I sent a follow-up yesterday and discovered the hiring manager is on vacation. My caseworker reached out this week for a general update so I mentioned I was still waiting to hear about this job but was optimistic. She, also, hasn’t responded.

I’m a faithful reader of this site and I appreciate employers can be notorious for delays. I’m trying to keep my frustration at bay and have an open mind but this is an organization that specializes in helping people get jobs. What I see is that they’re behaving like every other place that has ignored, ghosted, or put me off me since I started looking for work. Am I the problem? Are my expectations unreasonable? I’ve held this organization to a higher standard because of the work they do and because they encouraged me to interview but maybe I’m wrong to do that? If I’m not wrong and they’re being legitimately flaky, is their lack of reliable communication and follow-up a red flag? I know I’m not entitled to this job; maybe I’m not a good fit for them and that’s okay! But I’d like to know one way or another where I stand.

You’re not wrong, but yeah, your expectations probably aren’t realistic. Hiring gets delayed. Higher priorities get in the way. People go on vacation. They’re not deliberately ignoring you, but it’s really common to wait to respond to candidates until there’s something concrete to say. And they don’t have that yet because they’re waiting to hear back from a decision-maker, or waiting for another candidate’s interview to get rescheduled, or there’s some snag with the budget, and on and on. Should they know better, since they deal with anxious job-seekers as part of their mission? Sure. Are they still subject to all the pressures and conflicting priorities that other hiring orgs deal with? Also yes. Is this so common in hiring at organizations of all sorts that you can’t conclude anything from it about what it would be like to work there? Also yes.

The best thing to do is the same thing as when you’re waiting to hear back from any other job: assume you didn’t get it, put it out of your mind, and let it be a pleasant surprise if/when they do contact you.

{ 664 comments… read them below }

  1. goddessoftransitory*

    Mediation??? How’s about he mediates his ass out the door before it gets sued off. There, done.

    1. Tired and Confused*

      Last summer there was a huge scandal un Spain when the president of the football federation kissed one of the players on the lips at the celebration fir winning the world cup. It took more than it should but finally the guy was fired and sued along a bunch of people that tried to “intercede” on his behalf with the player.
      Please make sure to spell the words sexual assault to the other organisation when discussing the path forward

      1. Brain the Brian*

        That “path forward” had better include never working with that guy again, along with a formal apology to LW1’s employee from the head of the other organization. Their employee sexually assaulted LW1’s. At a worksite. While they were on the clock. LW1 is lucky their employee has not sued both organizations yet.

      2. Ex-prof*

        Yes, use those words. Sexual assault. Words matter.

        All through my childhood –and possibly Jane’s too– the term “stolen kiss” was used. Sounds so romantic put that way. It’s not.

        1. Antilles*

          Yes, absolutely.

          Calling it “sexual assault and harassment” puts a level of directness and weight on it (appropriately!) that isn’t the case if OP tries to soft-pedal it with “stolen kiss” or a vague reference to “John’s behavior towards Jane”.

    2. maybeimtoomoderate*

      IMO “mediation” means “please don’t fire me, please accept my apology, please run the project”. That’s as far as a “middle ground” goes in my head. I believe in second chances but I also believe people are sneaky, so… who knows? Maybe that’s not enough.

      1. Mongrel*

        It’s also something used by abusers as a way of victim blaming and gaslighting
        “It wasn’t that bad a transgression, can’t we just talk about it…” or “You’re over-reacting”

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Both. Please I don’t want to be fired for my really out of bounds actions, that weren’t that out of bounds. Then proceeds to discuss how she needs to behave to keep it from happening again.

          Mediation is for situations where a compromise can be made. No one gets everything they want but they can work out something everyone can live with. There is no compromise on sexual assault. It cannot and will not happen again is the only outcome.

          OP, tell your employee you would fully support her filing a police report if she feels comfortable doing so.

        2. ferrina*

          This. A mediation is a negotiation between parties.

          An assault is not a negotiation. You don’t repeatedly punch someone then say “we should find some common ground about how I punched you.”

          1. metadata minion*

            Yep. Mediation is for “Ok, you two have opposite but equally valid priorities about how you’re approaching this work, and you’re driving each other up the wall. Let’s talk about it.”

          2. I Laugh at Inappropriate times*

            I do think punching him in the face in front of all the people he’s kissing her in front of, would be an appropriate response ;)

          3. Nesprin*

            Imagine how that would go:
            Halfway between “I want to keep kissing you inappropriately and without your permission” and “I want you to stop” is “I’ll only assault you a little”.

            1. Michelle*

              Interestingly, the halfway point between, “what you did to me was really bad,” and “it wasn’t that bad,” is still “it wasn’t that bad.”

        3. TootsNYC*

          it’s also “I want to hear it from her*”

          Because then that forces her to be in contact with him* again.

          And it’s also “I thought we were starting a romance”

          *most commonly men, but not always

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s also “It is so awkward when you point out our missing step! Awkwardness is bad! Let us explain why you need to accommodate our missing step.”

        If everyone would just jump over that missing step, this unpleasantness wouldn’t happen.

        1. Helen Waite*

          Don’t you know how expensive it is to pay for a contractor to come and fix the stair? It’s best if we pay nothing to anybody and let you continue to use our defective staircase as is. I mean, you know about the missing stair. It’s not *that* dangerous.

      3. Greg*

        “Second chances.”

        In my experience managing people, the bold incident is never the initial one; it gets worked up to. I stole a dollar and no one caught me so I’m going to steal $10, etc. A move to a kiss isn’t something that you talk yourself into, it is most likely a pattern.

        And second chances have to be earned, not by time but by action. Apologies, actions to make it clear that someone understands that they messed up and are taking steps to insure that they will never put themselves or someone in that position again, and understanding that just because one does those things they still are not entitled to anything.

      4. Qest*

        You are forcing a victim to sit in the same room for “mediation”?
        What would that mean? She agrees to be harassed again?
        Really, what if that woman had been through a similar situation before and helped herself out by seriously injuring this person?
        Would you suggest that kind solution too?
        It is not only better for the female who was harrased, it is also kindness to the male who did that to stop him now, (and NOT by mediation…)because he is on dangerous grounds, as are the 2 employers, who did nothing to make the workplace safe for everyone.

    3. Lurking Librarian*

      Right? When I got to that word I actually scrolled back up to see if this might be a repost from 15 years ago. What kind of organization still hasn’t gotten the word that this sort of behavior is absolutely unacceptable? Mediation only makes sense it it means “We’ve already fired that guy, would like to continue working with your organization, and want to tell you how we’re ensuring it will never happen again.”

      OP1, you sound genuinely concerned for your employee and her wellbeing, and your organization seems to have a good policy. Please listen to your wife, Allison, and the others who are advising you to put this problem entirely on the other organization.

    4. AnonInCanada*

      Or better yet, gets mediated into a jail cell as that’s sexual assault in anyone’s language! Then out the door once he’s finished serving his sentence! How BLEEPing absurd. The only thing OP needs to be involved with is testifying at his criminal trial.

    5. Momma Bear*

      PLEASE stand up for your team, LW1, and tell the other org that no, you won’t be doing mediation and that no, your team will not be subject to dealing with this guy anymore. He assaulted your employee! You may not be able to fire him directly, but you can refuse to work with him. You need to protect your employees – without damaging their careers – instead of trying to work with him. This is what lawsuits are made of. Do not downplay this. Do not pass go. Take this seriously!

    6. Ama*

      I work at a nonprofit that hosts some events sponsored by for profit companies in the same general focus area and they often get to send representatives to staff tables in our sponsor area. Years ago at one of these one of these reps harrassed one of my coworkers — he did not kiss her but there was unwanted hand touching and some lewd comments making it clear he wanted her to come back to his room (this was one of our bigger events and took place over a couple of days at a hotel). She was clearly identifiable as an employee of our org so he knew full well she was there to work (not that it would be okay otherwise, but he could not have claimed he thought she was a random stranger at the hotel bar or anything like that).

      When our CEO found out she called up the for profit company and made it very clear that that dude was blacklisted from ever attending one of our events again, whether he worked for them or not, but while he worked for them she expected them to not ever send him again.

      1. Ama*

        I should have finished my thought! My CEO did this despite the fact that company was a major sponsor of our events and if they’d gotten upset at her and pulled their funding it would have been a big hit to our budget. But she approached it as “of course you are going to take care of this situation where your employee was clearly in the wrong” and really left them no choice (our org has a great reputation in our focus area so if they’d chosen to cut ties word would have gotten around that it was their fault).

    7. Grandma*

      And what difference does it make if either or both parties are married? This type of sexual assault is still assault regardless of the marital status of either party. That suggests she was a willing party to her assault and how could she cheat on her spouse? Gross. The other non-profit should fire the guy.

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        I think this part is only relevant to the employee wondering if she had done something to signal she wanted to kiss the guy. “I’m married. He knows I’m married. What did I do to make him think I wanted to cheat on my husband?? Have I done something that encouraged his behavior??”

        Unfortunately, society has taught us women that when a man misbehaves toward a woman, the woman is always to blame.

    8. Frank*

      Went to mediation when I worked at state agency. at the university law school. bottom line mediators banned themselves from any work from that agency. best comment? agency lawyer said ADA does not apply to state agency. went downhill from there . boss later resigned after he published a document that ranked companies . created data out of thin air.

  2. Pink Sprite*

    OP#1: Be prepared to go full scorched earth on the other organization. THEY must bear all the responsibility and consequences of the actions of THEIR own employee.
    Not your employee and not your organization.
    And zero mediation. Completely ridiculous.
    Please 100% stand up for your employee and your organization.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      At the very least, make it *their* problem. Right now, the innocent party is being punished (removed from work she’s invested in), and the other organization has had zero impact. If you refuse to send any employees to joint efforts where their problem employee is in attendance (and instruct them to leave if he shows up), then they’ve got a reason to act.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. The other organization won’t act unless and until they’re forced to because nobody’s going to work with that creep.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Echoing your point about leaving if he shows up. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I don’t have a lot of faith in the boss who doesn’t see why sexual assault (it would be where I live) is a big deal.

      3. The Rafters*

        This. I hope OP sees your comment and realizes that their own company can be sued along with the other company. OP / company isn’t doing everything possible to protect their employee, the victim. OP is punishing the victim by not allowing her to work on projects where she has been successful.

    2. The Other Sage*

      This. As long as victims are forced to carry the consequences of the perpetrator’s choices, all this violence will continue.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        For anyone who wonders why women might hesitate to report assaults like this at work:
        • The opportunity to be removed from projects you’re invested in, with no consequences from the person committing the assault.
        • The opportunity to sit in a small room while this person explains that they were giving a business-appropriate kiss on the lips, with business-appropriate tongue, targeted only at this person and not his male coworker for reasons of business-y-ness, and so she needs to apologize for not understanding.

        1. Jam Today*

          Seconded. I lost everything I worked for at a previous job, years of building my knowledge, my skills, and my professional standing because *I* was removed from “the situation”.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            I quit my last job because I was taken off of a project I had worked on for 5+ years because an attendee at a different event got drunk and assaulted me, I reported it as per my org’s rules, was told he would be banned from events, didn’t think about it again – then found out they had lied about banning him and since he had a leadership position in his state’s org, he was coming back to everything and that meant that to “protect” me I was being taken off of programs so this lecherous drunk could attend.

            I regret not suing them, I should have.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          * Unpaid leave for the victim while the perpetrator’s workstation is moved. Perpetrator obviously allowed to stay at work.

          * The opportunity to have an entire department gaslight you into how you deserved it because you had the audacity to wear anything other than a nun’s habit and shun you completely.

        3. sometimeswhy*

          * The opportunity to be required to take classes on how to speak up for yourself
          * The opportunity to also be harassed by your boss when he realizes he can get away with it because you need the job enough to deal with a colleague talking about your feet and a contractor putting his hands on you and HR won’t do anything about it
          * The opportunity to hear your boss joke every year about how his sexual harassment training makes him better at sexual harassment
          * The opportunity to never trust any of your colleagues ever again

      2. londonedit*

        Absolutely. I have a friend who was seriously sexually assaulted by one of the big bosses in her company. She reported him and he was quietly made to go away with what was rumoured to be a rather large pay-off. She was quietly shifted into a dead-end job and strongly advised to seek opportunities elsewhere, because apparently the bosses felt she was ‘too emotional’ to be trusted with higher-level work. Happens far, far too frequently.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I wish I were working from home today because this made me want to yell “WHAT” at the top of my lungs.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think the intent of the mediation must be “how can the two orgs continue to work together, taking into account this history”. For example, can he be removed from projects she’s on, can they work in the same projects but not be alone together, etc. I think it’s complicated a bit by the fact that OP thought they were friends, because that suggests they were maybe better acquainted than ‘just’ working together. So has he done this in his personal ‘capacity’ at an event they happened to both be at? But it certainly puts his employer in a difficult spot If the orgs can’t work together any more (in any mutually acceptable way) because of his actions, he needs to go.

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          Or: “Would she like our help in pressing charges against our now-former employee, and is there anything else we can do for her to express our horror that she was subjected to this?”

          Why would that man deserve a job anywhere after proving he assaults women?

      1. dude, who moved my cheese?*

        ” can they work in the same projects but not be alone together” No <3

        "So has he done this in his personal ‘capacity’ at an event they happened to both be at? " No again <3

      2. Annony*

        I don’t think that is the intent of the other manager but OP could agree to mediation between him and the other manager with that goal and make it clear that neither employee will be involved. But I disagree that he could have done this in “his personal capacity at the event.” If he was there as his organizations representative, he has no personal capacity. Everything he does at the event reflects on his organization and his professional judgment. He doesn’t get to clock out to assault someone.

      3. Czhorat*

        “” I think it’s complicated a bit by the fact that OP thought they were friends””

        It’s not complicated by that. He assaulted her.

        “” For example, can he be removed from projects she’s on, can they work in the same projects but not be alone together, etc. For example, can he be removed from projects she’s on, can they work in the same projects but not be alone together, etc.””

        No. She shouldn’t have to face him at all, nor should anyone else in the organization have to work with him.

        ““how can the two orgs continue to work together, taking into account this history””

        There are two choices:
        Optimal choice is that he’s fired. He sexually assaulted someone at a work event. Pack your desk, security will march you out. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.

        Choice 2: The assaulter’s company does not have the spine to fire him. LW’s company says that they will not work with him in any capacity. Don’t want to see his face, don’t want to hear his voice. Any role he would have had on mutual projects has to be staffed by someone else.

        This was a literal crime, and an assault on part of LW’s team. The company’s first priority has to be protecting their team from this.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          And if it’s choice 2, LW’s company is must lay down the rules you list. Because it is LW’s responsibility to ensure their employees’ safety at work and sending them into a workplace with a known sexual assaulter is an absolute No Go.

        1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

          Ahaha, I thought of him while reading that, and said, “FELLA!” so loudly the mostly deaf dog I’m watching looked up at me in concern.

      4. Kel*


        He assaulted someone; he should be fired, and charged or sued, tbh.

        There isn’t a mediation option here. And also it doesn’t MATTER that they were ‘friends’. This comment has big ‘she was asking for it’ vibes.

      5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        “So has he done this in his personal ‘capacity’ at an event they happened to both be at?”

        Did you sprain anything in that twist? So, sexually assaulting someone in one’s “personal capacity” is A-OK? No.

        Here’s a clue: a man kissing a woman with no warning, with no communication, is wrong. Just full stop wrong.

        1. Grandma*

          a man kissing a woman with no warning…

          Also include same sex unwanted kissing as wrong, etc. That’s come up a number of times recently among politicians and leaders of anti-gay groups.

      6. Irish Teacher.*

        I don’t think it matter in what capacity he assaulted her. If they were friends and he punched her in a personal capacity at an event they both happened to be that, that would still be grounds to fire him. And the same should apply here.

        I do think society has a tendency to downplay issues between people who are friends and treat them as “a conflict,” but it shouldn’t make any difference. If anything, assaulting your friends should be considered more serious because if that’s how he treats his friends, how might he treat those he dislikes. But really, it shouldn’t make a difference. He assaulted somebody.

        Even if there was no chance they would ever have to work together again, any company that doesn’t fire somebody over something like this is flying massive red flags. They are putting people at risk by having him represent them.

      7. Absolutely Not*

        Who cares how closely they were acquainted? It’s not suddenly not-sexual-assult if they were best friends. What, in your opinion, is an acceptable way for the organization to keep a known predator on their payroll?

    4. ferrina*

      Yes. IANAL, but I think your employee sue you for hostile work environment for denying her work assignments after she reported sexual harassment.

      Pull out all stops here. Consider legal action against this organization and/or consider going public with this. Do what you need to do to protect your employee and your organization.

    5. Tea Time*

      Six months? OP, I’m afraid you need to deal with your piece here as well.

      1. When you talk to the other organization, own up that you made a mistake in how you’ve been handling this. Tell them that you have realized it was not the right decision, and tell them you are now doing a complete re-set of the terms on which you and they will proceed.

      2. You need to apologize to your employee. You need to lay out for her that you now understand the costs you’ve been imposing on her, and make it clear that you will now stand 100% behind her, and behind any employee who victimized in any way.

      1. Tea Time*

        Oh wait, the letter says the employee “finally” told him, which means some time had passed and it’s not been a full six months that this has been mis-handled. But we don’t know how long the OP has known—several months, or just since yesterday? OP, please take this into consideration in how you proceed.

    6. Artemesia*

      We had a contractor working on our campus and they have a strict non harassment clause in all our contracts. One of their workers harassed one of our new and very valued hires about her weight. The company was told that that worker had to be removed from the projects here AND that any other incident would mean cancelling the contract. You really have to move quickly on this sort of issue. Once you do that, you get a reputation of follow through and you don’t have to deal with it again.

  3. Dhaskoi*

    LW1: Mediation? What process do they envisage exactly?

    ‘Have you tried being less offended by his assault?’


          1. Carl*

            Yes! Of course! I was joking about what sort of backwards reasoning would lead someone to suggest mediation!

    1. The Other Sage*

      In my experience that is what ends happening in such situations. The choices of the perpetrator somehow always end being the victim’s fault :/

      1. Southern Ladybug*

        Yep. OP you should be hoping your employee doesn’t already have a lawyer ready to help with this.

        Also – you better believe that all your employees know this is how you handle assault. And all of their networks. The network is strong in sharing who to avoid – and who enables them.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          This last paragraph. OP1, you did right by telling your employee it is not acceptable and telling the other organization this is not acceptable. Where you messed up is that your employee bears the consequences. The next one won’t report if they don’t want to lose opportunities.

          1. Miette*

            Also: if it’s not too late, OP, I hope you will take the advice above and make this the other org’s problem. Then, restore your employee to the project, apologize to her about your misstep in handling it, and then own your mistake with your other employees. You’ve got more to handle here than the situation at hand–how you handled it is likely making your other employees very concerned about how you’ll handle whatever else may occur in the future, and you need to repair that as well.

          2. not nice, don't care*

            I’d report whatever my lawyer tells me I need to in order to sue both orgs out of existence.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      “Oh, you’d like me to compromise? Well, I suppose if he never works on any of these shared programs again, I might consider not reporting this sexual assault to the police. How does that sound for a compromise?” *smiles viciously*

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I was wondering about a police report too, since no one else is doing anything about this guy. The police might not take it seriously, but maybe doing it at all would make some impression on the other nonprofit and the offender.
        OK, keep in mind this man has probably done this before and will probably do it again. And might take it further. He should be fired, and a restraining order keeping him away from your employees.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Nope, nope, nope. You can’t threaten criminal charges to achieve an aim.

        What you can do is say, we will not work on any project he is involved in. You need the other organization, but they need you too.

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          I see you’ve misunderstood what I was saying and why.

          The top comment was mocking the idea of her going to mediation as utterly ludicrous, so I posted an equally ludicrous and unlikely reply. The goal was to further denigrate the insulting suggestion with sarcastic humour and mockery.

      3. Statler von Waldorf*

        In my jurisdiction, that’s a pretty clear case of extortion and you would be opening yourself up to both civil and criminal liability. I would not recommend that approach.

        Don’t ever threaten someone with criminal or civil charges if you want the best results. If a crime has been committed, go to the cops and make a statement. If a civil charge is warranted, lawyer up and file that case in court. Don’t ever make threats. They’ll usually hurt you far more than they will help you.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          “If a civil charge is warranted, lawyer up and file that case in court.”

          IAAL and I disagree with this.

          1. Statler von Waldorf*

            Ok then, I’d love to hear why a lawyer believes that a client would get better results by making legal threats that may or may not have any basis in law as compared to retaining legal council and proceeding through the court system.

            Or do you just disagree on that specific point because most civil cases don’t actually go to trial, and that a good lawyer can possibly get the results you want without actually filing a case?

            1. Betty Beep Boop*

              IANAL but in a civil context you kinda ARE allowed to make threats?

              Which is to say, you can have your lawyer write them a letter explaining all the ways they’ve left themselves open to being sued and what alternative resolution you would be willing to contemplate.

              But you definitely get that done by a lawyer, to make sure that both your threat and your alternative are reasonable, realistic, all that stuff.

              1. Statler von Waldorf*

                According to my former boss, who is an attorney, she was very clear that she never makes threats, and she had a very poor opinion of lawyers that did. She simply informs people of consequences, and then offers them alternatives to mitigate them.

                There is a clear difference between informing someone that their actions will have specific legal consequences and just yelling at someone about how you are going to sue them, even if you have no case. My whole point of commenting here was to point out that the former can be an effective tool to get what you want, but the latter almost never is.

                1. Betty Beep Boop*

                  Agreed and basically what I meant.

                  I was being rather loose in my phrasing by describing it as “kinda threats”. I meant it in the broad sense of “unlike in criminal proceedings, a wide range of pre-action negotiations are allowed and normal” not in the sense of, you know, threat-threats. Apologies for the misunderstanding.

        2. ThatOtherClare*

          The intent of my comment was to be equally as silly and unlikely as forcing her to go to mediation. Nobody would be well placed doing either, that or threatening to report the kiss. It’s an intentionally terrible suggestion intended to mock the first one by association.

      4. Arglebarglor*

        I had a similar situation happen to me. I was assaulted by a patient at work and removed myself from the situation. I was then accused of abandoning the patient (who I was not responsible for in the first place). The patient, who was a former manager in our organization, complained to management and management wanted to “counsel” me (ie write me up and or suspend me). I told them to set a meeting date for which I would bring my union rep and a police report about the assault–which is a felony, as it is illegal to assault a nurse at work, and they should bring their lawyers. I never heard about it again.

        1. TootsNYC*

          you had a union rep!
          And a union to back you up if they had fired you—which they probably would have done if you’d not had a union.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this feels like trying to do couple’s counseling with an abusive spouse—it just gives them an audience and a chance to win supporters.

      LW, make it as big a problem as possible for the other organization.

      1. Some Words*

        But how will she assuage any bad feelings the assaulter has as a result of his own actions without mediation! She must be provided with an opportunity to apologize for tempting him beyond his ability to control!

        LW, please fix this. We can see you want to support your employee. Her losing opportunities because of this event is the wrong route. She did nothing wrong and she is absolutely being punished as things stand.

        1. Emily Byrd Starr*

          In situations like this, I like to say that if she invited him over to her house/apartment/room, answered the door wearing sexy lingerie, led him down a trail of rose petals to her bedroom where she had lit every candle she owned and had sensual new age music playing, and then when he went to kiss her, she said, “What are you doing? I thought we were just friends!” THEN she would bear some responsibility for tempting him. Otherwise, she is not at fault.

          1. a trans person*

            If someone did that, the kiss approached, and then they said, “actually, no, I do not consent to kissing you” (which is way more plausible to me than the phrase you use), there is still no “temptation” and no “responsibility”. Sexual assault is sexual assault. Don’t make up scenarios to defend sexual assault.

            1. Kel*

              agree, this is one of those things that can so easily turn into ‘but they were asking for it because blank blank blank.’

              Only a clear yes is a yes.

              -another trans person.

    4. Sloanicota*

      This reminds me of the way you can’t do marriage counseling with an abusive spouse. It doesn’t work. You can’t mediate between two people when one person’s goal is to have a happy marriage and the other person’s goal is to completely control their partner and destroy their self esteem. Counseling also requires that both partners take accountability and work to rebuild trust, which again, you can’t do when one partner is not acting in good faith. Finally, abusers are quite good at being manipulative and making their victims seem crazy, so the counselor could end up way more on the abusers’ “side” than is appropriate, offering completely inappropriate suggestions that would really hurt the victim.

    5. Bitte Meddler*

      “My employee would like a chance to explain that he thought your employee was really into him. She smiled at him and said ‘hello’ when they saw each other in the morning and she engaged him in friendly banter throughout the day. Clearly, she signaled that she was equally attracted to him. Why should I punish him for acting on what he genuinely believed was a mutual attraction?”

      ^^Guarantee you that’s what Assaulter and Assaulter’s Boss are planning for any mediation.

  4. Techie Boss*

    LW2, given that this person has called in sick every day for two weeks over this, it doesn’t bode well for how they’ll handle any other job requirement that involves flexibility. This response seems over-the-top enough to me that I’d be thinking about parting ways just over that. I would not bend over backwards to try to accommodate a new employee who is this adversarial at the start of a new job

    1. TheBunny*

      Your point is valid…but…I worked in one of these “you only are on call one week out of 8” jobs. For a staffing agency that dealt with a 24 hour field.

      I was actually hourly and after the 1st day with the phone I asked how I was going to be paid for my extra work hours (yes hours) overnight. They tried to say I wouldn’t be…um, no.

      I got a call during dinner in a restaurant that took 45 minutes. Came back to my dinner in a to go container as everyone else had eaten.

      I got a call that took an hour at 8pm. A client called at 5am (they were on the East Coast and didn’t think about the time difference. They removed me from the rotation.

      If the job is similar I absolutely understand the protest as he said he’s not doing it and won’t quit, they have to fire him. He’s standing his ground after not being told a really relevant part of the job.

      1. Leenie*

        Calling in every day for two weeks when he’s scheduled to be working a regular schedule speaks really poorly of him, though. It’s a bad form of protest when you have zero goodwill built up. In any event, it’s probably a bad fit and they should fire him for job abandonment at this point. Whether or not he knew, and whether or not their expectations are reasonable, this isn’t working. And not coming in for two weeks doesn’t exactly inspire anyone to get him a better deal than the rest of the people in his position have. Everyone should cut their losses.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Regardless of the validity of his complaint, it feels as though he is burning bridges.

          1. Other Alice*

            What else should he do, when he wasn’t told about a crucial part of the job? The company should just fire him so he can collect unemployment. It isn’t fair to expect him to resign.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              To answer the “what else should he do?” question, the employee can:

              – ask the company if there’s any way he can work fewer/no on-call shifts
              – ask if he can receive any severance if he resigns
              – ask if the company is willing to classify their mutual decision to part ways as a “firing” or another category that will make him eligible for unemployment benefits

              The main difference between all of these suggestions and his current actions is that these suggestions all involve talking to the company (his manager and/or HR) and coming to an agreement both parties agree on. Calling out sick for two weeks straight is more likely to burn bridges than talking through the situation to (try to) find a solution everyone can be reasonably OK with.

              1. Betsy*

                I agree, Hlao-roo, but I also understand where the employee is coming from. In a previous job, my employer treated me so outrageously, I was ready to quit on the spot. I called my mentor to talk about it, and she convinced me not to quit. But from then on, I had zero respect for my manager because I knew he was cowardly and didn’t have my back.

                The new department head asked my manager to ask me to teach the 2nd day of a 2-day class because they sold the class before they knew they had an instructor for it. Also, it was at night, which was very unusual for us, so it required a trainer to volunteer to teach it. This was an advanced class where each instructor basically taught what they wanted with no set agenda. I had taught day 2 of someone else’s class once before, and I was never going to do it again. It was a nightmare, and the students don’t get a good learning experience.

                I told my manager to tell them I couldn’t do it, but he never told them. When I was introduced to the new department head, he thanked me for helping them out. My jaw dropped, and I looked at my manager in amazement and said “you didn’t tell them?!” After I said I couldn’t do it, they put incredible pressure on me.

                The reason I was ready to quit is because I was outraged at everyone’s behavior, and I was totally blindsided and felt betrayed and hugely disappointed.

                I imagine the new employee in today’s letter felt similarly. I wouldn’t have called in sick, but I get it.

                1. watermelon fruitcake*

                  No. Even the OP cannot verify that he was told of the on-call requirement. As somebody whose partner has weekend call every 6 weeks or so – not even a full week, but weekend – it is enormously disruptive. In his case he is paid commensurate to the responsibility, and additionally, he can bill in quarter-hour increments for actual calls taken. If the employee in OP took a job with the expectation of 40 hour weeks, and now he finds out 6-7 a year he will have to be available 168 hours… That is a bait and switch and one that materially lowers his wage. (wage/2000 > wage/3000)

                  It sounds like, from his reaction, the employer screwed up and screwed him. They do not get to screw him further by trying to interfere with his unemployment – which he has paid into via payroll taxes and is rightly entitled to. If his unemployment were denied, I would strongly encourage him to appeal the decision. Considering this would bring the attention of their state DOL to their actions (including proverbial breach of contract and whether they meet or are violating overtime exemption requirements), the employer may want to think twice whether it’s worth it to try.

              2. Pescadero*

                “The main difference between all of these suggestions and his current actions is that these suggestions all involve talking to the company (his manager and/or HR) and coming to an agreement both parties agree on.”

                They already came to an agreement both parties agree on when he was hired… now the company is trying to unilaterally change the agreement.

                1. I Have RBF*

                  Whether he was informed about this before he was hired is a point of contention. He says no, but it is in the job description. The way he was brought on was odd in that he never met with our manager; HR interviewed and hired him and then assigned him to our team.

                  The on-call was in the job description. If he didn’t read it, that’s not the company’s problem. The way the hiring was done was stupid, and the HR person who did the hiring may not have discussed it, and just assumed that he read the job description.

                  But to come back and say “No, you didn’t tell me that I had to do on-call” when it was in the job description is a non-starter. It was there in black and white. If they wanted it negotiated, they needed to do that before they started, and have it in the offer letter.

                  I work in an on-call field. If it’s in the job description, I know damn well it’s not negotiable, it’s an essential job duty.

            2. doreen*

              As far as the company should fire him so he can get unemployment , maybe he won’t get unemployment if they are truthful that he was fired because he refused a mandatory duty. He might be able to get them to characterize it as firing him due to poor fit or some reason that will get him unemployment – but there’s a much better chance of that if he talks to them rather than saying ” You have to fire me , I won’t quit”.

              1. Other Alice*

                I don’t like to speculate about the details because we don’t know if the employee has talked to HR and what was said. It’s possible that they already had that conversation and HR didn’t offer any meaningful alternative aside from “do this or quit”. It’s also possible that the employee is being unreasonable. LW is a third party and might not have the full picture, as they also admit that it’s not clear if the employee knew the extent of the overtime that was required of them before taking the position.

            3. hbc*

              He could just…not do the part of his job that he doesn’t like. There’s a core part that he knowingly signed on to actually do, and doing none of that is going to make this a clear termination for cause. Good luck getting unemployment when the company that fired you says “He didn’t show up for 2+ weeks because of a disagreement about a work responsibility that we never actually forced him to do.”

              1. anecdata*

                I’m assuming the OP would say if the 2 weeks of sick time is outside of what their org allows. “Dear UI board, we fired someone for taking the sick leave our policies allow, but we’d like it to be counted as the employee’s fault” shouldn’t work out for the company

                (I know in the case, it feels obvious that the employee “isn’t really sick” but still a bad precedent)

                1. Leenie*

                  I wouldn’t assume that they’d say that it’s out of policy to call in for two weeks in a row without making arrangements with HR. That would be out of policy in most companies, so they probably didn’t think it needed to be noted.

            4. M2*

              They may have told him and he didn’t listen and it was in the job description.

              I hired for a role and in the job description it says nights and weekends and 25-30% travel.

              I interviewed and was VERY specific. These months we on average work x hours and these weekends and during these months we average travel x days. I had spreadsheets to show and gave examples. Last year someone in your role (I travel more than anyone) traveled for xyz and stayed for 2 days, 1 week, etc. I was very very clear. I was also clear the traveling also happens during 1 1/2 seasons of the year so the rest of the year this role doesn’t travel.

              Hired best person for the role but they started after the traveling ended. They didn’t want to work the long hours but did do one weekend work. Then came the time to travel and they kept pushing not to travel it for us to pay for their family to travel. I was clear we do not pay for family ti travel and you must ask permission before you have spouse or kids travel with you. It is occasionally allowed but you must pay all expenses but they can stay in room with you. Room must be within price range we allow and regular room no suites.

              Anyway they finally traveled domestically and I got a call from an assistant because they had changed rooms to a suite because they brought spouse and kids which they didn’t ask for and was not allowed! Came back had a talking to, then they were to travel internationally for one week. They were going to South America and were meant to go to 2/3 countries during that week as it were countries close together. I found out they only went to one country for the entire week and basically used it as a vacation.

              I was crystal clear but some people don’t think they have to follow policies or guidelines.

              Speak to HR fire him but fire him fr cause if he doesn’t have 2 weeks of sick leave and is just calling in sick and refusing to do a mandatory duty. I am all for unemployment but not for people who game the system for it.

              You need to read the job description clearly and ask about duties. I am very clear but people hear what they want to hear and if they want a job so much or to work at an organization they’ll take it.

              1. a trans person*

                You’re reading way more into this situation than is justified. The hiring manager DIDN’T do the work you did to communicate with employees; we know that from the letter. The employee is not “gaming the system”, they legitimately should receive unemployment. As a highly-paid IC in my field, I have left companies for similar situations and I would handle this pretty similarly to this employee.

            5. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

              He can do his job during regular business hours and not cover the on-call piece. Then they’ll have to accept it or fire him and he has gotten what he wants.

            6. Petty_Boop*

              Well, to be fair, everyone is assuming he wasn’t told about it. But, if it was in the job dx “on call overnight shifts required periodically” or however they put it, I’d certainly have questioned “how often? Will I receive additional compensation,” etc… So there’s fault on both parties if it didn’t come up in the job interviews/negotiations, etc… But, calling in sick and refusing to do ANY work at all, isn’t protest, it’s petulance. Not a good look. They need to fire him. He’s clearly not a good fit for the role and that’s perfectly okay. But he doesn’t get to impact everyone else on the team with his juvenile “you can’t make me.”

          2. MsM*

            How common is it in this field to expect people to do this amount of work this regularly, completely uncompensated? If the position’s that easy to fill, I’d think they’d just have fired him.

            1. Ashley*

              If they are salaried and it is written in the job description it isn’t completely uncompensated. It is part of the balance of being salaried.

              1. doreen*

                The letter doesn’t say how much work it actually is – at one point, my job had a similar on-call schedule but my on-call week usually involved one or maybe two hours on the phone.

                1. I Have RBF*

                  I regularly work salaried with an on-call rotation. Good companies give you an “on-call bonus” for weeks that you are on-call. But generally, it is covered as part of your salary.

                  When interviewing for a job that lists on-call in the job description, the things to ask are:
                  1. How often is the rotation (1 week in 8, 1 week in 3, etc)?
                  2. How often do people actually get after hours calls?
                  3. Is there an on-call bonus for each week on-call?

                  If you don’t ask that kind of stuff, but take the job anyway, you really don’t have a leg to stand on if the on-call turns out to be every other week and you get paged three times a night.

                  I have no sympathy for the guy, especially with his calling in sick for two weeks and he doesn’t have Covid.

              2. a trans person*

                This argument doesn’t hold water anymore when we’ve had decades of the minimum annual salary *deliberately* not being increased. No, there is no “balance” to a minimum-annual-salary job and employees should absolutely push back on this kind of abuse.

                1. doreen*

                  I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “minimum annual salary” but assuming you mean the $23,660 minimum salary to be overtime-exempt, the only people who were not paid extra to be on call at my job had six figure salaries. It’s not abuse if someone who earns $100K (or more) spends a few hours on the phone every two months – and we have no idea what the job in the letter pays.

                2. Florence Reese*

                  We don’t know that it’s a “minimum annual salary” though! My first job where anyone had on-call rotations started at like $80k. I have an on-call job now and make 6 figures; my best friend is in an on-call position and makes even more than me. I know there are people who try to exploit low-paid salaried workers, but the absentee employee didn’t even cite that as a reason (he just said it doesn’t align with his lifestyle, fair enough) so I don’t think we need to invent that as a reason for him.

                  Anyone can decide that on-call is too much for them and leave the role, but it’s not like…inherently exploitative. Some roles need 24/7 availability, and on-call is a hell of a lot better than asking someone to work an entire overnight shift just in case somebody has an emergency. I’ve been at social gatherings and on dates where the other person has to respond to a call, and in my circle that means like 20 minutes of work and then resuming whatever we were doing. There’s a whole spectrum, and I know some people are pressured to put their lives on hold which is unfair and unreasonable, but my real life experience with on-call rotations are that they’re not a big deal. Certainly not approaching the threshold of “abuse.”

            2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              In my field it’s pretty common. Sometimes you’ll get some kind of stipend for your on-call time — but it’s usually just a few hours at your usual rate of pay, or a similarly small amount per after-hours call. And for plenty of jobs, the on call is just built into the salary, and you don’t get anything extra.

              That said, in my field, “What kind of after-hours commitments are expected?” is a very normal question for candidates to ask, and if this employee works in a field like mine, I would have expected him to proactively ask about on-call or other after-hours work, if it’s that much of a dealbreaker for him.

              1. Sal*

                I’m in an industry (law) where formal after-hours commitments are less expected but after being surprised by the real-life existence of something called “night court” after I had (checks notes) turned down a different offer, accepted this offer, had my partner accept an offer, moved interstate and rented an apartment, begun work, etc.–this is now a very normal question for ME to ask.

                Much to the confusion of my interviewers, most of whom have only heard of Night Court the show.

                1. Rob aka Mediancat*

                  I mean, I’ve only directly heard of Night Court the show, but I always went by the assumption it was at least based on something that actually happened, so if someone told me they’d worked at a night court I wouldn’t be shocked. It’s not like they’re telling me they worked on The Enterprise.

              2. Petty_Boop*

                “I would have expected him to proactively ask about on-call or other after-hours work, if it’s that much of a dealbreaker for him.”

                Zackly! That was my thought, too. It’s almost like he took the job KNOWING he was going to start this fight and make a point. He wants to be fired. Give him what he wants!

                1. Nina*

                  It’s not at all clear that this is the kind of industry where most people working in it need to think about after-hours or on-call work.

                2. a trans person*

                  No. You are being extremely unfair by mind-reading this kind of malice into the employee’s actions. He didn’t even have a chance to talk to the MANAGER, and nobody expects HR to give these kinds of details correctly. I have asked HR about critical aspects of work like this and been told wrong things, and I would absolutely make them fire me instead of resigning over it. This is on the company’s hiring process.

              3. Joron Twiner*

                It’s a normal question to ask but companies should proactively and clearly delineate anything that happens after hours. If the work day is 9-5 but they expect the worker to do something before 9 or after 5, that is really important to let them know! It’s not on the candidate to guess and ask, and if they don’t, too bad you now have to work on call evenings and weekends.

            3. Gritter*

              Perhaps this is a US thing. I’m in IT the UK and work ‘On Call’ about one week in 6. I’m paid an on call fee for that week, that’s just to be on stand by in case my phone goes off.

              If I actually have to answer a call then I’m considered ‘on the clock’ from the moment I answer it until the issue it resolved and am paid at an out of hours rate for that time.

              No way would I consider doing that uncompensated.

              1. NameRequired*

                But as a salaried employee, they ARE compensated. It is included in whatever salary he negotiated. Additonal compensation, unless he’s non-exempt isn’t required and shouldn’t be expected. It’s 1 of 8 days. And there’s nothing in the letter that indicates those on call shifts are particularly onerous.

                1. Ori*

                  On call shifts are always onerous. You don’t get to relax for the entire week because even if nothing happens, you have to always be within quick reach of your work equipment. Going to shower? Better make sure your phone is on and within reach. Wanna make dinner? Make it one you can stop cooking halfway through. Child’s volleyball practice? Hopefully someone else can drive the kid home if you have to suddenly jet. It’s disruptive as hell. Not to mention actually having to get out of bed at 2am to spend 3 hours troubleshooting a problem, and then still go to work in the morning.

                  It’s pretty standard, at least where I live, to have salaried employees paid a premium for on call days because they are mentally and physically taxing. IMO not giving that stipend is crappy practice, regardless of what’s legally required.

                2. NameRequired*

                  Ori* (For some reason there is no Reply option under Ori’s comment, so it’s not going to be nested properly!)

                  “On call shifts are always onerous. You don’t get to relax for the entire week because even if nothing happens, you have to always be within quick reach of your work equipment. Going to shower? Better make sure your phone is on and within reach.”

                  You’re assuming a lot. On calls shifts are NOT “always onerous.” Sometimes one gets zero calls, other times they get many. The L@ didn’t indicate that it was as bad as you seem to think/experience where you work. Some work can be done remotely from home. Some requires going into the office to fix an issue. There are, like with all jobs, shades of difficulty and level of effort. When I worked an overnight Help Desk during college, I PRAYED for calls because otherwise I’d die of boredom.

                  “IMO not giving that stipend is crappy practice, regardless of what’s legally required.”

                  In our company (and reading the comments, many others) that stipend/shift differential/whatever you want to call it, is included in their pay. If the market pay for say an IT Tech is 100K, those who are expected to work extra shifts would be offered 115-120K to compensate for the on call time, despite the fact that the position is salaried. Just because it doesn’t show as “EXTRA TIME PAY FOR BEING A GOOD SPORT” doesn’t mean they aren’t compensated.

                  Also, I misread the letter and wrote 1 day every 8 days instead of 1 week every 8 weeks in my previous post. Ooops.

                3. Ori*

                  OP says everyone hates the on-call weeks and that it’s “unpaid,” even though they are salaried. Hardly unreasonable to assume that 1) employees indeed find it onerous, and 2) they do not feel that they are being compensated sufficiently for this work (otherwise it wouldn’t be perceived as unpaid.)

                  Also, as I’ve already explained, the stress comes in big part from the fact that you have to be ready for work around the clock. For many people, that’s going to prevent them from relaxing properly or doing things they might otherwise want to do. So, no, it’s not automatically not stressful just because you don’t get any calls.

                  A Help Desk shift isn’t analogous to being on call.

                  Regardless, a stipend for on-call work is not uncommon and a pretty easy way to make people feel like their time is appreciated. Yes, you could roll that money into their salary, but psychologically that’s just not going to feel the same for a lot of people — also, it doesn’t account for things like one person getting stuck covering someone’s on-call week because of illness or whatever.

                  Most software engineers I know (all of whom are salaried) get paid a stipend on top of their salary for on-call time. If an incident happens that they have to respond to, they then get paid extra on top of that. I think that’s a far better system, and I think it does a fair bit to prevent issues like the one OP describes.

                4. NameRequired*

                  Weird how I can reply to some comments and not others.

                  “OP says everyone hates the on-call weeks and that it’s “unpaid,” even though they are salaried. Hardly unreasonable to assume that 1) employees indeed find it onerous, and 2) they do not feel that they are being compensated sufficiently for this work (otherwise it wouldn’t be perceived as unpaid.)”

                  Actually I think it IS unreasonable to make that leap. There are a lot of things I “hate” about my job, but they’re more likely to be “annoying” (like Jeff, or the many useless meetings, or the late Friday Teams calls) than “onerous.” And the OP said nothing about anyone (even the bad employee) complaining about the compensation. He simply was giving context that they didn’t get extra compensation for on call time. 7 of 8 people do it. Perhaps grudgingly, but they do it. Guy number 8 is an outlier and you’re using ONE person, a really bad employee to make a lot of assumptions about how the rest of the team MUST feel.

                  “Also, as I’ve already explained, the stress comes in big part from the fact that you have to be ready for work around the clock. For many people, that’s going to prevent them from relaxing properly or doing things they might otherwise want to do. So, no, it’s not automatically not stressful just because you don’t get any calls.”

                  Not EVERYONE who is on call thinks like that. It’s ALSO not automatically stressful JUST to be on call. Maybe YOU can’t relax because you’re all sweaty and anxious staring at the phone, waiting for it to ring with the next emergency, but most of the people I work with and know who are on call, including my son, who provides *ahem* “direct support to the warfighter” we’ll say, go about their lives. They have their phone with them. They may have to, for that day/week, say, “Can’t have more than 1 beer tonight,” (or maybe no beers). Maybe for that day/week they say, “not a great time to go see a movie,” but they watch movies on TV! They shower! They get their kids to bed! They eat dinner, sometimes *gasp* in a restaurant. Honestly if being on call makes you THAT anxious, you should get another job.

                  “Regardless, a stipend for on-call work is not uncommon and a pretty easy way to make people feel like their time is appreciated. Yes, you could roll that money into their salary, but psychologically that’s just not going to feel the same for a lot of people”

                  Awwww. So what, if it doesn’t “FEEL” like they’re being compensated, if they actually ARE. Hate to break it to you, but employers don’t owe “feels” to the employee. If one of my employees said to me, “I KNOW you’re paying me fairly for my overtime, but it doesn’t FEEL like you are so I’d like it broken down by overtime so I can see it,” I’d say GTFOH with that!

                  “Most software engineers I know (all of whom are salaried) get paid a stipend on top of their salary for on-call time. If an incident happens that they have to respond to, they then get paid extra on top of that.”

                  The critical engineers (our Sw engineers have no reason to be on call) and cyber analysts I work with, don’t, nor do we complain about it. We knew what we were getting and we know what “salaried-exempt” means. But our pay is negotiated in the contract with our govt. clients, and we can’t just burn hours/money paying out stipends and overtime. So salary negotiated within the labor categories is the salary.

                5. doreen*

                  Replying to Ori – on call shifts are not always onerous. Yours might be but my weeks on call did not require me to carry any equipment other than a phone and I never had to actually go anywhere as I was providing direction I could stay at the volleyball practice and most likely continue cooking dinner as most of my calls took ten minutes or less. I wasn’t stressed because I didn’t get that many calls. I didn’t like being on call for a week because I preferred being on call all the time for just my own office. When I was on for a week I covered 20 offices and I didn’t know as much about what was going on at the others. And I probably did say at least once that I wasn’t paid extra for it because I wasn’t – if I spent one hour on the phone or three hours or ten minutes, it didn’t change my pay for that week. But my pay was enough to compensate me for the on call time or I wouldn’t have taken the job

              1. a trans person*

                You can’t say that when US law doesn’t provide a minimum salary requirement for exemption that means anything. Just knowing this is “salaried” doesn’t mean that the employee is earning enough to justify this.

                1. NameRequired*

                  Actually, the US does have a minimum salary amount required:
                  To be considered “exempt,” employees must generally satisfy three tests:
                  Salary-level test: Employers must pay employees a salary of at least $684 per week.
                  Salary-basis test: With very limited exceptions, the employer must pay employees their full salary in any week they perform work, regardless of the quality or quantity of the work.
                  Duties test: The employee’s primary duties must meet certain criteria.”
                  But, based on the information given by the OP, we ALSO cannot KNOW that employee is NOT making a good salary with overtime duties taken into account. The employee took a job, didn’t bother to ask about his role, apparently, and is now petulantly refusing to work. That has NOTHING to do with the amount of his salary, but rather his maturity and character!

            4. NameRequired*

              My son is salaried and is on call literally 7×24–there are weeks he’s worked 75 hours; but in his field there’s also a lot of down time so there are weeks he may “work” 20 hours. If you’re salaried and there is an expectation that “occasional overnight on call is required” or “this job is not a 9-5 but has 24 hour response expectations” or whatever, then why would there be expected additional compensation, unless it’s salaried non-exempt, of course.

        2. Office Lobster DJ*

          I figure that’s the whole point of calling out, to push the company into firing him like he wants. It feels like a strategy, not a temper tantrum.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I think he’d be endangering his ability to collect unemployment a lot more if he refused to come to work at all then if he refused to cover the on-call week. I assume that’s why he wants to be fired.

          2. Hannah Lee*

            ^ this!

            There is no good faith effort on the part of the employee to attempt to do the part of the job he thought he was agreeing to.

            There is no attempt by the employee to try to come to any resolution aside from “you can’t make me”

            This feels very much like a “time to cut your losses” situation for LW.
            Possibly with an assist of an employment law expert to figure out what “cut your losses” looks like in this situation

            And definitely do a Postmortem on the hiring process to make sure there is no chance for miscommunication of job responsibilities, review your reference checking procedure, etc etc. Because whether or not this employee was right that no one told him about the on-call shifts, your process should be tight enough that it’s never even a question.

      2. Matt*

        I can so relate to that. I also have to to do on-call which wasn’t a thing when I got into IT some 20 years ago (it was a 9 to 5 job back then, it’s 24/7 now) and loathe it. I treat my on-call shifts as workdays, I don’t go to restaurants or meet with friends as I want to avoid that “to go container” scenario – I just sit at home with books and TV. Well, that’s my choice and my mindset – I have coworkers who don’t mind being on call at all, they’re essentially “on call” at all times even if not required to, their phone is glued to them and they will answer it in all situations.

        Luckily we are paid (a small amount for being on call, and a regular overtime rate if it gets to working) and it’s only seasonal (municipal government IT especially during election time).

        1. EllenD*

          I was surprised to read, that because the posts are salaried, there was no on-call allowance or overtime. I worked a salaried job – for Government – where there was a need for on-call for certain issues which provided a small allowance for each night on-call and overtime – when it wasn’t normally allowed. This was how we got people to volunteer for the role.

          1. The Original K.*

            My job has an on call requirement (that I was misled about during hiring; it’s part of why I intend to change jobs this year) and it is absolutely not paid. We’re salaried. In fact, we had an hourly worker on our team who wasn’t eligible for the rotation because they’d have to pay her overtime.

            1. IT on call*

              I still believe that salary exempt should only apply to stakeholders in the company. There should be no reason for employees to not be paid for work beyond 40 hours without compensation.

          2. Snow Globe*

            I don’t know how pay works in that organization, but it is feasible that if this is an ongoing requirement, then the overall salary is set to include the on-call work. Like, this type of job has a market rate of X, but people on this team are paid X + Y% because of the on-call work.

            1. TX_Trucker*

              That’s how it works in my organization. We pay well above the industry standard. But our work hours are also much higher than the industry standard – for both hourly and salaried positions.

            2. Jane Anonsten*

              This is how it works at my organization as well. The salary takes into account the X number of weeks of on-call support.

            3. a trans person*

              This is giving a LOT of unearned trust to the organization that we already know messed this all up from beginning to end. The national salary for exempt status is still only, what, $36k, looks like? *Why* do we think this specific employer isn’t abusive, given the evidence at hand, again?

              1. NameRequired*

                Why do we think based on the fact that ONE employee on the team is balking at doing what’s required of him, and others seem fine with it, that this emplyer IS abusive? The OP doesn’t sound abusive. You’re making a huge leap because one guy either didn’t READ the job description, or HR messed up and didn’t give it to him. But how that translates “evidence at hand” that THIS specific employer IS abusive??

          3. doreen*

            In the US, it depends on the job and whether it’s exempt or not, not whether it’s salaried. I worked a government job and didn’t get any extra pay for being on-call (or even working) because I was a manager in a public safety agency – you wouldn’t expect the mayor or the police commissioner to be paid extra because they had to show up in the middle of the night for some emergency and that expectation goes much further down. But I’m sure there re some agencies where the managers are not ever on all because they don’t have emergencies.

            1. Sloanicota*

              It’s … not illegal to offer extra compensation to salaried employees to cover unpopular duties. That’s not what salaried means. And if they find that people, particularly new hires, are balking at the expectation, well, maybe they’re right that they can find less-onerous / better-compensated jobs at competitors, meaning that the company that wants these on-call-shifts covered needs to go back to the drawing board in response to a changing market.

              1. doreen*

                It’s absolutely not illegal to offer extra compensation to anyone, including exempt employees. But it’s not required to pay anything extra to exempt employees, while it is required to pay non-exempt employees extra if they end up working. Sure, you might have to if no one will take the job at what you are paying- but that isn’t the situation described in the letter, nor was it the situation at my job. I earned more than my direct reports who were eligible for on-call pay or overtime, enough more to be worth working few hours “uncompensated” every eight weeks or so

              2. Leenie*

                So far, there’s only one balker, and he’s not comporting himself particularly well. So I don’t think we have adequate info to decide that this isn’t completely expected and acceptable to most new hires. If they have trouble filling the position though, they should look at compensating that time differently (for everyone in that position, of course). But a data point that comes in the form of one guy with questionable professional judgment wouldn’t really drive me to rewrite my compensation structure.

                1. Petty_Boop*

                  Agreed. And the fact that his hiring was also not done “the normal way” according to the OP, makes me wonder, exactly what his game is. Why did HR direct hire him w/o management involvement, etc… Is he the martyr for on call working conditions? Did he come in planning to make a point? The whole situation is weird, but it sounds like the other 7 people are doing the job, potentially somewhat grudgingly, but they ARE doing it, so … I wouldn’t use him as a catalyst for change, either.

        2. Bast*

          My husband has a job (also IT) where he is required to be on call one week of the month as well, with no extra compensation. People are supposed to call for EMERGENCIES ONLY, the issue is, there are some people who insist on waiting until the last minute for everything, and it becomes an emergency, when it wouldn’t have been if that had just done it in a timely manner to begin with. Then we have the individuals who think everything is an emergency, even though there would be no ramifications by waiting until 9 AM the next morning instead of phoning at midnight. There is one particular department that runs 24/7 that need to be able to reach someone, which is the main reason for having someone on call, but there are very few reasons why the 9 to 5 workers cannot have their problems resolved from 9 to 5. I cannot tell you how many NON emergency phone calls have made him miss half of a movie, interrupted a holiday dinner, and woken me up in the middle of the night, because someone couldn’t manage their time and waited until the last minute for something. It would be great if upper management would say “Here’s what constitutes an emergency, and here’s what doesn’t” but they won’t do it. My husband doesn’t mind helping the 24/7 department who truly need the help, but the “I forgot my password” call at midnight from someone who he will see at 9 AM is a real nuisance.

          1. FuzzBunny*

            Not IT, but I actually love how my kids’ pediatrician handles this: There is a fee for all after-hours calls. However, the fee gets waived if it results in a doctor’s visit, it’s a follow-up to a visit, it’s a newborn, or the pediatrician judges for any other reason that it was reasonable for you to call at that time. That way you can call when you do need to, but they avoid the “omg I forgot my kid’s prescription refill and how dare you expect me to wait until morning” calls.

          2. Rosie*

            It could very well be a communication issue with the organization. If staff is told “24 hour tech help desk” – why wouldn’t they use it when needed? I have a laptop issued by one of my (large, multinational) clients and I have definitely contacted the help desk on weekends when I have had an issue – because I assume it is staffed 24/7 as I was told. But maybe I am ruining someone’s dinner? I don’t know. The IT “department” at the small firm where I work, on the other hand, is also technically available 24/7, but I know to only contact them off hours if it is a true emergency (e.g., it is midnight and my computer crashes while working on a client report due the next morning)

          3. Sloanicota*

            This is a tough one, because if you tell employees that there is 24 hour support but it’s “only for emergencies” that’s a weird set up that depends too much on their own perception of what an emergency is. I get so annoyed because really the company is saving money by not hiring an on-call shift worker; they’re passing the buck onto your husband and the employee with a tech problem. (well, not passing the buck – you know what I mean – I never quite understood that phrase).

      3. White Noise Overloaded*

        The other problem with job descriptions is they often contain a lot of irrelevant boilerplate. It’s very easy to assume the job description isn’t relevant when it often isn’t.

        1. LCH*

          If I saw something about being in-call, I would definitely ask in the interview for specifics. So I wonder what HR said.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yeah, if a JD contains on-call, it is almost never boilerplate. I’m side eying their HR and hiring process, though.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          I wonder if he’s even seen the exact job description? it seems like HE hired him, and then assigned him to that team (and therefore that job with that description) after the application and hiring process had already happened!

            1. Petty_Boop*

              Hah. I read that originally as you thought HE hired himself. That’d be a neat racket, if one could pull it off!

          1. watermelon fruitcake*

            My job has the famous “must be able to lift 20 lbs” requirement. While I can and frequently lift much more than that, I’ve never had to do any heavy lifting at work as a fundamental component of my job. I’ll volunteer because I can, but it’s absolutely never been a requirement of my defined role or duties.

            I’ve since learned it’s a way to try and screen out individuals with physical, motor, or other limiting disabilities, and I find that disgusting. From an alleged EEOA-compliant organization, no less!

        3. GythaOgden*

          You should probably err on the side of it all being relevant and then being pleasantly surprised when some of it isn’t. It avoids situations like this one.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Heck, this is almost becoming an appealing part of the job. Need some cash? Go work for this place–you’ll need to put in a day or two of work, then announce that you won’t quit, they have to fire you, and then call in sick every day. This demonstrably works for weeks, and I would not be surprised if it works for months.

        Probably not for years, but some business out there just took that as a challenge.

      5. Tea Monk*

        Oh yes, on call is brutal! Sometimes I have to out out for hours, sometimes at 1 am. I wish we got paid extra for those days. The only reason I’m not put out is that these are real emergencies not work emergencies. If I were him I’d quit, right or wrong.

      6. lilsheba*

        Yeah, salaried or not being on call and having your life disrupted at any moment 24 hours with no warning deserves extra money. Period. Make it a blanket amount but give extra money during that week. Then it MIGHT be worth it.

        1. Lea*

          Yes! We have on call pay and the at least a couple hours ot if you come in for most staff that would be on call it should absolutely be paid

        2. Cat Mom of 4*

          It’s not worth it even with a small on call stipend. I did on call at my last job (transportation industry) for almost 5 years. I had not worked an on call role before. It was in the job description and discussed during my interview. I asked all the questions I could think of so that I had as much info as I could get before making a decision but it didn’t help. I found out later once I was trained and added to the on call rotation that my interviewers had seriously downplayed the call volume and disruption to work- life balance. Getting a call at 2 AM when filling in for the overnight person and then having to work your regular day shift the next day. Going out to dinner only to get a call. The on call phone waking up your spouse/kids/pets. Having your holiday plans disrupted and sometimes ruined by phone calls. I was on call for New Years Eve a few years back and some emergency made me have to turn around while en route to visit my elderly grandparent. I worked all afternoon and evening until 2 AM (crying periodically to my husband about how much I hated on call) when I finally got the call that the shipment was loaded and on its way. That wasn’t the only major holiday I had interrupted by on call. My coworkers all hated it too and it was a constant pain point. The small on call stipend (taxed at incorrect super high bonus rates for years by our accounting dept) was not worth it at all. The month that our overnight person was out with Covid and we had to cover on call for them which left us working or on call for one week straight – completely brutal. I thought about quitting constantly. The only time we could be assured of no calls was our lunch break. I put in my notice after being on call for yet another holiday and being bombarded by non emergency calls from Canadians because one of my coworkers wasn’t dilligent about informing them of the upcoming American holiday. I will never again take a job with an on call requirement.

          Interestingly enough, my coworker told me that while on call was in the same boilerplate job description that we all were given, he was told that he did not have to be part of the rotation in his interview. That was a point of contention between him and management when Covid hit, our usual short staffed-ness became critical, and he was conscripted into being put into the rotation.

      7. Lenora Rose*

        This person is salaried, not hourly – though I think the actual on call burden sounds onerous (and should involve some kind of recompense), it’s not the same as not compensating an hourly employee.

        Still, calling in sick every day for 2 weeks is not the way to negotiate. It’s definitely time to part ways.

      8. Lea*

        Yeah I just got on to chime in on how much people hate on call, it means your off hours are not your own, you usually can’t even have a drink…

        He is pissed and he has a right to be

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          IDK that the employee has a right to be upset. If it was in the job description I think it was on them for not reading it or ignoring it. Even if he was not directly told about the on-call verbally, they were on notice.

          If they never got the job description and were not told that is a different story.

          But I have worked with people enough (and have been guilty of it myself) to know that people don’t always read everything, miss stuff, and/or ignore it.

        2. I Have RBF*


          I don’t hate on-call, if it’s reasonable. One week in eight is very reasonable.

          My field has on-call in nearly every position. If I started refusing on-call I would get labeled a poor team player, and rightly so. Yes, if there are a lot of after hours calls a second shift should be started up, but that is seldom the case. I have even been the SME that only worked 12×7 on call weeks, but still got called nights and weekends when I wasn’t on rotation because I was the subject matter expert, and thus the escalation point.

          Some fields have on-call as part and parcel of their job duties. If you are in such a field, but get grouchy and recalcitrant about doing on-call? You just need to find a different field, because there are very, very few jobs that don’t have on-call.

          I make low six figures. I have on-call duties. My job seldom needs to call me in the middle of the night. But if I get called, I respond, because that’s part of what they pay me for. It was in the job description.

      9. tw1968*

        These folks are on call 24/7 for a whole week every other month with no additional pay?!?! WTHeck!?!? Salaried doesn’t mean they own you–they should ALL be given on call pay for that. Sometimes it takes a new person coming in to tell everyone how something is NOT right.

      10. I Have RBF*

        My field has on-call responsibilities. It’s rare that I get a gig without it. Yes, it’s in the job description, which I read thoroughly, and I ask “How often will I get paged?” in interviews.

        One week in eight is a really nice on-call schedule. My university job had me pretty much 24x7x365 on-call for my area, because no one else in my group answered after-hours alerts. Fortunately, I seldom got called, until we started doing AWS container garbage, whereupon another group’s design became my burden to support in the middle of the night.

        I find it really, really hard to believe that he didn’t read the job description and that it wasn’t discussed in the interview. I think he’s blowing smoke up your butts. With that, plus the very juvenile thing of calling in sick for two weeks because he doesn’t want to do the rotation makes me say “Fire him.” Make it mutual, give him severance, but don’t let him get away with bowing out of the rotation, because I guarantee it will poison your team. He doesn’t get to “stand his ground” about something that is in the job description.

    2. MPerera*

      I once worked in a place where we had multiple different analyzers and we rotated on them – 2 weeks on A, 2 weeks on B and so on. Except for one particular co-worker. He was only willing to work on A and B, not C. So whenever he was scheduled for training on C, he would call in sick. After he was “sick” for multiple weeks, management seemed to have resigned themselves to this, and he was only scheduled to work in his comfort zone. Easier to do that than to fire him, I suppose.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Which is unfair to everyone else. OP how you handle this person will tell the team a lot. You might think it seems heavy handed to fire him for refusing a key component of the job. But its a lot more unfair to everyone else to have to somehow pick up another week when he calls out, or manages to get completely removed from the rotation. What will you do if everyone else quits and you are stuck with only this guy?

        The best solution is make it clear this is a job requirement whether he was told or not. Let him know he will be fired if he refuses. Refuses a core duty is one grounds for not getting unemployment.

      2. Kara*

        I’m curious, were A, B, and C different shifts or different equipment? If different shifts, there might have been an ADA accommodation behind the scenes that you weren’t privy to. One possible epilepsy trigger, for example, is sleep deprivation; which can mean that day shifts are fine but overnights can be a hard No. I know someone in that situation and given how poorly their industry handles the ADA, their situation might have looked very similar to what you describe from the outside.

    3. Techie Boss*

      Yes, I don’t mean to minimize the substantial work that can sometimes be part of an on-call rotation. The new employee is right to be put out if he wasn’t told about this. He also needs to recognize that this isn’t the job he thought it was and needs to move on.

      1. JubJubtheIguana*

        But he clearly wants and already has moved on, by requesting his contract be cancelled.

        The company are the ones being difficult by refusing to fire him, and trying to deny him unemployment.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think denying him unemployement is unreasonable, considering he is refusing to do part of his job that was part of the job description! Even if he wasn’t verbally informed, that would be “firing with cause” without question. Also, how much unemployement the company is on the hook for, after a few months (at most) of him working for them? Unless it isn’t linked to tenure wherever they are, I suppose.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            LW is a colleague with no interaction on the hiring process. We don’t know what JD the guy read or what questions he asked. My job initially said 25% travel in the job description, but that was a requirement that had already been phased down to optional quarterly offsites by then and just never got rewritten. Thankfully everyone who I interviewed with was truthful about that (I did also get an email on the topic, but mainly because I would require disability accommodations for so much travel) —but I asked about it and didn’t think a job posting superceded what HR and management told me. My point is this guy could have even asked about that requirement—we don’t know what he was told. We don’t even know he saw the same JD as LW!

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              “My point is this guy could have even asked about that requirement—we don’t know what he was told. We don’t even know he saw the same JD as LW!”

              Okay but we likely won’t ever know. It is possible the employee is being reasonable, but I would say calling out “sick” for two weeks in a row seems to put them in the unreasonable camp.

              It is one thing to have something in the JD and then be told it does not apply. If person was explicitly told “no on call is actually required” that is different, and I would agree with you.

              But having something in the JD and being surprised that it is actually required because you just assumed it is no longer relevant is completely different.

              So if on-call was listed in the JD, employee was given a copy of of the JD or it was part of the job listing, and employee just missed/ignored it and HR never mentioned the on-call then the onus is on the employee. I do think HR should have mentioned the on-call, but having it in the JD is enough notice.

          2. Roland*

            Great point. I’m interviewing now and a lot are coming in through referrals or recruiters so I don’t necessarily see a JD. And I’ve absolutely worked places with oncall that didn’t bother mentioning it at any point during the process.

          3. J!*

            Sure, but if he left a previous job to take this one on good faith and now has nothing to fall back on, that IS the company’s fault for not communicating the responsibilities of the position.

            1. Cmdrshprd*

              “that IS the company’s fault for not communicating the responsibilities of the position.”

              But I guess I see the key part of having it in the job description/notice as adequate/enough communication, assuming the person had access to the job description notice.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Well refusing to do a part of your job is going to put unemployment at risk. This is going to be a for cause firing.
          Now that he’s called in sick for 2 weeks he’s also looking at job abandonment.
          I would assume they don’t have a contract because this would be clearly spelled out if this was a rare contract job.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Huh, I actually took that the calling out sick detail to mean the new employee is job hunting like crazy and doesn’t intend to put this job on his CV anyway. I doubt he would have taken the job if he’d known the full story. Lots of bait and switch employers expect people to be flexible, but it isn’t reasonable.

      1. JubJubtheIguana*

        Yep, I was hired a very very part-time “diversity editor” at a magazine, which I was led to believe meant my duties would solely be writing articles about minority representation within the field the magazine was dedicated to. My contract had a bit at the end about helping with funding applications required which I assumed meant maybe writing a blurb about how that magazine handled DEI.

        Then my first week they suddenly announced the magazine was broke and would go under in 3 months and that my job was to create some form of “outreach programme” (they didn’t even know what that meant, they’d just heard somewhere that there’s funding for “outreach”), start up a national schools/colleges project, find funding awards that would financially support an entire magazine, do a full funding application, and write articles.

        On a 15-hour a week contract.

      2. Yellow sports car*

        That was my thought too. Company pulled a bait and switch on him (maybe not intentionally). He needs a new job, and it’s not fair of the company to expect him to give up income because of their stuff up. Chances are if he quits he loses insurance/benefits/welfare

        Hopefully the company learns they need to talk about the on call requirements explicitly – not thinking or hiding away in a job description is sufficient.

        I’m guessing this is more a case of cannot do on call rather than just won’t do. If it was just won’t my guess is he’d just do it until the next job came through if he couldn’t afford to quit. Or lie and buy 8 weeks till the next one. There’s many reasons why can’t could be the explanation (carer, housing situation, having another job/studying at night etc)

      3. ecnaseener*

        Agreed. He’s already dared them to fire him, and he’s not going to get unemployment either way, so why would he show up to work while he waits to be fired?

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          > why would he show up to work while he waits to be fired?

          Because that makes the difference between a reference: “unfortunately we had to let him go, as we have an on-call requirement that ultimately we can’t change and he couldn’t meet” vs “he refused to do the required on-call, and then rather than engage with us about it he went off sick for 2 weeks and dared us to fire him, so we did”.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            You don’t need a reference for a short term off-your-CV job. Also, the guy is probably fuming over the lack of communication and wouldn’t trust them not to mess up the details of a reference.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yeah, there’s a lot of conjecture here trying to make the company the bad guy, but I’m honestly not buying it. There are people who don’t do their due diligence and end up in these situations, yet somehow it seems management are always the ones at fault.

              If you are going through an interview or hiring process it’s really important that you get a better sense of what’s actually required, and if you don’t see a job description you need to ask for one. At some point, even when the guy might be in the right, he’s still handling it disruptively and with the burden of the work falling on other employees, and that’s really not going to help anyone — least of all his reputation in the longer run.

          2. a trans person*

            “*Dared* us to fire him”? You’re being completely unfair: the employee is saying “yes the job is not right for me but that’s your fault so I deserve unemployment”. This is the company’s responsibility, getting fired is the only way for him to GET unemployment, and yeah maybe the employee isn’t deploying exactly the tactics some of us might prefer to use, but that doesn’t mean that his goal is wrong.

            This kind of infantilizing of employee motives is one of the things I left a job over. (No, I didn’t “act out”, I was RAISING FORMAL COMPLAINTS about being repeatedly misgendered. And yes, this was my HR representative.) This isn’t a “dare”. This is a “please fire me so I can get unemployment”.

        2. TootsNYC*

          he might actually get unemployment in some states! But of course, that’s not as good as a full-time job.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I do wonder if the HR hiring meant that someone in HR was like “Well the on-call part sucks, so I won’t say anything about it. Once they sign and are committed to the job, they’ll feel like they have to roll with this stuff.”

        Where AAM’s advice is to be upfront about anything in the job that you know makes people quit shortly after starting.

      5. Nel*

        Yeah, I took this not as him being adversarial, but as him being certain the job isn’t going to work out and he’ll get fired anyway.

    5. JubJubtheIguana*

      Expecting people to work an unpaid night shift (evening shift?) every other month without being told is completely exploitative and toxic. I’m sorry but LW’s workplace sounds absolutely dysfunctional.

      I’ve started jobs where it was immediately apparent the workplace was just inherently toxic and I felt I had no choice but to quit instantly. In my line of work and in my country, there’s no difference or consequences between quitting and being fired, but in most situations and in the US you aren’t eligible for unemployment support if you quit.

      This man clearly doesn’t want to work there because he’s realised the workplace is exploitative. He WANTS to be fired so that he can collect unemployment. Just let him go. He’s not in the wrong to want to not work somewhere exploitative.

      If someone wrote in saying, “Alison, I just started a new job and they’re sprung on me that I need to do regular unpaid night shifts, which I can’t do because [reasons], and tried to force me to quit when I said no which means I’d be denied unemployment, what do I do?” I guarantee neither Alison nor the commenters would be on the company’s side.

        1. Happy*

          If they didn’t tell him before hiring him that he would be on call for a week every two months, then it’s effectively unpaid for him. He couldn’t factor it into his salary negotiations.

      1. Heather*

        There’s nothing toxic about on calls as part of a salaried role. Words have meaning and tossing them around like that dilutes the words.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Expecting people to work an unpaid night shift (evening shift?) every other month without being told is completely exploitative and toxic.

        That’s not what on-call is. It is not an additional 8 hour “unpaid” shift.

        For one, he is salaried, which means if there’s a crunch, you can easily end up working 12 hours or more a day fcor weeks straight. But that’s not on-call.

        On-call means that you need to be able to log in to your computer and fix things during off hours, even at 3 am. (My very first on-call call out was at 2 am. I woke up to a page, logged in from home, fixed the problem in under 30 minutes, and went back to bed.)

        If the on-call was taking up as much time as an entire shift for the entire week, the company would need to start hiring a second shift or they would start losing people. But this is not that much.

        Don’t try to call on-call “regular unpaid night shifts”, because it’s not.

    6. Mongrel*

      Any job that I’ve been in this would still be well within the probationary period, no need to fire just a quick “It’s not working for either of us” and a hearty handshake.

      It’s easier to rip the band-aid off now and a follow-up to HR about how they’re selling the job

      1. doreen*

        I don’t entirely disagree- but that’s still firing him , and that seems to be the problem, that this company doesn’t fire anyone for performance or behavior.

        1. TootsNYC*

          They should introduce a new concept: Laying people off because the hire didn’t work out. No bad feelings, just a parting of the ways.

          The company can “resign” instead of the employee resigning, with two week’s notice or something.

    7. Healthcare IT*

      I have had quite a few jobs where I was on call, but we were hourly and got paid a small amount for our on call time and then OT when we got called. However, there were salaried ppl above us who were on call weekly. As these were hospitals, having someone available in case of a mass event or large network issue is essential. They very rarely got called, but we had to have a chain of command.

    8. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      This doesn’t follow. Plenty of people are flexible about things like “we need you to go to New York for a week next month” or “7 am is the only time the VP can take this meeting” and not “for a week every other month you’ll get woken up on the middle of the night”. If it’s a requirement, it’s a requirement, and they should fire the guy, but it’s pretty far from normal “flexibility”.

    9. Also-ADHD*

      I can’t imagine being on call for a full week with no extra pay every other month, though. It’s a pretty extreme requirement with no compensation (doing it is less the issue to me than the lack of comp). So if it’s not 100% clear, and agreed to, I think his reaction is pretty understandable. Many people wouldn’t accept a job with that requirement. I’m not sure how it’s written in the JD or what was discussed, but if we assume he’s right that no one discussed it with him, the reaction makes more sense.

        1. I Have RBF*

          All of my on-call jobs have been over $100K salary in the last 15 years. It’s built in to the salary.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’d like to know how much work the on-call entails. My husband was the only on-call person at his startup for about a year, but all the calls only came form machines, not people, and he could go weeks without a single one (and then have four in one night, ugh).
        When his friend (also in tech) was on-call, each individual was only on-call for 24 hours because in that time you got *none* of your normal work done because you spent the whole time putting out fires.
        When I was on-call for work it was for the night shift on the East Coast (I’m West Coast) and it was only for emergencies for our manufacturing team. I think I got called 4 times? (One time they *hung up* on me, and I didn’t have a way to call them back because I just hit the switchboard.)

        So on-call can mean a wide range of probability that you will be called, and how long the call will take to resolve.

      2. I Have RBF*


        Every IT operations job that I have ever worked has on-call weeks. Every one. A one week in eight rotation is really good. I’ve been in jobs where it was one week primary, one week secondary out of every four weeks (1+1/4). Most of these jobs are salaried, in the low six figures, and there’s plenty of competition for these jobs even with monthly on-call rotations.

        I quite frankly think he’s being very childish about something that in my field is a normal requirement. It’s always in the JD, and anyone who misses it and whines is seen as a snowflake, at best.

    10. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      His email response and calling out sick sounds pretty clearly like he wants them to fire him, and for some reason they’re refusing to do it and wanting him to quit, which is less beneficial to him. I think the situation reflects at least equally poorly on the employer.

      I’ve had two roles that had an on-call component I wasn’t told about during the hiring process, nor was it in the kind of role where you’d expect to be on call. In the first case we (salaried) were compensated with a day off for every week on call, 3 weeks mandatory each year, so that made it more palatable, and it seemed to be an oversight that they didn’t mention it. In the second case I was told after being hired that they deliberately didn’t tell candidates about the monthly weekend on-call rotation, and there was no compensation. I left that role quickly though it mostly wasn’t because of being on-call – it turned out to be part of the overall package of how poorly they treated employees.

      So I’m inclined to believe the employee that he wasn’t told, and empathize with it being a deal-breaker. His methods wouldn’t be mine, but the the employer’s methods absolutely wouldn’t be either.

      1. Bast*

        The very first firm I worked at advertised itself as “holidays off” in the ad– but it wasn’t completely true. They still expected a barebones staff for each holiday, and if no one volunteered, you’d be chosen at random. The favorites never had to work holidays. I realize this may not be quite the same as LW — although maybe it is, since we haven’t seen the job description that was posted — but wanted to commiserate on the experience of being expected to work on certain days when you’d been told something different during the hiring process.

    11. Lea*

      I don’t think this acknowledges how much people HATE on call work and it’s an entire week??!!

      Where I work this can be a huge issue and we pay on call pay for some of it. It’s an imposition on your life and if I showed up to a job and they hadn’t told me this in an interview I would be PIsSED

      1. I Have RBF*

        I’m sorry, but what?

        I guess I’m unique, because I don’t “HATE on call work”, unless I get called after hours too often. If it’s in the JD, I expect to be in a rotation, even if it’s not mentioned in the interview. One week in eight is a really good on-call rotation, IMO.

    12. Bee Eye Ill*

      I wouldn’t be so quick to attack the employee. My biggest beef here is with HR. How in the world are they doing all the hiring and assigning to a team without involving the team they will be on? That make no sense to me. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if HR didn’t full inform this person of all the duties.

    13. TootsNYC*

      discovering you’d be on call for a full week, and not being clearly warned about it, is a little different than being asked to stay late here and there.

      Meanwhile I’m absolutely shocked that a manager wouldn’t insist on a full conversation before a job offer was extended.

  5. Lurker*

    LW #1 : The fact that both people involved are married is irrelevant. The other org’s employee sexually assaulted your employee.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Actually, it would not have been “less bad” or “less unwanted” if either employee was single or both were!

        FTFY. ;-p

      2. Lea*

        I suspect this may have been an explanation for why it was very unexpected though?

        I was at a work adjacent event when I was younger and although I was single he was not and it definitely added to the surprise

        1. TootsNYC*

          and an explanation for why the woman assumed a friendly relationship, and relaxed into a friendly relationship, because she thought it was clearly accepted that there would be no romantic relationship.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      It’s not more shocking to assault a married person but it’s context. I got married in my early twenties and can attest that creepy dudes can and will use marital status to try to explain away why they didn’t use their words.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I agree re context.

        How was he to know his approach might be unwelcome? Well a) they’re at work; b) she’s married; c) he’s married.

        1. Tea Time*

          All the nope. Framing it this way implies that he would be justified in being more confused about whether she wanted it if she were single, and therefore more justified in barging ahead because how was he to know she didn’t want it?

          More generally, never appeal to reasons that aren’t the real reasons. Her being married is *not* the reason he should have known better.

    2. The Other Sage*

      It makes it a morally bit worse because in addition, the perpetrator cheated on his wife. But from your organisation’s point of view it doesn’t make a difference.

      1. Empress Ki*

        It is not worse, it is exactly the same. The police would investigate assault, not cheating. Plus , he could be in an open relationship with his spouse, not necessarily cheating. But that’s not the problem of the victim or the organisation at all.

        1. The Other Sage*

          That is exactly why I write that from a pure moral point of view and not legal.

          What I am realizing just now is that the assault alone is so serious that the detail if there was or wasn’t cheating involved becomes irrelevant.

          1. Yellow sports car*

            Yeah nah. It’s not morally better if your attacker is single.

            Sexually assaulting another person is immoral – that’s the end of it. Their actions aren’t better or less problematic because they are single.

            I do accept that at least some poor person doesn’t have to learn what they’re married to. But that’s like saying it’s less immoral if the attacker is socially isolated – because fewer people to be horrified that a friend is like that.

            1. BethDH*

              It is morally worse because it adds another person who is injured by the action (the spouse he cheated on). It changes nothing between the assaulter and OP’s employee.

              1. Sloanicota*

                What? No. As a single person, I don’t think it’s less morally repugnant to hurt me because “at least nobody else is injured.” What about all my many loved ones? It is the exact same morally, I think OP just included that detail to explain that she really doesn’t think her employee was a willing participant in some kind of flirtation (not that it’s proof of that but it’s one piece of the puzzle).

              2. What? No!*

                This man forced himself on another person without their consent. Full stop. The victim is not more or less hurt based on his relationship status. That’s the focus, not who in the assailant’s realm may or may not be impacted. Your reasoning is deeply flawed and you should think on that.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            It’s not less bad if the assaultee is single, either.

            I know that’s not what you meant but this is the kind of thought that is far too easily spun into “single women are always on the prowl” or that a married woman’s dignity is worth more. Don’t go there.

        2. Seashell*

          I don’t know where you are, but I have my doubts that reporting an unwanted kiss between two adults would result in any police investigation.

            1. coffee*

              It took actual protests and worldwide media attention before anything was done, though. And it had been a problem for years, and if the Spanish team hadn’t won, they’d still be dealing with it. Ughhhhhhh it’s such bullshit.

              Oh actually something was done… a fake media release, supposedly from the player but actually from the organisation, claiming she was fine with it.

          1. Testing*

            Also, an assault is not “between two adults”. There’s a direction from perpetrator to victim there, not something that just happens between two individuals.

          2. Sloanicota*

            Actually I believe there’s plenty of places where an unwanted kiss is considered assault. But I can say that most victims are unlikely to want to go the legal route in such a case, or at least that’s how I felt at the time.

          3. Pinky*

            I don’t know where you are, but where I am that would be sexual assault no question. Whether or not the police will take action is unfortunately always the question, but they will take the statement especially if there are witnesses, and if there are enough statements about this same guy there at least is a paper trail that might eventually add up to something.

      2. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        I think reframing this idea to something like “and there is presumably an additional layer of yuck by the sexual predator, because he’s violating his wife’s consent too!” Or there abouts. The immorality & harm isn’t contingent on the number of victims.

        Yes, the level of perpetrator this guy likely is can be inferred by these additional impacts he apparently doesn’t care about. But we don’t have to de-center the victim in the OP to get at that.

    3. melissa*

      I came here to say that. The statement “both of them are married” makes it sound like the two of them engaged in a consensual affair and you disapprove. Which doesn’t sound like what happened. It sounds like one person assaulted another, in which case their marital status is irrelevant.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I assumed OP included this detail because of all the ‘consensual affair’ vibes from the company, or that the attacker has spun it that way (“I misread the signals she was giving me/of course I couldn’t just ask her – we’re both married” or “Well, she’s embarrassed of what developed because she’s married”). I saw OP as completely understanding why their employee was upset. I mean: the attacker’s company is considering mediation and OP is not. It’s like the company hasn’t even considered the fact that regardless of any excuses their employee might make, consent never includes just throwing your lips on someone at work. There’s nothing else to say.

      2. kiki*

        I read it as the LW trying to add some context as to why it was especially shocking to the victim– it sounds like she thought they were forming a friendship while he had other ideas. It sounds like the victim confided in LW that she was worried she may have led him on or something and that was especially upsetting to her.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that it matters to the victim that they’re both married– it’s probably part of why she felt safe developing a friendship with this jerk. But for the actions LW needs to take as a manager, it doesn’t really matter– it was assault of one of his employees. LW needs to use whatever leverage he has to get this creep off of projects his employees work on. I know it’s not as simple as if the creep had worked at the same organization, but LW probably has more power in this situation than he realizes. Just because the other org proposed mediation doesn’t mean LW can only go down that avenue.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I certainly have thought, “oh, Tim’s married, and he knows I’m married, so I’m probably misinterpreting what felt like flirtation – he’s probably just being friendly” in a way I wouldn’t have given a second strike to for someone I met on Tinder or whatever. However, I’ve been wrong almost every time I thought this :(

          1. Jellyfish Catcher*

            Yup. I once had a brief interaction with a male client, – in my office, with an assistant present – who then proceeded to wander back into the office alone, to announce that I clearly wanted him.
            I explained that wasn’t my take at all, that my office’s professional business function did not include that, and it was better that he went elsewhere.

        2. Lea*


          She probably thought it was safe to be friendly since they were both unavailable. I didn’t take this as a slam on her at all, or minimizing.

      3. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        I suppose being married gives the sexual assaulter one more reason to try to cover it up, which is good to keep in mind. But that’s really the only way in which it matters.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I think it matters because when both people in a friendship are married, it’s reasonable to assume that there isn’t a romantic tinge to things. He shouldn’t be romantically interested, so she might assume any friendliness from is just friendliness, and not an overture, so she wouldn’t be as wary, or keep as much distance; she’d feel safe.

        And since she’s married, she thinks she’s safe assuming that he understands any friendliness from her as friendliness, and not a romantic overture.

        There’s a set of assumptions that comes, and he violated them. If he’d been single, or she’d been single, her actions in the friendship might have been very different.

        So he’s assaulted someone, but he also did so in a bait-and-switch kind of way, somehow.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      That’s true, but there’s nothing wrong with the OP including as many details as they can. No reason to nitpick since as you say it’s irrelevant

    5. The Rafters*

      The fact that the victim thought they were “friends” with her assaulter is also irrelevant. So many victims of assault think it was their fault. It was not.

      1. kiki*

        It can feel very relevant as a victim and it can heighten the sense of betrayal and confusion. But for LW’s sake here, no, it does not matter. He needs to take action to ensure his employee can continue doing her job in peace and without restrictions. She should not be taken off projects to protect her from this man– he should be removed from projects.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, this first part is what I was thinking. Being assaulted by a random dude is not as awful to experience as being assaulted by a dude you thought was your friend (Although don’t get me wrong, both can be pretty awful!).

          1. TootsNYC*

            well…I think it’s just a different kind of awful. It might be more traumatic one way than the other, depending.

      2. Friendo*

        Your comment is literally answering why it was included. The managee waited six months because she thought it was her fault. OP is pretty explicitly not saying that it was her fault, they’re providing context as to why there hasn’t been action for six months.

    6. Friendo*

      It’s adding context to why the employee waited to tell the manger, it’s not the manager editorializing.

  6. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

    #3 confuses me – the letter writer leaves their coffee in the break room and walks back and forth from their desk to take a sip? Could the powers that be have based their decision on the constant walking to get a sip a coffee and not the coffee itself (since they provide a coffee maker).

      1. Awkwardness*

        I had the idea they might not be allowed to carry hot beverages with them, and leaving the hot beverage unattended in the staff room might not be allowed as somebody might be messing with it. Otherwise this makes no sense to me.

        1. Seashell*

          They might not want coffee left in the break room that could be knocked over and burn someone.

          I wonder if they care if people bring in outside coffee.

        2. Sloanicota*

          I was picturing OP had a physical job, maybe facilities or something, where they’re walking around doing things all day and can’t be carrying extra things. Now I guess someone’s getting irked by the unattended cup in the break room? Hard to say.

          1. AnonInCanada*

            But OP can also carry other beverages (i.e. water or juice as is stated in the OP). So, unless there’s something about coffee that’s prohibited from being consumed outside the staff room yet other beverages are, then this is puzzling to me as well.

            How hot is this coffee coming out of that machine? Hot as in “we don’t want another Stella Liebeck vs. McDonald’s hot coffee incident happening here?” That’s kind of pushing it.

            1. JustaTech*

              We had a thing at my office (briefly) where orders came down from on-high that all hot beverages must be in a cup with a lid to prevent spills where someone might get burned. So they expected everyone to stop using their ceramic mugs and switch to paper cups with lids.
              Everyone at my site thought that this was absurd (the office is so cold that if you put our very normal temperature coffee in a paper cup it is cold by the time you get back to your desk) and so completely ignored it. About a year later we were all gifted with (not very good) travel mugs with lids, which at least kept the coffee warm.

              Our best guess about the rule was that someone at another site accidentally spilled coffee on a high-up.

    1. Jessie*

      Right??? Love you Alison but you glossed right over “I leave my coffee in the break room to sip on throughout the day” :\

      1. Non-profit drone*

        No. The LW makes a pot of coffee, fills up their mug, and takes it back to their desk. They leave the rest of the coffee in the break room for OTHER people to help themselves.

        1. doreen*

          No , the letter says the LW makes their coffees on break and then leaves it in the breakroom to take sips throughout the day and I can understand why the company doesn’t allow that. I could understand not being allowed to carry the coffee around if the LW doesn’t have a desk. What I don’t get is why they can carry juice around but not coffee – there’s definitely information missing. Maybe it’s that the coffee is being carried around in an open mug but the water/juice is in a bottle with a cap or maybe it’s something stranger, but something is definitely missing.

            1. StressedButOkay*

              Maybe it’s because of the staining issues? Water/juice don’t tend to stain if spilled but coffee will. I mean, it’s a dumb reason but it’s the only thing I can think of.

    2. Carl*

      Yeah, I’m confused! I assumed that job involves walking around (rather than sitting at desk), so employee drops by break room to take a sip.

      But. Why is coffee different than juice? Is it that employer doesn’t want hot beverages carried around? Do they want to discourage usage of free coffee? Is this an organic juice bar or a cardiac ICU, and they want to keep caffeine usage a secret? Is the boss an illogical tyrant who also bans blue highlighters and orange post-its? I feel like we are missing something.

      1. Goody*

        I wonder if LW3 works in retail. When I worked at the red spot, employees were allowed to have a bottle/flask of water that had to be kept out of sight of customers, but not soda/juice/coffee/tea. And I’ve seen signs to the same effect at my regular grocery store as recently as 3 weeks ago (I don’t normally walk past their time clock). I think the logic was that water was less likely to cause permanent damage to merchandise if spilled?

            1. Anon in the academy*

              Speaking as a diabetic, no. When I worked retail, I had a roll of glucose tabs on me. You can’t accurately portion juice to treat low blood sugar.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                Yes but you are a diabetic so you actually know what diabetics need.

                I can imagine some kid lying to their 19yo store manager “I need juice for my blood sugar” and the manager just going “Oh ok then” without knowing better or bothering to look it up. Then it becomes ‘a rule’, ‘for diabetics’.

                1. KatAlyst*

                  I actually have (diagnosed) blood sugar issues that are effectively the opposite-of-diabetic & really have had legitimate reasons to ensure all jobs, including retail, let me accommodate that. (Warnings of “otherwise I faint without much warning” go pretty far, even in retail…)

              2. JimmyJab*

                Lots of people don’t perfectly portion what they eat/drink to cover lows. I’m diabetic and never use glucose tabs and regularly use OJ or ginger ale. Just wanted to note that your experience is not my experience and probably not universal.

          1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            Same! Lots of stuff can handle plain water and not other spills. But juice would be just as bad as coffee if not worse in that case.

            1. JustaTech*

              In college we got a smoothie station in the dining hall at breakfast one year (yay! fruit!) but somehow no one thought that maybe we should have lids for the 20+ oz cups of smoothie that folks were taking to class (which was clearly the intention of the smoothie station – it was the only spot with disposable cups). So a bunch of sleep-deprived college kids were wandering around with open cups of blueberry smoothie, which meant that there were a lot of spills. Turns out that some of the smoothies not only stained but managed to dissolve our industrial carpet, something that years of coffee had never accomplished.

              So yes, juice can be worse than coffee for staining/damage.

        1. Mornington Crescent*

          I suspected it might be retail or something customer service related too.

          I used to manage a post office, and I stopped allowing us having cups on the counter when one of my staff knocked a full cup of coffee into a drawer with all of the spare postage stickers and labels in it. Everything was ruined apart from the few that were out for immediate use, and I had to beg stock from another branch.

          After that, it was “bottles of water counter-side only; if you have an open container or cup, please drink it in the back, away from stock”. It was a mere 5 paces, so it wasn’t a hardship, but yeah- it wasn’t for no reason.

          1. Lady Lessa*

            When I work the polls, we are not allowed to have food or drink on the table, but underneath is acceptable. We want to look professional (and avoid damaging any electronics)

        2. TootsNYC*

          the logic for only water could be spillage, but it might also be “customers will think we are coddling you, and that you aren’t working hard.”

          Because customers also get upset that cashiers aren’t standing, or retail-floor staffers are sitting down.

      2. Nurse Sparky*

        Cardiac ICU nurse here, and everyone here currently has at least one coffee or energy drink in front of them ;)

        1. Leslie spielman*

          I was thinking maybe childcare too, or other caregiver setting, where they are concerned about hot beverages being spilled and burning someone. That is what I was told when I worked in pre-k (with rambunctious 3 year olds, so totally valid).

        2. Also-ADHD*

          When I was a teacher (secondary mostly), I did have one principal try to ban caffeinated drinks (say teachers couldn’t drink them during class) but the union put a stop to that silliness. Maybe somewhere nonunion, and it might even be optics not safety—this was a high school principal! The kids couldn’t buy caffeinated drinks on campus but they certainly drank coffee and energy drinks and such plenty, to no harm.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I think I might be narrowing in on:

        Hot beverages can be consumed in the break room. But not left sitting out for other people using the break room to work around, and wonder if the half cup of coffee on the counter is being slowly sipped at by someone who will return. (It’s the norm that an abandoned paper or ceramic mug with an inch or two of coffee in the bottom has been left for the cleaning fairies, not for someone who will be back to take a sip in an hour.)

        Hot beverages cannot be carried out of the break room onto the floor. So the cold water or juice in a flask is okay, but not hot coffee or tea or lemon water.

        OP, you need to develop a taste for iced coffee.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          They already seem to be enjoying sipping cold coffee “throughout the day” (or do they microwave it repeatedly or something? or is it in a thermos?), so iced can only be an improvement…

    3. Formerly Ella Vader*

      Yes, I wondered whether the LW was trying to get around an expectation to take a required break and stay in the breakroom to have the drink, and then not to be in the breakroom between breaks.

    4. Fate is the Hunter*

      Maybe the office is an airplane cockpit and the company doesn’t want coffee spilling on the instrumentation.

      1. Former academic*

        I have friends from my PhD program who are experts in cockpit design, and they say cupholder placement is one of the hardest things to work out. It has to be somewhere a pilot can reach without looking, and not block any switches/buttons/warning lights even if someone puts a giant cup in it.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Have they considered replacing the flat pilot caps with those beer can helmets (I mean obviously only for non-alcoholic beverages, giving a pilot beer would be silly). Tell your friends they can have that idea for free :D

    5. Support Project Nettie*

      My gut reaction is health and safety – the employer doesn’t want hot drinks being carried around to avoid litigation in the case someone gets scalded by hot liquid.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I would personally turn this logic on its head and chug a freshly brewed coffee while staring my manager in the face during a break.

      2. Zelda*

        One place I worked dealt with “oh noes, what if someone gets scalded” by requiring that hot beverages be in closed containers– a closed flask or a lidded cup/mug. It still felt pretty patronizing to me, but better than not being permitted to have the hot beverage at all.

        1. Anonymous Tech Writer*

          My company ordered enough spill-proof coffee mugs with their logo on it to give one to every employee. New employees got one. Replacements at cost.)

          That became the only drinks container allowed in areas where product & production line equipment could be damaged. Office areas stayed on the earlier “thou shalt not spill” basis…but were given the cups anyway.

          1. Cat Tree*

            My company is considering doing this, but I have two main concerns. First, is there an easy way to label them? Or do you just end up with 12 identical mugs at the conference room table? Even with a label it’s hard to tell at a glance.

            Second, are you allowed to buy multiples? As a personal policy, I do not use communal sponges to wash my dishes. I would want three or four to rotate through so I can take them home and clean them in the dishwasher (which I only need to run every few days.)

            1. JustaTech*

              If you weren’t going to run them through the dishwasher I would say to apply stickers all over your cups – the stickers can be professional, logo stickers related to your company or industry (or like, the ones you can buy at the National Parks). But they might not hold up in the dishwasher.

            2. Nina*

              At a previous workplace we had something similar – you could have any beverage you wanted in your branded (lidded) cup anywhere except the production floor, and you could have plain water in your branded (spill- and drop-proof) water bottle on the production floor. Cups and bottles were issued on hire and were engraved with your name in 48 point font.

            3. TootsNYC*

              just wash them that day with a paper towel and dish soap? That’s as clean as they’d get in the dishwasher.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          For the daycare example upthread: I still huffily remember at a museum carrying my hot tea from the register across to the bar with the sugar and such, removing the lid as I arrived, only to be careened into by a toddler at knee level.

          Fortunately the child had very thick curly hair, so while I did spill tea on top of their head (and on my hand!) the child was not burned.

      3. The Prettiest Curse*

        If they don’t want any hot drinks at all (and there are good reasons employers might havd this rule), then it’s weird that they have a coffee machine which the OP is allowed to use! Do they expect their staff to just stand by the coffee machine and chug their coffee on the spot?

        1. Malarkey01*

          When I worked in childcare in college we had this rule. You could drink what you wanted in the break room when you were on a break or lunch, but could only take water, milk, or juice into the rooms to avoid small children getting them.

          We also couldn’t leave drinks or food sitting out on break room counters because that was a violation of our state license inspections. So you consumed everything during your break.

      4. melissa*

        Yeah I worked in a daycare and that was the rule— so that if a toddler pulled a cup over they wouldn’t get scalded.

      5. CR*

        My first thought was that OP’s employers are Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and they frown upon coffee.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There’s coffee in the break room, though. So I think it’s the “no hot beverages on the floor” one.

    6. ClaireW*

      I’m picturing the LW3 as maybe working retail – they have coffee in the breakroom but not on the shop floor, type of thing. When I worked retail, we had the same rule – they felt like water or juice looks like you’re just staying hydrated, but tea/coffee/soft drinks would look like you were too relaxed and not working or open to helping customers… nonsense in my opinion, but I was just a part-time worker while at uni so I had to follow along.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, I was thinking this as well as somebody who worked in retail (in the US if that adds context). There were a lot of policies that didn’t really make sense to me that were said to be about “optics to customers.” Water was allowed and customers seemed relatively unbothered by seeing an employee taking a drink from a water bottle. But once a coworker brought in a Starbucks drink and customers were irritated by it. They made comments about her “taking a nice break,” asking if they had disturbed her from her coffee in a very over-the-top annoyed way, etc. I think the juice thing might be an allowance for folks with hypoglycemia.

        There are all sorts of kind of silly rules in retail that are about customer-perception more than a practical reason, especially in the US. One common example is having cashiers stand for 8+ hour shifts on hard floors because customers perceive that as more “alert.” I’m not saying customer perception isn’t important at all, but when you consider the tradeoff in employee quality of life, it seems pretty ridiculous. People end up with bad knees after jobs in retail.

        1. BigLawEx*

          Whenever I’m in some retail establishment and the person is drinking a to-go coffee or trying to surreptitiously nibble at a sandwich, I tell them to finish or I’ll come back. I’m never in that much of a hurry and suspect they don’t get enough break time.

          But I’m kind of chill about that kind of thing. I could see customers being irritated.

    7. kiki*

      It sounds like LW was walking back and forth to get a sip of coffee because coffee is not allowed on the work floor. Management is telling them they can no longer do that (probably because it is disruptive for them to go to the break room so often). LW would like to drink coffee during non-break times, like they can for water or juice, and is wondering if the company can really enforce this. It is odd because they’d likely drink coffee out of a similar container as they would water or juice.

      To be honest, if I were LW and not an accident-prone person, I would put coffee in the same flask I use for water and drink it on the down low. But as it is, I am prone to spilling, so I would not do this since I would probably be discovered and get in trouble.

      1. Arthenonyma*

        I’m assuming they’re okay with drinks that are specifically in a sealed bottle (water, juice etc) and are cold. I expect that the LW is not allowed to have a thermos or a travel mug or whatever, and the expectation is that you make coffee on your break, drink it in the break room, and then go back to work. (Which definitely sounds like retail to me.) And tbh, while I get the frustration, having someone constantly walking to the break room to take one sip of coffee does sound disruptive.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      I think the answer here is to put coffee in a thermos-like container that “anonymizes” the nature of the beverage. Could be hot chocolate, tea, water, juice – who’s to know?

    9. Dinwar*

      Where I work we have areas that people work that cannot have food/drink. You really, really don’t want to be eating or drinking in a HAZMAT cleanup site! So we have designated break areas, which often include coffee. It’s pretty common for construction workers (older ones anyway) to have a Thermos or similar container to store coffee in, and to drink it throughout the day.

      I’ve also seen places where you’re doing manufacturing, welding, machining, and the like, which aren’t hazardous but don’t allow for drinks (who wants steel sparks in their coffee?). Similar situation there–they have designated break rooms where people keep drinks, including Thermoses of coffee.

      It’s worth noting that in both cases there’s ample reason to have to walk away from the job for a few minutes. You’d think digging up dirt would be simple, but you’d be wrong–there are MANY times I’ve seen folks have to stop to discuss how to dig a 1′ deep hole. With welding there’s often order-of-operation concerns, supply concerns, and a bunch of others. You really do need to think on these jobs.

      I wonder if a middle ground wouldn’t be to have a closed container like a Thermos, clearly labeled? That would preclude spills. The one I have (I’m old-school) comes with two cups that serve as protection for the actual lid (so if you drop it the outer cup gets dented, the inner may get cracked, but the lid survives). If they object to the regular walking to the break room, that’s an option–drink a (small–4 oz or so) cup of coffee, then go back to work.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      Could the powers that be have based their decision on the constant walking to get a sip a coffee and not the coffee itself

      This makes sense to me. The LW spends a lot of time walking back and forth to sip her coffee.

      OTOH the other stuff (no coffee but other drinks) is confusing. I kind of doubt this is an office setting, I feel like the short letter leaves our context that may not support the LW’s side and may explain their sort of logic.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I read it as, OP walks back and forth to her coffee because management doesn’t allow coffee in the work area–despite allowing water and juice. The walking back and forth is caused by the opaque rule about liquids.

    11. Heidi*

      This is like one of those elementary school riddles. Jane can drink hot coffee in the breakroom, but she can’t carry it outside of the breakroom. She can carry around juice or water outside of the breakroom. How does Jane get the fox, the chicken, and the bag of grain across the river?

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        Jane carries the chicken, and leaves the fox with the bag of grain.

        She comes back, grabs the fox, and carries the fox across.
        She returns with the chicken (can’t leave the chicken with the fox on the far bank, the fox will eat the chicken).

        She then leaves the chicken at the origin, carries the grain across, and leaves it with the fox, who will not eat it.

        She then returns to the origin, grabs the grain, and carries it across to the other side.

    12. Lenora Rose*

      I worked in a file room where I was not allowed liquids in an unsealed container. Which turned out to have a good reason when I left my thermos open so my tea would cool down form boiling and not scald me, and did knock it over (no damage to any papers that couldn’t be reprinted, but that’s practically a miracle, as this was a field where there’s a LOT of signed papers that need long term preservation).

      I was explicitly told I could go to the break room more often to get drinks instead, and started leaving the tea in the break room for the cooling period, and being really religious about making sure the seal was closed as soon as I took my sip. So, yes, this seems like a possibly familiar situation.

      Where I don’t get it is why coffee is banned entirely, even once sealed in a flask/thermos.

    13. Nameless*

      They may work in retail or some other role where they don’t have a desk to leave it at or are up and about a lot.

    14. Agent Diane*

      UK-based caffeine addict here. This reads like you’re supposed to have the coffee in the break when, you know, on a break. If the culture is such that you can’t take a break to drink a coffee, that’s a bigger problem than whatever health and safety rule bars you from taking the coffee out of the break room.

      If their problem is with the open cup in the break room, get yourself a thermos and label it with your name. Put your coffee in that, and leave it, closed, in the break room. Then at least others aren’t going “woah, gross, who’s left this half-drunk coffee lying about in the break room”. And you get hot coffee!

      If the problem is that you are constantly going back to the break room to sip coffee, then I think you’re going to have to master taking fewer breaks but drinking more of the coffee at each of them.

      1. Stardust*

        #2. This is what stood out to me as well. I’m not sure what the field is but I’m picturing something like customer service or retail.

        I think on the break or lunch, they want her to drink the coffee and not be taking multiple treks to the break room to sip it. It would be frowned upon if she kept disappearing from her assigned area of the store (or checkout) frequently to go to the break room to take sips of coffee.

        If they allow flasks with other. beverages, maybe she could put coffee into a container with a lid.

    15. hohumdrum*

      Many schools and day cares have policies like this- active young children and hot beverages is not a good mix. Either leaving coffee where it can be grabbed, or just the risk of holding a mug over a child’s head, etc. Also on top of that since a lot of schools have firm rules about snacks in the classroom outside lunch & snack times they often ask teachers to role model following those rules.

    16. Tiger Snake*

      I’ve been in IT a touch too long. I read #3 and immediately said “No drinks in the data centre means no drinks Jarrod!”

      You can tell this is one that all people new to the idea constantly balk at. We hold firm.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Oooof, yeah. No food or drink in the server room. At all. Desks are not in the server room.

        At myt very first job, we had what are called “dry rooms” – very, very low humidity rooms where powdered components are weighed, mixed and tableted. This was explained when you were brought on board, from lab assistants like me to full bore PhD chemists.

        We had a brand new chemist in the weigh room, in the dry rooms, using a squeeze bottle of water to rinse what he was weighing into a beaker. Alarms went off because the humidity was too high, potentially ruining entire production runs and batches of raw material.

        He was walked that day.

  7. Link*

    That first letter is vomit inducing tbh. Get your co’s legal department involved if you have one. What that guy did was straight up sexual assault and something needs to be done. Him losing his job is the absolute LEAST that should occur.

  8. Observer*

    #1 – Employee was assualted.

    1. Listen to your wife. Non-consensual is assault. Period.

    2. Do NOT pull your employee from these projects. Tell the other organization that this person is persona non grata. He will not be allowed on your premises and you will not allow ANY of your staff to work with him. It is their responsibility to provide staff that can do the job without assaulting and even just intimidating your staff. This person does not meet the basic qualifications. Be prepared to end your cooperative projects with them. And tell your funders why. Use the correct terminology – do not downplay it. It was assault and that is the term you should use.

    3. Shut down any discussion of mediation! There is nothing to mediate here! If they blather about restorative justice, that’s not how this works. Again, be ready to walk. Also, don’t countenance ANY suggestion about her “leading him on” or “encouraging him in some way”!

    Keep in mind that you have a *legal obligation* to protect your staff, without penalizing them or negatively affecting their work! You CANNOT essentially tell your staff “If you want to avoid your attacker, you need to accept a demotion from your projects.”

    If the other organization won’t respond appropriately prepare to play hard ball, and to go scorched earth. You simply *cannot* allow this to pass, or to allow an agency you work with to treat this as some regrettable disagreement between two staff.

    I’m glad that you are trying to have your staff’s backs. And I’m glad you recognize that your “partner” agency is out of line. But you are still massively under-reacting here. Non-consensual touching is not just a matter of your policy. It’s a major legal issue, and one the other agency is bound by as well. If they won’t act on their legal obligation that puts more onus on you. But you should treat it as though he beat her – you would not pull her from projects, but would insist that he never be allowed to be near your staff. And, I suspect you would be hesitant to work with this agency again if they refused to work with you or talked about mediation. Well, you need to treat this situation the same way.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      … you are still massively under-reacting…

      This. It is difficult to emphasise how much you are under-reacting to something extremely serious.

      Please take a moment to imagine this man kissing you on the lips in a situation where you couldn’t react. (I assume you’re not attracted to him at all, just as she isn’t.) Imagine his warm damp coffee-smelling breath on your mouth, the feel of his lips forced against yours with each crease and every nasty little flap of dry skin, the little drops of saliva that enter your mouth, the pinpricks of 5 his o’clock shadow stabbing into your flesh, the sickening rush of adrenalin and thump of your heart as you enter fight-or-flight mode. Disgusted yet? Horrified? Tempted to throw your phone or slam your laptop shut? Looking for mouthwash and brain bleach? Or were you too grossed out to do the exercise and briefly experience even just the imaginary version?

      That’s what he did to your employee. But real. That’s why it’s so serious. That’s why everyone is saying “throw the book at him”. Please do throw the book at him, and don’t be concerned if it hits him in the head. He asked for it.

      1. Been There*

        Thank you for saying this. Too many people don’t understand or care about the horror the victim lived through and is still living through. All the mouthwash in the world won’t get that memory out of her head, and she’s being penalized at work on top of that.

        And the very suggestion of mediation compounds the horror. They want her to sit in a room with the man who forced himself on her, while he sits across the table leering at her? She shouldn’t have to spend one second dreading that event, let alone have to go through it. Any suggestion of mediation needs to be shut down hard! The only people who should suffer consequences and discomfort in this are him and the people enabling him.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        This is a great description, particularly the adrenaline rush. It’s such a betrayal basket of mind games when you think someone is your friend as well.

      3. Baunilha*

        That is very accurate description, harsh but necessary. I hope OP (and everyone who may be downplaying the assault because “it’s just a kiss”) sees it.

      4. Nina*

        Hey, I respect your strong feelings about this but I would really have appreciated a trigger warning, because now I get to relive past-job bullshit that I had successfully not thought about in nearly a year for… probably weeks?

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          You’re right. I apologise for omitting it. Unfortunately I can’t edit the comment to add one.

    2. MsM*

      Funders and community partners. Especially if this guy’s work puts him in direct contact with even more potentially vulnerable clients.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Honestly, that was my thought: The other org cleans up this mess or you make a public stink. Or maybe you make a stink, anyway.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      You are under-reacting here. (This is) a major legal issue.

      OP, if you keep an attorney on retainer, this is something to take up with them. Because your employee has a legal case. (In the US, and a lot of other places.) The attorney does not want this to be a late arriving exciting surprise.

      If you look at straight outcome, rather than your intent, removing her from the projects she was invested in looks like retaliation for reporting.

      1. Dek*

        Honestly, I’d say it doesn’t just “look like” retaliation–it IS retaliation. Even if OP doesn’t mean it like that. Employee lost projects because she reported her assault.

    4. CG*

      This! One of your employees was sexually assaulted by a partner org’s staffer while at work. It may help your thinking around this to use that framing when you discuss the issue – when you explain to the partner org why staffer is banned from interacting with anyone from your org, when you talk to the rest of your staff about how you’re addressing the workplace sexual assault, and when you talk to the lawyers/police if needed. Do not remove your staffer from any projects because she was sexually assaulted at work.

    5. sometimeswhy*

      So much. This.

      OP1 – You still have a chance to not be the supervisor who hamstrung her entire career because she trusted you enough to tell her she’d been assaulted. Take it, or you’re going to always be that guy to her and to everyone who’s watching how you handle this.

    6. Tiger Snake*

      LW#1; I know you’re not for profit, but you still need to start speaking to a lawyer about this. If nothing else, your partner agency needs a very scary letter so that their board sits up and starts shouting about how THIS SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED IN THE FIRST PLACE

    7. Kay*

      I know I’m very late to the game, but this is important enough that OP should hear just how many people agree with this comment.

  9. learnedthehardway*

    LW#2 – you would be surprised at how many candidates – despite being told differently in recruiter interviews – think that they can work remotely when they can’t, or whatever other thing you specifically put in the job description and discussed with them in the interviews. Selective hearing is definitely a thing.

    So is taking a job with every intention of not abiding by policies / provisions that were specifically outlined and agreed to during the hiring process. Case in point – your employee.

    This will be a lesson learned to everyone to make sure that the hiring manager DOES interview candidates – they certainly should be doing so.

    In the current situation, I would say that the employee should be told that this is a condition of their employment and is non-negotiable. If they are not willing to comply, they should be let go.

    1. Sloanicota*

      It clearly wasn’t emphasized enough in whatever happened. Just saying “oh, it’s in the job description” doesn’t seem like enough for something like recurring outside-of-business-hours work. I agree with your conclusion as to the outcome.

      1. I Have RBF*

        IMO, if a JD includes “on-call as required”, I assume that there will be on-call, and hope that the rotation has enough people in it so it isn’t every other week.

        If I’m not interviewed by anyone I would be working with or for, I would see that as a red flag. Your HR is bonkers.

    2. Jamie*

      Yes this – we had an employee who we looked in the face and said “this is three days a week in office”. She said OK! It’s in her hiring letter, it’s mentioned during onboarding, during orientation, etc etc. She still came to us a week later and quit saying “I thought this was WFH”.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        We hired someone and made it clear several times in the interview that everyone who was full-time worked two weekends a month. Everyone. Including supervisors. It was not negotiable. She assured us it was not a problem.

        As soon as she started, she wanted to bail on weekends because she didn’t feel like she’d been adequately warned.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Two weekends a month? That’s worse than most on-call I’ve had to work.

          Mind you, I have one weekend a month where I have to do patching at my current job. But it’s only three to five hours out of the entire weekend.

          I would not take a job that took half of my weekends away, an additional four days a month. I had a job once that was six ten hour days. That was bad enough, but I was paid hourly, and I’m still never doing that again.

    3. Not Totally Subclinical*

      A recent local news article on why the police department’s cadet training had so many fewer graduates than expected said that some candidates withdrew on realizing they couldn’t work from home. You’d think that it’s obvious that police officer is a job that can’t be done remotely, but apparently it’s not obvious to some people.

    4. Filosofickle*

      We’ll never know what actually happened but I’m inclined to land on this side — he was informed and ignored it or didn’t take it seriously. My interpretation is due to how he’s handling it — simply refusing to come to work until he’s fired isn’t displaying good judgement, maturity, or professionalism. That sounds like someone who blew off the requirement more than someone who’s in the right.

  10. Observer*

    #2 – Employee won’t take part in a rotation.

    You say that “Outside of regular layoffs, no one ever gets fired” And I ask “So what?” There is always a first time for any thing. And someone flat out refusing to do a part of their job – essentially thumbing his nose at you and saying “You can’t make me!” is the perfect first time.

    Also, if he’s called in sick for 2 weeks, you are at a point where you are approaching job abandonment, unless he brings in documentation of illness. I’m not a big fan of requiring doctor’s notes for a couple of days of absence, but some documentation is pretty standard by the time you get to this point. So look into that as well.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m always fascinated by these. “Sure, the new employee is refusing to do any work. And they have locked themselves in the copy room along with our entire supply of coffee, stripped naked, opened all the packets of toner and powdered creamer and sprinkled them everywhere, and are now rolling around on the floor and printers creating art. But we don’t fire people here.”

          1. Max*

            I mean, in that case, I suspect security might feel they’re not paid enough to escort out the naked person covered in toner and coffee creamer. ;)

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            On the news today in Ireland, it was reported that a guy who was not only fired from a teaching job, but is actually in jail for refusing to accept being fired and continuing to turn up anyway and stand outside the school, is still being paid his teacher’s salary. So yeah, such bureaucracies exist. Though admittedly, that is taxpayers’ money.

    1. JubJubtheIguana*

      He obviously wants to be fired. Insisting he leave in a way where he’s denied unemployment is just so petty of the company.

      I think some people are interpreting this as a power play so he gets excused doing the unpaid work, but I don’t get that sense. He clearly just doesn’t want to work somewhere toxic and as a new employee doesn’t have the boiled frog/broken step thing LW and the others are taking towards the expectation they do unpaid labour.

      1. Yellow sports car*

        It’s not necessarily unpaid labour. Many jobs wrap these requirements into the salary if it is something everyone does.

        My job requires some weekend work, travel, after hours meetings and overtime at crunch times. I’m salary – there’s no additional pay when I do that stuff. But I am definitely compensated for it in my base wage. A previous role had some staff on a shift with roster – if they wanted to match my hours around public holidays they had to either take leave or work longer hours other days. On the flip side they got paid more AND got more days off than I did.

        Still entirely reasonable to not do a job with an on call roster! And if he wasn’t told about it being part of base wages he may have been happy with the compensation for the other tasks and this tips things out of happy with the income.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, if it’s such a regular thing and is generally made clear before starting, I don’t actually see how it’s toxic (or unpaid)? I mean, on the other hand, if the employee would actually somehow manage to be exempt from the rotation but still receive the same compensation, it would actually begin to seem pretty unfair!

        2. watermelon fruitcake*

          Many jobs wrap these requirements into the salary if it is something everyone does.

          Interestingly, there’s no mention in the letter about salaries or PTO being commensurate to the on-call expectation, just that everybody hates doing it but does it anyway. Even if they are paid fairly (to the tune of >50% above market for an on-call rotation that amounts to 50% more available hours), there remains the question of if their roles meet OT exemption rules in the first place. And even if they do, in the matter of a a shitty but genuinely unavoidable duty, imho it’s better to reward compliance, than it is to penalize those who struggle with their employer owning all of their free time *6+ weeks a year*.

          1. amoeba*

            Not sure if I’m calculating wrong, but even if you count being on call at 100% (which they probably don’t because you aren’t working or required to be at work for the whole time) I get a maximum of 25% more hours?

            Like, one week out of 8 you work 24 instead of 8 h. So an extra two weeks of work, basically, or 25%.

            I do also think it makes a difference whether being on call means an average of one 20 min call a day, one call a week, or working through a whole night regularly!

      2. BRR*

        This is quite a leap. It’s also possible he wouldn’t even be eligible for unemployment depending on how new he is and the applicable laws.

      3. MicroManagered*

        It’s not “petty” of the company to not want to pay this guy unemployment. The tax rate employers pay is usually based on how many claims they have — there is a reason they don’t want to pay claims for just any ol’ reason.

        1. k.*

          It’s the cost of doing business. I’d actually use a much stronger word than “petty” for a company that apparently never fires anyone and tries to force employees to resign rather than taking responsibility for letting them go.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          “We want you to resign.”
          “I refuse. You’ll have to fire me.”
          * is completely stymied*
          * calls in sick forever*

          The company’s “or else” is apparently empty.

        3. watermelon fruitcake*

          In a practical sense, they’re losing more money paying a salary to somebody being wholly unproductive than they would be by way of tax penalties.

      4. Sloanicota*

        Right and he probably needs to collect a paycheck as long as possible. He probably is job searching. He doesn’t work to work this extra shift and now doesn’t think the salary offered is good enough to cover that kind of thing (fair). But he’s not going to quit himself and lose his income a second before he has to. Makes sense to me. The company should fire him if that’s what they want to do, the fact that they won’t is their failing, not his.

      5. Ginger Cat Lady*

        If he’s fired for refusing to actually do the job he was hired to do, I don’t think he qualifies for unemployment.
        I have a family member who was fired for cause (stealing from his employer) and he was not eligible for unemployment as a result.

      6. a trans person*

        1000% this. I strongly agree and I would feel exactly the same way, and the sheer malice people are reading into the employee’s actions AND NOT THE EMPLOYER’S are driving me absolutely up the wall.

    2. Antilles*

      You say that “Outside of regular layoffs, no one ever gets fired” And I ask “So what?” There is always a first time for any thing.
      Theoretically sure.
      But there’s a sadly high chance that his “nobody told me, I didn’t agree to this” argument and the uncertainty as to whether he knew would be surprisingly effective at keeping *this* from being the first time. If the company doesn’t want to fire him, well, you can always find a reason to do nothing.

    3. kiki*

      Yeah, I was going to say that never letting anyone go outside of layoffs is not a sustainable business practice, unless a business wants to keep folks on paid retainer to do nothing. Letting people go, especially “firing” them is unpleasant, but it is something that business have to do from time to time.

      This is not within the original realm of the question, but my eyebrows are raised at the fact there are regular layoffs at this company– that seems like an odd practice.

      1. Observer*

        , but my eyebrows are raised at the fact there are regular layoffs at this company– that seems like an odd practice.

        Yes, I noticed that, too. I was wondering if one of the reasons this happens is because it’s the only way to cull the people who need to be gotten rid of. If I’m right, this is going to come back to bite them eventually.

    4. BigLawEx*

      Oh…but I worked at a place like this. ‘We haven’t fired anyone in 30 years!’ So…no one got fired. People not turning up for weeks/months/years was a regular thing. It was so odd. It wasn’t even a family business.

  11. Umiel12*

    Re: LW3, I would be interested in knowing what kind of organization it is. I used to work at a substance-abuse treatment facility that did not allow any kind of mood-altering substances on the property, including caffeine. The vending machines only sold caffeine-free drinks, and there was no coffee allowed by patients or staff. That’s really the only type of setting I can think of where coffee wouldn’t be allowed, but the LW says they have a coffee machine in the break room. Apparently they have to drink all the coffee they make all at once? It’s odd.

    1. Boof*

      I’m getting hung up on the “leaving the coffee in the break room” part of it; is the problem that they aren’t supposed to leave coffee around in the break room, or that they aren’t allowed to carry drinks around with them… or both? I’m also puzzled at the juice/water is ok but coffee isn’t, and it seems like maybe it’s really something about what’s being carried around, or potentially spilled, or if someone thinks LW3 is taking too much coffee breaks…???

      1. GythaOgden*

        I spilt hot water from my pot noodle down my front and over my skin once while carrying it from one break room to another. My manager asked (not unkindly) if I could make it in the room where I was going to eat it because of the spill hazard with scalding hot liquids. She was a bit more of a micro-manager than some people I’ve worked under (and I’m clumsy as all get out; shortly after that at a convention I fell flat on my face while carrying pizza back to a hotel room without any kind of provocation other than my own faulty neurological wiring) but there is a sizeable risk here even if it might only happen once in a blue moon.

        It does seem wild, but it’s either to do with the specifics of the workplace that OP has omitted (perhaps in order to get us all up in arms at what they perceive as an injustice but might be totally reasonable given where they work) or over-zealous management. The end result, however, is the same — if you want to work there, you do have to follow the rules and this isn’t something that would be my hill to die on.

      2. JubJubtheIguana*

        I used to work in a museum (on gallery, running around every minute) and our break room had a big pot of coffee. I couldn’t walk around a museum with a cup of coffee of course so I’d pop in to pour out a few sips of coffee whenever I passed the break room.

        It could also be cold brew or iced coffee.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m guessing it’s temperature and location dependent.
        • You can consume hot liquids in the break room, but you need to consume them or throw them out–no one wants to maneuver around a bunch of half-full mugs of coffee wondering if someone plans to come back for that.
        • You can carry cold liquids in a flask on the floor, but not hot.

        I was picturing a machine shop floor. Daycares also have this sort of division. If retail, it’s possible that there’s also an element of “drinking something with caffeine looks like you’re relaxing and shouldn’t be interrupted, while drinking water looks like you need to hydrate on the go.”

    2. allathian*

      I might get it, sort of, if the ban applied to carrying any hot beverages around, even if it seems unreasonable to me.

      I’ve heard of some offices where they ban any and all beverages outside the breakroom except water because they want to avoid spillages on their hypoallergenic noise-reducing carpets. These are also the offices that require employees to change shoes in the foyer or to wear plastic shoe covers.

      1. Gathering Moss*

        There’s also environments like medicine manufacturing, which I’ve worked in, where you can take water into certain areas, but nothing else, since we need to keep them clean and uncontaminated.

        1. LavaLamp (she/her)*

          Yes, I work in medical laundry. We aren’t supposed to have anything but water in the plant, and I’m not sure they even can have water in the surgical pack area. All the folks who work out there have lockers to keep their things.

      2. londonedit*

        I once worked for a company that moved into an incredibly smart brand-new set of offices, and to begin with the rule was no food at your desk and no drinks except water at your desk, because they were worried about people spilling things on the pristine surfaces and carpets. You were meant to sit and have your lunch or your hot drink in the kitchen area (which was, to be fair, extremely well-appointed with very posh coffee machines etc). This being Britain, however, the rule was relaxed fairly quickly because you can’t realistically expect people to sit in the kitchen every time they have a cup of tea at work (tea-drinking being an almost constant activity for many people – unlike many non-Brits think, we don’t have set times where we all sit down for tea. It’s just something you drink at any time of day).

        1. allathian*

          I’m in Finland, and we’re the champion coffee drinkers of the world, so I can relate.

          In the carpeted office I talked about, they had to allow people to bring coffee and other beverages to their desks in lidded mugs because they kept getting so much negative feedback for that rule in their employee satisfaction surveys. My friend works in an office like that, and in one employee satisfaction survey they had an open question, “If you could change one thing in your office environment, what would you change?” and the overwhelming majority, at least 90%, stated that they wanted to be able to drink coffee/tea/juice/etc. at their desks again. My friend does think that it’s ridiculous that they should have to use what amounts to sippy cups for adults, but at least she can drink coffee at her desk again. And her company gave each employee a rather cool looking, if branded, travel mug when they launched the new policy.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Re the well appointed break room, I am sympathetic to the company not wanting people to leave a bunch of half-drunk cups of coffee, half-eaten packets of snacks, pizza crusts, etc that people may or may not come back to. That’s not a pleasant environment in which to have your break. (And people who adapt to the norms of cleaning up after themselves will also adapt to the norm that apparently we just leave this stuff out on the tables and counters, and the cleaning crew deals with it overnight.)

    3. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, that would make all the difference. People are thinking regular office but it could be anything from retail to hospital to a facility like the local mental inpatient facility where people aren’t allowed to wear lanyards because of (unfortunate, but real) risk of strangulation by an angry patient.

      In any event management would ultimately be the final authority on it anyway but hiding the nature of the job is pretty useless for getting targeted advice.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I was thinking childcare. “Don’t carry hot drinks when there are three dozen toddlers charging around” is a very solid and reasonable rule. I used a lidded travel cup for tea in my own home when my children were small-small, and even then I felt kind of nervous about it.

        (that said, coffee is usually a lot cooler than tea, so I worried a lot less about coffee.)

        1. JustaTech*

          Yes on the kids-and-scalding hazard. There was a guy I volunteered with at a soup kitchen who was out for a few weeks because he was making coffee the Ethiopian way and his toddler knocked it over and it poured all down the adult’s legs. He ended up in the burn ward!

          But if you work in childcare I would think you would know the *reason* why you can’t have your coffee outside the break room.

          1. GythaOgden*

            IDK. Like with the person who wrote in about being fired for having alcohol in their vehicle last summer, the chances are that there may well be a reason but OP chooses to either ignore it or go malicious compliance and then got upset when their boss called them out on it. We’re not always strictly rational actors when it comes to things that we want to do even when there’s a good reason why not to — my husband lost his driving licence due to cancer-related seizures, and my mum, who drove him to a lot of appointments, allegedly suggested that he got back on the road despite being formally banned. I do know that when I sold stuff at auction on eBay she suggested she bid on my items to bump up the price despite that being against eBay’s TOS, never mind the law. She saw it as helping get me more money; she saw it as helping my husband stay independent; she didn’t think about the actual reasons behind the rules even if she might have been aware why shill bidding or driving while disqualified are such big deals to people. And this is someone who’s otherwise a really decent, law-abiding citizen (although not a terribly good driver because she gets distracted easily).

            In any event ‘is this legal’ questions tend to be short, to the point and generally revolve around this kind of petty thing. So I’m inclined to suggest OP doesn’t actually realise how important it may be to their boss that they keep hot drinks in the break room.

    4. Brain the Brian*

      I worked at an outdoor activities center once. We were only allowed to carry beverages that we would encourage guests to drink during physical activity — to maintain the image of athletic-minded staff for customers. Water, juice, and Gatorade were fine — but coffee and soda had to stay in our break room. Thankfully, breaks for the instructors / coaches were long enough between sessions to have coffee.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        On one of the sites I worked as a receptionist, we were issued company-branded transparent but dark bottles for whatever unprofessional beverage we happened to be drinking.

        For this situation, I wonder if one of this LW’s co-workers or other people in the workplace has a long term (temporary or permanent) medical reaction to the smell of coffee. I learned that I can’t be in the same room as anything that smelled like bell peppers when I was on chemo, and I know the smell of coffee is a common aggravating factor for pregnancy morning sickness.

        1. Dog momma*

          I have the same response for the odors of cooking meat since my surgery/ chemo. 2 yrs. Very annoying. Doc feels its permanent since its gone on so long. I’ll be seeing counselor this week to get to the bottom of this bc she is calling this an eating disorder. we had a phone conversation a couple weeks ago before I scheduled my appointment.

    5. Jam*

      It makes me think of a retail setting – when I worked in retail we could have a water bottle as long as we tucked it away out of sight. It sounds like the managers in this scenario are making a distinction between hot and cold beverages for whatever reason? Maybe it’s a safety thing or maybe it’s that they think a cold beverage is more of a “quick sip” and less likely to be obtrusive.

      Whatever about that part of it I have to say I’m on board with the manager saying that you can’t leave your cup of coffee in the breakroom and stop in to sip it all day. I just wouldn’t want some half drunk beverage sitting around, plus I might be wary of the potential for lots of little to’ing and fro’ing back and forth while the coffee is being drunk. It doesn’t seem totally heartless to say the coffee machine is for when you are having a longer break in the breakroom, even if that is inconsistent across beverage types.

      Which brings my mind back to retail. The shop I worked in shared a breakroom with our HQ office staff and it was always a point of tension that the office staff would borrow chairs out of there or eat all the snacks we had brought in for our fellow retail employees. I can imagine people getting annoyed if we were told we couldn’t bring coffee with us onto the sales floor while watching the desk staff casually sipping in their cubicles all day. Still, I don’t think it’s a big outrage.

  12. TheBunny*


    Get one of those Stanley mugs (or whatever you call it) that are all the rage now and convert to iced coffee. You’re drinking it through a straw in an opaque mug…I would bet no one will say a word.

  13. Goody*

    Regarding LW2 – is there any point at which this employee’s behavior could be considered a resignation on its own? Or job abandonment, or other similar official term? And that “I won’t resign; fire me” bit smacks of someone TRYING to get qualified for unemployment benefits.

    I’m making an inference based on available data that this person was hired ~8 weeks ago, which means he’s probably still in a probationary or trial period. If that’s the case, getting this resolved quickly might need to be a priority.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      To me, the “I won’t resign; fire me” smacks of calling someone’s bluff. Apparently the company doesn’t have an “or else.”

    2. Lea*

      Pretty sure when someone abandons a job you still have to terminate their employment? At least you do where I work

    3. a trans person*

      Why SHOULDN’T the employee get unemployment benefits? That is LITERALLY the least the company can do to make things right here.

  14. Gozer (She/Her)*

    1. As a woman in tech with far too many experiences of harassment under her belt I’m inclined to advise something involving cacti and colonoscopies. For the bloke of course.

    But, as an IT manager, I can’t expense for cacti and drain cleaners so here’s what I do for people who abuse my staff:

    That person/caller is forbidden from calling us. If their computer breaks someone else, preferably their boss, calls in.

    If a site visit is required that abuser isn’t permitted to be there. Again, I ask their manager takes over.

    The reason for asking that their boss takes over is to highlight just how serious a situation this is. It causes them a lot of inconvenience and time. And generally they work out that not having the abusive git on staff is cheaper than this song and dance routine.

    Draw clear boundaries. Stand by them. If possible make them inconvenient enough to cause their management to get itchy.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Also winning for taking the time and effort to make it the abuser’s boss’s problem. All sorts of things suddenly become addressable once management has been inconvenienced.

      2. k.*

        I’d reconsider this. The advice in the above comment is good, but I’m not thrilled to see this particular joke being made in a response to a letter about sexual assault.

  15. TokenJockNerd*

    LW1, not to pick on you but you’re kinda underreacting here. Your wife is right, but the time that the man who assaulted your employee should have been removed was 6 months ago. Not after you consulted your wife and an advice column.

    And “my employee won’t work with your employee” (who assaulted her!) is one of many ways that women are made out to be whiny babies for daring to have boundaries about things like bodily autonomy. Like. My good person, you are really, really, really downplaying and leaning into so much institutionalized misogyny. It made me viscerally cringe.

    You owe your employee an apology for that. You really do. In addition to scorching the earth where the MAN WHO ASSAULTED HER AND THE PEOPLE WHO ARE HARBORING HER are concerned. There’s no way she’s the only person he’s assaulted in the course of his work. She might be the only one who has said something that you know of, but if every other person is doing what you’re doing, there’s just this whole network of people protecting this man who won’t keep his mouth to himself.

    Make your network be better. Be the change.

    1. londonedit*

      Yep. This man is *kissing a co-worker on the lips without her consent* and she’s the one worrying whether she’s ‘led him on’? Come on now. It’s 2024. Can we please, at some point, move past the idea that women are responsible for men’s behaviour? This guy is a creep and he’s sexually assaulting a co-worker on a regular basis. He needs to be fired immediately.

    2. Kella*

      I think this is a *little* unfair to OP. OP doesn’t determine whether the offending employee is removed because he isn’t their employee. OP seems clear on the fact that their other female employees are not safe around him either and is trying to figure out how to keep them away from him. I think OP could have gone harder much sooner but it sounded to me like OP was not clear on what was in their power to do here, given that they can’t fire someone else’s employee.

      AND now that the OP has the information given by Alison’s great advice, OP has the ethical and legal responsibility to act immediately, and I agree, an apology is owed for not making this systemic change sooner.

    3. Oof*

      This this this this.

      We just changed schools for our daughter due to sexual and verbal harassment that admin refused to deal with. For the love of Pete won’t managers get with the program? Whole lifetimes of SA we live with and people still question if it’s a big deal that needs to be dealt with. YES IT’S A BIG DEAL THAT NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH.

    4. Tedious Cat*

      I agree with this.

      OP #1, you are approaching this wrong. You’re not some feudal knight protecting the helpless ladies out of chivalry; you are a 21st century boss who needs to make sure that all of your employees are free from harassment and able to perform the work they were hired to do.

    5. Tedious Cat*

      I agree with this.

      OP #1, you’re approaching this all wrong. You’re not some feudal lord locking the helpless ladies away for their own protection; you’re a 21st century boss who needs to make sure all your employees are able to do their work while free from harassment. This is the hill to die on.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      It’s also how women’s careers get curtailed–her opportunities get managed “for her protection” instead of his. Right now, she’s the one getting taken off of projects, not the j*rkwad who assaulted her. You can’t do anything directly about him but you can make it a pain for his employer to not do anything about him.

    7. Tea Time*

      Also, OP, assuming you are taking the advice here to heart, at some point spend some time with this question: why didn’t you believe your wife when she told you these things?

  16. Wry*

    I’m curious about how the employee in #2 has been allowed to call out sick for two weeks straight with no consequence. Isn’t there usually a limit on how many sick days you can take in a row before you need to submit a doctor’s note or transition to short-term leave? And he’s brand-new? And still being paid? This is bonkers. But then again, workplaces where “nobody gets fired” are usually bonkers.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Where I work, there is no doctor’s note requirement for calling out sick. I don’t want to drag my sick self out of bed and pay a $55 copay for a doctor to sign a piece of paper that I’m sick when I know I’m sick.

        1. RegBarclay*

          Yeah my employer doesn’t require a note until the fourth consecutive day out sick. I’d expect that at most employers there’s a time limit beyond which you need documentation. Possibly not at the “we never fire anyone” places though.

    2. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      At Old Job, there was a project manager who kept calling in sick for a few months. Eventually, of course, he was let go, but it looks like he may have kept drawing a salary, probably while working at an entirely different place.

  17. bamcheeks*

    I’m honestly confused what the question even is in #2. I work in the UK public sector, and in probation, after two weeks of calling in sick and a clear dispute about the nature of the role, we’d have called the employee and said, “We’ll pay you until the end of the month, but after that you don’t have a job. Your call whether it’s a resignation or a firing on file.”

    If it was a genuine mistake on our part that the expectations of the job hadn’t been made clear, and they’d tried to do the job well in every other way and worked with management to consider alternatives, we’d try and extend that notice period to maybe 2 months to give them (and us) as much time as possible to find something else. If they were a long-tenured employee and being on-call had suddenly become difficult for them, we probably would try find reasonable alternatives. But brand new employee, apparently not cooperating with management to find a solution? We reach a mutually agreeable separation, their call whether it’s a resignation or a firing.

    (Generally speaking, people prefer a resignation in the UK. I get the impression that it can make a difference to your ability to claim unemployment insurance in the US, but generally “resigned” is always better on your CV than fired, so if a job doesn’t work out you’re usually given the opportunity to resign.)

    I’m assuming that LW is NOT in a management role here and is asking so they can judge what their company actually does against recognised work norms, but, like, this is so clear cut! Even with European standards of worker protections, unions and public sector, this would be clear cut. If your company doesn’t deal with this swiftly, LW, then yeah, they extremely suck.

    1. bamcheeks*

      (Although I would also add that there is absolutely no way the rest of the team would know the specifics of the discussion between manager and employee. That part would be VERY confidential, and if your manager has shared that information with the rest of the team that’s very dodgy.)

    2. Dog momma*

      Resigned was always better in the US as well when I was working. However I’m retired and younger people in the workforce have a different attitude these days so it could be different, idk.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        If you look at it from his perspective, fired is the way to go. Resigning means no unemployment, and possibly the need to pay back PTO, since it sounds like he’s been there maybe two months, and probably hasn’t accrued two weeks of time off yet. Firing sets him up for unemployment to help with the gap between this and the next job. There’s no reason at all for him to list this job on his CV in the future, since a two-month gap is pretty unremarkable.Any reputational damage from getting fired would be minimal – and can be countered with explaining the bait-and-switch situation.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Would he get unemployment for being fired in this case? Refusing to do a clearly stated part of the job description wouldn’t generally qualify, in my understanding.

          Dog momma — I don’t think this is anything generational.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            I think it would depend a lot on the specifics, including where this is taking place. Where I am, he could file for unemployment, and if the former employer doesn’t contest he’d get it. If they did contest, he’d need to demonstrate that they didn’t tell him there was mandatory on call time, and that he can’t (rather than won’t) do on call time. It’s not a slam dunk by any means, but resigning takes it off the table entirely.

          2. Darren*

            It’s going to be a proof situation.

            Can they prove he knew this was a part of the job before it was sprung on him?

            If they didn’t from his point of view it’s a change in the work situation he agreed to initially.

            There is enough different about how he was hired than how people normally are that they aren’t going to be able to go with these other 7 people all knew it was part of their job description.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            I think it will depend on how clearly stated the clearly stated part is. Like if it says “occasional on call as needed” and that was presented as “maybe a couple of nights a year; most people don’t even do it.” Whereas if it said “on call weekends and overnights approximately one week out of eight, initial here to show you understand” then he doesn’t have much of a case.

        2. doreen*

          Resigning doesn’t necessarily mean no unemployment – in my state, if a person applies for unemployment and the employer doesn’t contest it, they will get the benefits. It’s not unheard of for someone to “resign” for recordkeeping purposes after the company has agreed not to contest unemployment.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Fired being better than Resigned is something relatively new and recent. My experience has always been that you don’t want the Scarlet F on your application when you’re job hunting, and unemployment barely pays you enough to live on the street anyway.

        The consensus here seems to be the exact opposite.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I wonder whether there’s been any change in the formal qualifications for unemployment or company’s willingness to contest it which has driven that change?

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          My tangential impression would be that a generation ago it would be normal in many companies to suggest someone resign so that they could honestly say they chose to resign and avoid the stigma of being fired. But also that the company was not then stymied about what to do if the person wouldn’t resign.

          Two related things that I think changed that:
          • A lot of lay-offs, in which 3-6 months’ severance was initially pretty normal. Such that people thinking of quitting for a better job would stall if they thought they might get laid off.

          “I was let go from ACME Corp” might once have had a crystal clear “But were you fired, or laid off?” line in perception, but that’s blurred after decades of examples like yesterday’s update about the terrible division-destroying manager who the company saw as a way to get head count down before layoffs.

          • In the wake of those changes, new workers didn’t think they were taking this job for 45 years and then a pension and so they would be loyal to the company and it would be loyal to them. They saw that not work out for the generation above them, and assume any job they take is for a few years and then they will be moving on–whether they quit with something lined up, are laid off, or something else.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            My thoughts were more along the lines that job hopping, due to salary or skills or whatever, has all but become required in some fields. When you have to change jobs every 3 years anyway, keeping up with all the whys becomes far more work than it ever had value for the employer.

            That said, I see the question in enough applications that it hasn’t fully gone away yet.

    3. Yellow sports car*

      I think the difference here is that it sounds like you’d try to work with them to sort out a best we can get while we all move on solution.

      My take from the letter is the company is saying – but we hired you, you have to do it. He’s saying – no this wasn’t communicated and I cannot be on call live with it or fire me. And they flip back to – it was in the fine print, you have to.

      Right now he has no reason to resign if that isn’t to his advantage. The company has said they won’t fire him – so what’s to lose?

      If he potentially has a legal standing for unfair dismissal or some other form of compensation (not saying he does – get legal advice from lawyers not random untrained people in the internet) then not resigning is probably smart.

      And then there’s the unlikely but possible option of coincidentally being sick and unable to come in. The company can likely ask for medical evidence for the extended leave if they want that – but it sings like they haven’t.

      1. Yellow sports car*

        Oops – nesting fail. This was a response to a sensible suggestion for how a company could manage a misunderstanding about job roles.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, what I’m confused about is why the company *wouldn’t* fire someone in this situation. Do they think they can force him to do the job? Is the cost of unemployment insurance so high? Are they in a jurisdiction where employment protections kick in on day 1 and the employee would have a strong legal case for suing them? Is the person in charge of this chronically incapable of making decisions? I’m just baffled.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think some divisions just become convinced that they cannot fire anyone. Sometimes a new broom comes in at the top and is like “Darryl takes off at 10 every morning to spend the day at the arcade? He’s fired” and the other employees crawl out from underneath their desks asking “Wait, they can fire Darryl? They could have fired Darryl at any time? I didn’t need to take on all his TPS reports because that was the only way they would get done?”

        2. Some Words*

          Because the company’s mindset is stuck in “we never fire anyone” mode.

          I’m truly baffled that any organization thinks this is a good idea. Way to hamstring an organization.

    4. Seashell*

      Others concluded that he wouldn’t list this job on his resume since he didn’t actually do it for any length of time, and he would rather be fired and collect unemployment. That seems likely to me.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I can see why the *individual* might behave that way– obviously he’d rather keep his salary as long as possible, and be able to get unemployment insurance, and even if it’s not as practical as that, I totally understand individuals getting into the “But I’m RIGHT and it’s NOT MY FAULT” frame of mind– it’s not usually a helpful way to approach work stuff, but it’s very normal and understandable.

        But from the employer’s side, I can’t see any good arguments for prolonging the misery! Cut your losses, let them collect unemployment, and chalk the loss up to “we need to improve our hiring practices”. Letting yourself get dragged into an ongoing dispute with an employee when you don’t have to is such an unforced error IMO.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean, we could take wagers on how long the company would take to go from “What if we just continue to pay him, he doesn’t come in, and all his regular work and also his on-call coverage is reassigned to the other employees?” to “We’ll fire him.”

          But I would guess it wasn’t within an hour of OP writing this letter.

          There are rare divisions where someone manages a few years of this behavior–but they need to have been there for a while, it’s usually not a first month on the job option.

    5. londonedit*

      Indeed – I don’t know about anywhere else, but here (I’m private sector but also UK) this is the entire point of the probation period. If the employer or employee realises it isn’t going to work out, they can terminate the agreement with two weeks’ notice on either side, no questions asked. I’d have thought this is the exact sort of situation that’s designed for – ‘It’s become clear that you’re not happy with the terms of the job as they are, you’ve been off sick for two weeks and you’re not willing to work the hours we need from someone in this role, so we’re giving you notice of termination of employment and will pay you for the next two weeks’. It’d be a no harm, no foul, ‘left by mutual consent’ (as they say in football management) thing.

  18. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, there’s really no “believes” here. It is an assault. Your employee was sexually assaulted.

    I don’t mean to criticise you here, because it sounds like you have limited power to deal with the situation and you are not responsible for the ridiculous reaction of the other organisation.

    But mediation? What are they even expecting the outcome to be? Mediation implies that two people disagree on something and they need to come to an agreement. What even would be the agreement here? That he undertakes not to assault any more of your staff? Like, that should be a given. And shouldn’t be an agreement between him and the person he assaulted anyway.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m pretty sure the agreement to be reached is that the victim of the assault apologizes for not understanding that he didn’t mean the action the way she interpreted it–it was supposed to be a compliment.

  19. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 Your wife is correct: that was assault and the abuser should be the only person penalised, not the victim.
    Mediation is an insult, an attempt by the other nonprofit to protect their employee from any meaningful consequences of his assault.

    You need to invest maximum capital in banning the other employee from any contact with your organisation and ensuring that your own employee retains all her projects. It is a basic minimum duty for you as a manager and for your org to protect her – and possibly other victims you don’t yet know about.

    #2 After 2 weeks this is job abandonment. You need first to get buyin from higher management and agree the procedure to terminate him unless he agrees to fulfilling his on-call and all other duties.
    Then you need to meet with him, document that being on-call is an essential part of his job and that you will fire him unless he returns to work and fulfills all his duties.
    If he claims to be sick, it sounds so dubious that in these particular circumstances you should require a doctor’s note plus an estimated return date.

    If he claims the on-call duties were not stated clearly before he started the job and you think this might indeed have been the case, you could offer say 4 weeks paid leave to find another job – and when interviewing for his replacement, state in the ad that on-call duties are non-negotiable and then at the offer stage verbally and in writing.

  20. NothappyinNY*

    Wow, so many times I read AAM and am shocked at what happens at other employers. I work for an accounting firm, which people here may think as less people oriented – although I disagree. LW1 – the kisser would have been walked out that day (assuming there is no disagreement as to what happened).

  21. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    Just ask what the BUSINESS PURPOSE is for the coffee rule. How does it promote profit or reduce costs?

    1. ClaireW*

      Loads of workplaces have rules that don’t “promote profit or reduce costs” – from not harassing your colleagues to not showing up to work naked etc etc… and even in this comment section there are plenty of workplaces that don’t allow you to carry coffee around for perfectly reasonable reasons – retail, childcare, healthcare, etc.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Those examples have obvious profit/cost alignment. Beyond what’s ethically right, I mean. Workplace harassment (including showing up naked) prevents lawsuits.

        It’s a valid question to ask. What purpose does the rule serve?

      2. I Have RBF*

        Actually, any safety rule is tied to costs. Workman’s comp, legal trouble and fines from OSHA are costs. So yes, they have a BUSINESS PURPOSE.

    2. ABC*

      I don’t understand your point here. This may not have anything to do with money, nor does it need to. “Not hot beverages” rules are very common in daycares and elder-care facilities, where the risk of a vulnerable person being seriously injured by a spilled beverage is higher.

      I don’t know if that’s the type of job we’re talking about, but demanding that the employer justify their rule on a profit/business basis to you is absolutely not the way for the LW to go.

      1. HonorBox*

        You’re right, but asking for clarification (not “what is the business purpose” but just clarification in general) about the rule is OK.

        It seems like there’s probably an issue about hot beverages, but there should be no harm in just asking for clarity on why something else is allowed in a closed container but not coffee. Any good boss is going to be able to simply state the reason.

        1. ABC*

          Sure, but I’d also say that asking the boss about the rule would have been a good first step before writing this letter.

      2. Dahlia*

        I think perhaps “VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles” is not a particularly serious account.

    3. Nancy*

      Many workplaces have rules for safety reasons. Like others have said, hot beverages may not be allowed do to potentially spilling on others. Labs don’t allow food and drink in lab space at all. Rules aren’t only about BUSINESS and profit.

      LW should just ask for clarification from her employer, who is the one that actually knows the reason.

  22. Yup*

    LW#1: I’m glad you wrote in for clarification, but for you and everyone in charge out there: Fighting sexual assault means believing women as well as not penalizing them for coming to you. It means using your power and position to call out the behaviour and demand it be taken care of.

    Please understand that when a woman comes to you and you respond by taking away her projects and putting other women at risk instead, it makes it really hard to speak up about sexual assault. It’s one reason women don’t “just report it”. So often the consequences for women are punitive.

    Be the person who is safe to come to and willing to push back and keep your workers safe. Thank you.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      Yep. If my employee informed me she’d been assaulted MULTIPLE TIMES at work and hesitated to report it for MONTHS, my first action would be making sure no one in my workplace ever had to be around the perpetrator again but my second action would be to seriously consider why she felt she couldn’t speak up sooner and how I can MY contribution to that.

  23. Hiring Mgr*

    #2 seems like an easy one – they don’t want to be there and you don’t want them there. Pull the trigger!!

  24. ijustworkhere*

    #2 I understand your concern about whether the employee was told of the job requirement, but at this point you have to consider the equity issues for the other people who are held responsible for doing the emergency coverage.

    I would sever the work relationship and allow them to collect unemployment. Sometimes that’s the best thing to do, and it’s why the employer pays the unemployment taxes to the state. I don’t know if you potentially have any other liability–that’s a question for an attorney. But the longer this goes on, the bigger problem you have.

    And next time put the requirement in the job advertisement and the offer letter.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Re your first paragraph, I think the company is failing to understand that this is an HR problem. (I suspect that they downplayed the undesirable on-call aspect, figuring he’d fall in line if he’d turned down other offers.) It’s not a problem where they can make the new employee do the job duties if they just say that firmly a bunch more times.

      1. Some Words*

        It’s a total ‘A said/B said’ situation with no way to truly resolve that piece of the puzzle. That being the case, there needs to be a meeting with HR to make sure in the future there’s no chance for ambiguity or confusion around this job requirement.

        LW, cut this guy loose and replace him. It’s obvious he’s refuses to work for you. Don’t contest his unemployment claim.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          A lot of companies would preemptively get around he-said/she-said via paperwork in which the new employee had put their initials next to a clear statement of the on-call expectations, that would hold up in court if the employee tried to claim no one told them. (And so the statement must be clear, not “other duties as assigned” which turns out to mean “can be fed to a dragon.”)

          1. Some Words*

            Good points. From my own experience I don’t recall ever having signed a document that reiterated the actual job description. I remember wage and job title. BUT, I’ve been with my current employer for a very long time.

            1. Albatross*

              I had to for my new job with a government agency. Three pages of everything from “must be able to tolerate outdoors environments without climate control” to “must be able to maintain positive working relationships with clients”. I don’t know if that’s because I’m being hired right now or because it’s with a government agency and their entire hiring process screams “designed to be legally non-discriminatory”.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    It sounds like your organization has some significant issues.

    The fact that it’s even a question as to whether or not the new hire was informed about the on-call requirements before being hired indicates that there are problems in your hiring process.

    Does the salary factor in the on-call time?
    Being salaried doesn’t prevent them from paying extra for on-call time.

    Outside of regular layoffs, no one ever gets fired

    That makes me worry that people who should be fired stick around.
    What would it take for someone to actually get fired?

    The fact that there has been no response to “I won’t resign; fire me” followed by two weeks of sick leave really suggests that your organization does errs on the side of doing nothing when faced with difficult situations. That’s bad.

  26. Eagle*

    LW 4 I wonder how your manager would react if the members of your team started asking her to reprioritize your work so you can redo the other teams work. Since I am redoing X and Y for the other team, I can do A and B, but not C for our team. You could all tell her you need to shed tasks to redo the other teams work since that is now a part of your job. Would it make sense for me to give up P or Q since I now regularly redo A and B for the other team? Now that you’ve all made it her problem to deal with, she has a choice to make: address it with the other team or figure out how to manage her teams work flow with this additional work.

  27. Guest*

    The marital status of either party in LW1 is moot – the guy assaulted LW’s staffer and charges need to be filed.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Let me gently push back here. Yes, there’s a potential legal case probably, *if OP’s employee wants to pursue that.* And before people come at me for saying that, there are lots of situations where judgement is at play in reporting situations to authorities – if your child slaps you, you could report them for assault, sure, but in most cases people don’t. If someone in your life steals from you, you absolutely have the right to report it, but you also have the option to not report it in most cases. Having been the victim of a crime, the legal system is brutal, and victims are absolutely dragged through hell along with everyone else – having gone through it once, I’m way less likely to ever report anything short of attempted murder ever again. Secondly, if OP’s employee thinks it was a misunderstanding and just wants this person to never bother them again, that’s that employee’s right.

    2. anywhere but here*

      Marital status doesn’t dictate whether or not something is assault, but I do think as far as getting other people to believe what happened wasn’t consensual, it is unfortunately information that sometimes helps the case. It should not be the case that people are more likely to believe an “attached” woman did not want the advances from someone who isn’t her partner, but sadly it is sometimes the case. (Other times, I think it can work the opposite direction where nasty people say “Oh she is just lying because she doesn’t want to face the consequences for cheating.” Which is disgusting.)

  28. Fluffy Fish*

    #3 I’m wondering if there’s a misunderstanding of what they’re telling you. Or I’m misunderstanding you.

    Is it that you cant have coffee or that you cant make coffee and leave it in the staff room to take sips of through the day.

    That sounds like youre making coffee and leaving it in a room you are not in. Then you go to where the coffee is a drink multiple times a day. And that would be a little outside the norms.

    If that’s the case, then you may ask for clarification about the rule.

    1. kiki*

      I think what happened is that LW tried to bring coffee out onto the work floor (not sure if they work retail, in a factory, a school– but the place where the work is done outside the break room). LW was told that they could not do that– drinks besides water or juice could only be consumed in the break room. To accommodate that, LW has kept their coffee in the breakroom and stopped back in there to drink it throughout the day. What most people do, it seems, is only drink coffee when they’re on break in the break room, but LW would like to drink their coffee at times other than their break. Management has now asked LW to stop going back and forth between their work area and the break room.

      If I were in LW’s shoes, I would ask for the “whys” at this point to see if there is a way both parties can get what they want– maybe LW can have cold coffee in a spill-proof flask.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Possibly – OP’s wording was a bit odd. I hope they come here to clarify because I don’t think we can give the best advice without a full understanding of the situation they are trying to describe.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m getting a sense of missing reasons, and that the rules would be evident with more details. Perhaps an innocuous omission as OP wanted to be anonymous.

      Half-consumed food and drink is normally considered “a mess” as soon as the person consuming it leaves, so I’m sympathetic to the idea that the company mandates that at the end of your break you dump any undrunk coffee and throw out the paper cup, throw out the muffin wrapper and the half you haven’t eaten yet, discard your pizza crusts, etc.

      1. kiki*

        I also think understanding the reasons for aspects of this policy would be beneficial here. I assumed the reason LW was told that they couldn’t leave their coffee in the breakroom was because coming back in for it throughout the day was taking them away from work too much, causing distractions, etc. If the issue is simply that people wonder if the coffee is finished and whether or not they should dump it out, perhaps a post-it note saying “LW’s coffee: not forgotten” could help.

        It would also help to know why coffee is not allowed on the floor– is it because it’s hot? Is it because it’s prone to being spilled?

  29. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

    LW 3- is the problem that coffee in a cup is very spill-able whereas water and juice come in bottles with a screw-on cap? In that case you can put your coffee in a screw-top thermos (something that won’t spill if knocked over, like a bottle of water). If the problem is a hot beverage, time to learn to like iced coffee!

  30. Cinn*

    In my opinion for LW1 the only “mediation” that could possibly be done is to discuss which employee at the other company should cover the projects that guy was running. And frankly I don’t see why that would need to be under the heading “mediation”. I would also make sure the phrases “sexual assault/harassment” (contxt applicable) are explicitly used in the communications about how to deal with this so that the other company understands just how seriously you’re taking it.

    As for LW2… This is why you read the job descriptions. I guess he’s got a note for being out sick for two weeks because otherwise that sounds like a disciplinary on its own.

  31. workfromhome*

    #3 Ask them what you can carry with you. Specifically, can you have flavored water not just plain water. If they say yes get it in an email just to be sure.
    Then put your coffee in a thermos or container that is not see through.
    If anyone asks what’s in the thermos tell them water. if they look inside and ask why its brown tell them its coffee flavored water flavored water is permitted :-)

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The intention may be to ban hot drinks/. So I’d ask about that and if that is the case, then ask whether you can carry iced coffee/tea with you.
      It may also be that they want only bottles with screwcaps – in which case decant iced coffee into one

  32. Jam Today*

    LW1 — I’m just here to add to the voices. Your employee was brave enough to come to you with something that was deeply upsetting and humiliating for her, and the net result is she lost everything she’s worked for.

    Why would anyone ever come to you for help again? Do you think this makes you a good leader? Are you trustworthy? Do you understand what is required to run a successful organization?

    You can’t fire that guy (who should have been fired on the spot) but you can withdraw all cooperation with that organization. Let that hang out there as a public statement.

  33. CheesePlease*

    OP#2 – I have been hired by HR and told the incorrect hours for my job. I was told that I would start at 7:30. In actuality, my manager gets in at 7:30 but I was expected to be in at 6am (manufacturing facility). This is a BIG DIFFERENCE but somehow they didn’t know what hours were expected of my position?? that multiple others also had??

    I wouldn’t be surprised HR missed this part. Or perhaps gave a vague “occasional overtime but it’s rare” type response

    1. Delta Delta*

      I sort of wonder this, as well. I wonder if HR knows there’s a need for 24 hour coverage but doesn’t necessarily know how the department structures it.

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

      I was thinking this too. Or that the HR agreed that he wouldn’t have to work the overtime, like it was voluntary or they said he could adjust his hours that week.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        He would have said that, rather than claiming he didn’t know about the on-call duties at all

  34. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’m with your wife. Why would you agree to penalize your team because some a-hole assaulted one of your employees? Reframe this when you’re talking to the head of the other organization. If the male employee punched one of your employees, you’d expect that he’d be taken off any joint projects, if not outright fired. The fact that it was a kiss is no different. And mediation isn’t warranted here. There’s not a disagreement that was caused by some miscommunication or misunderstanding where you can come to a solution by talking through it. He assaulted one of your team members and there’s no discussion that changes that.

    OP2 – The guy is going to have to be fired. As noted in the advice, it doesn’t have to be a difficult conversation. Simply tell the guy that this is part of the job, and while he didn’t apparently get the full information and you’re sorry for that, it is part of the job that is a requirement.

    Now having said all of that, I am wondering if there’s additional / different recourse because he’s called in sick for two weeks straight. What is your sick leave policy? If he hasn’t been there very long, does he have access to all his PTO/sick leave anyway? Has he just abandoned his position? That doesn’t necessarily change the fact that you’ll be moving on from him, but it may change the way in which you move forward and what your responsibilities are as far as unemployment, etc.

    1. Observer*

      If the male employee punched one of your employees, you’d expect that he’d be taken off any joint projects, if not outright fired.


      This is the heart of the problem.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Yes, sexual assault on women is too often regarded as a minor “misunderstanding” to be brushed over, in contrast to a punch on a male coworker which normally has serious consequences.

  35. Czhorat*

    I’m pretty much incandescent with rage for the poor employee in the first letter.

    The LW’s wife is correct – this IS sexual assault and the guy should be fired. If he isn’t, I agree with Alison that refusing to let him work on any projects with your company is the absolute bare minimum. I’d think this needs to be escalated to the other company, to be honest. Include someone a step higher up on the food chain, say that you never want to see this guy again, and say why. There can’t be a chance for the manager to just bury this.

  36. Ex-prof*

    LW 1– Also, please tell Jane that she did NOT do anything to “encourage” this assault. Because she didn’t.

  37. riverofmolecules*

    LW5: I work within workforce development (so the sector this organization is in). Yeah, workforce development organizations are not any better as employers for the most part. A lot of hypocrisy.

    1. urguncle*

      If anything (and this is not a slam on you), ironically, the longer workforce development professionals work in their sector, the less effective their help is. I’m thinking specifically of the campus career center where I went to undergrad, where they boasted lifetime membership to get career advice, help and coaching but repeated bad or outdated advice about how to dress for an interview, how to write a CV or cover letter etc etc etc the list is forever long.

  38. H.Regalis*

    Letter #1 – This is what I was worried was going to happen to me when a dude on another team was creepy to me, that I would end up being punished for what he did.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Honestly it does happen all the time :( I think it’s something we have to raise when we report, because I do think it’s a natural reaction “oh, I’ll take Judy off the X project then, that’ll cure it.” When it happened to me, I got reassigned to a less desirable shift and didn’t get to finish training (the trainer was the problem).

      1. ferrina*

        When it happened to one of my co-workers, she left the company and reported the assault on her last day. She knew the company would find a way to protect the perpetrator and punish her. Sure enough, when she reported it and the guy admitted to it, the company’s answer was to do nothing because she’d already left. The guy oversaw a small department that happened to be all female, and he was guaranteed to be in a position where he could easily do the same thing again. But the company took absolutely no precautions, because “he’s really sorry and we don’t want to mess up the guy’s career based on one mistake”
        Luckily the whisper network stepped up. The whole company found out within a month, and every other department refused to work with the guy. The CEO had no choice but to fire him.

        1. Observer*

          Luckily the whisper network stepped up. The whole company found out within a month, and every other department refused to work with the guy.

          That’s a good outcome! That’s not what I’m used to hear about whisper networks.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Yeah – that’s really the worst part of this particular situation – the female employee (WHO DID NOTHING WRONG) is having HER career affected.

  39. Sloanicota*

    OP#5 – I know it’s really tough, but I can tell from here that you are way to fixated on this specific job / organization. The only cure is to apply to like 50 other jobs, some of which sound better than this one. I understand how it happens but it’s a really bad mindset to be in when job searching that “this is my only chance.” You need to be able to push back if what they offer isn’t good enough! You need to believe that you have desirable skills to offer the right employer and they’d be lucky to have you. It’s not unlike dating in this way; it’s unappealing to have someone go on a first date with you and they are instantly fixated that you’re the only good thing that could ever happen to them.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I second this. I get why it seems like this is almost like a quarter of a bird in the hand and you merely need to concentrate here and figure out how to make it a whole bird. But it’s effectively still a bird in the bush, and you need to be checking all the other bushes.

    2. ferrina*

      I agree with the dating analogy. You can’t force a person or a company to be into you, not matter how much you want to them. And you can’t force a company or person to move at the pace you want them to move.

      OP needs to find a way to emotionally uninvest. It sounds like this is the first company in a long time that has shown any interest, and I get that it can be even harder to let this go. If OP is open to it, I recommend that they find a comfortable part-time volunteer or retail position so they have something to emotionally fall back on. This should be something that they’ll miss when they find their longer-term job, and something that they can say “at least I still get to do X!” when an employer doesn’t get back to them.

  40. Czhorat*

    For LW2 I do think it matters if the employee knew when he was hired; Ever job assumes “Other duties as assigned”, but there’s usually the assumption that they’re in line with the rest of the role and at the same hours. One week out of eight to be on 24 hour call IS a big change from what I assume is a standard 9-5 most of the time.

    I also wonder if this is an industry norm or if the company is using salaried employees to fill a role for which they should hire hourly staff.

    In either event, if it’s a responsibility he truly didn’t know about it could have affected his choice to take the job, how he negotiated salary, etc. It sounds to me like the whole thing was badly handled from the start.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d be interested in the mean/median/mode for extra hours worked during an on-call week. (There’s a difference between “reliably 1-5 hours” and “reliably 10-20 hours” and “usually 0, but once or twice a year there’s a crisis.”)

      1. Roland*

        Agreedb hours matter a lot but 0 can still be bad too. My last oncall rotation was “probably 0 per shift” but it still meant no hiking, no drinking, no activities where I wasn’t sure I’d notice my phone going off, toting a heavy laptop everywhere I went… People at work acted like it was nothing but it really frustrated me. The fact that it was 0 in some way made it worse because like, why did we even bother when we never got calls?

  41. CommanderBanana*

    This keeps him away from my employee, but also forces my employee to give up projects she has invested a lot of time and effort in.

    ^^ This? This is retaliation. I hope your employee consults with a lawyer and sues everyone involved into the ground. Forcing an employee to give up project because they were sexually assaulted is retaliation.

    1. Dek*

      For real, tho. I swear, I think this exact scenario is in the ethics in the workplace videos we have to watch. I had to go reread it again, because I can’t believe it’s been six months. I really hope the whole “telling the boss” thing is recent (as in, like. This week), because if she’s been being punished for months, that’s…hoo boy.

    2. DramaQ*

      Correct commander. Even if LW#1 does not consider it retaliation it doesn’t matter. Intent does not matter. What matters is the outcome which is the employee is being punished for coming forward and the assailant continues on without consequence. While LW1 cannot fire the guy they should be demanding HE be removed from all projects and if they try to put him on any now or in the future that project will be pulled.

      This idea that in order to protect the harassed we need to put them in a corner and hamper their career development needs to stop. It is an unconcious societal bias that puts responsibility for the harassment on the victim. Clearly she is a temptation for him and in the name of “safety” we need to remove her from his sight because he’s not responsible for controlling himself around her or any other woman.

      Nope. LW1 you need to listen to your wife and course correct FAST. Does your employer have an HR or legal department? You should consult with them on this.

  42. TX_Trucker*

    #2. We are a 24/7 operation and have a similar unpaid on call-schedule for managers. C-suite has a similar rotation also. We are super transparent about it during the interview process and none of our hires has ever been surprised. But if this information was ever “missed” and a new hire claimed they didn’t know, and refused the schedule, we would fire the person. My company does not like to terminate employees, but we absolutely would in this case. Trying to accommodate their request would alienate all my existing employees who participate in the schedule.

      1. ferrina*

        You still need to let the person go. You can’t have someone on the team that is unable or unwilling to do a core function of that team.

        Ideally, you’d be able to find another role for this person at the company, because it really sucks for the new hire. And the HR person that hired without talking to the hiring manager needs some SERIOUS words. But it’s not tenable to keep the person on the team.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, that’s reasonable.

          Sometimes there’s no way to make everyone whole. In this case the fault belongs entirely to the HR team member who didn’t make the requirement clear (assuming that’s actually what happened).

      2. bamcheeks*

        In my sector and country, it would be, “sincere apology, come to a mutually agreement on length of notice and reason for leaving”. It would obviously suck for the employee if they’d handed in notice on another job or made a significant move across country or anything like that, and if it was our mistake, we’d do our best to recognise that and stretch the notice period to six weeks or two months or something. If it was larger organisation and a non-specialised role, we might try and look at other opportunities within the organisation. But that’s all kind of optional, trying-to-be-decent stuff– even if it’s company error, that doesn’t create an obligation to continue to employ them!

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        If the employee missed this info in the job description, or wasn’t listening to a verbal description of duties, that’s their own fault.
        If HR cocked up and it genuinely was never written or mentioned, then in fairness he deserves a few weeks paid leave to job hunt.

        btw, I wonder if he did read it, but thought he could dodge being on-call, like some people who really want remote jobs and plan just not coming into the office.
        Such employees gamble they won’t be sacked if they have skills that are in demand – and that strategy can work, but usually not if it means coworkers have to take on the bits of their job they don’t like.

  43. Student*

    OP #1: I went through something similar. A guy employed by a different org sexually harassed me during our joint project. In my case, he claimed I had been a stripper (incorrectly and without evidence) to distract a room of people from his microwaving of a fish during lunch (…yes, really), then he started verbally fantasizing about how he thought my (non-existent…) bachelorette party went.

    I complained to my project management chain. They required me to have an escort whenever I worked with him going forward. This escort was also my project manager, a burden to organize, because of course I had to figure all the details out myself, he was basically dead weight on the project in terms of completing any work, and he was not particularly happy about it, so he was also an absolute pill to be around. It was more of a punishment for me than for the sexual harasser, and did not make me “feel safer” in any way.

    My management chain also reached out to the sexual harasser’s management chain. The complaint got referred to the sexual harasser’s HR group. Which referred it to the sexual harasser’s wife, a member of their HR team. Who promptly killed the complaint. How do I know? The sexual harasser made sure to brag about this to me the next time we worked together.

    Later on, as icing on the shit cake, this sexual harasser was trying to submit dangerously negligent/fraudulent results to our client on our joint client. He wrote bad code, came up with garbage results, and was putting it in our joint report – on a national security subject that could impact people’s lives. I came up with the most diplomatic script I could to tell him that we can’t submit those results, and offered a fix. He… actually agreed to me because I made it so plain that the results were not going to pass the smell test with anybody (think an obvious math error that was off by a factor of 100). And he agreed to go try to fix his bad code and the bad results. Which sounds like a great result! But then my project manager pulled me aside to give me a heated lecture on how I cannot be so rude to… the guy who sexually harassed me… by telling him we can’t submit fraudulently incorrect results; in his view, I was the one who needed to work on my manners.

    Never forgave that project manager. Dislike the sexual harasser and try to avoid him – but I absolutely loathe the project manager for how he handled all of this. Why? The sexual harasser was never on “my” team. He was a bag of dicks and I never expected any more than that. The project manager and I were supposed to have each other’s backs, though. We’re supposed to be on the same team trying to achieve the same results for our company; I was so disappointed in him precisely because I expected better from him.

    1. Czhorat*

      OUCH. I’m SO sorry you went through that, and even more sorry that we live in a world in which it’s depressingly frequent an occurance.

      The rest of us REALLY need to do better in holding the correct people responsible (that would be the harassers, not the victims)

  44. HannahS*

    OP1, you’ve done well in understanding that your colleague is not at fault, and for protecting your other employees from this man. I think that if you were cornered by a married male colleague who forced you to kiss him, you would consider it assault, even if you previously thought that you were friends. So start calling it what it is, which is assault.

    You are correct that there is no middle ground–hold firm! You should tell the manager of the other organization that their employee assaulted yours, so of course no one from your organization will work with him. There is no middle ground, and no mediation will take place. The project will be on hold until they assign someone else. You may want to loop in your own bosses/the board/whoever funds the project so that they understand what’s going on–from a political perspective, you want to be the first to tell them, rather than the other organization.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      And even if you tried to push him off with less direct “Oh look is that a rabbit in the foyer?!!!!” rather than state “No. And it is gross to ask. And waiting until I’m alone with you is threatening.”

      There’s a very resonant scene in Barbie shortly after they arrive in LA, where Barbie feels like there’s a lot of attention on her, and that attention feels like it carries a physical threat, while Ken feels like the attention on him is just complimentary and completely devoid of any physical threat.

      1. bamcheeks*

        That was honestly one of my favourite parts of the film and I’m surprised it hasn’t got more attention! I absolutely remember having that feeling fleetingly at around 9 or 10– exactly my daughter’s age — and immediately thinking, “what? that makes no sense?” and then getting a few years older and recognising what it was. Such a powerful moment.

      2. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Exactly. That’s why (some) men can’t understand why women don’t consider catcalling to be a compliment. They think, “if a woman did that to me, I’d be flattered.” Of course he would; because he’s a man and most likely bigger and stronger than the average woman, so he doesn’t have to worry about her attacking him if she doesn’t like the way he responded.

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          It’s not just about personal safety, though I agree that is certainly part of it.

          Expecting men and women to view attention from the opposite sex in the same manner is like expecting a fish and a camel to view water in the same manner.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, the immediate possibility of physical harm is the tip of the iceberg–there is an entire history and socialization behind being catcalled/other public attention that is wildly, wildly, different for men and women.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        For any man in your life who don’t understand why women feel threatened by catcalls or unwanted kissing …..
        ask him how he would feel if this happened to him in a prison
        That’s the only way I can think of to make him empathise with the feeling of vulnerability and being physically weaker

        1. Tea Time*

          And it’s not just the feeling of physical vulnerability. This is the only way to get some men to really imagine someone having the nerve to do this to them, and also to imagine that the sexual attention is not just “unwanted” but revolting.

  45. Hiring Mgr*

    The only thing I’m confused about on #3 is why OP (apparently) hasn’t asked anyone in charge at their office what the coffee rule is all about? They might be able to clear things up for you in mere minutes

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

      I wonder if they work at a school? I remember hearing something on social media where this school wouldn’t allow coffee outside of the teacher lounge. Teachers could have water at their desks but something about coffee and teaching looked unprofessional?

      1. daffodil*

        this seems like a reasonable explanation, but in what universe is coffee unprofessional? People are wild.

  46. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 5 – I used to work for one such organization before making a career change. Here are a few things I’d keep in mind:

    -The caseworkers often have case loads of dozens or hundreds and often lead workshops, teach classes, or work at different sites. So they are sometimes not able to spend as much time with clients as they know they should and would like to.

    -The caseworkers prioritize the high-need, low-functioning clients. You are an educated, high-functioning person just trying to get back in the job market, but these organizations also work with people with intellectual disabilities, substance abuse disorders, criminal backgrounds, etc. When I was in this space, it was very easy to think, “Oh, that person is fine–they just need some resources but they don’t need as much hand-holding. Todd, on the other hand, just violated parole and his girlfriend is having twins and he keeps saying that if he doesn’t have a paycheck by Friday they’ll all be homeless, so I need to dedicate more time to him.”

    What you can do is meet with the caseworker 1:1 to discuss what’s going on with the delays and to ask if there are any ways that you can adjust how you approach your job search. However, I think a big mistake people make is thinking these organizations can guarantee you’ll get a job within a shorter amount of time. If there are delays in the job market, there’s not a lot they can do, unfortunately.

  47. Jack McCullough*

    LW1: 1. the other organization needs to fire that guy.
    2. The LW’s organization must tell the other organization that the guy is not allowed to work on or be present at any event that the LW’s organization is involved with.

    LW2: It’s always worth exploring whether someone who is salaried is really in an exempt position.

    LW3: WTFF?

  48. DramaQ*

    LW # I agree with your wife. You need to fire back with all cannons blazing that this employee assaulted one of your employees. There will be no mediation and your organization from now on refuses to participate in any projects said employee is on.

    The fact that you took your employee off everything can be see as retaliation. It doesn’t matter that your thoughts are you are protecting her. You have taken away projects she has invested a lot of time and professional development in because SHE was assaulted. There have been no consequences for her assailant. You are making sure that everyone who works for you knows that if they report sexual harassment their career development will be hindered while the harasser walks free. She’s got a case against BOTH of you if she chooses to pursue it.

    There is absolutely nothing to mediate on. He kissed her against her will. There is no misinterpretation or way to settle this for both parties. You cannot control that they choose not to terminate him but you CAN make the fact they refuse to hurt. If you make it hurt enough they might reconsider if he’s worth keeping on. By just removing Jane and making sure no women are alone with him you send the message to him and his employer they can get away with this type of behavior.

  49. Grace*

    Has anyone had the issue that when they are on this website, they very suddenly get redirected to a spam website? It keeps happening to me!

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, that sometimes happens to me. I exit out and am able to return to AAM. It doesn’t happen when I’m on any other site.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      I’ve never had that happen, but it’s very easy to accidentally click on one of the many ads and get zoomed away…

      If that’s not the case, you should try clearing your cache and cookies. That usually takes care of a lot of browser-based issues.

  50. ZSD*

    Alison, for #1, I would suggest removing the word “remote” to avoid confusion, since the events being remote isn’t crucial to the situation. I eventually realize they meant the participants were remote, but the presenters were in-person, but I spent a moment trying to figure out how this guy kissed the woman over Zoom.

  51. jane's nemesis*

    Dude, it really bugs me that LW1’s wife had to tell them it was assault and not okay to remove their employee from the events. Like, that’s not something they could figure out without their wife’s perspective? I know we’re supposed to be kind to letter writers and not pile on, so I’ll suggest constructively: LW1, could you please have a good think about why you had to be *told* that forced sexual contact was assault?

    1. Dek*

      Honestly, it bothers me a lot too, and it shows LW something that they should really examine about themselves and their biases to work toward improving.

      “My wife believes that the unwanted and non-consented kissing is assault.”

      The phrasing here made me pretty uncomfortable. LW may mean well, but the phrasing implies that they don’t believe believe that unwanted, non-consensual kissing (on the MOUTH!) is assault or that the assaulter should be removed from projects for his bad actions. Especially since they’re coming here to outsource another opinion. It’s bonkers to me that after someone points out that hey, she was assaulted by someone, and then lost her opportunities that LW would still need to check with the Faceless Internet to be sure.

      1. I Have RBF*


        His wife doesn’t “believe” it was assault, she knows it was assault.

        The other company’s employee assaulted your employee, and as a response you punished her by taking away her projects! If your employee had been a male who was punched by another company’s employee, would you have done the same? If not, congratulations, you have just exposed institutional sexism in your own self!

  52. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    #2 is easy. “You’re fired”. No other real choice.

    Refusing to perform a core function of his job? As a salaried worker? It doesn’t matter if he was explicitly told the detailed informed coming in. It was communicated in the job description. If he didn’t read it sufficiently? That’s on him. Then to call in sick every day for 2 weeks? He’s committing point-blank insubordination, and if you don’t fire him *immediately* you risk communicating to everyone else in the company that his behavior is acceptable. No severance. No nothing. Term him immediately and be done with it.

  53. Sunflower*

    #2 Fire him. Even if that is not in the job description, jobs get changed and updated all the time. And what kind of business does not require a doctors note for being out for two weeks? Fire him for that if you won’t fire him for not doing his job, unless he has a doctor’s note.

    3-4 sick days? Ok, I can let that go for an established employee who have a good track record, but even a long time employee should have a doctors note to clear them to work for two freaking weeks. To cover your company’s butt that they have a record of an “all clear” if nothing else.

    1. Petty_Boop*

      “ven if that is not in the job description, jobs get changed and updated all the time.”

      Point of clarification: It WAS in the job description. The OP does not know if it was actually discussed during the interview/hiring process or not.

  54. Jellyfish Catcher*

    You are failing all of your employees, by not supporting one of them.
    First, YOUR employee was sexually assaulted and you didn’t even recognize that. Your wife had to tell you!
    Second, You needed to immediately support your assaulted employee, with whatever counseling she needed as well as time to report the sexual assault to the police, if she decided to do that.
    Third, you took HER off shared projects, demeaning her role in your company and removing her ability to learn further skills and build her resume.
    Fourth, you were not proactive in dealing with the other company – who wanted f-ing “mediation.” I assume that meant they wanted you to brush off the whole incident.
    The only thing to mediate with them, was how fast they will fire that employee, because none of your employees of either gender would be showing up while he is still there.
    I assume (no expert in this area) that only sending men over there, and/or removing the assault victim from duties and/or continuing to send staff to that organization could create liability for your company.
    Fifth: you need to take training (and do additional reading) to educate yourself regarding sexual harassment, assault, etc and how to respond to it, as a manager. That will give you education and confidence in that area.
    LAST, you seem like a good guy who wants to do the right response, so thank you for having the courage to
    see that you needed additional knowledge and for writing AAM and reading all the replies. Take care.

  55. CTA*

    LW #3

    I curious about where you work.

    For example, I used to work at a research library and employees were allowed to have water in a container with a lid. We had freelancers helping with cataloguing and they worked directly in the stacks. They were allowed water. Even though there’s risk of water damage for a spilled water container, it wouldn’t be as bad as spilled coffee. It was actually a point of contention for one of our freelancers to not have coffee while she worked in the stacks.

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

      I thought something along those lines too, but it sounds like water and juice is allowed, just not coffee. I think juice would be have a similar problem to coffee.

  56. Karma is my boyfriend*

    I would like to make it clear to OP #1’s employee that she did nothing wrong! She’s worried she led him on but, no, being a nice person is not reason to believe someone should misread this as “oh, we want each other sexually!” or, “oh they are nice so they must want me sexually, so I better be mean so they don’t get confused!”

    This is akin to “what were you wearing?” after you’ve been assaulted. None of it matters.


    1. ThatOtherClare*

      Yes, this is important to note! To build further on the comment above:

      Firstly, she wasn’t leading him on. At all.

      Secondly, even if she was, (which she wasn’t), the only appropriate response to someone ‘leading you on’ is to say something along the lines of: “Hey, did I notice you flirting with me earlier? Are you interested in getting a drink with me some time?”, not to jump straight to kissing them on the lips! Even if she’d been rampantly flirting with him every spare moment, she still didn’t ask for this.

  57. Dancing Otter*

    Re letter 2:
    Two weeks? I didn’t get that much time off for a hysterectomy! Unless he has proof of serious illness, doesn’t that constitute job abandonment?
    Is he going to go on sick strike every time he doesn’t like what you tell him to do?
    Fire him now, or you’ll need to fire him later.

  58. Person from the Resume*

    LW1, you are trying, but you did wrong.

    You can’t make the other org do anything (like fire the person who assaulted someone at a work event), but you can refuse to have anyone from your org work with the man who assaulted your employee. Not just that one employee who was assaulted but everyone. They can keep him on, but your org will not interact with him. That way your employee who was assaulted does not lose opportunities because she was attacked.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I like Gozer’s example upthread of doing everything you can to make this inconvenient for the manager of the assaulter. Refuse to help with projects where they send the assaulter, and make it clear that you will be telling anyone who asks what exactly is going on.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I saw that (now), and I agree. My thoughts were similar. The organization who employees the assaulter can choose not to fire the assaulter, but the LW can make it inconvenient for them to continue to employee him. The damage should be to the assaulter’s opportunities not the person/woman who was assaulted.

  59. I used to work for the unemployment office*

    The amount of people on this post (and other similar ones, TBH) who don’t understand how unemployment works always baffles me. Typically someone is only eligible for unemployment if they lose their job due to no fault of their own. If the person was fired for cause (like refusing a required work duty), they would not be eligible. If a person quits/resigns, they’re not eligible. Of course, many people who aren’t eligible file anyway, and unless their employer contests it, they may receive unemployment. But generally speaking in the situation in letter#2, that person is unlikely to be eligible.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This all depends on whether the required work duty (of the sort that many people won’t do without a lot of extra compensation) was clear or not, and who can prove that–it sounds like for the existing team it was made clear during hiring, but as this person came in via a different path it’s conceivable to OP that, while the paperwork says “occasional on-call coverage” that might have been glossed over.

      Of course, if he’s not eligible for unemployment, all the more reason to refuse to quit, call in sick, and get paid for as many weeks or months as the company is willing to pay him to do no work.

      1. Friendo*

        I don’t know, I feel like something being on the job posting is going to make it pretty easy for the company to argue it was pretty clear.

      2. Leenie*

        Calling in for weeks in a row would probably make him ineligible, if he was eligible in the first place. He’s destroyed any chance he had of collecting due to misrepresentation by the company (which, admittedly, would likely be a tough sell anyway). Of course, that assumes that this company actually fires him. Right now, it looks like he can keep on calling in for forever.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          As much as he’s hypothetically doing the wrong thing, and AAM et al would advise him of this if he wrote in, in practice this is working out gangbusters for him.

      3. DramaQ*

        It depends. In the state of Nebraska you can collect if you are fired IF the employer doesn’t contest it. If they contest it and provide that you were fired for cause you have a black out period of 3 months before you can apply again.

        You never know which ones will and which ones won’t till you apply.

        An employer here absolutely can agree to not contest UE in exchange for getting someone to go away quietly.

        Same with quitting. You aren’t supposed to be able to collect at all but the employer has to back up that you quit.

        1. I used to work for the unemployment office*

          Right, like I said, “Of course, many people who aren’t eligible file anyway, and unless their employer contests it, they may receive unemployment.”

          The number of employers who *don’t* contest ineligible unemployment claims also baffles me, but not my circus, not my monkeys.

      1. I used to work for the unemployment office**

        It’s pretty standard across the US. Obviously, it may be different in other countries, but since this is a US-centric blog, I’m referencing US-centric rules for unemployment.

        1. Kel*

          A ton of people write in from all over the world to Alison. I wouldn’t assume people ‘don’t understand unemployment’ when the US isn’t the standard. That’s some american exceptionalism.

          1. I used to work for the unemployment office*

            Alison is in the US. She frequently references US law. If the LW is not in the US, they often mention that, because again, this is a US-centric blog. That’s not American exceptionalism, that’s just…. reading the room. Good Lord.

            1. Kel*

              I think it’s fair for me to take exception to you saying you’re baffled by everyone in the comments not knowing how EI works, that’s all. Anyway.

              1. I used to work for the unemployment office*

                I never said “everyone”, I said the amount of people. If you’re going to take exception to something, please ensure it was actually something I said, not something you made up to be offended about.

    2. OMG It's 2024*

      That’s what I was thinking! Also, if he’s only been there a couple weeks, and has called in every day, he prolly doesn’t meet the “minimum work period” either. My brother has been on UE a few times and a couple other times he didn’t qualify because he hadn’t been at that employer long enough (it was either he had to be there a certain amount of time, or had to have worked a minimum number of hours, can’t remember).

  60. anywhere but here*

    LW1, you should be prepared to support the employee if she decides she wants to take legal action against the man who assaulted her. Forced or nonconsensual sexual contact is a crime. Furthermore, as an employee, she has the right to a workplace free from sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination as well as protection against retaliation. I hope that man faces legal consequences (not just employment ones) although I understand if the employee would rather move on and put it behind her. Also, do all you can to make it clear to her that she didn’t bring it on herself and it is not her fault for being friendly. If someone wrongly assumes consent based on nonverbal or implicit cues, the onus is entirely on him. The only way she would have “brought it upon herself” would be if she said, “Kiss me,” which she very obviously did not.

  61. I have opinions...*

    LW1 – Thinking about how I’d handle finding out my employee if this happened, and could be reasonably verified (as it doesn’t sound like the offending guy is denying it). I’d probably see if the victim of this was willing to help me understand what happened (or someone else, who can let me know) so I could try to get a feel for if this was a case of a horribly bad read of the situation, or something even more aggressive than that.

    At the very least, he’d be off any collaborative projects. If that means he can’t do his job, then I guess he’s out. Suspended as well. Firing beyond that would depend on what I was able to learn. Either way, this sort of thing cannot be tolerated, and I’d be hard pressed to be convinced to keep him on staff.

    1. I have opinions...*

      I’ll add, if I had done something like this from a place of horribly misreading the situation, and did NOT get fired, I’d probably resign in disgrace and embarrassment anyway. How do you just put that behind you as if you never did it?

      1. bamcheeks*

        so, I think this is a really big thing about how a lot of men think and talk about sexual harrassment, which is that they fundamentally do not see a difference between “there were zero consequences” and “there were zero consequences FOR ME”. Behaviour ranging from “hitting on a scheduling bot with a female name” to full-on assault all falls under the category of “zero risk, no consequences, why not” because they fundamentally do not recognise “making another person feel shit” as a consequence.

      2. Rainy*

        Assaulting someone at work is not a “horrible misreading of the situation,” it’s a choice that the assaulter makes because they don’t think of the body they’re assaulting as being a person. As bamcheeks says, people who do this don’t care if they make someone feel bad, or even if they injure that person, because their only concern is for themselves.

    2. DramaQ*

      How on earth can you misread kissing someone against their will?!

      If I had a manager approach me with that I would be getting a lawyer so fast their head would spin.

      That is like asking me what I was wearing? It’s all a big misunderstanding Jim just thought you were so good looking in that skirt he couldn’t help himself. Maybe try wearing pants next time so you don’t send mixed signals?

      This is a very sexist way of looking at things. It’s insulting to the victim and it’s insulting to presume that men cannot grasp the very basic concept of don’t touch people if it isn’t wanted. Period.

      What LW1 has done to date is retaliation against his employee whether he intended it to be or not. She reported what happened and now SHE has been pulled off projects and that is impacting HER career. Meanwhile his employer is trying to sweep it all under the rug.

      And even worse they are trying to force her into mediation which we all know is going to be trying to get her to admit she didn’t say no or something so really it’s all her fault and she doesn’t want to press charges and ruin a man’s career over a simple misinterpretation of events does she?

      LW1 needs to use their capital as a manager to get this man removed from all projects. Period. It would be even better if his organization refused to do business with the offending employer from now on but that is likely not his decision.

      Protecting sexual harassment/assault victims does not mean isolating that person and hindering their career. It’s making the offender pay the consequences for their actions.

      LW1 owes his employee a HUGE apology and he needs to do what is right. Otherwise he’s going to find himself losing not only this employee but probably a lot of other ones since they now know how the organization treats harassment issues. It’s not just a male employee kissing a female employee that constitutes workplace harassment. I wouldn’t trust them to handle any harassment claims and if I find myself harassed GTFO before I can be penalized for existing.

    3. Dek*

      “I’d probably see if the victim of this was willing to help me understand what happened (or someone else, who can let me know) so I could try to get a feel for if this was a case of a horribly bad read of the situation, or something even more aggressive than that.”

      oof. I dunno, there’s not really a lot TO understand here, so this comes off more like the whole “but surely something MUST have happened to ‘make’ him behave that way…”

      Like soft victim blaming with extra steps.

  62. Jiminy Cricket*

    No one at LW1’s organization should work with anyone at the offending organization (if this is at all feasible) until they demonstrate they can be a good partner who does not tolerate sexual harassment or assault.

    If I were an employee at LW1’s org and they said, “You have to go work with the assaulter and the people who tolerate assault in Jane’s place” … yeah, never. Ever.

  63. P*

    Regarding letter #1: HR people, help me understand the current trend of offering/requiring mediation at work. I’m doing my best to try to put myself in the place of HR, trying to understand why that route would be on the table at all (especially in situations like this but in others too when there truly is an objective wrong). Is there some kind of resource that started the trend and it’s just a bandwagon? Does it come from some kind of literature in which it makes sense to do mediation and it has just gotten misapplied? What are the outcomes really hoped to be, especially long term?

    1. P*

      another question: is it the kind of thing where it has one public rationale for being used and a different private rationale (maybe it is a mechanism to shift liability away from the employer?)

    2. Kel*

      100% it’s being done as a way to make sure there’s no litigation and HR can be like ‘well, we tried.’ It’s a ‘this way no one’s feelings are hurt!!!’ methodology where in many cases someone should be having consequences.

    3. Anoymous*

      It’s a more general cultural trend of people with responsibility abdicating that responsibility by both-sides-ing things.

      This is happening in my daughter’s teen dance company. There is a trio of rich, mean, popular girls, plus some hangers-on, who are going full-bore with building social capital by being nasty to someone with less popularity. And my daughter is their current target. What’s even grosser, the moms are involved. I was privy to a conversation I wasn’t supposed to be privy to, in which a mean girl’s mom, talking to another mom, trashed my daughter and basically said “if she knows she’s not wanted, why doesn’t she just leave?” (Irrelevant but adding to the frustration: the mean girls are mediocre dancers, while my daughter is genuinely talented.)

      The artistic director knows all of this, is very sympathetic towards me and my daughter, but her official stance is to both-sides it and tell the girls to work it out, with or without mediation. It makes me want to sentence her to 1,000 hours of reading Ask A Manager.

      Sorry. My issues. We now return to regularly scheduled programming.

    4. Cheshire Cat*

      Not sure what you mean by “when there truly is an objective wrong”? Sexual assault is always objectively wrong, period.

      If you have trouble with that concept, imagine that the man walked up to your employee and punched her in the nose.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think that’s what P means. Not *just* this situation, where it’s obvious, but also other obvious situations.

    5. I Have RBF*

      IMO, companies push mediation and arbitration when they want to push the consequences of wrongdoing back onto the victim without any lawyers involved.

  64. Jules the 3rd*

    LW1: This was assault and battery. That’s not ‘belief’, that’s legal fact:
    The legal definition of assault is an intentional act that gives another person reasonable fear that they’ll be physically harmed or offensively touched. The legal definition of battery is intentionally causing harm to, or offensively touching, another person (without their consent or intentional involvement in the action). Where assault is more about intent and how an action made a victim feel, battery is the completion of assault, where physical contact actually happened. (remove spaces for source)

    http s://vindicatela w. com/assault-vs-battery-are-they-the-same-or-different-crimes/

    Abusers try to get around this by saying they thought they had consent, but they are lying. That’s one way they use our rape culture to get away with assault and battery. Your uncertainty on how to react is another way that rape culture affects us all, but you can take effective actions against it.

    1. Tell someone high up in the other org that your org will not work with That Guy OR HIS MANAGER, ever. They are not to be on any joint projects. He sexually assaulted your employee, the manager seems to be trying to brush it under the rug, and you will not condone it.
    2. Apologize to your employee. Tell her what you have said to the other org, and then *ASK HER* if there are other actions she would like you to take. Volunteer paid leave to deal with police / a court case or counseling. If you have an EAP, recommend it. Say “he assaulted you, I understand that now, it was not your fault and will not affect your work here.” Bonus points for “Abusers often work to get to know people in order to target them and get them into vulnerable positions.”

    Treat this as if That Guy hit her, deliberately. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a misunderstanding. It was sexual assault.

    1. Tea Time*

      ‘Tell someone high up in the other org that your org will not work with That Guy OR HIS MANAGER, ever.”

      +1 to this. Make that manager’s behavior, not just their employee’s, a huge stinkin’ problem for their organization.

  65. too many dogs*

    LW #2. I’d be tempted to let him keep calling in sick. He’s new, so he probably hasn’t accrued that much sick leave. Eventually he’ll be on Leave Without Pay, or be considered AWOL, which is grounds for dismissal.

  66. Menace to Sobriety*

    I am baffled, gobsmacked and utterly confused by the coffee letter. So, they have a coffee maker, you are permitted to MAKE the coffee. You are NOT permitted to CARRY the coffee back to your desk and drink it there. You are not permitted to leave it in the break room and periodically take a sip. Is there an expectation you’ll make a cup on your 10 min break and finish it IN the break room? And pour it out if you don’t? Can you just put it in a flask and if someone asks tell them it’s iced tea or something, since other drinks appear to be allowed? I have so many questions. This one is baffling to me.

    1. Sunflower*

      I wish we know more about the job or if they gave reasons. Like hot liquid causes damage/melt their machines more than cold or something like that.

      1. nnn*

        Yeah, it would be a lot easier to get useful advice on this question if we knew what the employer’s stated reason was.

    2. Pretty as a Princess*

      I honestly see more plausible reasons for this situation than implausible ones.

      – Let’s say there’s a bunch of half drunk coffee cups sitting in the break room. Thats… kind of gross to just have half drunk coffee everywhere and probably confusing for whoever is cleaning. Or worse, a bunch of people are leaving half drunk coffee at the end of the day and going home, meaning the cleaning staff now have to deal with it. Or there’s a bunch of half drunk coffee now around and someone knocked some over and it made a mess. Or someone complained because their half drunk cup got taken by accident. Or someone complained that a half drunk coffee was tampered with. LW and individuals get told “no more leaving your half drunk coffee around” but there isn’t a big universal group message to everyone.

      – Coffee is hot. Water and OJ are not. Perhaps the rule is “no hot beverages in flasks” for safety reasons and when the LW asked about coffee, they just got told “no” (which is correct) instead of “the rule is no hot beverages.”

      1. Betty Beep Boop*

        When my wife was in art school they were not allowed to bring any kind of drink into a painting studio unless it was in a closed lug-a-mug with a flip lid.

        Non-painting studios: no food no drinks: lots of art processes give off dust or particles that you absolutely should not consume.

        Painting studios: painters tend to have Liquids In Containers in their areas as part of what they’re doing. They’re also prone to use disposable coffee cups and mugs with broken handles to hold these liquids, into which they dip their brushes.

        They are ALSO, and I say this with love, some of the most absent-minded people on God’s green earth when they’re working, and they WILL forget which cup has the actual tea and which cup has the mixture of water (or paint thinner) and paint concoction that looks like tea.

        So no uncovered beverages in the studios. Ever.

        The only bit that surprises me about this particular rule is that juice is allowed. Usually IME it’s water only or anuything goes.

        1. Dek*

          every person who paints or inks with a brush has absolutely drunk out of the wrong glass at least once.

          it’s why we’re like this.

          1. Betty Beep Boop*

            It’s THE occupational hazard, much like dancers backstage have to be supervised carefully because when they are not dancing but ARE thinking about dancing they are perfectly capable of walking into walls and tripping over tape.

        2. Global Cat Herder*

          Glass-blowing studio: Your water thermos is not big enough – no that’s not big enough either – and you need to drink an entire bottle of Pedialyte as soon as you get in the car afterwards.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Picture, not an office with desks, but a daycare full of fast-moving toddlers. (We don’t know what the business is, but there are several where “no hot liquids on the floor” rules would be an obvious rule.)

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        Having worked at a daycare, I can tell you we drank coffee. You cannot supervise 30 children w/o caffeine. There’d have been a riot if we were told no. However, we had spill-less travel mugs. No open cups. Also because the little monsters will put crap in an open mug given the opportunity !

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      I previously worked at a research library with tons of rare materials. If you worked in an area where rare materials were out and about (even if you didn’t work with them) you could not bring anything other than water in a closed container back there. If you wanted coffee you would make it and drink it in the break room. So it’s really not that baffling if you consider there are work spaces that aren’t your typical office.

      1. DramaQ*

        I cannot have food or drinks in the lab and for the majority of the labs I’ve worked in since my desk is IN the lab I can’t have my drink there either. There was a filing cabinet right outside the door that became the unofficial table for everyone’s coffee cups/mugs rather than having to walk all the way down the hall to the break room. We’d take a break and have a few sips in the hallway then go back into the lab. So it’s not surprising to me either that the coffee isn’t allowed at the employee’s desk depending on what it is they do. Not allowing it to be in the break room is strange to me but we had a small army of cups on that filing cabinet daily. Didn’t gross us out but I could see how it might not look all that great in an office/corporate type setting.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it’s an interesting social point at what point the half-consumed item goes from “a muffin Bob is returning to in a minute” to “garbage.” (See today’s last letter about the terrible office kitchen.)

          So for your case, I would guess that part of the factor was that it wasn’t a table with chairs, where some people would try to sit and read a magazine but need to move the half-full cups of coffee. It’s sort of like a play pen for mugs of coffee. Or the bin where everyone puts their phone if phones aren’t allowed, or metal if metal isn’t allowed. It reads visually as “containing the disallowed thing temporarily until its owner can return for it.”

      2. OMG It's 2024*

        But the OP is allowed juice, water, etc… They just can’t “carry coffee around” which is wild. If all liquids were banned, well that’s one thing, but juice is sticky and awful if you spill it around technology, etc… It’s not the “you can’t have food/liquids around equipment,” that baffles me; it’s the WHY ONLY COFFEE?

    5. ClaireW*

      You’re assuming this is a desk-based job – in a lot of non-desk-based jobs it’s entirely normal to be allowed to have coffee/food/etc other than water in the break room but not in the main working area (shop/factory/hospital/nursery/etc)

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        ok but the OP said that water and juice (sticky sticky juice) WERE PERMITTED. It’s “only the coffee” that seems to be an issue. And the coffee couldn’t even be left in the break room for periodic sips. So, apples/oranges to her situation. It’s the “we provide coffee for you to make, but we make it virutally impossible for you actually drink it because you can’t have it out of the break room or IN the break room” that is the issue here. Water and juice CAN be carried around.

  67. Supported by a Good Manager*

    Oh my goodness, the same exact thing happened to me with LW#1 (female employee of one organization kissed on the lips by a male employee of another, with employees from the two organizations working closely together every day). I intially held off telling my supervisor for a day (I was in total shock), but told a colleague who correctly pointed out “that’s wrong, you need to report that now!” My supervisor told their supervisor, and he was immediately reassigned. A few months later, his supervisor reached out to mine and requested mediation, with my firmly saying “hell no, that’s unacceptable” and thankfully that was the end of it. He tried to claim that I was friendly so he didn’t think it was a problem, but I’m so happy my supervisor held firm and I never felt so supported.

    1. birb*

      “She was being friendly so I thought I could have forced, unwanted sexual contact with her.”

      I’m so sorry.

  68. Employed Minion*

    #2 I feel for this employee. During a recent job search I was VERY intentional in asking about expected work hours etc. My partner travels for work a lot and I’m single parenting when they are gone. If I started a new job and suddenly discovered something like this, it would feel like a bait and switch. There is no way I could make it work.

    Obviously, calling put for two weeks straight is not the right way to deal with this or facilitate a solution. Maybe the person could be transferred to a different role or they quietly job search for those first 7 weeks -if they really need the money.

  69. Bookworm*

    LW2: I was in a similar situation except it was not in the job description, I was told working OT (also salaried) would be rare and the owner herself told me on my first day we were only expected to be available during regular, standard business hours. A mixup happened and I explained that AFAIK (and what she told me), it was not my fault that I did not answer calls or emails after COB. Owner told me this was not the case, that staff were expected to respond, emergency or not and that this was the rule.

    I refused, because (again, I really am 100% certain she told me differently on my first day) this had also been extending into being on call for a holiday weekend and working multiple weekends in a row afterwards due to poor management. Owner fired me, said I was being inflexible. (None of these policies were written down but she owns the business and there is no HR except her.)

    In the future, this needs to be made absolutely clear to future employees, because springing this on them is absurd.

  70. Ponyperson*

    this is assault. Depending on the state she lives in, may even be sexual assault. Encourage your employee to make a police report and get this subject to face the consequences of his actions. If he is brazen enough to do it at a work event, what else is he doing or working his way up to.
    Signed, a police officer who would be glad to take this report!

  71. juliebulie*

    Questions like LW1 make me feel… despair. I have been in the working world since 1984, but problems like in this letter go all the way back to the stone age. I feel as though there is one group of people who continuously learn and improve, and another group of people who continuously grope their coworkers. I’d feel better if I thought that some of the gropers might eventually become the learners. But that doesn’t seem to be how it is.

  72. RagingADHD*

    As far as speculating about the reason for the no-coffee-outside-the-breakroom rule, I’d be really surprised if the LW is completely unaware of the rationale. If they’ve been told not to carry it, and then told separately to stop leaving half-finished drinks in the breakroom, they have probably had the rationale explained more than once.

    They just asked if the employer had the right to make the rule.

    There are a number of excellent reasons why an employer might have such a rule, some of which are legally mandated. It’s possible that if the LW had included the nature if their job in the letter, the reason might be immediately obvious.

  73. Cheshire Cat*

    LW1, I’ve read most of the comments and haven’t seen this addressed: there is very little chance that the other org’s employee has only assaulted Jane. He’s probably assaulted some of your other employees (who won’t want to come forward now that they’ve seen that you retaliated against Jane). And even if he hasn’t, he’s most likely assaulted one or more of his female colleagues, or clients. His manager needs to understand that this is serious and the employee needs to stop right now.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yep, very much this. He probably thinks that all women are attracted to him, and so it’s not a “him” problem at all in his mind. There are a lot of males like this, sadly.

      Raise your sons right. That’s the only way we can get rid of this long term, because our culture still has a “boys will be boys” attitude that sees this as acceptable behavior.

      In the meantime, report, report, report.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        For all the parents out there wondering “How though?”: getting your sons to read books where the main character is female is the easiest hack (if you can do it). Men who read lots of books where the perspective is female get used to metaphorically ‘putting themselves in women’s shoes’ and the ability to empathise with women’s perspectives just naturally falls out of that with zero conscious thought required. Ditto for people of other cultures.

        TV, games, and graphic novels don’t work, unfortunately. You need either first person access to the main character’s thoughts or a narrator who is describing the character’s thought process (Jane jumped in surprise at the sight of the snake. “Oh poop” she thought. Jane had hated snakes ever since she was little.)

        Get them reading plenty of women’s perspectives and you can sit back and relax, job done :)

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          Forgot to say: audiobooks work too, as long as they fulfil the ‘hearing her thoughts’ criteria. If your sons hate reading, audiobooks are an excellent choice. Don’t let ‘perfect’ get in the way of the benefits that come from accessing literature.

        2. Observer*

          getting your sons to read books where the main character is female is the easiest hack

          For this kind of issue, I think a better line is “your hands stay on YOUR body. You do NOT touch anyone without *explicit* consent.” This starts well before the kids are reading. And it works regardless of gender – and regardless of what the aggressor wants.

          Add in a few other basic “kindergarten” rules, and you are on the way to raising a reasonably well behaved person of any gender.

  74. TootsNYC*

    that “mediation” sounds an awful lot like “I want HER to tell me she’s not interested.”

    Which was said to a judge who had issued a restraining order against him. Dude, she involved the courts to tell you—you can’t believe that?

    Because this phrase is never about him not believing her; it’s about forcing yet another point of contact.

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