mother-in-law manages sister-in-law and covers up her drunk driving, lactation room is occupied, and more

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

1. My mother-in-law manages my sister-in-law and covers up her drunk driving

I am at a complete loss. My mother-in-law (Sally), sister-in-law (Karen), and I work for an AirBnB cleaning management company. Sally is a manager and Karen is a supervisor.

Karen is currently on probation for a DWI. This past month, she has tried to drive me to work drunk or has shown up drunk expecting to drive me home with her without me knowing. I found out both times. And she has been caught drunk and with alcohol at work. Yet Sally won’t terminate her or even stick with any consequences. I want to bring this up to higher-up bosses, but I am worried both will lose their jobs, as well as mine. My sister-in-law has been spoken to by all of family members and lied about being in AA yet drank during that time. Do I call her probation officer? I don’t know.

This is a work issue, but it’s also a family issue. You have a family member who’s regularly driving drunk; that’s a big deal. Someone needs to be sounding the alarm, taking away her keys, doing whatever it takes to get her off the road. Ideally that someone wouldn’t be you as an in-law, but if no one else is stepping up, use whatever power you have to intervene. If that means calling her probation officer, maybe that’s what you do. I don’t love advising that because I don’t think people belong in jail for addictions, but at this point getting her off the road so she doesn’t maim or kill someone has to be your highest priority.

As for the work stuff, yes, tell your bosses if this is happening at work and your mother-in-law is covering for her. I can’t see why that would result in you losing your job (and quite frankly, your mother-in-law should lose hers since she’s been aiding and abetting an employee in driving drunk). But I’d also get the hell out of that company to put some distance between you and the family mess.

Meanwhile, don’t get in a car that Karen is driving, period, even if you don’t think she’s been drinking since it sounds like she tries to hide it.

2. Interviewer said it was “an incredible lapse in judgment” to talk to my network about the company

This has been rumbling about occasionally in the back of my mind. A few years ago, my son-in-law, a new college graduate at the time, was applying for jobs. He learned that someone who had graduated from his small college a couple of years ahead of him and who he knew slightly was working at a company that might be a good fit for him. After applying for a job there and being invited for an interview, he reached out to this contact to find out more about the company. The contact was very warm and open to a conversation, and my son-in-law came out of it feeling like he knew a lot more about the company’s culture and expectations.

During his interview, he mentioned that he had spoken with this person and gave some specific examples about how what he learned helped him feel excited about the company. Well, his interviewer was livid. Apparently, they went off on him railing about how inappropriate it was that he would have reached out to someone other than them for information about the company and that they wouldn’t even consider him for the role given that incredible lapse of judgment. Of course, he was crushed as this was one of his very first interviews after graduation and he felt like he had done something horribly wrong. At the time, I told him he just ran into a bonkers interviewer and that he likely dodged a bullet with the company. Since then, he has happily advanced in his career, but occasionally, I find myself thinking about that interviewer. Were they as off-base as I think?


It’s very normal to talk to people in your network about a company you’re interviewing with; in fact, it’s a widely given piece of advice! That interviewer was out of his gourd and sounds like he has some pathological control issues.

3. Random people use our lactation room for breaks and lunch

One other person in my office and I pump at work. We have a designated lactation room, but random non-lactating coworkers keep going in and locking the door to use the room on their regular breaks or to take hour long lunches or sometimes for personal calls. My manager is aware and emails have gone out notifying everyone of the room’s intended purpose, but people just keep doing it.

It wouldn’t be that big of a deal to me if it was a rare occurrence, but it’s multiple times a week, sometimes over several hours that every time I go to access the room someone is locked in there using the space for something other than pumping. Unfortunately I don’t have time to just stand outside the door and wait to be next, so the result is that I am sometimes missing pumping sessions entirely. Is this really the best I am entitled to?

In fact it is not! Federal law requires your employer to provide you with a private space to pump “as frequently as needed” and specifically says, “If the space is not dedicated to the nursing employees’ use, it must be available when the employee needs it in order to meet the statutory requirement.” If the room isn’t available when you need it, your employer is violating the law.

Go to whoever is in charge of this sort of thing in your office and say this: “We need a different place to pump. Legally, we’re required to provide a pumping space that’s available whenever needed, and right now people keep using the lactation room to nap or eat or take personal calls. So we need another space that locks and is reliably available, and we need it right away.” Any reasonable employer will hear that and start enforcing the room’s availability to you — but you’re not telling them how to solve the problem, just letting them know that they’re not currently meeting their legal requirements so they’re on notice that they need to fix it.

Read an update to this letter

4. Am I wrong for being annoyed when interviewers ask about my first career?

Seven years ago I graduated from a Ph.D. program in a highly competitive field. Staying in this field would have resulted in a six-figure salary straight out of my program, but I knew the work would not make me happy. I decided to go back to nonprofit work, which was my profession before pursuing a Ph.D. and work I still felt very passionate about. When I was interviewing, several interviewers asked about my career shift, with one of them stating something along the lines of, “Why would you want to switch from a high-paying career to this work?” These questions always rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t mind explaining why my old field was a bad fit and why nonprofit work felt like a calling for me. But I felt like there was an assumption that professional choices should be money-driven and a judgment that the jobs I was interviewing for were not worthwhile for someone who had more lucrative options.

I ended up picking a nonprofit job directly related to my Ph.D. During the two years I’ve worked there, I have been through some major upheaval in my personal life and found a new field I feel passionate about. I went back to graduate school to gain a degree needed to practice in this field. The transition is not completely out of whack; it’s not a straight career path, but also not completely out of left field either.

It is now seven years since I graduated from my Ph.D. program and three years since I started my graduate degree. I am about to graduate and am interviewing for jobs. In an interviews I was again asked three questions regarding this being a second career for me (the first question was asking me to explain the shift; the two other were about my ability to transition into the new field). The questions irked me. I felt weird about being asked about a program I graduated from seven years ago, as opposed to my more recent and more relevant work experience. I had an issue with the way the interviewer framed my Ph.D. training as requiring a completely different skill set than the field I am currently in, since I use my research skills on a daily basis in my new field. I felt like I needed to defend my switch and that my training was treated as a liability instead of an asset. Overall, these questions left a bitter taste in my mouth. I ended up spending at least half of the interview talking about my Ph.D. training and not my recent work experience that was more relevant to this role.

Am I wrong in feeling strange about these questions and seeing them as yellow or red flags? Is there a response to these questions that does not come off as evasive but doesn’t dwell on a part of my career that feels ancient? I should say that in other job interviews, my Ph.D. training was seen as an asset and a testament to my skills and the issue of a second career did not come up. All of the questions were focused on my current field and experience.

I think you’re overreacting to a single interview, since this hasn’t come up in your other interviews. That said, that interviewer’s questions weren’t particularly odd or out of bounds; it’s reasonable to ask what drove shifts in your work history (and seven years ago isn’t that long go, especially when you’re now entering a new field), and it’s reasonable for an interviewer to want to probe a little into how you’ll do with the transition.

I think you similarly read too much into the questions years back about why you’d want to leave a high-paying career for a lower-paying one. It’s reasonable for employers to want to understand what’s motivating you to leave a high-paying field for a much lower-paying one and to make sure that you’ve really thought through what that will entail. They don’t want to invest in you if you’re going to realize four months in that it’s not for you — and believe me, nonprofits deal all the time with people who don’t quite realize what the shift in pay and resources will be like. None of this is personal.

(Any chance you’re feeling any weirdness yourself about the shifts you’ve made? I’m asking because this sounds like a pretty defensive reaction to fairly common interview discussions.)

5. What are post-interview “HR hurdles”?

I am trying to return to the workforce after two years of being home with my kids. I’ve been applying to jobs, and have had a couple interviews at different places. I am very interested in one job and emailed two weeks after our interview to check on the status. I got a quick reply saying that there are some HR hurdles they are working to resolve. I know there must be a lot of possibilities here, but I was wondering if you could share some common HR issues that can hold up the interview/hiring process.

Tons of possibilities! Some examples: A question was raised about the right salary range and they’re figuring that out. There’s a question about whether the budget for the role will be approved. Someone else on that team might be leaving and their role would be a higher priority if so. Someone else on the team is leaving and they might reconfigure both roles. They’re not sure they even need this role at all in its current configuration. Do they actually need someone who speaks Spanish? An internal candidate might be interested. And on and on.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. BG*

    Re: question #3, it sounds like the room does lock, and people are locking themselves in there for purposes other than pumping. I wonder if it could be possible for the room to be locked as a matter of course, and for only employees who need to use the room for pumping, as well as one or two managers, to have keys? Or if I’m misreading this, perhaps a lock could be installed and then keys could be distributed as I’ve suggested?

    Regardless, I’m so sorry that you and your coworker are having to deal with this, OP!

    1. Carl*

      The only issue would be that the lactating mothers would have to coordinate with each other, so they didn’t unlock the door on each other. But, depending on the size of the office, that may not be an issue.
      Considering OP knows only one other lactating employee, I’m assuming small office, and I’m willing to guess the two of them already talk.

      1. BG*

        Totally! Maybe they could put up a sign–“on air” (just kidding about the sign content, haha)? Or just text each other when they’re heading in/out if they’re comfortable with that?

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          I don’t think you are far off about the sign but it can be much simpler than that.

          At my office some offices have a small basic half red/half green “sign”/plaque it has a cover that you can manually cover and show the red side to indicate it is in use. when you are done with it you can flip it to cover the red side and show green to indicate open.

          it is manual so people could forget to change it when but I think it would likely only happen a few times before people learned. if they didn’t then that’s on them.

          1. Potoooooooo*

            A convenience store near me has that red/green indicator built into the deadbolt mechanism on its restrooms. Would that be something usable in this situation, or would that present a problem for compliance?

            1. Yorick*

              If it were locked all the time, it would always be red. The reason for a sign is so they’ll know if it’s locked because it’s empty or locked because someone is inside pumping.

              1. AnonORama*

                A friend/coworker of mine who pumped in her office made a little hanging doorknob sign with a baby bottle on it so people would know not to come in. It was cute, although the things mentioned above were more low-effort. (And it was her own space, so she could choose to be cute and not impose on others.)

          2. No longer lactating*

            We have exactly that on our lactation room, since there’s several people using it. But the room also locks and can be unlocked only with the office badge, which needs to be configured separately for every employee who wants to use the room.

            1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

              Not to mention getting up mid pump to unlock would be difficult sometimes.

              Way back in the dark ages (1991) the office I worked at had a lactation room and they installed a digital key lock. You just needed a code to go in and the door was locked for everyone who didn’t have the code. It did require someone to manage the codes because they did change it periodically to prevent misuse.

            2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

              ok, but then, shouldn’t the person outside the room be able to hear the sound of the pump and come back later?

          1. K Jones*

            A lock is a must. You’d be amazed at how many creepy people will “miss” the sign or knock and enter without waiting for a reply just to get an eyefull. Always claiming “oops! honest mistake!” so they don’t get disciplined. No one should ever be subjected to that. There shouldn’t even be the chance of that happening.

            1. Garblesnark*

              I meant knocking in addition to the lock, as opposed to the glowing sign. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

          2. The Starsong Princess*

            Check to see if it is the other lactating mother. If you know it isn’t her in the room, pound on the door until they answer it. If they give you a hard time, tell them sweetly to take it to HR. Right now, people are doing this because they can.

            1. Chas*

              This was my first thought, not that LW3 should HAVE to resort to this, but if the non-lactating people are using it because it’s convenient and there’s no real consequence to them doing so, then making it their problem by loudly knocking (and maybe even adding extra embarrassment to them by firmly announcing that this is the lactation room and you need to use it- let them have fun explaining THAT to whoever they’re on a personal call to!) might be the only way to stop people until HR put in a system to make sure only the people who need the room are using it.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Pretty much the same logistical setup as a single-user bathroom that is also kept locked when not in use (such as in some retail establishments) would work here key-wise. Generally this is done with either a regular door lock or a keypad for the “limiting who can get in the empty room” use and a separate deadbolt-style occupied/vacant lock for the “keeping others out while the room is occupied” use.

        (Note that I am in no way suggesting that a single-user bathroom be used for pumping, but rather that the same types of locking systems as used for such bathrooms might make sense for limiting access to the lactation room since it shares the same needs of both access control and privacy.)

      3. Marshmallows*

        Our office of 10 had 2 people using the room at the same time with keys and this was an issue so we had to switch to a deadbolt, lock from inside style that says occupied or unoccupied.

        I really think the company either needs to put an end to allowing people to use it for other purposes (people really shouldn’t be eating in there. Not because breast milk is gross but because people eating lunch tend to be gross). If they don’t want to do that, then they need a room reservation policy with lactating people having priority on the schedule with zero exceptions. If your lunch break interferes with the lactating person’s schedule, tough. You get to find another place to eat, that room is not for you!

        What is wrong with people?!?!

        For the record, I have never been, and never will be a lactating person, although I am a woman. But this still just makes me angry.

        1. BG*

          Totally agreed with all of this. The room is meant for pumping. Not pumping? No room! And I’m agreeing with you as a never have been/never will be lactating person!

          1. Allonge*

            Not an excuse, but some people are very clueless about the logistics of pumping / lactation.

            I told this story here before, but I have been in a meeting where a bunch of men, some of them fathers (!), expressed surprise that our brand new nursing room was being used (this was a fact relevant to the meeting) and yet they never ever saw babies in the office.

            To be fair, they followed an impromptu info session on pumping with interest and we got them to the a-ha! point fast, but again, these were full-grown, well-educated men, some with actual kids of their own. So: cluelessness is all around.

            1. Dr Sarah*

              I think that pumping milk is one of those topics that tends not to come up until you have personal experience of it. I knew hardly anything about it until I was pregnant and reading up on what I’d need to do as a working/breastfeeding mother. So, yes, I can well believe that lots of people didn’t know about the logistics and that this included fathers whose wives hadn’t pumped breastmilk.

            2. MrsBuddyLee*

              Agree 100%!

              I was on a meeting and un-muted while actively pumping. Co-worker with multiple kids and grand-kids asked what that noise was in the background. I said I was feeding my baby remotely. The other woman on the call started laughing and he still had no clue…

              1. Aitch Arr*

                Love it!

                A former boss asked me during a 1:1 call what was making the “Whack-A-Mole” sound. It was my breast pump.

        2. PhD survivor*

          Yes this letter made me furious on behalf of the OP. Her coworkers are major jerks to intentionally take up space that nursing mothers need to pump. Skipping pumping sessions can lead to serious health issues. And also side eye to the workplace for not seriously shutting this down right away.

        3. MMS*

          Came here to say this. I don’t understand the need of companies to tip toe around employees who blatantly ignore the rules. I see it all the time of making excuses for bad behavior. It is frustrating for those who do follow the rules.

      4. Zombeyonce*

        My company had a dedicated lactation room and it had its own Outlook calendar. You had to be added by admin to reserve the space and we could put in recurring appointments to make it easier to plan out pumping with other employees without having to personally coordinate with them. It was really handy.

        I do wonder what happens when a company has too many employees pumping or with overlapping pumping schedules. Are they required by law to make additional spaces available? Or would this be reasonable accommodation time where you might get to work from home?

        1. Blackcat*

          I had a secondary space made available at one point. Just a phone room with a curtain and a door stop, so not perfect, but it was a back up and worked fine.

          In general, yes, another space has to be made available.

        2. Bananapantsoff*

          Dedicated lactation room with a Google calendar for scheduling at my office, plus an “in use” door hanger, and even a Slack channel for the regular users in case there needs to be some urgent coordination. It’s worked very well for us.

        3. Observer*

          Are they required by law to make additional spaces available? Or would this be reasonable accommodation time where you might get to work from home?

          Yes. The latter only if it is not expected to have a negative effect on the woman pumping.

          Fundamentally, the law does not say that there needs to be a pumping room somewhere, but that each woman needs to have real and practical access to a reasonable place to pump. Which means enough spaces to accommodate as many people as possible.

        4. Random Dice*

          My company has a lactation room that has a keypad and only those who have been added to the list can swipe in.

          It is divided by curtains so multiple people can use it simultaneously but with privacy.

          Each curtained cubicle has plug access for the breast pump and laptop (if that person can pump and work at the same time – most people need to focus on relaxing and imagining the baby to let down milk, but some just need to do that to start).

          There is a mini fridge inside the room just for breast milk. Nobody else can get in so nobody can mess with that ultra-precious liquid.

          1. JustaTech*

            We did the curtain thing at my work too, because it was actually a pretty big room and we knew that there would be two of us using it pretty much simultaneously.

            The curtains were very handy when we were having air handling issues and the maintenance guys just came in without knocking (though as soon as they realized we were in there they left like their tails were on fire).

      5. Blackcat*

        I have been at a place that had
        1) a booking system and
        2) an “occupied” sign to hang outside.

        Then only authorized people had keys.

        Besides the person who stole my milk that was in the fridge (wtf), it worked well.

        1. Electric Sheep*

          Wtf!! A whole new level of office lunch theft, now stealing infant’s lunches! (At least wait until they have candy before you start stealing it, people!)

        2. Workerbee*

          Here’s me hoping you put that milk-stealer on blast, company-wide, even with just a “To the grown person who took food from a completely dependent X-months-old…”

        3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I’d like to think the milk theft was accidental. Like, another exhausted parent was packing up their milk at the end of the day and ended up taking yours as well in error and perhaps just felt too embarrassed to own up to it (or didn’t know whose milk they nicked).

          1. Blackcat*

            No, they were emptying my bottles (presumably into theirs). It took me a while to actually catch on because at first it was like 1-2oz at a time. But then more like 5-6 would go missing.

            Once I figured it out I started keeping my milk in the kitchenette in a lunch bag. It was never disturbed there.

      6. Roland*

        It’s pretty easy to add a deadbolt or something to a door, so I don’t think them walking in on each other is a big concern.

        1. JSPA*

          Having a dead bolt is probably the problem.

          Yes a locking door is required. But a locking door that cannot be unlocked by any other key? That seems like a liability in case of an emergency?

          1. Clearance Issues*

            What about security badges?
            my office uses badges to get in and out of the office, and specific clearance requiring areas. They added one to the lactation room that admin needs to put you on the list for, so that if you are not on the list (and don’t have the backup key) you cannot access the room.
            they also have an outlook calendar so the moms can schedule when they’ll be in the room.

            1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              Lots of offices (especially open-plan types) are set up with all-or-nothing badges; adding the capability to give only a few badges access to one particular door may not be trivial.

              1. Random Dice*

                Sounds like a “them” problem in complying with the law.

                Every other company figures this stuff out.

                1. MassMatt*

                  LW needs to bring her manager and other management into the picture. Reading the riot act to a couple people using the pumping station for lunch or phone calls should take care of it, if not (!) then proceed to warnings, etc. or lock the room and only the LW (and anyone else who needs it) and some managers have the keys/card access.

                  Sad that there are evidently lots of very inconsiderate people at this office.

                2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

                  There are plenty of other methods of complying with the law that aren’t “retool the entire security system of the building”.

          2. Roland*

            100% of office bathrooms I’ve used closed with a latch so this is a solved problem, facilities-wise.

      7. Elsajeni*

        My office had a setup that worked pretty well for this — the door has badge access, but also a physical deadbolt with a “Vacant/Occupied” dial, like for a single-stall restroom. You need to get added to the badge access list by someone in HR, which prevents randos from using the room for naps, and the deadbolt prevents accidentally walking in on someone even if you try to swipe in while the room is occupied.

      8. Specks*

        Nah, you could just install a simple latch someone could throw closed on top of the lock. But many women would be comfortable pumping at the same time too.

      9. Sybil Writes*

        The door should have 2 locks: one only accessible by key from outside to open the room, and the other accessible from the inside to keep anyone from walking in unexpectedly (perhaps a door chain or hook, such as seen in most hotel rooms).

    2. MK*

      Some doors can lock from the inside, but not the outside. But yes, putting in a new lock or replacing it sounds like a simple solution.

      1. Locks*

        I’m not sure a public building can have a room that locks from the inside but can’t be unlocked from the outside. It could be a huge liability if you had some sort of medical emergency and no one can get in without busting the door down. But I guess that Depends on the location.

    3. Get the F Out*

      Yeah I was thinking just give the two people who need it keys, and if one of them is in there they have one of those “available in” signs with the clock and they just move the hands.

    4. JSPA*

      Why is a manager not knocking (then banging) on the door, incessantly, if it’s locked, and neither of the two approved priority users is inside?

      Heck, why are the priority users not doing this, given their ironclad legal right to displace other users for this purpose?

      Your very important call got interrupted? Cool! Now you’ll make them from somewhere else.

      1. Blackcat*

        Lots of people aren’t comfortable declaring they need to pump publicly. I don’t think it’s appropriate to require the pumping person loudly insist. A system should be in place to prevent it from being accessed by others.

        1. JSPA*

          Unless there’s a state specific law in play(?) there’s no legal requirement that other people can’t be in the room when it’s not in use by the priority users. Nor is there a right to secrecy, that you’re invoking your priority.

          Comfortable or not, if you want to be treated as a priority user, you do have to invoke your priority. Same for having priority for handicapped bathroom stalls, if it’s an invisible disability (ostomy bag to deal with, e.g.).

          Maybe there could be a loud bell inside, that can be operated remotely, only by the priority users?

          1. Blackcat*

            I’m not talking legal requirements, I’m talking about what should happen.

            It would be a real pain to have to kick people out when you have to pump.

            It can also take time. It can be hard to squeeze pump breaks into a busy day. Having to wait 2-5 minutes for people to pack up and leave can have a significant negative impact on milk production if time is really tight.

            1. JSPA*

              It’s not like you’re saying, “my breasts are sore and I’m about to start leaking.” “I’m a priority user. I need you out now, not in 3 minutes. Talk to Jan in scheduling if you don’t understand” is not weird and TMI.

              There is literally no way to manage a room that’s “priority use, with zero advance notice” rather than “sole use” if people won’t assert their priority, when they need the room.

              We don’t leave entire lanes free on the highway for emergency vehicles; they flash lights or turn on sirens, to claim priority. This is the office version of same.

              As far as needing to do it “right now down to the second,” you could be set back 3 minutes by a slow elevator, someone cleaning up a spill in the hallway, or realizing that the other person who’s pumping isn’t quite finished.

              Understood, that everybody’s body is different. If someone finds they can’t pump if they have a brief delay, then maybe they need to ask for the simple accomodation of having someone else page the room or knock on the door and clear the room, as they’re on their way to the room.

              But enough people don’t have that level of immediacy. That’s why “shared use, but be ready to clear out the instant it’s needed by a priority user” makes sense, in many smaller workplaces. Except when people are jackasses, which seems to be the underlying problem, here.

            2. hbc*

              I don’t think having to wait 2-5 minutes is a significant hardship, especially given that the other pumping person might have run a little late. And I bet non-lactating people would stop getting comfortable in there with the door locked after a few instances of having the door pounded on.

          2. Ahnon4Thisss*

            Per the wording in the letter, this room is designated as a lactation room. Those who are not lactating should not be using it for private breaks and lunches. It is “pre-reserved” for those who need to pump per its name.

          3. MassMatt*

            The problem isn’t that people are using it when it’s not in use, the problem is people are using it and locking themselves in and the person who DOES need it cannot access it.

            I agree that in general people need to use their words when it comes to dealing with conflicts at work, but I think we need to be careful about putting the burden of getting legally required accommodation on the people, often vulnerable, who need them.

            In your own example, someone with a colostomy bag is probably not going to be thrilled to have to broadcast this information across the entire office to get access to a handicapped accessible bathroom.

            In the end, it’s the company’s responsibility to provide this to the LW (and anyone else who needs to pump) and currently they are failing. They have a room, it’s SUPPOSED a to be available to the LW, but it often isn’t. Management needs to take the lead in solving this problem.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I think this is very, very true that you shouldn’t have to, but I think it’s also important to mention the suggestion that people definitely could ask why the room is being misused on the spot *if they wanted to*. As, in, it’s a completely reasonable thing to do if it’s quicker. I don’t think you would even need to explicitly mention pumping (even though it might be there as a subtext, and also you can mention it’s for pumping if you want to). If it were me, I’d a) knock b) if they answer say “This is a reserved space, so I wanted to check are we double booked or something?” If they say something like”Oh no, I’m just using it for breaks” I would say “Oh, I have it reserved and I need the room, thanks”. Most people will have the lightbulb moment there and then that the room is actually genuinely needed for it’s intended purpose – in fact many of them have probably been operating under the illusion of “Id leave if someone asked me to, but it’s always empty”. However if they are diehard jerks, and if they say “for what?” I’d go to “It should be on your email, that this room is reserved for certain people but you can check it with (manager/HR) if you’re not sure.” I do completely agree that individual users shouldn’t have to do this, but if someone wanted to just get in and pump while people sort out a more permanent solution, they should feel they can do this, and not get looked askance at for doing something that’s a pretty reasonable ask.

          1. Chocoholic Librarian*

            If OP #3 can’t have a room that’s physically inaccessible by anyone except lactating people, I think people who need to pump can have the best of both worlds here, as other commenters have described: create a system where the only people who can reserve it are lactating people, and give them carte blanche to kick out anyone and everyone else, without having to announce that they’re lactating. I’m a librarian, and this is how study rooms have worked at all the institutions I’ve worked at: rooms are bookable online, and while anyone can use an empty room, whoever booked it has priority and can ask anyone inside to leave (or get a librarian to tell them to leave). All the lactating person would need to say is “I have this room booked.” It doesn’t matter what it’s booked for. For reasonable people, that should be enough, and for unreasonable people, the closest manager should be ready to jump in and tell room-hogs that whatever they’re using the room for, they need to do it elsewhere because *this room is not for them.*

            But maybe I’m just sick and tired of women (the majority of lactating people) having to constantly code their more-than-reasonable requests in super-polite, “gee gosh I sure hope there hasn’t been some kind of mistake” kinds of language. It’s exhausting enough trying to seem competent and approachable at the same time without having to worry about feeding your baby or having milk leak through your clothes. People using a lactation room who aren’t lactating shouldn’t be allowed to claim ignorance when they’ve been reminded repeatedly what the room is for. Some things are worth having misogynistic jerks mumble about you being a hard-a** for; so yeah, I’d be pounding on that door and not mincing words.

          2. Garblesnark*

            I have never lactated, but I am disabled.

            The ability to determine how frank, upfront, and direct about your access needs is a learned skill. It is not natural. No one is born with it, and generally people do not have it on their first day of having access needs. Figuring out which expressions of legally “guaranteed” needs will get you fired, assaulted, frozen out, or left outside takes time, trial, and often error. Yes, you can sue, sometimes. I have; it isn’t fun.

            I’m worried that some of the solutions proposed here will get the LW, who sounds inexperienced at exercising these rights in real time, hurt.

            1. Twix*

              I lack the anatomy to lactate, but am also disabled. This was my thought as well. The fundamental problem here is that asserting your rights can have negative consequences, even if it shouldn’t. Sure, everyone is in agreement that people who need the room for its intended purpose should have priority. But putting it on them to throw people out of a de facto break space when they need to creates constant conflict with possible repercussions for people who are willing to do that and lack of access to a medically and legally necessary accommodation for those who aren’t. I’ve seen this exact problem many, many times with things like handicapped seating on public transit. A core part of designing any kind of accommodation is looking at the practical barriers to using it, not just the theoretical ones.

              If this were a company in a small space where having a dedicated lactation room wasn’t feasible, that would be one thing. But it sounds like that’s not the case here. LW’s coworkers don’t need access to that space, they just like having a break room with a lock. Any discussion of how to share the space with people who aren’t using it for its intended purpose is trying to solve a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

              1. Freya*

                Also, you shouldn’t have to assert yourself to get access to things you’re entitled to! If you have to make it a Thing to get access, then it’s not Accessible! Proper Accessibility requires it being no or little extra effort to do whatever it is compared to the default!

                (sorry, I feel very strongly about this)

            2. Ellis Bell*

              Fair. These are not suggestions for those who feel, or who are, basically too unsafe to be direct. It’ll only work for benign cluelessness.

        3. JustaTech*

          Yeah, while I would have had no issue pounding on the door and saying very loudly “I need this room now or I’m going to get a massive infection!” I totally understand most people not wanting to do that.

          (And maybe some of those people using the room don’t understand that missing a pump can be a huge, painful deal, and can negatively impact your milk supply. You can’t just hold it.)

      2. Holy Carp*

        #3 By the time this had happened several times, I’d be shouting at the people in the room and pounding on the door like a jackhammer.
        Some people need to be embarrassed in order to set things straight.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          That’s what I was wondering. It doesn’t sound like the OP tried knocking. A simple hey I need this room for its intended use. Then if the person protests, at least you know who it is, so you can make a formal protest. Because right now, the people in there, don’t know they are specifically the problem. They think because they aren’t interrupted by one of the lactating employees, that its not a problem to use it when not in use. Yes, even with the emails. Because they figure, if they are in there when needed, someone would knock.

        2. Petty_Boop*

          Exactly! I came here to type basically the same thing. Stop being nice and polite and waiting “your turn”. It is ALWAYS your turn! KNOCK, say “I need this room, NOW, please vacate it!”

      3. fhqwhgads*

        I’m moreso wondering whether the message that went out telling people to cut it out mentioned that they’re putting the company out of compliance with federal law. Maybe I’m just too much of a rule-follower and an email-reader, but if the people doing this just don’t understand how big a deal it is A) telling them explicitly WHY they need to cut it out might help if they’re clueless and not malicious. B) fire the people that have been told to stop and are not. Or PIP them, whatever. They’re showing terrible judgement.

        1. CheesePlease*

          They may also not know they’re the problem “I mean yeah I use the room sometimes but nobody ever asked to use it when I was in there”. Telling employees that it is primarily a lactation space but can be used for other things is a bad policy.

          You solve this problem by making the room only available to people who need to use it as a lactation room

          This would be like someone using a bathroom as a personal nap space. People need a lactation room for their own health, not just because “moms deserve a break”. It is not only a legal issue, but impacts the health and well-being of other employees.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I’m not suggesting continuing to let anyone use it for other purposes? Very much the opposite.
            Yes, keycards, keys only lactating people have, fobs, keypads, whatever to lock everyone else out are a solution. If for whatever reason that’s not viable in this office, I’m suggesting one final very clear message to everyone who shouldn’t be in there, and then if they do it again, holding those people accountable.
            Like, yeah they can lock other people out the room. They can also fire people who’ve been told “This is the lactation room. Federal law requires that private space be provided for lactation. Do not enter for other purposes.” if/when someone goes in there again for non-lactation reasons.

      4. TeaCoziesRUs*

        I no longer lactate, but would be HAPPY to run off interlopers on a lactating parent’s behalf. Maybe if management is reluctant to actually MANAGE, you can get a woman with no Fs left to give the opportunity to police the area?

        My tongue is slightly in my cheek, but I’d also love to opportunity to mama bear on behalf of a new mama.

        1. Alisaurus*

          I have never lactated, but I would also be more than happy to run off interlopers on a lactating parent’s behalf!

        2. Texan In Exile*

          That is my current life goal: to use my power as an older woman with no Fs left to advocate for younger women.

        3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Me too, my nursing years are behind me but I will go to bat for anyone who needs to use one.

        4. Hot Flash Gordon*

          I don’t have children but will happily be the big B and run people out of the room (and have before!).

    5. Cat Tree*

      At my company, where we all have badge access already and different areas have different access lists, we had to make the lactation room have special access. If someone forgets her badge she has too get the building manager to let her in, which isn’t a perfect system. He’s a man and although I never felt weird about talking to him, I can understand that some other people might. But it’s the only solution that works since apparently some people are huge selfish jerks who would rather hide from work at the expense of denying multiple people access to handle a biological function.

    6. Azalea Bertrand*

      We have one pumping room in an office of around 2.5k people. Pre-covid I got comfortable really quickly knocking on the door and kicking people out when necessary. I have also gone down to security and gotten them to unlock the door for me when someone was locked in. It’s got one of those little signs at the front that you can slide to occupied/unoccupied, and I quickly got a pretty good feel for when it was someone pumping in there or someone taking a meeting. Often the pumpers were quite happy to share the room with each other (multiple comfy armchairs, not right in each other’s faces) so it was even worth a knock if there was someone using the room legitimately.

      Which is to say – LW#3, please get facilities or the office manager or whoever has a key to open the door for you! That’s your room and you shouldn’t have to wait or risk mastitis by skipping a pump.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        Oh man… mastitis is no fun! If I got mastitis because a coworker wanted a nap, I would shout that whole place down.

    7. S*

      I was very happy with my employer’s set-up, though I recognize this may not work everywhere. Our room(s) were key-card access only, and could be locked from inside. Only authorized users could open the door, and there was no risk of “walking in” on someone else.

      We also signed up for time slots, so I would know the room was available during my time.

    8. Not on board*

      I came here to say the exact same thing. Having the door automatically lock and distributing keys to managment, custodial and only those who are currently pumping seems the best course of action. Whether it’s an actual key, or keycard system. Also, what is up with people locking themselves in there? Personally I’d find a way to name and shame them.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        Absolutely. They deserve to be thrown under the bus. Pumping is a PITA at the very best of times.

        I’m just ornery enough to seriously consider starting a PowerPoint slide to slip into weekly management meetings or whatever naming and shaming… but that’s probably not the best use of my time.

      2. Temp Anon*

        If I were managing one of these people at my last job I would start with a verbal warning, a second offense would get you a written warning, which renders you ineligible for promotion or bonuses in the current cycle, and a 3rd would get you fired.

    9. Data Nerd*

      When I had my first baby, there was no such thing as a lactation room. So I used heavy duty magnets to string a sheet across my cube. A man who I worked with looked over the sheet one day to see what I was doing in there. He was pretty embarrassed, but I never understood why he thought that was a good idea.
      When I had my second baby (who is almost 20 now), we had a lactation room. I inadvertently started a bit of a kerfuffle one time when the small refrigerator provided in the room was too full of other people’s regular 2-gallon milk containers to store my breast milk. Since I didn’t know who it belonged to, I posted a note on the refrigerator door stating that this refrigerator was for breast milk and asking them to store their milk in the kitchen refrigerator. Our head of HR was horrible, so when the man who was storing his milk in there got mad about the note, she made it my problem to solve. Luckily I’m not averse to difficult conversations, so once I knew who the milk belonged to, I walked over to his desk and very politely explained to him why I needed that refrigerator. I commiserated with the fact that people were using his milk when he stored it in the kitchen refrigerator, but held firm that I needed that refrigerator. He wasn’t overly happy, but luckily understood that my request was reasonable.
      It’s not right when the lactating person has to own the education around these things, but that’s often the way it is. I definitely agree with essentially kicking people out if you need the room for it’s legally intended use.

      1. Joana*

        Re the guy looking the barrier: people see a blockade and get nosy. The fast food place I work at had a barrier between the lobby and the part of the behind the counter area where we make specialty drinks. One day had a guy get up in his tip-toes to look over and tell me to smile!

      2. Carl*

        Omg this buffoon – “oh, it’s a milk fridge? How convenient. I’ll just put my gallons of store bought whole cows milk in there…”

      3. Hot Flash Gordon*

        “I walked over to his desk and very politely explained to him why I needed that refrigerator. I commiserated with the fact that people were using his milk when he stored it in the kitchen refrigerator, but held firm that I needed that refrigerator. He wasn’t overly happy, but luckily understood that my request was reasonable.”
        What a d*ck. You shouldn’t have to prove you’re reasonable to have access to something you’re legally entitled to. I hope he gets a paper cut under his fingernail every day for the rest of his life.

    10. Midwest Manager*

      My employer had a coded lockbox outside the room where the key was kept. Those who needed the room got the lockbox code to get the key. You were expected to take the key in with you to prevent anyone else from accessing the room while in use. You returned the key to the lockbox when you were done.

    11. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      You can install an electronic lock and give the real users a unique code to unlock it. My front door works like that, they’re very easy to install.

    12. Hosta*

      #3 I wonder if the purpose of the rooms is clear. I’ve worked at places where its called the “mothers room” or “health room” or “wellness room” and some people just didn’t know it wasn’t a free for all. We run into the same thing with the prayer/meditation rooms my large company provides. People duck into them to take calls or naps.

      1. Retired Lady*

        When I was put on insulin, that meant testing my blood sugar and doing injections four times a day (including two times during the work day). My boss told me to use the lactation room. Besides needing privacy, I was very slow at following all the steps until I picked up a little skill. There never was an issue with someone else needing the room (we had multiple “cubicles” set up on every floor) but I always felt a little conspicuous when someone saw 65 year old me walking out of the Mother’s Room!

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        I worked at a place where no one made the mistake of booking “Mothers Room” for a meeting twice, but plenty of people made that mistake once since it was in the same system as the rest of the meeting rooms. (Usually they would book it without knowing they could check the capacity of the room in the system, and several people would show up at a 1 person capacity room.)

    13. MrsBuddyLee*

      This is how the Mother’s Room at my office works. There’s a small room with a manual “occupied” sign in one building and a larger room with multiple curtained off areas inside in the other building. When you come back from maternity leave, you just go to the health center to sign out a key. Never had any issues.

    14. Anon E. Moose*

      Oh! We solved this well!

      The lacation room my company set up for me had a locking door knob that you needed a key for, THEN an additional in-room lock that you could only lock from the inside. So I could let myself in, and then LOCK myself in.

      We also had a sign on the door I’d turn when going in there (it also held some storage, so there was a need for people to occasionally get in there when I wasn’t using it).

    15. Artemesia*

      yup. The only thing that will work here is a locked room with keys only going to those authorized to use it. The company could be more careful about holding those misusing it accountable but so far they haven’t done that.

    16. The Other Fish*

      Pretty much… lock it and give access to the people who need access, no one else.

      And then… if there’s run ins between the people who need access ask them how they want to manage it. Pumping is a time limited thing (it’s not a forever thing, it is a year or two but not indefinite), so the people who use the room can make some agreements and it can be flexible between them. It does NOT need a committee to decide, just those who use the room.

      Suggestions you could make (while allowing them to come up with new ones for themselves) could include:
      A little red/green/sign/door knob indicator
      A booking calendar with limited access to those who need it
      Screens or partitions in the room to allow multiple people to use it in privacy at once
      If you use an in-house messaging platform a dedicated private channel for people who use the room to be able to confirm it’s use

    17. Momma Bear*

      They could do a keypad code lock and only people who reach out to HR after returning from maternity leave are given the current code. We have key code locks on our bathrooms to prevent the public from using them. It’s not uncommon or unreasonable. If the secondary issue is there’s nowhere to take a personal call, then that can be addressed separately.

      1. Momma Bear*

        (And I would also add a turn lock that shows “occupied” or “vacant” so mothers weren’t walking in on each other.)

  2. Carl*

    #3 – if it were me, I would just pound on the door until the person answered. If the office is such that you know only one other person would have legitimate use for room, or you see who is going in and know it’s not being used for pumping – I would have no problem kicking people out. But, that’s just me, and I realize that’s not everyone’s personality.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      I’m with you! I realize that would not be easy for some people, but it’s no more than those jerks deserve, imo.

      Unless there’s a real possibility that everyone is not aware that room is intended for pumping, those people ARE being jerks, and they deserve to be called out, in my not so humble opinion. But I know that’s a lot easier for me to say than for LW to act on.

    2. Marshmallows*

      I do agree that the person should be kicked out. I don’t agree that the lactating person should have to do it. That’s putting the burden on them when it should be the employer doing it.

      But yeah, my personality would also lend to just pounding on the door til they left or someone in charge noticed.

      1. Elsa*

        Yes, I agree. The lactating person should go to her boss and say: “I need to pump right now and someone is in the lactation room.” Then the boss can either kick out the interloper or find her another place to pump. If she does that every time, my guess is that the boss will pretty quickly find a better solution.

    3. Grey Coder*

      I volunteer to do the door pounding, forceful explaining, etc. on behalf of lactating people. Too bad I work from home.

      More practically, OP, can you enlist an ally? Doesn’t need to be a manager necessarily, just anyone who can deliver the message.

    4. Azalea Bertrand*

      The hardest one I ever had to deal with was someone using the room for a meeting during a literal state emergency (aka thousands of people in danger, multiple agencies involved). I had already been to facilities the previous day to ask if there was an alternative pumping space as the room was consistently being used by emergency personnel, they said no and that the room shouldn’t be used for meetings so I held firm and said sorry, you’re just going to have to find somewhere else. I’m very conflict avoidant and it was hard but I had to do it – there are too many health risks with not pumping when needed!

      1. Massive Dynamic*

        Good for you! Emergency meetings can be held absolutely anywhere. CEO’s office, anyone else’s office, open floor plan space, the hall, the parking lot…wherever needed.

    5. A Simple Narwhal*

      That’s what I did! We have a few wellness rooms that are used for pumping (as well as prayer, a quiet moment, etc), and you can/have to book them for use like any other conference room. There’s a screen on every door that shows if the room is available, upcoming appointments, and when it is free, and you can book a reservation right on it. To sum it up: it’s very easy to see if the room is available.

      So it infuriated me to no end when I went in for my booked pumping session and the door was locked. I had booked the room, it said it right on the door, and I needed the room so I was going to get the room. I just banged on the door until the person came out. They usually looked embarrassed but no one was ever mad – they had no right to be.

      Fortunately it only happened a couple times but it was still maddening.

    6. CommanderBanana*

      Right? Sometimes you have to return the awkwardness back to the sender. You have a legal right to the room. Gary from Finance who is sleeping off his lunchtime hoagie doesn’t.

  3. Four Lights*

    #3. If you know the person in there isn’t pumping, have you tried knocking on the door loudly and saying, “I need the room to pump.” ?

    1. Four Lights*

      And if you’re afraid to be firm, just think about how you feel to miss a pumping session. I don’t know how you feel, but I will get engorged and hurt. So these people may be physically harming you by their actions, by doing something that they have repeatedly been told not to do.

      1. CityMouse*

        Or mastitis. I had it once and it was just absolutely horrible, I spiked a crazy fever and had to go to the ER. This is not something you brush off. It can make you sick, hurt your supply. Not remotely okay.

        1. Random Dice*

          My milk supply was always an issue. It was an awful emotional issue, especially on low sleep and hormones. If people had caused it with their selfishness, I would have hated them.

        2. Delta Delta*

          And this is not a workers comp claim the employer wants. “Got mastitis at work because HR refused to kick Fergus from Sales out of the lactation room so I could pump.”

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Mastitis is awful, do not recommend. It comes out of nowhere, too. I had my post-partum checkup and was fine and then an hour and a half later had a 102-degree fever and felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

          I had a lot of problems with HR around the time I was pumping at work, but they were vigilant with keeping nappers, etc. out of the room and intervening on behalf of nursing parents when there were conflicts.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            This happened to me. I exclusively pumped for my son and had a very strict regimen but one time at work happened to be a little late. It was like, within a few minutes I felt the swelling in my breast and within no time started feeling feverish. I ended up going home but luckily managed to resolve things without having to go to the ER or urgent care.

    2. Carl*

      I was always weird about saying I was pumping, for what ever reason. Like, let’s not focus this conversation on certain parts of my body, please? But I would definitely feel comfortable turning the question on them (loudly) – “George?” **knock knock** “This is the lactation room. I don’t want to interrupt, but…” **knock knock** “Are you pumping breast milk?! George, are you done?!”

    3. Language Lover*

      I’d even have a discussion with whoever sends out the useless email reminders to talk about how they could escalate the urgency of this issue.

      As a manager, I’d happily play the “bad guy” to go knock on the door/open the door to confront the abusers of the room directly. That way any blowback wouldn’t go on the people who have a legitimate need for the room, and it’d allow me to have a more personal discussion about why this is wrong that would hopefully be more effective than my mass emails. It’d change from “I know someone is doing this” to “I know YOU are doing this. Stop it.”

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        At my last job, I got one of our admins on side when groups were going way over their reserved time slots and preventing me from having enough time to reconfigure the room for my events. They were happy to be the “bad guy” and tell people to vacate the room. (I had so many events that people would just tune me out when I asked them to leave.)

        If you have any admins who wouldn’t mind helping you out, this might be a good back-up option if your employer won’t limit room access.

        1. Alisaurus*

          As an admin, I can vouch for this! O:) Just point me at the person causing you trouble because they’re not following a very reasonable (and in some cases, like the lactation room issue, LEGAL) policy.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        As someone who is not conflict averse and loves being the bad guy, I’d be thrilled if someone asked me to evict Sleeping Stanley or Private Phone Call Patty from the lactation room.

        1. AKchic*

          I am currently the person who evicts a woman who uses the PRIVATE, locking single-user staff bathrooms as her private secondary office. When anyone knocks to gain access, she has the gall to tell the would-be user to go to the MAYOR’S FLOOR to use the bathroom (8th floor, we’re on the first floor). No ma’am. You have 6 other floors you could have gone to use your phone, or you could have left the building if you wanted a truly private call. Do not take the bathroom of the first floor. (Yes, I work in city hall, and yes, there are *issues*).

      3. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. It’s not targeting the right people and LW needs to not be skipping pumping sessions for many reasons. Someone needs to step up enforcement for real.

    4. Sneaky Squirrel*

      We don’t know their office layout. Imagine it being a cube farm. There’s a possibility that the person pumping doesn’t want to have to loudly announce to their colleagues their intentions to pump anymore than that they’d want to bang loudly on a bathroom door and yell that they need to poop.

      And also, they just shouldn’t have to do that.

      1. Observer*

        There’s a possibility that the person pumping doesn’t want to have to loudly announce to their colleagues their intentions to pump anymore than that they’d want to bang loudly on a bathroom door and yell that they need to poop.

        Sure. And they also should not have to do that.

        But the reality is that if someone is using the room, then you do what you need to do (at least until HR / Management gets its act together.)

        Also, why so much discouragement of letting people know that you need to pump. This is NOT something that should be talked of in whispers and seen as “focusing on certain parts of my body” (to quote a different commenter). I get that some people feel that way. And I’m not criticizing them. But I *am* annoyed that this is being treated as not just “the way it is”, but “the way it should be” to some extent.

        And the comparison to talking about pooping is pretty gross. I *do* think it’s fine to bang on the bathroom and say “Hey I need to use the bathroom” if someone is in there doing other stuff. But mentioning that you are pumping is a lot less gross than pooping. So let’s not treat people who are quite comfortable with mentioning that they are nursing / going to pump like they are going into gross TMI territory.

          1. Allonge*

            If it’s any consolation, that is very unlikely to happen. People don’t think about other people 1% as much as we think of ourselves.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              And yet, as a woman, I can say that other people unwantedly think about my breasts way more often than I myself think about them.

    5. Massive Dynamic*

      So the problem here is that nursing mothers are usually younger women, earlier in their careers and now stigmatized as “not as dedicated to work” because everyone knows we have a baby to care for. We are conditioned to not be pushy. It’s easier to take advantage of this group, hence the law intended to protect us.

      Perhaps I was lucky with my geriatric 2nd pregnancy, in that I did not give a CRAP as I was old and tired. If the pumping room was occupied and I had reserved the time, there was no way in hell that I was going to try to bear it until I could get back to the room later. I made it everyone else’s problem and did what I needed to do to get relief (including driving HOME one day to pump!). This forced positive change.

  4. Zelda*

    #2: Someone who is angry they aren’t your only source of information on a topic is someone you can’t trust to tell you the truth.

    1. Carl*

      Exactly! They are filling my position, bc I’m relocating out of state – and my employer (with my permission) is handing out my contact info to prospective employees left and right, encouraging then to ask me about the job. Why? Bc it’s a great company and a great job and my boss is wonderful.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Yes! The only reason they’d be angry you sought a second opinion is if they have reason to believe it would be unfavourable…

      1. Antilles*

        Generally, that would be my assumption too, though that doesn’t seem to be the case here. OP says that the SIL “gave specific examples of what he learned making him excited about the company”.
        Wait, what? You’re mad that someone is out there saying good things about you? Huh?
        This seems to be purely about control rather than being worried about unfavorable opinions being shared.

        1. Sloanicota*

          My guess is that the interviewer was put off by having an informational interview before you were even interviewed, never mind offered the job. People get on their high horse about being the chooser and not the choose-ee. But for a new grad who is trying to learn about the field it makes sense to talk to as many people as possible! This interviewer was very wrong.

          1. AnonORama*

            That seems silly on the employer’s part — the informational interview can be super helpful in the decision process around whether to apply for a specific job or company. It should come before the actual application/interview process, IMO, to avoid wasting anyone’s time. (Including the employer who’s being so pissy.)

        2. Momma Bear*

          I’d be happy someone actually researched the company vs came in cold. Too many young grads have no idea – they just blasted out their resume and go into interviews without knowing what the company even does. So, no, LW, SIL was not out of line. That interviewer was weird.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s the flip side of the applicant who is shocked, shocked that the company is allowed to talk to people in their network about the applicant, rather than only the official references applicant provided.

      (Which are sometimes “My friend Sam on three different burner emails, and what do you mean you saw “Jasper Stevenson at Amalgamated Llamas” and so contacted Amalgamated Llamas directly and asked to speak to Jasper?”)

    4. Random Dice*

      Please tell your son that he did nothing wrong.

      This interviewer was wearing banana pants, but your son couldn’t see it because the banana print was covered up by all the red flags.

      Your son should definitely contact people in their network about a company and a job, and mention it in the interview. He did exactly right.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I just cannot imagine being angry about this – it seems like someone doing their homework, which is what candidates are advised to do! I don’t remember the last time I interviewed someone who *hadn’t* reached out to people they knew at our org or people they could connect with via LinkedIn or alumni networks. Sometimes, the people who already work here are your best recruiters or will give a candid assessment of the job so that people who don’t want to do that sort of work can self-select out.

      1. Zelda*

        IKR? When I was just out of college, the general advice always made it sound like a candidate should have the company’s past five years of quarterly reports memorized before showing up to an interview!

    6. el l*

      Yes, interviewer was bananapants. Ultimately they did son-in-law a favor in ending the interview, sparing SIL by cutting short the crazy.

      And what a cruel thing to do to someone who’s just starting out and doesn’t know up-from-down in professional norms.

    7. Wintermute*


      There are three things innocent people never fear: you talking to other people about the same topic you discussed with them (liars worry you’ll compare notes, honest people wouldn’t even THINK about that possibility usually), being caught in writing (they can’t gaslight out of hard proof but if you’re honest then you realize writing protects you as much as them and you won’t begrudge someone protection), and having to show their work (liars realize they have no proof).

      now if done accusitorily you could sour the relationship, sure, but they don’t have a visceral fear the way frauds do. They get so used to weaving webs that they get trapped in them, unsure who they told what or which lies they need to maintain with whom eventually.

    8. OP #2*

      Great point! It was such a strange and unsettling experience. My daughter felt terrible at the time because she found her way into her career via the alumni network and had encouraged him to do the same. I’ve always assumed the interviewer just had major control issues, but it’s kind of a relief to have that affirmed by Alison and the commentariat.

      1. Wintermute*

        It’s a decent life lesson that into each life some moonbats must fall. It’s tempting to look for where you went wrong, but sometimes what you did wrong was just talking to someone who wasn’t inhabiting the same planet as the rest of us.

  5. What a wooly*

    Op2, have you actually tried to tell the people that are using the lactation room for something else that they need to cede it to you? Or are you silently @wauting your turn?

    It does sound like the law allows the company to use the lactation room for non-lactation purposes, so long as the latter users cede it to you when you need it for lactation. But it seems to me that you have to let them know you’re there and are claiming priority, rather than waiting your turn.

  6. Goldie*

    For #4 I agree that you are overthinking it.i would come up with a simple answer that you might not ever use to ease your mind on how you can handle a question like this is the future.
    “I thought I wanted to work in finance but I realized I have a passion for animal rights. After a few years back in animal rights, I knew that becoming an animal rights investigator was the best way for me to realize my career goal. My graduate work got me here today.”
    Their curiosity about the steps you have taken is genuine curiosity. Not necessarily judgement. They are looking for fit in the organization. You can be prepared to talk about how all of these moves make you a good fit.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      “taken is genuine curiosity. Not necessarily judgement.”

      Maybe this is semantics, but I don’t even think its curiosity (maybe for some) but more of a legitimate concern and something worth asking/being worried about.

      Someone going from a high paying career, or what would have been a high paying career to a lesser/low paying career is something to be legitimately worried about, do they have loans, will they be able to support themselves. Will they get burnt out or realize in 6 months/1year they can’t live on the nonprofit wage.

      Obviously with employee at will no set tenure is guaranteed. But I see it more similar to being worried about someone with a bunch of short job stays versus someone that has a history of several longer term stays.

      Now it seems like OP is kinda on their 3rd career. seems understandable that someone might be worried, especially if they are trying to hire with a long term tenure of 7-10+ years in mind.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I have definitely seen interviewers trying to figure out the candidate’s “story” and why they would want this job, how it fits into their story. They don’t to offer the job to someone who is just pretending this is what they want because they’re out of work, but will actually leave immediately when they find something that fits for them. Right now interviewers aren’t seeing that story for OP and that’s why they’re asking. Rather than get offended, OP might need to dig deeper and proactively tell a story that explains why the job they’re interviewing for is a move they’re truly excited for.

      2. BethDH*

        And some interviewers are just not great at realizing they’re being opaque. They may think it’s obvious that they mean “talk about how your unconventional career path led here” or “explain how you would apply your past experience to this role.”

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          ““explain how you would apply your past experience to this role.””

          I don’t even know if that is the issue so much, I think in OP4 first interview the interviewer was very direct “Why do you want to switch (or go back to) from high paying career to low paying career.” That is a legitimate question IMO, you want to make sure the applicant has actually though out the process and its not just whim and they decide in 6/12 months to go back to the high paying career.

          I used to work in a non-profit that hired professionals with a degree, the same professionals could make 3/4 times more in the private sector or even 5 times more if they went big firm private sector. Sometimes we would have people from the big firms apply, one thing we always made sure ask about was the finances (reiterating the salary, and workload) to confirm they had thought about it.

          We didn’t necessarily need to know the specifics of how they would do it (savings, trust fund, high earning partner etc….) but just that they are actively aware of the difference and potential lifestyle change they might have to make. If they said something “like I’m sure I could make it work.” that would be worrying because maybe they are being too cavalier about the switch. If they said something “the income difference is something I have though about considered, and I know my budget can handle it, I am ready for a change of pace.” That would be okay.

          1. Smithy*

            I used to work for a human rights nonprofit that hired attorneys – and that interview process was intense. On the financial side, but also on the “do you really want to do this” side. The understanding that this type of law plus the salary really might not be for everyone, there was a probationary period for 6 months where during that time either party could decide “this isn’t working”. If you left during that 6 months, they’d treat it as essentially doing ongoing education or short term surge staffing and provided you didn’t do anything unethical or wildly problematic, you’d still get a good reference.

            Ultimately, it would take years of working that job for lawyers to actually become properly experienced in these more niche areas of law the organization worked on. So the last thing they wanted was an attorney churn rate where folks would work there for 2-3 years and leave by the time they were actually trained. While they obviously can’t prevent anyone from quitting, they really do push to make sure people actually want to do this.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              As a lawyer in the arts, I can attest to this being quite the thing. If you are interviewing a person you know has to be making $300K plus bonus and they are now looking at a $90K job, you want to be damn sure they really understand just how much money they are trading for a better work/life balance. It’s easy enough to understand attorneys jumping to a lower pay right after they pay off their student loans (they are eager to trade in 80 work weeks for 40, and without the loan payments the take home pay is not vastly changed), but I would be very leery of anyone who has actually gotten used to the unbridled spending power of Big Law. It would not be unreasonable for them to feel like they traded cash for more free time, but they now cannot afford to do those very things they would like to be doing in all that spare time.

                1. Smithy*

                  I will say that on average most nonprofit attorneys won’t be pulling Big Law hours, there may be periods for super high profile cases where it’s close. And stress…well that’s just in the eye of the beholder.

                  With any job, what you do and do not take home in your mind is going to vary. And when doing mission based work, leaving stuff at the office can be harder for some people (especially in fields where there’s not a high success rate). And on top of that, you may no longer have the money for household support at the same level (cleaners, nannies, laundry services, meal prep, etc etc).

                  It’s not a one size fits all answer for sure.

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

        OP is on their third career in 7 years.
        To make up a number, it takes 2 years in many roles for the initial investment in onboarding a new employee to pay off.
        Therefore, my math says that employers have a legitimate interest in figuring out out legitimate LW4’s interest is in their field.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          This. A PhD isn’t a masters or a law degree, it is at least 7 years of your life and a massive dissertation. I have to assume you finished the PhD because, when you realized it wasn’t for you, you were so far along that it made more sense to complete the degree than to quit. So that means probably at least 3 years (if not more) into studying to continue on in that field, you decided it was a wrong fit. That is a long time to realize that something you invested so much effort into doesn’t really work for you.

          Now, you are getting another advanced degree and shifting fields, again. It is not illogical for them to want to understand why this time you won’t get 3 years or so into this career path only to realize it isn’t the right choice.

          You have a lot of advanced education as well and over several fields, so you are probably also bumping up against potential employers wondering if “working” for you is more a thing you do to earn money between courses of study. For lots of employers this wouldn’t be a huge issue (any place that only expects folks to hang around for 1-3 years), but for others it just wouldn’t make sense to invest in anyone they are pretty certain isn’t hanging around for more than a year or so.

          1. Artemesia*

            Unless we are talking about a highly technical skill like medicine or law I don’t understand having a PhD and then getting another advanced degree. You should with a PhD be able to gear up to transfer to another field without going through more schooling. I would be worried interviewing someone who was spending 10 years in post BA work getting multiple degrees was a professional student avoiding actually working a job.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        Four years ago, I left a high-paying, high-stress job for one that made half as much money. I explained the decision in my cover letter. I explained the decision in my first and second interviews. Before making the offer, the hiring manager still asked me, “Are you serious about this?”

        It would have been the wrong decision for a lot of people, but it was the right decision at that time for me, and I’ve been thriving at the job. OP4, I think you just need to remember the reasons you made your decisions and share those with the interviewer.

    2. JSPA*

      They may also be curious whether you’re willing and comfortable using the skills from your PhD, or whether you found the whole thing distasteful, and would rather stay away from those aspects.

      Having recently watched Oppenheimer, as an example, let’s say that someone with a nuclear physics background could reasonably be asked to do outreach on radiation safety or the history and current problems of Downwinders, as an extension of a nonprofit social-services-adjacent job, even though it’s never been part of the job description before. Some people would be very into that, including the referencing of the educational background. Some people would be very uncomfortable with it.

      I can totally see edging into that topic by first asking about the educational background, then pulling back if the response is negative, without ever getting to the functional point of the question.

      IMO, if you’re wondering “why the heck are they asking,” for any interview question, “why do you ask, is it directly relevant for the job in some way?” (with modifications of tone as appropriate) is a solid response.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I am a teacher, so pretty much everything is relevant. I took a year of Philosophy at college. The way my degree worked, you chose four subjects in 1st year, then carried on with two of them to degree level. I had decided in advance that I was going to do English, Irish and History (and honestly, was debating right up to the deadline which of those to drop), but had a load of possibilities for my fourth subject and decided I was going to choose something that I had never done before and had no particular career benefits (since I already had enough possibilities to get my degree in), something just for sheer interest and not for my career. Well, as it turned out, about 12 years after I graduated, a short course in Philosophy was introduced for Junior Cycle (12-15 year olds) and I did end up teaching it.

        Now, of course, teaching is a particular case here, but I still think the skills gained in a PhD could be relevant to a lot of roles and those questions seem like a good time to draw attention to the skills developed, like “well, while completing my PhD in finance, I realised I really enjoyed the research a lot more than I actually enjoyed finance and that led me to realise that my real passion was for learning/research/reading which led me to this career in research/as a librarian/archivist” or “when completing my studies in law, I realised I was really more interested in prisoners’ rights/victims’ rights/social justice/business/whatever and that I could use my legal qualifications within the role of probation officer/social worker/while working in your business more effectively than by actually practicing law. I decided this because…”

        (Those probably aren’t great examples. They are just off the top of my head and are very vague as I don’t know enough about any PhD to give an accurate example.)

        1. higher ed teaching*

          My PhD program was developing an academia-to-non academia system for folx who wanted a PhD but didn’t want to be a uni professor (which is actually a good growth strategy for graduate school as many in the humanities or humanities-adjacent fields really only teach one how to be a professor). There were grants and school funding the organizers spent much of on feeding us well so we would come for the food and stay for the content.

          The big thing they talked about was that people don’t really understand what we do learn in the PhD. It’s more than 30 hrs of content classes. It’s primary and secondary research. Figuring out what we don’t know. figuring out how to present it in a clear, compelling, and coherent way over a couple hundred or more pages. balancing articles, conferences, family, and multiple jobs. For me, managing some chronic conditions that hit a really difficult point. There’s more, but off the top of my head. The point is we were learning how to talk about the skills, hard and soft, to explain to those outside the field who didn’t have a thorough knowledge to address the (humanities) expectations we are doing it to hang out in a moldy room filled with our books and talk at our students.

          LW, ymmv, but Irish Teacher has an excellent point. Yes they’re being weird and that’s on them. Also, it’s all right to feel defensive of the work you’ve put in. PhDs are not at all easy and you should be proud of the work. I didn’t go straight through either, but I found a way to talk about my path that makes it sound reasonable and kind of straightforward and highlights the many different things I’ve done as they bring value. Not, I’m familiar with SAP, but how that translates into data management (which is an unusual thing in my specialization) and how my MA taught me how to interpret numerical results, also important for program assessment (now part of my job). My friend did his PhD in technical writing and video game design and now works for corporate America doing related things. Gaming is one of his passions and he’s ended up in a good place for him professionally.

          I know I ramble a bit, but translation seems to be the key. Not that you have it, but how it feeds into what you’re doing. may be useful beyond the interview phase when your new coworkers are trying to understand, too, which can help demystify higher education.

          1. MsM*

            I don’t even think the organization’s being all that weird. If someone had a PhD it wasn’t entirely clear to me they were using on a day to day basis and a separate graduate degree, I might wonder if they were only going to stick around for a bit before deciding they wanted to go in yet another direction and go back to school for that.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Yes, I agree with the advice in the article that OP’s own feelings may be making this weirder than it is. It’s pretty normal to ask about the career path when you see a couple seemingly disconnected starts. It’s probably not meant as an attack.

            2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              Maybe it is because I have a few friends who are serial advance degree earners, but I also don’t think it is weird to ask. Most of them make it 1-2 years at a straight job and then go back to school, take out loans, and live like starving artists. As a risk averse person, I’m not sure what the appeal is, but it is clear it works better for them than more traditional career advancement. I’m sure there are jobs where a year or so tenure is no big deal, but for many employers, the investment would just not be worth it.

          2. Smithy*

            This may just be adding to the chorus of people saying these questions are normal – but perhaps this provides some insight on how the PhD title reads to those in professions that don’t require/use one.

            I’m in nonprofit fundraising, and there was one applicant who applied, and the bulk of their recent experience was through their PhD program. True, they’d worked on some grants, done grants management in research – but there was a real question mark on why someone would go through a PhD program to then become a fundraiser.

            I’m the first to say that no one really goes to school to become a fundraiser and it’s more of a found career path – but a big part of the interviewing process is figuring out if someone actually wants *the job* vs *a job* or *any job at an organization I like.* In nonprofits in particular, a version of this question is super common unless your resume shows a linear career path. Lots of people love lots or organization missions, so drilling down into WHY THIS JOB is common.

            One interview cycle, it was after I’d worked for an organization with a mission many could find political. This amazing coach I worked with could tell that talking about that mission was giving me more anxiety than other interview questions. He just had me practice different versions of certain questions over and over again, until it was easier. It’s not uncommon for some interview questions to give us more anxiety than others, but a lot of these questions aren’t actually uncommon even if worded inelegantly.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If a question makes you uncomfortable that’s one to script an answer and rehearse it.

      I also suggest OP4 think about family responses to their career progression.

      If they have a relative who criticizes their decisions (and especially if they’re being pushed to go back to the original field!) that irritation can spill over onto professional contacts who are just looking for information.

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Not necessarily curiosity, but not judgment either – they want to make sure the applicant has thought it through, and won’t change their mind in a few months and go back to their original career.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      There’s a rule here about how if there is something non-standard about your appearance, it can make sense to come up with a boring one-sentence explanation you deploy early when meeting people. e.g. *gestures to sneaker* “Foot surgery.” It indicates that a) You recognize what the professional norms are (people oblivious to these can be difficult to work with); b) You are breaking the norm for a reason that is logical in this context (not to demonstrate that you are whimsical).

      The work history is similar–it’s a nonstandard thing that might mean all sorts of stuff (like that you will be switching to another career in a few years) and it helps to anticipate that and have a boring answer at the ready. “The fields seem disparate but both focus on diagramming sentences and I’m really passionate about that.”

    6. EngineeringFun*

      47F Engineer: you need a better career path story. After 10 years of govt research, I got PhD, then did some academia, then consumer goods. Just this month back in govt research. I preemptively tell my career path story. “I follow the research and have explored many topics. I love the process of research.” I make connections that might not be obvious. Often the response is “oh great I wondered why you job hopped so much. But that explains it”

    7. Butterfly Counter*

      I have a Ph.D. If I was interviewing someone who had not one but two previous career paths and two graduate degrees in two different subjects in the past 10 years, you bet your butt I’m asking about it.

      Working to get my degree was the hardest thing I’ve done. I was ready to quit for YEARS as I was writing my dissertation. But I put in the work because I was interested in the subject and wanted to work in the profession. It’s inconceivable to me that a person would go through all of that work and not explore that profession, even if it was just to offset the low socioeconomic status grad school put me in for a decade of my life for a year or two. If you weren’t going to work in the subject, why go through with the dissertation?

      These would not be questions I asked in an interview, but something I would be very curious about in my head. And I would wonder if this new career path would fall by the wayside as the previous ones had.

      It’s an unusual employment history, OP4. People are going to ask about it.

  7. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – it’s quite usual for interviewers to look at your whole career history when considering you for a role. They want to understand your thinking and why you made the decisions you did.

    You did a PhD and then returned to your prior career in non-profit. In the years immediately afterward, it would have been entirely possible that you were looking for a role to keep you going until a lucrative role relative to your PhD studies came up. It would have been a rather serious oversight if your interviewer did NOT ask about what your plans were, at that point.

    In later years, it’s probably been more of a “get to know you” kind of question. And possibly a question to find out if you are content in the direction your career took you, and to get an understanding of your decision-making.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Also, I feel like questions about your education, even if it was many years ago, are never considered outdated. Lots of people de-emphasize an entry-level job they had for two years 20 years ago, but interviewers frequently note what your areas of study were, and where you went to school, even if you are 20 years out of school. What and where you chose to study, and the discipline in which you chose to go so far as to get a doctorate, frequently points to a lot of your strengths and skills and choices and ideas and preferences.

      Interviewers don’t just consider the last couple of years or the most recent job / degree when deciding whether you are a good fit.

      This letter reminded me a little bit of the letters from people who acted inappropriately the first time they interviewed with an organization, and now they are upset that behavior is still being weighed in the balance the next time around. People are allowed to consider the whole you when making decisions about you.

      1. AnonORama*

        I still get asked about my law degree and why I’m not practicing, 15 years after I changed careers. I get it! I looked like a high-flyer on paper: went to a top school, graduated with honors, completed a competitive fellowship, went to a firm…and then stopped practicing. It looks weird from the outside, but no one has found my explanation disqualifying. Maybe it’s because many people know a former lawyer, or at least understand why someone might not want to be a lawyer!

        When asked, I focus on culture fit — I didn’t thrive in the adversarial culture of law firms, preferring a more collaborative environment — and discuss the skills I learned/strengthened as an attorney that translate to the current work. I don’t say being a lawyer was damaging my mental health, or that I was told I didn’t have the killer instinct to make partner. But, I don’t think a potential employer is owed a 100% explanation of a candidate’s past as long as what the candidate says is true, and nothing really serious is omitted (like a criminal conviction).

        1. Ari Flynn*

          I have a friend who was an absolutely killer law student, full ride and everything… and ended up teaching dance for a living. When people ask him why he stopped working as an attorney, he just tells them that he liked legal work all right, but LOVED dance.

          It probably helps that he was an NBA cheerleader at one point. Having some sort of success that the general public recognizes goes a long way towards convincing them that he chose art, rather than failing law.

  8. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – your son-in-law did the intelligent thing – something perfectly normal and expected. If you know someone at a company where you are interviewing, it is entirely expected that you will mention to your contact that you are a candidate, and ask for their thoughts. You may even ask them to put in a good word for you.

    The interviewer was completely out to lunch, and dead wrong about their assessment of the situation.


      1. Wintermute*

        and in cases like that it’s important to remember the law of loon parity: for every loon there is an equal and opposite loon.

        So for every person who has an issue with you mentioning it, there’s at least one person out there that would consider not mentioning it utterly disqualifying. For every person out there who bins every resume in .doc format, another does the same for .docx.

        when you meet a moonbat the tendency is to try to interpret your own actions think what you did that made them do that. This is human nature because it has kept us safe for our entire species history, looking at what went wrong and what made danger and how to avoid it in the future.

        But in these cases all you did wrong is meet an unhinged moonbat.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Thinking about how the young people in my family, early 20s to early 30s, now have networks they can ask, and often that’s the in at a given company. But at 22, fresh out of college, knowing other newly graduated 22 year olds didn’t give them much insight.

      For OP’s son-in-law, it’s never good when a prospective employer is appalled to realize you have options.

  9. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    RE #3, about the pumping room, I am wondering where HR is in all this. LW mentioned having talked to her boss, but not to HR.

    I know that, alas, not every workplace has a functioning HR, but if there is one, I think they would to know that people are regularly preventing lactating mothers from being able to use the *federally mandated* lactation room for its *federally mandated* intended purpose.

    In case anyone can’t tell, this letter is making me see red! LW, the people who are hijacking that room are COMPLETELY out of line, and your manager is not doing NEARLY enough about it. If you have a half decent HR, please loop them in asap. This is exactly the kind of thing HR exists to handle.

    Good luck, please keep us updated!

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Completely agree! It should not fall on the OP to be the one to kick people out. That is way inappropriate.

      HR should flex their legal muscle and enforce the rule. Good luck to you, OP!

    2. CityMouse*

      As someone who pumped, the idea that LW is missing sessions makes me see red. They’re risking her health and her ability to feed her baby.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, I have had mastitis, and as such am begging you to make an unholy fuss rather than risk your health by being the sort of person who doesn’t complain.

        1. Observer*

          This. So much this.

          These laws were passed for a reason. You should not have to risk getting ill (as others have noted, mastitis is no joke!) Nor should you have to risk losing your ability to nurse your child.

          I would also note that if you are someone who has a hard time kicking up a fuss for yourself, do this not just for you. Do it for your child and for every other woman in the company, present and future.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            I will add if it’s just too hard to do for yourself, PLEASE find a Mama Bear advocate willing to speak on your behalf. I remember being a mom to a newborn, pregnant with a 15 month old, and caring for babies 23 months apart. It was… a lot. I now have (some of) those neurons back and can speak for those who are still in the brain fog. I’m not the only one, and surely there is at least one older person, or just a person with all the spoons, who would happily go to war for you and the other lactating mom. :)

    3. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      I’ll bet dollars to donuts that some of these jokers (especially the men) see the lactation as a “favor” to nursing mothers and that’s it’s SO UNFAIR that they don’t get a private space when they want it.

      It’s basically an example of people with privilege (here, the privilege of not needing to have a private space where you can take your shirt off) getting angry when someone tries to ameliorate the consequences of that privilege.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Alternatively, it’s the person who get the all-hands email about people spraying soup all over the microwave and thinks “How shocking; people are just so thoughtless; good thing I would never do that” while placing their uncovered bowl of soup in the microwave.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          I think there are 2 kinds of people in the world. The ones who assume that email is about everyone else, and the ones who worry the email is about them because of the one time that the cover slipped off their food, even though they cleaned up the mess themselves.

      2. I am Emily's failing memory*

        It always amazes me when I see the lengths some people (sadly, often women – I wonder what about our culture contributes to this??) will go to justify a completely reasonable request and not be seen as fussy or high-maintenance. Like, “I’m so sorry to have to bother you about this, but you’re sitting in my lap, which would be fine!! except it’s difficult for me to reach the keyboard or see the monitor, and I’m worried it’s making you uncomfortable to have me reaching around you and craning my neck to see past you!”

  10. Annie*

    I wonder if part of the reason for LW#1’s hesitation to tell bosses about what’s happening is because the bosses are family members (or family friends) too? Is the fear of being let go along with the irresponsible family members stemming from the three family members being a family-run department within the company, or just a guilt by association fear?

    For #4, I would rehearse a “I realized the pay wouldn’t be worth such-and-such stressor” type answer, e.g. “The high pay did sound really nice at first, but to me, it wasn’t worth the hours/travel/soaking wet hair from llama spit/guilt from engineering puppy kickers/having to live in a city I hate/other sucky thing that explains why you left that field behind.”

    For a response with a more positive tone, try this: “At first, the prospect of making lots of money in that field was really appealing. As time went on, however, making a visible, positive impact in the lives of people around me became more important to me than a high salary.” If you have something more specific that motivates you than “making a visible, positive impact in the lives of people around me” to respond with, go for it!

    1. JSPA*

      for #1, I wonder (given the mention of rides) if the family are often or always their ride to and from work, and that having to come up with another mechanism was going to make the job unworkable for them?

      Or if waiting to speak up, rather than speaking up instantaneously, would be taken as a cover up on their part? In which case, “I brought it up immediately to Sally, and thought it was being handled, but as it’s still a problem, and it appears that nothing is happening, I’m escalating it to you, both so you can get her the help she needs, and so that nobody is put at risk by further drunk driving.”

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The only thing harder than having an alcoholic in the family, is having an alcoholic+enabler in the family, and the only thing harder than that is having to work with the alcoholic and the enabler that you’re related to. It’s common to catastrophize when your family enables alcoholics (ask me how I know) because when there’s an enabling vibe in the family, you know that standing up to the alcoholic will be met with worse social blame than the alcoholic ever got. It’s easy to transfer that rule to work, and expect the messenger to get shot. It’s also entirely possible the manager mother in law just has a lot of capital. You don’t need to have family bosses for a company to be unfair and dysfunctional. I hope that’s not the case for OP and when she assesses people’s reasonableness she’ll have supporters both inside the family and at work. It’s not too much to expect.

      1. Laser99*

        I do not have direct experience with this but my knowledge of human nature assures me you are correct. “You just had to tattle!”

      2. Wintermute*

        With families enabling any behavior I use the poo analogy.

        Imagine someone at your party poos on the floor.

        In a normal family, they go “what the heck” and have them clean it up.

        Enabling families? how dare you make her poo on the floor? you need to clean that up right now. and if you say no, she needs to clean her own poo, so she throws a fit, and her poo into your ceiling fan and now there’s poo all over and the family is shrieking that you made her do that and you’re an awful person and you deserve it.

        They may do this at your house, they may do that AT AN IMPORTANT EVENT like your wedding or even a funeral, because charmin sandiego must never be challenged she is the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

        You can never fix this. You can never make that woman clean up her own poo. You can excuse yourself from following her around cleaning up piles like you work for ringling brothers.

  11. Support Project Nettie*

    re #3. My organisation uses card key fobs to go through doors. For certain rooms, only specific people can get in with their fob. Don’t know if it’s feasible but a similar system would work in this scenario. Anyone who needs to pump could make a one-time request for their fob to give access to the lactation room and no-one else would have access.

    Reading other comments about a sign (red green, occupied or not) – the problem is (in my experience) people forget or just ignore them. He’ll, I’ve been obviously in a toilet cubicle with door locked and had people trying to get in despite the sign “occupied” and me shouting “it’s engaged!!!”. Some people sadly don’t seem to understand that not everything is available to them at all times.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I think you’re right, a key card would work best. We used them at my old job in a hospital, and they worked fine.

    2. EA*

      We did this in one of my offices without a fob system, just regular keys. The two pumping mothers at the time (one other woman and I) got copies of the key and left the door locked when we weren’t using it. We did have times where others requested to use the room for brief periods of time, but they had to ask us for the key to access the room and work around our pumping schedules, not vice versa.

    3. Wintermute*

      these systems are tens of thousands of dollars typically so they are not an option for a smaller business, but if you have that budget, it’s worth it.

      Once you have a granular badging system you’re not only using best practices but you also have additional capabilities like time restrictions, tracking of badge-ins to sensitive areas like server rooms or utility closets, ability to set open hours and locked hours, ability to have guest badges, all kinds of advanced potentials.

      Also such a system greatly helps if you have anything where they care about access– proving payment card compliance or HIPAA compliance for instance.

    4. Hedgehug*

      Or change the lock on the door and only give the keys to OP and the other pumping employee, and the boss for security reasons.

  12. COHikerGirl*

    Re: Letter 4. My degree is in biology. I graduated in 2013 (LinkedIn might have that, my resume does not, but my high school grad date is quite clearly 2001). My work history for bookkeeping/accounting starts at 2009 or so (on LinkedIn, my resume has 2012). I always get asked why my career and degree don’t match. It’s a bit of an odd swing, especially with two of my volunteer things (both science-related).

    I have my script for explaining down and so far hasn’t been a hinderance at all! Just have a way to explain that is clear and concise and you’re good.

    Pretty much everyone asks me the question regardless of setting. I can recite my script in my sleep at this point! (Though if I could study bugs for the same amount as accounting, I’d drop accounting in a heartbeat…lol.)

    1. LaurCha*

      Random advice, feel free to ignore: it’s time to take your high school off of your resume, or at least do it if you decide to job search. It tells people you’re over 40. Also people are going to assume you have a high school diploma if you also have a college degree. Consider taking graduation dates off the resume entirely.

      This job market sucks and ageism is REAL. Don’t give anybody ammunition to decide you’re an old.

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I agree, I don’t even think I had my HS degree while I was still in undergrad/bachelors. I just started putting my expected degree/graduation date, when I applying for jobs.

        I think the only time I listed my HS degree/expected graduation date was when I was still in HS.

      2. Wry*

        I agree, no reason to put high school on your resume, both because of potential for ageism and because it’s not relevant to work and is taking up space that could be used for something else. But rereading the above post, COHikerGirl is actually referring to LinkedIn, not her resume, and I think that’s a bit different, though I can’t necessarily put my finger on why. There’s still definitely potential for the ageism issue, but I think at a certain point in your career, it might be tough to obscure your age without also masking relevant work experience? I also think that with LinkedIn you don’t really “run out of space” in the same way you do on a traditional one-page resume. Obviously you don’t want to clutter your LinkedIn with irrelevant stuff, but you also don’t need to debate whether to remove an older job to make room for an extra couple lines about your current job. I tend to consider a resume to be more tailored while a LinkedIn page is (or can be) more comprehensive. You never know what might be relevant, whether it’s experience from a job you had in college or the fact that you and your interviewer are alums of the same high school. I’m curious if other people feel this way about leaving more info on LinkedIn vs. a resume.

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          I would agree – there’s a lot of variance in how people use LinkedIn, and I think high school is something that could reasonably be included or excluded according to the person’s preferences and what they’re hoping to get out of using the site.

          Good to be aware of the possibility that a high school graduation year will introduce age bias, but there may be instances where someone would want to include it anyway – I can imagine, for instance, someone who teaches at private or public school getting value out of showing they attended the same type of school as a kid, or someone who moved away from a medium/smallish community for a while and then moved back using it as a handy way to show they do have roots in the community, for instance – and it doesn’t have the same “opportunity cost” there as it would on a resume with limited real estate. LinkedIn also puts education pretty far down towards the bottom of the page so it’s not even pushing more relevant information further down and out of sight.

        2. Cmdrshprd*

          I don’t use linkedin very much so I don’t know the technical aspects of it. But I think having the HS/College/University you went to listed is fine, I don’t think you need to have your graduation year listed especially after you have been in the your career for a while.

          I think linked is also a marketing tool/document and does not need to be a comprehensive listing of all your education/experience.

          “You never know what might be relevant, whether it’s experience from a job you had in college” while this can be true in your early career, I think depending on the skills once you are 10/15+ years into your career your experience with XYZ database at your college job, is almost certainly not going to be relevant to a current job that uses XYZ database.
          Maybe something like customer service/people skills learned at a retail job in HS/College could be relevant, but if you are 5/10+ years into your career I would imagine/hope you would have more relevant experience to showcase your people/customer skills.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          The only reason that I see people still listing HS on resumes when it’s no longer needed is that they went to a prestigious/expensive HS and want to either signal that they’re the “right” sort of people or to make alumni connections. (I also work in an industry rife with academic snobbery, so I think that this is not something “normal” people see as often.)

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (drunk driving) Karen has been given a number of chances already and blew it. Sally is enabling her. And now if OP (or other colleagues who are aware of it) don’t take action, they are indirectly enabling Karen. Aside from the drunk driving aspect itself, you have a massive conflict of interest here with Sally managing a family member and unwilling to take any action. I almost wonder if Sally has taken on Karen as an employee to do her a favour or to “keep an eye” on her.

    You would be doing the right thing in reporting it. It is very unlikely that you (OP) would lose your own job over this.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      I am afraid there would be another relative or friend in management – it just seems this kind of business. LW1 complaining would result not only in loss of job, but family repercussions.
      LW1 should learn to drive, get her own car, and get a job where she is not supervised or driven in cars by unreliable family members.

      That said, a confidential call to the parole officer would be warranted in the near term.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        OP1 definitely needs to get another job. This is going to end badly. If the company finds out and fires everyone, then what? SIL is still drving drunk and OP is out of a job.

        I am really amazed the SIL hasn’t been busted by probation yet. She should be having random testing. Given the fact she doesn’t seem to get cutting back on drinking, she should have flunked at least one. Also attendance at AA or a similar program is usually required and there are forms that have to be turned in. Probation hasn’t noticed no compliance yet for SIL?

        1. I am Emily's failing memory*

          AA/substance abuse counseling is pretty bog standard everywhere as far as I know, but total abstinence from alcohol isn’t always a condition of probation for DUI depending on what state the conviction happened in.

          Sadly it’s possible to attend compulsory AA/counseling but not really be committed to doing the work, and get nothing out of it. I hate to say it but especially in the last couple of years. I had a boyfriend in college who had a marijuana arrest with compulsory NA as a condition of probation. Online meetings counted and he did all of his mandatory sessions from his bedroom – and this was about 20 years pre-pandemic, so they weren’t video meetings, and while he did abstain from marijuana for the entirety of his probation, he was often drinking during those online meetings. (He wasn’t required to abstain from alcohol since his arrest was for marijuana.)

          That’s the thing about making self-help compulsory – AA/NA are not set up to be watchdogs/disciplinarians for people who are going through the motions to fulfill a legal requirement. They’re there for to provide peer support and accountability to people who want to do the work. When you force people into treatment who aren’t ready to accept treatment yet, it’s not so effective :(

          I had a family member who had two DUIs within a couple years of each other. After the second one they still didn’t require her to abstain from alcohol (not a thing in our state) but they did make her install a breathalyzer thing in her car’s steering column that prevents the engine from being started if you don’t blow clean into it right before turning the ignition.

      2. Resentful Oreos*

        OP1 might not be able to drive for Reasons, but, I agree they *must* find an alternate way to get to work that does not involve a drunk chauffeur. Public transit, Lyft, carpooling with someone else, whatever it takes to not be in the same car as Karen. The latter is a hazard on the road and might wind up killing someone (or herself, or any unfortunate passengers).

        1. Artemesia*

          Once you know you have to do something to stop it because she is likely to kill someone. We had these issues around getting elderly relatives to stop driving when they had dementia. My FIL was nearly blind, could not get his license renewed, had no insurance and still drove. He didn’t stop until his sons stole his care when he was in the hospital. If he had returned home permanently, I am sure he would have managed to buy another car and drive but he hadn’t figured that out before his health worsened.

          My own father was a menace for years and we wouldn’t let our kids ride with him but it took a long time to get my mother to ask his doctor to have his license suspended.

          You know she drives drunk; you have to figure out how to report that. Maybe anonymously while she is driving — but figure out some way to get her off the road.

    2. Lucia Pacciola*

      I think for a question like this, it is very important to separate out the issues.

      First, there’s the workplace safety and productivity issues. These are very simple issues, that have basically the same advice regardless of your relationship with your co-workers. If you don’t feel safe getting in a car with your co-worker, don’t do it. Plan ahead and make other transportation arrangements. If your boss insists you do it, refuse. Stand your ground, and take it to their boss and/or HR. Be as discreet as you can, but disclose what you must to make it clear you have good reason, and that you won’t be changing your mind. And of course if your co-worker’s behavior is affecting your productivity at work, report that to your boss.

      Second, there’s the working with family issues. Given the nature of these issues in this case… Find a new job ASAP.

      Third, there’s the “social contract” issue of reporting criminal behavior to the authorities. For that, let your conscience be your guide.

      1. Heart&Vine*

        I say that third issue is more close to #1. Sally is going to kill someone if she isn’t stopped. Someone is literally going to end up dead because of Sally’s behavior. Reporting her to her probation officer would be a kindness compared to what she would have to face if she killed someone while driving drunk.

        1. Heart&Vine*

          Meant that to be Karen, not Sally. But Sally’s conscience wouldn’t be any cleaner.

        2. Lucia Pacciola*

          I agree with all of that. What I’m saying is, #3 isn’t Karen’s employer’s problem. Except insofar as it might create some kind of liability for them. You report workplace safety issues to your employer because you want to be safe in your workplace, not because you owe society a moral duty to call this out.

          #3 is the “moral duty to society” question, which isn’t really a question for a workplace advice blog.

        3. Grandma*

          I had an alcoholic brother who kept driving drunk even on probation, even without a license. When he did get caught, again, he spent several months in jail (5?) and there were conditions when he got out. One was that he had to take a medication every day that made him sick if her had a drink. Compliance was checked frequently. He had to go to AA, again, and that together with the sick pills and the compliance checks did the job. He was sober for around 3 years. That was an even better result than the 3 residential rehabs he’d done previously. For some problem drinkers this might be the off-ramp that sticks for longer than 3 years; one can hope. In my brother’s case, it was just a 3 year respite, but it was something. In the end he died of alcoholism, but at least give your sister-in-law a chance and report her. A stint in jail turns out to be a wake-up call that can’t be ignored. People on the road will thank you for removing this fatality waiting to happen.

  14. New Jack Karyn*

    #1: Where is your husband in all this? I’m reading this as being about his sister and mother. Is he backing you? Step 1 is make sure he’s backing you. Step 2 is call her PO. Step 3 is find a new job because it sounds like mixing family and business is not working for you in this situation.

    I’m less likely to involve law enforcement than most Americans (I think), but repeated and continuing DUIs is a bright red line.

    1. Observer*

      I’m less likely to involve law enforcement than most Americans (I think), but repeated and continuing DUIs is a bright red line.

      I think that a lot of people are reacting this way. Alison also pretty much said the same thing.

      SIL presents a clear and present danger to people. That HAS to be stopped.

    2. WellRed*

      When I saw the headline I first assumed MIL was the owner of a small dysfunctional family biz but there are actual options here, even if they all sound hard to OP.

    3. morethantired*

      I think it’s important for LW to document everything in whatever way they can before telling their spouse their course of action. Because if the spouse is in on wanting to protect the sister-in-law, then LW needs to be prepared for serious backlash. LW should report Karen no matter what their spouse says, but documenting everything beforehand gives LW some protection of Karen and the mother-in-law get tipped off and try to oust LW first.

  15. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (talked to network about the company) Yes, dodged a bullet especially if that interviewer was the hiring manager or in OP’s “chain of command”. If OP had got the job (or whoever has it) I imagine that manager gatekeeping all the time like this: “who said you could talk to Jane directly about the TTP project? All communication has to go through me” etc.

  16. Dorothy Zpornak*

    Dang, I finished my PhD 11 years ago, and that still feels to me like it just happened. (And actually after I finished I spent 7 years in a holding pattern waiting to get my first real job, so I think of those 7 years as not really counting.)

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      I was thinking something similar. I’ve met a lot of PhDs progressing in other careers (especially academic administration) who would go for a job as a faculty member if they could. I could see them going back to the faculty even after seven years, and as an interviewer I’d want to know how they felt about working in their previous field if it was an option. LW4’s original area might be known for having the same kind of pull.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do think this is so hard to handle as an applicant. I have seen other members of the hiring committee speculating on candidates in a way that seems really unfair to me, and they don’t get a chance to answer because it’s often behind closed doors. The best approach I think is to have a proactive and rehearsed version of events you present yourself that explains no, you aren’t secretly planning to go back to your old field / move home to California / whatever.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          “I have seen other members of the hiring committee speculating on candidates in a way that seems really unfair to me.”

          Maybe what you are referring to is different, but I don’t think speculating/wondering if a candidate has thought about how they will pay bills/survive switching from a high paying career to a low paying one is unreasonable.

          Or wondering if the candidate is fully invested in this career, it seems like OP has a few of degrees, 2 masters and a PHD now ( I assume they already had a masters before getting the PHD, and not they just got another graduate degree) will the candidate stay in this career/job for 5/7/10 years or will they switch careers, and/or go back and get another degree. It is not unreasonable for the employer to want to hire someone that seems interested in longer term position rather than I just need a job right now and intend to keep looking position.

          1. Artemesia*

            We see letters here all the time from people who have just accepted a new job and now the job they always wanted has become available — and of course they are advised to take it. But who wants to be the hiring manager who just went through all this hassle and now has to hire again because Joe got the higher ed offer they had despaired of.

            Someone with lots of degrees is a red flag. Someone taking a wage cut is a red flag? Anyone planning to interview with those red flags flying needs to have a very good story.

  17. Kella*

    OP#4 Out of curiosity, do you ever notice feeling a similar defensiveness when people question choices you’ve made or offer you advice (even when you’ve asked for it)? I ask because this reminds me a great deal of how I respond to similar situations, and it comes from the fear that people don’t trust my judgment, don’t trust my ability to think things through or to make a full evaluations of things.

    The truth is, these questions are rarely a value judgment on your choices and are usually just information gathering. If my question resonates for you at all, perhaps try reframing these questions as an opportunity to share how your competence and skillset lead you to those choices as an example of something you’re proud of, rather than feeling like you have to prove yourself or defend your reputation.

    1. Saturday*

      Exactly. Rather than being annoyed that the interviewer didn’t assume that your PhD research skills are useful in your new career, look at it as an opportunity to tell them about how useful they are – in a way that sets you apart from the other candidates. You really can’t expect people to connect these dots themselves.

      1. AnonORama*

        Agree, and as someone who made a big switch, unless their tone is super challenging or adversarial, they’re probably just interested because it’s different. Even if it’s irritating, it could be a chance to make yourself stand out with varied experience, multiple skill sets, etc. It’s unlikely you’ll be up against anyone with your exact background, so focus on the positive if you can.

  18. CityMouse*

    I had a family member who was killed out walking his dogs when he was struck by a woman who was driving drunk to work. Killed the dogs too. She got 8 years.

    Report, call the PO, make it stop any way you can.

    1. Generic Name*

      This. OP, I know you are worried that people will get fired, but people’s lives are at risk with your SIL behind the wheel.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      An acquaintance of ours was on her way to work and was rear-ended and shoved under the trailer of an 18-wheeler by a guy who was drunk during rush hour and was fleeing the scene of an earlier fender-bender. She survived but her leg was crushed and her car was so mangled she had to pull herself out–first responders couldn’t cut her out without risking cutting her, too. The recovery was horrible and the stress tanked her marriage.

      1. Artemesia*

        A negligent driver created a series of events that destroyed my son’s marriage and eventually lead to his death. Horrible accidents can have cascading effects even if they don’t kill outright. And my DIL is still suffering the effects of her injuries.

    3. Karma is My Boyfriend*

      My BFF’s mom was killed by a drunk driver when we were 8. Her younger sister was 9 months old and still being breastfed. Her dad has been in a nursing facility since the accident. It has now been more years since the accident than her mom was alive for. Drunk driving kills, and leads lasting effects.

  19. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

    I want to offer a reframing on something Alison said in Letter 1; the SIL wouldn’t be being jailed because she is an addict, she would be being jailed for the actions she has chosen and taken, which have endangered likely hundreds, if not thousands, of other people who were simply going about their lives in the same geographical vicinity as the SIL.

    OP, you need to make that call, before she kills somebody.

    1. Feral Humanist*

      I came into the comments hoping to find someone saying this. Being an alcoholic is not a crime. If she were drinking but not driving, I wouldn’t suggest reporting her to her PO. But DRUNK DRIVING is a crime, and one that can have tragic and horrific consequences. It should be (even, I might argue, MUST be) reported.

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes, punishing someone for an addiction is sad and we know it doesn’t really work to help them. But, sometimes it’s not about helping them. Drunk driving is one of those cases where right now, it doesn’t matter if it’ll get them well – they’re a deadly danger to others as long is this is allowed to continue. Please LW, do whatever you can to get her to stop driving. You won’t regret getting her off the road.

    2. Boof*

      Yes, thank you – I see addiction like any other condition ie diabetes, high blood pressure. Not the person’s “fault” they can’t process sugar well, or like alcohol too much (or whatever the addiction is). Absolutely up to them whether or not to watch their diet, take their meds, etc (diabetes etc); absolutely up to them whether to keep trying to “socially” drink even when they know they shouldn’t, whether to drive / not make any driving plan while drinking, whether to lie/cheat/steal, etc.

  20. melissa*

    I changed careers more than 10 years ago, and i still get those questions! It doesn’t seem like “judgement” to me, but it’s pretty unusual to meet someone who had the masters degree I have but is working in a totally different field.

  21. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    Lactation room: this should definitely be coming from HR or someone high up in the company and the room should have some sort of key function available only to the lactating people. It’s not realistic to put the responsibility on the pumping employees to pound on the door and yell. Its very likely there are power dynamics in play. The non-pumping people in the room could be be higher up, much higher up, the pumper’s boss or grand boss, a client
    On top of that, other people are likely leaving the room a mess and/or using the fridge meant to hold breast milk.

  22. Irish Teacher.*

    LW2, is it possible the interviewer misunderstood the situation and thought he was trying to get an unfair advantage by getting his contact to “put in a good word for him” or that he was name-dropping in an attempt to get favoured over other candidates? I could see somebody being annoyed if they thought a candidate was basically saying, “well, you have to give me the job because I know somebody with power in your company.”

    It still wouldn’t justify the interviewer’s reaction and given their bizarre behaviour, it is probably more likely they are worried he’d heard something they wanted to keep from him or something.

    Either way, the issue is with the interviewer. Either they got the wrong end of the stick and also were pretty rude about it or they were bizarrely defensive about the idea of anybody finding out anything about their company before applying for a job there.

    LW4, I’m no expert, but those don’t sound like yellow or red flags to me at all. They seem like pretty valid questions, not because professional choices should be money-driven, but just because people generally take qualifications in order to get a job in the area and it makes sense that they would want to know you are chosen their field over the one your PhD is in rather than that you are between jobs in your chosen field and are basically using them as a stopgap until you can return to that field.

    I would just interpret it as “why did you choose our field, given that you have a wide range of options open to you?”

    1. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

      I don’t think the interviewer misunderstood the situation. From the extreme reaction, it sounds more like they had something to hide, or just wanted to control the narrative.

      The candidate did something that almost every recruiter or every expert tells a job seeker to do: research the company. Companies often ask, “why did you apply here?” They want to know that a candidate used a laser site to target their company, not just throwing out resumes shotgun-style.

      I see nothing wrong to using the tools at hand to get an advantage.

  23. Fiachra*

    #2: That’s a company with something to hide, and got spooked that they had been found out.

    1. Cee Es*

      The interviewer is a big red flag, but I feel bad on the OP’s SIL to encounter such an individual early in his career.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, it really helps to encounter the wild deviations from norms only after you’ve laid down enough experience to recognize that these are batshit deviations.

      2. OP #2*

        That’s exactly how I felt, Cee Es. He was so discouraged. Luckily, he was hired elsewhere fairly quickly, but the experience definitely shook his confidence for awhile.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Or rage. One of those.

        (I’m a couple decades out from nursing, less out from “Actually I AM going to make a fuss, because this is wrong and it’s your job to fix it.”)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          To cross with Letter 1, I’m thinking of a scene in Mad Men where Peggy had bailed her boss Don out of jail for drunk driving. He indicated that this was an awkward topic of which they would not speak. And she initially cooperated, but then stomped back in there and laid into him that that was a lot of money for her, and so they WOULD speak of it and he would pay her back immediately.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      Seriously! My kids are grown and I still remember that OMG I’M GOING TO EXPLODE feeling.

  24. Bookworm*

    #2: The interviewer was wrong. I was the other side of this (wasn’t the hiring person but on the team) and a guy fresh out of college got the job because he had contacts in common with the hiring person who had gone to the same school. They didn’t quite overlap (hiring person graduated a year or two before new hire but they had connections in common). What it’s worth this is pretty common. I suspect that I wasn’t hired for that same job partially for that reason ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. (There are other reasons and ultimately it was probably for the best but just pointing out that networking like this is very common).

    1. Observer*

      a guy fresh out of college got the job because he had contacts in common with the hiring person who had gone to the same school.

      That’s not even the issue here, though. The LW was not saying that “you should give me the job because I know someone”. What they said was “I did my due diligence and found out some nice things, so I’m enthusiastic.”

      Which makes the interviewer’s response even more bonkers.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Right? My current employees are sometimes my best recruiters because they are willing to take the time to talk to people they know from school, other jobs, or that just reach out to them via LinkedIn. When someone’s spoken to them and come away with a more positive impression, that’s a win.

  25. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I agree that people shouldn’t go to jail for addiction. But they sure as hell should go to jail for drunk (or otherwise impaired) driving! And if you get caught driving impaired twice? Permanent loss of license.

    Driving is not a right. It is a privilege. You are in control of a one ton plus hunk of metal that will squish anything organic. And if you’re driving impaired you WILL get into some kind of accident sooner or later. If you’re lucky you’ll hit fence. If you’re not you’ll kill someone.

    I’m usually not one for calling the cops on people. But enforcing traffic rules is one of the few things they’re actually good for.

    Call your SIL’s parole officer. Tell your boss about your MIL and SIL. And try to find a job elsewhere.

    1. Bast*

      100% agree. I think the laws here are too lenient for drunk driving — a few slaps on the wrist and a “don’t do it again” before any real punishment and they’re back out and doing it again. My sister died due to an impaired (alcohol and pills after a night of partying) driver. I have NO qualms about calling the cops I see on someone getting behind the wheel clearly impaired, or someone that I’ve had a few with who refuses to Uber. I don’t care who you are; everyone thinks it can’t happen to them until it does. A night of fun or a few drinks is not worth killing someone over. SIL is a ticking time bomb until she DOES injure or kill someone and I’m sure OP would feel terrible if they knew and said nothing.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Ditto on this! My husband lost a colleague of 20 years who was hit by a drunk driver. The DD who hit and killed my husband’s colleague (along with 2 others) would constantly brag on social media about how she was the best drunk driver, including on the night of the accident. And now the DD’s mom is currently part of a lawsuit file by the family of the one victim for enabling her daughter by lending the vehicle to her daughter on the night of the accident for her to go out drinking, knowing her daughter would drink and drive.

      2. Starbuck*

        We’re far too lenient on drivers in general – want to get away with murder, or get as light a sentence as possible? Kill a pedestrian or cyclist with your car. You’d think that someone being a deadly danger on the road would automatically get their license permanently revoked, but no, you can hit someone and main them and perhaps not even go to jail at all.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Assuming by “here” you mean the US… I think this is a legitimately difficult topic. For many people in this country, driving is the only transportation option to access basic needs. We are very spread out and lack infrastructure to make other modes of transportation feasible for a huge percentage of the population. There’s no good or even acceptable way to handle it with our current system: it’s wrong to allow an unsafe driver on the road, but it’s inhumane to take away someone’s only form of transportation to access basic necessities. Not to mention it doesn’t work! If people need to drive to get anywhere, they will drive whether or not they have a license. For example, a study in California found 8.8% of drivers on the road had suspended/revoked licenses.

          Don’t get me wrong – I agree DUI should have strict enforcement and penalties, and that we are far to lax about traffic safety in all aspects. However, I think solving this requires making accessible, practical alternative forms of transportation available. We need to take the focus off punishing wrongdoers and put way more emphasis on practical harm reduction… which also has far more benefits for public health, climate, etc.

    2. Gemstones*

      I agree. I think when you’re putting others in danger, it’s not a matter of jailing someone for addiction. It’s a matter of keeping others safe.

    3. Maz*

      Driving is absolutely a privilege, not a right. I have an intermittent squint, which causes intermittent (especially when my eyes are tired) double vision, and in turn, problems with distance perception. I’d be a danger to myself and everyone else on the road, therefore, I made a conscious decision not to drive. I don’t even have a licence. Sadly, alcoholics tend not to be that self aware. If they’re not yet able or willing to admit they have a problem, they won’t see the danger in driving while under the influence.

    4. EmmaPoet*

      Agreed. This is a matter of public safety. Karen is going to harm or kill someone if she keeps going, and how are you going to feel knowing that you ignored her drunk driving? Also, you’re now involved in the coverup if you don’t report this.

    5. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      We could do so much to improve this country (especially the rural areas where cabs/Uber aren’t always available) by making it more feasible to live and work without driving, so we could go all-in on treating it as a privilege without creating a lot of knock-on problems.

  26. Charley*

    #5, My office was hiring for a role once and our organization had a rule from HR that we couldn’t proceed with making any offers until we’d interviewed some specific number of people. We weren’t getting many bites on the job posting and as a result it took forever to get back to the first guy who interviewed. Maybe something like that. Good luck!

    1. OP 5*

      Thank you! I think there are multiple issues at play based on the wording of their email, I’m mostly just nosey and curious since I’ve been fortunate enough not to run into it before. Mentally moving on from the job so it doesn’t stress me out though!

  27. Varthema*

    LW4, how’s this for a lens change – whenever you have something “unusual” on your CV (or rather anything that’s not a steady predictable march through a career’s standard trajectory) you actually WANT it to be raised at the interview. That way you get a chance to spin it in your favor, highlighting the benefits you’ve gotten from your experience. If it doesn’t come up, the reality is that the interviewer is drawing their own conclusions, and that’s not ideal because you don’t know what they are – and they might be unfair/unfavorable.

    So in fact, if these “unrelated” experiences aren’t getting raised, I’d actually make the effort to proactively raise them myself so I can own them and paint my own picture.

    1. AnonORama*

      Agree 100%. When I first changed careers, I definitely could see interviewers seeing me as a washout from legal practice, and/or someone looking for a stopgap job while I tried to get back into a law firm. (The first is not entirely untrue; the second was 100% wrong.) I don’t remember any interview — at least not one where I made it past the initial screening — where I wasn’t asked about it. But if anyone hadn’t mentioned it, I would’ve brought it up.

  28. OMG--Tacos!*

    #3–It’s funny this letter got posted today because I opened up an email from my site (my employer has many) that lactation rooms will now require badge access and that you need to put in an order to get one. And while I don’t have kids, it irks me because WE HAVE relaxation rooms and empty offices and conference rooms. It’s kind of sad it had to get to this point. But fingers crossed you can get a swift solution!!

  29. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    Getting a PhD is a huge investment both economically and timewise, so I can see interviewers being curious about why anyone would spend that much money and time into a degree that seems to only fit into the field that OP4 didn’t want to stay in. I know OP says that the degree applies to their current non-profit work, but at the same time, they are going back to school to get a graduate degree to better support the work they are doing now, so not sure if there is a true cross over, or just a ‘life skills’/ ‘work skills’ cross over (such as time management, writing proposals, researching skills, etc.).

    And while we should want to enjoy work, employers do understand the need to support yourself, so I could see them being concerned that if they offer low salaries (which non-profits are stereotyped to do) that OP would leave after some time because they have the ability to do so. It’s like when overqualified people apply for junior roles, there’s always a back of the mind suspicion that they won’t stay in the role for long.

    I think it’s just a quirk that OP will always have to deal with until they settle into a long-term position at a non-profit. I can’t get a good read from the letter about how long they’ve worked with one non-profit organization or if they’ve moved around a lot, which may also be triggering the question of whether or not the non-profit world is what OP wants.

  30. Tired and in Pain*

    Is the lactation the other private securable space available? Not that it excuses the behaviour, but it might explain some of it.

    (I have been offered a lactation space as the only secure private space I could do the physio exercises I needed to do during the work day; fortunately, no-one else needed it for its official purpose at the time.)

    1. Tired and in Pain*

      I’ll try that first line again. (incomplete thought/sentence)

      Is the lactation room one of the few private securable spaces available?

    2. Missa Brevis*

      Yeah, I’ve sometimes used our office lactation space when I needed to sit somewhere dark and quiet and wait for migraine meds to kick in, because literally the only options are there or sitting on the floor under one of our back stairwells.

      It does not at all excuse people taking over a lactation room when the people whom it was meant for need it, but I think some offices really underestimate how many reasons people might have to need a reasonably private space with a door they can shut/lock.

    3. Lily Potter*

      Yes, this. There is a huge continuum of situations here. On one end, you have an office tower with lactation rooms on multiple floors and plenty of options for all employees to use when they need a bit of privacy. In this situation, it makes all kinds of sense to lock the door and give access only to those with a pumping need. On the other end of the continuum, you have a small office with one pumping mother who works an irregular hybrid schedule and there’s no other private office space for the other employees. In this case, putting a lock on the door doesn’t make a lot of sense, especially if the lactation room is the only place a person can go to get five minutes of privacy to make that call to the gynecologist or to their therapist.

    4. Tumbleweed*

      This is likely the underlieing issue – there’s nowhere else people can take a private call or just sit in silence, solve that and it solves the lactation room being in use problem near automatically.

      there no particular reason to not use this space if it can be cleared for lactating person (or someone who needs to lie down for other medical issue for that matter – I’m not in the US but part of the provisions here is having somewhere for pregnant people to lie down if needed and it’s a reasonable accomodation for quite a lot of disabilities) – if that can’t reliably happen then it shows there’s too much demand on the room and you go back to step one of needing more private spaces for the number of employees you have. A room that’s used for pumping 5% of the time can be used for other things as well fairly easily as long as there’s a system for it.

  31. Kimmy Schmidt*

    In my organization, “HR Hurdles” is code for “HR didn’t do their job on time and now we’re begging them to submit the necessary paperwork”.

    1. Antilles*

      I’ve definitely seen that. Another similar one is that someone with required approval in the process (HR, hiring manager, department head) went on vacation for a week and so the entire process kind of went on hold until they get back.
      It could also be code for they’re still interviewing other candidates. Or perhaps that you’re a second choice and the first choice is taking their time deciding. Or similar things along this line, where “HR hurdles” is just a convenient way for them to not commit one way or the other while they figure out where you stand.

  32. hbc*

    OP4: It’s just the nature of interviews that interviewers are going to want to spend the bulk of the time talking about the things that are the least good fit about the applicant. If I was hiring for a job that was 50% assembling widgets and 50% data analysis, I would be asking a long-time assembler lots of data questions and a long-time analyst lots of assembly questions. And I’d ask either of them what changed since they went to Juilliard.

    If you have reason to believe that your interviewer is dismissing your recent experience, definitely work it into your answers. Sometimes you even need to explicitly say “We haven’t touched much on this, but I just wanted to be clear that I’ve done X and Y for years at Z position.” But them talking more about your less-on-point work doesn’t mean that they haven’t noticed your qualifications.

  33. Fabulous*

    #4 – Someone may have mentioned this already, but if you’re worried about these questions popping up again (and they likely will) you could potentially head them off. Since the first question is usually to “Tell me about yourself,” weave your answers into this question. Describe how you landed where you are today in your career journey and why it’s all applicable to the job you’re applying for today.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is a great solution. Address the elephant in the room, pat it on its little head, and move on.

    2. Alisaurus*

      Years ago when I switched from looking for jobs that had to do with my college degree, I did this! I had an answer prepped for “tell me about yourself” that included how I went to school for X but then realized from a job that had X and Y in its role responsibilities that I really liked Y better day in and day out.

  34. CTA*

    LW #1

    Please take Alison’s advice to heart: find a new job away from these family members and don’t get into a car with Karen.

    Arrange a different way for yourself to get to work. No, Karen can’t come too (if she asks or shows up drunk) because she needs to learn how to take care of herself (and not put herself or other in danger).

    IMO re: Karen driving drunk with you in the car, I think Karen is trying to put you in a situation where you take the fall for her if she ever gets in trouble again with her alcoholism. I think Sally is also trying to put you in position where you are Karen’s caregiver or a patsy for her alcoholism. I’m basing this on my own experience with a friend who abused alcohol.

    I had a close friend who abused alcohol and who was most likely an alcoholic. The worst thing I did was confront her because her reaction really ate away at my mental health. I also had no one on my side because everyone enabled her and didn’t believe she had a problem. [Please no one analyze my use of the word “confront.” Please focus on the LW.] I really should have just ghosted the friendship.

    If you don’t have anyone on your side, look for support groups in your area for friends/relatives of alcoholics. Al Anon is one example that has in-person and online meetings. The main goal of the group is to support each other and to help you understand that this is a situation that is out of your control.

    1. Resentful Oreos*

      I think this is a good point, I hadn’t thought of OP1 being a possible fall guy or gal for Karen’s alcoholism or even DUI. (If she’s pulled over will Karen scream and yell that OP insisted Karen drive? Is this one of those small towns where the cops are buddy-buddy with certain families and not others?) And if LW1 is an outsider to the “real family” then they will close ranks against her.

      LW1 has a husband problem. I really hope husband is on LW’s side in this and won’t take Karen’s part! Especially if there are legal repercussions. LW has the lesser job problem, but, given the shortage of people willing to do janitorial work these days, they have a good chance of finding another job, unless this is an area where jobs are really scarce or LW has some kind of Really Big Issue that makes it hard to find work.

      LW1, you need another job, but while you’re in this one, you need alternate means of transportation, whatever those may be. You drive, someone not-Karen drives, you take public transit, or Lyft, or walk.

  35. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    OP4: Those interview questions seem pretty standard to me. One thing that jumps out from your description is it seems like you’ve spent a lot of time in school while shifting gears several times (PhD, grad program, two changes in field). On the interview side, that would make me want to understand what you expect to get out of schooling, how you expect that to translate to the workplace, how you’ll work with people with much less access to education, etc. It’s not necessarily coming from a place of concern about your fit for the role; it’s just part of the process of fully understanding your skills, experience, and interest.

  36. ijustworkhere*

    Re #4 Allison is right. It’s hard for interviewers who have certain conceptions about people who have previously been in higher paying jobs or jobs with more autonomy/authority/control to understand why that person would voluntarily give up what they see as a ‘better’ job.

    Just be upfront. “I did work in that field for a short time, but I quickly realized that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector for xyz reasons. I am very glad I realized early in my career what my passion was and I have never looked back. “

  37. Yossariana*

    # 1 – I’m incredibly troubled by this intro remark on the advice – DWI/DUI laws aren’t putting “people in jail for addictions” – they aren’t locking you up for being an alcoholic, they’re (potentially – often not even locking you up – you might get a fine or time served or probation instead) locking you up for putting other lives at risk.

    If we don’t penalize that, and wait until you kill someone with your vehicle….well, we might not even put you in jail for that, because thanks to forces like the powerful automotive lobby in this country, killing someone with your car often yields you a much gentler penalty than if you did it some other way.

    Definitely report the drunk driving up the chain as needed to whoever will listen, including parole officer.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes, Alison’s remark on that bothered me as well. People who aren’t alcoholics get DUIs as well. It’s not the disease, it’s a chosen behavior.

    2. Hell in a Handbasket*

      Yes, that jumped out at me too. Addiction may be an illness, but repeatedly getting behind the wheel intoxicated is a decision (an incredibly stupid and irresponsible one).

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Addiction *is* an illness. And again, impaired people cannot make unimpaired choices. They made a stupid irresponsible decision because they are impaired. You cannot separate the addiction from the choice.

        1. Rosemary*

          Do you think drunk drivers should be excused then, if they “cannot make unimparied choices”? I have empathy for those struggling with addiction, and I recognize their addiction may drive them to make bad choices – but at the end of the day, I reserve much more of my empathy for the innocent victims.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            No, obviously not — which is why I very clearly said to do whatever it takes to get her off the road — but that doesn’t mean one can’t find it painful when addiction is what’s behind it.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          The decision has been made for her, that’s why she’s on probation. But she’s doing an end-run and hiding it from her PO because she knows damned good and well it’s the wrong thing to do.

        3. Dancing Otter*

          Then how do so many alcoholics in AA (and other programs) manage to NOT drink? It can be a struggle every day, but it is not impossible.
          So, yes, choices can be distinct from the disease, and even alcoholics can reasonably be held accountable for their own actions.

        4. Boof*

          Yes actually everyone including addicts still has agency over their actions*. The addiction is the maladaptive behaviors. It is a pattern behavior over seeking ____ (drugs, gambling, whatever). It can be managed, but not if you throw up your hands and say there’s zero agency over it. If that were true, addicts would have to be locked up / lose their rights and get assigned guardianship because there’d be no point in trying to treat it (also not true; just as treatable as any other medical condition). Addicts to have to admit there’s a problem and they can’t ____ “normally” the way someone without the addiction can, but that’s about as far as the lack of control goes.
          *OK we’ll exclude people who are demented/delusional and literally not actually in touch with reality here

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

      The OP’s SIL is on probation. Assuming that drinking or drinking while driving goes against her probation, she would end up back in jail. You are right that she might not get arrested just for DUI. Unfortunately their are many states that do not take DUI’s very serious. Just saw on the news the otherday someone who had their 6th DUI. They still had their license.
      Personally I think it should be your 1st DUI comes with a $10000 fine and anything after that is mandatory jail time.

      1. Rosemary*

        Agreed!! There definitely should be mandatory jail time for repeat offenders. And frankly someone with SIX DUIs probably should be locked up for a very, very long time because they clearly have zero regard for the lives of others.

    4. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      Right, but that remark isn’t about drunk driving…it’s about reporting someone to their PO for drinking (which would send them to jail whether they drive or not, and which is an ineffective way of dealing with addiction themselves). However, the very next line – “but at this point getting her off the road so she doesn’t maim or kill someone has to be your highest priority” IS about drunk driving. Which is why Allison says OP SHOULD report her to her PO. The drinking and driving should absolutely send someone back to jail, but locking them back up for drinking on its own – which is often what happens to addicts on parole – is not a great way to deal with addiction itself. (But drinking and driving? Hell yes, get them off the road by any means necessary).

      1. Rosemary*

        Yeah if OP had said that SIL was showing up drunk at work but not driving I would agree that the PO should not be not be notified. But as soon as she gets behind the wheel of a car…for sure do what is necessary to keep her off the road, even if it means she ends up in jail.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          100% agree! I think that’s exactly what the point was there…getting her off the road is a higher priority than anything else!

      2. I Have RBF*


        I’ve lived with alcoholics. One guy literally drank himself to death. But he did not drive, so it wasn’t my business to tell him what to put in his body.

        That’s my line – A person is free to go to hell in their own way, as long as they don’t endanger the lives of others. You want to pickle your liver? Go right ahead. You want to steal from me, or drive intoxicated in the process? No, I will put a stop to that.

    5. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yes, DUI laws are punishing people for addiction. You yourself don’t even acknowledge this behavior as part of the addiction. You can’t say “she should know better” and “she’s an alcoholic” – those statements cancel each other out. People don’t choose to become addicts, so what exactly are we penalizing? An impaired person making an impaired choice, but we pretend like it was a rational choice so we can feel justified locking them up.

      What if we helped addicts instead of hurting them? If we had comprehensive mental health care in this country, the addict could be put in a treatment program. But more likely, she’ll end up in jail – she already has a parole officer. I don’t think we should take away someone’s liberty on the possibility they will commit a crime. Putting addicts in jail or waiting until they kill someone aren’t the only 2 options.

        1. Silver Robin*

          Take away the license? Add breathalyzer locks to the steering wheels? Mandatory therapy might not really effective because it generally only works if people are there in good faith, but one could try. Give them an accountability buddy to make sure they actually go. There are other consequences available that protect folks from a drunk driver without adding another person to a carceral system that has zero intention of supporting those within it. Any personal progress made by somebody in jail/prison is entirely in spite of the system as it stands.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            None of that works if enablers loan them cars. They just drive unlicensed in their mother’s car.

            1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

              The current system doesn’t work either, so trying something different seems like a good option.

          2. Boof*

            I think that is often done; but some folks will still try to get around it (have someone else blow into the breathalyzer; drive without the license, etc). Jail is (or should be) pretty much the resort to remove people who are a menace to society from society; someone who is committed to driving impaired meets that criteria. No idea if Karen is at that point but step 1 is reporting to the probation officer since LW knows they are driving drunk post conviction. Maybe they can install a breathalyzer; and if so here’s hoping mom doesn’t “help her out” by blowing in it for her *shudder*.

        2. Sacred Ground*

          Treat DUI as a symptom of an acute disease in need of immediate treatment. Take their license and impound their car to get them off the road immediately. But rather than indict them for a felony and put them in jail, require them to go into immediate in-patient rehab. Not jail.

          In place of steep fines, bill them for their treatment and collect on that bill through the court. That will likely be steeper than current fines, actually.

          Anyone who doesn’t comply with the order for treatment can then be treated as willful violators and their cases THEN get referred to the criminal justice system for prosecution. But first, they get a chance at rehab rather than jail.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Will this work in every case? Of course not. Will there be recidivism? Of course there will. It’s still better than going straight to the criminal justice approach as the default.

            Make treatment the default. Make criminal prosecution the last resort, when all else fails. But try *something* else first. What we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working.

            1. Rosemary*

              But what happens in the case of someone who is NOT an addict, but just ties on one too many at a party? Treatment is not the appropriate response for them. Should they get off? Should they face criminal prosecution, while the addict does not?

          2. RagingADHD*

            You realize the LW is empowered to do none of these things, right?

            The people who are empowered to do something about it are the police. You may not like the way the current system works, and voting/advocating for change are awesome.

            But at this point in time in the real world as it currently exists, the LW’s options are 1) knowingly enable ongoing / continued DUIs by refusing to report it, or 2) reporting it to someone who could possibly get a habitual drunk driver off the road before she kills someone.

            And I think people who have been maimed for life or had loved ones killed by a drunk driver would strongly dispute your point that those lives were an acceptable cost for avoiding the criminal justice system in favor of some ideal plan that doesn’t currently exist.

          3. Boof*

            While the justice system is obnoxiously capricious, I think sometimes these things ARE done; like people can chose jail time vs rehab etc. Not entirely sure about billing for treatment though, that’s potentially really counterproductive/burdensome.

      1. Student*

        I lived with two alcoholic parents for 17 years.

        It was 17 years of hell.

        Among other things, they drove drunk regularly – often with myself or my younger brother in the car, or other passengers. It endangered the lives of many people.

        I’m now in my fourties. My parents are still alcoholics and have been for decades now. They still drive drunk regularly, among other horrible things. At least one of them is suffering some of the medical effects of a hard-drinking life (I suspect both of them, but only one diagnosed). I know of at least one car accident my father got into where alcohol was probably a factor. He successfully blamed the other person for the accident, because she was a minority and an immigrant without legal papers, while he was an old white guy. The police didn’t even do a breathalyzer test on him.

        I say confidently that if anyone had gotten my parents locked up for their long-standing addiction, it would’ve been a favor to all the people they’ve hurt along the way. Would it have been a favor to them? Probably not! But there’s a reason we resort to cruel measures to deal with addicts. One, the addicts are actually very harmful to a lot of people around them, regardless of their “sober intents”. Two, there are no kind and gentle tools whatsoever to force an addict into treatment who doesn’t want it, and the addiction will prevent them from wanting treatment in the worst cases. I know, because I tried for years to find a way to get my parents treatment. I even tried getting cops and similar authorities involved, and that often fails to make a dent or prevent further harm, too.

      2. CityMouse*

        They don’t get to use addiction as an excuse to kill people. The person who killed my family member was going so fast the dogs he was walking were literally left in pieces. On a road with a 25 mph speed limit with a school on it. It was pure luck his 8 year old grandson had decided not to come along. She chose to do that, she killed a guy on the sidewalk and left him there to bleed out. I don’t care if she had an addiction she killed him and had she been jailed for longer after her previous DUI, maybe he’d be alive today.

      3. Rosemary*

        “DUI laws are punishing people for addiction.” So how would you propose that DUIs are punished? Should they not be punished? I am not an alcoholic. However if I go out tonight and have multiple cocktails and then get behind the wheel of a car – should I be punished? Is it different if the occasional drinker kills someone while drunk, versus the certified “addict”? Should the addict get away with it/be forgiven because they have an illness?

        1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          Given the current rate of recidivism on this stuff, it really looks like punishment, or at least punishment alone, doesn’t work for either diagnosable addicts or occasional binge-drinkers. It’s probably not wise to outright decriminalize DUI or any other form of reckless driving as a society, but structural changes like better public transit, bars and restaurants in walkable neighborhoods, etc. that reduce car dependence overall would probably do a lot more to reduce the amount of harm done by drunk drivers and should be a much higher priority than trying to find and punish individual instances.

          1. CityMouse*

            Decriminalization of DUIs would absolutely result in increased deaths. Walkable neighborhoods are nit springing up overnight, and let’s get real, people still choose to drive drunk in cities. A friend’s husband was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike right in the heart of Washington DC. Tons of public transportation available, the guy still drove high and killed someone.

            1. Rosemary*

              Exactly. While walkable neighborhoods and good public transportation are certainly ideal, they are not realistic in many (if not most) places – I live part-time in a semi-rural area. There is nothing that is walkable. And Ubers/taxis are practically nonexistent. And you are correct that people will still drive in places even with public transportation.

          2. Starbuck*

            “structural changes like better public transit, bars and restaurants in walkable neighborhoods, etc. that reduce car dependence overall ”

            Yes, absolutely, obviously. But in the meantime while we wait for those structural changes…?

          3. Dust Bunny*

            None of that works if the addict doesn’t choose those options, and the case has already been stated that they’re not making rational decisions because they’re drunk. If they can’t be trusted to make rational decisions about driving because they’re drunk, we can’t assume they’ll make rational decisions about anything else when they’re drunk, either, even if those options are handed to them on a silver salver.

            Sorry, at some point the last resort is to lock them up for awhile so their inability to make rational decisions doesn’t kill anyone.

        2. Boof*

          Eh, I think “punishment” isn’t exactly the goal, that implies something backward looking to me. It’s more about risk assessment and mitigation. I don’t want someone with repeated DUIs, who tricks breathalizers, who drives drunk after losing their license, in jail as a /punishment/. I’d want them in jail or some other extreme level of limited liberty to /stop them from menacing society/.
          Jail is just all cost and no benefit if the person in jail isn’t at risk of hurting someone. I agree it’s a “last resort” of sorts, if less limiting options have been tried and the person continues to show high risk of harming others.

      4. RagingADHD*

        There are a number of situations in which someone may not legally drive – too young, vision impairment, history of seizures, history of reckless driving and multiple moving violations, and of course driving while chemically impaired. None of them are based on whether or not the illegal driver is an addict. They are based on whether or not the person is capable of driving a car safely.

        If someone persists in endangering others, being an addict is not a good reason to allow them to continue. Sometimes there is no other option but to curtail someone’s liberty for the protection of others.

        1. Rosemary*

          There was a case in NYC a few years ago where a woman was not supposed to drive because of a medical condition. Yet she did so, repeatedly. She finally killed a couple of kids and was convicted and headed to prison (she died by suicide prior to sentencing however)

          1. CityMouse*

            I remember this because the mom she hit was Ruthie Anne Miles, a Broadway actor who I have seen in a few things. The driver killed Miles’s daughter and her friend’s son immediately, Miles was also struck and was 7 months pregnant and her second daughter was stillborn a month later.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        Given that OP#1 is contemplating calling Karen’s parole officer, I’m guessing she is actually committing a crime (parole violation) with her current behavior, and she’d be jailed for that. Until we live in a more perfect world that actually includes functional healthcare and social safety nets, getting Karen off the road is the best we can do, ideal or not. Divert her into a drug treatment court, if she’s willing and eligible, rather than prison.

        Impairment is a mitigating factor, not a get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s why many drunk drivers are only tried for involuntary manslaughter rather than murder when they kill people.

      6. aebhel*

        It’s not a possibility she’ll commit a crime??? She’s already committing a crime, every time she drives drunk. That’s still illegal even if she hasn’t killed anyone yet. Being drunk is not illegal; even being drunk at work is not (usually) illegal. Being drunk while operating a multi-ton vehicle at highway speeds is illegal, for good reason. It’s not so we can feel morally righteous about punishing people for being addicts, it’s because drunk driving kill people.

        I mean, I agree with you that mental health care in this country and the treatment of addicts specifically is deplorable, but you seem to be suggesting that the LW should just throw up her hands and do nothing until the SIL either kills someone or decides to get help of her own accord, because to do otherwise would be a violation of her right to, uh, endanger the general public with her impaired driving. If that’s not what you’re suggesting – if in fact you HAVE a suggestion that the LW could actually implement – now would be the time to share it.

      7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        All else aside, not all addicts drive drunk, and not all drunk/impaired drivers are alcoholics or addicted to other drugs.

        Drunk driving is illegal, even if it’s the first time the person did it, because the law is trying to stop drivers from killing or injuring third parties. Helping alcoholics and other addicts is secondary. If an addict decides to drink only at home, or always takes a cab home after drinking, that’s legal, even if it’s bad for their health.

        We don’t have, anywhere, a drug/alcohol treatment system that works every time. (AA and NA are helpful for people who want to be helped, but the “anonymous” part means that nobody knows what percentage of people that is.) And even if we did, we don’t want a system that effectively forgives the first time a person is caught driving drunk, which usually isn’t the first time they did it.

    6. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Yes, report it report it report it. DUIs are not taken seriously enough in a lot of cases. I have a relative who wrecked her car on her 2nd DUI. It was mere chance that she didn’t hit anyone else. It was mere chance that *she* wasn’t hurt. She was given all of 8 days in jail and community service. Still has her license. Her own brother died in a car accident (though not a DUI), so she knows how serious any car crashes can be. She knows we do not want her (or anyone else) to die in a wreck.

      Our family has been trying everything we can think of to help and to stop her, but ultimately, she’s got to decide to stop driving when she is drunk. She knows we know she is an alcoholic, but still tries to hide it, and that seems to be the root of a lot of the DUI problem, at least for her. It is one thing to be an alcoholic–I have a lot of sympathy for someone dealing with this addiction. It is another thing entirely to be a drunk driver. That I have zero sympathy for. Just stay the F*** home or get a ride with someone if you’re drunk. People’s lives are more important than your need to drive yourself somewhere while drunk, whatever the reason, and if you decide otherwise, then yes, you need to be prosecuted.

  38. 1-800-BrownCow*

    #3: Ugh, it frustrates me that women are still dealing with things like this in the workplace. I’m sorry you are putting up with this. But definitely go with Alison’s advice, especially the part about legally needing to provide the space. If you have HR, get them involved. 9 years ago when I had my youngest, my current workplace HR pushed back when I asked for a place to pump. My manager at the time, a male who had 3 kids of his own, was very supportive of my needing to pump at work (thankfully, my 9 year old was my 3rd child, so I had gotten past the awkwardness of bringing up pumping in my male dominant career). HR was 2 women, both of which had zero desire to ever have children and basically look down on working moms, and they gave me issues every step of my pregnancy and return to work. They literally responded to my request for a place to pump with “No one else working here has ever ‘needed’ to pump at work!” I replied “Good for them, but I do need a place to pump.” Then they were going to give me a bathroom for pumping until a director heard their plan (only woman director at the company, she never had kids, but she’s a big supporter of working mom’s) and she arranged a locker room with a sink and no toilet for me to use instead of the bathroom. But basically what finally “convinced” HR to accommodate me was when I emailed them a link to the laws about pumping in the workplace. They never replied to my email, but it did stop all the pushback I got from them about it. I was limited to 15 minutes, twice a day, but my manager told me to take whatever time I needed and HR never knew when or how long I pumped. Even my male counterpart in my role, who was in his mid-60s at the time, told me to take as much time as needed to pump, and he would handle things with work stuff if something came up.

  39. CzechMate*

    LW 4 – My mother used to work in the nonprofit sector. During the Great Recession (when many of the local universities had to reduce staff) they were flooded with job applications from people with PhDs for roles that very much did not require a PhD. One individual ended up accepting a volunteer position and…my mother was of the opinion that he couldn’t hack it in academia (or any other real paid jobs) because he was a lackluster employee.

    Why I bring this up: my mother did not hire these people because she thought, “They’re just trying to find a placeholder job until they can get a university position again, and we’re looking for a) someone who plans to be here a while, and b) someone who is deeply committed to the mission and doesn’t *just* want a paycheck (because it’s not going to be very large).” Hiring someone who was taking a big pay cut was a matter of intense discussion.

    Given that, I’d *really* work on preparing a response when you’re asked about this that addresses all of these concerns.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      I teach (and was a practitioner in) a field a fair few Ph.Ds think they can just waltz into without any field-specific training. Not uncommonly, Ph.D applicants thought themselves $DEITY’s gift to the field by virtue of their Ph.D, scoffing pretty openly at non-Ph.D practitioners. (It doesn’t help that there are a couple-three postdoc fellowship programs aimed at our field that openly promote this line of thinking.)

      OP4, no matter the reason your interviewer asked, they are likely to be looking for scorn and/or cluelessness in your answer, because they’ve seen those before. Be careful not to give that impression.

  40. Churu*

    “I don’t love advising that because I don’t think people belong in jail for addictions,”

    DUI/DWI charges aren’t about “punishing” people for addictions–it’s about getting them off the road where they can’t maim or kill others. I’m sorry but that takes precedence over an alcoholic’s hurt feelings or whatever.

    1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      I don’t think Allison was talking about the DUI/DWI when she was speaking of jail for addictions. She was talking about reporting them to their PO for drinking, which would likely put them back in jail whether they were driving or not. (It’s a common issue in the criminal justice system that addicts spend time just cycling between jail stints rather than getting actual help). However, the next line…”but at this point getting her off the road so she doesn’t maim or kill someone has to be your highest priority.” IS about drunk driving, which is why she is saying that it would be appropriate in this case…

    2. Hell in a Handbasket*

      Plus they’re not being jailed for being addicted — they’re being jailed for choosing to get behind the wheel.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        If you are drunk, you are by definition not making a rational choice. You can’t have it both ways. Either they are impaired and shouldn’t drive or they are not impaired and can make rational choices.

        1. CityMouse*

          That’s not how it works. Voluntary impairment does not absolve you of your actions. You also have to be impaired to the level that you don’t know the difference between right and wrong.

        2. Starbuck*

          Plenty of people manage to get drunk and not drive, though. I’ve been in positions where me or my friends were too impaired to drive – and we realized it and made other plans. If not in the moment, beforehand. Just for example: if you make a plan, while sober, to drive somewhere you know you’ll get drunk, and don’t also plan how you’ll leave if not by driving – yes, you’re culpable for that choice.

          Queen Lisa, I see you arguing against holding drunk drivers accountable through the courts, but I don’t see you making any suggestions what you think would be better for LW1 to do. I see you talking about structural changes – great! Go do what you can to make those a reality in society, I agree! But in the meantime, LW1 needs actionable advice.

        3. aebhel*

          I know plenty of people who drink to the point of impairment on a regular basis without ever getting behind the wheel of a car. That is, at least in my experience, the norm even among people who arguably have a drinking problem. People who regularly drink and drive are behaving in a criminally reckless fashion and should be stopped before they maim or kill someone. Whether or not they should be punished or exactly how morally responsible they should be held for their behavior is really completely beside the point, which is that drunk people should not be allowed to drive cars.

    3. Observer*

      I’m sorry but that takes precedence over an alcoholic’s hurt feelings or whatever.

      This line is wildly out of line. Jail time is not about “hurt feelings” or anything remotely like it. Trivializing prison / jail just makes the rest of your comment non-credible. Because there are a LOT of situations where it’s ok to not worry about “hurt feelings” where Police would be a wild over-reaction.

      DUI is not one of those situations. I can’t imagine why you would equate the two.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Jailing people who haven’t committed crimes is not the way to handle addiction. It would be great if we treated drunk driving as a serious problem instead of dropping people in an oubliette and pretending we’re saving lives.

      1. Lightbourne Elite*

        A DUI IS a crime, though, and for good reason.

        In a better world we would get people into meaningful treatment programs but in the meantime we can’t just shrug and say “welp, they have an addiction, guess they can drive drunk!”

      2. CityMouse*

        Driving drunk is a crime. Alcoholism is an addiction, driving drunk is a choice. A choice that kills people.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Nobody is doing that. IDGAF if an alcoholic stays home or gets an Uber–they’re not hurting anyone but themselves. I do very much GAF when they’re on the road in a 2,800-pound potential weapon. I care very much about that even if they’re just drunk this once and not actually an alcoholic. The problem is impairment + driving, not simply impairment.

      4. Rosemary*

        “Jailing people who haven’t committed crimes is not the way to handle addiction.” The OP is not contemplating calling the parole officer because Karen got drunk. She is contemplating reporting her for witnessed drunk driving – WHICH IS A CRIME. You are making a lot of comments defending drunk drivers. Yes addiction is a disease, yes addicts make bad choices. But the “rights” of addicts to make bad choices should NOT take precedence over the safety of others.

      5. Observer*

        It would be great if we treated drunk driving as a serious problem instead of dropping people in an oubliette and pretending we’re saving lives.

        No “pretense” here. Keeping people who are driving drunk off the road saves lives. There is no doubt about it.

        Why are you so intent on keeping people who drive drunk insulated from the consequences of their choices?

        1. CityMouse*

          One of the most horrifying videos I’ve watched is these drivers trying to block this guy who was driving drunk from getting away. The guy sped off, drove into another car and killed a mom and three young children. The Dad lost his whole family in a flash because this guy drove drunk.

          How about my cousin’s wife, who was on a shift at the hospital and winced hearing about a pedestrian brought in DOA, only to discover it was her husband and had to bury pieces of her beloved dogs.

          My school friend whose husband was dragged down the middle of a street in DC and passers by had to force the car to stop and lift the car off him, but it was too late.

          It is not a potential crime, it is not a victimless crime. It destroys entire families.

      6. Resentful Oreos*

        If you want to drink yourself to oblivion in the privacy of your own home, be my guest. If you want to drink yourself to oblivion and then walk, take public transportation, or an Uber, again be my guest. If you want to drink yourself to oblivion *and then get behind the wheel*, no way no how.

        The issue is not the addiction. The issue is Karen is putting other people’s lives in danger. Karen does not HAVE to drive. Karen can take public transit or a Lyft or an Uber or walk or herself get a ride with a coworker.

        Nobody *has* to get behind the wheel when they are impaired. A lot of people are prevented from driving because of disability. Yes, it’s tough in many places not being able to drive, but most manage. (I do have a friend with low vision, who had to live in an exurb by circumstance for a couple of years, and this was before Lyft, and the public transit was non-existent. It absolutely was awful for her, and she *bloomed* when her husband got a job in a nice small city with decent public transit, and Lyft and Libby the library app came into being. But the point is no matter how much it stank not being able to drive, my friend never chose to get behind the wheel anyway.)

    5. I should really pick a name*

      You realize that Alison IS advising reporting her because of the risk she poses, right?

    6. Elle*

      “An alcoholic’s hurt feelings or whatever”

      What an uncomfortable display of totally needless callousness.

  41. Smurfette*

    Re Alison’s response to OP1:
    “If that means calling her probation officer, maybe that’s what you do. I don’t love advising that because I don’t think people belong in jail for addictions”

    If this woman goes to jail it will not be for her addiction, but for her incredibly reckless and frankly stupid behaviour. Call her probation officer before she kills someone.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this–it’s not for the addiction, it’s for driving while impaired.

      I am not an alcoholic but I could get a DUI for being drunk just that one time, and then violate it for driving drunk once again, even though I’m not a regular drinker. The issue isn’t whether or not she’s addicted, it’s that she’s driving.

  42. Observer*

    #1 – Drunk family and enablers.

    If there is any real possibility of blowback at work over your SIL driving drunk and your MIL actively enabling her, then you need to get out of there ASAP. Regardless of what happens with them and their jobs. Because any company that would punish you for their issues is toxic.

    I think that if you do NOT say anything to the boss and it comes out, *that* might put you at risk, since then there is the possibility that your employer will be upset that you didn’t alert anyone to dangerous behavior that puts people and the employer at risk.

    Lots of luck in dealing with this one! It really is extremely tough. It does sound like the rest of the family does understand that this is a problem, though. I hope that winds up being helpful to you.

  43. CheesePlease*

    OP#2 – our lactation room has FOB access and only certain employees approved by HR can go in. Please reach out to HR for a way to limit access to the room

    In the meantime, please knock loudly on the door and kick people out, remind them that it’s not a conference room or private space for phone calls. You could also print some obnoxious breastfeeding material to hang on the walls (think motivational “pump mama pump” or :liquid gold” messaging) or other hand-outs about safe handling of breastmilk etc to make it very clear that it’s a LACTATION ROOM

    This stuff infuriates me as someone who is on baby #2 and managing pump breaks while working is already a hassle sometimes – not having access to a room is so frustrating and wrong.

    1. CheesePlease*

      this is for OP#3 but hopefully you understood that. rooting for you to figure this out.

  44. Petty_Boop*

    LW 4: I switched from being a HS teacher, to being an IT person working for the DoD. People ALWAYS asked me why, until I just started leaving it off my resume, because it’s no longer relevant. It’s perfectly normal and reasonable. Maybe they want to know if you’re a flake who can’t figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Maybe they worry that you’ll abandon this field to go back when you realize there’s more money in going back. Maybe they’re just curious. But, you’re getting way too bent about it, TBH.

  45. tinybutfierce*

    Re #1:

    As someone with a past history of alcohol abuse, PLEASE report this to someone higher up in your company AND inform her probation officer. Addiction issues are hard and messy, but your SIL is knowingly putting others’ lives at risk by driving drunk and your MIL is enabling her to do so. Them potentially losing their jobs and being upset doesn’t trump the fact that she could seriously injure or kill someone; that she hasn’t yet is simply a matter of dumb luck, but that’s not a gamble anyone should be willing to take.

  46. former phd*

    LW4, keep in mind that the vast majority of people don’t understand what a PhD actually entails, how difficult the academic job market is, and why many PhDs end up switching careers either by choice or by necessity. The average person thinks “PhD = professor.” Interviewers who ask about your degree are trying to confirm that you’re committed to your new career and are not just biding your time until a job related to your PhD opens up.

    I say this as someone who received a PhD and switched careers shortly after. I’ve had to answer questions about why I made this switch in multiple interviews. It helps to have a script ready.

  47. Observer*

    #2- Interviewer outraged that a candidate did his due diligence.

    My first thought was that the interviewer was mad because “How DARE he not drink the kool-aid!!!!”

    And for those who will point out that the drinking of kool-aid in the Jonestown tragedy was largely coerced, that’s actually part of the point. This person is clearly more than willing to coerce people into not gathering *relevant* information, or using their brains to make reasonable decisions. This guy is dishonest, but also, as Alison says, has pathological control issues and is also a gas lighter. (I mean claiming that talking to your network is a “lapse of judgement? Come on!)

    1. Lana Kane*

      I think, as well, there are people who react like this because they’ve never come across it before so they equate that to “this is wrong”. I can absolutely imagine this interviewer mentioning this to someone else later and getting the same reaction as here.

  48. Empress Ki*

    1# Karen could not only hurt or kill others but also herself. Stopping Karen could prevent her from dying in a car cash. Maybe Sally will change her mind if she seriously thinks about this.

    1. Observer*

      Maybe Sally will change her mind if she seriously thinks about this

      Highly unlikely. Has she refused to get into a car with Karen? Has she tried to help anyone else *in her family* stay out of a car with Karen? It sounds like the answer to both is NO. Which means that she’s waaaay past the point of reason. Which is common with enablers.

  49. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #5 – So many hurdles… it really could be anything. Salary discussions, budgets, other candidate considerations. Internal politics. Recruiter’s workload (I’ve seen recruiters with as few as 1 or 2 roles, and some juggling 15-20). Vacations. The hiring team may have more important work deadlines so they put interviewing as a lower priority. Approvals from leaders (in our company, the hiring team isn’t the only approver; it also needs their leadership and HR sign off).

  50. Alisaurus*

    If I knew lactating parents at my job were having issues using the room set aside for them because of oblivions, I’d happily park myself outside of it with my laptop and tell off all interlopers. But that might just be me.

    At the least, a manager with a spine needs to get involved.

  51. Lightbourne Elite*

    #1 Recovering alcoholic here, but obviously I do not speak for ALL people in recovery.

    Just like mental illness, addiction can be an explanation for behavior but it is NOT an excuse. Yes, being addicted likely explains why this woman keeps driving drunk. But it absolutely does not excuse her putting the lives of others in danger, ever. There isn’t ever an excuse for that. She has earned the consequences of those actions. I certainly don’t think jail is the right answer, but since the system can’t be reformed overnight, she can’t be allowed to continue to put others at risk.

    If it makes you feel any better, I have known a ton of others in recovery who state that getting in significant legal trouble is what FINALLY got them to rock bottom and into recovery.

  52. Bob*

    I am genuinely curious how the heck you can pay for a PhD and a second masters degree on a non-profit salary!

    1. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      At least in my field, many masters and PhD programs come with funding for most or all students.

    2. Bread Crimes*

      Some grad school programs are funded, through teaching/TAing, fellowships, or otherwise. In at least some fields, it’s generally advised to not enter any grad program that DOESN’T offer funding, because if it can’t offer funding, it’s not a good enough program to be worth the huge amount of time and effort required to get the degree.

      A grad stipend is not a lot of money anywhere in the US that I’m aware of, though some are better than others. But they’re often in the ‘livable’ zone, especially if they come with health insurance, and the grad has no dependents. More so if there’s a working partner or parental support involved, to be sure.

    3. Starbuck*

      Totally field dependent – in the sciences, my friends who pursued phd programs did it with the understanding that any offer would come with funding; if it didn’t you weren’t really accepted. That funding would be a tuition waiver, and a stipend for either lab work or teaching work. They lived in poverty pretty much, but I don’t think any of them came out with much debt.

      But in other fields – the arts especially, or oddly the other end, programs where you’re expected to make money later like law or medicine or engineering – you’re generally paying your way, tuition, living expenses, and all – usually with loans. Or find your own funding independently somehow (my science friends did also apply for NSF grants for their research, for example.)

  53. Caramellow*

    Re: #4….as someone who did a major retool and career change midlife, I always used that to show I could pivot and adapt to new conditions. It often came up in interviews but was always seen as an extra I brought to the table. Interviewers were mostly fascinated as to how that looks in real life. My career shift did come with an initial pay cut but hugely larger numbers of opportunities. I’d advise OP to use it as an asset.

  54. Pizza Rat*

    LW2–in my opinion, it is bananapants to call some basic networking a lapse of judgement. That’s what a business network is for.

    In my experience, interviewers can get downright offended if you don’t research the company, and they don’t just mean read the website.

    1. HonorBox*

      Yep. This is part of figuring out information about a workplace. It happens ALL THE TIME! And for someone to react so poorly, it tells you far more about them than you knew going in. Why are they being so controlling? Who knows. But it might have made sense to go back to the person with whom your son was networking and mention it because it seems like an interviewer has closed the door on a candidate (many more probably) just because they decided to ask someone else some questions. That doesn’t look good for the company.

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        That’s a good idea, the son going back to the person he spoke to. Something is hinky.

      2. OP #2*

        My son-in-law actually did reach back out to the person he networked with because he felt like he should apologize. As part of her rant, the interviewer told him he should not have wasted the employee’s time like that. The contact apparently was quite surprised to hear what happened in the interview, but I don’t know if he ever mentioned it to anyone at the company.

  55. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: I empathize as a relatively recent career shifter myself. I had some interviewers that were more defensive than others. I ended up going to work for someone who was not hyperfocused on my past, saw what I used to do as an asset to the team she was building (even though we worked on opposite sides of the aisle, so to speak), and who probed about what my skills are and why I wanted to work for her org rather than making assumptions.

    Flush the bad and focus on the good. If the interviewer left a sour taste in your mouth, that’s an important data point to consider when you’re choosing where to work, but remember, you are choosing them as much as they are choosing you. Don’t settle.

  56. Think of the Innocents*

    I’m disappointed, Alison. It’s rare that I disagree with your answers, but a DUI/DWI isn’t the result of an addiction. It’s the result of a horrible choice. Someone can drink socially and drive drunk. Driving drunk can kill people. Innocent people. Children, babies…

    LW1, take family out of the equation. If you knew a coworker were regularly driving drunk on the job, would you ignore it? Call the police every single time and provide vehicle and driver info to get her off the road. This has to end! She’s going to kill someone – maybe even herself. That would then be on your conscience.

    1. Observer*

      Call the police every single time and provide vehicle and driver info to get her off the road.

      That’s a useless piece of advice. The police will NOT chase her down and get her off the road. I wish they would but it’s just not going to happen.

      Alison is right – there are only two things that the LW can do, and Alison recommends both. One is to report to the Probation officer, who almost certainly *will* follow up and report to the employer if there is any link to work.

      1. People need to step up!*

        It is unfortunate that this is the case in your area, but it isn’t in all areas. I have personally known at least two people who have been issued citations via this metho – as they well deserved.

        “there is nothing we can do” is a horrible mindset when it comes to drunk drivers.

        1. Observer*

          “there is nothing we can do” is a horrible mindset when it comes to drunk drivers.

          Except that that is not what I said. I suggested that instead of castigating the LW for not doing something that in the vast majority of jurisdictions would not work, the LW should rather be encouraged to do two things that actually might work. Even in a jurisdiction that is stretched thin, if you hand a probation officer this kind of information, they will follow up on it.

      2. Zelda*

        “The police will NOT chase her down and get her off the road.”

        Depends entirely on the jurisdiction.

  57. DivergentStitches*

    #4 – IMO it’s an excellent opportunity to explain why the skills you learned in PhD #1 apply to the new career field. “Yes, my first PhD was in Llama Grooming, and in my most recent role I was able to apply skills x, y, and z to the Llama Grooming project…”

  58. Student*

    #5: AAM listed a bunch of legitimate HR business issues.

    However, in my field, this phrasing usually means “HR itself is the hurdle”. For a candidate, you’re best off assuming this means the message to you is “things are taking much longer than expected”.

    In my industry, it is common to set up HR such that it’s very far divorced from most of the positions being filled, has many responsibilities but little staffing, and is not accountable to the average hiring manager. This arrangement gets you the obvious outcome: HR is very responsive to upper management’s whimsy and very unresponsive to the average hiring manager’s need to fill job slots. Hiring takes a long time because it’s a low HR priority, rather than because there’s a specific business reason slowing or blocking the specific hiring action.

  59. Peon*

    LW1: You all work for an AirBnB cleaning company? Does that mean Karen is driving drunk while on company time, from location to location? Is she driving company cars? Is she transporting other employees? If so, the longer you know about this and allow it to continue, the worse it’ll be. If she injures someone while working AND drunk, there could well be an investigation, and given your relationship you’d likely be assumed to know.

    Heck, we don’t often think about cleaning being a dangerous profession, because it generally isn’t, but if she’s drunk, she could mix products that shouldn’t be mixed or do something else that causes danger or damage. Is she doing that kind of hands on work?

    1. Rosemary*

      If I were a client of this company and I knew they were allowing drunk people to come onto to property to clean, I would be livid and would fire them immediately. At a minimum she could break something…or, she could fall down the stairs (and then I’d have to deal with that liability), burn the house down, etc. OP is not doing anyone any favors by not reporting her.

      1. Elle*

        I mean, it’s a short term rental. They’re already assuming people are going to be drunk in there.

        Im way more concerned about the HUMAN RESIDENTS of the neighborhoods this woman is visiting to clean. They’re already negatively affected by living near an Airbnb and now this?

        1. Observer*

          They’re already assuming people are going to be drunk in there.

          Maybe. But that’s different than the cleaners. And potentially more dangerous, because while most cleaning stuff is relatively safe if you are paying attention, if not…. Like mixing the wrong cleaning liquids can literally kill people.

  60. HannahS*

    OP2, so obviously your HR should stop other people from using the room or ensure that it’s available to you with ease. Make sure that your conversations with them are by email, not verbal, so that you have something to point to if things aren’t going well. If your HR is ineffective or dragging their feet, print 2 copies of a sign and put inside and outside the door that says: “This is a lactation room. Per federal law, it must be available at any time to employees who need it for the purpose of expressing milk.”

    You and the other woman can check if either of you is using the room. If not, knock on the door, open it and point to the sign.

  61. NothappyinNY*


    I would type up and put large sign on door

    This is the lactation room. Federal law requires that private space be provided for lactation. All others MUST IMMEDIATELY vacate this room if needed for lactation. Federal law does not allow exceptions. Do not leave trash, etc. in this room.

    1. Lusara*

      She didn’t mention if she actually knocks on the door to let people know she needs it. Yes, management/HR/whoever need to make it very clear that nobody can use the room aside from pumping. But has she actually knocked on the door and told whoever is in there that she needs the room? She shouldn’t have to, but that seems like a logical step.

  62. HonorBox*

    OP3 – Good gracious. I’m pissed off on your behalf. While someone might want to use the lactation room for non-pumping, it is not the intended purpose and the company is falling down on its responsibilities here. This isn’t a situation where a simple “hey don’t do that” email needs to go out. It needs to be spelled out specifically and then addressed in any situation where it comes up. If it continues to happen, management needs to stand by the door if it is locked and not available to you or your coworker and address the people who are using that space for something other than its intended use. They can eat lunch and make a phone call in their car, or in a park, or standing in the parking lot. You cannot pump in those spaces. This is not just inconvenient. This is illegal and just plain rude.

  63. Throwaway Account*

    I would like to see an update to #1.
    I’m sorry OP, I think there is so much behind this problem that I think Alison is right and you need a new job and you need to report SIL.

  64. Tea*

    My grandfather was an alcoholic until the day he died, but despite having a driver’s license and access to a car, he never drove. So you can be an addict but still make the conscious choice to not maim or kill people as a result of your “illness.”

    I’m sorry but too many people use addiction as a “no consequences for me ever!” excuse for their behavior, especially when it comes to harming other people (physically, emotionally, financially, etc). If ratting out your SIL (and her accessory after the fact of a mom) to law enforcement is what it takes to protect someone else from death or permanent disability, or permanent brain damage, permanent vegetative state, etc, then I guess the letter writer is going to have to “snitch.” Otherwise the LW may very well find themselves named in a lawsuit by SIL’s victims (or their next-of-kin) the next time she gets behind the wheel after one too many Jack ‘n Cokes.

  65. Delta Delta*

    #3 – If pounding on the door doesn’t work, and if making formal complaints to HR and the C suite doesn’t work, go petty. Sit at the offenders’ desks and do your pumping there. Then, when they show up and don’t understand why you’re there, you can make surprised pikachu face and say there’s nowhere else for you to do it, since they hogged the lactation room for some reason.

    #1 – There’s a lot of family stuff wrapped up here. I’m sort of wondering, though, is there a reason OP couldn’t get a job with a different cleaning company? OP seems pretty worried that they’ll all get fired, and I actually think this is a pretty valid worry. I can see where the company may feel it’s too much to keep all 3 of them on staff and fire all of them. I do think OP ought to alert the company about what she’s seeing, and simultaneously look for different work.

    1. Annie E. Mouse*

      I also think this is a pretty valid worry and am disappointed that so many assume LW1 has no reason to believe this will end up with her not working there anymore. This is a small company with enough bad judgment to have a mother managing her own daughter. It’s highly likely that there is a lot of disfunction going on and that it would blow back on LW, especially if MIL is buddy buddy with the owners.

      I still think she has a moral obligation to report it to the next level managers, but I think she needs to be prepared to find another job.

  66. Lurker*

    LW1-You need to call someone and report this as soon as possible. This is a life or death matter-if something happens to someone as a result of her drunk driving you will regret not saying anything. I know you may be scared and hesitant, but this is worth it. Please say something.

  67. Bruce*

    #1: Alison’s advice is painful but seems right on, someone is likely to get killed if you SIL keeps driving drunk.
    #2: Wow. I’ve always reached out to people I know that have inside knowledge when I interview
    #3: Office manager needs to lock the door to the lactation room and make sure only lactating moms and the custodial staff have a key!

  68. Elle*

    As someone who lives next to a short term rental and has another three on my street, PLEASE act on this. Short term rentals are already ruining neighborhoods for actual residents; please don’t make worse than it has to be. For me this would be an ethical issue- I could not support someone making dangerous decisions.

  69. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    LW #2. Don’t walk. RUN. RUN!!!

    If they don’t want you talking to your friends, what the hell is gonna happen when you get onboard?

    I once worked in a place (IS/IT) – where the manager was irate, because I pointed people to correct documentation (IBM manuals) to get the answers they needed – which they did, and learned things they didn’t know. The boss was hell-bent on keeping knowledge to himself and didn’t want information shared.

  70. Black cat lady*

    I have over 24 years of sobriety. Alcoholism is a disease but has awful consequences for the bystanders. We put people in jail not because they are an addict but because they endanger, injure, or kill others.

    Karen driving drunk is a lawsuit waiting to happen if she has an accident while driving on company time. An investigation could show Sally was aware of the problem and did nothing; and show the LW was aware and did nothing. If it’s a family business the lawsuit could wipe the company out. If it’s part of a larger entity the parent company would probably clean house (haha, pun) by firing all family members.

    As other commenters have pointed out enablers are NOT helping an alcoholic. Karen needs to hit whatever her bottom is and quit. It ain’t easy but oh my, life is so much better now.

  71. Bear in the Sky*

    I wonder who at OP1’s company besides herself and Sally is aware of Karen’s DWI. Having a recent one on your record can be a disqualifier to employment, especially if the job duties include driving. Not clear if Karen’s role does, but it sounds like a situation where she’d have to drive to multiple sites, especially if she’s a supervisor.

    If the grandboss knows, and if driving between work sites and/or driving company vehicles is part of the job, they may be negligent for keeping her in that role. If she was already in that role when she got the DWI, wouldn’t a responsible employer have removed her from it? If nothing else, a driver with a recent DWI would be a serious insurance liability for the company.

    If Karen’s role doesn’t require driving for anything but commuting to work, it may be different, but still, this is making me wonder how much the employer knows.

    1. Bear in the Sky*

      Come to find out, in some states it would be *illegal* for an employer to hire or keep an employee with a recent DWI/DUI conviction in a job where the duties include driving. If a current employee whose job duties include driving gets convicted, the employer has to either terminate them or move them to a non-driving role, and do so immediately. And laws aside, insurance companies typically won’t cover companies with employees in driving roles who have recent DWI/DUI convictions.

  72. Astronaut Barbie*

    For the lactation room- I would stand there banging on the door if I knew it was not the other nursing mom in there.

  73. You can do it*

    Letter Writer #1:

    I was involved in a serious accident caused by a drunk driver when I was a child. I would not be here if a couple of things had gone just slightly differently. You will be protecting every child (really every person) on the road by doing everything you can to keep your SIL from being behind the wheel. Please. People’s lives are at stake.

  74. Office Plant Queen*

    For #3, offices I’ve worked at have had the lactation room listed as a conference room that you could book. Listed as “lactation room” of course, so it’s obvious that it’s not suitable for meetings.

    Not that you couldn’t politely knock already, but being able to say “hey I have this room reserved” when you do can add some extra legitimacy to it.

    The other option if nobody takes this seriously of course would be to make it their problem. Every time it’s locked and clearly not being used for pumping, go bother whoever has the key to come unlock it for you. Get the other lactating person on board too. I’m betting it would be solved within about 3 days.

  75. OhBehave*

    #1 Your darn right she needs to be locked up for this addiction. Sent to mandatory alcohol treatment. Yes, she should make that decision, but she’s selfish. She may not make that decision before it’s too late. Even if they take away her license, you can bet she will still drive! She shows no concern whatsoever for anyone else; passengers or those who share the road.

    #3 You should ask for a key to the room. Anyone who uses it for the intended purpose should have one. The Lactation Lounge should always be locked! If they add another private room, it will be abused by those using the OG room now.

  76. OP #2*

    I just want to say thank you to Alison for publishing my question and to all of you who commented. It was such a strange thing to happen. I’ve just assumed that the interviewer had some kind of power/control issue, and it feels great to have that opinion validated! I sent the link to my daughter and son-in-law, and they are appreciative as well.

  77. jojo*

    #3 lactation room. go to website DOL DOT GOV. search for PUMP ACT. print out fact sheet #73. take it to HR if you have one. tell them you are not being given access to the lactation room because others are using it for a break room. the people using this room for lunch breaks and phone calls are violating federal law. learn your rights. also, some states have laws in addition to the federal ones. google your state and breast feeding .

  78. asdf*

    LW3, I’d kick this up to your manager (or HR, depending on your company) to deal with. Some of the people who are using the lactation room may have permission from their manager/HR, e.g. for a disability accommodation. They’re probably not going to be receptive to a random employee (you) telling them to get out.

    Someone who can evaluate who has the right to *a* room and the authority to appoint *certain* rooms should handle this.

  79. BigLawEx*

    #2 – this happened to me years ago.
    Me: Hi, I’m so excited to work here. I talked to X about it.
    Interviewer: You know, you’ve just lost any opportunity to have this job. What you did was an overstep. Here’s your parking validation.

    To this day, I’ve never gotten a grasp on this one.

  80. Rincewind*

    See, this is why I get worried. I sent in a question that Alison answered a few weeks back about using our “wellness room” for re-centering/decompressing during the day – which for me admittedly usually involves a nap (total time 30-45 min). There’s a reservation system in place – the same system we use to reserve conference rooms and private phone offices in hoteling spaces. I’ve never seen anyone but me use either the room or the reservation system.
    Based on the responses I got to my letter, I’ve started using it again, making sure that I read the handbook (no prohibition on sleeping during breaks or on site), book my time in the system, and only use my break time.
    But…when I’m in there, I keep the lights off and I’m wearing noise-canceling headphones with white noise playing. The room is going to look and sound empty, and I’m not going to hear a knock on the door unless someone really pounds on it. What if another employee needs it for lactation and I don’t move?
    Now I’m nervous again.

  81. Alexander Graham Yell*

    Coming in late, but LW2 – oh my goodness, this makes me SO mad. We got one of my best analysts because when she was invited for an interview she send a cold message to somebody working here from the same country she’s from asking about the work environment. We all loved that she reached out on her own (and that our coworker gave her honest + positive feedback) and knowing her now, I know how much it meant for her to feel comfortable coming in to meet us. If I were interviewing somebody and they said they talked to somebody I work with already and now they were extra excited about specific things about who we are/what we do, I’d love it.

    This is such a normal thing to do, and such a GOOD thing to do – plus, what he discovered wasn’t that he did something wrong, but that he was interviewing with somebody who wouldn’t respect him and he dodged a massive bullet.

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