interns stole alcohol at a work retreat, vacationing with a friend from work, and more

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

1. Interns stole alcohol at a work retreat

I recently started a new role, and last week we had a three-day annual retreat with the whole organization (about 30 people). It was a great experience overall, but it ended on a sour note: on our last evening, after a team dinner, two interns and one junior employee (who is still in their probation period) got very drunk, broke back into the restaurant where we had eaten after it closed, and stole an expensive bottle of alcohol.

None of us were aware of this until the next morning at breakfast, when the owners of the event space came into the restaurant, identified the three thieves through security camera footage, and demanded that they pay the full price of the bottle — $250. The interns and the junior employee seemed suitably embarrassed and went back to their rooms to gather up the money.

I was seated with a group of other managers and the CEO, and their conclusion seemed to be, “Well that was embarrassing, but if they pay for the bottle that’s the end of the story.” Personally, I thought that it should have been taken much more seriously — it seemed like a major lapse in judgement, and had it been my decision to make, I would have fired all three. I am a manager, but none of the three involved report to me directly, so it’s out of my hands. Still, should they have faced consequences from our organization as well, or was the fact that they were called out publicly and had to pay for the bottle enough?

For what it’s worth, there was wine served at the final team dinner, but it was far from a debaucherous free-for-all; there were speeches from the CEO and VP, a quiz about our organization’s history, that kind of thing — convivial, but no one other than the interns was getting drunk.

Yeah, I’m with you. You don’t commit a B&E during a work retreat!

It’s easy to leap to “I’d have fired them,” and that was my initial response. But when I reality-tested that by asking myself, “Is that really what I’d do in that situation or is it just the easy answer when it’s a hypothetical rather than reality?” and “What if this were an otherwise excellent employee with a great track record?” There are some situations where I could imagine not immediately firing the people involved and instead having an extremely serious conversation along the lines of, “This is unacceptable behavior to associate us with and a lapse in judgment that has broken our trust, and the consequences of that are….” (Even then though, are you ever going to be able to comfortably send that person on a business trip or out with clients? So it also depends on what their job is. And you’d need a lot of history of strong judgment and good work before this to even bother.) But two interns and a junior employee still in their probation period — i.e., people without a track record to counter-balance this incident? I’d be a lot less inclined.

What’s interesting to me about this isn’t that they weren’t fired, but that the organization’s response seems so mild in general. Like it wasn’t even a big deal as long as they paid for the bottle? That part — the lack of any serious concern — is pretty weird.

(Note: Much of my response is because they broke into the restaurant. That’s a big deal! If it was more like they swiped a bottle that was sitting in plain view somewhere, it still wouldn’t be okay, but I’d be less shocked by the lower-key response.)

2. I hate my workplace, but I don’t want to accept an alternate offer (I think)

I work at a mid-sized nonprofit that, to put it bluntly, is a mess. It’s an unhealthy work environment, everyone is charging towards being burnt out at an accelerated rate, we’re all overwhelmed, communication is a nightmare, we’re building the plane as we’re flying; you name a problem, and we probably have it in spades. But, I find the work I do enjoyable and fulfilling, like a handful of my coworkers, and have good enough work-life boundaries that my work problems rarely bleed enough into my free time to be a problem.

I spend probably an equal number of days excited to go to work in the morning as I do considering slashing my tires so I can get out of going in.

I recently received an offer from a sister organization to transfer to their branch. I have worked at this branch before at a part-time capacity with a lower title than I have now, so I know a bit about the environment and what would likely be expected of me. To be clear, since this is a sister organization, my status, benefits, pay, or title will not change at all. The only things that would change would be my workplace, work environment, and extra duties as assigned.

They’ve given me time to think about it, and I’m flabbergasted that as of right now, I don’t want to leave my current job.

When I think about the differences between the two, my current job, for its many, many flaws, feels more exciting and full of opportunities, including opportunities to make things better. The offer likely would provide a more healthy and stable day to day environment, less extra work, and somehow, that feels more boring to me. And yet, logically I know I would be stupid to stay.

Have I somehow Stockholm Syndromed myself into wanting to stay at a job that makes me miserable at least half the time? Am I being delusional about what the potential benefits of staying versus leaving?

Any chance it’s not so much that you want to stay where you are, but that you’re not excited about this specific other job? Is it possible you’d be more enthused about leaving for a different job altogether? Maybe you shouldn’t be comparing Current Job vs. Sister Job, but rather Current Job vs. something else entirely and should job hunt more broadly.

Or, it’s possible that you’re nervous about leaving something that’s comfortable. People often feel anxious about leaving bad jobs — because you like your coworkers, or you know how to get things done there, or everyone respects you, and on and on. It can be hard to leave that situation for something unknown, even if you hate it some of the time.

Or who knows, maybe you like the chaos. Some people do! In that case the solution might be to reframe the frustrating parts in your mind so you see them more clearly as trade-offs you’re intentionally choosing and are okay with. That can take some mental gymnastics, but if you can get that kind of clarity on it, it can make the difficult parts more bearable.

I don’t know which of these it is for you, but those are the questions I’d be gnawing on in your shoes.

feeling anxious about leaving my bad job for a better one

3. Is it OK to vacation with a friend from work?

I recently took a promotion, which meant I moved to a different state/work facility for my job. I now oversee a handful of associates as an assistant manager.

I have been good friends with one of my coworkers, “Brad,” at this site/department for a few years now. We started chatting on a business trip, and we’ve been friends ever since. Our friendship has always been strictly platonic, and this hasn’t changed since I’ve moved to the area.

Since the move, Brad and I have gotten into the habit of hanging out one or two times a week, including him introducing me to some of his non-work friends. We’ve grabbed dinner and watched movies, met up for drinks, or even just hung out at my apartment pool. It’s been a good transition so far, because I’m new to the area and didn’t know anyone else before I moved.

Brad invited me to go to his family’s vacation house in Florida for a few days. We both have time off work, and I think it would be an awesome couple days hanging out by the pool in Florida. We would each have our own bedroom/bathroom, but it would just be the two of us. My question is, is this crossing the line into “ick”?

Both of us have the same manager at work, and we work together in the same department/office. We’re both the same hierarchical level due to my recent promotion, but I am a newer manager and there is lots of room to move up in the future. He mainly does project work as a “technical expert” and does not manage people. Neither of us are going to mention the Florida trip at work or to mutual friends/coworkers, but does this cross the line? I can’t shake the feeling that this would be a really bad idea professionally, even though we’ve been friends for a few years before we started working directly together in the same department/site.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking a trip with a coworker who you’re friends with outside of work.

If you think you might ever be promoted to a position where you’re managing Brad, I wouldn’t go because that could really complicate things. But otherwise, it doesn’t have to be particularly line-crossing.

However, can you dig in deeper to where your discomfort is coming from? Do you feel weird because he’s a coworker, or because he’s a male coworker? (Obviously you’d want to feel confident that Brad also sees this as purely platonic and you won’t end up spending a few awkward days trapped together after he makes a move on you by the pool, but it sounds like you do.) Is it because it would intensify the friendship to a level you’re not sure you want? Does it feel like it’s blending worlds (work vs friends) too much? Would you just feel weird if people at work knew about it, and wouldn’t want anyone to find out?

“It just feels like crossing a line that I’m not comfortable with” is a perfectly good reason not to go, as is “I can’t shake the feeling that it would harm me professionally in this particular workplace.” So are any of the reasons in my previous paragraph. But if it’s just a worry that it’s inherently inappropriate to travel with a work friend, I don’t think it is.

(Full disclosure, I once went to Vegas with a male friend from work and it was awesome.)

4. Can a church require employees’ spouses to tithe?

I work for a church in Illinois that requires employees to tithe 10% of their income. However, this church also requires tithing based on household income, including my wife’s income, even though she is not employed by the church. They estimate spouses’ incomes and track our giving monthly. If we don’t meet the required amount, they can fire me or withhold yearly raises. Can they legally require my wife to tithe?

They sure can. But I’d love to know how they’re “estimating” your wife’s income.

5. When can I call someone’s cell versus a main number?

If you do not have a previously established relationship with a business contact, and they list their mobile number alongside the “direct” or “main” business line in their email signature, which is it best to start with if you have to call them (with no previous arrangement in place)?

Pandemic times shifted norms considerably regarding the role of personal cell phones and the workplace, and I’m unsure where things have landed. Sometimes the person answering the office phone thinks it’s weird that I’m calling and it seems like my message will never reach my contact, but then sometimes the contact is blindsided if I try their cell. I’m also wary of accidentally calling their cell on a day off or if there’s a time difference I’m not cognizant of. That’s never good. What’s the general consensus these days?

If they list a cell and a “direct” or “main” number, start with the direct/main number. If the person who answers there doesn’t instill you with confidence that your message will reach the person, say something like, “I do have her cell — should I try her there instead?”

If you have their email address and the query isn’t time-sensitive, you can also just start with an email, even if it’s just to ask to set up a time for a call. There are plenty of industries where an unscheduled phone call is still the norm, but lots of contexts where emailing first works well too and makes all this a non-issue.

And of course, once you’ve established some initial contact with the person, you can always ask which number they prefer you use in the future.

{ 539 comments… read them below }

  1. spaceelf*

    LW#3: I’ve taken several vacations with a male co-worker, and I’ve known him for over 20 years. And he’s married. To my best friend, whom I’ve known even longer. Totally platonic and it’s more fun. It’s not been a problem for me professionally but my workplace is kinda chill like that

    1. LadyAmalthea*

      I ended up taking part of a vacation with a male coworker. Atlantic City was easy to get to and he had scheduled a bus road trip around the same time and figure sounded like a nice final stop. it’s different being in a different wing of a bed and breakfast from being at a family home, though, so I wonder if that’s what’s giving LW pause.

      1. Spring*

        That part made me stop and think, too. OP would be sort of “on his territory,” and if it were me, I think I’d feel a little uneasy. But the OP might feel totally unconcerned about that. It really depends on the relationship between her and her colleague.

        1. OP*

          Thanks for the comments all! My reservations mainly stem from a few different avenues.
          A: is this a good idea as a professional, young women in management?
          B: people would likely assume more from our relationship, do I want to open that can of worms and have all the work gossip?
          I’ve already crossed the bridge of hanging out at his apartment. so I’m less concerned with “being on his turf” with how others will react if coworkers find out.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Perceptions and assumptions can be a big deal. I’m sorry, but personally I’d decline while we’re co-workers, unless we both have romantic partners that could make it a 4-person vacation.

            You need to decide from your employer’s and industry’s point of view whether it could harm your career if co-workers and professional contacts assume a non-platonic relationship.

            For those who think I’m overreacting, I’ve seen co-workers who went to lunch regularly become the source of gossip by others who insisted they were having an affair. The gossip was especially appalling to those of us who knew the manager was taking her employee offsite for discussions about his poor performance. The company’s open office had too few conference rooms, and that’s what other managers did. But, she was pretty and relatively young, so the gossip lasted long after her report left for another job. (She encouraged his job hunt because he was about to fail his PIP.)

            That was just a quiet diner 10 minutes from the office. I can imagine the gossip mill going into overdrive about an actual vacation.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              I have to agree. I’d further provide the input that even if you make it a four-some because you each have a partner, all that might do to the office gossip is “so and so and so and so are swingers”.

              I have no issues with what happens between consenting adults. I have an issue with lies being spread about both myself and a co-worker because people are prudes and cannot fathom that persons of opposite apparent genders can be platonic friends.

              1. 1-800-BrownCow*

                Why would you assume 2 couples going on a trip together are swingers? That’s really weird.

                1. Brain the Brian*

                  Yes, that’s a weird angle to go down, and I don’t think anyone — even the most conservative gossip — would realistically assume that.

            2. 1-800-BrownCow*

              I’ve learned throughout my career that if people want to find a reason to gossip, they will. I also dislike encouraging manager/direct reports or even just colleagues to not interact together outside of work because they’re of opposite gender and people might spread gossip. Seeking Second Childhood, did you and your team members ever defend your manager or try to stop the gossip? If not, then you’re part of the problem.

              As a woman in a very male dominant work environment, this attitude of harming one’s career has disadvantaged me greatly. I’ve had male managers who’ve done one-on-one lunches or dinners with my male colleagues who report to them, but refuse to do so with me because of optics. They don’t want some rumor starting that we’re having an affair. So then I miss out on building a stronger relationship with my manager and I definitely have noticed those relationship building opportunities were advantageous to them and helped them in their career advancement. And I’ve been the center of gossip before because I used to often go to lunch with a male colleague I became good friends with. So he and I called people out for spreading stupid rumors. This colleague and I certainly were not going to stop being friends and going to lunch together so we stood our ground. Instead of discouraging male-female friendships and outside of work interactions, we need to normalize it. Stop making it harder for women to build strong relationships in the workplace.

              In OPs case, I say go for it if you know you would do this trip with a female colleague.

              1. Tippy*

                This 100%. People who want to gossip and make innuendo are going to gossip and make innuendo. I’ll be damn if I’m going to give those petty people the power over my personal life.

            3. Sigh...*

              “unless we both have romantic partners and make it a 4-person vacation” is ick, but to each their own.

              As a woman this is disappointing to read. That being said, I have learned to call out people who value such perceptions and assumptions.

              1. Simona*

                I have so many close male friends and male friends from work. I would not think twice about this and do people even have to know? People will make up in their heads whatever they want. Go enjoy your weekend and normalize male/female close and completely platonic relationships.

              2. Annie*

                Yes, this is a little disappointing. If Op wants to go with her friend, she should go with her friend. Rumors and gossip shouldn’t dictate your actions.

          2. Dawn*

            I think this depends on your industry and other regional cultural factors. It would be a non-issue for me, but your level of concern might indicate that it would be an issue in your context. I’m a woman married to a man who would not hesitate to take a trip like this with a platonic work friend.

          3. Miette*

            B.ingo, honestly.

            I speak from experience (though not mine): at a company I worked at in the late 90s, my manager (director-level female) had a congenial relationship with a (male) member of the C-Suite who was not in her chain of command. They would go to lunch perhaps once per quarter and were warmly friendly to each other. TO THIS DAY, people I am still in touch with from that job will claim these two were having an affair at the time. I know they were not.

            While I hope workplace mores have evolved some 25+ years later, I am not so sure. This was a different circumstance of course–he was married, she in a committed relationship at the time, so the gossip value was magnified–but if you don’t want to put up with gossip you may want to factor it in.

            1. Aqua*

              Maybe the letter writer should refuse to talk to any male coworkers without two chaperones just in case

              1. 1-800-BrownCow*

                Yes, obviously that’s the only way to make it better for women.

                I (female) share an office with 2 men. Sometimes we have our door closed and the window covered, for TEAMs meetings. I’m likely ruining my whole career because the gossipers probably have spread all kinds of rumors of what’s going on when we have the door closed. Gotta love a world that tells women to not socialize with male colleagues or managers because of the potential rumors. I’m basically damned if I do, damned if I don’t since I work in a male dominant industry. Half the men I work with won’t be alone with me, whether in the office or out to lunch/dinner, because they don’t want to be part of the gossip and the other half that will be alone with me, apparently I’m ruining my career because ‘Bitchy Betty’ likes nothing better than to spread salacious rumors about other women.

                How come 2 men never have to worry about this stuff. Oh yeah…..

                FYI, I picked up on your sarcasm and was just adding to tit.

            2. doreen*

              I’ve seen something similar. As far as I know, the two people involved were just work friends and I never even heard of them socializing outside of work. They didn’t handle their friendship all that well (every time he got promoted, she got promoted into his former position which is probably what led to the gossip) ) but it also wouldn’t have been as much of an issue if they had been the same sex.

          4. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            I think because he’s a peer, it’s fine! There may be chatter about your friendship because chatter is what people do, but IMO it’s more likely to be from witnessing friendly banter in the office than because someone dug up the fact that you went for a free stay in Florida! The biggest risk in my eyes is making sure that you are on the same page about platonic-ness (not because I don’t believe in platonic friendship, just because it’s hella awkward when two people aren’t on the same page!)

            I (a woman in management) go for drinks with male colleagues and have been to one of their homes – in my org, it’s seen as a reflection of our valuing one another as humans outside of the value we provide our employer, which makes the complex work we do more meaningful and successful.

          5. Melody Powers*

            I have a male friend that I work with who I’ve gone on vacations with many times. I’m pretty sure some people at work think we’re sleeping together but I don’t really care. But I’m also not planning to stay in this department for much longer so it’s probably easier for me not to care than it would be in other circumstances. It may also help that our orientations aren’t actually compatible but they don’t know that.

            I would say think about how it would really be if they did make that assumption about you and your friend. Would you be able to shake it off or would it cause you problems that would make it more difficult for you to go in to work every day?

    2. gyrfalcon*

      The fact that you say “Neither of us are going to mention the Florida trip at work or to mutual friends/coworkers” tells me: don’t go.

      If you feel it’s something that must be kept secret, that’s your gut telling you it could be a problem.

      And what about when the secret gets out?

      1. Olive*

        I’m coming around to this opinion too.

        At a previous workplace, a lot of people were friends or friendly and hanging out outside work was common even between people who weren’t extremely close. I wouldn’t have hesitated to mention a trip I was taking with a platonic coworker.

        While I’d like to tell the LW to courageously stand up for platonic friendship, if she’s not going to mention the trip to even mutual friends… that’s my gut telling me something is a little off here. Maybe *everyone* in her life is more regressive than she is or *all* her friends are terrible gossips, and that a different type of problem, but a trip that has to be hidden from everyone in her life is pinging me the wrong way.

      2. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Disagree. There are lots of things that would be inappropriate to tell your co-workers (i.e., medical issues, your sex life, possibly your religious or political beliefs) but that doesn’t make any of those things inherently shameful.

    3. Workaholic*

      #1 – I’m a little baffled that police weren’t involved. B&E, stealing something worth $250. They have video evidence, and I’m sure there must have been some damage for them to get in. Though maybe it was seen as a courtesy to the company for holding such large events? Even if everything was downplayed at the time, perhaps there was serious discussion after the fact in private.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I’m curious about the details here because I think it could change the perception of things. From the letter, the restaurant appears to be attached to the event space. I’ve seen hotel restaurants that were closed even though the space around them was open with nothing more than a rope and a sign stopping you from going in. Wandering into a closed restaurant, going behind the bar, and grabbing a bottle is technically B&E even if you didn’t have to jimmy a lock to do it. So if the only damage was the stolen bottle I can see why event management would prefer to avoid the drama of police.

  2. nnn*

    #5: For me, the reason my main number is not my cell is I’m not equipped to deal with most phone calls if I’m not at my desk. I’m in the middle of something, I don’t have my computer in front of me, etc.

    (I don’t have my cell number in my email signature, but sometimes I’ve mindlessly put it in when filling out forms, and then subsequently get irritated when, like, the bank calls me to discuss renewing my mortgage while I’m in the middle of grocery shopping.)

    I absolutely agree with what Alison says about emailing to schedule a call, but if, for whatever reason, you do need to call spontaneously and are contemplating calling the cell phone number, consider whether or not this is something better handled when the person is at their desk.

    1. hobbydragon*

      I have a coworker who likes to call my cell phone number during the workday rather than my work number (which rings my computer). He’s always calling asking me to look something up for him, and I finally texted him one day with that number… we’ll see if he continues to remember to call my computer.

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      And this is why landline phones will never be completely obsolete, at least not in offices that are outside of one’s home. Lots of people don’t want to get a work call on their off hours. I’m Gen X and old enough to remember the early days of cell phones in the 1990’s, and many people were hesitant to get a cell phone for just that reason: they didn’t want their boss or their clients to be able to reach them at all times.

  3. Artemesia*

    As an intern supervisor from time to time at a University, I would have withdrawn the student and flunked them for the semester and required them to retake the internship. They didn’t swipe a bottle from an open bar. THAT is inappropriate but the response is proportional. BUT they broke into the restaurant that was closed and swiped a 250 bottle of booze. This is probably a felony. Yeah, not on my corporate watch. I’d fire all three of them.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      It’s the breaking and entering which escalates this to the level of being serious enough that some kind of serious disciplinary action is needed. And if that action does turn out to be firing – well, unfortunately when you are an intern or a junior employee without much track record, you don’t get as much room to seriously mess up. (To be clear, this would warrant serious disciplinary action regardless of staff seniority- you’re just more likely to get fired for this kind of thing if you’re junior.)

      1. Ex-prof*

        I also wondered about what was actually broken. Unless the bar had the kind of latch you can work open with a credit card or a butter knife– unlikely– then there must have been damage at least to the door.

      2. Ozzac*

        Yes, swiping a bottle could be chalked to poor impulse control (Which is already a problem, since I would fear they could steal from me too) but B&E means a certain level of premeditation, which means I wouldn’t trust them at all in my job.

      3. Resentful Oreos*

        I agree, as well. Breaking and entering is an actual felony offense. And I think that deserves a firing *and* a report to the college/program which placed the interns.

        Swiping a bottle from an open bar is something that merits a talking-to and “don’t ever do that again.” Actual breaking and entering is serious business and should be dealt with accordingly.

    2. allathian*


      I think that the response would have been appropriate if they’d swiped a bottle without paying while nobody was looking, but the breaking and entering takes it to a whole new level.

      I’m assuming that everyone involved was old enough to drink, including the interns.

    3. Media Monkey*

      i woud 100% fire them too. breaking into the restaurant is more than a drunken mistake (like thinking that all the drinks at an open bar have been paid for by the company so it would be ok to take one).

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Its one thing to be drunk and go, let’s take this bottle of booze sitting here and go somewhere and drink it. Its another to be outside an establishment and say let’s break in and take some booze. It is such spectacularly poor judgment that there is no coming back from it. You could literally not trust them about anything in the future. I’d have fired them upon return to the office.

        This is not a case of needing to learn office norms. Pretty much everyone by the time they get to their first job out of college should know stealing is wrong.

        The fact upper management has a ehh boys will be boys attitude tells me more about how upper management handles serious issues than it does about the interns (just plain stupid).

        1. Cherub Cobbler*

          An emphatic yes to everything you wrote. But on top of that they put their company’s reputation on the line. If I were management, I don’t think I’d just let that slide!

    4. londonedit*

      I mean, yeah. I’m very surprised the restaurant didn’t immediately call the police. I think the interns should count themselves extremely lucky that they weren’t facing criminal charges, let alone being fired.

      I can see why you’d err on the side of ‘they’re young, it was a lapse in judgement, they deserve a second chance’ if it was something like nicking a few unopened bottles of wine from an event to take home. In that situation I’d probably have had serious words with them, left them in no doubt that their behaviour was seriously unprofessional, and made sure they understood that work events require best behaviour at all times. But they *broke into a restaurant* and they *stole an expensive bottle of booze*. That goes way beyond slipping a stray bottle of wine that’s already been paid for into your bag. That’s a criminal offence. I don’t think there’s any choice but to fire them (after the speech about professional behaviour!)

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah. I was young once. I had my fair share of getting drunk and having lapses in judgment. You know what I never did? Breaking into a bar to steal booze. Nor did any of my friends. There were maybe two trouble makers in my college class who would have done something like this, and people didn’t generally respect them or have high hopes for their future success. Meaning, something like this was part of an existing bad pattern. These employees went far beyond youthful indiscretion.

      2. Ashley*

        I am guessing the hotel / restaurant wanted to keep the corporate client so they were willing to down play it.
        I really hope their managers had at least a very serious conversation about this.

        1. WheresMyPen*

          They’re lucky if so, because it could’ve gone the other way with the restaurant blacklisting that company

          1. Cat Opera Enthusiast*

            The restaurant could still quietly blacklist the company. Management shouldn’t be surprised if they try to plan a future retreat at that location, and get the brush off.

        2. Annony*

          They probably didn’t want to alarm other guests by having the police show up. Since they got the money back they probably figured that they were better off letting it go than potentially come across as an unsafe location.

      3. Parenthesis Guy*

        If the restaurant called the police, they’d have to deal with all the legal headaches of pressing charges. Far easier to just confront the company at breakfast about the B&E in the knowledge that it’s almost definite that someone will compensate them for the loss.

        I’m almost surprised they didn’t pull the guilty party over themselves and tell them that if they want to avoid the embarrassment of having their employer find out, they need to pay $500 for the liquor.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        ‘They’re young, it was a lapse in judgement, they deserve a second chance.’

        As with “Did the intern frame the coworker who stole her jacket on camera for credit card theft?” we seem to have plopped well down “Well if the person committing the crime is someone I know, obviously they shouldn’t have the police involved. The police are for people who are strangers to me.”

        This whole thing leaves a very sour taste as it underscores who gets second chances and the option of leaving the police out of it.

      5. Worldwalker*

        Agree. Drinking too much is a lapse in judgment. Breaking and entering, followed by theft, is criminal behavior.

      6. Simona*

        Me too! They definitely could have been arrested. The restaurant responded like when a young kid steals something and they just have to go back and apologize and maybe make reparations. Like when they are 8.

      7. SnackAttack*

        When I was a junior in high school I went on a marketing class trip to Disney World (yeah, I know, lol). While we were there, maybe 6-8 of the sophomores stole hundreds, if not thousands of dollars worth of items from a gift shop. I’m talking hats, sweatshirts, socks, even snow globes. Their reasoning was that they didn’t see any security guards, and since they were 15/16-year-old idiots, they somehow didn’t think that Disney wasn’t watching them (never mind the fact that Disney is a giant megacorporation and has probably figured this stuff out).

        Naturally, within like 4 hours, Disney ID’d the kids, found out where they were staying, and called up our chaperones (one of whom was the mom of the kid who started it all) to tell them the kids had until the next day to return the merch or they would be arrested. They did, and they got in HUGE trouble with the school. All that to say, when dealing with young and inexperienced people, sometimes it’s just easier for organizations to ask for reimbursement and leave the discipline to the bosses/schools.

        1. Gumby*

          I can see the hotel / event space not wanting to press charges here – to start it’s very likely that the culprits would be let off anyway – but the company being all “well they were probably embarrassed by that, good enough” is… a take. Especially since I suspect that it was the entire group there that was mortified and not just the thieves. I would have been.

          One difference here that I think is relevant though is that sophomores in high school are minors. College-aged interns and junior employees (who were seemingly over 21 since they were having alcohol at a work function) are adults with all the legal responsibilities thereof.

      8. Kevin Sours*

        There is a long history of hotels maintaining the fiction that “of course the gentleman intended to pay for that”. I think as long as there have been hotels. For the most part hotels prefer to on have police on premises because it causes drama and alarms the other guests.

    5. Angstrom*

      Agree. This is NOT “Not understanding professional norms” or “Not understanding how business works.” This is a crime, and they damn well knew what they were doing.

      1. Davesgirrl*

        Yes to the above.

        had they been injured during their “heist,” or had done any type of damage, the company would be in serious trouble.

        I can’t believe there are no consequences.

      1. Czhorat*

        As someone else pointed out, this is a large corporate group that probably drops a fair bit of money hosting large events.

        The restaurant wants to keep them as clients, so they give them more rope. At the end of the day they were paid for the pilfered bottle, so they’ll sweep it under the rug. If it was your cousin after a family dinner with about six people then the hammer might have fallen harder.

        1. M*

          Yeah, it’s amazing what money buys in contexts like this. My company does similar types of staff retreats, and I could *absolutely* see some of the venues we’ve used for those just quietly adding it to the bill at the end of the retreat, tbh, up to and including just sticking a charge on for property damage if the B&E caused any.

          Hell, I’ve been involved in conference hotel bookings for things in the 1000+ guests context, and those, a lot of hotels will just absorb a certain assumed percentage of guest misbehaviour in the upfront quote.

          1. Pescadero*

            “Yeah, it’s amazing what money buys in contexts like this.”

            Not really – the whole purpose of the facility existing is to… make money.

    6. Hyaline*

      Yeah…I’m having a hard time imagining a scenario where this isn’t bad enough to warrant firing. Maybe if “break in” is an overstatement in that nothing was actually locked (a restaurant with an open entry point to the rest of the hotel) but even then…it’s so obviously wrong to take a whole bottle from a closed bar with no clear way to pay for it that I’m not seeing any possible “this was a misunderstanding or misjudgment” wiggle room.

      1. Lab Boss*

        That’s the only thing I could think of, too. I have to believe if “break in” meant what it seems like on the face of it, that the restaurant would have cared more. But I’ve spent enough time in enough conference centers to know that you can often get to where you shouldn’t be just by walking through an unlocked door or ignoring a sign. If they just, say, walked into the hotel restaurant after hours and swiped the bottle, I can see the restaurant being much more calm as long as they paid up (I’d probably call that “sneaking in” not “breaking in” but I can see how you’d describe it as the latter). I can’t decide if I’d grant any more leniency as the boss if they just walked in rather than in some way breaking in, though.

        1. Prof*

          I also wonder about the $250 price tag. A $30 bottle of Smirnoff could be a $250 loss for the bar, given markups.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            Definitely when I saw expensive bottle of wine, I was thinking thousands of dollars for a rare vintage. It was … $250. Which while not cheap is not that out there for a decent bottle.

            1. Cherub Cobbler*

              Yeah, as the restaurant, I’m not “giving” that bottle at cost, but at what I would have charged for it.

          2. Blue*

            It wouldn’t be a $250 loss that way. Maybe they would have sold the contents of that $30 bottle for $250 total, but they could just replace it with another one easily, so in the end they’d only lose $30. It’s much more likely that this bottle itself was closer to $250.

          3. Impending Heat Dome*

            A bottle of Remy Martin XO cognac costs about that much (give or take). So probably a top-shelf bottle of liquor.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        I was thinking that there must have been little literal “breaking” in – maybe more just open a gate that’s only latched, not locked or jump over a low barricade. The restaurant only made them pay for the bottle, not damages.

        1. Cherub Cobbler*

          You don’t have to do actual damage to get into a locked place. Picking a lock would still be breaking in.

    7. Justme, The OG*

      They would also get a hearing in front of our university’s conduct board if it were me supervising them.

    8. Annony*

      When someone so new does something so egregious, I think it is better to cut ties and give them a chance to leave the position off their resume. I would not be able to give them a good recommendation no matter what else they did during their internship so staying would not help their career. Not mentioning that they committed a crime during a business retreat would feel too dishonest.

      1. Reebee*

        “New” to what, though? If they’re old enough to be interns, they’re old enough to know that breaking and entering, and stealing, are crimes.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I think Annony meant new to the company. They absolutely should have known better, and I think most managers would look at a person differently after an infraction like that. (This company? Who knows. Maybe they’ll be VPs someday.)

    9. lilsheba*

      Agreed. They should all be fired. And this is why you should NOT have alcohol at these events! It is not necessary to drink at everything! Keep the booze out.

      1. Jellyfish Catcher*

        The interns are adults. Conferences serve alcohol.
        They are there to learn about real work life: be professional, don’t over drink, and for God’s sake, don’t steal booze or anything else.
        I’d have a serious talk with all of them, about behavior and consequences and fire those that broke in/snuck in.

        I don’t know the college requirements/ documents such that they could leave the internship off their resumes, but they should if they can.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I don’t know about where you live, but where I live any conference hotel would have a bar as part of their hotel restaurant, and it would be beyond the power of a typical event to get them to remove all alcohol from the premises for the duration of the event such that no one could break into the bar and get it.

        You could certainly rent a church building or a school gym that wouldn’t have a bar and meet there during the day, but if you wanted overnight accommodation with meeting rooms and not at a summer camp or college campus, that hotel has a bar.

    10. EC*

      I would also let them know that they’re lucky that they aren’t in jail. The restaurant owners would have been well within their rights to report them to the police.

    11. Really?*

      I agree. I would worry about the ethics of that company. So what is next “well they only stole a little bit on money from the client, but they were drunk so that is ok.”

    12. kkt*

      Yes. They are very lucky the restaurant isn’t pressing charges. It’s time for them to learn that undergraduate hijinks no longer fly in the work world.

  4. Leenie*

    The first letter is so much worse than I was anticipating. I was expecting a bottle swiped from a company hospitality suite or something of that nature. Something that seems within a few degrees of normal youthful errancy. Breaking and entering is really quite serious, and merited serious consequences.

    1. nnn*

      Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Grabbing a bottle that’s just sitting there in a place they have access to is one thing, and I feel like it could perhaps be reasonably resolved by paying for it.

      Even if the bottle had been sitting there on employer premises and they came in after hours to grab it, that would be different.

      But this is a third-party location and they broke in, and did so in a situation where they were seen as representatives of the company!

      I’m not a person who would have to make these decisions IRL, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they were fired, and I certainly wouldn’t be advocating to let them continue their employment

    2. Jo-Maroon*

      I agree! I imagined they just brought something back to their room that the company had already purchased for employees. That’s clearly not the sort of thing you want to encourage, but it seems like an innocent-enough caprice. However, what actually happened seems so much more serious!

    3. Zona the Great*

      Yeah I was thinking it was April Ludgate-esque when I read the headline but I’m not sure even April would do this (well she wouldn’t have been caught).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The ineptness of the crime gives me as much professional trust pause as the choice to do crime.

        Will these people steal from clients? If so, they will do so in an extremely inept manner that is recorded on video.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          What other lapses of judgment will they have — not even necessarily theft but any serious ethical lapse. Lying about safety, lying about doing required testing, whatever.

          At this point, if they told me it was Wednesday I would check my calendar. You cannot trust someone who screws up this badly ever again.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            “Wait. If we do this, how will we make sure no one finds out?”
            “I know! We’ll stand on each other’s shoulders and wear a really long trench coat! They’ll think it was an extremely tall intruder!”

          2. Boof*

            I sort of agree with a few caveats:
            — they are apparently young/new to the workforce and were drunk. While that’s not an excuse, and there should be serious consequences and/or they’d have to regain trust, if they had otherwise been great I could see it being a one time “I was drunk and suddenly decided trying to live out the Hangover was a great idea since I’ve never done anything like that before” and it truly will be a one time never again thing. The whole testing boundaries in youth and then realizing that was a @#$@#ign terrible idea.
            Of course, it’s entirely possible they were rowdy, rude, and entitled the whole time too and this was just more of the same, in which case, yeah never trust again.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I was thinking it might be underage interns told they weren’t allowed a drink at a staff party or something and sneaking in and grabbing drinks anyway, something like that.

      This is…other level.

    5. WheresMyPen*

      I wonder if they also caused damage to the restaurant! I really hope they had to pay for that too if so

      1. Hyaline*

        The fact that damage wasn’t addressed makes me wonder if the “breaking and entering” didn’t actually involve anything getting “broken into” (as in the entry was an open plan with no locks) but even if they didn’t have to break in per se, there’s no way this isn’t egregiously bad. The restaurant was closed. They couldn’t pay for the bottle. What could they possibly have been thinking.

        1. Cherub Cobbler*

          Some locks are fairly easy to pick. Nothing needs to be broken for it to be a B&E.

  5. Isashani*

    the B&E one is wild. it’s a crime.

    But I’ve seen “weird dismissal of serious behavior” several times when people were put on the spot having to decide what consequences to apply to stuff they are absolutely not used to dealing with. Maybe it’s because on the moment it seems like the only choice is do nothing or “ruin the person’s life” (firing). Especially if the bad behavior doesn’t affect them or comes from someone they feel deserves a break. Or cognitive dissonance.

    In my case, one person would usually levelheadedly revisited the events a week later and would say “hey we need to deal with this actually very serious thing” and suggest reasonable consequences. others would soon agree (but without someone taking it upon themselves to be “the bad guy” things would have been swept under the rug).

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I think the senior management in this case went for “haha, youthful hijinks” rather than “this would ruin their lives!” as the excuse for inaction. But regardless, a lot of people just don’t want to make difficult decisions around hiring and firing.

      1. MassMatt*

        True, but that’s what management entails. Major side eye to the entire organization, really.

        The cost to this company’s reputation will be far greater than $250.

        1. allathian*


          That said, in my area kids generally get prosecuted by the store for shoplifting a candy bar of minor value, and I would absolutely assume that in a similar situation here, the restaurant would call the cops. (I realize that large segments of the US population have significant issues with law enforcement in general, so that advice may not apply there.)

          1. oranges*

            Yeeeeah, I’d be real curious the race and relationship of all parties involved in this situation. I feel like I have an idea.

      1. Pterodactyls are under-cited in the psychological literature*

        At least it wasn’t cheap-ass rolls or $48 worth of office supplies. Now THAT you’d have to fire them for immediately.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I think there’s also an element of “If I know the person, obviously it’s less a ‘crime’ and more a ‘hijink’ and the important thing is to not make things awkward.”

    3. toolegittoresign*

      I have to wonder how many people were drunk that night and if drunkeness is par for the course at these annual retreats. When you allow or encourage drunkeness at a work event, it becomes a sticky situation in terms of then punishing drunk people for doing dumb drunk things. Because: can you reasonably expect everyone to exercise good judgement when they’re drunk and you’ve encouraged the drunkeness? We’ve seen that in a lot of letters here. If there were going to be serious consequences here, the company would also have to set some new guidelines about drunkeness in general. And it seems like leadership didn’t want to deal with all that.

      1. Ineffable Bastard*

        OMG it’s so rare that so many of us agree this beautifully. Agreeing here, too.

  6. EA*

    Representing team “leap” to firing them here (doesn’t seem like a big leap to me!). Time to teach them some professional norms – this isn’t college and you can’t just get trashed and steal things. And firing an intern certainly won’t ruin the intern’s life.

    1. Artemesia*

      And again — not swiping a bottle from the companies own hospitality suite which could be a minor thing — but breaking into a closed restaurant at a conference site and stealing expensive booze. They are lucky the police were not called.

      1. Heffalump*

        Apparently it didn’t occur to them that they’d be caught on video. Pretty stupid right there.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yep this isn’t stealing the other team’s mascot or swiping a few letters off a frat’s lawn. In some jurisdictions given the amount of the bottle, it would be a felony.

  7. Brain the Brian*

    I’m concerned by the line in the vacationing LW’s note that they don’t plan to mention this trip even to friends / family outside of work. Are you truly confident it will remain 100% platonic? Really, truly? Are you prepared for how to handle it if people think otherwise? Or how to handle it if, indeed, your friendship becomes romantic on the trip?

    I ask because my mother was “just friends” with a coworker for years, and then after my father died and she retired shortly thereafter, she started dating her former coworker. I have no way to know whether they were ever anything more than friends before my mother was widowed, but the whole situation cast the last several years of my parents’ marriage into serious doubt for me.

    Basically, because your situation crosses personal and professional boundaries, I recommend you think carefully about whether you’re okay with any way that people both at work and in your personal lives might view this trip. You already seem nervous about how they’ll perceive it, and that gives me pause on your behalf.

    1. Myrin*

      I understood that line – which doesn’t mention family, only “mutual friends/coworkers” – in the same vein as the whole letter – OP already isn’t sure whether this crosses professional boundaries or not, so of course she won’t mention it to other people in her professional circle.

      I agree with the general gist of your comment, though, especially your last paragraph. I also want to add that I find it… I don’t know, “interesting” doesn’t quite seem like the right word; “peculiar” isn’t really it, either… that OP has these reservations about someone she hangs out with once or twice a week – that sounds like a really close friend to me! If the relationship were a bad idea professionally – which seems to be the OP’s main worry – a trip together doesn’t strike me as some sort of deciding factor because the two of them are so close anyway.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I can understand why going on a trip would be harder to explain away to friends / family / coworkers than simply hanging out with a friend, especially if the LW doesn’t mention every hangout to their other friends / coworkers and so they don’t realize the frequency. But I think you’ve largely hit the nail straight-on: having reservations about a friendship this well-established suggests that it may be as settled as first appears. I don’t think either of us wants to be inconsiderate of the LW, just to encourage a little more introspection.

        Noted that the LW doesn’t mention family at all. I misread that initially — my mistake.

        1. OP*

          Thanks for the comments! I did discuss with my family, and they were very hesitant that I should go- they are also very conservative, so sometimes what I see as acceptable and what they see as acceptable are a little bit different. Sometimes it’s hard for me to use them as a sounding board because of this.
          I think you all hit the nail on the head- is this something I feel ok with, at the end of the day?

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Thanks for your reply, OP! It sounds like you’ve thought this through quite carefully, and actually, asking your family for advice is a great way to clue them in that you *don’t* see this as a romantic trip, regardless of what other people might perceive. You’re quite right that it’s about how *you* feel about it first and last.

            I regret that I won’t be around to respond to more replies the comment that I’ve started here, but it’s 5am and my insomnia seems like it is finally going to let me sleep…

          2. No Longer Working*

            It sounds like the easier, less stressful thing to do is just not go. You’ll never have to worry then if it got out, how it would be perceived, if there will be any awkwardness with him, etc etc – All these questions and possibilities are moot if you don’t go.

            1. dot*

              What a sad place the world would be if everyone always took the easier, less stressful path that was based purely on what other people might think of you.

            2. Rainy*

              So I have two thoughts about your recommendation.

              1) Not doing things you would enjoy because of “what people might think” is manifestly silly. By that standard you should never do anything because you never know what completely innocent thing that is absolutely nobody’s business will nonetheless cause a stir if some nosy judgmental jerk discovers it.

              2) Would you be making this same judgement if LW’s coworker were a woman?

          3. Mints*

            This is tricky because there are different reasons why it might be a bad idea, and my opinion is different depending on what the reason is.

            Is it weird to have a platonic m/f friendship that includes vacations and trips? – No. Conservatives (including people who don’t think of themselves as conservatives in general) have such a tough time believing men and women can be platonic friends, and maybe they can’t but plenty of people can.

            Is it a bad idea to go on a vacation with somebody you could manage in the future? – Probably, and it’s worse the sooner that might happen.

            Is it a bad idea to be close friends with a work friend? – Maybe. Some of my closest friends started out as work friends, but I’ve also had pretty awkward situations with people where I needed to course correct back to professional only. (And a note here that I’ve downplayed my work friendships at work, I think that’s normal, and I think it would be fine to not tell other coworkers about the trip.) If this is the crux it, it’s okay to draw the line at local hang outs and not vacations. There are lots of friends I genuinely like but vacation is another step I’m not willing to take.

            Generally, I think it’s important to tease out what the reason is.

        2. amoeba*

          Eh, it might be. Or they just have some preconceived societal views ingrained that suggest it would be weird even though it wouldn’t, actually. (“What would people think!” kind of style). Either way, it’s certainly worth investigating where the feeling comes from.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I got the impression it’s not that OP has reservations about someone she hangs out with once or twice a week. It’s that she has reservations about what professional-circle people will think about it – and that what they think will be at odds with her own perception of the relationship.

  8. Fikly*


    Here’s why they should be fired: it’s not that they committed a crime, clearly documented on camera, while employed by your company. It’s that they did so while on a work trip where they were representing your company, and on top of that, did so at a location that they had been representing your company.

    That is so wildly over the line and such bad judgement that they should be fired regardless of their track record at the company.

    1. allathian*

      I’d say that both reasons clearly merit firing. If they had held an after-work event on company premises and the young employees had swiped a bottle owned by the company, I would’ve understood why they might let it go. But the company was lucky in that the restaurant apparently values their business enough that they were willing to let it go with an apology and payment for the booze. They would’ve been well within their rights to prosecute.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yep. I was pretty firmly on the side of the “no, traffic tickets should not prevent someone from being hired” when that came up several months ago, but this is a different ballgame. This is a felony, plain and simple. And these are interns and a new employee — the easiest people in the world to fire! Cut them loose!

        1. londonedit*

          Absolutely. I get the impression the legal systems here and in the US are quite different (speeding tickets here are generally a civil matter and you just pay a fine and have points added to your licence, or you pay to go on a speed awareness course in lieu of the fine/points – unless it rises to the level of dangerous driving) and there’s no way I’d expect a simple speeding ticket to impact someone’s ability to get a job.

          But breaking into a restaurant and stealing is a criminal offence wherever you are. It doesn’t matter whether they were drunk or not – the level of lapse that must have happened in their judgement for them to think it was all fun and games to break in and steal something is so far beyond anything anyone would normally do that I really don’t think you can go down the ‘well, they’re young, we all do silly things’ route. I’m surprised the restaurant didn’t call the police.

          1. Seashell*

            The speeding tickets you describe sound like the way things are done in the US, at least in the two states I have lived in. If you want to fight the ticket, you can go to traffic court, but otherwise you just pay it and you’re not getting arrested unless you’re driving totally crazy, like 85 mph in a 40 mph zone.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              It’s not the civil speeding ticket itself that is the problem. If you do not pay the ticket (even if it is because you cannot afford to or the ticket was sent to an old address) a judge can issue a bench warrant for you. The warrant will show up on many types of background checks, so if the job requires a completely clean background check you can be rejected for failure to pay a simple civil speeding ticket.

              A bench warrant also means that if you’re pulled over by the police, you can be put in jail for having failed to pay a ticket. The US isn’t supposed to have debtors prisons, but we have a lot of people in jail because they cannot pay fines or bail. In some jurisdictions, people who are jailed incur an additional fine for each day they spend in jail or prison.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I would be surprised if the venue willingly takes the company’s booking another time. Immediately paying for the stolen bottle is what prevented a call to the police, but the professional relationship is surely damaged.

        1. Pescadero*

          That really depends on how much the company spends.

          Hotels/convention centers/etc. will put up with some outright amazing things for people who make it rain.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          I’m guessing that for hotel management this is Tuesday. If it was the worst thing they had to deal with that week it was a very good week.

    2. el l*

      I’m guessing the only reason they didn’t fire them is some sort of misguided “I was that way once” thinking from senior management.

      Yeah, a B&E is bad enough, but that they did it on a company event with the company’s name…writes iteslf.

    3. DameB*

      My first thought was “If they are willing to write this off as drunken, youthful shenanigans, what *else* are they willing to write off?” As a woman, I would immediately start looking for a new job on the assumption that a lot of things would be swept under the rug.

    4. toolegittoresign*

      I get conflicted about things like this that happen when people got drunk on the company dime at an event where excessive drinking is normal. It seems unreasonable to expect your employees to always be exercising good judgement but also encouraging/facilitating drunkeness. This is, of course, and extreme example with the breaking in and stealing, but there’s all sorts of things that can happen if you’re letting people get hammered at a work event. What if they puked off a balcony onto others? What if they fell and got hurt? It seems like the first step when something like this happens is to re-examine the alcohol policy at events. THEN make sure all employees know that going forward, drunkeness won’t be tolerated and you’ll be held responsible for whatever you do while drunk.

  9. EmployeeIsOneThing*

    Requiring the employee to tithe is one thing, but his wife too? Double ugh! If you want to impose something on me as an employee that’s one thing. The rest of my family is not working for you.

    1. Archi-detect*

      also it is weird when they are your employer and could take it off the top rather than going “here are 10 tokens, give me one back” but I have never been big on the idea of set donation guidelines in the first place

      1. Dhaskoi*

        The process of giving it back is a display of subservience. It also habituates the tithee to the idea that they owe the church money.

        1. Beany*

          They’re trying to separate their roles as “employer” and “church”. The employer pays the money, the church demands some of it because you’re a member of the church.

          I think this is just a small example of why you should never work for a religious institution unless you’re genuinely enthusiastic about their mission. (Or get the law changed that allows them to discriminate in favor of their own adherents.)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Potentially ten or a hundred, if wife has a job they perceive to be well paid.

          1. Orv*

            Yeah, my wife makes three times what I do so that’d be a pretty hefty chunk out of my paycheck!

    2. Wolf*

      Yeah, that one bothers me, too. I can see how they’d make “we get 10% of what we pay you back” part of the contract. I don’t like it, but I can accept it.
      But the spouse’s income? That’s none of the employer’s business. It really feels like “we require your spouse to pay us for hiring you”.

        1. coffee*

          I saw in your linked discussion about whether required deductions would take the worker’s pay under minimum wage, and how that may or may not be legal. I wonder if the spouse’s tithe would also have to be included when calculating the minimum wage? Getting deep into the weeds and I figure you would need a lawyer to get a proper answer.

          I also wonder how they would navigate tithing from any other members of the household, like if you have older children or a parent living with you who have jobs, do they also have to tithe as a condition of employment? What if an adult child leaves the church and stops tithing?

          1. 1-800-BrownCow*

            I don’t think adult children or parents living in the house would count because technically they’re not part of the household income, even if they do contribute a portion of the paycheck to the household. As the heads of the household, you wouldn’t be claiming adult children as dependents (except I think if they’re a college student, not sure exactly how that works) or a parent living with you. The other adults in the household would file their own taxes and would claim themselves as their own head of household. Basically, they would be like a renter (whether they pay to live there or not), so that does not count toward the household income.

            1. Banana Pyjamas*

              This varies. For income tax, you can claim other adults if you pay more than 50% of their living expenses.

              For Medicaid, the household income is all income. My partner and I aren’t married, but we had to report both incomes.

              For food stamps I’m told you can have different people in the same physical household be separate financial households, as long as they don’t share food.

              I used to process senior property tax exemptions, and that particular form specified that you should include everyone living in the home.

              1. Nina*

                This isn’t income tax, this is church tithing. For a lot of churches where I live, the ‘member in good standing’ criterion would require that your spouse (if you had one) and children (if you had any) were regular attendees of a church and tithed to that church. It would probably be questioned if your spouse and/or minor children attended a different church from you, but any reason short of ‘yeah my spouse hates me so we basically live separately’ or ‘my spouse is [member of denomination that this denomination considers heretical] actually and attends that church’ should be fine. It’s generally understood that adult children will do their own thing; some churches might require that the pastor have all of their adult children still attending a church regularly, but it would be unusual.

                1. Nina*

                  For clarity, I feel like I should point out that in my church, we have one pastor and one secretary. The secretary’s salary is set to living wage + 15% to allow for tithing. The pastor’s salary is set by the central body of the denomination and is roughly the same as the median salary of the congregation. In addition to the salary the pastor can choose between having the use of the manse for free (they pay utilities, church pays property taxes and maintenance) or receiving a housing stipend equivalent to the median rent for a 3-bedroom house within a 2 km radius of the church.
                  I’ve been on several hiring committees and we do try really hard to make the compensation both worthwhile on a secular standard and comfortably livable.

        2. WearAllTheHats*

          Allison is correct. If your spouse isn’t a Christian or the same type of denomination with the same beliefs, you most likely would be “unequally yoked” and would even need special dispensation to work there in some capacities. It’s about being in good standing. Early ’00s, I worked for a megachurch in the Midwest who decided to audit their contributors, including staff, to make sure we were “setting a good example” but was really in order to shake them down for the new, shiny building they were building (I said what I said). I went from good employee to Problematic Employee because I tried to, you know, follow the Bible and donate in cash so I would be humble and then also I would not be writing it off on my taxes as it was a gift “from me to god’s church”. Nope, they demanded I switch to payroll deduct on the gross amount not the net amount or risk being fired.

          So there ya go. An unhealthy decade of religious traumas topped with that cherry. My one boss was dismissed due to mishandling staff relationships and liking younger women and the direct boss was fired due to adultery, leaving his disabled wife so two take aways: Yep, I’m still bitter about that Deb of iniquity and also RELIGIOUS JOBS ARE HR NIGHTMARES.

          1. Lab Boss*

            Let me start by saying that sounds terrible, and as a religious person I’m sorry on behalf of all of us that they put you through that.

            All that being said, “Deb of Iniquity” is a pretty great typo, she sounds like an interesting lady.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Seriously–I want to hang out with Deb! You, me, WearAllTheHats, and Deb. We’ll paint the town red!

          2. ReallyBadPerson*

            This is interesting. My understanding of tithing is that it is on your net, not your gross, income under the principle of “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” So you pay your taxes (Caesar) and THEN your tithe (God). To require a person to pay on their gross income is just, well, gross.

            But I also think tithing should be one’s personal choice. I’m a Christian married to an atheist, and I can’t imagine asking my spouse to tithe on his income.

            1. Rainy*

              I grew up in a cult. The cult demanded tithes of 20-30% (depending on the year) of gross income.

              In my experience the unusual thing here is the double or treble tithe, not that it was on the gross income rather than net.

        3. Hyaline*

          Very few churches require a strict tithe for membership, though—there are some branches that do, but many just request that members give what they can. Some don’t even bring up giving. So would this depend on whether the church required a strict tithe of all its members, and if they did not, would this requirement of employment be null?

        4. learnedthehardway*

          The whole idea of forced tithing is just repugnant – tithing is supposed to be a free will offering. (Gets off religious soapbox.)

          1. I Have RBF*


            Yes, my parents used to drop a check in the donation plate every month – they even had these cute little envelopes pre-printed. I don’t know if it was a tithe. I do know that we were always short of money every month, with my mom complaining to her friend on the phone that we “didn’t even have staples in the house.”

        5. TeaCoziesRUs*

          This stinks to me. I AM a member in good standing of my church. I do tithe on sales I make off ebay, which is my job. However, that tithe goes to a sister charity of our larger church, run by one of its monasteries. If this was me and y’all already support the church in other ways – through a missionary society or other charity, through volunteering, etc – then I would hand proof or a statement from that organization to your boss. Remember, tithing is about Time, Talent, AND Treasures. If your spouse is already supporting with their time or talent, then there’s no need to offer up more treasure as well.

          1. Lab Boss*

            There’s a Catholic priest/podcaster who is big on the point that you should be giving until it hurts- but HOW you give is between you and God via your conscience. If you can’t trust your local church leadership to use the money responsibly, find a religious mission or a homeless shelter or literally anything, because there are a LOT of ways your money can do good and “give directly to the Church” is only one of them.

        6. Nonym*

          Demanding an employee is in good standing is wildly different from demanding that their spouse is too, as the employer is now demanding something that is outside of the employee’s control as well as making demands that go against a third party’s religious freedom.

          What if their spouse stopped being in good standing, would the employee be required divorce? That would likely violate another of the Church’s rule. Would the employee be fired if their spouse exercised their religious freedom by espousing different beliefs?

          The tithe is potentially debatable, as the employee could tithe the full amount from their own income. The claim that non-employees can be required to be in good standing is different and I would like to see a source on that or to get someone knowledgeable in US labor laws to confirm.

        7. Lawyer*

          Your answer to LW4 is incorrect. The church cannot force the wife to do anything. She is not the church’s employee or contractor. They are not in privity of contract. She has no legal obligation to do anything, and the church has no recourse against her if she refuses to tithe.

          Now, the church can impose consequences on LW – not his wife – if she fails to tithe. (This is subject to all the discussion about falling below minimum wage, etc). I suspect that is ultimately what you and LW4 meant. But it’s not quite the question that was asked.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The LW is asking whether they can make it a condition of his job that he and his spouse both tithe and the answer that, as you agree, is yes.

            1. Lawyer*

              The questions posed were “can a church require employees’ spouses to tithe?” and “can they legally require my wife to tithe?” The answer to those questions is “no.” The church has no recourse against the wife.

              Perhaps you think this is hairsplitting, and as you note, I agree what LW was really asking was whether the employer can impose a penalty on the employee if his wife fails to tithe.

              But three comments below, several posters are taking the question literally. (For instance, @Catherine wrote: “Yeah, it seems deeply messed up that an employer can put obligations on someone who doesn’t work for them purely by virtue of being married to an employee.”) So I think it is important to draw the distinction.

      1. Mark R*

        Makes me wonder about part timers. Tithe 10% of your household income to us. While the part time job doesn’t bring in a tenth of what the full time job does.

      2. Festively Dressed Earl*

        I wonder if LW’s spouse outearns them? It’d be a nice little scam to hire someone at $45K who happens to have a spouse earning $150K, for example. I’m also curious why the church doesn’t accept time-in-tithe, i.e. volunteering somewhere for 4-5 hours per week.

    3. Catherine*

      Yeah, it seems deeply messed up that an employer can put obligations on someone who doesn’t work for them purely by virtue of being married to an employee. Will OP4’s boss also specify that his spouse needs to cook for the office potluck?

        1. BikeWalkBarb*

          Adding sexism to the mix if that’s their assumption. He can cover his work potluck obligations.

      1. Star Trek Nutcase*

        Unfortunately, IMO church exemptions have grown way out of proportion. Using religion to permit forced tithing, disregard of various labor laws and protections, exemption from various taxes including property, etc. flies in the face of others’ rights. Again, IMO human rights & obligations should hold supremacy over *ANY* so-called charitable organizations’ rights & exemptions. Wish the Supreme Court had repealed charitable exemptions instead of abortion – the former affects all citizens.

      2. Lawyer*

        Yeah, it seems deeply messed up that an employer can put obligations on someone who doesn’t work for them purely by virtue of being married to an employee.

        They can’t. They can put obligations on the employee, not the wife. If the wife refuses to tithe, they have no recourse against her whatsoever; potentially they could take it out on the employee.

    4. allathian*

      Just curious, how do tithes work in the US? Do they want 10 percent before or after taxes? (I’m in Finland where we have two recognized state churches, Lutheran and Orthodox. Church members pay their 1 percent tithe as a literal tax, our IRS handles the admin side of it. This also means that employers, or at least payroll and HR, know the church affiliation of employees, at least as far as membership, or lack of same, in our official state churches goes.)

      Requiring a spouse to be a church member of good standing and paying their tithes accordingly is one thing, but how exactly are they guesstimating the wife’s income?

      1. Adult ADHDer*

        It’s actually kind of unusual for American churches to require a straight percentage tithe; the only church I’m aware of here that does that is the LDS/Mormon church, which does require 10% of income but allows the member to decide whether that’s 10% of gross or net income. Most of the churches that I’m familiar with practice voluntary giving, where there’s a collection plate passed (either literally or figuratively) at services and people give what they can.

        My family of 3 attends a mainline Protestant church and we give $10-20 at each service. Some people give more, some people give less, some people give nothing. One of the things we like about our church is that there’s no pressure to give, although that has admittedly not been true of other churches I’ve attended in the past, where “voluntary” giving comes with a healthy dose of pressure.

        1. ArchivesPony*

          there’s a “church” in my hometown that requires it’s members to give 23% of their paychecks. It’s maddening because the money definitely doesn’t go back to it’s members. Its known in town that the “church” is a cult.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            I manage payroll for my company (A for-profit commercial corporation unrelated to any church or religion) and had an employee request that xx% of their pay get deposited into a church’s bank account.

            I ran it by our payroll processing company and they basically said that unless an employee’s name is on the account, it’s not a good practice to do that. I was okay with that guideline, because though people get to decide what to do with their money, the request did make me wonder whether this was a cult or all-consuming church, and I was glad not to be a middle-man on it. The direct deposit amount was big percentage (20%?), and I’m aware that the employee’s family sometimes struggles financially just from some things that have gone on over time.

            1. Rainy*

              I grew up in grinding poverty due to a similar tithing requirement. My dad made perfectly adequate money on paper, but knock 20-30% off the gross and suddenly there’s not enough money for groceries.

          2. Rainy*

            I said this above but I grew up in a cult that demanded 20-30% of gross income from everyone, including kids. I was supposed to be tithing on my afterschool job and even my allowance…which came from my parents’ already-tithed-on income.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            I know this is irrelevant, but I really want to know how they came up with the number 23. Divine revelation?

        2. Banana Pyjamas*

          I know of a non-denominational mega church in the Chicago suburbs that requires members to submit their tax documents to prove they tithed 10%. It’s possible that church is no longer because last time I drove by it was rebranded.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I did not know the Orthodox church was recognised as a state church in Finland! How fascinating.

      3. Ana Gram*

        I don’t think strict income based tithing in the norm in the US (at least in my experience). I’ve been Catholic and Presbyterian and neither has ever brought up a percentage of my income they expect. I donate online now but when we passed a plate pre-covid, folks were all over the place about whether they donated or not. But nobody was giving amounts that would’ve equaled 10% of a paycheck!

        1. doreen*

          I grew up Catholic and I’ve heard plenty about “5% to your parish, 5% to other charities” but it was never presented as a requirement and I’ve never heard of anyone officially estimating a household’s income and deciding how much they should contribute. The closest I’ve seen is some relatively low fixed amount ( like $500/yr) to be considered an “active parish member”.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            I’m a Catholic in Ireland and the only time I ever heard an amount requested was when Ireland changed over to the euro and they asked “if you’ve been giving £1 a week and can afford to do so, can you make it €2 rather than €1?” because the euro was worth about 80p and they were concerned they’d lose 20% of their income if people started giving the amount in euro that they had in punts/pounds (“punt” is the Irish word and was often used to distinguish from sterling).

            But yeah, there’s a big difference between suggesting an amount and assessing a household income and demanding an exact amount. And even more so when the person works for the church which adds to the power the church has over their life.

          2. Lab Boss*

            I’m Catholic and I’ve seen suggestions presented when we were doing a major one-off fundraising campaign, but even then it was “If you make this much, X% of your income is $Y, could you pledge that?” and even then there was heavy context of “your obligations to your family come first, and only you know whether you can afford to give more.”

        2. Justme, The OG*

          I belonged to a church that asked you pledge a “fair share” amount of 2-10% of your income. I was broke and underpaid and $600 a year (2%) was a lot for me to donate. I ended up donating maybe $20 a year.

      4. Ally McBeal*

        I grew up in a 10% tithing household (conservative Protestant, sometimes evangelical and sometimes not) and there didn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule about whether it comes out of your gross or net income… that said, there was always the undercurrent of “if you are generous in giving, God will bless you” so I imagine people who could afford a 10% pre-tax tithe did so.

      5. Cynan*

        “Do you tithe on the net, or the gross?” is very much a live question in U.S. Christian circles. There’s no single answer. But I’m part of a church that thinks 10% is, at best, a useful benchmark, and everyone’s circumstances are different, so there is nothing even remotely resembling a mandatory percentage.

      6. Texas Teacher*

        Many of the synagogues in my community require membership dues, but I believe that’s considered different than tithing. I’ve never been part of a church that required a certain amount of money to be given.

        1. SynagogueFees*

          Most synagogues have membership dues, but they are generally optional and, with a few exceptions, synagogue activities are open to the public (there have been some safety-related restrictions imposed at m.j any places in recent years, but not financial). There are also Sisterhood dues to fund certain extra activities but those too are optional. Pre-pandemic I used to play Mah Jong once a month at a local synagogue I had no other affiliation with (I did periodically get invited to other things by virtue of knowing other folks who played Mahj). I didn’t pay anything, and no one expected me to pay anything, but once I became a regular I decided to pay Sisterhood dues once every few years to fund the group. That was solely my choice.

          Many synagogue also ask folks to purchase tickets for high holidays services but this, too, is usually optional and I used to decide where to go each year depending in how I felt physically and just showed up wherever (there’s a synagogue I hate within walking distance from my apartment vs various synagogues I like more that require different types of public transit).

      7. ThursdaysGeek*

        In the church I attend, only one person even knows what is given (not the pastor), and that’s only so they can provide individual lists for taxes at the end of the year. I’ve often heard the request that visitors to the service should not give. I suspect a good number give nothing at all, some people give some, a few people give about 10%, and even fewer give more than that, but since I’ve never been the person who knows who gives, that’s just a suspicion.

        Some of the money given goes to others in the church who are struggling financially, although I know people help directly as well.

      8. Ozzac*

        In Italy 8×1000 of your taxes goes to the church, but you can choose which specific confession (catholic, orthodox, buddhist etc) otherwise it gets divided based on percentages of population

    5. Mangled Metaphor*

      I’m utterly baffled by the estimating your spouse’s income. Do they ask what your wife does for a living and assume the wage is at market rate? (in which case I hope this means they are aware of what market rates actually are and pay above that), or do they go “hmmm, she looks like a librarian and they earn £xxx” when in fact she’s a part time wages clerk at the local supermarket.

      That being said the whole tithe thing at all is abhorrent to me so that’s as far as I’m going to think about this.

      1. Hamster Manager*

        What’s nuts to me is, unless I read it wrong, LW doesn’t indicate whether they or their spouse is even a church member. Probably so, but if one or both of them aren’t, this is even more egregious, because your tithes are used to help the church and its members, and if you’re not a member, you’ll never get that benefit, you’re just lighting money on fire. I think tithing should ALWAYS be opt-in, regardless of the law.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think the justification for the tithing requirement is that religious institutions are allowed to only hire members of the religion. So the church LW works for says that they only employ “members in good standing”. To be a member in good standing (i.e. remain employed), LW needs to give the church 10% of their household income.

          Presumably, LW (and their spouse?) would get all the benefits of membership… whether they wanted them or not.

      2. Jackalope*

        The idea of being forced to tithe when the Bible is clear that it’s to be a voluntary gift is icky to me and I agree that it adds something to the situation that (whole legal) is not okay. On the other hand, as someone who has (voluntarily) tithed for a long time, the idea isn’t in and of itself a bad one. Roughly once a week I go partake in activities in a building that needs upkeep, utilities, and so on, with the professional direction of staff members whose families need food and housing just like everyone else. During the week there are various outreaches that I support that also need supplies, staff supervision (and I will add that I’m glad my church pays the people who are investing more than a couple of hours each week rather than requiring all volunteers), more utility use (heated or cooled building, water for restrooms, etc.) to run. If I were enjoying the services of a private company I would be paying them for the privilege. If I were enjoying the services of a public good (like a park) I would be paying for it in my taxes (assuming I live in the area) and possibly also a fee depending on how I’m using them. Churches are supposed to be available to everyone and I’m glad that most of them don’t have a set fee so that money isn’t a barrier. But at the same time, all of those expenses have to come from somewhere and it’s reasonable to me that they come from the congregation who is the primary group of beneficiaries.

        (That being said, my church is very open about finances, and once a year we have a big meeting where everything is shared including how much money is spent on what, and we vote on parts of it. There’s also an open book policy about asking at other times of the year. So I feel comfortable in the way that money I donate is being spent. If churches were more secretive about it, or if there seemed to be discrepancies somewhere, I would be much less comfortable about it.)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Those are all good points, and ours is similar. The only thing our church doesn’t make public is who gives and how much. That’s left to one (non-pastoral) person to manage, someone mature enough to treat people the same, no matter if they give or not.

          1. Gumby*


            I am the current treasurer for my church and even *I* don’t know who gives how much. I mean, I know a couple because they have set up different ways of contributing than checks / cash in the offering plate but I don’t track it or anything. The one person who does do the tax documents for contributors is not in any leadership position at the church. (I’m very grateful he is happy to manage it.
            As have been the past 2 treasurers. He’s been doing it for well over a decade.)

    6. DeskApple*

      I once withdrew from a job at European HQ in Frankfurt for the LDS church because they made my job conditional on whether or not my husband would move with me. When I asked how that would be verified and pushed back because male leaders I knew worked in different cities during the week than where they lived they said it was under the premise of keeping families together and that my coworkers would be in the ward to “check on things”. In my withdrawal I noted how that made my employment conditional on my husband’s faith and realized that the requirement of tithing as well for the ecclesiastical endorsement was too much, I was effectively being paid ten percent less anyway.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yeah, it’s particularly jarring that church jobs are often below market rate – they’ve already had their ten percent by not having to pay you what you’re worth!

    7. lilsheba*

      I swear religion is the root of all evil. I would never work for a place where I had to pay THEM. I do NOT do forced donations.

    8. Anon for This Comment*

      I’ll try to say this as nicely as possible. While I admit I am painting with a broad brush, “organizations” like this want everyone to do what the org wants, regardless if they are married, related, or unaffiliated, and has no problem trying to legislate that into reality.

    9. FionasHuman*

      Requiring tithing by employees is immoral, and I don’t care what the institution is. This practice is a severe abuse of power, it’s extortave, and should be illegal. Source: I’m on the board of my church. When we found out that our newly-hired pastor was under the impression from our diocese that he was required to tithe 10%, we advised him to stop immediately. With the possible (probable?) exception of televangelists/mega-churches and the like, most people who go into church work are already tithing by accepting salaries far lower than they could get elsewhere for the same work. This is a topic/idea that seriously burns my bones, and that’s before we get to extorting family members’ pay as well. I hope LW#4 bands with all the other employees at that church and goes on strike over it.

      Ok, going to go eat some chocolate and calm down now…

      1. Tiger Snake*

        The argument that staff are already tithing with a lower salary doesn’t sit quite right with me. A key part of tithing, to me, is sitting with what you have earned and actively choosing to offer that up. If the money simply isn’t there in the first place then you aren’t making that choice each and every time, each and every day.

        However, you’ll notice that my view and perspective on this is *choice*. Mandatory tithing defeats the entire objective in the first place. We know what Jesus had to say about the pharisees who would focus on making sure everyone saw them give exactly 10% of everything they earned, as opposed to doing it with a sincere heart and true choice.

  10. MassMatt*

    The tithing letter is weird. What is the point of paying someone to work for your church (or a nonprofit) and “donate” 10% of their income? Couldn’t they accomplish the same thing by just paying them 10% less in the first place?

    Of course, that wouldn’t allow them to get “donations” from the spouse who doesn’t even work there. I’ve heard of churches that require members to disclose tax returns, it’s hella invasive but maybe that’s what they plan to do.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Tithing is in the Bible. Everyone is supposed to tithe (even spouses apparently) so just paying the employee less defeats the purpose of the church employees setting the example by tithing.

      1. Jasmine*

        Tithing is no longer a requirement in the Christian era.

        (2 Corinthians 8: 12 For if the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.

        2 Corinthians 9:7 Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.)

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          If tithing was no longer a requirement, then churches wouldn’t require their employees to tithe.

          Most churches I’ve attended require you to tithe regularly in order to become a member of the church. Although they can’t go after you if you do become a member and then later stop tithing. But that requirement is enough to make the rule followers ensure they continue tithing. And those who don’t, will find that help isn’t as readily available to them when they need it most. It’s ironic how that works….

          I’m not a fan of tithing in general, hence why I’ve never gained membership to a church, just a casual attendee. I’ve known way too many people struggling financially but will still tithe because they’ve become convinced they will be blessed in tenfold one day. One guy I know who’s in his 60s struggles with his faith because he’s waited so many decades for his blessings but his struggles with finances and his feeling he has to tithe are hard on him. Its so frustrating to see people who live with struggles like that.

          1. Hyaline*

            I have never in a lifetime of church attendance been in a church where a tithe was required for membership. Churches have their own disciplines outside the foundational beliefs of Christianity and people can take that into consideration when seeking a church.

            1. Overthinking it*

              Yeah, I have never heard of tithing as a requirement for church membership either. Guessing the churches you are familiar with are some off-the-grid greedy personality cult churches, or rigid sects, rather than main stream protestant or Catholic. Also to be noted: one’s tithe is not just what ones gives to the church, but to other sorts of poor relief causes.

          2. RagingADHD*

            I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if “most if not all” churches you’ve attended require (rather than encourage) members to tithe, and in some way “go after them” if they do not comply, then you have managed to find a series of extremist, highly controlling churches that are operating well outside the mainstream. It might be worth unpacking what factors in your upbringing or personal vulnerabilities have created this common denominator, because it is likely to lead you into some very unhealthy places.

            1. Orv*

              This is common in LDS churches and also in evangelical megachurches, from what I gather.

              1. RagingADHD*

                I’m surrounded where I live by megachurches of mainstream denominations (several of which would be classed as evangelical in today’s world) and know a lot of people who attend them. No, they do not require proof of income or “go after” people who do not tithe, nor are there financial requirements for membership.

                The only requirements are making a profession of faith, or perhaps taking a class or getting baptized if you were not already.

                The only things I know about LDS are content from ex-members, many of whom experienced it as extremely controlling.

              2. Sweet Fancy Pancakes*

                Nope, still voluntary in the LDS church. Once a year you are asked to declare if you are a “full-tithe payer”, but no one checks on your income or asks anything beyond that question. If they do, they are in violation of church policy.

          3. Managing While Female*

            “If tithing was no longer a requirement, then churches wouldn’t require their employees to tithe.”

            This is a logical fallacy.

        2. Boof*

          Let’s just be clear, churches are organizations of humans; yes they’re supposed to be in worship of a higher power but I think once they start claiming they are actually acting under infallible divine guidance and so their judgements cannot possibly be questioned they are automatically dangerous/borrowing authority they do not have. Because, again, they are not actually said deity, they are trying to represent/serve said deity. Which brings me to I’m sure plenty of humans will seize upon parts of the bible that give them power/money/etc and ignore the others if the divine guidance they claim to be hearing is actually just their own desires.
          … yes I think religion can be great or can be terrible and I question how one can demand a specific tithe and not be terrible. Sort of like the employee who harasses people is almost certainly doing other bad things, like stealing, besides just the fact that harassing people is bad.

      2. BubbleTea*

        Lots of things are in the Bible that would be unacceptable for an employer to require.

        1. Frieda*

          This, right here.

          That said – if you work for your own church/denomination, which this person appears to, and realize some aspects of the employment situation are underhanded or unfair, it may be time to begin looking for a new job *and* a new church.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      What income does the employee get taxed on ?

      – The one the church states
      – 90% of that, because the after-tithe amount is what the church is actually paying the employee

      Demanding the spouse tithes makes the question even more complicated.

      1. Indolent Libertine*

        The W2 will show the pre-tithe gross income, but if the employee itemizes rather than taking the standard deduction, they can claim the tithed amount as a charitable contribution as part of their Schedule A deductions.

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Yes, but very few individuals benefit from itemizing any more, since the standard deduction and personal exemption were combined in the Trump-era tax law.

          1. Orv*

            You can claim up to $300 even if you don’t itemize. Obviously that doesn’t get you very far if you’re tithing, though.

          1. Daisy-dog*

            Interesting! I just bought a house last year, so it was my first year not taking the standard deduction. I thought all homeowners (well, people with a mortgage) would itemize!

            1. Lab Boss*

              I thought so too, until I bought a house. I am not deeply steeped in tax lore, but even considering some sizeable deductions for charity plus a newly purchased home (although no kids), we still weren’t particularly close to itemization being worth it.

              1. Evan Þ*

                I take it from your “we” that you’re married? If so, that’d be a big part too – the standard deduction for Married Filing Jointly is double that for singles.

                1. Lab Boss*

                  Correct- I think all else being equal it would be worth me itemizing if I were single, although I didn’t do that math. Prior to buying a house I just had a vague assumption that the various associated deductions would make it worth itemizing. I wasn’t counting on it or anything, just vaguely surprised it turned out not to be the case.

    3. Caroline*

      My parents’ church required “giving according to your ability”, which they interpreted to be more than 10% in most cases. Not only did they estimate my parents incomes, they estimated our expenses and household budget and there would be vague lecturing from the pulpit, followed eventually by direct confrontation in front of the congregation, if they felt anyone’s giving was lacking. Fortunately, my parents didn’t rely on the church for income, and they eventually left, and the church eventually lost enough congregants that it closed its doors.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        All this estimating is so alarming. It’s difficult to put into words, but it’s like they’ve decided how you should live and that they know everything.

        1. linger*

          they’ve decided how you should live and that they know everything

          A typical patriarchal religious institution, in other words?

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Because it’s really not the norm in most religions. They give rules to live by, sure, but they are generally pretty general. It’s one thing saying that Christians (I’m going to stick with Christianity for examples, as it’s the religion I am most familiar with) should live frugally and give to those less fortunate than them. It’s another thing to say “we have decided this is how much money you need to live. You must give everything else to us.”

            It is really not normal for religions to decide how the rules should apply in each individual’s circumstances.

            And apart from that, there’s also the fact that they don’t seem to be allowing for the person to donate to charity, apart from the church. “You can afford to give this much to charity; therefore you must give that much to us” is restricting a person’s giving.

            1. Caroline*

              I agree that it’s not the norm. It was a spiritually abusive church in a lot of ways, and I am glad my family is out of it. (And yes, the expectation was 100% that church members did not give to any other charities beyond the church.)

              That kind of overreach does make me concerned for the LW in the original letter, though. Giving rules to live by is one thing, but having partial income information and basing your employment on following the rules about your personal life decisions is another. If you’re not fully onboard with the rules or their ability to interpret your following of them, it’s time to find another job.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            Because I have been working in religious institutions for ages and never seen the like of it.

        2. Crooked Bird*

          I agree. I’ve never encountered a church that did this, and I grew up with missionary parents. If I did find one I would run the other way, FAST.

        3. Moonstone*

          “but it’s like they’ve decided how you should live and that they know everything.”

          Welcome to America in 2024 where the right is attempting to do just that for the entire country. I’m an atheist; if my husband started working for a church that expected me to also tithe, he wouldn’t be working there for long. I’m not giving my hard earned money to an organization I don’t even believe in.

      2. Lady Lessa*

        I’ve come from a branch that preached tithing, and used to follow it, even after changing branches of Christianity. I recommend that the LW flee that church, both as an employee and as church member.

        I still donate, but do so to support a specific charity within the church and also in a way to avoid the diocese getting their cut.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      The principle is that you are giving the money to God, the church is just the earthly representative (which has bills to pay and a roof that needs replacing soon). Because all money is given by the grace of God and the whole earth really belongs to him anyways, you are just giving back a portion as acknowledgement of that. The symbolism is lost if you just make less money. Also very much lost if you don’t believe in God.

      The government makes you pay taxes even if you work for them and they paid you the salary.

      OP#4, do you go to the church? Because if you don’t, you should be tithing to your own church. And if you aren’t Christian (and maybe if you are), see if you can tithe to Doctors Without Borders or some other appropriate organization. You’ll be out the same amount of money, but sometimes the principle of the thing matters. And it will let you know if the church cares about the principle or just about the money.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        My god-granddaughters’ allowance from me includes 10% to God. But one goddaughter isn’t interested in God right now and was objecting to that restriction: she isn’t taking her kid to a church. I told her if she wanted to give to a pet shelter or the homeless guy on the corner, that still counts. I want her to learn to be generous, and I think it is still giving to God.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        This church clearly just cares about the money. LW says they can fire him, or withhold raises if he doesn’t comply.

    5. Emmy Noether*

      It also allows them to both advertise a higher salary AND claim higher tithing numbers. So the numbers look better all around.

      Of course, it’s worse for the employee than just getting 10% less, because I assume taxes have to be paid on the amount before tithing (or is tithing deductible in the US?)

        1. Magpie*

          It is deductible, but I doubt anyone working for a church is making enough money that the tithe pushes them over the standard deduction amount so it’s probably not actually helping them at all on their taxes.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            So I looked up standard deductions in the US (they’re really high!*). Am I correct with the following math (I’m doing it for a single person, not the LW+wife, to make it simpler).

            Say a person earns 150k (unlikely), and tithes 15k, so it’s over the standard deduction, they itemize, have, say, 5k in various other deductibles, and pay taxes on 130k.

            If they were paid 135k (10% less) and had no tithing obligation, then they could apply the standard deduction of 14.6k on that and only pay taxes on 120.4k.

            So even though tithing is deductible, it still works out to the employee’s detriment due to the standard deductible. Unless they were already at the limit for itemizing without the tithing, in which case it’s a wash.

            *We do get standard deductions here – they’re low and split by type, like 50€ for office supplies, 15€ for banking fees etc. One can choose whether to itemize each type instead or not. Charitable giving and political donations are extra.

        2. MassMatt*

          It’s deductible IF you itemize, for most people without mortgages or other large deductions (such as self employment) it makes more sense to use the standard deduction, so in effect they are not reducing their taxable income by the tithe amount.

  11. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

    LW#4: I’m in a a church that has us pay tithing, 10% of all income. This is a complicated situation, and I’m wondering whether it is you don’t like. If you are not willing to pay your wife’s tithes, seriously consider another job. Ultimately it is your money (and hers) to choose what to do with. As far as I’m aware, the church I’m in doesn’t track your spouse’s income. That’s a red flag. Plus, what about when your kids get jobs? Will they be subjected to the same treatment? I think tithing should be a personal decision, not a condition of employment.

    Or your wife could “lose” her job. They never have to know…

    1. Archi-detect*

      normally I wouldn’t grouse about lying to an employer about such non-employment based details but working for a church where spirituality is directly involved, I’d opt to just find a new job. That goes double as I am imagining their spouse also worships at the church and that would be a pain to keep up with or they might want to take up a benefit for her, etc

  12. Aura*

    Maybe it’s just me but the first letter sounds like what happened with Angie Harmon’s daughter which was just in the news.

    1. Nodramalama*

      RIGHT?! I just listened to Who Weekly episode on that and thought, huh this sounds familiar

  13. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #3: Have you straight up discussed with Brad that your relationship is platonic? Recently? Because it would be extremely awkward if you assumed an unspoken platonic friendship, while he assumed you two were falling in unspoken love. If you have not discussed, out loud and since the friendship deepened, your mutual lack of romantic interest, do not assume you are on the same page. (Also, probably a good idea to do a quick gut check whether you do want the relationship to stay platonic. You don’t describe Brad that way so I’m guessing not, but friends do make great sweethearts.)

    If people hear about the vacation, they will definitely assume you slept together. You won’t be able to rebut it easily either, both because it’s a hard thing to imply and because people will simply assume you are lying. So you’ll either need to keep it very secret from work or factor that into your decision.

    Also, I hate to say this, but do you really, really trust Brad? Because you will be vulnerable. Most men are decent and it sounds like you know him pretty well, but you should take a moment to make sure you feel safe.

    1. Myrin*

      If people hear about the vacation, they will definitely assume you slept together.

      “Definitely”, really? I don’t know, maybe I’m naive but I absolutely wouldn’t assume that, especially about people who sound like best friends. You are quite right that there are going to be people who will assume that, but there are always people who will assume all manner of things no matter how those around them behave, so I really wouldn’t state that with that much certainty.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I’m a fairly obvious gay man, and every time I go out to dinner with a male friend — even a straight one! — the server brings us a free dessert as if we’re on a date. Like clockwork. I appreciate the sugar (even if my diabetes-prone genetics do not), and my friends and I can laugh about it — but it’s the same kind of assumption. It is annoying, yes, but it’s there.

          1. Yoyoyo*

            Seriously! My wife and I get asked all the time whether we’re sisters…or if she’s my mom (she’s younger than me). Nobody assumes a date and certainly there is no free anything!

          2. Brain the Brian*

            LOL, all over, in my experience — multiple cities, on multiple continents, from my hometown to very far away from it. I’ve thought about sending it back, but it’s an awkward thing to decline, and I don’t generally look gift horses in the mouth.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I would never assume two friends going on holiday together slept together. Heck, I wouldn’t even necessarily assume that of a boyfriend and girlfriend going on holiday together.

        And I would definitely side-eye somebody who assumed people who said they didn’t were lying. Not that it’s something that usually comes up anyway, but if somebody says their relationship with somebody else is a friendship, I think it would be weird to assume they were lying.

      3. Hamster Manager*

        I went on a platonic trip with a friend (we were both single) and the next partner he got would NOT believe me that nothing had happened, because two single people + romantic destination = something obviously happened. Nothing I could say ever convinced them.

      4. Tiger Snake*

        I think that’s a bit unfair. You don’t usually go and have vacations with friends after you’ve gotten married, and even for unmarried buddies its quite a deviation from the normal boundary for work friends.
        Yes; it can be completely innocent. Recognising that it’s out of the ordinary and that assumptions will be made doesn’t discount that – it’s simply recognising that enough people will make the leap that it warrants consideration so you aren’t blindsided.

        Some people are perfectly happy to let everyone assume they’re in a poly relationship with their friend and his wife. Some would rather get ahead of any gossip by making a big fuss when they came back about how they met their friend on vacation “by coincidence” and had no idea you’d be at the same place. Some make up an imaginary boyfriend and present it as two couples went on a trip together.
        Realising what assumptions people are likely to make and then actively deciding which ones you want to nip in the bud vs don’t care about is a sensible thing to do when you can predict it.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It’s depressing that so many women have been through the platonic courtship, that we all do this calculation. I was wincing at the notion going to his family’s holiday home, but then realised they’ve known each other a few years; you should be able to trust a friend of a few years standing. Then you start wondering what other people will think? It’s exhausting.

      1. allathian*

        I’ve frankly given up on the idea of being close friends with men because every time I’ve tried, it’s ended in heartbreak and/or unresolved misunderstandings. The male friendships I had that worked the best were all FWBs, which ended either because one of us started dating someone else or because one of us wanted a serious relationship and the other didn’t. I’ve even had two friendships with gay men end because I developed a crush on them.

        I fully accept that other people can be platonic friends with people of the gender(s) they’re attracted to, but I’m apparently not cut out for that.

      2. KateM*

        I don’t know if it is depressing because as Elspeth McGillicuddy wrote, friends do make great sweethearts, but having had two friendship-turned-to-relationships myself, OP absolutely should take this into account, and if she doesn’t want this to turn into a relationship, find another way to vacation.

    3. allfriend*

      This comment and the replies above are making me really sad. It doesn’t sound like you have had many/any platonic friendships with people who aren’t the same gender as you. As a person whose friends represent a fairly even gender spread, I cannot recommend it highly enough! Once you have enough friends who aren’t your gender, people stop looking for a relationship behind every one.

      When I’ve been talking in the lunch room on Monday about how Zac, James, Sam and I went to the park to play frisbee, and I leave work half an hour early on Tuesday to help Aaron choose curtains for his new flat – nobody bats an eyelid on Wednesday when I say I’m going on holiday with Brad from IT for a few days.

      Diverse friendships are the spice of life! You all help each other out in different ways and can teach each other different things. If you’re getting ‘relationship-zoned’ too often, try cultivating more and shallower cross-gender relationships. Men who are only looking for relationships will self-select out when they hear about your 6 other male friends, and you’ll be left with people who are on the same page as you.

      Most men are actually super hungry for friendships of every sort, but many succumb to societal pressure to turn every friendship into a relationship. People generally rise to your expectations. If you expect them to be just a normal friend, almost all of them will be, and expecting otherwise is both an insult to men and an excuse for creeps.

        1. OP*

          All- I’ve had a few conversations (the last one within the past few weeks) confirming this is platonic, and we’re both on the same page.
          I also have been around him enough to trust he won’t take advantage of me during the trip.
          This debate is exactly why I’m a little bit worried about it. What I think is ok vs what others think is ok can be very different.

          1. OneAngryAvacado*

            Honestly OP, as a woman with plenty of both single and partnered-up male friends who have never crossed a single romantic line with me, if *you* are comfortable with it then, quite frankly, anyone else’s opinion is garbage. Some people are always going to think dumb shit about situations which are none of their business. But as long as you guys have a good friendship and you’re both aware of where you stand, that’s all that matters – and honestly, I think more people could stand to realise that men and women are perfectly capable of being platonic friends.

            Put it this way, if you were bi or gay woman, would you immediately rule out going on vacation with any female friends on the off-chance that people might assume there was a potential romantic relationship there? Probably not.

            1. amoeba*

              And I do have close platonic male friends that I have even shared hotel rooms with without any problems, and absolutely nobody assumed anything different. And if they did, well, that would very much be a them problem!

            2. Myrin*

              I agree completely.
              The most important thing here is how OP feels about it, specifically if she has any reservations because, well, she has reservations or because she feels like she should have reservations. Other people’s opinions aren’t nothing, of course, but we also get to decide that we don’t care/our enjoyment of a thing is more important than people’s judgment of that thing.

              Certainly if you feel like this is going to follow you as some sort of ridiculous “scandal” for the next decade, by all means go with your gut, but if your sense is that a handful of people might find this ~shocking~ for a week and then quickly move on to the next big event, you might feel that that’s worth it.

              OP, if you listen to your heart of hearts, do you want to go or would you rather not? I think that’s the question you need to become clear on within yourself first and foremost.

            3. Yes Anastasia*

              Yes, as a bi woman this discourse drives me bonkers! Am I not supposed to have any friends?? Or are we just worried about optics?

              If the latter, I don’t think worrying about what other people think is a good metric for making decisions, unless it will have an intolerable impact on your wellbeing.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            If the two of you are comfortable with each other, then it really is no different than going away with a female friend. I can’t really improve on allfriend’s excellent advice, but it is not unprofessional to have a male friend! It is unprofessional to be gossipy and gross though. If you have anyone like that in your circle, then they would make a big deal out of seeing you two even just have lunch together. No one whose opinion is worth worrying about is going to make things up out of the ether about their colleagues.

          3. LD RN*

            OP, I come from a VERY conservative background — the kind of background where they were relieved when I started dating the opposite gender — so I get you.

            I have taken many trips with male friends.
            I have had male friends stay over at my place for a night and vice versa.

            If you and Brad are on the same page in your personal life and the same level in your professional life, well, this is an answer: “What an odd thing to assume! Whatever makes you think we are sleeping together?”

      1. bamcheeks*

        Men who are only looking for relationships will self-select out when they hear about your 6 other male friends

        I love this point, and this whole comment. Though I will say that to get to “six or seven platonic male friends” from 0, you have to go through the “1 or 2” stage, and that’s the tricky bit!

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Maybe one could jump-start it by joining an established friend group with several men in it? Join some kind of hobby group with a decent amount of men?

        2. OneAngryAvacado*

          The wife of a really good male friend always said one of the biggest green flags when they were dating was seeing how many female friends he had – OP could be doing Brad a massive solid on the dating front!

          1. Snoodence Pruter*

            This was one of the things that I liked about my husband when we first met – that he had a really solid group of friends that was at least 50% women, and everyone was grounded and kind and got on well with each other. Trust levels go up 1000% based on that alone.

      2. D*

        When I was in college, I had mostly male friends, and the people on my floor in my dorm assumed I was playing the field because they kept seeing me with different ones so they assumed I had 15 boyfriends, and the one time a couple of guys from a different floor stopped by to see if we had a game controller and I chatted casually with them–same thing.

        So unfortunately, having multiple male friends doesn’t mean people don’t make assumptions about you.

      3. AGD*

        I love this analysis!

        I’m a woman and my set of closest friends includes, at present, 3 men, 4 women, and 3 non-binary folks. They’re all wonderful.

      4. OneAngryAvacado*

        Honestly, as a bisexual woman who’s potentially available to people of all genders, this thread is making me so exasperated – because taken to this logical conclusion, I can’t vacation with *any* of my friends because there’s the potential that I might be romantically interested in them!

        The assumption that if a man and a woman have the *potential* of being attracted to each other, an attraction *must* develop on one end or another – it’s a very ick idea. (And tbh, pretty gender essentialist, with the sniff of ‘all men are only interested in sex with women, no exceptions’). If people “definitely assume” that Brad and OP sleep together on this vacation then that’s an indication of their limited viewpoint, not anything else.

        1. Admin Lackey*

          +1 this debate about being friends with people of other genders is genuinely so weird when you’re bisexual and I think feeds into the stereotype that we’re all untrustworthy cheaters

          1. OneAngryAvacado*

            Yeah, it’s the underlying message of ‘well men are interested in women sexually and therefore they’re a threat’ because – well *I’m* interested in women sexually, so what exactly are you saying?

        2. Aqua*

          Yes. I’m queer and date people of all genders, should I just not have friends in case people assume we’re fucking?

        3. Solidarity and Sheesh!!*

          Your second paragraph eloquently responds to all the comments raising my eyebrows to my hairline. I am a heterosexual woman working in a male dominated space with interests considered “not typically female.”

        4. KateM*

          I think friendship->relationship is easier to happen for people who are usually attracted to personality and not appearance. You have someone with whom you enjoy spending time together, with whom you don’t have a personality clash… what must be missing to not be attracted to this person?

    4. OneAngryAvacado*

      “Definitely” is a real stretch. And if some people do jump to the conclusion that platonic friendships between men and women just *can’t* exist and there *must* have been sex involved, I think that says more about them than OP. Certainly OP shouldn’t be steering her life because of, quite frankly, outdated assumptions other people have.

    5. K8T*

      I’m with you. If I heard two of my different gendered coworkers (who I at least presume/know to be attracted to the opposite gender) are spending a vacation together alone, I am going think it’s romantic unless it’s really, really clear in the office you’re truly just friends.

      Also I think people are being a bit uncharitable – the doublechecking is a safety issue. I once went to visit a male friend I had known for years, I thought we were platonic and he made it known he felt differently a few days into the trip – making me feel uncomfortable and ruining it/our friendship. I saw OP’s reply that they ae 100% platonic and that’s great but I could see that going awry very easily if the man wasn’t on the same page.

      1. Admin Lackey*

        It’s good for the OP to know that there are people who are going to make that assumption, but it’s not a fair assumption, it’s gender essentialist and sexist. You should try to get over whatever makes you make that assumption.

        1. K8T*

          I mean in a perfect world no one would ever make assumptions/have stereotypes about anyone or anything but we don’t live in one. Pretending this won’t cause gossip if it gets out isn’t helpful or realistic.

          1. Shoes*

            I don’t see how saying “knowing people will make that assumption….” constitutes “pretending this won’t cause gossip…”

            It sounds acknowledgment to me.

            1. Admin Lackey*

              Yes, it’s an acknowledgement that there are unfortunately a lot of people in the world that think men and women can’t be friends. My point is that that’s a ridiculous attitude and something to work on

                1. Admin Lackey*

                  Sorry, didn’t realize how combative my answer sounded until now – I appreciated your agreement

          2. Admin Lackey*

            I know we don’t live in a perfect world and that’s clear from my comment, I’m not pretending anything.

            I’m saying that if you would /really/ assume two “opposite gender” going on vacation were automatically fucking, that’s a shitty attitude that you have. It’s not actually automatically true and you should examine this belief of yours that men and women can’t be friends.

            But this is just my 2 cents as a bisexual with friends of multiple genders

      2. K8T*

        Also OP – if there’s any chance at all this trip would come out later, I’m actually not sure if keeping it under wraps would be better optics than telling your coworkers beforehand in a very casual manner. “Oh I’ve been dying to check out X and Brad has a spot there so he’s gonna show me around” or something of the sort. If it somehow comes out you two took a “secret” trip to his family’s beach house, most would definitely think it was romantic. Is it fair? No, but that’s would would happen — you’re in a tricky spot so use your best discretion.

      3. Aqua*

        “If I heard two of my different gendered coworkers (who I at least presume/know to be attracted to the opposite gender) are spending a vacation together alone, I am going think it’s romantic unless it’s really, really clear in the office you’re truly just friends.”

        this seems like a problem for you to work on

          1. OneAngryAvacado*

            It’s a pretty rude assumption. And given how many people on this thread are saying how much it bums them out when people make that leap, maybe it’s worth taking that as an indication to shift your thinking a little?

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            The thing is that if you make that assumption, you are going to be wrong in a lot of cases, so it is better, for you, to stop doing it. Otherwise, you could end up making embarrassing mistakes.

            If you know you have a tendency to jump to a conclusion that you know logically you will often be wrong about, it’s a good idea to work on changing that.

    6. Aqua*

      Having just discussed this with a straight male friend (I’m queer and agender and sometimes date straight men), we both agreed it would be really weird if I asked him if he was trying to sleep with me just because he invited me on holiday. I promise people can have different-gender friendships without needing to constantly check they’re platonic.

      1. RC*

        I blame When Harry Met Sally for whole post and discussion and it is honestly a huge peeve of mine!

      1. fhqwhgads*

        OP made it pretty clear (in this thread) the concern is about other people’s perceptions, not about the friend or safety.

        1. Myrin*

          OP also made that clear in the letter. I’m really not seeing where the “doesn’t feel safe” angle is coming from here – that would be a different letter/question entirely!

  14. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (interns and junior employee stole alcohol) – I can picture exactly how this went down, interns especially are treating the whole thing as an extended frat-prank situation rather than a job, I bet the junior employee has got “sucked into” their little gang and this isn’t the first time the 3 of them have done some kind of shenanigans. But now they have taken it too far and yes, should be fired (and the University notified in the case of the interns) – this is very serious. An internship (and a junior role to some extent) is for learning how work and the world is, right? In this case the thing to learn is “actions have consquences”.

    The part that concerns me is that the company has pretty much laughed it off as hi-jinks. What else could happen in the workplace that they wouldn’t take seriously or address?

    1. linger*

      The company have been able to laugh it off only because the restaurant is not pressing charges, which is presumably because the company does a reasonable amount of repeat business with the restaurant. It’s fratbroey as all get out (of jail), but not entirely surprising for some business sectors (including the hospitality sector).
      If the interns are affiliated to a university, this has got to break the student code of conduct, and, if made aware, that institution should have no reluctance about, at minimum, failing their asses. So they’re not necessarily free from consequences yet. Nevertheless, the interns do not “represent” the company to the same degree as the junior employee; so it’s m0re surprising that the latter seems not to be facing any more serious consequences that OP1 is aware of.

  15. BlueOrchid*

    Re: OP1 After all my years in events hospitality, where I have seen so much human behavior at its least restrained, the intern-taking-a-bottle thing didn’t register as such a severe offense on my internal richter scale and I understand the CEO’s point of view that public humiliation was enough, and trying to de-escalate and move on. I’ve seen clients have a habit of getting very, very comfortable during event buy-outs, treating restaurant/bar stores like a family kitchen. That’s probably why the events manager identified the interns and asked them to pay for a replacement bottle without pressing charges. Hard to gauge without knowing what the set-up was (a private retreat space is my guess).

    1. allathian*

      Taking a bottle from an open, poorly supervised bar is one thing, but breaking and entering a closed restaurant and stealing booze is something else, IMO.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      As an events person (planner, not on the hospitality side), for me it’s not that they took the bottle, it’s that they broke in to do it after the event was over. All kinds of wacky things can happen during events and I give some leeway in situations where there’s a lot going on and it’s not entirely clear who did what when. But that’s not the case here.
      Though since you are on the hospitality side, you have no doubt seen drunken people doing way worse stuff than I have, so you’re grading on a scale here!

    3. Earlk*

      I agree, people are focussing on the breaking in part quite heavily too whereas the B&E part of the incident could have been as minor as removing a rope barrier to get in to the restaurant area.

      What they did was stupid and irresponsible and if I were them I’d be looking for a new job asap so people didn’t know I’d been so stupid at a work event but I don’t think it’s time for pitchforks.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Except they accessed the restaurant after it was closed, which implies that they would have at least had to open a door or window. In some event spaces it is hard to close off a restaurant area, but they still intentionally went into an area where they were not authorised to be, after hours, for the purposes of stealing.

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Even if it were just a rope barrier, what difference does it make? They were still someplace they clearly were not meant to be, and had to move something to get in there.

        As they say, locks only keep honest people honest. This says a lot about their integrity, or lack thereof. The fact that they hung out together and got drunk says a lot about their judgment, but that’s a lesson learned thing that can improve as you get older. I’ve generally found that people either have integrity or they don’t; it rarely changes over time.

      3. ecnaseener*

        “Pitchforks” are not on the table. Nothing is on the table in fact, since LW doesn’t have authority over these people, but even what’s hypothetically on the table is just… a non-zero amount of consequences. Not even the expected legal consequences.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        Honestly, I think for the two interns at least, being fired from an internship is a pretty mild punishment for stealing. The actual employee being fired might be a bigger deal, but even then, when you steal, you risk more than losing your job.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Ponders: I’m still in my probationary period? What’s a good antic to get up to? The CEO should be a witness, and it should be on tape.

          One reason for firing would just be ineptness: that if they steal from a client, it’s not going to be done in a subtle manner.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep. Stealing is stealing, and in every job I’ve worked in stealing is gross misconduct and you’re out on your ear. And that’s in the UK, where it’s harder generally to fire people. Especially the interns, and someone still in their probation period – you’d give them a talking-to and explain just how egregious their actions were, and you’d fire them. Not only did they steal in the first place, which is bad enough, they did it at a work event in front of the whole company. They brought the company into disrepute by embarrassing the organisation in front of the retreat organisers/venue (I can’t imagine the company will be welcome back there, either). That’s pretty much as bad as it gets, really. Of course I’m all for giving young people a chance, but they also need to learn that actions have consequences, and you can’t steal at a work event without getting the boot.

    4. K8T*

      Same lol – I’m in hotels & events and I would’ve done the exact same move as the venue. A little shaming, make them pay – no harm done. I think if the B&E had involved actual B&E the LW would’ve noted it (broke through a window/broke the lock/etc.). I will say in my experience, the vast majority of hotel bars/restaurants are accessible without any sort of locked door.
      If anything the closer may have not followed proper procedure because where I’ve worked all liquor needs to go back in the cage and coolers locked.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I have to say that I would be totally mortified and furious if someone did this kind of thing after an event that I arranged. Clearly the restaurant here wants to maintain the business relationship, but even so, this behaviour also puts whoever planned this event in a crappy situation too.

        1. K8T*

          Oh absolutely! I’m just saying, on the scale of things I’ve personally seen at corporate events – this isn’t a huge deal since they paid. If it’s an annual event, I’m sure there will be a conversation between the venue and the planner to make sure this doesn’t happen again – more of a strike system than a ban.
          Also LW clarified somewhere here that they walked through an unlocked door – while technically a B&E, not nearly as egregious as some commenters are making it seem.

          1. Worldwalker*

            If I leave my front door unlocked and you walk in and steal my TV, that’s still considered B&E.

          2. Angstrom*

            I can see the venue choosing not to make a big deal of it, for many reasons. That doesn’t mean the employer has to follow along.
            There are plenty of actions that are not *illegal* that deserve disciplinary action, up to and including firing.

  16. Kella*

    OP3 A notable difference in going on this trip with your coworker vs. the hangouts you’ve had thus far is the level of privacy and intimacy. It sounds like the vast majority of your time spent together has been in public places. Even your apartment pool is likely semi-public in that more than just the two of you have access to it. His family beach house will be *entirely* private and also a space where he has the power. If something goes sideways, you’ll have to find new accommodations on short notice. Do you have the resources to easily acquire a plan B if needed?

    It’s also surprisingly intimate to sleep, get ready, shower, and eat all meals at the same house, even if you have separate bedrooms and bathrooms. It requires a level of comfort and safety that’s much higher than you may have with the average friend.

    I want to trust your assessment that this relationship is truly platonic and also, I agree with other commenters that if you want to go on this trip, it would be worth having another conversation about this topic and setting some clear boundaries so that the two of you are on the same page. Even if there are zero romantic feelings at play, this will likely make jumping into the intimacy of sharing a house a lot easier.

    1. Allonge*

      This, exactly. I would be uncomfortable to do this with friend-colleagues where we don’t have a sexual compatibility in any way.

      OP, if you want, it’s really ok to go. But it’s also very much ok not to want to, with this setup. Hotels are great!

    2. RVA Cat*

      Good point. The fact they’re alone is huge. OP, could you invite a friend to come with? Since he’s providing accommodations, you could cover travel from your home state, etc. If Brad is truly a platonic friend, he will be fine with this.

      1. artistry*

        I don’t think it’s reasonable to say that if Brad isn’t willing to host a whole other person that there’s something sketchy going on. I would be really taken aback if I invited a friend on vacation and they just added someone to the group!

        1. Hyaline*

          Yeah not everyone is a “the more the merrier” type. I’d be annoyed by extra people, especially someone I didn’t know. What an unfair litmus test for Brad!

        2. OneAngryAvacado*

          Yeah, that’s a fairly big assumption on Brad’s hosting duties – and would, to me, come across as kinda entitled to assume he should be ok with that.

          Not to mention, ‘woman needs chaperone to be around man’ comes across as all kinds of weird gender-essentialist vibes to me. Like, I get that people want to make sure OP is ok, but at the end of the day we are talking about consenting adults who are very much able to make choices about what they are and are not comfortable with.

    3. Hyaline*

      True. Deciding to vacation with a friend, especially sharing a house rather than separate hotel rooms, is kinda a big friend intimacy step regardless of gender and work dynamics thrown in as they are here. This feels less about the work element than about “am I really confident we have this dynamic in our friendship” territory.

    4. Anon for this*

      I’ve vacationed with several male friends and the first time I go somewhere with someone, I always make sure that our lodgings are made in my name. They’re welcome to stay with me, but I need to make sure that if things go south, I can kick them out if need be without adding the stress of finding somewhere else to stay. If you’re not going to enjoy the trip in the spirit in which it was intended, then you get to take on the stress of finding somewhere else to sleep! This has never actually been an issue, thankfully, but it’s important part of my vacation decision making nonetheless.

    5. Aqua*

      “It’s also surprisingly intimate to sleep, get ready, shower, and eat all meals at the same house, even if you have separate bedrooms and bathrooms. It requires a level of comfort and safety that’s much higher than you may have with the average friend.”

      have you never had housemates??

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I think the point is that comfort with those things isn’t achieved overnight, even if you’re familiar with living with other people.

        1. amoeba*

          Well, when you move in with housemates, you’re also thrown into the situation pretty much from day one – and at least in the flatshares I’ve lived in so far, it was basically with strangers whom I’d met once or twice before after finding them on the internet! So with a good friend, the intimacy/comfort level is definitely already much higher than that…

          Also, I have absolutely shared AirBnBs with male friends and even just acquaintances (from te same sports club, whatever), and while I agree that there’s some kind of risk you might turn out annoyed by each other after a whole week together if you don’t know each other well enough in advance, with somebody I hang out *every week*, I’d basically be… not worried at all. (Also, even with the ones I didn’t know that well, it always worked out fine for me!)

          1. OP*

            My friend and I had discussed inviting other mutual friends/acquaintances, but I don’t really know many of his friends since I just moved to the area. I’ve met some people in passing, but not more than a few times. It’s probably weirder for me to go on vacation with a bunch of other people instead of the two of us going. But it was definitely considered

            1. Hendry*

              It sounds like you are comfortable with everything – from your responses I’d say you have looked into it thoroughly and you are totally fine to go.

          2. Allonge*

            Sure, but moving in with housemates is (usually) not optional the way a vacation is.

            So discomfort counts for less for housemates – you will need someone in any case.

            1. amoeba*

              Eh, maybe different in the US, but here it’s definitely optional, I have many friends who never had housemates and chose a tiny studio/to pay more money to live alone! Also, many people who still chose to share a flat when older, just for company and higher standard of living, especially in expensive cities.

              1. Allonge*

                I did not mean that all roommate-people are forced to live together with random others – sure, some choose to, but normally still prompted by longer-term financial considerations or social needs that just do not apply to OP’s vacation.

      2. Brain the Brian*

        I have (in fact, I do right now). I also know that lots of women do not want to live with straight male housemates for reasons of sexual safety. I, likewise, don’t particularly want to live with fellow gay men.

        That said, the LW’s responses indicate she has thought through this trip thoroughly, and I have come around to the opinion that she should fine to go on it.

        1. amoeba*

          That’s obviously their prerogative, but as somebody who’s lived with (straight) male housemates multiple times, I’d find it pretty far-fetched to assume that’s in general unusual and/or something to gossip about! Most flatshares here are mixed gender…

      3. Kella*

        Yes, and whenever I lived with someone I didn’t already have an established level of communication and safety with, I was frequently stressed out and defaulted to staying in my room the majority of the time. I know some people are comfortable with strangers much faster but not everyone is. It’s perfectly normal if you aren’t immediately comfortable with that and that discomfort could be part of what OP is feeling.

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, where does that idea come from? They’re close friends and have known each other for literal years!

  17. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    I agree that breaking and entering is a much more serious crime, but I also take the theft by itself seriously. Would the business be so forgiving if they stole a $250 printer from the office?

    1. allathian*

      Good question. That said, alcohol is intended for consumption in a way office equipment isn’t, so I can sort of figure why the restaurant and company apparently decided that payment after the fact was sufficient, given that the restaurant got paid.

      But I might ask the same question about consumable office supplies, would the interns have faced more serious consequences for, say, walking off with an equivalent value of printer paper?

      I would have been fine with accepting a warning, payment after the fact, and an apology as consequences for walking off with a bottle from an open bar. That can sort of be explained away as unthinking hijinks by young adults who were already quite drunk, not that inebriation is an excuse, merely an explanation for what happened. The breaking and entering was much more intentional than that.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I’m now trying to imagine what someone walking off with $250 of printer paper would look like. Wobbling off with a 12′ high stack of boxes?

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I could have done it if so inclined.

          I worked as a Finance Intern early in my career, and one of my tasks was printing and mailing settlement cheques. The controls on the check stock were pretty robust (I did get in trouble, once, when 2 pages came up missing while my boss was out on PTO. IT took them for testing, but I did too much sleuthing trying to find what I thought was my transcription error rather than just sending it up the food chain), but the controls on the plain paper stock were nonexistent. Management let employees take the empty boxes to reuse; had I been so inclined, it would have been trivial to put half a box of paper into a used box and carry it out (cf. Kansas City Shuffle).

          Paper was like $10-15/box back then, so you’re probably looking at 15-30 boxes over a month.

          I was just thrilled to have the boxes for when I moved out of my parents’ home.

      2. Orv*

        I used to work for a casino chain, and when we closed down a location I was on a team that was tasked with cleaning out the building. We learned that unopened bottles were inventoried and tracked by the Liquor Board, but ones that were already open were considered already off the books.

        So naturally we went through the back bar and split up what was left. Someone else had already called dibs on the tequila, but I got half a bottle of Bacardi 151 and most of a bottle of Goldschlager.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Maybe this was all an elaborate set-up for someone competent to sneak out the back door with some microwaves, while all eyes were on the incompetent thieves.

  18. Hildy*

    #5: You mentioned the cellphone number being listed “alongside the ‘direct’ or ‘main’ business line in their email signature,” and those sound like two pretty different situations!

    For context, where I work, I have a desk phone and a work cellphone, and I list both numbers in my signature; most people I work with (at my own office and at other organizations we frequently interact with) do the same. When someone has two direct lines, one desk line and one mobile, I would generally call the desk line first, and if there’s no answer, call the cellphone only if the matter is time-sensitive; otherwise, I would just leave a message on the desk phone and wait for a response, and maybe send an email if I haven’t already. (That said, I work with plenty of people who would call the cellphone whether or not the matter is time sensitive, so I don’t think it’s outrageous – but I would consider it courteous to wait for a response to a message left on the desk phone when possible.)

    But if what you’re talking about isn’t the person’s direct desk phone but is the main phone line for the organization, I’d view that completely differently – in that situation, if the person’s only direct line is the cellphone, I’d assume it’s fine (and indeed preferable) to call the cellphone rather than going through a receptionist or whoever answers the main phone.

    1. sparkle emoji*

      Agreed, I have both a direct number and a number for the office in my email signature. If there’s no direct number besides the cell, I’d might call the cell before the office line.

    2. Sparkle Llama*

      Mine is desk and mobile and I like it when people do what you do and generally do that as well. My desk phone has much more capability than my mobile so I prefer to take calls on it (forwarding being the main issue – especially with people I haven’t talked to before and likely need to talk to someone else instead or in addition).

      Being a millennial I do sometimes opt to send an email instead of a voicemail and I never leave voicemails for my coworkers. If they don’t answer I send a chat or an email which will likely get me a response quicker than a voicemail.

  19. Stoli*

    They broke into a restaurant. They stole an expensive item. They could have and should have been arrested. They were more than willing to try and get away with it. Yes, they should be fired.

    1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

      I’m surprised the restaurant didn’t press charges. I would have.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, I was also surprised by this. They must really value the business of the company to let their interns get away with it.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I’m wondering what “breaking” means. If they actually broke something to enter — rather than, say, walking through an unlocked door with a “Closed” sign on — I’m surprised the restaurant isn’t obliged to report it to their insurers and the police.

        1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          That’s just what I was wondering, too – what the “breaking” part was.

        2. Peanut Hamper*

          It’s generally meant to understand that you entered a building with force and without authorization. You aren’t supposed to be there and you had to jimmy a lock or use a crowbar or break a window. The idea is that you can’t say you didn’t know you weren’t supposed be there because the property owners took steps to keep you out.

          That differentiates it from just plain “entering” where someone goes in through a door that was inadvertently left unlocked. The point here is solely that you are not authorized to be in there.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          I was wondering the same thing. If they actually broke something (such as a window or a lock), they’d probably at a minimum have been asked to pay for that as well?

          So I’m imagining at most shimmying open a door with a credit card, or crawling under something, or going through an employee-only area, or that it was actually unlocked (internal doors between a hotel and the hotel eating area are often not very secure, if there even is a locking door at all). It’s still breaking and entering, but may have seemed less serious in their drunken minds?

        4. LW1*

          Hi! I’m letter writer 1. I didn’t try to get back into the restaurant myself after it was closed (for obvious reasons), but it was my understanding that the door was not locked, so the interns just went back in through the unlocked door with the “closed” sign on it.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Thanks for clarifying, that is significantly different from the “breaking in” from the letter. I would call that “sneaking in.”

            1. pally*

              Fair enough.

              There’s still the matter of stealing the $250 bottle of alcohol.

              It should be deeply impressed upon the culprits that the venue owners could have pressed charges for this.

              1. Pescadero*

                We do in Michigan.

                This would not be “Breaking and Entering” in Michigan – it would “Entering without Breaking”… which is still a felony.

              2. ecnaseener*

                I don’t see your point, why is it wrong for us to colloquially distinguish the two when the question at hand isn’t even a legal one?

                1. fhqwhgads*

                  A fairly reasonable rubric for severity is to compare to the illegality of the action, even though the criminal system is not involved in this particular situation.

              3. Dahlia*

                While legally the same, the amount of stupid decisions that go into “walk into unlocked room” and “break down locked door” are different.

      3. Reality.Bites*

        If it was a company retreat it may have been not held in the same city as where they do business.

        I can imagine if they tried to press charges the police may have informed them the city can’t afford to prosecute three people from out of town who committed a minor crime.

        (This is not to say that I don’t think this is a firing offence! I just don’t think it’s worth prosecuting)

    2. WellRed*

      Breaking and entering means entering a space you aren’t authorized to be in. It does not mean you literally broke something. Simply pushing open a door or window will do it. Even if the place pressed charges, it’s hardly a felony like so many comments are claiming, more of a misdemeanor. I still think they should have been fired.

      1. Reebee*

        Yes, this. Lawfully, “breaking” means compromising a barrier, regardless of whether anything, like a door lock or a window, is literally broken.

    3. 34avemovieguy*

      I feel like getting the police involved is probably more a hassle for the restaurant than getting their payment and embarrassing the interns/jr employee. especially if no property was damaged and they just went through an unlocked door. i know the definition of B&E is more broad but ultimately i don’t there’s much benefit arresting some 22 year olds or whatever over $250 bottle of wine.

      1. pally*

        Maybe so. But it should be made clearly aware to these three that what they did is theft.
        And that is against the law.
        It’s fortunate -for them-that the owners did not press charges against them.

        1. 34avemovieguy*

          Sure, but I think the restaurant not pressing charges were more their benefit than for the perpetrators. And I agree there should be more significant consequences. Though OP is not their manager and might not be privy to what’s happening on that front. I wonder if the company tried to save face with a more deflective response and did something behind the scenes that OP doesn’t know about. That’s a guess and I could be wrong.

          1. Arthenonyma*

            Having to fork over $250, even split three ways, is probably a pretty big consequence for the interns at least! I do wonder if they knew the dollar value of what they took. If not, it would hit even harder.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Consensual spiritual arrangements that adults are allowed to enter into if they find it important. It’s the equivalent of the hijab — something maybe that outsiders might find odd or think they wouldn’t do that, but which is bound up in the individual’s sense of belonging to a spiritual congregation.

      I also have a standing donation to a local hospice which is an important statement of how important that hospice was to me and my life. I don’t give an awful lot but I have had the donation active for three years along with a yearly donation to an organisation for young widows. I hope to add a monthly donation to my church when my income permits it. Those are my choices made from rational thought and decisions on personal finances, as well as disbursing the monies that my husband left me with stipulation on charitable giving (like in his case to cancer and nature charities)/supporting organisations like our local sci-fi convention or cricket club in his name.

      In some people’s lives religion plays enough of a central role that yeah, they want to support the church through their own income . Let’s not start picking apart other people’s belief systems when it doesn’t have any particular impact on ourselves (as tithing, wearing particular clothing, etc etc etc doesn’t).

      1. Panicked*

        The tithing isn’t the issue. No one has a problem with supporting a cause/church that is dear to them. It’s the invasive and overbearing way that employer is going about things that’s the problem.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        It doesn’t sound like it is consensual in the LW’s case though and even less in their wife’s. She has to tithe because her husband’s employer says so?

        I see nothing wrong with somebody choosing to give 1/10th of their income to…well, anything that doesn’t do harm to others (if they are giving it to a terrorist organisation or something, that’s a problem, but otherwise, their choice) but an employer claiming to pay people a certain amount and then demanding 10% of it back along with 10% of a spouse’s income…that does strike me as problematic.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Because it’s the United States and we have all sorts of carve-outs in the laws for religion. (Just try to act on those if you are a religion other than mainstream Xianity, though. Oof!)

  20. ChurchOfDietCoke*

    I’m in the UK, where we have employment contracts (even for interns) and sacking someone isn’t quite as simple as it appears to be in the US. However, breaking into a closed restaurant and stealing an expensive bottle of alcohol at an event where you are representing your company would definitely fall into the category of Gross Misconduct at all of the companies I have worked for, and would be instant dismissal – especially for someone who had no yet passed probation.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Interns in the US are generally categorized as temporary employees and can be let go at a moment’s notice, no reason needs to be given. Some internships aren’t even paid, although may be required as part of their schooling. Maybe paying them is more common these days but back in the 90s when I was in college, I was in one of the few majors that internships were paid, so I was a lucky one. At my last company, a majority of our interns came a certain degree program from a local university and internships were required course credits for their degree. The intern’s manager was required to fill out an assessment at the end of the internship which was included as part of their grade for the internship course. During my 8.5 years there, my group let one internship go before her end date because she habitually came in late, usually either still drunk or hungover, dressed in inappropriate clubbing outfits and screwed up a major 3-year long study that she was assisting on. The screw-up was the last straw and unfortunately she received an failing grade due to being let go and not completing the internship.

  21. Michigander*

    There are no genders mentioned so this is just speculation, but I wonder if there’s a whiff of “boys will be boys” in the first letter.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, given that LW has no power to act here, this is what I’d be watching for in terms of what this tells them about the organisation they’ve joined. Does everyone get a free pass on one burglary? I think this kind of indulgence is very often reserved for specific groups of people, and that’s how you end up with companies (and frankly, countries) run by specific groups of people.

      1. RVA Cat*

        It makes me wonder what other laws and rules they don’t think apply to them.

        Side note, anyone else find it strange for a 30-person organization to have a CEO? Might be a clue about the egos involved.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          It could be, but I’ve seen a lot of small orgs with a CEO, but no huge egos. Sometimes that’s just what the boss is called.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Sometimes “Managing Director” but I also don’t think there’s anything special or odd about the Highest Level Boss of any size employer being called CEO.

    2. Expelliarmus*

      True; if any of the employees involved in the theft were women, I wonder if the consequences would have been so light.

  22. GythaOgden*

    Letter 2 — you’re currently employed and aren’t desperate enough just to take the first thing that comes along. I was in this situation this time last year and am in such a better position now that I’m glad I didn’t just jump at the first place that would actually have me. The calculus is not yet on the side of making that decision for this placement. I give you permission not to take the job you’re not totally sure about.

  23. Anne*

    #1 Does the retreat/restaurant want this organization back when they see how little consequences the thieves got?

    1. linger*

      It does seem to be at the restaurant’s discretion: it’s the restaurant, not the company, that would make the decision (not) to press charges, and it’s understandable they’d decide not to if (a) they’re reimbursed for the bottle at full restaurant markup price; and (b) they’re assured of further custom from the company, and (c) these interns, at least, have a guaranteed expiry date on their association with the company, so will not be included in future such events at this venue.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        In addition to all of this, the place sounds pretty swanky. They may not want the bad publicity that comes from having cop cars with flashing lights parked outside your establishment.

    2. Hyaline*

      If the business has otherwise been a good and consistent customer it’s possible the hotel handled it so subtly because they want them back.

    3. K8T*

      I work at a venue and we would 100% have them back. People do much, much worse things at hotels and events that this wouldn’t even be a blip on my radar since they got caught & paid.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        No other guests were inconvenienced, nothing got lit on fire. there was no property damage that required shutting down any services while it was fixed, and the item was paid for without any real fuss.

        Pretty sure people doing stupid crap while drunk is a less than noteworthy occurrence in the hospitality industry.

    4. Orv*

      I’ve been to conferences at hotels before. They will tolerate a certain amount of disorderly behavior as part of hosting something like that. If it becomes too severe or consistent then the convention’s contract won’t be renewed. There was one particular hacker convention I went to in the Detroit area that ceased operating after four or five years because they’d burned through all the hotels willing to host them, but the level of destruction the year I went was frankly appalling. I’ve been to other events that were hosted annually in the same hotel for a decade or more in spite of the occasional bit of bad behavior by individual attendees.

  24. TheBonesaretheirMoney*

    LW2, it’s not too surprising you wouldn’t be more enthusiastic about an offer with the same pay and benefits. Having also worked in nonprofits, I wonder how much of the chaos at your current job and stability at the new one is due to individual people in the organization, or other factors that can change on a dime, both for worse and for better.

    1. MsM*

      I also wonder just how different the culture or lack of underlying issues at the sister org really is.

    2. Tio*

      This gives me the biggest pause in LW2s letter: “including opportunities to make things better.” Do you mean at your org? Because while as Bones says things CAN change on a whim, it’s probably not going to be because of you unless you’re a senior leader. So you have to accept that this job is the way it is and will stay that way indefinitely. If you assumed it was permanent, how long would you want to stay? A year? Five? What happens if someone comes in and makes it worse? And how much energy are you expending keeping the work from bleeding into your personal life and can you maintain it?

      These are all questions you should think about quite a bit! The sister org job might not be right for you, but this one might not either

      1. Sara without an H*

        I recall a couple of letters from people who were convinced that they could change a dysfunctional organization’s culture. The thing is, change has to come from the top. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude, while good in themselves, aren’t enough to fix anything.

    3. Learn ALL the things?*

      It’s also not uncommon for people who’ve been in an unhealthy/traumatic environment to get used to the level of mental energy they have to maintain, and then feel extremely bored when that goes away.

      I changed jobs about a year ago from a public facing position that involved a lot of stress and activity. Our clientele could get volatile and you never knew what to expect, police were called probably once a month, I was always on edge. My new job is in an office and I rarely need to contact outside clients, and all that stress and adrenaline from my last job isn’t a thing here. And my first few months were a harder transition than I expected them to be. My body was used to being braced for crisis, but there wasn’t any crisis I had to handle, so my body and brain were in a mismatch for my first few months while I re-learned how to work somewhere that wasn’t traumatic.

      It’s possible that OP is having that reaction a little early. When adrenaline and dramatic scenarios is what your used to, it can be hard to change gears to something else, even when you know the something else would genuinely be better for you in the long run.

  25. Sarah*

    Re: #4, What if the employee’s wife is not a member of that church or a different religion altogether? What is she works at a religious place that also demands tithing from both spouses? They will end up giving 20% of their income to charity.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I wonder if husband’s employer would accept “wife already tithes”.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I don’t think they would. Their position is that the married couple are “equally yoked”, and belong to the same church. If they do not belong to the same church, that is A Problem.

    2. RVA Cat*

      It also gives them (more) reason to discriminate against unmarried people. Plus if one candidate’s spouse is a doctor and the other is a plumber…

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Consequence of choosing to work for those specific religious institutions.

    4. Pippa K*

      I think a lot of people may be underestimating the degree to which churches like this treat husband and wife as a social and spiritual unit. The idea that a husband would have some authority over and be partly answerable for his wife’s income (or conduct etc.), and that the couple should act together in all things (like religious tithing) would be very familiar and acceptable in some of the evangelical churches attended by my relatives.

  26. Peanut Hamper*

    #1: There’s a fairly decent sized lockpicking community out there (it’s a hobby for a lot of people, as it involves a fair amount of manual dexterity) and a tenet of that community is that padlocks don’t actually keep things safe, they just keep honest people honest.

    If your interns and employee actually had to break into the restaurant to get that bottle of wine, I think it says a lot about their integrity, drunk or not.

    1. Orv*

      I remember my dad remarking that about the flimsy plastic lock on our car’s glovebox, when I was a kid. “A lock like that is just there to keep honest people honest.”

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        OMG, I remember having almost the same exact conversation with my father.

        I guess this means that this is a common understanding. Cheap locks, velvet ropes, “Closed” signs, etc., etc. all mean the same thing.

  27. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, I am not an employer or anything, but given that they are interns and a new employee, I think I’d have fired them. I might feel differently if this was a single lapse in an employee who had a good record across a number of years, though I’d still be giving a stern warning, but new employees stealing that early in a job. That strikes me as a massive red flag. When interning or on probation, one is usually on one’s best behaviour.

    LW2, I think it’s normal to be a little doubtful about leaving any job (unless it is really toxic altogether). There’s always a risk with starting a new job, that you might not get on with coworkers, that there might be additional duties you don’t know about and might dislike, that you might not do as well as in your current job, etc.

    I don’t think it necessarily means the job isn’t right for you, just that you can’t know until you take it. You know how to deal with your current job, you are used to its dysfunctionalities and it sounds like there are people or parts of the job that you will miss. It’s normal to wonder if you are doing the right thing by leaving those, even if the move is definitely right for you.

    One of my colleagues last year took voluntary redeployment. The school she was moving to sounded absolutely right for her. It was way closer to where her fiancé worked (they were living together and as it stood, they were living between their two workplaces which were 1-2 hours apart, so each had a half hour to an hour long drive each morning) and in a rural area. She was from a very farming background herself and our school is inner-city and she was not somebody who was entirely comfortable in a city. The school she was moving to would also have a better reputation than ours. She would keep her years of service (so wouldn’t be starting off on the bottom rung), would be paid the exact same as she’d still be working for the Department of Education, would have same benefits, etc. And she was a little annoyed with the management of our school for personal reasons. She still cried on leaving because even though it was a great move for her, she would miss some of her friends on our staff (and we miss her) and a new workplace is always daunting.

  28. A Book about Metals*

    It sounds like the restaurant and company are taking the Crocodile Dundee “just kids havin’ fun” approach.

    At most places you’d think this would be firing material, but this is hardly the worst behavior I’ve seen excused over the years

  29. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 Extraordinary behaviour and extraordinarily lenient reaction by senior management.
    I’d have expected all the burglars to have been sacked. It’s not as if any of them had been at this org long enough to have built up any significant capital or value.

    The interns and especially the junior employee on probation should have been on their best behaviour during this time. What will the employee get up to after their probation period?

    Does this indicate that this is an org that does not sack anyone even for egregious conduct, or just that they excuse acts committed while drunk?
    Or is this only for those enjoying white male privilege or nepotism?

  30. Doc McCracken*

    I’m Christian and tithe…freely, not under compulsion. I would seriously balk at any church that tracks how much anyone makes and requires tithing. The idea is very insulting! This applies to both members and employees! If you feel you have to micromanage church employees like this, you shouldn’t trust them to care for people’s soul level well being! And as a good example of trusting God’s provision, the last 2 churches my family has been members of do not do a traditional “pass the plate” collection or drive by guiltings in the form of sermons. Both of those churches were financially blessed in ways that defy logic. One, a large church in a affluent area, the other a very “scruffy” church in a rust belt town.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      When my father got a pledge drive letter that stated what the committee estimated he earned and a suggested pledge amount*, he refused to pledge at all. He stopped attending other than special occasions, so his donations were drastically lower. Congratulations, stewardship committee!

      * The church also tracked whether actual donations matched pledges, and sent reminders at least quarterly.

      1. Happily Retired*

        I wouldn’t mind reminders if my pledges get out of whack (my memory needs all the help it can get), but if they tried to assign me a pledge amount? Oh hell, no. I can find another place to calm my brain on Sunday mornings.

    2. Art of the Spiel*

      Exactly! Social pressure to tithe, completely fine. Work requirement to do so, holy defeating the purpose batman!

    3. JustaTech*

      “care for people’s soul level well being”

      Yes, but also, what about the janitorial staff? At the church my parents belonged to when I was a kid, none of the custodians we had were ever members of the church – I’m pretty sure at least two of them belonged to completely different religions. So it would be extra unreasonable to expect them to tithe when they’re not engaged in pastoral work *and* they’re not members of the church.

      1. Doc McCracken*

        Excellent point! Although in my experience, some churches require all staff, even facilities, to be members. I have also seen churches who hire non members but have them agree to a code of conduct that is in line with the church’s established values. Even then, I have never seen tithing listed as a condition.

  31. Snooks*

    Fire the thieves. As a coworker, I would not want to work with three thieves who have access to my office and personal possessions.

  32. el l*

    If you truly believe you’d be bored and unfulfilled by sister organization’s job, it’s ok to turn down.
    If you only want to move up rather than laterally, it’s ok to turn down.
    But thinking that you can only have some modicum of good life at a dysfunctional environment? No. You can work at lots of places that give an exciting life with good coworkers and functional standards.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. OP#2, the job with the sister org obviously doesn’t excite you and doesn’t seem to offer enough incentives to make a lateral move worthwhile. Have you thought very much about your future career path? How likely are you to reach your goals in your present position? Maybe it’s time to do some serious thinking about where you want to be in the future and start a more serious job search.

    2. DJ Abbott*

      Yes, my job offers excitement and is fairly functional. I suppose technically it’s a nonprofit, but it’s actually a government financial office governed by a board and laws.
      The excitement comes from some of the things we see in family finances – occasional family drama in other peoples families – and the ebb and flow flow of work where some days are crazy busy and others are more quiet and allow a breather. Also, for me, I love talking to the people even when there isn’t drama. One thing I often hear about his bank accounts being compromised, as I handle direct deposit changes. There’s never a dull moment, but it’s a fairly stable environment with only minor annoyances.

    3. Gumby*

      Maybe OP2 was exaggerating but I have never once thought “you know what, if only I slashed my tires I wouldn’t have to go into the office today.” Much less half the time! There have been maybe 1 – 2 days per year where I’d have loved to skip out on work but couldn’t for some reason. Normally stuff like “I’m borderline and would take a sick day (likely for cramps) except big project is due today.” There are days where I’m more neutral than excited about work. But I very rarely dread it. I think it’s possible that this job has warped OP2’s sense of what is reasonable in a job.

  33. pally*

    For #1: Actions have consequences. The event space owners have them dead to rights as to what they did. Those three are awfully lucky they didn’t face charges. That should be deeply impressed upon them.

  34. I should really pick a name*

    my current job, for its many, many flaws, feels more exciting and full of opportunities, including opportunities to make things better.

    It might feel that way, but does reality match the feeling?
    Have you been able to take advantage of opportunities, or does it just look like they’re there?

    1. BadMitten*

      I was looking for a comment on this letter—I think OP should look up the psychological definition of “trauma bonding.” Make sure it’s a psychological source because people use it to mean all sorts of other things.

      In the context of a relationship though, people “trauma bond” with their abusers because of the sporadic positive reinforcement (intermittent reinforcement). It’s a dopamine thing I believe, you get more satisfaction if a good outcome isn’t guaranteed. It’s why gambling is so addictive too.

      Anyway if OP has access to a therapist or psychologist it wouldn’t hurt to weigh the pros and cons with them. It may not be the case for OP but worth understanding just in case.

  35. I should really pick a name*

    If your main concern is “what will people think”, I’d say just go on the trip.
    Even in this comment thread, you can see that there are people who will read too much into any situation.
    The trip sounds fun, and it would be a shame to miss it because you’re worrying about busybodies gossiping.

    I’d say consider these factors:
    Are you or Brad in the other’s chain of command? Sounds like no.
    Do you feel comfortable staying with Brad? Sounds like yes.

  36. EarlGrey*

    #2: what jumps out to me is that one of the things you’re excited about at your current dysfunctional job is improving things. I would think hard about how long you can sustain that excitement despite hitting walls and setbacks and taking potentially years to see results. Yes, it takes dedicated, passionate people to bring about positive change, but it’s also very, very okay to decide you’re not that person and find a more rewarding effort to put your passion and dedication behind. (Sometimes what it really takes to make change at a toxic nonprofit is for the board to go “hey, what’s with all the turnover?”)

    How is the effort to make positive change going so far? is there visible progress or are the problems digging their heels in deeper? Do you have allies or is it just you? Whatever the current response to your efforts is, imagine living with it for the next year – does that inspire dread or determination?

    1. skadhu*

      Yes, this set off warning bells for me too. “I can make things better!” is a powerful drug because it plays into the idea that you can Do Good and Make A Difference, and that proves that you are a Good Person—and the logic of decision making relating to self-image is not always firmly tied to reality. Are you actually in a position of authority where you can both make and enforce changes throughout the org? Or are you in a position where you would have to rely on influence? If you have no actual power or if that power is limited in reach, change is very unlikely to happen, and in the long term that will add a very significant weight to the “I hate this job” side of the equation.

      1. EarlGrey*

        yeah, absolutely. It sounds like LW is excited by a challenge, which is totally understandable and great – but a challenge can start to feel like banging your head against a wall without the right support, resources, reward, etc.

      2. Catwhisperer*

        I’ve made this mistake multiple times and it gets so draining when you’re years in and everything seems to be just as chaotic and dysfunctional. It’s easy to get addicted to the high of “look at all these things I’ve accomplished!” even if the ongoing chaos elevates your stress unreasonably.

        One thing I’ve realised is that a stable organisation doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to make things better. In fact, optimizing processes and procedures can be easier and more long lasting at stable organisations because there’s less chaos, more process, and an environment that helps changes actually stick. You might have to look a little harder for projects, but if you keep an optimization-focused mindset you’ll still find plenty of things you’re interested in.

        1. EarlGrey*

          “One thing I’ve realised is that a stable organisation doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to make things better. In fact, optimizing processes and procedures can be easier and more long lasting at stable organisations because there’s less chaos, more process, and an environment that helps changes actually stick”

          YES, seconding the heck out of this.

    2. Antilles*

      That jumped off the screen at me too. OP2, you do NOT have the “opportunity to make things better”. This isn’t changing one annoying process or other minor fix, you’re talking about a complete overhaul of the corporate culture.
      First off, that sort of decision takes leadership from the top and complete buy-in from senior management. Changing a disastrous culture can’t be done from the bottom-up. Given how bad it’s described in the letter, there’s zero reason to believe that sort of true buy-in exists. And if you don’t have that level of dedication from leadership, you can stop right here because nothing else matters. Your interest in fixing things is meaningless if management isn’t pushing hard for change themselves.
      Secondly, even in situations where leadership is fully dedicated and actively leading the charge on culture change, we’re talking several years to truly get results. Along the way, there’ll be plenty of frustration, starts and stops, periods of backsliding, and so forth. There’ll be employees who verbally support you but are pretty apathetic about doing it. There’ll be other employees who are actively resistant to change and need to be disciplined or pushed out. All of this takes time, energy, continued management focus, and patience. If you’re already at the point where you dream of your car getting a flat tire, how are you going to feel two years from now when there’s been lots of talk but only very minimal improvements?

    3. gyrfalcon*

      LW2: why do you think you can change things at your current employer? They haven’t changed so far. I’d cross that off my list of pros/cons about the two jobs, and consider what’s left.

  37. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, it’s now occurred to me to wonder if part of the reason your company didn’t react more strongly was that the interns are only with you for a relatively short period anyway (and they have the option of getting rid of the employee in a matter of weeks or months), so they may have thought it’s not worth the hassle of firing them?

    Don’t know if that would make sense, especially as one is an actual employee but I could see it with the interns. “They are only here for the summer/a fixed period of time, so we can tolerate most things for that long.”

  38. BigLawEx*

    I’m a pretty law abiding person but something about #1 feels minimal to me. Is it a B&E like they went to a second location, jimmied a lock, and stole something? Or is it like a B&B/hotel with a restaurant/bar downstairs, no security beyond cameras, and they helped themselves?

    Maybe it’s because I practiced law, but honestly, it feels like something that could have (or has happened) at a firm retreat. Once alcohol is served to employees, things sometimes go off the rails…

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Per OP upthread, they had to ignore the “closed” sign but there was no breaking, just entering.

  39. Lacey*

    On #3 (coworker vacation) it sounds like this situation mostly comes down to whether the LW is comfortable with it. But I think Alison makes a great point about being cautious if one of you might be promoted over the other in the future.

    Two coworkers of mine vacationed together (same gender, cis-het, so no romantic complications) and it was a disaster. It totally soured the friendship, which would not have mattered for work, except that one of them got promoted to manager and years later still seems to be low-key punishing that coworker for the bad vacation.

  40. Parenthesis Guy*

    #3: It seems like your primary fear is what people will say if you go. To that end, it may help us give you advice if we understood the environment where you work. If it’s extremely conservative then maybe this is a bad idea because I agree it would be hard for people to get over this. Like if you worked at the company where writer #4 works, you shouldn’t go on this trip.

    But if you work with reasonable people then this strikes me as an issue that everyone will have forgotten about a month after it happens.

    1. OP*

      I work in a relatively “old school” environment and is generally pretty male dominated, which is probably part of why I’m worried about it.

      1. Angstrom*

        As someone else said, even if you try to keep it quiet, it’s going to get out, and the attempt to keep it quiet will look like you’re hiding something.
        An “old school” environment is going to be dubious about a platonic week at a beach house, because they’ll think it’s exactly the kind of vacation a couple would choose.
        It’s not going to help your reputation at work.

  41. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    My only thought with LW1 is that the CEO figured it’d be less time and trouble to just be magnanimous in the moment and report the incident back to the school at the close of the internship–especially if it had been close to the end of the internship, anyway. Jr. Employee on their probation could easily be dismissed discreetly after the fact as well.

    Coming down harshly in the moment could give the organization another bad look to those who lean towards the “stick-it-to-the-Man” mindset.

    1. Expelliarmus*

      Maybe, but now (depending on the genders of the employees involved in the theft) they look bad to people who are trying to vet out “boys will be boys” environments. Even regardless of the employees’ genders, they look bad to people who don’t think B&E is a light crime.

  42. Garlic Microwaver*

    LW 1 – any way you can tell the powers that be that it would actually be a kindness to the interns and junior employees to fire them? By simply paying off their problems and continuing to be allowed to be employed, they are not learning cause and effect or the consequences of their actions. The decision maker here is either sorely misinformed, aloof or acting too important to actually address this.

  43. peaches*

    Were these interns and junior employer white and male by any chance? Reeks of boys will be boys of a certain class.

  44. el l*

    OP5: There are sometimes roles where the only relevant number is their cell. The office number is a formality and rarely used. Salespeople in my business (power) for example are like this.

    (But if this is the case for you, your management will likely let you know)

  45. BBB*

    I have so many questions about the tithing requirement!
    first of all, how is that legal? how can your employer legally require you to spend 10% of your post tax income in a specific way? how do they even verify that?
    are you required to tithe to your employer? or can you attend a different church and tithe there? what if you belong to a different religion entirely? is my tithe requirement met if I give money to the satanist temple? can I tithe by donating to any non profit or does it have to be a church? do you get fired for spending your ‘tithe money’ on rent or other necessities because churches aren’t exactly known for their stellar pay to begin with? what if you give it all to a homeless person and don’t get a receipt?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      If you belong to a different church, you probably wouldn’t get hired in the first place.

      There are plenty of smallish towns in parts of the US where there are, at most, 3 different denominations represented. And we’re not even going to touch the historical racial segregation of some denominations.

      This kind of thing is much more about religion as an all-encompassing community. Not a place you just spend an hour at most Sundays.

      1. BBB*

        I understand most people aren’t applying for a church job outside of a denomination/specific church they are already a part of. but Alison’s link shows a very clear exception. not to mention church splits, individual fallings out, people leaving the faith ect at the end of the day it’s a job and sometimes people have to work jobs they aren’t a good fit for or stay with orgs they don’t agree with because they got bills to pay.
        so same question…. what happens if you want to/need to keep your job but don’t want to attend that specific church or give them money?

        1. Quill*

          Historically? You have problems and leave the job eventually.

          (There are plenty of churches that employ people reasonably, as in understanding that employment and participation are not the same thing. This church has already disqualified themselves from that.)

          1. JustaTech*

            Yeah, my parent’s church when I was a kid employed at least one staff member who wasn’t a member of the church (the custodian), and I think that some of the paid choir members actually belonged to other churches – and it was fine.

            But that was also a church that didn’t do tithing. To the point that I thought that tithing was a completely historical concept, like doing service to your feudal lord.

    2. Arthenonyma*

      I think you’re assuming way too much good faith here! Churches that make this sort of thing mandatory also insist/assume that you and your spouse will of course be members of their congregation and toe the line with regard to How We Do Things Here. They simply will not hire you if it’s clear that isn’t going to happen, or if it becomes clear after hiring they will bully and pressure you until you either comply or leave.

  46. Khatul Madame*

    LW1, did the CEO say “Boys will be boys”?
    Because to me this situation looks like a dude excusing extreme dudity.

    Another version – interns jobs are (all too) often given to kids of upper management and their business associates, so they are largely immune from bad consequences.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        I missed that, but will be adding it to my personal vocabulary.

        I just need to come up with a well-worded definition.

  47. Miette*

    For LW2 I think I would add a fourth possibility (probably far-fetched but it’s what my mind came up with) to Alison’s advice: is this offer from the sister organization a veiled attempt to move you out/on? I’m not saying this because I suspect foul play or anything–on the contrary–but perhaps you should examine the business realities of the current job. How stable is the organization–could layoffs be down the pike? Is the org well-funded? Is the program you work within well-funded? Could it be that someone above you knows something you don’t and is trying to move some pieces off the board before it is tipped over?

  48. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – if your gut instinct is telling you that the role at SisterCo isn’t the right one for you, I would go with that. You don’t necessarily have to have it articulated clearly – sometimes guts just know. In your case, though, lateral pay/level and a less impactful role are good reasons.

    There’s a third option, as well – do a job hunt for an organization / role that will meet ALL (or more) of your needs. Don’t limit yourself to the two options in front of you (ie. stay in your current role or go to the sister company). It may make it easier for you to decide whether or not to take SisterCo’s role when you consider that this is not your only option.

  49. Sam Cook*

    LW#2 – I’ve been in your shoes – I would be really hesitant to make the move. I used to live in a smaller city (think 300,000 people) and the non-profit world was really small. I jumped ship to the first place that offered me a job, took a massive cut in pay, and realized 3 months in I made a huge mistake. I ended up leaving a few months later (that’s a whole nother post!) and it took me forever to find another job. While you will be making the same, but you don’t seem overly enthusiastic. While your situation sucks right now, really consider if it’s worth it.

  50. LW #5*

    LW #5 here. Thanks for addressing my question! In my case, if I’m calling, it’s because I’ve already emailed twice and haven’t gotten the answer I need – I much prefer emails to calls anyway!

    I’m also almost never calling the same person twice so asking their preference once I reach them is only going to get me so far.

    I guess the answer for me here is, I’m probably going to be calling 2 numbers every time I need to call somebody and I should just be mentally prepared for that so I’m not telegraphing annoyance by the time I actually get hold of the person.

    1. BikeWalkBarb*

      If someone provides their cell phone number I’m more likely to text than to call. That’s more immediate than an email in an already full in-box and they may be able to answer during a meeting. Text can be along the lines of “My email of 6/18/24 is time-sensitive; need response by/before 6/20 or we’ll have to end the contract” or whatever gives them a sense of the urgency and importance.

      1. LW #5*

        Hm, I suspect this is very industry specific – this I know would generally be considered rude in my industry. The “correct” escalation is a phone call, but it’s not always clear which line is best to try first.

  51. AJ*

    OP 1
    What’s up with the Junior employee? It seems to me that they might be deserving of more severe consequences here. I guess if the interns are going away soon anyway maybe you don’t “fire” them what ever that looks like. But was the junior employee mentoring them at all?! Other than mentoring them to commit larceny. I’d come down on the employee harder at a minimum.

    Also not all interns are associated with school programs.

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      Thank you, AJ, I was wondering about the junior employee too. Seems like a quiet conversation with them about how this escapade affects their professional reputation—and prospects for promotion—would be appropriate.

  52. Mermaid of the Lunacy*

    Letter #3: Been besties with a married coworker for almost 20 years. Could I vacation alone with them with no “extracurriculars?” Of course. But I think it makes things easier to have a third person along. My spouse worries less, there are fewer eyebrows raised from the outside world, and there’s a tie-breaking vote if we can’t decide where to eat.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I hate the idea that society thinks that “a pair” automatically equates to “a mating pair”. (My biology degree is showing through here.) But that’s on society, not on us. The older I get, the more I dislike this planet.

      But your point about having an odd number of people so there’s a tie-breaking vote? That is spot on. But that is also what dice are for.

  53. Jake*


    In my industry the majority of people are unreachable on the main line in their email. About half are reachable by the direct line and 90% cell.

    My first call is always cell.

    1. LW #5*

      Good to know! As I commented above, I am getting the sense these norms can be quite industry specific. Which maybe makes it more complicated to navigate …

  54. Delta Delta*

    OP1 – I can’t think of a time when a burglary is a good look for an intern. Or a junior employee. I’d love an update on this at some point, but I predict the junior employee won’t last past probation, and the interns will just finish the summer but under a tight leash.

    At least now you get to share tales of bad intern behavior. So there’s that, I guess?

    1. Quill*

      Honestly even if you’re the Mob, an unauthorized burglary is not gumption, or “moxie” on the part of the interns.

  55. Art of the Spiel*

    LW #4, what in the everloving what. If my job required me to “donate” like that, I’d be out before the door could swing all the way open.

    1. Anonymel*

      Right? I could see them strongly “encouraging” it, especially if the employee also attends the Church, but the idea that they’re entitled to it simply because you work for a Church is just so arrogant! I mean do they also browbeat parishioners who don’t tithe? The only entity getting 10% of MY pay is my 401(k) management!

  56. Quill*

    LW 4: I am not a lawyer but if your wife’s salary is not public… they probably should not have information on it. So if you want to go the route of asking how they know what she makes, because ~of course~ they would want to know if they were wrong / looked like they had access to information they shouldn’t/were potentially stepping on legal toes, it’s probably worth knowing what they should and should not know about your wife’s job.

    However. The fact that they’re already keeping track of your donations and prepared to be punitive if you ever give less than they think you and your wife can afford tells me that overreach is their middle name.

  57. Regular Human Accountant*

    LW4: I am the wife in this situation–or I was, until my husband retired from paid ministry last year. I made significantly more than he did, and he made significantly less than the senior pastor despite doing far, far more work and pastoral care. (No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?)

    The way we resolved this issue was thus: we tithed 10% of my husband’s (paltry) income. When we were questioned about my own income, we explained that prior to his taking that job, we were already contributing to several non-profits based on my income and we were not going to take away money we had previously pledged elsewhere, so our tithing to the church would be based on my husband’s income alone. They didn’t like it, but didn’t push on it either.

    Good luck.

    1. Anonymel*

      I like how you worked this. I can *albeit grudgingly and with some side eye* see requiring employees of the church to tithe on THEIR income, I’d be all “oh no hands off of MINE,” you don’t pay it, I don’t work for you; hell I don’t even attend church!” The idea that they’re entitled to 10% of ALL income earned by an employee and their spouse (hmm what if the kids have summer jobs?) is just galling to me!

  58. Spcepickle*

    For the travel with a coworker letter.
    I am a women and I moved into and remodeled a house with a male coworker. We made it a duplex, him and his wife and kids live upstairs, I live downstairs. It is amazing and the only way we can all afford to live where we do. I know people wonder about our relationship, and one was bold enough to ask, I just laugh and make a joke about housing prices. When we started this whole process we were both fairly junior, but we both have promoted to managing our own departments.

    That said, I turned down an invite to go on vacation a flying vacation with a female coworker who is a good friend. overnight vacations can break relationships if you two are not on the same page. From what time your day starts, to the activities, to payments, to food. I am willing to travel with 4 people total, because I have just been burned by several bad vacations.
    Sit down with your friend, ask him how he sees the vacation going, what kind of food will you eat and who will pay for it, does he want housing payments, when does he show up to the airport, what does he do while flying, ask about alcohol or other drugs ( important to some people’s vacations). really see if you two are picturing the same thing. if yes, go and have fun, if no stay friends while not traveling together

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This made me think. It’s not so much about the gender for me, but it is about the sleeping/overnight/morning-routine part that breaks it for me. If that part doesn’t work, it’s probably not going to go well over all.

      1. Anonymel*

        Agreed. My husband and I don’t even always vacation together! He’s outdoorsy, loves to go boating, fishing, hunting, camping. I’m more of an .. indoor cat, or I want to sit on a balconey or beach and read and soak up the sun or go shopping for local artisanal crafts, etc.. and he hates shopping. I am also a night owl and he’s an early to bed, so even with someone you LOVE travel can be challenging for any length of time!

  59. Travis*

    Whenever we went on a company-sponsored tripe, my old grandboss used to say, “If you commit any crimes, don’t do while wearing our logo!”

    This was a laugh line, but also, uh, good advice I guess!

  60. TG*

    LW#1 – I’d have fired them – they committed a criminal act! I can’t believe they weren’t fired.

  61. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW1, are these interns and the junior employee all men? Because the way management excused their B&E with “Well, nobody got hurt and they reimbursed the money” is leaving a familiar, bitter taste in my mouth.

  62. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW3 – If LW is feeling ok about the actual vacation and doesn’t anticipate any uncomfortable misunderstandings and/or has a plan for how to manage that if they come up, then I’d say go, and don’t mention it to People Who Will Have Opinions. Or people who might mention it around the PWHO. Which is basically anyone at work, and possibly non-work circles.

    I have a friend at work with whom I have vacationed with (and grocery shopped with and sat with them when their cat went to be put down and done their yardwork) and I mention their name within my stories only about 5% of the time when someone asks me what I did that weekend. Sometimes there are just times when the PWWHO just don’t have to have all of the information.

  63. CommanderBanana*

    I work for a church in Illinois that requires employees to tithe 10% of their income. However, this church also requires tithing based on household income, including my wife’s income, even though she is not employed by the church. They estimate spouses’ incomes and track our giving monthly. If we don’t meet the required amount, they can fire me or withhold yearly raises.

    Why do you want to work somewhere where you’re paying to work there? Sounds scammy to me.

          1. Rainy*

            This is one of those things that looks different depending on where you stand, because people who think something is a scam leave, or do their best to leave. For people who buy in, it’s not a scam.

  64. What_the_What*

    Timing of reading this is so weird. I just got done reading an article about Angie Harmon’s 18 year old daughter and 2 friends getting busted for….breaking into a restaurant and stealing expensive alcohol and being identified by security camera. Obviously not the same story, she was arrested and she wasn’t on a business trip, but what on earth is with young people suddenly breaking into restaurants for alcohol!? Can’t they bribe a friend’s older sibling to buy it for them like we did back in the day???

  65. mcm*

    LW #2 — I feel you 100%! I also work in the nonprofit space, and felt that I should be seeking a more “stable” or “organized (lol)” job. I have that job now, and while there are definitely upsides, I do find it totally boring, and am looking to move back in the direction of chaos.
    One thing, though, even in my chaotic job, I never felt like I wanted to slash my tires to avoid going in to work, but maybe that’s hyperbole.
    I think a useful thing to think through would be, 1) what exactly are the opportunities here that are exciting? Can I get concrete about what I’m gaining, rather than just feel a sense of vague opportunity? 2) what’s next? What is my path from this job, if it’s not Sister Org? What skills do I want to focus on gaining in this job to prepare me? 3) when I really dread going into work, what’s behind that? Is it disorganization, a couple of difficult coworkers, or something else?
    I do feel that in moving to a more stable environment, I sacrificed an environment where I had the opportunity to gain a lot of different skills, and quickly. At my current org, everyone very much stays in their own professional lane, so since being trained when I started, I’ve pretty much only had the opportunity to do things I already know how to do, which for me is a huge bummer. I know now that in my next role, I’m looking for a role that encourages growth and development, and a lot of collaboration with other roles. That may mean more building the plane while flying it, but now I know that I prefer that trade-off.
    I also think there’s sometimes something to be said for being in a chaotic environment with good work-life boundaries — at a previous org, I definitely had the feeling of “woah, what’s going on??” looking at other people’s calendars, but really, it was always possible to log off on time. You don’t have to let other people sweep you up into workaholism.
    Hope that helps! It’s a tough decision for sure, but I just want to validate that for some people, less chaotic is not necessarily better.

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