is it discrimination that all the moms in the company have to have childcare but the one dad doesn’t?

A reader writes:

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated and resentful, and I fear it’s clouding my judgment. Any advice, even if it’s simply to let go, would be appreciated.

I work for a nonprofit that operates across several states. We have a predominantly female workforce, many of whom are mothers with young children. During the pandemic, our organization was extremely flexible in terms of work schedules and remote work, especially for parents managing childcare. However, once child vaccines became widely available, the organization implemented a remote work policy that required full-time childcare during work hours. While there are still allowances for occasional childcare-related work-from-home days, the general rule is that you can’t be the sole caregiver for your children while working.

Overall, the policy has been adhered to, and most employees have found suitable childcare arrangements. However, there’s one exception: a senior manager with a significant portion of the organization reporting to him. During the pandemic, he was allowed to care for his children after school without formal childcare arrangements. When the new policy came into effect, he requested and was granted continued flexibility, which wasn’t communicated to the rest of the organization as an option. It’s been explained that he makes up for missed meetings by working in the evenings and adjusting his schedule, although I haven’t experienced that happening in practice.

While this arrangement may work for him, it’s causing disruptions for the rest of us. We struggle to schedule meetings with colleagues across different time zones because he’s unavailable for half the day. Additionally, his engagement during meetings suffers when he’s multitasking with childcare responsibilities, and he often goes unresponsive after his pick-up time and never replies in the evenings even though he’s supposed to be flexing his time. This situation has led to increased workload for others and has raised questions of fairness, especially when considering the financial burden of childcare that many of us are bearing. I also question if it’s discriminatory to hold all the female staff to the policy and grant the exception to a male staff member only. Additionally, there’s a safety concern that makes me extremely uncomfortable. He frequently takes work calls or communicates on slack while driving his children home, a commute that spans about 1.5 – 2 hours due to living in one metro area and having his kids attend school in another. It’s evident that his attention is divided during these calls, and given the importance of safety while driving, I question whether this should be allowed. I think it has only been given the okay because otherwise he would be completely out of contact for a huge amount of time each day.

I’ve raised these concerns with his manager and my own, but it seems there’s little willingness or ability to address the issue due to the previously granted exception. I’ve also discussed this with several female colleagues who are in a similar situation, and we share a sense of resentment and frustration.

I’m considering reaching out to HR about this but would appreciate guidance on how to approach the conversation. Should I request a similar exception to avoid feeling unequal, or should I focus on the impact this situation is having on our work and propose solutions?

It could be a gender discrimination issue, but it’s also possible (and your company would likely say) that he’s been granted an exception because of seniority and the nature of his role. They’re allowed to give different perks and different privileges to different classes of employees, such as management above a certain level, etc. Of course, if any moms at his level have requested and been denied the same accommodation, that would change things.

It is weird that they’re saying “we already approved this and thus can never walk it back in the future, no matter how poorly it’s working.” They absolutely could say to him “This isn’t working for X reasons and we need to either modify it in Y ways or we need you to find childcare by (date).” That happens all the time. The fact that it isn’t happening here says that either his manager (a) is too weak to deal with it or (b) has decided that they’re willing to pay this as the price of keeping this senior manager.

If it’s (b), HR probably isn’t going to overrule that.

That said, you could try! There’s no reason you can’t share with HR what you’ve shared here, and say that at a minimum the gender optics are terrible. Who knows, something might come of that.

You’re likely to have more luck addressing it from that angle than by advocating for a similar exception for yourself and others. His exception is working so poorly that it’s a pretty strong argument against letting more people do it. And “you can’t care for young children while also working” is a very common — and very reasonable — policy that most companies have. The issue is that he’s not holding up his end of things — but if his management doesn’t care, that might be the end of it.

It’s reasonable to raise the work impacts and the optics and see what happens, though.

{ 212 comments… read them below }

  1. Domom*

    As a working mom, I’d be furious and to be honest would probably look for another job.

    It’s such inherent sexism.

    1. WillowSunstar*

      Also not sure why it’s being allowed, but if it’s a cost issue, he’s a senior manager. He should be being paid enough to at least hire a babysitter to do some of these things for him.

      1. Karo*

        I don’t think this guy should be allowed to continue as he is, but speaking as a working parent, finding a reliable babysitter (especially during the day) is next to impossible. When my daycare is closed, either my husband or I are taking PTO.

        I guess there hits a point where you’re paid enough that you can pay a truly exorbitant amount for reliable care? But anything short of that means you have a lot of competition for a relatively small pool of babysitters. And most of the people available regularly during the day are going to have jobs as nannies that pay them for the full day instead of for a few hours after school.

        1. Good Lord Ratty*

          Why is that a viable excuse for him, but it isn’t acceptable for other working parents in this workplace?

          1. Karo*

            My first sentence was literally that it shouldn’t be allowed to continue as is. I’m not saying he should get a pass, I’m saying that having more money doesn’t make the problem magically go away.

        2. Anonymel*

          Yet somehow, all the working mothers in his organization have managed to comply. And if he’s working from home, honestly that makes it easier because a high schooler who wants a little extra money could maybe be hired for a few hours, to help with homework and make sure the kids don’t run into traffic. Or perhaps he could arrange something with a neighbor; but it sounds like he’s never really TRIED since he just got the go ahead to continue. And that 2 hour commute to/from the school?? That man is putting in NO legit hours at this job. Holy Smokes. I’d be fuming. I really hope the OP writes in soon with an update that HR finally told him to manage his daycare needs during working hours!

        3. fhqwhgads*

          This dude has enough flexibility for his kids to go to school 2 hours away. WTF. Even if this is some sorta thing where the other parent lives elsewhere and the kids are usually with said other parent, if this dude is regularly doing school pickups and caring for his kids during his workday two hours away (and has kids at an age where they need active caring for during that time) this is so so so so so obviously not working. It makes no sense that this guy of all people with the most incompatible personal needs is the one who is an exception. Does he have unicorn abilities this employer desperately needs? I have no sympathy for this person. Like yeah, good babysitters are hard to find. Everyone else dealt with it within the policy. He’s just straight up dropping parts of his job, in a not temporary this is fine to continue indefinitely way.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            pff for me just the thought that the kids are trundled in the car for two hours… ok I know cars are bigger and more comfy in the US but even so, they’re strapped in and at risk with a father who has one eye on traffic and one ear to his phone! Even without him working, that makes for such a long day for the kids, I’m not sure of the benefits of that particular school. He should consider moving near the school at the very least. And find decent childcare so he can focus on what he’s supposedly being paid to do.

      2. Madtown Maven*

        Exactly this. Even if there weren’t a gender difference between the people involved, making exceptions for higher-paid staff when it comes to child care expectations feels really yucky. Child care is expensive. It seems to me that a higher-paid staff member should face the same child care hurdles that their lower-paid colleagues have to face.

        1. I Have RBF*


          He can afford childcare more easily than his lower paid subordinates. Why should he get an exception that actually hinders his work, but his subordinates don’t?

          I think he gets away with it because he’s male.

      3. toolegittoresign*

        I would think the biggest issue would be driving 1.5 to 2 hours to get the kids home from school. They can’t take the bus if they’re attending school in an entirely different district. Even if he got a babysitter, someone would still have to make the drive and it sounds like he’s the only one who can do that. And I absolutely agree that he shouldn’t be allowed to be on calls or Slack messages while driving. It’s okay to take the occasional quick call but the situation as described sounds very dangerous.

        1. Gumby*

          I am not certain why he would be the only one able to make the drive to pick the kids up from school. I was a part-time nanny while I was in college and I absolutely could pick up the children from school. Sure, there was some form signing involved so I was authorized, but it was very possible.

          1. Petty Patty*

            You would have been willing to drive 1.5 to 2 hours away to pick up kids as a part time nanny?

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              If you are paid by the hour, does it matter if you are driving as opposed to changing diapers?

              1. amoeba*

                Yeah, guess if you like driving and the pay is good, that doesn’t sound like the worst job?

            2. What_the_What*

              Why not? Lots of people drive for hours a day for their jobs and as long as it’s included in the pay, as well as either use of a car or gas and mileage, I’d do it if I were a nanny. In fact, every person I know who’s Nanny’d did it. I think it’s weird that you think it’s weird.

        2. Bethany*

          I feel so sorry for those kids who are spending three to four hours in a car every school day. That’s an awful childhood experience.

    2. Space Needlepoint*

      It is indeed. It’s a blatant example of when fathers care for children, they are lauded, but women are less appreciated because it’s assumed it’s “their job.”

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s not sexism that he gets this arrangement and other people don’t. He’s a senior manager, and that’s why he gets the special arrangement.

      The issue of sexism here is much more of a structural one — how many women are there in senior management with this organization? (Or anywhere for that matter?) If the answer is “far fewer than there are men” that’s where your sexism lies. We don’t know if a woman at his level asked for this arrangement and was refused.

      tl;dr: the sexism is embedded at a deeper level than just babysitting arrangements.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        See, this explanation makes no sense to me. His position as a senior manager with greater responsibilities means it’s that much *more important* that he be available and attentive at all times during working hours.

        His job performance is slacking, he’s missing his greater responsibilities, which means he’s *not doing the job* at the level he’s being paid for.

        And it’s because he isn’t complying with a policy designed to avoid exactly this outcome with lower level employee, despite every other single parent in the org required to do find and pay for their own childcare.

        This stinks.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      As a working mom *and* a high-level office director, I am furious and would look for another job.

      I, too, get perks and flexibility in my job that my direct reports don’t. But that’s because I also have a more intense workload, high expectations and demands from all of leadership, and requests to work outside of regular hours on time sensitive requests that cannot be avoided. I am also expected to be present for my staff when they need me. I produce a lot – most of which occurs outside business hours. When shit goes wrong, my ass is responsible whether I screwed up or not.

      Plus I’ve undeniably earned my boss’s trust.

      This guy doesn’t even do *THAT*. It’s workplace sexism at its worst.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        That’s where I land. (Not director level, not a thing where I work, but I am towards the upper end in seniority and have a ton of credibility and political capital at this point)

        I’ve spent the entirety of my career being told that I simply HAVE to have childcare. Even when I had childcare lined up on a regular basis, I was reminded on a near weekly basis that on the occasions I did WFH or another site, I was not to be “babysitting” my own kids. (WTF?). I have paid through the absolute NOSE for childcare, and have worked my ass off because pantheon-of-gods-forbid that I show I’m human for XYZ family reason. I’ve never once been allowed the same grace that a colleague, male, in my exact position has been granted up until my current job.

        It has been utterly maddening.

        Whether its institutional sexism or sexism in this exact moment about the childcare arrangement, the optics are horrible at a minimum. I’d be out the door.

      2. Bruce*

        Well put. He is not holding his end up, but gets a free pass… I just hope that if they do raise this they don’t get retaliated against…

    5. Artemesia*

      yup and the odds he is such hot stuff that other employers would be happy to offer him a job with these same perks seems low.

      I would be pushing the idea that this is a sexist policy and it would make me start looking around to see if there are other options for me.

    6. MikeM_inMD*

      It *might* not be sexism, but it sure does look like it. And “optics” are important.

    7. Lizzianna*

      But I’m sure he’s “such a good dad” for spending time with his kids. Where any mom who did the same would be considered unprofessional or (or more likely, AND) a negligent mom for “ignoring” her kids while trying to work.

      I’m so, so tired of the double standard that working moms face. Rubbing it in my face like this would drive me to seek work elsewhere.

    8. Rosacolleti*

      I don’t see any evidence of sexism, it’s very possible it’s because he’s senior. We give our very senior people a lot of leeway to get their job done. It might be sexist that there are no women in senior roles, but we don’t know that’s the case.
      It’s no excuse for allowing it continue if it’s affecting his work and others they way it seems to be though

      1. MountainAir*

        I…dunno. I think there are plenty of other good things to focus on that aren’t the inherent sexism angle, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there at all. This is the intent vs. impact thing — maybe the *intent* isn’t to offer flexibility to men that is not allowed for women, but that’s what’s happening. The *impact* of the arrangement they’ve allowed this guy to have – despite its effect on the working environment around him – is to reinforce a pretty dang sexist scenario where women who are earning less are paying more (or juggling additional logistics) to comply with a policy that he’s getting an exception to.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          And this flexibility is allowing him to shirk his responsibility to the job. Since he’s so senior, his frequent absences and distraction have a profound effect on the ability of every one around him to do their jobs. The whole org suffers.

          It’d be one thing if this were an accommodation that allowed him to do his work at the level required. This arrangement is allowing him to work at a lower level than expected and lower than he’s being paid for.

          Honestly, I wonder how much his distraction and absence during work hours is costing the organization and if he’s even earning his paycheck. He’d better be some kind of rainmaker.

  2. Semi-Accomplished Baker*

    Phones wise, I know a guy who talks on his phone all day, and he’s a delivery driver. It’s a pretty safe driver, and yes, his attention is divided and that’s not safe. However, there’s not much you can do. You can’t dictate where he takes his calls from or make his kids take the bus. Yeah, this situation doesn’t sound fair, and follow Alison’s advice, but it’s probably not gonna go anywhere.
    Sometimes the crown of senior privilege blinds everybody.

    1. spcepickle*

      You can absolutely dictate where people take work calls from. I live in a state with a strict hand free cell phone policy for drivers, but all our company vehicles have a NO cell phone use policy for the driver. It would be 100% a good policy to say you can’t take work calls while operating a motor vehicle. Even your personal vehicle.
      I agree that with this letter I would start job hunting, it is not going to change and the trickle down to more work for lower titles sucks. But that is no reason to not push the company for a safety culture.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes you can dictate where he takes calls from. My company prohibits taking calls while driving. You have to pull over. People have been disciplined for it.

        While using hands-free technology isn’t illegal my company is aware it leads to distracted driving so they ban it.

        1. amoeba*

          True, but I guess if this is a large company, even that guy’s boss wouldn’t have any say in that policy! We used to have it (now unfortunately after a merger they changed it to “avoid when possible, no group calls”, oh well), but that was made by some people in charge of safety rules in a 30k people company. Now that it’s officially “allowed”, not sure we could stop people from doing it if they wish. Luckily it rarely comes up because people don’t tend to drive that much here…

    2. Tio*

      You can 100% dictate that employees don’t take calls while operating a vehicle, even in regular office-type jobs, even in states where that isn’t flat out illegal, like mine. It would be one thing if this were in his free time, but for work calls and/or on work time, 100% can ban it.

    3. Petty Betty*

      Most of the companies I’ve worked for have a strict “No Phones While Driving” policy, even non-government agencies. In many cases, vehicle insurance policies require it.

    4. Kyle S.*

      What makes you think an employer can’t prohibit calls while driving, or require the delivery driver to use his work vehicle strictly for work purposes—that is, not ferrying his children around? The employer is presumably paying for his commercial driving insurance, and the insurer probably isn’t expecting to cover children or an inattentive driver.

    5. HSE Compliance*

      All of our vehicles have a “no devices while driving” requirement. If you are to talk on the phone etc. while driving, and we know about it – discipline will be happening. I have been in calls where someone pretty high up – like, VP – was found out to be driving & talking and the call was ended immediately and person was disciplined. He wasn’t even in a company car, but he was on company time and working.

      You can *absolutely* dictate that employees take calls from a safe place, including while *not* driving. (We also do not allow taking calls while walking the plant floor, which I am proud to say our general production staff will 100% call out *anyone* for, including the Global Operations Director.)

    6. Lea*

      If it were a 15 minute drive no big deal but 2 hours is a crazy amount of time to consider that part of his workday. That alone as a coworker would be infuriating

      1. Reebee*

        “If it were a 15 minute drive no big deal…”

        Huh? Every minute presents a “big deal.”

        1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

          I think what’s meant is that if a senior manager – the kind of position where workdays frequently go past 9-5, who may be expected to work weekend time or other kinds of extended coverage – were to miss a total of 30min in their day on kiddo transport, that’s something that would be very easy to credibly “flex time” your day around. It’s also an easier day to schedule meetings & such during. So, NBD.

          2 hours missing from both morning and afternoon, is a MUCH bigger obstacle to scheduling and is a lot more time than might be credibly flexed in a day, depending.

          1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

            But I’m 1000% in agreement that the safe amount of distracted driving is ZERO minutes. ESPECIALLY with kids in the car!
            Makes me question this person’s managerial skills because that’s poor judgement and risk assessment like WOAH.

      2. Anonymel*

        And I’d have to go back to reread but was it 2 hours total, or 2 hours twice a day??? That’s huge, if so.

    7. Lizzianna*

      OP may not have the political capitol to do this, but an org can empower people to say, “You seem distracted. Let’s pick this up when you get home and are out of the car.”

    8. 1LFTW*

      He’s not just taking work calls, though, which at least can be done hands-free (still not a great idea). Communicating over Slack? No way he’s not typing and driving.

    9. Jasmine*

      The phone call and the children are both distractions. There’s NO way he’s driving children that long without them makes noise or fighting with one another.

    10. Sacred Ground*

      I’ll see your “I know a delivery driver” and raise you an “I was a delivery driver for 20 years.”

      Your friend is not a safe driver if he talks while driving. As a delivery driver, one has ample opportunity at frequent stops to make or receive calls. Incoming calls go to voicemail. Any coworker or manager whose call goes to voicemail knows damned well it’s because the driver is driving and they’ll get back to them when they’re not driving.

      Different companies have different expectations, sometimes contradictory. I worked at one place that had a strict rule about drivers talking or texting, I saw several drivers get reprimanded when caught on the dashcam, yet the supervisor and dispatchers would send us texts all the time expecting a prompt response. I didn’t last there.

  3. Don't You Call Me Lady*

    I don’t know if it’s discrimination, but if he’s in senior management with a large portion of the org reporting to him that could be a more likely explanation. Probably one less likely to get the results you want

      1. Don't You Call Me Lady*

        Oh it’s ridiculous. i think if it were me I’d ask for the same exception rather than try to get his taken away

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          This manager’s failings demonstrate yet again that it is rarely possible to work without childcare / child transport for kids too young to cope independently.

          The OP should detail to HR what he is failing to do and definitely NOT request the same exception – she’d also fail to do her job, but there’d be much less tolerance than for a valuable senior manager.

        2. Lea*

          I’d ask for a much less disruptive exception (an hour in the afternoon after school maybe?) and see what happened. And then point to what a train wreck this is that’s allowed

        3. Venus*

          I don’t think “this policy exception renders our manager completely useless, can we have the same one?” would reflect well on anyone.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            I don’t disagree with that, I just don’t think going to HR and complaining about what a sr exec is doing is going to go well, especially after that exec’s boss (who must be pretty high up himself) has already weighed in.

      2. ferrina*

        This is a time to pick your battles. This all depends on the political capital that OP has. If OP doesn’t have a lot of political capital, this might be a time to keep their head down. But if OP has the political capital to burn, I’d approach it as a matter of optics. The senior management can be pretty oblivious to optics- “Well, I think it’s fine, therefor everyone does!”

        But I do think it’s unlikely to change.

  4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Ugh, okay fine he’s a manager and gets extra perks like more flexibility. But that’s usually based on the fact they have to handle higher level things that might not fit into the regular 40 hour work week, 9-5 day. But it seems he is not performing at that level. It seems he is getting paid full time for part time work. Not full time pay for extra work.

    This is why companies require childcare arrangement during work hours. You can’t focus on work and your kids — both suffer. The company needs to address this from a work perspective.

      1. dulcinea47*

        sounds like there aren’t any, due to all the sexist reasons that there are fewer women in leadership roles. (such as childcare.) I agree that this may not be sexist by design, but it’s a bad, bad look.

        1. Venus*

          There is a window of a child’s life where this is an issue, so it could be that there are female execs with slightly older children whose schools are nearby.

          1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

            Yeah, I’m thinking of my job, and the execs have mostly older children I assume by dint of being mostly older themselves.

            1. MaxPower*

              This, but also when I was a female exec with young children I had a spouse that handled some of the logistics, and I had childcare before/after school, which I would have had regardless of whether my company required it, because having childcare was what worked best for my family. I wouldn’t have given a whit of care that another person wasn’t required to have child care, unless their lack of child care was impacting the work.

              1. Domom*

                But you made the effort to have childcare. I also have a spouse that supports our family and when little a nanny.

                But this week I have an out of town spouse and a camp that starts late for older boy.

                I figured it out.

                This guy is straight up driving his kids around for 2/8 hours of his work day on Flex Time when the other moms have zero ability to do that.

          2. Guacamole Bob*

            At the start of the letter I was thinking “ok, so he has his school-age kids in the background occasionally in the after-school hours”, which is the kind of flexibility I sometimes take advantage of at my job – this afternoon I’ll take 20 minutes to run out and pick up my 4th grader at camp around 3 p.m. today and he’ll hang out at home for a couple hours while I finish my work day since we discovered yesterday that the camp aftercare program kinda sucks.

            But as I read the details it got worse and worse. Over an hour in the car? Just offline when the kids are home? Not responding to emails? I’d be furious too.

            1. kicking-k*

              Yeah, it sounds pretty iffy to me. I am not an exec and I don’t think there are formal policies on this, but a few times I’ve had my fifth-grade equivalent child around while working from home in the afternoon (normally she goes to her grandparents’. The schools here finish at lunch on Fridays). And she’s SO distracting that I am contemplating some other arrangement even for these few days. I don’t doubt some children are fine occupying themselves but she just can’t resist wandering through, and I don’t have the possibility of shutting myself in another room.

              I couldn’t work like this all the time.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                The details really matter with elementary-age kids – personality of the kid, physical setup of the house, whether the work is focus versus calls versus emails, etc. Often my kids are happy enough to mostly read or watch a movie, I can shut the door to the guest room, and my work is full of random interruptions on Teams and such anyway so an occasional “can I have a snack?” doesn’t really bother me. Wouldn’t be ideal for every day but works as an infrequent thing.

                1. BigTenProfessor*

                  I have a friend who needed an adult to watch her kids because she is going through a nasty custody battle. The kids are 100% capable of being home alone for a few hours after school, but she didn’t want that to be weaponized against her, so there were a few days I worked in her home office instead of mine.

    1. Hyaline*

      It’s not a great look. But I do question if he’s “getting paid full time for part time work” if he truly is working late into the evening to make up for the break where he picks his kids up. His kids are in school for 6+ hours a day–it’s not like he’s engaging in childcare all day long. It sounds like the pragmatic issue here may be that his availability is not lining up with expectations from the teams he’s working with–which is a problem!–but I think OP risks a swift dismissal of the real problems if she exaggerates the issue.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        The letter says that emails go unrespondedafter child pick up and then not at all in the evenings when he’s supposed to be working. They struggle to schedule meetings for the limited time he is available.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Except if his kids’ school is 45 minutes away he’s probably not actually working 6 solid hours before heading out for pickup. Maybe he’s starting his day early while someone takes his kids to school, but given OP’s level of frustration I’m guessing she’s not seeing tons of emails from him at like 7:30 a.m. to indicate he’s genuinely flexing his schedule that way.

        1. Jasmine*

          Does he expect his team to have their meetings in the evening to accommodate his flexibility?

    2. Reebee*

      “It’s been explained that he makes up for missed meetings by working in the evenings and adjusting his schedule, although I haven’t experienced that happening in practice.”

      LW doesn’t “experience” his working full time means he works part-time?

      I mean I agree the optics are awful, and perhaps things really are as unfair as they sound, but there is wild speculation here that is just so…tiresome.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        LW is not getting what they need from the senior exec. Were said exec actually working an adjusted schedule, LW should be getting the information they require in order to do their job. Seems like the exec is making his job a part-time job by just not doing a good portion of it, thereby impacting others in a negative way.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        He missed the meeting and doesn’t subsequently provide the info he was supposed during the meeting. People reach out to him through asynchronous communication channels for information they should be able to get from him while he’s working and he never replies after 3pm.
        Even if he is working on something during those hours, he’s not making up for the stuff he missed, which is what he’s supposed to be doing. So basically you’re pointing out a distinction without a difference.
        Dude Without Childcare is never reachable after school. He’s supposed to be. That is a problem.

  5. Hyaline*

    An aside–this sounds like not only a “childcare during work hours” issue but a “who is allowed/when is it permissible to have a flexible schedule” issue. (Since you mention he tends to go silent during these hours and you’ve been told “he makes it up later.”) If he’s working 8 (kid free) hours a day but takes a weirdly placed break in the middle for kid pickup and afterschool care, then picks back up on work in the evening after bedtime, that may well fall within flex work hours rules. He may even be seeing it as “doing a favor” by taking a call “outside his normal hours.” So I’d consider that the problem and pushback may be more about “his ‘at his desk’ hours don’t line up with key working hours for our group”…to which the answer may be “you have to accommodate his oddly placed afternoon break” but maybe worth a try from that angle, too. Is this kind of flexibility on schedule normal in your workplace, only at senior levels, or is he just way outside the pale here?

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      But OP says he’s not responsive after pick up time. And does not respond at all in evenings. So its not he works hours that don’t fit the rest of us, its he’s not working the hours the rest of us do, and also not working weird hours.

      Not to mention the pick up is a 2 hour drive with the kids in the car so he isn’t really paying attention during that time anyway. Plus when the kids are home he is distracted in meetings dealing with them.

      1. Hyaline*

        Sure–but responsiveness to staff isn’t the only measure of “working.” He may have something worked out with his boss/es in which he is doing demonstrable work in the evenings (as they claim he is). There is a difference between “this person is not available to me” and “this person is not working” and OP risks sticking her foot in it if she makes these kinds of claims about a senior manager. I am honestly curious if this is a “9-5” workplace or if it’s a flexible workplace–it makes a difference IMO in how to deal with the situation.

        1. ferrina*

          This is a good point. It’s possible that this manager is working but just declines to respond to OP. Or it could be that this person isn’t working a full 8 hours. But that’s not up to OP to police if this person is working or not. That’s the person’s manager’s job.

          Where it gets into iffy territory is if other people are denied the theoretical arrangement of being able to pick up their kids and work later in the evening. If only men are allowed to work flexible hours and women doing similar roles are not allowed to, then that’s a problem. But unfortunately being held to different performance standards are shaky ground.

          I’m wondering what else is going on at this organization. If this were the only issue, I’d say OP is likely over-reacting. But this kind of issue is usually accompanied by other, harder-to-prove issues.

        2. Testing*

          Responsiveness to staff is not the only measure of working. But in this case, his lack of responsiveness and simply lack of being online seems to affect other people’s work quite negatively.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Sure its not the only measure, but if it is interfering with others’ ability to get work done it is one measure. Which it sounds like it is interfering. Which is why Alison says to focus on the work impact. That’s not policing his time, its hey, we send messages and don’t get a response so X is not getting done timely, how should we handle this?

          Make it a boss problem, not yours.

        4. Zweisatz*

          We are asked to take letter writers at their word. This means from the information we have he is not available for a noticeable chunk of the day AND it is not compensated for in the evenings.

          1. Hyaline*

            I’m taking the LW at their word when they say this dude’s managers have said he’s working in the evening. Focusing on whether he’s putting in his hours appears to be a dead end, whether he actually is or not—his managers say he is. But raising the difficulty with his availability is objectively true.

        5. Turquoisecow*

          It could be that he isn’t responding to emails off hours because he knows others aren’t working and he doesn’t want them to feel like they should. There have definitely been questions here where someone working late at night wondered about sending their reports emails or work or whatever at, say, 10pm, and would this seem like they wanted the employees to work that late or to respond to the email that late, and a LOT of people advocated for delayed send or something like that.

          Not saying that is happening here, or that him replying to emails at 10pm so OP and others could see first thing wouldn’t be a better option, but just because he’s not responding to OP’s emails doesn’t mean he’s not working AT all.

          I am wary of stating, point blank, that (person) isn’t working if I’m not their supervisor. Sometimes it seems like coworker isn’t doing anything but really boss told them to focus on something else. I’m especially skeptical of someone making that claim about a person above them on the org chart. It may seem like my boss is doing nothing all day because they rarely reply when I have an urgent question at 2:00pm or I can never find them in their office, but the reality is they might be in important meetings with their boss or external stakeholders or whatever else the job describes. I think OP here would have better luck focusing on the specific ways his unresponsiveness is impacting her ability to work.

          “I need to get X done by end of week, but VP isn’t responding in a timely manner. He took until Wednesday to respond to an email I sent Monday afternoon , and I couldn’t move forward without that response.” Maybe the childcare issue is the cause, maybe it’s not, but I would suggest she start with that, in case there is something else going on. HR and other higher ups might be defensive of him as a VP.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      I think if you come prepared with “he’s unreachable between X and Y but unfortunately that’s when Client A needs his signoff on the contract, and it’s causing problems that he’s not working those hours”, that’s hopefully going to be taken more seriously than a generalized resentment of this specific perk. I agree that it’s likely been granted due to his status, and that it’s worth outlining the issues it’s causing, but I think there’s probably an 80% chance that they say “well, you have to deal with it” rather than risking him quitting. Disclaimer: not saying I agree with it. Just saying that it seems likely that’s how it’ll play out.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Agree; OP needs to outline the work affected and impacts on cost, schedule, performance. Reports are routinely late because Manager didn’t get around to approving them; the project needs his go-ahead before OP can proceed but he missed the kickoff meeting, etc.

        It sucks, but the way to get this fixed is look at what outcome OP wants and what outcome OP can realistically get from the company. An equitable child care policy for all employees, a boss that pays attention, or both? Pick one, then approach management again. You’ll never get everything you want, so define what you need the most and proffer solutions to get that.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          It sounds like things are mostly trucking along because the LW and her colleagues are picking up a bunch of slack. I suggested below that they may want to try doing less of that to make the issue more visible to senior leaders.

          1. Lea*

            I think if lw is having to work out of tour they could just not be able to do that any longer

      2. Yvette*

        I like that, but instead of saying not working during those hours, because you don’t really know if he is or not what you can say is he is not responding when the client needs him just emphasize that.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          In regards to that, I’d say that he’s “not working those hours” with emphasis on *those hours*, as in “he has to pick up his kids from 2-4, and we need signoff on the contract by 3:30. He’s not responding to a request to sign off before he leaves to pick up his kids”. Just essentially saying that of course it’s OK that he doesn’t work during that time, but also he’s not responding outside of that time with a compromise. “He’s not working!!” can be refuted, but “we asked him to sign off on Client A’s changes every week before 2 on Wednesday and it’s not happening, which is holding up Client A’s production since changes must be approved by 3:30” is a problem that can be solved by taking it to this dude’s boss (in theory, sigh, but one can hope).

    3. Three-Eyed Minion*

      This. Back before COVID and wfh became normalized, my team had proposed designated work from home days for each of us (much of it because there were 4 of us crowded into a shared cubicle space and even having just one person away gave the rest of us much needed space).

      We were told that no, this was not possible, that NOBODY in the office was allowed regular wfh. This despite the fact two of the directors were never in the office except for specific meetings… the rest of the time they worked from home. (leaving their large offices empty… which made us even grumpier about our tiny cubicle situation)

  6. Super Duper Anon*

    I think that this is one of those situations where its infuriating, but won’t change unless the manager messes up something so seriously because of his current arrangement that the top level management realizes how much this arrangement does not work. You can try to flag it upward, but unless upper management is forced to see the issue, they won’t bother to care about it.

  7. MaxPower*

    I don’t see how this letter says any of that. It’s entirely possible that there are senior female leaders who do not want or need that flexibility due to not having children in school, or having someone else to handle child transport, or having a childcare situation that covers that time (and perhaps they prefer it that way!)

    1. MaxPower*

      ugh, nesting fail. Was meant to respond to a comment saying there didn’t appear to be any women in leadership at this org.

    2. Hyaline*

      Alternately, if most of the team could really use that flexibility during school pick up time (one of the few real tricky childcare bits for school-age kids), maybe just adjust the work schedule to reflect that (yes I realize no one is going to do this but *gasp* how revolutionary! What works for the senior guy may just work well for lots of others, too!)

  8. Catwhisperer*

    I’m wondering how this was framed when OP discussed it with the senior manager’s manager. The root issue here isn’t necessarily that the senior manager has an exception to the childcare rules, it’s that he’s not fulfilling his job duties. The senior manager’s manager might be more inclined to take action if it’s framed as “We’re having difficulty getting responses from Senior Manager in a timely manner, which is causing X, Y, Z problems downstream” and not directly attributed to the flexible working arrangement. You can have a flexible working arrangement and still do all your job duties, so the feedback senior manager’s manager should be giving him is that he needs to complete them regardless of his schedule.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      100%! If the senior manager was getting everything done in a timely fashion, nobody would care about this arrangement. But since he’s not, they have to push back with the actual impact on them.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This. If the LW or colleagues need a decision from the boss when he’s MIA, they could start going to the grand-boss and telling that person that they need a decision about X ASAP, but boss isn’t available, so what does grand-boss want to do?

      1. Specks*

        Grumpy Elder Millennial, I really like that suggestion. If the boss is a bottleneck and grandboss is ignoring the problem, maybe asking whether the team can reach out to her/him when urgent decisions are needed and then using that liberally will jolt them out of complacency. Or solve your problem.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        This is the answer. Make the situation visible to someone at his level or higher. Not just report it to them, but *show* it to them.

    3. Antilles*

      Agreed, the framing is very key here.
      I would also add that the framing should include specific examples of X Y Z problems. Not simply that “he doesn’t respond immediately during the day” or “he seems a little distracted during calls”, but that you’re seeing project delays or you’re unable to get questions answered during meetings or clients are complaining or etc.

  9. CommanderBanana*

    I don’t think that saying “this guy doesn’t have to have childcare and it’s causing all sorts of problems” is going to mean that they’ll rescind the requirement to have childcare.

    You can keep documenting the issues and making his manager / higher-ups aware, preferably as a group. If it starts causing pain for them, they’re more likely to pay attention to it. But the outcome is likely to be a) nothing happens or b) he also will be required to get childcare, not that the requirement to have it will be rescinded for everyone else.

    1. MaxPower*

      Exactly this. If anything, he is demonstrating why childcare is needed. The powers that be are not going to look at this and decide that everyone else should be allowed to do the same thing.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yes! They’ll say “oh, we gave him that flexibility, but it’s not working, so he’s going to have to have childcare just like the rest of our employees”. Which is fine! They should say that if it’s not working out!

  10. MyJobIsToFindYouAJob*

    If you want to push back on the issue, I’d not even mention the childcare at all. What I would focus on is the impact to your work. If you are unable to schedule meetings, are you unable to move forward with projects? That is what I would escalate to my manager.

    Is the policy probably rooted in sexism? Yes, whether intentionally or not. But unfortunately as you have experienced, resistance to pushback on that will be strong.

    1. Lily Potter*

      I’d not even mention the childcare at all
      Same here.
      Theoretically, the OP’s problem a workflow one and not being able to get hold of the Senior Manager in timely manner. HR might have advice on how to solve that. As far as HR will be concerned, the Senior Manager’s childcare situation is absolutely none of the OP’s business. If the OP goes in framing it as a childcare issue, she’s going to be seen as complaining about the childcare, not the workflow.

    2. Lisa*

      I think you’re right and this is the way to go. If how he’s arranged his schedule has a negative effect on the business, that’s what to focus on; it doesn’t actually matter that it’s because he’s picking up his kids.

      I’m curious now that school is out in most places, how has this changed for LW and the business. Have things gotten better now that he isn’t making the school run, which is more evidence that it’s causing the problem, or if the kids are now home all day have things gotten worse?

      1. Mark*

        I agree, every time the unavailability of the manager during normal working hours causes an issue I would escalate it to your direct boss, preferably as a group but by yourself otherwise. I am trying to schedule this vendor meeting for an afternoon next week and John is unavailable. We have already rescheduled 4 times and he did not show on the call even thought he accepted the meeting. What should I do next?

        Or on 7 calls with John last week he was unable to read the deck or give input because he seemed to be in a car with others. How can I get this work over the line effectively? I need his input.

        And rinse and repeat until they get it is a workflow issue.

  11. TO person*

    The issue isn’t childcare, it’s that he lives in one city and has kids in school in another. He’s not leaving at 3 for a 15 minute pickup and then has school age kids at home who can mostly amuse themselves. He is out driving for 2 key hours, I am guessing 2-4 ish. That really does approach a half day during which folks might need answers. It’s a job function issue. He needs at minimum to find a place to work near his kids school.

    1. 1LFTW*

      Yeah, that seems like a strange choice on his part. He has at least three options I can see that would minimize disruption to his staff: move to same metro area where the kids go to school, transfer the kids to the metro where the family lives, or pay for childcare like everyone else. I don’t blame LW for being frustrated by this.

  12. Person from the Resume*

    It could just be a senior manager (“with a significant portion of the organization reporting to him” which I read as extremely senior) is valued in such a way that less senior employees are not, but it is very bad optics that the man gets the extreme flexibility for child care and the women do not.

    And it definitely sounds like it is not working, he’s missing meetings or making it very hard to schedule meetings or taking meetings while driving and does not appear to be working full time.

    Because of the bad optics, I’d recommend if you complain you do so with a group of women who can highlight the appearance of sexism. That might be more likely to make the organization take action to counter the appearance of sexism, but it may not.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      I truly don’t think this is sexist in nature–one senior manager requested and was granted this flexibility. Nobody else at his level requested it and was denied, it was just him. The fact that it’s not working is separate from the granting of the ask, and there isn’t an indication that they also would have granted the same ask from a woman in the same position.

      1. Kella*

        I don’t think it’s fully accurate to say this inequity is just because he requested the flexibility and was granted it. There is an explicit policy *against* what he’s doing. He requested that the rules not apply to him. If anyone could say “Hey, I know this is the rule but I have kids and I don’t want to pay for child care, could you make an exception to the rule?” probably a lot of people would, based on OP’s letter.

        I think it’s not possible to definitively say that this inequity is being caused by sexism because we don’t know if there are women in a similar level of power who haven’t been granted this flexibility, but regardless the optics aren’t good.

  13. Bonkers*

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around sending my kid to school 1.5-2 hours away. I assume there’s a good reason for it, because that sounds like my worst nightmare.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      I assume it’s like 30 minutes away with no traffic, often 40 or 45 in practice, plus the actual school car circle or daycare pickup time is maybe 15 minutes, so round trip it ends up being 1.5-2 hours.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        The parents start lining up at my local elementary an hour before school is over because they all want to be at the head of the line in that car circle.

        Why most of these kids need a ride and can’t just ride the bus still astounds me.

        1. Friday Hopeful*

          Not all districts have a bus for all students. Ours does not. You have to live more than a mile away in elementary school for a bus. Also even if there were bussing in this school, he lives outside the district. .

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            Ours does. In fact, the buses pick up kids in the subdivisions right across the road from the school.

          2. 1LFTW*

            Mine was the same way when I was a kid. I walked to school, or I rode my bike. Granted, we didn’t have to cross any major roads, but the district provided crossing guards anyway.

        2. RIP Pillowfort*

          It’s hard to know the reasons. Personally, my kid’s bus pick up and drop off location is far from my house*. Our road has no shoulder or sidewalks. It’s a windy county road in farm country.

          Plus my kid’s on the spectrum and the bus rides are majorly overstimulating for her in a negative way.

          *So our school system has designated pick-up and drop off points for buses. These are not necessarily homes of kids in the school system so you do have to make sure the homeowner is okay with you standing in their driveway. Our neighbors are fine with it but I’ve heard stories about those that are not. I don’t understand this set up at all and have complained, trust me.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            We had that setup when I was in school (granted, in the 80s, but still). My elementary school stop was across the street from my house (encompassing several houses up and down the street). For middle/high school I had to walk down the street to the corner, where lots of other kids would walk for the bus stop. Not uncommon to have a stop just in the middle of a group of kids who would use it, so the bus isn’t stopping every 20 feet for pickups.

        3. CommanderBanana*

          Even if there is a bus, it’s often a crappy option. My high school was a 15 minute drive away and started at 7:15 am. The bus picked up at 6:20 am. Which meant that we would have been walking to and waiting for a ridiculously early bus in the dark, next for a four lane highway, on an unlighted route, with no barriers and mostly no sidewalks, in an area notorious for both pedestrian/car deaths and assaults.

          My mom eventually drove all the high schoolers in our little neighborhood to school because we could leave at 7:00 and were way less likely to get hit by a car or dragged into a van on the way.

        4. Double A*

          I looked into the bus for my kid. She would be on the bus for 1.5 hours each way (boarding at 6:30am and getting off at 4:00pm), or it’s a 7 minute drive each way. I expect my district wants to discourage closer in people from using the bus.

          That’s why a lot of people don’t use the the bus.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      My kids school is 15 minutes from home but a school pickup takes an hour with the car line and traffic.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Are the kids allowed to walk away from the school a block to make pickup easier? Not a snark! A legit question. I went to elementary school in an urban area with a lots of schools, because it was the early 70’s and all the schools that got built for the baby boom were still open, and I didn’t have kids of my own, so I really don’t know how it tends to work.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Depends on the age of the kids and the roads in the neighborhood. The local business at the corner near my kids’ school complains about being used as a pickup/dropoff lot and tries to restrict that, and some of the neighboring streets are no parking during the start and end of school hours since they’re narrow streets the car line uses. With younger kids if you want to skip the car line you have to park and go meet them at the spot where they dismiss kids as walkers, with older kids you can have them dismissed as walkers and they can come meet you wherever you determine. But it’s not clear that you really save time by doing that, depending on dismissal procedures and how far away you may have to arrange to meet.

          Fortunately we live walking distance so we don’t deal with any of this most of the time, but it’s a mess. I’d guess there are 500 kids in my kids’ school and at least 200 of them go to the after-school program or other activities in the building and a bunch more take buses or walk, and it’s still a madhouse right at dismissal even with only a smallish percentage of the kids being picked up by car.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I would find it miserable to be in the car that long every day, but there are a lot of private schools in my area that are specialized towards certain students (creative students, kids with disabilities, really sciencey kids, etc) that work better for the kids who need those kinds of schools. The school might be a 40-minute drive away from someone’s home on a good day but could take an hour or more to get to on a bad day, so that would mean driving 1.5-2 hours in the afternoon to pick up the kids. As I already said, I’d HATE doing that kind of driving (I WFH for a reason) but plenty of people don’t seem to mind it. Boggles my mind, tbh, but I get it.

    4. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      It’s 1.5 to 2 hours round trip, so 45 minutes to an hour away. One of the schools we looked at for my kid is a comparable amount of time with traffic. If you have a kid who does best at a specialized school this can easily happen. (My kid has dyslexia and ADHD, and there are only really two schools in the metro area targeted at that population. One of them is 2 miles away, the other is on the other side of the major city in the area and is ~45 minutes one way at typical school pickup times. Fortunately he got into the nearby one.)

  14. theothermadeline*

    A huge part of this isn’t even “you can’t care for kids while working,” it’s “You can’t work while driving for 1.5-2 hours every day.” The fact that was accepted is bananapants.

    1. Person Person*

      It doesn’t sound like it’s working great here, but it doesn’t seem much crazier than someone shifting their starting time earlier or later.

  15. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    Or, could OP apply for some sort of waiver to match what exec has, or maybe something similar? If the employees didn’t know it was allowed to apply for the exemption perhaps they should try as a large group to show the want to be allowed to have this flexibility or at least get the company to look at the optics associated with allowing exec to do it?

    Note, I am completely convinced that exec is abusing his flexibility agreement because he is an exec and who is going to challenge him?

    1. ferrina*

      I am completely convinced that exec is abusing his flexibility agreement because he is an exec and who is going to challenge him?

      I was once in the reporting line of an exec that did 4-6 hours of work per day. He didn’t have kids, he just didn’t really work. He’d cancel meetings, not respond to emails, the works. The bare minimum of his job went undone- vendors went unpaid, and he had no idea what entire departments in his reporting line did. But every couple weeks he’d send a slew of emails between 2 am and 4 am, and the other executives would point to that as evidence of his “hard work”

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ Aaah, yes, I am familiar. Was he a tall white guy that just sort of failed upwards? They are myriad.

  16. Dr. Rebecca*

    I would be *extremely* tempted to let anything he’s not available for after hours fail catastrophically. “Oh, the Smith Llama account? Yeah, that got pulled because YOU weren’t able to take calls.” “Oh, that event across multiple countries? Yeah, they cancelled that rather than go ahead without YOUR say-so.”

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      That is very tempting for sure. Make it his problem and his management’s problem. But that also could backfire on OP, which makes the situation all the more frustrating.

      1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

        Yeah, I honestly wouldn’t try this unless you’re upset enough to risk losing your job over it. It has a very high chance of backfiring.

    2. Agent Diane*

      Here to say this kind of “working to rule” to expose the problem would be my approach. Right now a bunch of women are doing the pick-up work for a dude, enabling him to continue on. Let things fail – with very careful documentation to show you tried everything.

  17. Hedgehug*

    I’m not sure this is gendered discrimination, my initial thought halfway through the letter was it is because he is senior management. BUT, that being said, it doesn’t change the fact that it is being perceived by all the women that this is gendered, and therefore I would bring it to HR and tell them that. “Regardless of the reasons, etc, this is how this is being perceived and collective resentment is brewing.”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It would only be gender discrimination if a woman at the same level asked for a similar accommodation and was denied it. If no woman at his level asked for it, then we don’t know. Did he get it because he’s senior or because he’s a male?

      Either way, you are right. The optics on this one are absolutely terrible, and are causing resentment. It also sounds like there were a lot of missed communications on the part of management that is leading to this.

      TPTB handled this terribly, discrimination or not.

      1. ViridianGreen*

        Or are there no moms at his level because of other discriminatory practices, and this is just symptomatic of a larger problem?

        1. No Tribble At All*

          Raise your hand if your company has C-suite in women who *aren’t* in HR. Cos I’m sitting on both my hands here.

          1. MaxPower*

            Raises hand. Both my current and former companies were almost entirely women in executive leadership positions. Neither were non-profits or any of the kind of stereotypical industries where women lead. One was manufacturing and one is manufacturing and healthcare adjacent.

            Which isn’t to say that women aren’t underrepresented in leadership in general. We absolutely are. But even as I was interviewing during my recent job search, strong female representation on senior leadership teams was more common than not in the companies I spoke with.

          2. Nobby Nobbs*

            A workforce that’s mostly female except for the execs couldn’t possibly have anything to do with gender discrimination! If you think otherwise it’s probably because your uterus is wandering around your body, making your little woman-brain hysterical.

          3. Anonymel*

            *Also raises hand* I’ve worked with and for many women in executive leadership roles, including Air Force Colonels, Senior Executive Service (SES) and VP and Sr VPs at my govt. contractor jobs. There are many Women Owned Small Businesses that get govt. contract here, as well. I’ve never worked for a company that had an entirely male senior leadership, military or civilian.

        2. RVA Cat*

          That’s my read on it as well – there no women at his level with children young enough to need care. So women are reaching his level a decade or more later, just in time for the ageism to kick in.

          1. What_the_What*

            “So women are reaching his level a decade or more later, just in time for the ageism to kick in.”

            I don’t necessarily agree. They CAN be the same age, achieving at roughly the same rate. I know many men who are OLDER and have young kids because of a second marriage, or married a woman who’s quite a big younger, etc.. So, as a Senior Exec, he could easily be in his early – mid 50s, say and have children young enough to need care, maybe in the 5-10 range since they go to school, while a woman that age and also a Senior Exec, perhaps has kids who are teens or early twenties kids, due mainly to biology. (and before anyone loses their minds, yes SOME women can have kids in their 50s, but it isn’t recommended.)

          2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            Could be that the other parents at his level – men and/or women – have the sense to realise they can’t look after children while working at their paid job.
            i.e. he’s the only clueless idiot.

        3. AngryOctopus*

          Or there are moms at his level but they have older kids/kids who go to school close by, so they don’t want/need this kind of perk.
          There is zero evidence of sexism at play aside from the exec being a man. Don’t attribute bias where it’s not warranted.

          1. ViridianGreen*

            The fact that there are no women in that position is in fact weak evidence of bias in the company. Are there other ways to explain it? Sure. But the question does need to be asked.

            1. Anonymel*

              We have zero evidence that there are no women in his role at the company. Only that the women who have children are required to have daycare for them. It’s quite possible that the women in his role are old enough to have kids who’ve outgrown daycare.

              1. ViridianGreen*

                If all of the women are older than the men in their equivalent role, that is not an argument against age discrimination…

                Again, this isn’t strong evidence. It’s possible there’s nothing going on at all. But it is certainly enough reason to ask the question. I’m honestly a bit confused about why you’re so set against the idea.

                1. Anonymel*

                  And I don’t see how you view ONE COMMENT on the topic as “so set against the idea.” I don’t see why you’re so set that “the question MUST be asked” when the OP gave no indications that that was the case, and her question had zero to do with ageism or women in Sr. Positions.

  18. Slow Gin Lizz*

    Because his manager doesn’t seem to care, I am fairly certain that this isn’t going to change unless there’s someone above that manager in the hierarchy who suddenly does decide to care about the issue. Raising the gender optics with HR might be the only way to go here, and otherwise try to find a job that is better at addressing life/work balance in the sense that people should be doing their work while also living their lives, not living their lives and ignoring their work. I suppose a group of you could go to his manager together and raise the issue that your work is highly impacted by his lack of availability, but that could easily backfire and I wouldn’t do it unless all of you feel secure enough to do it.

    This is so maddening, though. I hope you get a good resolution on this, OP.

  19. EA*

    OP do you actually WANT the exception to the rule? It’s really hard/impossible to work and also provide attentive childcare simultaneously. Yeah, childcare costs are terrible, but clearly this guy’s performance is showing that it doesn’t work most of the time! I’d suggest you think about your own needs and wants without considering the other guy and then ask for them – no harm in asking if your performance is good – do you want more flex time, or you want to be relieved of extra work that the senior manager’s absence is causing, or you want a bonus to make more $$, or something else.

    1. Fierce Jindo*

      This is the right advice. I’d find the situation galling too, but it’s a bad idea to get involved in complaining just to take a perk away from someone else. Think about what *you* want.

  20. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    This manager’s failings demonstrate yet again that it is rarely possible to work without childcare / child transport for kids too young to cope independently.

    The OP should detail to HR what he is failing to do and definitely NOT request the same exception – she’d also fail to do her job, but there’d be much less tolerance than for a valuable senior manager.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      He needs to do his job, which means he needs childcare like every other parent employed there

  21. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Can you and your colleagues stop picking up all his slack? It sounds like senior leadership isn’t aware of the full scope of all the problems this is causing because the rest of you are conscientious and are trying to keep things from going off the rails. So what happens if you stopped pushing so hard? If the meeting can’t be scheduled because of his availability, then there’s no meeting. If you need decisions from him and he’s not responding, I guess things are going to be late now. You have 10 hours of work for an 8-hour day, then 8 hours worth is getting done.

    At this point, you and your colleagues are the ones suffering the consequences of management’s decision. Sounds like they need to experience the consequences, too.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Or, if you need a decision and he’s not responding, loop his boss in and ask what you should do.

  22. Ann O'Nemity*

    Sometimes companies would rather offer a great employee flexibility for a few years instead of trying to replace them. I have a direct report in this category now! Is she as productive as she was before she had a baby? No. Is she more productive than what I could hope to find if I replaced her? Yes!

    Also, a senior exec who manages a significant portion of the company is going to be busy, hard to schedule, and slow to respond to non-urgent emails regardless of childcare responsibilities and flexible schedules! Almost all of the LW’s challenges (scheduling, disengaged in meetings, taking calls while driving, not answering emails quickly during work hours) are true for my senior exec too.

    I think the LW’s strongest argument would focus on the actual business impact here – quantifiable ways in which the exec’s behavior is hurting the work, the customers, or the employees.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      No employee, however valuable, should be allowed to ignore basic safety rules such as working while driving.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        It’s legal to take hands-free calls in some states, mine included. (I’m not saying it’s safe! But it’s not a rule here.)

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          I was thinking of internal safety rules e.g. FinalJob (in DE) like many others totally forbade the use of phones etc while driving, well before the politicians got around to making laws about it.

    2. Hyaline*

      And a hard truth is that, even if LW doesn’t see his value, and even if this guy actually is NOT a star performer…his managers seem to value him enough to make exceptions and think what he brings to the business is worth catering to his needs somewhat. They’ve already backed him up multiple times, it seems, on these kinds of complaints. They can absolutely make the choice to privilege his flexibility over the LW and her cohort’s ease of working. As I re-read the letter, I see a lot of annoyances at the inconvenience his schedule creates, but few to no hard and fast examples of quantifiable losses. It stinks to realize it, but for many business lower-tier employees saying “we had to pick up his slack” is not a problem the way “we lost the Hedgehog account” or “our profits were down this quarter” is, and if they see this dude as adding value in those sorts of metrics, good luck. I’m afraid that, fair or not, this is probably a hard sell.

  23. DramaQ*

    I don’t think you will get anywhere with asking for the perk they’ve put their foot down on that plus the senior manager doesn’t exactly make a solid case for allowing anyone else to do it. He demonstrates the exact opposite.
    I would continue to document “Meeting was at X time, senior manager unavailable , unable to reschedule/get X done because client could not rearrange schedule” “Important email sent on X date at 1:30pm for X deadline at end of day, recipient non-responsive”
    Keep childcare out of it. Just document that he is not actually working a full 8 hours or available when he says he would be in exchange for the arrangement. He’s not holding up his end of the deal it sounds like.
    Which you may at the end of the day still have to deal with until/unless he annoys someone bad enough with enough clout that even the upper management cannot sweep under the rug.
    It might be time to debate if you want to continue in the job because nothing is likely to change. Is this enough of a deal breaker to start job hunting? If not you’ll need to learn to let it roll off your back. At the end of the day it’s his managers that have to answer for his lack of availability. All you can do is smile, shrug your shoulders and document

  24. NurseThis*

    No one will ever dissuade me from the belief that 100% this guy got the exception because he is a man.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I believe it’s because he’s a senior leader BUT I also think that men are a hundred times more likely to be in senior leadership roles at the point of their life where they have small children. I know a very small number of women who have senior leadership roles and small children, and an awful lot more who reached senior leadership then stepped back a little when they had young kids, or who didn’t move into senior leadership roles until their children were well into secondary school.

      I don’t know how you legislate that, but the pattern is *everywhere*.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Yes, this is structural inequality of the whole damn system rather than this particular company deliberately discriminating against women.

      2. doreen*

        I totally agree that men are more likely to be in senior leadership roles when they have small children – but there are a whole lot of factors involved in that and it can be difficult to tell which is more important in a particular situation. I will never say that there was no sexism at my job – but the senior men who had young children were in their mid-forties to their mid-fifties when those kids were born. The senior women were of a similar age- but only one had a young child.

      3. Jaydee*

        I think it’s also the case that there are fewer penalties for men asking for flexibility around childcare (or really anything else related to children) at work. Maybe they say no, but a male employee isn’t going to be seen as less dedicated just for asking.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It sucks because he’ll have s much higher salary and should be better able to afford childcare than the more junior empliyees

    3. Trying Out a New Username*

      I’m more inclined to believe he got the senior leadership position because he is a man and that the exception was granted because he was in senior leadership. If I am right, then there are more serious problems than this exception.

  25. umami*

    I totally get wanting to be upset with this arrangement, but a couple of things strike me: he is only unavailable for the time he needs to go pick up his kids, which is a longish drive back and forth. That’s probably not something he can actually outsource, but he still tries to be responsive during these trips (which while I don’t condone, many, many people use tools to communicate while commuting that allow them to respond to messages hands-free). And as for responding to emails in the evening, how would someone know? He could be forming responses and scheduling them to send when others are presumably going to actually see them, rather than sending them in real time. I agree that the optics aren’t great, but since this is a senior manager whose work his boss presumably finds impeachable, bringing up some scheduling issues for meetings seems pretty minor. I’m guessing (admittedly!), but it doesn’t seem like the other parents have kids going to school so far away – I wonder if it’s a custodial arrangement with the mother, who lives in that area and takes the kids to school, and he picks them up and drives them to his home far away. That sounds less like a childcare issue than a logistics issue. Which would likely mean it’s not every day of the week. Still sounds frustrating but I would just do my best to work around it. Probably many of these meetings don’t actually require his presence, so just forge forth when you can, or let grand-boss know if you absolutely need boss in a meeting and have not been able to lock him down. Anyways, good luck and try not to be frustrated when someone else has something you want!

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      With the emails: I think LW is saying that if she sends an email at 3 pm, she doesn’t get an answer. Not at 4:30, not at 7:45, not at 9 am the next day.

      With the meetings: I think it’s a little odd to assert that many meetings probably don’t require his presence. If they didn’t, he could decline them–he’s an exec.

      This isn’t sour grapes; this is a man not doing his job, and making things more difficult for others.

      1. doreen*

        It starts to look a bit like sour grapes because although the “making things more difficult for others” is a legit complaint it doesn’t necessarily have to do with the childcare issue. I’m not saying that it’s not the childcare issue in this case – the LW would know that better than I. Just that I had two managers who didn’t answer emails inside of a week, if ever. One would ask me to resend it if I called her. Both of them would cancel meetings (phone or in person) that they had scheduled at the last possible minute. No “childcare while working remotely” involved – neither one had actual children and they were both working in office. And sticking to the actual problems when talking to HR will probably serve the LW best. Otherwise, it’s quite possible that he will lose the flexibility and still not answer emails etc.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, if I sent a priority ask email during the time the exec was on a school run, I wouldn’t expect an immediate answer. But since said exec is supposed to be flexing his hours around that time, I would expect that I would have a reply by the next AM at the latest (or really in my inbox by the next AM, regardless of when he sent it). If I know that I have to ask exec to sign off on X the day before it’s due with the client because of his working schedule and when I get things from others, that’s fine. I can work around that. If I never get a sign off because he’s not actually doing his job, that’s a different issue that needs to be addressed.

      3. Hyaline*

        FWIW re-reading it doesn’t say he never replies. It says he “never replies *in the evenings even though he’s supposed to be flexing his time*” (emphasis mine) which reads to me more as LW giving “evidence” that the system is not fair than saying she never gets a response. The responses may consistently be in her inbox at 9 a.m. for all we know from this letter.

        1. Mary*

          Yeah, I’m curious OP – do you get responses at all? Or are you just upset because you think k he should be emailing you at night and he’s not?

    2. Hyaline*

      It absolutely enters the realm of speculation, but I imagine many responses to this would be different if, say this man had been widowed, left with young children to care for, and they have special needs that only a school an hour away can handle. It doesn’t necessarily make the situation right or fair for the LW but i imagine that there would be more hedging about being flexible for this person vs he’s just exercising his status and the company refuses to extend the same grace to all parents.

      1. Tradd*

        I was wondering exactly what the guy’s family situation is myself. Widowed, or maybe wife ran off, leaving him with the kids and full custody.

        1. Purple Tiger*

          I’m curious if you also assume that any woman who picks her kids up from school is a single mom?

  26. Fierce Jindo*

    Curious whether you’d be safe saying you’re not comfortable participating in a meeting with someone driving kids. I wouldn’t be; I’d be scared for them, it would distract the hell out of me and be very distressing; and I wouldn’t feel right morally being a participant.

    1. Mark*

      I would definitely go – it seems as if you are driving, can you reschedule the meeting for another time as I need your input and I don’t want you reading a screen while driving and the close the meeting. If it is time sensitive let your manager know that the people you needed input from could not give it at the meeting as they were driving and distracted talking to others in the car and what can you do to get the meeting scheduled effectively.

  27. Lauren*

    I wonder if the policy needs to be more formalized in general…what constitutes “young”, what if there’s an older child with special needs? There could also be resentment among non-parents if only those with kids get to flex their time.

  28. Pretty as a Princess*

    I would encourage OP to focus on situation-behavior-impact with regard to the boss.

    Situation: XYZ things need approvals in time-sensitive manner.
    Behavior: boss is nonresponsive for extended period
    Impact: schedule delay, lost account, increased cost, what have you

    What impacts OP and their coworkers *directly* isn’t that the boss has a flexible situation; it’s that he is routinely unavailable to them and there are tangible effects on the work.

    I would raise this distinctly separately from “the flexibility policy is perceived as inequitable.”

    This is because

    – The boss nonresponsiveness situation is directly harming execution at work and if not corrected could well explode whatever flexibility others have. Addressing it in terms of business situation and business impact is clean and factual. You know exactly what is happening (stuff being delayed) and the outcomes of that stuff. You can quantify it. You don’t have to have the responsibility to diagnose the *why* to talk about the *what*.

    – Two different chains of command/inquiry could address these issues. I wouldn’t be going to HR as a first step if my boss starting not answering emails. But I might if I perceived inequity in the application of workplace policies. If convo winds up in HR, this should be focused on “who gets access to the policy” and not “this guy has the policy and he sucks.” That has, as others have said, the potential to backfire splendidly. Also, I have seen plenty of “Let’s pre-punish everyone” kinds of punitive policies enacted in my career to prevent *the vast majority of responsible folks* from *taking advantage of one thing that was screwed up by one particular jagoff.*

    If OP has a mentoring style relationship with another senior woman in the organization, I would consider approaching that person to talk about perceived inequity in the application of the flexible work policy, and ask for her observations or advice. It’s possible there is someone with more capital who could be willing to reach out to HR or other leaders. (I’m not talking about women defaulting into caregiving roles in the organization, but more understanding the reality that there could be someone with more seniority or outside of this guy’s chain of command who has the ability and willingness to reach out and raise the issue with less potential for any kind of fallout/blowback or dismissiveness if that’s an issue. I’ve worked with both men and women leaders in my organization in such a manner when a situation would benefit from being raised at a higher level.)

  29. Reebee*

    “I’ve raised these concerns with his manager and my own, but it seems there’s little willingness or ability to address the issue due to the previously granted exception.”

    Then you get to decide whether you want to stay. Seems it’s just that straightforward.

  30. Jame*

    This is certainly unfair, but I don’t think going to HR is a great move. You’ve already talked to two managers and nothing has changed. Plus, even if you went to HR and they rescinded this guy’s exception, well now you’re in the sights of a top executive. (Yes, he will know it was you)

    OP may or may not care about these consequences but they should keep it in mind

  31. Anonymel*

    I highly recommend OP and maybe her team keep a log of “tried to call Joe on (date) at (time). No response. Left VM. Again no response until (date/time). “Sent Joe time sensitive email (date/time). No response for X days/hours. “Project Snoot was delayed because Joe was unavailable to (do his job).” Whatever. Missed calls, texts, emails, meetings, and the impact of them. If *somehow* his job is getting done, well it’s infuriatingly unfair, but it’s working and let it go, but if there are genuine impacts to work getting finished, HR and his boss NEED to know that. But with that commute schedule, etc.. I don’t see how he’s doing ANYTHING meaningful!

  32. Nilsson Schmilsson*

    So the guy making the most money isn’t required to have full-time childcare. As a manager, he should be SETTING the example, not be exempt from enforcement.

  33. Lily Potter*

    The OP says that she’s “already raised these issues” with the Senior Manager and SM’s manager. What I can’t tell is which issue she’s raised: the workflow issue or the childcare issue. And to be honest, I can’t tell from the letter which is her bigger beef.

    If she’s previously discussed the childcare issue but not the access/workflow issue, it’s time to have the access/workflow discussion with HR, SM’s manager, or whomever might be able to provide guidance on that. It’s a separate issue from the childcare thing. If OP is truly concerned about improving the workflow and can separate that from her irritation about SM getting an exemption from the home childcare requirement, OP might be able to improve things. HR may have previously only heard “Why does SM get an exemption on the child care requirement”, gave an answer (“he’s special, deal with it”) and considered the matter closed.

    Now, if OP’s real beef is that Senior Manager doesn’t have to pay for childcare, OP needs to stop right now. SM is going to get those special privileges for whatever reason. OP complaining about workflow just to correct the “injustice” of SM getting them isn’t something that’s going to end well.

    I’m rambling a bit, but I guess a way to think about it is “Would OP be complaining about the workflow issue if SM didn’t even have kids?”

  34. Grapes are my Jam*

    I wonder what would happen if all the working moms approached this guy and asked for HIS help to advocate for the same arrangement for them? Appeal to his male ego. When he starts making waves, the company will have to re-open the converation and will probably make a different decision.

  35. PlainJane*

    I’d take it from the angle of going back to everyone having the option to work remotely and watch their kids, unless the company was losing a lot of money that way. (If so, then, yeah. But if it’s just a vague sense that everyone *should* have to come to meetings all the time, whether or not it matters, then hey, drop it for everyone. Or, you know, have the company provide daycare. That would solve the problem for everyone. Not to be too radical or anything.)

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The point is that it’s not possible to work properly, either remotely or in office, while also watching kids.

  36. MCMonkeybean*

    I feel like this needs to be broken out into two separate issues:

    1) The question of if this is discrimination: There’s so many factors that make that not a definite “yes.” In addition to Alison’s point about it possible being a perk allowed due to his position rather than his gender, this line in the letter stands out to me: “he requested and was granted continued flexibility, which wasn’t communicated to the rest of the organization as an option.” It doesn’t sound like it was communicated to him as an option either, but was an accommodation he asked for. The letter seems upset this wasn’t proactively offered to anyone, but it doesn’t say if anyone else has asked for any kind of accommodation that was denied?

    2) The problems his arrangement is causing for others: This seems like the bigger issue to focus on. I’d keep pointing out any issues, but try to separate it from his arrangement when you do. Just keep saying things like “we need an answer on this but we can’t get a hold of Bob” whenever issues arise. And if the company does not seem interested in addressing the problem then you’ll have to decide if that’s a deal-breaker for you.

  37. DJ*

    If the kids are at school why isn’t he available during school hours. And sounds like he could pay someone to pick up the kids. Nice job for a college/uni student or someone needing a little cash.
    Also why the trek to send his kids somewhere out of area?
    He could afford to pay for at least a driver or taxi to take the kids to and from school seeing everyone else is probably paying a large proportion of their salary for childcare!

    1. Part time lab tech*

      Have to agree with paying for transport being an easy fix. That’s if you can’t carpool. My neighbour Ubers when she can’t arrange something with another parent. My youngest bikes to school most days and we still help her out.

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