my boyfriend pretended to be a doctor, I called a coworker a moron, and more

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

1. I overheard my boyfriend pretending to be a doctor

I’ve recently moved in with my boyfriend (one week prior to our city’s stay home order) and so we hear a lot of each other working these days. He’s in marketing for hospice care and talks to a lot of families and patients to get them onto his company’s service. Yesterday I overheard a call with a family where he called himself a doctor. He’s not a doctor in any way, shape, or form. I asked him about it after the call and he said that the wife (the patient) hates the idea of hospice care and the son referred to him as a doctor on earlier discussions so she thought it was just the doctor recommending home care.

Am I wrong to have some serious ethical issues with that? I understand how hard end of life is, but pretending to be an MD seems a step too far. I told my boyfriend that I didn’t think that was appropriate, but he brushed it off. I don’t want to let harp on it, but it just doesn’t feel right to me.

Whoa. Deliberately misleading a patient into believing you’re a doctor so they take your recommendations more seriously is fraudulent. In many (all?) states it’s illegal. And doing it to sell his company’s services to someone? That’s incredibly unethical and just … really wrong. And it’s such an attack on the dignity and agency of the woman he deceived.

You are right to have serious ethical issues with this.

2. My employer says we’re still furloughed but we’re back at work

My employer furloughed the majority of employees for COVID reasons. My southern state has decided that it is time to “re-open” so my employer is back to business with the usual additional precautions. Instead of bringing employees back full-time, we are being kept on furlough but working full-time hours. Refusal to return to work is considered a resignation. Because I’m furloughed, I’m not accumulating PTO or having my 401k matched. My salary has not changed. Their reasoning is that if we have to close again because of a COVID infection, we wouldn’t have reapply for unemployment.

Is this legal? Can they force me to work full time while furloughed? If I were not to show up to work, would it be considered a resignation or would it be a layoff because I wasn’t a technically full-time employee? I’m not planning to make any moves either way, but I’m look for an outside perspective. I know several coworkers have already raised similar concerns with management.

It’s bizarre that they’re telling you you’re still furloughed while having you work-full time. You’re not furloughed. “Furloughed” means you’re not working and not getting paid. You’re back to work, just with some of your previous benefits package gone. They’re just (badly) using wordplay to avoid saying, “We’re bringing you back to work but canceling 401K matches and you won’t be accruing vacation.”

Saying this is to do you a favor (to keep you from having to reapply for unemployment) is laughable. They are doing themselves a favor by lowering their payroll costs; you don’t benefit. It’s not inherently wrong for them to do this to lower their payroll costs! Their finances may demand it right now. But they are wrong to pitch it to you this way.

The subject line of your email to me was “furlough fuckery,” and that’s a good description of this.

To your questions: Yes, this is legal. Yes, they can call you back to work. And yes, if you decline to continue coming in, you’d be considered to have abandoned the job / turned down suitable work, and that would make you ineligible for unemployment. (This will get more intuitive once you realize you’re not still furloughed but in fact are back at work.)

3. I called my coworker a moron

Our offices have been closed except for a couple of essential personnel since early March. About 45 of us are teleworking, but two people who aren’t strictly essential have elected to come in anyway. This benefits one of our business groups, who really need someone in the office for hands-on work, but the parent company (and our program manager) made it clear that all personnel in the building, whether truly essential or not, were required to wear masks at all times.

Many of us must make quick trips into the office to retrieve bills or other items that are still coming in, and when I went in yesterday, one of those two non-essential guys opened the door to a closed office I was in, standing about 3-4 feet away, and he had no mask on. I had on my mask, and when I said “Where’s your mask?” he replied, “I’m standing six feet away from you.”
Well, he wasn’t. I said, “No, you aren’t, you’re barely four feet away” and he continued to say, “I’m six feet away from you.” I continued to say, “Where’s your mask? Why aren’t you wearing your mask?”

I was genuinely shocked to see this guy bare-faced, despite clear corporate orders and instructions from our manager. He kept being “cute” and saying, with a smile that made me want to smack him, that he was standing six feet from me. Then he added that MY mask would protect us both, and he wasn’t going to wear a mask. That’s when I lost it and said, “Moron.”

My own small internal team says I don’t owe him an apology, that he blatantly put us both at risk, plus the people who MUST work in the building, plus anyone else who must make a quick trip there. I’m not inclined to be gracious and apologize. I know he will not apologize to me for anything. But I also know I shouldn’t have called him that.

I doubt seriously that he will say anything to our manager, because then he’d have to admit why I said it in the first place. I’m still angry about his careless behavior and stated refusal to wear the mask. What say you?

He’s an enormous ass. You shouldn’t have said it, because you shouldn’t ever call your coworkers names, but you were correct in your assessment and you were provoked.

Personally, I’d let your manager know he wasn’t wearing a mask and refused to wear one despite multiple requests. If you want, feel free to say, “I lost my cool with him toward the end and was sharper than I intended to be.” I don’t think you’re likely to get in serious trouble for what you said, given the context (as opposed to if you’d said it in a discussion about his work) and the reality that emotions are running high right now. If anything, the most likely outcome is that your manager will just tell you not to do it again — and she should deal with your coworker’s actions with far more severity.

4. How soon should I follow up on a promotion once we’re back at work?

I had an interview for a full-time position in the library I currently work part time for. It is basically the full time version of what I do now (reference). The interview occurred in early March. They had still not made a decision a week later. A few days later we closed because of the virus. A few weeks after that, the director told the entire staff that we were under a hiring freeze. My question is how soon after we get back in the building should I ask about the job? Or should I just let them approach me and not even mention it? I want to show that I am still very interested in the position, but don’t want to seem pushy or insensitive. What should I do?

I’d wait a week after you’re back and then say, “I assume the hiring freeze is still in effect, but I wanted to check that with you, since I remain really interested in the X position whenever we’re ready to move forward.” You’re indicating you’re clear on the circumstances and not out of touch, but just checking in.

5. Phishing attempt said our company was closing down

How’s this for some Covid-related work anxiety: 10 minutes after I got off the phone with my realtor about an offer I’m going to put on a house later today, I got an email saying that as my time at my company is coming to an end, please take this exit survey. WHAT?! I’m in an essential industry that is pretty stable right now, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune; my biggest project is indefinitely delayed due to covid, and while I have other work to do, my heart dropped thinking I was being furloughed, laid off, or fired.

Turns out a bunch of people at the company got the same message, and right now it looks like it was a malware attack/phishing attempt. Hackers are being smart and preying on people’s current fears. Luckily I work at a decently sane company and I knew from reading your blog that they would be very unlikely to send that email without having a conversation with me first (so thank you for that), but I still thought it could be just a mistake in the timing and not the fact that I got it, so it was a roller coaster of emotions this morning.

I’m printing this so others are aware!

my boyfriend pretended to be a doctor, I called a coworker a moron, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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