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

1. Company hosts a men-only weekend trip

Our company has grown exponentially since I first joined five years ago and now has over 500 employees. Our owner started hosting a “boys hunting trip” which only male employees from our corporate team attend. At first it was only a few members of our team as we were a smaller company, but now the attendees list is growing.

Only men are invited and are explicitly told to keep quiet about the trip so the women in our office don’t find out about it. I’m not disappointed I don’t get to join in boys weekend. I’m upset that leadership, including HR, thinks it’s okay to leave women out of this event entirely. Our owner doesn’t live anywhere near where our company is based. It’s very rare we get to talk to him, let alone see him for extended periods of time. Now newer male employees will have the chance to speak to him on matters the rest of us don’t get to. I don’t know the best way to address this without the boys club getting angry with me.

Whoa, this isn’t okay. Companies can’t hold events that only men are invited to; it violates federal anti-discrimination law. It’s also profoundly shitty, given that there’s a long history of women being harmed professionally through exactly this kind of all-male socializing, where men get face time and bonding with leadership that the women are left out of (to say nothing of the mentoring, information-sharing, and actual business that often happens at these events). The fact that men are explicitly told to keep women in the company from finding out says someone there knows this isn’t okay.

You and other women in your office should talk to HR and, at a minimum, point out that the company is opening itself to legal liability by holding men-only events. Ideally you’d frame it as an official complaint of discrimination too.

2. Did this employer lie to me about their interview process?

I went through a lengthy interview process that included four rounds of video interviews and two tests that took several hours each. The hiring manager called my references and as far as I heard the calls went well. Then she set me up with a video call with Jane, one of her reports, which she said was for me to ask Jane any questions I had about the team and workplace.

Jane emphasized at the beginning of the call that she had not seen my resume and this wasn’t a job interview, she was just there to be a resource for me. So I asked her a few questions and, when we hit the end of the allotted time, asked if she had any questions for me. Jane repeated that she wasn’t interviewing me and the call was just for my benefit. So I thanked her, she encouraged me to email her if I had any additional questions, and we ended the call. Approximately 45 minutes later, I received a form rejection email from the company’s HR.

While I know that companies can reject people for all kinds of reasons, I am still a bit puzzled about what might have happened here. Given that the manager called my references prior to this conversation with Jane, it seemed like she was very close to hiring me. I’m wondering if Jane/the manager were being dishonest in saying that the conversation was only for my benefit, and if the call was actually an interview that could make or break my hiring. Should you always assume you’re being interviewed when you interact with employees during the hiring process? Additionally, given how long and involved the process was, would I have any standing to reach back out to Jane or the hiring manager and ask what happened? I’m just flabbergasted here and would appreciate any insight you have.

Pretty much every interaction you have with a company during a hiring process counts as part of their assessment process, even if it’s not framed that way. While no one would say that your casual chit chat with receptionist while you wait for your interview to start is an interview, it’s definitely something that could impact your chances if the receptionist passes along particularly good or bad feedback. The same thing goes for how you communicate in emails about scheduling, or with the team member who you chat casually with in the elevator. And so it could be absolutely true that your call with Jane was just to get your questions answered — but Jane still could have impressions from that call that she passed along.

But that doesn’t mean that that’s what happened. It’s possible the rejection was already in the works before you talked with Jane and they decided not to cancel since the call was already scheduled, but HR timed the rejection email weirdly. Or you were their second choice but their first choice accepted the offer that day so rejections went out (again with awkward timing). Or all sorts of other things; it’s impossible to say from the outside. I lean toward thinking a non-Jane explanation is most likely just given the timing — Jane convincing the hiring manager that you were a no and HR sending out the rejection is a lot to happen in the 45 minutes after the call ended (although it’s not impossible).

In any case, you can ask for feedback. Email the hiring manager, not Jane, and don’t frame it as “what happened?” Simply say that you wonder if they have feedback they can share with you about how you could be a stronger candidate in the future. You may or may not get anything useful but, especially after a long hiring process, it’s absolutely okay to ask.

3. Leaving when my contract has a $10,000 penalty for quitting early

I work overnight hours for a media company and I am at the end of my rope.

I signed a contract when I accepted the job in 2020, saying I will stay until September 2022. The unconventional hours, constant negativity, short-staffing and low pay are all contributing to my decision to leave.

I have a few offers on the table, and I am in the headspace to say that quitting really will be in my best interest. The catch is, I have a penalty clause saying I could be fined up to $10,000 and have to cover legal fees if I go before my time is up. Fortunately, I am in the financial place that I can afford to do that, though I would obviously rather not have to pay anything to a company that has so drastically impacted my mental health.

So when I put in my notice, do I say that I’m leaving because of the physical/mental impact this job has had on my life? Or do I say I’ve accepted another offer that I couldn’t turn down?

If you want to maximize the chances that they won’t try to collect on the penalty for breaking the contract, saying that you’re leaving because the job is affecting your health gives you the best shot at that. If you just say you got a better offer, they’re going to rightly feel like … well, you signed a contract agreeing to stay despite that. Health stuff puts it in a different realm and underscores that you don’t have a choice / aren’t just chasing after money. (Not that there’s anything wrong with chasing after money! But it would look like you were being cavalier with a contractual commitment and make them more likely to enforce the remedies the contract gives them.)

4. “Open the kimono”

Can we all agree that the phrase “open the kimono” as a euphemism for providing more transparency should not be used any more? And note that I’ve never heard a woman use that phrase, only men. Keep the kimonos closed, people!

Agreed. It’s problematic on multiple levels and needs to go away.

5. FMLA leave when you work remotely

A comment about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in another post sent me down a rabbit hole of history. And then I ran across something that concerns me a little bit. The FMLA applies when the company has 50 employees within 75 miles. I fear we’re going to see enough employees go remote only to find that they have spread the geography out so that their company now exceeds the 75 mile radius.

You’re eligible to take up to 12 weeks of leave a year under FMLA if: (1) you’ve been employed with your company for 12 months, (2) you’ve worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of the leave, and (3) your employer employs 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite. That last part is what’s concerning you. But here’s the important thing: under the law, home offices are not considered your work site. Instead, FMLA considers your work site to be the physical office location that you report to and receive your work assignments from. So if your company is based in Boston and has 49 employees there plus you working from home in Florida, for FMLA purposes you’re all assigned to that work site, and so the 50-employee threshold is met and you’re eligible.

This doesn’t answer the question of what if there’s no physical location at all, as is becoming more common, or what it means if your boss (the source of your work assignments) is also remote. The only thing I could find on that said, “This predicament isn’t clear and neither the Department of Labor nor case law has given guidance on how to resolve it.”

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