Friday, October 22, 2010

Workplace Discrimination

Hush writes:

I think my boss is discriminating against people who are native Spanish-speakers. We work in food service. The company just hired a new floor manager, He already moved one of the ESL workers to the back of the house instead of her original hostess position. He also made a comment to another worker that one of the Spanish cocktail servers are not the right fit for the look of the restaurant. He then complained that another Spanish speaking coworker frustrates him because his accent sometimes makes him hard to understand. These are not people who are disciplinary problems, because if they were they'd not be working here. What can I do at this point now that I see a pattern? And how does this new guy know I'M not Spanish? SO far he seems to trust my abilities and often asks me to cover the cocktail hours, but I don't think it's fair to the people who have been there longer. But since he is my boss and people have hired him to do this job, I am sure they have confidence in him. So maybe I'm wrong?

First, don't assume this man is above reproach just because he got hired for the job. There are plenty of bad managers, and plenty of bigots that work their way into positions of power. "Do you think Hispanic people should be allowed to work the front of the house" isn't a typical interview question. Based on the information you've provided, I think it's safe to say your new boss is exhibiting an ethnic bias, and this isn't a behavior that should be allowed to continue.

That said, this is an accusation that could potentially cost your boss his job, and it should not be made lightly. 

Pay attention the next few times you're at work, and try to document every time he disciplines or makes comments about an employee's behavior. You have to be sure that he's treating the Hispanic employees differently and that he's not just and equal opportunity asshole. I'm not saying you need to walk around with a tape recorder in your pocket--in fact, don't. Just jot down a note when you notice him complaining about or mistreating someone.

Also find out if whether or not you're alone in this observation. In my experience restaurant employees like to gossip, so if you can avoid it, don't bring your suspicions up. Just wait for someone else to mention it. Regardless of whether or not he's acting intentionally, if employees are troubled by his behavior, it constitutes harassment. Finding out if others share your feelings is a good gauge of whether or not you're overreacting.

When you're ready to take action, do a little research. If you work for a large chain or franchise, the corporate office will likely have a hotline you can call to report abuse. If it's a privately owned restaurant, you may need to find a way to speak with the owner.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'd Be Fed Up Too

Fed UP writes:

How do I get my husband to shower more often? I have to practically beg him every few days to get into a shower, and he sometimes thinks because he works long hours that it interrupts his down time. That's fine, but my sheets smell so bad and I have to change them more frequently than I'd like to. Plus I have to remind him I won't have sex unless he's showered and he doesn't care it seems. He'll shower if I ask him to fool around, but I'd sometimes like for him to be showered and ready without me asking. And no matter how hard I try...I ask nicely, I remind him he's a grown up and grown ups shower every day or every other day, I even tell him that I would like more spontaneous sex and it's not happening with his hygeine habits. It is fixed for about 2 weeks and then he goes back to the man who then makes me nag him into a shower. He's not depressed, just lazy. I don't know how else to explain to him I prefer him to be clean. 

This is just gross. I assume his showering habits didn't change after you got married. So WHY did you marry a man who can't take care of basic hygiene? Does he brush his teeth? Does he shave? You can shower in 5 minutes. The claim that it's eating away at his down time is just ridiculous.

And how does this prioritization of his down time affect your division of household labor? I can't imagine that anyone who can't bother to clean his own body ever even thinks about the dishes, or running a vacuum cleaner.

I have a hard time believing this doesn't affect other aspects of his life. You say he works long hours, but what does he do? I can't think of a single work setting where it wouldn't be noticed if someone wasn't bathing themselves regularly. Dirty, smelly people don't get raises and promotions like people who wash do.

So what should you do? First, you should get him into counseling. You may not think he's depressed, but there's clearly something wrong. Maybe talking to an impartial party will help him realize it. And until he turns himself around, I have no problem with giving him a little passive-aggressive taste of his own medicine. I don't suggest you stop showering, but you can stop shaving, stop doing his laundry, and stop doing the dishes. When he realizes how annoying it is to live in filth, maybe he'll change his ways. Immature, yes. But sometimes immature people can't be dealt with maturely.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Bar or Not To Bar

Tina asks:

I have been arguing with my future in laws, and I disagree with them. I have been to many weddings over the years and it is absolutely disgusting to watch wedding guests getting drunk, simply because the booze is free and flowing like water. And if any of these people have a car accident on the way home from the reception because they are drunk, guess who is liable?

We are planning a beautiful wedding and my family are NOT drinkers. There will be a champagne toast and wine with dinner. Other than that, if our guests need to get drunk in order to enjoy themselves, they can hit a bar on their way home, ON THEIR OWN. We are not going to provide them with free liquor and we are not going to be responsible if they wrap themselves around a tree on the way home or harm someone else on the road. 

How did I get my in laws to understand that I do not want to fund the all night party line? The "tradition" of getting sloshed at wedding receptions and expecting the bride and groom (or their parents) to provide and pay for free liquor should be stopped. Please help, thanks!

Ultimately, the amount of alcohol you serve at your wedding is up to you (or the person paying for your wedding). In that regard, you are right to make the decision for yourself and your in-laws are wrong to demand more of you. Stop discussing the issue with them. If they bring it up, let them know that that part of the reception has already been planned and you're on to choosing table runners now.

However, unless you keep the company of extremely classless people, I think your characterization of "sloshed" guests and assumption that people only get drunk because the booze is free is overblown. I have been to many weddings, and while there are always a few people who overindulge, the majority of guests drink enough to maintain a happy buzz throughout the evening. They also generally drink no more or no less than they would if they were paying for the alcohol themselves.

Think about it this way. Weddings are happy, celebratory events. Drinking makes people feel happy. It makes shy people more willing to get out on the dance floor. It makes tables full of people who don't know each other well feel better about socializing.

As an adult hosting a party for adults, it's only polite to offer adult beverages. If you're worried about those who overindulge, you can instruct your bartenders to be strict about over-serving. If you're worried that underage guests will get served, you can again instruct your bartenders to card everyone. For the record, it's the servers of the alcohol that could be held liable if a guest wraps hims car around a tree, so it's in their best interest to be vigilant.

And consider this: if the people you are inviting to your wedding are the types to get sloshed in the presence of an open bar, they're not going to be pleased to find out one isn't available. Be prepared for cousins and college friends to show up with flasks, for Aunt Gertrude to hide the bottle of table wine under her skirt, and for those who weren't able to secure their own source of booze to leave early.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Ann writes:

I loaned my car to my daughter for a work event she was attending. Her car was in the shop, and I offered to let her use mine because it was for an important meeting and this way she didn't have to rent a car. She was reimbursed for mileage and gas. Well, she was the driver for herself and 3 other larger ladies. I have an older car, and it seems that the weight of the 3 women plus my daughter caused the transmission to drop out from underneath. This didn't happen until I drove out from my driveway into the street the next day, My daughter said she didn't have any problems with the car.

Well, I called her company and spoke to her supervisor to tell them I feel they should reimburse me for the $140 in damages it cost to fix the dropped transmission, and they said they are not liable for what happened to my car after she returned from the meeting. My daughter is upset that I would go behind her back and contact her boss, but I did not do this to my car. She said she'd pay me half of what it cost to fix the problem, but I think her company should pay. Who's right??

Well. First of all, let me answer the question. If someone damages property that they have borrowed, they should of course offer reimbursement to repair said property or to buy a new item. It would be up to your daughter to take that reimbursement up with her boss, since she incurred the expense during a work event.

Likewise, the company has every right to deny the claim, considering any damage happened after your daughter returned the car. You shouldn't have been making the claim in the first place, and you shouldn't be upset that the company claims zero liability.

But I have to call shenanigans on the technical part of your letter. Your transmission dropped what? A gear? Out of the car? Either way, it would cost a hell of a lot more than $140 to fix any part of a transmission (except maybe a general flush and re-lube). And I don't really see any way for the weight of four people who - and yes, I'm assuming here, but I think it's a sound assumption - fit in the vehicle to make it so heavy that the transmission would fail to operate properly over the course of one day.

More likely, your transmission was failing before you ever loaned the car. I don't know if your mechanic was trying to wiggle out of failing to notice a problem at your last scheduled service, or if you made this story fit together out of a mangled understanding of physics and what was actual wrong with your vehicle, but there's just no way your daughter's coworkers caused this problem.

So, ultimately, no one owes you any money - and you probably owe your daughter an apology.



Do you ever want to just scream at the people who write to you to stop being such whiney simpletons?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Apartment Living

Annie asks:

Hey there! I just moved into my first apartment after college. It's great! But I think i have a slumlord landlord and need advice. First, the toilet starated to leak a week after I moved in, and the landlord had a plumber to fix it that day. Then I told him that the drain was moving slow in the sink when I brushed my teeth, and he bought Drano to "fix" the clog. It works fine now, but still drains a little slow and the landlord said it is because the sink is small it's only 18 inches and a small bowl, and that once the water is turned off from the faucets that the water actually goes down the drain just fine. I don't know why the plumber could not come back, but whatever, I guess the landlord didn't believe me? So then I called back a week later to let him know that the tub drain was also moving slow, and water was draining slowly when I finished my shower. And he said to try using the rest of the bottle of drano to see if it unclogs. I have not used the drano yet because I called a plumber on my own to ask advice and the plumber told me never to use harsh chemicals on drains because they corrode pipes. So I have not used the Drano. Should I call a lawyer to get them to write a letter to the landlord demanding he call a plumber to fix my broken tub? I thought that landlords are supposed to fix problems that tenants have, and I should not have to keep asking him to call plumbers for faulty bathroom pipes, right? Do you think this is grounds to get my security deposit back and move out?

Of course the plumber is going to tell you not to use Draino. He gets paid more if he has to come in, right? According to ask the builder, it would take years of active Draino use to corrode your pipes to the point of damage. I'm sure you're not planning to rent this place for the rest of your life.

Also understand that different homes have different quirks. If you're thinking of moving out over this you're in for a rude awakening when your next apartment has a creaky stair, and the one after that has a flickering lightbulb, and the one after that has a draft near the windows. You can't expect the plumbing to work perfectly all the time. Your landlord is not a slumlord for choosing effective DIY fixes over hiring professionals for every little problem.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Management 101

Kip writes:

I don't know what to do. I am a manager and I get great reviews at work. I have a wonderful rapport with the group of people I work with. lately work has been stressful. I have an assistant who is rarely reliable, and who manages to slip under the radar by making other people catch her mistakes so she won't feel the heat. It is to the point that my immediate superior is not confident in her abilities. However, they cannot let her go because there's never been any documentation of her mistakes. SO now I feel like the burden of the department is on my shoulders because this one is unreliable, and I am working long hours to make up for the job she's not doing. I am afraid to say anything because management positions in my field are hard to come by, and I am scared they will fire me for not being flexible. I've been asked to change my shift at the last minute, sometimes being told to go home and come back later, because the assistant cannot be relied on to get things right. Should I just be happy they have confidence in me, or do I have the right to tell them I can't do these long hours anymore? I can't find anywhere that lets me know my rights as a worker in the United States.

Well, Kip, it's time to manage. This isn't about your rights as a worker, it's about your ability to get your team to perform. Think of the confidence your supervisor will have--and the job security you'll gain--if you can take this unreliable employee and turn her into a success.

This means that instead of covering for your assistant, you need to start holding her accountable for her mistakes. Just because nothing has been documented before doesn't mean you can't start. Let her know  her work has been unsatisfactory--and don't wait until review time to do it. I'm a strong believer that performance ratings should not be a surprise. If this woman is used to having other people pick up her slack, and hasn't been reprimanded before, she may not even realize how little confidence in her you have. Provide her with specific items to improve on, and a means to measure success.

I'm going to guess that other employees in your office don't particularly enjoy being thrown under the bus, so it shouldn't be difficult to convince them to stop taking falls.

Just keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to make this assistant a good employee, NOT to get her fired. Sure, if her performance doesn't turn around, you'll now have the documentation necessary to terminate her, but as a manager, the better your employees look, the better you look. Getting rid of her fixes the short term problem, but doesn't guarantee that her replacement will be better. On the other hand, helping her improve will win you both a lot of professional respect.

Tread carefully, as people don't like to be told they're doing a bad job. Frame your requests and your criticism wrong, and she's not going to be motivated to do better. In fact, she may end up doing worse. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Whoa Baby!

Hot and Bothered asks:

What can I do? My husband is never in the mood for sex, and it's been about a month since the last time we were intimate that way. He just is afraid that because I am pregnant, it is dangerous, even though he logically knows different. BUT I caught him in the livingroom 3 times in the past 2 weeks "molesting himself" (sorry!) while watching porn. SO I know he wants to have the fun, just not with me. I tried sexy outfits, I tried explaining that it's nt dangerous, so I guess it's just me? Does this mean I should be considerate and wait until after the baby is born and our sex life now is in the coffin? Or is there anything else I can do? I am starting to feel really self conscious, and not sexy at all, because I know my belly is getting in the way so it's a constant reminder that he just doesn't want me that way anymore.

First, you have nothing to feel self-conscious about. If your husband doesn't recognize the beauty of your pregnancy, then he has problems that are bigger than your sex life.

He may have a legitimate--though irrational--fear that needs to be dealt with. Since your assurances that sex is safe aren't getting through to him, try taking him to your next appointment, and have the doctor explain it to him. If that doesn't work, the doctor may be able to suggest other ways for him to get over his phobia.

More importantly, tell him how you feel. Again, if this is caused by a phobia, he may not realize that rejecting you is hurting your self-confidence. Talk it through and come up with a solution that works for both of you.

You may decide to wait until after the baby is born to have sex, but I wouldn't wait that long to talk. In the chance that his problem isn't actually motivated by fear, you're prolonging the issue. There's always a possibility that more excuses will pop up as time goes, so you want to deal with this now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Annie asks:

I'm in a bad financial situation these days because I just found out I lost my job. I didn't get paid any of my leftover sick or vacation time because the company went bankrupt so I am stuck. I recently went to a wedding and gave a generous gift of $200, but regret doing that this past weekend. Is there any way I could ask the couple to give the money back due to my circumstances? It would really help until unemployment kicks in since I have to wait a week for that, and my rent is due and I can't be late on that of course. Thanks!

I'm sorry you've found yourself in this situation. Unfortunately, there is no polite way to ask someone to return a gift. Do you have a close friend or family member who can float you a short-term loan to cover you until your unemployment kicks in? If you've been on-time with your rent up until now, you could also try contacting your landlord and explaining your situation. It's possible that he or she will grant you a short extension.

In the mean time, I'd start focusing more on finding a new job than on trying to get back gifts you've given to friends. If you're at a point where $200 will make or break you, I wouldn't focus on finding something in your field so much as finding anything. With the holiday season coming up, it's a great time to get temporary retail work. You still won't have a paycheck in hand before rent's due, but at least you'll be able to be back on track by next month.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Couch Potato

Cori writes:

My boyfriend likes to eat while he watches TV. He always has a bag of chips or a sandwich or something. He gets salt and grease and pizza sauce and everything else all over the remote control. It grosses me out to touch it. I keep a box of tissues on the side-table so that I can use those to punch the buttons, but that is annoying. How do I get him to stop?

Ewwww. I don't think I could date someone who was too much of a slob to wipe his hands off before touching the remote. If that much gunk is getting on the remote, think of what's lurking between your couch cushions. I'd put some serious consideration into getting a second TV for the kitchen, or else a new boyfriend.

I assume you've already tried asking him nicely to use a napkin? If he refuses to change his ways, you may have a larger problem on your hands. Sloppyness at that level usually isn't limited to the living room, and I honestly don't know that I could date someone who wouldn't clean up after himself.

It's time to set some serious boundaries, such as no food outside the kitchen. However, be warned that if you're not willing to leave when things don't improve, you don't have a lot of bargaining room. Decide just how much you're willing to live with, and act accordingly.