Home Jobs & Career a work baby shower without gifts, using sick time for psychedelic therapy, and more — Ask a Manager

a work baby shower without gifts, using sick time for psychedelic therapy, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. A virtual baby shower … with no shower

I work for a primarily remote company, and last fall I gave birth to my second child. Our small team (less than 20) comprises mostly women in their late 20s-early 30s, and I’m in my late 30s. A few weeks before my due date, I was surprised with a calendar invite for my virtual team baby shower. I was surprised because no one asked me whether I wanted to have a baby shower, and no one asked about my registry or if I had a preference for gifts. There was another team member whose wife was also pregnant, so this was a joint baby shower.

Overall it was fine, though a little awkward over Zoom. We played a game where we tried to guess which baby photos were of which team members. However, there was no gifting involved whatsoever. It seemed like it was just an acknowledgement that babies were on the way. I can’t help feeling that the organizers, being a bit younger, maybe haven’t been to a baby shower and didn’t know that the “shower” aspect means gift-giving? And I wonder if the other attendees assumed that the parent company sent me a gift of some sort, and whether anyone feels slighted that I didn’t send a thank-you note in return?

As small as this is, it has stuck with me. I think the time for bringing it up has certainly passed, but my instinct is to get involved in the planning of any future showers to ensure the expectant family is celebrated in the way most helpful for them. These issues are certainly small potatoes, but as a gut-check, am I being petty?

You’re not being petty, but you’re missing the fact that work showers are often more about celebrating the impending birth than giving gifts. It’s true that normally the whole point of a shower is to “shower” the expectant parents with things for the baby … but at work, there’s a competing (and more important) principle of “don’t pressure people to spend money on work celebrations.” Some offices resolve that by having the party with the gift-giving removed.

However, your coworkers shouldn’t throw showers for people without asking if they want one first! Some people won’t want one for personal reasons, and some people don’t do them for religious reasons. So if you’re able to influence future events, that’s the part I’d focus on — getting people’s permission first. (Also, maybe get rid of that baby picture game, which is problematic for a bunch of other reasons.)

2. Can I use sick time for psychedelic treatment?

I suffer from treatment-resistant depression and have been exploring the option of seeing a psilocybin facilitator. Oregon recently legalized the use of psilocybin if used under the supervision of a licensed facilitator, and there are plenty of studies and anecdotes that suggest psilocybin can really help with depression.

The experience itself and subsequent integration would take up an entire day on its own, and since I don’t live in Oregon I’d have to take time off to travel as well. That means realistically I’d have to take 2-3 days off to do this, using either sick or vacation time.

My thought is that, while this is an experimental treatment, I am seeking it out to treat a mental health condition, so it would be fine to use sick time for the day itself. I’m less sure whether using it for the travel time would be okay as well, though I lean toward feeling like it would be.

For context, I have been at my employer for about four months and have generally received praise from my boss and coworkers, but I am still relatively new. Also the amount of vacation time my employer provides is okay but not great, so I’m reluctant to use it for anything except true vacations. Do you think this is something I can ethically use sick time for? Or should I use vacation time instead? (Either way, I wouldn’t tell my boss or coworkers why I’m taking the time off, I’d keep it vague.)

Yes, you can ethically use sick time for that. It’s for the purpose of treating a health condition, and the travel time is as well (just like if you took a week of sick time to travel to the Mayo Clinic and consult specialists).

I assume you’re feeling weird about it because Psychedelic Mushrooms! but it’s a state-legal medical treatment, and it’s no different than taking time off for another medical treatment someone else might not agree with (chiropractic? Chinese medicine?). Your employer doesn’t get to sign off on what medical treatments you pursue; that’s between you and your health care providers.

3. My coworker gave me no heads-up before my meeting with an outside consultant

A colleague, Tim, reached out and asked if I could talk about a process my team handles. When I got into the virtual meeting, the only person there was someone I did not know who introduced themselves as an outside consultant, Melanie.

I went into this meeting thinking I was meeting with Tim. He gave me no heads-up that I was meeting with a consultant, so I was thrown off kilter.

I gave Melanie the excuse that an emergency message just popped up that I needed to deal with and asked her to bear with me for a minute. Then I quickly contacted to Tim to see if he was joining the meeting. He did join, but commented that he hadn’t planned on actually attending the meeting. I stumbled my way (badly…) through the rest of the meeting.

I’ve met with consultants before, but somebody in the department they’re working with always reaches out beforehand to say something along the lines of, “Hey, we’re working with XYZ Consulting on a process improvement project and we’d like you to talk to them about our X process.”

The process Melanie wanted to know about is not one that would be shared out in detail to people who don’t have a need to know. If I hadn’t been able to get Tim to verify that this was indeed a person who was officially affiliated with our organization, what could I have done?

Yeah, it’s appropriate to be wary of sharing your company’s internal processes with a complete stranger who no one told you you’d be meeting with! (Has Tim never watched any spy shows?! He needs to watch The Americans immediately.)

If you hadn’t been able to reach Tim, you could have said to Melanie, “I’m so sorry, but Tim didn’t tell me I’d be meeting with an outside consultant and, given our information security policies, I can’t do the meeting without some clarity from him so we’ll need to reschedule.” That inconvenience would be on Tim, not you.

4. Is unequal pay illegal if it’s not based on a protected class?

Are there are legal ramifications for inequitable pay if it’s not based in protected class? Some huge differences just came out at our company and it seems like in some instances there may be a nearly six-figure difference in salaries, based on people who have been at the company longer versus newer hires. The lower salaries affect probably about 10% of the company. The company admits they never adjusted existing salaries up when the location changed and they hired new people in the higher cost of living area; titles are the same but many of the people making less have more experience, a notably higher workload, and have generated more revenue. There are no overall protected class disparities between the people with the high and low salaries.

The company basically says sorry, we know, maybe we can fix later when the economy is better … but no one believes that change is actually coming. Is there anything to be done to force their hand?

Pay inequities are only illegal when they’re either based on a protected class (like race, sex, religion, national origin, etc.) or when they have a disparate impact on a protected class (like you end up paying men more on average for the same work because they negotiated differently when they were hired, or so forth). The law doesn’t address other types of unequal pay.

That doesn’t mean there’s no pressure you could apply to your company, though. This is what worker organizing is for (which could mean unionizing but doesn’t have to — the law protects your ability to organize with coworkers for better wages regardless of whether you’re doing it within the formal structure of a union or not).

5. Can I still get severance if I find a new job right away?

I work for a large company that is in the process of acquiring a major competitor. I know that part of this process will include layoffs, given the number of redundant positions between the two companies, so I’m proactively job searching in case my role ends up being one of the ones eliminated.

If the timing were to work out where I got a job offer very shortly after being laid off, would I still be entitled to severance, or do severance offers typically contain some sort of clause that they will end if the person finds new employment?

Most commonly, you’d get the severance regardless of how quickly you find another job; in many cases, you could accept a large severance package covering months of pay and begin working a new job the next day, if the timing worked out that way. But that only what’s most common, not what’s true 100% of the time; there are also severance agreements that stop paying out once you find new work. So you’d need to carefully read whatever you’re signing and see exactly how your company is structuring it before you can know for sure.

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