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

1. My coworker always assumes someone will drive him to meetings

I have a coworker who always assumes that someone will drive him to and from meetings outside our facility. He owns a car but usually takes public transportation to work since it’s cheaper and his wife can use the car. It’s one thing to give him a ride to a meeting from work because we are going the same place, but he never asks, he just follows you out to your car. He also never says thank-you or offers gas money. The worst part is he also assumes you will drive him back downtown in rush hour traffic so he can get a bus home, and gets upset when no one will drive him. Most of us don’t even live in that direction, and I don’t think his transportation should be my responsibility. Any advice for how to deal with this situation?

You’re right that his transportation isn’t your responsibility. That said, depending on your office norms around ride-sharing to meetings, it might not look great if you flatly refuse to take him to a meeting you’re going to yourself. But there are ways to get out of that, like “Sorry, I need to make a stop on the way so can’t take passengers” or “I can do it in an emergency, but generally I prefer to drive alone.” (That last one sounds pretty chilly and I’d only use it if he’s a bad passenger in some way.)

But you absolutely don’t need to drive him back afterwards if you’re not going back to the office! You can say, “I can drive you there but won’t be able to take you back afterwards; I’m heading straight home from the meeting.” If he gets upset, that’s on him — he’ll need to plan his own transportation rather than relying on coworkers to go out of their way (in rush hour!).

As for the lack of thank-you’s and gas money … he might not be offering gas money because he assumes you’re submitting for mileage reimbursement (if you’re not, you should be). But is anyone in a position to say to him, “Hey, you’re relying on all of us for rides but never saying thank-you or acknowledging it’s a favor, and people will be more willing to help if you do”?

2. My new hire didn’t tell me she’s pregnant — can I fire her?

I have taken a employee on and after four weeks work she has told me she is almost five months pregnant and did not say so at the interview because she’d been told that no one would employ her. I feel lied to. Do I have any rights in this issue? Can I terminate her or legally do I have to keep her on?

No, you can’t legally fire her for being pregnant; that would violate the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. And you wouldn’t have hired her if you’d known she was pregnant, that would have been illegal too.

In fairness, I should note that if you have fewer than 15 employees, that law doesn’t cover you. But if that’s the case, firing her is highly likely to make you look like an awful person to the rest of your employees, and I advise against it. It will particularly not help the morale or loyalty of any employees who might become pregnant in the future, want to become pregnant in the future, or have spouses who might become pregnant in the future, or of women, or of people who care about women. So … lots of people.

She also had zero obligation to have disclosed her pregnancy to you before you hired her — and your reaction now is exactly why people told her not to.

People get pregnant. They still need jobs while they’re pregnant. Accepting that — and accepting that you can’t discriminate against them — is part of the deal when you employ people.

3. Are my rough drafts porny?

I recently had a weird experience where I don’t know if I should be changing a practice or if another person is being silly. I’m in an early career position where I’m writing a lot of memos and short papers. Sometimes I have to share documents and drafts before all the details of an issue are known or researched so I use a bolded “XXX” in the text to signal where I need to plug something in. (For example: “of the 542 participants, XXX said they would repeat the program” or “XXX% of their funding comes from…”) I find it easy to type and easy to spot in a document full of text.

However, I recently had a senior team member (who considers herself a mothering person) come to me, scandalized, because I was putting “porn symbols” in the drafts. I never once considered this to be an issue (while I now know what “XXX” can imply, I started doing this as a fill-this-in-later when I was an early teen). I don’t want to be stubborn, but I also feel like if someone is being ridiculous it’s better to hold your ground. Do I change my drafting process?

Your coworker is being ridiculous. “XXX” is a common placeholder in documents. It’s not a “porn symbol” in this context.

That said, if she has a lot of influence in your office, you might be better off just rolling your eyes internally and changing to “XX,” which is also common for this kind of use. On the other hand, if she’s widely considered to be absurd/doesn’t have a lot of standing, you might be perfectly fine continuing as you have been. If you’re unsure, you can always ask your boss if she cares. (I would be sincerely delighted to get this question from an employee.)

4. My husband’s resume includes old stuff that I think he should remove

My husband, who is 32, just recently went back to school for accounting after about 10 years of being in customer service jobs. He’s had steady employment for the last five years, despite having a short gap between his last job and going back to school. He’s working to finish his bachelor’s and will also get a Master’s of Accounting. He’s starting the process of meeting with firms and going to his school’s meet-the-firm nights and fairs, with the goal of getting an internship or job offer.

He recently asked for my help on his resume. He wrote up a draft and it was appallingly bad — like, the kind of quality I’d expect from my 13-year-old brother, or someone putting together a resume for the first time. Think no formatting, inconsistent font sizing, subjective descriptions. I reformatted the whole thing according to your guidelines, and helped him change it into a resume to be proud of.

However, he is adamant about including three things: his Eagle Scout award (which he received in high school), his Mormon mission in Brazil (which was in 2006-2008), and the fact that he was part of the volunteer clean-up crews for Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan.

My husband is not a stupid man — he’s in fact quite brilliant and loves math and accounting and is headed toward a stellar career. But I am struggling to get him to see how having these three things on his professional resume could hurt his job search. None of them are relevant to accounting, all are over 10 years old, and none resulted in any promotable skills (he’s no longer fluent in Portuguese). I think that including them will show him as out-of-touch and, honestly, unprofessional.

Can you back me up on this? Am I right that these need to go? We are in Utah, if that makes a difference. (It doesn’t to me. I still don’t think a mission or volunteer service from 10+ years ago have any place on a resume!)

Eh, I’m less concerned than you are! I’d tell him take off the hurricane clean-up work (it’s just too old to feel at all relevant), but mainly it’s just a bad use of space. If he’s otherwise a strong candidate, people might think it’s a little odd to have it listed but they’re not going to reject him over it. (To be clear, he should remove them. If he’s reading this: Remove those, sir! But it’s not so bad that it’s worth a big argument.)

The Eagle Scout award is sort of its own category. You’re right that the typical rule is not to include things from high school, but there are a lot of people who are super impressed by Eagle Scouts, consider it kind of a lifetime honor, and will ask him about it in interviews. (I don’t get it, but that’s how it is.) It’s fine to leave it on.

The Mormon mission is the thing I’d push hardest to remove — religion and resumes shouldn’t mix, and a lot of people will see that and think he doesn’t understand that it won’t be universally well received (and may wonder if he’ll bring religion into the workplace in problematic ways). But in Utah, this might be less of an issue. Still, though, I’d push for removing it. The strongest argument with him might be that he presumably has other, stronger qualifications that it’s better to focus hiring managers on. A resume shouldn’t list everything he’s ever done; it should list the things that most strengthen his candidacy. For an accounting job, I’m skeptical that a mission falls in that category.

5. Is it too early to ask about how we handle vacations around the holidays?

I’m at my first job just out of college and was wondering when I should ask someone at my office what people generally do for PTO during the holidays (by which I mean the week of Christmas to New Year’s), as I’m not sure if everyone uses their PTO to take the full week or if people actually come in that week. Is now a good time to bring that up, or should I be waiting?

What complicates things is that I live on the east coast and my family is on the west coast, and my company generally has a big week-long meeting near where my family is in the beginning of January. I’m considering taking the week of Christmas off, and then taking the week of New Year’s to work remotely, so that I don’t have to fly between coasts three times in as many weeks (six-hour flights are exhausting!) and can just drive to the company meeting. While my company is generally pretty lax about working from home, I definitely will want to run that by my manager first before booking travel, but I’m not sure if now is too early to ask.

Now isn’t too early! Go ahead and ask. Even without the travel complication, you could just say, “I’m making holiday plans and wondering how people normally handle the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Do most people come in? Is it okay to plan to take time off then, or is there a system for coverage I should be aware of?” (That last part is because in some jobs you might be expected to be there then if other people have already put in vacation requests for that week. In other jobs, that won’t be an issue at all — but it’s good to find out how your office does it.)

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