Me, 34F. Piecing old memories together with new info I just got.
Dec. 2019, I tell boss I'll be quitting end of jan. 2020 to be self-employed, but boss asks me to stay on payroll so he can 'contract out' work to me easily. On my last day, coworkers leave me a goodbye card with $1000 cash in it. March 2020, I move a few hours away.
Last week (mar. 2023), I see a former coworker who pats my stomach and asks if this is 'my second'. I internally die because OH SHE THINKS IM PREGGO. I know I'm ~20 pounds over where I'd like to be, and a lot of that is on my gut, coupled with a super curved lower spine that made my belly stick out even before I got fat.
I tell coworker I don't have any kids, haha, I'm just fat, she looks awkward, I feel awkward, 0/10 experience, would not repeat.
This morning I get a call from HR passing on a message from a different coworker asking for the 'going away' cash to be returned, as it was meant as a maternity gift 'for my baby' and that me 'being fat' and 'wearing shirts that emphasize my belly' was deceptive and I tricked that coworker into thinking I was pregnant.
HR says she overheard the convo about me leaving but continuing to do some work in the coming months and took that as my maternity leave? She took donations from the staff under that pretense and now my fatness and lack of baby-ness is The Hot Office Gossip. Feeling super great about that too. HR says they can't force me to do anything, but it would be nice to return it.
Here's the thing. I no longer have the card, but I am SURE it did not say anything about 'there's a kid inside you!' It had two pandas on the front that oh now as I'm typing I do remember there was a big one hugging a smaller one so maybe it was about babies, but it DEFINITELY didn't say anything like 'bun in the oven!' or 'your s*x was successful!' or 'We think you're pregnant!'
I am CERTAIN I would remember that because that's a super big insecurity I've had for the past ~5 years since I started gaining weight (medicine side effect) and husband keeps saying 'nobody thinks you look preggo' so HAHA sucks to be wrong hubby. this is a very hollow victory.
I'm feeling crushed and upset that the going away gift actually wasn't, and not once did any of my coworkers actually ask if I was pregnant. I don't really want to return the money. The cash is long since gone, but I could pull 1k from my bank to give back.
Old boss has also been emailed about this entire exchange–posting here while I wait for a reply from him and googling 'women's fashion to hide belly fat' and feeling horrible about my body.
Okay, but this was unusual, right? Because if it's totally normal to collect a large sum for someone' quitting their job at this company, why would someone complain now?
ThrowAITAbabygift OP responded:
I'm replying here even though you're being downvoted because they're valid questions! I'm also going to use this comment for INFO: answers from other comments so I'm not typing the same thing everywhere multiple times.
I do not actually know if it was normal to put together goodbye funds for people. Nobody from my department quit while I was working there. When people from other departments left, the company usually got a cake and sub platters to put in the lunchroom. I was asked to sign a card and contribute PTO to an injured coworker from a different department, but never any money for anyone.
My room had 13 people (12+me) and 2 managers and 1 boss that I worked with and talked to, I did not interact with people in other offices much. The entire company has a really rough estimate of maybe 100 people in this location?
I do not know how many names were in the card, because I did not keep it, but it was more than just 15 people. So I do not know who contributed, or how much money each, or if those people are still at the company or not.
The only contact I have had with anyone at the company prior to this whole debacle was the emails from boss and his replies, all exclusively discussing the thing he would like me to make for him, and back in 2020, contacting HR via phone once to update my mailing address.
HR called me this morning, there was nothing in writing. HR is also not the one who started up the fund, that was a coworker from my department who I worked with. I just didn't use names because I couldn't come up with a fake one off the top of my head.
But HR is also a lady, and her phone call was of the 'hey, heads-up about this' than it was scolding me. I'm still pretty mortified about it, but I don't think HR lady was being malicious or going over any sort of professional line.
The order of events of me 'quitting' went something like: the first week of December, I tell boss I'm leaving at the end of January. He submits the paperwork for that. For all of December, I tell coworkers that I'll be quitting, starting my own business doing roughly the same thing, but online
I give updates along the way as to how progress is going all through December. Everyone in the office is excited for me and the progress I am making on setting up my website (which is much different than creating geocites pages, ha).
Somewhere in the middle of January, boss asks if I would mind staying on payroll because there's one very specific aspect of the job that I do that nobody else in my department is trained for, and asking me to do that thing would be easier than training or hiring someone new specifically for that thing.
I agree to stick on for that, and boss updates the paperwork to say 'never mind! OP isn't actually quitting, she's just working on a as-needed basis.' I don't think I told anyone in the office about this? Because in my mind I was still quitting. I may have told people though, I do not remember.
Me and husband move in March 2020. I use the money to help pay for the whole moving costs, and that's pretty much the last I ever think about it until this morning.
I do feel kinda silly now, looking back like 'wtf why would my coworkers actually give me this much money?' but I think at the time I was just more feeling appreciated and that they were really going to miss me and were really excited for me going and doing my own thing, so I didn't really question it. This was also my first 'real actual adult job' ever, so I guess I just accepted it as normal?
Hi, it's me, Boo Boo the fool.
INFO: You still work there or not? This isn't making sense to me. Either you left or you didn't. You moved far away but are now right back in the office?
ThrowAITAbabygift OP responded:
I am still on payroll. About once every three months, the boss sends me an email with a project request. If I'm not busy, I create the thing he needs, then send it and the hours I worked to him. He enters it into payroll, and I get paid.
However most of my income now comes from commission work, I consider myself self-employed and no longer 'working' at my old job for that reason. I have not been to the office since January 2020. I ran into my old coworker at a grocery store about 5 hours drive from the office.
NTA Seems like a sick life hack tbh, I'm gonna try it. Could be tough tho cuz my beard is going to give me away
ThrowAITAbabygift OP responded:
Okay, this really made me laugh. Thank you, I needed that right now. <3
Jumping in here in the hopes you see this. Oh you poor thing and I feel your pain. I have endo and have been mistaken for pregnant many times and reduced to tears on buses, at the airport, in the street, in bars... It really sucks and people are so thoughtlessly cruel.
On clothes, I go for dresses that fit under my bust and then flow out, mostly because that hurts less on an endo belly than waist bands.
Lol if I gave someone a gift because I assumed she was pregnant… and then she ended up not being, the last thing I’d do is ask for that gift back. That’s just rude. As if their assumption is your fault.
I would literally die of embarrassment. Literally. My corpse would shrivel up to the size of a card with $1,000 cash in it.