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Dear Bureaucrat, my job wants me to lie (federaltimes.com)
587 points by David_Reed on June 13, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 436 comments

I was recently at a medical office (this is in the US), and they had replaced their system, so I had to re-sign the variety of forms that they make you sign, HIPAA disclosure, etc.

They gave me an electronic signature pad and asked me to sign. I pointed out that I did not have a document in front of me, and they said that they would give me a copy of the signed form after I signed it. I once again attempted to point out that I was being asked to sign a form that I couldn't read, and they said, "oh, it's just a privacy disclosure".

A superviser (who was overseeing the migration to the new system) came by and asked what the issue was, and I said I was being asked to sign a form without seeing what I was signing. They very patiently explained to me that it was a HIPAA disclosure, and I said that if I could sign their description, I would be happy to, but I'm not going to sign a more formal document having only been given a summary of it. They further explained that if I wanted, they could print out a copy of the form after I signed it for my records.

Nobody at the office seemed to understand here what my objection was. I overheard other patients saying things like "I'm not signing something I haven't seen", so I know that I wasn't crazy. Eventually I convinced the person I was working with to turn their monitor around so that I could read the documents before signing them.

The thing is that everyone knows that these forms are completely meaningless anyway. I probably would have been better off just signing the forms so that if they ever came up in a court case I could just honestly say that I had never seen the form before.

Similar horror story. When I went to get therapy for depression, they gave me a contract to read and sign for therapy agreement. I got to page 11 which said that I will not consume alcoholic beverages while under treatment at all.

It seemed to be a rather overbroad ask for what I was coming for, so I objected (over their secure PM system). They tried to object that "well, you need to follow your doctor's directions because there can be interactions between the medicine and alcohol."

I said "The clause doesn't say 'I will follow the psychiatrist's direction about drug interactions.' It says I will unconditionally refrain from all alcohol."

Then the main doctor entered the thread and really blew my mind. He said, basically, a) no one in 5 years has objected to that clause, and b) it's common to have a clinic policy like and it's like an EULA.

b) was weird because EULA's are known for being notoriously abusive. a) was weird because he seems to genuinely think it's no big deal that either 1) no one is reading that clause, or 2) all of his patients are apparently teetotalers.

(I also felt it was particularly disturbing that he was exploiting the bandwagon effect to intimidate me into signing.)

So I said, if you're comfortable with the clause meaning the interpretation earlier in chat, that it just means to follow directions about alcohol interactions with meds, then I'll sign, and he agreed.

> So I said, if you're comfortable with the clause meaning the interpretation earlier in chat, that it just means to follow directions about alcohol interactions with meds, then I'll sign, and he agreed.

Did you document that modification in in writing or recording?

All of this conversation was over their secure internet chat system, so it was logged that way.

IANAL, but I took a commerical law class in college. I feel like I remember there being a doctrine that if there's a written contract, agreements outside of the contract don't matter. (Which is not to say that verbal contracts aren't real contracts, but that if there's also a written contract, they overrule any unwritten agreements.)

> if there's also a written contract, they overrule any unwritten agreements

That typically only applies in situations where the agreement is otherwise ambiguous. The most common example being "A: We verbally agreed to $1 and I signed. B: But what you signed say $1.10" often in these situations the written contract win.

However in this case they are in a written format explicitly clarifying the contents of the contract which you are allowed to do as long as the interpretation you agree to doesn't meaningfully diverge from what was written in a way that doesn't follow standard practice. As the doctor said it is common practice to avoid consuming alcohol with medicine that has known interactions with it. Even if the original contract is unambiguous no one is going to side against OP on the topic of "we both agreed that it meant when taking certain medicines" since the original verbiage didn't follow standard practice by the clarified verbiage did.

Agreements over an electronic messaging system are written agreements, and satisfy the statute of frauds, and are not automatically superseeded.

Even if you have a written contract that has boilerplate language saying all future modifications need to be in writing, courts have enforced verbal modifications. A contract can always be modified, what matters is if both parties agree.

Yes, but most of the things people are talking about here are not contracts, I think, so I don't think the doctrine you're referring to would be applicable. Compare these two situations:

Situation 1. There is a single document with the title "CONTRACT" signed by both parties. It starts with a list of definitions and continues with a list of things that each party promises to do.

Situation 2. There is a whole pile of documents to be signed by just one of the parties, the word "contract" is not mentioned, and most of the sentences in the documents give information (warning, disclaimer, whatever) rather than express some kind of obligation.

Some kind of (implicit) contract may be created in situation 2, and the documents may have some bearing on it, but the documents are clearly not "the contract".

It's more like signing to receive a parcel than signing a contract.

... What are you basing that on? In Canada at least that would absolutely be a contract. We must be very careful not to confuse "common sense" or "obvious" or "that's what it intuitively means to me" with "law". Lots of people do that and lots of them pay the price :-(

It is absolutely a contract. This interpretation is just your personal opinion about how the world should work, and is not based at all in reality.

These forms clearly meet the legal definition of a contract.

The purpose of a consent form is not usually to create a contract but to comply with a statute requiring written consent to be obtained.

You're probably thinking of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parol_evidence_rule.

You'll need a personal copy of that conversation if this were to come up. We don't know what their retention policy is, or if they'll mysteriously be unable to find it in a court case.

The only court case I could imagine this coming up in is for malpractice, where op suffered serious consequences for drinking alcohol and sued bc he wasn't told not to drink. I don't think the above message chain would help him win his case.

Yeah I figured there was relatively little legal risk here. I just wanted to point out that if your legal defense is the party at fault keeping support chat logs then you might want to rethink your legal defense :P

I was in medical trial that had the same... I just did not drink a day before they took my blood. Also I am pretty sure toxicology test was not performed. It also required me to not have kids. It made sense but still sounds extreame.

This is actually a violation of HIPAA law. My wife regularly schools hospital and doctors office employees all the time on their consent practices (she has a degree in public health). She will even call the hospital’s IRB to file formal complaints. Things we’ve heard:

“We will have you sign the consent form after the procedure when it’s more convenient for you”

“The first page doesn’t apply to you (when it clearly does)”

“Sign here to acknowledge receipt of our privacy policy (which we haven’t given you)”

"Things we've heard"?

Every single time I have ever been asked by a medical office to sign that I have been given a copy of their privacy policy, I have never been given that policy. Every single time I have pointed this out. Every time except one I have been made to understand that I am being unreasonably difficult.

From my experiences, I wouldn't say this is a rumor and something to be heard of. It is the standard practice everywhere I have ever sought medical attention.

Sorry, I should be more clear. When I say “things we have heard,” I mean “things someone said to us to our faces, which we heard with our own ears.”

Wow. Curious where you live. I have ALWAYS been provided all the documentation, in hard copy, with copy of receipt available if I desire it.

It's happened to me pretty often in California.

> “We will have you sign the consent form after the procedure when it’s more convenient for you”

Isn't the consent form for their CYA? I wonder what happens if someone refuses to sign it later.

Or dies during the procedure

So what's the punishment for what the parent comment described?

Each violation of HIPAA can carry a fine between $100 and $50,000 per violation. The hard part is that many people don't know what their privacy rights are, or to whom they go when their rights are violated (in this case, the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services).

And that OCR is also a load of shit.

I had an office emailing me their appointment data for a patient; I don't know if we had a similar email or something. I responded the first two times I received it that it was being sent in error, and to please stop, for the sake of everyone concerned.

On occasions 3 and 4 I attempted to contact the practice. Both times I was sent to the manager's voicemail, where I left messages that were never returned.

After a half-dozen of these occasions, I contacted OCR on behalf of the patient (you can file an OCR complaint on someone else's behalf), specifically referencing the fact that although the privacy violation is not significant, their repeated violation with no effort to stop is. I enclosed screen shots of the repeated emails I had sent the practice, and the repeated privacy-violating emails I'd gotten from them.

OCR said they'd get in contact with the practice and help them implement a technical solution to stop contacting me, and could I please give them my email address to blacklist, and asked if that solution was satisfactory.

I said, no, no that's not fucking satisfactory. They could have fixed the email issue a year ago; it doesn't require technical assistance from the government. While I appreciate trying to assist small practices in remedying technical defects rather than just being punitive, this was exactly the time to be punitive - when the technical defect is simple and easy to remedy ("we have the wrong contact info; update it"), and there was plenty of opportunity to remedy and they willfully continued to engage in the activity. And blacklisting my email address does absolutely nothing to protect the next patient's privacy.

A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail that basically restated what had been in the email, and that no further action would be taken.

(Before anyone says "but you got no more information than you would have had if you'd been sitting in the waiting room when the guy came for his appointment":

HIPAA has an exception that basically says "reveal the minimum you need to run a functional clinic, but yeah, obviously you need to run a functional clinic." So things like "patients in the waiting room" is exempt from HIPAA because, well, you won't be able to keep an office open if you can't keep a waiting room full. That same information emailed out to a random stranger - that is, absolutely not needed to be shared with me to provide routine care - does not share that exemption.)

Look up how often HIPAA investigations turn into monetary fines. It’s comically small and essentially only affects big hospitals, universities, and insurance companies.

The agency likes to report “enforcement actions” which include fines but 99% of the time are some kind of promise to do better in the future.

HIPAA violations are one of those things the public thinks are super serious but in reality are all but a total joke.

And don’t get me started on HIPAA compliance consultants lol. Reminds me of Lisa Simpson selling Homer her magic rock that keeps away tigers.

The IRB would not be the correct office for a HIPAA violation, unless it was an informed consent form for a research study.

Most hospitals have a compliance office where this type of issue would be handled.

Yeah, the IRB isn't even within spitting distance of a HIPAA issue. They're entirely different things, handled by different regulatory agencies, and administered in different parts of a hospital (if a hospital even has an IRB, as most don't, since most aren't research institutions), overseeing different activities.

If someone called my hospital's IRB to "school them" on a HIPAA violation, I can't even imagine what their response would be. I mean, I'm sure it would be polite, but it's not like they'd start hand-holding the lady on how to file complaints - they wouldn't know, themselves. It's only one step up from calling the cafeteria services people.

Sorry, should have been more clear. The case where she called the IRB was where the office completely messed up the consent process -- told her to disregard the first page of the consent, which was included in the package and included items that were directly relevant, and also didn't include materials referenced in the consent. Note, this was in a research/teaching hospital, where the consent notice includes consent for students to participate in the procedure, so that's why she called the IRB -- and they were very interested to hear what she had to say ...

For a specific definition of "handled".

Hospitals take compliance issues very seriously; the incentives are skewed highly in one direction.

Consider it an extension of "HR is there to protect the company, not you." Compliance is there to protect the hospital, not the individual employee that may have erred.

As long as they make a good faith effort to act on the complaint, they themselves are protected from liability. Whereas if they don't act, they open themselves up to enormous liability, on behalf of a replaceable peon - I mean, on behalf of a highly respected staff member.

This makes me think that one should have to sign every page, because what's to stop pages being substituted after the fact? If you only sign the last page, there's no way to prove that the rest of the document is what you agreed to.

My bank likes to disable my credit card for fraud each month when I make the same exact <10$ international transaction to the same exact company.

After months of this and a half an hour on the phone they told me I could just lift the auto-ban for the particular country so that I wouldn't have to spend half an hour on hold every single month for a recurring payment.

I said sure, and I was told to just send an email saying I approved of this just to confirm. The representative quickly tried to end the call after that, and I had to make her back up and explain exactly what I was confirming. She wouldn't just come out with it plainly, saying it was a simple lift of the ban for that country.

After enough prodding, she spilled that my confirmation meant that any transaction coming from that country would be considered pre-approved and not eligible for fraud prevention. I would be stuck with whatever charge came from anywhere an entire country, with no way to fight it.

She got angry with me for having a problem with this and caught an attitude, saying that it was unusual for people to either want to make international transactions at all or for them to care if they pre-approved an entire country for all payments. She couldn't understand what was wrong with this.

As far as I know... that's not even legal?

They should be able to whitelist transactions to that particular company on your account, rather than whitelisting transactions for an entire country. From my personal experience, the credit card anti-fraud measures are quite advanced and offer a high level of granularity. It's one of the few aspects of banking I've been highly satisfied with. I suspect you're just dealing with very poor customer service.

Right?? But I was told this wasn't possible. Supposedly my rep asked Accounting and this is what she was told.

> it was unusual for people to either want to make international transactions at all or for them to care if they pre-approved an entire country for all payments

What do people use credit cards for if not buying things from other countries? O.o

> Everyday purchases because I get between 1-5% cash back and no fee or interest as I pay it off every month..

> A fee-free ATM that gets me airline points, when I buy my teammates lunch and have them give me cash / venmo me.

> In person purchases they make during the course of a day?

As a Dutch person, all of the above are done with my normal bank card. Everyday purchases aren't even be possible with a credit card. No grocer is insane enough to risk chargebacks and have to pay for that 'privilege'.

This year I've used my credit card for: Patreon, AliExpress, iTunes, JetBrains and wintersport in Austria.

Neither my normal bank nor my credit card give me cash back or points.

Ironically(?) the only time I ever had to pay an ATM fee was when I used my credit card.


It's not ironic - fee-free cash withdrawals from credit cards are exceptions, not the norm.

But I am very surprised that you need debit for all your in-person purchases: normally at least the more expensive ones (i.e. eating out, big shopping) can go through a credit card. Vendors in the UK only seem to object to high fees - chargebacks aren't made out to be a big issue.

I think this is a cultural difference between Europe (minus the UK & Ireland maybe?) and the USA.

As an European, I do everything with my debit card. Only when I buy something on an American site do I 'need' a credit card. So I think it's weird you use the word 'need' for debit.

I feel unsafe every time I have to use the credit card: I'll have to make sure I get a statement at the end of the month and check it, maybe contest something. I have little idea about what my rights are. It is insecure, anyone who has access to a few numbers on it can make payments. Besides, why do I have to take a loan just to pay something, and make sure it all balances out? Not to say the whole credit score thing is alien to me.

The debit card feels much better. They are secured by a OTP, requiring both the card and a PIN. When it's paid, it's paid. No loans, no chargebacks, no credit score, no paperwork. And I know the governement has my back if something goes wrong.

I think you folks have better protections on your debit cards.

I would never use a debit card, for anything other than ATM access, ever. If somebody scans my credit card and clones it, or gets hold of the numbers and goes on a spree, no real money changes hands, and I've just got to call Chase or Citibank and dispute the charges.

With the debit card, that money is gone out of my bank account, and I can dispute it, but it takes time, and in the meantime my mortgage and car payment and utility bills have bounced and dinged my credit and incurred late fees and penalties.

With a Dutch bank card, for someone to go on a spree, they would have to have your actual bank card, not a copy or a bunch of numbers. They would also have to know your PIN number. And then they have to go on that spree before you manage to get to a phone to block that card.

And then you dispute the charges. No idea how long that takes, because it's never happened to me. I expect it's very rare now that bank cards have a chip rather than a magnetic strip (which is easily copied).

With a credit card, they just need some numbers that are easily visible. It's basically public information, and it's enough to authorise a payment. Sure, chargebacks are easy, but I still need to pay attention to whether someone might be using my credit card number. And as for those easy chargebacks, someone is still paying for that cost. And if they can't find the thief, it's ultimately going to be the consumers that pay for it one way or another. (I believe credit card transactions are relatively pricey, are they not?)

With my bank in Australia, the money that was stolen from my Debit card that was physically stolen from my car was given back to me the next day once the bank got a hold of me to tell me my card had been stolen. They knew before I did. Was lovely really!

> With a Dutch bank card, for someone to go on a spree, they would have to have your actual bank card

This here might be part of the difference between EU and USA: Here in the states, there are actually three main forms of "cards": Bank Cards, Debit Cards, and Credit Cards (ignoring Charge Cards like Amex - they aren't really credit cards as you are required to pay them in full each month, whereas a credit card you don't have to).

Bank cards can typically only be used at the issuing bank, or at one of their ATMs and virtually no place else; this does vary though. But in most cases, where you can use the card is fairly limited.

Debit cards, on the other hand, can typically be used anywhere a credit card can. Virtually any ATM will take them, you can swipe them at grocery stores and other retailers, use them to get gas, or type in the numbers on a web site to use them for online purchases. They are also typically issued by the bank in concert with one of the major credit card issuers (VISA or Mastercard, sometimes Discover); typically any fraudulent activity can also be resolved just as quickly because of this, but that varies too - and it doesn't prevent the money from leaving your checking account (to which it is tied). Such an account can also usually "overdraft" to a credit card by the same company - which may also be why the cards are provided/tied to the CC companies. I'm not sure on this completely, though.

Credit cards can be used anywhere and have the most protection; since they don't draw from your checking account, no worries if a fraudulent transaction occurs, either. There's also the thing about "float" - in which by using a credit card often enough, and paying the account balance off regularly, you can actually gain more purchasing power than if you were dealing with your debit card or cash alone (but you have to be vigilant about paying that balance off quickly and regularly, and not letting the float amount get far outside your income level - things can crash fast - but if you do it right, you can regulate the float to be higher at times, or lower, just by changing your spending habits - I can't really explain it well, but you know it when you do it).

I don't know about bank cards, but for the other two, here in the USA we've only recently started the wider adoption of "chip and pin". In the case of my credit card, I have it tied to my phone in such a way that (supposedly) my bank (or Visa?) checks that when I use my card, my phone is also nearby - if not, it flags for fraudulent usage. It doesn't require a pin (but most places read the chip); while my debit card does use the chip and pin (if I use it, which is rare for me nowadays).

Online, though - I only use my credit card - which always requires just the numbers; there's no way for the chip to be read, and nothing for a pin number or anything?

Are things different in Europe for online payments? How does it work other than numbers only for online purchases?

> And then you dispute the charges. No idea how long that takes, because it's never happened to me. I expect it's very rare now that bank cards have a chip rather than a magnetic strip (which is easily copied).

I've rarely had to "dispute charges" - I can only think of one time, and that turned out to be a mistake on the merchant's part (some kind of reconciliation issue at end-of-month or something - it's been years). But things were resolved fairly quickly.

> With a credit card, they just need some numbers that are easily visible. It's basically public information, and it's enough to authorise a payment.

Again - how does this work with online purchases? All I have ever used have been numbers...

In the case of real-world usage, it's either swiping the card (gas stations still aren't using chip readers at the pump yet), chip reading, or in the old-school days (and still found in some backwater areas - but very useful when the power goes out) the old carbon paper pressure chunk-chunk devices where they take an impression and you sign (though I've honestly haven't seen one of these in over a decade or more now, but I do recall them from earlier and when I was a kid).

Something they have recently changed here has been making cards "flat" and not having raised impressed numbers, and printing the number on the back of the card (only the name appears on the front). I'm not sure how much this helps, but it does prevent impressions or rubbings from being done. Not that it stops skimmers (mag stripe) or photos from being taken...

> Are things different in Europe for online payments? How does it work other than numbers only for online purchases?

My (Swedish) bank has 2FA for online purchases. When I make a purchase, an app on my phone asks me to confirm the purchase (showing the vendor name and amount) by signing it with a key stored on my phone, along with a PIN.

When I buy from some American companies (Steam, Amazon, etc.) I need to put the card into "unsafe mode" first, since by default all transactions must support this system.

With my bank card, I can get money from any ATM. Even outside the EU (I've done so in Egypt, for example). I can pay at any Dutch shop that accepts electronic payment[0], and generally also abroad.

> Are things different in Europe for online payments? How does it work other than numbers only for online purchases?

Netherland has a system called iDeal, which is supported by all banks and all webshops that want to do business here (which includes Steam and amazon.de, but not amazon.com, for example). The payment is processed directly through my own bank, with nobody else having to know even what my account number is. The webshop directs me to my bank (or to a page where I select my bank, which then directs me to my bank) with some token with payment details, I authorise the payment through my own bank (which uses 2FA), and the bank redirects me bank to the webshop which knows I've paid.

Basically just like how PayPal does it, except with my own bank in the place of PayPal and with 2FA. Much more secure.

Honestly I'm baffled that this isn't internationally supported. It seems to me to be the only proper way to handle internet payments. Sadly it would involve the whole world agreeing on adopting this system, and Dutch banks just don't have that kind of impact. American credit card companies do.

I also got a credit card (MasterCard) from my bank, but I only use it for online international purchases (mostly the US).

[0] Which is all of them except for my local cheese shop, because the owner is a luddite and considers anything other than cash too expensive. He's got good cheese though, and is really cheap.

> I don't know about bank cards, but for the other two, here in the USA we've only recently started the wider adoption of "chip and pin". In the case of my credit card, I have it tied to my phone in such a way that (supposedly) my bank (or Visa?) checks that when I use my card, my phone is also nearby - if not, it flags for fraudulent usage. It doesn't require a pin (but most places read the chip); while my debit card does use the chip and pin (if I use it, which is rare for me nowadays).

Doesn't this mean your card issuer has 24/7 access to your cell location? That's extremely invasive.

Some Dutch shops do accept credit cards, but primarily in very touristy areas. No Dutch person would ever use their credit card for anything like that, unless the total cost is higher than the maximum they've set for their bank card and their credit card has a higher maximum. Like when you buy an expensive laptop straight from a brick-and-mortar shop.

> No grocer is insane enough...

Dirk (the supermarket) accepts credit cards. A few others as well

A fee-free ATM that gets me airline points, when I buy my teammates lunch and have them give me cash / venmo me.

Everyday purchases because I get between 1-5% cash back and no fee or interest as I pay it off every month..

And in return, your purchase history is tracked, documented, and filed away for later integration into future social credit systems.

Ok, are you 100% cash then, because debit and check can also be used for a theoretical future dystopia

No, but wouldn't that be nice. I do however try to limit my credit card usage to online purchases where it is unavoidable.

In person purchases they make during the course of a day?

Sounds like it's time to switch credit card providers.

This is my local credit union. I do not politically support any of the major banks and so that is not an option unfortunately.

Your bank lied to you, get another bank

I'll one up this. I recently went to Kaiser for a procedure and they handed me the signature thing and said, "you need your signature to indicate that you've checked-in". So I signed it. As the final part of check-in they handed me a stack of papers and said, "here's what you signed!"

I was stunned because they never gave any indication that the signature was for some sort of contract/legal form! Perhaps I should have suspected, but it still seemed really underhanded… If they had, I would have insisted on reading it first. Luckily, reading it afterward it was something I would have signed anyway, but come on!

I can’t speak for the US legal system but in the UK that would instantly void the contract. You have to be aware of what you’re signing.

This is also the case in US. Contract formation requires that the signing party has an opportunity to read the contract. If the contract is subject to litigation and the signing party can show they did not have an opportunity to read it, the contract will be thrown out. It is especially frowned upon to misrepresent the contract ("Don't worry, it's just some routine boilerplate") and not provide a copy before the person signs it.

I can’t wait until high res 24/7 lifelogging of audio and video is common so that these sorts of things are documented regularly.

Not sure why you're downvoted. It probably has to do with the implication that it might be a government or a private company that is doing the logging, but that doesn't need to be the case. We could develop a culture where we record everything around us and store the recording on our own devices, accessible only by us.

There was an early Black Mirror episode exploring exactly this scenario. The social consequences are frightening.

That episode was good, but the book/film The Circle I think covered this type of scenario better (even if the movie adaptation did leave a little to be desired)

the lifelogging will probably have a EULA that prevents everyone from using any audio or video in a legal dispute

I don't understand the EULA part. Are you saying that if a company sells eyeglasses with 24/7 audio and video recording to an microSD card, then that company would have an interest in adding a EULA that prevents using their own devices in a court case against someone else? Or are you saying that a hospital would have an EULA that prevents one from using any recording one might coincidentally hold of interactions with them in a court case?

The company won't be selling a 24/7 microSD recorder, it'll be selling a 24/7 cloud recorder, for the usual bullshit reasons that are ostensibly about convenience, but in reality are about securing recurring revenue. Since you won't be using a product but a service, there will be an EULA, and the company may not want their data (at this point it isn't your data anymore) trawled in random court cases.

I don't think an EULA will override a warrant or subpoena.

Might not, but EULA may stipulate that breaking it will cause termination of account and deletion of your data. It would be similar to forced arbitration clause, as far as I understand them - i.e. it's not that you can't sue the company, it's that you'd better not, if you want to retain your account.

In the US you may be correct, but there is other places on earth where this sort of corporate behaviour is not okay.

That's good for the other places (and I'm happy to live in one), but here we're talking strictly about the United States, as the article pertains to US federal government matters.

But they won't show the EULA until after I've agreed with it, so it'll be invalid!


That sounds like a textbook case of trading away privacy to get security. No thanks.

How do you show that they didn't tell you?

This could be why "serious contracts" have a place on each page for you to initial.

You swear to it in writing or in the witness box.

Fun related story.

My best friend was given a PIP from his manager. Company wanted him out for political reasons, told him he had to sign, except all of the reasons in the PIP were fabricated.

He stapled a page to the back before turning it in saying that he disagrees, but is required to sign, and thus wishes to comply with the requirement to sign.

They fired him immediately for refusing to remove the extra page, tried to deny him unemployment benefits saying that he chose to quit by not signing. The case went to unemployment court and he won. He got all his benefits, company had to pay a huge fine.

Whats a PIP?

Professional improvement plan. Basically when a large company wants to fire you they often put you on a PIP first which specifies areas where you are underperforming and metrics for improvement and a timeframe where you have to demonstrate improvement. In practice it’s often just the first step in the firing process to cover HR and document everything.

So if the friend took issue with the claims being made in the PIP about underperformance, it makes sense that he wouldn’t want to sign it as-is.

It's "performance improvement plan".

> Basically when a large company wants to fire you they often put you on a PIP first

In most countries I am aware of it is a requirement for being able to fire someone.

In the US it highly likely means you're getting fired and they're now documenting reasons. Well, "reasons".

The reasons don't need to be accurate; they just need to be not provably inaccurate and to be well documented.

It's mostly so they can later say that you were fired "for cause" so they can e.g. fight unemployment compensation. It's also a legal defense to a claim of unfair dismissal.

Case details? I'd like to reference this

Lol lemme ask him if he has a link to the case number of something. You in a similar position?

Bonus points that most medical offices have only a vague idea what HIPAA actually includes. 80% of the time an office says "we can't do the thing you're asking us to do, it's a HIPAA violation," it's not a HIPAA violation.

My shoulder surgeon gave my name, phone number and a vivid description of the circumstances that arose to warrant my shoulder surgery to a woman she thought I'd be a good match with. She even told the woman to "not tell anyone because this is a huge violation."

It goes both ways.

Oh, don't misunderstand me. Their understanding is alllllll full of false negatives and false positives, absolutely.

But I was specifically referring, as a pain point, to how often offices use HIPAA as an excuse to not do things patients want them to do.

I'm a physician that has worked in health policy. I get very, very volubly angry when a front desk puts me off with "that's a HIPAA violation" and it isn't. It's "we don't want to be bothered doing things that convenience the patient, and here's an excuse that sounds like it's out of our hands."

When they share information they're not supposed to, it's often - not always, but often - at least with the underlying intention of doing right by the patient, as opposed to just trying to get rid of them.

C'mon, you can't tell that story without sharing how you got your shoulder injury and whether it actually ended up being a good match.

yeah, the circumstances seem like an integral part of the story, were they helping a distressed pregnant elephant give birth?

Maybe lifting a lot of weight, or got injured while playing in a major sporting event?

Just long term impingement from powerlifting. We went on a date, it was awful. I paid and never called her again.

What kind of match? Romantic match?

What was your reaction when a stranger called you for a date?

A date, yeah. I thought it was weird, but figured if this surgeon risked her professional career to hook the two of us up, I should see what happens. The date was terrible.

Hope the surgeon has accident insurance!

>My shoulder surgeon gave my name, phone number and a vivid description of the circumstances that arose to warrant my shoulder surgery to a woman she thought I'd be a good match with.

So were you a good match or what?

How did you find out?!

The girl told me.

A match for what? Was she donating her spare shoulder?

This reminds me of a friend of mine. Jenny Ahlstrom learned it can be valuable for patients to voluntarily share their own medical data:


Key quote:

“Everyone — from hospitals, tech companies, and pharma — wants patient data,” Jenny said. “But each have their own data silos, HIPAA restrictions, regulatory concerns, and liability issues. Through trial and error, we discovered the key to the puzzle: patients have the freedom to aggregate their own data and freely share it to drive new research.”

I look forward to seeing more initiatives like hers.

I assure you "Nobody at the office seemed to understand here what my objection was" is false.

They probably all understood quite well, but they stuck to the script (either unofficially to make their job smoother, or officially).

It's hard these days to know if you're talking to an innocent person or a corporate script.

A friend told me the inside story about a call answering service. This is a service that answers the late night infomercial numbers.

They are very quick to take your information to buy the thing, but then they try upselling you or cross-selling you other stuff.

EVERYTHING is scripted. "Oh, but other people didn't listen to these fabulous offers, and had to call back", etc.

So here's the thing. The people are required to follow the script, they cannot deviate. The ONLY exit to the script that would prevent them from being fired was "I will CANCEL my order unless you stop."

I've never experienced one that wouldn't let me read it before I signed it.

I thought it was particularly interesting that I was referred to another doctor inside the same medical system sharing an EHR (ie they already HAD my data)and I still had to sign aa new HIPAA form less than a week later. That was the single time I didn't insist on reading the whole thing, I asked them if they were the exact forms used across the entire hospital system, I double checked one of them, and then just signed the rest.

My real fun experience with this was when I bought a house, one thing said I had to move in within 30 days, another 60 days, and another 15 days. There were also various other date discrepancies on when certain things had been completed and, they had used my full name (first, middle, last) in some places and just first/last in others. Man everyone was mad I was reading everything before I signed it though.

I read everything put in front of me when I bought my car. Boy was the finance guy pissed, cause it took me like an hour, and he makes his living upselling add-ons and stuff.

I'm also a pretty fast reader, so it is pretty obvious that they absolutely expect you to not read whatever it is you are signing, because I assume that it would take most other people well over an hour to read.

You're my hero. That's what I wish I'd done the last time I bought a new car from a dealership. They knew I was coming in to buy that day and could have given me the paperwork on the warranties etc to review, but instead decided to spring it on me just when I thought I was about to walk off with the car.

They also asked me to sign a form that said "I have inspected the car" before I'd seen it at all. Sickens me.

I did the same and do it every time. I know their job is actually just to sell warranties and after-market products and the paperwork is a side-job, but I just can't spend $20-30k+ and sign a bunch of papers without reading them and taking some time.

Each of these places have their own branded contracts and similar, but unique documents that look like they typed up and copied some word document they wrote 7 years ago and have never re-printed.

And the descriptions they give are usually a couple works... This one is a power of attorney, it lets us handle title work for your car on your behalf. I had my title in-hand and signed it over to them, so I was really confused why that was necessary among several other things.

> I had my title in-hand and signed it over to them, so I was really confused why that was necessary among several other things.

They file the paperwork with the state. If possession of the title printout was sufficient to legally take possession of someone's car, that would open the door to a lot of easy car thefts.

My understanding is that the "finance guys" who offer these extended warranties and what not make the most and easiest money. At least when I did this last time at a dealership, they were flaunting the most wealth (expensive shirt/watch).

Same when I was closing on a house. Yes, it may be routine to you, Mr. Title Company person who sees these 23 times a week, but this is a pretty major endeavor I'm entering into and I'd kind of like to know what I'm getting into.

I did the same and spent 45 minutes enjoying explaining the time value of money and opportunity costs when they were trying to upsell me. I also googled the prices on the hood rock cover undercoat and pre paid maintenance plan.y favorite was the panicked look when he said that the warranty was void if the oil was changed outside the dealer and I informed him that was illegal in the whole us. Eventually he just gave up and sold me the car when the manager was trying to get the room for another sale.

I enjoyed putting the warranty In terms of a bet. Would you spend $5k on a lottery ticket that had payout capped at $25k? No. Then why are you trying to sell me a 3rd party warranty?

I enjoyed the whole process. I set aside a whole day for it.

The best part was when my credit card didn't run for some reason and I didn't have the full payment :)

I took mine home on my first car. Found out they hadn't sent it through Honda finance like was discussed for 3.5% but a local bank at close to 19.5%...they were upset the next day...then really upset with the approval from Honda. I was a young freshly graduated college student whom they thought apparently couldn't read.

I did the same for my current car. I noted to the lady that I'd ticked the "don't spam me" checkbox at the bottom and she admitted that she hadn't even noticed it was there. :P

But did you remember to tick the "I'm not a robot" checkbox[1]?

[1] https://twitter.com/marcirobin/status/998030243981033472?lan...

When I bought a house, my bank, Chase (naming names!) made me sign a form saying that they had permission to repossess my house.

Not conditional on non-payment or anything. Not conditional on violation of the terms of the mortgage. Just a blanket document that said they could take it whenever they liked. Apparently the idea is that if I die and my survivors continue to live in the house, then they might have trouble foreclosing on the house because my survivors did not sign the loan agreement. Otherwise, they promised, this document would stay in a drawer somewhere and never be used.

I said that of course I would not sign this document, and they said that the bank would not issue the loan without it. At this point, at closing, what can I even do? Closing was a formality -- my lease had already run out on my previous place, movers had been arranged, HOA had signed off on the purchase and the mortgage terms, and the approval of the loan itself took a stupidly long time to get all the documentation necessary so I couldn't just go to another bank and start the whole process again (especially since they would probably make me sign the same damn form).

So I signed it, and may God have mercy on my soul.

You can edit it. The same way they don't expect you to read it, they don't read it either.

So just edit it to say what you agree with and move on (and don't make a fuss, call their attention to it - they should be reading these just as much as you should).

If I get presented with this document in the future, that's what I'll do. As it was I was incredulous and just assumed that it was a mistake that would benefit from having attention drawn to it. I think you may underestimate the thoroughness of the bank's representative at this proceeding. If they detected the modification, they would simply print out a new one and tell me I had to sign it, or reschedule the closing, which would have been unacceptable at the time, and because of the verbiage in the contract might have result in my offer being voidable by the seller.

Wouldn't they have to initial the change?

That’s for the courts to decide, assuming that the bank signed the whole thing after you signed it and made the chance.

Wow. Not a lawyer, but I can tell you that clause and their explanation are BS. The whole mortgage system doesn’t work if a bank can repo a house irrespective of payment on the loan. And the inheritance thing is long solved: any heir would inherit the property with the (legit) mortgage repo rights attached to it, so they wouldn’t be able to escape the loan repayment obligation either.

Fortunately, I doubt a judge would uphold that provision and find that you were forced into it for exactly the reason you gave.

> I bought a house, one thing said I had to move in within 30 days, another 60 days, and another 15 days.

Confused... if you're buying the house why can't you just move in when/if you feel like it? Is this a mortgage/legal thing about it being your primary residence?

Yes, the terms of the loan were for a primary residence thus they expected me to actually live there. If I recall it also stipulated it had to be my primary residence for some amount of time.

Basically, they wanted to make sure I wasn't getting the mortgage to buy a commercial property since that would have had different terms associated with it.

Ah cool, thanks!

Yep. It’s tied to U.S. housing subsidies. Basically the Federal Government wants people to own their own home so they subsidize home loans. But to help prevent people from using the subsidies for 2 houses or rental properties they require you to move in within a limited timeframe.

It’s likely an owner-occupied mortgage rate. Mortgage rates are lower for properties you live in vs ones you want to rent out (seen as higher risk).

> one thing said I had to move in within 30 days, another 60 days, and another 15 days.

I doubt that it said you had to move in, unless it was a condo with bizarrely strict vacancy rules. do you mean that it said you have the right to move in in those time-frames?

Most loans are based on owner occupancy so the bank (really the Federal Government) will require that you are going to live the in house “immediately” to qualify for a better rate.

Fascinating. I've never heard that mentioned when associates have purchased a property and but took up to 1 year or more to renovate or rebuild it before moving in.

I at one point did call the bank and ask about that (I took a few weeks to move stuff in and it was going to exceed their timeline), their response was more or less "we're not going to check in on you or anything? If you say it's your primary residence that's all we need".

Nobody checks on it.

I had to go to the hospital for an emergency ultrasound recently because my physician thought I might have appendicitis. I was pretty nervous, and the nurse took me into a private office and had me sign a bunch of paper work (and pay on the spot via debit card) for the procedure (~$900). I just wanted to get through it, so I signed everything in a hurry. Mid-procedure the technician asked me what I was there for, she then point blank told me that what she was doing (and what I had already paid for) was really ineffective on adults and that it was almost a guaranteed waste of time. Results came back inconclusive and life went back to normal.

How do a trust a doctor, nurse, or hospital administrator, when the whole systems seems to OPTIMIZE for situations like the one I just mentioned? I guess I'm supposed to call bullshit on everything they tell me, assume malice, and spend a large amount of money/time chasing down bills and second opinions. And this is with private insurance through my employer.

The chances are that you could have simply told them you are not paying until it's billed through your insurance. My insurance card actually has that written on it. Hospitals especially always try to collect up front, but accept refusals when told to bill the insurance first.

I don't understand how signing on a pad that is detached from the form is enforceable. They captured an image of your signature and tell you what it is you're signing. They then take that image and attach it to the document. How is that any stronger proof than a claim of an oral contract?

AIUI, legally, a signature isn't itself inherently binding to anything, neither necessary nor sufficient. You don't even need a signature to form a binding contract.

The signature is merely evidence that you were physically present and signed the document, since a signature is generally (if farcically) considered to be something only you can create. The contract that the signature is attached to is another evidentiary question, which is why some multi-page documents ask for a signature or at least initials on every page.

Now, if the signature page you signed says, "I have read to and agree to Document X", that's evidence of... what it says, but there's still the very open question what are the contents of Document X, unless "X" is something like an SHA hash of a document, or a name and date/version of a document maintained by a well-trusted escrow agent.

I had the same thing happen to me on an ER trip. "Here's a little Crystal (brand) signature pad. Now I'll name off the document titles and have you sign your name."

No! It already feels illegitimate when I sign a PDF with a touchscreen computer over a paper signature. There's no way for me to know precisely what I'm signing unless I have paper in front of me. Even then, without acknowledgement on every sheet and/or me receiving a copy at the end, it's entirely possible for them to swap Page 3 out and for me to suddenly have agreed to something else entirely!

I ended up getting paper copies of the documents and signed those.

Next time maybe just write "not signing sight unseen" on that electronic signature pad. Clerk likely won't care what you scratch down!

Ha. And here (India) I was asked to sign 7 pieces of paper by DHL/Bluedart to send a piece of package across the country and also asked to submit an identity proof. Even the government doesn't make me sign this much when issuing a passport and the Indian government is infamous for its bureaucracy.

Rules and the regulators enforcing them sometimes do not make any sense at all.

I had to let someone into my work to do generator maintenance the other day, and he handed me an iPad to sign that said literally nothing on the screen except 'signature'. He seemed surprised that I wasn't going to sign something I couldn't read.

So, I unfortunately learned this from a HR attorney, but signing ‘Refuse to sign’ is acceptable, and mostly goes unnoticed, especially if written in cursive.

Is that "(I) Refuse to sign" (as in, you're writing it on your own behalf) or "Refused to sign" (as in, you're making it look like the form submitter filled it out themselves).

They use the same procedure for billing. First do the procedure and then find out how much it costs. No information upfront.

Yeah if any other industry besides health care pulled that people would go to prison.

Seems to be a thing that doctors like to point out how much more important they are than auto mechanics. I think the auto mechanic that fixed my transmission almost killed me. Because on SR 108 the transmission wouldn't go into low.

If you sign something without reading it the judge will take that to mean you're an idiot. Not a great way to look in front of a judge.

Now I'm curious if these forms go the way of EULAs in the past, where it became obvious nobody is reading them and they agreement is compulsory to proceed to use the software, so it became understood that the agreement is effectively void because of the way it is presented and used.

I think if it can be shown that the provider is making it difficult for the consumer to actually read the form before signing, a judge will actually be more upset with the provider.

What is a patient supposed to do in this case? Leave the office? What if this appointment was scheduled several months in advance, which is not an uncommon wait time? To put this in the way of a patient's health should not be acceptable.

It's not a valid contract if you haven't had the opportunity to read it. A waiver without legal power though? Well, it never meant anything to begin with.

Your signature on the contract will say otherwise. If you say you didn’t have time to read it, the judge is going to ask why you signed it.

Taken another way, this can’t work because otherwise everyone would just sign every contract without reading it and then get out of it later by saying they didn’t read it. Right?

If it worked that way, the people writing the contract would make you read it.

And that would be a better world.

Nonsense. People do it all the time. No judge is going to think you’re an idiot for signing some meaningless waiver that millions of other people do.

If you think that's true then you haven't seen many judges.

Other party: Did you read it before you signed it?

You: No

Other party: Why not

You: Nobody ever reads these things

Other party + Judge: :/

A better one is to insist you have not seen the document and have been forced to sign it to consent to a procedure that was time limited.

Now the onus is on the defense to show that it is not a common practice and who was responsible for that. Pretty excellent line to pursuit, hard to defend.

And easily dismissed when the defendant says "we showed him the document when he signed it. We show it to everyone" and now the onus is on prosecution to prove it.

The onus is not on the one who says it the loudest, it's on the one who can provide proof. The defense can explain to the judge that they turn the screen to show it or whatever it's supposed to do.

A contract signed under duress is not a valid contract.

There's no reason that the provider's testimony is magically preferred over the patient's, and in fact the generaly pratice is to resolve ambiguities in favor of the person who did not write the contract and is not the professional who has had plenty of pratice to know what they should be doing.

And how would they provide proof they showed it to you?

The signature is the proof!

Even Judges of the Court of Appeals don't read it: https://abovethelaw.com/2010/06/do-lawyers-actaully-read-boi...

he may rule against you but he's not going to think you're an idiot.

(We're talking about boilerplate forms here for doctor's visits, not like your mortgage)

You: Other party refused to show it to me Other party: :O

I doubt the other party would admit to that.

When it comes to he said she said you need actual evidence. The judge generally weighs what's said between both parties equally unless there's a reason not to.

Me: That's not my signature, your honor, that's a doodle I made to protest the absurdity of asking me to blindly sign something.

Key thing: Unenforceable clauses aren't enforceable.

They may not think you’re an idiot, but your signature on a contract is prima facie evidence that you assented to it.

I once visited a doctors office that wanted me to sign a HIPAA release form to release my health records to... myself!

That's probably a good thing.

If you find out that your records were released three times in the past year and when you ask to whom they were released to, it's better to have a piece of paper with a signature on it than for them to say "it must have been you, because we don't have any paperwork".

They want a signature on paper in case you're not you.

Yeah, sounds like either you're the person in question, in which case the paperwork means nothing, or you're not the person in question, in which case you've defrauded the office and they can point to that (and how they were deceived) if the real person asks why their info was released.

It also sounds like what happened at my (australian) high school. On a state exam one of my classmates had his older brother sit the exam for him.

Now the coversheet for the exam has a place to write your name and sign it which you must do before starting the test.

The older brother signed it as his younger brother. Then was charged with forgery. The requirement to sign was there to make that kind of cheating a crime.

Germany has the same approach with the forms you fill out on Hotel check in. They are on paper on purpose and have to be achieved for a year in case the police wants them to identify people. You of course could do that digitally, but then you wouldnt leave your fingerprints and DNA.

German source https://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article191846877/Hotelanmeldu...

When I was a kid my mom took me to a doctor, they had her sign a HIPAA release for herself which I thought was kinda funny.

It makes sense why (default to release to nobody but the patient), but I just thought it was funny that although she has the authority to add herself or anyone else that she wasn't on the list by default.

With HIPAA, it is always better to be safe. In the case of requesting medical records, they generally want proof that they released it to you and not your fictional younger brother who looks almost like you but will give your information to a boss.

I honestly would rather have this.

That's surprising to me, because I usually see HIPAA taken very seriously. (I think the problems are more likely to be that personnel don't understand information technology and how fragile and untrustworthy our own "tech" field's work is today, not that they don't take HIPAA seriously.)

Related: On check-in for a doctor appointment, I was given a routine consent form to opt-in to some kind of sharing of info (for research purposes, or something like that). I instead checked the checkbox on the form that explicitly did not consent. The person at the front desk didn't seem to quite know what to do with the form when I didn't check the checkbox that was expected, but they accepted the form after a confused pause, and hopefully it was processed correctly.

A lot of medical forms will ask more info than they need (such as Social Security Number).

I rarely go to a new doctor, but when I do, I usually leave about half the forms untouched, and the other half, half-filled out. Never had any any issues with the staff. Your mileage may vary.

I've had the exact same thing happen at a US hospital. Probably the same software. I've also had a similar experience at my kids' school: By signing I agree to abide by their network acceptable use policy (no copy of said policy to be found).

The last time I went to Rite Aid to pick up a prescription, their point of sale system asked me to acknowledge whether I spoke with/declined to speak with the pharmacist, before I got to speak with the pharmacist.

To be fair, you probably could have simply waited to pay for the medicine until after you spoke to the pharmacist. If Rite Aid's system is like the pharmacy I worked at in the US, it was impossible to pay for a prescription until you sign.

The vast majority of folks picking up prescriptions do not talk to a pharmacist.

If they get stuborn and don't wanna provide the docs I was supposed to read, I manually edit the form to state that they will give it to me later, and sign+date the edit as well. Usually everybody is happy.

You could also "sign" using a random figure, not your real signature, after all. No? Nothing prevents you to do so, legally speaking.

You mean other than 'perjury' when they ask you in court if that was your signature?

No, it doesn't HAVE to match your usual signature, but that's not the actual point of a signature anyway.

Write "I don't agree" or something similar as your signature?

Nobody at the office seemed to understand here what my objection was.

Of course not. Because the rest of us were writing, "HERP DERP" in the signature line and moving on with our lives.

Actually, that made me think of a good idea. If the provider employees aren't aware of what's actually happening in this situation or just don't care, just write, "I didn't read this form" on the signature line and hand it back.

Have a good laugh when that document is presented to a judge.

I think signing "FORM NOT PROVIDED" might go over better with the judge, than outright stating what can be perceived as your own ignorance in signing something without reading it. That is, cut off the possibility that the judge, when presented with the printed form and your signature printed on it, interprets it as you signing "I didn't read this form" when the text was in front of you.

In principle, when there's a problem situation you are documenting, I think it's better to make sure you document what the other party did wrong first and foremost, then move on to what you did in response to it.

I’ve done this with a bunch of “???”. Nobody has ever checked.

It’s also a habit to sign actual restaurant receipts with a signature that isn’t my real one but a specific one for restaurants.

You don't even need to sign anything sensible at all. They almost certainly aren't going to check, and if you try to defraud the restaurant by refusing to pay, you might find yourself in trouble, regardless of signature.

On the contrary, I’m not trying to defraud anyone. I’m using a custom signature as evidence that it actually was me; if someone swipes my card and uses it somewhere it’d be obvious that it wasn’t me because the signature would not match the consistent deterministic gibberish that the real me would have signed.

The OP said

> I overheard other patients saying things like "I'm not signing something I haven't seen"

So it sounds like this was a common complaint

For these kind of forms my signature is just a line; screw it. I've seen electronic forms where you literally type out your name in print, and sometimes they get cheeky and put it into a signature looking font. What's the point? I'd love to see whichever engineer cobbled that half baked system together watch it get blown up in court.

> they found commanders were required to certify their troops completed 297 days of mandatory training, when only 256 days were available for training.

I think we often underestimate just how bad this sort of thing is. It's not just a question of personal integrity, or of whether the real value is a viable one.

First, these practices create miscommunication. If some clever analyst realizes training can be done in 256 days rather than 297, they might write a report recommending 30 days be shaved off training time. And unless someone who knows about the discrepancy gets involved, it's possible that "cut 30 days" will get implemented formally against the lower real timeframe. (This sort of thing happens all the time with budgets, where extra money that's been informally redirected to a different expense is formally cut as bloat.)

Second, they weaken the integrity of the system. No matter how upstanding the individuals, certifying nonsense disrupts a Schelling point of "printed and signed claims are accurate", and so it becomes harder to react to actual problems like the people cheating on nuclear missile readiness training. It's the print equivalent of unimportant elements in a safety routine; changing the routine is fine, but getting sloppy endangers the parts that do matter.

Although in a very different context, the certification of nonsense is to a great extent what made the economy in the USSR a total mess. Lots of money is lost because of this.

Here's a podcast where one of the authors of that study goes into more detail, especially on your second point:


The OP links to Wong's paper, but the URL is bad:

correct URL: https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB1250.pdf

bad URL in OP: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB12...

A lot of that report had me going "yeah this is not good" but it wasn't until

"I falsified the [traumatic brain injury] report that changed a distance from the IED strike [to where] one person was standing. So that way someone didn’t come back down and stick a finger in my CO’s chest and say, “You need to evac that lieutenant right now!” Because in the middle of [a] RIP, that’s not going to happen. If I do that, I’m going to put my boys in bags because they don’t have any leadership. That ain’t happening. I owe the parents of this country more than that."

That I really had to stop and stare and re-read the paragraph to make sure I understood what had happened.

That is horrifying but the worst bit is I can sort of see the reasoning behind it, but bloody hell...

I wonder how common this is in a worldwide or perhaps developed country-wide comparison.

I know this happens/exists, but I have not seen it in my country. There are people who simply will not read what they are signing, but having to sign something that is factually wrong or impossible or without having the option to read it hasn't appeared to me yet. While anecdotal, I would have expected to see this as well if it is as widespread as I'd expect it to be. (I sign about ~10 things every week which might be on the low side or high side depending on job/location/context)

It's entirely possible that the training was de-facto complete, i.e. they covered all of the material issues in a shorter timeframe, and the remaining bits might just be bureaucratic padding anyhow.

i.e. the nature of these problems may stem from other forms of inefficiencies.

In the work camps on the Alberta Oil Fields, there are literally signs up in front of the all of the pissoires instructing men on 'what angle to hold your penis at' so as to avoid splatter. I'm. Not. Kidding.

Can you imagine the site Engineer signing off on the bathrooms, possibly knowing the 'how to hold your penis' safety posters have not been issued yet?

I've worked in places where those were put up on a volunteer basis by people who got tired of stepping in puddles...

The advice to "cross out" the offending lines has been interesting to me as of late. I bought my first house recently and with that comes a thousand signatures for all kinds of things. I ran into a few interesting cases.

1. Nobody seems to notice or care.

I did this to a bunch of minutiae, misspellings, wrong addresses, etc. They do make it into the scanned copy and as far as I'm concerned, the record. But nobody seems to notice or care that it got changed.

2. "Let's talk about it but I still want your business."

I crossed out some things about data sharing that I disagreed with on some insurance forms. I got a call days later that someone noticed this. It sounded like they had a protocol for handling it. This felt like a, "there's an option to decline but we won't show it to you; you have to ask for it" kind of thing.

3. "You just ruined this 30 page document."

Okay so she didn't say that, but she did have to make an effort not to sound irritated that I crossed out some stuff. The resolution was a polite, "this is non-negotiable by the lender. If you don't agree, then we won't be confirming the mortgage today and you won't be closing today, leading to an expensive breach in the contract with the home seller." She then re-printed the sheet I "ruined" and I initialed it.

Fun related story. I bought my first house when I was working for reddit, and brought in the stack of papers to review at lunch. Steve, reddit's founder, looks over and asks what the papers are for and I tell him for the purchase of my house.

He stands up, and says incredulously, "That is completely ridiculous. I sold reddit for a lot more than price of that house, and the contract was only a few pages. What the hell is in that packet?!" I couldn't help but agree with him.

After the last recession, the abomination known as Dodd-Frank "fixed" things by requiring massively more paperwork than before. It just made the whole home buying process more expensive and less accountable. For example, even though you pay the appraiser, you are not allowed to pick the appraiser or fire them. We had a complete incompetent come out to do an appraisal (lost 3 times trying to find the place - delaying settlement) (unable to determine basic things about the property, delaying settlement) ... and there was nothing anyone could do.

Hahahaha. But how many houses are sold annually vs. how many reddits?

I think the key question is: how many institutions are involved in selling a house, vs how many are involved in selling a company?

I think in the case of most documents you sign when buying a home, a) you don't have a choice (except don't buy a home) b) there are way too many documents to read (are you seriously going to pay the notary to sit there for 6 hours?) and c) it's all highly regulated and formulaic. Have you ever heard an anecdote to the contrary, ie someone who was bitten by a hidden clause when buying a home?

Honestly, the best way to do this is to just pay an attorney who specializes in it. They will just tell you what you're agreeing to, and you can actually believe them since they are your attorney. It's not cheap, but not too expensive on the scale of a real estate transaction.

I think this is only the case when getting a mortgage, which involves a regulated third party which is likely going to resell or insure the debt, involving fourth parties.

If you just buy the house like you buy anything else, everything is negotiable.

This is exactly what they hope the buyer would think. Many things in those contacts are negotiable.

You should be receiving a copy of the majority of these documents at least three days before closing to review

> leading to an expensive breach in the contract with the home seller."

Did you waive your financing contingency?

Your edits don't matter unless the counter-party initials them.

Terry Pratchett nailed the expectations of commerce pretty well. Lies are ingrained in our business dealings and openly enforced by management.

>"Zoon tribes are very proud of their Liars. Other races get very annoyed about all this. They feel like the Zoon ought to have adopted more suitable titles, like ‘diplomat’ or ‘public relations officer.’ They feel they are poking fun of the whole thing."

All the more amusing when you realise that Pratchett's job prior to becoming an author was as a public relations officer.

In Star Trek you have the Ferengi, a species known for lying. I like them because you know what you can expect. Of course I've never had to deal with Ferengi, so for me it's easy to say this... ;-)

>Of course I've never had to deal with Ferengi, so for me it's easy to say this... ;-)

You may be dealing with them more than you know. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farang

All. The. Time. Legal paperwork is "it's just standard required legal blahblahblah, just sign it" right up until there's a dispute, and then it might as well have been signed in blood.

A job I worked at required that I acknowledge having received and read a pamphlet on sexual harassment in the workplace. My understanding is that it is a requirement of the state of CA that employers distribute such a pamphlet. The state even has a stock pamphlet that fulfills the requirement, though employers are free to substitute their own. My employer wanted me to acknowledge that I'd received the one via the HR website … except the link caused 500 Internal Server Errors.

I reported this, and even noted that if the link just goes to the standard pamphlet [and I linked to that] that we could consider the defect in the website "cured" and I could sign and life could move on. That part of the message got ignored, of course; the people responsible for the HR site are like "well it works for us?", and of course there's still pressure to sign a statement that I've read this thing.

All of that after I explicitly asked for any and all paperwork that would require my signature up front before becoming an employee. (This was, of course, not included in what I was given prior to starting.)

> All of that after I explicitly asked for any and all paperwork that would require my signature up front before becoming an employee. (This was, of course, not included in what I was given prior to starting.)

I'd be interested in what would happen if you pushed hard on this point. Giving people surprise contracts after they have quit their previous job, moved their family and acquired a new house should not be acceptable.

Unfortunately, pushing hard (as in, "I will not sign this since it was not given to me pre-employment") might actually get you booted. Companies routinely update policies and a refusal to comply with those, even created post-hiring, may be sufficient for termination.

If what you mean is "this policy sounds reasonable, but I cannot sign anything sight unseen" any reasonable HR will just print (scan / email) you a copy of anything they want you to sign. My 2c.

The first part is totally reasonable. If the company wants to change policies and you don't agree to those policies (and are in no way able to change them), why should they let you stay? Why should you let yourself stay? If a new policy is that egregious that you would rather possibly lose your job than sign in agreement, why would you even want to stay there? At that point, it's in everyone's best interests to part ways before it becomes a real issue.

If the company actually cares about keeping you and they have any sort of leeway as to changing the policy, they will listen to why you can't agree to it.

> If the company actually cares about keeping you and they have any sort of leeway as to changing the policy, they will listen to why you can't agree to it.

I agree in spirit, but I suspect this would almost never happen: companies who care and track employee signatures on a bunch of HR policies tend to be large and inflexible (smaller companies would often make some blanket blurb "thou must read and comply to policies that you can find <here>" and move on -- they have technologies to develop).

What if you’re starting out or otherwise don’t have the leverage?

If you just started, that's the perfect time to jump ship to something else.

There's two parts, I think, to the parent's point.

Using your leverage as an employer to change the terms of the agreement immediately after the agreement has been made is unacceptable. It might be legal¹, but that doesn't make it right. And when you present subsequent legal agreements after I've started my employment that I "must" sign when I explicitly asked for them up front (and even when my employment agreement states that this is "the entire agreement" too!) — I mean, the company might as well put on their best impression of Darth Vader "pray I do not alter it further".

There's also the point about asking for HR to send you a copy. I actually did that in the case above, and it just never happened; HR wants you to go through the website, for everything. It's incredible how dead set some people can be, because "that's the system"! The entire thing was inane, and so fell by the wayside, and was forgotten about. About a year later, someone new took over, audited their predecessor, found out I hadn't signed, and sent an email "Hey, we noticed you never signed that you've read the pamphlet, can you sign?" and attached the pamphlet as a PDF to that email. Since that rectified the error (I now had a copy of the pamphlet) a signature was given and life went on.

¹IANAL. I honestly don't think "we won't fire you" should be valid as consideration in a contract. Thus, such agreements lack consideration, so they're not valid contracts, signature or not. I think some Canadian courts have agreed with this, but alas, I'm not in Canada. I'm still at-will, so IDK if it really matters per se, given what at-will is.

I am likewise not a lawer but wouldn't your wagers be consideration? I mean "You give me money and I do a thing for you". Is pretty standard as contracts go.

Yes, in the original agreement wages are absolutely the consideration. The point is here is that — all too often IME — companies will, shortly after you start, ask for another signature on an additional agreement, giving them (the company) additional things. The sexual harassment pamphlet example is mild (and more about me not signing something falsely rather than a bad deal), but I've also seen IP agreements and stock agreements after the fact.

If you consider only what has changed from the original agreement: the company gets whatever it is you're signing the document for. You typically get nothing, aside from getting to keep your job. It's in this second agreement that I just don't find a compelling argument that "keep your job" (i.e., wages) suffices as "consideration". If you do, it's effectively reneging on the original deal, and trying to replace it with a new one that's not as good for the employee. Meanwhile, the employee has likely left their previous employment, and is at a huge disadvantage to walk away at this point. Particularly so when a prospective employee asks for anything that requires a signature up front, and when the documents in question use legalese like "this is the entire agreement". After that, there shouldn't be any more agreements unless something actually changes.

Those people get the documents. I've never been in a job that required me to sign something that I couldn't see. When it doesn't work, you say no. People are too afraid to say no.

> I'd be interested in what would happen if you pushed hard on this point.

No employment, problem solved.

“It’s just standard whatever” is really fun when you want a change and you have all the leverage. It’s hilarious to watch the tune change when you say you just won’t sign in that case. Alas, I’ve only been in this position once.

I've once been in that situation where the company tried to introduce a contract rewrite with the standard lack of clarity over whether it applied to everything, including outside work (e.g. open source contributions). There were enough open source developers in the company that this was a big problem.

So we all just refused to sign the contract change.

The situation stalled for a few months, and they eventually backed down and wrote in a clarification. This was the UK, so we actually had rights and couldn't just be arbitrarily sacked, and everyone was aware that pursuing individuals over this would lead to a mass exodus and the destruction of the company.

That's the effect of unionizing, that is, sticking together.

Collective bargaining, indeed! A union is merely this formalised.

In the UK, you can't legally get fired without cause, regardless of being in a union or not. (You can be made redundant but shrug).

And if they hire someone else to do your job, that wasn't redundancy, that was firing under false pretenses, and you can sue.

Not signing a new contract in the UK is not as protected as you think here. Unless TUPE applies where there are protections

Not protected in the formal sense, but the old one still applied with its month's notice in both directions. Really the key factor was the difficulty in replacing developers.

Had to quit the company I worked at for 4-5 years after the owner died his wife took over - and tried to force non competes that were forever and transferable if the business was sold etc..

The contract was so broad there was no way it was valid. The kicker was she was withholding my standard'ish larg'ish bonus. I just walked and finally she came around - took years for us to mend our relationship.

I actually don't mind signing unenforceable contracts.

You don't have to say anything, life can be like a game of poker. If your perception of reality is correct, you gain outsize influence, if it is incorrect (or more specifically "can't gain consensus") then you are poor or are imprisoned or killed. Do you gain a benefit by informing someone else about their perception of reality?

I primarily try to be rich enough to exercise my perception of reality in appeals court, because thats the only place it really matters.

I quit my job, and moved to another state only to be presented with an egregious unenforceable noncompete on my first day of the new job.

Signing it knowing I was in the clear was the best of a couple bad options.

In a lot of situations where a contract like that comes to court, the company will try to convince the judge to simply reduce the scope of the contract to whatever seems reasonable to them - and this can succeed. (Of course if you're in a state where non-competes are blanket illegal, that's different.)

I do the same thing. It's not even necessary to be especially rich in most cases, so long as you took the time to read the relevant statutes and case law in advance. An hour on a search engine is often enough.

Shit! Did you get the bonus in the end?

Oh yeah on day 3, she said come in and we'll talk... Talked for 2 hours and she was still stuck on the contract.

Finally I told her 'I feel like that check your holding is already mine' - aka your on the verge of theft..

I immediately spent the next month negotiating the bonus into the base pay. Took a few years to regain trust and now I'm at a glass ceiling (which I won't complain about but feel fortunate about)

In employee-employer relationships, the employer typically has all the power, so if you refuse to sign, you will likely be terminated. This comes up all the time with signing NDAs, copyright assignment policies, anti-moonlighting policies... you have to sign it or you’re gone. I’ve tried the cute “strike out the clauses you don’t like” trick and in every case, Legal got back to me in a few days with a stern “Sign it unmodified or GTFO.”

I also remember a company that I worked for where every week, you had to sign a paper showing you worked 8 hours each day for a total of 40 hours, regardless of whether you actually worked more or less. This was for a salaried position with no overtime so it didn’t really affect my compensation. I tried correcting the numbers and HR said you can’t change them. I pointed out that I’d be lying if I signed it unmodified and the response was I’d be terminated if I didn’t sign. So, of course I signed it but it seemed like such a pointless exercise.

I once accepted an offer and the next day I put in my 2 week notice at my new job, and later the same day I found out from a press release that the my new employer was being acquired.

A year or so into the new job, the CEO emailed everyone in the company a restrictive NDA, non-compete, non-solicitation contract and told everyone to sign it. It included language about theft of company forms or documents among other things.

I looked at the metadata of the contract doc and the "company" tag was the CEO's previous employer. Which told me that the CEO "stole" the doc from his previous company, and was asking everyone to sign something saying they wouldn't do the same.

Because of that I decided not to sign it. Several other colleagues refused it too. No one was terminated, but there was a large staff exodus shortly after who were solicited by another former employee. I stayed on another 6 months to finish a project but left after that to join my former coworkers.

I would have been open to signing if I was compensated for it, but that option wasn't on the table, and I wasn't willing to restrict my future ability to find work with no benefit to me.

Lesson learned: Reusing legal forms from old companies can cost a lot more than a proper lawyer review would have cost. Don't take shortcuts when signing OR asking people to sign a legal document.

As a counterpoint to this, a few years back I was freelancing for a fairly well known startup. My first day on site their lawyer gave me a contract with a clause saying something to the effect of if the company found my work unsatisfactory I would redo it free of charge. I brought this up to the lawyer and he immediately agreed he wouldn't sign something similar (also that he was surprised that I actually read the contract since it was otherwise fairly standard). He struck it out and we both initialed.

No issues came up but I've since felt vindicated in doing a close reading of anything more important than an EULA.

Arguably that's a bit different though. If I hire a contractor to do a job (whether construction or software) for a fixed price and they do a sub-standard job, it's really not unreasonable to expect that they'll correct deficiencies prior to final payment. (If I'm paying them hourly and there are no other conditions in the contract, then it's probably on me though.)

Usually contracts with a do-over clause like that also include very specific, objective measures of what makes a job sub-standard (like not being able to pass certain engineering inspections, in the case of construction jobs). A contract that just says "I can make you re-do this work if I'm subjectively unhappy" is insane.

Things tend to be more formalized in a business context but my experience with contractors, etc. at home is that it's often pretty loose, at least for relatively small things.

There's quite a big difference between voluntarily making a few tweaks to something to keep your client happy, and giving them a legally enforceable right to unlimited and uncompensated re-work until they're satisfied.

Finding something "unsatisfactory" is an incredibly vague term and does not necessarily mean someone did a substandard job.

This is why civil suits exist. Generally such attempts at exploiting clauses made in bad will get settled out of court.

Satisfaction clauses like that are the thing I always tell my contractor friends to look for. No sane person would agree to it but the corporate lawyers often manage to sneak it in.

It’s usually enforceable but it’s also almost always negotiable.

Careful, the surprise may be fake, because it was struck out and you both had to initial--if it was so weird, why did they just not give you a new copy that didn't have the clause?

I don’t understand what you mean, can you clarify? What is the difference between striking out vs printing a new contract, and why is one choice or the other correlated with the surprise being fake?

I suppose theoretically one could imagine a malicious company having a contract with language that is favorable to the employee, and then striking that out after the employee has already signed, with the intent to claim that the employee signed with knowledge of the struck clauses. But then again, if contracts were ever intended to be the end-all of legal dispute then one would think they'd use something less easily forgeable than mere initialing.

The lawyer was surprised that someone actually read the contract, not that the contract contained a satisfaction clause. The lawyer was probably already aware that the clause was there, and it's a standard contract that they use for all contractors.

I was in exactly this situation at UTMB Galveston around 2002ish. I ended up in a room with the manager who decided to implement the policy & one of the hospital's lawyers. The lawyer was patiently explaining to the incoherently-sobbing manager that:

1. UTMB Galveston was indemnified from her mistakes by her employment contract;

2. She owed me something like 60000$ in unpaid compensation, and that the State of Texas would probably penalize her another 250-500k$; and,

3. A cursory investigation showed that there was probably another several million in fines & compensation, outstanding in the complaint, that she would have to pay.

We "settled" with an official apology, an official write up in her permanent record, & a change in policy. (She quietly "left" shortly thereafter.)

If you have to track your hours to be paid (or not terminated), then you are by definition not a salaried employee: you are hourly. The way the FLSA works is it asks how the employer treats the employee — if you're treated like you're salaried, then you're salaried. Legally, there's no notion of 'salary' and 'hourly' outside of this. (Ignoring all the real complexities of the law.)

Requiring an hourly worker to falsify statements of hourly work is a serious crime. The repercussions are pretty crazy.

> 1. UTMB Galveston was indemnified from her mistakes by her employment contract;

For a low-level manager? That's insane and I'd be shocked to see that hold up in court.

> Requiring an hourly worker to falsify statements of hourly work is a serious crime.

Maybe, but it's also one of the most common non-punished crimes in the USA.


For a low-level manager? That's insane and I'd be shocked to see that hold up in court.

I wouldn't. In the United States, you don't screw with labor law. Pay your employees late a couple of times, and if the right bureaucrat finds out, your company is gone.

>If you have to track your hours to be paid (or not terminated), then you are by definition not a salaried employee: you are hourly.

Every law firm I know of has their associates keep track of hours and all are on salary. I assume the lawyers know what they are doing.

For salary purposes or for client billing? I'd imagine the distinction matters

I'd speculate that the certification of hours might be an effort to deny unemployment benefits. The company can fire you for cause and claim that you lied about your hours. If everyone breaks some minor rule all of the time, then prosecution and punishment becomes entirely discretionary, used only when furthering the goals of the authority.

I'm not sure if this theory would actually prevail in an unemployment hearing - it varies significantly by state - but the business loses nothing by trying.

The business stands to lose something by trying this: when I learn that they knowingly entrap their own employees in this manner, I will refuse to work with them. I'm sure I'm not alone. Given the cluelessness of many companies' recruitment, they may very well not realize this, but they will in aggregate lose out on some portion of viable talent.

If a terminated employee can prove the sanctions are being applied arbitrarily that's totally grounds for wrongful termination.

But who knows, the court system is so in the pocket of employers in stuff like this and it's so expensive to litigate in the first place it never really happens unless you've got a huge organization with deep pockets.

I know this probably limits my career potential, but I consistently choose smaller companies and enjoy avoiding this kind of thing. There are software "mom and pop" companies all over the place, itching to find a good hire. I sign exactly one piece of paper, my employment contract, and they've always been good about negotiating good terms that allow me to keep my side projects and things of that nature. I think I would sooner change career than move into a corporate sized company, no matter how "startup" the culture is.

I've had mixed results going this approach early in my career. At small companies, you can find some _shockingly_ huge egos. "Tiny kings, in tiny kingdoms" as they say.

The worst one was where during the interview, the interviewer specifically warned about the dynamics of the place: "we serve at the pleasure."

And indeed we did. The owner expected bizarre rigid behaviors. For one, everybody clocked in/out (a question that didn't occur to me to even ask about), and if you clocked in >5 minutes after when you were supposed to start, you had to go to HR and sign a document explaining why. This was a development gig.

We also had to watch cartoons made by the owners wife. Absolutely bizarre place. I made it about 6mo before getting the hell outta there.

The other notable "small shop" experience was when I stopped getting paid on time and the company credit card started getting declined.

MegaCorp1 is nice in the way that the others were not.

Were the cartoons work related?

Where I work this is a thing. We are required to report to the government how many hours we work and I think by law are entitled to overtime. Instead it gets reported as 40 his each week when that is obviously not true.

I'm ok with my compensation, and have no real complaints, except the lying to authorities pay.

This is in a FAANG company, but a European subsidiary.

An old defense contractor I worked at did the similar things.

It was required by federal contracting rules/law/whatever that our timesheet reporting be accurate. The spirit of the law was probably "don't charge us for time you didn't work for us", which is a reasonable requirement.

The problem was when I worked 70 or 80 hour weeks. I didn't get paid any more, the company didn't get paid any more (I have no idea how or why, I didn't do project or program management, so I have only the most cursory knowledge of the different flavors of the main contract types in defense contracting). I was just trying to follow the law and whatever agreements I had signed. Seems pretty easy, pretty cut and dry, right?

Nope. I was working on two projects - we often did this. 90% on one, 10% on the other, usually in some sort of super specialist role where you help with one specific aspect you might be good at and free up other devs' time to focus on the actual dev, not things like Decision Analysis and Reporting plans for your CMMI compliance. The problem was the percentages were fixed. That means if my 90% project was in crunch time, and I worked a 70 hour week, even if I still did the normal 5 hours for the 10% project, it didn't work out that way. They normalized all the hours back down to 40, so the normal 5 ended up looking more like 3. Shouldn't be a big deal, but different contract types, different budgets not burning at the right rates, blah blah blah blah blah.

The result was they asked me to work a proportionately increased amount on the 10% project, as well. So not only was I putting in an extra 30 hours a week for no extra pay, no benefits, no tangible rewards in any way, but they wanted me to do even more of that on the other 10% too.

So then report them. If you don't, then you're lying as much as they are.

I agree, but it doesn't seem worth risking my job over. I know, pretty weak.

Keep another accurate record of your hours and then when you are ready to quit, sue them for the overtime.

Switzerland does not allow this.


> All extra hours and overtime [...] must be announced to HR department before the 10th of the following month

> Any hours that are not announced respecting this time frame will be excluded from any form of compensation.

I have a friend who did this - it works. I doubt they'll have to sue, probably a simple demand letter will be sufficient.

Anonymous tip to the authorities might work.

Keep a record of your hours worked, and send them an invoice for the difference at the end of your employment there. Good chance they'll pay it to avoid the headache of arguing.

> In employee-employer relationships, the employer typically has all the power, so if you refuse to sign, you will likely be terminated.

Almost always, it won't hurt to ask. I've gotten approval to cross out some of the clauses when it didn't matter to the employer. Ex: ownership of work clause when I wasn't in a position providing work; but they wouldn't let me cross out asymmetric notice clauses.

I also neglected to sign an NDA for about two years once; I was asked to sign and scan prior to employment, but had some equipment issues and was told we'd do it on the first day, but it was forgotten, until investors wanted to see that everyone had an NDA prior to the next round of investment.

This can vary quite a bit employer to employer. As a contractor I've always successfully crossed out indemnification clauses, noncompete clauses (except while the contract is in progress), and anything that lays claim to my time or effort outside of work. But I've also been willing to walk.

You have more leverage as a contractor I think, the position is different to an employee. Clauses like noncompetes and IP claims outside of the contract are a pretty hard sell for a contractor, as it limits your ability to work after the job is done and as such it's going to be hard to hire a contractor with those kinds terms. I imagine clauses like that are designed to keep employees around for as long as possible, not really an aim if you're hiring a contractor.

Depends on the goals of the contractor. They might concede to some crazy agreements to be able to list a big name company or a high profile project on their work history to get higher paying work in the future.

Not saying this is right or proper... but if you are in the U.S. then this was almost certainly about corporate tax reporting. Your salary may or may not be deductible from the company's business tax, depending on whether your work is classified as an "operational" or "capital" expense.

Different companies are more or less zealous in how they collect documentation for these tax deductions. I've worked for companies where management just "handles it", and it's invisible to employees. I've worked for companies that not only make salaried employees log hours, but also do separate them by project code (with some codes being "operational" and other "capital").

> I pointed out that I’d be lying if I signed it unmodified and the response was I’d be terminated if I didn’t sign

Why isn't this a good reason to file a wrongful termination lawsuit?

I've rarely had any pushback over clarification or refusing to sign as-is. A lot of the time a strike-through on a portion of a contract is sufficient. My bigger issue is electronic signing against versions that don't have the option of striking a line or two.

My biggest concerns are outside contributions and IP. Personally, I don't believe in Software Patents for the most part, and will not give up rights for stuff I build on my own time.

Yup, this happened to me too (signing off timesheets for an exempt position)

I don't know if I'm just lucky, but I've always had good results just not presenting my compliance with the law as something I have a choice in. "Oh, gosh, I really want to sign this, but I need X to fulfill the legal requirements. Please help me resolve this so I can do the thing we both want."

Would love to hear a concrete example of this. I love the idea but still quite can’t envision the execution.

Isn't the signature for the employer's CYA, not for your own? That is, if you lodged a complaint saying that you never received the pamphlet and were told to sign anyway (and especially if there's a paper trail of you saying you couldn't access the page and them telling you to sign anyway), can't they get in trouble for not following the law?

Yes-ish? That is, I'd be very surprised if anyone ever said "I know the page is down, but sign like it isn't anyway", at least in writing.

The general pattern for this sort of thing is that a different person from the one who got the complaint comes by and reminds you you haven't signed the form, and HR is breathing down their neck now. And if you explain about the error, they might reasonably say "well, if it's the same form as the one you did read, then who cares?" After all, it's not their form, they're not asking you to lie - just pointing out the same sensible thing you did in the first place. In the most extreme case, a bunch of people would ask this, none of them would ever push back up the chain, and if you refused strenuously enough you might get fired for "failing to sign the sexual harassment form" (or more likely, for no stated reason). Nobody's going to ask for a lie, they just ignore the problem and keep repeating the initial request. That doesn't necessarily make it legal, given that the complaint was raised, but it makes proving the misbehavior enormously difficult.

I don't remember who said this first, but the miracle of bureaucracy is that it can create causeless effects. A bunch of people make a bunch of reasonable, innocent-looking decisions, and somehow they all add up to "lie or get fired" without anyone ever having to say it.

Except it doesn't work that way. When your boss has you in the room to tell you your fired, instead he would just have the form you need read and to sign.

Not necessarily. More likely, he’d just have the part you need to sign.

So you tell the boss that you need to see everything to sign it. Regardless of my relationship with my managers, they know that hiring a replacement is expensive and it's not worth being down a team member for a while, recruiting / interviewing, and training someone new over something silly.

(This might be legitimately less true for more entry-level jobs, which is why we have unions. Pushing back against unreasonable transfers of burden from the company to individually-low-power workers is basically the entire point of unions.)

> This might be legitimately less true for more entry-level jobs, which is why we have unions. Pushing back against unreasonable transfers of burden from the company to individually-low-power workers is basically the entire point of unions.

Precisely. If I had to guess which group of people get fired or penalized for this sort of thing most, I'd go with "shift managers". The shift manager at a fast-food franchise might have the most power in the room, but they don't have local control (i.e. ownership) or corporate power (i.e. any say in company policy). If somebody at the head office screws up like this, their options are to fire the person who won't sign, or complain upstream until they get fired.

If replacing people is a lot of work for the company (and especially if its not that hard on those replaced), these things tend to take care of themselves. If everyone is in one place and talking, sanity tends to prevail regardless. But when costs are low and power is sufficiently indirect, there's no guarantee anyone with a say in the matter will give it any thought.

Only if he wants you fired and to then have to pay you unemployment.

In a big company it won’t ultimately be up to him. A good boss will track it down but they’re not all good.

Yes, exactly. The downside of those "causeless effects" I mentioned is that there's no guarantee they're good effects. After all, no individual consciously made the choice.

If the organization gets big enough, it's very possible that things simply become both mandatory and forbidden, and no one with the power to fix it cares enough to do so.

What if you just send an email to HR saying "Hey - my understanding from so-and-so is that it's known that the system is down and I should just sign the form anyway for now, so I did so. Please let me know when it's back up so I can read the brochure, thanks!"? Are they going to fire you for sending that email?

No, but you just lost the whole reason you pushed back in the first place as you have signed a form saying you read something you haven't read.

Not exactly, if you would blow the whistle with internal comms and there's evidence to suggest it's commonplace, the company can be fined without your just cause, as per pro-bono suit. Of course, there has to be some goodwill on prosecutor's side.

Why does that matter? Is there any effective negative consequence to me from admitting that?

That was the whole premise of the article.

Not a job, but I signed up for a gym membership recently and the sales employee asked me to digitally sign the contract (displayed on screen) using an electronic signature pad.

Naturally I asked him to print out a copy so I could read it before signing. While I was reading the document, to make some small-talk I asked him how many people in the years he'd been there have actually read the contract they signed. His answer? 0. I was the first.

I backed my rental car into a tree and scratched the bumper on the vacation end of a business trip to Israel a couple of years ago. When I was at the rental agency working out how much I owed them, the lady handed me a paper to sign, completely in Hebrew, then got visibly annoyed when I insisted on looking at it through Google translate first.

>All of that after I explicitly asked for any and all paperwork that would require my signature up front before becoming an employee.

This reminds me of the Feynman story where he agrees to do a talk - but only if he doesn't have to sign his name more than 13 times.

They almost make it.


I wonder if it's possible to keep an opposing paper trail somehow.

This is another Pandora's box. I can't tell you how many times I've received emails regarding my relationship with the company as an employee that are also then labelled as being "confidential", and thus not to leave the company's systems. (I.e., I'm not technically allowed to make a paper trail.)

I've also received countless "confidential, do not forward. We just posted on our public blog <TL;DR of blog post>"

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