DEAR AMY: I'm a recent college graduate working in my first "adult" job. I work very closely every day with an older co-worker who essentially oversees all of my work activities. Recently, while trying to connect with him on LinkedIn (with no success, because he isn't a user), I Googled his name and the state he lives in. The first result was an article from several years ago with his mug shot, saying he had been arrested a decade ago for an alleged sexual assault on a minor. The article didn't give details on how the case ended (but I assume he was found not guilty, otherwise I assume he would be in jail). Still, I looked into his background a little more with free online tools and discovered that he has many other crimes on his record, including burglary and domestic assault. Basically, I don't know how to handle this information. I feel incredibly disturbed and uncomfortable since learning this, and I'm dreading continuing to work with him. I'm not sure if I should bring it up with HR, or try to let it go. What should I do?

Concerned in Colorado

DEAR CONCERNED: It is never wise to override your own instincts if you don't feel safe.

Many states have passed "ban the box" laws, making it illegal for an employer to ask about criminal convictions on a job application (although they can ask and should also do a background check before making an employment offer). It's possible that your workplace has not done its due diligence — or that this person has been arrested, but never convicted, of a crime (it's not quite clear).

Because these crimes involve violence against people and property, you should take your concerns to HR. Most likely, your HR representative wouldn't comment to you, or reveal any aspect of your co-worker's criminal history. But if your HR rep told you, "Yes, we are aware of all of this. We hired Mr. Smith eight years ago as part of a parole work-release program and we are very happy with his rehabilitation," would this mollify your concerns?

Obviously, your workplace should never knowingly put you in proximity to a violent criminal. You have the right and the responsibility to attend to your own concerns and safety — in and out of the workplace. After your own investigation, you will have to make an informed decision regarding what to do about what you have learned.

DEAR AMY: My sister took her family to the beach and had a professional photographer take a picture of the whole family. It is framed and hangs in the hall of her home. One granddaughter asked to have the photographer also take her picture with my sister by herself. This picture is framed and on an end table in the living room. I think this shows favoritism and probably hurts the other grandkids. My sister says this granddaughter is the only one who asked for a separate picture, so she is going to display it. What do you think?

Auntie M

DEAR AUNTIE: Mainly, I think this is really none of your business. Unless your sister explicitly asks you about this, you needn't weigh in.

If your sister conveys open favoritism toward this one granddaughter in other ways (aside from displaying the photograph), then the photo will indeed remind other grandchildren that they don't have star status with their gran. Many grandparents do have special relationships with one grandchild (often the firstborn). But smart grandparents work very hard to appreciate their individual grandchildren as individuals — not as supporting satellites in the favored child's constellation.

Children are very quick to perceive even subtle favoritism, and I agree with you that it is hurtful.

DEAR AMY: I admit I enjoyed your "best of" columns from 10 years ago. I was surprised to see a question from "Closed Minded," a politically liberal person who expressed disdain for politically conservative — as well as religious — people. Wow. Talk about a real lesson from the archives. Thank you especially for this thought: "The most gracious and socially adept people I know always find a way "in" as a way to get to know someone. They dip beneath the surface, ask questions and listen to the answers. If you do this, you'll learn that even zealots have hometowns and favorite movies."

A Fan

DEAR FAN: I was interested to run across that question, too. The main take-away for me was that our current political discord seems to have been percolating for some time.

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