Jeff headed a small scientific research company. His example set the dress code for the office. He'd arrive in a muscle shirt and jogging shorts or a running suit–whatever his plans demanded. Magnetic, handsome, and fully fit at forty-nine, he had completed his fourth race in the famed Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon.
Three months preceding the event, he began daily training. He moved his touring bike to his office, removed the front wheel, and mounted it on a stationary frame. Then he'd pedal the hours away as he read scientific journals that were perched on the stand mounted to his handle bars. He also had his secretary rig a low-level podium to another piece of exercise equipment he dragged into the office, so he could read while working his arms for the swimming segment.
To prepare for the marathon portion of the event, he ran during his lunch hour, which he extended to two hours. To keep him company, Mik, his Irish Setter, helped maintain the pace. Jeff brought Mik to the office every day during training. Mik relaxed in Jeff's office until it was time for their lunch run. Mik instinctively knew the time and eagerly accompanied Jeff. Jeff looked forward to the event each year. He was going to begin training next month.
The company leased about 10,000 square feet of space in a suburban commercial complex. They shared the building with a bank and an insurance company. Jeff's employees often came in and out at odd hours. They were given free reign to accomplish their jobs and dress as they pleased. They rarely dealt with the public and suited up in business attire only when necessary. A casual dress code and liberal working hours created a special atmosphere. Employees were comfortable, committed, and motivated. They liked having control of their lives, and few abused the policy. Those who did were forced out by their peers. No one tolerated free loaders.
Unfortunately, the neighboring insurance company and banking employees were unhappy. They resented the small company's freedom and casual dress. The landlord received complaints from neighboring companies that Jeff's company was having a negative effect on the morale of their employees. These companies also informed Jeff of their concerns by certified letter. Jeff thought they were stupid and ignored them. His company was building its own facility and would be moving in six months. Jeff couldn't be bothered with their pettiness.
"Let those dumb jerks try to evict me," he thought, discarding the letter. "By the time they get their act together, we'll be out of here anyway."
The day had arrived to begin training, so Jeff brought Mik to the office. The bank employees were furious. Three women were especially provoked about Mik. Since complaints to the landlord were ineffective, they conspired to call the health department and fabricate a story. They complained that they had developed an infection from the toilet seat because Mik had nosed his way into the ladies' restroom. When Jeff received a complaint letter from the state health department, he became enraged.
"Those lard-assed bitches," he muttered aloud. "There's no way I'm going to let Mik take the blame."
Jeff immediately dialed up his veterinarian and told him the story. The veterinarian agreed to write the following letter in Mik's defense and sent a copy to the bank's branch manager.
Attention State Health Department:
I am writing in response to the complaint against Jeff Camden's dog, Mik.
There is no way that a canine can transmit a sexual disease to three females via a toilet seat. The only way that three women could contract the same infection at the same time would be if they were all having sex with the same man.
Score one for work place diversity!
Let's hope that Jeff and the veterinarian have paid up libel insurance; they may need it. While there was some legal justification to communicate to the health department about Mik's inability to transmit diseases to women, it is difficult to perceive any justification for the third sentence in the veterinarian's letter or for his decision to send a copy to the bank. Imputing sexual misconduct to a woman is one of those hidebound legal maxims that law students learn is libel per se.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©