Alexandra had run an errand outside the building. On her way back to her office, she was the only one to enter the elevator at the lower-lobby level. When she pressed the button for the fifteenth floor, the doors closed, and she stepped to the rear of the elevator. After the elevator advanced to the fourth floor, it stopped automatically. A tall, average-looking man entered and greeted her with a friendly smile, which she courteously returned. He pressed the nineteenth floor, the doors closed, and the elevator proceeded to advance.
Then, without warning, the man whirled around, opened up his suit jacket exposing a full erection, and said lecherously, "How'd you like to have this?" Fortunately, within moments, the elevator stopped at Alexandra's floor, and she ran off.
Bewildered and shaking, Alexandra called Cal Jones in Human Resources. "Ca . . . Cal, this is Alexandra Flowers, Georgia Lawton's assistant. I have a problem. Can you come up immediately?"
"I've just been flashed, and I'm too scared to get back on the elevator."
"I'll be right up," Cal assured her.
This was the third complaint that Cal had received in two weeks. Cal interviewed Alexandra to gather the facts. Her story was nearly identical to the other two complaints.
Cal knew the perpetrator had to be an employee. In all three instances, the man either entered or exited to the fourth floor, a floor not open to the public. But no one seemed to know who he was. The company occupied twenty floors of the building. Each floor housed about one hundred fifty people. After gathering information from Alexandra, Cal asked her if she would be willing to tour the fourth floor and make a positive identification. Alexandra had regained her composure after talking with Cal, and her initial fright turned to outrage.
"Sure, let's find the sicko!" she said enthusiastically.
The two of them toured the fourth floor about one hour after the incident. Alexandra spotted the flasher immediately. Cal thanked her for her help and then called on Rosa and Lynn. He took each of them to the fourth floor on separate occasions. Each positively identified the same man that Alexandra had fingered.
Cal decided to do some further checking. The employee's name was Harley Meisterman. He had only been with the company six months. Cal called Harley's former employer in a city about seven hundred miles away and learned that Harley was terminated for indecent exposure. Cal decided to dig deeper. A closer check revealed that Harley had an arrest record for exposing himself in a department store on Christmas Eve the preceding year as well as a parole violation on a prior conviction for the same offense.
Cal put together the file of the Christmas Eve arrest, the parole violation report, the former employer's termination information, and the three recent employee complaints. Then he called Harley into his office.
"Harley, I have on my desk before me your arrest records and other employee complaints for indecent exposure. Which would you rather do, be prosecuted by the women involved or resign?"
Harley resigned. However, Harley had recently married a woman who worked for the company. She was a naive woman who had spent eight years in a convent before joining the company. When she learned of her husband's resignation, she stormed into Cal's office.
"I'd like to know why this company railroaded my husband into a resignation? This company has a reputation in the community for being a good place to work and treating its employees fairly. Well, I don't see how that can be when you do these kinds of things to your employees."
It was clear to Cal that Harley had not told her the reason for his resignation. So when Cal pulled out the file, he said, "Ellen, you've been married to Harley for nearly a year now. It's time that you knew something more about your husband. We didn't railroad him out of a job. Here's a copy of the newspaper account saying he was arrested on Christmas Eve. Read it." Then he handed her the parole violation report and employee complaints to review.
Instead of being shocked, Ellen's face looked as though a light bulb had been turned on. "Gee, maybe this explains why he does some of the things he does," she muttered.
"What do you mean?" Cal asked.
"Well, for one, he keeps ladies' underwear in the dresser drawer in his bedroom," she disclosed.
"His bedroom?" Cal slipped.
"Yes, he brings boyfriends home and they sleep in bed with him, and I sleep on the sofa. I was a little concerned at first. He said they were old drinking buddies. I just thought he hadn't weaned himself from them since we had only recently gotten married, and I figured it would clear itself up," she responded ingenuously.
It was Cal who was shocked now. It was hard for him to believe anyone in today's society could be so naive. Eventually, however, Ellen wised up and kicked Harley out. Cal was delighted when he was summoned to testify about Harley's activities at her annulment proceedings.
Cal should have encouraged the women to prosecute Harley. That would have given Ellen important information and perhaps would have been the blow needed to get Harley to seek help. All forms of sexual harrassment should be vigorously addressed by company officials.
Why did Cal wait until after Harley was hired to do some checking on Harley's background? Employers are increasingly being held liable for the conduct of their employees if the company was "negligent" in its selection process. Checking references and at least inquiring about prior criminal convictions are the bare minimum steps employers should take to reduce their risk of liability for "negligent hiring."
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©