“Panic in the Parking Lot–Part 2”

“Panic in the Parking Lot–Part 2”

PANIC IN THE PARKING LOT (Cont'd)

snowy parking lotA few minutes later, three sales managers walked down the hall.  They were engrossed in swapping stories as they walked out the same rear door.

Alfred fired one torpedo and then another.

"Ow," yelped George, as he rubbed his thigh.

"Ouch," howled Rueben, grabbing his shoulder.

Jack, who hadn't completely walked out, observed the fracas and spied Alfred's glazed eyes and a handful of asphalt. 

"Get in here, you guys," he motioned.  "That's Alfred, he must have gone berserk or something."

All three scattered.  Like cockroaches after a Black Flag blitz, they fled to safe crevices of the building.  There they found Morton, hanging up the phone.  By the look on their faces, Morton knew what had happened.

"You must have run into Alfred," Morton said.

"What are we going to do?" quivered George, still rubbing his thigh. 

"Well, I certainly don't want to call the police.  It will be bad for public relations," Mort maintained.

"But he's holding us hostage.  I've got to get home for my daughter's recital.  My wife will kill me if I'm late," Rueben whined as he massaged his throbbing shoulder.

"Look, I'm sure we can figure a way out of this, if we all put our heads together," Jack remarked casually.  "Besides, how dangerous can he be?  I mean . . . really!"

"Oh, that's easy for you to say.  You didn't get hit by the flying shrapnel," Rueben argued.

"You're such a damn wimp, Rueben.  If it's not your wife who's giving you the runs, it's a print-shop flunky.  You'd think Alfred was touting an uzi, the way you're shaking.  Look at yourself; you're white as a sheet."

Rueben's embarrassment drained all his energy.  He silently slid down in a chair and stared stupidly out the window.

"Calm down, you guys," interrupted Morton.  "I've asked Human Resources to call his mom.  She'll come and pick him up.  He's just scared."

"Well, what are we supposed to do until she gets here?" Rueben asked, somewhat regaining his composure.

"Sit and wait," Morton replied matter-of-factly.

"Look, I told you I can't sit.  I have to go to my daughter's recital," Rueben insisted.

"Well, if you want to brave it, take a garbage can lid from the lunchroom, and use it as a shield until you get to your car.  Then lock yourself in and drive out in the opposite direction," Morton suggested.

"You guys won't feel like I'm abandoning you, will you?" Rueben squeaked.  "I mean, you know how it is with kids." 

"Fine, Rueben, go ahead.  We'll try to cover for you while you make an ass of . . . er . . . I mean a dash for it," Jack promised, turning a contemptuous smirk toward Morton.

"Gee, guys, I really appreciate it," Rueben sang as he dashed off to the cafeteria for his guardian shield.   

Covering his vitals with the protection of an industrial version of a Sears Roughneck, Rueben made it to his car, with only a slight bruise to his right calf.  The rest of the managers remained in the building until Alfred's mom battled the traffic for a 7:00 P.M. arrival. 

Unfortunately, the story does not end here.  Alfred missed his bus on several other occasions.  Each time Alfred panicked, which tested the conscience and patience of the company's management.  The company, along with Alfred's mom, decided it was in Alfred's best interest to find a job that was closer to home, one in which his routine would not be upset.

PANEL COMMENTS

There would appear to be some additional action that could have been taken by Alfred's supervisor and the human resoures office.  Certainly after the first incident, someone could have walked Alfred to the bus stop and helped him to get another bus.  Given that Alfred could function in the workplace, some cooperative effort between his mother and the company might have salvaged a dedicated worker.  Buses run on a schedule.  It is highly unlikely that Alfred was working alone and unsupervised.  The supervisor could have kept a schedule.  With a little effort and compassion, there might have been a different ending.

LEGAL COMMENTS

This story highlights a likely problem for employers in the near future.  Given the improvements in prenatal care and in emergency lifesaving birth procedures, the percentage of children who survive difficult births has dramatically increased.  Unfortunately, many of these children are brain damaged or otherwise disabled.  The resultant increase in our disabled population, coupled with the increased sensitivity to disabled persons and the recently enacted legal protections for the handicapped, suggests that discrimination on the basis of disability may well be the key EEO issue of the next millenium.

While employers may not discriminate against otherwise qualified applicants on the basis of disability, they also have the right to deny employment to persons who are unable to do the job.  In Alfred's case, the company would have to reasonably accommodate his handicap before discharging him.  For example, a work schedule modification is a typical form of accommodation and might well have worked here so that Alfred would not miss his bus.

Unfortunately, once Alfred demonstrated a propensity for violence, the company would be well-advised to consider whether he should be retained as an employee.  Any employee or passerby injured by Alfred in one of his frenzies would have a strong claim against the employer.

Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©

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