Terminating an employee is always distasteful. At best, the employee takes his lumps and leaves. Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society, so it is all too common for employees to feel that their discharge was wrongful, no matter what the circumstances. They perceive that the corporation has deep pockets, with sufficient reserve to meet their greed. Effective labor counsel can often get frivolous cases dismissed. Sometimes, however, the corporation settles to avoid excessive costs. At worst, an employee successfully pulls off a scam, embarrassing the company while depleting its bottom line.
Rob had trouble with Billy from the beginning. First it was minor things, like not fully cleaning up his work station before the next shift arrived or leaving parts of his paperwork incomplete. Billy scowled whenever Rob counseled him. Billy was never good at accepting criticism but would attempt to improve for awhile. Unfortunately, he'd lapse back to the same headstrong behavior. Rob put up with him longer than he should have because Billy was a crack technician. However, on March 18, Rob reached the end of his rope with Billy.
"Billy," Rob began, "I've noticed that you haven't turned in your service report. When can I expect it?"
"When I feel like getting around to it," Billy sniped.
Rob started to redden, but kept calm. "Billy," he began slowly, "I'm afraid I need the report right now. I expect to have it on my desk in five minutes."
Tommy, who considered himself the company's version of Ogden Nash, observed this exchange with glee. He sat at the bench adjacent to Billy, and as soon as the fracas began, he glued his eyes to his oscillator and tuned up his ears. He knew this show would make great material for his next set of verses.
Rob stood at Billy's bench waiting for a response. "Well?" he demanded.
"Get off my ass, Rob," Billy snapped. "You know, Rob, you can be such a shmuck sometimes. Look, you don't need that report right now. You just enjoy getting on my case. Besides, can't you see I'm busy repairing this console? Now, what's more important, a lousy report or getting our customer satisfied?"
Billy's insubordination infuriated Rob. "That's not the point, Billy," Rob began. Rob had endured enough. This was going to be Billy's last outburst. "What is the point, Billy my friend, is that you're outta here–TODAY!"
"Good. Fine, fine. I don't give an f— about this job. I don't need to work for jerks like you," Billy raged, throwing down his tools. "As a matter of fact, this is great. I'm glad. I can't get out of here fast enough."
Before Rob and Billy were out of sight, Tommy began furiously producing his verse on a large piece of cardboard. In bright red letters it blared: "Billy's gone, he don't give a fuck. He called Rob a first-class shmuck." Pleased with his creative effort, Tommy trotted out to the shop floor and posted the sign in a conspicuous place near the break room.
Moments later Shana, one of the plant's human resources representatives, discovered the sign. Instinct told her not to remove it. She immediately headed for her boss's office. She could see through the window in the door that Margaret was meeting with Billy and Rob. She picked up the intercom and buzzed Margaret.
"Yes," Margaret responded with an irritated tone.
"Margaret, it's Shana. Sorry to interrupt, but I have some critical information dealing with Billy that you need to know now."
"Yes?" Margaret said, attempting to conceal the nature of the call.
"There's a sign on the shop floor–a poem, probably written by that clown, Tommy." Then Shana repeated the verse for Margaret and waited for instruction.
"That's very interesting. Good work. Call Jess at corporate; he'll instruct you how to handle it. I'll get back with you on this as soon as possible. Thanks for letting me know."
Margaret knew that she would have trouble with this one. The union was strong and would defend to the hilt. Billy was already denying everything Rob alleged he had said. He claimed that Rob was harassing him.
Shana called Jess, the company's corporate labor counsel, and explained the situation. "Does your cell phone have a camera that takes good pictures?" Jess asked.
"Yes, I do."
"When do the breaks begin?"
Shana looked at her watch. "In about forty-five minutes."
"Well, it's important to get out there prior to the break so that no one sees you.
Read Part 2 to find out was Jess was so specific in instructions to Shana.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©