"Wonderful, Sherilyn. Are you feeling better this week?"
"Oh, much better, thank you. That flu was a killer!" she remarked. "By the way, Walter, could I please have my paycheck? It was issued the week I was out."
"I'm sorry, Sherilyn, no can do," he smiled innocently.
Sherilyn was startled. "What do you mean?"
"Well, there's this new policy now. It states that you have to be present the day before and the day after paychecks are due to receive one."
"Come on, Walter, when did this new policy go into effect?" she questioned him sarcastically.
"Oh, it's always been available to supervisors," he informed her. "It's one that can be invoked under supervisory discretion, and I decided that you're not eligible for your paycheck," he said with all seriousness.
"Look, Walt, I've had about enough of this nonsense," she said, attempting to control her fury. "Just who do I have to see to get my paycheck if it isn't you?"
The look on Walter's face took on a lecherous pose, and he responded to her question by opening his middle desk drawer and placing two crisp hundred dollar bills on his desk. "Listen, Sherilyn, you'll get this and your paycheck if you meet me at the Alabaster Inn this evening. I promise you a very exciting night."
"How dare you, Walter! You disgust me! Give me my paycheck, and give it to me now," she demanded.
"No," Walter insisted.
Seething, Sherilyn stormed out of his office and sailed across the hall and past the president's secretary's desk so fast that she sent all loose items airborne. She barged into his office and demanded an audience.
The president had known Sherilyn for four years. He had never seen her in this state and couldn't imagine what was wrong.
"Calm down, Sherilyn, what is it?"
"Calm down! Calm down! You calm down!" she shrieked. "That repulsive reptile, Walter, just told me that I needed to sleep with him in order to get my paycheck. He even had the gall to wave hundred dollar bills in my face as some sort of enticement. Then he said he was invoking some insane policy about not getting my paycheck because I wasn't here the day before and the day after it was issued. I should have maced that bastard. My mace is in my purse." Then her eyes darted about the room. "Where's my purse. Where is it?" She was becoming hysterical at this point.
No one had ever reacted to Walter's games so violently before. The president wasn't quite sure how to handle this one.
The president had Sherilyn's check in his hand. "Sherilyn, please sit down."
"I don't want to sit down; I just want my paycheck," she insisted.
"Of course you'll get your paycheck. Walter was just pulling a practical joke on you. Here's your check. I'll talk to him. I'm sure he won't do it again."
Sherilyn snatched her check and stomped off. The president called Walter. "Walter, I thought we discussed this once before about three years ago. You're to stop that paycheck nonsense. Do you hear me?"
"Sure, Jack. I won't do it again. You know I was just funnin'."
"I know, Walter, but today's women don't find it funny, so please stop it. One of these days, you're going to get yourself hurt. Sherilyn was ready to come in and mace you! In her state, I wouldn't have been surprised if she kicked you once you were down."
"Okay, okay. Nobody seems to have a sense of humor any more," Walt muttered to himself, not understanding why Sherilyn had created such a brouhaha. "What's wrong with these women? They just can't take a joke, just can't take a joke," he lamented as he picked up his hundred dollar bills and folded them neatly into his wallet.
The company should have thwarted Walter's "little games" long ago. The president's awareness and inaction over this and Walter's prior offenses not only places the company at risk but also fosters an untenable situation for employees assigned to Walter. It's clear that Walter doesn't understand the gravity of the situation. Letting him off the hook this time was a serious mistake.
Two principal issues arise here. First, if Sherilyn had left the premises rather than go to the president's office, the company and/or Walter may have faced criminal liability. Under many state labor laws, refusal to tender paychecks is not only unlawful but also a misdemeanor.
Second, this employer will be truly lucky if no sexual harassment suit is filed. When an employee complains about sexual harassment, it is vital that the company respond appropriately. This may be the last opportunity the employer has to resolve the matter without formal proceedings. It should always be the company's goal to try to resolve these situations without forcing the victim to seek the intercession of an outside party (e.g., private attorney, state agency, union).
This particular company is truly on thin ice because the president evidently knew of Walter's proclivities from prior episodes and failed to take prompt, appropriate, corrective action when Sherilyn complained to him. Unless this company implements a sexual harassment policy promptly, including training of supervisory personnel such as Walter, it will remain a ticking time bomb for a litigation explosion.
Excerpted from Outrageous Conduct: Bizarre Behavior at Work©
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