You’ve heard the stories, seen the videos, and shaken your head in disbelief every time an employee does something so completely insane, out of line, or just plain stupid that it makes headlines. And you wonder “Did they really think they were going to get away with that?!?”
Of course, they did—until they got caught.
For decades, attorney Richard Burton has worked for companies that needed protection when their employees act out. Employees Gone Wild collects some of the most outrageous stories from Burton’s years on the job, along with practical advice on how companies and the people who work for them can avoid the same pitfalls.
Hilarious and eye-opening—and with cartoons from artist Ian Baker to illustrate the mayhem—Employees Gone Wild is a laugh-out-loud collection of the most unbelievable office antics and wild workplaces you’ll be glad you never experienced.
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Walks of Shame
Office Sexcapades and the Ugly Morning After
It's no secret that office work can be tedious. Long days spent in seemingly endless yet unproductive meetings. Lonely hours sequestered in a joyless cubicle. The torments of rush-hour traffic. Lunch hours spent eating microwaved leftovers at your desk. Coffee breaks and trips to the water cooler that somehow fail to make the end of the business day seem even one second closer.
The monotony of the nine-to-five routine can feel claustrophobic, even soul crushing. Little wonder some office workers try to spice up their days by flirting with colleagues. And some of them, as you're about to see, take that flirtation a step — or a giant leap — further.
If the Cubicle Is Rocking, Don't Come Knocking
Let's start with an extreme example, a cautionary tale for the ages. It was a Friday afternoon in July at Company X ... or perhaps I should call it Company XXX. Most employees were attending a company-sponsored picnic, but a few workers, for whatever reason, had skipped the event to put in a full day at the office. While the rest of the office were enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs and participating in morale-building activities, two employees back at the office were engaging in what you might call an immoral-building activity.
The following Monday, a female employee who had stayed at the office on Friday turned up in the HR department to report that she remembered nothing from about three o'clock that Friday afternoon until about four-thirty on Saturday morning — when she woke up in a jail cell.
Not your usual Monday morning in HR. But the story is far from over.
We learned on investigating that, upon leaving work, the woman had driven to a local hotel where she behaved in an erratic fashion — enough that the hotel staff didn't want to deal with her. The hotel called her a cab. The cab driver said she was incoherent, acting "drunk" — more than the usual drunk needing a ride home on a Friday night. He phoned the police, who arrested her for disorderly conduct. Hence the jail cell.
Did any of her coworkers notice anything unusual on Friday before she left work? Oh yes, they did.
This employee worked in a floor of cubicles with little or no privacy. A colleague, a new employee who was closing her first sale, reported going to the jailbird employee to ask a question. A male coworker was massaging the woman's neck as she sat at her desk responding to the inquiry.
The new staffer came back a short time later with another question. Now the guy's hands were down the front of the woman's blouse. Apparently unfazed, they answered her question.
The third time she stopped by the woman's cube, the newbie found her mentor with her blouse completely off and the male coworker kneading her breasts.
They still answered her questions — the business questions. Not the ones undoubtably on her mind: What kind of place is this? What have I got myself into, working here?
And the fourth time, the clothes were off, and the woman and her colleague were having sex on the desk. In a cubicle. In plain view.
They barely paused to answer her question.
I know what you're thinking: Did the young woman manage to close the deal?
Oh, that's not what you're wondering? Yes, other people saw the tumescent twosome in action. In fact, when questioned, we learned that everyone who was in the office that Friday afternoon had gotten a good look at the action. As I said, it was an open office, and they weren't exactly discreet.
Then things went from bizarre to disturbing.
The woman told HR that, before the turn of events the junior staffer (and everyone else) had witnessed, the man involved had given her an alcoholic drink and insisted that she try it. Because she had no memory of anything that happened afterward, she believed she had been drugged.
I immediately launched a full HR investigation. I interviewed the woman who had brought the complaint, the employees who had witnessed the scene, and finally the man in question. Both the man and woman involved were married to different people and both had children.
The male employee rather sheepishly admitted bringing alcohol to the office and giving his female coworker a drink, but he vehemently denied drugging her. He did, however, admit to having sex with her in front of others, explaining, in what may be the understatement of the year, that things had gotten "out of hand." He apologized and begged for his job, assuring us that if we let him stay he would have no more contact of any kind with any female employee.
Needless to say, we fired him on the spot. The woman involved chose not to pursue any legal or criminal action.
After the Morning After
Bad enough to lose your job for getting busy — and I mean that in the nonwork way — at the workplace. What happens afterward, when looking for another job? Can or should a prior employer reveal what really happened if asked for a reference?
Labor and employment laws have grown much more proemployee over the years, putting companies at serious risk of legal claims if they say or do too much. For this reason, most companies reveal only "name, rank, and employment dates" when anyone inquires about a former employee. If a company were to communicate forthrightly to a third party what it believes an employee may or may not have done, that company would be opening itself to legal claims, with all the attendant expense and bad publicity. (However, if the woman in this situation had taken the man to court, the company would have the public record of that case to fall back on.) And even if the company said nothing, that court record would have followed the man to his next potential job. Is a one-afternoon stand really worth it?
Situations like this are often very tricky for companies to navigate. As far as a company's "need" to do more, in many situations like this, companies simply don't know for sure if a crime has been committed. HR departments may be the dress code and time clock cops, but they aren't the police, with subpoenas or search warrants. It is often one person's word against another's, and that's all there is to go on. Here, for example, it was impossible to know for sure who was telling the truth. Even if the woman had evidence of the presence of a date-rape drug, the company had no right to demand this information, and the woman didn't offer it. The company had no standing to file a criminal complaint against the male employee at issue. The female employee could have, but she decided not to.
The man was fired for breaking company rules; that's always within the company's power. The woman, too, had likely violated company policy, but because of the possibility she was indeed drugged and therefore not in control of or responsible for her actions, she was not fired. Though we did not know for certain that she had been drugged, neither could we prove she wasn't. On balance, and based on her prior employment record, we decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. Still, the situation was enough that she quit two weeks later and moved out of state.
If you must have sex with a coworker, wait until you can get off-site. If you get caught having sex in the workplace, embarrassment might be the least of your worries. There are very few jobs, other than porn star, where sex in the office is not a violation of company policy, and one you almost always will be fired for.
If you really can't wait, find an empty storage room or closet or something. Keep it on the down low. Nobody at the office needs to see the two of you in the act. (Nobody at work needs to see you undressed, under any circumstances, unless you are a nude model by profession. Do you really want to hear people talking about the mole on your backside at the water cooler?)
Make sure everyone involved is a fully consenting adult. If there is alcohol involved, consent may be in question. (And should you really be drinking in the office without permission? That's a whole 'nother subject.) Same for drugs. If there's a question of consent, there's a question of legality. Instead of explaining yourself to Human Resources, you may be facing the police and a judge.
MEMO TO MANAGEMENT
Sexual misconduct in the workplace can be a minefield. A swift, thorough, and impartial investigation by HR is essential in limiting the potential damage that such out-of-control employee behavior can wreak upon a company. It is equally, if not more, essential to act decisively in accordance with established protocol and to seek legal advice specific to the facts and circumstances, once the investigation is concluded.
Cougar on the Prowl
Male employees are not the only ones guilty of sexual misbehavior. One recently divorced middle-aged female employee developed a sudden interest in young male employees. This "cougar" — let's call her Kat — used office email to approach these young male gazelles.
When this was brought to our attention, we warned Kat that we would be monitoring her emails. She seemed to have gotten the message at first, but months later, when a twenty-year-old man was hired, she began to email him to ask questions — such as the color of his boxers — and to invite him to meet her in a quiet part of the office so she could "feel his body up." Incredibly, this woman even warned the man in question to be careful in his replies, "because the company told me they might be monitoring emails." (She was not employed as a rocket scientist.)
Since she had disregarded our clear warning and resumed her bad email habits, we had no choice but to fire her. In this case, the new male employee — who had proved unable to resist temptation — got off, so to speak, with a stern warning but was not terminated.
Don't fool yourself by thinking that company emails, text messages, or any other correspondence on company time or devices are private. They're company property, and yes, management can look at whatever you write. (Not just sexual advances — that screed against your boss might pop up to haunt you, too.)
Same goes for anything you put in a memo or say out loud. Behave at work as though you're being monitored all the time. Big Brother may not always be watching, but you can never be sure.
MEMO TO MANAGEMENT
Employees may be adults, but that doesn't mean they will always act that way. In the immortal words of President Ronald Reagan: "Trust but verify."
For a time, it seemed that inappropriate sexual behavior was spreading through Company XXX like the kind of disease you don't want to admit to having. What's more likely, of course, is that email and other electronic messaging systems have made it easier for companies to discover the evidence, even long after the affair is over. Such incriminating recorded behavior has been the undoing of many employees.
What triggered our investigation this time were complaints about a female employee, Tessie, who was whiling away her workdays flirting with numerous coworkers. While examining her in-house instant messages, we stumbled on a bigger problem.
One of Tessie's correspondents, Tom, wasn't just talking dirty to Tessie on the company's systems.
We found a lot of evidence proving Tom was spending his days instant-messaging female coworkers, inviting them to his office during the day for assignments other than work. Unfortunately, he had several takers. Or should I say "givers."
All those emails and instant messages and anything else on your computer? It's all backed up. You may think you deleted that incriminating email or ill-conceived text, but the backup is forever. Think before you type. Your message is for the ages.
If you want to have private communication with coworkers, do it through private channels — your personal device and account, sent to the other party's personal device and account. If the other person doesn't want to share his or her email address or cell number, maybe you should take a hint.
A surprising number of women took Tom up on the offer. In fact, the message trail indicated that the action was taking place in his office not just on an almost daily basis, but in some cases, several times during a single day!
Did I mention that Tom's manager shared an office wall with this workplace Casanova? Apparently, the office had good sound insulation because the manager never caught on.
While Tom had the good sense to keep his trysts behind closed doors, and all parties were consenting adults (we had the correspondence to prove it), this is still not what a company means when they encourage good employee relations.
And there was one interaction that put all the others to shame.
The messages showed us that Tom had invited a recently hired female employee to one of his very private meetings. She responded to his attempted seduction by telling him that she knew he was married and she was not interested in involving herself with a married man. His reply, and I quote: "In that case, I would just need to rape you — haha."
The woman to whom this "joke" was addressed did not report it to HR. She did, however, leave her job soon afterward for a better-paying position.
In fact, no one had ever complained about this man officially. His adventures only came to light because of the complaints about Tess.
When Tom was called on the carpet for his threat to sexually assault a coworker, he insisted that he had only been joking. We weren't laughing. He was fired.
As I escorted him out of the office, he said, "Welcome to a day in my life — women are always throwing themselves at me!"
Advance and Retreat
If you're on the receiving end of an unwanted advance at the workplace, report the incident to your supervisor or HR manager. There are rules against this, and it's up to management to stop it.
Even if an employee attempts to laugh off his or her advances as a joke, if you feel at all uncomfortable or threatened, report the incident to HR. It's not okay for coworkers to make you feel uncomfortable in this way.
On the other hand, if it is a "wanted" advance, arrange for the tryst to happen off company premises and after hours. What you do on your own time is up to you.
MEMO TO MANAGEMENT
It is not enough to have policies about harassment in place. Employees must know and understand them. Wise and prudent management will ensure that all employees understand what company policy is and what steps they should take to protect themselves — and the company — from scandal, liability, and worse.
Company XXX wasn't alone. At a different company, a high-level male executive was extremely proud of the posh leather couch in his office. All that talk about the couch, which wasn't just about the status symbol, but also had a nudge-nudge-wink-wink tone to it, led to rumors — rumors about what our executive, Ken, was doing on office furniture. I heard from my assistant that the talk was that Ken was conducting after-hours hanky-panky with certain female employees.
There were names attached to the rumors, which meant I could follow up. I talked to two women whose names had come up, and each admitted to spending some after-hours "quality time" with Ken on his couch.
We then confronted Ken, and he didn't deny it. In fact, he was more than a little impressed with himself and his exploits! (Proud enough to have started the rumors himself? I never found out.)
All parties were adults. All parties consented. The sofa sex took place after hours, so it wasn't interfering with work. But Ken was fired just the same, and not because he was canoodling on company property.
Rank Does Not Have These Privileges
Bad enough for any employee, from a janitor to a high-ranking executive, to carry on this way in the workplace. The office is not a motel, and if management looks the other way, the company is facing all kinds of risk.
But the big issue in this case was that Ken was the boss. The specter of a hostile work environment — the possibility that these women might have felt pressured into the liaison, or that playing the couch game might have been seen as the route to advancement — hangs heavy over these kinds of situations. Even if Ken never suggested that the women would get ahead by getting busy with him (or, more sinisterly, that there would be negative consequences for anyone who didn't play along), the women might have feared that would be the case or might have claimed as much later. Or, if one of them were promoted ahead of another employee, it might be claimed that the decision was based on sexual performance rather than job performance.
Whether or not there was actual pressure or duress from Ken as the boss, the appearance and the possibility are enough to create a problem for the company.
By the way, gender didn't factor in: we've dealt with similar situations where the genders were reversed, with the same outcome.
Now we know what happened to the people, but what about the (in)famous couch?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Employees Gone Wild"
Copyright © 2015 Richard Burton.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1: Walks of Shame: Office Sexcapades and the Ugly Morning After,
CHAPTER 2: Inferior Superiors: Bosses from Hell,
CHAPTER 3: Welcome to the Nut House,
CHAPTER 4: What Happens in Vegas May Not Stay in Vegas: Keeping Off-Hours Peccadillos Out of the Workplace,
CHAPTER 5: Crime Doesn't Pay Biweekly,
CHAPTER 6: Take Cover: When Employees (and Others) Lose It,
CHAPTER 7: A Straight Flush: Bathroom and Other Personal Fouls,
CHAPTER 8: When the Cat Gets Out of the Bag,
CHAPTER 9: Employees Behaving Better,
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