Keep those sexy emails!
The lesson to be learned from today’s article is, if you are going to have a sexual relationship with somebody in the workplace, make sure to keep a copy of any dirty emails they send you. If things go sour and they claim that you sexually harassed them they might be important.
Which brings us to the story of Bob. Bob was the manager for a collections agency. The agency hired workers through temporary employment companies from time to time. A woman who was in the office but not reporting to Bob began a relationship with him. Or he began it with her, whichever you like. Her temporary contract went on for a number of months and she and Bob would enjoy recreational pursuits together. At one point, Bob’s paramour told him that she found a new boyfriend and wanted to be loyal to him. Bob’s position was that he did not mind and did not make a fuss about it. The paramour later claimed that he was persistent in asking her to have sex with him and pursuing a personal relationship.
Eventually a full time position came available and the paramour applied. This position reported to Bob. The paramour was hired. Bob and her had not been intimate for a number of months.
She claimed that when she showed up for the interview for the full time position he did not talk to her about the job much at all. Rather, he said something like, “I’ve seen you naked so there’s not much to talk about.” She told the judge that she felt that Bob wanted a sexual service provider and so during the interview she offered him some more recreation and they went to a file room on a different for a little while.
She claimed that over the next few months Bob was persistent in persuing further recreation with her but she refused.
Eventually management became aware of the relationship that Bob had had with the paramour. It would appear that she was alleging that she had been sexually harassed. The employer took the position that for this reason there was just cause for Bob’s termination. They fired him and gave him nothing. Bob sued. He conceded that there had been a consensual sexual relationship with this individual but that it had been long over by the time she was hired to fulfill a position that reported to him and was never recommenced.
She claimed that after she ended the relationship because of her new boyfriend Bob tried to persuade her to re-engage in their recreational pursuits and she refused other than that one time when she was clinching the deal for the full time position.
This is where the sexual harassment allegation comes in. If you know or ought to know that somebody that reports to you does not want to have an intimate relationship and you pressure them, that is sexual harassment.
Bob denied that they had visited the file room after her interview for the job or that he had tried to restart the relationship after she ended it.
Whom to believe?
Well, Bob was a smart boy and he kept the very graphic emails she liked to send him. All of them were presented to the judge. I could not begin to quote from them here but most of them were instigated by the paramour and were as graphic as graphic gets. They went into great detail about recreational pursuits engaged in by her and the new boyfriend.
One wonders what the boyfriend’s reaction would have been if he realized his private life was being described and shared with a former beau.
The problem for the employer who had believed the paramour’s story and fired Bob based on her allegations is that these emails had been sent by her during the very period she claimed that Bob was pestering her for sex after she ended the relationship.
If somebody’s pestering you for an intimate relationship you do not want, you don’t discourage them by sending them emails reporting graphically on your own sexual adventures.
In the end, the judge found that while Bob had violated the company email policy by using their computer to send and receive sexually graphic materials, it was not enough to warrant his termination without notice. It was not just cause. Bob was awarded three months pay in lieu of notice after his three and a half years of service.
There is an extra lesson in addition to the one we started with. Don’t use the company computer systems to send or receive graphic materials. It’s a stupid thing to lose a job over whether or not you get a severance package. Remember, people are watching!
As published in the Hamilton Spectator, November 22, 2008