In my career, I have often held the accounting/human resources/everything else no one wants to deal with position. So, I’ve been faced with quite a few fun scenarios. Here are a few…
2) Naked Lady Cake – Once upon a time I worked in a manufacturing environment. The shop was 99% male (only myself and one other female employee). One day, I came to work and found a naked lady cake on the breakroom table. CLASSY! I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that’s a pretty clear cut sexual harassment issue waiting to happen. Mind you, I understood those guys and it was all meant to be in good fun (and was actually brought in by the other female). However, we did have customers and vendors who would happen by the shop. So, I did it. I was the mean HR lady who made them cut up the cake, so the shape was no longer recognizable. At least I didn’t just toss the cake!
3) Adult videos for Christmas – At the same classy establishment, we had annual holiday parties. I was in charge of setting it up and getting our vendors to give us items to raffle off at the party. My dear boss liked to have his porn delivered to the office (did I say classy?)…well, it was always packaged so you could only see the return address, but I’m not a moron. I would put it in his mail and never ever mentioned it. Well, one day, just before the party, said boss opened his mail at the desk next to me. One happened to be an "adult" video. He promptly tossed it on my desk and declared "give that away at the Christmas party". I don’t remember my exact response, but it was a HR lecture of sorts and the video was promptly returned. (the lesson – DO NOT have that mail delivered to your office and certainly DO NOT present it to an employee!)
4) Discriminatory hiring practices – I once left a position and hired my own replacement before I left. A couple of months later, I got an email from the employer stating that the new person didn’t work out and asking if I would help him find someone else. The email went on to say: "This time, let’s find a man for the job. Nothing against you, but women are nurturers and men are hunters. I need someone with the hunter instinct." Never in my life have I seen someone so boldly discriminate against women…in writing! And he asked me to participate! Are you kidding me? Which is pretty much what my reply email said: "I cannot believe you are asking me to help you break employment laws and discriminate in hiring for this position. Furthermore, not only is this illegal, it’s now in writing!" Bad move. You better dispose of this email quickly and hope don’t get sued if you do hire a man. He, of course, never responded to my message. I heard through the grapevine that he had previously been sued for sexual harassment and my response really scared him. GOOD! It should! Please become familiar with illegal hiring practices before you set out to hire employees. There are always shades of gray, but this was not one of those situations. This was blatant discrimination. And even if the issue you are dealing with is a shade of gray, be careful what you put in writing. It may come back to haunt you.
Note: Please don’t get the wrong impression. I do understand there are practical realities and sometimes the gray area is a lot wider than we would like. I try very hard to always give alternative solutions, to think outside of the box and find solutions that will solve the problem and stay within the scope of the law. It’s always up to the owner to decide what to do, but I also have the option of not participating when my ethical or moral standards don’t line up with the decision. Most of the time, we’re able to find a great solution. The most interesting stories, however, tend to be the extremes.
~Kelly Totten, www.acclaroaccounting.com