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Bad Company

Devious Malefactor

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A few people I work with on a regular basis brought up something that took place about 3 years ago regarding on of our volunteer workers, most importantly how we could avoid having the same thing happen that happened with him.

We work amongst ourselves as a non-profit organization targeted at providing a variety of goods and services to locations and people who cannot easily access them. Every now and then, we recognize a person's talents and personality for the work and give them a title. For the most part, it remains a mild inside joke among good friends and co-workers - Except when it doesn't. These titles are, on the surface level, are a nonsensical reference and by nature are not meant to be taken seriously. We also do not use them in a public presence for that reason. The more ridiculous your name though, the more likely you'll end up with it pretty quick unless you have an alias.

So after about a year of working with us, a particular volunteer began less and less dependable and started acting strange, doing things he knew he wasn't supposed to be doing, and stashing stuff in the vehicles. Needless to say, we took notice and assigned ourselves to go with him during any transactions as we suspected foul play. We also contacted his family to see if anything was going on. It was then that we were told that he had mentioned he was having a lot stress with the job and often complaining about the conditions of working for us. It's a tough job with little to no gain, so we understood this and scheduled a meeting with him to discuss how he felt.

Meeting time came up and he didn't show. He was scheduled to work the next day, and he didn't show then either. We contact his home and they ignored our calls. We let him go and sent a 'letter of discontinued service' to his home address, which is basically a pink-slip by another name. A week later, we're being sued for harassment and discrimination. Since I was the only qualified legal aid for the organization, I went over the documents with everyone and dealt with the case from there. Spoiler Alert: He didn't win his case.

Over the course of time, the person in question felt he was being treated unfairly - That he was being made fun of for how he acted, the way he did things, etc and that we had been "holding a noose" around his next for the last month of his volunteer work. This, as we proved to the court, was not the case. Every 2 weeks, we have meetings with all volunteers and go over the conditions of the work environment as well as what our customers have told us. We talk to each employee as a group and then individually if there are matters we wish to discuss with them private. We keep a record of all of it, because of dumb shit like this.

There were a lot of issues that he had hidden behind a facade which he did not bring up with us at any point in time. There we multiple opportunities to have his voice heard, and he repeatedly declined them. Even when we asked about what was going on with him stashing things in the vehicles, he simply said that he wasn't paying attention to what he was doing and will make sure it wasn't going to happen. In reality, we knew that to be false but he did correct the issue so we didn't take it further. Our mistake.

His passive aggressive behavior didn't come to a head with the lawsuit, it was between when he started skipping out on work up until we let him go. His complaints composed of being called "Limbo", being 'stalked' all the time by the supervisors, and being 'harassed' over minor things by myself and the other supervisors. The extent of the complaints were as absurd as they were exaggerated and fictitious. When he brought all this up, the first thing I asked him was "Why didn't you tell us this earlier? And why didn't you come to the meeting so you could tell us this now and not over the phone?" I rarely hang up on people, but his response is one of few things that makes me sick of people: "Because you wouldn't listen".

As far as we're concerned at that point and even now, the only person who didn't listen was the person being told he had every chance in the world to talk to us only to tell us there was nothing wrong. Prior to receiving our court summons and afterwards, I spent quite a bit of time going over our tapes and talking with all of our supervisors and volunteers about what went on. All it revealed to me was that the only person who was at fault for anything was him.  Come to find out, he had went off on several volunteers prior to this incident and it had gone unreported because they didn't think it was a big deal.

It's a pretty big deal that cost us about 10,000USD in legal fees.

So for the love of god, if you have issues with the people you work with, let someone know. We've always made the effort to express emphasis on this matter with all volunteers. Considering how bad it has burned us, we're in a position where now that we're observing similar behavior from another volunteer that it has us somewhat on edge. We've put off doing anything for the time being short of just keeping an eye on his behavior. Though I think this time we'll start talking with his peers prior to discussing the matter directly with the new person in question. It's something we don't want to do, but we also don't want to have the burned of another costly court case. As a non-profit, we cannot shrug off that burden easily.

I'm not the kind of person who likes finding a reason to discharge someone because of sudden changes in working habits, however looking back at what has happened, it's kind of hard not to feel somewhat shell-shocked in a way.

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