Sunday, 19 January 2014

We Regret to Inform You by Naomi Elana Zener

Jack was a paunchy, short, fifty-six year old male who had spent the past fifteen years of his life trying to build a once germinating seed of a clothing business idea into an empire. By this point in his life, Jack had come to accept the fact that his company was more valuable if sold in an asset sale, rather than trying to make it grow bigger. His glass ceiling had been reached, and as much as it frustrated him to look through the transparent skylight above him, reminding him of his limitations, Jack had come to accept that cashing out early was his only option. Nonetheless, Jack’s irascible temper and gruff, aggressive manner was not softened by his acceptance of his business’ fate. Instead, he continued to bark orders at his employees to work harder to help make the business more valuable, despite his secret attempts to sell it out from underneath his board of directors’ nose.

Over the years, Jack had lost many employees due to his mistreatment of them. He called overweight female employees fat, threatening to fire them if they did not lose weight, justifying his actions to human resources and the board on the basis that he ran a shmata business and his employees had an image to uphold. Jack was known to terminate employees’ health benefits when they applied for extended sick leave due to legitimate health reasons and fired women who became pregnant. Jack even had a revolving door of secretaries over the years due to his demands, which included calling one while on her vacation in India demanding that she immediately report back to the office, at her own non-reimbursable expense, to fix the espresso machine, as it had broken down for the forty-fifth time, notwithstanding it was cheaper to replace it.  To be fair to Jack, he came by his ‘charming’ personality honestly, as his father before him had set the precedent of how to be an ogre both at home and in the office. Jack’s father was a screamer who treated the staff in his accounting practice poorly, never able to keep an associate in his office long enough to take a vacation so the clients’ needs would be covered, not that his family beckoned the despot home.

During the past few years, Jack’s negative personality traits had become distinctively more sociopath-like, prompting his board of directors, who were also shareholders in the company, to issue Jack an ultimatum: he had to change his behaviour or the board would trigger the shotgun provision in the shareholders agreement to force him out of the company. Generally impervious and immovable to pressure or threats of any kind, in being backed into a corner with no way out, Jack, always the savvy businessman, thought that if there was a medical reason for his antics, then his board couldn’t dispose of him so easily.  So, Jack went to the doctor, who determined that Jack was not just simply a Napoleonic asshole, but that there was indeed a medical reason for his conduct, which Jack promptly reported to Henry, the head of human resources at his company.

“I have male menopause,” Jack advised Henry. “I require medical accommodation for my condition. Please inform the board accordingly.”

“Whoa, not so fast,” Henry replied, reaching across his desk to prevent Jack from dropping his grenade and running out the door. “Is that a real medical condition?  Or, is it just an attempt to justify your poor actions to the board so you won’t get bought out and tossed out?”

“It is completely real!” Jack screamed emotionally, as he pulled a letter from his doctor out of his suit pocket. “Men go through menopause just like women, except instead of hot flashes, men do get the same mood swings due to low testosterone. The myriad of symptoms vary and in men can be quite subtle and go unnoticed for years.”

“Clearly that was not the case for you since your mood has swung like a pendulum for years, “ Henry stated deadpan. “Your temper flare ups and unpredictable behaviour have been as subtle as when the Road Runner drops an anvil on Wylie Coyote’s head!”

“Watch what you say to me!” Jack spat. “I still run this company. And, my condition is quite delicate. I should be given the same respect as a pregnant employee!”

“So you’re saying that I should treat your situation as you would have me treat a pregnant woman at this company?” Henry prodded.

“Of course!” Jack replied.

“I see. You’re sure you want the same preferential treatment?” Henry queried.

“Absolutely!” Jack reaffirmed.

“Then, I regret to inform you that your position at the company no longer exists,” Henry advised. “You must vacate your office immediately, return all company-owned items, including your car, parking pass and gas card. And, you have fifteen minutes to collect your personal belongings. Security will escort you off the premises. If fifteen minutes is an insufficient amount of time to gather your belongings, then we will send them to you at your own expense.”

“Excuse my French, but what the fuck?!” Jack roared. “You can’t fire me!”

“Given your fifteen years of service to the company, we will pay you what was agreed to in your original employment contract. Thank you for your contribution to the company. We wish you good luck in your future endeavours.”

“Hey asshole, you can’t fire me!” Jack shouted. “I’m sick!”

“Did you or didn’t you just tell me to treat your situation as you would have me treat a female employee who announces her pregnancy?” Henry asked.

“Yeah,” Jack replied. “That means that you have to accommodate my medical condition and hold my job for me if I take leave, so that it is waiting for me upon my return to work.”

“That is not how you have me treat our pregnant employees. You have ordered me to fire any employee who announces her pregnancy, effective immediately,” Henry advised. “You said, and I quote, ‘I have no use for any woman as an employee who’s clearly  not dedicated to her job here since she went and got knocked up. Any law forcing me to hold a job for a woman who takes time off to raise her rug rat on maternity leave, allowing her to put her own selfish breeding interests ahead of my company’s best interests, can kiss my ass. And, if any man has the nerve to come and ask for paternity leave because he failed to practice safe sex, chop off his balls and fire him too!’ So you see Jack, I am extending to you the exact same courtesy you had me give to our pregnant female employees. I’m just following the precedent you set.”

“I’ll sue you and this fucking company!” Jack screamed.

“Get in line behind the waddling fertile former female employees in front of you,” Henry advised. “Why do you think that the board wants you gone? We have so many lawsuits as a result of your violating your employees’ human and employment rights that the damage awards will end up putting the company out of business. And, unlike those former employees, you have a golden parachute that you can skydive out of here with.”

Jack, too dumbfounded to respond having realized that he was dealt a fatal blow by his own hand, sat back pondering how to best retaliate.

“That’s fine, like you said, I’ve got plenty of money coming my way. So here’s what I’m going to do – I’m going to contact each former employee suing the company and launch a gender discrimination class action lawsuit for wrongful dismissal against the company, naming every member of the board and you. Enjoy your job while it lasts! Out of curiosity, what kind of human resources professional are you, following any direction that would violate the law?” Jack asked calmly, pausing for effect, as he got up to exit Henry’s office.  So, don’t bother asking for a reference because you won’t be getting one.”

© 2014 Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

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