Conflict of Interest (Employee Relations Book 1)

BOOK: Conflict of Interest (Employee Relations Book 1)
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“No!” Sandra exclaims, slamming her fists on the table. “You can’t fire me! This is…you just can’t…this is all a huge misunderstanding!”

“Sandra,” I begin, words failing me as visions I’ll
never
be able to erase from my memory flash in my mind.

I’m scared for life. Two days have passed yet I can’t shake the images. I close my eyes and cringe, recalling the moment that led to this meeting.

The plane hadn’t even finished its descent on the tarmac when I powered up my phone to check my work email on Saturday night.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

A new message from Jack Kent, the division president, flagged with a red exclamation mark waited for me.
Subject: Read Now!!!!
Without a second thought, I clicked on the email and immediately regretted the decision. Humungous, very fake, breasts stared back at me. I frantically tried to close out of the picture and accidentally selected the next.

I tilted my head to process what I was seeing.

Was that?

Oh, yes
.

It was an aerial shot of a Brazilian waxed vagina, spread wide open, with someone’s tongue licking the center. I thought I was going to be sick. Gasping and muttering “Oh, God” was probably the wrong reaction to have with a priest sitting to my right. My apology was drowned out by several
Hail Mary’s
. I didn’t join in—they weren’t my pictures; my conscious was clean. I did however thank God that the flight was over and prayed the good Father and I would not cross paths again.

In that moment, I couldn’t figure out why Jack had sent the pictures to me. It must have been a mistake. Some sort of computer virus that had spammed everyone in his contact list. Whatever the reason, I hoped the brain cells that just witnessed those images would die.

I had minimized that email and groaned as I sank deeper into my seat.
Why would Jack send those to me?
Pondering the situation didn’t last long as another email from Jack appeared in my inbox. This time the subject demanded that I call him immediately, which meant those pictures were sent on purpose.

Given my surroundings, a phone call had to wait until I got off the plane. Curiosity got the best of me though, and I returned to the first email and clicked on the last picture. Had I been able to speak, I would have asked the stewardess to pick my jaw up off the floor.

“Get the fuck out of town,” I had said under my breath. The words had just left my mouth when Rosary beads were placed on my tray, but I paid them no mind.

Sandra Caine, the Vice President of Strategy sat naked on her desk, knees bent and legs spread like she was in a gynecologist’s chair.

Why couldn’t I have let myself enjoy the remainder of my vacation? Why?

Okay, it wasn’t exactly a vacation. I had been in Chicago for a conference and because O’Hare International Airport is about as reliable as the weatherman, I spent most of Saturday being recruited by the Red Hatters in terminal B. Still, the weekend constituted
my
time.

If I had just ignored my emails until this morning, a colleague would’ve had to fill in and I wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable right now sitting across the table from a woman I’ve known for years, terminating her from the company.

But here I am.

Talk about having a case of the Monday’s.

“Gabby, we’ve worked together for six years. How can you let this happen?” Sandra pleads.

Easy, I didn’t spread my legs for my assistant and distribute the documented proof.

“Sandra, you violated several company policies,” I explain. “As part of the management team—”

“Jack,” she cries, turning her attention to her soon-to-be former manager. “I never meant to send those pictures to you.”

Jack looks as uncomfortable as he must feel. His eyes continuously flicker back and forth between me and Sandra, working overtime to maintain eye contact.
I feel your pain, buddy.
At sixty-three years old I imagine it’s been some time since he’s seen a set of breasts like that belonging to someone he knew and wasn’t married to.

I’m still shocked she’s a natural redhead.

“The pictures were taken using your company issued phone and sent via company email and text. That, in and of itself, is grounds for termination,” I retort.

“Aren’t I allowed to have a personal life? Huh?” Sandra scoffs, her voice getting louder. “Jesus, they were for my boyfriend.”

Yes, her boyfriend, Jacob Kent. A man who unfortunately has nearly the same email address as her boss, save the number ‘2’ after his first initial and last name.

“Who is also an employee in your organization,” I remind her. “One that you recently promoted, I might add.”

“You can’t prove that,” she protests, crossing her arms over her chest.

As an executive of one of the worlds leading cyber security and risk management companies, Sandra should know better.

“Actually, we can. A review of your accounts shows that you’ve sent Jacob several pictures and videos of yourself over the last four months. Internal audit is still reviewing your expense reports, but at first glance it would appear there’s been misuse of your company credit card at a number of lavish hotels.”

Her normally rosy cheeks turn ashen. “Wh-what? How could you? That’s a violation of my privacy! Those pictures and messages are personal.”

Is she serious? If anyone was violated, it was me! I
had to sit with our legal council to review her files all day Sunday. Jack’s lucky he didn’t see what I had.
I am literally scarred for life.

Looking at her now, I never would have thought she was so flexible or that there were so many uses for office supplies
.
And did she not hear the part that we know there was misuse of her company card?

“Sandra—”

“You’re just jealous they weren’t for you,” she accuses Jack, and I swear if it was possible smoke would billow out of his ears.

His jaw clenches. “I warned you two months ago when I heard you were sleeping with an employee that if there was any merit to the rumors you had to end it, that it was your one chance.”

“But if you just give me another—”

Jack wipes a hand over his face. “Jesus.”

I lightly kick his foot under the table, letting him know that I’ve got this. “Our decision is non-negotiable Sandra. Today is your last day.”

“What will you tell everyone? This is a small industry; I won’t let you ruin my reputation.”

“We won’t discuss the reason behind your departure, you know that. The only message that’ll be communicated is you’ve left the company to pursue new opportunities, and your staff will report to Jack until a new leader has been identified.”

She blinks at me and shakes her head. “You won’t reconsider?” she asks Jack.

“No.”

“Fine,” she declares, her tone and expression now glacial. “If we’re done here, I’d like to get my things.”

On cue, my colleague knocks on the glass wall of the conference room. Normally, I’d never have a private conversation in such an open room, not that the modern design of our building lends itself to privacy. Aside from the executive offices, and those of the HR staff, the rest of the workplace is completely transparent. That said, no one’s in the office yet and Jack wanted security to have visibility on the off chance Sandra lost her cool.

I motion for my colleague to come in and take the items she’s carrying.

Sandra looks at her belongings that have been put in my hands—coat, purse and keys. Her gaze narrows on them, then darts to me.

“I can’t pack up my own office? Are you worried I’ll steal proprietary information, or are you just trying to get me out of here before everyone comes in so I don’t cause a scene?”

Um, both…hello!

“We did this for your benefit, Sandra. Not ours,” Jack assures her. “Be professional and I won’t contest unemployment.”

“Unemployment? Please, Jack,” she chides. “My attorney will be contacting you to negotiate a package. I’ve lived and breathed this company from the day I walked through those doors. No one has ever been more committed than I have. I’m entitled—”

“If you’d like to pack the rest of your belongings before the office opens, I’ll accompany you,” I offer, desperate to get this over with. “Otherwise, we’ll pack and ship your things to your home.”

“Fifteen fucking years.” Sandra glares at me, clearly offended that I’ve stopped her tirade. She’s been on the other side of a termination meeting plenty of times; she knows the drill. “Pack it yourself,” she snaps.

She abruptly slides her chair back from the table and stands, collecting her belongings. Riffling through her purse, she chucks her company issued phone, company card and security badge across the table, one at a time. Biting her lip, she stares through the glass, out into the open office area.

“What’s going to happen to Jacob?” she asks, her voice suddenly laced with concern.

“I’m not at liberty to speak with you about anyone else’s employment,” I tell her.

To be honest, I’m not sure what we’ll do. He received and signed off on the same employee handbook that everyone else received. Company policy does not lend itself to employee relationships, especially when one of the employees has influence over the compensation and career trajectory of the other.

Sandra nods, taking a moment to compose herself. “All right, shall we?” she prompts, knowing one of us has to walk her out of the building. In this situation, I decide it’ll be me.

Jack owes me big time.

Escorted by security, we ride down the elevator together in awkward silence. Our high-heels click against the marble floor in unison until we reach the front door.

With her hand touching the handle, Sandra pauses and turns to me. I hold out my hand to say goodbye and wish her well, but she refuses.

“Wipe that judgmental look off your face,” she hisses. A speck of spit lands on my cheek and I cringe knowing where her mouth has been.

“Excuse me?”

“You’re thinking how badly I’ve fucked up my career. It’s written all over,” she accuses, swirling her pointer finger in the air a mere inch from my face. “Maybe I have…but the sex was worth it.” She leans forward, getting way closer that necessary and nearly snarls. “Screw you and your bullshit theories on right and wrong.”

Sandra pulls back marginally and grins wickedly. “Not to worry. Your day will come. You pretentious. Little. Bitch.”

I square my shoulders and school my expression into one that’s professional. “I—”

“Fuck off!” Her parting words echo throughout the lobby.

I let out a sigh of relief when the door closes behind her.
Well, that went well.
I take out my phone and text Jack that she’s gone. Noting the time, I groan. My first “fuck off” of the day and it’s not even 8AM.

My phone buzzes with a reply before I reach the bank of elevators.

Jack: Good. I want to discuss Sandra’s backfill. He starts next Monday.

 

 

 

 

“Drinking alone is usually the first sign of a problem,” I tease Kyra, who scowls at me briefly before resuming whatever she’s doing on her phone.

On the last Friday of every month, my roommate Summer, our friend Kyra and I meet at Alibi, a cocktail lounge in Boston’s renovated penitentiary, the Liberty hotel.

It’s a tradition we started three years ago shortly after we began our careers. Being that all of us are Human Resources Business Partners we found that work had taken
over our lives, becoming the subject of nearly all our conversations. The more invested we became in our jobs, we found we spent too much time outside the office focusing on employee relations nightmares such as employee misconduct, progressive discipline, grievances…you name it, instead of bonding over more important aspects of life.

Men.

We resolved the problem by limiting these kinds of discussions to once a month. And since each of us is competitive in our own way, we also turned it into a game of sorts.

“Well, if you bitches were ever on time, I wouldn’t have been alone, now would I?”

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