Posted: August 4, 2014
Writing Prompt: You’re at work and you print something personal (and sensitive). Unfortunately, you’ve sent it to the wrong printer and, by the time you realize it, somebody else has already scooped it up.
It had been going on too long in this company in this day and age where discrimination of any kind was illegal. Beth had witnessed her supervisor, Jeff, get fired because he was overweight. Long before the actual firing, Jeff had been the brunt of many ploys by the director of the department to get him to quit, but Jeff stayed strong and kept doing his best to do his job, much to the frustration of Mr. Anderson. The company they all worked for manufactured and sold exercise equipment. Jeff was one of the engineers that designed equipment. He knew his stuff. Some of his creations were top sellers. He used them to…they just didn’t combat his weight problem.
While Jeff had been lean and fit when he first started with the company twenty five years ago, he had a mental health condition that required medication that made it impossible to control his weight. He wasn’t grossly obese by any definition. He looked like the average man in his fifties, with a protruding stomach and some rolls on his back. Without his anti-depressant medications, Jeff would fall into spells of deep depression. As long as he kept taking his medications, he was able to maintain a job and have a social life. Without the drugs, he was unable to function in any capacity.
Beth, Jeff’s assistant when he worked for the company, spent the morning typing up a report for Jeff’s attorney listing the facts of what she had personally seen Jeff go through. It began two years ago when she came into work a few minutes early. Jeff was inside his office with the door slightly ajar. She overheard Mr. Anderson inside saying, “Look Fatboy, you are becoming an embarrassment to this company. I don’t care what you have to do, but get that weight off. We are in the business of physical fitness and you are a disgrace.” Jeff tried to explain to Mr. Anderson about the side effects of the drugs he was on and even handed him a report from his doctor backing it up. Mr. Anderson took the report and threw it back in Jeff’s face. “No more excuses, Fatboy. You have two months to start shaping up or you’re out of here,” screamed Mr. Anderson as he slammed Jeff’s office door.
“What are you looking at, Beth? You’re boss looks like a pig. That’s not good representation for us.” Beth didn’t respond. She was too stunned then to know how to stick up for her supervisor.
From then on, Mr. Anderson made it a point to stop by once a week to give Jeff a hard time. Jeff stayed strong and didn’t stoop to his level by flying off the handle. He listened, then got back to work. Jeff continued to eat healthy, light meals. He went to the office gym every day on his lunch break. He continued to gain weight. Jeff continued to design equipment that received rave reviews and boosted sales.
Last month, after two years of harassment, Mr. Anderson decided to end Jeff’s career. He went into his office and said, “Jeff, you’re fired. You haven’t produced any new products for us in six months. We need fresh, innovative ideas and you’re just not capable of coming up with them. You will receive two months severance pay, but first you must sign this document stating that you left our employ voluntarily.”
“I’m not signing that, Mr. Anderson. I just came up with the new Raptor 5 and according to our testing department, it is going to be a big seller. You can’t say I’m not doing my job.”
“The production team decided to can that project. It isn’t much different from the Raptor 4 and sales for that went stagnant. You are out of here one way or another. Either you sign this paper, or you walk out of here with nothing. It’s up to you.”
Jeff stepped up to Mr. Anderson and said, “We are not done here. You’ll be hearing from my attorney.”
Since that time, Beth had been pulling sales records of all the equipment designed by Jeff along with writing a report of the treatment she could attest to in court. Mr. Anderson claimed that he operated with the full approval of upper management, but upon investigation, they weren’t aware that Jeff was fired. They had all been told that Jeff just up and quit one day.
Beth worked tirelessly for several weeks on the report and sales statistics. This morning she was finishing up and ready to print and was going to hand deliver the documents to Mr. Hathaway, Jeff’s attorney, during her lunch break. She knew she was risking her own job, but justice needed to be done and what happened to Jeff was wrong. Discrimination on the basis of weight was wrong.
She clicked on the printer icon and waited. Nothing happened. She looked at her printer set up. She jumped up realizing that she had sent the documents to the common printer in the main lobby, a printer that was accessed by everyone on the floor. She practically ran to the printer to see Sharon picking it up. Sharon was engrossed in reading it. She happened to be having an affair with Mr. Anderson – common knowledge in the company.
Sharon said, “Beth, what is this? You can’t be serious. You’re going to lose your job, too, if you do anything with this.”
“I don’t care. You can’t tell me you condone what that man did?”
“I’m not going to make any judgments on management decisions around here, Beth, that’s not my job. But I have no choice, but to show this to Mr. Anderson.”
“Mr. Anderson – why that’s kind of formal for the man you’ve been screwing for decades, isn’t it, Sharon?”
“My personal life is none of your business. But you might as well pack up your desk before Mr. Anderson comes down here and personally fires you.”
Beth turned and went back to her desk. She quickly copied the files onto her flash drive, packed up her personal belongings and walked into Mr. Anderson’s office. “I quit. I cannot work for a company that discriminates like this. I have all the proof I need. You might as well tell your lawyers to settle with Jeff, because he is going to win this case.”
Beth then ran toward the front door bolting into her car. She drove off, her heart pounding. She had twenty minutes to get to the restaurant where she was meeting Mr. Hathaway. She was jobless, but sometimes you just had to take a stand in this world and it felt good to know that she was doing just that. There was no doubt Jeff would end up with a cash settlement. He stated that he planned to open his own firm working with new inventors and engineers helping them get their products off the ground. He had already offered Beth a job there when the time came. In the meantime, Beth might just take a couple months off. She needed to regroup after all that she had been through working around Mr. Anderson for the past several years. She needed to shake off the dust and begin again with a company that had ethics. She knew Jeff was just the person who could do that.
Six months later, front page headlines in the Chicago Times read, “Man Fired for Weight Gain Receives a Hefty Cash Settlement.” As Beth was reading it, her phone rang, “Hi Jeff, yes, I just read it. Congratulations! Yes. I am ready to get back to work. Thank you!”