“Wow,” Louise gasps when I finish telling her how I handled the Frank situation. “So he’s gone?”
I nod. “Well, I’m just going to go back to the office to check if he’s sent that email, otherwise yes, I think we have been successful in that regard.”
“Oh!” Louise says as she finally remembers her food and takes a bite, “I return to the office next week. Will I be working for you?”
“Actually I’d like to transition you into the marketing department,” I tell her. “I mean, I need a replacement for me, right? And if I am not confirmed after this you can always stay on and maybe just keep working with me. No one knows my department better than you – you’ve had practical, on-the-job training for many years,” I smile.
Louise is glowing; I can tell I have given her her share of good news for today. “It would be my pleasure,” she says. “And I can even take some evening classes in marketing at that university near our office block,” she adds. I nod.
“Oh gosh, look at the time,” I say, as I glance at my cell phone, which is ringing. It’s from the office but I can’t tell who it is. “I have to leave, the office is calling.” Louise signals a waiter who packs the remainder of our food as she and I plan her return modalities. And then I grab my doggy bag and drive as fast as I can, straight to the office, whereupon I notice that my phone extension has also logged a couple of missed calls from the same extension that called me earlier. And so I dial back.
“It’s Julius, from HR,” he says. Julius, the HR director and I have not had that much reason to call each other in the past and so I am not familiar with his extension. “I am calling about the letter I have received from Frank.”
“Yes,” I say. “I hear he was planning to resign. Has it happened yet?”
“What? No.” I can hear a smirk in his voice. Suddenly, my blood turns cold; I have this sneaking suspicion that I am about to hear something I didn’t plan on hearing.
“Well, he is accusing you of harassing him, and he wants us to take action.”
“Wait, what?!” I yell.
“Yes, yes… have you not read your email? He copied you too.”
“Hold on, let me just look at my computer and see this,” I say. I am feeling numb, petrified. What have I waded into? And above all, how did I see this all ending so easily, without a fight?!
It takes me a while to log into my emails – I am so upset I can’t even think clearly enough to remember my password – but when I finally do, I see it there, staring at me like a hot turd: SUBJECT: Harassment by acting MD Liz Lundi.
My hands are shaking as I open the email; what on earth is he basing these allegations on?! I quickly scan the email, looking for the key words and statements. I find it a couple of lines down: ‘…she requested favours of a sexual nature from me, and stated that if I didn’t comply I would have to tender my resignation…’
I feel the blood drain from my face. I can’t believe this man would dare – especially since I have evidence that illustrates clearly that he is the one who has been acting like a predator! I pick up the phone and call Julius, my hands still shaking.
“I’ve seen it,” I say.
“Well, suffice it to say that we will be launching an investigation into your conduct…” Julius starts, and I really don’t hear anything else he says because I never thought I would ever find myself in this position and I am too shocked to hear anything but the blood rushing into my ears! “…meantime you are welcome to respond to his accusations with your counter.”
“Julius, you know me,” I appeal. “You KNOW I would never do anything like this.”
“I can’t comment on whether I know you or not. All I will say is, let the investigations speak for themselves.”
“But HE is the one who has been going around harassing women here!”
“No one has complained,” Julius says flatly, emotionlessly. “Unless someone complains, then as far as I am concerned, Frank’s reputation is white as snow.”
And that’s when I lose my cool completely.