Time for Action
Everyone looked at me in disbelief, they needed to digest what I was saying so I picked up the sheets and highlighted the words Bullying and Sexual Harassment. ‘This is not acceptable, I don’t care how good an accountant he is, we can’t condone this behavior’. Just as my words we setting in, I looked over to see Mandy approach us. She looked shaken and asked for a moment in private.
Bradley and I took her to a room out the back. I offered Mandy a seat and gave her a glass of water while Bradley sat beside her. I knelt on the floor in front of Mandy, gently holding her hands that were placed on her lap.
‘What’s the matter’ Bradley asked. His tone surprised me as I didn’t think he had a caring side.
‘I don’t know how to say this’ Mandy sobbed while we listened quietly ‘it’s about my job and my Manager’.
‘Has Jackson done something’ Bradley asked and Mandy nodded slowly while continuing to sob.
‘Mandy, we are here for you, but we can’t help unless we know what happened’ I said giving her a reassuring smile.
‘He touches me and when I tell him to stop, he threatens me. He tells me he’ll sack me and he’ll make sure no one will ever employ me. During our team meeting last Monday, he told the whole department not to co-operate in today’s event. If he hears about the answers I just gave on the form, he’ll come for me.’ Mandy confided as she burst into tears.
‘When you say Jackson touches you, I understand this is difficult to discuss, but how far have his actions gone?’ I asked, needing to know the answer but hating myself for making Mandy talk about something that was so confronting. The experience alone would be traumatizing for anyone, and having to discuss it in front of Bradley couldn’t have been easy; but I needed him to understand what Jackson was doing.
‘He’s touched me in places he shouldn’t and every time I ask him to stop and pull away, he threatens me. I can’t go on like this’. Mandy said breaking down.
‘Mandy, I’m sorry that you’ve been going through this in silence and we really do appreciate the courage it’s taken for you to share this with us. I promise you that I will not tell Jackson that you have made this statement, he will not see your form, there will be no retaliation against you. Other than Bradley and I, no one will be aware of this, not unless you choose to tell them.’ I assured Mandy and she nodded her head. Bradley then arranged for a cab to take Mandy home, waiting with her until the cab picked her up while I returned to wrap up the Event.
I had one activity remaining, but decided to not run with it. I had all the information I needed and so I thanked everyone for the time and effort and told them to enjoy the rest of their afternoon off.
All staff left, as did Mr Salvatore. Leonard said his dad wasn’t feeling well and had to leave; but I had a feeling he was unsettled by what I had stated prior to leaving the room with Mandy and Bradley.
I was standing in what was now an empty function centre; alone with Bradley and Leonard. Together we stood there in in a state of disbelief over how the day had unfolded. Yes, I'm the first to admit that I wanted justice served; but not at Mandy’s expense.
Before anyone could say anything, I grabbed my briefcase, and dragged Bradley and Leonard to my car as I hastily made my way back to the office.
The car trip was quiet, I had so many things going through my mind that the 30-minutes journey took no time at all. To be honest, I didn’t even remember the drive, it was as though I wasn’t present, yet I managed to drive us across town.
We stood in the elevator in silence. Bradley and Leonard looked at me not knowing what I was thinking; I was livid and I knew what had to be done.
On arriving in my office, I asked Leonard to summon Jackson. While he was gone Bradley took a seat while I called security and asked that they position themselves outside my office.
Leonard and Jackson made their way into my office and I asked Leonard to close the door. I requested they both be seated and advised everyone present that what was about to take place was a formal meeting. I advised Jackson that Bradley was present in the capacity of Employer Witness and that Leonard could be his witness should he choose; to which Jackson agreed.
The room was full of tension and Jackson stood up advising he was busy and didn’t have time for my games.
‘Sit down Mr Cobbs’ I spoke coldly all the while staring Jackson down. ‘As stated earlier, this is a formal meeting so you are not permitted to up and leave’ I briefly paused before continuing. ‘Over the past few weeks, I have been closely monitoring you and your employees, both past and present. I have received reports of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace which, as you know is unacceptable. I have obtained written statements from seven ex-employees all stating you have either harassed, intimidated or threatened them. Do you understand the severity of what I am stating?’
‘You’re kidding me right. Just because I turned you down, you decide to turn this around to make me look like the villain. Are you really that pathetic and needy that you can’t accept rejection?’ Jackson asked smirking at me.
‘Mr Cobbs, you are well aware that you were the person that propositioned me; and I gracefully declined your offer, never making a formal issue out of it. By propositioning me you were in direct violation of our workplace policy on Relationships. Furthermore, after I declined your initial advance you again tried propositioning me, thus opening the door to a claim against sexual harassment. Notwithstanding what I just said, we are not sitting here today to discuss your actions against me. Today’s meeting has nothing to do with your advances towards me, nor is this about your finance; this is about you and your blatant abuse of power. You have abused your power and taken advantage of your subordinates. The countless number of women you have bullied and harassed whilst employed by this Company is not only inexcusable, it’s against the law. I have statements from various women regarding sexual harassment, threatening behavior and intimidation experienced by you whilst they were in your employ. Of the 28 young ladies that have resigned from your department over the past 12-months; all have changed their mobile telephone numbers. Some young ladies had to relocate and uproot their lives because of your ongoing harassment. Your behavior will not be tolerated by this company. It is on this basis that your employment with this company is hereby terminated, this termination will take effect immediately.’
‘You can’t terminate me. Who the hell do you think you are? Leonard, Bradley why don’t you tell this bitch where to go?’ Jackson yelled, leaning across the desk so that his face was inches away from mine.
‘Mr Cobbs, Leonard and Bradley are here merely as witnesses to your termination, the decision has been made and will not be overridden. Count yourself lucky the only action we are taking against you is the termination of your employment; otherwise you would be looking at a police investigation into your conduct. As previously advised, effective immediately you are no longer an employee of this company. You will be escorted to your office to collect your personal possessions; thereafter you will be escorted to your car. Once you leave this building you will not be permitted to return. Your services here are no longer rendered.’ I looked at Jackson coldly, all the smugness disappearing from his face as he realized the magnitude of what had just taken place.
Before he could open his mouth, I stood up from my seat, opened my office door and asked security to escort Jackson to his office and to his car. I advised security that Jackson was only permitted to take his personal belongings and that files, keys, computers and all other company belongings were to be returned to me. Security nodded before escorting Jackson away ‘You will pay’ Jackson threatened as he left my office.
With that I closed my office door and returned to my seat, only to find both Bradley and Leonard looking at me with their mouths wide open. To say they looked shocked at what had just taken place would be an understatement.
Bradley was the first to speak, but all he could manage was ‘Impressive’ to which Leonard simply nodded.
I smiled and told them that they didn’t call me The Terminator at my last workplace for nothing. Fortunately, that comment broke the tension in the room and we shared an uncomfortable laugh.
‘In all seriousness’ Bradley interjected ‘how do you plan on telling dad about this?’
‘The same way I would tell Mr Salvatore about any other termination, why?’ I asked, concerned by Bradley’s sudden interest.
‘Because you just fired his nephew!’ Bradley exclaimed
‘I what? Why didn’t either of you tell me you were related to Jackson. How could no one tell me?’ I asked, eyeing them both waiting for a reply
‘So you’re telling me you managed to run around and get statements from women that managed to hide their identities; yet never realized Jackson was our cousin? Seriously Tori, how did you not know that?’ Leonard asked.
I just sat there speechless, not know what to say or do. I was numb, how could I miss something so important. Did this mean all my hardwork was in vein and Mr Salvatore would reinstate Jackson.
Noticing the colour draining from my face Leonard suggested I go home. I could hear them in the background trying to arrange cab which was when I remembered that I had forced them to leave their vehicles at Frankies Oceanfront. Being unable to snap out of the negative headspace I had found myself in, I simply nodded and left the building.