Violence in the Workplace

Serious stuff.

Happened three weeks ago and out of the blue. I was leaving my office, which is in the back of beyond, a good 30 minutes from the  place where we turn in our keys. Miss Red was at the gate and I was perhaps 6 feet away and called out “I’ve got the gate!” She turned, said “I don’t feel like being that nice to you, Miss Chloe and Slammed. The. Gate.

This never happens. Usually, this is the most polite place on Earth. We usually hold gates for each other because that is a polite thing to do. After the gate slamming, she was zooming down the alley and I was moseying down with my companion with the idea that she would clear all the gates and be long gone by the time I got through.

How wrong I was. To make a long story short, she spent about 20 minutes screaming at me over some very private and confidential information that she was privy to since she had spent some time as a supervisor twelve months ago.  I  ask that she terminate the conversation; that we talk this over with our principal; that I didn’t want to talk anymore…..and all I get is more yelling. She is very wound up and upset and really truly, I have not done one thing to bring this on.

We get into ID Check and she storms out of the tiny little room and my friend says that we need to just wait, let her cool down and leave. So we wait for FIVE ENTIRE MINUTES. When we leave,  she storms around the corner and starts yelling at me AGAIN. Was I waiting so I didn’t have to talk to her? Duh!  I tell her in a really calm voice that I’m done talking to her; if she has anything else to say, we can have a meeting with a supervisor. Then I start to go into the building to sign out before I go on to the Admin building to drop off my armful of mailouts. That’s when she grabs me and yanks me back off my feet…like something on COPS or Cheaters and says, “I’m not done with you yet.”

Well, actually, yes, Red, you are because I am. I don’t want to listen to you scream at me and I SURE as heck don’t like the idea that you think you can yank me around. I’m wearing my winter coat, so what she gets is a fistful of wool and not a fistful of ME because if she had gotten a fistful of me, I would be screaming like a banshee. She whirls off and my friend and I go on up to send out our mail and decide to talk to our supervisor in the morning, since this was decidedly hostile and just plain weird.

So that night, I wrote down what had happened (okay, I was all dramatic) but the next day, I wrote a professionally dry incident report, detailing what happened. Lucky for me, I had a credible witness who  saw the very same thing. We go into talk to the superintendent, just to apprise her of the incident.

I think Red is really truly unbalanced and this is not the first time she has gone off on me out of the blue and she goes off on people in general. My honest intention was to just let  Bea know what had happened in case Red later came storming in, accusing ME of God knows what. (It’s happened. Just not to me.) But because of the hostile and extended nature of the hostilities, coupled with the screaming about confidential information in a public place and the yanking around, it get kicked up to Employee Relations.

I’m expecting a call and some hot tea and some” there, there” stuff. I’m not expecting a visit from the squad asking me if I feel threatened (yes), scared (yes) or intimidated (you betcha.) So what she has done, legally was instigate a hostile act; violate confidential information, lay in wait, assault,  battery and kidnapping. (Evidently, preventing a person from going into a building by force is kidnapping.) And because I work in a secure area, not only is my phone tapped (so the squad can prove I haven’t been calling her and whipping her up into a frenzy), they can also run the tapes and see that I have been busy in my office for the last eight months, minding my own business or out on the yards, testing huge groups of guys.

So while this is all being looked into, I’m cautioned to never never never go juking around by myself. I have to have someone go pretty much everywhere with me. And once I’m in my office, I stay there, unless I can get someone to go where ever I’m going. So I can’t even go test by myself. Can’t run up for a soda alone. In the mornings, I have to wait for some people to be going my way to go out to work and at the close of the day, I need to have an escort.

So yesterday I was “invited” to a preliminary  violence in the workplace investigative meeting. At a prison, invited is just a polite way of saying a command performance. To say I was a little nervous is putting it mildly.Even though I’m the aggrieved party (the pokee, not the poker; the yankee, not the yanker), maybe there was some dirt she could throw at me I’m not expecting. (I really try to stay dirt free but you never know what someone is going to say.)

When I got to the warden’s office, the accused (Red) was there, all jacked up, using her little girl voice asking pretty much everyone coming in why she was there, how confused and frightened she was.  Nothing irritates me more than an adult who puts on a baby voice and baby talks.  Gets on my very last nerve.

The AW who conducted the meeting was one scary dude. I NEVER WANT TO BE IN THE HOT SEAT across from him. EVER. He introduced everyone there (about TEN really seriously serious people). Then the head of  the Investigative Services Unit (cop speak for you are so much serious trouble) read my incident report and the incident report of my witness. Then he read Red’s reply  and it was NOTHING like what happened.

However, except for reading my incident report, I was totally out of the loop and all of the questions were directed at Miss Red.

And here is where it gets really interesting. She initially was playing the baby voice “I’m so confused, what’s going ON?” card. But once the hard questions were asked, she said she had called her union rep and had been advised  (and this is to the best of my recollection “to say..well, I’m supposed to say this really long word. It’s like taking the fifth so I don’t incriminate myself. Do you know what it is?” Now mind you, the people asking these questions are not on the side of the union and if you don’t know what to say to stop the proceedings YOU ARE A FOOL. She had already been in contact with the union, so her baby talk act was exactly that..an act.

But she hadn’t really thought this whole thing through. What she wanted to cite was the Weingarten Rule and what she should have said was “If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated I respectfully request that my steward be present at the meeting before I answer any questions. Without representation present, I choose not to respond to any questions or statements”

But since she didn’t cite Weingarten and no one in the room was her advocate, she said she wanted to explain herself, since this whole thing….well, she had no idea how it had gotten blown out of proportion, since my statement was blatantly false and a downright lie, which didn’t surprise her, since we didn’t have the same value system and in her opinion I was a liar. (It was all I could do to not jump up, point my finger and screech ” She’s the LIAR!!” But I sat quietly and just listened to the blood roar in my ears.)

She started out saying that we were great friends and that we joke and laugh and tease ALL THE TIME. On this particular day, after we were jovially checking out, I became oddly despondent, so she patted me on the shoulder to comfort me.

Then she said that in the last nine years, she probably hadn’t had more than three conversations with me.

Then she said that I thought I was really educated and smart and she really thought maybe I didn’t have the credentials I claim I have.(WTF? They check this stuff out. I pass tests. I have to show proof. Believe me, nobody just takes my word for anything that has to do with money.)

Then she went rambling off for about thirty minutes about how she has this credential and that credential and she’s had a teaching credential since 1988 and in a few years, she might very well be an AW. Then she said that last year, when she was in a supervisory position, I had asked her to sign my FMLA papers and now (12 months later) she really believes that they were fraudulent and I had manipulated my doctor into thinking something was medically wrong with me. She wanted to go on record in accusing me of fraudulently submitting FMLA papers and forging my doctor’s signature. (I never submitted an FMLA request 12 months ago. I did submit one 8 years ago, when my son was hospitalized.)

Needless to say, the entire panel had been forced into silence because usually, in cases like this, the person in the hot seat says almost nothing. So once she ran down, the AW asked her if she had grabbed me. Once again, she said she had talked to a union rep and had been advised not to say anything, but she was going to answer anyway….and after about a five minute, convoluted non-answer, the AW asked her again, “So is that a yes or a no? Did you or did you not grab her?”  Well, she had patted me on the shoulder to comfort me and she didn’t harbor any anger or hate towards me for my obvious attempt to discredit her. She liked everyone at work and loved her job. So the AW asked her again, “Yes or no. No explanation. Yes or no.” Well, if you put it like that, I’d have to say….except there is so much more to it. We’re friends and it was just a sweet joking kind of girlfriend moment. But yes, I patted her on her shoulder to comfort her.”

Then the AW asked me if I felt comforted. “No, I did not.”

Did I feel threatened? ” Yes, I did.” (This woman  yanked me off my feet. It was pretty scary.)

Do you feel threatened now? “Yes, I do.”

Then the AW says that this concludes the informal portion of the investigation. Miss Red jumps up and says, “Oh! I KNEW YOU’D BELIEVE ME! She is such a liar. You won’t regret it. I’m a great employee. I’m professional and I have plans to ….” The AW gives her this really scary look and tells her “You won’t be thanking me. Now ISU will start the formal investigation. They will start interviewing all the witnesses and reviewing the security tapes. These are very serious allegations and thus far, the witness statements support Miss Chloe’s account of the events. I fail to see how you can state that you are great friends one minute and then say that you have only spoken to her three times in nine years the next.  Until this matter has been concluded, I want you to leave her alone.  Miss Chloe, if you have any problems. please call my office. You have a right to be safe at work.”

So that was it as far as I’m concerned. I’m in the clear because I didn’t do anything except be on the way out to the mailroom. I have no idea what set her off, except it was some kind of scary.

Little update:

I was in the Admin  today, in a meeting with the warden, getting a memo cleared up. (Just part of  my job)

Saw the AW and thought to  myself  “See? I’m working.” Then I’m up at appeals, working on some legal stuff and run into him again and think to myself ” See? Working away.” Later, I’m in assignments, working on some stuff for my students and run into him again (See? I’m busy doing MY JOB. No drama.) Then I drop in to visiting and reserve visiting for my testing next week and drop off my ducat list and fax the list to all involved parties. Run into him again. (Look! I’m getting my stuff in order for NEXT WEEK. No drama here.)  Later, I’m at an inmate meeting and he’s there….and when it’s my turn to talk, I’m business like, on target, NOT CRAZY and no baby talk. I think maybe I’ve established that I’m exactly what I presented myself.

As I’m walking out, he stops me and asks if everything is okay….and gives me his card. Call if there are any problems. Your area has cameras and mics and your phone is tapped.

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7 thoughts on “Violence in the Workplace

    1. Nope, not boring.
      Red has spent 9 years being crazy like this and where she overstepped was grabbing me.
      And doing this on camera.
      And screaming about confidential stuff.
      And then lying about the incident on tape.
      We can forgive just about everything except lying.

  1. This was just amazing to read! I remember you writing about the original incident and you tell about what happened at the initial enquiry in such an immediate way. The woman has to be insane to imagine that these people believe a word she says. She is NOT selling herself well. How can such an unbalanced person work in a place like that? Have you any inking as to what might have set her off in the first place?

    1. It takes all kinds and when she is balanced, she is a good teacher. She went off on me once when she was telling me about these three huge mastiff dogs she has and how destructive they are–they stay in the house while she is at work and chew up her furniture. I mentioned that I had taken my dogs to obedience school and that had really helped. She went crazy on me. Evidently her dogs were not going to be enslaved by imposing her will upon them–they were wild, free spirits and she intended to live harmoniously with them. (And pick up the piles of dog shit in the house, I guess, which was part of her original complaint.)

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