Plant manager sacked for lewd behaviour
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Office romance is a tricky business.
For Scott Hall, the Garden of Eden simply had too many forbidden fruits. Having been hired to manage logging company Boise Alljoist’s New Brunswick operations, forestry dynamo Scott Hall’s career had reached its peak. But life can be lonely at the top. For Hall, confusing office romance with leadership and management became more than a forbidden dalliance — it was the recipe for disaster.
In 2001, Hall accepted the job as plant manager at Boise Alljoist Ltd. in St. Jacques, N.B. Shortly after he started, behavioural problems began to surface. A number of female employees raised concerns that Hall would forward sexual innuendos at them or generally make them uncomfortable with his sexually charged conduct and comments.
Hall also confused bullying with leadership. He would habitually criticize and scream at the employees and threaten them with their jobs. These issues came to light when a team of company auditors were alerted to his conduct. One of the auditors asked around the plant to get the general impressions of Hall. He found “most were afraid of him” and were concerned about job security and his ranting and raving. The behaviour was reported to Hall’s boss, who told him the company took it very seriously. Hall said he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong, but that it wouldn’t happen again. Unfortunately for Hall, he couldn’t stay true to his word.
In January 2002, a company executive attended an event at a local restaurant. He described Hall’s conduct as “out of control.” Another senior employee complained that Hall made sexual allusions all day. His conduct seriously in question, the company called him to their head office in Idaho for a meeting. Hall was very apologetic and his boss felt he had learned his lesson.
But soon Hall was up to his old tricks again, this time engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a female co-worker. Astonished that Hall’s conduct continued in the face of their warnings, the company fired him for just cause.
At trial, the court said that he was either unaware that his conduct embarrassed and intimidated others or he didn’t care. “It appears that Hall thought his treatment of the employees was acceptable. It was not,” the court said. “Hall’s conduct was a gross and gratuitous abuse of his power” and as a result, the company was justified in firing him for just cause.
When it comes to office romances, the law, much the same way as our society, has evolved. What was once strictly outlawed is now more common and accepted. In fact, according to CareerJournal.com, about 40 per cent of employees today have been involved in a workplace romance. Even greater numbers feel that this conduct should not be prohibited.
But workplace romances can lead to trouble. As the case of Scott Hall shows us, mixing business with pleasure can sometimes lead to more than you’ve bargained for. For Hall, it cost him his job.