If there is a time and place for things, then work would irrefutably be a place for business – not pleasure.
When Redditor throwoutacct10997 caught his employee engaged in something inappropriate at work, he became conflicted about making the decision to fire her.
The Original Poster (OP) turned to the Relationship Advice subReddit to seek guidance from strangers and wrote:
“I 24 M[ale] caught my 19 F[emale] employee playing with herself in the break room and I don’t know how to move forward with her employment.”
The OP explained why letting her go is not an easy decision.
“I’ve been an assistant manager at a family business since I was a senior in highschool and recently got promoted to manager after the general manager retired.”
“We’ve gone through several employees since I’ve been here, since we only pay our staff a few dollars above minimum wage. Most of our staff has been older men and women who are retirement age or highschool/college age looking for part time work.”
“This girl was hired in February as part time. She’s been a very good employee… punctual, hard worker and has really tried to prove herself.”
“Anyone who runs a business knows how hard it is to find good employees, so she has really stood out to us, which is why this situation is totally mind blowing to me.”
“Yesterday, she takes lunch at the normal hour and I go to run an errand and tell her I’ll be back shortly. She puts the sign on the door and locks it ‘will return 1p’ etc.”
“I get back from the hardware store about 30 minutes later and notice the ‘out to lunch’ sign still hung on the door. I unlocked the door with my key and walk back to the break room to let her know I’m back, and when I walked in, she had her pants and underwear down to her ankles and was playing with herself in the break room.”
“She was faced somewhat away from me so I didn’t see much, but I saw more than I bargained for.”
“I quickly shut the door and walked out. She didn’t come out for several minutes later, long after her lunch hour was over and was supposed to be back on the clock.”
“I walked back in, this time she was fully clothed and on her phone and had a look of total disgust and pity. I told her she needed to go home right away and so she did.”
“She apologized up and down, was crying on the way out and said how sorry she was. I was pretty upset myself and without hesitation told her to get her belongings and call it a day.”
“I’ve told my Dad, who owns the business and we’re deciding what the course of action should be. Like I say… awesome employee, hard worker etc and we hate to let her go, but that is TOTALLY out of line and we feel she needs to be terminated. Advice?”
A majority of Redditors thought that the employee was wildly inappropriate and should be terminated while others said she deserved a second chance based on her positive job performance.
“If a dude was beating his meat at work, I’d fire his a** on the spot. Not sure how her flicking her bean is any different but you do you.” – Ionrememberaskn
“It’s great that she is punctual and hard working. But also, refraining from public masturbation really needs the be the rock bottom requirement for most employment.”
“I bet if you try really hard you can find a new employee who will both show up on time and not masturbate in your break room.” – throwawayforrasr
“That is not appropriate at all for the workplace. I really don’t have advice but if you fired her you wouldn’t be out of line.” – SymbioticGoth
“I don’t think he’d be out of line for firing her at all but I don’t know that I’d pull the trigger. As a former business owner, this is how I’d look at it:”
“1. no customers/clients were involved or have knowledge”
“2. she’s a good employee which as you stated and I know is hard to find”
“3. she was mortified, apologized and sounds like she didn’t try to dodge accountability”
“4. I’d recognize the inherent flaws in human beings and attribute this to a one off bad decision”
“I’d honestly probably keep her but it would be within very strict guidelines.”
“1. I’d be explicit in saying that she ruined my trust in her and any further behavior that is even close to this will result in immediate term. That would be up to and including flirting, gawking, inappropriate phone usage, etc.”
“2. I’d be sure to say that we will never discuss this again.”
“3. I would want weekly progress reports on what she has done to get better at her job because if I’m going to keep her, I would not only want the behavior to not happen again but I’d want her to grow.”
“OP, I see a real opportunity here to have a long term decent employee that, as silly as this sounds could grow into a greater role. Sometimes people make the greatest personal growth after a blunder such as this. You’ve already dealt with the negative here, you might as well reap the benefit of what she could turn into.”
“And if she is as described, in a year, I think you have a shot to have a total win on your hands. Some of my best employees were ones who had screw ups, although, tbf I never had anyone do anything of a sexual blunder.” – modsareownedbychina
“I mean if she’s a good worker and you have a talk with her and genuinely believe it wouldn’t happen again I think keep her. I’m a big believer in second chances so I’m somewhat biased.”
“A lot of people on this sub are of the mind that forgiveness = complacency, and if you allowed her to keep working then she would take it as a sign she can do whatever she wants, but I strongly disagree and think she would be less likely than anyone to do it again.”
“As you said, good workers are hard to come by and this has no impact on her job performance.” – ColstonHowell
The consequence of legal action as a result of her being fired was not overlooked.
“Not too mention there’s a huge liability for a sexual harassment suit here. One little fib from her will cost OP’s business tens of thousands of dollars.”
“OP needs to document this instance; have the employee sign a write up detailing exactly what she did and put her on notice. The larger the paper trail the better.”
“If OP can get her to admit in writing to what she did he might be able to get out of a lawsuit for a $20k settlement instead of $50k+ in legal fees.”
“If OP just outright fires her for this any half decent scumbag lawyer will take OP’s business for a wild f’king ride.” – timemachinedreamin
“You don’t need Relationship Advice, you need HR Advice.”
“The HR Advice is that you need to document the event and discipline the employee. That discipline can be a warning or a separation.”
“This is a lawsuit waiting to happen unless those things are done ASAP – not because of mishandling, but simply due to the nature of the topic itself – a Sr employee encountered a lone employee in an area without witnesses and something sexual occured.”
“Especially for a small/family owned business, you do not f’k around with this sh*t.” – Jokonaught
“Not saying a lawsuit isn’t possible but it’s less likely than you think it is in the world of small businesses.”
“That’s more of a corporate world thing than a place with a handful of employees. Also, with the way she ran out, she doesn’t sound like she has the stomach to talk to a lawyer about this or be able to stand up to depo/testifying.”
“Based upon op’s telling, I’m really not worried about that at all. I’d still want that paper trail on an official write up with her signature but that would be more about holding her accountable than anything else.”
“Also, as long as op has liability insurance, they would cover any legal/settlement fees. He probably has a million dollar policy and that would be more than enough to protect the business. The only thing op would be responsible for is depositions and testimony.” – modsareownedbychina
When the OP was asked if he was seeking advice on how to fire her, he said he wasn’t sure.
He then asked a Redditor if they would fire her, and this was the reply:
“Yes, and I’ll tell you specifically why since the fact of her masturbating doesn’t seem to be enough on its own to make you sure.”
“Someone who thinks this is appropriate to do at work, particularly when they know you are returning soon, is demonstrating that they have very poor judgment and a warped sense of boundaries.”
“That kind of thing is usually not limited to one instance of bad behavior, it will come up again and potentially will do so in a situation that is much worse for your business than this one.”
“You are lucky it was you who walked in on her and not another employee who could have opened a sexual harassment suit, and you should take that gift rather than giving her another opportunity to exercise her poor judgment.” – jimmyjrdanceparty
“Everyone likes to paint her black and white and infer what kind of person she is. They’ve already predicted how this 19 year old will act in 30 years because they know her so well.”
“What if this. what if that… what if..”
“It’s a business decision, if she’s a good employee, keep her. If you were looking for a reason to fire her, this would be it.”
“Also she’s young, let her learn the lesson gracefully and move on, she may become a better worker for you. If this becomes a reoccurring issue then it’s a different matter.” – Sypsy
“Give her a pass this once. Great employees are hard to come by, and no one else know about this to say that you should do anything. I think a stern vague talking to will prevent this from ever happening again.”
“We were all young and stupid once.” – speycedout
The OP edited the post with an update.
“Dad and I had a good discussion just a few minutes ago about this, as well as a FaceTime with our employee in question. We’ve decided to let it go and give her another chance.”
“We feel that her benefit to us outweighs the mistake she made. As embarrassing as it was for her (and me) things happen and we want to brush it aside and keep her employed.”
The OP added that she was “incredibly appreciative” and assured him there would never be a repeat of the same indiscretion.