coworker dumped a ton of work on us, my new coworker is about to be fired, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker dumped a ton of work on us and hasn’t acknowledged it

In July last year, I started a new job where our entire team was new or newish. We were provided with comprehensive training and all the support we needed to fix a fairly giant mess left by our predecessors, who were all let go. It’s a great team for the most part, and we have fixed almost all of the mess, and are almost done with the remainder.

My problem is with one colleague, “Fergus,” who was one of the earliest starters and who never seemed to quite get there. I was asked to help Fergus out with his workload while also doing my own, and was happy to do this: Fergus was also meant to be training me in some aspects of the role, so ideally this should have been a win-win for both of us.

Fergus, for want of a better word, sucked. He didn’t manage his own workload and continually offloaded a large portion of it to me, on top of my own. When he went on leave at the beginning of December, I became responsible for overseeing finalization of his work, and it was worse than I imagined: things not being done, or done in a non-compliant way, clients given incorrect information, timelines and schedules not being met. When I brought this to the attention of my manager, Fergus was given a new role on returning, as his work was so poor that he couldn’t feasibly return to our department. It will likely be a better fit for his skills, but this role is in the same building as our department: we will see him in the building, share the lunchroom and other common areas with him, and will work with his department.

Our team is livid: we, particularly me, worked extra hours in December and January to get his work finalized to meet due dates, and dealt with unhappy clients and their families and the general fallout from his mishandling of his work. As I was taking on a doubled workload and some of his work was unable to be completed, his actions have negatively impacted on my own KPI’s as well. He has at no point apologized, thanked us, or in any way acknowledged the position he has put us in, and we will now have to see him every day. Should we address this with him in order to resolve things to try to work more harmoniously together, should we let it go as much as we can in order to try and create a harmonious workplace? Our department is really divided on this, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Fergus should indeed apologize for the extra work he burdened you with and thank you for taking it on. But he hasn’t — and frankly, the fact that he hasn’t may be a reflection of the same problems that got him demoted (lack of self-awareness and lack of conscientiousness). I don’t think there’s a lot to be gained by forced apologies. I’d just write this off as one more reason that Fergus was a really, really bad fit for his role on your team, be glad he’s not in that job anymore, and try to move forward.

2. After starting my new job, I found out a colleague is about to be fired

I interviewed for and landed a great job: in a leadership role, managing a few teams. Today is day 3 on the job — and it’s starting to not look so great.

During interviews, I met individually with both the vice president (Gary), and the hiring manager (Sally). My last interview was with Gary, and we had a great conversation. When the hour was up, he told me I was a great fit and he wanted this role to report to him directly. This seemed a little odd to me, but I chalked it up to them still working out the teams and roles in their organization. The offer was exactly what I asked for, and a career advancement, so I took the job.

On day 2, Gary (indeed my new boss) confided in me that Sally was being fired in two weeks and replaced with someone else! Luckily, I had already observed some tension between them on my first day– I asked Sally if something was bothering her about my new role or if she was having difficulties with Gary. Sally replied that everything was great, and she was glad I was onboard.

Sally recommended me for this position, and I feel I owe her something for helping me. I cannot break confidentiality with Gary — but shouldn’t Sally know her performance is poor and something is amiss if Gary is treating her right? It seems like WAY too early to talk to HR or for me to have a clue about the reality of her performance. What should I do?

Nothing. This isn’t yours to intervene in. You have no way of knowing that Sally doesn’t know her performance is poor and her job is in danger; she may have been clearly warned that she could be let go if she doesn’t make specific improvements in a certain amount of time. That’s not the kind of thing she’s likely to announce to a new hire if so. Either way, this is between Sally and Gary, and you don’t have any way of knowing what’s really going on, or any standing to discuss it with anyone.

It’s a little odd that Gary confided in you ahead of time, but it’s possible that there are job-related reasons for you to know , or that he simply wanted to be transparent with you and not have you blindsided when it happens.

3. My company fired an employee for going to the police about a serious crime

I lead an IT department. One of my employees was doing an upgrade on a company device. She found the remnants of illegal material involving children. She left and took the device right to police. The employee who used the device was arrested. A search of his home and personal devices revealed more material, according to the news.

The company fired my employee because she went to the police instead of our manager. The company says she should have notified our manager so the company could investigate and interview both her and the employee before deciding whether or not to call the police. I am disgusted and so is the rest of the department. I don’t think this is an internal company matter or that the company should be interviewing him before the police. When the police saw the material and proof he was the only one with access to the device, he was arrested at gunpoint. The court had denied him bail. He volunteered somewhere where he was around kids and the news says victims have been found. In my mind, this is out of the company’s depth.

I’ve been forbidden from giving her a reference. She asked us not to talk to the reporters about this because she just wants to move on. The police have not publicly said she tipped them off. I can’t quit yet because my wife and I just bought a house and I need to be working so I need another offer first. How can I deal with management and working here after this decision? How can I support the rest of the department? They are disgusted too and are quitting or job hunting. I was told not to give them a reference but I don’t care and will anyway.

Wow, yeah, your company sucks. And this is a PR nightmare waiting to happen for them if word happened to get out.

The best thing you can do to support your staff is exactly what you are doing: support them in their job searches, make it easy for them to move on, and be willing to give them references. And good for you for being willing to give them references despite what your company is telling you. (And once you move on, your current company will have no authority to tell you not to give them references anyway.)

As for how you can deal with working there until you can leave — well, it might help to keep in mind that part of how you’re spending your time there is by doing the stuff above, which is making life easier for your job hunting employees. And of course, you know you’re actively on your way out too, and there’s satisfaction in knowing that you have options (even if they’re not immediate), that you’re not stuck there long-term, and that you’ll be sending the company a message by leaving over this, at whatever point you do.

4. I was rejected by a recruiter but got a nice email from a partner

I have what is hopefully a new twist on the old question about following up after an interview. Friday afternoon I had a series of interviews with four partners at a potential new firm. I sent individual thank-you notes on Saturday. On Tuesday I heard back from my recruiter, who was told by the firm’s internal recruiter that they had passed. I saw the email — it was very nice but definitely about me, no mix-up.

This evening though, I got a surprisingly detailed and excited response to one of my thank-you notes from a partner. He told me what he liked about my candidacy and said that he expected that the firm would be getting back to me soon. So he clearly doesn’t know that the recruiter had passed on my candidacy.

I’m really interested in this job. Do you think there’s any point in nicely responding to this guy to say that actually they had gotten back to me and it was a no? I know it’s a long shot, but maybe a partner’s interest is enough to give me a second chance.

Well, it’s possible that he’s just a nice guy and it doesn’t mean more than that — I’ve definitely seen people who send really kind and thoughtful responses to candidates’ thank-you notes, even when they know they’re not moving forward with them. But that’s not necessarily the case here, and you have nothing to lose by replying back. The key is that you don’t want to sound like you’re questioning the decision; you’re just mentioning in passing in your reply to him. You could say something like, “Thanks so much for this response! I heard from Jane that I won’t be moving forward in your process, but I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this kind note and getting the chance to talk with you.” (Or something — word it so that you’re not repeating what you said in your first note to him.) That way, if Jane jumped the gun and he wants to intervene, he’ll know that he should. And if she didn’t, you’ll just look gracious.

5. Will employers consider me for jobs I haven’t applied to?

I have been looking for a job for a long time now. If I apply to a company and I’m told that I am not hired, what happens with my resume? I understand that the company may hold it, but will HR consider me for jobs that I have not applied to?

Would an HR person ever say, “You are not a good fit for the job you applied to but would you like to be considered for this?” Does that ever happen and how do you let the HR person that this is much appreciated?

Some companies do and some don’t. Some make a point of looking through past candidates to see if any are a strong match with new openings. Others do it only for hard-to-fill positions, and others don’t do it at all. Some people think that when a company says “we’ll keep your resume on file,” that means they’ll definitely be looked at for future openings, but sometimes it’s just boilerplate that doesn’t mean much. There’s no way to know from the outside how a company handles this, so in general if you want to be considered for a different job there, it’s smart to apply for it separately, not rely on them plucking your application out from a different hiring round.

But yes, sometimes an employer will reach out to a past candidate and ask if they want to be considered for something else. All you need to say when that happens is, “Yes, I’d love to be considered! Is there anything I need to do on my end to officially throw my hat in the ring?” No need for excessive gratitude though — they’re not doing it to be particularly nice; they’re doing it because they’re hoping you might be the right hire for them.

{ 674 comments… read them below }

  1. Circus peanuts

    I hope the departing employees from letter 3 mention why they are leaving in their glass door reviews of this company.

    1. Wintermute

      Beyond glassdoor– this is when you call every newspaper and TV station you can find and offer up as much information as you can… they may hire her back, they may not, she may refuse even if they tried, but you can make this *hurt*. With the huge coverup scandal at MSU fresh in the news and sex abuse a trending issue in society this is a story that will have legs. And it will use those legs to kick the barely-human sociopaths you used to work for, repeatedly. And good for you for being there for your former employee.

      As an aside, they can fire you for giving people positive references, if they find out, but there is nothing else they can do to you.

      1. Sylvan

        A very, very literal addition from a former news employee: Start with email if you let anyone in the media know about this. Write one polished, to-the-point letter like your letter to Alison. Put all your contacts in the bcc field. Make sure you send it to reporters who have already covered the crime and/or their editors. Done. This is a completely normal approach and it’ll be easier and quicker for you. Make calls if you don’t hear back soon.

        1. CM

          Could you explain “put all your contacts in the bcc field” — why? So they can also reach out to the reporter if they want?

          1. Justme, The OG

            So the reporters you send it to don’t know you’re sending it elsewhere. Hiding email addresses of recipients is the point of blind carbon copy in emails.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz

              Or maybe just copy and paste the text of the email and send it to each reporter/editor individually? I know that would take longer but it also might have more meaning to the newsfolk.

              1. Someone else

                The newsfolk won’t be able to tell the difference if they got an individual email sent to them, or one email that was bcced to 30 other newsfolk.

                1. Sylvan

                  They’ll see that they were bcced (IIRC, receiving those emails myself), but again, at least in my experience, this is normal. They won’t read anything into it.

                2. Jennifer Thneed

                  That is not true. Only the sender knows who got bcc’d. If you receive something that is bcc’d to you, you won’t see your name anywhere in the header.

                  At least, that has been my experience with the email systems I’ve used. I get emails all the time from recruiters who clearly put 15 names into the bcc field, because the To field only has the recruiters name.

                3. Ego Chamber

                  @Jennifer Thneed It can be true, depending on how you have your email set up. Gmail has an option to mark email that was sent only to you differently than email that was sent to multiple people (cc’d or bcc’d). The last 3 jobs I’ve had have used Gmail for their interoffice email, so this is probably worth knowing about.

            2. Sylvan

              No, there’s no reason to pretend that each recipient is the only one in the world getting the email. It’s to prevent reply-alls.

        2. Hills to Die on

          Do that instead of the Glassdoor thing. I once left a review on a company who broke Sarbanes Oxley laws eight ways to Sunday and Glassdoor wouldn’t post it because of the legalities. Somethings are too hot to touch.

          1. Ozma the Grouch

            Truth! Glassdoor has some serious bias when it comes to reviews that are a little too critical. I know I’ve seen that sentiment repeated on here at least a few times. So I know that I’m not the only one whose had their honest but biting reviews “rejected” by Glassdoor. I don’t even bother with that stupid service anymore now. Now that I am a full time freelancer I have tried more than a few times to warn fellow colleagues of companies to watch out for. Not just nit picky stuff, but actual labor violators and deceitful practices. (You know, so and so doesn’t like to pay their bills!!! This person has a very abusive personality and will actually yell at you even when you aren’t involved!!!) And every single time Glassdoor has rejected my critical reviews but kept my positive ones. But what do I know about watching out for other people?

      2. Say what, now?

        Agreed, the community should know what kind of employer their area is harboring. There’s value in them knowing that it doesn’t support the law in it’s dealings. But the glassdoor review is also very valuable. It tells job candidates that if they act within the scope of the law they will be punished. It’s pretty pertinent information, especially now that there are bound to be a ton of new openings.

      3. Naruto

        Yes, I think this is very much a news story and not just a Glassdoor story.

        Seriously, what the actual F.

      4. Bunny

        Reporter here. That employee needs an attorney. That attorney needs to call someone like me.

        And I’d even suggest filing a complaint with the Attorney General; there may be laws that protect in this situation.

        1. neverjaunty

          Thank you for this. Lawyer first, then media.

          A company that fires someone in these circumstances and then tries to sabotage her career may well have violated the law, and likely isn’t above trying to silence the employee by threatening to sue her.

          1. fposte

            Yes, I was thinking this is quite likely to fall into the public policy exception to at-will employment for a start. Company did a dumb.

          2. Lil Fidget

            I was wondering why there wouldn’t be whistle-blower protection in place for this employee. This is what we *want* people to do, not give the employer a chance to cover up the crime for to prevent bad press, or whatever.

            1. fposte

              In the U.S., this is tricky, because it’s not covered by the federal definition; it may be covered by the state definition, but it may also be covered by protections that aren’t officially called “whistleblower.”

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              It’s likely not protected under the federal provisions, but it could very well be protected under state law. Regardless, the employee should lawyer up.

          3. ChubbyGirl Slim

            Why bother? Are people forgetting that in 2018 America, employers hold all the cards? They can essentially do whatever they like with impunity, and getting lawyers involved is an exercise in futility. Thanks to consistent pro-business legislation and relaxation of laws meant to protect employees, and thanks to gullible citizens. who swallowed whole the idea that unions are evil, today’s working stiff has no recourse. Best to accept things as they are and move on.

            1. Optimistic Prime

              If everyone just accepted things as they are, social change would never happen and people would continue getting away with things. People can choose whether they have the energy and resources to pursue cases like this, but I wouldn’t discourage someone who wanted to challenge their employer this way just because it’s an uphill battle.

            2. Ego Chamber

              Nope! I’ve watched too many people get screwed over against the law and/or the company’s own policy because “it just wasn’t worth fighting.” We need to stop this apathetic shit right now.

        2. Samiratou

          Yes, thank you for this comment. I was wondering if there were whistleblower or other protections for this type of thing that she could pursue.

          Because you know darn well there’s a good chance the manager (or someone) would have taken the device and covered it up rather than going to the police with it. Possibly not, given the current climate, but clearly this kind of thing is covered up more than brought to light, so I don’t have much faith that the company would do the right thing.

          Especially since they fired the employee who did uncover it.

          1. Cover Girl

            Absolutely they would have taken the device and covered it up. Not just for the normal propensity for covering up things that might make a company look bad, but, this company is already engaged in a conspiracy to cover up a crime.

        3. Barney Barnaby

          THANK YOU.

          This is a legal matter. There are laws prohibiting retaliation for reporting illegal activity. Getting fired is retaliatory. Everyone involved also needs to know what their NDA prohibits.

            1. Barney Barnaby

              And you need an attorney to look at those, determine if any federal case law is on point, examine any contracts the dismissed person had with the company, and then look at the likelihood of succeeding on a public policy exception grounds.

              What she shouldn’t do is just sit there and accept this as an inherently legal result of being an at-will employee.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                No one has suggested that. Fposte and others, including me, have pointed out that it’s very possible it is illegal, depending on the state. But the fired person is the one with standing to sue, and she isn’t the one who wrote in for advice.

                1. Erin

                  I know some professions are mandatory legal reports of child abuse. They must report suspicion of child abuse or face fines charges or loss of professional license. I know teachers, medical professionals and even powerline workers are mandatory reporters, it depends on the state. I wouldn’t be surprised if IT workers were lumped into that category. She should speak with a lawyer about her termination. I believe even if she isn’t a mandatory reporter she’d be protected under good samartain laws.

              2. SallytooShort

                “What she shouldn’t do is just sit there and accept this as an inherently legal result of being an at-will employee.”

                She should do whatever she feels comfortable doing. A lot of people don’t want all of the stress and hassle of law suits, even if there is a claim which is unknown.

                1. Anion

                  Yes. When my husband was let go from his last job, the attorney he consulted told him he had an excellent case and would almost definitely win. But he also stressed that the process could take a very long time and cost a lot of money, and that a win wasn’t *guaranteed* just extremely likely–in other words, the law was definitely broken, but there are no guarantees with juries (and that whatever settlement he got wouldn’t be outrageous, anyway, just more than what my husband was initially offered). Given all of that, it just seemed like a waste of time/money to sue, especially when it would have meant staying in a place without comparably-paying jobs. We just wanted it over with, so we took the settlement offered. It sucked, but it was easier and less sucky than a long legal battle.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              fposte is correct! It’s not protected in all states, unfortunately. (Even though this sounds common sense, whistleblower protection can be remarkably narrow.)

      5. Triceratops

        I totally understand the urge, but the former employee actually asked her former coworkers *not* to talk to reporters. Which is fair! Being in the public eye can suck. And it doesn’t sound like the company is covering anything else up or protecting other abusers, so I don’t think LW and their coworkers are _obligated_ to go public over their former coworker’s wishes.

        1. Bea

          I also think she may want it to not hit breaking news because that can damage her lawsuit against the company. I would be utterly shocked if she wasn’t already suing for wrongful termination. Also the dude needs to rot in prison, you jeopardize so much getting it drug through the court of public opinion.

      6. Catherine from Canada

        Wow. I’m assuming this didn’t happen in Canada, because as far as I know in Canada she is obliged _by law_ to take this to the police, as in criminal charges for her if she didn’t.
        I used to be an officer with the Cadet Instructor Corps and this was drilled into us. Even a suspicion must be reported to the police, even before telling the CO.

      7. Stranger than fiction

        Seriously, if multiple people blow the whistle then the gig is up and they can’t go firing everyone.

    2. MommyMD

      I hope so as well. Had she just brushed what must be child pornography under the table she may have comitted a crime herself. Worst company ever.

      1. Liane

        AAM does have a poll to dishonor that kind of wotkplace “leadership.”

        OP please give references for your former employee and your jobseeking coworkers/reports. But make sure they have nonwork contact info for you to give out to reference checkers, to lessen the chances your bosses find out, and you do the same with yours. It’s always a bad idea to use company equipment to jobsearch, but I think it could be really risky for you and your coworkers in this case. Good luck

        1. Kittymommy

          Yeah, this is a hill I’d die on. I would give references dvd key the chips fall where they may, if they do.

          I hope the former employee is at least getting unemployment. The company obviously sucks and is rather stupid if they think that they are on the right in this, but it’d be beyond idiotic to fight unemployment and piss off the former employee even more.

        2. Anna

          This is what I was thinking about the references. Ignore your shitty company and give references for every employee, including the one that was fired, if they request one. Your company has put their foot in it and I would bet so much that if the employee had gone to management first, the investigation would have concluded with the arrested employee just being fired. The people making decisions cannot be trusted.

          1. Thlayli

            Absolutely. Op Give a reference to the fired employee too. And make sure she and you are telling the same story about why she left to potential employers.

      2. Lil Fidget

        TBH, it makes me think there may have been more corruption higher up the chain, or something. I suppose they just feel the employee was “disloyal” by going to the cops, but … she did what I would have done (I hope!).

        1. RVA Cat

          My read is that the pedophile was some kind of rainmaker for the company, and they were doing the exact kind of coverup that let the likes of Nasser and Sandusky get away with their appalling crimes for so long.

          1. KTI

            I very much disagree that this was the company’s motive. While I think firing the employee who went to the police is waaaay over the line and horrible, the employee should have brought this up the chain at work before going to the police because the device she turned over to the police belonged to the company and likely had company proprietary information on it. I can virtually guarantee that the company legal team and IT leadership would have leaped into action to investigate this and would have reported it to the police or the FBI within 24-48 hours and turned over the evidence (without turning over company confidential info). The company fired the employee because she violated their IT security policies.

            1. Natalie

              Nooo, bad legal advice! A company’s confidentiality agreements don’t supersede criminal investigations, and you should definitely not be mucking around with evidence to remove things before you hand it over.

                1. Natalie

                  “It’s okay officer, we just took some stuff out of the dead guy’s pockets. No, we didn’t wear gloves, why you do ask?”

                2. Anna

                  During trial: How do we know someone else didn’t put that on there after the computer was turned over to the company?

                  Yeah, that’s a fast track to screwing up a prosecution.

                3. Aeon

                  “During trial: How do we know someone else didn’t put that on there after the computer was turned over to the company?”

                  This! So much this! I’ve read enough article where the obvious guilty party is let loose (or lose? Sorry not a native English speaker/writer) because the evidence wasn’t handled well.

              1. come on now

                Right, if anything it would have gotten anyone the company got involved at best in trouble for destroying evidence at worst implicated in a child pornography ring!

              2. Jennifer Thneed

                I find it interesting that if the fired employee had been any kind of mandated reporter, nobody would have any questions about what she should have done. Because that’s a place where the law insists that ethical and moral behavior is required, and we don’t get to make judgement calls in the moment.

                My opinion is that even though her job didn’t have those kinds of legalities attached, she still had the ethical and moral requirement to do exactly what she did.

            2. Barney Barnaby

              ” I can virtually guarantee that the company legal team and IT leadership would have leaped into action to investigate this and would have reported it to the police or the FBI within 24-48 hours and turned over the evidence (without turning over company confidential info).”

              You can guarantee this? Are you unaware of the scale of cover-ups that happen?

            3. Artemesia

              If she had done this, the device in question would have been destroyed and the pedophile would continue unabated. Maybe not, but this is why they were so upset that the manager didn’t get a chance to intervene. This is not a management issue, it is a criminal one. Good on the person who reported it and I hope they are suing for wrongful termination.

              1. Erin

                If my work place was on fire I wouldn’t call my manager I’d call the fire department and then my manager.

                1. The_artist_formerly_knwn_as_Anon-2

                  We were advised once that before calling police or fire or ambulance, call corporate headquarters. I told the director – “if you have a heart attack, I will call HQ and await their direction. Anyone else, I call 911/”

                  She immediately saw the stupidity in that policy.

            4. Anna

              No, I don’t think the company fired the IT employee for violating security policies. Of all the hot takes, this is probably the worst. In addition, they would have been tampering with evidence if they had removed anything from the computer. So…no. Wrong-o. Just plain wrong.

            5. Falling Diphthong

              This is terrible legal advice. If you find a dead body on company property, or someone who’s been badly beaten and is lying unconscious and bleeding all over the llama compliance reports, you don’t first ransack the crime scene to remove any evidence that the company might not want getting out. Property owners don’t get to decide what is irrelevant to the crime and can be removed from the scene before calling the police.

            6. tink

              Actually you do not touch a damn thing the police/FBI/etc have not told you to touch, because you’d be tampering with evidence. They don’t care about your company’s proprietary information, they care that they can get the evidence off the drive in a way that’s legally admissible in court. If they come to your place with a warrant, you let them do their forensic duplication and do what they ask you to do to maintain drive integrity/not alert the person they’re investigating, otherwise you stay the heck out of the way. The employee did everything right for a crime of this nature.

            7. Kate 2

              How the heck can you “guarantee” the company “would have leaped into action” and turned the evidence over? You do realize that’s counter to reality right? Most companies/organizations actively cover it up? Sandusky, Nassar, Subway, etc.

              1. Genny

                And not just cases like this, companies cover up known risks in their products, environmental damage, damage to employees health, and all sorts of other shady and illegal things. Why would you automatically trust any company to do the right thing?

            8. ket

              She was the IT team! Not leadership, but still. She did exactly the right thing. Criminal activity is criminal and must not be laundered through corporate priorities first.

            9. AKchic

              You can’t guarantee anything. What the IT person did was the ethical and legal thing to do. Should she have at least alerted her supervisors of what was happening? Yes. However, she was under no obligation to let any staff member, manager, C-suite, or otherwise, to actually *see* or *touch* that device before taking it directly to law enforcement. In fact, had she allowed anyone else to see it, knowing what was on it, she herself would have been disseminating illegal/prohibited materials, would have run the risk of contaminating the evidence, deleting evidence, corrupting evidence, etc.
              Currently, Alaska has an active warning in effect. A child porn video is making its way around, coming out of Alabama. The criminal has ties to Alaska, and people are sharing the video in hopes of “catching the criminal”. You know the whole “make this guy famous, catch him and turn him in/get rid of the scum” kind of viral video. Unfortunately, they are sharing a video of an individual sodomizing a child. And they aren’t actually doing any follow-up to show that the criminal has already been arrested. So they are sharing violent child pornography, which in itself is a crime, re-victimizing a child in their outrage and sense of social media justice, without even bothering to do a little digging. They see a video that should never have been shared (because it’s illegal) and then (illegally) share it, calling for blood, but they’ll never get the blood. The guy is already in jail. Instead, they are risking trouble themselves because they didn’t take a second to realize “hey, this is illegal”.

              Company policies do not trump state/federal laws. Ever.

              1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit

                She most definitely should NOT have alerted anyone at the company, supervisors or otherwise. To do so would very likely compromised the ensuing investigation.

                I hope the awesome employee sues the stuffing out of this company.

            10. A Cita

              Besides all the good points about evidence in the replies, and the track record of companies covering up illegal activity all the time…

              if the company would have “leaped into action” and done the right thing in the end, then why are they forbidding references for those who are quitting in protest?

              They don’t want word to get out about this. They would have not have reported it.

              1. RVA Cat

                The whole horrible way they are handling this makes me think that they are up to something else illegal and that the computer may have also had evidence of fraud, tax evasion, etc. that may be uncovered in the course of the investigation. Which is yet another reason the OP needs to leave ASAP before this all blows up.

                1. SignalLost

                  That seems like a stretch to me. The current climate is (rightfully) hostile to sexual offenses and the bad press that the many and various scandals have caused seems like enough of a reason for a corporation to want to suppress this internally. Doesn’t make it right, but I don’t think accompany that wants to do this is necessarily a bad actor in other legally-actionable ways,

            11. Optimistic Prime

              I’m going to nope this right on out. I’ve been a mandatory reporter in three different states and in my case, I would’ve *had* to go to the police first. But even in the instances in which I wasn’t, there’s nothing legally requiring a person to go to their workplace chain of command before going to the police.

              I’m having a hard time imagining another motive for a company firing an employee who went to the police with evidence of illegal behavior involving children, especially if we assume that the company would’ve turned the evidence over to the police within 24 hours anyway (which I don’t).

            12. Ceniza

              In a perfect world, bringing this up the chain is a great first step. However, when we keep hearing stories about predators being covered up by institutions, I would go to the authorities immediately as well. Not saying this company would have covered it up, but I’d rather see employees who go directly to police with evidence in these cases. Children’s safety is a greater priority than proprietary information.

        2. Scott

          Definitely this. I think they were probably worried that the police would find out that they’ve been complicit.

          The one silver lining in all this is that she’s in IT, which is a very employable field, so I suspect she’s already moved on. I’m thinking about it as hard as I can, and I can’t for the life of me think of one IT person I know that’s ever been unemployed.

          1. a different Vicki

            I wouldn’t go that far: that employment can depend on things like willingness to relocate or work horrible hours, and on how up to date they are on a variety of tools.

            Having to answer “why did you leave your last job?” with “I was fired” isn’t going to help, and not everyone hiring manager is going to do the right thing when the answer is “I was fired for reporting a crime to the police instead of to my manager.” Some people will think something like “not a team player” or “insubordinate,” rather than realizing that even the military has the concept of a lawful order.

            1. Creag an Tuire

              Honestly, that’s exactly why I would’ve gone straight to the press with this. Because while “I was fired for reporting a non-specific crime” might cause you problems with other employers, while I would sincerely hope that “I’m the person who got fired for reporting an effing pedophile” would be excused by almost everyone.

        3. Positive Reframer

          I can see calling your manager on the way to the police station, or after you called the police just so they don’t get blindsided by a reporter showing up in the office or something. That would be a reasonable ask. But to punish a HERO for putting the safety of children ahead of a corporation? Yeah, no.

      3. Yellow Peril

        Not really; mandatory reporting laws typically cover child abuse and neglect, not the viewing of kiddie porn. And mandatory reporters are either members of helping professions (teachers, doctors, etc.) or those involved in the legal system. California was considering a mandatory reporting law that would cover the simple viewing of child porn, but it was widely criticized by those who think it would have a chilling effect on anyone seeking professional help for their addiction. In any case, I’ve never heard of an IT professional being designated a mandatory reporter for anything.

        1. nutella fitzgerald

          The existence of child porn indicates that a child was abused somewhere, though. Illinois does actually include photo lab/film processing and IT in its list of mandated reporters, and they are required to report possession, not just production.

        2. Brett

          > In any case, I’ve never heard of an IT professional being designated a mandatory reporter for anything.

          I’m in an IT mandatory reporter state (and in IT). Alaska, California, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and South Carolina are all currently mandatory reporter for IT (and that includes child porn in all six of those states).
          In a bunch of other states, _everyone_ is a mandatory reporter. Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. New Jersey and Wyoming, in particular, have no mandatory reporter professions, just a blanket law making everyone in the state a mandatory reporter (the other ones have mandatory reporter professions, but also a blanket law).

          In looking up these states, I also found that Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin all make it a crime for an employer to interfere with mandatory or permissive reporting (permissive reporting is a person who reports who is not a mandatory reporter). Alaska, California, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming make it a separate crime for an employee of a company to fail to report because of company policies.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#3, I’m appalled, and I cannot adequately describe my sympathy for you and your former employee. She did everything right, and your company is lucky to have had someone like her who acted swiftly (and appropriately) to a very serious problem.

    I suspect that everyone higher up sucks, but do you have a Legal department, and is there any chance that they are coherent/decent people? From a risk management perspective, my head would be exploding if a company fired an employee for acting in a whistleblowing capacity, especially because of the risk to the company if there had been a cover-up. No decent attorney is going to argue that an internal investigation was required prior to reporting a crime of this nature and severity.

    But if they also suck, then I’m very sorry. I’d be tempted to get a new gig and send a packet of material to my local newspaper detailing the firing.

    1. dragonzflame

      I’d think an ‘internal investigation’ would be a very good way of sweeping the entire thing under the rug. The IT tech did the only right thing.

      Side note: How stupid would someone have to be to have any of that kind of material on a work computer? I know they probably thought they’d deleted it, but everyone should know that things can often be un-deleted. I’m glad they got caught.

      1. Wintermute

        Exactly and I wonder how the local news will feel about the implication that she was punished for not handing this to a manager to be swept quietly under the rug and the implication that they were planning a coverup if not for this courageous employee?

        1. Wintermute

          I really wish you could edit… You can keep the employee that reported it out of the story entirely, by focusing on the bumbled attempt at a coverup, not the employee being fired.

      2. TL -

        The guy was clearly lacking in judgment – I imagine the little voice in his head going, “don’t do this; you’ll get caught” had long since been re-calibrated to a much more horrifying scale than is normal.

        And now I feel like I need to go wash myself with bleach. At least his actions led to him being caught and he’ll be prevented from harming anyone else.

          1. PlainJane

            Yep. We had one in a library I used to work in. He was viewing *and printing* child pornography at a computer with a screen that *faced the circulation desk.* And the printouts had to be picked up at the circulation desk. Circ desk staff called the police, and he was arrested.

        1. Gen

          This exact situation happened as a friends workplace- the guy had a work-issued laptop for about six months when it inevitably fell over due to viruses from the sites he’d been going on. IT found and reported the contents. The manager decided to go down to ‘internal investigation’ route because it was a government office and civil servants looking at child abuse might look bad if it became public (as if not going to the police immediately wouldn’t). When confronted the guy admitted it, freely and with a grin on his face because it was entirely legal in his home country (everyone involved was white), he seemed to honestly not understand what the problem was or why it mattered. That baffled the manager who then decided to ajourn while he consulted the legal team. Guess who wasn’t in the room when they came back? The police finally caught him at the border but the whole thing was a disaster and the manager was fired for his bad judgement. If they’d fired the person who reported it the press would have had a field day

            1. TL -

              There are multiple countries that have no laws against it and in countries where it is illegal, the age of consent varies from 9-18 (several European countries have it at 14.)

              (I know in the USA consent for sexual acts can vary from 16-18, depending on states and circumstances, but consent for porn is 18, no exceptions. So I’m not sure if those countries have similar factors in play or not.)

              1. Miso

                Erm, yeah, country with legal age of 14 here. Still super illegal to do porn under 18.
                Actually it’s even illegal of the actors just appear to be under 18… Even if they’re not.

              2. Twinkle Toes

                There’s a current scandal in France where an adult male impregnated an 11-year old and said she consented (as an adult) to sex. It’s not technically illegal because France supposedly (?) has no age of consent defined for this ‘relationship’.

          1. Snark

            This is what always gets me about the decision to cover up abuse: if you’re so bloody concerned about the reputation of the department or team or whatever, what’s going to look worse on the front page of every newspaper from San Diego to Bangor? Because, my compadres, IT WILL OUT. Ask Joe Paterno. Oh wait, you can’t, because he died in humiliated disgrace, having been stripped of everything he’d worked for decades to build because he decided to jump in front of Jerry Sandusky’s self-inflicted bullet. There is NO WAY a coverup – sorry, “internal investigation” – ends up looking better than the original crime.

            1. GreyjoyGardens

              I thought of Paterno and the PSU cover-up, too. Trying to hush up this kind of child abuse is such. a. bad. look. for the company. Total Bad Idea Jeans. It will backfire horribly.

            2. Jesca

              Um well more recent actually is Larry Nassar, USA Olympics, Michigan U, and so on and so forth. The only reason there haven;t been indictments yet for anyone was because the state AG decided they didn’t want to provide resources to investigate all that are involved. In the Sandusky case, PA went after the University and Sandusky at the same time which why indictments were handed down around the same times. Larry Nassar’s actions were much worse as he was a doctor and worked for various orgs.

              Now what makes my comment relevant is that as you can see, the desire to not look further, cover up, or ignore due to how it would look can go all the way to the highest prosecutor in a state. So going to the media would be the best action here AND get some lawyers involved. This employer needs to understand the consequences of their actions. Just like officials in Michigan, Michigan State U and USA Gymnastics.

              1. JB (not in Houston)

                Yeah I see what you’re saying, but we don’t need to try and decide which pedophile is The Worst. They are all bad, as are the people who covered up for them.

              2. Not a Morning Person

                I feel for the citizens of Michigan. The state wasn’t able to provide clean water to all their citizens and tried to cover that up, too.

                1. Erin

                  I’m disgusted my tax dollars went to Michigan State University. They’re accomplices, I work too hard for my money to be used for evil.
                  Our roads are falling apart, flint’s water still isn’t great, it’s better than before but still garbage. But as long as or college sports teams are good who cares. I will no longer watch any sports because of the NCAA.

              3. Ani are you okay

                Hoping this is intended to mean that the _cover up_ was worse in the sense of more far reaching (i.e. involving the university and USA gymnastcs and the USOC).

          2. MassMatt

            It’s sadly appalling that this situation has happened multiple times even in the confines of people reading this blog.

            And it’s sadly common that people often think “oh, this would be damaging if it got out, better cover it up” and never seem to consider that the cover up makes the situation much more damaging.

              1. TootsNYC

                I remember being floored when I heard that an aunt of one of the victims had gone to the church and they asked her to let them handle it, and she said yes–in the late 1980s!

                I thought, Ye goes, this isn’t the 1960s, when people were still a little in the dark about this stuff.

      3. Kathryn T.

        A couple of decades ago, I worked at a very large software company. At the time, CD burners were expensive, enterprise-level pieces of equipment, so if you had something you wanted burned to CD, you put it on an internal network share and sent email to the CD burner people letting them know where the share was, and they would burn the CD and put it in your inter office mailbox.

        You see where this is going, right? Yeah. Some guy sent mail to the CD burner alias asking them to burn his child pornography collection to CD. It was past midnight when he sent the request (work life balance was unknown at this place at the time) and he was fired and perp walked out of the building and to the cops before 2 AM.

        I’ve often wondered what stories the HR rep who got that urgent 1 AM phone call could tell. There aren’t a lot of true HR emergencies, but that’s one.

          1. Kathryn T.

            I was at work at the time (see above wrt work-life balance) and the bad guy worked in my building more or less, though not in my group. We all rushed to the windows to gawk as the police carried boxes of evidence out of the building while two extremely bleary company employees (the group project manager and a very high up HR employee) stood by to observe.

            I didn’t work directly with anyone involved, so everything I know about how it was handled came through the rumor mill. But supposedly the (contract) employee who got the request immediately contacted his manager, and the manager told him to call the police since he was the one who had found the material and then the manager called HR to start the firing portion of things. It was fast, efficient, and decisive.

        1. Zap Rowsdower

          Wow, I have a similar story, but from the other side. Like yours, this was when CD burners were expensive and you needed to send a request to IT to get a disc made up.

          One day, a sales manager gets a CD of materials burned for a client presentation. He opens up the disc to make sure all the files are there and everything is good. Lo and behold, there are extra files on that disc, files with *suspicious* names. He opens them up to find porn. (About the only good thing in this story was that the porn did not involve children.)

          Turns out, at least 2 of the IT guys were downloading porn on the company servers and burning discs. They were walked out the building that day.

          1. RVA Cat

            Yikes! Imagine if he hadn’t reviewed it and the porn came up instead of his client presentation!

        2. BeautifulVoid

          Holy crap. I…what. This site is filled with stories of people with poor judgment and really, REALLY bad decision-making skills, but this one might win the grand prize. This phrase is used way too often these days, but I literally can’t even right now.

          1. Artemesia

            A high school principal in Kentucky I think was just arrested for taking nude photos off of a student’s phone (she had lost it and it was in the office) and sending them to international porn sites. I can only assume he sold them, but don’t know — but he sent nude photos of his own student that he found on her phone into the porn internet sphere. It is hard to imagine a person in that profession who would have that kind of judgment even if they have that kind of impulse. The mind boggles.

            1. Positive Reframer

              Thank you for sharing, I’m going to see if I can find an article about that and share it with all of the teens in my life. I feel like this might feel like more of an immediate threat than the (more likely) a romantic interest doing something you don’t want them to. Most schools have policies that allow them to confiscate student’s phones (which I have always felt uneasy about anyway, at what point does it become theft? because surely there is a line somewhere).

              1. Stranger than fiction

                You’re totally right but I thought all phones require a code or thumbprint these days. I guess not?

                1. Cactus

                  It’s a choice that the owner of the phone has to make: some use codes, others thumbprint, others a dot-pattern, others just a simple slide. If it’s the slide-lock option, that’s easy, and patterns and codes can be guessed…creepy any way you look at it.

      4. Violet Fox

        Speaking as someone who does work in IT, people have all kinds of weird stuff on their work computers. We actually ended letting people have scratch/working/temp directories on their desktops (rather then storing everything always in a networked home directory) because we were moving the scratch directories around at one point and found amongst other things, multiple seasons of Twin Peaks.

        We’ve also had people ask us about paying bills to their private bank accounts during the day. Someone was caught day trading (and it turns out it is actually possible to fire a tenured professor…)

        Granted we don’t actively snoop where I am, partly because privacy laws make that really tricky around here, partly because really do not want to know, but well.. from what I can tell, no a lot of people really have no separation between work computer and home computer.

        1. Cordoba

          Is paying bills to a private bank account a big deal?

          If I was at work and remembered “Crap, car insurance is due today” and then took 5 minutes to log in and send the payment I wouldn’t expect that to be an issue at all.

          1. Purplesaurus

            The day trading thing is weird, but yeah, I don’t understand why paying a bill would be a problem?

          2. SarahTheEntwife

            Yeah, I do that pretty often. On my lunch break, but still on a work computer. It’s certainly a security risk for *me*, but it’s not like I stay logged in to my bank account so it’s a risk I’m willing to take compared to the near-certainty of late fees if I tell myself I’m going to do it when I get home.

        2. WeevilWobble

          I think everyone I know who works a desk has paid a bill on their work computer at least once.

        3. Lil Fidget

          Yeah, I try not to do this, but usually how it happens is that I have to save something work related on a flash drive or on my phone, and then I plug that drive / phone into the computer to get it out, and now it’s “on a work computer.” I’ve tried to get better about this but my company sucks about remote IT (they don’t buy us a pack of flashdrives, for example), so I end up transferring files around a lot from different locations.

        4. Peggy

          I don’t really use media files anymore, I stream content on Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Spotify. But I do watch tv on my work computer, that twin peaks thing doesn’t sound so weird to me. :)

          I also do all of my personal business on my work laptop. In my company we’re issued laptops that we are expected to be glued to – I take it to dinner with me on a Friday night in case something comes up that I need to handle. If I get a manicure on a Saturday morning I take it with me just in case. So the expectation is that we use it for everything, most people don’t even use personal computers because we have our work laptops. Obviously not pornography!!! But I pay my bills, use Facebook and gmail, read articles, shop, web surf, watch movies.

          1. Specialk9

            Peggy… That’s ac really concerning choice you’re making. You are giving your employer – and random IT people working for your employer – way too much information about you. Your private doings, financial passwords… It’s just really trusting, and you shouldn’t ever ever ever trust companies. They’re not people so they’re not worthy of personal treatment like trust… but they’re made up of lots of people with lots of foibles and potential criminality. It is just exposing you way more than is wise! Can you switch Facebook and banking, at least, to your phone or a lightweight tablet?

            1. Specialk9

              Not to mention hackers, including hacks that basically just lurk quietly in a network. Companies get thousands of attempted hacks a day; govt gets *millions* of attempted hacks a day.

              1. Stranger than fiction

                Yep our IT guys spend a large portion of their day protecting against hacks and are always reminding us to be vigilant about what we click, to watch out for authentic looking phishing emails, not to visit sites with rando flashing ads allover, etc.
                And the funny thing is, the way I knew some of the phishing emails that get through are just that is because it’s regarding my “bank” or some other personal thing that wiuld never come to my work email.

        5. Amber T

          I don’t remember the last time I paid my bills *not* on my work computer. I’ve filed my taxes every year on my work computer (and have saved every year’s tax return on my “private” drive on my computer). When I was in the process of buying my place and had to download a million bank statements and other personal items, that was all saved on my work computer. Rebalancing my 401k/IRA – all on my work computer.

          Our IT “doesn’t monitor” our online use (no sites are blocked), and we’re allowed (if not, encouraged) to do what we need to do, within reason. It’s part of our office’s culture/philosophy that we need to get personal stuff done as well as many people stay way past the standard 8 hours a day.

        6. Scott

          I’ve done tons of online banking on my work computer. I have my excel spreadsheet budget set up on it, and at lunch or break I’ll quickly log in and take care of it. I spend 8-10 hours a day staring at a screen, so when I go home, I try not to look at a computer screen. I’m totally aware that this could be viewed by IT or my manager if they wanted, but worst case, they’ll see that my investments took a hit but survived the latest financial crisis.

          That said, in this day and age, it would be far too great a risk to even open any NSFW websites.

      5. Jesca

        I agree. It is so amazing that they had someone on staff who did the right thing! This is especially true since now we know the would have likely not handled it appropriately in any manner. Just WOW. There is definitely nothing wrong with outing this company to reporters. I would start with local and then send to national – and not out of retribution, but because the employer needs to learn a major lesson here!

        1. GreyjoyGardens

          I agree. The employee who reported this is a heroine – it sounds like the guy was a serial predator (as pedophiles are). And he actually *worked with kids*. Shudder.

          LW should be calling reporters.

      6. RVA Cat

        Note that this also means the perv may have been transmitting child porn over the company network.

      7. tink

        I’m not even surprised. The things people will say and do even when they know all of their communications can be monitored and recovered is staggering.

    2. sacados

      Ugh, I completely agree. I want so badly to be able to tell OP to send an “anonymous” tip off to the media outlining the whole situation. It’s the sort of thing that could easily go viral in minutes if picked up by the right outlets and heads would definitely roll. I’m sure the OP is tempted too.
      But it’s hard since the employee involved specifically asked them not to talk to reporters about it. I’m sure Employee is thinking mostly about the fact that she doesn’t particularly want her job back at a company like that anyway, so what would be the point.
      Personally, I’m just vindictive enough that I would want to see someone facing consequences for the decision anyway, though.

      1. Akcipitrokulo

        I wonder if fired employee is worried it would hurt their current job hunt? Whether it would in reality may not be true, but that fear could be there.

        1. TL -

          I imagine fired employee doesn’t want to relive this day over and over and over.
          It’s bad enough having seen files that made you go straight to the police, but there were also local victims and massive criminal charges and god knows what else. If I was her, I’d be wondering if I’d missed any clues, if I’d ever skipped a routine check or a semi-but-not-really-suspicious URL because I was tired or not feeling well, if there was anything I could have done to catch it sooner…

          She already did her part – she went to the police and gave them the evidence they needed. She’s testifying in court, she knows that there were victims and that her actions helped save them from further atrocities. I can imagine someone feeling like they’d done enough at that point – and I would blame them for doing less, but I’d be okay with them not wanting to do more.

          1. Akcipitrokulo

            Absolutely true – wasn’t in any way suggesting that they should feel any obligation to do more!

        2. Christmas Carol

          If I could, I would hunt down fired It employee, and OP 3 IT Lead too, and offer them both terrific positions with exorbitant salaries.

      2. Specialk9

        “But it’s hard since the employee involved specifically asked them not to talk to reporters about it.” Could you clarify what you mean by this? Because the company gave an illegal order after doing an illegal firing. They can’t actually legally demand that their workers participate in an illegal cover-up and illegal retaliation for the legal and moral imperative of reporting a serial child abuse case.

        Also, the OP can just report it to reporters, and then lie to the company if asked. (Seriously, they’ll assume the illegally fired person did it anyway. Which is 100% her right.)

        1. Beaded Librarian

          Special K9 I read it as the employee who found the evidence and was fired ask her coworkers not to talk to reporters so the OP is trying to respect their former coworker.

        2. aebhel

          The illegally fired employee asked them not to contact the press about it, I imagine because it’s already a source of much stress in her life right now without having reporters trying to contact her for her scoop on the company’s attempted cover-up.

      3. Not a Morning Person

        I think you sound very reasonable in wanting that organization to suffer the consequences of their choices, and not vindictive at all!

    3. Observer

      I was thinking much the same.

      The company is being seriously stupid here. I hope it comes to bite them in a lot of places.

        1. Anon.

          Yeah, the response by management has some really questionable priorities that had me briefly wondering the same thing. I know it’s unlikely, but most of the cases in the news recently are unlikely.

          1. Natalie

            Eh, complicity in this kind of thing is way, way more common than I think anyone wants to think about. If you haven’t been following the Larry Nassar case in detail, Deadspin and ESPN have been doing some really good reporting on the institutional failures at MSU, USA Gymnastics, various police departments around Michigan, and so on.

            1. Parenthetically

              The MSU “investigation” that concluded those girls just were too stupid to know the difference between medical treatment and sexual assault… my God. My. God.

              1. RabbitRabbit

                They believed HIS presentation on what he was doing! And they didn’t cross-check it with someone else! It’s horrifying.

                1. Natalie

                  Oh no, that charming little detail comes from the police department of Meridian Township, Michigan, who were provided a slideshow about an (unrelated) medical treatment from Nasser and never bothered to ask another doctor.

                  The only time MSU investigated him (the rest of the time they just assumed everything he did was medical treatment) the doctors they got for confirmation were friends of Nasser.

              2. Oranges

                I remember once I was confused because an x-ray tech touched my pubic bone when I was young (9ish). Not in any sexual way (I could tell even though I was little) just to make sure I was positioned right (I realized that later) and I went to my mom and asked her since you know I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t breaking the “bad touch” rule. She asked me for details and then said that it was a doctor thing this time but I did the right thing in asking her and she was proud I did.

                The thing that stuck with me is that she didn’t tell me I was confused or anything like that. She asked simple questions about a situation and let me figure out if it was “bad touch” or not based upon my own recollections.

                1. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish

                  I can remember feeling uncomfortable with some kind of exam from my pediatrician (I was probably 4 – I really don’t remember the details, just feeling uncomfortable and I have no idea if that was a normal exam (I think my mom was there?) or if there actually was something sketchy going on.

                  Little kids don’t know yet what is normal, and doctors do sometimes have to do things that would be assault coming from anyone else (slicing someone open and removing organs, for example) so the implication that these women who were CHILDREN at the time should have known really pisses me off.

                2. Kate 2

                  I am so glad your mom listened to you and encouraged you to come to her with stuff like that.

                  Some of the victims in the Nasser case were sisters, they told their parents about the abuse, who didn’t believe them. When the truth about Nasser was revealed their father committed suicide.

                3. Oranges

                  @Furgus

                  It pisses me off too.

                  I mean it’s a trope how many advice columns get letters about “He/She/They aren’t REALLY that bad. How fix?” Adults are literally rewritting their own narratives so that they don’t have to face something they have *control* over and *understand*.

                  Children? Yeah, they get their narratives from us a LOT since they’re still figuring out everything and have control over very very little.

                  If we’re good we just help them clarify their own. Eg. “You look sad. Are you upset about something?” If we’re neutral-bad we tell them what we think they are feeling/experiencing Eg. “You’re sad that you didn’t get the last cupcake” (might be upset about sibling licking their favorite toy instead) If we’re bad-evil we deny their reality. Eg. “You shouldn’t be sad over not getting the last cupcake. Children are starving/”man up”/etc”

                4. Anonymous Ampersand

                  Top marks to your mum. I hope I can be like that if my son is ever concerned about such things.

            2. Observer

              Penn State was much the same – just about every adult in that case was complicit. Even the counselor – a mandated reporter no less! – who one of the kids talked to brushed it off.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      +five million

      Requiring your colleague to not report a crime she uncovered, especially such a severe crime, is unconscionable. Hopefully any legal or compliance person worth the air they breathe would see what a major issue this is.

    5. LKW

      It may fall under a “no-retaliation” policy as well. While usually those are reserved for internal investigations – I would bet that if your former co-worker went to an employment lawyer, they would have a reasonable case. I would also imagine your company would like to avoid going to trial and making the circumstances public. If your co-worker wants a settlement that’s fine, but if she’s not hurting for money – it may be a really good way to expose them.

    6. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish

      I’m appalled (to put it mildly) as well. This is akin to getting fired for calling the police to report a dead body in the break room instead of calling HR. Unbelievable. Attempting a cover-up is bad enough, then to double down with retaliation is just beyond.

      I have a friend who works in IT security for a very large firm. He says they find weird stuff on people’s phones/laptops/tablets all the time (weird, not criminal in virtually all cases) and they’ll go to the police in a skinny minute if anything like this were to come up – that’s company policy, as it should be.

    7. Engineer Girl

      I agree to loop in legal. I’ve seen HR screw up several times and do patently illegal stuff. One email to legal had HR backpedaling.

  3. namelesscommentator

    #3 is making my stomach churn. Good luck with you & your departments job search.

    I would put this on glassdoor, or do whatever you can to make the public aware, even if the woman wants her name kept out of it I hope there are ways to destroy this company without it.

  4. Caledonia

    #1 -has your manager(s) acknowledged the hard work you and your team have been doing? If they have (+ was that overtime paid?) then I would hold onto that rather than a specific apology from Fergus who clearly sucks.

    1. Kiwi

      And if the impact on your KPIs means you’ll be getting less pay rise or bonus, I’d push back to management on that. That’s very unfair and hopefully they’ll see that.

      1. Observer

        Yes, please make sure that your manager knows why your KPIs were not where they should be and try to make the case that you shouldn’t be penalized.

        1. OP#1

          I was able to accrue time in lieu, as we have ‘flexible work contracts’ which generally means that you only work your allotted hours total for the fortnight and don’t get overtime. We aren’t meant to go above this but our manager was really generous about it.

          As some of our work is compliance-based, we deal with a large outside organisation and this is who would look negatively on the KPI issue: although my direct manager understands and is fine with this, I worry about how this reflects on the organisation given the mass firings which were needed last year. We are working hard to repair our reputation but things like this really don’t help.

              1. Ramona Flowers

                Time in lieu suggests UK?

                It sounds like you’ve done a lot that reflects well on your organisation too, what with your team’s hard work fixing the mess. Regardless of external KPIs, I really hope your manager judges your performance fairly.

                1. OP#1

                  Australia. TIL isn’t as common here because, putting my manager hat on, it can be really hard to manage in terms of leave provisions, but like I said, my manager was really accommodating.

                2. Elizabeth

                  We have lieu time in Canada, too, but I assumed this was a not-for-profit thing, not a regional thing. Apparently not!

              2. TL -

                I thought KPI was Australian! (my coworker was just talking about it yesterday)

                Just wanted to clarify because that’s not legal in the States, but it sounded like you were beholden to a different set of laws.

                1. Becky

                  I’m in the US, and KPIs are used in my org. It may be an industry rather than regional thing. Or not. ;)

                2. Autumnheart

                  KPIs are plentiful in the US. It just means “key performance indicators”, so even if the acronym isn’t used, the principle certainly is. But in any case my employer (125K+ people) uses the acronym. It’s a common term in project management.

                3. ExcelJedi

                  Another person in the states that uses KPI – at least 3 of my last 4 or 5 companies have used that term, all in the Middle States.

                4. LBK

                  KPIs are definitely a thing in the US – I think this might be a question of industry rather than company. It’s a super common concept in IT and I think fairly common in tech in general.

                5. LBK

                  Oops – country, not company (ie I don’t think this is a regional difference so much as it’s related to your role/field).

          1. Caledonia

            I am glad you got time back, that is good. Your manager sounds like a good one, try not to worry about the larger picture. You are doing your bit (and more!) to help the org, let the PR or CEO worry about the org rep.
            Also, as others have said above, you have a lot of evidence re: targets missed if needed.

      2. Thlayli

        I also came here to say you should definitely push to get the impact on your KPIs wipes from the record. Your manager should be able to make sure you don’t suffer for this.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Agreed. I suspect Fergus will never thank folks—the level to which he was not disclosing how far behind he was indicates that he knew he wasn’t making the cut. If there’s any ego involved, it’s probably difficult for him to acknowledge that he was not competent at his previous job.

      It’s tough to achieve harmony when it relies on someone else’s actions. I think the best the team can do is try to write him off and move on.

      1. OP#1

        He’s made a few vague Facebook posts about ‘missing a good thing when it’s gone’, so it’s possible you’re right here.

        I’m also not clear if he’s aware it’s a demotion: due to employment law here, without a fire and rehire, he’s on the same pay grade and rate, for a much lower grade job.

        1. [insert witty user name here]

          Uuugghhhhh how frustrating! Sorry – nothing to constructive to add, OP#1, other than I am super frustrated/annoyed on your behalf!

        2. Green Goose

          I think depending on your work relationship with Fergus, what could be gained, and what the fallout could, should all be considered before you speak with Fergus. You are definitely within your rights to, but you don’t want to make the situation worse for yourself.
          I once worked with with two people Tonya and Matt who had the early morning shift before I arrived, their work directly impacted my work. Matt was temp hoping for permanent, and Tonya was permanent. Well, my boss ended up hiring someone else as Perm and to “get even with the bosses” Tonya and Matt purposely messed up their work on Matt’s last day. Only… it didn’t do anything to my bosses, but totally ruined my week as I dealt with the fallout of their order mess-up. I felt like I had to talk to Tonya about it to clear the air because we were still going to work together for the rest of the year.
          After I told her how what they had done had only impacted me, and not her intended target I thought I’d get a huge apology… nope. Instead she got very defensive and lied and lied about the mess-up being a “series of accidents” I was livid and I never got an apology. I heard from other coworkers that she bragged about what she had done like it was hilarious.

          Even though you very much deserve an apology, it might never come.

      2. CityMouse

        On the other hand, I once took over work from a Fergus and either there was serious denial going on it he simply didn’t care. I would not expect an apology, if anything I would guess someone willing to foist off large quantities of work like that might be the kind who is resentful and blames the old department for being demoted. Better to just write him off.

      3. MCMonkeyBean

        Yeah, he really fucked up and I would certainly resent him a lot if I were in the OP’s shoes–but he’s also probably really embarrassed and I don’t think there are many humans who would apologize in his situation. He probably thinks it’s best to just keep his head down and move forward.

      1. Artemesia

        But has he been replaced? Or is everyone just going to do the work that Fergus should have done forever?

        1. OP#1

          Hiring freeze, so he’s considered to be natural attrition for our department. Most of his work had January end dates for contracts and such and the remainder of his cases have been split among three of the team.

    3. Lil Fidget

      Agree. I don’t see the point in seeking an apology from Fergus, but you should be acknowledged by the company and not punished. You may have to make this more explicit to your manager if they’re not getting it. But Fergus’ future actions are a red herring.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, I’m so sorry—the situation you’re in sounds anxiety-making. But I agree with Alison. This is very much not a time to intervene. I don’t know what Gary is thinking, but hopefully you’ve just stepped into a preexisting story at an awkward phase, not into a pattern of problematic behavior. I’d assume the former until proven otherwise, if no other reason than to limit stress.

    1. JamieS

      My best guess is Sally normally would’ve been OP’s manager and Gary wanted to give some context on why OP’s position was changed to reporting to him instead. Bit of an awkward conversation but since it sounds like OP and Sally are close to the same level there’s plausibly work related reasons OP would need to know sooner rather than later (such as taking over some of Sally’s work).

    2. Wintermute

      I’d bet a dime to the hole in a donut that Gary is thinking “if her manager disappears her second week on the job she’ll be on eggshells her entire career wondering if that’s the way we do business around here.

      Having worked at places that gave that impresison accidentally, I can understand the impulse. I actually felt BETTER about my job after getting in trouble, because I realized that there was more than one disciplinary step, even if I was now approaching step one, I wasn’t there yet and they were much more lenient than others had lead me to understand!

      1. Lora

        Yeah, I agree – OP2, while this sucks, be kinda glad that Gary told you, because it sucks out loud to be blindsided by this stuff. It sounds like Gary has a plan for you and you’re not going to be totally adrift without Sally, although I’d anticipate some of her duties will be handed to you and you might find a real mess.

      2. LBK

        Completely agreed – I think Gary did the right thing giving the OP a heads up here. And given that the OP reports directly to Gary, I don’t think it’s that weird that she was brought into the fold on this, so to speak. Since the OP originally applied to work for Sally I imagine their work overlaps somewhat so Gary may be prepping the OP to have to take on some of Sally’s work while the new person is transitioning.

  6. Anonicat

    I know the timing’s not quite right, but I like to imagine that LW#1 is part of the team hired to replace the group that was fired wholesale because the manager drove out an excellent employee for not fitting in and “showing off” by being quiet and good at her work.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here

      And yet Fergus survived. He’s that guy. He will be shuffled around forever. Being given less work and more pay. Until one day, his oblivious ass retires, fully believing the place will crumble without him. There is always one.
      Hey Allison: where are the job postings for corporate cockroach? Can you help me with my cover letter and resume. Wait, I guess she f I really want that job, I’ll have to pawn those tasks off on someone else!

      1. Corky's wife Bonnie

        On occasion, and I’m sure it’s rare, it does happen that someone higher up notices and the Fergus’s are let go. I’ve seen it happen (just once but still), it was a blessed day.

        1. Samiratou

          Love your username, by the way! (This is to Corky’s wife Bonnie, if the threading makes that confusing).

        2. Artemesia

          I watched a Fergus do nothing and obstruct for 20 years before finally someone got rid of him; I was stunned that it finally happened. My DIL has one now who has made her work life miserable as they have not provided the tools she needs to do her job as promised at hire and yet he holds the power (which he differentially seems to use to punish competent women) and no one will cross him. She has had to focus way to much energy on working around him and other barnacles. He will never be dealt with.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.

          Ahh, so he is. And after a big shake up and bringing in new people, it seems like the company is suffering from battle fatigue. “Look, the work is getting done. Nobody is quitting. Nobody is refusing to work. Just let him do SOMETHING so that we don’t have to let him go and hire more people again. You remember LAST TIME.”

        2. OP#1

          Yes, Fergus and one other were the two first, then a further three, and I’m one of the last three. He’s been with the company for a while though, although he started in a much lower role with little responsibility and time lines. While he wasn’t doing terribly in that role, he wasn’t a stand out either.

  7. Ramona Flowers

    #3 I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Your employer, well, my first thought was who the hell do they think they are. IANAL but I wonder if it’s possible that doing their own investigation (whatever that entails) would have jeopardised any future conviction due to people effectively tampering with the machine and chain of custody stuff? I also wondered if this in any way comes under whistleblower protection?

    I really hope you find something else soon.

    1. Daffodil

      Re: mucking up evidence on the machine, yeah, that’s a problem. The more of a delay there is between the material being discovered and it being reported to the police, and the more people who poke through the machine, the more plausible deniability it gives the perp that it wasn’t really his. I’d also be worried about someone tipping off the perp that he’s been caught, so he has time to destroy all the stuff he’s got at home.

      If you’re ever in this situation, the correct way to preserve digital evidence for the police is to pull the plug on the machine (or remove the battery, or hold the power button down until it shuts off). Don’t send it through a normal shutdown, that makes it dispose of temporary files that can be useful for the investigators. But by far the most important part is reporting it to the police promptly.

      1. Tyche

        Yes to this.
        Also I think children pornography it’s not something you can “investigate” internally: it should simply reported to the police.
        It’s not a doughnut theft, it’s not internal problem of the firm (misuse of funds, protecting intellectual property etc)

        1. sap

          Yes, this is true. CP possession is very strict liability, and though it’s not typical for people who discover others’ CP and report it/investigate it to be prosecuted, it’s technically possible and has happened occasionally. It really would have put the company and the investigators in greater legal jeopardy if they’d handled it by exposing several people to the CP, especially since they would probably be making additional copies during their investigation.

          It’s like textbook how not to handle discovering someone else’s child pornography.

          1. Juli G.

            Yes, this exactly. It HAS happened so why on earth open yourself up to the risk unless you want to protect someone? Very poor judgment on this.

        2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

          Exactly, years ago at an Oldjob we had a lazy employee who constantly called in sick. Well one day someone had to access his files to find something. He found child porn. He immediately called his boss. His boss took one look, called his boss and within 30 minutes the police were in the office and the computer was under wraps. The employee was charged and got two years in jail.

      2. Lance

        ‘I’d also be worried about someone tipping off the perp that he’s been caught, so he has time to destroy all the stuff he’s got at home.’

        This, all the way. Like… what do they think they’ll actually accomplish besides tipping him off that something’s wrong and effectively giving him the chance to cover his tracks? The co-worker absolutely, 100% made the right call (the man got arrested at gunpoint; I think that speaks for itself); the company is completely awful for how they’re handling this.

        1. eplawyer

          Hoping they can keep the bad PR to a minimum by simply firing him. Hoping he gets caught at his next job, so it’s not their problem.

          This was corporate PR ass covering rather than legal thinking.

        2. Specialk9

          I mean, I’m assuming the US, we arrest our innocent bystanders and heroes at gunpoint, if we don’t just shoot them for being deaf, black, or living in the house the SWAT team wrongly entered. Gunpoint is pretty much how our cops roll, all the time.

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              Well, Specialk9 was responding to Lance’s comment that “the man got arrested at gunpoint; I think that speaks for itself.” They didn’t just throw their (accurate) comment in for no reason just to say it.

      3. CyberTech

        If at all possible the machine should be kept on while you wait on the police to come and collect it. They will often want machines left on in case they are connected to any ‘networks’ the distribute this kind of material. The same goes for anything terror related.

        The machine should be kept in a secure environment, ideally a locked room and if at all possible under some sort of camera surveillance, with an actual person guarding the room from the outside (ie not inside with the machine)

        For the following – I am not a lawyer, but a banana and your mileage may vary depending on your countries laws & how strictly they may be interpreted from the written law;

        The company made a huge booboo here & in the UK had they done as planned could potentially have faced legal action for their failure to promptly report a criminal offence. There is also the potential that by firing the employee for reporting a criminal offence (something you are legally required to do in the UK at your first available opportunity {technically according to a strict interpretation of the law}) the company engaged in what might be consider constructive dismissal.

        1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan

          My God, bananas have not only grown sentient but pretty damn intelligent and thoughtful, too! I for one welcome our new banana overlords!

          1. Lynne

            On the internet, no one can see you’re a banana.

            CyberTech, though, knows this and reveals the truth up front, despite the judgments that may follow. Battling the near-universal beliefs that no banana can be as smart as you and me. It must seem a futile struggle at times, yet s/he/it soldiers on, sprinkling casual mentions of its nature here and there in the midst of a thoughtful comment. Hoping only to cause a few among us to question what we have been taught – to light a single candle in the darkness, for the sake of sentient bananas everywhere.

            Know that you have all my respect for your quest, CyberTech.

            (also, thank you for the info re what to do with the device; duly noted in case I ever need to know this.)

      4. teclatrans

        I would say it more than runs the risk of tipping off the perpetrator, as OP3 says explicitly that the investigation would include interviewing him. This means the investigation would be *guaranteed* to tip him off. It’s like they think this is a situation between two employees that should have been handled by HR.

    2. CityMouse

      If their “investigation” involved any file transfer, they could easily be guilty under some child pornography statutes. So the employee may have saved.them legal trouble.

      The idea that they feel they should make the call is disgusting. That is the background behind many, many cover ups and with a crime that horrific the idea that someone is fired for going to the police for that. Just ugh, get out of there asap and blow them up to the media as soon as you are safe. People who put things like chain of command over the wellbeing of children are pure scum.

    3. Snark

      It very well could have complicated the investigation, but I also suspect the authorities can work with that.

    4. Anony

      Yeah. This isn’t a case where the company can decide whether or not to press charges. They can do an internal investigation in addition to the criminal one, but not instead of or before.

    5. Nita

      Yeah. I imagine the internal investigation would go like this: the guy is called into HR, denies everything, claims the company device was used by a bunch of people before it was assigned to him (this is not uncommon). HR huddles to decide what to do about him. The next day, his home has been burglarized, his home computer and camera are gone, and it’s basically his word against IT’s.

      1. Specialk9

        Based on this company’s behavior, I really don’t think there’s any cynicism too deep for what they might have done. They’re Uber level villains!

  8. Knitting Cat Lady

    #3:

    Fucking hell your higher ups are assholes beyond anything imaginable.

    The case against your former coworker must be a slam dunk and the authorities probably see him as a danger or a flight risk if he was denied bail.

    And this mentality of ‘We need to figure out if there is anything to the allegations before going to the police’ is why we have so fucking many abuse scandals.

    1. Snark

      It’s not “we need to figure out if there’s anything to the allegations before going to the police.” It’s “how can we make these allegations go away.”

      I honestly can’t comprehend whether that’s motivated by “But Percival is our bro, we can’t let him get arrested!” or “Sure, let’s let abuse continue, it’s better than seeing our company name in the third or fourth para of a news story about Percival getting arrested, amirite?” or “This just sounds like a giant pain in the ass to deal with, and I don’t wanna, so let’s make this go away quicklike and we can all go have a pint,” but the motivation is not fact-finding.

      1. CubicleShroom#1004

        How about “We aren’t mandated reporters, so we aren’t required to contact the police.”

        My sister has gotten that response at her work place TWICE in her 25 years.

        One reason USA Gymnastics insanity went on so long, is even though adults knew, many were not mandated reporters. Open your yap, there goes your job, get black listed and reputation.

        I believe all adults should get immunity to report alleged child sexual abuse/child pornography. You should be able to report without doing mental calculations on how will I survive when I get fired and character assassinated as a busy body and shit stirrer.

        Easier to fire the creep and nuke the tech, than to do the right thing.

        1. Pontoon Pirate

          I could be wrong, but I believe that in some states, all adults are mandated reporters – at least in Florida, I think that’s true.

        2. aebhel

          I mean, something like this isn’t really even a mandated reporter situation. Mandated reporters are required to report suspected abuse, or any abuse that is reported to them by a vulnerable person (usually, but not always, a child), regardless of whether or not there’s solid evidence. This is straight up concealing evidence of a crime. This is like seeing someone commit a murder and then deciding to just… not call the cops. And what the company wanted to do amounts to torching the evidence.

      2. Oranges

        I think it’s actually mostly denial: “Percivial is my friend/co-worker. Percivial isn’t a monster. Pedophiles are monsters. Therefore there must be a rational reason why he has this stuff on his computer that makes him innocent” This is the reason why police were invented in the first place. Outsiders who can be unbiased (at least we try…). Head meet desk.

        Add to that “I don’t want to air our dirty laundry in public” and “if I ignore it it can go away” and you’ve got a bit of a perfect storm.

    2. Emi.

      Figuring out if there is anything to the allegations is WHY WE HAVE THE POLICE. IT IS LITERALLY THEIR JOB. JUST CALL THEM.

  9. NoMoreMrFixit

    As a former IT techie I would have done the same in that situation. The employee was fully in the right calling the police. Now they should talk to a lawyer about a potential wrongful dismissal lawsuit. I fully understand a company’s desire to avoid negative publicity by keeping everything quiet, but these people are punishing the wrong person. An anonymous call or email to the media wouldn’t be a bad idea either. These folks don’t deserve to be treated respectfully anymore.

    I realize that I sound confrontational on this but if I were in that position I would be going on a scorched earth campaign. Your company is totally in the wrong on this one. And you’re truly a wonderful person for wanting to give your people a good reference after this mess. Bless you!

    1. Naomi

      Yes, I think this is one of those times when the terrible thing OP’s employer did is also an illegal thing–they retaliated against someone for reporting evidence of a crime. It’s possible that the fired employee would decline to pursue legal action, if she just wants to put it all behind her, but she should at least talk to a lawyer and know what her options are. Even if she doesn’t actually sue them, she might be able to use this as leverage to get them to pay unemployment and give her a decent reference.

      1. Cyberwulf

        If I was a detective and had just nabbed someone for child porn, and then found out the person who reported it to me had been fired for doing so, I’d want to know who decided to fire her and what was on that person’s computer. Just in case we had a little nest of child molesters.

        1. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus

          I think you might have something there. The OP should go to the police also and tell them who fired her. The person who fired her might also have a little stash he was trading with the perp.

        2. CityMouse

          That is a good point. I would be extremely suspicious of someone who defends the perpetrator here. Definitely don’t bring your kids to any work events.

        3. Fiennes

          Completely agreed. And the likelihood that the story goes from the cops to the media is, IMO, pretty high. There’s no amount of blowback too great for LW3’s company. I want an update on this one like burning.

    2. Bagpuss

      Yeah, the only possible thing I can see that the employee could have done differently would have been to inform her manager that she had had to contact the police, but I think that would only be practical if there was time to do so between delivering the laptop to the police, and them arresting the person concerned, and if she was very confident that this wouldn’t result in his being tipped off.

      And I imagine that the police may have specifically asked her not to do this.

      OP, if you are in contact with her, I hope you encourage her to see an employment lawyer about what has happened, and let her know that you remain willing to give her a reference. The attempt by your company to stop you giving her one is so inappropriate and vindictive.

      If you have HR or a legal department it may be worth you speaking to them again about this, and pointing out what appalling publicity it will be if/when it comes out (which it may, for instance if there is a trial, the employee and the police are likely to give evidence about how the images were found)

    3. Nope

      I wondered whether a wrongful termination suit was a possibility in that one. If there was any justice in the world, anyone involved in the firing would be (rightfully) terminated.

    4. Mr. X

      I just took an IT forensics cert. One of the sample questions was: “John is examining a computer and discovers CP. What should he do?” One guess what the right answer was- suspend the examination immediately and call the police.

    5. Anony

      Firing someone for talking to the police is not good. I’m not a lawyer, but if that isn’t illegal it should be.

    6. Specialk9

      You don’t sound confrontational at all, except in the “angry about little children being raped” sense that is one of the very lowest bars for being a decent human being.

  10. Bethany

    OP#3, that is terrible! Aren’t there any laws protecting people from being fired about this sort of thing?

    If I were the fired employee, I’d be making the media aware as much as I could. People deserve to know what the company prioritises.

    1. Espeon

      Yep I’d be tipping off the media too – there are enough shitty people running companies, it would be a service to jobseekers so they could cross this one off their list! It might help the leaving employees also –

      Interviewer: Why did you leave your last job?
      Interviewee: You know that company that fired someone because they would rather conceal a paedophile than risk bad PR? I worked for them.
      Interviewer: Welcome aboard

      1. Lora

        The crappy thing is, people often blame the person they’re interviewing as drama llamas. They rationalize that every company has problems and they don’t want any of theirs brought to light, so let’s not hire this person with an actual moral compass.

        I’ve worked for some companies that pulled evil crap. It didn’t happen in my particular department, but the managers still raised an eyebrow when people said they were quitting because they could not work for an unethical company. They figure everyone has skeletons in the closet when the company gets big enough.

        The depressing thing is, they’re mostly right. If your company is big enough, you’re probably employing rapists, domestic abusers, child molesters and all kinds of terrible people. Once you get to several thousand employees, there’s gonna be someone who was just good at hiding it, or made a plea deal or whatever. It’s really about due diligence and how you react to finding out than anything else.

        1. Anony

          While many companies do employ people who do terrible things, they generally do so without knowing it. The test comes when the company finds out.

          1. Lora

            Exactly. It’s one of those things, everyone thinks “well none of MY friends are [terrible a-holes],” but if you have a wide set of friends and acquaintances…yeah, at least a couple of em are, and you just don’t know about it.

            It’s when the company does a Missing Stair thing that’s the problem.

        2. AnonForThis

          If your company is big enough, you’re probably employing rapists, domestic abusers, child molesters and all kinds of terrible people. Once you get to several thousand employees, there’s gonna be someone who was just good at hiding it, or made a plea deal or whatever. It’s really about due diligence and how you react to finding out than anything else.

          There’s also a moral question as to whether or not someone is entitled to a job after being convicted or accused of a crime – even a violent one. I personally wouldn’t want to employ anyone who ever had anything to do with abusing children, but what about other allegations?

          I currently work at a company which employs others who had been involved in drug-related crimes or even gang violence in the past, but who have worked to fix their problems and have been rehabilitated. I don’t think that companies should aim to filter out all of these people, because otherwise we leave them with no options except to commit more crimes in order to support themselves.

          1. Lora

            Yeah…personally I lean towards you gotta pick and choose, and look at recidivism rates and decide what you’re willing to risk for a given role. There’s a lot of jobs that ask for CORI checks unnecessarily I think, and then there’s plenty of jobs where white-collar crime is overlooked and really shouldn’t be.

            Thankfully, setting public policy with regard to guaranteed minimum income is not my job. If it were up to me, guillotines would be involved…

          2. Observer

            That’s not the issue in question, though. We are talking about someone IS a *CURRENT* consumer of content that CANNOT be produced without significant harm to a vulnerable person. Child porn and “smut” are by definition violent crimes.

            1. Oranges

              I am curious to your definition of smut? To me it’s an old fashioned word meaning anything from slightly risque to porn but has only a slightly negative undertone. Like I think of it as a Victorian-lady word if that makes sense.

              1. Observer

                Yes, that’s probably how it got started. The usage I’ve seen refers to a genre of porn that’s highly violent.

                1. Observer

                  I suppose it’s possible. If so, I apologize for the incorrect word.

                  The point still stands. Child pornography and violent porn (I should have use this phrase to start with) are two genres that cannot be made without harming people. A current consumer of such materials is not someone who society owes a “second chance”.

            2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

              In my circles, ‘smut’ just means nsfw content – nothing bad, just… naughty stuff.

          3. Specialk9

            I think that’s wonderful that your company does that, and we need more companies willing to employ former criminals. (As you said, a current child abuser is a very different situation.) Especially given how in the US, jail is big money and sentences go disproportionately to the poor and the brown.

    2. Eliza

      I recall Alison’s mentioned in response to previous letters that in general, an employer can in fact punish you for reporting illegal activity, unless you specifically have a legal obligation to report it. Federal whistleblower protection laws only apply to federal government employees, although some states offer a greater degree of protection.

      1. Eliza

        I should add that there are some other special cases where you do have protection when reporting illegal activity on the part of your employer: you can’t be retaliated against for filing an OSHA or EEOC complaint, for example. But this doesn’t seem like it’d fall into one of those categories, unfortunately.

        1. paul

          How does that work if you’re a mandated reporter? An increasing number of states (assuming they’re in the US) have made *everyone* mandatory reporters, even if only certain professions face criminal chargers for failing to report abuse/neglect.

          1. Ramona Flowers

            If your job entails being a mandated reporter then I think your employer should have a safeguarding policy that reflects that.

            1. paul

              I think I’m bungling what I’m trying to say.

              More and more states have enacted statutes explicitly saying that everybody–regardless of profession or relation–has a legal obligation to report child or elder abuse/neglect.

              However, in most of those states (maybe all, I’m not sure) only a few professions actually face criminal penalties for failing to do so. The concept of something being illegal but having no criminal punishment spelled out is weird to me, but maybe lawyer types can explain why that’s a thing.

              1. Renamis

                Not a lawyer, but I understand it’s for cases like this. Also sometimes for insurance purposes or probable cause searches. I know for driving there are actually a lot of things you can get pulled over for, but not ticketed. Insurance is actually a huge reason, considering if you’re doing some stupid thing that’s illegal (but without a penalty) when you get hurt the insurance company can shrug and point out that the thing you did was illegal so they don’t gotta pay.

                I would wager the “mandatory reporter” status is somewhat symbolic, and somewhat to cover situations like this. It makes it harder for companies to protect child and elder abusers by making rules to scare employees into not reporting.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

                  Yep, what you said. It isn’t so much about “there is a punishment for not doing this” but to make the decision to report or not very clear-cut and simple.

      2. sap

        This really varies by state. There are a number of jurisdictions where reporting this type if crime would not be a legally permissible ground for termination.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        A lot of SROs also have their own whistleblower protections. I’m not sure if IT as an industry has any such thing, but I know if I uncovered evidence of securities shenanigans, the SEC would have my back.

      4. CubicleShroom#1004

        I found out from my sister, the coaches are not mandated reporters in her son’s sport.

        The governing body can strip the coach’s credential. Then the person can not take bring his/her own athletes to competitions. They would have to compete under a different coach. Governing body can literally destroy a coach’s lively hood.

        It happened 10 years ago. Coach had a “relationship” with a 17 year old. Another coach reported it. Governing body stripped reporting coach of creditials because reporting coach did not come to them first with the allegations.

        Governing body did a big *meh* on the whole situations. Family didn’t want to press charges. Age of consent is 16 in my state. Between the age of consent and the family flat out refusing to file charges, the whole thing “went away.”

        Creeper coach is still coaching.

        If you have children in organized sports, check who is mandated to report by the governing body. In my nephew’s sport, It all has to go through an internal investigation.

  11. Espeon

    OP1: I’m sorry – one of the worst discoveries of my working life has been that there are many, many Fergus’ (Ferguses, Fergi?!) in the world. As Alison said, they lack self-awareness and conscientiousness, and worse, they don’t care when you address it with them. Sometimes they’re even just pretending to be oblivious, knowing full-well they’re doing a half-arsed job and are quite satisfied in the knowledge that someone like you or me is going to have to pick up the pieces. Sigh.

    My way of dealing with it is mainly just knowing that I’m a better person than them tbh, cool professionalism is the way to go. Hopefully your manager has done some compensating for the lack of apology from Fergus himself, and you can hold on to that also.

      1. Wintermute

        We were discussing that in some other post too, I believe it’s fergus, multiple fergi. and declines Fergus, Fergi, Fergum, Fergi, Fergo, Fergo. So I decided to break out my best doggerel latin:

        Ecce Fergum:

        Fergus est a common nomen
        For a very special Roman.

        O! Ferge!
        cur torment me?

        Omnia have met a Fergum
        usually when we have had a problem.

        Perhaps our workplace harmony
        is hampered by insolentia Fergi

        maybe, even worse
        we suffer copia fergos

        Many of us have been brought low
        by things wrought ex fergo

        Ask a Manager! protects us from
        actus iniquitus Fergorum!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Hi y’all, this is funny, but I want to remind people to stay on-topic, even if the derailment is a funny one. I’ve deleted a bunch of off-topic replies here that were taking up a lot of space in the comments.

    1. Mad Baggins

      OP1, I was once in a kind of similar situation where a coworker dropped everything and left the country, and I had to pick up the pieces. I spent so much energy feeling resentful…I’ll never know why it happened, but now, 5 years later, I see the coworker on Facebook and they are happy and healthy. Maybe I will never get my apology or explanation, but we are both doing well on our separate paths, and I guess that is the best happy ending really. So maybe you won’t get an acknowledgement, but I hope you and Fergus are both happy and successful and learn from the experience, as difficult as it is now.

    2. neverjaunty

      This. The Fergi of the world aren’t worth your time. Be coolly professional and otherwise decline to give them any part of your mental energy.

  12. Daffodil

    #3, ugh, finding stuff like that is always the nightmare scenario in IT. My plan if I ever encountered it was to inform my boss of what I found as I walked out the door to take the device to the police station. Your company absolutely sucks to have expected anything else, and I entirely empathize with the whole department wanting to quit. Good for you for ignoring their prohibition on giving the fired woman a reference.

    If I were in your shoes, I’d make documenting all your systems a priority right now. You’re losing a ton of institutional knowledge, and some innocent IT tech(s) are going to get hired to pick up where you and your coworkers leave off. It’s probably tempting to let everything fall to pieces on your way out, but you can be a professional even if the higher-ups are amoral cowards.

    1. I AM a Llama

      Friendly advice – if you ever do find it, call the police to you; don’t take it to them. You don’t ever want to be in possession of that material, even to transport it to the police.

        1. Anna

          This doesn’t sound exactly correct. If that were the case, it would also be illegal for FBI agents to transport evidence (drugs, CP, anything illegal, really) to their offices.

          1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

            I would think of it more like you don’t move or in any way disturb the evidence of a crime because it leaves the possibility open for the perpetrator to claim that the evidence was planted while it was in your sole, unsupervised possession. The proper authorities, police or FBI, have the ability to correctly establish and maintain the chain of possession of evidence.

            Like finding a deceased person — victim of a crime or not — you don’t take the body yourself to the coroner or police station.

          2. Stapleton

            There’s a pretty obvious difference between an average civilian carrying drugs or child porn anywhere (including into a police station) and an FBI agent carrying tagged and documented evidence back to the office.

    2. Gadget Hackwrench

      If I ever run into this sort of thing I would be hands off the device immediately (power off the monitor so no one has to see that) and get up and tell my boss right away. I have zero doubt that he would follow me back over to my desk, have one momentary look to confirm what I saw and then unplug it, drag it and me back to his office and call the police right then and there. A moment after that he’d be on the phone with security to have the employee immediately detained on premises away from any computers or any clients until the police arrive, because you can’t leave someone like that just… wandering around the building with access to god knows what.

      My last boss would have done the same, except he doubled as impromptu security (we had no security, but he was one of the tallest strongest members of management, and former military so they called him in whenever needed*) so he probably would have gotten into a bit of trouble with the law for storming directly into the office of whomever it was and relocating them by any means necessary to the front of the building to wait for the cops.

      (*And it was needed too often. He was constantly breaking up fistfights in the parking lot. Call centers are like freaking High School.)

      1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan

        Very much OT and I apologize but I’ve worked in a call center for the past 2 1/2 years. This is not universally true. It’s. Just. Not.

        1. Anon-The-Moose

          YMMV. I worked in a call center for an insurance company and it was a a bizarre cliquey experience with some bizarre Duck Club-esque elements. Quack quack.

      2. Nerdling

        Please don’t unplug the machine or power cycle it. Otherwise, yes, y’all’s process is good.

        1. Cassandra

          Expanding on this: The reasons not to power down or unplug the machine include (but may not be limited to; I’m still learning this stuff):

          * Drive encryption. If the computer’s hard drive is encrypted, turning off the machine may shut down access to it in the absence of fairly heroic measures which may not even work.

          * Memory forensics. There is software (“Volatility” is possibly the best-known) that can grab a snapshot of a computer’s RAM for analysis. This can turn up caches, passwords, history of actions, and other highly useful evidence. The kicker: RAM is reset at power-off. If you unplug or shut off the computer, even when you power it back on the memory dump is useless.

          * Live browser-based connections to cloud storage accounts, social-media accounts, and so on. Again, if the machine is shut down (or just the browser shut off), much of this evidence disappears.

  13. Wintermute

    #1– Jerks are going to jerk. He’s not a great employee and there might be some domain-of-competence issues/ Dunning-Kruger effect issues here where he is incompetent enough he doesn’t realize how incompetent he is, doesn’t realize how big the job was and therefore doesn’t realize the level of imposition created. I wouldn’t let him live rent-free in your head any longer, you’re free of him, now.

    #2– I can see why you were told, because if you’re having second thoughts now imagine how you’d feel if you came in one day and your boss was gone with only a “Jane Doe has left the company to pursue other interests” with that always-ominous “effective immediately”, and total lack of thank you that makes you go “they clearly want us to know that she was fired, without saying she was fired, by how obvious they’re making it. Is it possible for a multinational company to *be* ‘bitchy’?”

    So I can get the impulse to tell you and avoid you thinking managers dissapearing into the night is the norm around there, it’s just unfortunate it put you in an awkward spot.

  14. Marie B.

    I’m as appalled as everyone else about the actions of the company in letter #3. I think it would be very satisfying if the media got wind of what happened, the situation was made public on Glassdoor and elsewhere, and the company was sued into oblivion by the fired employee.

    However it is important for us to keep in mind that the fired employee herself has said she wants to move on. She isn’t going scorched earth, or suing, or talking to the media about it. She has asked the letter writer and her former coworkers to not go public or talk to the media. I think it’s great her wishes are being respected.

    I’m seeing some posts about how letter writer #3 should anonymously tip off the media or go public on Glassdoor. As much as we all want that, the wishes of the fired employee need to be respected here. She doesn’t want legal advice about suing and she wants to quietly move on and not be hounded by the media. She deserves to deal with this however she sees fit. The letter writer and the other employees are right to respect her request. They are doing the right thing. The letter writer is focusing on the right thing, looking after his other employees and doing what he can to support them and help them get out of there.

    No one should be advising him to anonymously go to the media or make this public anywhere else. This is clearly not what the fired employee wants.

    1. Wintermute

      I think respecting her wishes without any other regards would be doing the public a grave disservice. In this day and age, there are sensitive ways to do this that keep her name out of it, but this was quite likely an attempted coverup and the public interest in exposing that attempt is something that should be weighed heavily.

      There are ways to keep her out of it but still tell the story, by focusing on the attempted coverup not the consequences or who brought it to light.

      1. Nope

        Maybe this is selfish but I personally want to know which company, at least, just so I never apply to work there. I do think if they go to the media they should keep the employee’s name quiet (and in a case like this, many outlets might consider allowing her to be an anonymous source).

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

          I’d really like to know so that I can do my absolute best to never do any sort of business with them/avoid them if at all possible.

      2. Natalie

        I would say in this day and age it’s way, way more likely that her identity would be discovered no matter what the LW did to try and keep it secret. Typically reporters contact anyone tangentially related, so all it takes is one person on the team who either doesn’t know that Jane doesn’t want to be identified or is more susceptible to being led into revealing the name. For that matter, her former employer, who would not be pleased about being contacted by reporters, is perfectly capable of revealing her name. (And assuming someone is about to suppose otherwise, no, I don’t think that would be in any way illegal.)

      3. Specialk9

        I’ve been turning this over in my head. We have a company that tried to cover up a pedophile employee, and doubled down with retaliatory firing and blacklisting.

        Is it really her call, does she really have the right to muzzle everyone? I keep going back and forth – she has a lot of impact, but what about the abused kids? What about the customers and partners who don’t get to make a decision to vote with their feet? It just seems like it’s actually bigger than her.

        But maybe that’s my luxury, as an armchair quarterback. (To be fair though, I reported, when I saw something, and I paid a price in my career – just saying that I am intimately aware of the fears and concerns about reporting.)

        1. Anon-The-Moose

          I second this. It says a lot about the ethics of the company, and if I were a client or consumer I would want to know this was happening. It was “bigger” than the employee as soon as she found the files.

          The company also can’t cover it up for long, especially when the fired employee has to testify in court. This is just me, but I’d blow it up.

          I went to the media once. I got my ducks in a row, handed in my resignation, and contacted a reporter for my pretty major local newspaper.

      4. Anna

        I think your last sentence is spot on. You don’t have to announce the name of the person it involved, but you can certainly let media outlets know it happened. It wouldn’t be too difficult to corroborate using public arrest records.

    2. Mike C.

      Being told to “don’t go to the police” as official company policy goes way beyond whatever the personal wishes are of any particular employee.

      1. Mike C.

        Furthermore, it’s clear how absolutely terrible this crime is, and how terrible it would be to allow the employer to cover it up if it happened in the future. How in the heck can you justify this incredibly passive “not getting involved” stance?

        It’s too late, that’s one of the very real risks of working in IT, and if it happens you deal with it like an adult. That means making it known to the authorities that the company is firing people for reporting. Not this passive “not my problem, I don’t want to attract attention” garbage.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Hey, you are being very heated with other people here. Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not to respect the wishes of the fired employee, and it’s not okay to call their opinions “garbage.” Please be polite to people here, and if you’re feeling too heated to do that (which would be understandable, given the really disturbing nature of the letter), please step away from the comment section until you can.

          1. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan

            I am going to very respectfully and briefly type this to say I didn’t find Mike C.’s response out of bounds or censurable, for whatever that’s worth, which is zilch, because this is not my blog.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It wasn’t in response to just this one message, but rather multiple heated messages from Mike on this post (which he acknowledges down-thread was over the top).

        2. Observer

          Except that the employee DID go the the proper authorities. Claiming that this person is not acting like an adult is REALLY unfair.

    3. sap

      I second this. At the very least, nobody should be going to the media against fired employee’s wishes while the fired employee is still job hunting. The likelihood that there is going to be a serious danger to the public in the 2-4 months fired employee needs to find a job is very low–much lower than the risk that having her name painted across media reports as a known whistleblower will make it very hard for the fired employee to command a comparable salary in her next position.

      1. Mookie

        Lots of people in this particular office are job-hunting. Not throwing around the fired employee’s name when speaking to the media is fine; everyone is free to name the company whensoever they want, though.

    4. Cyberwulf

      OP3 doesn’t have to name her (and for all we know, genders have been changed in this letter). But they should tell people this company fired someone for reporting a serious crime committed by another employee. Burn their rep to the ground. Who the fuck covers for a child molester?

      1. Observer

        Except that it will probably take about 45 seconds from the time the press finds out and validates the claim till when they identify the name of the person who did the reporting. And the press will almost certainly NOT honor the fired employee’s wish for anonymity or wish to be left alone.

    5. neverjaunty

      Talking to a lawyer isn’t about rushing into a courtroom; it’s about learning what legal protections and rights she has. This employee would like to put the whole thing behind her, but she really can’t, because her ex-job is trying to punish her and ruin her future by forbidding anyone to give her a reference.

      1. Natalie

        I think Marie B’s point stands regardless – Fired Employee (who isn’t the one writing in) has said they don’t want to do that. It wouldn’t be okay for LW to pester them to see a lawyer anymore than it’s okay to pester about anything else for the person’s “own good”.

        1. neverjaunty

          But she didn’t ‘say they don’t want to do that’: She asked us not to talk to the reporters about this because she just wants to move on.

          Of course the OP shouldn’t “pester” her. But suggesting to the fired employee privately that she might want to talk to a lawyer for her own protection – from the company and from the media if word of this gets out, which it might very well since criminal charges are not secret in the US – is not exactly pestering her or violating her express wishes.

          1. fposte

            I also think people like Mike C. are talking about raising a point with the police and not the media, and while the two aren’t exactly separated by an unbreachable wall, that too is different from what the co-worker said she didn’t want to do.

            (Now maybe the OP has a little more detail from the co-worker conversations that illuminates this further for her, but as stated I don’t know that’s the same thing as the co-worker being opposed to her or somebody else’s taking all action, just to the media component.)

    6. Sunshine on a cloudy day

      I get where you’re coming from, and I absolutely do try to respect the harmed party’s wishes… But I think this is beyond that.

      The nature of this sort of crime is so heinous and the actions of the company so reprehensible that I think this is one the rare instances where the “greater good” outweighs the wishes of the harmed party (the fired worker). What other crimes might this company be covering up currently or try to cover up in the future? This company needs to be exposed. Personally I would do everything possible to keep the fired co-worker’s name out of it, but after consulting a lawyer I would feel it’s my ethical responsibility to report the actions of the company to the police and then to the media.

      Maybe other’s would not feel the same level of ethical responsibility and that I would respect (disagree, but respect), however I really do not think it’s fair to say that no one should be advising the OP NOT to take this to the media/public.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day

        That last sentance should read:

        *however I really do not think it’s fair to say that no one should be advising the OP to take this to the media/public

        Also to add – I would treat this like any other situation where confidentiality has been requested, but that you can not agree to (or must break). I would warn the fired worker about what I was planning to say/do and would assure them that I would try as hard possible to not have them become involved (though I’d also offer them the option to participate with me) and I would explain why I felt like I needed to take that action.

      2. Fiennes

        Agreed. While I’d normally consider a fired employee’s wishes paramount, the seriousness of the crime, combined with the sheer vindictiveness of the company, IMO trumps that in this case. It’s also worth pointing out that, if the company is trying to prevent the fired employee from having any references, she *can’t* just move on.

      3. Eye of Sauron

        But then what happens the next time?

        You face the real possibility that next IT person remembers the story about the OP3’s former coworker and thinks “Oh crap, if I call the police, I could get fired, have to face the media, be involved with a public trial, get harassed by friends and family of the accused” Screw that I need my job to feed my family.

        OP’s coworker absolutely deserves all of the discretion that they are able to maintain. All for what? The police obviously know this crime was committed with company equipment, I’m not a lawyer (or a banana like the poster up thread) but I can’t imagine that if the police wanted to investigate more of the company that they wouldn’t be able to easily get a search warrant to do so.

        The police and prosecutors will continue to have contact with the fired coworker as part of the on going investigation and probable trial.

        I really don’t understand what everyone thinks will come from telling the police will do in this situation.

        As for the media, the fired person doesn’t want to be involved, Jiminy Crickets… let them handle it in their own way. They have already suffered a real tangible loss for doing the right thing, don’t add fuel to the fire and upheaval that their life is in right now in the name of vigilante justice.

        1. aebhel

          Yeah, I’m a little bothered by the way people are conflating ‘not reporting the retaliatory firing to the media in compliance with the fired employee’s wishes’ with ‘covering up for the company’. This is a criminal case, the police are presumably investigating, dragging a person who has already gotten screwed over for doing the right thing into the media spotlight against her wishes does not strike me as the ‘ethical’ course of action.

        2. Sunshine on a cloudy day

          Uhhhh – everyone at this company already knows that they’re going to be fired if they bring criminal behavior to the police. Alerting the media (b/c unfortunately it does sound like there’s nothing technically illegal about firing the worker) would be the only way to possibly trigger any sort of change that would prevent this from happening to the next IT person…

          If I were in the OP’s situation I would see myself having two separate moral/ethical obligations. 1.) Respect the fired workers wishes. 2.) Do everything and anything in my power to prevent the company from covering up the next horrific crime they come across. It’s a balancing act between the two. My opinion is that the #2 outweighs #1 in this particular situation given the seriousness of the crime and the specifics of the situation. There’s also precedent for this sort of decision if you look at mandatory reporting laws that apply even to folks with confidentiality duties (obviously the situation is not the same – I’m saying my reasoning is along the same lines).

          1. teclatrans

            Agreed, agreed, agreed. Treating this as something between the fired worker and the company is just the wrong way to look at it. Beyond the very important point made by Sunshine…, the OP and coworkers are themselves being harmed for taking principled stances.

            Morally, sacrificing the many for the sake of the one is shaky ground, which can be a real balancing act when you have a victim with PTSD or who will be further victimized by going public. You simply don’t have that in this case. The potential to be harassed by reporters and be in the spotlight just doesn’t seem to tip the scales when weighed against the ongoing harm posed to coworkers (it’s great OP will be a reference, but this is still going to pose real difficulties) and possibly other children (if they have a history of covering this up for others, or plan to do so in the future).

      4. Tuxedo Cat

        It could be that the fired worker is really just trying to move on, but I also considered that there may be other reasons she isn’t allowed to discuss right now. Maybe the police told her to not take this public for good reasons, maybe she is consulting with a lawyer.

    7. Bea

      I also don’t see how LW3 can know that she’s not talking to a lawyer right now. She may be and is protecting the case by telling them to stay quiet.

      Lawsuits do not happen overnight and you do not rush to tell all your friends and co-workers what’s in the works until you ask the applicable ones for testimony and statements.

    8. Isabelle

      I feel that at this point too many people know about it to keep it quiet.
      Even if LW3 respects the fired employee’s wishes, not everyone will. I expect that once people start getting new jobs, one of them may make it public.

  15. CatCat

    #3, your company is so awful and you are right to be disgusted. I have no idea how the company could view this as an “internal” matter nor what legitimate reason the company would have needed to investigate before the police. Good on you for providing references despite your company’s shady directive.

    I will be shocked if what went down doesn’t get out since it’s so outrageous. The company’s reputation will be severely tarnished. Yours should not be though (since you are reacting reasonably and providing support). I hope you’re out of the splatter zone when the shit hits the fan.

    1. I'm Somebody Else Right Now

      The computer was company property and the evidence was found by a company employee on company time. I don’t know how prevalent it is, but my spouse’s company has a rule that HR would need to be called first in a case like this. Not calling HR would be a violation of company policy and a defendable, fireable offense, no matter how morally right. (I’m curious about if and how such a rule might conflict with actual law and how that all would play out.) Spouse says that for their company, calling HR first would delay the information getting to the police by at most a couple hours. Finding evidence of a crime is common enough that hopefully most companies would have a policy and procedure for what to do that would not include sweeping it under the rug.

      Also, we know now that the evidence was good, that the reporting employee was in the right, and that management instincts were misplaced. We also don’t have a timeline for when all the events in the letter happened. This is such a hot button issue that any sort of investigation would leave a bad public opinion of the company. I can understand a company wanting to have advanced knowledge of just what exactly is happening so as to protect the company while following the law and cooperating with any police investigations.

      1. Not defending the company

        For #3, I wonder if the company deals with confidential information. I could see the company wanting to control who had access to the confidential stuff on that device. Law enforcement does not get classes on all types of civil law, they only know about criminal law. Further, there could have been information on that device that the company needs and doesn’t want locked up for years in an investigation.

        I 100% think the company is doing the wrong thing here. I also 100% agree that an “internal investigation” would not suffice. However, I can see the company wanting a higher up to be involved with the police. Call the police to the building for starters instead of going there. Show them the device. Show them where the confidential work stuff is. Explain why it can’t be disclosed (HIPPA, trade secrets, whatever). If there is a file that the company needs for work purposes, ask the police permission to copy it before the device is taken away.

        I was involved in a case where a laptop had the home addresses and phone numbers of a lot of very famous people. That laptop was seized as part of a sexual assault investigation. There are good cops and bad cops. You don’t want one selling that list to TMZ. You make sure their supervisors are aware of the info and that there are protections in place to ensure it is not released.

        1. Natalie

          Unless you’re talking about actual federal-level security clearance, I don’t think most confidentiality agreements apply in the case of a criminal investigation. And frankly, if they’re keeping their only copies of the Ninja Report on one guy’s hard drive they’ve got way bigger problems.

          1. Not defending the company

            Federal-level security clearance would be one thing. What if you are a criminal defense attorney? The documents you have from your clients may show evidence of other crimes they have committed. The last place you would want that information is in the hands of the police. I’m not saying you don’t allow an investigation to happen. It’s just more complicated than dropping the device off with the police and walking away.

            1. Natalie

              I’m not really interested in debating increasingly granular hypotheticals. There’s no reason to think any kind of legally enforceable confidentiality is at play here or that even if it was, it could have only played out the way the company acted.

            2. Observer

              Actually, no it’s not.

              If you are stupid and irresponsible enough to allow your staff to make personal use of devices that have that kind of information on it, you DESERVE to be put out of business. Any lawyer who did that should be disbarred, and their law firm should go out of business. Same of medical records etc.

              There is no way to allow the police to do their jobs and mess with what was on that phone. And, if you have an obligation to protect that information, then you need to actually DO that, rather than trying to protect a criminal after the fact.

        2. Observer

          No. None of this is reasonable and realistic.

          No competent police person will allow anyone to TOUCH the machine once they know what is probably on it. If there is stuff on there that’s protected by HIPAA or anything else, that’s though on you (the company.) The police need to be able to look at EVERYTHING on that phone. Period. The reality is that if you, as a company, have phones (or computers) with HIPAA protections in place, you should be locking that equipment down. Trying to limit the police to what they can look at because you failed to do so, is a total non-starter.

          The issue here is NOT that the company wasn’t told concurrently so they can know what it going on. Their reaction makes that clear. And they actually said that the problem was that the staff person decided to contact the police AT ALL. That HR needed to “investigate” and make the decision – AFTER having a conversation with the perpetrator! That proves that the employee made the right call.

      2. neverjaunty

        Seriously side-eyeing your spouse’s company here, and why they think it’s “defendable”. Is the thinking that it’s OK for them to fire you in that situation because there isn’t a law actively prohibiting them from doing so? What if HR is involved in the crime? And if the excuse is “aw it only delays the cops by a couple hours so no big deal”, then…. why wouldn’t it be no big deal to call the cops and then inform HR immediately after?

        1. fposte

          Yes, I think this is like those unenforceable nondisclosures–a policy that wouldn’t stand up in court but works by convincing people.

        2. CatCat

          I’m totally puzzled by what they mean by “defendable” too. Like, in a lawsuit for wrongful discharge? I mean, maybe, this will depend on the laws of the jurisdiction where this occurred.

          But if the company were my client, even if legally defendable, I’d be advising settlement before anything was even filed. Even if it could win on summary judgment and avoid a trial, imagine the shit show from the public filings alone. Media would have a field day and rightly so because it is completely outrageous morally.

          1. CatCat

            At the point of OP’s letter, the only sensible action is damage control. It should never have gotten as far as it did, but since it has, the company should be looking to fix things fast as best it can, not doubling down on being awful. But the company sounds like it has morons for decision makers and I expect natural consequences to follow.

      3. Anna

        Well, that’s totally not correct. Company policy in no state or city or county supersedes criminal law.

      4. Erin

        I’m going to reiterate my fire department analogy. Call the people who are most capable of handling the situation first. Which is the police in this case! Then inform management.

  16. OP#1

    This is really well-timed. Fergus arrived back in the building on Wednesday and it’s been awkward, but this feels like good advice on top of what we’d already decided, which was a wait and see approach.

    He’s dropped around to our area a few times, and to make things a little more awkward, we’re on a hiring freeze and the extra desk was moved out of the office to storage, which means I now sit in his old spot. There were a few sad looks in my direction, back to my desk, back to me. I let that go, but it did make things a bit weird.

    I don’t imagine it’s going to get less awkward: we’re still finding mistakes in the last bits of his work, and he walked in to a conversation about how to fix it (not a mean conversation about him, more, “normally Fergus would *insert non compliant action here*, but he stores records in *non compliant file there*, try looking there”), but we are going to try to stay positive.

    1. Ramona Flowers

      I think it’s time for the nature documentary approach. Observe the greater spotted Fergus as he fails to mark his territory. Notice what a strange species he is and how he has failed to evolve enough to have self awareness. Narrate in your head if it helps. I learned this approach from AAM commenters and if nothing else it’ll make you laugh.

      1. Lionheart26

        That sounds like a wonderful strategy! I’m going to use it a particularly passive-aggresive species of exotic bird in the office today.

        1. OP#1

          I’m now imagining trying to suppress laughter at my desk. Which I’m sure I can do while in work-mode. :)

          1. Pomona Sprout

            I’m glad I’m reading this in the middle of the night at home, because I lost it at “greater spotted Fergus” and still can’t stop giggling!

        1. Serin

          The Greater Fergus is spotted. The common, or garden, Fergus is striped. It can be recognized by its habit of laying its reputation in the nests built by the hard work of other birds.

    2. KR

      I’m having that struggle with my predecessor. It used to be really bad but now as I’m spending more time in my position I’m finding less and less of her mistakes (which I have to go back and try to fix even though they are over a year old sometimes).

  17. Michele

    Honestly I would not care one lick what the fired person wants. I would notify every news outlet I could think of, post about it on every social media platform there is while tagging the company, post as many reviews on Glass Door as I could, notify every other employee of the company as well as any clients or vendor, and maybe even post signs about it outside the company. Everyone needs to know that she told the police and was fired by the scummy company. I would shout it from the rooftops and let everyone know exactly what happened and the name of the person who was fired for doing the only thing she should have done. She is being a short sighted and wrong by wanting to keep what happened to her quiet.

    I would also be dragging her to a lawyer to start a whistleblower and wrongful dismissal lawsuit, but that’s just me.

    1. Mythbri

      I don’t think she can or should be blamed for personally deciding she wants to move on. She did a really right thing by going to the cops. Moving on after going through an unjust firing is her choice, and she should be allowed to make it.

      What LW#3 and their team members decide to do, on the other hand, is up to them.

      1. BadPlanning

        And there are a lot of weird people out there. As much as many people would applaud her for bringing this to the police, there are messed people who might target and harass her. So I don’t blame her for not wanting to put her name out there in a media bonanza.

    2. TL -

      Unfortunately, sexual assault cases, of all types and against all range of people, are often ignored, disbelieved, put under incredible pressure to be “handled right” (where that’s an important standard.)

      But in the particular case, the police stepped in and caught the criminal. They were able to backtrack and find children who had been hurt – kids who may not have said anything for years otherwise, or who may have not been believed if they did speak up -and prevent someone with access to children from harming more children. And, honestly, given how rarely these crimes are found out, and prosecuted, that’s a huge victory in and of itself.

      Sure, ideally, the company would be called out and this could be another victory for shaming people who want to pretend that this kind of stuff doesn’t exist and would rather sweep it under the rug than have to face the reality that someone they know is a predator who regularly harms children. But I’m okay with the victory the fired employee did get – she did serious some serious good.

        1. Mookie

          I dispute there’s an “impossible standard” people and institutions are being held to when they are actively concealing the crimes of a sexual predator. I also dispute the more general suggestion that the task of rooting out the culture and systems that enable rampant sexual violence and intimidation is an impossible one, such that we have to lower our expectations and our threshold for what we perceive to be impermissible under the present conditions. I suggest that the company’s behavior here is a by-product, direct or otherwise, of the latter phenomenon.

          1. TL -

            the “impossible standard” is often what’s socially required of the victim to “prove” there was a crime. It absolutely exists; rape victims are often not minimized and not believed at all – see: She asked for it, you just can’t trust a woman, he would never do that, that didn’t really happen, it must’ve been a virus on his computer… (I’ve heard these about victims of incest and child molestation as well as adults.) If she had just acted like a victim was supposed to act, and he acted like a predator was supposed to act, you see, there would be no doubt.

            It’s absolute BS and it feeds into the other big problem, which is that less than 2% of rapists serve any jail time. But it’s a lot to ask of one person to address all of the problems of rape culture at once, after both uncovering an awful crime and losing her job; I think the employee addressed the most important part and that it’s enough that she be celebrated for that. I’d rather not lambaste her and her coworkers for doing the right thing because they didn’t do it right enough.

            1. JB (not in Houston)

              “But it’s a lot to ask of one person to address all of the problems of rape culture at once, after both uncovering an awful crime and losing her job; I think the employee addressed the most important part and that it’s enough that she be celebrated for that. I’d rather not lambaste her and her coworkers for doing the right thing because they didn’t do it right enough.” These are good points. I totally agree.

          2. Lehigh

            I think TL is referencing the “impossible standard” for the whistleblower, not the company. She didn’t conceal the crimes; she went directly to the police and it resulted in an appropriate arrest and investigation. Her not wanting to additionally fight the company in re: her firing is what’s in question, not any suggestion that a coverup should have been allowed.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  There’s a list of trigger words (“snowflake” is one, for probably obvious reasons), but sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to it; the filter does what the filter wants, and I can’t always figure it out.

    3. Catherine

      I think it’d be incredibly irresponsible and disrespectful to publicize the fired whistleblower against her explicit wishes. She probably wants to try to stay low-profile to avoid harassment or retaliation from the pedophile’s family and friends, and it’d be terrible to open her up to that any further than she already has been.

      Besides which, she’s likely to be called to testify about this when it goes to court. The whistleblower is well within her rights to want to try to minimize disruption and distress to herself.

    4. CityMouse

      I have worked in criminal law and I will confess to this being my impulse. A place that protects child molesters and fires someone for going to the police deserves to be burned down. But I also understand that the job seekers aren’t themselves protecting anyone now or covering up actual child abuse now and want to get.out before dropping a bomb. I hope OP gets a new job asap and can do it, or someone else in the office is brave enough to do it, but I would not be coercive about it.

    5. neverjaunty

      The fired employee isn’t a child who needs to be “dragged” anywhere like a child being taken to the dentist (and I’m curious how you think that would work; that you could force her to hire a lawyer?). Yes, we’re all outraged at this horrible company. Using the fired employee as a dumping ground for that outrage is really misplaced.

    6. Ashley

      The former employee may not want media attention for personal reasons. For example, if she has any ties to the immigrant community, it may bring unwanted attention. As much as it would be assume to put the company, it may cause a negative domino effect elsewhere.

    7. aebhel

      Sure, why not open her up to more harassment for doing the right thing? Definitely publicizing her name and personal information won’t screw her over more, right?

      Look, I can see an argument for ignoring the fired person’s wishes, but your comment strikes me as profoundly blithe about the likely consequences of what you’re suggesting.

    8. Oranges

      I can understand why you want this. We all want to think that we live a a just world and if we just did action X or Y justice would be served at no cost to the innocent. Sadly we don’t live in that world. We live in a world that re-victimizes the victims and has a ton of hidden costs to pursuing justice.

      She’s already seen something that has scarred her, been intangled in a police investigation, and lost her job. Not to mention that the defense will probably try to scapegoat her if possible to get some evidence thrown out. Also she’ll have the fun of being known as “the woman who found child porn” to a lot of people.

      I can’t blame her that she doesn’t want the media circus. The chances are medium to high that she’ll be doxxed, harassed, threatened and have it follow her around from 6 months to forever depending upon how the dark places of the internet respond. (I am assuming the whistle-blower is female. If male then the chances of this go down a lot).

      The other thing is that if she’s not the “perfect reporter” then the media will destroy her. Along the lines of “Former [insert any mistake she’s EVER made] found Child Porn on a co-worker’s computer” Her life and her family’s life could be under a microscope if the story takes off. I know my life couldn’t stand up to that.

    9. a different Vicki

      The problem is that your approach is “if you find child porn and report it to the police, rather than covering it up, your name will be all over the news. You will be the one who gets a reputation as ‘Jane who can’t keep her mouth shut.'” Right now, the newspapers don’t have the criminal’s name, and might hesitate to publish it until there’s a statement from the police or the DA’s office, because Fergus is more likely to sue for “someone told us that Fergus is a pedophile” than for “Fergus, a resident of Anytown, was recently arrested on charges of child pornography.”

      The story that says “Jane, a resident of Other City, was recently fired by Engulf and Devour for reporting child pornography on one of their computers” gets both Jane and Engulf and Devour talked about. Some people will be thinking Jane is a hero. Others will think she’s a trouble-maker, or a liar (people who want to think you’re lying will deny much stronger evidence than the essential hearsay that you’re offering at this stage). And all of them will be thinking of her as “Jane who called the cops,” not Jane who is an experienced IT person with five years experience in the llama business.

      If your goal is to protect children, you don’t make it more difficult to report child abuse, and “difficult” doesn’t just mean whether you can make one call to CPS or 911 and reach the right person. It’s also about what happens after someone makes that call.

      1. JB (not in Houston)

        “If your goal is to protect children, you don’t make it more difficult to report child abuse, and “difficult” doesn’t just mean whether you can make one call to CPS or 911 and reach the right person. It’s also about what happens after someone makes that call.”

        That’s a very good point.

  18. Mike C.

    What in the heck Alison?

    You don’t think the OP of letter three shouldn’t at the very least inform authorities that people are being fired to reporting serious crimes, and have been told to avoid reporting serious crimes to the police in the future?

    I’m no lawyer, but that’s an incredibly dangerous thing for an employer to say and I’m really surprised at the passivity of your advice. The police aren’t going to rat out the OP and frankly there could be more issues that are being covered up by management. It doesn’t matter if the fired employed “doesn’t want to get involved”, this issue has gone much farther than their personal feelings of comfort.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think this lecture is misplaced. The person with standing to do something legally has explicitly told the OP that she doesn’t want to and said she wants to move on. If there are legal remedies available against the company (which will depend on state law), they’ll be civil, not criminal, so going to the authorities (by which I assume you mean the police?) wouldn’t be the way to go; the fired employee would need to pursue it civilly. It sounds pretty clear that she doesn’t want to. The OP’s question was about what he himself can do to deal with management and to support the rest of his department.

      1. Mike C.

        You’ve missed my point completely. I’m not talking about getting her job back or suing for damages or anything like that (because I didn’t even mention those issues).

        I’m talking about the fact that there is now a new company policy where serious crimes are explicitly not to be reported to the police under threat of immediate dismissal. I don’t give a hoot about damages or lawsuits, I’m concerned that there are going to be future cases of CP being found and no one is going to report it for fear of being fired. That is much, much more serious than civil damages and that should be the primary concern of the OP.

        1. Nursey Nurse

          I’m not sure I understand what you think will happen if OP goes to the police and tells them that her company fired her coworker for reporting a crime to the police instead of to them. Do you think they’d arrest the CEO? Give the board of directors a stern talking-to? As far as I’m aware, it’s not a criminal offense to fire an employee for reporting a crime. It may be a tort, and it’s absolutely both a shitty thing to do and really bad company policy, but it’s not illegal.

          I understand being angry about this — I would hope any decent human being would be angry about this — but it seems like your anger might be misplaced. Nobody is saying that the fired employee shouldn’t have reported the child pornography. Nobody is saying the company was justified in firing her for doing so. What people are saying, I think, is that there’s not much that OP can do about it unless she’s willing to go to the media. That’s not an incorrect statement of how things lie.

          1. M from NY

            What would happen? 1. The authorities would know not to assume the employer is being forthcoming with the investigation. 2. Any governing bodies could be alerted to do full review/audit. The employers response that “we could have taken care of this internally” along with firing the reporter is a huge red flag. That so many continue to focus on debating on merits of what is a whistleblower instead of seeing the bigger picture THAT AN EMPLOYER FIRED AN EMPLOYEE FOR REPORTING ILLEGAL ACTIVITY is surprising to read.

            1. Joielle

              Right, but who are these “authorities” you’re envisioning? Most industries don’t have a formal governing body. The police are only for criminal matters, and they’re already involved in the criminal aspect of the situation. Like yeah, ideally someone could do something about this, but realistically there’s no “authority” to report any of this to.

              1. Specialk9

                Well, if the child abuse and could porn is Federal – which it likely is, given the way that stuff floats over state boundaries – then the FBI, due to violation of 18 USC 1513. (1) I would also be thinking labor relations. (2) IANAL.

                (1) 18 U.S. Code § 1513 – Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant.
                “(e) Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.
                (f) Whoever conspires to commit any offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
                (g) A prosecution under this section may be brought in the district in which the official proceeding (whether pending, about to be instituted, or completed) was intended to be affected, or in which the conduct constituting the alleged offense occurred.”

                (2) Like California’s:
                “Labor Code section 1102.5
                Protects against retaliation for disclosing information, or because an employer believes an employee has disclosed information, to a government or law enforcement agency, to a person with authority over the employee, or to another employee who has the authority to investigate, discover, or correct a violation where employee reasonably believes that the information discloses a violation of a state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation. Protects an employee who refuses to participate in an activity that would result in a violation of a state or federal statute, or a violation of or noncompliance with a local, state, or federal rule or regulation. Protects an employee who exercised his or her rights under Labor Code section 1102.5 in any former employment. Protects an employee who is a family member of a person who has or is perceived to have engaged in any protected conduct. In addition to other remedies that might be available, a civil penalty of up to $10,000 may be awarded for each violation.”

            2. Observer

              The police already know that the company is not going to be forthcoming. Do you really think that the police / prosecution don’t know that a key witness was fired? Besides these people are stupid enough that if the investigators are smarter than your average post, it will be clear that these people are going to play the part of the three monkeys.

              Once this goes to trial, the governing body, if it exists, will have all the information it needs. The fact that the porn was found on a work phone will be enough of a signal to trigger an audit of such is possible.

          2. Specialk9

            I mean, I think it really is illegal. 18 USC 1513(e) says that retaliation against the witness of a Federal crime is a crime worth fine or 10 years in prison.

            “Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

        2. please

          “I’m talking about the fact that there is now a new company policy where serious crimes are explicitly not to be reported to the police under threat of immediate dismissal. ”

          This is very important. Actions related to crimes like this are not just about the people involved, but also the public. A company discouraging employees from reporting it should be known.

        3. neverjaunty

          Do you really think the police dusted their hands off and stopped investigating the company on whose system the material was stored? Or that they didn’t upend the company’s computers looking for what ELSE the guy was up to?

          1. Mike C.

            No, but believing “someone else will get to it” is a great way to ensure things fall through the cracks.

            1. neverjaunty

              Happily, that’s the exact opposite of what happened. The employee immediately reported what she found to law enforcement, who arrested the perpetrator and can now handle the criminal investigation. Which is their actual and full-time job.

              1. please

                You’re missing Mike C’s point which is not about this specific criminal, but rather about the company’s behavior.

        4. Penny Lane

          I think the point is the difference between criminal and civil penalties, and what police have standing to do about something.

          Whistleblower goes to police and says “I have evidence of child pornography on this machine” — that’s a crime and the police have standing to investigate, etc. Whether whistleblower wants it kept quiet or not is now out of her hands — because it’s now the People of (Whatever Jurisdiction) vs Scumbag Child-Porn Guy.

          Whistleblower goes to police and says “XYZ Corp fired me because I blew the whistle on this guy” — while we all agree that it’s a scummy thing to do, the police don’t have any standing — it’s not a criminal matter. If Whistleblower wishes, he or she can certainly choose to engage a lawyer and sue XYZ Corp for wrongful dismissal, but that’s a civil case and it would be Whistleblower vs XYZ Corp (and potentially Whistleblower would get monetary compensation out of the whole thing). And it wouldn’t impact the OP, who is a bystander to the wrongful dismissal of Whistleblower.

          Criminal vs civil is a very important distinction here.

            1. Observer

              They HAVE that information. There is no way that they got to the point of an arrest and warrants for the searches they did without knowing that the reporter was fired.

              1. Mike C.

                I’m talking more about the ongoing company policy. It’s one thing to fire a single person, it’s another to make it known that the same will happen to anyone else who does something similar.

            2. Specialk9

              It really is a criminal matter. Firing someone for providing truthful info to law enforcement about a potential or actual Federal crime, is a crime punishable by 10 years in jail. I’ve posted the statute and text above several times.

          1. Sarah M

            I agree with Mike C., and others upthread. This IS information the investigating police should have, regardless of whether the firing itself constitutes a tort or a criminal act.

        5. Secretary

          I agree with your point here Mike C: “…there is now a new company policy where serious crimes are explicitly not to be reported to the police under threat of immediate dismissal.”

          Yes, that’s something the authorities should know. The more people stay back and don’t say anything, the harder this would be to report in the future. Maybe not reporters, but what about HR? PR dept? Police if you can’t get anywhere with the company? Does the OP have rights of protection from retaliation if they go to HR?

          Alison, I think you answered the question the OP asked well, and while the tone Mike used might not have been the kindest, Mike C. does raise an important issue.

          1. Secretary

            Also, yes, it’s useful to the police. It may not be relevant, but in the future it could become relevant if the police are ever looking into this company for something else.

    2. Ramona Flowers

      Also, the fired employee didn’t say she didn’t want to get involved. She did get involved and lost her job for it. She said she didn’t want media attention. Let’s not conflate the two.

        1. Mike C.

          Specifically, I haven’t said a word about media attention, that was other people.

          I’m literally saying that the OP contact the officer investigating this and mention what happened. That the fired employee doesn’t want additional attention doesn’t justify inaction.

          1. Specialk9

            It’s illegal to fire the witness for providing info to law enforcement, if the child abuse and porn is a Federal crime. I posted the USC reference above

        2. Ramona Flowers

          You said It doesn’t matter if the fired employed “doesn’t want to get involved” and that’s what I responded to.

    3. Isben Takes Tea

      I’m not sure any sort of whistleblowing laws would come into play here, if that’s what you’re thinking, because she didn’t report illegal actions of the *company.* The company actually didn’t do anything illegal (I completely agree it was immoral/unethical), so I don’t think the authorities have any…authority…to do anything in this case.

      1. Mike C.

        I don’t know that there are any, which is why I believe a conversation with the police is in order. I think they should know that people are being fired for reporting CP. As I said above my primary concern is future cases, and having a company policy where nothing is to be reported is going to seriously endanger any future investigations.

        1. dr_silverware

          I agree–I think folks are getting caught up in the suggestions above to contact the media.

          It might be worth it to talk to the coworker briefly–“Hey, do the police know that our company fired you? We’re all furious about it over here, but I’m also worried that the threat of retaliation from our company might hurt the police’s investigation. Would it be all right if I told them?” Or just call the investigator/whoever’s name you know in connection to the case, and mention it.

          I suspect the response will be a polite “thanks” and the LW won’t see much result from it, and additionally I don’t know that doing this rises to the level of a civic duty, per se; but I think you’re right about the chilling effect, and it’s worth it to have a professional involved in the case make the call about whether it’s an important factor.

      2. Ramona Flowers

        I don’t know how it works everywhere but my employer’s whistleblowing policy includes (among other things) situations where you need to report a crime to the police. And as this was on a company computer, and the employer effectively wanted to obstruct justice by covering it up and tampering with evidence, I think it could come under whistleblowing.

        1. JamieS

          This is where it gets murky for me. If the company had known of the crimes, attempted to cover them up, and the employee had reported the attempted cover up I can see how that’d fall under whistleblowing. However I’m not sure a hypothetical desire to conceal crimes/tamper with evidence would fall under that since the company didn’t actually conceal or tamper with anything. Also IDK if it’d fall under whistleblowing since the fired employee reported the other employee not the company.

        2. TL -

          Whistleblower protection in the USA usually protects you from reporting a crime committed by the company. Generally fraud, safety violations, embezzling money – things like that. Not from reporting coworkers committing crimes as individuals.

          There are exceptions – for instance, anybody that works with children is a mandated reporter and would be covered under a different set of rules that would include this situation.

          Or at least that’s my understanding.

          1. Mike C.

            I have to wonder how long the company can hold onto the CP for their “investigation” before it counts as illegal possession.

            1. Legalchef

              Depending on where you are, the answer is no time at all. Because once it is in their possession, it is in their possession (again, this depends on jurisdiction).

            2. Case of the Mondays

              In my prior state (I don’t know about my current one) criminal defense attorneys can’t even possess copies of the evidence for their investigation/defense. They have to go to the prosecutor’s office and access it while under surveillance essentially.

              Also, I recently learned that the nomenclature is changing on this subject. Instead of “child porn” it is now being referred to as child abuse or child sexual abuse videos, because that is a more accurate descriptor.

              While I’m 100% for preventing, stopping and prosecuting such acts, I do think the laws go a bit too far such that it is hard for a suspect to get a fair defense. A defense attorney should be able to have unsupervised access to a copy and allow that to be sent to experts for analysis just like the prosecution can.

        3. GingerHR

          I think you’re in the UK Ramona, and whistleblowing policies are backed up by law (obviously I don’t know the situation in the US). Even before you get to whistleblowing, we have very different employee rights, and to immediately dismiss they would have to show gross misconduct. I think it would be hard to show that in this instance – the test is reasonableness, as in, would another reasonable employer have made that decision. I can’t see anyone saying they would, so I think this employee would win an unfair dismissal claim.

          With whistleblowing however, there are other criteria. It has to be in the public interest (this probably would be, but odd judgements are made), you should have a legitmate belief in the allegation (to protect against malicious allegations) and you should, where reasonable, have exhausted the internal process – i.e., don’t run straight to the press. However, there are exceptions to this, and this would be one of them. The risk of contamination of evidence is huge.

          In this instance, I think this person could count as a whistleblower in the UK (clearly no idea in the US), and would be able to link their unfair claim to dismissal for whistleblowing. Having said that, our record on protecting whistleblowers is rubbish – there have been a lot of recent instances especially in the public sector where the employees have been sacked / treated poorly anyway.

      3. Specialk9

        Actually if it was a Federal crime (likely for child porn), the company illegally violated US law, and those responsible could go to jail for 10 years.

    4. TL -

      But the employee fulfilled their obligation; they reported the crime to the police and now the guy will be prosecuted and put away, so he can’t harm anyone else. That’s the main goal here.

      If there’s anything else going on in the company, hopefully a police investigation/interrogation will uncover it – that’s the police’s job, not hers. There’s a lot of victims in this case who might value their privacy above a company’s shitty attitude – and I’m sure that word-of-mouth will make sure the company’s reputation is permanently tarred anyways.

      1. Mike C.

        Police investigations tend to rely on people who are willing to talk to them. Maybe the fired employee, maybe the OP. People aren’t going to be talking much if they fear being fired. That the fired employee wants people to keep quiet doesn’t justify keeping quiet.

        And relying on word of mouth for something this serious is not something I can support.

        1. TL -

          Most likely, the police already know if there’s an ongoing investigation. Several people have quit, the employee has probably had to have several conversations with the police and it doesn’t sound like anyone at the company is too impressed with the powers that be, so I doubt that the majority are keeping quiet if asked.

    5. JamieS

      Your passion is understandable given the nature of the letter but even if OP did go to the police I’m not sure what exactly you expect the police to do. The company’s behavior is morally repugnant but AFAIK it’s not a crime.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s not a criminal offense. Depending on state law, it could be a civil one — but yeah, it’s not going to be something the police can do anything about.

        1. Mike C.

          Why do you keep talking about civil penalties when I’m not talking about lawsuits? I’m getting really frustrated here – just because everyone else is talking about going to the media or suing doesn’t mean I am!

          I’m talking about willfully informing the police and letting them use that information as they see fit in their investigation. See something, say something? Being told “if you go to the police you will be fired” is pretty much the sort of thing you should go to the police for.

          Not for the expectation that the police will suddenly protect your job but because knowing that the company is actively trying to prevent people from going to the police is useful information in their investigation. You talk about “red flags” all the time and this is a major red flag. As I mentioned earlier, what if this happens again and no one says anything for fear of being fired?

          1. Ramona Flowers

            But why do you think the police can take a report of something that isn’t in their jurisdiction? That’s why people keep mentioning the issue of this being civil not criminal.

            1. Mike C.

              It’s not the firing specifically that I think they’ll care about, it’s the fact that they’re pressuring people not to come forward with evidence of serious crimes so that they themselves can “investigate” the evidence first. And they’re doing so not only so that they can “investigate” (aka hide or remove) evidence, but they’re doing so as a matter of official company policy. That’s something the police should know, and it seems pretty linked with their current investigation.

              Again, I’m my main concern isn’t about the poor employee’s job or damages or anything like that. I’m worried that this company isn’t being forthright about what happened, that there might be more going on, or that such a policy will prevent future cases from being reported.

              It’s useful information to the police. Just like reporting that you saw a hit and run or something like that. Maybe nothing happens, or maybe you give them a detail that is useful.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Okay, but then I don’t think that warrants the initial “what the hell/it’s incredibly dangerous not to have instructed the OP to do this” fury of your initial messages.

              2. please

                “it’s the fact that they’re pressuring people not to come forward with evidence of serious crimes so that they themselves can “investigate” the evidence first. ”

                This is a huge deal. Really. Please yall think about it. It’s a big deal to know that a company tries to prevent employees from reporting evidence of extremely an extremely serious crime. Even if the police cannot take action, this is the sort of thing that should be known in the world.

                1. LBK

                  I can understand the impulse but unless it’s immediately actionable in relation to the current case I really don’t think this is information that the police are going to maintain and somehow be able to use long-term. At most I guess they might put a note in the file for the current case, and then if there were another criminal case down the line that somehow related to this company it could serve as evidence of a history of attempted cover ups, but I think people overestimate what the police would do with info like this (probably nothing).

                  I suppose it doesn’t hurt to tell them assuming the OP doesn’t think it will get back to her employer and potentially cost her her job. But I think the strong impulse people are having to report this assumes a certain level of follow up from that information that I’m not sure is realistic.

          2. Mookie

            For what it’s worth, I get what you’re getting at here, Mike C., and I agree. It may be beyond the scope of this blawg to advocate for such things, but I shouldn’t have thought so before.

          3. LBK

            Being told “if you go to the police you will be fired” is pretty much the sort of thing you should go to the police for.

            I think this is why people are getting confused – because to me, “go to the police” means you think you’re reporting criminal activity, which this isn’t. So devoid of context, I don’t agree with the above sentence, since getting fired isn’t a police problem.

            It seems that the real reason you think the OP should go to the police is that you believe the company’s actions suggest that there may be other criminal activity going on that they’re trying to cover up, which I don’t think was clear from your other comments. I’m still not totally sure I agree with that – I don’t know that an attempted cover up is enough evidence to point them in any meaningful direction to look for other cover ups, and where there’s a potential real risk to the OP if it’s found out that she’s the one who reported the firing to the police, I’m not sure I agree that she has an obligation here.

          4. Blue Eagle

            Mike C – I totally agree with your point. There are two separate things here that the commenters don’t seem to be getting. 1) The initial problem – which the police already are investigating. 2) The fact that the company has effectively instituted a policy that if you go to the police to report a crime you will be fired. Mike is clearly talking about the second issue, which has nothing to do with the current police investigation.

            Here is what I see as the dilemma. Who exactly would take action about the situation that this should be reported to? Can the police do anything if alerted to this policy? Or is this a Justice Dept or EEOC type issue? I totally agree that it is a problem, I just don’t know what the next step should be so that the appropriate agency can take action against the employer.

            1. LBK

              There is no appropriate agency because in most situations having an illegal policy isn’t illegal until it’s carried out – and it’s questionable as to whether it’s even illegal in the first place. Having an illegal policy on the books would certainly be evidence against you if someone sued after that policy was enacted, but just having it isn’t inherently illegal. For instance, if (for some insane reason) your official policy was that you don’t hire anyone over 40, it’s not illegal to have that in your company handbook – only actually rejecting someone for being over 40 would be illegal, because the law covers actions, not hypotheticals.

        2. Specialk9

          I don’t understand why you’re saying it’s not a criminal offense. If it’s a Federal crime, likely with child porn, this is a criminal violation of 18 USC 1513.

          1. JamieS

            She means the company’s actions (firing the employee who called the police) aren’t a criminal offense.

            1. Specialk9

              That is incorrect. It absolutely IS a crime, punishable by 10 years in prison, to fire someone for providing information to law enforcement in relation to a known or suspected Federal crime.

              U.S. Code › Title 18 › Part I › Chapter 73 › § 1513
              18 U.S. Code § 1513 – Retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant:

              “(e) Whoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, **including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood** of any person, *for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any Federal offense*, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

              ** Emphasis mine

              1. JamieS

                My understanding is it wouldn’t be considered retaliation because the company isn’t the one involved in legal action. Either way it’s a moot point because OP already said he was told it wasn’t a crime.

      2. Mike C.

        Even if it’s not a crime it’s still useful information to their investigation, and to any cases that might pop up in the future. Furthermore, they may even be able to do something, they’re the experts here.

        So you can drop a dime and call the officer involved and maybe something good happens (or nothing changes) or you do nothing and be certain that people at this company will cover up evidence of serious crimes in the future.

        The Nash equilibrium says to make the call.

        1. JamieS

          Except it has no relevance to their investigation and isn’t useful information. The only thing OP would report is someone being fired which isn’t relevant to the police or their investigation.

          1. Mike C.

            It’s not that the person was fired, it’s that the company now has an ongoing, official policy of never reporting CP to the police under pain of firing for the specific reason of performing an “internal investigation” first.

            That’s something the police should know. Even if they do nothing with it, it’s a ten minute conversation at no risk to the OP.

            1. JamieS

              I understand that’s the reason you’d want to talk to the police. My point is that since the company didn’t actually impede anyone from reporting a crime nor did they conceal/tamper with anything the only thing OP could possibly report is an employee was fired for calling the police since that’s the only thing the company actually did and the company would have to actually have done something for the police to get involved. The police can’t do anything about hypotheticals that could have happened or may happen in the future.

              1. JessaB

                The problem is we don’t know that. For all we know other people who have knowledge of this specific crime or information that might be helpful in securing a conviction for it, will now not give that information to the police. They (the police,) have a right to know that when interviewing OTHER members of staff to see perhaps if this crime goes further than one person, that people may LIE to them outright to save their jobs. The staff has been threatened with being fired. That same staff is probably being interviewed as part of this case. Information that may cast doubt on their ability to be open and honest with the police is vital.

                It’s not as bad as “If youse talks to the cops we’re gonna give you cee-ment overshoes,” like in a bad Bogie movie, but it IS a threat that could impinge on the investigation.

                Forget that it has a chilling effect on reporting future crime, it has a PRESENT effect of possibly making it harder for the police to investigate this one.

                I think that’s what Mike C is trying to get to.

              2. Secretary

                Just because the police can’t do anything about a crime or something sketchy that could turn into a crime (like hiding evidence) doesn’t mean you should not report it.

                Who knows? Maybe there are other sketchy things happening at this company. Maybe they don’t want the police involved because they don’t want a search? This is speculation of course and I’m not saying that’s the case, but having this policy reported can help in a future investigation, if one ever happened.

          2. Knitting Cat Lady

            Well, the company has a policy that says:

            ‘If you find evidence of a serious crime, do not contact the proper authorities. Come to us instead so we can investigate and decide what to do.’

            Who knows if the fired coworker was the first or only one to find that stuff.

            Could be that the involved police department is currently getting a warrant to have a good look at the whole company’s IT system.

            1. Lehigh

              Yes, I hope so, and this is the outcome I would hope for when notifying the police that higher-ups think that a crime like this should be reported only to them.

            2. Colette

              I doubt that’s there actual policy.

              We know the co-worker reported a crime and was fired. We don’t know what the conversation was, what the company’s specific objection was, or what happened exactly. Was the first the company heard of the situation when the cops showed up? Did they find out one of their employees was arrested as a result of what their other employee did on the news? Did they want to investigate, or did they want to be notified before the crime was reported so they weren’t caught off guard? Was the co-worker accessing stuff she shouldn’t have had access to, and the fact that she discovered a crime brought her own inappropriate behaviour to light?

              I mean, I think they handled it poorly and the co-worker shouldn’t have been fired, but there is no indication that this is an official policy. I realize that even if it’s not, it could have a chilling effect on other employees, and I think that the company should take steps to make their actual policy clear – but I suspect this is more incompetence than deliberate evil.

              1. Perse's Mom

                It may not be in writing, but when the top-down directive is to report internally first or get fired, that’s at least unofficial ‘policy.’

                Was the co-worker accessing stuff she shouldn’t have had access to, and the fact that she discovered a crime brought her own inappropriate behaviour to light?

                The letter says the fired employee (in IT) was upgrading a company device, so this comes across as kinda-sorta blaming the fired employee for finding CP while *doing her job.*

                It also doesn’t matter what the conversation was or the company’s objection or when the company heard about it. Their *response* was to FIRE an employee who reported a terrible crime and follow that up by instructing the OP to not give this former employee a reference, which affects her ability to find a new job!

                1. Colette

                  Scenario 1:
                  Company finds out their employee is doing something illegal on their network and wants to cover it up, so fires the person who takes it to the police.
                  Scenario 2:
                  Company finds out their employee was doing something illegal when the cops show up. When they ask the person who reported it to the police what happened, she becomes physically or verbally abusive and is fired.

                  We weren’t there. The OP wasn’t there. We don’t know what happened, or what the nuances of the situation were. Was the company wrong? It appears so. Do we have a reliable source about what happened? Not really. (I’m not doubting the OP, but she doesn’t have direct knowledge.)

                2. Observer

                  Actually we DO know what happened. And the company is NOT claiming that the employee reacted poorly to an inquiry as to what happened. The company SAYS that they fired her for going to the police. And they say that THEY wanted to decide IF the police should be notified. They do NOT mention the employee’s behavior.

              2. Cochrane

                I guarantee that the policy used to fire the co-worker is the disclosure of company data to unauthorized persons. Nevermind that the computer itself is a literal crime scene, a halfway decent company attorney could get a wrongful termination suit thrown out on that basis alone.

                It’s a lose-lose-lose situation: go to the cops, lose your job. Go to management, mark yourself as a “troublemaker” when it’s easier to wipe the evidence and fire/intimidate everyone involved to keep the incident quiet, ignore the problem and you’re complicit.

                1. Colette

                  How are you able to guarantee what policy was used to fire the co-worker?

                  You may be right, but you’re making a lot of assumptions about a situation we don’t have much information about.

              3. Observer

                Actually, we do know that this is the policy. The OP writes that “The company says she should have notified our manager so the company could investigate and interview both her and the employee before deciding whether or not to call the police.

        2. samgarden

          I’m hearing what you’re saying, and I kinda agree except I would presume the police would already be aware of this via their interviews. These kinds of investigations tend to be quite drawn out, from what I understand. It’s not like the person walked in to a police station, dropped the computer on their desk and left. They themselves would likely have had their devices searched and would be in touch with investigators long-term (post-firing). But OP seems to still be in touch with the person, so they’re best placed to know whether this is the case or not.
          Tangentially, I hope the police thoroughly investigated management’s devices as well. Wanting to keep this internal is shady as hell.

        3. Falling Diphthong

          Why do you imagine this is information the police actively investigating the crime must not have? From follow-up interviews with the fired employee, amongst others?

          1. Mike C.

            Since you’re the second person to say this, let’s apply a little game theory this time. The options are OP tell/don’t tell and Officer knows/doesn’t know.

            If the officer knows and the OP tells, there’s a cost of 5-10 minutes time, the officer doesn’t learn anything new but has an additional person to confirm previously known information.

            If the officer knows and the OP doesn’t say anything, then no time is used and nothing is confirmed.

            If the officer doesn’t know and the OP doesn’t say anything, that’s a terrible outcome that could hinder the investigation.

            If the officer doesn’t know and the OP tells, that’s a little more than 5-10 minutes, and the offcier now has an important lead that will directly impact how the investigation continues on and may lead to further results down the road.

            There’s a clear Nash equilibrium here – for the OP to speak up!

            1. Colette

              Do you believe the OP must tell the police, even if she knows she’ll be fired for it and won’t be able to pay her rent/medical expenses/child support?

              1. Mike C.

                Why in the heck would the police rat out the OP? Police aren’t in the business of giving people reasons not to talk to them. Your certainly is completely misplaced here.

                1. Secretary

                  Mike C that wasn’t very nice, Colette makes a great point.
                  Colette, OP can ask that the police don’t share who came to them, and like Mike C just said, the police are not going to share that information easily because they want people to come to them with stuff like this.

                  Also Mike C, I think the game theory you laid out is great.

                2. aebhel

                  Uh, you know that it’s actually really, incredibly common for police to screw people over in exactly this way if it’s necessary for their investigation, right?

                3. Colette

                  Who says it has to be the police? It could be – the police could show up to talk to her, or ask for information based on something she told her, but there are other possibilities. Someone could see her going into the police station, or notice the police calling her cell phone.

                  You’re saying the only cost is 5 – 10 minutes of time, which is easy to say when you’re not the one who will pay the cost.

    6. AKchic

      Mike, we don’t know what the fired employee is going to do because *she* herself hasn’t written in. The LW didn’t specify whether she’d gotten an attorney or not, probably because LW was unaware. Perhaps the fired employee (who I will refer to as FE from now on) is feeling burned and wants to keep things quiet and close to the vest until she feels the time is right? I know I would. Perhaps FE and (possibly hypothetical) attorney are quietly gathering evidence against the company and cooperating with the DA’s office and other agencies so they can file suit against the company and help the authorities launch an investigation against a few other managers to see if anyone else may have been getting images from the disgraced pervert that was taken down by FE.

      Just because LW didn’t know or didn’t share this information doesn’t mean something of the like isn’t happening. We just don’t know. Generally, the public at large isn’t given all details about ongoing investigations because it can hinder them. When you have a case like this, there will *always* be deeper investigations, and sometimes it can take a long time to fully wrap up (a case I was involved with, it took 6 years before the ringleader was brought to trial, and he was never legally tied to a lot of the things that actually happened because the evidence was “circumstantial”).

  19. Detective Rosa Diaz

    Just want to say I’m so relieved that OP 3’s employee did what they did. They protected children and prevented so much harm, and ensured the wrong doer was punished. OP 3, best of luck in finding a new position at a more positive environment. Thank you for helping your former employee.

    1. Myrin

      Yes, I meant to say exactly this.
      OP, your employee is amazing for what she did – she reacted exactly right, fast, and level-headed in a moment that must have been quite shocking and disturbing, and I admire all of her actions greatly.
      You and your team are also amazing for supporting and standing behind her – I wish all of you guys all the best!

  20. Former Computer Professional

    #3 I don’t know if the US laws have changed (or if they apply here) but when I was in IT, the law was that if you found something that was a federal-level crime, you removed the disk untouched (at least from that point), put it in an anti-static bag, labeled the bag with the date and time, and then called either the police or the local FBI office.

    Amongst the issues was that if you let the company management have access to the drive, both you and management could be in deep trouble for attempting to hide a federal crime, and that’s a bozo no-no.

    I hope that the fired person is in touch with an employment lawyer. If the laws are still the same — and I would be horrified if they’re not — the firing could have major repercussions on the employer if it was found that they wanted to have the crime not reported immediately. The Feds do not screw around with child exploitation material.

    1. Mike C.

      This is exactly what I’m concerned about.

      I know of companies that will fire employees for drug use, but then refuse to turn over the evidence to the police so charges are never filed. That way the employer never has to see stories in the media about having a bunch of (now former) employees on drugs. I can only imagine much stronger this urge is with more serious crimes.

      1. Cyberwulf

        We-ell with drug use I can understand, like if employee is supposed to operate a vehicle and fails a urine test for weed, a company may decide “they have terrible judgement and can’t drive for us but it’s not worth subjecting them to the cops and ruining their lives because they smoked a little last night”. But CP? What were they thinking?!

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        What crime would someone be charged with for failing a drug test?

        AFAIK, drug charges involve possession or intent to deliver, not using them.

        1. Mike C.

          I was incomplete, there was also selling involved. Rather, alleged since there were no charges due to lack of evidence.

    2. Fergus Formerly Known as the Artist Fergus

      I hope I never discover CP on a DOD laptop. That’s a shitstorm or a storm of shit, either way bad bad and bad

      1. Oranges

        This has a good chance of happening I’m pretty sure. I mean I did some math with the only data we have on how common rapists are in the us population and it was 1 in 60 approx.

        I’d need actual data on CP proliferation, knowledge of DOD IT protocals and how many people work/have worked at DOD to get a good percentage and… I’m not gonna wade in that right now. So I’ll pull one out of my rear and say 50/50.

      2. Nerdling

        It’s definitely a possibility, unfortunately. All you can do is to know what steps you need to take if it ever were to happen (and have the number of a good therapist on hand).

  21. Mythbri

    LW #3, your former coworker did exactly the right thing and the company you’re working for is terrible. I’m hoping for speedy transitions to new, better positions for you and your team.

  22. Insufferable Bureaucrat

    #3 What I cannot believe is that the company is not realizing that the mass exodus of employees is a sign that they made a horrendous decision that they need to rectify, but is instead doubling down on it by refusing to give references. Insane! I am racking my brain trying to understand why they would need to do an internal investigation on something like that other than they wanted the opportunity to cover it up (which would also give the guy an opportunity to go home and clear evidence off his own equipment). This whole situation is bananacrackers crazy!

    1. Dan

      Most things in the US are assumed to be legal unless they are explicitly illegal.

      TBH, there is very little you can’t be fired for in most of the US.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Whistleblower laws typically cover reports of illegal actions by an employer, not an individual employee, and are often limited to very specific crimes (financial, fraud, health code, etc.). But in some states you can sue over a firing that was in violation of “public policy,” which is probably what would be most likely to be in play if the OP is in one of those states, but the specifics of what is and isn’t covered vary by state.

      2. CityMouse

        Whistleblower laws are a lot narrower than you woukd think and are also often woefully inadequate, at least in the US. Even in clear violations it can take years and mountains of legal effort to punish the company. Our laws are not really set up to protect the employee.

        1. MSSS

          Employment lawyer here- some states make it illegal to fire or take an adverse action against an employee for assisting or testifying in legal proceedings. It’s part of how these states ensure that people can assist law enforcement. I think the fired employee in #3 should speak to an attorney, as should the OP.

  23. Dan

    #1

    TBH, if Fergus sucked that bad and caused that much work for others, that’s on management. Even if management didn’t know, that’s on them for not having the right processes in place to catch these things.

    I feel like op is making it a little to personal about Fergus, when it was really just a bad fit.

    I don’t really see the need for Fergus to apologise. Some people aren’t the right fit for every job, and I don’t think they should apologise for that. It’s not really a personal failing on his part.

    1. OP#1

      It’s more about him circumventing the processes we were putting in place to avoid this happening again, because he was exactly aware of the processes we were implementing because he was in the meetings where we designed them, and knew they were in beta.

      1. CityMouse

        Are you saying that he exploited system flaws to avoid working? If so, if your manager 100% clear that his problems go beyond incompetence? I have worked with people who actively avoid work and honestly, they are recalcitrant about it. I wouldn’t expect Fergus to change.

        1. OP#1

          It looks like he did this right at the end before going on leave, yes.

          Probably not a good idea when the work is being handed over to one of the two compliance experts on your team.

  24. KR

    OP 5… I’ve heard of it happening! You can even say if they decide to go with another person that you would love to be considered for a similar or different role in the company in the future should one arise!

    OP4… Hoping for the best for you!! Even if it’s a “no” on this position, you never know when that partner will be jumping ship and hiring again, or a similar role will come up. Or maybe the new hire won’t work out. Or maybe he’ll be talking to his friend and mention the great application he saw the other day (yours!). Good luck.

    OP3… You know this is a horrendous situation. I’m sorry your company is handing it so bad. A company matter would be if he was using his work PC for pirating music (which is theft but arguably less serious) or playing video games or commiting time theft or something. Not something that harms and exploits children. I hope you find a new job soon. If you have the position it may be worth pointing out that this type of thing discourages others from speaking out, especially if they need their job badly.

    .

  25. LouiseM

    Couldn’t OP #3 report this to the police? It sounds like the company basically has admitted that if given the chance they would have concealed evidence of a crime…which would itself have been a crime. Who knows what other shady things they could be doing? I’m not saying anything of this magnitude has happened before or is likely to happen again, but I wonder what kind of sketchiness is happening with this company that the police might want to know about. If not a formal report, just a “hey just so you know”

    1. Ramona Flowers

      IANAL but it seems to me that this would effectively be reporting them for thought crime, and I doubt the police could do anything because it’s hypothetical. You’d be surprised how high the bar is even to prove someone attempted to commit a crime.

    2. TL -

      People have a really, really hard time admitting someone they liked and admired was actually a monster. The powers that be probably liked John Bob the Pedophile and they don’t want to admit they liked someone who was capable of committing such a horrible crime. So now, instead of dealing with the evidence, they’re focusing on hiding anything that would implicate them. Partly because they’re trying to hide the magnitude of the crime from themselves; partly because they’re scared of what it means to have associated with someone like that and never known; partly because they’re not thinking about the victims as much as they’re trying not to deal with the horrors of what they know.

      It’s an incredibly damaging view and it is depressingly, depressingly common – if it weren’t, we wouldn’t need legally mandated reporters. But, unless you’re one of those reporters, obstructing justice, destroying evidence, it’s not illegal to have or, most of the time, act on those feelings. You can’t really make it so without getting into thought policing, as Ramona says.

      1. neverjaunty

        I’m a little confused about this notion that it’s “thought policing” to criminalize actions. By that logic, having legally mandated reporters is also thought policing.

        1. Natalie

          Because they’re talking about the company, not the individual employee. The company hasn’t actually taken any actions – they’ve only said how they would have handled it and the supposition is that they wouldn’t have reported the criminal material, and having shitty policies with unintended consequences isn’t a crime. I rather doubt it’s even illegal to more explicitly say you are going to cover up a crime if given the chance, because it still hasn’t happened yet. (Although that’s a different dystopian novel – precrime rather than thoughtcrime)

        2. fposte

          I think it’s more that from a pragmatic standpoint you’re not likely to get criminal charges for planning to cover something up if it happens in the future.

          But now you’re making me curious about legal repercussions for a mandatory reporter who says they refuse in advance to make reports. It’s an unlikely situation so there may not be an example of it, and of course the state variation on what constitutes a “mandatory reporter” would affect it. In states where it’s associated with a job, firing would be the likely recourse, and in states where it’s all adults, I doubt they want to throw Grandma in jail because she says she could never call about good people.

        3. TL -

          Well, an action is deciding to stay out of it, or decide the victim is a liar, or victim-blaming, or spreading nasty rumors – any number of actions aren’t illegal but still really awful.

          And legally mandated reporters are a pretty special class; it is thought policing, to a certain extent, though some places provide pretty specific training and regulations over what to look for, and it’s only legally actionable for very specific people in the states where everyone is a mandated reporter.

  26. Keeps resumes on file

    #5: I am in HR at my company and, yes, we do this. We have two types of positions that require similar but not exactly the same type of requirements so we often look for people who applied to be teapot designers but might be better as coffee pot designers or vice-versa. We’ve also contacted previous second choice candidates when something opened up to see if they’re interested (and hired two of them). We recently hired for a manager level role and, although neither was ultimately offered the job, we interviewed two people who had previously applied for lower level roles but had too much experience.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      In my company we frequently do this for entry level positions because the job posting requirements are usually the same but different departments may have different capacities for hiring that year based on what work they expect to come in. We will usually trade resumes back and forth for this reason, or after a collegiate career fair pool all of the resumes and go through them as a group to decide which applicants we each want to interview.

    2. Lilly

      Thanks for sharing your experience, that’s encouraging. I’ve applied to some big companies with multiple openings believing that would be a good match for a few.

  27. Diamond

    #3 – Wow. Where I live there is mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. The IT employee could have got in legal trouble for NOT alerting the authorities.

    1. Not Australian

      And, if it later came out that she had been aware of the material and done nothing about it, in some jurisdictions she could be charged as an accomplice for having concealed it. This has certainly happened in the UK.

    2. please

      “mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse”

      What does this mean? Does this apply to all citizens?

      1. Knitting Cat Lady

        Depends on the phrasing of the law, but in some places:

        Yes, that applies to all citizens.

        Same as over here you are required to render first aid if you can do so without endangering yourself. The least thing everyone can do is call emergency services.

        Due to some horrific incidences like multiple people over hours stepping over a dying man to get to the ATM because they assume him to be a passed out drunk homeless guy and some truly deplorable behaviour by rubberneckers around accidents police is really cracking down on this one over here.

        1. Mookie

          Same as over here you are required to render first aid if you can do so without endangering yourself.

          God, I wish the US had that — without having someone experience what Christine Lakinski did in order to rouse us out of our stupor. (People do experience that in the US, of course, but it changes nothing.)

        2. Jam Today

          LOL in America the *police* aren’t even required to provide aid or keep people from harm (yes, there is case law supporting that conclusion).

      2. cleo

        In the US, it depends on the state – almost all states require designated professions (teachers, healthcare etc – varies by state) to report any suspected child abuse or neglect directly to a state child protective agency.

        I’ve gone through mandated reporter training multiple times – both in my professional life working in higher ed and as a volunteer at a youth center. I don’t remember getting mandated reporter training early in my higher ed career, but after the Penn State abuse and cover up scandal, I’ve received it at multiple schools.

        I’ve actually never heard that all citizens are required to report suspected abuse in the US. If it’s true in my state (IL) it’s not well known.

    3. Bad Candidate

      This is what I was wondering too. In some states everyone is a mandatory reporter, and doing so might be a protected act against retaliation.

  28. But Maybe You Could Do Something?

    Hey OP#3
    I do think your heart is in the right place but I’m someone who falls in the “If It’s a Serious Thing it Doesn’t Matter What the Person Wants” camp. But, instead of going against what you feel is right, could you do something instead? How about you go to the media about the company’s policy regarding finding CP or any illegal content like dog fighting? You don’t have to mention anything about your company being involved in the current case. Just say the current case brought this policy to light in your company and you’re speaking out. You could do this now or after you’ve left. I do think it’s important that your company be called out by everyone imaginable and this could be a good compromise between protecting the fired employee’s identity and challenging this insane policy. It might even make other organizations in your field quietly change their policies too.

  29. Akcipitrokulo

    OP3 – echoing the horror from above comments. When thinking about how the hell to deal with going in there at the moment, I think the advice was spot on. You are looking to get out, and in meantime helping your colleagues get out of there, and that is a good thing to do.

    I’d also consider telling the police officers who worked on the case what happened as this could be useful for them in the future.

    Oh, and if your fired colleague had done what company wanted? It might have been harder to convict him because people could have tampered with it (or it could be alleged that it wasn’t him… other people had access to box too). Delay would have been totally wrong, and I am thankful for their actions.

  30. Student

    #3 – Please call the police right away and tell them about this. One reason for the boss to retaliate against your co-worker is because they were in on the same crime and worried your colleague would be to find IT traceable links and then call the boss out, too. Let the police know so they investigate and decide.

    There just aren’t a lot of good reasons for the boss to retaliate against your co-worker for this.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather

      That was my first thought as well. Someone in the company wants to cover up a crime rather than have it dealt with. Even if it’s misguided attempt to avoid bad publicity, it’s still worth reporting. I actually hope it’s a misguided attempt, if only because it means it was just that one person. But as you said, let the police decide.

      And OP #3, if you can, please thank your colleague on behalf of this internet stranger. She should not have been punished for doing the right thing and I hope she won’t let it deter her from doing so again in the future (not with this particular crime, but in general). And thank you for standing up for your colleagues. It can be really hard to do the right thing when your livelihood is threatened, but you’re all standing together and supporting each other. It’s a joy to see. Wishing you all the best of luck.

      1. Project Manager

        Exactly. A normal reaction would be, “You caught a child abuser – you are a hero and did the right thing!” But this company’s reaction was, “You found child pornography? You’re fired! And so are the rest of you if you report crimes to the police!” This is very, very suspicious.

  31. Myrin

    #4, I continue to be in awe at Alison’s ability of coming up with wonderful scripts – this one I find particularly amazing: warm, friendly, getting the point across without seeming forced. Do exactly this, OP, I’m sure you’ll get a clear answer back as a result.

    1. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws

      Yeah, it’s going to be very hard to top “fired someone for tipping off police to a pedophile.” She saved children he was molesting from further abuse by him – that anyone could prioritize the company’s ~optics~ over that is astonishing to me.

      OP3, I have no advice that hasn’t already been offered but I’m sorry you’re in this situation and hope you find another position soon.

  32. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

    LW3 It’s painfully obvious your company doesn’t follow the news and sees what happens to people who impede or don’t report child sexual abuse. The fallout is wide spread and can blacken the company forever. They did the wrong thing and publicity about this might make them see better. The fire employee should consult with an employment lawyer.

    1. A Cita

      I read your user name as: “Keep Your Eyes in the Freezer”

      I swear I’m not a body part collector. :)

  33. MuseumChick

    #3, your company is awful. My only advice is 1) When you do get a new job but very honest in your exit interview “I hadn’t planned on leaving but how the situation with Jane was handled left such a bad taste in my mouth I had no choice.”

    I agree with the others that she should talk to an employment lawyer.

  34. ES

    Re: #5 —
    My first post-college job came when I applied for one job at a company, but HR was in the final stages of filling it. The HR person reached out to me about being considered for another job, about to be posted, that would turn out to be a much better fit. I interviewed and accepted and ended up on a career path that wasn’t what I planned 15 years ago but has turned out so happily.

    Now, as a hiring manager, I always make a point of holding on to resumes for good candidates who don’t end up getting hired, and I’ll contact them should I have an opening emerge that would be a good fit. I also refer these good-but-not-hired candidates to coworkers with appropriate openings.

  35. Ann

    #5-
    I worked as a recruiter for a health care system, and we got 40,000 applications a year. The only time that I was able to set aside a resume for a another job was generally after an interview that went very well. I think that often, with the way that online applications allow people to apply for multiple jobs without re-uploading their information, the assumption tends to be that people apply for a job if they are interested (and if there are plenty of qualified candidates, it just doesn’t make any sense to go searching through past resumes for people who may or may not be interested if you already have a group of people who are). So, for big organizations I would definitely encourage you to check back and re-apply.

    1. AnotherJill

      It also depends on the type of organization and possible rules for conducting a search. For instance, for public academic positions in my state, you can only use the resumes that are explicitly submitted for a posted position. You can send someone a note and tell them to apply again if they are interested, but you can’t use a pre-existing submission. Old submissions are required to be kept on file, but only for record keeping purposes.

      So if you see another position anywhere, it is always a good idea to reapply, because you never know what rules the organization has for job searches.

      1. Lilly

        Thank you for the advice. I always hope that my resume gets passed around, but with some larger organizations, I reapply to that specific position.

  36. The Other Dawn

    RE: #1

    It would be fabulous if every coworker that made my work life difficult would show up at my desk, fall all over themselves to offer a really heartfelt apology for being such a slacker a-hole (insert whatever other crappy behavior here), and then said, “By the way, here are some free kittens and an iced mocha latte to show you how sorry I am,” but that isn’t going to happen. Probably 90% of the time, the people that behave like OP’s coworker don’t have the self awareness to realize how bad they are and how much difficulty they caused. It’s just business as usual.

    Just move on, OP, and try to forgot about him. Be grateful he’s no longer on your team and you don’t have to work with him.

    1. Ten

      +1 to apologizing with kittens. If even my worst enemy offered me a little purring fluffball and a sincere “I’m sorry”, all would be instantly forgiven.

  37. PupMama

    #5 yes, it can happen! In fact it happened to me! I interviewed for a position that was eventually filled by an internal candidate. A week later they called and asked if I would be interested in filling the vacated position, as everyone thought I’d be a great fit for the team. I start my new job in a week.

  38. Employment Lawyer

    3. My company fired an employee for going to the police about a serious crime
    The employee should find a lawyer ASAP. If you know them, you should tell them to hire someone. This can be a firing “in violation of public policy” and it is also quite possibly a violation of a bunch of other stuff; I for one would happily represent the fired employee and it would NOT end well for the company.

    1. Mike C.

      Seriously, this is a pretty easy case for you.

      Do you think the company will try to context unemployment? :p

    2. Slartibartfast

      Wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they did. I know this varies by state, but if OP3 quits, could they possibly qualify for unemployment? I believe “quitting with good cause” might apply. I know that the burden of proof would be on OP3 in that case, but if it’s possible, it may allow them to get out immediately.

  39. I AM a Llama

    #3 – I am a lawyer. I am not an employment lawyer. I am a criminal defense lawyer. I have worked on cases involving this same subject matter.

    What OP3’s colleague found is the worst possible thing someone can encounter. It is so serious and so bad, especially if there’s evidence the employee was creating this material. The fact the employee had said material on a company machine leads me to think it may be on other company machines. If that’s the case, the company may be in a heaping pile of trouble also for possessing that same material. If the company attempts to delete or destroy this material they likely won’t be successful, and could end up looking like obstruction of justice, which is also bad.

    Advice – get the heck out of there. Now. Also, consult with a lawyer of your own, since you run the IT department, and law enforcement is likely to have questions (and warrants or grand jury subpoenas, potentially), you’ll want to make sure you are also protected. I am not trying to be scary about this; I want to make sure OP is protecting him/herself because this may just be the beginning.

    The colleague 100% did the right thing.

    1. UtOh!

      Great advice! I was thinking to myself why didn’t the fired employee get themselves a lawyer as this seems like an egregious form punishing someone for taking the absolute right actions. I also have a feeling this is not over, and there still may be fallout in the form of other people being fired (OP), for example. I hope not, but the way this management dealt with this I would not be surprised.

      The sooner you can get out of there, the better.

  40. Jam Today

    I’m sorry for the fired employee in #3, unemployment is very hard, but having been the person running to the legal department (although not for anything as stomach-turning as this) there is a lot to be said for having a clean conscience and the satisfaction of being moral and right in a completely unambiguous situation. For the LW, all I can offer is sympathy and moral support as you grit your teeth and do the grim but necessary thing of keeping a roof over your head and helping the people currently heading out the door. Do right by your colleagues, and do right by your customers. Don’t worry about management, they are cowards who don’t deserve your consideration.

  41. Chriama

    OP, is this the kind of thing where you could anonymously tip off the media? Just say that an IT person has recently been fired and the company’s response is that the evidence of [arrested employee] should have been brought directly to them.

    This is so outrageous that I’m really concerned. I know whistleblower law protects you from retaliation for reporting illegal actions by the company, but does that extend to something like this? The employee was engaging in criminal activity, and the company has retaliated against the reporter. That doesn’t seem legal.

    At the very least, I would encourage the employee to contact an employment lawyer and ask her to subpoena you as a witness. If it’s officially an “involuntary” testimony then you should be protected from your employer too.

    This is truly terrible. Child molesters are literally the scum of the earth, and anyone reacting to behaviour that catches someone committing to such a heinous crime with anything other than thanks is disgusting. For heaven’s sake, what if it was *your* kid??!! Anyone who’s had the coworker around their kids must be terrified and furious.

    1. Anon For This

      I go back-and-forth on this. If the local media has any good reporters, they will already be investigating how and when this predator was identified. So I don’t know that you need to tip off the media if there are any decent reporters in the local area. Eventually these things come out.

      The company though has made a massive error. Because I do think the fact that they fired the employee who identified a predator and went straight to the police is going to come out. And instead of being able to put out a statement about how horrified they are and how much they appreciate the identifying employee’s quick response. They are instead going to appear as though they are cool with child molestation.

      1. Chriama

        I don’t know that the media will find out. I don’t have faith in things “working out” without people intervening, and I think an anonymous tip off is the least OP can do. It’s pretty low risk and could do a lot of good for her coworker.

  42. Bookworm

    #4: I’ve usually replied to notes of rejection by thanking whoever it was that wrote it for their time and consideration and wishing them the best of luck, etc. If it seems like there’s a positive connection or that it seemed like it could have worked, I might throw in something about please keep me in mind for the future, etc. It hasn’t led to much but it’s worth a shot.

    #5: Yes, it can happen. Most of the time that’s it, unless there’s a change in staff/HR I’ve found trying to re-apply never goes anywhere. But I’ve been contacted for a follow-up for another position (although in that case, I was completely unqualified for it and I can only guess they needed a pool of applicants to interview). Once I was brought in for an interview only to find out they had hired an internal candidate for the job I applied for and was being interviewed for another, similar position (I wasn’t informed until I arrived and I found that I wasn’t thrilled with the team anyway and turned down the eventual offer). So, it can happen. Good luck!

  43. Hilda

    I don’t understand why anyone is advocating for OP #3 to go to the police or mentioning a cover up by the company.

    The employee went to the police. They have made an arrest and are investigating. They have already done searches and have charged the person who used the device.

    It’s just like in letter about the intern and the stolen jacket. People in those comments were all over what the police should or should not be doing or how they would have known about the Amazon pick-up point. This was despite the fact the thief had been arrested and their lawyer telling them to plead guilty because the abundance of evidence.

    The OP in either case did not ask anyone to play amateur detective. The police and professionals are investigating. We should stick to answering the question about how he can support his employees. I notice almost no one has answered that.

  44. rolling

    Again, I would really appreciate it if you would stop using “Jane” as your name for unspecified people. Jane is an actual female name, and I think you should give women — and in particular, women with that name — the same consideration that you give men, when you use “Fergus,” which is an obvious funny because it’s nobody’s real name (or at least, a lot less common than Jane). When you use Jane as the equivalent of ‘Fergus’ or some of your other funny male names, you are sending the message that Jane IS a funny and acceptably anonymous word. It’s not. Please really think about this. I think in your inconsistency you are being unfair.

    1. Star

      Jane has always been an acceptable ‘anonymous’ female name. There’s a reason unidentified women are called “Jane Doe”.

      Also: whaaa-?

        1. Eye of Sauron

          I think in the legal sense in the US for the use of an anonymous name, the important bit is “Doe” So technically “Fergus Doe” could legally be used.

          ** This whole thread jack has me tilting my head because it really doesn’t matter one way or another. For all we know people could use the real names of the people they are writing about and we wouldn’t really know the difference.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Sometimes it’s Roe! (e.g., Roe v. Wade is a “Jane Roe”—they used to change the first letter of the last name if there were multiple anonymous plaintiffs)

            Some jurisdictions also use “Juan Doe” to refer to unknown criminal defendants of Latino descent (so problematic).

    2. Murphy

      I don’t think Jane’s use implies that it’s funny at all, and I’m not sure where you get that.

      Arguably, it does imply that it’s acceptably anonymous…but I think the use of “Jane Doe” also does, as Star pointed out.

    3. N.J.

      Jame is acceptably anonymous because it is a very common, non descript name.In its lack of uniqueness, it stands in as generically female. Fergus, while not common in the US, is an Irish/Scottish Gaelic name that does exist and isn’t rare, though not popular. If everyone is going to be so needlessly nitpicky I would suggest that Alison start using an equally generic traditionally male name like John or Jim or Bob. Although that probably means that someone will complain about that too. Alison used to make up hilariously silly completely fake names for the letter scenarios but commenters kept adopting those as their user names. Hence our beloved Princess Consuela Banana Hammock. I for one support using Jane because no one is likely to copy that as a username or to mistake an actual commenter named Jane as the sameJane as any of the letter writing scenarios. Lighten up, everybody who reads this site is intelligent enough to know that no one is disparaging the real Janes of the world. And while you might think Fergus is a silly name, I bet the real Fergus people of the world would be insulted by that opinion. Sheesh.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Although PCBH wasn’t a name I’d come up with — that was from Friends, and I never used it here! People have taken over the other fake names I used to use though.

        (But like I said below, I’m pretty sure this is trolling.)

        1. N.J.

          Yes, I recall it’s from Friends. Coulda sworn that someone used it for a letter too, but lord knows my memory stinks, lol.

    4. SarahTheEntwife

      Fergus is a real name. I assume “Jane” is used partly because of the old “Dick and Jane” books. I’d be fine if she used “Sarah”; that would be even more anonymous given how common it is.

      1. London Calling

        *I’d be fine if she used “Sarah”; that would be even more anonymous given how common it is*

        Er excuse ME, there’s nothing common about us Sarahs! (says a real life Sarah Jane).

        OP – you are being silly.

    5. The Other Dawn

      Just about everyone here uses fake names when writing in to Alison. Why does it matter what name is used? And “Jane” is the standard acceptably anonymous name, as is “John.”

      1. SallytooShort

        Also, I would appreciate you only allowing Sally to be used when the Sally is victorious. This column perpetuates the destructive image of Sallys being fired.

    6. aebhel

      …’Fergus’ is an actual name, too. Like, good grief. And as someone with an ‘unusual’ name, I don’t really appreciate the implication that only common names are real ones.

  45. Lady Phoenix

    #1: Fergus was a lazy and selfish coworker. I have no doubts that he will never apologize for hos actions because he honestly can’t see himself doing anything wrong. You might as well be glad that he is gone and treat hin with cold professionalism.

    #3: Ohhhhhhhh fuck. Shot has certainly hit the fan. I would mention to your boss and HR just how fucked they are for their actions, because I have no doubt that this shit is gonna attract all the reporters. Then I would be looking around for a new job once the media circus comes to town.

    As for your coworker, reach out to her. Tell her this:
    “I am absolutely sorry that the company treated you this way and handled Shit ag’s case so poorly. I do not support or condone their actions. If you need a reference for your mew job, please don’t hesitate to call me.” Then hand her your private contact: your personal cell phone and email that is not owned/moderated by the company.

  46. Rusty Shackelford

    #3 – Obviously the employee did the right thing by going directly to the police. But is anyone else surprised she didn’t ALSO go to her manager? If I witnessed a crime at work, whether it were those images, or Fergus taking a sledgehammer to Wakeen’s car in the parking lot, or anything else, I would have contacted the authorities and then let my manager know what was going on – not to ask if I should report it, but to let him know that I had reported it, rather than having him blindsided. Am I the only one who would do that?

    1. Murphy

      I talked about it with my husband this morning, we both said we think we’d probably tell a manager “I found X and I am calling/have called the police.” But I could see her being so focused on what she found and making sure the authorities were notified immediately that telling her manager would just be nowhere near as important in comparison.

      1. Natalie

        It’s also not super clear what the timeline is here – since she apparently went to the police department in person, she could have easily ended up talking to a detective for a bit, meanwhile the manager is contacted by a different officer and the other employee is arrested elsewhere in town.

        1. Murphy

          Definitely. She also could have been told by the police not to tell anybody, or have just wanted not to tell anybody so the other employee wouldn’t be tipped off.

          Given what she found, I can’t say that going immediately to the police was in any way an overreaction, which seems to be the company’s standpoint.

          1. Erin

            I can see the police asking her not to inform her managers. So they can quickly get a search warrant for the rest of the office computers and prevent anyone from erasing evidence.

    2. TL -

      For my last manager, yes – I wouldn’t care if I told them first or called the police first; it would probably depend on if they were around if I found it.

      For my managers before that, no – I’d like to believe that they wouldn’t cover something like this up, but I can’t be 100% certain. They turned a blind eye to a lot of petty, small but harmful behaviors; I am 95% certain they would handle this correctly but that 5% means I would tell them after the decisions had been made.

      1. fposte

        That’s what I was thinking–this is totally manager-dependent. And I suspect there’s a strong correlation between having the kind of management that fires you for reporting child porn and having the kind of management you don’t notify first.

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          But what about notifying them *second*? You wouldn’t have notified them at all, even after you’d called the police?

          1. fposte

            It totally depends on the manager and the situation. I might think there’s a risk of involvement or of destruction of evidence, for instance; in that case, nope.

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Okay, but that’s why I specifically said I’d tell my manager AFTER I called the police.

        1. TL -

          I mean – I would tell my manager eventually. But 9-1-1 calls can often turn into several hour ordeals and the manager might be notified by someone else before you get to your phone.

        2. Starbuck

          I’d be wary of notifying a manager for something like this before I knew the police had the suspect in custody, for fear of them tipping off the culprit and giving time to flee/destroy evidence. You never know who else in the org might be complicit. And once the police have shown up on premises to make an arrest and collect evidence, well, there’s not much more to tell at that point.

    3. Nita

      Sure, a manager should be notified, but it seems like they should not be the priority here. If an employee hits someone with the company car, the boss needs to know, but who expects everyone at the scene of the accident to twiddle their thumbs while trying to reach the boss? Someone needs help, and the police and ambulance get called first. This is, in a way, similar – in fact, OP points out that the criminal worked with children and that once the investigation was started, victims were found. If there was a delay in reporting this, that’s more time for the victims to suffer.

      Never mind that the company didn’t want to be just looped in, they wanted an “internal investigation,” which would, at best, have given the criminal time to destroy evidence, because I bet the company doesn’t have the police’s ability to investigate and make arrests. At worst, the authorities would never find out – as the whistleblower’s firing shows, someone up there really did not want the word to get out.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Sure, a manager should be notified, but it seems like they should not be the priority here.

        I agree. I never said the manager should be the priority. I said I’d notify them AFTER I’d contacted the appropriate authorities. There’s no reason to bring up delaying the reporting, since I wasn’t advocating that at all.

        1. Nita

          Ah, gotcha! I wonder if management actually was told, after the evidence was taken to the police. OP doesn’t really say that they weren’t, and they clearly found out somehow who discovered the evidence. Unless the police marched into the office and talked to everyone there first thing, it’s likely they found out from the person that made the discovery. It sounds like management would have been mad whether or not they had been told. The problem is that the police knew first, so they didn’t get to do an internal investigation and decide whether or not to report it.

        2. TL -

          I mean – I would tell my manager eventually. But 9-1-1 calls can often turn into several hour ordeals and the manager might be notified by someone else before you get to your phone.

    4. Anon For This

      It would depend on my relationship with my manager if I’d tell them before or after I went to the police. If I was concerned that the company might not automatically go to the police themselves, then I’d tell them afterwards. I think the employee made the right call in this instance.

      1. Ashley

        I agree. At best I may have called on the drive to the police station. Although the note earlier in the comments about not transporting it makes me think you call the police and wait. I would probably hope my manager was gone so they (or chain of command) couldn’t ask me to do anything ethically iffy while I sat and waited for the cops. Maybe you send a text saying you found something illegal and are waiting for the authorities. Leave it vague?

    5. Oranges

      I think that based upon their reactions the whistleblower did exactly right. I also have suspicions about the content of the higher-ups laptops now also since firing her was so out of line. (Like I really really hope that the police department is seeing if the higher-ups have CP on their computers right now)

  47. Rusty Shackelford

    I hope we get an update on #4, in which the partner says “What? They rejected you? Nonsense! I’ll have this rectified immediately!”

  48. been there done that

    No advice for OP #1 just commiseration. I’ve been where you are and it sucks. I hope things get better for you soon.

  49. sfigato

    Re: #3 – one of the reasons why abuse is allowed to go on is that people and organizations decide that the reputational risk from outing it is more troublesome than the abuse. Good on your coworker for alerting the authorities, and I can’t believe they were fired.

  50. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan

    “Fergus, for want of a better word, sucked.”

    It’s been a ***long*** week for me (see my user name for a hint as to why), and for some reason that just had be ROLLING in the aisles. I needed a good giggle. :-)

  51. Adlib

    OP #5 – I’ve gotten a couple jobs this way actually, but I agree with Alison – some companies do, and some don’t. In one case, I happened to apply for a job that was actually below what I was hoping to make/do (was unemployed at the time). The HR guy called me back to ask if I was interested in something better with better pay.

    In another case, I applied for one job, but my resume was such that they wanted me for a better/stronger position. Once in a while you’ll get lucky! I hope you do.

  52. HR Person

    Response to post #5 Will employers consider me for jobs I haven’t applied to?

    I work in HR, and I do this with almost every candidate. If I have another job that is similar, or I think you might be a good fit for, I will always ask during or after the interview. Sometimes I will call someone back months later, because a position came up that I think they would be great fit for!

  53. Higher Ed Database Dork

    #5 – Like Alison says, yes, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. I have been called back by companies about 3 or 4 times to apply for a different role, which is a pretty small percentage considering how many jobs I’ve applied to over the years. In most cases, I already had gotten a different job by then and was not interested.

    However I got my current position after applying/interviewing for a different one on my team. I wasn’t the right fit for the position I applied for, but the hiring manager wanted to see if I was interested in a lower level position. I was, and he hired me into that role, and it worked out great! I was actually promoted into the original position several months later!

    Site note: One company I interviewed with wanted to hire me, but they had extended an offer to another guy by the time they decided to interview me, and he accepted. So they told me that they were going to create another position and I would “definitely” be on board within 3 months. And then they ghosted me (thank goodness I never put in my notice). FOUR YEARS LATER they called me again for the same position and asked if I was still interested. I had to stifle a laugh because by that time, my career had gone down a different (better) path, and I was making double the posted salary.

  54. Bow Ties Are Cool

    OP 3: Have you ever wanted to be an “anonymous inside source” for a journalist? Because now’s your chance!

    Seriously though, the public needs to know about what this company did. And any reputable journalist will go to jail to protect your identity if you give them pertinent information for a story like this. Please consider this. You don’t even have to give them your coworker’s name, probably, just tell a good journalist what happened just like you told AAM.

  55. Andy

    Part of why I value this blog and the commentary so much is the ability it gives me to practice what I’d do in a terrible situation. Based on the above I think I know my first, second, third move for my context and this sitch. Thank you so much.

  56. Narise

    OP 3 If you need to interview employees to replace the employees leaving I think you should give a warning to those coming in to work at this company. If you interview alone you could bring up that the company or at least a former employee was in the news lately and you want to address any concerns they might have around it. Basically if they don’t know they will google it after your discussion and hopefully run for the hills. Of course I would love to ask ‘What is your stance on child porn?’ and have them react with disgust and then say ‘Oh our company isn’t entirely opposed to employees possessing this material only co-workers going to the police about it.’

  57. Marley

    Re: OP3: I hope the employee fired for whistleblowing has an attorney. Worker protections vary for whistleblowing, but they might be able to reach some kind of settlement.

    I do think that employee made a mistake in not telling management–but more as a heads up that he was going/had gone to the police, not in any sort of asking permission kind of way.

    1. SallytooShort

      I don’t think this would fall under any whistleblowing statute. She wasn’t disclosing company malfeasance but that actions of an individual employee.

        1. SallytooShort

          And that’s irrelevant to what we’re talking about. A whistle-blowing statute would allow the woman who was fired to sue or collect damages. As she wasn’t reporting any company crime that wouldn’t apply.

          And the police who investigated were told she was fired. If they are federal officers then they know there is a case. If they were local then he hasn’t been charged with a federal crime.

          I know you don’t agree with it but I think the OP is right to actually respect the wishes of a woman who just did the right thing. Rather than disrespect her on some misguided justice campaign. The police are aware. They looked at other company computers. Justice has been done. Disrespecting the informant is not necessary.

    2. Starbuck

      I don’t think they made a mistake at all- who knows if they might have tipped off the suspect, giving them time to escape or destroy evidence. Maybe they would have tried to destroy embarrassing evidence themselves on company property/devices. Management has clearly shown they won’t act with integrity so I’m not surprised the IT person didn’t bother giving them the benefit of the doubt.

  58. TJ (letter writer #3)

    I’m the one who sent in the third question in this morning’s 5 answers post. I wanted to thank Alison. It was a great answer. It was good advice and exactly what I needed to hear. I am appreciative of your response. I am baffled by the comments though. I didn’t really see anyone answer my question. I’m stunned people are urging me to disregard the wishes of my former employee who was fired. The police arrested the user of the device. I don’t know why people would think there was no investigating the company devices and I needed to tell them to do it or about a “cover-up”. The first thing the police did was search all company devices at the same time they searched the user’s personal ones. There was no cover-up. Nothing was found on any other company stuff and no one else was involved. The company didn’t even know until the police told them. I’m not a police officer and in no way will tell them to do anything.

    The police know she was fired. They have no standing to do anything. It is not a criminal matter anyway no matter how wrong it was it isn’t even illegal under the laws in our country. She has no case. The police know and they don’t care because there is nothing they can do about it. The arrest has been in the news. I mentioned it in my post. My fired employee didn’t want to keep the entire story hidden. She just doesn’t want it public she was the one who told the police or got fired. She doesn’t want her name in the news. She doesn’t want to sue and can’t anyways because under the law her firing was legal. The company never threatened her. She has a new job now. She wants to be left alone. I stated as much when I wrote in. I’m stunned people want us to sick the reporters on her even after what I said when I wrote in. There’s no way me or my other employees will disrespect her wishes in spite of the suggestions in the comments. Although I am beyond pleased with Alison’s response I can’t say the same for the comments at all.

    I will say thanks to Alison again for offering helpful advice and actually answering my question. I do appreciate it. Your advice is why I read Ask a Manager every day.

    1. SallytooShort

      You are 1000% right. She did the right thing. And she doesn’t deserve now having her wishes disregarded and her privacy disturbed.

    2. JB (not in Houston)

      Thanks for the update, and for respecting the wishes of your coworker. You sound like a good, conscientious manager.

      1. Ten

        Absolutely. TJ, if you want to know how you can best support your team as they all seek to leave, just keep on doing what you’ve been doing thus far. Your reports already know that you have their backs, and that is really the most important thing at a crazy time like this.

    3. Blue Eagle

      Thank you for the additional info, which helps us to better understand the situation. Too bad that the part about the company firing the employee who reported the situation to the police can’t be made public without implicating her; but in order to make public how terrible the company management is, it is unlikely that her name would be able to remain anonymous.

    4. cleo

      Thanks for the update. You deserve a lot of credit and support for standing by your staff and your principles. I was so impressed by your letter.

      I’m sorry the comments were so unhelpful for you. I think one takeaway is that a lot of internet strangers agree with you that your company is absolutely in the wrong in this case. So that may be useful to know (maybe not).

      Kudos and plaudits to you and best of luck on your job search.

    5. Laura Cruz

      Thanks for the update. I think we all want to see “justice” for the company treating the employee like this, hence all the urging to go to the media, but given the details you’ve provided (and at least the knowledge that she’s got a new job and moved on!), this is not going to have a “perfect” ending.

      As you say, the important thing is that the right person is in jail. It sounds like, for me, you’re doing the right thing by your current employees and best of luck finding a better job so you can put the jerks beyond you completely!

    6. Nita

      Thank you for the update! I suspect a lot of people went overboard because they assumed your coworker was unemployed and needed to take some action against the employer (to offset the impact of any bad reference from HR/become eligible for unemployment). Very glad to hear that’s not the case, and that she has a new job. It’s very understandable that she doesn’t want her name associated with this in any way, and just wants to move on. Hopefully the rest of your department will also be able to do that. Best wishes to all of you!

    7. ML

      I’m sorry your question got lost in the reaction to just how awful your managers, and the situation, are. How to survive when your boss sucks and isn’t going to change: on the job- Be as coolly polite and professional as possible, document your job for your eventual replacement, remind yourself that this too shall pass+your family is worth it, quietly warn new people if you safely can, and quietly be a good reference where possible. Outside the job- try to leave the job at work as much as possible, change the subject when it comes up, schedule family fun times, get lost in a hobby or a good book on the regular, schedule a counseling session or two to dump your stress out- basically whatever self care you can in the midst of job searching. Good luck, and thanks for being a decent person!

    8. automaticdoor

      You are so right. Reading down through, I don’t really understand the justice crusade that happened in these comments when that wasn’t the point of your question. Sure, everyone wants to see the nasty company get its due, but these are actual people’s lives we’re talking about here, and your context helps even more on that. As a person who works in a small, specialized field in a pretty insular city in the US, there’s no way I’d jump to suing someone, for example, as is so often the comment advice here. I’d honestly never find work in my industry again. I think people fail to recognize that the “just” and “correct” and “right” answer isn’t always the practical one.

    9. Oranges

      I think because Alison’s answer covered everything and getting enraged feels… good. I mean our brains do produce feel-good chemicals when we get angry over things we feel are “righteous”.

      Sorry that the mob formed. On the plus side it was against your company on the negative side it didn’t care about the collateral damage to your co-worker if you went to the media. Because mobs.

      You’ve acted with grace through a difficult time. Thank you.

  59. jtc

    In-house counsel here… if the #3 situation happened in my workplace, and it was reported internally first this is one that I would not investigate internally. I am not going to put anyone (namely myself) in the position to have accessed illegal content. I can’t even imagine what that investigation would look like beyond asking the employee what they discovered and picking up the phone to call the police. While I would appreciate being given a heads up for crisis management purposes before an employee goes to the police with a company owned device (and in our industry that device could contain very sensitive information), we would not fire someone for it. As the company’s chief risk mitigator I would be working full time on cooperating with the police to manage any risk to any company confidential/sensitive info without jeopardizing the investigation and also on the negative publicity aspects. I think sometimes our gut reaction (mine certainly) in internal legal is that we hate being surprised by something like this, but I try and view things in outcomes, i.e. did the right result occur, here, clearly yes, so I don’t sweat that it went down in a way that caught me a little off guard.

    PS People are insane and stupid about company issued devices. I have seen some things that I cannot unsee during other investigations – thankfully not involving anything illegal.

  60. LawLady

    #5 – A few years ago I applied at an investment bank for a position. The application included a checkbox that said “I would like to be considered for other positions I may be qualified for.” I of course checked that box, since I was job searching. I didn’t get the job and ended up in consulting, which I was perfectly happy with.

    But every 3 months or so for the next 3 years I would randomly get a generic rejection email for some job I hadn’t applied for, but which their system had considered me “qualified” for and thus put me into consideration. Usually they were jobs that had nothing to do with my skillset, so I think I qualified by having a bachelors in a technical field. I guess I like that they really do keep resumes, but I’ll be honest, spontaneous rejections aren’t great for one’s confidence.

    1. SallytooShort

      I do this with online dating. “Hey, it’s been awhile but I just wanted to remind you that I have no interest in dating you.” “This is just a check-in to confirm that you have been rejected for the position of sex partner.”

    2. paul

      Oh god. I hate job hunting enough as is; I think a random rejection during it would be kind of brutal.

      “Hey, you didn’t even apply for this but you suck so don’t even think about it”. Owch :(

      1. LawLady

        Yeah, exactly! It’s like, I know I’m not qualified to be a foreign exchange specialist, and I never would have applied, but there’s no need to gratuitously remind me of that!

    3. Lilly

      I also have a JD and applied to an investment bank position. I have a feeling that an investment bank job for a JD is a long shot – constant rejection.

      1. LawLady

        This was actually in my pre-law school career and I had some IB offers. Just went a different direction and then ended up lawyering.

        I have one friend from law school who ended up in banking (and a couple in private equity), but I think that’s a rarer path for JDs.

  61. ThursdaysGeek

    #5 – I got my current job that way. I was unemployed and had to apply for 3 jobs a week, even when I didn’t see any that looked reasonable for my skills. One of those was a super stretch, and they called and asked if I’d like to be considered for a different job, which was much more appropriate.

    One piece of advice: if you do go that route, try to get a copy of the job posting, or some details of the job other than just the job title and interview time. It was challenging answering the question “what interested you about this job?” when you aren’t really sure what they are even looking for yet.

    1. Lilly

      Good to know. I’ve applied to a bunch of jobs and HR has only suggested another position once since I’ve been searching. I think it’s unusual but it can happen. As one other commentator said, retaining resumes is just for their records.

  62. voyager1

    LW3,
    I think the company was wrong to fire the employee, but I wouldn’t have called the police either. Glad to hear the perp ended up in jail, which is the right outcome. I imagine this is a minority view because of the seriousness of this subject being inferred by the letter. I am also coming at this from a perspective of having a job that at times works
    close with law enforcement, so I would have been concerned about handing over the phone could hurt a future investigation/conviction without a search warrant. But this company handled it badly and they deserve some naming and shaming.

    1. JB (not in Houston)

      I’m trying to imagine a scenario where turning it over to the police would have hurt a future investigation or conviction in this case. This was not the person’s private computer, so he had no reasonable expectation of privacy. Plus, this was another person turning over the information to the police instead of the police independently deciding to take it or look at it, and the rules about throwing out evidence from warrantless searches often don’t apply to toss out the evidence in that kind of situation.

    2. Marie B.

      Wow. I’m curious as to what you would do then if you found out someone had child pornography, that was serious enough the offender was arrested at gunpoint and denied bail, and had a volunteer job working with kids.

      The employee from letter #3 definitely did the right thing. Telling the police was the right thing.

    3. a different Vicki

      I am not a lawyer either, but “did you have a warrant?” doesn’t apply when someone calls the police and says “please come to my home/office, I just found evidence of a crime.”

      1. voyager1

        I get what y’all are saying. I am just saying I would have made sure all the everything was crossed and dotted before handing over the device. I would think an IT dept would have a procedure for this situation at most companies. Most of my civilian career is has been in large companies dealing with financial information in crimes so that probably does alter/bias my views on this.

      2. CityMouse

        I am a lawyer and did deal with the legality of searches both as a prosecutor’s intern and a judicial clerk. There is no way that reporting pornography on a company device to the police would threaten the police’s warrant. If anything the internal investigation and handing off the computer to multiple people could potentially create holes for a defense attorney to blow holes in. Calling the police ASAP is always the right course of action in this situation.

  63. DumbQuestion

    My mouth is opening and closing like a fish at #3. Forget hiring managers thinking this is obnoxious. I’m trying to imagine the unemployment office denying her claim. Just…what?

  64. Elbe

    When they suggest that the fired employee should have gone to them first so that they could handle it, they’re suggesting the possibility that they wouldn’t have gone to the police.

    They wanted to leave that course of action open, apparently. This is insane and very, very wrong. I feel so bad for the fired employee and everyone involved.

    Going directly to the police prevented him from destroying evidence at his house and may also have prevented him from having access to minors during the time the company would have thought about taking it to the police.

    1. RB

      Companies like this are the reason that the Rob Porters of the world always manage to land on their feet after a firing or public disgrace.

  65. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #3 – someone mentioned “Sandusky”. Penn State, molestation, etc. Sandusky (a coach) went to prison. Joe Paterno – who up to that point was regarded as not only a great head coach – but an American legend – went to management — and not the Beaver Valley, PA police.

    So Joe Pa was implicated in a cover-up. He did go up the chain, was advised to shut up about it. At that stage, if he had gone to law enforcement – he would have covered himself, and allowed the efficient handling of the scandal.

    The IT person who was fired is in the same situation. Did the right thing. Sometimes doing the right thing can cost you employment, but, I think any good contingency lawyer would accept the IT person’s case. Looks like a doozy there, if I were one of those lawyers in the TV ads, I’d want that person to call me. The nuisance value of a suit could be substantial and the company would probably negotiate a good reference for the firee.

  66. Anon 12

    I know I’m in the minority here. The employee who called the police should not have been fired and I think the employer has created a giant legal and PR can or worms for themselves by firing her. However, she didn’t do the right thing either. She should have reported it internally to their legal team or whomever was high enough up in the org that she would feel okay about the hand off. I was an at employer where this happened and in most jurisdictions there are requirements that the employer call the police immediately. We did that and then followed their instructions re turning over the evidence properly, doing a follow on internal investigation, etc… Child pornography might seem obvious but I have seen other situations where joe employee thought they knew what was the legal and/or moral high ground and didn’t.

    1. Stapleton

      I completely disagree. I appreciate nuance and gray areas in some circumstances, but I am perfectly comfortable with a blanket rule that when you see child pornography, your first and immediate action should be to contact the police.

      As others throughout this thread have pointed out, reporting it internally risks more people seeing the material (why would you ever want to subject a person to such a thing, just to comply with some internal policy?) and unnecessarily opens questions about the purity and reliability of the evidence. This employee did the right thing, emphatically and completely.

    2. Erin

      You go to the people who are most capable of handling the situation first. Who do you call when your workplace is on fire? 911 and you get the fire department there, then you call your manager. In this situation it’s the police, and you cooperate fully to get this scum. If the police asked me not to call my supervisors so they can get a search warrant for the office computers and do a surprise search, I wouldn’t call my manager. Because if you didn’t follow police instructions it could be interfering with a police investigation. its I may loose my job, but at this point it would be a moral stance.

  67. BananaPants

    Re: #3 I asked a relative of mine who is in federal law enforcement and specializes in computer forensics. They felt that the fired employee did the WRONG thing by physically removing the device with child pornography from the premises and taking it to the police. While she certainly had the best of intentions, taking possession of the device and bringing it to the police herself may have jeopardized the prosecutor’s ability to get a conviction.

    I asked this relative what should be done in this kind of case. They said that if she didn’t have confidence that the company would notify the authorities, she should have notified the police and allowed law enforcement (either the local police or the FBI) to take it from there. Chain of custody is really important in computer forensics cases so that the defendant can’t try to claim there was evidence tampering or that they’ve been framed. Law enforcement needs network and device user access logs, copies of the files, etc. to prove that the person being charged was indeed the person who accessed the illegal material on that specific device .

  68. senatormeathooks

    Regarding #3: That company needs to come up with an actual legal policy of handling that type of situation (ie: run it by a lawyer) and stick to it.

  69. Twinkle Toes

    RE: LW #4:
    I’ve recently had a similar situation in where I interviewed for a firm thru a recruiter however I think this firm is trying to work around the recruiter. It so happened that my interviewer happened to be a personal connection (married to a former co-worker, Ceresi, from over ten years ago with whom I keep in “facebook touch” ie I see the former co-worker every year or so on a very causal basis) …I’d met this partner at more than one holiday party back in the day

    Anyway, the recruiter told me the company passed and then three days later the interviewer/friend-acquaintance )…and three days later, Jamie, emailed me to say they actually really hadn’t made a decision…and has been somewhat stringing me along. I’ve been ok with this as I’m not dying to leave my current position but I am definitely looking, it’s just that I haven’t wanted to focus all that much on a job search until Jan 2018.

    In the meantime, I finally have a second interview lined up next week. Which all things considered for me right now, works out pretty well (I was in the middle of two big projects with a lot of co-workers out for the holidays, I may not be happy where I’m at but also switching jobs at christmas time just seemed so stressful)….

    We’ll see what happens, a second interview is by no means more than that regardless of if they really like me or not (it sounds like it’s going to be a fairly rigorous interview)…anyway…I think point is it helps to be employed and busy and waiting things to work out between your self and a future employer if you are really interseted in them and there’s no telling what else is going on behind the scenes (I’m guessing here, they might be waiting for the go ahead on another new big project but don’t want to over hire to soon. Which also means they are the hire/fire/hire/fire kind of firm but I’m willing to take my chances!

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