survived office burglary, then ostracized by boss

A reader writes:

A few months ago, I was the only person in the office over a holiday. Lucky me, the office got broken into. I noticed the thieves before they noticed me, and I barricaded myself in my office and called 911.

But instead of being hailed as a hero, I was surprised by the treatment I got from my boss, the big boss, and HR. First, they told me that I should tell the police that I had not been authorized to work that day, which isn’t true! I was scheduled to work that day. I told the police the truth, and when I was subpoenaed to testify at the robbery trial, I told the truth there, too.

Since the robbery, everyone has been treating me terribly. I’m being given bizarre administrative tasks to complete (I do not have an administrative role) and am regularly dumped on by my boss. It feels as though they are trying to get me to quit since they knew they can’t fire me. Obviously, time for a new job, and I’ve been conducting a job search on my own time. I have a third-round interview this week and I feel it’s likely I’ll be offered the job, but what do I tell them when they ask why I’m leaving my current one? I know my current one won’t give a reference, and it’s clear they feel disinclined to help me out in any circumstance.

For what it’s worth, I’m actually considering litigation against my current job for failing to protect me while I worked alone in an office that has a history of break-ins, and I’ve got a good case for negligence.

What the hell?!

Seriously, what the hell?

I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know if you have a legal case, but what I do know is that your employer is handling this very, very weirdly. You survived a scary and dangerous situation on the job, and now they’re telling you to lie and treating you badly? A good manager would have told you to tell the truth, given you a few days off, and been extra nice to you when you came back. I’m glad you’re getting out of there.

If you’re already on your third-round interview and haven’t yet been asked why you’re leaving your current job, you may never be asked. But if you are, it’s fine to say that you work alone in an office that has had a series of break-in’s and after being there for the last one, you’ve decided to move on. That’s reasonable. You don’t need to get into your office’s weird behavior toward you, since you’re able to offer an honest explanation without having to badmouth anyone.

But jeez. Your office sucks.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. Michael*

    Putting on my conspiracy theory hat: Sounds like the big boss set up an inside job and you fouled it up by working when he thought the office was empty. Run for the exit!

  2. Adam*

    I'm trying to think of some logical (albeit underhanded) reason why they would be urging her to lie when the business was the victim. I'm drawing a blank…

  3. Evil HR Lady*

    I so want to call up the boss and ask what in the heck he's thinking.

    Good luck on the job search and I agree with AAM advice on how to handle it.

    And you don't typically need a reference from your current job–it only becomes an issue when you apply for the NEXT job.

  4. Henning Makholm*

    Assuming that the boss was in on the burglary is needlessly dramatic AND does not fit the facts we have. The boss did know that the OP would be there; he/she was scheduled to work that day.

    Second, it is clear from the description that what the employer worries about (rightly or wrongly) is that they may get into OHSA trouble for not giving the OP adequate protection against malevolent intruders. That is what they wanted him/her to lie about to the police ("… that I had not been authorized to work that day"). It also fits with the OP's speculation that he/she may have a liability case against the employer. And if he/she speculated this aloud, that may well have contributed to the ostracization.

  5. Anonymous*

    Yeah, I think the conspiracy theory, while fun, is probably not really true. But it does sound like maybe the company's liability insurance didn't cover employees in the office on weekends. That's about the only logical explanation I can believe. Definitely get out of there though – dishonesty in one area of the company is certainly matched in other areas.

    Good luck.

  6. smith17*

    If you had authorisation to work and propose making a claim, I suggest you take a print-out/photocopy of that authorisation – and take the copy home with you! Then you can prove you had permission to be there. It would be too late if you left and then found your computer had been wiped and no-one was prepared to confirm that you had permission.

    Perhaps also take a copy of evidence (a screen dump of emails sent on a Sunday for eg) showing that you had worked at weekends before, so you can establish it was not an isolated case. They might still try and suggest that you shouldn't really have been there and that it was a one-off.

  7. Jane*

    Makes me think of all the situations where companies/doctors end up losing a large suit simply because they were so busy playing defense that they never apologized to the plaintiff. These people are making a lawsuit much more likely with their behavior, and they're increasing the chances that they'll lose.

  8. Anonymous*

    I'd consult a lawyer in your area to see if you have any "constructive dismissal" claims available to you. It'll vary by state, but in some places and some cases, if an employer intentionally makes life hell for you at work with the goal of you quitting (so that they don't have to fire you because they don't want a wrongful dismissal suit), then you can treat it as if the employer did fire you.

    And firing you for not obeying a request to lie to the police would seem like something that would get the employer in hot water.

    You might be able to scare the employer into giving you a fat severance check in exchange for you leaving without putting up a fuss, but depending on the job market where you are it might have to be pretty big to cover your expenses while you find a new job.

  9. TheLabRat*

    Regarding AAM's last paragraph, if you are asked and give her great non-specific answer, there is a bonus in that you've been subpoenaed to tell your account; it's all part of public record now. So if your current employer decides to badmouth you in spite of you not doing likewise, there are court documents to make your point.

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