my employee didn’t give a coworker the message that his wife was in surgery, and now everyone hates him

A reader writes:

I’m a shift manager in a manufacturing/shop environment.

One of the workers on the other shift, “Percival,” was asked to fix an issue with the computer in the foreman’s office. Percival volunteers to do this and is always classified and paid accordingly, as per the collective agreement with his union. While he was fixing it, the foreman, “Wakeen,” covered his job (again as per the union agreement). While he was in the office, there was a phone call that Wakeen’s wife, Jane, had been injured on duty (she is a police officer) and was being taken to the hospital for immediate surgery. Percival did not even attempt to let Wakeen know what happened. There was a second call two hours later, and again Percival did not make any attempt to tell Wakeen. When Wakeen didn’t come to the hospital, Jane’s partner sent another officer to our shop and the security guard at the gate ended up calling Wakeen to come out. It was four and a half hours after Percival received the first phone call. Wakeen immediately left to go to the hospital where Jane was already in surgery.

Thankfully Jane recovered and is back at work. Wakeen was furious with Percival for not telling him or even attempting to look for him. Percival has said several times, to people here and in his grievance hearing, that he was planning on telling Wakeen near the end of the shift and didn’t tell him right away because if Wakeen left, he would have to go back to his job on the floor as opposed to getting to stay in the office. He also brought up racial issues about the police in America, even though we are not American and it has nothing to do with this.

Percival was fired but he filed a grievance. The outcome of the hearing was that he was given his job back with full back pay and our head office had to give him a letter of apology for the wrongful termination. He was not written up, demoted, or given a reprimand in his file. Nothing. The only consequence was he was sent over to my shift, which means nothing since he is still in the same job with same pay and the shifts rotate between days and afternoons every two weeks anyway. He did not have to apologize to Wakeen or admit any wrongdoing, and during his hearing he and the union made Wakeen out to be the bad guy.

Wakeen was so mad at Percival and the union that he quit. He was well liked by everyone who works here and now everyone is angry with Percival. I do not want him on my shift. If it was up to me, he would be fired. But I have no choice. I have to have him on my shift and I cannot fire him or demote him. Since the incident, everyone has shunned Percival and is only talking to him if they cannot avoid it for work related reasons. Percival has openly said he doesn’t feel bad about what he did and people have told him to shut up and will leave or ignore him if he starts talking.

How do I manage someone in this situation? No one on either shift wants Percival around. No one has done anything to him (assault, etc.) that is illegal or against the workplace rules and Percival hasn’t complained about anything, but I have never seen as much vitriol against a person. I admit to being angry with him and not wanting him on my shift but I have no choice. The head office has told me to tread lightly with Percival because they don’t want another grievance. How can I manage someone in this situation when I have no choice and can’t fire or demote them?

I know you write lots about problems that happen in offices, but I am honestly stuck between a rock and a hard place with this one and could use any help I can get.

So Percival openly admits that he didn’t tell Wakeen his wife was in injured and at the hospital because he felt like staying in the office and not going back to the shop floor?

What the actual F.

Percival is a terrible person, and we might have to retire his name from future letters so as not to unfairly impugn other people.

But if your employer has been clear that you’re stuck with him, you’re stuck with him.

This is one reason why taking the power of sensible managerial judgment out of the hands of managers can be hugely problematic. (And yes, there are lots of employers and managers who make terrible decisions, and there are lots of times when union or legal proceedings rightly intervene. This was not one of those times.)

If your employer had made the call to reinstate him themselves, I’d say that you should push back on that decision — pointing out the damage to morale and staff relations the incident has caused, and pointing out that Percival has destroyed his ability to work well with his colleagues. But they didn’t call this one themselves; they’re following a decision that it sounds like they’re legally bound to follow. So pushing back isn’t likely to change anything.

Instead, it sounds like all you can do here is let Percival experience the natural consequences of his actions. People are angry with him and don’t want to talk to him? Natural consequence of what he did; let him live with it. People aren’t going out of their way to make his life easier (trading shifts or doing other optional favors they might have done in the past)? Natural consequence of what he did; let him live with it.

You’d need to intervene if people flat-out refuse to work with him, or if he were being harassed, or if people were otherwise violating your workplace rules and expectations (or the law). You have an obligation as a manager not to allow that kind of thing to go on.

But people just really dislike him? People ignore him when he talks (about non-work things)? People leave the room when he comes in? That’s what happens when you deliberately screw over a coworker in a particularly crappy way and insist you didn’t do anything wrong.

It would also be smart to talk to your company’s HR or equivalent to make sure you’re clear on your own responsibilities in navigating this. You’re not in the U.S. but if you were, you’d need to be careful not to do anything that could look like retaliation for Percival’s initial grievance (and sometimes things that genuinely aren’t retaliation can look like retaliation and end up being legally problematic), and your country may have similar laws. You also want to know more generally what the boundaries are for you here, since clearly common sense isn’t what’s governing this.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 543 comments… read them below }

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I hope he cares more about the consequences than he’s letting on. But who knows? Someone that selfish truly may not care what anyone thinks.

        1. Antilles*

          Not as much that he doesn’t care as that Percival thinks he’s 100% in the right and made no mistakes. Therefore, any consequences are not a reflection on him (because, again he’s right), but it’s a reflection on *others*.

          1. Antilles*

            (Just to be clear, the last sentence is how *Percival* thinks about it – based on OP’s description, I can guarantee you that he’s playing the “I did nothing wrong, so I’m the real victim here” card in his own mind)

          2. Lissa*

            I bet this is it exactly. Once somebody perceives themselves as the injured party, others treating them with contempt etc. is never going to have the effect people want it to “Oh if everyone thinks I did the wrong thing, maybe I should re-examine my behaviour!” Nope, others are recast as bullies/oppressors/mean jerks in the situation.

        2. Chinook*

          I have heard stories of DH’s public interactions at coffee shops or other places where he was just patrolling and not looking for anyone and I know that Percival’s do exist. They are the reason he won’t eat in certain restaurants (out of fear of what they would do to his food) and will change plans on the fly when he is off duty because he sees a certain vehicle. They truly do think that all cops are “evil pigs” and get deserve whatever happens to them. They have no sympathy for the families of dead/injured cops and some even take joy in making their lives even worse.

          All I can hope for is karma to come back and hit Percival firmly in the butt.

          1. Startup Hell Lisa*

            Percival made some excuses about cops after being called out, but he obviously was so lazy and selfish he would have acted the same way no matter what job the wife had.

            (I’m one of those people who has real, serious objections to the policing system in America and would like to see it entirely replaced, but I would never do anything like what Percival did.)

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Ditto. To all of it.

              I actively work to change the way policing is done in the US, but that is completely irrelevant here. Someone has a family member, partner, close significant other going into emergency surgery, You Tell Them. Even if they’re the biggest actual piece of **** in the world.

      2. Lance*

        The trouble is, it doesn’t sound like it bothers him in the slightest, especially knowing he can hide behind his union (and being very more than willing to do so).

        1. Southern Ladybug*

          I strongly support unions. But it’s cases like this that severely damage all efforts in my state for unionization.

            1. KP84*

              I agree – I am pro-union but too often they can be their own worst enemies. They need to protect their members but there needs to be limits. (and also, I presume Wakeen is a member of the union too – so the union helped one member screw over another).

              1. tigerStripes*

                Agreed that there should be limits. Protecting someone who did something like this isn’t reasonable.

              2. Hey Nonnie*

                Is there some way for the remaining shop workers to bring this up to the union themselves? The OP most likely can’t say anything since they’re management, but the entire shop staff is feeling the effects of Percival’s reinstatement. If 100 union members go to their leadership and say that this is a problem, you’d think it would have some effect. They exist to support ALL members, not just one guy.

              3. Indoor Cat*

                “and also, I presume Wakeen is a member of the union too – so the union helped one member screw over another”

                See, this is tricky, because union norms and rules vary widely by country. So, for example, Wakeen is the foreman / floor supervisor, and let’s say this whole thing took place in Costa Rica. Wakeen might not be part of the union, then, because he’d be considered a state employee (it’s confusing because Costa Rica is sorta-Socialist? But in a different way than, say, Bernie Sanders is sorta-Socialist; that is, different divisions of private enterprise capitalism and public good / service socialism than here, but still not exactly socialist).

                So, right. Foreman Wakeen wouldn’t be protected by a union in Costa Rica, he’d be protected by the state, and have a state representative at the hearing. But, that doesn’t mean he’d automatically win; in fact, state assigned representatives are frequently not as compelling as union representatives. Beyond that, there could be a ton of cultural / sub-cultural factors at play that we could only guess at.

                tl;dr — this varies a LOT by country and region, which makes advice hard to give.

          1. Steve*

            Wasn’t Wakeen a union member too? Do they routinely take the side of one employee against the other in cases like this? Or is it because Wakeen was Management?

            1. Bea*

              If Wakeen was the foreman which is what the post states, he would not be in the same union as the shop worker he oversaw. Unions won’t work right if you have management within them.

              1. Doreen*

                I’m not going to say it works well, but I’ve belonged to two unions that included supervisors and the people they supervise and I know a number of others that do as well. And although I am sure there are lots of fields where people are divided between workers and managers, there are many others with foremen/supervisors who are not managers.

          2. WildLandLover*

            I do as well and hearing about these kinds of things makes my blood boil as it gives ALL unions a bad name and makes it harder for labor to organize and protect the interests of the working class. Grrrrr . . .

          3. sumthing*

            The general public often doesn’t understand that unions are bound by their contracts too. I don’t know the details in this case, but if the union had negotiated specific conditions for dismissal (like poor work product, excessive lateness, etc) and Percival’s weird behavior did not meet any of those conditions, they were still obligated to defend him. On the plus side, since this upset many union members, they can advocate for the rules to be changed the next time the union contract is up for negotiation.

            1. sstabeler*

              actually, that doesn’t apply here- they didn’t just argue that Percieval was unfairly dismissed, but that Wakeen was the bad guy for complaining in the first place. THAT was unreasonable.

      3. Anion*

        Except, no he doesn’t. He’s not reaping anything except silence. He got his job back and everyone is afraid to upset him; Percival is the winner in this situation. It’s absolutely disgusting, honestly.

        1. lokilaufeysanon*

          It doesn’t sound like they’re afraid to upset him. They are actively ignoring him and telling him to shut up when he speaks. (Not LW, but the other co-workers.) That doesn’t sound like the actions of people who are afraid of upsetting him.

        2. Annonymouse*

          And I bet it plays to his victim mentality. Again as far as he is concerned (only in his mind and not reality) he’s the one that’s been mistreated.

          “Whenever I speak or enter the lunchroom everyone leaves or tells me to shut up. I mean I’m the victim here! I had to go to the union and they gave me my job back! And Wakeen was so guilty about what he did to me that he quit! Why is everyone acting like I’M the bad guy?”

        3. Stephanie*

          So true! I cannot believe he got his job back and not even a write-up. So freakin unfair!!! I wonder if there had been a tragedy would the result been the same!!

    1. Chinook*

      As a police spouse, I am speechless. I would be beyond angry if I was Wakeen and what Percival did was beyond the pale. Every police spouse leaves in fear of someone in uniform showing up at their workplace or front door because that is usually only done in case of life threatening injury or death. If I saw a cop looking for me by name, I would break into tears before they uttered a word thinking the worse has happened. Even now my heart beats faster at the thought of seeing someone at my door (doubly worse if they have removed their hat as a sign of condolences).

      And if I found out that my worry was caused because a message was not passed on to me, I would take that emotion and direct it at Percival. A phone call to go to the hospital means it is major enough to go pick him up but minor enough that I don’t have to rush there and don’t need to panic. (I don’t even get a phone call when it is minor enough for him to drive himself home.)

      Percival literally caused Wakeen unnecessary anguish because he didn’t want to do his regularly scheduled job and has a hate on for cops? That tells me everything I ever need to know about Percival’s character and I would never be able to work with him again and I would have a hard time working for an organization (either company or union) that stated that this behavior and attitude were okay.

      1. OhNo*

        Seriously, Percival’s behavior is beyond the pale. I’ll admit that I have my issues with the police as an institution, but those are real human people in those uniforms, who have families that worry about them. The fact that Percival is okay throwing Wakeen to the emotional wolves because he can’t separate the person from the profession is… really messed up, quite frankly.

        I’m honest enough to admit that I would be one of those coworkers giving Percival the cold shoulder after all that came out. I hope he’s not in a position that deals with safety or anything like that, because even if he wasn’t acting like a jerk, I wouldn’t be able to trust him again for fear that his opinions about my job would lead him to see me as acceptable collateral damage.

      2. Anion*

        I’m not generally a prayin’ lady, Chinook, but I sincerely pray that you never have to answer that door. My mom was an ER nurse so knew a lot of cops; she dated a few of them and I got to know a few of them fairly well–and every one of them that I knew was a good and decent man who truly wanted to help people and keep them safe. I’m sure your husband is the same.

        (My husband wanted to join the force at one point, but I talked him out of it because I couldn’t bear the thought of living with that fear/uncertainty. Now I regret it and wish I’d encouraged him instead, but we’d only been married a year and a half or so and had a newborn daughter at the time–and one of my mom’s boyfriends lost his brother in the line of duty a few years prior, and that was still too fresh in my mind.)

      3. Annonymouse*

        Not to mention any distress he caused Jane if she was conscious enough before going into surgery to wonder:

        “Hey, it’s been 2 hours and my husbands job is a 20 minute drive from here. Why isn’t he here yet?” (This is the calm version. I imagine there’d be more panic, swearing and emotional distress if she were awake.)

        It sounds like the company clearly thinks this isn’t ok but the union does – or at least from a “this isn’t in the handbook/you need to warn them first so firing is invalid” standpoint.

        Maybe if Percival regularly gets 4.5 hour delays in messages meant for him it will show him at least partly why what he did is so Schmidt. (removing the shot spouse/cop issue out – it is still super bad practice to not pass on a message because you don’t want to do your own job)

        1. Stephanie*

          Did not even think about that. Imagine if she was waiting for her husband and she was stressed that he was not there. Awwww..hope that wasn’t the case :(

      4. Been there*

        Solidarity… My husband wears the fire badge so I understand exactly where you are coming from. I’ve always told him that if he calls me from the hospital (which he has) that I’m probably going to laugh at him for doing something stupid. If a coworker calls me (which they have) I’ll listen first then probably laugh at him for doing something stupid, but if anyone shows up at our doorstep I know that it’s serious.

        During the time we’ve been married I’ve picked him up from the ER at least 3 times. And while my reaction may seem glib to most, you and I both know the reality when our spouses walk out the front door. If I were Wakeen I’d make it my life’s mission to make him miserable every moment he was at work. I wouldn’t be proud of myself, but I would do it.

      5. This Daydreamer*

        Oh, wow. I hadn’t even thought about the assumption Wakeen must have made when the police came to his workplace. That is deeply horrifying.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      All I’ve come up with as a response is Leverage, and sociopathic shop floor workers weren’t really their usual target.

  1. JessaB*

    What the actual F, indeed? Wakeen’s wife could have died. He would have forever missed the opportunity to talk to her before surgery. He would have forever missed the moments with her colleagues. How the heck did the union governing body argue this the way they did? I hope Wakeen finds a really good job with really good people and that OP doesn’t have too hard a time dealing with Percival.

    1. Bolt*

      I imagine the wife dying would’ve been the only way that Percival would’ve been disciplined or fired… the union would have argued up and down that since no harm was actually done (except causing unnecessary distress to Wakeen’s wife as she was being prepared for surgery) that Percival had done nothing wrong.

      Stuff like this is what give unions such a bad reputation…

      1. Melissa*

        “Stuff like this is what give unions such a bad reputation”

        Exactly what my reaction was. I’m a union member, and this guy gives all of us a bad name.

        1. Allypopx*

          I admit I’ve never been part of a union and while I have some surface level knowledge of how they work, and the good they can do, I have a subconscious bias against them. My partner is becoming a teacher and he’s dreading joining a union. We *know* they do more good than harm in the grand scheme, and that they’re important, and we support them when ballot questions come up, but this kind of thing really makes it hard for me to get behind them whole-heartedly.

          1. Amy*

            My MIL is a retired teacher and works part time in the local union office, the nonsense I hear coming out of that office is insane.

          2. Emi.*

            My grandmother’s union refused to lift a finger when some of its members were illegally underpaid, so I’m very sympathetic.

          3. Bea*

            Unions are just as money hungry and self absorbed as the employers that they’re trying to regulate.

            My dad was a union member and was forced into early retirement, taking a huge cut in pension because of a spineless piece of trash union. So yeah. Unions give themselves bad names indeed.

            My partner was a union member for awhile. The garbage union agreed to a wage cap and decided to fight for an hour lunch in return. Because an extra long lunch break, woohoo when your top paying person hits a ceiling that’s lower than minimum wage in a city a dozen miles away.

          4. Wilhelmina Mildew*

            My husband’s union is the ONLY reason his company pays a (kind of) livable wage and has insurance benefits we can actually afford to use (something we desperately need as I’m disabled) but then they also turn around and pull stunts like Protecting The Jobs of Assholes Who Should Be Fired Already and he just wants to tear his hair out.

          5. Liz*

            When I worked at a university, one of my coworkers was fired for padding his time sheet (he claimed more hours than the building was open) and drinking on the job. He appealed to the staff union and got his job back.

            In my delivery service days, I worked with an extremely anti-union driver. He had been a UPS driver until the big strike in the mid-1990s. The settlement included laying off a bunch of drivers, including him.

          6. Candi*

            We have so many stories about the local branch of the teachers’ union. Effectively, they’re in bed with the administration. If you’re below a principal, good luck -the union won’t help you.

            Best example from within the last five years: 9th grade English teacher was diagnosed in August with cancer. She needed immediate treatment, including twice a week chemo. Her condition meant medications, including painkillers that could knock a horse loopy.

            Her union-negotiated health benefits said that, because of the ‘short notice’, she had to come in one day a week to keep her job and her healthcare (pre-2014, so Expanded Medicare wasn’t an option). So one day a week, she was at her desk, sick from chemo and looped out on painkillers.

            Another side effect was, because she was there one day a week, the school couldn’t hire a long-term sub. The result was the kids rarely had the same teacher three days together. LOTS of lost paperwork.

            The only kids who got passing grades were the two whose parents were in the military and being transferred. The school basically just handed the grades to them. Everyone else had to retake 9th grade English the next year.

            But the union totally did “everything in their power” to help her. They said they did. They stuck completely to the letter of the contract. (/cynical)

        2. Jadelyn*

          Same here – I’m pro-union, but in moments like this I have to admit I can understand why some people have such a negative view of them, because of people like Percival using their union as a weapon against others and a shield from the consequences of being a complete ass.

          1. Steve*

            People can use them for cover for all sorts of assedness. I know of a guy who seemed to spend 10% of his time showing up to his job and actually working, 70% slacking off, and 20% threatening to file grievances or whatever. He eventually got fired but it took years.

        3. kittymommy*

          I’m actually a little surprised the union would go to bat on this. Granted I don’t have a great deal of familiarity with unions but the ones I do know have some choice in fighting for a member, dependent upon circumstance.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            From my understanding when you work in a Union shop you are usually under a type of “contract”, not a we will employee you for x amount of years/time contract but one that says you can only be fired for cause under certain circumstances. While what Percival did was horrible, my feeling is he did not actually violate any workplace rules on what is considered misconduct. This is one of those issues where the Morally right thing to do and the legal thing to do are different.

            1. Trillion*

              Speaking as a former supervisor of union staff and a current union member. The union could absolutely have chosen not to go to bat for this or negotiate for him to get his job back with no back pay or some other compromise. Good unions will recognize the value of working WITH the employer while making sure their member are fairly represented.

              1. Kristin D.*

                Also, good unions don’t want to alienate all of their other members by going to bat for an employee whose conduct has a negative effect on them. They will usually try to negotiate some kind of buyout with severance and resignation.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  This. Infuriating all the other union members because technically Percival didn’t impact the work flow or physically endanger another union member seems almost criminally short-sighted.

              2. Elysian*

                Remember though that these folks aren’t in the US and we don’t know where they are, so the rules about what the union must or can or doesn’t have to do could be different than we’re used to.

                1. Knitting Cat Lady*


                  Over here in Germany the Union offers legal insurance for work place disputes, wrongful dismissal, etc.

                  And the firing here would have been classed as wrongful dismissal.

              3. Caitlynn*

                If the contract said, for example, that firing must come after X and Y disciplinary or PIP type processes, then the union must fight for even a terrible person like Percival. The duty of fair representation and also the strength of that part of their contract both demand it. One could argue (though this case is so egregious that it’s tough to defend) that the management screwed up by violating their processes.

          2. Chameleon*

            Having been on the board of trustees for my union, I will say:

            A) Unions can absolutely choose not to defend a member who has clearly broken tenets of the contract or otherwise flagrantly misbehaved.

            B) Unions really are morally and to some extent legally required to defend workers who have not broken contract terms. It is quite possible that Percival’s behavior was not outside of written policy, and “flagrant misbehavior” can be a seriously grey area. Unions *are* required to defend workers who have been mistreated, even if they are personally total d-bags.

            C) Unions are made up of humans who may not make the right judgement calls. Maybe the person who made this call is best friends with Percival’s wife. Or maybe they are like the HR guy who won’t fire someone because they are afraid of wrongful termination or ADA lawsuits even if the situation wouldn’t allow one.

            I don’t want to defend the union necessarily, because Percival was ABSOLUTELY in the wrong, but it is quite possible that legally speaking they had to, or even just thought they had to.

            1. Trillion*

              True but most union contracts I’ve seen have a type of standards of conduct section which this could most likely be applied to.

              Secondly I’m wondering if he was even working or just loafing about in which case he could justifiably be cited for stealing time.

              In all honesty the other union co-workers could and should speak up. Not in my current organization but in a former one we got rid of our union local 1234 and voted to instead join 5678. We did this because despite objection from 83% of voting union members 1234 decided to fight for reinstatement and back pay of an employee who stepped over a coworker who was having a heart attack and never called 911 or attempt to assist. The coworker passed away and when questioned the employee stated he didn’t care what happens to a little [racial slur]. None of us wanted to work with him again and our union chose to ignore the wishes of the collective body so we got one who did.

              1. Questioning*

                If this is possible, if I was OP I would lay out two options to anyone who came to me to complain.
                1. File a complaint with the current union
                2. If you believe the current union is not representing you – you may want to review options for other representation who does.

                Ideas like that spread like wildfire in an angry/unhappy environment.

              2. kittymommy*

                I think this is what I was thinking of. The two that are at my organization likely have this, since I know that there are particular (grievous) incidents that they have “chosen not to defend”.

                Thanks y’all.

                1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

                  I am wondering how a person can do that and not end up having some sort of criminal charges filed against them!

                2. Candi*

                  If in the US, he may have had charges filed against him. Depending on his location. I know our county has an ordinance about actively not assisting someone in need -which basically means you legally have to pick up the phone and call 911 if you see a crime/someone in need of help. (In practice, it’s a lot iffier.)

          3. Friendly union volunteer*

            There is nothing in the letter to indicate that the union DID go to bat for Percival. For example, you can still go up in front of the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board (in Canada) without your union backing you up- you still have that right. That said, if your union refuses to back you, there is a good chance that you don’t have a hope in h-e-double hockey sticks.

          4. MentalEngineer*

            I’m the contract enforcement officer for my workplace. In our case, members can always file a grievance themselves, but the union has discretion over whether to give them support. I would have left this guy hanging, and the rest of my chapter’s board would have been completely satisfied with the decision. I’ve got two hypotheses for why the union went all-in for this knucklehead:
            a) The workplace steward is bad at their job, or a higher-up has been providing bad training for a while – both sadly possible.
            b) State/provincial/national laws and/or a contract that forced the union to do it. If OP’s union can’t file legitimate grievances unless they also pursue bad cases like this one for some legal reason, or are required to represent any member who wants to file a grievance, then they might’ve just been stuck with it. I don’t know how you wind up with a contract like that, because neither a smart union nor a smart employer would want a mandatory full union grievance any time anyone’s unhappy about anything, but OP seems to be outside the US and it might be something to do with that.

          5. Optimistic Prime*

            My dad is a member of (and for a while was pretty involved in) a pretty good union and I was surprised by this too. They supported their people but I don’t think they would’ve stood for this from one of their employees.

        4. JessaB*

          Yeh, union true all my life but this is beyond. If there’s an appeal process if I were management, I’d run it out to the last word if need be before I let Percival come back.

      2. Bostonian*

        That makes twisted sense, but is awful. That’s like saying it’s ok to drive drunk as long as you don’t actually hit anyone… i mean, the potential to do harm is still there!

      3. Questioning*

        I have never been in a union but would the other employees be able to stop membership/payment to the union citing that they don’t believe the union is acting on behalf of their interests? Unfortunately, in most cases money talks.

        1. Trillion*

          Depends on specifics but yes if enough people chose to join a different union it could be possible to switch from say ironworkers to teamsters.

        2. Fiennes*

          Idk whether that’s a realistic response in the OP’s situation/jurisdiction, but if any of the justifiably outraged coworkers is in the same union as Perceval, some strongly worded emails/calls etc might be in order. By defending the unworthy, the union weakens its value to the majority of its membership.

        3. Optimistic Prime*

          Mmm, sometimes not. Sometimes a workplace is a ‘union shop’ where in order to be an employee there you have to be a member of the union. In other cases, you may technically work there but the best benefits and positions go to union members.

      4. Izacus*

        I don’t know why you’re pulling unions into this – the OP said they’re not in USA and the case seems very similar on how most EU country labor laws would work.

        Since Percival didn’t do anything wrong with his work-related tasks or broke any laws, there’s no legal grounds for termination (in most EU coutnries labor laws, being a crap person isn’t good enough grounds for termination if you do your job duties well). Any person, unionized or not, would get reinstated with back-pay in most EU juristictions.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Surely delivering messages in a timely manner is part of performing one’s duties well. He very clearly stated that he didn’t deliver numerous messages because he didn’t want to go do his real job. Forget what the messages were – that should be enough for at least disciplinary action due to failure to perform.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            Exactly this – and no matter how good he was at his tasks, what he did, and the reasons he gave for it, are enough to fire him because he’s making the workplace toxic. He’s essentially lost all trust of everyone around him.

      5. Stephanie*

        Totally agree on this. I work for a union and have seen many injustices and you wonder why they sometimes get a bad reputation. I cannot believe he was not disciplined or fired and the fact that he has been cleared of any wrong doing just makes my blood boil. If that had happened to him, I wonder what he would have done. Ugghhh…

    2. Ange*

      My guess would be that there is no rule about notifying someone if there is a call like that for them, so the union’s case is that Percival broke no rule, even if anyone with an ounce of compassion or common sense understands that morally Percival is in the wrong. He can still legally be in the right. And I am not sympathetic to him at all, but IME lots of these cases where the fired person was clearly in the wrong, if you look into it you find it’s a procedural thing i.e. management did not follow procedure or technically the fired person did not break procedure.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s an interesting point. In your experience, is it worth making a workplace policy about things like this? I’ve never made a workplace policy, so I don’t know if it’s overkill or if these things just unfortunate flukes.

        1. Ange*

          I don’t know – I think a lot of times if you do that you end up with a lot of very odd, extremely specific policies to fix extremely specific problems woth one or a small group of people that usually you could fix by dealing directly with that person/people. Like having specific sites banned rather than a policy of reasonable personal internet use because Bob spent all his time on gambling sites.

          1. Feo Takahari*

            I believe these are known as “don’t stuff beans up your nose” rules. The existence of the rule just makes more people aware that someone might conceivably stuff beans up their nose for some reason.

            1. Ange*

              Otherwise you end up with things like the guy who nearly ran over my stepmom on her bike because he was using a huge calculator while driving, who told her it was ok because it wasn’t a phone! Because in the UK there’s a specific law about driving while using a mobile. There’s also a general offence of “driving without due care and attention” but people seem to only remember the specific mobile phone rule.

            1. Candi*

              Wil Wheaton and TV Tropes call it “Don’t be a d!ck”.

              Cracked and Alison call it “Be nice”.

              Either way, it’s ‘be a good neighbor’. Gold and platinum rules. And a good attitude!

    3. Hills to Die on*

      I know people bash the labor laws in America, but in this case it would be a very good thing because Perceval would still be out and all would be right with this situation.

      1. Snark*

        Let’s not go too far. American labor laws are so employer-friendly as to be abusive to the rights and health of workers, and being able to fire the occasional deadweight doesn’t seem to justify that.

          1. Girl Alex PR*

            But you’re not entirely right. I work for the federal government and we had a very similar thing happen- a colleague of mine AT A HOSPITAL didn’t tell another coworker that their child was in ICU. The little girl was in a coma by the time her father arrived. The person who took the message wasn’t fired or reprimanded, because we didn’t have a policy on notification in cases of emergency.

            1. Southern Ladybug*

              W.T.ACTUAL.F? I can’t believe there are two stories (LW and yours) at this level of messed-upness.

              The poor father. I hope the little girl survived. And the colleague is shunned. There is a special place in hell for these people.

            2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              Please tell me his daughter ended up being ok. And that the person who took the message was an outcast

        1. Bobbocio*

          Also a unionized employee might well be reinstated in the States too. Long-standing employee with no previous misconduct (assuming), successful past performance reviews (another assumption), no explicit workplace rule violated, no actual harm done except for stress…

          I’ll also point out, it will (likely) be extremely difficult to manage this employee in the future, who will see everything as reprisal or workplace bullying (because he knows everyone hates him).

          And frankly… there will probably be some workplace bullying, because even well-intentioned people will want to bully Wakim for being such an insensitive jerk to his colleague.

          So much sympathy for the supervisor in this case, who now has an impossible job. I actually dealt with a similar scenario, and the manager ended up quitting eventually too, because “Wakim” was so impossible to work with.

          1. CatCat*

            Spot on.

            I used to defend my employer’s adverse personnel actions against employees who were both unionized and had strong civil service protections. If circumstances like in your first paragraph existed, I’d be pretty up front with the employer that a challenge to the termination would probably fail before the body charged with adjudicating these disputes. I would have recommended a lesser sanction.

            The supervisor is in a terrible spot. Alison’s advice is excellent, but the situation may be untenable given the social vitriol. I anticipate there will be turnover from people just not wanting to be in Percival’s presence.

            1. Chinook*

              “If circumstances like in your first paragraph existed, I’d be pretty up front with the employer that a challenge to the termination would probably fail before the body charged with adjudicating these disputes. I would have recommended a lesser sanction. ”

              As someone fully sympathetic to Wakeen, I almost wish the employer had been less harsh in their punishment because at least then it might have stuck. Hopefully, Wakeen left the company not because of what the company did but because of the union, which he would have been forced to continue to interact with. Unless they made it perfectly clear that they didn’t agree with Percival’s actions, it honestly looks like they agree that it wasn’t a big deal that the message wasn’t passed on and/or that they agreed with Percival’s stated opinions about cops and racial issues (which had nothing to do with the country they lived in)

                1. Candi*

                  What bugs me is if it’s really a “neverending” parade, or it just gets played up that way by the media.

                  You don’t hear about Officer McGoodCop who, whatever his biases, treats everyone the same under the law, or his department, that cracks down on disparate treatment. You only hear the bad stories, about the racist jerks and the departments that perpetuate that thinking in their culture. The ones that need to be tanked -but hearing about them all the time destroys hope.

                  It’s easy to absorb poison if that’s all that’s put in front of you day to day. The good cops drown in the well. :(

            1. Chinook*

              And the LW needs to be clear to the other union members why they need to stop bullying – because it may end up benefitting Percival in the long run. That way, it is clear that it isn’t because they condone his behavior but to prevent him from benefitting from it.

        2. Harper*

          Yeah, and we don’t really know the whole story. There could have been a process that the employer was supposed to go through in order to fire Percival, a process which all parties had agreed to, and they screwed it up, so this jerk gets his job back. I know people like to bash unions, but honestly, I hate to think of the conditions we would be forced to work under if they had never existed in this country. People tend to forget that.

      2. Izacus*

        And what would that accomplish? Percival did his job and according to the court he did his job well as per agreement. There’s no grounds for his firing except your own personal vendetta against his behaviour, which isn’t work related.

        1. Candi*

          It’s not a personal vendetta on anyone’s part. Perc was a cold-hearted arse and admittedly lazy, not passing on the message so he wouldn’t have to go back to his floor job. (Which debates the spirit of ‘doing his job well’.) Bad attitude -“fit”- is absolutely something that non-union places fire over, for good and bad reasons.

          You have to be very careful about court decisions. It was a court decision that originally gave us the (much greater scale) separate but equal, and held up Executive Order 9066 -the Japanese internment camps.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I suspect the CBA does not allow firing without cause, and notifying Wakeen was likely not an essential or required or expected business function. It’s just common courtesy. From that perspective, the Union going to bat for Percival makes sense. It might leave a bad taste in our mouths, but if their goal is to ensure workers are only fired “for cause,” then this is a good example of a situation in which it would not be appropriate to fire Percival on that basis.

      I don’t think this gives unions a bad name. I just think it emphasizes that some people are so narrow-minded and selfish that they will choose not to behave like good humans regardless of the circumstances. And sometimes, when behaving like a good person is not a necessary job function, they will be insulated from the employment consequences of that behavior (if not the interpersonal consequences).

      1. Myrin*

        That’s exactly what I thought, as someone from a country where it’s much harder to fire someone than in the US. Percival behaved absolutely despicably on a human and moral level and deserves all the shunning that can come his way. But on the policy and legal level, he most likely didn’t do anything wrong; he might have if he just didn’t answer the phone at all and it was an essential function of being in the office to do so but that wasn’t the case. There probably aren’t any policies around contacting the relevant person in case a personal phone call comes through, probably because no one would expect a situation as horrendous as this one to happen.

        1. Trillion*

          But the problem with that is now the employees who are shunning dear old Percy could be open to discipline as their actions could be seen as bullying etc. Which stinks as he should be shunned out the door and into a river as far as I’m concerned.

    5. Katie*

      My dad was a union rep for many years, and he had to argue grievance cases without forming an opinion on the union member’s role in the incident. So whether he thought the person was justified or a monster, he was obligated to put the same effort into finding a case to defend him. I don’t think this should give unions a bad name.

    6. Optimistic Prime*

      Or if she was unconscious, Wakeen may have needed to make some decisions for her as her next of kin that he was unable to make. That may have happened regardless of whether or not she died.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I am agog. Like jaw-dropped, muttered “hoooooly…..” outloud agog.

    I suspect Percival and everyone who works with him knows what he did was horrifyingly selfish—aside from the seriousness of Jane’s injury, the hospital likely needed access to Wakeen in order to make critical medical care decisions on Jane’s behalf while she was incapacitated. I don’t blame Wakeen for leaving, and I don’t blame everyone for strongly disliking Percival. It sounds like the CBA has overridden the decision to fire Percival, so as Alison notes, you’re stuck on that level, OP.

    But I am all for letting him experience the natural consequences of his abjectly awful behavior, with the caveats that Alison posed. Obviously don’t retaliate, but you don’t have to insulate him from the reactions he’ll receive to being an absolute ass and behaving like a garbage human being.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      My thoughts pretty much exactly. Four hours is a long time, and Wakeen might’ve had to make tough decisions re. his wife. All just because Percival didn’t want to leave the office and do his actual job?

      My mind is blown that he was allowed to keep his job and didn’t have to apologize to Wakeen…

      1. Kelly L.*

        Not that Jane is a horse, but this made me think of the letter by the woman whose horse died, and how crucial a few hours can be in terms of medical decisions.

        1. AFRC*

          YES! That was my first thought too. Someone posted the link further down in the comments. The horse was a beloved pet, so maybe not AS close as a spouse, but pretty close.

    2. 42*

      And there’s no appeal process whatsoever? None??

      I’m wondering now if there was some kind of bias in Percival’s favor at the hearing, because the decision is just so, so egregious. Does he have any connections with the hearing board?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        My best guess is that the CBA requires a specific process be followed for firing and that Percival had to be fired for cause. There’s a lot of information we don’t know, but I could totally see an unbiased hearing board finding that this doesn’t constitute “cause,” even if it’s rotten/garbage-person behavior.

      2. Boop*

        I imagine the hearing was about Percival’s termination, not about his appalling behavior. If he didn’t violate policy/law, they could argue that his termination was unfounded and force the employer to reinstate him. If you look at the case in that light, I can see how the union might argue the case. Whether or not he deserved to get fired for being a waste of oxygen is not the union’s concern.

        I’m always intrigued by the person who goes through something like this and then insists on returning to work as if nothing happened. Surely he knew that even if he “did nothing wrong” his colleagues likely would not see it in the same light. What makes him want to return to the place where he has obviously burned so many bridges?

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Yeah. I mean, honestly, I would be tempted to leave if I saw this all happen. Or at the very least, if I was also a member of the union in question, I would make my displeasure with their decision known.

  3. K.*

    I am baffled that Percival suffered no work-related consequences for this, and fully on board with him suffering interpersonal consequences.

    1. Embarcadero '34*

      There are perhaps other consequences OP (or someone else on the floor) could arrange for Percival when management and stewards are occupied elsewhere. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

      1. Ange*

        Hey, no. Not cool. Percival is a terrible human being but that doesn’t given anyone the right to harm him.

      2. Amazed*

        What kind of consequences?

        I can get that one might wish outright violent consequences upon people with this combination of narcissism and a demeaning worldview – we saw tons of it in the wake of Charlottesville, after all – but that’s going to be pretty transparent to the authorities and will probably require all sorts of health and safety violations (depending on what country this is taking place in) which will come with their own penalties.

        And it sounds like the coworkers are already applying what little consequences they can, making him the pariah, without actually crossing over into workplace noncompliance (like the admin assistant who couldn’t do her job because people shunned her boss), which would make it legitimately their own failing.

        And all of these require actively conspiring against a coworker who already has the law on his side, which hopefully isn’t on any paper trail, or else the plan and the planners are sunk.

        So what kind of consequences are left?

    2. Kristin D.*

      I’m surprised, too. Even if the hearing officer (panel? arbitrator?) found that there wasn’t sufficient cause for termination, usually they’ll throw the employer a bone and give the employee a suspension or reprimand.

    3. eplawyer*

      Oh there will be consequences. If a call ever comes in that is urgent for him — he won’t get it for several hours. Because that’s the way it works — right?

      And quite frankly a few months of the silent treatment, no one eating lunch with you, etc. and you start looking elsewhere for a job.

  4. Bend & Snap*

    Too bad Percival. Also, it sounds like he doesn’t feel even a little bit bad about any of this, so he’s probably not bothered by people hating him. Let the chips fall where they may.

    1. JulieBulie*

      I was thinking the same thing too, that he doesn’t seem to care if people hate him.

      But let’s see what happens when he needs a favor.

    2. Candi*

      Most humans are still social beings though, even the jerks. If the shunning goes on for, oh, a few months, Percival well feel it, even if he doesn’t admit it.

  5. ZSD*

    Letter writer, would it be legal in your country for you to personally advise Percival to find another job/resign, or would that be considered retaliation? Obviously, you can’t fire him, but can you simply point out to him that no one wants to work with him anymore, that he’s likely to be miserable in the job in the long run, and that it’s probably better for his mental health to find a new position?
    Again, I have NO IDEA if this is legal for you.

    1. Temperance*

      I think this is really terrible advice, and would very likely come back to bite the LW in the ass. Percival is a grade-A douchebag and all-around jerk. He purposely avoided informing Wakeen of his wife’s serious injury BECAUSE HE DIDN’T WANT TO DO HIS JOB. He’s a terrible excuse for a human being.

      If LW says this to Percival, Percival will march his unethical behind to the union and say that the LW is “retaliating” against him. LW will be the one to take the fall if that happens.

      1. ZSD*

        Well, but the issue is that if he claims retaliation, there are probably legal definitions that the union and employer can refer to to determine if it in fact counts. So I would definitely think the letter writer should look into the legal definition of retaliation in their country before doing this.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think looking into the legal definition would protect OP. In most countries I know of with unions (Canada, the UK, the U.S.) this would be textbook retaliation that would open OP up to being fired and the company up to at best a grievance, at worst a lawsuit. And Percival would win.

          I agree with Temperance and would strongly suggest that OP not follow ZSD’s suggestion/advice.

    2. Antilles*

      I doubt it. Especially given that the union/grievance process has already judged that Percival is not to be disciplined. Therefore, OP taking any sort of action would likely be viewed as an attempt to circumvent the collective bargaining process and formal results of the grievance process.
      Almost as importantly, nothing about Percival’s behavior indicates that he’d take the advice well. He put his own desire to sit in an office ahead of an employee’s family and all typical norms of human behavior. And he has openly said he doesn’t regret it. So even if you set the legalities to the side, the advice would be totally useless since Percival would just ignore it.

    3. Boris*

      C’mon, this dude is slippery. That’s going to be, “My manager said that I should resign, and that if I didn’t they would allow my work situation to make my mental health suffer.”

      I would be very concerned that Percival would have little trouble getting an employment lawyer to take on his case for constructive dismissal.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        It’s impossible to guess what the legal consequences would be without knowing what country the OP is in, but I agree that he should just stay away from this as much as possible.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    This is union representation at its worse, and I say that as a supporter of unions. The union has tied your hands and your ability to manage your employees, and that’s not ok. But since you have no choice in the matter, I’d just follow the advice laid out above and try to ensure that everyone is behaving professionally.

    I would also no longer allow Percival to swap out job duties with employees in offices. Find someone else to deal with the computers.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        Ooo, this is a good one! Definitely agree with this. Since it’s done voluntarily, the business should be covered with the union since it’s not actually in his job description.

      2. Floundering Mander*

        Yes, this. To me that’s the real offense from a business point of view: Percival basically refused to give Wakeen the message because it meant he’d have to leave the office, so ultimately he was refusing to do his job.

    1. Mike C.*

      I would also point out that barring some strange laws, management agreed to the collective bargaining agreement.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        And so did Percival’s co-workers, for that matter.

        This is out of OP’s bailiwick as a manager, but as a union supporter myself if I were in this bargaining unit I’d be calling for a contract re-opener to fix whatever language that allowed Percival to keep his job. Not that you could then post-facto fire Percival, but it’s the principle of the thing.

        Because I’m a vindictive and legalistic bastard, I’d also file a grievance on Percival’s behalf any time he’s asked to do work outside his job description (like answering the phones in the air-conditioned office).

        1. Mike C.*

          Though it doesn’t apply to the OP here, one of my biggest complaints about people who complain about their own unions but refuse to go to any meetings or otherwise participate. I’m not expecting everyone to become the next Cesar Chavez, but a little active participation from everyone can really go a long way.

          Also, I love your idea of vindictive grievance filings. That sort of creativity really warms the heart. :p

        2. TootsNYC*

          And those grievance filings then would mean that the managers could stop allowing Percival those apparent perks (by casting them as an imposition) without being accused of retaliating.

        3. JamieS*

          I’m guessing the language just says an employee can only be fired for not performing the job duties, violating a workplace policy (that’d hold up in court), or engaging in illegal activity. Not telling a co-worker about a phone call isn’t likely to fall under any of those.

          Also is this a union agreement issue or the law of OP’s land?

          1. Chinook*

            I am honestly surprised that “passing on a phone message in a timely manner” is not considered part of a job duty. Then again, I have been a receptionist and admin assistant and that, to me, I just obvious.

            1. Gadfly*

              I can see where it might not have been considered, however, for a job where answering the phone isn’t part of the job. Technically he was there to fix the computer–they probably didn’t think beyond that.

              1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                You have to wonder why he’d answer the phone at all. I wouldn’t answer a coworker’s phone while I was in their office. The call isn’t going to be for me so it’s better to let it go to voicemail and not have the pass the message along responsibility at all. In an instance like this, they wouldn’t have just left a voicemail. They’d have called back to a main number until they reached someone to give the message.

                1. Antilles*

                  This. Answering the phone and verbally taking the message is worse than just ignoring the phone – if Percival had ignored it, they would have either called back to a main number, grabbed Jane’s cell to call/text Wakeen’s cell, or sent someone to physically drive to the plant to track him down (like they eventually did).
                  The whole reason they did none of these things is because they got a human being on the line who said he’d pass along the message and therefore made the reasonable assumption that Wakeen got the message and was already on his way.

            2. JamieS*

              It might if the call were work related but it’s reasonable passing on personal messages isn’t a job duty.

              1. Floundering Mander*

                But surely in an emergency you would?

                I can see not bothering to go find someone to tell them that their wife called to ask them to get milk on the way home and just telling them later, but in an emergency situation I absolutely would deliver the message straight away.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I was going to say the same thing about the computers. It sounds like it was a privilege for Percival and he should be stripped of it.

    3. Snark*

      Yep. This is why unions got a bad name – this reflexive, unreasoning shielding of poor performers and people so obviously in the wrong as to be indefensible.

      1. Mike C.*

        I think the situation here goes way beyond the pale, but in general unions play a similar role in the workplace as a defense attorney does, for all members. Here in the US they’re practically required by law to do so, even if the situation is really crazy.

        1. Snark*

          Sure, but part of being a good defense attorney is knowing when to defend your client, and knowing when to accept a plea bargain.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Accepting a plea bargain is still defending your client – your obligation is to get them the best possible outcome within the law, not to make moral judgments.

            1. Snark*

              Sure. But where the analogy breaks down is that a union is a union – it represents the workforce, and as part of that it represents individual workers, but it does have a duty to all its members. The best possible outcome in a lot of cases like this is prioritizing the morale and functioning of the entire workforce, not the continued employment of an obviously deficient worker.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                That’s true at the bargaining table. It is absolutely not true for the grievance rep. You cannot choose to selectively enforce the contract, full stop.

                (There are several good reasons for this, not the least of which is that before this rule, a lot of unions were pretty brazenly discriminatory.)

            2. Zinnia*

              Also, lawyers negotiate plea bargains, but only the client can accept one. If the client refuses, the lawyer is stuck going to trial.

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            …a determination which is based on your ability to win the case, not whether your client is an utter human ass boil. And obviously the union rep had a winnable case, because she won it.

            FYI, it’s not “practically required by law” in the US, it is required by law. (Google “duty of fair representation”.)

            1. Elysian*

              Just to be clear, the duty of fair representation doesn’t require the union to take every shit case that an employee brings them. We don’t know enough about what happened here to know if the DFR was implicated, but I don’t want people thinking that it means the union goes to bat for BS every. single. time. because the law requires it – it doesn’t. It is more nuanced than that, but it does in general limit their ability to pick and choose.

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                Right, we can say “your grievance has no merit [isn’t a violation of the contract] and would waste our time because we’d lose”. We can’t say “You have a winnable grievance but nobody here likes you anyway so go f**k yourself”.

            2. Doreen*

              And the ability to win the case may have nothing to do with the behavior itself. Unions can win at hearings for procedural reasons – for example, the contract with one of the unions at my employer requires a hearing within 30 days for an unpaid suspension. If that hearing isn’t held on time, nothing else matters. The suspension will be erased from the records , the employee will be paid and that incident cannot be used as a basis for discipline. This is part of the reason why public employees are sometimes suspended with pay – because the employer needs more than 30 days for the investigation/hearing

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This is not how union representation works. Grievance reps are there to protect the CBA—they don’t have the authority or capacity to “waive” certain parts of the agreement based on the a member being a horrid person. If they waive something for one person, it makes it harder to enforce for other, more meritorious situations.

            A defense attorney’s job is to win the best possible outcome for their client based on the law, evidence and protections available to them. They do not decide to suggest a plea bargain simply because their client is a horrible human being. They make a decision based on strategic decisions about the outcomes and risks. If Percival’s grievance rep was able to have him reinstated with backpay, that is objectively the best possible outcome. If OP’s employer failed to abide by the CBA when firing Percival, then his reinstatement is really on them.

            1. Kristin D.*

              I work with unions, and they will often try to move a bad employee out with a resignation agreement even if they think they might be able to win the hearing, because they are getting flack from their other members. I just handled a case where this happened.

              1. sap*

                I don’t know what your role is working with unions, but I would *not* go around making written statements like this.

            2. Steve*

              If the only issue was that they didn’t follow procedure when firing, can they fire him again following the proper procedure this time?

              1. Cassie*

                I don’t know if this situation would be considered a fireable offense, especially if it was a “first offense”. For our clerical union, for example, there are progressive disciplinary steps such as a verbal warning, then a written warning, etc. Unless the offense was so great that it warranted an immediate firing, maybe the only thing the company could do is a verbal warning or something.

                That said, I don’t think it means that Percival is protected forever from being fired or disciplinary actions IF he does something that warrants discipline. For example, if he chooses not to show up for work and doesn’t call in per their policy, he can face discipline for that. That wouldn’t be considered retaliation.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I don’t know enough about their CBA to speculate, but if this has gone all the way through the appeals process in the CBA, then trying to restart the process based on the same incident is going to look pretty retaliatory.

      2. JamieS*

        I find what Percival did reprehensible but it sounds like something relatively easy to defend once you take away the moral outage. Morally indefensible? Yes. Legally indefensible? Absolutely not.

        1. No Green No Haze*

          I just want to say that “moral outage” is the best typo I’ve seen in awhile.

          It certainly was.

    4. Dinosaur*

      I completely agree about not letting him swap jobs. I don’t know if that would be considered retaliation but if it is fine I’d definitely not allow Percival to take on other job duties.

      1. M Bananas*

        I think that it may *seem* like retaliation, in the sense that, as Alison mentioned, some actions that are not retaliatory might have the appearance of being so.
        However, LW I still think that you need to switch him off computer duty as Percival displayed shockingly blatant bad judgement. You can’t trust him to withold information from other people again, and to me that is a legitimate reason to take that duty off his plate.
        But it might be wise to consult your own boss before you do so.

        1. Gadfly*

          It was a volunteer duty. Hopefully making other more formal arraignments instead should not constitute retaliation.

    5. Jubilance*

      Yup, my thoughts exactly. Unions have, and continue to serve an important role in labor, but when they do things like this, this is why some folks hate unions. Defending bad employees only makes the union look worse, not better.

      1. Chameleon*

        Unfortunately, the union has a duty to represent *all* workers, even the sociopathic ones.

        It really is like the defense attorney analogy above. Defense attorneys have to defend their clients, even the ones who obviously committed horrible crimes, to the best of their ability. It is in fact illegal for them to not try their hardest. Sometimes this means that terrible people escape punishment for crimes, and this does make people often hate defense lawyers. But without this legal requirement, you would have no recourse and no assistance if you were falsely accused of a crime.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          But can’t the defense attorney choose to decline a case? (Not a public defender, obvs, but a private one?)

          1. Chameleon*

            Defense attorneys can. Union reps cannot. Our client is the entire membership and we agree to represent them as soon as the union is formed. As stated above, allowing selective representation for a single member, regardless of cause, opens the door to all sorts of potential discriminatory behavior (e.g. reps could defend a white employee but not a black one with the same grievance).

            1. Observer*

              I don’t buy it. There is no legitimate moral reason why a union has to represent all workers regardless of the action. A union cannot – or should not be able to – choose WHO they represent. But they SHOULD choose what causes they will defend.

              1. Misc*

                The whole point of a union is a guaranteed representation for all its members. If that representation suddenly becomes ‘for the members we like’, it’s not a union, just an insurance-lawyer scheme where the insurance company immediately weasels out when you go to claim your legal emergency.

                As soon as a union takes dues from someone, they are contracting to give them representation barring unrepresentable circumstances which would need to be pretty damn extreme to avoid discrimination issues.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            My understanding is that the union reps are more like public defenders in this context–they don’t get to pick and choose which employees they defend

            1. Derf*

              Right, but in our office’s context the union is more the plaintiff’s attorney and the employer is defending the action. A hearing that’s a result of a union grievance is the union pursuing a remedy for an unfair labor practice or violation of a CBA. The union must bring every grievance or ULP that it believes has merit. There is no obligation to present a grievance that the union does not believe has merit. Otherwise, yes, you could end up with the union arguing two sides of the same coin simultaneously if two union members have a different complaint about the same thing.

              Unless a termination hearing is built into the CBA, the union isn’t acting in the defense in this case. The union is the accuser, not the accused.

      2. Observer*

        Especially since it actually harms the rest of the unionized workforce. People are being expected to work with someone that they totally cannot trust.

    6. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I would also no longer allow Percival to swap out job duties with employees in offices. Find someone else to deal with the computers.

      Yep. Malicious compliance all the way. He volunteers for the duty? Sorry, it’s not in your contract/agreement. People are allowed to go home early on Fridays? Sorry Percival, we gotta obey the rules and your contract says you stay till five. Everyone’s in the break room for birthday cake? Nothing in your contract about taking an unscheduled cake break, back to work.

      Obviously, don’t do anything that will cause problems for you. But if you have to obey the letter of the law in taking him back, then you might as well obey it all the way.

      What a bizarre and awful person and situation. Here’s hoping he leaves of his own accord.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          he had a special privilege previously – to step out of the floor and work on computers in offices. He misused that particular privilege when he failed to give a message in a timely manner. It’s a natural consequence of his own choice. Nobody else had that special privilege.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            He – and the union – won’t see it that way. Things were a particular way before he complained, and change in a way he didn’t like after.

            Given the way his first complaint turned out, it’s hard to imaging he won’t come out on top on this, too.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              What you can do is put a new policy in place that only these people (pay grade x, engineers, from this department, etc) can do that job. Of course, Percival will no longer be eligible for that). You can also move people around from one union job description to another. There are options.

              1. Magenta Sky*

                The company could maybe get away with that. But the company has made it clear they will back down if the union makes an issue of it. The letter writer likely doesn’t have the authority to implement such a policy, and those who do are part of the problem.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          You can’t treat him worse than everybody else, but you can stop treating him *better* than everybody else, right? Like putting a stop to the computer repair job that he likes so much? It’s not in his contract that he gets to do that.

        3. Bobbocio*

          I agree Magenta Sky. Lady Ariel Poneyweather even calls it malicious compliance. Management can’t selectively enforce the letter of the law against employees they don’t like, EVEN WHEN they have a great deal of reason for disliking that employee. No longer letting him swap duties, if other people are allowed, would exactly fit the definition of retaliation, because the arbitration board (or wherever that grievance eventually went) found no misconduct in his actions.

          1. M Bananas*

            I disagree about the job swapping. Percival displayed very bad judgement and can’t be relied on in other people’s work space.
            This is a legitimate buisness reason not to allow him to job swap, as allocation of job duties falls within the purview of the manager, especially so when these aren’t essential job duties.

            1. Bobbocio*

              The arbitration board has said he has done nothing wrong, or at least nothing worthy of discipline. Giving him negative consequences after that is almost certainly going to be retaliation.

              I get that everyone’s furious with him, and for good reason, and I don’t see how he can be trusted with anything again… but the supervisor’s hands are almost certainly tied.

              1. M Bananas*

                But this is not a discipline issue but a work-skill and work-duty issue.
                I get how saying the problem is with his judegment might be problematic, so I think the way KimberlyR framed it downthread is better; Percival displaying an inability to properly answer phones and take messages, which are a core skills needed in the office.
                This means he not assigning him this duty because he isn’t qualified for it.

                1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                  Yes, KimberlyR’s comment does frame it much better! That’s what I was going for, but the only words that came to mind were ‘malicious compliance’. As she said, he has displayed an inability to perform certain skills, therefore he shouldn’t be in the office.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              But, according to the union and the arbitration board, he did nothing wrong in that office. So they can’t use that as justification to deny him anything. They could still be able to stop using him to fix computer issues, but it can’t *officially* be because of what he did to Wakeen.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                If it’s not part of his contract to fix the computers, then how could it be seen as retaliation.

                I think the best thing the OP can do in this situation is follow the contract to the exact letter of the law.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  The suggestion was to say Percival displayed very bad judgement and can’t be relied on in other people’s work space. But according to TPTB, Percivial did nothing wrong, so it would be inappropriate retaliation to say he’s losing a privilege he enjoyed because of the “not wrong” thing he did. You’d have to have some other official reason for not having him work on the computer. (Now, since it’s not part of his contract, the simplest solution seems to be to just not offer him that task, but not give an official reason why, other than “someone else is doing it.”)

                2. M Bananas*

                  @Rusty Shackelford
                  I answered further in the thread that I get now how pointing to his judgement might be problematic in this context.
                  KimberlyR provided a better framing for this downthread by presenting it as a lacuna in skills (answering phones and taking messages being core skills needed for the office work space), which is not inherently a ‘wrong’ thing but can still get this particular duty re-assigned.

              2. Yetanother Jennifer*

                So then maybe the way to frame it is that the OP needs other employees to be able to fix computers as cross-training. If Percival is the only one with these skills and he were to leave, the company would be in a bind, so it make sense to have others repair the computers as well. Then perhaps scheduling constraints could help keep him away from this task more often.

                1. Magenta Sky*

                  The point here isn’t whether or not claiming retaliation would be reasonable. The point is that he could, probably would from the sounds of it, and *the* *union* *would* *back* *him* no matter how unreasonable it is. Claiming retaliation for losing a privilege is nowhere near as unreasonable as what he has *already* *done* and the *union* *has* *backed* *him* *on*.

                  Either the company is spineless, or the labor law in the country is such a mess that the worse the employee, the harder they are to fire. Either way, they have basically put this guy in charge of his department.

              3. animaniactoo*

                I don’t think we know that they said he did nothing wrong. They said that it was wrongful termination. I suspect the management is not willing to apply the discipline they otherwise could in this situation simply because they are afraid that he will grieve that as well and don’t want to deal with another hearing. Also, I suspect the management rather sucks if they managed to allow Wakeen to be painted as the bad guy and couldn’t successfully fend that off at the hearing.

                However, stating that they do not agree with his judgment call in this situation – particularly since he has been very open and blatant about his lack of remorse – means that they do not want to risk having a recurrence of this situation and therefore this is not a job duty he will be asked to fulfill in future. Not that they are punishing him – and they can bring his judgment into it as part of the basis for that decision. “Person in position must be able to fulfill foreman’s duties and make the appropriate decisions with regards to other employees needs when evaluated against each other and against business needs. It is now clear that Percival’s views do not fit with our views as a company and therefore he can no longer fulfill that role as needed.”

                1. Creag an Tuire*

                  That’s another fair point — just like some employers are so terrified of the EEOC that they’ll let an employee get away with next to murder because “She’s a ‘protected class’, we’ll get sued!”, some employers (quite a lot of employers TBH) will fold the second someone shows up with their union rep and then blame the union for “tying their hands” rather than actually attempt to defend their decision.

                2. Bobbocio*

                  I mean, you could try that. The employee may or may not grieve it. I think he’d have a strong case in front of what is obviously an employee-centric arbitration board if he did grieve it as disguised discipline, but I wouldn’t say it is perfectly clear cut. Maybe he would lose this time.

                3. M Bananas*

                  I guess it really depends on the outcome of the grievence hearing.
                  If they only got ‘termination was unlawful due to no workplace and CBM rules infringement’ in the technical sense it could work.
                  But if the hearing cleared his *conduct* itself it would be more difficult.
                  So I do think the way KimberlyR framed the issue is preferable to mine.

          2. Tabby Baltimore*

            So what’s left to the LW to do? I’m hoping you’ll say it’s just to find someone else to do the computer duty, and if Percival volunteers to help out in the future, the LW can appropriately say, “Thanks, Perce, but I had to have someone else covering those duties while you were going through your grievance process, so s/he will just continue covering going forward.”

            1. Bobbocio*

              If I were his supervisor, I would do my utmost to treat him professionally and courteously, and not give him any retribution whatsoever. Only when things clearly passed into personal territory (talking about his children, going for a drink after work, etc) would I then shut up.

              Knowing how difficult that would be… I’d also probably look for a new job. Maybe a transfer in the organization at a minimum. Because suddenly this job becomes something I’m not equipped or well enough paid to do (depending on how you look at it).

          3. Katie the Fed*

            They need to hire an actual computer person. But there’s no reason to allow him to continue volunteering to fix other people’s computers in lieu of his actual job duties. It’s not a negative action against him – he’s just no longer getting the special treatment he previously got.

          4. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

            Malicious compliance isn’t about selective enforcement; it’s actually the opposite. You follow the rules to the letter. If anyone challenges you, you have the rules to back you up.

            My examples were off the top of my head, but I can see how it sounds like I was encouraging OP to treat him differently, which is not what I intended. I definitely don’t want the OP getting into trouble.

            1. Lora*

              THIS. Unions do it allllllll the time, it’s called Work To Rule. And it works both ways.

              If fixing the computer was a giant pain in the butt, then Percival would certainly say, “not in my job description” and the union would back him on that.

              Other examples off the top of my head, from the union side: if there is some manufacturing quota which is fairly low and employees routinely produce much more than that – suddenly go back to producing exactly the quota and sitting at your workstation doing nothing the rest of the day. If running through some checklist can be quickly done in 15 minutes, take your sweet time and stretch it out to 2 hours. If there is some part that when broken you *could* re-work to make it meet spec, out of the goodness of your heart and in the absence of any procedure, don’t do that – just throw it away and make from scratch because it didn’t meet spec.

              On the employer side, the most common one I’ve seen in union shops when it comes to working to rule, is the distribution of overtime. If it normally went to Percival because everyone knew he wanted the extra money, suddenly there would be a rotation of who gets overtime, “to make sure it’s fair”.

              The union is obligated to protect ALL their members. Including the ones who don’t like Percival. The union may also have conflict resolution resources to help on this point – they have a vested interest in winning the popular vote. Would it be possible to approach the union with a “can you help us resolve this conflict?” standpoint? You’d have to check with HR or Legal or whomever but I know in the US at least, SEIU has some conflict resolution resources. There have been quite a few unions that lost a lot of power because their membership was in conflict, they should have a vested interest in helping fix this.

              1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

                That’s right, I knew there was another name that was more neutral.

                Your comment is fascinating! And the last paragraph does sound like there might be possibilities for the OP.

        4. Derf*

          Yes. Be very very wary of retaliation of any kind. Sorry–this is the reality of managing in a union environment. You have to be above-board all the time.

          Also: don’t forget about “past practices.” If it’s not in the CBA but it has been a mutually accepted practice, it might ultimately have the force of something written into the contract.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        After thinking about this and reading through the comments, I’d like to rephrase and also include something resembling helpful advice.

        OP, as everyone else has said, follow the rules. Document everything. Make sure Percival has nothing on you or the other workers. There’s no point in you losing your job over him. Protect yourself and your employees. This also might mean telling people to most definitely NOT retaliate against Percival: not because you support him, but because it’s only going to hurt them. If you haven’t done this yet, you probably should soon: if this is how riled up a bunch of internet strangers got over this post, I can only imagine how angry the people in the workplace are.

        You asked how you are supposed to manage him. Do you think it’s possible you might not be able to? Is part of the problem that if you act professionally, you’re betraying Wakeen and taking Percival’s side? Because the more I think about it, the more that’s what would be the hardest for me. Maybe that’s the case for you, or maybe it’s something else. At any rate, when I re-read your letter, your helplessness came through the strongest, and no one ever wants to feel helpless. (That’s my interpretation at least, I could be completely wrong!)

        This might sound very airy-fairy, so ignore if it doesn’t apply. Maybe the first step is to resolve this within you first. It’s a crappy situation, you hate it, anyone with basic decency and morals would hate it. Your choices are limited, but you do have some options. You don’t want to go into work every day with a sick feeling in your stomach. What can you do to regain some control over the situation?

        You come across as someone who genuinely cares about being a good manager and doing a quality job. That’s definitely a plus and will help you find some kind of resolution for what is a pretty crappy situation. If you can come to an agreement within yourself, then that will likely make it easier to apply within the workplace.

        1. Amazed*

          That has me wondering. How many people who have to work with Percival would have to resign, and quote their loss of faith in Percival due to the incident, and their loss of faith in the workplace and the union due to their handling of the incident, for someone to get a clue?

          Alternately, if the LW resigns, and management can’t fill the vacancy because having to be responsible for Percival due to the above is an absolute dealbreaker, up to and including “if you force me to take that position or resign, I choose to resign”?

          1. tigerStripes*

            I wonder how much Percival will hurt the company by just staying there. People will leave to avoid being near him, and the company could lose some great people. Since the company did fire him, it will be hurt by something that is not its fault.

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              It wouldn’t be surprising if they did. Percival made it clear he’s someone you can’t trust or rely on. If there’s an accident and you’re hurt, you know he won’t help you. That’s definitely going affect morale and it’s not going to get better.

      2. NDC*

        As regards breaks and other privileges, it’s probably safest to treat all employees the same here – either
        -distribute the privileges equally (everyone gets the same opportunities to work in the office)
        -distribute them based on some iron-clad justification (only Alex and Blair get to repair the computers because they are best at it and their regular duties can be covered by someone else)
        -don’t distribute them at all (nobody from the shop floor gets to work in the office)

        In the case of the cake break: sure, Percival is allowed (by management) to leave his duties and go to the break room with everyone else. But that doesn’t mean his colleagues have to offer him any cake, or even talk to them. And it’s not related to his duties, so it doesn’t mean that management have to require his colleagues to be civil to him.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Thanks for this! I just wrote the first examples off the top of my head, so they weren’t the best. But it’s nice to see how they’d actually work out.

          I do like that Percival definitely does not get cake.

    7. The Supreme Troll*

      I also support unions, and I cannot stand blind union bashing. But, blind support for any extreme at the expense of the other side (whether it is company ownership or the lowest team member on the totem pole), is unacceptable and needs to be nipped in the bud. I really wish the union would have opened its eyes and actually used common sense in this case.

    8. Anlyn*

      I don’t know too much about unions, but if possible, I would do the bare minimum that’s within the union agreement. If it’s not in the agreement, he doesn’t get it. Get legalistic on his ass and turn his weapon (the union) against him.

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I just want to register my strong disagreement with the union bashing. Folks are expecting the union to play the role of manager/arbiter or as a third-party neutral whose job is to determine whether a person is virtuous enough to merit defense. That’s not their job at all, and if the CBA allowed for Percival’s reinstatement, then it’s the company that screwed up in how they fired him.

      Unions exist to allow comparatively less powerful workers to band together to exert equal negotiation power in the workplace. Their members pay dues specifically to negotiate CBAs and to defend their rights under those CBAs. And companies agree to those provisions. Unions are useless if they allow provisions of the CBA to slide or if they undermine the defense of a member simply because that person is wretched.

      Instead of railing against the union, I think we should figure out how to help OP cope with a less than desirable outcome. And although I don’t want to coach OP into how to fire Percival going forward (because that could be seen as retaliatory), I think it’s worth OP’s company taking the time to retrain its managers on the process and requirements for termination under the CBA so they can try to avoid fouling up a termination like this in the future.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I apologize—I didn’t mean you, specifically, and I didn’t mean to offend or insult you, Katie the Fed.

          There’s a slew of “this is what sucks about unions” and “this is what makes it hard to advocate for unions” comments, and I’m responding to that vein of responses. Your thread just had the most comments on the subject as I was reading through. I was trying to nest my response in the most logical place for that conversation, but I realize that the way I did it made it look like I was criticizing you when that was not my intent. Again, I apologize for any harm my misplaced comment may have caused.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            no harm – I just wanted to be clear that I’m not bashing them. I don’t think everything they do is helpful, but they serve a useful purpose overall.

      1. Maya Elena*

        The closest I see to “bashing” is “here is a possible justification why people bash them”, amply qualified with versions of “but I support unions!”.

        As it is, unions have pluses but also big minuses. The pluses might be worth the minuses, but it is proper to acknowledge the downsides and be realistic about them. This case might be an extreme, but my understanding is that unions really do tie the hands of management and make less competent employees harder to fire, and that this is not controversial?

    10. M Bananas*

      LW, in reference to the discussion above about preventing Percival from further computer duty, please keep in mind that this isn’t about circumventing the union and finding a way to punish Percival by taking away a plum assignment (volutary or not) but an actual, and legitimage managerial concern.
      What it the next time Percival ‘delays’ informing an office person/floor worker is about a work related issue? Say that managment or another department need said worker to assist in something?
      The discussion centering around how to approach and frame a way to justify this is important, because managment wants you to handle treatment of Percival delicately, but this does not mean it is not an important issue and concern that needs to be dealt with.

  7. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Another thing to remind yourself is that Percival probably doesn’t care about all the poor treatment he’s getting now. You and I wouldn’t want to continue working there, but if he honestly doesn’t think he did anything wrong, then there’s a good chance he won’t care how people treat him.

    A string of bad boyfriends and dating taught me that! Don’t bother trying to fight it.

    1. Bolt*

      Percival will probably be writing in next week about how he is being treated unfairly and management won’t do anything to make everyone play with him.

      Sadly Percival reminds me on the selfishness of my husband… my husband would spin this right around and probably file complaints against all of his coworkers.

      1. (Different) Rebecca*

        “Dear AAM,
        I followed protocol in the timing of passing on a message (no mention of what message was/not wanting to leave the office) and now…
        Much admiration for your wise advice,

      1. Jadelyn*

        Sadly the effectiveness of ostracization as a punishment is directly proportional to how much the victim cares about being part of the social group doing the ostracizing, and in this case it doesn’t seem like that’s very much at all.

      2. Stop That Goat*

        Eh, if you’re already used to being ostracized (as a kid or because of previous asshattery), you’ve got nothing to lose.

      3. SystemsLady*

        The amount of poorly behaving celebrities who get slammed by the media and continue to be jerks as publicly as possible in response is an easy counterpoint.

  8. Database Developer Dude*

    Remember the earlier letter about a co-worker punching out a supervisor for not getting a day off? I’m surprised this hasn’t happened to Percival already.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was wondering how many times Percival has had to buy new tires.
      The workplace cannot shield you from the backlash from society. If you treat someone poorly, then everyone can justly treat you equally poorly.
      I hope we get an update later saying Percival got a call that he won a million dollars, but since no one delivered the message, then the prize went to the next contestant.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Not to mention the local law enforcement community probably may have heard about how he not only kept Wakeen from getting to one of their own in a time of crisis, but disparaged them all in the aftermath.

        1. la bella vita*

          I hadn’t even thought about this – here’s hoping that Percival gets pulled over every time he goes 1 MPH over the speed limit or doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

            1. la bella vita*

              I’m not hoping for abuse (tickets for things that aren’t real), but I am hoping he gets busted anytime he puts a toe out of line, even if it’s for something that they would normally let slide.

              1. sap*

                If the police in your town pulled you, and only you, over every time to forgot to use your blinker, that wouldn’t be an abuse of power?

                1. Limi*

                  What was the term used above? Malicious compliance? If the police had a justified (or not) reason to no longer overlook the general oversteps of procedure, code and law… it doesn’t change the fact that those things are still laid out in procedure, code and law.

                  Sure, it’d suck… but what they’d be doing is strictly enforcing what they normally let you get away with as a… means of punishment.

                  I wouldn’t necessarily classify that as an abuse of power, unless they busted you for something that was not breaking procedure, code or law, so on or so forth.

                  I think.

              2. Optimistic Prime*

                Well, that actually does get into discrimination and police harassment. So while I understand the temptation, I do hope they take the high road and don’t do this.

        2. RVA Cat*

          This. I imagine Percival is going to get pulled over a lot. Let’s hope he’s clueless enough that they can find him parked at a bar and pounce on him for a DUI before he even gets out of the parking lot.

        3. Optimistic Prime*

          Oh man, I hadn’t even thought about this. I hope the police don’t retaliate against him, but the same time as a human being I could see how it would be difficult to be impartial to someone who potentially endangered one of your coworker’s lives.

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      I’m am absolutely not wishing for this outcome, but if Percival works on a factory floor as it sounds, I’d be legitimately worried about his personal safety.

      1. Snark*

        Yeah, there’d be a lot of opportunities to, say, fail to warn Percival that the guard on the Armripperoffer 2000 wasn’t down.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Yep. Also, should he get injured at work, they won’t be in any hurry to notify his family. (Though I am guessing that would be the OP’s responsibility and she would be a bigger person than that.)

        2. BadPlanning*

          I know this is a serious subject — and potentially a real risk…but I love your example machine name.

      2. Emi.*

        Yeeaaahhhh I know a firefighter who was having problems with his union and could no longer count on the other career firefighters to have his back in a BURNING BUILDING. And he hadn’t even done anything wrong.

  9. The IT Manager*

    You’re stuck and it sounds like your company is stuck. That sucks. Also that board is out of its mind in its decision to have Perceval suffer no consequences.

    I hope Perceval no longer gets the privlege of fixing computers in the office. Given the horrible choices he made to stay in the office a little longer, you’ve got to think he was doing other unscrupulous things to make his office time last for as long as possible.

    1. M-C*

      Very good point. Who knows what Percival was actually doing in that office that he absolutely needed to continue. It may be worth hiring a security consultant to check on that. You may get some fascinating answers, and maybe even another reason to fire him.

      And in any case he should never get another shot at getting into the office ever, since he’s proven to abuse it.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        Hey, there’s an idea. It’s not retaliation if you happen to do an IT audit across the company, now is it?

        (Of course, the risk there is that Percival may not be the only person you catch surfing prOn.)

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yes, this. Very few computer problems would take 4 hrs to fix. If Percival really said he was delaying so he wouldn’t have to go back on the floor, then that seems like a good reason to think he’d delay on the repairs too. He may be following the rules, but he’s taking advantage of them in a way that’s not intended.

      Take him off the roster of computer repair people, NOT because not notifying Wakeen is awful (which it is) but because he’s not efficient at it.

      1. pandop*

        This. Hoist him by his own petard. He has admitted not wanting to leave the offices. So audit what he does in the office. Train other people up for computer troubleshooting, it’s not in his contract that it’s his sole responsibility.

      2. SystemsLady*

        Just about zero hardware (maybe a mobo replacement in a complicated setup) and only fairly advanced software problems take that long (even for this clumsy, bad at hardware person) to fix. Unless you’re trying to pick at a Macintosh.

        I don’t even think OS reinstalls take that long these days.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          Nope, I had a complete machine wipe and OS reinstall done on my machine a couple weeks ago and it definitely didn’t take 4 hours. I think it was around 2.

  10. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    I can’t believe he didn’t face any work consequences and the union went along with making Wakeen – a man whose wife was SHOT – out to be the bad guy!!

    I am just flabbergasted at all of this. The union has failed in a major way here. I don’t know much about unions, especially overseas, but can all the employees (not supervisors but same level employees) go to the union as a group and complain?

    I would not want to work with Percival and don’t blame anyone in your company for not wanting to either. As his manager you have to tread lightly, but people excluding him is a consequence of his terrible, terrible actions. This is so massively awful I can’t understand how anyone was on his side.

    1. Mike C.*

      Since a union is made up of the employees they represent, they can absolutely due that. In fact, i would argue that these employees should be electing new people into their leadership positions and prevent this from happening again.

      1. Chinook*

        “It just said injured on the job, not shot.”

        No big difference in my mind. DH has only been shot at once on the job but he has had also sorts of sharp weapons pointed at him, punches thrown and almost been struck by a car a couple of times (the last time close enough to feel it pass by). Anything that it serious enough to get sent to the hospital is just as serious as getting shot.

    2. The IT Manager*

      The letter doesn’t say the wife was SHOT or shot only injured on the job. You’re making a leap.

      (That doesn’t change the fact about that employee being reprehensible.)

    3. Chameleon*

      Slight correction: it doesn’t say that Jane was shot. Most on-duty injuries to police officers are actually car accidents.

    4. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      You’re right – I thought I read shot and realize now I just assumed that since she was injured and needed surgery. My bad!

      Either way, making out a man, who is a member of the same union, out to be a bad guy because he wanted to know his wife was in surgery – is really disgraceful.

  11. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    From some of the terms related to the union that the LW uses, I get the feeling that they might be Swedish or at least Scandinavian.
    And I totally see how this could happen then. A sort of “well, these are the rules and we’re just following them and there is absoooolutely nothing we can do”-kind of mentality that sometimes crops up here.

    (and it sucks and my god, poor Wakeen!!)

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Collective agreement is a common English translation for a Finnish legal term which would fit the context, so this could also be from Finland. I’m not an expert on our laws so I’m not sure if this whole story could happen in Finland though. It’s hard here to fire people because of things they do wrong (layoffs on the other hand are easier and cheaper to do than in many other European countries – I’d prefer it was the other way round!) and after the initial trial period would require very serious reasons, but I think the laws and agreements allow a possibility to fire people for serious misconduct even if it wouldn’t fit some kind of specific category. I’m not sure about this, and I’m not sure if Percival’s actions would be considered bad enough if this case went to a Finnish court.

    2. Chinook*

      Eh…could have happened in Canada too, especially with an employee thinking that our cops are exactly like American cops. Too often people up here forget we are a different culture with a different history and life isn’t anything like you see it on American tv.

      1. Lissa*

        I thought Canada too because of the bringing up American police – some of the comments my fellow Canadians make about police are similar. But I suppose lots of people will see their own country in it….

      2. Kai the Admin*

        Canada has more than our share of racist and abusive cops, thanks. We’re not immune just because our colonial past is brushed under the rug of “polite Canadian” stereotypes.

        1. Kateshellybo19*

          I think every country has bad policemen, to an extent. In policing there seems to be more of the polar ends of human behavior as it is a job you would need to be passionate about to put up with it.

          So you have those who passionately want to “control” others and force their views but you also have those who passionately want to “Protect and Serve” and help lift up others.

          There are a few meh middle people but not as many as in less psychologically intensive careers.

  12. Tuxedo Cat*

    I think Alison’s advice, per usual, is spot on. I’d be really worried about managing Percival and him taking advantage of the situation.

      1. SystemsLady*

        That’s not exactly true – hence why if I were OP I’d refresh myself on what exactly the agreed-upon rules are.

  13. Foreign Octopus*

    My mouth literally dropped open when I saw the title of this letter. That has never happened before.

    I am mystified as to why he was allowed back into his job. He must be a member of a very strong union (and I am a huge supporter of unions and the work that they do) but this is just such a baffling case. He withheld important personal information from Wakeen so that he could stay in an office and not do his job? Taking aside the utter callousness of what he did to Wakeen, is this someone who can be trusted to actually do his job now? He’s already shown that he’s willing to cut corners in a pretty horrific way so that he can do what he wants and not want is needed.

    I suppose the one positive of this situation is that Wakeen’s wife is okay and making a good recovery. What could have happened is just so awful to think about.

    I’m sorry, OP, but it seems like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Alison’s advice is solid (as always). Let him feel the natural consequences for his actions. The difficulty lies in making sure that you have a clear view of what’s natural consequences and what’s too far. Maybe you could talk to your team? Tell them that you understand their anger but you will put a stop to it if it interferes in work or something like that. I don’t know, writing it kind of leaves you open for repercussions but maybe someone else will have a better idea.

    But yeah, Percival is an ass.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I don’t know what country the OP is in but it would not surprise me to find that the issue was with procedure. I’m in the UK, and a lot of the rules around dismissal etc comedown to the employer being able to demonstrate that they had, and followed, open and fair processes.

      I wonder whether OP could enquire with HR whether the company can look at offering him a severance agreement – basically pay him to leave. It sucks, because it feels like rewarding terrible behaviour, but it might be the best thing from the perspective of the company and the other employees.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        To go one step further – after this has occurred, go to Wakeen and offer his job back. Also bridge the time he spent off with no seniority loss.

    2. Mb13*

      I was wondering if the op can have a talk with the team of what is specifically and legally speaking considered a hostile work and environment/retaliation and what is not. The op can also provide specific examples. Just so the team knows what they can and cannot do.

  14. KimberlyR*

    I agree with others that Percival should no longer be allowed to switch up his job and work on the computers. If there is pushback from him or the union, I would point out that he is unqualified to answer the phones and take messages, which is an essential office function, so he cannot work in the office in any capacity. That isn’t retaliation, that is giving him only the jobs that are within his skill level.

    I suspect Percival doesn’t care about the shunning so you shouldn’t either if you can help it. As long as business is conducted correctly, pretend you don’t see or notice it. I also think, given that you are just as angry at Percival (and rightly so!), you can do some shunning yourself. Obviously, keep all lines of work communication open. But I wouldn’t ask about his weekend or his cat or anything personal. He has shown what kind of person he is and I think he should be treated as such. I doubt he’ll leave over this atmosphere, so you’re obviously stuck with him, but as long as you and your team are strictly professional, I don’t think the union can file any more grievances. I do agree with Alison that checking into what constitutes “retaliation” for the union would be smart, so you can stay just on this side of the line. But otherwise, he has shown what kind of person he is and he should be treated accordingly.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Given the success he’s had with the grievance process with a far less sensible complaint, I’d guess that would, in fact, be consider retribution. I suspect *any* change he doesn’t like would be.

      This is a broken company, under the thumb of a far more broken union, run by broken people.

      In a just world, everybody else would quit on the spot to avoid working with the guy, who would end up being the only member of the union left. We don’t live in a just world.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I would point out that he is unqualified to answer the phones and take messages, which is an essential office function, so he cannot work in the office in any capacity. That isn’t retaliation, that is giving him only the jobs that are within his skill level.

      Nicely said.

    3. g*

      This seems risky. If you cut him out of social ‘watercooler’ conversations and then as often happens there’s also some business discussion then he has cause for another grievance.

  15. fposte*

    “He also brought up racial issues about the police in America, even though we are not American and it has nothing to do with this.”

    That’s a wonderful piece of bizarreness.

    1. Snark*

      Basically, he’s arguing that because police in America have racial justice issues, it’s basically okay if any cop, anywhere, even a coworker’s spouse, gets capped and can’t even see their spouse before they go in for emergency surgery. In other words, it’s assholery that has leveled up to the point of invincibility.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t think it’s even that cohesive, because it’s hardly striking a blow for social justice to be slow with a phone message. It’s just flailing for anything he can throw at the problem; he probably would have gotten to “I had a tummyache” and “The sun was in my eyes” at some point too.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s how I interpreted it too. Not that I agree with it, but I thought he was making this argument. I feel sorry for the OP, even more so, because it sounds like Percival is the kind of person who’ll bring in any and all tangentially related matters to get his way.

      3. Lora*

        Holy smokes. Do you have a Bullshit-to-English translator app or something? Because I was trying to figure that one out myself and concluded that I will never understand terrible people.

      4. Lissa*

        This was my first read on this too, unfortunately, but I am also aware this could be influenced by stuff I have heard regionally, and that it also could be what fposte suggests below about trying to find any excuse (which would honestly be *less* horrible to my mind, on a sliding scale where less evil is still horrific.) I have a friend whose parents are cops and people have screamed at him on the street when they found it out. So it honestly was not that huge a stretch to me. This is why I thought the LW might be in Canada, but there’s no reason these things couldn’t be true in other countries too.

      5. No Green No Haze*

        “assholery that has leveled up to the point of invincibility.”

        Well put. I’m going to write that down somewhere.

    2. Lynne879*

      Like… what was the point of bringing this up?

      Maybe OP can elaborate, but did Percival suggest that because of the racial tensions involving police in the US that Wakeen’s wife deserved to be in the hospital (!) even though they don’t live in the US??

      1. many bells down*

        I thought it was something like “well the police are terrible anyway, look what’s happening in America!” A total dodge and, like someone else said, just a list of more and more ridiculous excuses.

        1. Chinook*

          Those types of rants don’t usually include “look at America.” Instead, they use examples from either American cop shows or American news and extrapolate it to mean that all cops around the world are the same type of uneducated, idiot rednecks only out to take it out on the innocent blacks for kicks. Never mind that cops up here usually have university degrees plus dedicated training.

          Plus, if they were going to extrapolate it from local context, they would be smarter to pointing out the higher incarceration rates for First Nations people, not African Americans. But they usually refer to the latter, which is a sign of where they are getting their information.

      2. AKchic*

        I took it to mean “well, look at the American cops. All cops are the same anyways, so she really deserved what she got since she CHOSE to be a cop in the first place.”

        Depending on age and other sociopolitical factors, we might even be able to throw in some casual misogyny and infer “if she were a good and dutiful wife and just stayed at home taking care of the kids she should have given you, none of this would have happened”; but he didn’t say that, so we can’t really infer that. HAD he said that, I think the union would have been far less likely to back him at all. Too bad they chose to back the odious little chickenfart in the first place.

      3. strawberries and raspberries*

        I thought about it and came up with the possibility that Percival is trying to ingratiate himself with the union reps or someone else important to his reinstatement who may be either a person of color and/or more outspoken in opposing police brutality. Even though it’s apropos of nothing in this particular situation, it’s a hot button enough issue that a more obtuse person might think, “Oh shit, police brutality and racial tension, we don’t want to be on the wrong side of THAT!” (Kind of the way everyone goes, “Oh my God, HIPAA!” in non-healthcare situations where HIPAA has absolutely no bearing on information.)

    3. Allison*

      I know plenty of people who assume that anyone against police brutality hate ALL police officers, and cheer when they get shot in the line of duty. This jerkbutt isn’t helping.

    4. Everything Bagel Fan*

      Do you think this is why he didn’t relay the message though? Citing the concerns about law enforcement? Since this person was a member of law enforcement?

    5. Chinook*

      Nope – just a reality when so much of your media comes from the cultural centre of the universe. DH, a Canadian cop, often has to remind people that he doesn’t have to tell them their “Miranda Rights” because we don’t have them up here. And man are they surprised when they find out that, at the bail hearing, he is also the prosecutor and the judge is attending by video conference from another city.

  16. INeedANap*

    Honestly, I would probably be looking for another job if at all possible, if I were OP.

    While it’s not the company’s fault, I just can’t see how I could be comfortable or happy working in that specific environment. Even if the outright hostility dies down, the tension never will, and it would just be too negative and stressful an environment for me personally to stay in long-term.

    I might also consider making this Someone Else’s Problem – as in, is there any way to shift responsibility for managing him to someone else higher up the food chain? Due to the special circumstances, and the potential for another grievance or legal action, I kind of see dealing with him as being above a “normal” manager’s paygrade.

  17. AdAgencyChick*

    Percival sucks. And this situation sucks for you, OP, because your hands are so tied and so many of the options that should be available to you as a manager, are not.

    I would check with your HR department about whether it’s legally possible for you to have a conversation with him in which you tell him that you don’t agree with what he did, and that although you will not be depriving him of his job, you will also not be attempting to protect him from the natural consequences of his actions, which include colleagues being extremely upset with him for the foreseeable future.

    1. SarahKay*

      I wouldn’t recommend saying anything like that to Percival. I’m in the UK and if Percival is the type of person I think he is, I can guarantee that OP would end up on the wrong end of a complaint. It might not be upheld, but it’s still hours of OP’s life dealing with it, plus associated stress.
      I saw something very similar play out on my site with a Percival-twin, where Percival-twin was the one behaving badly but was also bringing complaints against his co-workers for bullying, harassment, all sorts of things, for little or no justification. And as a company in the UK, the law sets out a procedure that has to be followed, every time, no matter how much one might wish to tell Percival-twin to sit down, shut up, stop whining, and do some work!

  18. Akera*

    Wow! What a freaking jerk! I don’t blame the entire office and Wakeen for being livid! Percival sounds like a selfish jerk indeed! Not even just selfish but completely heartless. I’m glad Wakeen’s wife made it through but I do wish he hadn’t quit but filed a grievance against Percival. I hope he gets his karma.

  19. animaniactoo*

    At a minimum – Percival can no longer trade job duties or “get to be in the office” vs his normal work duties.

    If he grieves THAT, the argument is that his lack of appropriate decision making in the previous situation AND his open and repeated lack of remorse means he cannot be entrusted to do so in future. Better to call an outside contractor or ask someone else even if it means it has to wait for next shift rather than to risk another incident like this one.

    I would be very curious to know hot the union managed to make Wakeen out to be the bad guy.

    1. SystemsLady*

      At the very least I would have somebody checking in on him the next time he does computer repair. Particularly if he has a pattern of always taking the entire rest of the day to do computer work – that’s realllll suspicious if you ask me.

  20. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Alison’s advice it spot on. Probably won’t get him to quit or see the error of their ways – people like this never do, they just drive out the good employees.

    And bringing up racial stuff about police is beyond absurd.

  21. Temperance*

    Last year, I had an unexpected major health crisis on a Thursday. Booth was the lead developer on a project due the following week, and had been expecting to be working 12 – 16 hour days for the coming week. (We discussed this on Wednesday night.)

    Booth’s colleagues rallied around each other and the CTO unquestionably reassigned his workload and granted some kind of special paid leave that didn’t eat into his PTO. They all worked together so he could be with me. It was traumatic for him, so they took work off of his plate. That’s how good people operate.

    It makes me sick to think that someone would be so selfish and just such a terrible human being that they would prioritize their own comfort for a few hours over someone potentially losing his wife. I am disgusted with the union’s findings, and I hope that, in the future, they can find cause to terminate him. LW, I’m so sorry.

  22. NW Mossy*

    OP, it might help settle your mind a bit if you talk with Percival about it one-on-one, not to push him for a justification for his behavior but to point to how the fallout is going to continue to be a problem unless he takes some steps to remedy the situation. Alison suggests pointing this out to your higher-ups, but Percival likely needs to hear this too. Maybe something like this:

    “Percival, I know there’s a lot of unresolved issues relating back to the situation between you and Wakeen when Jane was injured. You’ve said before that you don’t feel any regret for how you handled it. You’re allowed to feel however you want about it, but the reality is that your choice and your statements afterwards have really diminished you in the eyes of many people here.

    You’ve probably already noticed that people are cold towards you and will leave a room if you come in. Some have even told you to shut up when you’re talking. Your relationships are really weak right now, and I’m concerned that it’s not going to get better without some intervention on your part. Also, I want you to know that I’m not going to be able to force anyone to warm up to you after this.

    It’s up to you to decide what you want to do about it, but having bad relationships with others is going to make it harder on you to do your job well and it may hold you back in ways you don’t anticipate.”

    1. Catalin*

      Not a bad idea, but I’d recommend rewording to remove the first two sentences in paragraph 3 (for plausible deniability) and to end the last sentence after “well” (to avoid a whiff of a threat). This turd will absolutely report that people are bullying him and you knew about it and did nothing, and he will absolutely report threats of retaliation (in his mind).

      1. NW Mossy*

        Yeah, I think it’d be fair to tweak that paragraph to say something more like “I will continue to set the expectation that everyone behaves professionally towards you and intervene if they’re not, but I can’t promise that they’ll be warm and welcoming in light of the history.”

    2. KR*

      I agree with other commenters that OP will have to think hard about how to make sure this sounds not threatening at all but I like this line of discussion for saying like, “I can’t force you to do this, but you have to be aware of the severity of your actions and the consequences it is having on your work relationships.” I think this is the best way to go about this situation.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This is a really good idea! (Definitely have at least one person in the room with you at the time, though.) It might have an impact, it might not. But maybe hearing someone calmly point out what’s going will get through. If it doesn’t, at least OP can say they tried.

      1. Amazed*

        Yes! Make it written, have a witness.

        That way, Percival will still be able to make it in his own mind whatever he wants to be, but he won’t be able to control the narrative the way he has so far.

        Of course, this is also assuming the union doesn’t take his side anyway – which is a big “if” considering they did so the first time around – but that’s out of your control anyway.

    4. Liane*

      I don’t know, not being a manager, HR, or employment lawyer, but I don’t think that OP should be talking to Percival about this.

      But I am hoping that not only does Percival start job hunting, but that OP’s company allows managers to say more than “He worked here from Date A to Date B as an A-H Operator I.”
      Because it would be nice if OP could take a reference checker call and say something like, “Oh, yes, Percival has X years experience with the A-H Masterclass 3000,” in an “Ask Me More, Pleassssse” tone. “Well, he has been challenging to manage as long as he’s been on my team…No, he takes direction okay, follows procedures…but has displayed an instance or 2 of bad judgment, including unprofessional language…he comes off to peers as unhelpful or not a team player…”

  23. WhiteBear*

    I feel like someone needs to ask Perci-VILE, “If your partner/loved one was hospitalized and needed emergency surgery and no one told you about until hours later, how would you feel? Would you be okay with that?”

    Since it seems he likes office life so much, take that away from him. If possible, have someone else be the go-to person for fixing tech issues and give Perci-VILE as little access to the nice cushy offices as possible. Or at a minimum if you can renegotiate the contract to include a communications clause, in which while he’s fixing a tech issue he also has to man the phone and must immediately notify the person if anyone contacted them while they were away from their desk.

    Also the only petty as F thing I can think that you could do as his manager, is if he ever does decide to move on from this position, tell him he can use you as a reference, then be sure to mention his inability to work well/network/bond with coworkers due to his loss of integrity from this incident, and that he was a drain on morale in general.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Also the only petty as F thing I can think that you could do as his manager, is if he ever does decide to move on from this position, tell him he can use you as a reference, then be sure to mention his inability to work well/network/bond with coworkers due to his loss of integrity from this incident, and that he was a drain on morale in general.

      I don’t know; that could be an issue with the union as well, couldn’t it? I suspect it would be considered retaliation for winning his grievance.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I think you’d have to tread very lightly, but if you kept to the facts – “this incident happened, the grievance committee cleared him and he was reinstated, but it had a lasting chilling effect on morale and his interpersonal effectiveness” – and absolutely didn’t touch on any moral judgment, I’m not sure I’d see them having a case for retaliation. You’re just giving an honest, entirely factual reference.

    2. Tabby Baltimore*

      I think this will backfire, b/c the potential employer may listen to you and decide NOT to hire Percival. So taking this tack could guarantee he stays employed at the company forever. All the LW really has to offer (even if this didn’t occur in the U.S.) a reference checker is Percival’s date of employment, *possibly* a list of his job duties, and then state he is not eligible for rehire, w/o further explanation, right? The minimalist approach.

    3. Jen Erik*

      Some people just can’t do “How would you feel?”
      I’m not defending Percival: what he did was horrible. But, even if the identical thing happened to him, he might not be able to make the leap from ‘What I feel’ to ‘What they felt.’

      If Percival is like that, the ostracising may have a different effect than you’d think: if other people’s inner lives are unimaginable for you, being surrounded by people who are varying degrees of irritated with you – and sometimes even hostile towards you – is both normal and not a cause for particular concern.

    4. Everything Bagel Fan*

      It sounds like Percivial lacks any empathy. I doubt this would be a productive conversation.

  24. Been there*

    Stunned is the only word that comes to mind.

    OP, I think the only thing you are going to be able to do here is watch for the things that would be illegal for your area, but otherwise I would let nature take it’s course on this one. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suppose that this isn’t the first bit of bizarre behavior from Percival, otherwise it would be like going from 0 to 100 in 4.5 seconds.

    Unfortunately you are stuck with Percival and if he’s already used the grievance process successfully he will continue to do so. Tread lightly! I would make sure that you document any and all interactions with him that even hint at being outside the norm. I’m glad Wakeen’s wife recovered and hope you give us an update when it’s time (Also going out on a limb thinking the update with Percival is going to be a doozy when there is one).

  25. Janelle*

    In the same camp of what the actual f??? Not telling someone this important because you don’t want to leave the office?? I’m a amazed he hasnt been physically harmed at this point. Not that I condone that just amazed someone hasn’t lost it to that point. This man is scum. I wouldn’t even discuss work related things with him. Frankly I’d say out loud to his face my exact thought about him any time he came within distance of me. I’m so disgusted by this. Wow.

    1. Steve*

      To me that’s an aspect that is worse than the horse story. (Without comparing all the aspects of the stories.) At least in the horse story the manager who failed to relay the call, was “just” careless. In this case the employee was deliberately doing it out of conscious laziness. That’s just seriously F’d up.

      1. No Green No Haze*

        I think we all agree that Percival is a human stain, but I’m seeing a lot of commentary anent this situation that makes me think a lot of people here aren’t hourly employees governed by a CBA. CBAs are blunt instruments, hammered out through agonizing negotiation to cover the work behavior of large groups of people, not individuals. They attempt to cover likely situations, common structural problems, and majority preference: drilling down into specifics makes them apply badly to the majority.

        Speaking as an hourly union worker, I have a question to consider: would Percival’s pay rate have dropped to his typical shop floor level once he left the office?

        Some collective bargaining agreements get profoundly granular about work conditions, job descriptions, wages and what triggers a raise/drop in them. Re: his unwillingness to leave the office, laziness and or the cushy A/C might not be the only factors at work in his decision-making — his compensation, which rose as a result of this extra project, may well have dropped upon leaving it. When you work for an hourly wage, I promise you, that affects your decision-making process. I recognize how nutty this may sound to those of you who are salaried, especially with benefits as the US defines them, but it is a condition of our lives.

        Working at this level, your hourly pay rate is a constant presence in how you navigate your workflow and do your job, unless you have a rich spouse and you’re just working for the hell of it.

        If the CBA runs a clock on that pay bump, say per quarter-hour, so that stretching out a project longer and longer earns you more money, it can incentivize this sort of behavior. Doesn’t affect your empathy or the pass-as-human training your lizard leaders should have drummed into you before you were sent to this planet.

        1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

          If he was only trying to stay to milk his extra high wages, that should be a punishable and actionable thing though, right? Theft of time and money from the company. slacking/loafing on his job duties, shirking his actual work, LOTS of stuff that could (and SHOULD) be investigated that have absolutely NOTHING to do with his failure to deliver the message, or even the nature of the message- these would still apply if the message he failed to deliver was an urgent business matter or anything else.

          And as for your excuse that “work[ing] for an hourly wage, I promise you, that affects your decision-making process.”, well *I* can promise you, that even when I was working but yet so poor that I lived under the poverty level- had to dumpster dive for clothing and furniture, couldn’t afford insurance, medication, or doctor visits for my lifelong chronic illness (and regularly suffered the consequences, yay dozens of unpaid life-or-death situation ER bills!); regularly collected cans so I could buy toilet paper and even FOOD, and sometimes lived on Top Ramen or condiment sandwiches for weeks at a time; going hungry to make sure my animals had good quality food & care (all my animals ever have been homeless or abandoned strays, I didn’t go out obtaining pets willy nilly when I was that poor), and working every available hour/holiday/bit of overtime I could for a few precious extra dollars – that I would or COULD never choose an extra couple hours of higher pay over doing the morally right thing of letting someone know their spouse had been seriously injured, no matter what it meant for me. And I don’t think anyone who has ANY kind of a conscience would or could choose otherwise either. I cannot think of a single person I know, no matter how poorly paid, or how bad off their financial situation, who would do something like that. But then again, I hang out with regular decent human beings, not purulent stinking garbage fire excuses for people.

          I can also promise you that the only people who are going to go this route are people who are fundamentally flawed or damaged so they have little to no regard for human life whatsoever, or at least anyone other than themselves and maybe those that they feel close to or who are useful to them. People who are monstrously selfish & self centered and who think the world revolves around them. I can promise you this as well- Percival was already not liked by his coworkers *before* this incident, because people who act *that badly* do not do so in a vacuum, or suddenly out of the blue with no prior warning or bad behavior. I can say with absolute certainty that they know him as a slacker, a liar, braggart, a work-shirker, and a sneaky, unprincipled individual, and if he has any work friends at all, they are people who are similar in nature. If those coworkers felt safe enough to talk freely to management, I am sure the stories they would be hearing about what he gets away with would blow their minds.
          And if LW can’t find a way to get him out of that workplace, it’s going to destroy morale, good workers will leave, they will end up with nothing but Percivals, and the entire business will end up suffering.

          1. No Green No Haze*

            I am excusing nothing, which I think was clear in my post.

            The actionability of his sandbagging, if that’s what he was doing, would depend like anything else on the specifics of his CBA and whether management can prove it. Since the LW didn’t suggest it as a possibility, and he & his union felt free to blame Wakeen during their hearing, I’m thinking Percival was unsupervised enough that it wouldn’t have been documentable here. After all, if anybody had been keeping an eye on his work, that person would probably have picked up the phone instead.

            As other commenters have said, going forward, if his unrepentance and his co-workers’ vitriol make a noticeable, trackable impact on efficiency, safety, work output, company morale, etc — which has to be happening given his level of assholery? Then it’s treat Percival himself with by-the-book professionalism and don’t mention the initiating event they were already forced to apologize to *him* for, but take the large, current issue to the union leadership.

            His co-workers are union members as well, yes? This damages the union’s relationship with management on a company level, and they have a responsibility to address it. Whether or not they have a “conduct unbecoming” clause (doesn’t sound like it based on Percival, who, being an asshole, leaves himself vulnerable to his brothers’ disdain), it’s becoming a systemic issue that if not changed, will really hurt their bargaining position the next time the contract’s up.

  26. ginger ale for all*

    That would make an interesting news story for the local paper. I wonder how Percival would try to justify his non-action to a reporter? Or is this just something to imagine rather than do?

  27. Rusty Shackelford*

    In addition to making sure Percival never enjoys the perk of working on office computers again, I wonder if it would be in the LW’s best interest (since I don’t know the laws of their home country) to keep scrupulous records of any other perks Percival misses out on in the future, as a CYA move. For example, if Percival might normally be able to switch shifts if coworkers agree, and if the LW is normally involved in this, I’d keep a calendar noting that on this day, I asked for volunteers to take his shift, and everyone declined. You don’t want him to be able to spin “consequences of his actions” into “unwarranted punishment.”

  28. Delta Delta*

    I feel like a piece is missing for me about why Percival was answering the phone at all. Percival was in the office to do some computer repair. Is there not someone there who answers the phone, normally? I’m envisioning a workplace that has a shop but also has an office where office-type stuff happens (billing, invoices, phone calls, etc.), and presumably has someone working in there doing that work. Why was Percival answering the phone instead of that person? Or, if it’s an office that is not normally staffed, then it seems like the hospital would have had to leave a message that Wakeen’s wife was hurt and Wakeen still might not have found out quickly. (NB: I am NOT sticking up for Percival here; he strikes me as awful) Also, if Percival was taking calls, what other messages did he not deliver while he was in the office?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Sounds like Percival was at Wakeen’s desk, and normally Wakeen would have been there answering his own phone, except he was on the floor doing Percival’s job.

      1. Myrin*

        Exactly. It says “[Percival] was asked to fix an issue with the computer in the foreman’s office. […] While he was fixing it, the foreman, “Wakeen,” covered his job”.

        1. Lora*

          I’m surprised the union allows that, honestly – usually they’re pretty fussed about management doing management jobs and union people doing their job descriptions. That’s so if they go on strike, the company literally cannot function. Also so the company won’t be able to function nearly as well if they try to downsize union jobs.

    2. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      I interpreted like this:

      Wakeen and Percival both usually work on the shop floor.
      Percival is fixing the foreman’s computer and Wakeen is covering Percival’s floor duties. Foreman is off doing something else.
      Foreman would usually have answered his own phone.

      I admit it sounds a bit weird but I didn’t get the impression that Wakeen was the foreman?

      1. Some sort of Management Consultant*


        Wakeen was the foreman, and I’m bad at reading.

        Then he would’ve been there to answer his own phone and get the message.

    3. Elizabeth H.*

      It’s possible it was a general company line rather than Wakeen’s phone line. Or that it’s the kind of system where you can see whose extension is ringing and if they are not picking up and the phone is ringing and ringing, the receptionist could pick up and ask to take a message or if they want to go to the person’s voice mail. I used to work at a bookstore where we had a main number with two lines, and then a few managers/buyers had voice mail. Typically when the phone rang, whoever was nearest the phone (and wasn’t on the floor) would say ‘can I speak to the manager/Lucy in receiving/gifts’ and then you’d page “Lucy, call on line two” or tell them that Lucy wasn’t there and ask if they wanted you to take a personal message or go to Lucy’s voice mail. If that was the case, it would be normal for Percival (or whoever was in the office) to answer the phone but NOT normal for him not to page Wakeen.

  29. K.C. without the sunshine band*

    I grew up in coal mining country, so most of the folks I knew belonged to one union or another. I worked as management in a union shop once. I had a guy on video never picking up a tool all day. I set up a camera and taped him for his whole shift. He just stood around and talked. I fired him. The union got him reinstated with no repercussions. I never worked at another union shop after that. My husband had a similar experience in a different union shop. He stayed there about 8 months. A good union can have it’s place, but it seems rare to find.

    Perceval definitely needs to have all office work taken away. Can you do that under the contract?

  30. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

    Has anyone considered handling this in an entirely different manner?

    Since Wakeem’s colleague’s hands are bound, tell the story to Jane’s along with a fairly accurate physical description of him and his vehicle?

    Natural consequences at work and OP and the Union are out of the picture.

      1. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

        It’s not abuse if the guy is as sucky a driver as he is a colleague. He wants to use the letter of the law to avoid having to be a decent human being, it cuts both ways.

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          Yeah no, encouraging the police to retaliate against this union and pitting all the community fixtures against each other is way too Shirley Jackson.

          1. AMT*

            When making decisions at work, always ask yourself, “Would this fit well into a bleak work of magic realism in which the individual is pitted against the collective?”

    1. Bagpuss*

      Given that colleagues turned up when there was not response to the phone messages, and Wakeen quit his job in protect, I’d assume that Jane’s colleagues already know, and if they don’t she or Wakeen are free to tell them.

      But unless Percival breaks the law thye couldn’t lawfully do anything to him.

    2. plynn*

      You want the police to retaliate against Percival? How? Unjustified traffic stops, harassment, false arrest? Using the police as a personal toy to inflict punishment is far worse than anything Percival did.

      1. Chinook*

        “You want the police to retaliate against Percival? How? Unjustified traffic stops, harassment, false arrest? Using the police as a personal toy to inflict punishment is far worse than anything Percival did.”

        It doesn’t have to go that far. But I can guarantee that Percival will never be able to talk his way out of a traffic ticket in that town. And, if he ever was seen coasting through a stop sign or speeding, you better believe that that stop will take extra time while the cop ensures all his paperwork is in order (DH says that he rarely gives out only one ticket at a stop. A lot of people carry expired insurance paperwork, forget their driver’s licence at home, or a whole host of other things that he can look for and either give a warning or a ticket for). I don’t see Percival as the type to keep up 100% on his tags and paperwork. And sometimes the cops’ computer system legitimately takes a long time to search the database. Call it a work to rule, cop style. Nothing illegal, just a choice to ignore the grey zone that allows for warnings and reminders.

        1. Izacus*

          You’re now literaly proposing a deliberate targeting of and abuse (by the police) of a person, which has been proven right in the court of law. You’re proposing that a police, tasked to protect the citizens, make someone’s live a hell because he didn’t forward a call. Think about how much worse that is than anything Percival did.

          1. Former Employee*

            A union hearing is in no way a court of law. What probably happened is that the union contract does not require someone to relay personal messages so the company couldn’t get rid of Pissant Percival.

            1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

              I would think that in an emergency situation, that common sense would override any particular work rule. Especially in a situation where it shows that Percival shows profoundly poor judgement in an emergency situation, and can only be counted on to make decisions in his favor when other peoples lives are at stake. This would be of great concern in ANY workplace, but especially in one of manufacturing where heavy machinery is in use and the potential of serious, disabling or life threatening injury is a real possibility. I sure as hell would not want to be working with someone (or have someone working for me) that I could not trust wouldn’t just ignore or fail to notify anyone about someone who had suffered a horrifying injury (or a potentially injurious situation- malfunctioning/damaged machinery or what not) because it might interfere with his break or lunch or a more pleasant/higher paid bit of work or might inconvenience him in any other way. That is a HUGE liability for the company, and now they have this millstone hanging around their neck, who thinks he is untouchable and is now going to be pushing to get away with whatever he can. The next person who Percival screws over might sue the living hell out of the company (or their surviving relatives might be the ones suing, who knows.) Or maybe the company will get lucky and when Percival gets hurt, all his coworkers will have better things to do than help him or let anybody know and he will die (leaving the world a better place with one less piece of human scum) or at least leave in a flounce when his coworkers are defended by the union and get away scot-free like he did.

    3. Katniss*

      Considering that when the police abuse their power they sometimes beat or kill people, this is a horrible thing to suggest.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        Or they could just be like him, and not respond for hours when Percival has an emergency. For people like him who have zero conscience and cannot play by the rules of normal human behavior, turnabout is fair play, isn’t it.
        I’ve seen way too many Percivals in my life, and the harm they do to others is way out of proportion to any other aspect of anything else they do in their lives. I am sick of them and honestly DGAF when bad shit happens to them as a result of their asshole behavior. If they all dropped dead right this second the world would be a much better place.

  31. Elizabeth West*

    Percival is a putrid little scumbucket. But I’m confused; did Percival actually take the call? Why is he even allowed to answer the foreman’s phone if he’s supposed to be fixing the computer?

    I think it would be funny if everybody quit over this and upper management was stuck with only one employee–Percival.

    1. Myrin*

      It sounds like there’s usually only one person in the office (Wakeen the foreman), so there wasn’t another office worker to answer the phone. But with Percival in there when no one else is, I’d guess they’d agreed that he can answer the phone and then let the approrpriate person – probably Wakeen since, irrespective of this parricular case, this is his office and phone so he’d be the first to speak to a caller anyway – know and they’d then proceed further.

  32. Allypopx*

    I’m sorry if this sounds ignorant, but do unions prevent managers from being able to manage? This is a work ethic issue on Percival’s part, it’s HUGELY impacted morale, and it cost the business a seemingly good employee. Can there really be *no* consequences because they could be perceived as retaliation? He can’t be demoted, but he can’t have privileges taken away – such as being allowed to spend time in the office? His duties can’t be arranged at his existing level to limit the time other people have to deal with him? He can’t be at the bottom of the totem pole for things like choice vacation time/break time preference or special favors from management he might have enjoyed before, or that other people get to enjoy (leaving early, free donuts, whatever)?

    If any of that is plausible, that’s where I’d start. Not in a petty or passive aggressive way, but in the interest of prioritizing other employees. As commenter Wakeen Teapots Ltd. (I think) wrote once, “compassionate managers put good employees first”, and this sounds like a time for compassion for the people stuck in this crummy situation.

    1. Bagpuss*

      retaliation would likely be anything that involved him being treated less favourably than other employees because of his grievance. So yes, things like treating him less well than others for vactaion time etc , giving him the least popular shifts etc would probably count as discrimination, particularly if those things didn’t happen before the incident.

      Of course, if he has changed shifts, and OP had a pre-existing policy that gave preference to those who had been on the shift longest, then giving him last choice might be permissible, as long as he moved up a rung once any one else joined the shift.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Unions have done many good things, but unfortunately they also often result in very rigid, black and white environments where managers aren’t able to bring their own judgment to bear in discipline situations and need to follow the letter of a (not always applicable) rule book.

      1. jhhj*

        Of course the REASON they do this is because managers, historically, were not fair wrt this, so they kept making rules to prevent this unfairness. Unions exist because management screwed up first. There are problems with them, but employees everywhere do better with a more union-friendly environment.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That is indeed the reason behind it. But I don’t agree that all employees do better in union-friendly environments. Some certainly do. Others don’t.

          1. jhhj*

            Sorry, I phrased that badly.

            The workforce overall does better if there are generally unions covering a large number of employees and allowed to negotiate for all workplace issues (not just salary). Not every individual needs to be in a union shop, but having a lot of them around pushes the floor higher even in non-union jobs.

          2. Solidad*

            I have a very good friend who works for Toyota. No union will every make it into his factory. Why? This particular Toyota plant treats its employees so generously that a union would be a downgrade.

            They are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for his two children with special needs. There’s no legal requirement they do so. They just view this as the way of keeping employees happy.

            1. Creag an Tuire*

              A colleague of mine once “infiltrated” an industry association meeting to hear a notorious “union-busting” lawyer’s presentation on how to keep your business union-free.

              It could’ve been just about cribbed verbatim from one of AAM’s posts, with the addendum: “Manage like this and your employees will tell the organizer to take his dues and piss right off.”

              1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

                You want to know what my husband’s work did try to keep the workplace “union free”? (not all warehouse locations are unionized)
                They shut down a high performing warehouse, that made them lots of money, and moved it just far enough away that all the people currently working there didn’t want to or couldn’t make the commute, and hired all new, non-union workers.
                This is a huge, nationwide, multibillion $ industry that makes money hand over fist but is always trying to take whatever it can from the people who are essential for keeping it running. My husband once accidentally saw his bosses paycheck- this guy was the manager of *just the warehouse*, not a big boss, not in charge of anyone but the guys in the warehouse and what they move around. No sales, no dealing with anyone outside the company, not even in charge of the FACILITY my husband works at.
                ONE of this guys paychecks was more than my husband makes in a MONTH of 15 hour overtime days. ONE CHECK- THOUSANDS of dollars. This guy could be easily replaced by anyone with a minimum amount of management/office skills, but what my husband does? HIS facility (because of his union) pays higher than industry standard, and has far better benefits (warehouse guys even have better insurance than anyone else there except maybe the super-bigwigs, because hi union fights for it), and they can’t even manage to higher one new person a year when they need it because the work is SO hard and SO physically demanding that new hires or temps leave after just a few days. His work would come to a standstill if these guys all left or went on strike, but still, they get treated like absolute dogcrap because, you know, WAREHOUSE, obviously some fatass old fart whose work is so easy he spent most of his day surfing the web for golf course deserves 5 times what those guys make!
                I wish more companies you like the ones you describe…unions would not be NEEDED.

        2. Allypopx*

          Absolutely true. I just also feel that many situations are handled best by (presumably good) managers with trench-level understandings of situations, and as much as bad managers can screw things up, the union process can also be abused.

          But I totally understand the need for and benefit of unions. This side of it is just frustrating.

      2. Creag an Tuire*

        It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg sort of thing, though. I’ll out myself a bit and say that, having helped organize unions in the past, by the time the workers called me, management had already repeatedly demonstrated that their own judgement was terrible, arbitrary, and frequently illegal.

        Now I’m sure OP came in after the contract and would be a good manager left to her own devices, but I’m guessing this particular contract came about because management couldn’t be trusted not to fire people arbitrarily unless they were constrained by progressive discipline rules. Either this is:
        a) no longer true, but neither the employees nor management have attempted to renegotiate the contract, and if this doesn’t light a fire under ’em, nothing will, or
        b) is still true of management in general (if not OP), and thus the employees are unwilling to change the contract language protecting Percival (despite hating Percival).

        Either scenario demonstrates a toxic workplace condition which would almost certainly exist at that company with or without the union.

      3. Izacus*

        Can you please not drag unions into that? As I mentioned in previous post, in most EU juristictions the law itself (not the union) won’t allow you to terminate an employee if he didn’t do anything wrong with his work related tasks. In most cases “being a shitty person” isn’t a good enough excuse to terminate someone immediately if they do their job (which according to the OP Percival didn’t – he just acted like a crappy person morally).
        That has nothing to do with unions – the judgement to reinstate an employee and pay backpay + damages would be given by a court, not a union.

    3. CatCat*

      The union represents every one of its members consistent with the bargaining unit requirements. It represents both the sinners and the saints. It is not there to make moral judgments about the members. This can result in managers getting stuck with the Percivals of the world.

    4. jhhj*

      I would assume that there could have been consequences, but since Percival was fired without following procedure, they’re SOL now with respect to this incident.

      I’d also be worried about not allowing Percival whatever perks everyone else gets — that’s going to be grieved as well, I would bet. You can stop giving him extra perks, but treating him worse than other people will be treated by him (not incorrectly) as retaliation.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        I would assume that there could have been consequences, but since Percival was fired without following procedure, they’re SOL now with respect to this incident.

        Oh man, if I had a nickel for every time I found myself dutifully defending somebody who not only ought to have been fired, but absolutely could’ve been fired months ago if management had done their motherloving job and documented… well, I’d have like fifty cents but still, it’s very frustrating.

        1. Ange*

          Yeah, my last workplace was very much like that. They would half-assedly try to discipline you for something, and when you pointed out they had not followed the disciplinary procedure, the whole thing would just go away, never to be heard of again. This is why we had some terrible employees.

          However we also had terrible union reps (largely cos no one wanted to do it) so I guess it balanced out for us as a rule.

          1. Chameleon*

            Hah! It’s true that in many if not most unions no one wants to take on the extra work of being a rep. I mentioned I was on the Board of Trustees, twice, only because my president called me personally to beg me to run (unopposed) because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to fill the Board. And I’ll admit I wasn’t a great member–I was busy trying to get a PhD so I didn’t have time to really get involved in everything I should have.

            Our membership was in the thousands, and the monthly meetings usually drew 10-20 people at best.

          2. AMT*

            I have worked at similar workplaces. I’m extremely pro-union, but I’ve seen *so* many situations in which management used the union as an excuse to manage terribly, union reps didn’t do their jobs, and/or policies were followed ultra-rigidly that I’m considering putting in for a transfer to one of my org’s non-union sites next year. I’m sure great union workplaces exist, but I am dying to work somewhere with a functional management culture, flexible policies, and (gasp) performance-based raises!

  33. Aloot*

    LW, read up on the laws and your company’s policies in regards to bullying, retaliation, and probably also hostile environments.

    And if you see any of your other colleagues beginning to either skirt or overstep those lines, let them know. Not because Percival deserves to be protected, but because he’s precisely the kind of asshole who is very likely to want to smack down anyone and would probably be smug as fuck about getting them in trouble (including being fired) for it.

    This is within normal management duties, I know, but I mean be extra proactive about it. Don’t give that wannabe human the chance or the ammo to fuck over someone else.

  34. Creag an Tuire*

    Just to jump in front of the inevitable union-bashing; ultimately there’s little difference between blaming an untenable situation on “a bad union contract” and blaming it on “a bad HR policy”. Even if the union rep was third party, it is unfair to blame her for defending the contract which management and the employees jointly agreed to — and if both sides agree the contract language is stupid, then it shouldn’t be that hard to change it. If it doesn’t change, then either there are larger issues at foot (like a toxic lack of trust between labor and management) or there are a lot of somebodys who are being too lazy and hidebound to change.

    (None of this is meant as a swipe at OP, who is individually unable to change the situation, just saying this is a case of “your employer sucks and won’t change” not “unions are just the worst”.)

    1. Jaguar*

      Yeah. Unions aren’t there to protect good people, they’re there to protect everyone in the union. When people complain, “this is why people hate unions,” this really means “because unions will protect people I don’t like.” It’s more an indication that the person making the comment doesn’t really support unions than it is something wrong with the idea of unions.

      1. Observer*

        No, in a case like this, it means that the union protected someone who was justifiable penalized for unjustifiable behavior – and they effectively did so at the expense of the other members of the workforce.

        The problem here is NOT the Pervical is unpopular, but that he did something inexcusable, and probably put someone’s life at risk, and HE is being treated as the victim.

        1. Jaguar*

          Unions aren’t set up to make value judgement and for good reason (allowing special cases hurts their negotiating power later since they’ve already agreed to exemptions). That has unfortunate consequences when it protects someone unpopular, but the reason for it is sound.

          This is like when people suddenly stop supporting the ACLU when the ACLU protects people or groups they don’t like. The union isn’t an arbiter of justice. Its role is to protect the fair and equal treatment of all its members. If the employer fired Percival in a way that circumvented the procedures they are supposed to follow, the union should be stepping in – that’s its reason for existing.

          1. Lissa*

            Great comparison. I have seen organizations like the ACLU accused of “both sidesism” or false equivalence but that is their role in those cases.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              Glassbowls have rights, too. When the union wins a grievance, it’s often an indication that management didn’t do its homework or follow the procedures set out for such cases.

          2. Observer*

            But what they did was NOT insuring fair and equitable treatment. It insured UNFAIR treatment to the benefit of one member at the expense of every other member in the company.

            1. Jaguar*

              Fair is a bit of an equivocal word, so perhaps I should have picked a different one. You seem to be reading fair in a karmic or justice way, but I meant fair as in everyone is entitled to the same treatment. What’s fair is that everyone gets the same protection from the union that Percival got (or, in this case, Percival gets the same protection anyone else would get).

              Speaking more to how you read it, though, I disagree that this is at the expense of everyone else at the company. You don’t have a right to like the people you work with. Percival continuing to be employed isn’t at the “expense” of everyone else by virtue of the fact that he’s awful.

              1. LBK*

                It’s certainly at the expense of their morale. What’s the point of protecting people’s jobs when you end up making them so miserable that they want to quit anyway? How is that actually making things better for the majority of the members of the union?

                1. Jaguar*

                  There’s a pretty big spectrum between “don’t like a coworker” and “so miserable I want to quit” and there’s no indication in the letter that they’re at the extreme end of that spectrum.

                  The point of protecting people’s jobs seems really obvious to me. I’m not sure how much you want me to expand on that. Jerks are still afforded fair and equal treatment.

              2. Observer*

                The issue is not that they don’t like him. The issue is that he is completely untrustworthy. He essentially put another person at risk for a relatively minor benefit, as well as hurting his coworker. This is a person who won’t warn you that the steps are wet, or take the time to leave a sign on a malfunctioning piece of equipment if he’s ready to go on his break etc. Will he call an ambulance when someone keels over, if he’s “busy” with something he prefers? What other damage will he do for his convenience.

                People don’t have a right to have all coworkers they LIKE. But they DO have a moral right to work with people whose minimal basic decency they can trust to do the minimal things that people do for each other to maintain a functioning society. Percival doesn’t qualify, and that DOES damage his coworkers.

                1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

                  This is my whole problem with the situation. Percival has shown himself to be untrustworthy and to have poor judgement in an emergency situation. If someone gets hurt on the manufacturing floor, is he going to stroll on by or neglect to inform anyone if it interferes with his break or lunch, or him getting to pleasurably fuck off from his real job by putzing around in the office? This seems to be a man with zero empathy and zero conscience, and if I were his coworker, supervisor, manager, or anyone else, I would have that in the back of my head CONSTANTLY, that I could be seriously hurt somehow and this jerk would ignore it if it was inconvenient for him.
                  Also a fact here that very few seem to address is this ISN’T ‘just’ an issue of him being a good/bad likable/unlikable person- he was by his own admission slacking off, shirking his actual job duties, and milking the different pay rate he gets for fixing computers for all it’s worth *just because he wanted to hang out in the office.* LW says Percival “didn’t tell [Wakeen] right away because if Wakeen left, [Percival] would have to go back to his job on the floor as opposed to getting to stay in the office”. THIS RIGHT HERE IS ACTIONABLE. THIS RIGHT HERE is something the company has every right to investigate, to find out just how often Percival uses that office time to slack off rather than do his actual job. How long has he been stealing time & money from the company by hanging out in the office when the computer work was done, or stretched that work out as l-o-n-g as possible so he could enjoy every moment of office time he could? How many other messages, of a less important nature perhaps, has he failed to deliver so he didn’t have to step foot out of that nice, comfy office? How many other duties has he shirked or ignored for the same reason? The fact that THIS particular message was of a life or death nature was what caught him out THIS particular time (and why his coworkers hate him, because it plainly shows what a monstrously selfish, self centered POS he is) but I can assure you, from having dealt with many assorted assholes, jerks, and toxic people in my life and work, that this was by no means his first offense, and that the people who deal with him daily are shocked only by how far he went, and not at all that he went there in the first place. LW, I would happily bet any amount of money that if you had an inside ear to his coworkers on the floor even *before* this incident, that Percival was widely disliked both for his unpleasant, untrustworthy nature AND lack of any real work ethic. This is the guy who is sneaky & unreliable, who squirms out of his duties at every available opportunity, who tattles on others whenever it will benefit him, who lies & exaggerates to make himself look good, and who is also totally unaware how many people are on to him & dislike him for it (and honestly wouldn’t care even if he did know, because he thinks everyone is really as unprincipled as he is and just jealous they are not as ‘good’ as getting away with it.) He feels like a victim because in his twisted logic he “knows” that in his place everyone else would have done the same darn thing and “they know it” but are all putting on a big show to look good for the boss or because they are all so envious of his superiority or whatever excuse he uses to justify it.
                  And now that he has gotten away with something this egregious he thinks he can do ANYTHING. It’s going to get much, much worse. All I can actually suggest is Number One- no more office time, ever. If your company cannot justify hiring someone in house whose actual job it is (possibly among other duties) to fix computers, then contract with an outside agency for this RIGHT NOW. The cost will be justified and it will be very hard for him to argue that you are depriving him of a perk when your company’s answer is “all computer maintenance is now handled by actual computer specialists” or however you need to carefully phrase it to make it totally neutral and non-retaliatory sounding. Because who could actually fault you for wanting your computers handled by someone whose specialized job skills, job title, and job description are 100% all computer repair & maintenance, instead of “some guy off the floor who knows something about computers but it’s not actually his job?”
                  Next is that good old standby, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. People ARE already aware of this guys shortcomings, but dollars to donuts those people are his coworkers, not any foremen or supervisors, and those coworkers feel powerless. I don’t know how these things are done in your country/industry/particular workplace, but I’d get together with HR and legal RIGHT NOW to figure out how people can make their complaints about his work standards/behavior/ethics known and documented. Every shenanigan he pulls from here on out needs to be documented, because he WILL be pushing to see what he can get away with and when he screws up massively again, you want to be able to whip out those documents (and records or any disciplinary measures that needed to be taken) when he tries to call the union in so you can show them that no, you are not retaliatory, he has a long record of slacking/loafing/screwing up/lying/whatever to back you up.
                  This guy is a HUGE detriment to your company. People like him are so toxic they will eventually destroy all morale. Good people will leave as soon as they have the opportunity, and you will end up with a company full of “Percivals” because they are the only type of people who are going to be able to stand being around a person like that. You need to work on getting him to leave as easily, painlessly, and quietly as possible- for the company that is. I would not rest until I had explored EVERY last legal way of making that happen.

        2. Gadfly*

          As someone else said somewhere (but as a complaint) having a union tends to mean you have to make sure everything is above board.

          And for every Percival there are a dozen people whose problem was being the wrong color, gender, religion, etc.

          Unions aren’t allowed to decide which one matters because they are made of people too. They are just supposed to make it fair and have the same rules apply to all. Especially the ones they don’t like. Some are better than others at doing it. But doing it even fro horrible human beings protects those who are treated horribly by those who don’t think they are human beings. It is better to protect a few Percivals than it is to sacrifice all of the others.

        3. Ann O.*

          It’s actually a bit unclear. We don’t know that the company followed the procedure agreed upon in the contract. The penalty may have been unjust by letter of the contract, however morally just we all agree it is.

    2. Elizabeth H.*

      Agree – whatever our thoughts on unions (I have many, many different and varied thoughts on unions) I don’t see this as the kind of thing that could only happen in the presence of a union.

    3. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      Look, my husband works in a warehouse, and is union. I recognize how valuable his union is, because without it he’d be making minimum wage- even though he is fully trained/licensed to operate every kind of warehouse vehicle there is; he regularly works 12-15 hour days, and the work there is SO HARD and SO PHYSICALLY DEMANDING that his company has had warehouse positions go unfilled for months to YEARS at a time even though they pay higher (still not what the job is worth) and have better benefits than industry standard, because even the experienced workers that their staffing agencies send will spend one-three days there and say “screw this”.
      Because of his union we have excellent medical insurance that we can also actually afford to use- I have a number of lifelong chronic health conditions, that require daily medications so I can be alive, and constant regular doctor visits. We can afford this with our current $10 copays for everything, but if that even doubled, we’d be screwed- and his company is regularly trying to get them to take a different insurance that would not only QUADRUPLE our copays but would also not cover some of my 100% medically necessary medications, both of which cost at minimum $300 a month (we live paycheck to paycheck and could only afford this if we were homeless), and yes one of those IS generic (the other has no generic as of yet.) Without those medications I WOULD DIE. As far as I am concerned, my effing LIFE depends on the fact that my husband has a good union.
      AND YET…
      My husbands job is FULL of “Percivals”- slackers who hide in the aisles & sit around on their forklifts diddling on their phones all day, who take regular 40 minute bathroom breaks to avoid work, who run away & hide at the back of the warehouse when customers some to pick up will calls because they “don’t want to deal with it”, who take ‘sick days’ EVERY week even after their PTO is long gone, who put their work orders in other peoples boxes because they just don’t want to do the work, who seem to always be ‘hurting’ themselves and wanting ‘light duty’, and who generally screw up, slack off, and are insubordinate right, left, and center CONSTANTLY and who management can do NOTHING about because any time they try these whiny, lazy, spoiled manbabies run straight to the union and start crying about how ‘unfair’ it is that they got written up for blatant violation of the clearly stated & written rules. It gets very, VERY frustrating for my husband and the one or two other guys there who actually DO work hard and pull their weight, and then are expected to pick up the slack for all the Percivals who are fully protected from getting fired. One of these Actual Hard Workers quit and I mean walked out, no notice, I QUIT!!, in anger and frustration, and not only did the big boss of the warehouse but the big boss of their entire BRANCH (this is a nationwide company [previously international], multi-billion $ company) drove to his house and BEGGED him to come back because they knew how screwed they were without him. Another time of the the Actual Hard Workers was goaded & taunted by one of the Percivals so bad that he punched him- in the warehouse- and DID NOT GET REPRIMANDED in any way because management knows how awful some of these guys really are.
      And yes, they used to have a lot of real problems with one particular manager (now gone), but this guy was best buds with the old union rep (also now gone), they used to hang out, get beers, go golfing together etc so it sure AF didn’t help the guys who it was supposed to!
      And I’ll add that my husband is the assistant shop steward for his work, so he has been to union negotiations more than once (with the new, good rep) and he knows how the sausage is made, and how hard they CAN and DO work to protect their members (and how hard it is when the filthy rich corporations they are dealing with want to strip EVERYTHING, including anything even resembling a living wage, from the people who work the HARDEST to actually keep their business running. It doesn’t make it any easier when he sees a dozen Percivals getting away with all but murder, every day, for years on end, and nobody can do a damn thing about it.

  35. Myrin*

    Others have already made very good points all around so I’m not going to add on them but I simply can’t get over Percival’s reasoning for all of this.
    He “didn’t tell [Wakeen] right away because if Wakeen left, [Percival] would have to go back to his job on the floor as opposed to getting to stay in the office”.


    Your job is on the floor, buddy. If it weren’t for random computer issues popping up every now and then, he wouldn’t even get to be at the office and away from the floor ever. And if he hates his job so much that he can’t bear to let go of any opportunity to not be present to do it, then maybe he should’ve changed jobs a long time ago. Jesus Christ.

    1. strawberries and raspberries*

      This is what gets me too. And even to admit this outright- I feel like most normal people, if they forget to convey a message or don’t pick up the phone or whatever, will profusely apologize or be mortified or something indicating they grasp the gravity of the whole event. To be so cavalier as to just openly admit “I didn’t want to go back on the floor” is jaw-droppingly narcissistic and callous.

    2. BadPlanning*

      Right? Where’s the “Oh, I didn’t think it was that serious, just an FYI.” or “Wakeen said don’t interrupt him while he’s running BigMachine.” or “I was going to tell him, but then Lucy asked me a question and the harddrive started leaking so I got distracted.”

  36. TootsNYC*

    I liked the idea upstream about approaching HR to see if there’s a way to offer him severance in order to get him out. It rewards him, true, but it gets him out of the way so your workplace can function again.

  37. Anlyn*

    I’m not saying Wakeen should do it (in fact, I don’t think he should), but could he sue the union, especially if his wife had died? And if so, what’s the most likely outcome?

    I’m just curious; I know a little about labor history (and how interesting this question came up during Labor Day week), but mostly from turn of the 20th century.

    1. sap*

      They are not in the U.S., but it sounds like they are in Europe and Europe generally has less tort liability than in the U.S.

      In the U.S., the answer is anybody with a printer can file a lawsuit, and also Wakeen could not ever win a lawsuit against the union. First, the union didn’t not give him a phone message. Second, by getting Percival reinstated (probably becausd termination procedures weren’t followed) the union was just enforcing a contract that *Wakeen’s employer* messed up compliance with. So, no. And a bunch of other reasons also.

  38. Peredur*

    I feel that we’re not getting the whole story here. It’s so bizarre that there’s no repercussions on Percival for what happened that there has to have been something within the disciplinary process. As disciplinary processes are confidential the OP and Percival and Wakeen’s co-workers might never know why the higher bosses made their decision. To everyone who is wishing bad things on Percival please remember there might be something else going on and bullying him out of the workplace isn’t going to benefit anyone.

    On the union-bashing; unions do a very important job protecting the powerless against exploitation and unfair treatment. Even if the particular union in this case has made a big mistake I’d rather them make the error in this direction. A bad employee will always mess up again, a good employee unjustly fired might never get a chance to prove themselves.

    1. AW*

      It isn’t higher bosses that make a decision during a grievance though, right? I thought that those got handled by third party arbitrators.

  39. Ramona Flowers*

    “Percival has openly said he doesn’t feel bad about what he did”

    Wow. Just wow. I mean I try to be compassionate and what have you but he got his job back and doesn’t even have the humility to show remorse?

    This is like the horse letter. It just totally sucks. I’m sorry I’m not saying anything useful but just wow.

  40. This is my Spout*

    Would it be alright to refer other employees to the union (theirs too, I assume) with the issues, current or new, they have with Wakeen?

    1. Chameleon*

      Management would have to be a little careful–you shouldn’t come off as even a whiff of “complain to your union if you want to keep your job.” But if the employees themselves complain to the manager, I think pointing out that they could say the same thing to their rep would be okay.

    2. Kristin D.*

      I don’t know the law in OP’s country, but it’s usually unlawful for the employer to meddle in internal union business.

      1. sstabeler*

        The way I interpret it is merely making complaining employees aware that since it is fundamentally a personal conflict, the union is the appropriate forum for handling the matter, not management. That ISN’T interfering in internal union business- indeed, it’s arguable that not referring them to the union would be- what would be interfering is if the company actively encouraged people to find a reason to complain to the union about Percieval.

  41. Dana*

    One thing to note is that Percival may be positively *hoping* that he’ll be treated badly enough that he can claim “retaliation” and get some kind of monetary settlement from the company. If everyone treats him decently, he has to *work* for a living. But if he can stick around putting his face in other people’s faces long enough, he might be able to goad the company into paying him lots of money to go away, or he might be able to file a complaint about the unjust treatment and get money out of it. If the OP retaliates even a little, that’s doing this jackwad a *favor*.

    Even just talking to Percival about the fact that everyone’s mad at him and he’s just going to have to deal with could far too easily be spun into evidence of deliberate retaliation. That kind of conversation would help if Percival was a reasonable person of good will, but that’s obviously not the case.

    If anyone can push Percival out, it’s going to have to be the coworkers, not the OP. But the OP can’t suggest this to them, and would need to put on a good show of “talking to” those who are rude to him and diligently “investigating” when Percival’s tires get slashed. (I do like the idea of taking this to a local paper! But that too would have to be the coworkers, not management.)

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      One thing to note is that Percival may be positively *hoping* that he’ll be treated badly enough that he can claim “retaliation” and get some kind of monetary settlement from the company.

      Whoa, that didn’t even occur to me. It wouldn’t be surprising if this indeed was his plan.

    2. CMDRBNA*

      Yup, this. I worked for a federal agency and our office manager was awful – slept at his desk, watched movies at his computer or day-traded all day, didn’t do a lick of actual work. I mean, I was there for over two years and I literally never saw him do anything that could be construed as actual work.

      He was the office ‘missing stair’ and everyone just sort of navigated around him like he was a piece of furniture, until we had an employee go out on bereavement leave, and we had a program that needed staffing. They asked him to do it – the first and only time I saw him actually get asked to do anything and he promptly filed an EEO complaint alleging that he was being discriminated against (he happened to be a minority).

      He tried including me as a supporting witness in the EEO complaint, which was hilarious. I got to review his complaint (he spelled my name wrong, we’d worked together for two years in a tiny office) and basically got to shoot down everything he said, which felt great. I’d already left the office at that point so I don’t know what happened to the complaint. I believe he’s still “working” for the feds.

      I am 100% sure that my coworker was waiting for something to happen so he could file an EEO complaint and try to cash out. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’d done similar things at other offices.

      What makes me furious is that real discrimination actually happens, and yet I feel like unions and the EEO only seem to get involved when it’s crap like this, while I’ve seen blatant discrimination go unchecked in the very same agency.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        What makes me furious is that real discrimination actually happens, and yet I feel like unions and the EEO only seem to get involved when it’s crap like this, while I’ve seen blatant discrimination go unchecked in the very same agency.

        Same at my husband’s job. When they really DID have a horrible manager, who did some pretty awful things (like refusing to let someone have time off for a close relatives funeral, or not letting a guy leave when he was ill because a previous time had turned out to be a false alarm instead of something serious, but this time it WAS serious), nothing got done, because their union rep at the time was best buddies with him- I mean they hung out, got dinner/lunch/beers, went golfing, all of it.
        But the guys that get written up/reprimanded in any way for blatant violation of clearly stated rules, or not doing their jobs AT ALL, go crying to the union and get absolved of everything. Only once has the union declined to back someone up, and that was because they had gotten really, REALLY tired of backing up this guys (a 20+ year employee) complaints- all of which were total BS, he was in the wrong every time- and finally had the worked up the spine to say so.
        And we both know how valuable his union is, my husband is assistant shop steward, and has been to negotiations, and seen how hard they fight for them to have/keep and almost-living wage and good benefits, but he’s seen this crap going on at his work for 12+ years and it really effects him, as well as the two or three other guys that are actual good, reliable workers. Percivals destroy company morale, and when the all the union does is protect them, employee morale goes so far down the toilet it is pretty much unrecoverable.
        My husband has been looking for a new job for years, but nothing else pays as much (even though he makes under $20 an hour, which dis disgusting considering his skill level [certified on all warehouse vehicles] and how unbelievably hard the work there is [they can barely find or keep new employees because it is so physically demanding that even skilled & experienced workers leave after a week or less] or offers good enough insurance. Gosh I love living in the Good Old USA, where the people who do the absolute hardest work of all, also make the shittiest wages of all!

  42. At a Loss for Words... Mostly*

    Definitely make sure that you know the rules because the last thing you want is Percival making himself out to be the victim (I think he would rather enjoy that situation and milk it for all it was worth). Any other behaviour that might be seen as mean but does not break the rules/laws is fair game as far as I’m concerned. From the sounds of it Percival was able to keep his job because he only broke the rules of basic human decency but not those of the workplace. Any repercussions he is experiencing now should be fine as long as it falls within that same area. It doesn’t make work comfortable, but it sounds like you don’t have another choice.

  43. Not really a waitress*

    I wonder how Percival was regarded prior to this incident. He openly admitted he didn’t want to go back to his job on the floor. I doubt this was a bolt of lightning idea.

    I agree, as a manager, you have to make sure that there is no bullying or retaliation but it is difficult to control people’s feelings.

    I am also curious how this was spun to make Wakeen look like the bad guy.

    1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

      I am also curious about that- and why, if the union HAD to defend piece of flaming garbage Percival, they would go out of their way to make Wakeen look like a bad guy instead of just being as neutral as possible and doing only what they were strictly required to do to defend him. That’s just so foul it makes me want to puke.

  44. Creag an Tuire*

    Another thought (and maybe something OP can impact) — so normally Wakeen would’ve been in his office and gotten the call, but what’s the procedure when Factory Floor Fred gets an emergency call? (I’m assuming there are safety reasons why nobody has a cell phone.) Was it Wakeen’s job to notify Fred ASAP? Was it assumed (but not sufficiently spelled out) that Percival would perform this aspect of Wakeen’s job while fixing the computer? Clearly, this is a policy that needs to be tightened so that nobody misses an emergency call again.

    1. Rhonda in Oregon*

      Just a little FYI- My husband is a floor supervisor in an manufacturing plant. He does have a desk, but it is on the floor. He has no desk phone. I have had emergencies with my mother in the past. I will try to call his cell phone (which they are not supposed to answer, but I will only call him in an emergency). If I do not get an answer, I then call the main number to the business and let the receptionist know that I need to speak to him now and that it is n emergency. They will send someone immediately to the floor and he will pick up one of the shop phones. It is my experience that this is how most shops work.

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        …that might actually explain how Percival won his case then, if he could argue that “It wasn’t my job to relay the phone call — I assumed that after failing to reach Wakeen directly they would immediately call Rhonda Receptionist as per our procedures.”

        That doesn’t excuse him for not at least trying to figure out what was up after Wakeen got a second phone call, or for generally acting like a sack of asses about the whole thing, but neither of those are a firing-worthy offense under most contracts.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        At OldExjob, I had to notify the shop manager if an emergency call came in for one of the shop employees. A similar situation happened one day when an employee’s wife called, frantic, because their child had cut himself and Employee had the car.

        I paged the manager–twice–and he didn’t answer. She said her phone battery was going to die. I finally told her I was going to physically go find someone, and to disconnect and save her phone battery in case she needed to call 911 and that we would find her husband and have him call her ASAP. She said okay.

        She later complained that I hung up on her. It was another ten minutes before the goddamn manager could be f*cking found. I was so pissed off because although I didn’t get in trouble, I got a talking-to. I wasn’t angry at the wife, because she was understandably upset and wasn’t thinking straight. But the emergency procedure obviously didn’t work.

        I absolutely think the policy at OP’s workplace needs adjustment. Starting with Percival not ever touching the phone in this life or any other, but also routing calls so that they never miss an emergency again. If no one is in the office, then there needs to be another option for callers to reach a person.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          WTF that’s so ridiculous. You were doing your best to resolve the problem! Glad you’re out of there.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I believe the foreman is typically out on the floor to oversee the workers, at least part of the time.

      The OP could definitely look into putting an actual policy in place for how to handle emergency calls. I think if I worked on that floor and heard about this situation, I’d be concerned about what might happen if one of my relatives were injured.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        I f I worked on the floor with Percival, I’d be worrying about what would happen if I or one of my coworkers was injured, because Percival obviously DGAF about anything but himself and his own comfort/inconvenience/extra salary.

  45. Symplicite*

    I have nothing but this: LW – is it possible to have an on-call company to fix the computers? Can you make a recommendation for the hiring of a company so that eliminates Percival’s ability to go into the office to help with the computers? Can it be something from Head Office, thus eliminating the retaliation potential?

  46. KatyO*

    I can’t believe they didn’t have a termination case for work avoidance. He clearly stated he said nothing to avoid going back to his normal job. What kind of messed up system allows this?

    1. Myrin*

      I was thinking this. It’s much harder in my country to fire someone than in the US but I just dug into this topic a little deeper and one reason that always comes up as a good and solid one to fire someone is if they refuse to do their job, especially in a way where they threaten to call in sick in case something doesn’t go their way. It seems to me that that’s a comparable situation, especially since Percival is so unashamedly open about it, but I have absolutely no idea.

  47. Edina Monsoon*

    I cannot even begin to imagine how he made Wakeen out to be the bad guy – no wonder no one wants to speak to him!

    1. sobriquet*

      My guess is that Wakeen probably got (rightfully) furious and said a few unprofessional things that might, under normal circumstances, be considered bullying. These were abnormal circumstances, though, and if I’m right then Wakeen should’ve gotten a pass on that.

      Also, Percival, on the off chance you’re reading, please know that you’re garbage.

  48. Lizabeth*

    This can’t be the first time he has pulled something similar to this in the workplace. Personally, I would be documenting everything going forward that smells and finding someone else to do the IT. ESPECIALLY THE IT because he could do some serious mischief there.

    I would be interested in seeing any transcripts of the union hearing to see how it was explained; was Wakeen even represented fairly at it?

    1. JanetM*

      (I’m guessing here.) Wakeen probably wasn’t part of the hearing; the hearing would have been focused solely on whether (a) Percival violated a rule set forth in the contract and, if so, (b) whether the company followed the procedure laid out in the contract for discipline leading to termination. I’m honestly not certain why Wakeen was even brought up in the hearing.

      Although I admit that I am also curious as to how Wakeen was “made out to be the bad guy.”

      And note: I’m not in any way defending Percival, just saying the union was obligated by law to follow up on his grievance and make the company comply with the contract. (My husband used to be a shop steward. There were many, many times he had to tell his coworkers, “I will stand up for you and make sure the company dots the Is and crosses the Ts, but I cannot protect you from the consequences of your actions.”)

  49. Amethyst*

    Not really advice or anything, but my workplace has an Workplace Jerk like Percival, who sometimes just doesn’t seem to understand basic human decency. Last year, one of my coworkers, Jane, fainted while at work (she was pregnant at the time as well, which the whole office knew about). Naturally an ambulance was called right away, and Workplace Jerk and her friend saw Jane into the ambulance and off to the hospital. So Workplace Jerk doesn’t look like so much of a jerk, but wait for it.

    When Workplace Jerk and her friend came back into the office after seeing Jane off, our receptionist told them that she’d call Jane’s husband (to let him know what had happened). Workplace Jerk immediately snapped “WHY?!” at her. Receptionist said, calmly and slowly, “Because he’s her husband and he needs to know.” Then Workplace Jerk waffled a bit and walked off. (Workplace Jerk’s friend came back later and apologized to Receptionist – WJ’s friend was shocked that WJ went off like that.)

    For reference, I work in an office, and our Workplace Jerk is in her 50s-60s and has decades of office experience. So really anyone can be a Workplace Jerk, regardless of where they work. It’s got everything to do with being a decent human being or not, which Percival is obviously not.

    I second the ideas to take away Percival’s “perks” of working in the office instead of doing his normal work, and anything else that is a perk to him, especially if it’s something that no one else gets to enjoy. If he doesn’t care about what other people think of him and their coldness doesn’t bother him, then maybe losing the perks he clearly cares about so much will make him rethink his decisions.

  50. Rose*

    Would it be possible to have someone who might be quitting soon (or maybe Wakeen!) to send this as a story to media? At the very least, if Percival’s real name was out there, future employers could google him and also maybe the company would be able to have another go at firing him (if the story frames the union as bad actors, they might be more than willing to pretend it was a “slip up” and not support him after all).

  51. Lady Phoenix*

    If I had to work with this asshole, I would give on the most basic of help in the most cold-politest tone.
    “Here’s a pen.” “Your shift is X:XX.” “Here’s an attachment for x document.”

    I wouldn’t greet him, acknowledge him, or go the extra mile for him.
    “Can you trade x shift with me?”
    “Sorry, I can’t accomdate that request.”

    Essentially the only courtesy I can give him is that he is working. I don’t have to treat as anything more for his dickery, since I have no doubt he would sooner throw everyone else under the bus.

  52. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Yeah, there are no words for the original part.

    For the PC part that someone mentioned earlier. I think you can really push this as reasonable without any retaliation fears. Make sure to check with the higher-ups, but I would probably ask for a PC audit on any PCs he’s had access to (or a random set of them). Reasons:

    1) From the documented wording on this incident he seemed focused on remaining in the offices as long as possible instead of doing repairs and returning to duty.
    2) There are a lot of things a single PC person can do that would cause a PC to misbehave “randomly”, and then they would need to fix it.
    2a) As such, there’s the potential for issues to be present in various PCs that may cause long-term issues.
    3) You’d like an outside review of a few PCs for peace of mind. Of course, during that time, Percival could not have access to the PCs.
    (Ideally, you’d like someone to audit his “troubleshooting” to see if he added anything extra OR to see if he’s padding tech time for repairs a la 8 hours to reinstall Office 365 or something.)

    There’s also the really nice point that this is the first phone issue that was heard of–but possibly not the first one that happened. How firm is the agreement for him to do troubleshooting? Easiest thing would probably be to cancel it if you can.

    Honestly, he may even be looking for a new job now, but trying to ride the train on this one into the ground–see how much he can get away with not doing and whatnot while still getting paid.

    1. sobriquet*

      Percival was not working on the computers. Percival was covering Wakeen’s desk while Wakeen worked on the computer issues.

  53. Marzipan*

    “Percival was asked to fix an issue with the computer in the foreman’s office. Percival volunteers to do this and is always classified and paid accordingly, as per the collective agreement with his union.”
    I feel like one outcome here should be that Percival doesn’t get to do this task anymore. He’s clearly not an appropriate person to have in the office, and it sounds as though this isn’t a specific part of his job role but something he’s taking on. In your position, in future I would be asking someone not-Percival to do any similar tasks that came up. It sounds as though he regards these tasks as somehow superior to his usual work (see: his reluctance to tell Wakeen and thereby have to go back to his usual work) but I see no reason why he should get to do it or why he’d be an appropriate person to entrust with it.

  54. AW*

    Percival has said several times, to people here and in his grievance hearing, that he was planning on telling Wakeen near the end of the shift and didn’t tell him right away because if Wakeen left, he would have to go back to his job on the floor as opposed to getting to stay in the office. He also brought up racial issues about the police in America, even though we are not American and it has nothing to do with this.

    This is the part I’m most stuck on. How did this get said during the actual hearing and still result in him getting his job back? He admitted to deliberately avoiding his own work and to doing this maliciously due to events in a whole different country.

    How did the people in charge of the hearing get that testimony and not see a problem? Does the contract with employees somehow allow deliberately avoiding work? This has to be some bizarre technicality, right?

    And as someone said up-thread, if both management and the other union members hate this outcome so much, there has to be a way to fix it so it can’t happen again.

    1. Myrin*

      Yes, I’d be really interested to know that as well. As I said in another comment upthread, I promptly dug a bit deeper into this topic and found that even in my country, where it’s much more difficult to fire people than in the US, one of the textbook examples of reasons to fire someone is if they refuse to do their job, especially if they threaten to call in sick or similar should they be forced to (do their job, you know). This seems like a fairly similar situation so I’m intrigued by what’s been going on there.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Well, he wasn’t refusing to do his job. That day, his job was to fix the computer issue. It’s not like he was faking sick or hiding in the bathroom to avoid work altogether.

        1. Myrin*

          Hm, you’re right, I didn’t think of that. I reckon I imagined this “fixing a computer issue in the foreman’s office” as a two hour thing, not something taking up his whole workday. So I’d still view it as him hiding to avoid his regular work (just in Wakeen’s office) but yeah, not the same situation.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I do actually think it’s very likely that he was taking his sweet time, which is another reason to officially stop assigning him the computer task – he’s not efficient enough.

        2. NDC*

          Percival also knew that if he passed on the message, Wakeen would leave work to go to the hospital. That meant that there would no longer be anyone covering Percival’s job on the shop floor, so Percival would have to go back to his job on the floor whether he had finished fixing the computer or not.

          1. tigerStripes*

            One thing that bugs me, if Percival had given Wakeen the message and hadn’t finished fixing the computer, Percival probably could have gone back the next day or a few days later and finished fixing it and getting off of the shop floor. What did Percival gain really? He briefly lost his job, and everyone understandably hates him, and all this for being able to be off the shop floor.

          2. SystemsLady*

            I still see a lot of reason to doubt Percival is actually spending that much time fixing the computer (especially if he gets paid more for it).

    2. WhirlwindMonk*

      Having worked in the auto industry for some years, I feel like a significant percentage of the people in this industry would say that the whole purpose of the auto unions is to allow people to deliberately avoid work. Between the stories I’ve heard and the things I’ve seen firsthand, it’s just absurd. I don’t think I have met anyone who didn’t at least grumble the moment they realized they had to interact with skilled trades. Maybe there are still some good unions out there, but my experience with the auto union and the teacher’s union make me skeptical.

      1. Wilhelmina Mildew*

        I feel like a significant percentage of the people in this industry would say that the whole purpose of the auto unions is to allow people to deliberately avoid work.

        My husband has said essentially the exact same thing about his union in his industry.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      I suspect Percival has friends in high places. He’s the relative, boyfriend, or best buddy of at least one person high up in the union or management or maybe even both.

    4. Amazed*

      That’s what gets me, too. Plus the later statement that he made Wakeen out to be the bad guy, and apparently the union backed him up on it.

      Someone in the union is abdicating their responsibility or having smoke blown up their tailpipe, big time. Or they know where the bodies are buried. That’s why everyone on the ground and in this thread has so little faith in any kind of reasonable outcome to this situation.

  55. Lynn*

    I’m in a union, and I will be the first to admit that my union leadership has been pretty dysfunctional over the years, but I’m still horrified by this. If my union defended someone in this situation, forget shunning. I’d have stopped my dues, encouraged everyone else to do the same, petitioned and organized a vote to join another union, filed a grievance of my own (depending on the contract, I’m sure there is a cause related to the employer failing to notify employees of emergency situations, and Percival was acting on behalf of the employer in his role as an employee) to put it right back on the union to fix the Percival issue, volunteered or found someone to volunteer for the computer job instead, and written a few letters to the editor. Honestly, you’re lucky the other employees speak to him for work reasons – I’d be tempted to stop talking to him at all and route all communications through management because he clearly cannot be trusted to relay pertinent information that might increase his workload.

    Since you don’t have those options as his manager, I second (third, fourth) the calls for a PC audit and never again allowing him the privilege of doing office work, since he lacks required office skills – taking and delivering a message for example. I would also take whatever official actions were required (with upper management and the union) to prevent him from performing any independent/special work projects, since he has admitted he will do anything to avoid returning to his regular duties for as long as possible. I would also begin documenting his inability to make amends with his co-workers and foster good work relationships and all the resulting consequences on his work and productivity – someone who cannot work with their co-workers though every fault of their own needs to start being managed out.

  56. Jessica*

    I’m wondering how it was not incumbent on Percival to notify people who called in the ordinary course of business, because Percival was in the foreman’s office and the foreman was covering for him on the floor? If it had been any other call about an issue that the foreman had to handle (broken equipment, people calling in sick, I dunno), would it have been okay for Percival to just toss the message and not tell anyone? was it deemed acceptable in this case because the foreman’s wife wasn’t a job-related situation? That seems like a terrible policy.

    At the minimum, a) Percival no longer gets any perks and opportunities to advance or do anything special, and b) find some way to forward calls to the foreman when he’s covering a shift! Jeez. Surely in all of the technology available to us, there must be a way to notify people beyond having a phone in an office that needs someone to sit there and answer it. Or at the very lease, rewrite the rule so that whoever’s in the foreman’s office MUST deliver messages promptly.

  57. Middle Name Jane*

    Percival is a piece of dog crap, and issues like this (the hearing, being reinstated to his job, not having to admit wrongdoing, etc.) are why I generally don’t like unions.

  58. SheLooksFamiliar*

    I can’t add a thing to this thread regarding Percival’s behavior – so many people have said what I’m thinking about Percival and his just desserts. Well, there’s this: I’m very glad Jane is better, and hope that Wakeen’s new job and team are everything he wants them to be after the shabby treatment he received.

    However, I wanted to ask the Letter Writer to please keep us posted. I don’t glory in someone’s misfortune, and I have a feeling Percival isn’t as immune to the treatment he’s getting as he appears to be. But I’d love to find out if the LW and/or company can find a way to re-terminate Percival, or if he finally leaves, or has a change of heart, and so on. I feel for the LW, s/he is in a tough spot.

  59. Noah*

    Percival is definitely awful, but not firing somebody for failing to pass on a personal message (no matter how important) seems like an acceptable outcome. Not a good outcome–because there is no good outcome when an employee chooses not to pass on a message like this–but an acceptable one.

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      I guess the question is would he have been fired for the action (an unreasonable outcome, seeing as the action itself is relatively benign) or the consequence of the action (a totally reasonable outcome, as you want your worker to both care about how their actions impact their coworkers AND understand and anticipate the consequences of those actions.) People should be able to be fired for the reasonably foreseeable consequences of their actions, regardless of how minor the action was.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think the important distinction here is that Percival actively chose not to deliver the message because it meant he would have to go back out on the floor. If he’d been on his way to deliver the message and gotten sidetracked by something important, that would be a different situation and I think people might be a bit more understanding.

      But, then again, considering the content of the message, maybe not. There’s a huge difference between forgetting to mention that Client X called and your police officer wife was injured in the line of duty and needs surgery.

  60. Student*

    You should talk to management and say, “This exposes a big flaw in our grievance resolution process that is harmful to the business. Next time the union contract is renegotiated, you should prioritize reforms in this area so we don’t have an outcome like this again.”

    You should also reach out to the union rep folks, or, better, ask your line workers shunning Percival to do so, to explain to them that the resolution they reached is not what the actual union members support. Sometimes, people in the union who handle grievances are too disconnected from conditions on the ground to recognize when someone is harmful to their own members; they’re focused on defending “their” guy and don’t see the bigger consequences. This guy is toxic to his fellow union members. If they’re willing to say so to the union, then circumstances might change.

  61. Schnapps*

    So here’s the thing (full disclosure: I am in Canada, and a union employee; my union works pretty well with the employer).

    Union contracts generally only allow dismissal for cause (e.g. – not performing your job duties, not showing up, following policy, etc), and often detail a process that must be followed.

    Now, WRT policies many employers have policies that govern behaviour. Mine has a respectful workplace policy (basically, anti-bullying) and a code of conduct both of which govern employee (and to some extent, volunteer) behaviour. These are both complaint driven.

    I bring this up because there is a clause in one those policies that says if you engage in behaviour that “ought reasonably to be known or expected to be offensive, humiliating or intimidating” and “has a clear and demonstrably negative effect on the complainant” there will be consequences up to an including termination of employment. Union employees can grieve decisions and employees are protected against retaliation, but basically the policy says, “If you’re a jerk and someone complains about it, you can be fired”.

    A couple of coworkers and I went through that process a couple of years back. We went to the union because we didn’t know where else to go. It wasn’t launched as a formal grievance under the contract, but it went through the code of conduct process.

    TL;DR: if you’re a jerk you can be fired. If you’re reinstated, be prepared to reap what you’ve sown.

    1. Observer*

      Well, that sounds like a union acting as it ought – protect people from unfair bosses and management, but not from the effects of being jerks. So much for the need for unions to protect people no matter what they do.

      1. gwal*

        Eh, not really. In the case where a contract did NOT contain that clause, people could not be fired for being jerks. So unions needing to protect people within the confines of the CBA, no matter what they do [if it is acceptable in the CBA’s mutually agreed-upon policies], is still valid.

  62. Eccentric Beagle*

    I wonder what would happen if someone failed to give an equally important message to Percival? Would he raise a stink? Karma is quite the teacher.

    1. tigerStripes*

      Something makes me think that Percival doesn’t really care all that much about anyone but Percival.

  63. Goya*

    I’m a dues paying union member and have been for many years. I’ve seen our union do a LOT of good in our organization over the years, and I’ve seen them protect some pretty useless people too. It’s a sad fact of unions, taking the good with the bad. My guess is that Percival is still around because there was no employment issue here. What he did was wrong, just so f-ing wrong, ethically/morally – but work wise? Did he actually violate any work rules or contracts? If I were Wakeen..I’m not sure it would have been a grievance hearing we were attending, more likely a homicide trial :-O

    While Percival was in the office fixing the computer, why was he answering the foreman’s phone? I go to my bosses office to fix her computer all the time (she’s not very computer saavy), but I NEVER touch her phone when it rings. Which would lead to the still unfortunate situation of Wakeen not knowing about his wife, but Percival wouldn’t have been “at fault” here. This is also why I HATE taking written messages when people call. Granted this wasn’t the case for Percival, but I don’t see some of my co-workers for a few days based on schedules or building location. A written message (which people seem to think will be counted as “more important”) might not get to Fergus until 3 days from now – but if you were to leave a voicemail like I offered you – Fergus can check that from anywhere at anytime.

    1. Temperance*

      I don’t think “at fault” should be in quotes, because, well, he is actually, factually at fault for his bad acting. He purposely hid this information from Wakeen just because he was lazy and didn’t want to do his own job.

    2. TootsNYC*

      And if Percival hadn’t answered the phone, the people calling would have come in person far earlier.

      Instead, they trusted that the message would get to him–TWICE!

      That would be a huge thing for me.

      And yeah, why was that taking him so long to fix? Hmmmmm.

  64. Anon.*

    I’d hire a new person with skills specific to the office, and therefore not require Percival’s assistance in the office again, ever.

  65. Boss lady*

    Unions rely on public awareness and support when they are defending someone which is how they get support for strikes etc. In nz/aus there are hefty fines for not following the law but not necessarily jail time if it’s not racism, sexism etc. As a business owner I would have sacked Percival and paid the fine. I highly doubt there would have been public support for Percival over this. and even if there was, sometime you have to make a moral call. Big bosses could always have given him severance and set him up at a new company, they chose the easy way out and it sucks. They are probably now waiting for him to quit on account of “natural consequences” but that doesn’t help awaken,

    1. Senior Payroll*

      Huh? I’m in NZ , if you lost in ERA you could be ordered to reinstate, I have seen it happen.

      I agree it’s procedural technicality most likely. I am thinking of our collective agreement, and I just don’t know if this would classify as serious misconduct and subject to being fired.

      1. Boss lady*

        Serious misconduct – breach of trust so severe it results in employer no longer being able to trust the staff member. I would argue all day long this falls under that category. I know several biz owners ( I am not one of them) who have a fund specifically for paying fines after illegally sacking someone. You don’t have to have anyone working for you if you are prepared to pay out.

  66. Just, wow*

    I’m floored that the union went along with Percival and made Wakeen out to be the bad guy. I’m trying to imagine how Wakeen could be the bad guy here and I am coming up short. No wonder Wakeen quit. I hope he got a better job in a better place. If I were a member of that union I would be furious and calling for a switch to different union. I can get the union defending a member as per the bargaining agreement, but making Wakeen out to be the bad person in all this seems over the line to me.

  67. Kat*

    Sadly there are people like Percival. I live in Canada and when I was eight years old, my four year old brother fell off the playground from a height of about 8-10 feet. He was taken to hospital because he had a head injury. My mother called the switchboard to have them page my father (Dad worked out on calls and could only be reached by pager). Dad’s manager told the switchboard operator not to page my father because he was a glassbowl. When my Dad found out what had happened he told his manager that if he ever prevented anyone from getting a page about their family, he’d break both his legs with a baseball bat. Surprisingly my Dad didn’t lose his job after that. But I admire him for sticking up for himself and everyone else like that.

    I’m now a manager and I have always told my staff: you have an emergency with your kid, spouse, parent, whatever, you leave right away. Tell any person you see to get the message to me that you’ve left, but don’t wait to write me a note or find me or email me. You leave to deal with your family, that’s your priority. To the rest of the staff I say if you get a message about someone, you find them and tell them immediately. I don’t care if they’re in a meeting with the damn mayor (I work for a City), you walk in and interrupt and pull the person out. Or you tell me and I’ll go do it.

  68. Lawyer Here*

    OP, in some ways you have the advantage here. You are newly supervising him. He has no basis for accusing you of retaliation when he has no idea of your management style.

    Does your company require regular employee evals of new hires? You could treat him as a “new hire” since he was recently transferred to you and do regular evaluations. If this is the first time an employee has ever been transferred to you, they cannot say you are singling him out. In the alternative you could just become super-diligent about regularly evaluating all your employees. Percy’s evals are going to show lots of workplace conflict. Something he needs to address. Nothing you can do about the fact that he can’t work with the team.

    Bad evals are the key to getting a union worker fired. Need to show that pattern. Alison is right to warn you about retaliation – but again, he’s new to you. You are objectively evaluating his performance and how he is bringing down your whole shift. Eventually everyone fucks up – you just need a pattern to justify termination when he does.

    I bet he can’t get anyone to cover for him if he needs time off, and people work less efficiently as a whole when partnered with him. Other people in your unit could be filing complaints that they are forced to work with this racist lazy sociopath. Maybe it’s a violation of the rights of other employees to force them to work with him when he’s so racist. Maybe he is such lazy worker they are complaining they have to cover his share. Do you have a time clock? I’d be diligently making sure he’s not guilty of time theft. Well, you get the idea.

    Oh, and if any of your other employees complain, tell them it needs to be in writing. If you are getting a deluge of complaints about him from coworkers – even petty shit – it is not retaliation for you to properly address.

  69. I just face palmed so hard I broke my nose....*

    Well….. this is….. nuts…..

    I could see this playing out like something from a TV show….. Percival walking home from a bar, gets a good kicking by the rest of the staff, police investigate and find nothing because he screwed one of them over and the union doing nothing because although they may have been obliged to help him in the work case, they probably weren’t too happy about it either. Who wants someone like that watching your back?

    To be clear I am not saying people should do this, just that I could see it as a real possibility, I know it would happen where I am from….

  70. KK*

    This is so bizarre that there has to be another side to the story. How did they manage to make Wakeen look like the bad guy in court? Wow.

    1. I just face palmed so hard I broke my nose....*

      They probably span it as “Percival was just doing his duty in making sure the office was still manned at all times and that he would have been accused of negligence if he had left the office for a personal matter” or something alone those lines.

  71. Caitlynn*

    What Percival did was horrible, no argument, but whoever fired him without reading the CBA should be retrained in labor relations. The union got the firing reversed because the contract was violated. A strong contract can only stay strong if it’s enforced, even for jerks. The union and the union contract aren’t the main problems here.

  72. Zuppa da Clams*

    I like someone’s idea above , that this would make for an interesting local news story. Too bad someone couldn’t anonymously drop a dime to a local newspaper and maybe that would put pressure on the union to nudge Percival toward finding another job due to bad publicity. OBVIOUSLY this is not REAL option but it would make for a good follow-up letter/episode of television.

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