Johnathan showed up at HR’s office promptly at 10am just as the email said. He wasn’t sure what it was all about.
Ellen looked up when she heard the soft knock on the door frame. She smiled.
“John, thanks for coming by. Take a seat.”
John smiled and sat down. “So what’s this about? Am I getting laid off or something?” He said it in a half-kidding tone. Sort of a guarded effort just in case it really was about him getting laid off.
Ellen chuckled. “Oh no, nothing like that.”
John relaxed a bit, but tried not to show it. The half guarded comment helped to stave off too much angst.
She typed something on her computer. There was a moment of silence as she read. Was it about him? Was she the kind of person distracted by emails? These thoughts sort of ran through his mind during the 20 seconds of silence.
“Okay…” she said. “I have been notified by the Compliance Department that – “
“uh...Compliance Department? John was bewildered. He had never heard of this department before.
“What is that?”
“Oh, it’s an observation group set up to ensure we are all following company policy”
“You mean….like state regulations regarding codes of design?”
“No, not really.”
“Well, let’s go through their findings and it will become plain.”
She thought for a second then said “You know that some companies set up observers to ensure safe measures are being followed, right?”
“Well, yes. I know about these. I never liked them. But I understand what they do. They observe workers going about their duties – generally, in the field during operations or construction. If they see unsafe practices, they will write up something that gets forwarded on to their superiors. Sort of a ‘best practices’. “ John never liked these set-ups since if the person observing you just never liked you he could use the opportunity to “hit you over the head with a hammer” so to speak. This could go into your permanent record at work and possibly impede your ability to advance.
“But, Ellen, this is an office environment. The only thing the Compliance group would see me do is maybe use the stapler in a dangerous fashion.” He laughed and this caused Ellen to laugh too.
“No, not quite like that, but what the Compliance Department is looking for is namely interactions between individuals. What you may do…or say.”
“Oh. So, if I didn’t help someone with a coffee spill I would get in trouble with that?”
“No, not quite like that.” She clicked some more on the computer. “Here’s what they observed about you –“
“Wait.” John seemed a little disoriented. “They observed me? “
Ellen looked unfazed “Uh, yes. They talked to you –"
“Wha- wait. They talked to me? When? And if they did, how come I didn’t know who they were?”
“Welll….they don’t announce who they are and-“
“What do you mean by that? They're undercover?”
The word “yes” came out slowly. “…yes.”
“So what happened? What did I say or do wrong?”
She clicked some more on the computer. “According to the compliance officer, you started talking about gay marriage and your feelings about abortion.”
John shook his head trying to rid himself of what was twisting into a nightmare. “So according to this guy I just started spouting off about my beliefs regarding…. Hold a sec…”
His eye focused on a point far away. “I know what you’re talking about. I remember this. And it’s completely wrong.”
“Oh yes? How so?” Ellen asked – in a way that seemed to indicate she really wasn’t interested in his version of things.
“He started the conversation. He started talking about the ‘damn gays’ and how they were destroying our country. But I stood up for gays but not for gay marriage. I agreed with him that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry but as a whole they contributed quite a bit to society.
Then he brought up abortion and how it was ruining the country. And again I agreed with him and wished we could defer to the States whether or not they wanted abortion legalized in each and every state rather than allow the overreach of the Federal Government to impose its will.”
Ellen looked at her screen, eyes darting as if reading. “…hmmm….according to his report, you brought up the subjects.”
“No!” He slammed his fist on her desk. “That’s a lie! He started the conversation and each and every subject! He PROVOKED me to respond probably knowing – “ He stopped. His eyes popped open on remembrance. “I know who it was. I know who it was!”
Ellen started looking around as if trying to figure a way out of what has happening.
“It was Lester! It was Lester. That guy hates my guts! He’s a lousy worker and I’ve had to report some of his shady work ethics. So you’re telling me that you recruited a guy who hates me to target me and get me into trouble? Do you have any idea how corrupt this all sounds?”
“John, you need to calm down or – “
“Calm down? You wait ‘til I get through with YOU. I’ll report you to the CEO and we’ll see how long this corrupt system –“
“John, Lester was recruited by the CEO for this function.”
John was completely at a loss. No words would come out. The whole thing was sanctioned by the company CEO. Not only that, the one guy in the company that hated his guts was HAND PICKED to be… a snitch.
Ellen’s eyes widened. “What?”
“I quit. I won’t stand for this. I haven’t a ghost of a chance with this company now. Lester has seen to it. I’ll join up with a company that doesn't have anything like this.”
Ellen’s shoulders sagged. “John, you can’t do that.”
“What do you mean? I can’t quit? Of course, I can!”
Ellen closed her eyes slightly. “No. What I mean is you won’t find another company that doesn’t have a Compliance Department. And…” She sighed heavily. “…we’re by law required to share our findings with any company you try to j-“
John just went ballistic. “WHAT? I'm BRANDED FOREVER by this? This is a living nightmare!”
“Now wait, John. You need to let me finish talking. There is a way to expunge this from your record.”
“What. What the hell do I need to do to remove this from my record. I’d love to sue you and this company, that’s what I’d like to do.”
“We have seminars set up for you to attend –“
John just couldn't believe it. He cut her off. “Oh! Sensitivity classes! That’s just great!”
Ellen shook her head. “No, they aren't sensitivity classes. We call Them Compliance Camps. You would be required to check in. The accommodations are nice and comfortable.
Once you've been ultimately evaluated and received your State Sanction Certificate –“
John cut her off again, but Ellen looking distracted picked up her phone and dialed and started talking while John ranted on. “So how long does Compliance Camp last? Exactly what is the cut off point for my stay?”
She hung up the phone. She looked John into his eyes. “Indefinitely until we are satisfied you are in compliance.”
John had had enough. “That’s not a Compliance Camp! That’s a concentration camp! I’m outta here. I’d rather starve on the street before I let you fuck with my head. You people are perverted, sick and disgusting.”
As he finished this last sentence, two rather hefty looking men showed up at the door.
Ellen nodded to them. “No, you’re not, John.” The two men gently laid their hands on John’s arms. “These two gentlemen will see you to the van. It’s ready to take you to the camp.”