Office Romance Is Not For the Faint of Heart

If you’ve read my recent post “Company Policy: A Story of Working in a Call Center”, then you know that call centers can be a wild place to work. Well, my stories of inappropriate behavior and bad decisions aren’t limited to that job. Much later in my career, I worked in a call center for a cell phone company. Though this call center was much more conservative than the Internet Service Provider that I had worked for (How could it not be!) it was not without its dirty little secrets.

On this job, I conducted one of the craziest investigations I have ever been a part of. One of our team supervisors, we’ll call him “Leon,” was accused of sexual harassment by one of the ladies on his team. She claimed that he had promised her some time off in exchange for a triste over the lunch hour. She said that she really liked him, and was even a little interested in him as boyfriend material because he was a church-going man, but she “didn’t play like that.” She said she suspected that he had completed this sort of transaction with other female member of the staff in the past, saying that he was always on his cell phone, smiling a lascivious smile while he texted various women. When she asked him if he was married, he had told her, “No, but I sometimes tell women that I am so they don’t get any ideas.”

There were always rumors about Leon’s shenanigans. He had quite a following among the female members of the staff and there were questions about just how “married” he was. But there were never any complaints or solid evidence of behavior that was against company policy until then. Leon was the proverbial “tall, dark, and handsome” and was a smooth talker. He could charm a soliloquy out of a deaf mute. He wore a belt buckle emblazoned with the Superman “S” with well-pressed shirts and shiny shoes. His appearance and demeanor were quintessentially polished and charismatic.

Since his cell phone was company property, one of our first steps was to pull the records of his calls and text messages, and cross-reference this against the cell phone numbers of other employees. We were also able to obtain the actual text messages and instant messages he had sent and received. We had no idea about the treasure trove of smut we’d find.

Based on his text messaging, it seems that Leon had ongoing sexual relationships with eight different female employees, all his subordinates, as well as another woman who seemed to think she was his fiancé, and his wife — his very current wife. We interviewed the eight employees and three of them stand out most in my mind, each because they had fallen so completely for Leon’s patter.

The first of these was “Michelle.” It took only a few simple questions for her to spill the beans. She and Leon had gone to a hotel within a mile of the office for a romantic interlude. While there he had repeatedly told her that he loved her, but she had become suspicious when Leon was constantly taking calls and responding to text messages while they were “doing it.” She said that in return for her favors, Leon had excused the several times she was tardy to work. Michelle was most concerned that her husband might find out about her involvement with Leon. She didn’t have any of Leon’s text messages on her phone as she had deleted the evidence. (But we did, and they were quite graphic, including several pictures of his ding-a-ling.) She said that his first text to her would always be “Are you busy?” which was their code for “Are you with your husband?” This was often followed with his expressions of love and passion for her, and invitations for more hanky-panky. She said, in the back of her mind, she always had those texts and phone calls he had received while they were in flagrante delicto, and never really trusted him after that; though she did adjourn to the hotel with him a few times following that first encounter.

Then there was “Kelsey.” Kelsey refused to provide any information, claiming that she had never seen Leon outside of work and had no idea what we were talking about. We provided her with a transcript of some of the text messages between them that included the following (sanitized for your protection):

      Leon: Are we still on for tonight?

      Kelsey: Yeah I guess. It’s after midnight.

      Leon: What do you mean I guess? I love you baby.

      Kelsey: I love you too boo.

      Leon: OK

      Kelsey: Are you going to be here soon?

      Leon: Yeah I’m in your driveway.

      Kelsey: Dork! What are you doing out there?

      Leon: Waiting to see your beautiful face through the window.

      Kelsey: Aw baby! Get in here!

Still denying any quid pro quo between herself and Leon, we apologized as we showed her a picture that Leon had received, and later forwarded to his friends, of a woman’s backside in a position that revealed her “secret garden” and asked her, “Is this a picture of you?” But Kelsey, despite the fact that she was now visibly upset, stuck to her story.

Lastly, we showed Kelsey additional transcripts that showed that, while sitting in her driveway and texting her before their booty call, Leon had also been sending text messages to his “fiancé” about wedding plans and how much he wanted to come see her but couldn’t because he had to work that weekend, and also to another employee who sat in the cubicle right next to Kelsey saying that he couldn’t wait to [censored] her [censored] again. These messages were also intermingled with texts between Leon and his sister, where they talk about going to church and he sends her the message, “I’m always praying for you.” (What a contrast.) Kelsey crumbled. She still never admitted any sort of relationship with Leon, but she became so hysterical that we considered calling paramedics. Her sister had to come get her and drive her home.

Lastly, there was “Rebecca.” She didn’t deny having an association with Leon, though when I asked her, “How would you characterize your relationship with Leon?” She replied with great annoyance, “I wouldn’t characterize it at all. It’s too special for that.” (To this day, I’m still not sure what she thought I meant by my question.) I rephrased, asking, “Would you say that you and Leon have a romantic relationship?” Not only did Rebecca not deny that she had a romantic relationship with Leon, she couldn’t stop talking about it. “It’s very romantic! He loves me. I know he thinks he wants other girls, but he is my lover. He will see one day that I am his one true love and other girls can suck it! We will be together forever. You’re just judging me because he’s black and I’m white.” (Wow. At this point in the investigation, Leon’s race was the furthest thing from our minds. His behavior was taking top billing.) When we asked her if Leon had ever done any favors for her at work in exchange for her affection, she said, “Of course he has! Wouldn’t you do anything for the one you love? Anything at all?” With all of Rebecca’s protestations of “true love,” we didn’t need to share with her the instant messages we had uncovered between her (with the online handle “Brazzilian Waxx”) and Leon (with the online handle “Chocolate Horse” – presumably a reference to his prodigious manhood.)

There were several other interviews with victims and witnesses alike and the story was always the same. Leon’s silver tongue and polished good looks had gotten him into the pants of many women, and he had convinced all of them that he was a good Christian man who loved them dearly. When we interviewed Leon he said as little as he had to, and stopped denying his transgressions once he saw that we had the transcripts from his cell phone. Needless to say, with all of the evidence we had at our disposal, Leon’s career at the call center came to an abrupt end. Michelle reconciled whatever issues she had with her husband and he was none the wiser to her indiscretions. Kelsey came back to work and put on a brave face, but never dated anyone in the workplace again. Rebecca worked there for quite some time after Leon’s departure; I don’t know if she ever got wise to his game. And Leon, the “Chocolate Horse” with the Superman belt buckle, went on to new hunting grounds.

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