Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A work of fiction. Really.

You work for a large city as a supervisor in the water department.

You have suspicions about Lou, one of your employees.  He has an exemplary work history except for one thing:  He had been bitten by a dog while collecting water samples five years ago and his recovery had been complicated by the fact that he was diabetic.  He was off work for two months.

Your employees are all represented by the Teamsters union.  In fact, you---even though you are "management"---are represented by a union, the UAW.  Your workplace environment is hard-core union country.  It is a brotherhood.  Everybody has everybody else's back.

The jobs that are "peaches" are held by the folks with the very highest seniority.  "Peach" jobs typically came with the use of a vehicle and a huge amount of autonomy.  Lou's job is a "peach".

Your boss

You are reluctant to lay out our concerns with your boss.  He bit your head off the last time you suggested that some aspect of the business could be improved.  You don't know if he feels threatened by you personally or perhaps he is afraid that he would be implicated if he ever started peeling the crust off of the sewage lagoon.

Your concern

The suspicion popped into your head the morning you followed Lou into the plant from the parking lot.  Actually, you did not follow him very long.  You simply could not walk that slowly.  You remember thinking, "If Lou was walking any more slowly he would be going backwards."

You suspected it was Lou because the man ahead of you was a wide load.  You double checked as you passed him.  Yup, it was old Lou, sweating and panting to beat the band.

After that, you started watching him a little more closely.  He took off in his truck early in the morning and came back with his samples much more quickly than you would have suspected.  He spent the rest of the day in the treatment room break room, playing cards, eating chips and drinking Mountain Dew. This happened day-after-day-after-day.

You did not see how it was possible for him to do four hours of work (average walk speed 1.5 mph to account for knocking on doors) in 90 minutes.  You asked him about it and he told you that he had a knack for getting along with people and he knew exactly where the taps were so he did not waste time trying to find them.

The people in the lab loved Lou.  The bottles are always filled exactly to the line and the outsides are clean, clean, clean.  Furthermore, the labels are all very legible.  Lou's samples always passed.

You know in your heart, but do not have the kind of evidence demanded by the contractual language,  that Lou is falsifying his samples.  What do you do?  The customers are starting to complain about their water quality.  Management all the way up to the mayor are blowing off the complaints on the basis of the testing.  "Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one.  We are scientific managers.  We deal in data.  The data says this is great water."

You have a burning feeling in your gut that this might not end well.  You hope it is just an ulcer.


  1. I'd document my suspicions and put them on my supervisor, with a paper trail. That not working, I'd also be looking for some sort of independent auditor of the GAO sort and take my suspicions there. Being Lou's supervisor, if he really screws the pooch, you'll be under the microscope as to why you didn't catch it first.

  2. Murph beat me to it... and I'd add video evidence. Cell phone video is good enough these days.


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