Salesperson accused of murder, exonerated, but still makes clients nervous. Fire her?

Yes, it’s a hypothetical. Nobody’s forcing you to read it. The usual mockery toward people who do so only to complain.

In today’s story, the hypothetical “you” is the sales director for the southern region of Allied Transtators Inc. Transtators are a lucrative and growing commodity, and ATI is one of the top three firms making them; there’s a lot of pressure on you to see that current accounts grow and new accounts are procured. Your sales staff consists of about 100 field reps and 300 inside (phone) reps (who are essentially in training to go into the field and are get broomed out if they don’t qualify to do so).

Recently one of your field reps, **Abigail, **got arrested in the worse possible way: at a meeting with a valuable prospective client in a tony restaurant in front of dozens of camera-phone toting witnesses. Abigail was accused of murdering a police detective in his apartment; there were suggestions of extramarital affairs and kinky sex and other juicy stuff, so the story got wide circulation. Abigail confessed to killing the cop but claimed self-defense. Years earlier, you see, her older brother had been convicted of murder; Abigail dedicated all her free time trying to prove his innocence. Her investigation led her to believe this cop knew something that could help, so she went to his apartment to talk to him. Unknown to her, the cop not only had exculpatory evidence but had framed her brother for the crime. Realizing how close she was to disccovering the truth, he attacked her, and she killed him in self-defense. She didn’t come forward immediately because experienece had left her cyncial about the justice system. Fortunately for her, the FBI were investigating the dirty cop for different reasons and had him under surveillance. In an untimely fashion, the feds gave their information to the local DA, who decided to believe Abigail, dismissed the charges against her, and got her brother sprung from prison.

Happy ending, right? Not entirely. While Abigail was in jail awaiting trial, her sales territory was temporaily split up and assigned to the field reps of three adjacent territories. In one case, sales have increased by 5%; in another, they’ve declined by the same amount; in the third, they’re flat. In all three cases, the reps are making LESS money, because with so many existing accounts to service, they’re not productive in acquiring new accounts. Clearly the territory needs to be reconsolidated and asssigned to a full-time account exec. All three caretaker reps report that many clients in their area are antsy about Abigail’s return. Google her name now, and the top results all have the phrases “cop killer” and “kinky sex” attached. Abigail’s immediate boss thinks she needs to be reassigned to inside sales until she can rehabilitate her reputation. Her boss’s boss feels that will take too long and wants to outright fire her.

The ultimate decision is yours. All this is happening in an at-will employement state. You can fire Abigail without any cause, and even if that weren’t so, the employee manual specifically lists getting arrested for a felony as something that can lead to dismissal, regardless of the ultimate disposition of the case. At her best, Abigail was was ranked in the 65th percentile among field reps: better than average, but hardly stellar. You have more than a dozen other candidates, both internal and external, for her job.

What do you do?

What’s the timeframe on all this?

You mention she kills a cop, gets arrested, gets exonerated, and then asks for her job back… that sounds like it happens in a day or two.

But then you mention that she was in jail long enough to have her territory divvied up and for sales to be changed, which sounds more like weeks/months.

Had she been in the clink long enough to have her territory taken:
A: I would have expected her to be fired before that time
B: Why not give her territory to one of the dozen candidates that wanted it instead of dividing it up?

In this case, she’s not asking not to be fired - she’s asking to get her job back. While I would feel shitty about saying no, she clearly would have issues doing the job if clients are concerned about her. That’s the same answer I’d have if she wasn’t a previous employee, incidentally. I’d have to let her know no positions are available, no hard feelings, just business.

If there was a way to leverage her skillset that wasn’t client-facing, that might be nice since she already knows a lot about the business, but I don’t know enough about sales to know if there’s a possible position like that.

Let’s say a little more than three months elapse between the arrest and the hypothetical “now.” A full sales quarter needs to have elapsed for their to be meaningful sales data. Abigail probably spent a lot of that time in jail or out on bail and hasn’t been working, but the hypothetical you was kind enough to do that as a mostly-unpaid leave rather than firing her the day her name hit the papers. (The paid part of the leave would be whatever vacation time she had accumulated.)

Abigail remains with the company. We will move her to a position that is not client-facing; there’s not a company in the world that doesn’t have positions of that type. She did nothing wrong and I don’t want my company, or myself, to develop a reputation for treating good employees as disposable.

I would ask Abigail what she feels comfortable with. Knowing the scandal in the community, is she willing to go out on her own? Would she feel better with someone to accompany her?

If the company loses business having her in the field, then I would look to see if there were some internal job she could do. It’s quite likely, given the circumstances, that Abigail will choose to move to another state to avoid the publicity.

(Off topic, but I wonder how Casey Anthony is surviving.)

**yellowjacketcoder, **I can see several reasons not to replace Abigail at once.

First off: As a sales director, I’d have taken the opportunity to see if her position was actually necessary. If the three caretakers had been able to both maintain her sales volume and bring in new business at the expected rate, that would have meant that the territories were inappropriately sized. Since they weren’t able to do that, her territory needs a dedicated rep. Finding that out required the experiment, and Abigail’s incarceration was a goDod excuse to conduct that.

Second: Depending on the culture of ATI, firing her at once might be bad for morale. The field reps are not in direct competition for any particular client; each rep covers are spcific geographic area. They may well be friendly withone another. Firing Abigail the day she was arrested would piss people off, and pissed-off employees are less efficient.

Third: I wouldn’t want to be a dick. I’d have wanted to know whether Abigail was actually guilty, and the mere fact of a police accusation wouldn’t do it for me. I would want to treat her absence as I would, say, an off-the-job injury. Until it’s certain that she won’t be able to return or that her continued employment will harm the company, I would if possible treat it as an mostly unpaid leave. (The paid part of the leave would come out of her vacation time, of course.)

Frame her for some other crime. She’s already shot her wad in lawyer fees, so she’ll go away.

I would find an inside sales role for her. The impression she makes on clients matters. It is, however, professionally unethical, IMHO, to dismiss someone from their job without a legitimate reason. An inside sales role is a perfect compromise.

Wiki says she declared bankruptcy a few years ago and has been anonymous otherwise. Probably not great since her face was plastered over the news everywhere so she probably has a hard time getting hired.

You know much more about sales than I do (given my last experience with sales was selling Boy Scout popcorn as a pimply faced teenager in the 90s), so forgive me the hijack as I ask for some clarification.

For point one, if Abigail hadn’t been arrested, how would this experiment have been done? Just move her off sales for a quarter and see what happens? This seems like an ex post facto justification for not letting one of the up-and-coming salespeople have her spot.

For point two, it could just as easily have been the opposite effect - nobody likes her, and then they see that you can even murder a cop and not get fired from this place. Just what kind of company am I working for anyway? Plus, all the potential recruits are thinking “If I can’t even get Abigail’s spot while she’s in jail, what the hell am I going to have to do to get my own sales area?”. Seems like both of those would be bad for morale too.

All that being said, I feel you on point three. It rather sucks to soak up all your vacation time and then have another 2 months of no-pay because the fuzz can’t get it together. Losing your job on top of that is not just adding insult to injury, it’s adding injury to injury. But at the same time, I’ve worked a lot of places where someone got hired because the boss was “trying to do the right thing and be nice to someone down on their luck” - and 9 times out of 10, it has backfired horribly on the boss.
That said, I think a message of “We can’t let you keep your job in jail, but if you get exonerated, see us first” is appropriate. But then it will depend on circumstances whether Abigail gets her job back. If ATI hadn’t been doing so well that quarter and was about to lay off some people, does Abigail get to keep her job from the jail cell while people that have been making sales the last three months get the axe?

I’d say take her back, give her her old territory back, and see what she can do.

I hope a good salesman could use the notoriety of being falsely accused to raise her profile and boost her productivity. Any publicity is good publicity, after all.

I am assuming she isn’t selling baby shoes or Bibles or something like that.


Given that the fictional company seems to be growing and prosperous, it would lonly gave been done if she left for some other reason, if at all. Her absence for whatever purpose would have given me the occasion to do it (just as performing the experiment would have been my excuse for not firing her out of hand).

No, it’s a justification for keeping her job open TO HER. But there’s a business purpose too. If the three account reps could keep the numbers at an acceptable or better level without her, then her territory needs to be absorbed into theirs anyway. As the scenarior is written that wasn’t the case, of course, because there is a limit to how much physical territory a field rep can cover.

I said it would depend on the culture of the conpany. But neither the inside sales reps nor outside recruits would be likely to think of a given territory as “Abigail’s” anyway. They would not have that info–just that a slot was open. As for fellow field reps: Someone may covet that particular territory, but giving it to them doesn’t eliminate Abigail’s spot; it just moves her assighments a few miles down the road.

In the real world, I probably would fire her as soon as she was arrested. But let’s suppose in a Skald world I believed in her all along. In that case my preference would be to a) offer her a transfer to a new territory or b) an inside sales position.

Yeah, but the bitch has to eat. I wonder who she’s mooching off? Could she be on welfare?

Didn’t she get a job at a daycare?

The thing is that sales positions are pretty much disposable in most places, unless you’re an extraordinary performer.

That said, if I thought she would be competent to do so, I’d move her to a support position. Since presumably other employees know the story, it really shouldn’t be much of a morale problem, and in a few months the whole thing would be mostly forgotten.

Casey Anthony? I remember her as being fairly pretty. She could have acquired a sugar daddy. In fact, I can imagine a certain sort of…person…finding her more desirable because of her notoriety, because it would reduce her optiond and make her more dependent.

@ Skald the Rhymer: Is the police force a major buyer of transtators? Because, in that case, I would consider offering Abigail retirement or some other form of severance agreement.
Otherwise, I’m inclined to keep her. Heck, a lot of people would probably see her as a hero! Good PR for the company!

In a line edited from the OP for bre I wrote that transtators are used in manufacturing processes (specifically "to allow the user to recalibrate the neutrino flux of framistats without having to reverse the polarity of the Guggenheim generator,’ so I’ll say no, the poilice are not a client of transtators.

As for whether it’s good PR for the company: that’s gonna depend on how much press her case got and whether people believe her killing the cop was really justified. A lot of people would be inclined to think she got off on a technicality.

The Sales Reps might have said the customers had a problem, but I’d talk to one or two of the biggest customers, in private, to see what their take is.
If it is negative, put her in internal sales or make her a manager. “Make your numbers or Abigail will visit you, and she’s mad.”
Oh and for Abigail - get an agent and a ghost writer stat.

Hmm do I smell a 1920’s-style death ray? Eh, maybe more updated versions…