15

One of my colleagues was convicted of rape and served several years in prison in the 90s.

I discovered this purely by chance and have since confirmed that it's definitely, 100% true. I don't think that the company is aware of his conviction, although I have no way of telling.

I don't want to work with him or even see him anymore due to my own strongly held feelings on the subject (wife was sexually assaulted, young daughters), and I'm wondering how best accomplish this in a professional manner.

I accept that some will see my inability to work with this person as evidence of unprofessionalism and I can understand this, however I personally feel that this is a special circumstance and also indicative of a failure of company HR policy on multiple levels.

I don't think I can work with this person anymore. How can I change my circumstances to avoid continued working with this individual in a professional manner?

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    Related, but not duplicate: Coworker's criminal conviction and current behavior make me uncomfortable – David K Sep 25 '17 at 15:47
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    To the down- and close-voters: Please remember that just because you disagree with the proposed actions of a question does not mean that the question is poorly written nor off-topic for The Workplace. If you disagree with the proposed actions, sometimes "Don't do that" is an appropriate answer. – David K Sep 25 '17 at 15:51
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings There is at least one answer which tells the OP why his plan of trying to get the coworker fired is a ... uhm, bad idea. Now since that part has been removed, it transforms the OP from an obnoxious jerk to a saint who wants to somehow make things work with the coworker, and the said answerer appears to be a jerk now instead. One other answer was deleted by the author because calling out the OP's vigilantism no longer made sense. – Masked Man Sep 25 '17 at 18:29
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    @MaskedMan The deleted "Answer" was not an answer according to SE Standards anyway... And I disagree about it making the other answerer look like a jerk. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 25 '17 at 18:44
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    This question is being discussed on meta. – enderland Sep 25 '17 at 22:22
86

What you are proposing to do is the absolute nadir of unprofessional behavior.

You are butting into something that happened a minimum of 20 years ago. The justice system has dealt with him. It is not your purview to decide whether or not this person is deserving of more punishment. Let me be VERY CLEAR about this. What you are suggesting will punish him, if not ruin him entirely as if he loses his job over your ministrations, he will have to explain that he was fired because someone spread information about a past conviction and stirred up a hornet's nest at his previous employer.

Abandoning just how unethical and unprofessional the behavior in itself is, you would be opening yourself up to a great deal of liability.

To demonstrate WHY this is unprofessional:

Circulate the information, and this could spiral out of control, perhaps making it to the media and damaging your company's reputation. Bring it to HR, and I think you'd have to answer for why you were spying on a coworker.

If you need to not work with this person because of your own issues, then approach it in that way. This person has not done one thing wrong to you so this is your issue.

The only way to deal with it professionally is to deal with your how this affects you.

  • move on to another employer
  • request a transfer within your company
  • learn to deal with your own issues and work with him

Those are your only options that maintain professionalism. Any action that affects him in any way shape or form is unprofessional, no matter how justified you may feel.

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    While this isn't the top rated answer, I like it more. It clearly points out that the OP's current behavior is absolutely unprofessional, and is discriminating a coworker based on something he already paid for. – BgrWorker Oct 2 '17 at 7:06
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    I don't understand your point. OP wants into move to another position ("change my circumstances to avoid continued working with this individual"). How is this "butting into something" and "punish[ing] him, if not ruin[ing] him entirely"? – Mike Harris Oct 2 '17 at 14:49
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    @MikeHarris see the original post – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Oct 2 '17 at 14:56
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    @RichardU Ugh, I hadn't seen that deleted paragraph in the original question. You are absolutely correct, OP's original suggestion was horrible. (You may want to edit your answer to indicate that you're replying to information that was removed from the question.) – Mike Harris Oct 2 '17 at 15:02
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    This. If you are uncomfortable, it is, unfortunately, your problem. The justice system has already dealt with the issue, and it is not your place to punish them further. – Miller86 Oct 6 '17 at 9:41
70

I don't think I can work with this person anymore. How can I deal with this in a professional manner?

The obvious solution is to find a new job, accept it, and quit this one. Alternatively, you can ask for a transfer within your company, to a location where you wouldn't have to work with this individual.

If your motivation is solely to no longer work with this person, those actions will clearly solve your problem. You get to decide how strong your motivation is.

On the other hand, if your motivation is punishment (beyond that already provided by the legal system), revenge, vigilantism, or something else, I wouldn't know what to suggest.

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    I love that you included vigilantism in your choice of motivations! +1 – Moose Sep 29 '17 at 5:52
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This is a tricky one. With respect, I would say that your emotions make the problem more difficult. This is understandable, but I may quote the police with:

Unless applying for particular types of work (see below) [e.g. working with children, vulnerable people etc.], a person who has spent convictions and cautions does not have to disclose them to prospective employers, and employers cannot refuse to employ someone on the basis of spent convictions.

Now the matter comes to a crux: is the conviction spent or not? The only way to know would be to conduct a debarring service (DBS) check. However, as a private citizen you can't do this:

You can only check someone else’s criminal record when they apply for certain roles, for example in healthcare or childcare.

Source: gov.uk

And this leads to the final answer: your colleague has been hired after going through HR's pre-hiring checks, so I would advise that you learn to work with this colleague in a professional manner. Granted you don't have to like it.

  • You're assuming that he's a) Told the company and b) That the company's HR have done the appropriate checks. Neither is especially likely. – Richard Oct 6 '17 at 15:42
13

I don't think I can work with this person anymore. How can I change my circumstances to avoid continued working with this individually in a professional manner?

If you want to avoid working with this person one option could be to quit and find a new job. However, that does not shield you from finding that in your new job someone else was convicted and also did his time, so this does not seem to be a good solution in the long run; you probably don't want to quit every time you find out someone has a criminal record.

Another solution is to ask your boss to assign you different tasks than the ones your coworker does, explaining him you have personal motives to wish so. However, this does not guarantee you that your boss will agree and separate you from this coworker. Probably you will have to provide good reasons for wanting that and not just personal ones, so your demand has more validity.

Last but not least, you can ask your coworker what are his thought about his past conviction, so you can try understand him better and change your way of thinking of him. It could be the case that he was wrongly convicted (Judicial systems are not perfect), and you are judging him without actually knowing his side of the story.

This could be a better solution in the long run, improving your tolerance towards others and learning to judge others by "walking with their shoes". Just remember to take of your shoes before trying to empathize with others.

If he was convicted and already did his time then that should have been enough punishments for your actions. Who are you to decide if someone deserves or not more punishment? That is why there are judicial systems and laws all around the world, so people don't just decide on their own someone deserves punishment and start taking actions.

Besides, most recruiters ask for criminal records of their prospect employees, so it is highly probable they already know this and still decided to give him the job.

As I commented on your post, exposing this knowledge is not only controversial and probably immoral but can also come back and affect you. I suggest you don't do it and carry on, after all he did his time already.

  • This is only one half of the response - it is not ok to dispense additional penalties. However, it is perfectly legitimate for OP to try to get away from that individual. – Captain Emacs Sep 25 '17 at 16:09
  • In the original version of the question, the OP indicated he does not wish to quit as a solution. Those details were removed, I think, because they were asking us to not give some answers, therefore limiting the solutions the OP could get. – DarkCygnus Sep 25 '17 at 16:15
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    I would strongly counsel against speaking with the coworker about this. Unless the coworker volunteers the information about his past conviction, confronting him with the fact that you are aware of it has an extremely remote chance of ending positively. – magerber Sep 25 '17 at 18:19
  • @magerber yes it definitely is risky to do, but is the only way the OP can really understand the truth about what happened with his coworker and change his ways. When/if doing so OP should be tactful and careful. Feel free to post your own answer if you feel the answers already given lack some relevant points. – DarkCygnus Sep 25 '17 at 18:21
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    My answer would not be significantly different from the one posted by @joestrazzere. I think your answer is also substantially correct, but I think it is a bad idea to bring up something personal with a coworker unless and until they have introduced it. This is particularly true if the personal information has the potential to be used as a reason to fire the coworker, because the coworker might interpret the conversation as a threat, causing much more difficulty between the OP and his/her co-worker. – magerber Sep 25 '17 at 18:31
2

This is a tough one, and no mistake.

I know you're getting scolded in a lot of answers, with a message of "He's paid his debt to society". The state is done with him, and has (presumably!) punished him enough that he won't do it again, but that doesn't mean you have to like him or pretend it never happened. How you feel about him is your private choice, so long as you maintain public decorum.

That said...

  • You can't get him fired -- Some companies have a "don't hire ex felons" policy, apparently the UK doesn't allow this. Your company has made its choice.

  • You can't ask to never have to see him again -- This follows from the last point. He exists, he's at the office, you'll see him betimes.

  • You (likely) can't arrange to never work with him again -- This one is a little more involved...

Specifically, company policy won't help you. However, companies are run by human beings. You get along with your manager? You can ask him to not put you on a project with the guy, citing "we don't get along, personal reasons". Manager will likely press you for details, more so the closer you two are. Be warned -- if you tell him your story like you did here, you'll kick off a shitstorm which will damage all involved, so don't. Point being ... if you think you can pull that off, your manager can at least have it in mind not to schedule you with the guy. No guarantees, of course.

So... when it does happen you're scheduled with him -- it will -- what do you do? Cold formality. Don't take a swing at him. No whispers of "I know" in the dark. No photocopies of old newspaper articles on his desk. This ain't a movie.

'Course, you're not going to bring your wife and daughters to the company picnic, now are you?

Jesus, we're bending over backwards to protect this guy, aren't we? I have to say I'm not satisfied with this answer or your options...

-3

My instinct here is that your best course of action would be to simply point HR anonymously at the details of your co-worker's crime. Assuming he was actually convicted, there must be a court record and there may also be some record in the press. A few minutes googling should reveal these details to anyone with his name and a reason to dig.

Consequences:

If he was open and honest in his application (or the conviction is 'spent' or has subsequently been quashed) then aside from a short awkward conversation, there will be no ill consequences. He certainly won't be pleased that details of his crime have been sent to his company (and may wonder how they found out), but it's almost certainly something he's had to deal with in previous employment, especially with court records being made available online.

If, on the other hand he lied on his application then he'll almost certainly be fired for gross misconduct, especially given the nature of his crime. Either way the responsibility will be on the people who should be dealing with this situation (the company) rather than one of his co-workers.


Next step.

Assuming he's still with the company a week after you send in your tipoff (from a disposable email address from a web café, Jason Bourne style) you can now be reasonably sure of two things;

  • That the company is fully aware of his prior conviction
  • That the company doesn't see it as a problem to his continued employment.

At this point your choices are now to simply quit or remain.

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    +1 for anonymous tips to HR. This is part of the reason HR departments exist. Also +1 for stating falsifying and employment application is grounds for termination. – Skooba Oct 5 '17 at 17:29
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    -1 "then aside from a short awkward conversation, there will be no ill consequences" If that is the case, then with the same logic you should openly speak with HR because then you at least accept responsibility for your actions. The only thing why you want to use anonymity is evading this responsibility. – Thorsten S. Oct 7 '17 at 16:51
  • @ThorstenS. - You seem to be placing OP on the same level as a former rapist. If this guy has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to fear. – Richard Oct 7 '17 at 18:06
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    Is this satire or are you even not aware of the contradiction of your proposal and "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" ? Hello, you are hiding yourself if you send an anonymous tip by definition! So proposing an anonymous tip means either (if you think the "nothing to hide" is true) that you are fearing consequences because you know what you are doing is wrong and you know you must hide yourself or (if you think "nothing to hide" is false) your argument is either wrong or selective (The argument is only valid for the rapist guy, not for myself). – Thorsten S. Oct 7 '17 at 19:30
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    You seem to misunderstand what the problem is. Let's take it as granted that it is absolutely extremely important that the company must know. It could save lives and prevent harm, ok? This is much more important than a job if I understood you correctly (the rapist can get another one and the OP can get another one). It could be fixed. When I save a life I do not look if my clothes could be torn apart. So the exact reason that you cannot go openly get to HR and must do it anonymously is....? – Thorsten S. Oct 7 '17 at 21:27
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You might consider that there are many rapists who have never been convicted. You might manage to join a different department of your company and without your knowledge be working not with someone who was convicted and served their time more than 20 years ago, but with someone who has raped just yesterday. What would you prefer?

You might also consider that not everyone convicted of rape is a rapist. In the UK, a few weeks ago a woman has been sentenced to 10 years jail for falsely accusing one man after the other of rape or sexual harrasment, with one of her victims spending three years in jail for rape before he was set free.

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    -1, I would believe a conviction can and should be reason to believe that the co-worker is a rapist, especially if you know nothing further about his individual case. Also, instilling more fear about how the OP could be working with more rapists he/she knows nothing about cannot possibly be productive. – panoptical Oct 2 '17 at 14:48
-5

Convicted rapists should be punished, by laws and yourself. You have the responsibility to enforce workplace safety. Please inform everybody (especially female coworkers) in the company about the criminal.

Consider to send an email to the everybody in the company like:

Dear all,

XXXX is a convicted rapist. Please don't talk to him.

Thanks,
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    "Convincted rapists should be punished, by laws" - this part is correct, but not what comes after. That would be vigilantism. The e-mail is a terrible idea. – Brandin Oct 6 '17 at 9:19
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    This could very well open you up to all sorts of issues. legal and professional. Defenitely do not do this. – Miller86 Oct 6 '17 at 9:39
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    The rapist HAS been punished by law. So that is done and over with. You are suggesting punishing this, now, law-abiding citizen for nothing? – user76296 Feb 2 '18 at 20:02

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