Worker disagreement? Be wary of unlawful restraint

Tools and personal items were disappearing and Maintenance Foreman Clint Dexter wanted to know why. "Do you have any suspects?" his boss, Plant Engineer Ed Morrow, asked. "No real suspects," Dexter replied.

By Raymond Dreyfack September 1, 1998

Tools and personal items were disappearing and Maintenance Foreman Clint Dexter wanted to know why.

“Do you have any suspects?” his boss, Plant Engineer Ed Morrow, asked.

“No real suspects,” Dexter replied. “At least no one I can point to with any kind of evidence to back me up.”

“What makes you think the thief is someone in the maintenance department?”

Dexter hesitated. “Instinct, I guess.”

It was a tad more than instinct. Opportunity, for one thing, circumstances for another. The foreman also had a couple of suspects in mind: Al Polk, for one; Vince Wilkens, for another.

Morrow suggested, “Why don’t you question each employee individually? Use the small conference room where you can talk in privacy.”

“Good idea,” Dexter agreed.

Al Polk was the sixth person on his list. He appeared nervous as he sat down opposite his boss at the desk. When Dexter informed him what the interview was about, Polk flew off the handle.

“No way I’m listening to this crap.”

Polk stood up to leave. Dexter rose quickly and pushed him back into the chair, not roughly, but forcefully enough to seat him. “You’re gonna hear me out, Buster.”

“That does it!” Polk shouted and, threatening to sue for unlawful restraint, he stormed out of the room.

Question : If Polk follows through on his threat, does he have a case?

Morrow’s opinion: Dexter’s report of the incident produced a frown on Morrow’s face. “You made a mistake trying to force Polk to remain. What you should have done was warn him that if he left he would be guilty of insubordination and would have to suffer the consequences. Send Polk to my office. I’ll see what I can do to smooth over this thing.”