Jerk Boss Tells Mom to Pretend Her Dead Kid 'Didn't Exist'

cubicleWho hasn't wished there was a law against being a horrible boss? Maybe the story of Cecelia Ingraham will convince you this is something that can be legislated. Less than two years after losing her teenage daughter, Tatiana, to leukemia, Ingraham's boss told her she had to pretend her dead child had never existed.

Now a New Jersey court has backed the supervisor at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals up on his ruling that the mourning Ingraham remove all evidence of Tatiana's existence from her work cubicle -- the late teen's ballet shoes, photos, everything. The resulting stress landed Ingraham in the hospital with heart problems, but the judge ruled Ingraham's boss wasn't reckless in causing her severe emotional distress. It's not illegal to be a crappy boss! Just "insensitive."


But whatever happened to fair and equal treatment in the workplace? It would go hand in hand with that "equal opportunity employer" mumbo jumbo, wouldn't it?

Ingraham claimed no one in the office ever acted like they were uncomfortable with her mourning -- although, let's face it, what kind of jerk would do that? -- until the boss showed up with this pretty harsh edict. He told her that her co-workers were uncomfortable with her moping about, and they all came out of the woodwork afterward to support him.

Now here's where it gets tricky. Telling Ingraham that she couldn't sit there weeping all the time because she had to get some work done makes good sense. It's a business. Even if she'd been an employee for 12 years, you can only skate on good will for so long before the company needs you to actually earn your paycheck. No one gets to slack off on the job. That's equality.

But you can tell your employee to cut the crying without telling them to pretend their dead kid doesn't exist. We all like to have a photo or two at our desk to keep us going throughout the day. When I was an in-office employee, I had pictures of my husband and kid. A co-worker had pictures of him with his partner. Another had Penn State football paraphernalia. To each his own. But the rules have to be equal opportunity. If a mourning mom can't look adoringly at the face of her late daughter, no one in that office should get a little pick-me-up from photos of their sweethearts in their cubicle either.

The supervisor at Ortho wasn't a horrible boss for wanting his employee to focus on work while on the job. He's a bad boss for treating a mourning mom as if she has to meet a higher standard than her co-workers.

Do you think Cecelia Ingraham should have been allowed to keep her photos and daughter's slippers in her cubicle?


Image via Inha Leex Hale/Flickr

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