THE GREAT WHODUNIT BEHIND A BRAND NAME
January 23rd, 2015
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed last October by a former employee of Arsenault Healthcare, a manufacturer of durable geriatric products headquartered in Athol, Massachusetts. U.S. District Judge James H. Ford accorded the motion by lawyers representing the healthcare company to toss out the suit on Friday, citing a “lack of evidential material” to be the major causal factor in reaching his decision. The lawsuit accused the healthcare company of unlawfully terminating Deborah Brandywine, a former low-level marketing manager, in the wake of a controversial product release in late June 2012. “Ms. Brandywine was the victim of corporate back-pedaling and a broad, conspiratorial agenda which reached the highest rungs of the corporate ladder,” said David Mayefsky, a partner at Pressman, Weiss & Mayesfsky, the firm representing Ms. Brandywine. “There is little to no accountability in corporate culture anymore and this fact has just been further illustrated by Arseneault Healthcare’s actions,” he added.
A separate lawsuit filed in federal court last fall against the healthcare manufacturer by lawyers acting on behalf of Derivation, a New York-based naming company contracted by Arseneault in 2011 to generate a name for a new line of the manufacturer’s popular rollator model, a mobility aide for the elderly and handicapped, seems to corroborate Ms. Brandywine’s complaint, though perhaps only superficially. A spokesman for the naming company, who declined to comment directly on the dismissal of Ms. Brandywine’s lawsuit Friday, was quick to point out, “[these] are separate issues. Ours is about funds owed to Derivation for delivering a product which has yet to be paid. When a company promises to pay for services and doesn’t, there is legal grounds to sue, and, of course, that is what is being done. I know nothing of Ms. Brandywine’s cause.”
The controversy surrounds the naming of the TurboChase Elite Rollator Walker 3000, the name Derivation originally proposed to Areseneult Healthcare back in the winter of 2011, only to have the name rejected by company insiders and again reinstated at a later date, according to sources. Though Ms. Brandywine sees it another way.
“This is a love story. A real love story,” she said over the phone. “Which is to say, there is no love, and only a man and a woman, sex and heartbreak.”
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DEB
The company retreat was held over the long, Fourth of July weekend in the summer of 2010. A hot summer by all accounts. The retreat was organized and scheduled by the Human Resources department. A branch-wide email sent out under the subject header, “Important Information Re: Payroll Error! Read!” weeks prior to the event had confirmed the details and read:
a) this email in fact has nothing to do with an error in Payroll; b) there is and never has been an error in Payroll; c) there is to be a company retreat over the upcoming holiday weekend; d) the retreat will focus on team building; e) attendance is mandatory for all those who have read the email; f) the email will be considered read if opened, even once, regardless of whether or not the information contained within the email is in fact read and absorbed; g) the opening of the email will be monitored by members of the IT help desk staff and reported to the HR department daily; h) the only way to avoid attendance without penalty is to have not read the email, meaning the email has never been opened, which is all but impossible given the cleverly worded subject line and the fact that if you have read up to this point in the email, that is the lettered item h, the email has already been opened and attendance assured. An itinerary of daily activities is attached in a pdf. Good luck.
In the event any one employee had misread, skipped over or altogether neglected the motives behind the retreat given in the email, HR further emphasized its purpose by hanging an Arsenault-Red™ banner from the exposed rafters above the check-in desk in the Main Lodge of the Pocono’s resort at which the retreat took place and which was readily visible to guests upon entering the expansive, wood-grained lobby, the gold-lettered subject matter of which, TEAM GOOD OK, seemed especially puerile, downright simple or, as a few of the more silver tongued had commented, Neanderthalish to a vast majority of those whom attended the retreat, which was all but Chip Baker in the end, an account manager in the Sales Department who had earned the right to truancy by ignoring the email and whose email repository had over one hundred thousand other unread emails, who came into the office perhaps once a year and never once closed a deal, and whom the healthcare company had tried to fire on multiple occasions without success due in part because he was so hard to get ahold of but was still afforded an annual salary and compensational quarterly bonuses due to the very real and actual oversight of an error in Payroll.
It was on the first night at this at-capacity retreat that Ms. Brandywine joined in union and corporeal bond with the man in question. His name was Breccan Iglehart, a C-level executive at Arsenault and the son of the healthcare company’s former President and C.E.O., Arthur Iglehart, now retired. Breccan Iglehart was former Harvard alum. His I.Q. was nearly 180 and he liked cats. He had been a collegiate swimmer and was once named Number 88 on IWSF’s list of “Top 100 Swimmers: 1996” by writers in IWSF’s quarterly publication, The Aquatics Magazine, which was and is still to this day considered the great authority on both pro- and semi-pro water sports and should not be confused with either Aquatic World, a zine concerning pelagic matters, or World Aquatics, a fallaciously titled annual academic journal examining the effects of human encroachment on North American swamps put out by a panel of scientists representing a variety of universities across the country.
After an afternoon of trust exercises, a lecture on constructive criticism by the esteemed Professor of Semantics at Yale University, Dr. David B. Bulhorne, a seminar on the value of passive aggression in the workplace, more trust exercises, a hand-holding session conducted in a circle on the pressed beech wood floor in the resort’s gymnasium, and a game of telephone, the Arsenault employees had dinner in a private dining room in The Grand Banquet Hall, which was attached to the Main Lodge by an enclosed corridor of roughly three hundred square feet. As a method of further establishing camaraderie, HR constructed what is referred to in the Human Resource world as a ASC or Assigned Seating Chart, a commonly implemented device to encourage collaboration and bonding in retreats of this nature. They included the ASC in the Introductory Packet handed out to employees upon signing in to the event and, anticipating no one would browse the packet and would instead leave it untouched on the dresser or nightstand in their rooms, posted one on the wall outside the banquet hall’s greater dining area. Traditional ASCs, of course, assigned seats fashioned in a hierarchical structure, i.e., pyramidal, that is, placing executives at the same table(s) as equivalent executives, mid-level managers with other mid-level managers, etc. In 1988, Arsenault’s Human Resource Department questioned this industrial standard, however, and decided to go against the grain by employing a randomly generated ASC, at first, by pulling names from a hat and later, by way of a computer algorithm. In a word the thinking behind the bold revision was SCBALITCOC (Safe Communication Between All Levels in the Chain of Command), which the HR department saw as pivotal to a more efficient workplace. The move was considered an innovation in the field at the time and was in fact incorporated by a number of HR departments nationwide. Although executives orders eventually caused the practice to wane and fall out of favor for many companies, Arsenault remained dedicated to the approach.
Table 18, Chair R3 was the seat the randomly generated ASC had picked for Ms. Brandywine. She drifted through the aisles in between the tables with her dinner plate on a sea foam green lunch tray, reading the table numbers printed in a bold black serif typeface on triangular placards which had been placed at evenly spaced intervals along the long, picnic table-style tabletops, repeating in her head: Table 18, Chair R3: Table 18, Chair R3. A major flaw in Arsenault’s approach of ASC generation and one the HR department had overlooked, somewhat ironically in the fact that they themselves were going against the rules, was our propensity as a species to do the opposite of what we are told to do, and as such many times people just sat where they wanted and with whom they wanted anyway. When Ms. Brandywine finally located her AS, she had fallen victim to this insubordination herself and politely made claim — albeit, passively — for the seat she was assigned. But the man who had occupied Chair R3 at Table 18, whom she recognized as David Bulgerwood, a real ass, told her he wasn’t moving and to take his assigned seat at Table 6, Chair L12. Wonderful, she thought, and made her way to Table 6, Chair L12 only to find Wendy Wendelson had already taken it. Wendy said her AS was T25, CR12 and she was more than happy to give it up if Deb had wanted to switch. Deb rolled her eyes and said sure. Of course T25, CR12 was occupied by a man with waxy blond and gray hair pulled back into a ponytail who Debbie didn’t immediately recognize but later remembered to be Craig or Greg Thistlereed from Accounting. By this the third or was it fourth strike, Debbie had had enough: She threw the sea foam green lunch tray in the trash and went outside for a cigarette.
“Fate,” Ms. Brandywine would later contend. “The ASC and all those rule breakers: it was fate. Do you know the sheer number of coincidences it took to bring us together?” Outside Breccan was on his cellphone, pacing back and forth. He spoke in fragmented blocks, often mentioning violence or the promise of violence (cut your tongue out, she heard, kick in the stomach), and when she stepped out, he smiled and nodded before turning away and softening his tone. She returned the gesture, a coy little smile, and rummaged through her purse, finding her pack of cigarettes. In the distance, she could hear the percussions of exploding fireworks. The strike of her metal refillable lighter’s flint-wheel ignition: sparks: poof: a flame. She lit her cigarette, closed the hood of the lighter, snuffing out the fire, and exhaled three perfectly formed smoke rings. She walked down the drive lined by evergreens and pines and looked up at the sky and the moon. She eventually walked back to the Grand Banquet Hall and found Breccan seated on a bench. He made a witty remark about the retreat, and she laughed. He told her to sit and for the rest of the evening, they talked and drank from a flask he’d brought. At the end of the night, they ended up in his suite, in bed.
“Plainly, we [expletive], spelled f, u— what? Mike, what?” In the background a male voice, presumably Mike’s, could be heard yelling something about public television and pledge drives. “Hold on. No, I’m on the, Mike, I’m on the,” Ms. Brandywine paused. “Then go ahead and put it on the Visa, Mike. No, no, I’m on the phone.” She paused once more. “Okay, I apologize, where was I? Oh, right: we [expletive], all the while well aware of company policy, of course —
From the Arsenault Healthcare’s Employee Handbook For the Betterment of Employedness, pg. 1028; § 8.4; ¶ 3:
No employees shall conduct relations beyond those deemed appropriate by the congress of our committee herein codified as the Employee Relational Guide, or §8.5 of Arsenault Healthcare’s Employee Handbook For the Betterment of Employedness:
No two or more employees shall conduct in the name of carnal desire relations thus defined herein as, any act beyond those entrusted them by contractual obligation, including but in no way limited to all acts considered beyond those entrusted them by contractual obligation, i.e. or e.g., relations of a carnal nature, which shall be defined as any bodily fellowship or cohesion or indirect or direct contact of a closeness considered beyond the closeness required them to fulfill any and all contractual obligations entrusted them, etc., et al., and so on.
— but to be honest, no one understands what the [expletive] that company policy is saying anyway.” She and Mr. Iglehart spent the remainder of weekend together, and certainly, as she described in vivid and graphical detail, in a closeness which the company would have considered beyond the closeness required them to fulfill any and all contractual obligations entrusted them, etc., et al., and so on, though, as she said, it definitely was the best team building exercise of whole weekend. She thought the casual hook-up would last only those few days, that when they returned home, to their respective lives, they’d only assemble in an occupational and professional mode. But a few days after the retreat ended, to her surprise, Ms. Brandywine received a call from Breccan. He had to see her, he’d been thinking of her and couldn’t get her out of his mind. He gave her an address, a motel, a small, discrete place, he said, off of US-202. She agreed, said she’d meet him, wrote down the address, scribbling room 114 on a scrap of paper. She drove thirty minutes, pulling into the parking lot around four p.m. She located the room and knocked. From that afternoon and for a year to come, a torrid love affair ensued, the rendezvouses continuing in area hotel rooms, backs of cars, chain restaurant bathrooms, and once, in a storage closet at a children’s event space filled with inflatable slides, castles and obstacles called Bounce Off The Walls. Always clandestine, always in secret, escaping both coworker suspicion and company discipline.
THE TRIAL TRANSCRIPT
b. iglehart: total lies.
defense: can you, uh, elaborate for us, mr. iglehart?
b. iglehart: everything that woman —
defense: could you please specify for the court which woman?
b. iglehart: deb, ms. uh, brandywine, the plaintiff, she’s a pathological liar. we never had sex. there was no relationship, like, uh, beyond, you know, a professional one. plain and simple.