Photo: Flickr/Ricardo Diaz
A married pharmaceutical sales rep at Forest Labs (FRX) sent a mass email to her colleagues confessing she’d had an affair with another married sales rep, and that they’d used company money to book hotel rooms for their trysts.The woman used the email to complain that Forest’s human resources department failed to protect her when, after she ended the affair, the man continued to contact her.
The email, needless to say, has caused a stir on CafePharma, the anonymous bulletin board that drug company employees use to trade gossip. It’s also a morality tale about just how badly wrong a workplace relationship can go. The woman claims her husband eventually beat up her lover, and her manager assigned both cheaters to work together in the same sales territory.
In two recent lawsuits, employees at Bayer (BAYRY), Endo Pharmaceuticals (ENDP), and Novartis (NVS) have used allegations sexual harassment to bolster gender discrimination claims. The drug business is uniquely primed to generate inappropriate workplace relationships because management tends to hire attractive people as salespersons, teams of reps are on the road unsupervised all day, they host dinners for their doctor clients at night, and management expects them to attend regular conferences and meetings at hotels.
While the Forest email does not appear to have generated any litigation, it does show how quickly unchecked office romances can blow up in a company’s face. (Just ask former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd).
Saturday night special
The unnamed woman at Forest apparently sent the email late on a Saturday night before a “POA” meeting in early June that she, her ex-lover and many of their colleagues were expected to attend for a “launch.” POA usually stands for “plan of action” in drug industry lingo. It states:
This affair always took place during work, and lasted over a year. We took advantage of the company by performing unethical acts such as ** obtaining his own room at POA meetings so that we could continue our sexual affair. In addition, he would talk me into obtaining hotel rooms when I would have dinner programs in places such as ** and we would meet during work to continue our deception. Additionally, we would meet at his house while his wife was working to continue our sexual affair.
A message for Forest Labs requesting comment was not immediately returned. (You can read the full text of the email, which doesn’t name names, below.)
The reaction of her colleagues is interesting because of what it says about the reputation of Forest’s HR department. Commenting on CafePharma, most said they did not believe that HR would help the woman. Given her statement that she had misused company resources, many expected her to be fired (the email says she’s on leave).
A copy of the text of the email follows:
It has been a very difficult time in my professional and personal life. I am writing this note to speak the truth, clear my conscious and hopefully some action will finally come from Forest HR. I was off of work for several months and this was directly related to an affair that I had with a co-worker **. I was a Specialty Representative and he was a Sales Representative in my ** territory. I confess that ** and I both acted unethical and completely took advantage of our spouses and the freedom in which this job provides. This affair always took place during work, and lasted over a year. We took advantage of the company by performing unethical acts such as ** obtaining his own room at POA meetings so that we could continue our sexual affair. In addition, he would talk me into obtaining hotel rooms when I would have dinner programs in places such as ** and we would meet during work to continue our deception. Additionally, we would meet at his house while his wife was working to continue our sexual affair.
I finally realised how low and unethical ** was when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She was going through treatment and he still wanted to continue the affair. I no longer wanted to be part of this as the guilt was overwhelming. I also felt that there was no limit to his deception as he lied so easily and frequently. This is also apparent with his unethical sales practices that I admit I became a part of at one time. At one point my husband became suspicious and ** called my husband to meet in person. ** deception had no boundary as he told my husband in person that there was nothing going on and even called his wife to talk to my husband. Once I confessed to my husband, my husband beat ** up and got in trouble with the law.
This affair was the worst decision in my life. This horrible mistake has cost me my family, house and possibly my career. I have tried to move on however, I was continued to be harassed by **. I have informed HR about the harassment and even stepped down from my Specialty spot so I no longer would have to be exposed to this situation. HR has totally dropped the ball in terms of protecting me. I have made several calls to HR to report this and nothing has been done. Now the company has realigned the territories put us under the same manager. This now puts us in direct contact and I will have to be part of his team during the upcoming launch meeting. I admitted that I have made horrible mistakes and that I was wrong for what I did. But once I said no and no longer want to be involved with him that should be it. I should no longer have to be exposed to further advances and comments. I believe that the company has no followed through on its promise to protect me even though I have done my part and stepped down.
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