And it left a mushroom cloud in its wake.
We have a department secretary (administrative assistant) that hasn't been around for about two months now. A couple weeks ago, I asked our deptartment administrator what happened to her. I was simply told:
"She's on family medical leave and we don't know when she'll be back."
Although currently single, she's raising two children. One of which signed up for the army and sent to Iraq. I said a prayer that she wasn't on leave because her son was injured in Iraq. But our new department manager doesn't divulge a lot of information (unless you're pulling teeth).
So I left it at that.
Today my clincal nurse came back in the lab from a restroom break. She pulled me aside. She told me that she had run into the administrative assistant and had a quick chat.
Turns out that she probably won't be coming back to work. And she's not on family medical per say. She's on leave while a legal issue gets cleared up.
The issue - she filed a sexual harrassement claim against her boss (the head of the department).
As the nurse put it: "Nothing good can come out of it, and both involved parties will pay."
I was floored. I like our department head a lot. He's always had this "so good to see you" attitude whenever you saw him. He was so warm and inviting. A family man with teenagers. If I had to find another lab to work in within the department, I'd want to work in his.
On the other side is the single mom of teens and more. She had been in our department longer than I have. She's had lots of interactions with this person when he was faculty (before the appointment to department head). Our nurse said that she practially started crying in the hall when she told the nurse about her situtation. I've never known anything to upset her in the past, so she must really believe that something happened.
Since this is the first I've heard of the situation, the crisis is quietly being handled by the college. Our department has had its share of controversy, and press of the harrassement is something we don't need.
Our current department head is still listed as "interim". He never wanted to be the official head. But our college has dragged its feet in hiring a permanent department head. So our interim head has been a good sport for years about the issue, and I don't think frustration would have set him to harrass a secretary.
No matter the outcome, it's going to be ugly.