Colleagues of Rupert Underwood, a 43-year-old systems manager at the Reading-based online order fulfilment firm Zentixx, are demanding that disciplinary action be taken against him. They all agree that Underwood makes supposedly ironic asides about BDSM far more often than would be likely by pure chance or even the intrinsic humour of the subject.
According to accounts supervisor Mary Blaine, the problem began just over three months ago. Underwood was speaking at the leaving presentation for her attractive young assistant Amanda Baker, when he made a pretend slip of the tongue that had the whole office chuckling.
'He said 'Amanda, on behalf of the whole team, I’d like to spank you very much, but I doubt that’s going to happen, so I’ll just hand over this present instead',' said Blaine. 'Next time someone left, he started on about us having a whip-round. At first we thought he was just milking the laughter, but soon he couldn’t get through a day without slipping 'leather' or 'chains' into the conversation.'
Added Blaine: 'I can take men leering at me but surely I can’t be expected to work with someone when all the time he’s probably thinking of making me dress up as a traffic warden, strapping me to a chair and walking around me slowly in circles telling me what a naughty girl I’ve been for giving him a parking ticket while I sit there helpless and gagged ... oooh ... Well, it's intolerable, isn't it?'
A minority of Zentixx’s 72 workers are more sympathetic to Underwood. Marketing executive Max Wright commented: 'I can't help noticing that every last one of these people tut-tutting about Rupert’s kink knows what BDSM stands for. Funny, that. Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism, actually. I Googled it - yes, that IS why CagedRussianBoys.com is on my browser actually, before you say anything.'
Team harmony is vital to DataPay and managing director Graham Meadows has decided that Underwood has to go. He recognises, however, that the case for sacking his colleague is legally weak and that the board may struggle to persuade Underwood to accept voluntary redundancy on standard terms.
'I guess we'll probably have to go to an employment tribunal to thrash out a deal with him,' sighed Meadows. 'And let me stress that I mean that metaphorically, not putting on Roman gladiators' costumes, wrapping up some birch twigs into a bundle and flogging each other's pale, hairy backs into a bloody pulp. At all. I'm not into that kind of kinky stuff ... oh shit.'