The colleagues of Rupert Underwood, a 43-year-old systems manager at the Swindon-based online credit processing firm Zentixx, have agreed that he makes supposedly ironic asides about BDSM far more often than would be likely by pure chance and that the firm needs to take disciplinary action - but not that kind - against him.
According to accounts supervisor Mary Blaine, 39, 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 sent the whole office laughing.
'He said 'Amanda, on behalf of the whole team, I’d like to spank you very much, but I somehow 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: '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 while holding a riding crop behind his back and telling me what a naughty girl I’ve been for giving him a parking ticket while I sit there helpless and gagged ... oooh ...'
A minority of Zentixx’s 72 workers are more sympathetic, however. 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. It's Bondage, Domination, Sadism and Masochism, actually. I Googled it - yes, that IS why CagedRussians.com is on my browser actually, before you say anything.'
Team harmony is vital to Zentixx 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.
'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.'