I work as a chemist for a very small pharmaceutical company, and I’ve been with the organization for about three months. There’s just six of us: the founder, his spouse (our receptionist/administrative assistant), and four scientists including myself. The owner/founder is undoubtedly a brilliant researcher and experimentalist, but I find him to be terribly idiosyncratic and extremely difficult to work for. Before starting this company he was a vice president at one of the big pharma firms, but as he explained it to us, he was forced to retire a few years ago because of his advanced age (he’s approaching 70). I now suspect that his abrasive management style also had something to do with it.
Basically, he’s a control freak. I’m expected to be at work by 8 AM each morning, but I don’t know what I’ll be doing for the day until he tells me (he treats everyone this way). If he’s late for some reason, we are left twiddling our thumbs until he shows up. Once we have our assignments (which we line up outside his office waiting to hear), we are then expected to complete the work by day’s end, no matter how much he’s given us, no questions asked. It’s not uncommon to be there until 6 or 7 PM at night with no advance notice. Next day, repeat. He doesn’t like it when we leave the building either, including for lunch. Instead, he has food delivered (he picks up the tab) and we all sit down together to eat at the appointed time. At first I thought this was kind of nice, but now it too seems a little weird and controlling. Trust me, take-out gets old after a while.
Anyway, a few weeks ago the water main to our facility broke. It wasn’t repaired for nearly a week, during which time I just assumed we’d shut down. Our work depends on having a fresh water supply—for experiments, as well as general clean-up—but it’s also necessary for the safety shower and eye-wash station, not to mention the bathroom. No chance with this guy. He insisted we keep our regular hours, and had jugs of fresh water delivered so we could run our experiments. For the bathroom, he insisted we use the local gas station’s (about a 15 minute walk, round trip). Boy, did they get sick of seeing us (fortunately no purchase was required). After a couple days I noticed something really peculiar though, especially given the owner’s age: He was the only one not making these daily pilgrimages! I guess my scientific curiosity got the best of me because I did a little investigating. Sure enough, sitting next to the toilet in our ‘Out of Order’ bathroom was a plastic gallon jug containing a cloudy yellow liquid! Disgusting! (I have no idea what he was doing about number 2.)
After that, I admit the blinders sort of fell away from my eyes and I began to notice all sorts of extremely troubling workplace practices. Remember that eye wash station and safety shower, both of which need water to operate? Looking around, I realized we didn’t even have this safety equipment! That violates about a million laws – and is just plain dangerous! How could I have been so blind?!? I also discovered the lab’s ventilation system was never certified, and that we don’t have the right kind of fire extinguishers. Most disturbingly (although I admit it’s all really bad), the refrigerator we’d all been using for our beverages, snacks, and leftovers was also being used to store biological samples and other experimental materials!!! Unreal – and all totally illegal! I know what I need to do, but I guess I’m still in a bit of shock over it all… – Name withheld
Yes – quit immediately.
Then file a formal complaint with OSHA, and/or your local or regional government.
And if there’s any way I can help, don’t hesitate to contact me.