View Full Version : How employees can cost their employers dearly.

08-12-2007, 12:34 PM
Like any apartment building of any size, the floors of our building are divided and isolated by automatic closing fire doors, which help limit fire spread AND protect routes of egress for tenants. Well over the past few days the fire door closest to our apartment has been getting blocked open. Each time I would remove the rock propping the door open and it would get replaced. Being a former firefighter I know how important it is for my own life safety that these doors remain closed at all times. I also knew it was a violation of law to block or disable fire doors such that they could not close properly.

Well I finally had enough and put a sign on the door that it was not to be blocked open. Then this morning I heard my sign being torn down and caught the individual who was blocking the door open. I tried to explain that it was against the law to block or disable the door and she claimed that our landlord told her to do this and that if I had issues with it I had to take it up with him. I told her it didn't matter what the landlord had told her because what she was doing was against the law and I was not going to jeopardize my life safety or the safety of my possessions by allowing this door to remain open.

She said there was nothing I could do be cause she worked for the landlord and these were her instruction and that I had to take it up with him. She proceeded to block the door open, when she left I removed the stone and she would replace it a short while later. Having had enough of this I called and left a message on my landlord's pager service about the issue. All the while she would place stones, I would remove them and she would go get another one. Eventually she gave up on the stones and screwed a wooden plate into the floor to hold the door open making it a flagrant fire code violation. Again she left and I took digital photos of the door being disabled then removed the wooden block. A short while later she returned and knocking on my door demanding that I give the block of wood back to her, which I refused to answer my door.

Eventually she returned again with her screw gun and started messing with the door again. I went out and told her that if she did not leave the door alone I would call the police, which she told me to do. Calling the police they put me in touch with my local fire station and explained the situation to them with this employee standing in front of me. They confirmed that it was a fire code violation to disable fire doors and said she was not to mess with the door. When I explained what she had been doing, they told me they would be over to our building in about an hour. When they arrived they confirmed that the disabled doors on my floor were a violation and preceded to go through the rest of the building and our sister building looking for other violations.

At first they were going to simply write up a warning to the landlord explaining that these things had to be fixed, but then the employee showed back up and said that she had been told to prop the doors open by the landlord (which I'm not convinced of). They told her it didn't matter and that she was just as culpable for violating the law as was the landlord even if he told her to do it. She then started arguing with them that she was only doing what she was told and that the landlord does the exact same thing in his other 16 buildings. Having had enough of the matter the Fire Lt. decided he wanted to speak to the landlord right then and there and that citations were going to be issued instead of just warnings.

Making matters worse, in the process of fighting with me about whether the door was going to remain open or closed she had removed the automatic door closer from the door. When asked about this, she lied to the firefighters and said it wasn't there to begin with. What she didn't know and still doesn't know is that I had pictures of the door taken not an hour before showing how the door was screwed open AND clearly showing the automatic door closer on the door, which I proceeded to show to the fire department.

There you have it, simple pettiness by an employee, her insisting on disabling a fire door, mouthing off to firefighters and lying about her removing the automatic door closing mechanism turned a simple issue of letting a door close properly until issue could be clarified with the landlord during the work week into written warnings by the fire department. Continued mouthing off by the employee eventually turned warnings into citations and fines for multiple fire code violations in multiple buildings with the prospect of more inspections coming for yet other buildings.

The thing was, this lady knew I was a former firefighter and admitted to me that she knew what the law was in regards to disabling fire doors, yet she let her pettiness get the best of her and by refusing to simply leave the fire doors on my floor alone has created a big headache, maintenance expense and fines for her employer. Don't you love employees like this.

Those who wonder what the importance is of fussing about fire doors are, should keep in mind that all fire codes are written with the blood of those who died in earlier fires. Fire codes are not idle bureaucracy run a muck. Of all the laws on the books, fire codes are the most important to your personal safety. Screwing with a fire safety device or ignoring a fire safety code could cost you or someone else their life.

08-12-2007, 12:59 PM
but I bet you loved the look on her face didn't you?

08-12-2007, 01:11 PM
She was clueless and totally sure she was right to the very end. The way she brazenly lied to the firefighters right to their face (when they knew she was lying) was dumbfounding.

The thing is I really feel bad for my landlord. Some of the violations he was written up for were caused by tenants who insist on leaving stuff, like bicycles, in the hallways which interferes with the routes of egress. I told the Fire Lt. that the landlord did periodically send around notices that stuff was not allowed to be left in the hallways.

I'm sure that IF the landlord said to prop the doors open he did not mean all of the time. Nor would he want the doors to be kept open against tenants wishes. He is a retired chief engineer from the merchant marines and last served as the chief engineer of a super tanker. He has also been a landlord for at least a dozen years. I'm quite certain he is familiar with fire codes as they apply to doors and understands the serious ramifications of instructing employees to violate those codes. What she was claiming just wasn't credible.

08-12-2007, 05:00 PM
Why did she want it open in the first place? Was it thoroughfare for her or something?

08-12-2007, 05:27 PM
I really don't know what her real reason was for wanting it open. She claimed that her boss told her to for cross ventilation, although I have lived in the building for six years and no one has ever propped the door open until she started doing it a few days ago. Furthermore the first floor doors, where moisture is a problem, were not propped open. I think she just wasn't going to be told what to do by me and it turned into a pissing match and a power trip with her. Literally she was in the process of removing the door when I called the fire department.

When I talk to the landlord I will have choice words about her. The fact is she was in violation of state laws via the Uniform Fire Code and lied to fire officials (another violation of law and I have photographic proof of her lie). Furthermore if I had acquiesced to her instance on blocking the door open after making attempts to keeping the door closed and simply dropped the matter I to could have been culpable.

If the fire department wanted, I'm sure they could have cited her along with the landlord. If I was her boss I'd fire her immediately because she is a liability. She told fire officials that her boss instructed his employees to block open doors in violation of laws, if there is a fire in any of his buildings and people are injured because doors were blocked open, he could be held criminally responsible. Without her statements, he could have claimed that tenants had done it on their own and he has sent us letters from time to time about egress issues so he would have been partially protected. Literally had she not said her boss told her to prop open doors in his buildings, he would have probably gotten off with a written warning and warnings to fix the problem. Now in addition he has citations that carry financial penalties.

08-13-2007, 10:22 AM
Wow. Just... wow.

After a certain point, it clearly wasn't about the door anymore with her. People like that are usually just a frustration, but when it comes to personal safety? Wow.

08-13-2007, 12:16 PM
I'm certain it never had anything to do with the door. I think she was on a power trip. She was the one who was originally propping our door open for whatever reason (which was of her own doing not our landlord's) and was not going to let some tenant tell her other wise. In her mind she worked for the landlord and thus spoke for him. Thus far the apartment office is understanding of my position and quite perplexed by her actions. What blows everyone's mind is that she took it to the level of first screwing the door in the open position and then when that didn't work, she removed the automatic door closer. In other words she was destroying/damaging life safety devices to make sure she got her way the laws be damned.

08-13-2007, 01:42 PM
Unfortunately its far from being uncommon, I've heard a saying many times that a company is as only good as the employees you deal with. Which is very true, you may have the best services in the world but it only takes one employee to screw things up.

08-13-2007, 02:05 PM
Xander, you are so right.

In this case the individual was only the cleaning lady, but told the fire department that she was one of the maintenance workers and that she was just doing what she was told to do. The real handy man came by today and fixed the doors and had some choice words about the cleaning lady. He said he had enough to fix with what gets broken by the tenants, he doesn't need to be also fixing things that get intentionally broken by other employees.

In regards to her being told to prop the doors open by the boss, he said she was full of brown excrement.

Well at least now two of the three doors are fixed (the ones that matter most). The third one can not be fixed until tomorrow when they get a replacement automatic door closer or find what happened to the one that was removed.

08-16-2007, 08:00 AM
Fire codes are not idle bureaucracy run a muck
Not sure I agree with that, but yeah, that's just ONE of many reasons not to have employees :)

08-16-2007, 10:26 AM
Not sure I agree with that, but yeah, that's just ONE of many reasons not to have employees :)

Sometimes their logic isn't always visible from the surface, but when one looks deeper, they will find that most fire codes do come about for logical reasons. Unlike a lot of other bureaucracy, fire codes have to run through a very tough gauntlet of opposing interests. On one side you have firefighter unions and associations as well as insurance companies and on the other side you have builder associations and developers. It isn't that builders and developers are against safe buildings, rather their interest is to keep the cost of construction down as the more expensive construction becomes the fewer homes, buildings that can be built. Thus they don't like codes that drive up the cost of construction without there being real life safety benefits and there isn't a cheaper way to achieve the same benefit. These very strong opposing interests tend to weed out the more frivolous fire code proposals. While these are opposing interests, they do actually work together to help draft and update the codes on a national or international basis.

Fire and building codes tend to no longer be written by local governments. Rather local and state governments simply adopt national and international codes like the Universal Fire Code and the International Building Code. This does a good job of weeding out local special interests that might be able to wield undo influence over how local codes would be written. If you really think your local government has some goofy codes, you should see whether or not they have adopted the Universal Fire Code and/or the International Building Code. If they haven't, you should lobby them to replace their existing codes with these codes as it will streamline the code process and make life easier in the end for all parties (nothing is worse than having to deal with different codes every time you cross into a new city.

In regards to my situation, the doors are now fixed better than they were to begin with and the individual quit before she could be fired. So problem solved. I also think the landlord is getting off with only having to make corrective actions and was able to avoid fines (thankfully).

Regardless of what you think of building/fire codes, my landlord has a simple saying. "A hornets nest is just fine as long as you don't stick your finger in it." You may not agree with some aspects of these codes, but it is cheaper and easier to go along with the codes than to try and mess with fire or building officials as they can make your life miserable. These officials tend to be very easy to get along with and will overlook minor things as long as they don't think they are getting jerked around (although you will get the occasional official who is on a power trip).