Legal blog Above the Law has reproduced a memo from the Chairman of well-known law firm (Update: Cadwalader, Wickersham, and Taft) announcing to employees that there is a bed bug problem on the 33rd floor in the Word Processing dept. of that firm. (MediaBistro’s FlishBowlNY blog is also covering this, so the leaked memo is getting around.)
In it, he describes the treatment, and repercussions meted out to the alleged source of the infestation.
Oh, and the Chairman also says they don’t have “an infestation.” Whatever that means.
The memo contains some strange claims, including assertions that:
a) “A single treatment by an exterminator usually controls bed bugs and prevents reinfestation for several months.”
Not so, assuming traditional methods (sprays, powders and the like), most cases require multiple treatments.
b) Treatments occurred on June 18th, again the next morning, and again a week later (based, apparently on additional bed bug sightings in the same area.
This is odd, since the memo also rightly admits it is normal to see some bed bugs after the first treatment. Why did they keep spraying before the expected 10-day follow-up?
c) “They do not show themselves during daylight hours, only at night in the dark.”
That’s not necessarily true.
d) “[Name of PCO firm] has said that it is very unlikely that these bugs could be transmitted to your home. However, for the next several days, please closely examine your clothing and any materials you take out of the office.”
it’s definitely possible you brought them home. And be vigilant for several months or more, since one or two bugs can establish themselves in time. You may not be allergic and so you may not feel bites; in such circumstances, you might not notice visible evidence of bed bugs for many, many months. Until they are everywhere and you are seeing them in the daytime.
e) “Note also that [name of PCO] has assured us that [name of law firm] does not have any infestation and will continue to proceed with an aggressive course of action to remedy the situation.”
Um, how many bed bugs do you think you have to have, to have an infestation?
Because I’d say you do have one.
f) Oddly enough, they think they know the original source of the bed bugs:
“During the course of the extermination, a box was identified as the source of the bugs and was immediately removed from the premises.”
Possible, but really? Can you be sure the bed bugs came from the box?
g) And finally, most distressingly, this statement:
“The individual who we believe brought the insects into the firm came forward on Tuesday, June 19, and is no longer associated with the firm.”
We don’t know the details. Assuming this employee was fired only for allegedly bringing bed bugs into the firm, and assuming this person did not intentionally or knowingly bring the bed bugs in, perhaps s/he has a good case for wrongful dismissal. I really, truly hope so. That would be a bed bug lawsuit I could get behind. Because even if the employee brought the bed bugs in, it is quite possible s/he did so unknowingly.
Oddly enough, it may take months for the other employees to get that. But when some of them unknowingly take bed bugs home, they will understand that the blame game does not work with bed bugs.
This is the first time I have heard of anyone being fired because of bed bugs. Things are starting to get really ugly.