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BOFH: Retirement plan

It's as easy as ones and zeros

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Episode 30

So the PFY and I are having a quick three hour lunch at the pub across the road when George, our faithful cleaner, walks in looking a little bit despondent.

"Everything all right George?" the PFY asks, noticing his unhappy visage.

"What? Oh, no, not really."

"What's the matter?"

"They're, uh, forcing me to retire," he mumbles sadly.

"WHAT?!" the PFY and I cry in unison.

"They say I'm past the mandatory retirement age."

"They can't do that!" the PFY gasps. "You're indispensable. You're the sane voice in an insane world - our ear to the ground and eye in the sky - the Alfred to our Batman and Robin!"

"I don't have a lot of choice," George sighs sadly. "My contract says I retire at 65."

"Well can't we lie about your age?" the PFY asks, firing up his laptop and connecting to the company's wireless network. "I mean, you don't look a day over...well...73."

"Seventy-four actually," George admits. "I lied about my age when I started and told them I was 53."

"Did you suggest that their data was wrong - as indeed it is...?"

"Yes, but they just said that it's on the computer now so it must be right. Then they said that I'd have to bring in supporting documents if I wanted anything changed."

"Hmm," the PFY says, poring through George's personnel entry. "It looks like you're only >tappity< >click< sixty >click< three"

"I...Really? Can you do that?"

"Do what?" the PFY asks, looking around innocently.

"So I can work here for another couple of years?" he asks.

"Unless the company can 'bring in supporting documents' to say that you're not, as I checked the box saying 'documents sighted'."

"So it's that easy?" George asks.

"Possibly," I reply, "but the couple of years we've just bought you is a good stop-gap - I think the real issue here is the company persecuting you for being a woman in what is traditionally a traditional male role."

"I'm not a woman!"

"You're only 1 bit away from being one. In fact, you are one >click< now." the PFY replies, looking up from his work long enough to drag deeply on his pint. "Obviously you didn't disclose this information in your original application because (a) there was no question on the form requesting such information and (b) gender reassignment had its stigmas back then and you felt that you might be unduly handicapped by revealing it."

"So you're saying I'm a woman so they won't fire me?"

"No, no, it's not that easy. Positive discrimination is a thing of the past."

"But they'll never buy it, I've got children!"

"...and you remain ever appreciative to the sperm donor programs," the PFY adds tapping away on his keyboard some more.

"So why won't they just fire me?"

"Because we're going to put you into the sort of niche where no HR person would dare force you to retire. We'll marginalise you to such an extent that the head of HR will lay awake nights hoping you'll die peacefully in your sleep."

"How?"

"I'm guessing my faithful assistant here has been ticking a broad selection of boxes in your HR record so as to make you one in a million person."

"One in several million," the PFY says. "Unless you know of any other 63 year old former women with a hip replacement, dyslexia, a 25 per cent share of four different ethnicities who has sustained multiple workplace injuries in the course of his work, has 15 dependants, and votes communist every election."

"Do they have voting information?" George asks.

"No, it's a note I added at the bottom alongside the one about the company suspecting you've had intimate relations with a board member. If you ever have to subpoena your record it'll look like they were out to get you."

"But how can you do this?"

"Easy, it's just data, 1s and 0s." the PFY says, forgoing the lesson on binary. "Change the right 1 to a 0 and you change sex. Slap in the right mix of ones and zeros and suddenly your ethnicity changes."

"Surely they'll get me to verify this information?"

"Not once you've visited your local Union official and authorise him up take a copy of all the information the company has on you."

"I...well...I...thank you!"

"Don't thank me, buy my something - small and inexpensive in the shape of a pint."

"I would lads, but I don't want to be late back."

"Late back? It's only 11:45!"

"No, it's 1:15!"

"No, >clickety< I think you'll find the company clock says it's 11:45, and will till 5pm."

"Ones and Zeros again?" George asks.

"Indeed. Now, who wants to see the head of HR reach mandatory retirement age in the space of half an hour???"

...

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