A store supervisor who publicly shamed and humiliated a Tekkie Town employee at the Baywest Mall branch in Port Elizabeth has been suspended, the retail chain confirmed on Monday.
A photograph of the employee standing in the store's display window, wearing a handwritten sign that reads: "I don't listen to my supervisor. Now I'm in the naughty corner," gained traction on social media over the weekend and went viral.
According to Algoa FM, the 18-year-old staff member allegedly had her hands tied behind her back and her mouth taped and was ordered by her supervisor to stand in the shop's front window.
The incident apparently took place on Friday afternoon.
The ensuing furore led to Tekkie Town issuing a statement on Sunday in which the retailer said it had started an "urgent investigation" into the matter and had ensured the affected employee received counselling and support.
The retailer said it condemned any behaviour that undermined anyone's "dignity".
'It made me feel like a joke'
On Monday, Tekkie Town confirmed the company's operational director had completed the preliminary investigation and that the supervisor behind the incident had been suspended, pending further investigation and formal disciplinary procedures.
HeraldLive identified the 18-year-old employee as Maxime Lee, who said her offence was simply that she was talking and laughing loudly with a colleague.
Lee said that it may have been too loud for her supervisor, who called her to the back and told her to get a page and marker.
"She then wanted to staple [the note] to my shirt, but I told her it would damage it, so she took Prestik and stuck it on," said Lee.
"I initially thought it was a joke but then seeing how people were laughing at me, it made me feel like a joke and I wanted to cry."
Lee said that when it became too much for her and she started objecting, asking to be allowed to get back to work, her supervisor got tape to cover her mouth.
Police confirmed that a case of defamation was opened on Monday.
Netwerk24 reported that the Tekkie Town store was closed on Monday, and that Lee did not feel ready to return to work, out of embarrassment and fear of being victimised.