Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

There is absurdity in everything. Especially in death.

Yet the story of Pamela Johnston only brings me a grim feeling of chilled reality.

Johnston, until recently, was senior vice president of strategy and special projects for Electrum Partners

Should you have not heard of this concern, it offers up its expertise in the burgeoning area of the pot business.

You -- and a court -- must decide whether it has similar expertise in the area of human resources.

Her lawsuit alleges that Johnston was fired by Electrum because she told its president, Leslie Bocskor, that she had cancer.

This wasn't your ordinary first-stage sort of thing. This was stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that was suddenly discovered and had found its way to her bones. 

If she's lucky -- and the word has a relative meaning here -- she might live another few years. You want a number? 26 percent chance to get to 2022. 

Still, she thought she was a valued employee.

After all, her lawsuit says the company had guaranteed a two-year lease on an apartment for her. Her New York apartment allegedly acted as Electrum's New York office.

She thought, initially, that all would be well, even if she would never be. 

Then, she says, her payments weren't arriving when they should. When she asked what was going on, she was fired. By email, as it happens. On a Saturday.

There's another aspect to all this.

As she became a more and more influential employee, she says she had greater access to the inner workings of the company.

Her lawsuit says that she noticed certain intra-office personal relationships that could prove detrimental to the company's image and business.

She worried that calling attention to this created "a certain distance" between herself and senior Electrum figures.

Her lawsuit alleges that after telling Bocskor about her cancer, he told her "that he would loan her money, obtain for her a hard-to-obtain cannabis-based oil that has been used in the treatment of cancer and generally would 'have her back' with respect to her day-to-day responsibilities as an Electrum employee."

The oil never arrived, she says, and her payments allegedly began to dry up, until she wasn't being paid at all.

She says that on being fired, she was told by Electrum's counsel that she had to carry on working for 60 days.

Yet, she says, she was never paid again.

I contacted Bocskor, who didn't respond.

Of course, there are all sorts of legal nuances in this story that might fascinate some. Me, less so. 

It's the human consequences that, in some eyes, might make Electrum and Bocskor seem less than soothing in its alleged approach.

Johnston not only has a bleak chance of any sort of survival, she's also at risk of immediate financial decimation.

Her friends in the travel industry -- in which she was a well-known figure for many years -- have created a GoFundMe page on her behalf. 

With no job, she cannot afford her medical treatments. 

Her supporters explain that she's "about to lose her residence and is about to go from friend's house to friend's house. This is no way to live when you are terminally sick. Imagine how it would feel to be distraught with terminal cancer and be a fixture in friends' houses, having to move every few days or weeks?"

She feels so strongly about her case, and how it might impact others in her situation, that she's already made preparations to fight it from beyond the grave.

If, that is, she can find the money to fight it.

"Every little bit of support helps, and I'm touched by those who are lifting me up when life is knocking me down," she told me.

Some might sense elevated levels of irony in the fact that Electrum is part of an industry that claims to help cancer patients.

The FDA has already signaled its approval of Synthetic THC strains to help fight some of chemotherapy's awful side-effects.

Johnston told me she's stunned that it's people in the travel industry who have created the GoFundMe campaign, while only some senior people in the cannabis industry have offered help.

"Short of a few gems in leadership, the rest sit silent and do nothing," she told me.

Perhaps we should always beware those who promise kindness. Best to wait and see who actually delivers it.

It's always fascinating to me when those in a supposedly do-gooding industry are accused of doing bad. 

Every time a tech company, for example, is revealed to be just as grubby as companies of old, I wonder just how much change we can really believe in.

Electrum Partners' website says it offers "far-reaching wisdom in a new landscape."

Johnston would prefer it offered some wisdom a little closer to home.

The site also insists that the company is "putting the pieces together."

For Johnston, it appears, Electrum is contributing heartily to making the pieces fall apart.

Published on: Oct 20, 2017