Viewing a “Bad Jimmy Day” Through a Workplace Investigator’s Lens

Those of us with heavy drinkers in our lives recognize the “good Jimmy days” and “bad Jimmy days” to which sixteen current and former Tonight Show staffers referred during a recently concluded workplace investigation, on which Rolling Stone Magazine reported last week.

If you’ve seen so much as a clip of The Tonight Show, then you know what a “good Jimmy day” is. Fallon is creative, funny, kind, and polite.

Apparently, that is not the whole story. A “bad Jimmy day,” according to these past and present NBC employees, features Fallon appearing drunk at work, as evidenced by his lack of short-term memory and the smell of alcohol on his breath. Also, his feedback reportedly included personal insults and terrifying scoldings.

The drinking is one thing. I imagine that violates NBC policy, though it’s not a given: Drinking openly on talk shows is, if not commonplace, something I’ve seen happen—on The Tonight Show and other late-night talk shows—in the name of host-to-guest hospitality and drinking games for audience entertainment. Also, the entertainment industry is less regulated than some other sectors, though NBC being a corporation, there may be tighter controls than you might otherwise expect.

Recently, I’ve been involved in workplace investigator discussions about when “bad boss behavior” crosses over into legally actionable conduct; i.e., something for which employees could successfully sue the company. Discriminatory and/or harassing acts, which have legal definitions, would make it over that threshold.

But workplace investigators do not make legal findings; we analyze the facts and weigh the credibility of the complainants, respondents, and witnesses whom we interview. And though the media has not reported on anything Fallon said during this investigation, the investigators handling this case would certainly have interviewed him and factored his credibility into their findings.

A non-exhaustive list of credibility factors are a witness’ motive to lie, ability to recollect, and history of honesty or dishonesty. We look at whether a witness provides direct or indirect answers, the inherent plausibility of their story, the consistency or inconsistency of their statements, and whether other witnesses corroborate their account. We also analyze whether their description of someone’s behavior tracks with that person’s habits. And we factor in a witness’ demeanor, which we give thought to with caution, given that mannerisms vary across cultures.

The impact of problematic behavior enters into the picture. In Fallon’s case, staffers said they suffered mental health issues that included suicidal ideation as a result of Fallon’s own erratic behavior and that of showrunners he hired and was responsible to manage.

Investigators represent employers, but we neither advocate for them nor advise them. We are impartial and, after we turn in our reports, uninvolved. With the advice of its attorneys, NBC will determine Fallon’s fate with the company.