Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Employee Relations Rule No. 6987: Do Not Waterboard Your Employees

Waterboarding is not a "team-building" experience.

You already knew that?

Well, some employers apparently do not . . .


Indeed, in the complaint the employee filed with the court, he alleged:

¶3 This case arises from an incident that occurred on May 29, 2007. At that time, Mr. Hudgens was an employee of Prosper under the direct supervision of Mr. Christopherson. During the ten months that Mr. Hudgens worked for Prosper, Mr. Christopherson had engaged in numerous questionable management practices. Specifically, when an employee did not meet performance goals, Mr. Christopherson would draw a mustache on the employee using permanent marker or he would remove the employee’s chair. Additionally, he would patrol the employees’ work area with a wooden paddle, which he would use to strike desks and tabletops. Prosper was aware of Mr. Christopherson’s actions and encouraged his behavior because it led to increased revenue.

¶4 On May 29, 2007, Mr. Christopherson asked for volunteers for a new motivational exercise. He offered no explanation to his team members regarding the nature of the exercise. In his search for volunteers, Mr. Christopherson challenged the loyalty and determination of his team members. Mr. Hudgens volunteered to be a part of the exercise to prove his loyalty and determination. Mr. Christopherson then led his team members to the top of a hill near Prosper’s office. Once on the hill, Mr. Christopherson ordered Mr. Hudgens to lie down, facing up, with his head pointed downhill. Mr. Christopherson ordered other team members to hold Mr. Hudgens down by his arms and legs. Mr. Christopherson then slowly poured water from a gallon jug over Mr. Hudgens’s mouth and nose so that he could not breathe. 2 Mr. Hudgens struggled and tried to escape but, at Mr. Christopherson’s direction, the other team members held him down. After concluding the exercise, Mr. Christopherson instructed his team members that they should work as hard at making sales as Mr. Hudgens had worked at trying to breathe.

¶5 Mr. Hudgens reported the incident to Prosper’s human resources department. Prosper took no action in response to the incident prior to the time that Mr. Hudgens quit working for Prosper. Mr. Hudgens quit working because the waterboarding incident caused him to suffer sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, and to feel sick to his stomach at work. Because of the distress caused by the incident, Mr. Hudgens has undergone psychological counseling and has suffered physical and emotional harm.

P.S. Drawing indelible mustaches on employees is also not a good idea and violates Rule No. 8463.

Class dismissed.