Ex-Utah Motivational Coaching Firm Salesman Sues over 'Waterboarding'

March 7, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A lawsuit filed in Utah state court by a former salesman for a motivational coaching business accuses his supervisor of waterboarding him during a sales meeting.

A Salt Lake Tribune report saidformer Prosper, Inc. salesman Chad Hudgens charged in the suit that the alleged waterboarding incident took place in May 2007 and was described to employees as a “new motivational exercise.” Hudgens, then 26, told his supervisors he would participate to “prove his loyalty and determination,” the suit claims.

According to the Tribune, the account of the incident says Hudgens’ team leader, Joshua Christopherson, led the sales team to the top of a hill near the company’s office and told Hudgens to lie down with his head downhill.Christopherson then told the rest of the team to hold Hudgens by the arms and legs while he poured water from a gallon jug over Hudgens’ mouth and nostrils.

“At the conclusion of his abusive demonstration, Christopherson told the team that he wanted them to work as hard on making sales as Chad had worked to breathe while he was being waterboarded,” the suit alleges.

Hudgens’ suit also alleges that his managers allowed the supervisor to draw mustaches on employees’ faces, take away their chairs, and beat on their desks with a wooden paddle “because it resulted in increased revenues for the company,” the newspaper said. Prosper president Dave Ellis responded that the allegations amount to “sensationalized” versions of events that have gone uncorroborated by Hudgens’ former coworkers.

“It’s incredible to even suggest that he would put anyone under a level of discomfort,” Ellis said of Christopherson, according to the newspaper. “He’s a really nice, pleasant, polite young man. He’s very dedicated and takes his job very seriously.”

Hudgens claims he complained to Prosper managers about the exercise, but no action was taken against Christopherson until Hudgens left the company.

However, the suit claims Christopherson “intentionally engaged in physically and emotionally abusive conduct” to punish workers who did not meet company performance goals. “Prosper’s management passed by and through Christopherson’s team area and was able to see mustaches on its employees, missing chairs and Christopherson’s paddle,” the suit alleges.