Stranger than Fiction Workplace Stories of 2006

November 30, 2006 ( - The saying "truth is stranger than fiction" has definitely applied in the workplace this year with examples including an employer who used spanking as a motivational practice and McDonald's employees being strip searched at the command of a prank caller.

A jury in Fresno, California awarded $1.7 million to Alarm One Inc. employee Janet Orlando who said she was spanked with a yard sign in front of jeering coworkers on three separate occasions. The company said the spankings were part of motivational sales team competitions in its Fresno office (See Jury Awards $1.7M to Victim of ‘Motivational’ Spanking ). An interesting footnote to the story is Orlando was later arrested for shoplifting (See Spanking Victim Suit Winner Nabbed for Petty Theft ).

In the McDonald’s story, the McDonald’s employees were victims of a prank caller claiming to be a member of franchisee management who ordered a site supervisor to have an employee accused of criminal activities subjected to a body cavity search. In one case the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals is deciding whether McDonald’s or the franchisee had a responsibility to warn employees after news of similar incidents were known (See Strip Search Hoax Case Questions McDonald’s Role ).

Other “stranger than fiction” workplace incidents of 2006 include:

  • One Tyson Foods plant allegedly kept a locked bathroom with a sign on the door saying “Whites Only” with keys only given to white employees. Tyson was sued for racial discrimination by current and former plant workers (See Tyson Settles on Race Discrimination Case ).
  • An ethanol plant employee was fired for drinking fuel that he found spilled that had been produced by the plant. In a discrimination suit in which he was seeking unemployment benefits, the worker argued his employers played a role in his actions by providing him an “opportunity” to drink and discriminated against him for being a recovering alcoholic (See Iowa Judge Says Alcoholism No Excuse for Misconduct ).
  • A Chinese firm enacted a policy to hire only employees who were born in the Chinese Zodiac’s year of the dog, believed to be born with traits such as honesty and loyalty (See China Firm Dogs Certain Employees ).
  • An employee of a Virginia meat packing plant claimed sexual harassment from a coworker caused her to lose her fingers in a workplace accident (See Woman Claims Sexual Harassment Caused Loss of Fingers ).

Perhaps not “stranger than fiction,” but just odd, were stories of:

Though not a workplace incident, “stranger than fiction” mention must be given to the story of the 62-year-old man unable to find stable work paying more than minimum wage who robbed a bank and promptly handed the stolen loot to a bank guard so he could spend the few years before he could start collecting Social Security in prison (See Ohio Man Chooses Prison to Stay Financially Afloat ).