HR Strange But True!
July 19, 2007

Loyal readers of this column know that America has no patent on offbeat workplace disputes. Today we travel across the pond to sample a few of the doozies compiled by the Times Online.

Take, for instance, the managing director of a Surrey, England-based IT company who said he was going to make his 80 staffers submit to a DNA test after a piece of chewing gum got stuck to a directors' suit trousers. When his e-mail pointing out the firm's chewing gum ban was leaked to the media, he said he was only joking about the DNA testing--but he then said he planned to hunt down the employee who alerted the press.

And then there's there's the case of Sarah Primmer, a 41-year-old former waitress at a cafe in Plymouth, England, who was awarded $36,000 for unfair dismissal and sexual harassment after being taunted about her ginger-colored hair. Primmer claimed the café's night manager had made a series of lewd and embarrassing comments in front of other staff because "they wanted to know if the color of my hair matched the rest of my body." Although she won her case, Primmer said she planned to address the root (or roots?) of the problem. "I am going to try and get it lighter and lighter," she said of her hair. "It is not nice to be ginger."

Salesman Wayne Simpson was fired from his $57,000-a-year job after he sent a customer a picture of himself drinking whisky in a bubble bath. Simpson, who had met the female customer during his door-to-door rounds, got her phone number and later sent the picture with a message saying, "Fancy going out for a drink sometime?" The woman apparently did not, and she reported him to the company and the police. Simpson said his employer lacked a sense of humor. "I wasn't even showing off my naughty bits," he said.

For these and other bizarre workplace disputes--some of which you have read about in this column--visit the Times Online.

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