HR Strange But True!
January 27, 2011

In 2008 (yes, that’s not a typo), HRSBT told you about a lawsuit filed by an employee who was “waterboarded” by a supervisor during a motivational exercise. Well, the suit has finally reached the state supreme court.

In this incident, which occurred in 2007 when waterboarding was in the news, a member of the sales team at Prosper, Inc., a motivational coaching firm in Provo, Utah, alleged that the supervisor had previously used various methods to “increase revenues for the company ... and prove loyalty and determination” including drawing mustaches on underperforming employees' faces and pulling chairs out from under them.

The employee said that during the exercise, the supervisor poured water from a jug down his nose and mouth, the Salt Lake Tribune reported at the time, to show that salespeople should work as hard at selling as the employee worked at trying to breathe.

At the time, the employee did complain to management, and the supervisor was suspended for 2 weeks. However, upon investigating the incident, Prosper management found that the employee had actually volunteered to participate in the demonstration, which they said was supposed to be fun, so they reinstated the supervisor.

Six weeks later, that employee filed his suit (Hudgens v. Prosper, Inc.), charging wrongful termination, intentional infliction of harm to punish workers who did not meet performance goals, and assault and battery. In the suit, he says he suffered anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness as a result of the incident and required psychological counseling.

A district court dismissed the suit and denied a request from the employee to amend his complaint. However, the state supreme court reversed the lower court decision, instructing the district court to allow the employee to amend his complaint and to proceed with the case—and this only took 3 years!

Previous HRSBT:

(Water) Board at Work?

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