HR Strange But True!
December 06, 2001

We all know that HR is never boring. But sometimes it can get downright weird...

Never touch the boss's stuff

When the Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today and other newspapers, moved into a $300 million corporate headquarters just outside Washington, D.C., some employees were strangely drawn to the "big blue ball" - a sculpture on display just outside the executive suite.

Among them were veteran USA Today sportswriter Karen Allen, sports special projects editor Denise Tom, and database editor Cheryl Phillips. After noticing fingerprints and scrawls in what appeared to be blue dust covering the sphere, they touched the surface. Then Phillips and Allen playfully traced the words "Kilroy was here," as well as Tom's name. Tom tried to blot out her name and nervously backed away.

The "dust," it turned out, was actually pigment that awaited a sealant. The whole thing was caught on videotape by security cameras.

Two days later, the three were summoned to a meeting with USA Today executives, Gannett HR people, and security officials. The trio apologized for whatever damage was inflicted and offered to pay for repairs.

But in separate meetings later, all three were fired effective immediately, apparently with no severance pay.

The penalty was greeted with shock from the women's colleagues, some of whom threatened to boycott the company Christmas party. "Everyone is horrified," an unnamed USA Today staffer told the Washington Post. "Everyone is thinking this is an insane, ego-related firing."

The creator of the sculpture, Lita Albuquerque, was equally incredulous. "Oh my God! Are you kidding? This is crazy!" she said when the Post explained the firings to her. "I think it's a terrible thing, firing people from a lifetime job for what is essentially graffiti." The damage, she added, could be repaired cheaply and easily.

Source: The Washington Post

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