HR Strange But True!
March 06, 2008

When most people in the United States hear the term "waterboarding," the recent debate over acceptable interrogation techniques used by the government immediately comes to mind. However, a man in Utah is alleging that the practice has entered the workplace--at least his workplace--in the form of a motivational, camaraderie-building tool.

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that a member of the sales team at Prosper, Inc., a motivational coaching firm in Provo, is alleging that the sales team leader used various methods to "increase revenues for the company ... and prove loyalty and determination."

In a lawsuit, the employee alleges that the methods used by the team leader included drawing mustaches on employees' faces, pulling chairs out from under them, and in the employee's charge, pouring water from a gallon jug into his nose and mouth while co-workers held him down in a tilted position, the newspaper reports.

Of course, this last exercise sounds a lot like the "waterboarding" technique, meant to make a person feel that he or she is drowning, which has been used on terror suspects and debated recently in Congress and the media. The employee who filed the lawsuit alleges that the team leader said he wanted the sales team to work as hard at making sales as the employee worked at breathing, the newspaper reports.

The employee says he did complain to management about the incident, and the team leader was suspended for 2 weeks while upper management investigated the charges, the newspaper reports. The conclusion of the investigation was that the employee had volunteered for the activity after it was explained and had gone water skiing with the sales team after the incident. The fact that no other team members had complained about the practice was also a factor, according to Prosper, Inc.'s attorney. The team leader was reinstated and is still with the company.

The article says that the employee filed his suit, charging wrongful termination, intentional infliction of harm to punish workers who did not meet performance goals, and assault and battery, 6 weeks after the incident. In the suit, he says he suffered anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness as a result of the incident and required psychological counseling.

Prosper, Inc.'s president was quoted as saying the motivational activities were "sensationalized" by the employee and were actually "more along the lines of fun."

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

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