Firing Contest Creates Hostile Work Environment

In a moment worthy of Dilbert, an Iowa boss decided that the best way to motivate workers was to hold a contest where employees were asked to “Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!!”

Annoyed that his convenience store underlings were violating store rules by talking on their mobile phone, playing video games and using bad language, he decided to rally his troops by having them predict which one of them would get the ax next (for cash prizes, of course). Lest he be accused of using the votes to identify troublemakers, he promised to keep the votes sealed in envelopes until the the next firing where they would be opened to award the prize. Alas, he never got to see his plan come to fruition: several workers quit the moment they realized the contest wasn’t a joke. When they applied for unemployment, he countered that they resigned voluntarily. A judge disagreed.


Calling the behavior “egregious and deplorable”, the administrative law judge sided with workers in declaring the contest created an “intolerable and detrimental work environment.” Frankly, the boss may have avoided this legal hammer had he realized that his employees were parroting lawyer-speak when they made written objections to the contest for “creat[ing] an atmosphere of distrust, intimidation and paranoia.”

On a related note, courts have also repeatedly frowned upon the use of The Deer Hunter method of employee motivation.

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  • Steve vilendrer

    Interesting article!

  • Add this to your list of “What they didn’t teach me in Law or Business School.”