Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Betting on a lawsuit

There have been a lot of bad bets made over time. For example, two years ago I bet on the World Series and, after the Phillies lost, had to painfully write a blog post praising the Yankees. On The Office last week, newly-appointed regional manager Andy Bernard bet his staff a butt tattoo that they couldn’t reach an unheard of sales quota. Perhaps the most famous pop culture example of a bet is Seinfeld’s contest, where the four bet on who would be the “master of their domain.”

Then, there’s this gem, courtesy of the Des Moines Register:

A Bettendorf businessman, branded as the “boss from hell” by some of his employees, offered prizes to workers who could predict which of them would next be fired…. William Ernst, the owner of a Bettendorf-based chain of convenience stores called QC Mart, sent all of his employees a memo in March, outlining a contest in which the workers were encouraged to participate. The memo read: “New Contest – Guess The Next Cashier Who Will Be Fired!!! … To win our game, write on a piece of paper the name of the next cashier you believe will be fired. If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH.”

An administrative law judge sided with an ex-employee in her unemployment hearing, writing about the “egregious and deplorable” contest: “The employer’s actions have clearly created a hostile work environment by suggesting its employees turn on each other for a minimal monetary prize…. This was an intolerable and detrimental work environment.”

To be fair, in my career I’ve seen a lot worse work environments. For example, I vividly recall a cake in likeness of a vagina, iced with homophobic epithets, presented to an employee as a challenge to his perceived lack of manliness. Notwithstanding, I’m not sure I’d ever recommend a firing contest as a form of employee motivation.