Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When office pranks attack

Read these facts, from Slasinski v. Confirma, Inc. (6th Cir. 1/24/12) [pdf], and I’ll be back to discuss:

In July 2007, members of Confirma’s sales team, including Mr. Slasinski, attended a week-long seminar in Bellevue, Washington.  On the evening of July 25, 2007, Mr. Slasinski and others … attended a dinner cruise….

Near the end of the cruise, but before the boat docked, Mr. Slasinski proceeded toward the ship’s lavatory on the aft end of the boat. Before he reached his destination, Mr. Slasinski observed a colleague named Kris Daw enter the lavatory. Several other Confirma employees were standing nearby, and Mr. Slasinski observed Bickford engage an external lock on the lavatory door, thereby locking Daw inside. A few moments later, Bickford unlocked the door and released Daw to the laughter of those standing nearby.

Mr. Slasinski then entered the lavatory and shortly thereafter discovered that he also had been locked inside … approximately 20 to 25 minutes. During that time, the boat docked and the other Confirma employees disembarked. After some time had passed, Mr. Slasinski began making phone calls to colleagues on his cell phone to request assistance…. Mr. Slasinski then resorted to kicking the door in an attempt to free himself, at which point the boat’s crew discovered and released him.

Like any embarrassed employee, what did Slasinski do? He sued, for false imprisonment. After a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Confirma, which the appellate court upheld:

If the jury accepted Confirma’s version of the facts, and drew all inferences in Confirma’s favor, it could easily have found that Mr. Slasinski entered the lavatory knowing he would be locked inside as part of the prank, and thus initially consented to the confinement. Moreover, for at least part of the duration of his confinement, Mr. Slasinski did not knock, call out to, or otherwise beseech any of the Confirma employees standing nearby to release him. A reasonable jury could conclude, therefore, that any confinement Mr. Slasinski experienced began with his consent, and only after the passage of time became against his will. A jury could further conclude, based on the evidence, that the period of unconsented-to confinement was of such brief duration as to be only momentary or fleeting.

What does this case mean? I could draw a great lesson about or the risks of lawsuits coming from anyone at any time, or the importance of workplace training to avoid similar problems, or the synergy between employee morale and having a good laugh, but instead, watch this:

See you tomorrow.