11 Bizarre Workplace Investigations
Workplace Investigations are typically done to unmask allegations and uncover information about the needs and concerns of employees in a business. Workplace investigations are inherently serious as they search to uncover the truth of potentially damaging allegations that can result in dismissal, ruined reputation, and more. It is also important that investigations are done thoroughly, fairly, and to a reasonable extent. In saying that, here are 11 workplace investigations done over bizarre or weird circumstances.
1. Chicken humiliation from fundraising company, Appco.
Due to allegations of bullying and underpayment, Australian fundraising company, Appco, had decided to conduct an investigation using external sources. Appco Australia is a fundraising company that helps clients promote their products. It acts as a third party fundraiser for some of Australia’s biggest charities.
The accusations of underpayment come from employees arguing that they are wrongly classed and paid as contractors instead of employees to avoid paying minimum wage and entitlements. There was a class action against Appco with over 1,700 claimants in order to recover the missing funds.
Unfortunately, underpayment of employees is not bizarre nor uncommon. The bizarre factor of the investigation is how the employees were bullied and humiliated. The company hired executive law firm Baker and Mckenzie to conduct the bullying and harassment portion of the investigation. It was found that employees were made to dress up as chickens. Then fight each other with their hands bound behind them by ‘pecking’ each other as if they were real chickens. Other employees were forced to slither on the ground as if they were slugs and compete in ‘sluggie races’. This was done as a punishment if employees did not fulfil their quotas.
2. Flight attendant forces a dog into the overhead compartment.
During a 4 hour flight from Houston to New York a French Bulldog, named Kokito and pet to a New York mother and daughter, was forcibly stored in the overhead compartment by an American Airlines employee. It was stated that the owners were adamant not to store the dog above them but to allow the dog to stay in their bag in front of them. Their request was denied stating that their bag was a tripping hazard. Apparently the dog was barking in the overhead compartment for almost the entire flight. Unfortunately before the plane landed the French Bulldog had passed away.
During the investigation it was found that the American Airlines employee tried to lie about their knowledge of the dog. they stated that they did not know there was a dog and they had assumed it was a regular bag. Despite the fact that the owners informed the flight attendant of the dog’s presence. American Airlines has taken full responsibility for the incident and is investigating to prevent future animal injury.
3. Provocative models used to entice bone marrow donors.
A workplace investigation was done at UMass Memorial Health Care for their marketing strategy at their Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island locations. It was found that the medical institution had hired models in provocative clothing to work in shopping centres. Also public spaces in order to try to recruit more bone marrow donors. During the investigation it was found that the purpose of the models was not to make money but to increase the donor database.
Since the investigation chief executive John O’Brian had apologised on behalf of the medical institution. Stating that “an error in judgement’’ and the use of professional models was not “appropriate for an academic health care organisation like ours”. The medical centre had continued their internal investigation to review the facts and prevent future inappropriate marketing.
4. Urine found in the kettle of South Australian Department of Human Services
After an incident in March 2018, there was an immediate investigation on how and why there was urine found in the workplace kettle. Two casual staff had found the kettle at 10AM filled with urine combined with a pungent odour. The investigation was conducted by the Department of Human Services Incident Management Unit, which is the “department’s investigative body for any employee misconduct matters”. There was also concern for blood to be found mixed with the urine but after investigation no blood was found.
The complaint was eventually escalated to Premier Steven Marshall where a number of employees sought counselling, or even resigning from their position due to the lack of professionalism surrounding the investigation. The investigation had taken over 12 months to complete and lacked transparency. After 12 months the culprit was eventually dismissed from their government position in July 2019.
5. Poop smeared in the workplace.
There is a bizarre phenomenon where employees will use their faecal matter outside of the toilet. They would smear their faeces on the floor or walls. For some employees it will be an act of pure deviance, but for others there can be a physical or mental explanation. The investigations are often done in fear of spreading disease or attracting bugs and vermin. However, it is disgusting in any workplace.
One HR department had proposed placing cameras outside of the toilet entrances in order to catch the culprit. However, most would consider this an intrusion of privacy and is the least favourable option. Cameras cannot be placed in the toilets, and therefore places HR or any other body conducting an investigation in a dilemma. This situation poses how an investigation can be done fairly and reasonably while staying professional in a bizarre and unhygienic investigation.
6. Losing six-figure job after posting 20 second TikTok video.
While increasingly more common, employees are being investigated for posting on their social media during work hours and accidently resulting in a warning or being sacked. In the case of Michelle, a tech employee, had been sacked from her role after posting a 20 second video on the social media platform, TikTok. The video was about her spilling her coffee at home. However, the reason she was terminated was because her team’s meeting could be heard in the background. The team meeting did not include anything confidential or relevant to Michelle but her company still considered it an act of negligence.
Not all companies would take the same approach and some companies can be even stricter in following their policies. This investigation is a reminder to ensure all personal social media, even one unrelated and indirectly to your work, should be heavily scrutinised before posting and especially not during working hours.
7. Squid punishment at the call centre.
Similar to the previous bizarre investigation, the Central Claims Group in Manchester has a cruel punishment for employees who do not perform to their expected standard. In a video it was found that employees would lie on the floor with rubbish bags covering their upper body and clothes. Then squids would be placed on their faces, or in some cases dropped onto their faces. It can also be seen where an employee tried to use his hand to cover his face but that encouraged the squid to be pushed into his face further. In the background numerous employees can be heard laughing at the punishment.
Upon investigation the managing director, Paul Lord, stated that the sales team volunteered to partake in the punishment and nothing was forced. Further, other industries also commit to certain punishments and practises within their companies. However, a former employee had come forward stating that they received scripts on what to say and that there are forfeits if you do not achieve certain goals. Insulating that the forfeits are not voluntary.
It is not recorded if the employees were provided with any disciplinary action or allowed to continue their squid punishment but it does provide a reminder that while workplace investigations are supposed to promote fairness and workplace safety. Unfortunately not all investigations are done to the same standard.
8. Football player forced to undergo the initiation process.
While professional sports players can be overlooked as employees, they do hold employment contracts and are entitled to the same quality of safety outside the field. Football player for Manchester United, Gary Neville, is an example of an investigation done where he was forced to complete dangerous and bizarre acts of initiation when he started with the club.
While Mr Neville was 16 he was made to figuratively ‘make love to Clayton Blackmore’. This is while the rest of the team were a witness. The player would have to dance around the table with a life size picture of another player set up, while pretending the act was arousing to the young boy. Another example is Mr Neville being thrown inside of a moving tumble dryer.
Due to the number of investigations done inside English football clubs the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) have been trying to initiation ceremonies. Trying to protect football players outside the field as any other employee would be safe in their workplace. While it may be more common in football, the acts demanded on players are certainly bizarre and dangerous.
9. Fast food sink shower prank.
Inside of an American fast food chain called ‘Wendy’s’, two employees were found breaking the quality protocol for the sake of a ‘prank’. A Wendy’s employee was videoing another employee getting into the kitchen sink in order to take a ‘bath’. The employee in the sink was shoeless and even brought a bathbomb to incur more bubbles and foam. It can be heard in the video for the employee on the sink to turn the ‘jets on’ and wash his armpits. Then handing the now wet employee paper towels in order to dry himself.
The video was posted to social media where a large number of viewers were outraged and demanded an investigation. According to the marketing director, Mike Johnson, the situation would be taken “very seriously”. The two employees have since been dismissed from Wendy’s. The food chain have vowed to “reinforce their strict quality procedure”.
10. Pizza place laxatives.
A local pizza place in Texas called Mr. Jim’s Pizza was forced to shut down after finding an employee had placed laxatives in one of the pizzas. Health officials in Texas have forced the business to shut down after an employee had posted about placing laxatives in the food. The business has been closed pending a thorough investigation as officials wait to see how to proceed.
Through the investigation it was found that the employees would try to prank each other by placing laxatives, Miralax, in pizza before feeding it to another coworker. At least one employee has gotten sick from this incident. The employee has tried to argue that laxatives were only placed in food for other coworkers and never for customers. Despite the confession, health officials have decided to close the restaurant until the conclusion of their investigation.
11. Discriminatory dog food.
In a Los Angeles’ Fire Department, a black firefighter named Tennie “Big Dog” Pierce was fed a spaghetti dinner from his colleagues that was later found to contain dog food. An investigation was held immediately and while Mr Pierce’s colleagues called their actions a prank, Mr Pierce argued that it was racial discrimination.
The case was escalated to trial and the Friday before trial was supposed to take place, Mr Pierce’s legal representatives and the City Council had agreed to settle for nearly $1.5 Million USD. This cost the council an accumulated settlement to almost $2.8 Million after including the almost $1.3 Million in legal fees. The situation had also compelled Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to veto and sack the city’s longtime fire chief. All done in hope to remedy the discrimination of a firefighter.
Conclusion to: 11 Bizarre Workplace Investigations
Workplace investigations take many forms and as you can see from the above incidents it includes all sorts of different work circumstances. The last couple of years the amount of investigations that have led to dismissals has doubled. In aged age and disability care the standards of performance and treatment towards residents and clients has tightened. There is now a zero tolerance approach towards elder abuse and breaching the human rights of people in care. (there always was, but its now being rigorously enforced). With serious OH&S breaches now employers and directors are facing manslaughter charges, so the enforcement of safety has taken on a increased focus. 11 Bizarre Workplace Investigations could be viewed as a wake up call for all concerned.
Having said that there is a lot that goes on in the workplace that is not right. We receive a lot of enquiries regarding false accusations at work, workplace investigations procedural fairness, the stand down of the employee pending investigation and dismissal while investigated.
Get advice early not just after your dismissed
Early intervention may save your job, reputation and possibly a payout. We can give you advice how to deal and how to react to these circumstances. The most common allegation whilst suspended is bullying in the workplace. The problem is the employee is not allowed back into the workplace or to contact employees so they can gather their evidence. So they get to tell their side of the story which is then is more evidenced based.
For all Fair work Commission matters including suspended then dismissed for abandonment of employment. Many employers when your not at work (because your suspended), then they cannot find you ASAP, they sack you straight away. Employee rights and how to defend yourself, call us.
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