There’s nothing like a truly terrible idea to make a subpar idea seem marginally decent, no? In this case, we have William Ernst, the owner of QC Mart, a chain of convenience stores in Bettendorf, Iowa. Ernst decided a fun work thing to do to promote store bonding or whatnot would be to make his employees participate in a contest in which they’d predict who would next be fired. Whee! He even gave prizes to those who “won.” Alas, the fun and games ended when he was taken to court, and a judge determined that his game was a “deplorable” act.
Via the Des Moines Register, here’s the memo detailing the contest in which workers were encouraged to participate. The boss was good with exclamation points:
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. Write their name [the person who will be fired], today’s date, today’s time, and your name. Seal it in an envelope and give it to the manager to put in my envelope.
Here’s how the game will work: We are doubling our secret-shopper efforts, and your store will be visited during the day and at night several times a week. Secret shoppers will be looking for cashiers wearing a hat, talking on a cell phone, not wearing a QC Mart shirt, having someone hanging around/behind the counter, and/or a personal car parked by the pumps after 7 p.m., among other things.
If the name in your envelope has the right answer, you will win $10 CASH. Only one winner per firing unless there are multiple right answers with the exact same name, date, and time. Once we fire the person, we will open all the envelopes, award the prize, and start the contest again.
And no fair picking Mike Miller from (the Rockingham Road store). He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cell phone. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!
Some people had the wherewithal to quit immediately upon seeing the memo. That led to a claim, from one of them, for unemployment benefits, a denial of that claim, a lawsuit, and further claims of a hostile work environment, which clearly it was from the get-go because a boss who even jokes about firing is sort of not funny in the slightest and also most definitely hostile.
Administrative Law Judge Susan D. Ackerman sided with the workers, calling the contest “egregious and deplorable,” and unemployment benefits were awarded.
Justice is a beautiful thing, sometimes. So is learning to economize on your exclamation points. You never know when you’ll up and run out.
Firing contest by boss leads employees to quit [DMR]