For many people at the office, April Fool’s Day is just another, normal workday. For others April Fool’s Day is a 24-hour period filled with fun and lighthearted pranks. However, not all pranks go as planned; there have been death, injuries and emotional distress as the result of office pranks on April Fool’s day. Some of these April Fool’s pranks have also led to lawsuits. Below are some examples of company-endorsed pranks that led to lawsuits.
1. Hooter’s Win a Toyota Contest
A manager at a Hooter’s Restaurant in Florida decided to celebrate April Fools Day 2001 by offering a “free Toyota” to the employee who sold the most beer that day. At the end of the day, the manager blindfolded the winning employee and led her outside to the parking lot where he presented her with her prize: a “toy Yoda”— a plastic doll of the popular character from Star Wars. The waitress, upset, sued for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation, and was ultimately awarded enough money to pick out any real Toyota she wanted.
2.Dog Food Dinner for Los Angeles Firefighter
Firefighter Tennie Pierce, a veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, was awarded more than $1.4 million when a co-worker snuck dog food into his dinner as a “joke.” The firefighter sued for “racial harassment, emotional distress, retaliation and failure to investigate.” The city of Los Angeles ended up paying an additional $1.6 million to two of the employee’s supervisors who alleged that they were falsely made scapegoats for the incident.
3. Fake Arrest for a New Southwest Airlines’ Employee
Southwest Airlines’ Albuquerque had a practice of initiating new employees who successfully completed their employment probation. New workers were “arrested” by airport police who were also in on the prank. However, a problem arose when one employee, Marcie Fuerschbach, a new customer service agent, was “arrested” and taken away in handcuffs in front of passengers and her colleagues. The prank created serious emotional distress and she was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Marcie sued Southwest Airlines’ and the airport police and ultimately won.
4. Radio Contest For a New Hummer
In 2005 in California, Shannon Castillo was on the receiving end of an April Fool’s prank when she thought that she had won a new Hummer from a local radio station. When she arrived collect her prize, she was handed a toy replica. Castillo sued the radio station for fraud and sought damages of $60,000, the cost of a new Hummer.
It’s important to remember that employers can be held liable for employees’ practical jokes. Employers must stay on top of any improper employee jokes and pranks, but must also be careful not spoil all fun in the workplace. Employees should think twice before deciding to play that super-funny prank on a co-worker. Not knowing how someone might respond to a prank might increase the likelihood of both real injury and a future lawsuit.