Thursday, March 09, 2006

Deal With It!

From USA Today:

Southwest prank turns out to be no joke

Throughout the airline industry, Southwest Airlines is known for being a fun and relaxed company to work for. "But the airline's jocular style may have gone too far,” according to The Washington Post (free registration). The paper makes that assessment after a federal appellate judge ruled last week that the city of Albuquerque and its police department can be sued for a practical joke that seems to have gone wrong at Albuquerque International Sunport. So, what prank could have gone so wrong? The 2002 incident began after customer service supervisors and co-workers staged a mock arrest of a customer service agent who was near the end of her “probationary” status after starting employment with the carrier. Meant as part of a well-intentioned prank, co-workers convinced three city police officers assigned to the airport to approach the employee -– identified as Marcie Fuerschbach -– as she was worked the ticket counter.

The officers told Fuerschbach the airline had turned up an outstanding warrant for her arrest during the background check, and they proceeded with the mock-arrest: confiscating her airport badge, employee badge and keys. Fuerschbach also claims she was “forcibly” handcuffed. As officers pretended to take her away as part of the mock arrest, one of Fuerschbach's co-workers yelled out, "Congratulations for being off probation." Co-workers in the terminal then cheered for Fuerschbach as she had her lapel pinned with Southwest wings.

But in a lawsuit filed over the incident, Fuerschbach complains the prank left her “embarrassed and humiliated.” The complaint adds that Fuerschbach, now 48, continued to "cry uncontrollably" even after she was released from her mock arrest, and that she had to take ibuprofen and Tums to ease her discomfort. According to Andrews Publications, Fuerschbach claims to have seen a psychologist who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident."

It was meant as a celebration and we regret that the prank was interpreted as anything other than that," says Southwest spokesman Ed Stewart. He adds that Fuerschbach's co-workers were "completely shocked" by her reaction and says the airline was "just trying to make an employee feel welcomed." As for the court ruling, the judge further ruled that Southwest is not liable for damages but said that the plaintiff may be eligible for workers' compensation payments.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I hate people who take advantage of suing people when they were hurt just a little bit.

5:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home