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Mean-spirited office pranks carry heavy price

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

When a manager at an auto body shop went to the restroom, two fellow employees picked the lock, entered and took a photograph of him while urinating. They distributed the picture around the office, referring to him as "pee-wee." The ridicule continued until the company transferred the employee to another store. But the two perpetrators mailed the photo to that store's manager, who began the taunting anew.

The employee quit and sued for invasion of privacy and emotional distress, winning $500,000 in damages. A California appeals court upheld the ruling, saying such horseplay was inexcusable and the management not only condoned it but also participated in it. (Fotiades v. Hi- Tech Auto Collision & Painting Services, Inc., No. E029854, Cal. App. Ct.)

Advice: You don't want to become the "fun police," but you must crack down on mean-spirited pranks when you become aware of them. Warn employees in person and in your handbook that nasty behavior equals harassment, and those who violate the policy will be disciplined.

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