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Juvenile Workplace Prank Results in Firings, Litigation at Intel

Most people leave behind a proclivity for juvenile pranks in high school. Not so for employees at the Intel plant in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and this propensity for hijinks has cost two employees their jobs and involved Intel in a highly publicized lawsuit.

kick%20me%2022546164-001.jpgThe trouble began on an otherwise ordinary day in August 2012 at the Intel plant. Employee Harvey Palacio sensed there was something wrong when other employees appeared to be laughing at him. Suspecting that there was a sign taped to his back, Palacio sought the help of a senior employee named Randy Lehman. As Palacio asked whether or not there was something on him, another employee yelled to Lehman to “just do it,” in response to which Lehman proceeded to kick Palacio in the buttocks three times.

Palacio sought help from another employee, Chris Zeltinger, with similar results. In the aftermath of the event, Palacio alleges that he felt demoralized and humiliated, even to the point of breaking into tears during his drive home that day. Ashamed by the incident, Palacio even avoided telling his wife what had happened.

This was not the first prank Palacio had suffered while on the job. On previous occasions, he’d found trash in his work bag and was forced to hunt for his uniform when other employees hid it. Palacio, who is Filipino, alleges in the complaint that the bullying was the result of racism.

Both Lehman and Zeltinger were fired for their parts in the prank. Each was also charged with petty misdemeanor battery and sentenced to community service. However, it seems that Palacio feels that the incidents of harassment have still not been fully addressed. A lawyer for Palacio filed a complaint in federal court against corporate giant Intel. In it, Palacio alleges that Intel did not react swiftly or appropriately in response to his claims of racial discrimination and harassment.

While this litigation is still in its early stages and a judgment is far in the future, it seems clear that employers need to be more careful than ever about ensuring professional conduct in the workplace.