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10 Most Outrageous Workplace Stories from 2013

10 Most Outrageous Workplace Stories from 2013
The craziest career stories of the year. / Credit: Man walking on tightrope image via Shutterstock

As a recap, executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. has highlighted 10 of the most outrageous, unbelievable and compelling workplace stories of the year.

1.21-day government shutdown: Due to Congress' inability to agree on the budget, an estimated 800,000 of 2 million government employees were deemed "nonessential" and furloughed. National parks, monuments and memorials were closed; legal proceedings were interrupted; and some food went uninspected for almost three weeks. Although those workers did not receive paychecks during the furlough period, they were eventually paid what they would have earned during that time period. Standard & Poor's estimated that the government shutdown cost $24 billion in lost services, travel spending, park fees and spending at small businesses, among other things.

2. Bloomberg reporters' improper use of financial-terminal usage data: Bloomberg reporters used financial-data monitoring terminals sold by a separate division of the company to track customer activity, specifically at Goldman Sachs. While these products were not meant to be used in this way, reports from Forbes and The New York Times suggest that reporters were trained on these terminals to uncover customer browsing. In one instance, after a user of the product failed to log in to the terminal consistently, a reporter contacted Goldman Sachs to see if that person had left.

3. Miami Dolphins bullying: Thirty-year-old Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito was accused of bullying second-year lineman Jonathan Martin. The alleged harassment caused Martin to leave the team and Incognito to be suspended. According to a 2012 survey from the Workplace Bullying Institute, 68 percent of workplaces do not have a policy regarding workplace bullying.

4. Affordable Care Act employer mandate postponed for one year: The Barack Obama administration delayed a major provision in the Affordable Care Act until 2015 after hearing from several employers concerned about implementing it. Employers with more than 50 employees would have been required to offer health insurance to all of their full-time employees by Jan. 1, 2014; however, the complexities of the Act left employers scrambling to comply.

5. Employer rewards tattooed employees: Some employers frown upon tattoos and others begrudgingly accept them, knowing that sometimes the best talent comes adorned with body art. However, one employer appears to have not only embraced tattoos but is actually encouraging employees to decorate their bodies — with a tattoo of the company logo. What do employees get in exchange for this extreme demonstration of loyalty? A 15 percent bump in pay, according to a report by the CBS affiliate in Albany, N.Y. Rapid Realty, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., even pays for the tattoos, which can cost up to $300.

6. Twitter and the workplace: Andrew Mason, founder and CEO of Groupon, tweeted a letter to his employees that he was fired as the head of the company. Groupon had been under scrutiny due to falling stock prices and meager results, and the day before released a quarterly statement outlining its poor performance. Mason had publicly discussed the possibility of his removal, and his letter indicated that he was not surprised about the development. He was replaced on a permanent basis by chairman Eric Lefkofsky in August. Meanwhile, in October, a White House official was fired after he was discovered tweeting under a fake account, disclosing inside government information and insulting foreign policy officials.

7. Climate change impacts jobs: In January, beef processor Cargill Beef shuttered its Texas plants as a prolonged drought thinned cattle herds to the lowest levels in 60 years. The closure forced the plant's 2,000 workers to relocate to one of the company's other plants or find employment elsewhere. In September, unprecedented flooding along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies damaged thousands of homes and businesses, disrupted tourism and washed out hundreds of miles of roads, thus disrupting the transportation of goods across the state.

8. One of the worst flu seasons on record: Twenty-nine of 41 states that reported flu cases indicated that the outbreak was at "severe" levels. According to a report in the New York Daily News, the number of cases in New York had surpassed 15,000 in the first month of the flu season, compared with just 4,400 reported cases during the previous year's entire flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, on average, seasonal flu outbreaks cost the nation's employers $10.4 billion in direct costs of hospitalizations and outpatient visits. That does not include the indirect costs related to lost productivity and absenteeism.

9. Companies move retirees off insurance plans: Within two days of each other, Time Warner and IBM announced that they would move retirees from company-provided health insurance plans into privately run insurance exchanges and/or the taxpayer-funded public exchanges established under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Last year, GE made a similar announcement. In total, about 44 percent of employers plan to stop administering health plans for their former workers over the next two years, according to a survey by professional-services firm Towers Watson.

10. Yahoo drops telecommuting: Yahoo Inc. announced an end to its telecommuting program, which, according to a leaked memo, stemmed from the belief that "speed and quality are sacrificed when people work from home." The decision came down from the Internet giant's new CEO, Marissa Mayer, who has been determined to shake things up at the struggling company. "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side by side," Yahoo human resources head Jackie Reses wrote in an internal memo. " That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together." 

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.