Labor & Employment

Suit Claims Boss Waterboarded Worker as Motivational Tack

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A suit by a sales employee claims his boss subjected him to waterboarding as part of a “team-building exercise.”

Chad Hudgens, part of a 10-person telephone sales team, said he had volunteered for the exercise, devised by his supervisor during a slow sales week, but had no idea what he was about to experience, the Washington Post reports.

The supervisor Joshua Christopherson, hoped to teach the salesmen that they needed to fight for sales just as Hudgens fought for air. But Hudgens and the company, Prosper Inc., disagree about how badly Hudgens was affected and how much he knew before he volunteered for the exercise. Under Utah law the case will be governed by workers’ compensation unless the employer had a “conscious and deliberate intent” to inflict injury.

Hudgens says his immediate reaction was that the exercise nearly killed him. Co-workers held him down, he told the Post, and Christopherson poured a gallon jug of water on his face. “I can’t scream because the water’s going down my throat,” he said. Hudgens said he tried to tell to tell his boss to stop but he couldn’t get the words out.

“I’m not getting any air,” he told the Post. “Toward the end, I’m starting to black out. I’m getting very dizzy, light-headed. The sensation that’s going through my head is, ‘I’m going to drown.’ “

Prosper general counsel George Brunt told the Post the incident was not nearly as bad at Hudgens claimed. “We’re not the mean waterboarding company that people think we are,” he said. “A little bit of water was poured, and then Josh would stop and say, ‘Are you OK?’ I can’t say he wasn’t held down, but anybody holding him would have let him up if he’d held his hand up.”

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