2012’s Weird Workplace News

By Kathy Gurchiek Jan 4, 2013

Free child care to promote procreation. Firing a woman for being “too hot.” A full moon that got eclipsed. In the midst of a tumultuous economy around the world, 2012 had its share of unusual, eye-catching, work-related news stories.

Seven kindergartens in Denmark offered free child care to parents, with the hope that two hours of togetherness would help stem the country’s declining birth rate, according to a September 2012 news report from The Telegraph.

Parents dropped off their little darlings at what was designed as a kiddie tea party, but it wasn’t for the reasons the business had in mind.

“Lots [of parents] say, ‘We’ll bring our children to the party,’ ” Dorte Nyman, an employee of the kindergarten company, told the paper, “ ‘but you won’t be getting any more children out of us.’ ”

‘Irresistible Attraction’

A 32-year-old female dental assistant ended up in the unemployment line after her boss of 10 years fired her for being too darn cute and “irresistible,” which caused her dentist boss—and his wife—to view her as a threat to their marriage. This was despite the fact that the dentist considered his assistant a “stellar worker,” according to an article in Mother Jones. The all-male Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the employer acted legally and that an employer can fire a worker he or she views as an “irresistible attraction,” even if the worker had not “engaged in flirtatious behavior or otherwise done anything wrong,” according to the December 2012 magazine report.


Workers in Stockholm are sweating to a disco beat during their lunch hours in a trend that started several years ago and has since spread elsewhere to cities around Europe, according to an April 2012 USA Today article. Lunch Beat, an hour-long dance party, starts at noon and is held off the worksite typically. In Stockholm, the parties have been held at an underground parking lot and a cultural center. No alcohol is involved. Portugal was to start its first Lunch Beat in May 2012.

Calendar as Weight-Loss Incentive

Budget airline Ryanair has considered some unusual ways to cut its fuel costs over the years; in 2009, it toyed with the idea of charging customers for restroom use.

More recent cost-cutting ideas included a chance for female employees to appear in their undies in the airline’s annual “The Girls of Ryanair” calendar as a motivation to shed pounds, cutting back on the ice cubes in the drinks served during flights and producing a thinner in-flight magazine that also doubles as a menu, according to an April 2012 report on AOL’s travel news website.

Think Before Sending

An e-mail with end-of-job instructions intended for one employee leaving investment firm Avia Investors was sent accidentally to its worldwide staff of 1,300 people. The standard message covered such things as returning company equipment and confidentiality rules for departing workers, according to an April 2012 story by Reuters news service.

A German computer company’s business advertising gimmick that was supposed to be “da bomb” and promote data security instead created chaos across the country. Buildings were evacuated and the police responded after Convar Deutschland, a data recovery firm, sent about 40 packages that contained alarm clocks glued to hard drives. On the packages, sent to businesses, embassies and a newsroom, was a note that read “your time is running out,” The New York Post reported in March 2012.

Moon for the Misbegotten

Back in 2005, an irate executive employee mooned other executives during a meeting, but kept his job and received a formal warning that he would be fired if he misbehaved in the future.

Despite no record of misbehavior since the mooning incident, the company decided to fire him after all—months before he was to receive a multi-million dollar contingent bonus package—and he took them to court, NBCnews.com reported. Unfortunately for the cheeky employee, a judge ruled in favor of the company and in September 2012 a three-judge appeals panel upheld the trial court decision … no ifs, ands or butts.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor, HR News


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