AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
May 19--During his 2 1/2 years as janitor at Anchorage Refuse Inc., co-workers burned Stanley F. Herrman with a metal cutting torch and stuffed him in trash cans. They hung him from a hoist and wrapped him in duct tape.
The guys called it horseplay. Herrman called it abuse.
Herrman is suing the family owned company -- Alaska's largest trash hauler -- and 13 former co-workers, managers and shareholders. He said he was repeatedly abused and humiliated on the job. Through his own antics and sometimes lewd behavior, Herrman, too, was a player in the weird and sometimes brutal cycle of pranks, hazing and retaliation. For example, in a repair shop full of flammable material, Herrman tossed lit firecrackers underneath a truck where a mechanic was working.
The 2-year-old lawsuit has grown to 21 volumes, plus dozens of depositions, that paint a picture of a workplace gone haywire. The suit is now on hold while the parties finalize a negotiated settlement.
Anchorage Refuse and the other defendants denied wrongdoing. In court depositions, workers who hazed Herrman said he sometimes provoked them, sometimes played along with their pranks.
Management experts, law professors and a safety official called the workers' conduct extreme and possibly illegal. In this era of litigation and regulation, managers cannot afford to look away when the workplace becomes a battleground, said the experts, who are not part of the lawsuit.
"None of the conduct is acceptable in the workplace," said Frank Jeffries, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage who teaches human resources management.
"The employer really has a duty to prevent" workers from abusing and harassing each other, said Carol Docan, a professor of …