Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com writer
2009 marked another year of unforgettable occurrences in entertainment, politics and current events.
Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American president of the United States. A global pandemic of the H1N1 virus, known as "swine flu," broke out. Rio de Janeiro was named the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Major American icons such as Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite passed away. Jon and Kate broke up.
In the midst of all of these happenings, other trends were going on in the job market. Unemployment numbers rose and fell. The number of jobless folks increased. Despite all of these dismal reports, a few other events caught our eye.
In case you missed them, here are 10 of the weirdest work stories and headlines we read this year:
1. 'Oops! Employee flips, damages borrowed Ferrari'
A 23-year-old woman driving her boss's borrowed Ferrari in California lost control of the car and flipped it, causing an estimated $125,000 in damage. The woman was unharmed, but her boss was said to be "irate." (MSNBC.com)
2. '34 hospitalized after co-worker sprays perfume'
When almost 150 people at a Texas bank call center became ill, reporting dizziness and shortness of breath, officials suspected carbon monoxide or some other toxic fume was the culprit. But when two people complained about dizziness after a co-worker sprayed perfume and then others began to feel sick, it was discovered that the perfume was to blame. Thirty-four people were taken to hospitals, 12 by ambulance, and 110 people were treated on the scene. No one knows what type of perfume was sprayed. (MSNBC.com)
3. 'Man hurt himself to "avoid work" '
Steven Reid, a 23-year-old hotel cleaner in Scotland, just wanted a day off of work. Rather than asking for one, Reid claimed he had been assaulted. To convince his boss, he took a razor from his pocket and repeatedly dragged it down his face. He also picked up a boulder and repeatedly hit himself on the head and body. He went to the police station to report "the assault." When asked about the incident, Reid said, "Looking back, I should have just phoned work and asked them for the day off." (BBC News)
4. 'Worker fired for all-caps e-mails'
Vicki Walker, of Auckland, New Zealand, was fired for sending e-mail messages in all-capital letters. The employer said that Walker's co-workers complained about her "shouty" and confrontational e-mails. Walker was awarded $11,500 on the premise that the company had no official e-mail style guide; therefore, her messages did not amount to grounds for dismissal. (UPI.com)
5. 'Bodybuilding firefighters accused of faking disability'
Two Boston firefighters were charged with fraud after they were caught bodybuilding -- despite having filed for disability. Albert Arroyo, 46, and James Famolare, 65, both sought accidental disability pensions after allegedly suffering injuries while on the job. Arroyo claimed he fell while walking in a fire station, saying it left him permanently disabled from the performance of his duties. Famolare claimed that he suffered a career-ending injury while moving a box of files. Arroyo was caught bodybuilding while on disability and prosecutors say he "failed to disclose his repeated visits to gyms where he trained for a May 2008 bodybuilding competition." (TheBostonChannel.com)
6. 'Washington Post features editor punches colleague over 'charticle''
Chaos ensued at The Washington Post when Henry Allen, 68, features editor, reportedly punched one of his writers in the head. According to The Washingtonian, a style editor at the Post assigned a semi-political story to writers Monica Hesse and Manuel Roig-Franzia, asking them to compile a list of disclosures made by congressmen who are being investigated for ethics violations. They came up with a 'charticle' with a dozen examples. Allen was outraged, apparently at their creativity, and let them know his feelings. In the midst of Allen's barrage, Roig-Franzia apparently said, "Oh, Henry, don't be such a [expletive]." That's when Allen lunged at Roig-Franzia and started throwing punches. Allen was reportedly banned from the newsroom, just before his Nov. 28 retirement. (Daily Finance)
7. 'Teller fired for foiling robbery'
Jim Nicholson was fired from his job as a bank teller at a Key Bank branch in Seattle after chasing down a bank-robbery suspect rather than giving into his demands. A potential robber approached Nicholson, gave him a bag and told him to fill the bag with money. Nicholson asked the robber to see his weapon and was told, "It's a verbal ransom." Nicholson threw the bag on the floor, jumped over the counter and took off after the would-be robber, who ran out of the bank and down the street outside with Nicholson in pursuit. With the help of another civilian, Nicholson caught the suspect and held him until police arrived to take him into custody. His heroics didn't last long, as he was fired for breaking bank protocol that employees are to comply with a robber's request to prevent others from getting hurt. (MSNBC.com)
8. 'Postal worker helps himself to $86,000 worth of Gamefly games'
Reginald Johnson, 34, of Germantown, Pa., admitted to stealing 2,200 Gamefly games, valued at $86,000, while working as a mail-processing clerk between April and September 2008. Gamefly is a video-game rental service that sends games to subscribers through the mail for $15.95 or $22.95 a month. Johnson allegedly traded the games to a GameStop for store credit. When federal workers tried to arrest him, Johnson led them on a car chase before crashing the car and getting caught. (Philly.com)
9. 'Worker sued over $29,000 tip'
Sara Gaspar, a former Notre Dame employee, is being sued by the school for spending a tip that was supposedly given to her by mistake. Gaspar was given a $29,387 tip after being paid for catering work in April. Notre Dame now says that it was a typing mistake and is demanding Gaspar repay the money. The problem is, it has already been spent, which resulted in the lawsuit. (WiredPRNews.com)
10. 'Hotel-casino worker exposed to secondhand smoke sues employer for $5 million'
Kanie Kastroll, a casino dealer at the Wynn Las Vegas, is suing the hotel for not protecting its employees against secondhand smoke from customers. Kastroll claims she developed asthma and other health problems because of secondhand smoke. She also says that the casino doesn't allow employees to request a smoke-free table and that management allows gamblers to blow smoke directly in the dealers' faces, forbids dealers from protesting, requires them to tell patrons that smoking is allowed and encourages smoking by offering free cigarettes to gamblers. Kastroll says that employees who don't follow these rules are disciplined. (AllHeadlineNews.com)
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CBwriterRZ.