Not everyone has taken to the Harlem Shake, the convulsive groove that's swept the globe, to the tune of 4,000 YouTube videos a day. In Egypt and Tunisia, the meme has become a protest anthem of many young people, enraging conservative Muslims. And in the U.S., an airplane-based shake triggered a federal investigation, while students at at least four high schools have been suspended for producing a version of the dance.
But the first Harlem Shake-related mass-firing appears to have occurred last week. Up to 15 Australian miners were fired from their six-figure jobs, reports The West Australian, for performing (and in some cases, just watching) the dance. In the dismissal letter, the employer, underground-services company Barminco Ltd., claimed that the stunt violated "core values of safety, integrity and excellence" and that the company would never contract any of those workers again at any of their sites around the world.
The mine's owner, South African-based Gold Fields Ltd., echoed the concern to Reuters. "Underground mining has strict safety standards as there are accidents and fatalities. The Barminco management saw this as a breach of standards," said spokesman Sven Lunsche.
The exact safety breach is unclear, but some of the dance moves are sexually provocative -- after all, the Harlem Shake is a gyration-based dance -- and has raised eyebrows just like Elvis Presley's pelvis-rocking of the 1950s. Five of the dancers are also shirtless. The West Australian spoke with one of the laid-off workers, who claims that the men stripped off so that the company's name wouldn't appear on camera.
The Internet is already crying for justice. By Monday morning, the Facebook page calling for the miners' reinstatement already had over 500 likes. Its tagline is, "Bloody hell, they got their gear off and did a dance!"
No Internet meme has infiltrated the workplace more than the Harlem Shake. Several companies (including AOL) have embraced the dance as lighthearted bonding, Dionysian stress release, and a neat bit of marketing. It seems some employers, however, don't necessarily want to associate their brands with mass-writhing to electronica.
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