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by Vault Careers | March 29, 2011


Who doesn't like a good April Fool's prank? Well, according to the Museum of Hoaxes, plenty of employers. While pulling one over your co-workers and even the boss can encourage laughter, camaraderie and a great working environment, it might be wise to ask a trustworthy friend's opinion on your idea’s true humor value before you get prankin'. Why, you ask? Take these April Fool's pranks gone wrong as precautionary tales -- or run the risk of the pink slip, arrest and embarrassment.

Pushed to the Limit

Ever work yourself into a frenzy worrying about a deadline? That is exactly what happened when Glenn Howlett's coworkers sent him a memo saying his big report was due early. The "hint" to Howlett should have been the April 1st date on the memo – unfortunately, Howlett received the news while on vacation and didn't clue in. He cut his vacation short, gathered up the troops and prepared to get to work. However, as the new deadline approached he worked himself up into a panic and started experiencing heart palpitations. He finally collapsed from stress and had to take a leave of absence. When he finally found out this was all due to an April Fool's prank, he sued the company, resulting in a company-wide ban on future pranks.


A Fool’s Joke Indeed

After two weeks on the job at a clothing store in Columbus, Ohio, Sitra Walker decided to spice up the routine and called her manager at home to tell him armed men were robbing the store. Unsurprisingly, the manager's next move was to call the police. Walker -- a woman with poor timing as well as poor humor -- called her manager back minutes after the police were dispatched, screaming "April Fools!' Not only was she charged with inducing a panic, her manager gave her walking papers.

Terror Alert

You can see how this April Fool's prank started out amusing, especially for two teenage boys. Two 18-year-old coworkers at Westlakes in the U.K. decided to pick up and move another coworker's car from one parking lot to another. This should have simply ended in some frustration and a few laughs -- unfortunately they unintentionally moved the car into a restricted parking lot for a nuclear services industry. This resulted in the nuclear company evacuating its entire staff, fearing a terrorist threat. When the truth came out, the pranksters were arrested for unlawful taking of a vehicle and a bomb hoax, as well as suspended from work.


Do you ever just get the urge to, let's just say, zap a coworker? Canine officer Chris Peters from Jamestown, TN, went ahead and zapped away—at both a coworker and a civilian. Peters used a stun gun on loan from the county constable. No one else was laughing, especially when the civilian ended up in the hospital. Peters was suspended for three days without pay for the "prank".

Dirty Minds

Think pollution is bad in your neck of the woods? In 1982, Greece's state-controlled National Radio Network broadcast a warning that pollution had reached emergency levels in downtown Athens, and told their listeners the city would need to be evacuated immediately. Not only that, those driving cars were asked to abandon their vehicles and flee into open areas. As Athens is known for its pollution problems, many of these listeners took the broadcast seriously. The network soon went on the air to reveal the joke, but it was too late for the city’s sense of humor – one man sued for mental distress to the tune of $820,000, the director of the network resigned, and the original prankster was fired.

Fiery Fun

Well, who doesn’t think the potential of lava pouring into your home is funny? This must have been the mindset of Boston’s Channel 7 pranksters when they ended a 1980 news broadcast with a special bulletin: The Great Blue Hill – a 635-foot hill in Milton, MA – had erupted and lava and ashes were raining down from the skies. Supposedly a chain reaction from the then-recent eruption of Mount St. Helen’s, the channel played an audio tape of President Carter and the Governor of Massachusetts declaring the eruption a “serious situation.” Footage was shown of lava pouring down the hill. Once again ill-timed, the reporter ended the segment holding an “April Fool” sign, but not in time to squelch the flood of frantic phone calls from viewers. One man, so convinced, even carried his sick wife to safety. Later that night, embarrassed by the tumult their prank had caused, Channel 7 apologized and the executive producer responsible was fired.

And the Worst Fool of All…

The Opie and Anthony Show gets the award for the April Fool’s joke in poorest taste. In 1998, the duo announced on the air that the mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino, had been killed in a car accident in Florida. The mayor’s daughter, believing the news to be true, called the station and things quickly went south from there. The two hosts were terminated the next week, though it came out later that the pair purposefully caused the controversy to get out of their contract early.

--Padmini Mangunta 


Filed Under: Workplace Issues
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