Magazine article Security Management

False Arrest

Magazine article Security Management

False Arrest

Article excerpt

FALSE ARREST. An appeals court has ruled that an airline employee subjected to a mock arrest as a workplace prank may sue the police officers involved in the prank. However, the employee may not sue her employer because the prank was meant as a joke and was not intended to cause emotional distress.


Marcie Fuerschbach worked for Southwest Airlines as a customer service representative in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Part of the corporate culture at Southwest is a lighthearted working atmosphere where jokes and pranks are encouraged. When newly hired employees successfully completed their probationary period, their coworkers frequently marked the occasion with a prank. For example, one employee was led onto an airplane and flown to another city. Another worker was dressed in a hula skirt and made to perform for customers. Fuerschbach was aware of this tradition and expected that her colleagues would play a prank on her at the end of her probationary period.

Fuerschbach's supervisor, Tina Marie Tapia, met with other customer service supervisors to plan a prank. The group decided to subject Fuerschbach to a mock arrest. Tapia arranged the arrest with two Albuquerque police officers assigned to the airport.

The two armed and uniformed officers approached Fuerschbach, who was working at a crowded ticket counter. The officers told Fuerschbach that they had to talk with her. They led her to the end of the ticket counter and told her that in the course of completing her background check the police had uncovered a warrant for her arrest. Fuerschbach tried to tell the officers that there was a mistake. The officers interrupted her and told her to turn in her Southwest badges and inquired whether anyone could bail her out of jail. Fuerschbach began crying and asked whether the arrest was a joke. The officers responded by handcuffing her.

A crowd of customers and officers had gathered as the officers led Fuerschbach to an elevator 15 feet away. When Fuerschbach and the officers reached the elevator, Southwest employees yelled "Congratulations for being off probation!" The officers removed the handcuffs, and Fuerschbach's coworkers began clapping and cheering. However, Fuerschbach continued to cry. Later that day, her coworkers found Fuerschbach crying in the bathroom. She was sent home. Fuerschbach began seeing a psychologist and was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Fuerschbach sued the City of Albuquerque for violation of her civil rights. …

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