N.M. man sues over co-workers’ ‘Kick me’ prank

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Intel workers secretly taped a “Kick Me” sign to the back of a co-worker as a prank, then kicked the confused man a number of times as employees at the Rio Rancho Intel plant laughed hysterically at the episode, according to a federal lawsuit.

The Intel employee, Harvey Palacio, said in the complaint recently filed in Albuquerque that once he suspected something was taped on his back during the August prank, he went to senior staffer Randy Lehman to ask if something was there.

“Lehman said turn around and as Palacio did he saw and heard (another employee) yell out ‘Don’t read it, just do it’,” the lawsuit said.

Lehman then kicked Palacio three times in his buttocks, according court documents.

Another employee, Chris Zeltinger, who the lawsuit said exchanged Christmas gifts with Palacio, kicked him twice as he was seeking help to remove the sign.

“Palacio decided that this could not continue and walked back in front of the group to ask someone else to remove it,” the lawsuit said. “Palacio felt demoralized and assaulted and he began to cry during the drive home. He could not tell his wife because he was so embarrassed and ashamed.”

In addition, Palacio said co-workers would hide his work uniform and filled his work bag with trash. He claims the abuse he faced over a few months was racially motivated because he’s Filipino.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount for damages and attorney’s fees.

Lehman and Zeltinger were later convicted of petty misdemeanor battery and ordered to perform 16 hours of community service. Both also lost their Intel jobs because of the prank.

Intel Corp. spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the company is reviewing the lawsuit and declined to comment further.

Diego Esquibel, Lehman’s attorney, called the episode “extremely unfortunate” and said Lehman and has not forgotten about the victim.

“He is truly sorry for any shame, sadness or pain the victim felt and his actions were never meant to cause any of those things,” Esquibel said. “My client gave a heartfelt apology at sentencing and his feelings and statements have not changed.”

No phone number was listed for Zeltinger.

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Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

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