TACOMA, Wash. - Some 130 Frank Russell Co. employees called in sick the first workday following a daylong company holiday party.
A digestive bug was the culprit that felled 13% of the consulting firm's work force.
At presstime, two of the four employees who were hospitalized - mainly for dehydration - had been released; the others are expected to recover soon, according to Sherry Wilson, manager of public relations of Russell.
"We feel dreadful about this. This is a time of celebration where we honor each other. Awards are handed out," said Ms. Wilson.
The Dec. 2 festivities included a luncheon with banquet tables on each of 12 floors. Like the winners of a perverse lottery, employees on floors 2, 4, 6 and 11 were stricken with the mysterious bug.
"The 11th floor eliminated all the lawyers. We had no lawyers" on Dec. 5, said Ms. Wilson, who still felt somewhat queasy. She's on the sixth floor.
Top executives, to her knowledge, were spared.
"It's possible some foods were held back and stayed out too long. That's the operative theory."
The buffets, provided by two outside caterers, featured the usual holiday fare: turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, string beans and pies.
The gala was followed - in keeping with a 36-year company tradition - by Russell's annual meeting held at a historic theater in town.
On Dec. 6, employees were asked to fill out a detailed survey to help determine the cause of the illness. By then, most of the employees who called in sick had returned to work.