Woman Gets Spanked on Job, Awarded $1.7 Million by Jury

A woman spanked as part of a bizarre real estate ritual won $1.7 in damages from a California jury yesterday.

A woman who was spanked in front of her co-workers in what her employer called a camaraderie-building exercise has been awarded $1.7 million. Janet Orlando, 53, was subjected to sexual harassment and sexual battery when she was paddled on the rear end two years ago at home security company Alarm One Inc., a jury ruled Friday. The jury of six men and six women said Orlando did not suffer from sexual assault as she had alleged. Jurors awarded Orlando $10,000 for economic loss, $40,000 for future medical costs and $450,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering. They awarded her $1.2 million in punitive damages.

[…]

Orlando quit in 2004, less than a year after she was hired at the Fresno office, saying she was humiliated during the company’s team-building practices. Employees were paddled with rival companies’ yard signs as part of a contest that pitted sales teams against each other, according to court documents. The winners poked fun at the losers, throwing pies at them, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks.

Lawyers for Alarm One, an Anaheim-based, 300-employee company, said the spankings were not discriminatory because they were given to both male and female workers and that Orlando and others willingly took part. The company has since abandoned the practice.

During the trial, company attorneys revealed that Orlando had sued a previous employer, also claiming that she had been sexually harassed.

This is quite bizarre on many fronts. (And backs, I suppose.)

Obviously, this team building exercise seems like an odd way for grown-ups to act, let alone at the behest of their bosses. On the other hand, I’m certainly aware of such things taking place in other settings, like athletic teams and even military societies.

Still, the idea that this she suffered $450,000 in emotional distress and that this is worth $1.2 million in punitive damages is absurd; presumably, this will be reduced drastically on appeal. Orlando had the option to quit on the spot. Indeed, it was an option I would have exercised. Indeed, that option apparently dawned on her shortly after participating in the humilating events. She was, after all, 50 years old at the time of the event; she wasn’t some kid who didn’t know better.

Apparently, the other employees thought all this was in good fun although they’re probably kicking themselves for not suing now. Personally, I would not have participated in this. “Secret Santa” parties are at the far edge of the level of embarrasing social activity that I’m willing to endure for a paycheck. But, so long as they are not singling people out for differential treatment on the basis of race, sex, or other protected status, it’s unclear to me what legal line this crossed.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Eneils Bailey says:

    Team-building..
    Isn’t that supposed to be having good managers that hire qualified people?