$1.7 Million Spanking Personal Injury Verdict Gets Spanked
By: Gerri L. Elder
When Janet Orlando began working as a salesperson at Alarm One in 2003, she never imagined what a bizarre and humiliating experience it would be. Orlando says that soon after she started working with the company, she began to witness other employees being spanked at work.
Orlando says that employees of Alarm One were spanked for coming in late or speaking out of turn. When she questioned the practice, she was told that she was next. As it turns out, that was true. Orlando says that she was spanked at work.
During meetings that were designed to motivate sales employees, salespeople were spanked with the yard signs of rival companies, fed baby food, made to wear diapers and made fun of by other employees of the company. Orlando says that during the time that she worked with the company, she was hit three times.
Finally, when she could not take it anymore, Orlando quit and filed an injury lawsuit against Alarm One accusing the company of sexual discrimination and sexual battery.
Orlando said that she had complained on four occasions about the company's practice of spanking employees, but since her complaints were not in writing, the company denied that she ever complained at all. Alarm One even claimed that she took part in the spankings and hit other employees. The company did not deny that the spankings happened, but said that they were not discriminatory and did not constitute sexual harassment because both male and female employees had been spanked at work during team-building exercises.
The case went to trial, and a jury had some good news for Orlando in April 2006. Finding that Orlando had suffered sexual harassment and sexual battery at work, the jury awarded her $10,000 for economic loss, $40,000 for future medical costs, $450,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and $1.2 million in punitive damages. Alarm One appealed the verdict.
An appeals court has now overturned the verdict. A three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal recently ruled that the jury had been given improper instructions.
Apparently at the trial, the jury was not instructed that in order to find that Orlando had suffered sexual harassment and sexual discrimination, she had to prove that the action was directed at her because she is a woman. That is an important point because Alarm One maintains that all employees were spanked, whether they were male or female.
Orlando's injury lawyer has said that they will take the personal injury case to trial again. However, it may be futile to do so as the lawyer for Alarm One says that the company has gone into bankruptcy and exhausted its insurance because of the court battle. The company paid out settlements to three other employees and has little money left. So even if Orlando were to win her lawsuit against the company again in a new trial, there may be little or nothing that the company has that she could collect.
While Orlando may not be able to recover any damages in her personal injury lawsuit, there was something good that came out of the case. For what it's worth, Alarm One says that it no longer spanks its employees.