Jury Awards Settlement To Woman In Workplace Spanking Case
For nearly three decades, American businesses have adopted new concepts for corporate culture. On mission to retain talented people, foster innovative ideas, increase productivity and promote diversity, corporations have attempted to revolutionize their work environments with catchphrases, clichés and quests for best practices. However, in the move to improve workplace interactions, some companies have crossed the line, as in the case of Janet Orlando’s experience at Alarm One, a California-based home security company.
In October 2003, Janet Orlando began work as a salesperson for Alarm One. As part of the company’s culture, the security company held what it considered team and camaraderie building exercises. These exercises included having employees wear diapers, eat baby food, have pies thrown at them and accept spankings for failing to meet sales quotas and expectations. During these team-building events, sales team members poked fun at other employees and made lewd comments. By 2004, less than a year after she began her job with Alarm One, Orlando had been subjected to three public spankings and eventually quit her job due to her feelings of humiliation. Soon thereafter, Orlando filed suit against Alarm One, alleging infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery and discrimination.
In April 2006, a California jury sided with Orlando and awarded her $1.7 million in damages and compensation – $ 1.2 million for punitive damages and the remainder for her underlying claims. Following the jury award, Orlando, her lawyers and Alarm One signed an agreement to settle the case for $ 1.4 million; however, the settlement payment was never made.
Alarm One’s insurance carriers refused to pay the settlement. These carriers challenged the agreement on the grounds that a bank would not finance the deal. As a result, Orlando and her attorney sued the carriers and Alarm One for breach of contract. In October 2010, a California Superior Court sided with Orlando and ordered that she be paid.
While Orlando’s legal woes may not be over, as Alarm One and its carriers plan to appeal the court’s ruling, her case brings several issues to light. In our troubled economy, workers may feel that they are at the mercy of their employer’s questionable practices. In truth, this is not the case. When dealing with an employer’s discrimination or inappropriate actions, employees should seek competent legal counsel in order to protect themselves and their rights.