FRESNO, Calif. – A jury awarded $1.7 million to a woman who sued her employer after she was spanked in front of her colleagues in what the company called a camaraderie-building exercise.
The jury of six men and six women found Friday that Janet Orlando had suffered from sexual harassment and sexual battery when she was paddled on her backside on three occasions during her employment at home security company Alarm One Inc. in Fresno.
The jurors, however, said that Orlando did not suffer from assault as she had claimed.
Orlando, 53, had asked the jury for $1.2 million in lost wages, medical costs and damages, alleging discrimination, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress.
Orlando was awarded $10,000 for economic loss, $40,000 for future medical costs and $450,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering. During the punitive phase of the trial, the jurors awarded Orlando an additional $1.2 million.
Orlando's attorney, Nicholas "Butch" Wagner, did not immediately return calls for comment.
K. Poncho Baker, an attorney for the Anaheim, California-based company, said he thought the award was excessive.
"I think the jury was so upset at Alarm One that they went overboard," Baker said. "Not to say that what Alarm One did was right, but this allows her to manipulate the system."
During the trial, company attorneys revealed that Orlando had sued a previous employer, also claiming that she had been sexually harassed and forced to quit.
Orlando quit the Alarm One job in 2004, less than a year after she was hired, saying she couldn't bear the humiliation of the company's team-building practices.
Sales teams were encouraged to compete, and the losers were forced to eat baby food, wear diapers, or get spanked on the buttocks with an opposing company's metal-poled yard signs, according to court documents.
Lawyers for the company said Orlando and others took part in the exercises willingly. The practice stopped in 2004, when Orlando sued and another employee said she had been hurt.
Orlando, who she saw herself as a mother-figure to others in her team, said she found it degrading to have to turn around, show her backside to a roomful of young men and women and get paddled.