FRESNO, Calif. — A saleswoman who was spanked in front of her co-workers as part of what her employer said was a camaraderie-building exercise will get $1.7 million in damages.
A Fresno jury agreed with Janet Orlando on Friday that she suffered sexual harassment and sexual battery during the paddlings overseen by the security alarm company she worked for before quitting two years ago.
Jurors first awarded her $500,000 to compensate her for emotional distress, pain, suffering, past economic losses and future medical costs. They then added $1.2 million in punitive damages.
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.
"No reasonable middle-aged woman would want to be put up there before a group of young men, turned around to show her buttocks, get spanked and called abusive names, and told it was to increase sales and motivate employees," her lawyer, Nicholas "Butch" Wagner, said in his closing argument on Wednesday.
Lawyers for Alarm One said the spankings were part of a voluntary program to build camaraderie and were not discriminatory because they were given to both male and female workers.
"This is being done for one reason and one reason only — money," said K. Poncho Baker, the company's lawyer.
Alarm One officials ceased the practice in 2004, the year Orlando sued, after another employee complained of being injured, according to court records.
NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.