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Court Hears Final Arguments in Civil Suit by Woman Who Was Spanked in Sales Meeting

April 27, 2006|From the Associated Press

FRESNO — A saleswoman who was spanked in front of her coworkers as part of what her employer said was a camaraderie-building exercise sat quietly in a courtroom Wednesday as lawyers gave closing arguments at her civil trial.

Janet Orlando, 53, is seeking at least $1.2 million in damages for the embarrassment she said she suffered during the spanking at the hands of her employer, Alarm One, an Anaheim-based security-alarm system company. Alarm One employed 300 people at the time.

She quit her job in the Fresno office and sued in 2004, alleging discrimination, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress.

"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," said her lawyer, Nicholas "Butch" Wagner.

Lawyers for Alarm One said the spankings were part of a voluntary program to build employee camaraderie and were not discriminatory because they were given to male and female workers. "This is being done for one reason and one reason only -- money," said K. Poncho Baker, the company's lawyer.

The paddlings using competitors' yard signs began as a contest that pitted sales teams against each other, with winners poking fun at the losers, according to court documents. The conduct included throwing pies at the losers, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks.

Alarm One officials ceased the practice in the same year Orlando sued after another employee complained of being injured, according to court records.

A company spokesman in Anaheim, Patrick Smith, said Wednesday the company now has 50 employees, mostly in Orange County.

He said the spankings took place only in Fresno and had never been a company-sanctioned activity.

He said another woman complained to the corporate office, which investigated and put an end to it.

Smith said he thought the spanking incident "evolved from a sales meeting trying to get adrenaline pumped up" that went awry.

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Times staff writer David Haldane in Orange County contributed to this report.

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