Alarm One Inc. is in the home protection business. They install and monitor security alarm systems - serious business, or so you would think. A former employee, Janet Orlando, 53, is suing the company for $1.2 million in damages for the embarrassment of being spanked in front of coworkers. She quit her job in Fresno CA and sued, alleging discrimination, assault, battery and infliction of emotional distress. What's the matter, Janet, don't you like to have fun?
The facts of this bizarre case are not in dispute. Up until the practice was stopped in 2004, employees at Alarm One Inc., were routinely paddled, using the sign boards of their competitors, in a contest that pitted sales teams against each other. Winners threw pies at losers, fed them baby food, made them wear diapers and swatted them. Just your ordinary, All-American fun place to work.
Butch vs. Poncho
As "Butch" Wagner, Ms. Orlando's lawyer, puts it: "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."
Defending the company (no easy task!), attorney Poncho Baker said that the spankings were part of a "voluntary program to build employee camaraderie" and were not discriminatory because they were given to both male and female workers. In other words, Alarm One is an Equal Opportunity Harasser.
Of course, as part of its defense, the company attacked the credibility of the former employee, who is apparently a recovering prescription drug addict and has been arrested twice for shoplifting. (Therefore, of course, she has no business objecting to being humiliated!)
The ALARMing Vision
A visit to the company's website reveals some lofty goals:
Since 1996, ALARM ONE has made its mission to offer the finest security alarm systems and services available... Dedicated to providing its Customers with the highest quality of service, delivered with a sense of caring, individual pride, and Company Spirit, ALARM ONE continues to move forward in its mission to become the most trusted, largest, and most successful home security company in the world. [Care to elaborate on "company spirit"?]
Employees treat people how they like to be treated, regardless of the situation and irrespective of the potential or lack of potential for company gain. [If customers were aware of the company's "morale building" exercises, this statement might be cause for genuine alarm!]
ALARM ONE’S goal of protecting America's homes and families requires a greater level of sensitivity to customer needs than in virtually any other industry. As such, ALARM ONE will continue to provide families with the protection they need and the peace of mind they deserve. [Eventually, let's hope they get around to doing the same for their employees.]
It's interesting that Alarm One's unusual morale building exercises were dropped not because they were perceived to be immature, humiliating, and totally inappropriate, but out of fear that someone might get hurt. An employee filed a comp claim for injuries suffered during this, well, work-related team-building exercise. (We posted on the compensability of a spanking injury here.) In other words, the specter of increased workers comp costs brought the fun-filled staff meetings to an end. Sigh. It's nice they figured out that the activity had to stop. I'd feel better about it, however, if they stopped the nonsense for the right reasons.