In case you were unclear about this, it is not okay to spank employees at work, even as part of a "motivational" program under which underperforming employees are publicly humiliated. Also not approved: pie-throwing, shouting of lewd comments, and forcing employees to wear diapers and eat baby food.
These were some of the fun team-building exercises engaged in at Alarm One Inc., in Fresno, California, or at least that’s what a former saleswoman alleges in her lawsuit, which is about to go to the jury in Fresno County Superior Court. The company sells alarms (not surprisingly), and also installs, services and monitors them. But the allegations involve the sales teams, specifically those in the Hayward and Fresno offices.
The plaintiff alleges that the practice developed of pitting sales teams against each other, with the winners "poking fun at the losers." The losers were thus the recipient of the aforementioned pies, diapers, baby food, and spankings, administered by the winners while "hooting" and shouting comments such as "You’ve been a bad [girl][boy], [employee name here]." As an additional touch, the spankings were administered by swatting employees with a competitor’s yard sign. Allegedly, sales people who arrived late for a meeting or talked out of turn were also spanked.
Orlando, a 53-year-old former field supervisor, says that she was so humiliated by her three spankings that she was forced to quit her job in 2003, and she seeks damages. The company’s lawyers, on the other hand, say that the spankings were done "in fun to build camaraderie," that Orlando never complained about being spanked and in fact "had fun" and "uttered foul language" when others were spanked. They say Orlando quit because she was passed over for promotion, not because of being spanked. They also reject Orlando’s claims of discrimination, because both male and female employees were spanked.
The case was expected to go to the jury this week. As an additional plus with regard to this case, the opposing sides are represented by "Butch" Wagner and K. "Poncho" Baker, which makes it sound more like an episode of "C.Hi.P.S" than a lawsuit.
UPDATE: the jury awarded the spankee $500,000 in actual damages ($450,000 for emotional distress) on Friday. They have not even reached the question of punitive damages yet.