Jury Forces Alarm Company to Pay Ex-Employee $1.7 Million for Sexual Harassment

A former employee of a residential alarm company has been awarded $1.7 million by a jury that determined that the company had sexually harassed and battered her. The jury of six men and six women says Alarm One Inc.‘s Fresno, Calif., office at fault for its camaraderie-building exercise that included spanking Janet Orlando, 53, with a paddle.

The lone victory for Alarm One, based in Anaheim, Calif., was that the jury ruled Orlando had not suffered a sexual assault. However, according to the Fresno Bee, the jury did order Alarm One to pay Orlando $10,000 for economic loss, $40,000 for future medical costs, $450,000 for emotional distress, pain and suffering, and $1.2 million in punitive damages.

Of the punitive damages, the jury ruled that Alarm One was liable for $1 million of it, while former Vice President of Sales Rondell Harris must pay $100,000. Former supervisors Rob Harlan and Nina Correia, who preformed the spankings, are liable for $50,000 each.

Under California law, 75 percent of the punitive damage award will go to the state, with Orlando and her lawyer getting the remainder.

Alarm One had initially offered Orlando a $150,000 settlement, which she rejected.

Orlando had said that shortly after she was hired by Alarm One’s Fresno office in November 2003 as a field supervisor, she was forced to compete in a sales contest where the losers were hit on the buttocks with a rival company’s yard sign while onlookers hooted and yelled lewd comments.

The company admitted in court to the practice, but said that Orlando had participated willingly. Three other female employees subjected to the spankings alongside Orlando have settled out of court with Alarm One, which says it no longer conducts the spanking practice.

During the trial, Alarm One CFO Douglas Schultz testified that the suit — even before the jury reward — has caused financial hardship for the company, which has 21,000 customers. Schultz says the company has downsized to 50 employees and closed the Fresno office. Despite monthly revenue of $906,000, Schultz testified the company is in debt $38.7 million.

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