Saleswoman sues Calif. alarm company over spankings

Thursday, April 27, 2006

FRESNO, Calif.--Alarm One may get slapped with a fine if a jury finds in favor of a former employee who is suing the company on several counts including discrimination, sexual harassment and humiliation suffered as the result of three spankings the woman received from supervisors.
The Fresno Bee reported that Alarm One lawyers said the spankings were done at sales meetings "with a competitor's yard sign as coworkers looked on and jeered." The intent, they said, was "in fun to build camaraderie among the sales force."
Sales team competitions began in the company's Hayward office, where winners "threw pies at losers ... and spanked them with a competitor's yard sign....The [behavior] ceased in 2004...when corporate officials learned that another employee complained of being injured, court records show," the Fresno Bee reported.
Patrick Smith, chief operating officer of the company, confirmed that Janet Orlando, 53, is suing Alarm One for hazing behavior and related charges that occurred during her five months of employment with the alarm company in 2002 and 2003. The case is being tried in Fresno County Superior Court, where a verdict was expected today, Thursday, April 27, Smith said.
Smith said he's eager to close this unfortunate chapter in the company history. And while he does not dispute that this behavior occurred at two isolated sales offices, he emphasized that corporate officials were not aware of the behavior. As soon as they found out about it they made sure that it stopped.
"We do not condone this kind of behavior, physical touching, harassment or discrimination and we never have," he said.
Smith said the company became aware of the hazing when an employee--not Orlando-- complained to human resources that she'd been injured on the leg when she'd been swatted with a competitor's yard sign at a sales meeting.
Smith said that at the time of the incident Alarm One had 300 employees and several remote sales offices. It now has 50 employees, 40 of whom are located at headquarters in Anaheim; the rest are service technicians located in old sales offices. There are no sales people in those locations any more, he said.
Smith said Alarm One has always had a comprehensive "training policy for its employees" where the "do's and don't's for dealing with other employees is made clear." He did not defend the perpetrators, but noted that the individuals involved received the training but "didn't connect this behavior with harassment or breaking the law."
Because the company has always made a good faith effort to ensure that employees are trained and well treated, he hopes that the company will be exonerated.
Smith also noted that five private individuals, all former Alarm One employees, are named in the suit, along with Alarm One. Further, he noted that the suit was originally brought by the woman who was injured and reported the hazing behavior to Alarm One human resources. Orlando subsequently joined the suit. The original individual has since dropped out of the suit.

For news on the verdict, check the June issue of Security Systems News.