Company picnics are infamous for their humdrum camaraderie-building games like trust falls, watermelon-eating competitions and three-legged races. But the bigwigs at Alarm One Inc., a home security company, were determined to liven up their team-building exercises by encouraging co-workers to spank one another. And in a team competition, the losers were forced to wear diapers, eat baby food and have pies thrown in their faces. What outrageous fun, right?
Well, employee Janet Orlando didn't think so. She sued the company in 2006 for sexual harassment and sexual battery -- related specifically to the spanking -- and was awarded $1 million in damages. This week, a Fresno, Calif., appeals court overturned the verdict on the grounds that the original jury hadn't been informed that to prove sexual harassment, it must be shown that Orlando was spanked specifically because she is a woman. But both male and female employees took part in the spanking exercise, in which rival teams whacked each other with yard signs.
Orlando's attorney, Nicholas Wagner, told the New York Post: "I'm kind of surprised that the court has taken the position that if men and women are harassed the same way, then it's OK." Good news for workplace harassers: A little more equity in your inappropriateness might be all the protection you need from petty sexual harassment laws!