HR Strange But True!
January 24, 2008

A while back -- almost 2 years ago, actually -- we wrote about Janet Orlando, who was suing her former employer because she was spanked with a yard sign during the company's motivational meetings.

Orlando contended that the spankings and the abusive language she was subjected to while employed in the Fresno, California, office of Alarm One amounted to sexual harassment, assault, battery, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

(Other motivational techniques used by the company at the pep rally-style meetings included singing in front of the group, pies in the face, eating baby food, and wearing diapers. And you thought your workplace was strange?)

A jury found in Orlando's favor on her sexual harassment and sexual battery claims, and found for Alarm One on the other claims. The jury awarded Orlando $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Not so fast, said California's Fifth District Court of Appeal. In a ruling issued earlier this month, the appellate panel reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial on the assault, battery, sexual battery, and sexual harassment causes of action.

Because sexual battery includes the elements of assault and battery plus additional elements, the jury's finding that sexual battery had been established but that battery and assault had not been established was "fatally inconsistent," the appellate court ruled.

The panel also found error in the jury instruction regarding sexual harassment.

"The jury was not instructed that one of the elements of sexual harassment was that the harassment was because plaintiff was female; consequently, the jury's consideration was not focused on conduct that respondent was subjected to because she was female," the appellate panel said. "In reaching its verdict, the jury may have considered all offensive conduct, including exposure to profanity or sexual comments that were not gender-related."

Source: Judicial Council of California

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