This case exemplifies our reason for creating the Employment Outtakes category.
A California (where else?)appellate court (see Orlando v. Alarm One) has overturned a jury award of $500,000 in compensatory and $1 million in punitive damages to a 52 year old female on sexual battery and sex harassment claims that arose out of spankings that she received during the course of "motivational meetings" to encourage the sale of security systems. Apparently, the spankings, among other rather unique motivational techniques, were administered to both male and female employees who performed poorly (for instance, by arriving at work late or not selling enough product) in front of their peers to motivate them — and all other employees — to perform better. According to testimony, the spankings of females typically were accompanied by sexual comments, while male spankings were not.
Therefore, with respect to the sex harassment claim, the appellate court, noting that males and females were both spankers and spankees, so to speak, held that the trial court’s jury instructions were misguided because the jury was not instructed that one of the elements of sexual harassment was that plaintiff was harassed "because she was female." As a result, the court stated that the jury, in reaching its verdict, may have considered all offensive conduct, including conduct that was not gender-related. According to the court, if the jury had considered only conduct that occurred because the plaintiff was female, it might have concluded that that conduct was not “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive work environment.” So, this case heads back to the trial court, hopefully to provide us with additional amusement.
Now you know where "The Office" gets its inspiration.