Dial to pay $10M in harassment suit

April 30, 2003 at 12:10 PM
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CHICAGO, April 30 (UPI) -- Women who say they suffered sexual harassment at the suburban Chicago Dial soap plant will collect $100,000 to $300,000 apiece as part of the settlement of their lawsuit against the company.

Dial agreed to settle the 4-year-old sexual discrimination suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for $10 million. Dial also agreed to 2 1/2 years of federal monitoring.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., company did not admit any wrongdoing and insisted the Aurora plant is a welcoming place for women.

About 100 women were involved in the suit; a number of them remain employed at the plant.

Dial described the settlement as a "business decision" and said it did not expect to make any major changes to its personnel policies.

A three-member panel was appointed to monitor the company -- one chosen by Dial, one by the federal government and then a mutually chosen chairman. Federal monitor Nancy Kreiter of Women Employed said she expects the company to implement changes recommended by the panel.

"The monitors are going to be all over Dial like flies on you-know-what," EEOC regional attorney John Hendrickson said. "We have 2 1/2 years to watch what happens."

Dial attorney Camille Olson called the remark "unfortunate." She said the charges date back to the mid-'80s and most of those responsible no longer work at the plant.

The EEOC had been seeking $27 million. Jury selection had been slated to begin Monday but U.S. District Judge Warren K. Urbom delayed it to give the two sides more time to negotiate. The agreement was presented Tuesday.

Court documents indicated female employees were subjected to various forms of sexual harassment, including name-calling, groping, pornography and stalking. The EEOC said the company's response was "malicious, reckless and ineffective," with as many as 40 supervisors among the harassers.

"Women were blamed for sexual harassment and soon learned that complaining about it was futile and would only make their own lives more difficult," court documents said.

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