The Daily Poem 14 April 1996

Harassment Suit Filed Against U.S. Mitsubishi

CHICAGO - A federal agency Tuesday sued the U.S. unit of Japan's Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in one of the biggest sexual harassment lawsuits ever brought by the government. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Peoria, Ill., on behalf of hundreds of female assembly line workers, secretaries and clerical workers at Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing

of America's sprawling Normal, Ill., factory.

``This case is going to show that sexual harassment is bad for the bottom line,'' Commission Vice Chairman Paul Igasaki said at a news conference.

Besides seeking an injunction to stop alleged mistreatment of women at the factory, which employs 4,000 workers, the suit demands back pay with interest and benefits, compensatory and punitive damages that could reach $300,000 per worker and reinstatement of those forced to leave involuntarily. The commission said at least 100 female employees were interviewed about alleged harassment, and that as many as 700 workers may be eligible for damages. A spokesman for Mitsubishi, Gary Shultz, labeled the charges ''political,'' referring to the upcoming election, adding that ''discrimination of any kind will never -- and has never -- been tolerated at this plant.'' [1]

Igasaki said women at the central Illinois facility, which opened in 1985 as a joint venture with Chrysler Corp. as Diamond-Star Motors Corp., were routinely fondled and abused by low-level supervisors at the plant from 1990 to the present. He said male co-workers referred to women at the plant as ''sluts, whores, and bitches,'' and in one case, a male worker fired an air gun between the legs of a female colleague. Some women felt compelled to quit, while others

were allegedly denied promotion for refusing sexual favors to supervisors.

``Whether in office suites or on the assembly line floor, this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, especially on the outrageous scale seen here,'' Igasaki said.

Igasaki said the lawsuit may be the largest sexual harassment case ever brought by the commission, and could take two years to litigate. A sexual harassment suit brought against Bell Labs in New York was settled in August for $1.2 million, the commission said. The case against Mitsubishi Motors started in 1994 but talks with the company to resolve the commission's complaints were unsuccessful and a 15-month investigation ensued. The case coincides with private lawsuits brought by 26 female workers at the plant.

[1] Mitsubishi Workers Protest - Mitsubishi gave 3,000 workers at its Normal, Ill. plant a paid holiday Monday so

they could stage a protest at the Chicago offices of a federal agency. The autoworkers marched and chanted

outside the offices of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after being bused by the company

from their plant. The agency this month filed a massive suit against the company, accusing it of fostering a

pattern of sexual harassment against female employees. The EEOC says it will NOT be intimidated.

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