Federal Agency Charged That Women Were Subjected to Hostile Work Environment, Excluded From Machine Operator Jobs at West Chicago Facility
CHICAGO – Plastics manufacturer Promens USA, Inc. will pay $225,000 to settle a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC sued Promens USA, formerly known as Bonar Plastics, Inc., in September 2010 on behalf of four women who were sexually harassed, retaliated against for rejecting their supervisor’s sexual advances, and denied job opportunities open only to male employees. (EEOC v. Promens USA, Inc. and Bonar Plastics, Inc., No. 10 C 6232 [N.D. Ill.]).
Promens USA operated a plastics manufacturing facility at 1005 Atlantic Drive in West Chicago from approximately September 2005 to October 2010. During this time, the EEOC said, a Promens USA supervisor repeatedly propositioned temporary female workers. When the women rejected his advances, the supervisor fired them, the EEOC alleged. This pattern of quid pro quo harassment continued until Promens USA fired this supervisor in July 2010 after yet another woman complained of sexual harassment.
Four women employed in the defendants’ finishing department filed discrimination charges with the EEOC alleging sex harassment and retaliation in September 2007. The EEOC’s investigation of these charges revealed that Promens USA also excluded women from higher-paying jobs in the molding department.
Sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against Promens USA in September 2010 after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang entered a consent decree resolving this litigation on July 28, 2011. Under the terms of the decree, the EEOC will distribute $225,000 of monetary relief to women who were subjected to harassment, retaliation and job segregation at the West Chicago facility. Promens USA is also enjoined from further retaliating against any person due to his or her cooperation with the EEOC or participation in this lawsuit. The decree provides for extensive injunctive relief if Promens USA reacquires the West Chicago facility at any time during the next three years.
“This decree represents a positive outcome for all women employed in manufacturing facilities,” said John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “Employers should take notice that women cannot be excluded from a class of jobs based on stereotypes about their physical strength or assumed lack of interest. The EEOC uncovered evidence that Promens systematically excluded women from higher-paid positions as machine operators. Federal law plainly forbids work force segregation on the basis of sex.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted that the parties had reached a settlement of the case before engaging in protracted discovery proceedings.
Gochanour said, “Early resolution of suits like these benefits the discrimination victims, as it gives them earlier access to compensation; benefits the defendants, as it allows them to return their focus to business affairs; and benefits the public, as it allows the EEOC to turn its attention to other acts of discrimination in need of redress. For all these reasons, the EEOC appreciates Promens USA’s cooperation in resolving this suit.”
The EEOC’s litigation team from the Chicago District Office included Gochanour and Trial Attorneys Ethan Cohen and Grayson S. Walker. The Chicago District Office investigates charges of discrimination and conducts agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with area offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
Promens is an Icelandic company that manufacturers plastic products. American subsidiary Promens USA closed its U.S. locations in October 2010.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.