International Profit Associations Inc., as described in official hearings documents, was a stronghold of bad male behavior.
The sexual harassment scenes portrayed in these documents would make even the male chauvinists of the TV show “Mad Men”blush. Yet despite the graphic testimony of 82 women who worked there, the company managed to postpone paying the victims of an EEOC sexual harassment suit for 13 years.
The EEOC announced this week that it had finally extracted the final check from the company, now known as International Services. The company agreed to pay $8 million to settlement claims with the 82 plaintiffs, with each receiving roughly $100,000 for the harassment they endured while employed at the Buffalo Grove, Ill., telemarketer.
The EEOC credited a new HR manager with helping to change the company’s culture and bring the case to a close.
In a news release, the EEOC described the women there as “victims of egregious sexual harassment.”
Here are some excerpts from the 2009 memorandum opinion and order from U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall.
“Claimant No. 4 worked for IPA for shortly less than three months, from April to July of 2000. During that time, she claims to have been subjected to lurid comments a near-daily basis.
“On one occasion, Claimant No. 4 saw Shayne Wetherall, who led the department in which she worked, pull down his pants and expose his buttocks to the department's female secretary, in view of eight to ten people.
“On Claimant No. 34’s first (and only) day as a business coordinator, she saw ‘pornography pictures all over the place, hanging on cubicles.’ She saw the director of the inside sales department grab a female employee and push her backwards over a desk, then lift his leg over her and simulate having sex with her.”
The hearings records are filled with more such examples, many far more shocking than the above, from the women who sued the company.
Despite the weight of the evidence, the company fought making a settlement for years. Finally, the EEOC reported, a new HR manager joined the renamed company and was able to negotiate a settlement to end the matter. Although the parties agreed to terms in 2010, four years passed before all the checks were sent to the victims.
The company not only had to pay the victims but institute “a series of measures designed to promote the eradication of harassment and increase the accountability of managers.”
It had to bring in two independent consultants to monitor implementation of the measures. The consultants filed their report March 10, and described the company as “transformed.”
“The newly revamped human resources department at the company is described by employees interviewed by the monitors as ‘proactive with clear standards, policies and procedures to follow, highly professional, accessible, responsive and markedly changed for the best.’”
The EEOC also had high praise for the HR manager, John Andes, who negotiated the final settlement.
“It looks to us like the terms of the consent decree and the work of the monitors were enhanced by the addition of John Andes to ISI’s management team,” said Diane Smason, the EEOC supervisory trial attorney on the case. “He seems to have brought a new way of doing business to the company’s management of its human resources and to have assured that the company would realize the maximum possible benefit from the changes mandated by the consent decree and monitors.”