Firm pays out $8M in sex harassment case

March 29, 2011 4:30:40 AM PDT
A company in northwest suburban Buffalo Grove was ordered to pay $8 million to 82 victims of sexual harassment.

The case involves a telemarketing business headquartered in Buffalo Grove. The lawsuit against the company, which was called International Profits Associates at the time, was filed in 2001. It is one of the longest running sexual harassment cases in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission history. IPA has since gone by several names.

The first settlement checks are now being mailed out to the victims. They will get an average of $100,000 each.

ABC7's Ben Bradley spoke with one of the women who says she continued to work at the firm undercover as the case was made. She is telling her story for the first time.

"You had to watch your back because you didn't know what was coming," harassment victim Gloria Litwin told ABC7.

For nearly 10 years Litwin was a telemarketer for IPA. And for much of that time, she says she worked in a sexually charged atmosphere.

"I had them come up to me and push me against walls. They'd put their body up against me. I'd be literally asked for oral sex. I'd have to push them away," she said.

In 2001, one by one women began to come forward with similar stories. Eighty two in all would join the lawsuit handled by the EEOC against the company. For more than nine years, the suit dragged through federal court. The EEOC says the company filed frivolous motions to drag things out. Then on the verge of trial, they settled.

An attorney for EEOC Chicago, Jeanne Szromba, says many were surprised after all this time. "I think some of them were giving up hope there would be an end to this case," Szromba said. "We have the backing of the federal government. We can keep going as long as the company can keep going. We take these cases very seriously."

An attorney for IPA released a written statement, "There has not been any allegations since the 1998 claims...We are proud to say it's a different atmosphere in the company now than it was. We will not tolerate nor condone sexual harassment on our premises."

Court ordered monitors will now watch what goes on behind closed doors at the Buffalo Grove company, but Litwin says some of the same people who harassed her still work there.

"What happens behind closed doors where there's no cameras is another story," said Litwin.

The women will split the $8 million setttlemt. The EEOC does not receive any money for its work.