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Car Dealership Hit w/ 2nd Sex Harassment Suit

Chicago- A suburban auto dealership retaliated against women employees who had filed a sexual harassment lawsuit by shutting down the department where many of them worked, a new federal lawsuit alleged Thursday.

The lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also alleged that Bob Watson Chevrolet continued to subject its women employees to a sexually hostile work environment even though it promised to combat sexual harassment.

Bob Watson, who owns the dealership in south suburban Harvey, did not return a telephone call seeking comment on the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

To settle the 2001 class-action suit, Watson Chevrolet, without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to pay about 70 temporary female workers $3,000 each, rewrite its anti-harassment policy and take other steps to end the sexual harassment.

But on the same day checks were issued as part of that settlement, Watson Chevrolet closed down its “phone room” where incoming calls from potential customers were routed to sales personnel, the EEOC said its investigation found.

The women were given no warning about the closing by management, the EEOC said.

The women were forced to quickly choose between taking virtually commission-only sales positions for which they had no experience or training or find themselves out of work altogether, the EEOC said.

“Bob Watson chose to deal with the harassment lawsuit by getting rid of the victims when it should have focused its efforts on stopping future harassment,” Richard Mrizek, an EEOC attorney, said in a statement. “Dumping women employees for participating in a sexual harassment lawsuit is not an option.”

The EEOC did not provide any details on the alleged sexually hostile work environment that it contends continued after the first suit.

In the earlier suit, one of three named plaintiffs alleged that during one of her first weeks at work several managers and salesmen blocked her exit, taunted her with demands that she do a striptease on a table and tried to entice her with offers of cash.

Other women said they were subjected to groping and crude comments, exposed to pornographic materials and promised job security in return for sex.

At the time that the first suit was settled in 2002 the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented the women, expected the cost to Watson Cehvrolet could exceed $300,000 in legal fees and payouts.


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