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Strib to pay $300,000+ in ‘male room’ sex harassment case

The paper will settle an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission complaint; the feds brought suit in September.
By David Brauer

The paper will settle an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission complaint; the feds brought suit in September. From AP:

The EEOC alleges the company allowed a hostile work environment to form for some of its female mailroom employees. The alleged harassment included propositions for sex, sexual comments and suggestive conduct.

If the court approves the settlement, the Star Tribune will pay between $305,000 and $325,000, depending on the number of women who step forward.

I wrote about this when the suit was filed. At the time, EEOC lawyer Laurie Vasichek said the class could consist of as few as two and as many as 75 women. (Two women initially stepped forward.)

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The harassment, which had been going on since August 2005, did not include physical contact. (Complaint here.)

Despite the seriousness of the case — the EEOC sues only about 400 times a year, out of more than 75,000 cases filed — Vasichek said the paper had been “very good to work with.” The Strib pledged in September to remedy the problem and such steps are part of the deal.

Of course, the Strib has better ways to spend $300,000 plus legal fees at a time like this.

Update: In the paper’s own pages, a Strib spokesman says they setted only to avoid higher legal bills:

In a statement issued today, Ben Taylor, Star Tribune senior vice president of Marketing and Communication, said the newspaper continues to disagree with the EEOC’s allegations “and believes it would eventually prevail if the case were litigated.”

However, Taylor said, “A settlement at this early stage allows the Star Tribune to avoid the expense, time commitment, disruption, and uncertainty of litigating a case that would likely last for years and cost more to defend than the settlement.”

… According to the settlement, the EEOC will maintain oversight of the Star Tribune’s compliance during the two-year term of the consent decree.

For those of you thinking about legal costs Strib owner Avista Capital Partners incurred for luring away publisher Par Ridder from the PiPress, fairness compells me to note the harassment started before Avista took over in early 2007, though they apparently didn’t fix the issue.