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Mitsubishi lawsuit (re sexual harassment in USA)

In 1996, the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) filed a class action lawsuit against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America (MMMA) which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Motors. Plaintiffs alleged over 300 women at the company's plant had been subjected to sexual harassment. MMMA argued in a motion for summary judgment that it was not possible for a sexual harassment claim to be brought as a class action and that many of the complaints were time-barred. In 1998, the EEOC and MMMA reached a settlement agreement.

 

On 9 April 1996 the US Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) filed a class action lawsuit in federal court in Illinois against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc. (MMMA) (MMMA is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.).  EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws on employment discrimination.  The suit claimed that over 300 women at the company’s Normal, Illinois, plant had been subject to sexual harassment starting in 1988 in contravention of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In particular, EEOC alleged the toleration of a sexualised working environment which manifested in managers attending ‘audience participation’ sex bars as part of Japanese business trips, obscene graffiti, male workers exposing themselves, the passing around of pornographic photographs of male workers engaged in sex acts, and verbal and physical assaults against women.  Further, MMMA management and the Employee Relations Department were accused of failing to respond adequately, or at all, to complaints from women regarding the harassment.  EEOC sought to stop the harassment of the women and obtain compensation for the women.

 

MMMA argued in a motion for summary judgment that it was not possible for a sexual harassment claim to be brought as a class action and that many of the complaints were time-barred.  In January 1998, the court rejected this argument, holding that a class action ‘pattern or practice’ case could be brought in a sexual harassment case, there was no statute of limitations applicable and there was no inexcusable delay by EEOC.

 

On 10 June 1998 MMMA and the EEOC reached a settlement in which MMMA agreed to pay compensation of $34 million.  In addition, MMMA agreed to take a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards sexual harassment which included revising its existing policies and procedures and committing to certain complaints procedures and sexual harassment training.  MMMA’s performance of these terms was subject to review by an independent panel which would report on its compliance.  The final report of the independent panel noted that MMMA had made progress at its Normal, Illinois plant, but it also cautioned that the company needed to remain vigilant and proactive in fighting sexual harassment.  The EEOC subsequently stated that it was encouraged by the conclusions of this final report.

 

- Mitsubishi settles for $34M, CNN Money, 11 Jun 1998

- Conducive to Sexual Harassment: The EEOC's Case Against Mitsubishi, Charlie Cray, Multinational Monitor, Oct 1997

- Slow healing at Mitsubishi , De'Ann Weimer & Emily Thornton, BusinessWeek, 11 Sep 1997

- Harassment, Retaliation, Death Threats at Mitsubishi Motors: EEOC Files 'Largest Harassment Case Ever', Off Our Backs, Jun 1996

- Mitsubishi announces third-party review by former Secretary of Labor Martin; pledges continued cooperation with EEOC, Business Wire, 14 May 1996

- U.S. Charges Sexual Harassment At a Mitsubishi Plant in Illinois, Associated Press, 10 Apr 1996

 

- Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi Corporation: Philosophy and Principles

- Mitsubishi: Press Release: Establishment of Employee Advice Bureau, 1 Sep 2000

- EEOC:

- EEOC responds to final report of Mitsubishi Consent Decree monitors, 23 May 2001

- Monitors say Mitsubishi in compliance with EEOC Consent Decree: sexual harassment 'firmly  under control' at U.S. plant, 6 Sep 2000

- Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing and EEOC reach voluntary agreement to settle harassment suit, 11 Jun 1998

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