78 Star Tribune Women Split $325,000 in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
The Star Tribune will pay $325,000 to settle a long-running sexual harassment case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") affecting as many as 78 female mailroom workers. The Star Tribune denied wrongdoing and said it settled to avoid costlier litigation. The paper reported Thursday that it had also agreed to employ a supervisor on every mail room shift, provide training, prohibit harassment and retaliation, and make a human resources staffer specifically responsible.
The case dates from August 2005, before current owners Avista Capital Partners took over, but continued during the current regime. Two women alleged that they were "subject to sexist slurs, being sworn at, and having sex-based comments made to them. Co-workers would tell them to put up with it because they were working in the 'male room,'" according to a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suit filed in September 2008.
EEOC litigator Laurie Vasichek says the settlement breaks down as follows:
• Three women who ultimately filed charges with the EEOC will split $175,000.
• Another 40 women who filed claims will split $90,000.
• Those 40 women, plus as many as 35 who sign waivers, will receive $800 each, up to $60,000. If fewer than 60 total sign up, they'll receive $530 each, up to $40,000.
Any unspent balance in the $40,000 or $60,000 will not be returned to the Star Tribune. Instead, it will go to a charity of the EEOC's choice.
Ben Taylor, Star Tribune senior vice president for marketing and communications, said newspaper officials disagree with the EEOC's allegations and believe they would have prevailed in court. But, he said, the newspaper decided to settle the case to avoid "the distraction and expense of extended litigation."