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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-29-10

EEOC Sues Promens For Sex Discrimination, Harassment And Retaliation

Manager at Worldwide Plastics Manufacturer Conditioned Employment on Sexual Favors, Steered Women to Lower-paying Jobs, Federal Agency Charged

  CHICAGO - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit today charging that global plastics manufacturer Promens, Inc., formerly known as Bonar Plastics, Inc., violated federal law by sexually harassing female employees and retaliating against employees who complained. The EEOC also asserted that the company segregated employees by sex in that it assigned women and men to different departments of its West Chicago facility. The molding department to which women were assigned paid lower wages and provided employees with less opportunity for advancement than other jobs at the facility.

John Rowe, the EEOC district director in Chicago, said the agency's administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit revealed that female employees were repeatedly propositioned for sex by their manager. Several employees were told that if they did not have sex with their supervisor, they would be terminated. The female employees who rejected the sexual advances were promptly fired, the EEOC said.

“Our investigation indicated that a Promens manager preyed on women—especially the young and inexperienced—and conditioned their employment on submitting to his sexual advances. When they turned him down, he quickly fired them,” said Rowe. “It’s a fundamental principle of federal law: You cannot make people submit to sexual demands in order to get or keep their jobs.”

“Title VII mandates that employers cannot steer women to one job and men to another, especially where the ‘female’ department pays less and has fewer opportunities for advancement,”

said John Hendrickson, EEOC regional attorney in Chicago. “We expect to demonstrate in this case that neither sexual harassment nor illegal job segregation are smart business.”

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for the women who were harassed and retaliated against, in addition to injunctive relief to end the discriminatory practices. The suit is captioned EEOC v. Promens, Inc., and Bonar Plastics, Inc., Case No. 10-C-6232. The case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division and is assigned to U.S. District Judge Castillo and Magistrate Judge Denlow.

The EEOC's litigation effort will be lead by Trial Attorney Aaron DeCamp and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.

According to company information, Iceland-based Promens is a leading global plastics manufacturer operating 52 manufacturing facilities in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa. The company manufactures a wide range of products, including packaging for food, cosmetics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and serves multiple industries such as food processing, chemical and medical industries, as well as the automotive, heavy machinery and electronic industries. In sum, Promens employs some4,500 people.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.