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Press Release 08-03-1995

$1 Million-Plus in Damages is Largest Ever

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NEW YORK -- Gilbert F. Casellas, Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), today announced that 15 women who were sexually harassed by the CEO of Del Laboratories of Farmingdale, N.Y., will receive over $1 mi llion in settlement of a lawsuit filed by EEOC on their behalf.

The consent decree, filed today in U.S. District Court in Long Island, provides for $1,185,000 to be paid to the victims. The sum represents the largest monetary recovery of any sexual harassment lawsuit ever filed by EEOC, more than doubling the prev ious highest recovery of $577,750 obtained in a class action case resolved in 1993.

At a press conference held today at EEOC's New York office, Chairman Casellas said, "This case confirms that sexual harassment is still a very real obstacle for women in the workplace. We want to make it clear that it will not be tolerated. Any victi m, woman or man, should be encouraged by today's action to come forward."

All of the sexual harassment victims were former secretaries and administrative assistants to Dan K. Wassong, CEO, President, and Chairperson of the Board of Del Laboratories, Inc., a cosmetics and pharmaceutical manufacturer which includes product lin es such as Sally Hansen Cosmetics, Hard as Nails, Hand Therapy, and Lip Quencher.

EEOC filed the lawsuit on July 20, 1994, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The lawsuit alleged that Wassong, who occupied the most powerful position in the company, had engage d in a longstanding practice of sexual harassment, which included verbally and physically abusing female employees and ultimately firing them because they would not tolerate his behavior.

The suit sought redress for the hostile environment allegedly caused by the sexual harassment. The victims claimed that unwelcome comments and conduct by Wassong interfered with their work performance and created an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

The lawsuit also included claims of quid pro quo sexual harassment stemming from allegations that Wassong sought sexual favors in return for job benefits or opportunities, either by making promises to the women he harassed or by threatening th em with unfavorable conditions if they refused his advancements.

Additionally, the suit contained charges of constructive discharge, which occurs when working conditions become so intolerable that the employee has no choice but to resign. Three of the women who filed the charges leading to today's settlement, Jonne igh Adrion, Lucy Pellegrino, and Mary Dixon, said that they were fired or were forced to leave because of Wassong's actions.

EEOC also brought a retaliation claim for one women because Del threatened her with the loss of a pay raise if she did not sign a false affidavit stating that the alleged incidents of sexual harassment did not occur.

In addition to the 15 women sharing damages of $1,185,000, the decree requires Del to take the following steps to eliminate any recurrence of sexual harassment:

  • Conduct discrimination prevention training for each of its 1,600 employees nationwide.
  • Conduct individualize training for Wassong as well as each of his executives, managers, and supervisors.
  • Revise its sexual harassment policy so employees can report sexual harassment complaints to an outside company using a toll-free telephone number; two new outside members of Del's Board of Directors will supervise the investigations of all sexual hara ssment complaints by the outside company. EEOC will closely monitor implementation of the new policy until December 31, 1997, reviewing all complaints and subsequent internal sexual harassment investigations.
  • Post and maintain a notice to employees explaining their rights and advising them to contact EEOC if they wish to file a charge of discrimination with the agency.

Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., Director of the EEOC office in New York which investigated the charges and filed the lawsuit, said, "The resolution of this suit shows how costly sexual harassment can be for employers. In addition to incurring substantial legal costs, businesses that engage in or tolerate sexual harassment suffer reduced productivity, low morale, and high absenteeism and employee turnover rates as consequences. Sexual harassment is just bad for business."

In addition to Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, EEOC also enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, The Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, prohibi tions against discrimination in the federal sector affecting individuals with disabilities, and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.