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Report: Mitsubishi Wants To Settle Sex Harassment Suit

April 25, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ The head of Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America said the company wants to settle a lawsuit filed by a federal agency claiming widespread sexual harassment at its sole U.S. assembly plant, The New York Times reported today.

Tsuneo Ohinouye, chairman and chief executive officer of the Japanese-owned company, said 10 male employees have already been fired, four this year, for harassment at the factory in Normal, Ill.

It was Ohinouye’s first interview since the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action lawsuit against Mitsubishi two weeks ago after investigating complaints by 29 women who filed their own federal lawsuit in 1994.

Those lawsuits alleged relentless harassment of more than 300 women who worked at the plant, including insults such as ``whore,″ demands for sex and retaliation against whistle-blowers.

EEOC spokeswoman Clare Gonzales told the newspaper the agency would ``certainly be encouraged by the possibility of resolution of an issue like this.″

She said EEOC Chairman Gilbert Casellas ``has expressed an openness to settlement discussions.″

Mitsubishi has come under fire for taking a hard line toward the EEOC lawsuit, including financing a 120-mile bus trip for 2,000 workers and managers who picketed outside EEOC offices in Chicago. The group earned a day’s pay and got a free lunch.

Ohinouye told the Times that workers initiated Monday’s rally.

He did admit, however, that ``there were serious incidents. We made a complete survey and fired some male workers.″

He said the company, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan, already had dealt with 89 cases of sexual harassment since the plant opened in 1987. In addition to the 10 workers who were dismissed, three were demoted and the rest were given verbal or written warnings.

``We thought we did enough but we intend to do more in the future,″ he said. ``The objective should be zero cases of sexual harassment.″

The lawsuit filed by the 29 women is separate from the EEOC’s class-action lawsuit and is still working its way through federal court in Peoria.

Ohinouye, however, maintained that half the complaints filed by the 29 women were for alleged sexual discrimination, not harassment.

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