The suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in May 2002 on behalf of three female sales representatives claimed:
- Executives and top management subjected the three women to unwelcome groping, lewd sexual language, sexual propositions, and pornography;
- One of the sales representatives was sued by Custom Companies in Illinois state court because she complained to the EEOC;
- Female sales representatives were expected to entertain Custom Companies customers and potential clients at the “Thee Doll House” and its successor “Crazy Horse Too,” so-called “gentlemen’s” or “strip” clubs; and
- Strippers in revealing attire were positioned around the course at Custom Companies-sponsored golf outings for customers.
According to an EEOC press release about the verdict, the amount awarded by Judge Harry Leinenweber was lower than the initial jury award of $2.26 million in November 2006 to the three former employees because of limitations on such awards set by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In a 50-page memorandum opinion, Leineweber wrote, “Defendants’ actions were reprehensible. There was evidence of repeated touching . . . sexually explicit comments and jokes, sexual advances, and a sexually charged atmosphere. . . The harassment came from employees in positions of power,” the EEOC release said.
The judgment by Leinenweber also bars Custom Companies from sponsoring company events at places of “adult entertainment or which includes adult entertainment” for four years. The order also requires the company to notify employees of the EEOC lawsuit and their right to contact the EEOC without fear of retaliation, and that the company offer sexual harassment training to all employees.
The judge further said that in addition to the monetary award, injunctive relief was also necessary: “Circumstances indicate that Defendants might engage in sexual harassment in the future. The sexual harassment was carried out by several individuals still employed by Defendants . . . The president and owner of the company, [Perry] Mandera, was even involved in the retaliation.”
The case is EEOC v. Custom Companies, Inc., et al, N.D. Ill. Nos. 02-C-3768 and 03-C2293, Mem. Op. & Order 3/8/2007.