Two Sides in Dial Sex Harassment Trial Talk Settlement

April 28, 2003 ( - The kickoff of the trial in the federal government's sexual-harassment case against Dial Corp. scheduled for Monday morning in Chicago federal court, was put off to allow for last-minute settlement talks.

>The courtroom where Senior US District Judge Warren Urbom was to preside over the trial of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) versus The Dial Corporation was dark, and a sign was left on the door saying, “The trial will not go forward at this time,” according to the Associated Press.

“The two sides are talking,” EEOC attorney John Hendrickson told the AP when reached by phone. He gave no details.

>The government contends dozens of women at the Dial plant said they faced sexual harassment, from crude comments to groping to pornography, and supervisors did nothing to stop it. The suit, filed on behalf of 90 current and former workers at the Aurora plant, is the biggest sexual harassment case brought by the EEOC since a landmark lawsuit against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America five years ago, according to the federal agency.

>Hendrickson had said a trial could take seven weeks, with the government calling as many as 50 witnesses, including many women who say they were afraid to report any harassment.

>Dial attorney Camille Olson said testimony about the Aurora plant, which produces 2.3 million bars of soap a day, will prove less than steamy. “One of the allegations is, ‘the supervisor touched me on the shoulder’ or ‘a person looked at me when I came into the room,'” Olson told the AP. “Another is that ‘a supervisor called me honey.'” She said some of the harshest allegations, such as male workers exposing themselves on the shop floor, supposedly occurred decades ago, too long ago to qualify for this trial.

>The case had been set to get started Monday after Urbon turned away a last-minute Dial request to reconsider his order that the jury would decide on punitive damages for the whole group of plaintiffs (See    Dial Sex Harassment Trial Set to Get Underway).