LOS ANGELES – Teresa Sanchez, a former janitor, described being touched inappropriately by her supervisor and being fired after she complained about it. “I asked for help and they wouldn’t help me, and instead my supervisor would laugh at me even more,” Sanchez said. “It was easier for the company to let me go and that’s what they did.”
Sanchez spoke at a downtown Los Angeles news conference Thursday, where the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a $5.8-million settlement with Sanchez’s former employer, ABM Industries Inc. of New York.
ABM, which admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement, is one of the largest janitorial companies in the nation. It has 90,000 employees, according to its 2009 annual report, and provides services to thousands of businesses in several cities, including Los Angeles.
The EEOC suit, filed in 2007, alleged that 21 female janitors were sexually harassed or assaulted by 14 male supervisors at ABM, going back to 2001. Prosecutors alleged in the suit that one of the employees was raped by a supervisor. Ana Park, a prosecutor with the federal agency, said the alleged attacker was a sex offender.
Other allegations included indecent exposure, groping, asking for sex and trading sex for promotions, according to court documents. The suit said the incidents took place in Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia, California.
Former janitor Maria Quintero was working in Fresno when she and some co-workers were sexually harassed, she said at the news conference. “I complained various times,” Quintero said, “and they did not pay attention to me.” She verged on tears while telling her story and then collapsed to the ground, apparently having fainted.
ABM was not represented at the news conference.
In a statement, ABM spokesman Tony Mitchell said: “We are pleased to resolve this matter in a manner consistent with our commitment to leading policies and practices. We look forward to working cooperatively with the EEOC toward our mutually shared goal of a fair and inclusive workplace.”
As a part of the settlement, the EEOC will monitor ABM for three years in an effort to create a safer workplace, Park said. The commission received reports as recently as 2009 of sexual harassment and assault in ABM worksites, she said.
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