FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: MELINDA SHELTON, 202-331-0066 x767
Statement of NOW President Patricia Ireland:
"Today, NOW officially names Mitsubishi a 'Merchant of Shame' and resumes demonstrations that had been put on hold after Mitsubishi officials pledged to 'create a model workplace' and resolve the sexual harassment cases against the company fairly and rapidly. Regrettably, Mitsubishi's promises have proved to be empty.
"Instead of proceeding in a spirit of reconciliation, as we were led to believe, Mitsubishi has attempted to intimidate the women who brought charges against the company. The women plaintiffs in the private litigation have had their privacy violated by Mitsubishi's attorneys in what appears to be the laying of the groundwork for a 'nuts or sluts' defense in court. To date, no settlement offer has been made to the private plaintiffs or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"As the EEOC was compelled to release the names of 289 potential class members in its suit, those women cannot help but feel threatened by Mitsubishi's brass-knuckle tactics. The degrading questions raised about the women plaintiffs and management's failure to stop retaliation against them are designed to frighten them into silence.
"In January Mitsubishi promised that the women plaintiffs would be given an opportunity to return to work, but that offer was only extended to those on disability leave. The women who were fired after filing or revealing plans to file sexual harassment complaints were not given an opportunity to return to work. Furthermore, the women who remain on disability leave have reported delays in the processing of their checks.
"Our sources inside the plant report that the anti-sexual harassment training in the plant was treated like a joke. One woman charges that when her male coworkers made inappropriate and harassing comments during the training, the trainers said nothing. She says that when she complained about the remarks, a trainer said that the men needed a place to vent and the training was the appropriate place to do so. In March of this year, a three-foot cardboard penis was reportedly displayed in plain view at the plant.
"All of these things happened after NOW accepted Mitsubishi's promises. Well, we have given Mitsubishi plenty of time to live up to their pledge to be a model employer. Mitsubishi having failed at that, we are forced, instead, to make an example of the company by naming it a 'Merchant of Shame.' In doing so, we issue this warning to Mitsubishi and to every corporation doing business in the United States: Harassment and discrimination are both illegal and bad for business!
"With this announcement, we are resuming actions against Mitsubishi across the country. In the coming months, NOW activists will distribute 'Merchant of Shame' fliers in communities everywhere. We will be at Laundromats, grocery stores, train stations and bus stops throughout the nation. And we will not stop until the women of Mitsubishi have a women-friendly workplace.
"We also have a warning for other corporations that attempt to intimidate sexual harassment plaintiffs with personal attacks: We're going to take that weapon out of your arsenal. Just as feminists worked to pass rape shield laws to stop unscrupulous criminal defense lawyers who tried to get rapists off by badgering rape survivors, NOW activists will not rest until similar protections are in place for women who file sexual harassment complaints.
"We will also work to lift the arbitrary cap on punitive damages to women who sue employers for sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Women who win such suits deserve the opportunity to be compensated for all of the damages they can prove were suffered. And companies that allow harassment and discrimination to happen need even greater incentives to stop them, including punitive damages.
"If Mitsubishi's commitment to achieving a model workplace is sincere, the tactics of intimidation and retaliation will cease now, and the company will immediately offer all of the women fair settlements. We are not fooled by Mitsubishi's use of high-priced spin doctors to cover its ruthless intimidation practices. The only acceptable solution is to change the way they do business and compensate the women who have suffered. Only then will NOW remove Mitsubishi from the 'Merchants of Shame' list."
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