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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on March 5 alleging Staffing Network, an employment agency with 17 Chicago area offices, sexually harassed and retaliated against female employees. The suit charges that Staffing Network violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by subjecting female employees to sexual harassment in the form of unwelcome and offensive sexual comments and touching. The suit also claims that Staffing Network sued one of the victims in retaliation for filing a complaint about the harassment with the EEOC. John C. Hendrickson, Regional Attorney in the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said that the case is of special interest because the employer appears to have responded to the charge of discrimination filed by one of the victims by starting a lawsuit against her, presumably as a reprisal for her filing. Hendrickson said, “Such counter-strike lawsuits attack not only a particular employee’s right to file a charge with the EEOC, but also attack the EEOC’s processes as established by Congress. The EEOC cannot begin to perform its mission if employees are afraid to file charges and to cooperate in investigations because the price of doing so is becoming the target of a lawsuit.” Hendrickson added that the EEOC’s processes “afford employers a variety a ways to address charges of discrimination, including mediation, conciliation, settlement, and vigorous defense, but starting unwarranted lawsuits against employees is not one of them.” According to the EEOC, Staffing Network has offices in 13 states, concentrated in the Midwest, on the West coast, and in the Southeastern region of the United States. The harassment uncovered during the EEOC’s investigation was centered in the firm’s headquarters, located in Elk Grove Village near O’Hare International Airport, and more recently relocated to Itasca, Illinois. The administrative investigation of the case was overseen by John P. Rowe, Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. Rowe said, “[T]he solution to the problem of sexual harassment is prevention, investigation, and remediation, not striking out at employees who bring the problem to the employer’s attention.” The lawsuit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages against Staffing Network. The agency has also requested an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in sexual harassment or retaliation in the future. � 2002, CCH INCORPORATED. All Rights Reserved.

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