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Dial Corp. agreed Tuesday to pay $10 million to settle a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of women who said the soap maker ignored sexual harassment by men at one of its plants. Lawyers for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based soap maker and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the agreement a day after the case was scheduled to go to trial. Jury selection was postponed as the company and the government went into settlement talks. The lawsuit alleged that women at the company’s Aurora, Ill., soap plant were groped, shown pornography and called names. The agency sued on behalf of 90 current and former female employees of the plant. “EEOC believes that the agreement reached in this case is in the best interests of both the Dial family — employer and employees — and the public,” said John Hendrickson of the EEOC. Christopher J. Littlefield, Dial’s senior vice president and general counsel, said the company will not tolerate harassment of any kind, and made a business decision to settle the lawsuit. “Today’s announcement closes the door on this lawsuit and we have agreed with the EEOC to put the past behind us,” he said. The EEOC said the suit was its biggest sexual harassment case since a landmark lawsuit against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America five years ago. That plant was also in Illinois, in Normal. Mitsubishi settled for $34 million. The company’s North American division paid awards ranging from $10,000 to $300,000 to 486 female workers to settle allegations that women on an assembly line were groped and insulted and that managers did nothing to stop it. In the Dial case, the government said dozens of employees faced sexual harassment and supervisors did nothing to stop it. Someone even whittled a bar of soap into the shape of a male body part, the EEOC’s suit said. Dial attorneys said the allegations were overblown and that men who caused real problems were warned and in some cases fired. The company said it established a training program to head off such problems as early as 1990, and even got an EEOC award for a job well done. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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