The Washington Post reported Sunday, December 22, on a number of sexual harassment cases in the workforce. One major incident of “serial” sexual harassment in which a harasser’s actions impact numerous women involved Dan Wassong, chief executive of cosmetic company Del Laboratories. After 15 women told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Wassong had asked them for oral sex, assaulted them, urinated with the restroom door open, worked in his underwear and used offensive language, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Del and Wassong alleging that Del tolerated the harassment waged by Wassong. Without admitting wrongdoing, Del settled the case in 1995 for $1.2 million.
In another case of serial sexual harassment, women at Baker and McKenzie, the largest law firm in the U.S., complained that partner Martin Greenstein inappropriately touched them, pressured them for sex, made sexual remarks, and caused their ultimate resignation. A judge significantly reduced the $7 million settlement granted to the secretary who was harassed by Greenstein after he was transferred to another office; Baker and McKenzie have appealed the verdict with a decision expected next year. A number of witnesses testified that Greenstein talked about hot-tubbing and made other inappropriate gestures or comments, but lawyers for Baker and McKenzie expect further reduction of the settlement.
Though Baker and McKenzie terminated Greenstein in 1993, the Post reports that many companies prefer to allow harassers to stay on than risk an accusation of wrongful termination. Sexual harassment expert Freada Klein said that she has been told by companies who pay off women who bring complaints, “this is the cost of doing business … this guy brings in millions of dollars in business a year,” refusing to acknowledge the cost to the women who are harassed.