Last week, we carried a story about a company that was forced to pay $30,000 for the alleged harassment of a female field worker. Here’s a similar tale — but the numbers are considerably larger.
Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. will pay $3.8 million to a class of women workers who were subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and the EEOC announced.
The agreement requires Con Edison to reserve up to $3.8 million to be distributed among eligible settlement group members — as many as 300 blue-collar women workers employed in field positions between 2006 and 2014.
EEOC spokesman Kevin Berry said, “These women signed up for strenuous work when they took these important jobs — they did not sign up for demeaning job assignments, to be denied promotional opportunities, and to be subjected to rampant harassment, all simply because of their gender. EEOC will continue fighting discrimination in our nation’s workplaces.”
Con Ed provides electric, gas, and steam service to approximately 3.4 million customers in New York City and Westchester County. Both EEOC and the AG’s office launched an investigation into complaints made by women working in field positions at Con Edison about ongoing sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
The women workers alleged that they faced widespread harassment by male co-workers and a hostile work environment based on gender and that Con Ed had failed to address this discrimination. EEOC also received complaints from women that they had been delayed or denied promotions from the entry-level general utility worker position to various next-level positions because of gender.
The women worked with men in the field in manholes, power stations and other positions involving physically strenuous activities and maintaining the public’s access to electricity. While working in such traditionally male jobs, the women alleged that they were:
- denied, delayed, and given subpar on-the-job training as compared to their male peers
- assigned menial, “make-work” tasks and isolated by male co-workers in group work settings
- refused or stonewalled when seeking admission to classes necessary for promotions
- not provided tools or safety gear in situations where male co-workers were supplied both
- denied adequate sanitary and private restroom, shower, and changing facilities
- subjected to disparate and excessive discipline as compared to male co-workers who engaged in comparable conduct
- given less positive performance evaluations than their male counterparts for doing comparable work, and
- denied overtime assignments despite eligibility under collective bargaining agreements.
The women further alleged that Con Ed failed to take effective action to improve or prevent such discriminatory working conditions and failed to meaningfully enforce its internal equal employment opportunity policies concerning gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and non-retaliation.
The women claimed they faced retaliation when they complained to supervisors or to Con Ed’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion about their work conditions.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, in addition to providing monetary relief to eligible settlement class members, Con Edison will:
- retain an independent consultant to evaluate Con Edison’s compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement
- retain an independent equal employment opportunity specialist to develop and conduct employee training
- institute improved policies and protocols concerning the investigation of discrimination and harassment complaints, and
- provide training to field supervisors on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, with an emphasis on illegal sex discrimination and sex harassment.