The EEOC recently announced that it reached a settlement with financial services firm JPMorgan Chase in which JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $1,450,000 to resolve allegations of sex discrimination and sex-based harassment brought by female mortgage bankers at a Columbus, Ohio facility. Specifically, the EEOC claimed that the female mortgage bankers were victims of a sexually hostile work environment in violation of Title VII that consisted of sexually-charged behavior and comments from supervisors and co-workers, resulting in a sexist and uncivil atmosphere. Further, the EEOC alleged that the female mortgage bankers who did not welcome or participate in these activities were ostracized and deprived of lucrative sales calls, training opportunities and other employment benefits.
In reaching the settlement, the EEOC General Counsel David Lopez stated in the press release that this case "demonstrates the EEOC's ongoing commitment to ensuring that women enjoy the same terms and conditions of employment as their male counterparts and that their success on the job cannot be conditioned on participating in a sexually hostile work environment."
Further, EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. noted that the "EEOC is committed to combating unlawful sex discrimination in the workplace and will hold an employer responsible for fostering an inhospitable and uncomfortable atmosphere for women."
In addition to the monetary relief provided to the 16 female employees, JPMorgan Chase has agreed to refrain from creating or maintaining a sexually hostile work environment. Additionally, in an effort to eliminate the situation that resulted in this lawsuit, JPMorgan Chase is developing a call data retention system so that sales call assignments can be accessed and analyzed to ensure that the calls are equitably distributed among the mortgage bankers.
This settlement serves as a reminder to employers (particularly those in the financial industry that is traditionally male-dominated and highly competitive) that sex discrimination and sexual harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. In fact, financial industry leaders such as JPMorgan Chase have been sued before for gender discrimination. Accordingly, financial employers and those in industries where women historically have been denied opportunities should make every effort to foster a more tolerant and diverse workplace environment.
Additionally, this settlement confirms that, as pronounced in its Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC is committed to eradicating sex discrimination and preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach.