The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced this week that JPMorgan Chase has agreed to pay $1,450,000 to settle a sex discrimination class action lawsuit. Although the case arises out of JPMorgan’s Columbus, Ohio office, the lessons it offers apply just as much to employees in Cleveland, and elsewhere in Ohio.
Brought by the EEOC on behalf of a group of sixteen female mortgage bankers, the lawsuit alleged that JPMorgan permitted a sexually hostile work environment at its Polaris Park office just north of Columbus. In particular, the lawsuit alleged that supervisors made sexual comments and engaged in sexually charged behavior, both of which were geared towards the female employees. The EEOC also alleged that the female mortgage brokers who refused to participate in the sexually charged atmosphere at the office were ostracized and denied lucrative sales and training opportunities.
Title VII and Ohio law both forbid sex discrimination, not only on the basis of hiring and firing, but also with respect to other terms and conditions of employment. Courts have long held that creation of a sexually hostile work environment (more commonly called sexual harassment) constitutes illegal sex discrimination under Ohio and federal law, even if the victims are not actually fired. Denying benefits of employment—like sales and training opportunities—because an employee opposes the sexually hostile work environment is illegal as well.
According to the EEOC, the settlement in the JPMorgan case will be distributed among the sixteen female employees. From the information available, the settlement also seems to require JPMorgan to conduct additional training, and to restructure its sales call policies to ensure that they are distributed more appropriately in the future.
Other that what is publicly available, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to fairly evaluate the merits of this sex discrimination case. That being said, the victims are getting a little more than $90,000 each on average, which is nothing to sneeze at in a case involving this many victims. Regardless of the merits of this particular case, it is true that sexual harassment does sometimes occur in Ohio, even in the workplaces of large and sophisticated employers who should know better.
If you work in Cleveland, or anywhere in Ohio, and believe sex discrimination or sexual harassment is occurring, you should contact an experienced Cleveland sex discrimination attorney to find out more about your legal rights.