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ABM to settle sexual harassment suit, pay $5.8 million

September 1, 2010 | 10:00 pm

One of the nation’s largest janitorial companies, ABM Industries Inc., has agreed to pay $5.8 million to 21 female former employees to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the federal government.

The suit, filed in 2007, alleged that in one instance an employee was raped by a supervisor. Other charges included indecent exposure, groping, asking for sex and trading sex for promotions, according to court documents.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is set to announce the settlement, in which ABM will admit no wrongdoing, Thursday morning with concurrent press conferences in Los Angeles and Fresno. The infractions allegedly took place in Bakersfield, Fresno and Visalia, Calif.

A federal judge has to approve the settlement before it is finalized, but both the company and the commission have agreed to terms, said Anna Park, a federal prosecutor involved in the suit.

“We commend ABM for addressing what we found to be a grave and ominous situation for its female staff,” Park said in a statement. “Employers must implement strict policies and procedures to safeguard against such harassment, and take employee complaints seriously so that they not rise to the level of severity we saw in this case.”

ABM is cooperating with the commission and working with the agency to create a more inclusive and safe workplace for its employees, company spokesman Tony Mitchell said in a statement.

“While the proposed consent decree explicitly denies wrongdoing by our company, we are pleased to resolve this matter in a manner consistent with our commitment to leading policies and practices,” Mitchell said in the statement. “We look forward to working cooperatively with the EEOC toward our mutually shared goal of a fair and inclusive workplace.”

In 2009, ABM reported about $3.5 billion in revenue. The company has more than 90,000 employees and provides janitorial, engineering, parking and security services for thousands of commercial, industrial, institutional and retail businesses in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada. Most of its workforce is employed through subsidiaries for the different services it provides.

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

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