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Irvine-based company settles sexual harassment lawsuit for $3.5 million

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Anna Park, regional attorney at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, speaks at a news conference in 2011. On Wednesday, Park announced a $3.5-million settlement with Irvine customer service firm Alorica Inc.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

An Irvine call-center company has agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle allegations of sexual harassment toward both men and women workers detailed in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a former employee.

According to the EEOC, supervisors, managers and coworkers at Alorica Inc. leered at female employees and touched them inappropriately. In one case, a manager allegedly peered down female employees’ shirts to look at their breasts; in another, a male coworker allegedly exposed himself to a female employee.

Female workers were openly propositioned for sex, said Anna Park, regional attorney for the Los Angeles district office of the EEOC during a news conference Wednesday. When advances were rebuffed, some women said they were subjected to increased scrutiny or were written up. Some women ended up resigning from the company, she said.

Male employees were also harassed by women at the company, and some men said they were asked about their preference of sexual positions, Park said.

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The EEOC said it has identified 44 victims so far, though it expects that number to increase. Most of them have resigned from the company.

Alorica “disputes the allegations in the complaint” based on its internal investigation and “believes the company would have been vindicated had we litigated the matter,” said Tania King, the company’s chief legal officer and chief employee experience officer, who was at the news conference. She said Alorica chose to settle because it wanted time to focus on employee programs and changes.

The allegations center around two Alorica facilities in Fresno and Clovis; the firm’s Irvine headquarters was not involved in the case. Alorica has thousands of employees in California.

As part of the settlement, Alorica will be under a three-year consent decree and will be monitored by the EEOC during that period. The company has already initiated a mandatory sexual harassment prevention training program for managers, King said.

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Alorica has also hired an external monitor to conduct an audit to ensure issues of harassment and retaliation are “rooted out,” Park said. “It takes vigilance and a fresh look to address these issues in the workplace,” she said.

The $3.5 million will be divided among affected employees, and if there is a remainder, a designated nonprofit. A claims process will be established for the former and current workers in the Fresno and Clovis region.

Employees who worked for Alorica between Aug. 1, 2014, and the present and believe they were affected can submit a claim. Funds will be distributed according to the strength of the case, the EEOC said.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

Twitter: @smasunaga


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