Caterpillar Faces Two Harassment Lawsuits

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week filed two lawsuits against Caterpillar Inc., accusing the company of permitting sexual and racial harassment at two Illinois plants.

The suits, which were filed in federal court in Chicago, allege that the company refused to address complaints that white employees whistled at black employees “as if they were dogs” at its Joliet plant during 2000 and 2001. The second suits charges that a male supervisor engaged in “sexually offensive propositions” and inappropriate touching of women at its Aurora plant. At least three women who complained were fired in retaliation, EEOC attorney Lauren Dreilinger said.

The suits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages along with injunctions barring future discrimination and requiring Caterpillar to take steps to prevent such acts in the future.

Rich Lavin, vice president of Caterpillar’s human services division, said the company has policies prohibiting harassment and discrimination, and does not tolerate retaliation against employees who report such conduct.

“There is no merit to these allegations and we intend to defend vigorously against them,” Lavin said in a statement.

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