Irvine-based Alorica Inc., one of the nations largest call center firms, will pay $3.5 million to settle charges that its customer service representatives were “openly propositioned for sex, leered at and touched by supervisors and co-workers,” and the company retaliated against them when they complained.
At a Los Angeles news conference Wednesday, Aug. 1, Anna Park, regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, outlined the agencys lawsuit against the company and spoke in graphic terms of the treatment of some 44 customer service workers at Alorica call centers in Fresno and Clovis.
More plaintiffs will be added to the settlement as they come forward, she said, with the agency launching an 800 number for victims.
“A manager peered down womens tops to see their breasts,” she said. “A team manager asked a female employee to (perform oral sex). In another instance, a male worker exposed himself. Women complained to the EEOC that they were subjected to unwanted touching of their breasts and buttocks.”
Those who complained were “terminated or felt compelled to resign. Other women felt unsafe,” she added.
The agency also identified several male workers who were subjected to harassment, with female co-workers talking about sex and “asking what position they liked,” Park said.
Tania King, chief legal and employee experience officer for Irvine-based Alorcia, makes a statement on a lawsuit brought against the company by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as sexual harassment victim Chasity La Mattina, right, listens at the Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. (Photo by Nick Agro, Contributing Photographer)
Chasity La Mattina, center, who is part of a lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment by managers at Irvine-based Alorica, listens during a press conference at the Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. (Photo by Nick Agro, Contributing Photographer)
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Chasity La Mattina, who is part of an EEOC lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment by managers at Irvine-based Alorica, speaks to the media about her experience at the Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. (Photo by Nick Agro, Contributing Photographer)
Anna Park, regional attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Los Angeles District speaks about a lawsuit alleging widespread sexual harassment by managers at Irvine-based Alorica, during a press conference at the Roybal Federal Building in Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 1, 2018. (Photo by Nick Agro, Contributing Photographer)
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Tania King, Aloricas chief employee experience and legal officer, also spoke at the news conference, saying the firm “disputes the allegations in the complaint based on our internal investigations and believes the company would have been vindicated had we decided to litigate.
“We also do not believe the complaint reflects the culture and leadership that works tirelessly to provide an inclusive, respectful work environment for all. Nevertheless, we …agreed to the settlement because we believe it allows the company to focus its time and resources on directly enhancing employee compliance programs rather than on protracted litigation.”
Alorica, a privately-owned firm with $2.2 billion in revenue last year, has more than 100,000 employees in 15 countries. According to its website, 70 percent of its business is with Fortune 500 companies in finance, communications, healthcare, retail and technology.
In her statement, King emphasized that the company, led by Chairman and CEO Andy Lee, a Chinese-American, “is a minority-owned … family-founded and family-run company.”
The EEOC lawsuit was filed in September 2017. Alorica quickly entered into settlement talks without submitting court documents to defend the company.
At the news conference, two women who worked at Aloricas 1,150-worker call center in Fresno outlined the harassment they said they suffered.
Chasity La Mattina, who was 20 when she went to work as an Alorica customer service representative in 2015, broke down in tears.
According to La Mattina, now 23, a team leader manager “walked by me and swiped his open palm against my butt and swiped his hand down. He took his bottle of soda and rubbed it against his genitals then rubbed it on my rib area and said in a low voice, This is what you need, huh? ”
She added, “I was scared.”
Linda Strong was 21 when she began working at the call center in 2012. Two years later, the mother of two was promoted to “team manager,” making $12 an hour and overseeing 18 other workers.
Strong said she was harassed by two supervisors and another team leader.
“My supervisor talked about his favorite sex position,” she said.”He said he liked my butt. He would rub my back up and down…
“He said that my chest looked nice and that it must be the bra I was wearing and commented to another employee that I have a nice ass. ”
Another team leader told her she would “end up in a wheelchair” after having sex with him, she said. “It was in front of other co-workers.”
“I was scared and overwhelmed,” she added after the news conference, but she was afraid speaking up would mean losing her job. “My paycheck was paying the rent and utilities for my family. My fiancé wasnt making as much.”
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When Strong complained to a human resources official, she said she was offered two weeks of unpaid leave and told the company would investigate. When she returned from the leave, she found no one had been fired and “everyone knew about it. The supervisor and his friends would walk by and glare at me.”
Finally, she went to the site manager, Aloricas top on-site official. “He interrupted me and told me he did not want to hear anything incriminating about his assistant directors because they perform for him.”
That is when Strong quit, she said. In an unemployment brochure, she noticed a reference to the EEOC and sexual harassment and made her way to the agencys Fresno office.
Alorica “is all about statistics,” she said.”The better the stats, the more money they make. Stats on surveys from the phone calls. Stats on the number of escalated calls (to supervisors).”
In a three-year decree, the federal district court ordered Alorica to conduct extensive audits and sexual harassment training for all employees. It also ordered an EEOC monitor to conduct audits nationwide, not just in California, “to ensure there are no additional issues and to address them swiftly,” Park said.
Alorica workers who believe they are impacted are “encouraged to come forward,” she added. “They can call 855-725-4456.”
“Sex harassment has garnered a lot of attention with the #MeToo movement,” Park said. “To the EEOC, sadly, harassment cases are not new but have been a persistent problem for a very long time.”