Three women have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging they were fired from blow molder Algroup Wheaton because they had claimed they were sexually harassed by a co-worker. Algroup Wheaton denied the accusations.
"The ladies involved were terminated because they were undocumented. It had nothing to do with the allegations," temporary plant manager Joe Catalano maintained in a Jan. 4 telephone interview.
Leticia Rodriguez, 24, Janelly Vazquez, 19, and her mother, Socorro Vazquez, 41, alleged they were sexually harassed by a male supervisor and then fired when they complained to higher-ups.
The trio filed the EEOC complaint against the company's Des Plaines, Ill., bottle plant in December, then held a news conference in front of the plant.
The company said the women had not reported being harassed. According to Algroup Wheaton lawyer Donna Panich, the company fired the women because it questioned the validity of their Social Security numbers.
Catalano said the company usually checks an employee's immigration status upon being hired. When asked why the women's status did not become an issue for many months, Catalano said he could not comment on their cases.
Rodriguez and Janelly Vazquez said they had worked in Algroup's quality-control center for a year when they were fired in October. Socorro Vazquez was fired in June after nine months of employment.
All three accused the supervisor of commenting about their physical appearances, while two claim he groped them, according to the EEOC complaint.
"He threatened that there would be reprisals if we did not accept his propositions," Janelly Vazquez said at the news conference, according to a Dec. 21 story in the Chicago Tribune.
The women also said their complaints were ignored because the accused supervisor is related to the union representative and a female supervisor, the newspaper said.
Panich said her investigation into the allegations offered no evidence that any sexual harassment took place.
"I can't find anything that would suggest these women were harassed by anybody," she said. But she added that the women refused to cooperate. Without their help, "it's very difficult to make a determination," she said.
The women now are calling for the supervisor to be fired, and they are requesting back wages. They also are demanding that Algroup Wheaton, based in Millville, N.J., adopt a policy against sexual harassment.
Algroup Wheaton currently employs about 100 and operates 25 injection blow molding machines at the 35-year-old Des Plaines plant. It is owned by Alusuisse Lonza Group Ltd. of Zurich, Switzerland.