Chicago, IL: (Oct-06-07) A class action lawsuit was brought against CB Richard Ellis alleging that the Los Angeles-based real estate brokerage firm's female employees were sexually harassed. Amy Wiginton, a former marketing director in the company's office in Oak Brook, IL, who claimed that she was subjected to lewd remarks, unwanted groping and sexual propositions by male co-workers, initiated the suit. Four other plaintiffs, including one in Beverly Hills, joined the suit, claiming that a nationwide pattern and practice of sexual harassment existed at the company. They also alleged that pornographic material was distributed via e-mail and displayed on office computers.
In a settlement reached, CB Richard Ellis has agreed to pay as much as $350,000 to end the lawsuit. Wiginton will receive $125,000 and the other four named plaintiffs will receive a total of $225,000 under terms of the settlement. The total cost of the settlement is unclear, but women who worked for the company in the last eight years may pursue claims, according to papers filed in US District Court in Chicago. Court documents and a statement prepared by both sides described a three-tier settlement process available to thousands of women who worked for the company from 1999. Women who say they were subject to sexual harassment or discrimination can recover $1,500 without revealing their identities to the company if they prove their claims to an arbiter approved by both parties. A second tier of claimants can collect as much as $15,000 by submitting paperwork to the arbiter, but their names must be disclosed to CB Richard Ellis, which may file documents disputing the claims. Claimants in the third tier could collect as much as $150,000 but would be subject to full arbitration hearings with witnesses. CB Richard Ellis also will pay attorneys' fees of $3.4 million and donate $400,000 to the trade group Commercial Real Estate Women Network for the establishment of scholarships to promote the advancement of women in the industry. The company admitted no wrongdoing in the matter and said the settlement was in the best interest of the company and its shareholders. [