Glenview carwash hit with U.S. suit
Male employees sexually harassed, EEOC action alleges

By Michael Higgins
Tribune staff reporter

September 28, 2005

A Glenview carwash operator has sexually harassed male employees over the last seven years, in some cases kissing or groping them and making unwanted sexual advances, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged Tuesday.

EEOC officials filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in Chicago on behalf of three current or former male employees of Glenview Car Wash, 1820 Waukegan Rd.

The employees filed complaints with the EEOC in 2003. After an investigation, it decided to go forward with the case.

"Our investigation indicated that the top guy at the Glenview Car Wash assaulted his employees by grabbing their genitals, fondling their buttocks, kissing them and following them into the restroom," said John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District office.

"He propositioned them for sex and offered them money for sexually grabbing their co-workers and for forcing them into his office."

The top manager at the carwash is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit because such cases are aimed at the employer.

Owners of the Glenview Car Wash could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

EEOC officials allege that the three men were sexually harassed and forced to work in a hostile environment. The lawsuit seeks back pay and other damages. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman.

The harassment "was, if not literally every day, nearly every day," said Ethan Cohen, an EEOC attorney.

In addition, EEOC officials are seeking to bring the case as a class action on behalf of other male employees. Cohen said investigators have talked to six other employees who may become part of the class.

EEOC officials said the carwash workers were Hispanic immigrants who badly needed the low-wage jobs and were afraid to complain for fear of being fired.

The case is one of only a few class-action complaints that the EEOC's Chicago office has filed in cases of same-sex harassment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that sexual harassment laws apply to same-sex conduct, but the area is still a relatively new one, Cohen said.

He said EEOC officials chose to file the suit in part to help establish the law regarding same-sex harassment.

"We have multiple victims here," Cohen said. "The sexual harassment we've heard about . . . is pretty egregious. It's not just comments or horseplay. . . . The law needs to be developed through these types of cases."