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Fastener Maker Faces Sex Harassment Claims

CHICAGO (CN) - Five women say the president of Chem-Plate Industries runs "one of the most egregiously repulsive and vile work environments on record," soliciting them for sex, forcing them to watch porn at work, and bringing in prostitutes during work hours to service him.

The company in suburban Elk Grove Village specializes in making automotive fasteners.

Lead defendant Martin Straus is company president and sole shareholder, and runs the company with his son, co-defendant Aaron Straus, according to the complaint in Cook County Court.

The women add that Chem-Plate created a so-called "confidential" hotline to field harassment and discrimination claims from employees, but Martin Straus had the calls routed to a good friend, who then interrogated the complainers.

One former and four current Chem-Plate employees say that Straus often demanded that the company's female comptroller "solicit female employees to have sexual relations with Straus at the Chem-Plate offices, during work hours as part of their employment responsibilities."

They claim that Straus required the comptroller "to bring prostitutes into Chem-Plate's offices to provide sexual services to him," and asked her to arrange a "'threesome' sexual liaison" with female workers in exchange for favorable treatment.

They say Straus keeps boxes of sex toys and pornography around the office, and has porn on his computer, which he has forced female employees to watch as part of their work duties.

In fact, Chem-Plate is known in its industry "as the company with the best pornography collection," the women claim.

They say that Straus and other male managers have sent female employees into their offices "purportedly to deliver documents for signatures to the employees or Straus, despite the fact that there was no business reason for doing so, so that the male employees and Straus could look down the female employees' shirts or up their skirts, or otherwise sexually ogle the female employees."

"During work hours, while in the office, male employees groped, kissed, inappropriately touched, requested sexual services, and grabbed female employees," they say.

They claims Straus "organized parties and events to entertain clients, employees, and suppliers utilizing alcohol, strippers, prostitutes and other sex based entertainment," which they were required to attend.

In response to numerous claims of sexual harassment and discrimination, the women say Chem-Plate created a "confidential" hotline for employees, "then re-routed the hotline to Irwin Brown ('Brown'), a long time personal friend of Straus. Brown then reported the 'confidential' complaints to Straus."

"Chem-Plate hired Brown's human resources business to conduct bogus 'investigations' into the complaints brought by [the plaintiffs]" where they endured "hours of interrogation" and were threatened with firing, they say.

One woman says she was fired for complaining about the lewd behavior; the others say they have been ostracized at work.

One says her car was vandalized by a Chem-Plate employee in the company parking lot after she complained.

They add that Chem-Plate also discriminated against them by paying them less than male co-workers and making them work more hours.

They seek injunction and more than $1 million in punitive damages for harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, battery, emotional distress and violations of the Equal Pay Act.

Their lead counsel is John Galarnyk with Galarnyk & Associates.

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