Columbus, OH- Sixteen women will share a $1.45 million award levied against JP Morgan Chase after the EEOC found one of the large bank created a hostile work environment in one of their Ohio mortgage offices.

According to the EEOC, female mortgage bankers at the Polaris Park facility in Columbus, Ohio were subjected to unwanted sexual comments and behavior from supervisors and bankers. The EEOC described the Columbus office as “sexist” with an “uncivil atmosphere.” When the women complained refused to participate in the sexually charged activities they were denied lucrative sales calls, training sessions and other benefits.  The suit alleges the women suffered economic harms as a result.

The women contacted the EEOC and filed formal complaints in 2009.

Instead of going to court JP Morgan decided to settle the case and agreed to pay $1.45 million—a tiny fraction for a bank with $2.4 trillion in assets.  

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. said in a press release announcing the settlement, “The EEOC is committed to combating unlawful sex discrimination in the workplace and will hold an employer responsible for fostering an inhospitable and uncomfortable atmosphere for women.”

Lewis added, “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that women enjoy the same terms and conditions of employment as their male counterparts and that their success on the job cannot be conditioned on participating in a sexually hostile work environment.”

The male employees who engaged in the sexually charged behavior no longer work for the bank.

JPMorgan’s spokesperson Amy Bonitatibus told Reuters, “We fully agree with the EEOC that harassment and discrimination have no place in the work environment.”

In addition to paying the settlement, JP Morgan has agreed to develop a call data retention system so they can assure sales call are evenly distributed among all employees. The EEOC praised the bank for settling the allegations.

This was the latest settlement JP Morgan has negotiated with the feds, but the first for sexual harassment. The other settlements pertain their mortgage servicing and banking practices which have cost the bank billions over the past few years.

The EEOC typically limits the monetary awards they seek from businesses. While the EEOC’s employment attorneys are competent and successful at resolving these types of cases, the settlement amounts they secure are typically lower than sexual harassment cases tried by private sexual harassment attorneys—federal agencies put a limit on reward amounts.

When a person files a sexual harassment complaint against their employer, the have to report the incidents to the EEOC, but they can choose who will represent them if they decide to file a civil lawsuit. Private sexual harassment attorneys have advantages over EEOC attorneys. Private attorneys can seek a larger settlement amount; they have a lighter case load and can devote more time to their clients.

Choosing who will represent you is important but it is even more important that an employee speak out about harassment or discrimination because it’s the only way to put an end to the inappropriate behavior.