NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk federal judge has decided to accept a settlement in a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit against BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair.
Nine women who work or have worked for the company, started the suit in 2013. The women alleged widespread sexual harassment and systematic discrimination by managers and supervisors, who were nearly all men.
Since 1987, Janet Aviles, one of the named plaintiffs in the suit, has worked for the company. As early as 2006, she filed grievances for sexual harassment and retaliation.
“I didn’t want them to see me cry, but it’s so emotional, and I still get emotional now, just to think about the way I was treated,” she said outside court Wednesday.
According to a 50-page amended complaint, some employees made hostile comments and jokes, and held sexually explicit conversations. The paperwork says a supervisor told a woman, “You don’t look like a pipe fitter, you look like a secretary.”
“I was the only female in the shop where all these men were told that men couldn’t help me lift steel…and I remember talking to one of the gentlemen and he was saying the guys were told not to help me,” Aviles said.
BAE has denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to the settlement case.
Judge Arenda Wright Allen heard the story from both sides in a hearing Wednesday morning.
Under the agreement, BAE is expected to pay $4.6 million to employees who worked for the company between October of 2007 and December of 2014. Part of the settlement will go to attorneys’ fees. Joshua Friedman, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said the 166 women will receive somewhere between $5,000 and $30,000 each. The current and former named plaintiffs will also receive service awards, he said.
BAE will also have to make changes to its sexual harassment policy and promotion decisions by basing them on job related criteria, such as practical and written tests.
In a statement, BAE Systems Spokesman Karl Johnson said:
“We have reached a formal settlement in a case filed against BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, as agreed upon by a judge today. While we deny the allegations in the complaint, we elected to settle the case and put it behind us. BAE Systems values all of our employees and is committed to treating each and every one fairly and with respect. BAE Systems remains dedicated to ensuring an inclusive and diverse workplace.”