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Heard on the Beat / Corporate

Mitsubishi Unit Not Part of Rights Case

July 31, 1996

John McElroy, an executive at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, says he's grown weary of trying to explain that the Cypress-based company is separate from Mitsubishi's car-making plant in Illinois.

It is at the Normal, Ill., plant that alleged institutionalizing of sexual harassment has resulted in a massive federal civil rights suit.

His company, McElroy says, has never been sued for sexual harassment and in fact has required since 1985 that every new employee--not just managers--attend a three-hour course on understanding and preventing sexual harassment.

Mitsubishi Motor Sales also has a long-standing voluntary affirmative action program, McElroy said. About 35% of the import and distribution company's 640 employees are female, including three of 10 vice presidents.

Still, when Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America recently announced that it would institute a series of programs and policies aimed at eradicating gender problems at its Illinois plant, it said it would extend efforts to the Orange County operation and would send a team to audit things in Cypress and make appropriate recommendations.

Let them come, McElroy says.

"We appreciate any advice they can give us to help make us the best workplace possible, but I would expect that they are going to find that we already are pretty good in these areas and that what they recommend will be more in the nature of fine-tuning," he said.

At the Illinois factory, for example, Mitsubishi's consultant has recommended a job-posting program so female workers will be informed of all available openings. "We've had one here for 10 years," McElroy said.

John O'Dell covers major Orange County corporations, manufacturing and economic issues for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5831 and at john.odell@latimes.com

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