By Eve Tahmincioglu
msnbc.com contributor
updated 9/3/2010 2:13:42 PM ET 2010-09-03T18:13:42

A large building-maintenance company will pay $5.8 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the government involving 21 Hispanic female workers who had to endure everything from explicit sexual comments to rape.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Thursday the settlement with ABM Industries Inc. and two of its janitorial subsidiaries. The charges date back to 2001.

The EEOC said the victims faced  “varying degrees of unwelcome touching, explicit sexual comments and requests for sex by 14 male co-workers and supervisors, one of whom was a registered sex offender. Some of the harassers allegedly often exposed themselves, groped female employees’ private parts from behind, and even raped at least one of the victims.”

The agency charged that ABM failed to respond to the complaints creating a “dangerous and hostile environment” but many of the harassers were not fired as a result.

ABM, which reported in 2009 as having 91,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, said it "takes these issues very seriously".

"We constantly strive to provide all of our employees a professional and safe work environment free of harassment of any kind,” said Sarah McConnell, ABM's senior vice president and General Counsel. “While the consent decree explicitly denies wrongdoing by our company, we are pleased to resolve this matter in a manner consistent with our commitment to leading policies and practices.”

ABM provides janitorial, security and landscaping services. The New York City-based company turned 100 years old in 2009 and now reports more than $3.5 billion in sales.

Last year, the EEOC received nearly 12,700 sexual harassment charges.

“Despite progress, sexual harassment remains a significant problem for our nation’s workforce,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.

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