quit their jobs.
Company officials declined to comment on the suit, saying they had not read it. They also declined to release any information about the firm, which deals in wholesale distribution of gift products.
"All four women left their jobs because they couldn't take it anymore," said Val Pleet Wilson, a Philadelphia lawyer representing the women. "We're looking forward to our day in court." Altogether, the women had worked at the Price company for a total of 11 years and earned from $15,000 to $40,000 a year.
According to Dun & Bradstreet, a financial reporting and rating service, the Price company has been in existence since 1929 and has 60 employees. Last year, it had $10.4 million in sales.
Named as defendants in the suit are president Bradford F. Price, treasurer Ed Cummings and employees Carl Krohn, John Sciaretto, David Magpiong, Stuart Berger, Brian Rappa, Jeff Cooper and Paul Fiedler.
The complainants are Dena De Lano and Kimberly A. Francis of Bellmawr and Sandra M. Fell of Stratford and Lillian Denise Williams of Philadelphia. They outlined an atmosphere of sexual harassment dating to 1990.
According to their suit, office manager Sciaretto hung handcuffs and whips on his office wall, "kept a knife in his desk drawer and made bloody drawings on his calendar," the suit alleges.
"The shorter the skirt, the lower the blouse, the bigger the sales," national sales manager Berger once told De Lano, a clerk in her 20s, according to the suit. De Lano repeatedly complained about the conduct of males at the company, the suit states, and when the harassment continued, she
quit her job in 1992.
The women contend that their male counterparts frequently discussed female menstrual cycles.
Francis, who was secretary to company president Price, said he had made ''frequent and constant demeaning comments about females. He would say, 'It must be her time of the month,' " the suit alleges. "Price maintained a calendar showing what he believed to be the menstrual cycles of the female employees," Francis said in the suit.
Francis said she was also harassed by Sciaretto, who wanted her to become his personal secretary.
She received numerous sexually offensive messages from Sciaretto, she said in the suit, and was also sent greeting cards, including one for Christmas. ''The front of the card showed Santa Claus exposing himself," along with an obscene greeting inside.
In all, the suit alleges, Sciaretto was involved in sending more than 700
sexually explicit messages through the company's computer system.
The suit also alleges that some men at the company were paid more than women doing the same work and were promoted sooner.
Since the women left their jobs, they have been working for less money, their lawyer said. Some of them have needed psychological counseling.
The women, who range in age from 21 to 42, are seeking lost wages, commissions and pensions as well as punitive damages.