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PRESS RELEASE
10-4-12

Egg Giant National Food Sued by EEOC for Sexual Harassment

Agency Says Employer Failed to Stop Supervisor's Sexual Demands, Retaliated Against Employees Who Spoke Out

SEATTLE -  National Food Corporation, a major supplier of eggs to the Pacific Northwestern and Midwestern United States and East Asia, violated federal law by allowing a supervisor to demand sex from a female employee as the price of keeping her job, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. 

The EEOC's suit charged that a supervisor at National Food's egg farm in Lind, Wash., physically grabbed a female worker and repeatedly demanded sexual favors in order to keep her job.  On a day-to-day basis, he was the only management employee on site supervising ten barns, and he took advantage of the fact that each barn was assigned one woman working in isolation, according to the EEOC's investigation.   The supervisor made sexual demands several times a week, and the harassment continued for years.  When employees raised complaints about sexual harassment, they were fired or forced out of their jobs.

"I suffered humiliating and disgusting demands from my boss," said the barn worker, who relied on her job at National Food's farm to support her mother and her daughter for almost seven years.  "He should never have been allowed to have this kind of power."

Sexual harassment violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964.  After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v.  National Food Corp., CV-12-00550-TOR.) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of the female victims, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.

"All workers have the right to a workplace free of harassment," said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo, whose office has jurisdiction over Washington State.  "Having to choose between performing sex acts and letting your children go hungry is a choice no one in America should have to make."  

"This kind of appalling abuse of power should not occur in the workplace, whether it is in an office or on an isolated chicken farm," said Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC's San Francisco District Office.  "The law holds employers responsible for making sure that their supervisors realize that sexual harassment will not be tolerated."

Tamayo cited recent EEOC sexual harassment lawsuits involving vulnerable workers:

  • Yesterday, EEOC filed suit against River Point Farms in Hermiston, Ore., which calls itself America's largest onion grower, for violating federal law when a supervisor reinforced the domestic abuse of a female employee with workplace harassment and retaliation.
  • Allstar Fitness, located in Seattle, Wash., resulting in a $150,000 settlement on behalf of a janitor repeatedly raped, then fired for refusing her supervisor's sexual demands;
  • Woodburn, Ore.-based Wilcox Farms, resulting in a $260,000 settlement in a sexual harassment case jointly prosecuted with the Oregon Law Center that involved a physical sexual assault; 
  • ABM Industries, Inc., a Fortune 1000 provider of commercial cleaning services nationwide, in which the employer paid $5.8 million to a class of 21 janitorial workers who were sexually harassed by 14 male coworkers and supervisors, including one who was raped by a supervisor.  

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.