Company Ignored Supervisor's Explicit Sexual Harassment, Retaliated Against Workers, Federal Agency Charges
SEATTLE - Northwestern Washington-based Trans Ocean Seafoods, Inc., doing business as New England Shellfish, violated federal law by allowing a supervisor to sexually harass four female workers and by retaliating against three of the victims and a male employee who tried to help them, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, a supervisor subjected four Latina workers to explicit and graphic commentary about their body parts and what it would be like to have sex with them, on a near daily basis despite numerous requests to stop. The EEOC also alleges the company retaliated against three of the women and a male employee after one or more of them complained internally and three of the female victims filed EEOC charges about the supervisor's conduct. One of the female claimants, who does not allege retaliation, was forced to resign after management did nothing to stop the supervisor's worsening behavior.
Sexual harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Trans Ocean Seafoods dba New England Shellfish, 2:15-cv-01563) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages on behalf of three parties and two class member victims, and injunctive relief which can include training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and compliance reporting.
"According to EEOC's investigation, one of these workers was 17 years old when she was made the object of extremely crude and explicit talk. Her mother was another worker who endured obscene language aimed at her and her child. Two of the women were particularly vulnerable because they do not read or write and can only speak Mixtec," said Nancy Sienko, EEOC Seattle Field Director. "EEOC will vigorously enforce the law to remedy harassment, particularly when those who suffer are vulnerable, low-wage workers."
EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Jonathan Peck said, "EEOC also contends that Trans Ocean failed in its duty to keep employees safe and to respond to their complaints in a timely and effective manner. The supervisor's sexual intimidation and the employer's lack of corrective action forced one of the claimants to quit to escape the hostile work environment. No one should be forced to choose between earning a living and living free from harassment."
Trans Ocean Seafoods has a business office in Bellingham, Wash., and a processing plant in Mt. Vernon, Wash.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov .