Mixtec Clam Diggers Faced Explicit Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charged
SEATTLE - Northwestern Washington-based Trans Ocean Seafoods, Inc., doing business as New England Shellfish, will pay $75,000 to three female former employees and implement other relief to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, a male employee made sexually explicit comments about and in front of female workers, including a 17-year-old and her mother. He targeted them on a near-daily basis despite numerous requests to stop, the agency alleges, and his words caused some of the women to fear he would sexually assault them.
One of the women reacted to the male employee's conduct with nightmares and problems sleeping, and said that even years later, "I am not the same person as before." Another said, "I just had to fight a lot to be me again. And I feel like Trans Ocean, they took away part of me…It's something that I have to live with."
Sexual harassment violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Trans Ocean Seafoods, Inc., dba New England Shellfish, 2:15-CV-01563-RAJ), after an investigation by EEOC Investigator Annalie Greer and after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.
Under the consent decree resolving this case, Trans Ocean Seafoods has also agreed to implement new policies, conduct extensive training for employees and management, post an anti-discrimination notice at the workplace, and report compliance to the EEOC for a two-year period.
"We have seen how hard it can be even for women with education, celebrity and power to speak out against sexual harassment," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Carmen Flores. "Imagine how difficult it was for these women, two of whom do not read or write and can only speak Mixtec. No one should have to endure sexual harassment just to feed and shelter themselves and their families."
Nancy Sienko, Seattle field director for the EEOC's San Francisco District, added, "Protecting vulnerable workers and addressing systemic harassment are both top priorities for the EEOC. We hope that this case sends a clear message that the EEOC will hold accountable employers who fail to protect their employees from workplace harassment."
Trans Ocean Seafoods has a business office in Bellingham, Wash., and a processing plant in Mt. Vernon, Wash.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.