Ten Female Potato Sorters Sexually Harassed by Same Supervisor Over Six-Year Period, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER - The Spud Seller, Inc., a potato wholesaler in the San Luis Valley outside of Monte Vista, Colo., has agreed to pay $255,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, EEOC v. Spud Seller, Inc. 10-cv-02381-MSK-KLM, a warehouse supervisor repeatedly harassed female hourly employees, including 10 identified women who worked as potato sorters. After one of the women filed a charge with the EEOC in 2009, the EEOC conducted an investigation which uncovered more women who alleged sexual harassment. The women, who worked for the company at different times, alleged their supervisor made sexual comments, groped and touched them, exposed himself and solicited sexual acts over a period from June 2004 through 2010. The first complaint about his conduct was brought to management in June 2004. The supervisor was eventually fired by Spud Seller in 2012.
Sexual harassment, and an employer's failure to stop sexual harassment about which it knew or should have known, violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief to the employees, the three-year decree settling the suit enjoins Spud Seller from engaging in harassment on the basis of sex. Spud Seller has agreed to train its current and future managers and employees on anti-discrimination laws and to post notices stating its commitment to maintaining an environment free of sexual harassment.
"Employers have a responsibility to maintain an environment free of sexual harassment for all workers," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Here, a member of management was the harasser and some of the victims were immigrants. These immigrant workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation, and we will continue to vindicate their civil rights. This settlement achieves the EEOC's objectives by providing important training to the managers and all employees to prevent this kind of misconduct in the future, and brings appropriate monetary relief to these 10 victims."
Nancy Sienko, field director of the EEOC's Denver Field Office, said, "We are very interested in attacking illegal discrimination in sparsely populated and underserved areas like the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. We believe it is important to let residents of areas like this know that we are here for them as a resource, and we encourage them to stand up and report discrimination when they believe it is happening to them. The EEOC considers protecting immigrant, migrant and other vulnerable workers from discrimination and harassment a priority under the Strategic Enforcement Plan."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov. The EEOC's Denver Field Office, located at 303 East 17th Avenue, Suite 410, in Denver, enforces federal anti-discrimination laws in Colorado and Wyoming.