Teen Latina Packer Was Abused by Supervisor, Then Fired for Complaining, Federal Agency Charged
LOS ANGELES – Adam Brothers Farming, Inc., a farm in Santa Maria, Calif., that harvests and cans vegetables, will pay $27,500 and furnish other relief to settle a federal sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a teen Latina female, the agency announced today.
The victim, a former vegetable packer, initially worked for Adam Brothers without incident in 2004 and 2005, according to the EEOC. Upon return to work in 2006, a male supervisor immediately began sexually harassing the teen by brushing his body against her backside, making lewd gestures with his tongue, asking to perform oral sex on her, and ultimately grabbing her private parts, the EEOC said. The teen reported the harassment to a foreman and was subsequently transferred, disciplined and fired within two weeks of complaint in June 2006. The EEOC contends that the harasser also threatened other workers by stating that the victim’s friends would pay for her sexual harassment complaint.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in September 2009 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Adam Brothers Farming, Inc., Case No. CV 09-06947 JST-PJWx).
The parties entered into a three-year consent decree in which Adam Brothers agreed to pay $20,000 in monetary relief to the teen and $7,500 to Proteus, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides employment procurement assistance and job training to farm workers throughout California’s central valley.
In addition, Adam Brothers also agreed to revise existing policies and complaint procedures to appropriately address sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation, train all staff on those procedures in both English and Spanish, and establish a centralized process for tracking complaints of this nature. The EEOC will monitor compliance and Adam Brothers’ handling of internal complaints for the duration of the decree.
“Our nation’s youngest workers can be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, particularly in the agricultural industry,” said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “Employers must be extra vigilant and ensure a safe environment for our younger workers, especially in industries that continue to have persistent problems of harassment in the workplace.”
Olophius E. Perry, district director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “Federal law expressly forbids employers from taking action against workers for reporting harassment or other types of discrimination. The EEOC is committed to tackling matters of retaliation head-on, since retaliatory acts of this nature can discourage other employees from reporting misconduct to either the employer or our agency.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.