Consent Decree Settles Suit Against Tomato Grower Which Fired Women for Complaining About Abuse, Federal Agency Charged
MIAMI – DiMare Ruskin, Inc., a Florida-based tomato grower and produce provider, will pay $150,000 to two female farmworkers and take other steps to prevent and address unlawful harassment and retaliation at its farms and facilities nationwide as part of a three-year consent decree that will resolve a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-00158-UA-SPC, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida) charged that DiMare Ruskin violated anti-discrimination laws when supervisors at one of its Immokalee, Fla., locations subjected two female farmworkers to unlawful sexual harassment during their approximately three months of employment in the 2008-2009 growing season. The EEOC further alleged that DiMare Ruskin fired the women when they opposed the supervisors’ unlawful conduct.
Such alleged conduct violates 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.
As required by the three-year consent decree settling the suit, DiMare Ruskin will establish a nationwide anti-harassment policy for employees to use to communicate complaints to the company. Further, DiMare Ruskin will provide nationwide training to its management and non-management employees on the anti-discrimination laws enforced by EEOC, and will provide information to EEOC concerning its handling of discrimination complaints for three years.
“Sexual harassment against women in the agricultural industry is a big problem,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney of the Miami District Office. “DiMare Ruskin took a major step in the right direction by agreeing to establish nationwide policies and procedures designed to prevent sexual harassment in the future -- and to provide a means for employees to complain when they feel they are being subjected to it. Also, the Coalition for Immokalee Workers should be commended for its role in educating members of the Southwest Florida farmworker community of their rights under federal anti-discrimination laws.”
EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez added, “This is the latest in a series of successful EEOC resolutions nationwide aimed to ensure that the protections of the anti-discrimination laws extend to all employees in this country, even the most vulnerable. To have meaning, we must not allow these protections to be impeded by employment in remote agricultural areas, cultural barriers, or low wages.”
Malcolm Medley, director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, further commented, “It is incumbent upon employers to provide a meaningful mechanism for employees to report unwanted harassment. The EEOC is encouraged that DiMare Ruskin is taking steps to ensure that its nationwide work force is able to report unlawful harassment, and that it will be providing training to all of its employees on their rights and responsibilities under the law.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.