Seafood Processor and Staffing Firm Maintained Hostile Work Environment Based on Sex, Federal Agency Charges
BOSTON - Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc. (ACF) and BJ's Service Company, Inc. violated federal law by maintaining and failing to remedy a hostile work environment where female workers were subject to ongoing sexual harassment at the Atlantic Capes Fisheries seafood processing plant in Fall River, Mass., the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's complaint, BJ's hired workers and transported them to the ACF facility in Fall River, where female employees were subject to sexual harassment by line supervisors and managers. The harassment included solicitations for sex, lewd comments about the women's bodies, and inappropriate touching of the women's bodies, the complaint alleges. The women, all Spanish speakers, complained to supervisors and managers at both ACF and BJ's, but despite these complaints the harassment continued, the EEOC charges. Shortly after three of the women filed charges of sex discrimination against ACF and BJ's with the EEOC, two were terminated, EEOC alleges.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating based on sex and from retaliating against those who make complaints about discrimination. Sex harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the statute. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts (EEOC v. Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc. and BJ's Service Co., Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-11860) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
"Federal law grants employees the right to work in an environment free from sex discrimination, including sex harassment," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office. "Gone are the days when a woman on a factory floor must endure lewd comments, propositions for sex, and inappropriate touching in order to earn a paycheck."
The EEOC's New York district director, Kevin Berry, added, "Employees have the right to oppose conduct they reasonably believe violates the law, without fear of retaliation. A decision to end the employment relationship because the employee has complained about sex harassment, or has filed a charge with the EEOC, is contrary to the statute's clear requirements."
The EEOC's New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the commission is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.