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Press Release 03-15-2013

Colorado Potato Warehouse Pays $255,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

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  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.