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Press Release 01-17-2023

Orchard Company to Pay $127,500 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Supervisors Repeatedly Ignored Farmworker’s Reports of Sexual Harassment, Federal Agency Charged

YAKIMA, Wash. — Chief Orchards Administrative Services, a tree fruit business based in Yakima, Washington, has agreed to pay $127,500 to a former employee and to provide other relief to resolve a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Chief Orchards permitted a male picker to harass a female Latina checker over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, despite her repeated reports of the conduct to her supervisor and others. The picker regularly commented about her body and clothes, followed her to the bathroom, and touched her without her permission. Despite assuring her that the picker would not return for the 2018 season, Chief Orchards re-hired him and his harassment continued. After Chief Orchards failed to respond to a physical assault that caused the female farmworker intense distress, she felt she had no choice but to quit out of concern for her own safety.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to investigate and take steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Chief Orchard Services, Case No. 1:21-cv-03125-MKD) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, Chief Orchards will pay $127,500 to the female farmworker and follow corrective measures. Since the company owners have sold the orchards where the farmworker worked and laid off their employees, the decree requires that, should they rehire orchard workers, the company and its owners must develop policies and procedures to recognize, prevent and correct sexual harassment and retaliation. This would include appointing a specially trained Title VII specialist and Spanish-speaking point of contact, and implementing companywide anti-discrimination training.

“The EEOC has made a priority of defending the civil rights of vulnerable workers, and immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment,” said Nancy Sienko, district director for the EEOC’s San Francisco District, which includes Washington State. “We hope this settlement sends a clear message that agricultural employers are required by Title VII to take meaningful steps to prevent and stop the harassment of their female workers.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Amos Blackman added, “No worker should have to endure what this worker went through to earn a living. I applaud her courage to come forward when her employer did not protect her, and hope this settlement brings her some measure of relief.”

For more information on sexual harassment, please visit

The EEOC’s Seattle Field Office has jurisdiction over Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

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