Sexual harassment remains a serious problem in the workplace. Our Award Winning New York Employment Law Attorney often speaks about gender discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This blog will discuss a recent case where at least 13 female employees were subjected to physical and verbal sexual harassment at work. To add insult to injury, 3 female employees were fired after they complained of the harassment. It is important for victims of sexual harassment to speak up. Contact our office for a confidential consultation to learn your rights, options and how to protect yourself in an abusive environment.
The Complaint’s Allegations of Sexual Harassment
The female workers were employed at Smokin’ Spuds Inc. d/b/a MountainKing Pot which operated a potato packing plant in Colorado. The Complaint alleges that Production Supervisor Samuel Valdez engaged in sexually inappropriate activity and harassed the female employees. Specifically, it was alleged that Mr. Valdez pulled one of the female employees who reported to him into his office, turned off the lights and forced her to sit on his lap. Second, it was alleged that the supervisor made sexually offensive comments, gestures and advances to the female employees. Third, as if that was not bad enough, it was alleged that he inappropriately touched the female employees and licked his finger and put in the ear of a female employee. Clearly, the alleged conduct was offensive and did not stop even though the female employees complained and asked for it stop. Finally, it was alleged that the supervisor retaliated against the employees when they rejected his advances by giving them less favorable assignments and disciplining them. The employees did not allegedly get any help from management who refused to take steps to stop the harassment. Because the harassment was not stopped, it allegedly went on for years.
As described above, although it is important to speak up and complain, if management does not take appropriate remedial action, it is important for employees to seek counsel from an experienced employment lawyer.
Here, only after a lawsuit was initiated against the Company (the Company had rejected conciliation efforts during the EEOC’s administrative process), was some action taken. Although the Company denied any wrongdoing or liability, the parties agreed to a consent decree that was filed with the court.
The Terms of the Consent Decree
As part of a resolution, the Company agreed to, among other things, pay $450,000 and agree to undertake certain actions. Specifically, the Company agreed to expunge the personnel files of any inappropriate discipline, provide references to the employees and provide letters of regret. More importantly, the employment of the production supervisor who was alleged to have done the harassing was terminated. The Company also agreed to conduct EEO training and develop policies.
This is a important victory for the female employees and their advocates. According to EEOC General Counsel David Lopez, “This case is the latest in a long-series of cases challenging sexual harassment in the agricultural industry, often directed at immigrants from Mexico and Latin America.” The EEOC further stated that it believed the lawsuit and “the significant relief obtained in this settlement will send the message, not only to the defendants, but to the entire produce packing industry, that EEOC will not tolerate this kind of abuse – or retaliation for complaining about it.”
If you or someone you know if being harassed in the workplace, contact our Award Winning NYC Employment Lawyer at (800) 893-9645 to learn your rights, options and how to seek damages for sexual harassment. Read here for top 5 things to do if you are a victim of sexual harassment.
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