Washington Grower to Pay $85K to Settle EEOC Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Company Ignored Male Supervisor's Constant Sexual Harassment of Male Subordinates, Federal Agency Charged

SEATTLE - One of the largest hop producers in the world will pay $85,000 to four workers and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC's lawsuit charged that for nearly two years, male workers at eastern Washington grower Roy Farms faced a constant barrage of sexual and threatening comments and physical contact from the orchard supervisor. According to the EEOC, the supervisor would tell workers in vulgar terms that he wanted to have sex with them, and on other occasions, he would caress their faces, backs and buttocks. The EEOC contends that farmworker Martin Barrera objected to the harasser first, and then reported the matter to a different supervisor as well as the farm's owner. When nothing was done to stop the harassment, and he believed his physical safety was in danger, Barrera felt forced to quit, the EEOC said.

Sexual harassment, regardless of the sex of the parties, violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Roy Farms, Inc., 12-CV-03117-TOR.) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington after investigating Barrera's and the other workers'  claims and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Barrera was also represented by private counsel from Seattle-based law firm Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC.

In addition to the monetary damages, Roy Farms also agreed to issue equal employment opportunity policies in English and Spanish to all of its employees in eastern Washington; institute changes to ensure that its complaint procedures are accessible; provide EEO training for its managers; and hold them accountable for any harassment occurring under their watch. In addition, Roy Farms will report harassment complaints to the EEOC for three years.

"There is a persistent misconception that sexual harassment involves only male-on-female conduct, but sexual harassment is illegal regardless of the sex of the victim or the harasser," said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo, whose office has jurisdiction over Washington state. 

Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC's San Francisco District, said, "The abusive treatment these men said they suffered was inexcusable. By entering this settlement, the EEOC was able to ensure that Roy Farms has systems and policies in place to protect its workers from harassment."

Roy Farms is based in Moxee, Wash., and produces apples, cherries, blueberries and hops.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) | Attorney Advertising

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