Baumann Farms to Pay Over $180,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment, Retaliation and National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Wisconsin’s Largest Ginseng Producer Subjected Female Workers to Hostile Work Environment and Then Fired Them for Resisting, Federal Agency Charged
 

MILWAUKEE – Baumann Farms LLP, a major agricultural company in central Wisconsin, will pay $180,812.50 and provide other significant relief to settle a sexual harassment, retaliation, and national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, female employees at Baumann Farms were subjected to a hostile work environment and harassed by their male super­visor, who propositioned them for sex, sent them sexually explicit photographs and texts, touched them inappropriately, and subjected them to sex-based derogatory comments and threats of physical harm. The employees were also fired for opposing the sexual harassment, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit. The EEOC also charged that Baumann Farms has an English-only policy that discriminates against non-English-speaking Hispanic employees based on national origin. Baumann Farms is located on 500 acres in the Town of Wausau, Wisconsin, and is the largest grower and producer of ginseng in the Midwest.

This alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of their sex or national origin. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Baumann Farms, LLP., Civil Action No. 3:21-cv-00579) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its conciliation process.

The underlying EEOC charge which this lawsuit is based on was filed by Lotus Legal Clinic on behalf of female agricultural workers. Lotus Legal Clinic provides free legal services for victims of sexual violence and human labor and sex trafficking in Wisconsin.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit was entered by U.S. District Court Judge James D. Peterson. In addition to the monetary relief, the decree requires Baumann Farms to hire an onsite internal coordinator and an external equal employment opportunity (EEO) monitor to ensure that the company handles discrimination complaints in compliance with its obligations under Title VII and this decree. The internal coordinator will also conduct investigations of complaints of sexual harassment, national origin discrimination and retaliation.

Baumann Farms will also create and maintain a complaint system that includes a 1-800 hotline and email where discrimination complaints can be made directly to the EEO monitor in either English or Spanish. The decree also requires Baumann Farms to train both management and non-management employees on Title VII’s provisions prohibiting discrimination and retaliation. Baumann Farms will also review, revise and distribute to employees its policies and procedures against sexual harassment and retaliation, which will be written in English and Spanish.

“Sexual harassment remains a problem in the agricultural industry,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “The EEOC will continue to enforce the anti-discrimination laws on behalf of women farmworkers who are vulnerable to harassment and retaliation.”

Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District added, “Every employee has a right to a workplace free from sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC will continue to hold employers accountable to their obligations under Title VII.”

The case was litigated by Senior Trial Attorneys Tina Burnside and Leslie Carter, under the management of Deborah Hamilton of the agency’s Chicago District. That district of the agency is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available 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.

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