FRESNO, CA Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that leading dried fruit processor Z Foods Inc. will pay $1,470,000 in damages after allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation.
Male supervisors at Z Foods purportedly harassed a class of female employees. A court specifically found that two male managers allegedly subjected these employees to ongoing harassment in the form of conditioning promotions and employment on sexual favors. Male employees witnessed the harassment and complained about it alongside their female counterpoints, according to the EEOC. Z Foods then purportedly fired the female employees as well as the male employees.
"EEOC continues to see sexual harassment and retaliation in the agricultural industry," Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District, said. "The solidarity that male employees displayed here in supporting and speaking up along with their female co-workers about the severe harassment is a critical component of remedying the pervasive problem of sexual harassment. The court's findings vindicate the courage it took for these workers to stand up and demand a workplace free of sexual harassment."
The damages awarded by the court were the maximum amount allowed by the statute.
"Workers have the right to voice their concerns about a sexually hostile work environment without fearing repercussions from their employer,” Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC's Fresno Local Office, said. “With this ruling, the court sends the message that employers who ignore or punish employees for complaining of harassment leave themselves open to greater liability."
After an investigation, EEOC filed suit against both Z Foods and its predecessor, Zoria Farms, in September 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleging that the sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.