Agricultural company settles EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit

Posted in Sexual Harassment on March 3, 2014

We often write about incidents of sexual harassment that occur in office settings. But it is important to remember that workplace sexual harassment can occur in whatever a given workplace happens to be. That can include factories, stores and even outdoor locations like farms.

In fact, there have been many incidents in recent years of sexual harassment and even sexual assault occurring in agricultural settings here in California and other states along the West Coast. A recent case from Washington State highlights the type of pervasive sexual harassment that farm workers are sometimes subjected to.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that a Washington-based company has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the federal agency. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of male farm workers who endured nearly two years of harassment from an orchard supervisor.

The supervisor, who is also male, allegedly subjected the workers to unwanted touching and sexual comments that sometimes became threatening. At least one of the workers informed supervisors of what was happening, but he eventually quit when they failed to do anything about the harassment.

According to the Associated Press, the company produces apples, cherries and blueberries. It is also among the world’s top producers of hops, a plant that is commonly used as a bitter flavoring agent in beer.

It is unclear if the orchard supervisor has been fired, but the terms of the settlement call for the company to make several changes including improving its complaint procedure. This is in addition to the $85,000 the company has agreed to pay.

Every worker deserves to be respected by their coworkers and supervisors, no matter what their particular work environment happens to be. Thankfully, the EEOC’s lawsuit sent the message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated anywhere.

Source: Seattle Times, “Hop grower to pay $85k for sexual harassment,” Mar. 2, 2014