PENDLETON, Ore. -- Schiemer Farms of Nyssa, Ore., will pay $14,500 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that management at the farm permitted the sexual harassment of two female farmworkers by one of its male employees, and then unlawfully retaliated against the harasser's victims when they complained.
According to the EEOC’s suit, a driver for the farm sexually harassed Theresa Arias and Rebecca Jones on their first day at work when he made vulgar remarks, provided lewd details about his sexual life and rubbed his groin against one of the women. Arias and Jones both reported his conduct to farm management and asked that it stop immediately. The EEOC’s suit alleged that the following day when they arrived to work, Schiemer management told them, "You girls can go home, we don't need any more trouble."
Sexual harassment, and firing employees who speak out against it, are violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This suit (EEOC v. Schiemer Farms 3:08-CV-114; U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon) was filed after a neutral investigation by EEOC investigator Meiju Ong and after first attempting to reach voluntary settlement out of court.
As part of the settlement, Schiemer Farms agreed to pay Arias and Jones $14,500, and the company will review its policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation; train managers and supervisors about discrimination prohibited by law; and voluntarily provide information to the EEOC concerning its handling of Title VII-related complaints.
“On their first day at work, these women faced outright sexual harassment by a co-worker, and they had the courage to report the problem to management right away,” noted EEOC Seattle Field Office Director A. Luis Lucero, Jr. “I hope the positive results from this settlement will encourage other workers, especially new hires who may feel uncertain about asserting their rights while on probation. No one should have to endure harassment as a condition of employment.”
“Employers should encourage workers to speak out about sexual harassment, not fire them for doing so,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo. “We look forward to working with Schiemer Farms to improve its response to this type of situation in the future.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.