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Egg supplier settles EEOC sexual harassment suit

Egg supplier settles EEOC sexual harassment suit

An egg supplier has reached a $650,000 settlement in a case in which a supervisor allegedly demanded sexual favors over a seven year-period from a female laborer in return for keeping her job.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Thursday said a supervisor at a Lind, Wash., egg farm operated by Everett, Wash.-based National Food Corp. took advantage of the laborer, who worked alone in a henhouse, by physically grabbing her and demanding weekly sex from her from 2003 to 2010.

The EEOC said when her co-workers raised complaints about sexual harassment to company management, they were fired or forced out of their jobs in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to the $650,000 fine under the consent decree resolving the lawsuit, the company agreed to issue equal employment opportunity policies in English and Spanish to employees in eastern Washington state and South Dakota; ensure that its complaint procedures are accessible; train its management; and hold supervisors accountable for any discrimination, harassment or retaliation under their watch.

National Food also agreed to report harassment complaints to the EEOC for four years, and to not rehire the alleged harasser in any capacity.

“This lawsuit is another in an unfortunate pattern of employers taking advantage of female agricultural workers who often work in isolation and are unaware of their rights,” David Lopez, general counsel of the EEOC, said in a statement. “It is one of the EEOC's national priorities to combat discrimination against vulnerable workers, and we hope that this settlement sends a message to other employers that they need to be vigilant to prevent sexual harassment and other abuse.”

A company spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Last year, the EEOC reached a $350,000 settlement with Fresno, Calif.-based Giumarra Vineyards Corp. in a case in which the company was charged with failing to take action after a 17-year-old female farm worker and others complained of sexual harassment and were subsequently fired in retaliation.