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Potato warehouse operators charged with sexual harassment, retaliation


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is charging the operators of a Monte Vista, Colorado-based potato warehouse with sexual harassment and retaliation against its female employees.

The agency said Friday that MountainKing Potatoes, the name under which Monte Vista-based Smokin’ Spuds Inc. and Houston-based Farming Technology Inc. operated the warehouse, created a hostile work environment by permitting managers to sexually harass female employees and retaliating against those who complained about the sexual harassment.

The EEOC said managers repeatedly subjected women farmworkers to inappropriate sexual touching, comments, gestures and propositions, and then punished them in various ways when they complained about it, including by terminating them or assigning them to the least desirable assignments and workstations.

The complaint names four female workers. The companies were charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Farm workers, whether in remote and underserved areas, or isolated in a warehouse, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace, and it is essential for their employers to stop the kind of conduct we charged in this civil action,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Colorado, in a statement. “These workers and their employers must be aware of the laws prohibiting this form of unlawful hostile work environment.”

Spokesmen for the companies could not be reached for comment.

In June, the EEOC reached a $2.4 million settlement of part of litigation filed three years ago in which a farm labor contractor and six farms were charged with national origin discrimination and retaliation in connection with their alleged mistreatment of Thai farm workers.

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