BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
An Edison-based grape grower has agreed to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by paying $350,000 and enacting changes in how it deals with harassment complaints.
Giumarra Vineyards Corp. has agreed to use part of the settlement in training its workforce, including hiring a third party to conduct training on sexual harassment and retaliation for thousands of its migrant farmworkers, other employees and incoming new staff, an EEOC news release said. Management and human resources staff will also receive annual training, plus additional training on how to appropriately handle those types of complaints.
Also, the company will revamp its anti-discrimination policies and complaint procedures and make them available in languages the employees understand, the news release said. Giumarra will develop a centralized tracking system and hire someone in human resources to handle discrimination complaints.
"I think it's a win-win not only for the community but also to assist workers in the future," EEOC attorney Anna Y. Park said.
Melissa Barrios, director for the EEOC's Fresno Local Office, serving Kern County, said in the news release that she hopes other growers take seriously the problem of sexual harassment and retaliation faced by migrant farmworkers.
Giumarra released a statement through email saying the company strives to provide a safe and healthy work environment for its employees and that the majority of the settlement is going toward training regarding sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
"While the law only requires supervisors to be trained on these issues, our program will go beyond what the law requires by fully training farmworkers on sexual harassment," the email says. "We are proud that this will be among the most proactive harassment prevention programs in the industry."
The EEOC alleged in a lawsuit filed in late 2009 that a 17-year-old farmworker was subjected to unwanted sexual advances on almost a daily basis A third party complained to management but the company took no effective action to stop the harassment, the lawsuit said.
Then the 17-year-old and three others complained to management and were fired within 24 hours, the lawsuit said. The EEOC said the company tolerated the alleged harassment, creating a hostile work environment, and the firings amounted to retaliation.
Park, the EEOC attorney, said a portion of the settlement will go to the four workers who were fired. "While the law only requires supervisors to be trained on these issues, our program will go beyond what the law requires by fully training farmworkers on sexual harassment,"
Giumarra Vineyards Corp., statement released throught email