Posted On: August 21, 2009 by

Wilcox Farm Pays $260,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Wilcox Farms, which operates dairy and egg production facilities in Oregon and Washington, will pay $260,000 and provide remedial relief to settle a federal sexual harassment and retaliation suit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The lawsuit alleged that a male supervisor repeatedly grabbed, sought to forcibly undress and propositioned Wilcox Farms employee Diana Dominguez at its Aurora, Ore., facility. According to the federal agency’s investigation, the sexual harassment continued over many months despite Dominguez’s complaints to management, to the point where she began to fear for her physical safety. The EEOC found that Wilcox retaliated against Dominguez for reporting the harassment by isolating her from co-workers, forcing her to continue to work with the harasser and pressuring her to resign. Dominguez ultimately was forced to quit out of fear for her safety-which meets the legal definition of retaliation.

Under the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, Wilcox Farms denied any wrongdoing but will pay Dominguez $260,000. The company also agreed to adopt and to distribute to all employees a sexual harassment policy written in both English and Spanish; make its complaint procedures more convenient for employees to report harassment and retaliation; conduct sexual harassment training in English and Spanish for all managers, supervisors and employees; and to provide various reports to the EEOC over a three-year period.

EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "This case involved a supervisor’s serious abuse of power over a female employee. Employers must take every report of harassment seriously. They shouldn’t dismiss such behavior as ‘the cost of doing business’ or ignore problems in hopes that they will go away. The law requires them to quickly and effectively respond to such complaints. Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal – no one should be required to work in a hostile environment.”

This type of harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Many times employers realize that the employee is in a very vulnerable position and needs their job to support their family. In this case the supervisor thought the employee would be too scared to come forward and challenge him--he of course was wrong.

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