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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SUES FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF 17 YEAR OLD LATINA

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Article 16-49

¡No Se Deje!

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Guimarra Vineyards Corporation for allowing a 17 year old Latina farm worker to be sexually harassed.  The government accused Guimarra, one of the largest growers of grapes in the country, of ignoring complaints and requests for help by the victim and other farm workers.  Guimarra was also accused of firing the victim and 3 other farm workers the day after they complained of the sexual harassment.  Guimarra uses the label “Nature’s Partner”.

 

The Federal lawsuit stated that a co-worker of the victim harassed the victim daily by repeatedly asking the young girl to have sex with him, touching her inappropriately, and describing the sexual acts he wanted to perform on her.  The victim strongly and repeatedly refused and reported the misconduct to Guimarra representatives who did nothing to stop the illegal acts.

 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to harass employees because of their sex and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees that complain of employment discrimination.  Federal Government officials filed the lawsuit after their attempts to reach a settlement with Guimarra failed.  Guimarra representatives denied the accusations.

 

Anna Park, an attorney for the EEOC said “the government takes seriously when teenage victims are subjected to egregious acts of sexual misconduct in the workplace.  Moreover, aggressive acts of retaliation against workers who exercise their right to oppose unlawful harassment will not be tolerated.”  Marla Stern, the director of the San Diego EEOC office said “Employers must understand that they have an obligation to their employees to provide a safe workplace free of the type of harassment that took place here.  Retaliating against an employee for complaining of such unlawful harassment is as much a civil rights violation as the harassment itself.”

 

The lawsuit was filed in a Federal District Court requesting a court order to stop the discriminatory sexual harassment at Guimarra.  It also requested that the fired employees be paid back pay, and money to compensate them for all damages and losses resulting from the unlawful firing.  And, the lawsuit requested that Guimarra be ordered to pay punitive damages to punish Guimarra for their outrageous misconduct in this case. The lawsuit also asked that the unlawfully fired employees be paid for the emotional distress and pain and suffering they suffered due to the illegal acts and behavior.

 

In a press release the Federal Agency announced that Guimarra would settle the lawsuit, agreeing to comprehensive and sweeping changes of company procedures in dealing with discrimination and retaliation, affecting up to 3000 employees and to expend a total of $350,000.00 to resolve EEOC’s case.

 

The lawsuit by the Federal Government in this case is very important because it sends a message to employers that exploiting and abusing immigrants in violation of the law will not be tolerated.  It is significant that no mention is made of the immigration status of the victims.  Employers should note that every employee, regardless of immigration status, is protected by Federal Civil Rights laws and violators will be punished. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.