$240,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Lawsuit Against Orchid Farm

Monday, December 5, 2011

One of the largest  orchid farms in the U.S., Cyma Orchids, Inc., will pay $200,000 to settle a  lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging  pervasive harassment, discrimination and retaliation due to sex and national  origin bias. The farm’s former owner, Taean  Orchids, will pay an additional $40,000.

A class of female Latina greenhouse workers of the Oxnard,  Calif.-based company were sexually harassed continually by supervisors,  managers, and the company’s owners, according to the EEOC. Women were groped  and subjected to unwanted touching of their breasts and buttocks, repeated propositions,  sexual jokes and comments about their bodies. Both Korean and Hispanic male  supervisory staff alike engaged in the widespread sexual harassment which was  also laced with discrimination based on their country of origin. Harassers  allegedly joked about how often Mexican women have sex, and made comments that  Mexican women were “lazy” and “do not know their place.” The EEOC also alleged  that workers who complained about the harassment and discrimination were  retaliated against, including a Hispanic male lead greenhouse worker who was  fired after defending one of the victims.

One of the victims stated, “You  have the right to defend yourself when you suffer abuse. I found the  courage to report the abuse that had happened to me and I also wanted to  prevent the same abuse from continuing against my fellow female co-workers.”

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in  September 2010 on behalf of the class in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California (EEOC  v. Cyma Orchids, Inc., Case No. CV 10-7122 DMG (RZx)), alleging that the conduct violated Title  VII of the Civil Rights Act. California  Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) then intervened into the EEOC’s lawsuit on behalf  of one of the women. CRLA is a non-profit  legal services program that seeks to improve the quality of life for low-income  individuals and farm workers.

As part of settlement, the parties  entered into a two-and-a-half-year consent decree requiring Cyma to assign an equal  employment opportunity (EEO) coordinator to ensure all staff are trained  regarding their EEO rights and responsibilities and the company’s policy and  procedures against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Aside from the monetary relief for the  victims, Cyma is also required to track future complaints by creating a  centralized tracking system and to hold employees accountable for failing to  adequately address those complaints.

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