$150,000 Settlement in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Onion Grower

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Hermiston, Ore., farm which calls itself America's  largest onion grower will pay $150,000 to a female worker and provide other relief to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC's lawsuit charged that a seasonal farm worker for  River Point Farms faced relentless verbal abuse from her male supervisor from  2005 to 2010.  In addition to unwanted  sexual comments and requests for sexual favors, the supervisor constantly told the  female employee that women are inferior to men and that she should submit to beatings  by her husband, a co-worker employed at River Point.

More than once, the EEOC said, the supervisor publicly encouraged  the woman's husband to kill her.  After  her spouse attempted to kill her in September 2010, the supervisor blamed her  for causing her husband's arrest and fired her.   Although River Point later allowed her to return to work, the company  nonetheless laid her off much sooner than others and did not rehire her for  several months while others were hired in her stead, a retaliatory act for her  complaints about the supervisor's abusive and discriminatory treatment, the  EEOC said. 

Gender-based harassment and retaliation for reporting it  violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  After first attempting to reach a voluntary  settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. RPF Holdings, LLC dba River Point Farms LLC CV-12-01765-SU) in  U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The worker was also represented  by private counsel from Legal Aid Services of Oregon and the Oregon Law Center.

In addition to monetary damages, River Point has also agreed  to rehire the worker, issue EEO policies in English and Spanish to all of its  employees; institute changes to ensure that its complaint procedures are  accessible; train its management; and hold supervisors accountable for any discrimination,  harassment, or retaliation under their watch.   In addition, River Point will report harassment complaints to the EEOC  for three years, and will not rehire the alleged harasser in any capacity.

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