Judge Orders Dried Fruit Processor to Pay $1,470,000 for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

 
Monday, July 25, 2016
 

A federal judge has ordered Z Foods, Inc., once one of the largest dried fruit processors in the United States, to pay $1,470,000 in damages in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). 

EEOC had charged that Z Foods allowed male supervisors to sexually harass a class of female employees and fired male and female employees when they complained about the sexual harassment. The court awarded the maximum allowed by the statute, offset by a previous settlement, and ruled that the claimants suffered severe emotional distress as a result of actions of Z Foods.  

The court found that two supervisors for the Madera, Calif.-based company subjected multiple female farmworkers to ongoing sexual harassment. The sexual harassment took the form of conditioning promotions and employment on sexual favors, continuous sexual advances, stalking female employees and unwanted physical touching and leering. Male employees, who witnessed the egregious harassment, complained about the abuse alongside their female employees. These employees were retaliated against and discharged soon after their complaint.

After an investigation, EEOC filed suit against both Z Foods and its predecessor, Zoria Farms, in September 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleging that the sexual harassment and subsequent retaliation violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (EEOC v. Zoria Foods, Inc., Z Foods, Case No. 1:13-at-00698). In April 2015, Zoria Farms settled the EEOC claim against it for $330,000 and a five-year consent decree containing injunctive remedies.

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