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Judge awards $1,470,000 in damages for sexual harassment

A California agricultural processor has been ordered to pay $1,470,000 in damages as the result of a lawsuit brought by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit once again calls attention to management-sanctioned sexual harassment by supervisory employees.

In 2013, the EEOC investigated allegations of sexual harassment and retaliatory actions by management at Z Foods, Inc., a large food processor based in Madera, California. Based on findings of the investigators, the EEOC commenced a lawsuit in September 2013 charging that Z Foods, Inc. allowed male supervisors to carry on a pattern of sexual harassment against a class of female employees. If an employee complained to management about the harassment, the employee, regardless of gender, was fired.

At trial, the court found that two male supervisors sexually harassed female farmworkers by demanding sexual favors in exchange for promotions, making repeated sexual advances and showing unwanted and inappropriate attention. The court also found that both male and female employees were fired if they tried to alert management to the harassment. After concluding that the victims of the harassment suffered severe emotional distress, the court awarded the maximum damages allowed by statute after discounting the award for amounts paid in a previous settlement.

This case was investigated and prosecuted by the EEOC, but the EEOC does not have the resources to take on all of the cases that are presented to it. Many other cases must be brought by employees who have retained their own attorneys to seek redress. A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment cases can provide an analysis of the facts, develop legal strategies and aggressive representation in the courtroom.

Source: National Law Journal, "Federal Judge Awards $1,470,000 in EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Case Against Z Foods," July 24, 2016

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