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Vineyard settles harassment and retaliation suit with EEOC

One of the nation's largest grape growers has agreed to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of a 17-year-old female farm worker.

According to this employee, she was sexually harassed by a co-worker. The harassment involved sexual advances, sexually inappropriate touching, and abusive and offensive sexual comments.

She and four other workers complained about this sexual misconduct in the workplace, but all of them were fired the day after they filed complaints with their employer.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit to make the point to all employers, including those in Florida, that sexual harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated. Retaliation against employees for complaining about sexual misconduct is also illegal under federal employment law.

After the lawsuit was filed, this employer agreed to settle the claims. In addition to the monetary component of the settlement, this employer will be required to provide sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination awareness training to all of its 3,000 farm workers. The company will also update anti-discrimination policies and complaint procedures and hire a human resource professional to handle sexual harassment complaints.

By settling this sexual harassment lawsuit, it appears that this employer does indeed value a safe and healthy work environment for all of its employees. Many settlements include terms that change policies and put safeguards in check to prevent further discrimination or harassment, and a large portion of this settlement's resources will be directed there.

Regardless, the company has certainly had a significant change of heart since the original firing of the employee. It may be that they have realized their mistakes and want to move on by setting a new standard in the industry.

Source: kget.com, "Giumarra Vineyards to pay $350,000 to settle sexual harassment suit" July 2, 2012

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