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PRESS RELEASE
5-9-11

Fisher Nut Company to Settle EEOC Retaliation Suit

$150,000 for Workers Who Helped File EEOC Claim

SAN JOSE, CALIF. — Modesto, Calif.-based almond processor Fisher Nut Company has agreed to pay $150,000 to seven Latina employees and to implement preventive measures to settle a federal lawsuit for retaliation, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The EEOC’s investigation found that a group of Latina employees suffered numerous consequences for attending an informal meeting that led to the filing of a discrimination charge with the agency. Some faced verbal threats and irrational warnings from their immediate supervisors; in one case, a worker was warned for “laughing during the course of the work day.” All but one of the workers were moved from various other jobs to the entry-level almond-sorting position, widely considered the least desirable work at the plant. Ultimately, all the women were fired within two months of the informal meeting, the EEOC said.

Retaliation for reporting or complaining about employment discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Fisher Nut Company, Civil Action No. CV 10-01794 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Fisher Nut admits no liability but will pay $150,000 to the women and will train its managers and supervisors on anti-discrimination laws, distribute its anti-discrimination policy to all employees, furnish other injunctive relief and allow EEOC to monitor the worksite for the next year.

“Because these workers were vulnerable to retaliation that might be disguised by the seasonal nature of their jobs, it was a priority to pursue this case,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “The EEOC cannot accomplish its mission of equal employment opportunity unless workers feel secure in their right to speak out against discrimination without the fear of retaliation by their employer.”

EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “I cannot say this enough to employers: Punishing an employee who participates in an EEOC charge will only multiply your problems.”

Baldonado noted that the number of retaliation charges filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2010 (36,258) was more than triple the number of sexual harassment charges filed (11,717), and has overtaken race discrimination (35,890 charges) as the No. 1 problem alleged by workers filing complaints with the agency.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.