Federal Agency Obtains $75,000 for Mexican-Born Vineyard Workers
SAN FRANCISCO - Ukiah winery Dunnewood Vineyard, owned by Constellation Wines U.S., Inc., agreed to pay $75,000 and to implement preventative measures to settle a lawsuit for national origin harassment brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC's suit asserts that a Mexican-American supervisor at Dunnewood Vineyard regularly harassed winery worker Julio Perez-Lombera and other Mexican-born co-workers, calling them "wetbacks" and "beaners" and telling them to go back to Mexico when they complained about the illegal harassment. Although the supervisor was also Latino, he was born in the U.S. while the workers he harassed were born in Mexico.
"Until this case, we didn't realize we had rights, or that there are laws to stop that kind of treatment," said Perez-Lombera. "I hope other people facing harassment on the job will realize they have rights, too, and will talk to the EEOC like I did."
Harassment based on national origin violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After an investigation by EEOC Investigator Malihe Kigasari and first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Constellation Wines U.S., Inc., dba Dunnewood Vineyards, Civil No. 11-04437 JSW) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
As part of the settlement, Constellation Wines will pay $75,000 to three workers and agreed to conduct training against national origin harassment for all the employees at Dunnewood Vineyards. The company will also provide copies of its anti-harassment training in both English and Spanish to the employees.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "We hope this case clearly signals that the civil rights laws of this country protect everyone from illegal discrimination, regardless of their ancestry or place of birth."
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, "It's critical that employers educate their supervisors and staff on preventing harassment and discrimination in the language in which their work force is fluent. This is a good result for the workers represented in our case as well as for the future work force at Dunnewood."
Dunnewood Vineyards is owned and operated by Constellation Wines U.S., Inc., based in Victor, N.Y., and is part of one of the world's largest wine and alcohol beverage companies.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.