U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Farmworker Sexually Assaulted and Retaliated Against for Reporting the Conduct, Federal Agency Charges in Lawsuit
TAMPA, Fla. - Favorite Farms, Inc., a farming business growing a variety of produce in Dover, Fla., violated federal law by subjecting a female farmworker to sexual harassment, including rape, and then suspending and firing her for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, a male supervisor in charge of Favorite Farms' agricultural operations and field labor engaged in egregious sexual harassment toward the woman, including unwelcome sexual comments, forcible physical contact and rape. Although the rape was immediately reported, Favorite Farms undertook no investigation and took no action against the supervisor, forcing the employee to protect herself by obtaining a restraining order. Instead of addressing the problem, the EEOC said, Favorite Farms retaliated against the victim, including suspending her and ultimately firing her.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit against Favorite Farms, Inc. (Case No. 8:17-cv-1292-T30-AAS) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief.
"No employee should be subjected to sexually degrading conduct as a condition of employment," said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC's Miami District Office. "Migrant farmworkers are no exception. They are an important but vulnerable segment of our labor force whose civil rights this lawsuit seeks to protect."
Michael Farrell, director of the Miami District Office, added, "This lawsuit underscores the EEOC's longstanding nationwide commitment to addressing the plight of this vulnerable segment of workers who are often reluctant to assert their rights under our equal employment laws."
Combating discrimination against agricultural workers falls within one of the EEOC's priorities under its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP): protecting vulnerable workers, including immigrant and migrant workers, and underserved communities. Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach is another specific SEP priority. To learn more about the EEOC's strategic plan and enforcement priorities, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep-2017.cfm.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.