Poultry Processor Accused of Harassment of Hispanic and Female Employees
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC, violated federal law by subjecting a class of female employees to harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The EEOC said Koch Foods subjected a class of female Hispanic employees in its Morton, Miss., poultry processing plant to various forms of sex-based harassment, including sexual assaults over several years. The lawsuit also accuses Koch Foods of discrimination against a class of male Hispanic employees because of their national origin.
The EEOC lawsuit further contends that Koch Foods allowed or maintained an environment hostile to Hispanic female employees between 2004 and 2008 which involved the same supervisor sexually harassing them. His misconduct included unwanted physical contact such as approaching them from behind while they were working and physically groping and rubbing their bodies, the EEOC said. The lawsuit also alleges that other Hispanic women were victims of attempted sexual assault. The agency contends that employees were warned that they would be subject to reprisal if they complained, and when they protested the conduct, the employees were subjected to escalated and more frequent physical and/or sexual assaults from their supervisor.
The EEOC lawsuit also contends that Koch Foods allowed or maintained an environment hostile to male Hispanic employees between 2004 and 2008 characterized by fear and intimidation. The lawsuit accuses Koch Foods of permitting the deboning area supervisor to frequently punch and hit male Hispanic employees while they worked on the production line and requiring them to pay money for permission to use the bathroom.
Such alleged misconduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Jackson after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the class, along with injunctive relief, to prevent any future harassment of female and Hispanic workers.
“Employers must take responsibility for the conduct of their supervisors and must act to prevent or stop harassment of their workers on any basis,” said Wilma J. Scott, area director for the EEOC’s Jackson Area Office, which received and investigated the charges. “Companies must provide appropriate and effective mechanisms to prevent and correct harassment.”
C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, added, “The EEOC is especially concerned about physical mistreatment of workers in the workplace. When that mistreatment is on the basis of race, national origin or sex, federal anti-discrimination law is there to protect workers from this kind of abuse.”
According to its website, Koch Foods is a supplier of fresh and frozen poultry products to food service and retail operators around the world. Its corporate office is in Park Ridge, Ill.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction for Mississippi, Alabama, and part of Florida (including Pensacola). Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.