Zoria Farms settles farmworker sexual harassment, retaliation case

FRESNO, Calif. -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said two supervisors at the Madera based company sexually harassed farm workers, then fired those who complained.

Zoria Farms has settled a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit involving 10 farmworkers for $330,000, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC said two supervisors at Zoria farms subjected at least four female farmworkers to ongoing sexual harassment including sexual comments, leering, hugging, kissing, requests for dates or sex, and unwelcome physical acts. They said that the four alleged victims and additional farmworkers, both men and women, reported the harassment on several occasions, but the company did not take immediate action as required by law.

In 2008, Zoria Farms sold the company to Z Foods, and the EEOC said seven of the 10 workers were denied hire in retaliation for their complaints. The EEOC's case against Z Foods is still pending in federal court.

Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC's Fresno Local Office, said, "Workers who report sexual harassment in the workplace - even if they were not the direct victims - are protected from retaliation under the laws enforced by the EEOC. Employers cannot fire workers who exercise their federal right to report harassment in the workplace."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.