One of the country’s largest dried-fruit processors that formerly operated in Madera has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $1.47 million to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC contended that Z Foods Inc., which closed its operation in 2011, allowed male supervisors to sexually harass female employees. The court found Thursday that two supervisors for the company harassed female farmworkers through unwanted touching and leering, stalking and by asking for sexual favors. Co-workers who complained were retaliated against and later fired.
EEOC filed a lawsuit three years ago in U.S. District Court on behalf of 10 employees against Z Foods and Zoria Farms, the company Z Foods bought the business from.
In 2015, Zoria Farms agreed to a $300,000, five-year consent decree agreeing to take several measures to protect workers should the company reopen.
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“Workers have the right to voice their concerns about a sexually hostile work environment without fearing repercussions from their employer,” said Melissa Barrios, director of Fresno’s EEOC office.
“With this ruling, the court sends the message that employers who ignore or punish employees for complaining of harassment leave themselves open to greater liability.”
It is unclear if the employees will receive the money.