Safie Specialty Foods Company, Inc. agreed in January to settle a federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) lawsuit for sexual harassment and retaliation filed by two female workers, one of whom was a temporary employee.
When workers complained about the sexual harassment, they were summarily fired. The harassment and retaliation violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII not only prohibits discrimination based on sex but also retaliation.
As one EEOC official notes, it takes courage for a temporary worker to report sexual harassment. This was especially true under these circumstances, as the person accused of harassment was married to a company manager.
He adds that the EEOC will continue to address such situations, especially when workers are fired rather than a company confronting the harasser’s actions. The officials point out that no company solves a sexual harassment issue by firing those opposing the behavior.
Sexually Hostile Work Environment
According to the lawsuit, the women were subject to a “sexually hostile work environment.” Behind those words were sexual comments and advances made by the head food processing employee. He was also a high-ranking Safie manager’s husband. The wife served as the company’s quality assurance and production manager.
The man allegedly touched the women inappropriately and continually propositioned them. The women also complained of his lurking and staring at them. One of the women said he asked her to meet outside of work for sex at least ten times. He apparently told her he loved her. The woman said she told him she was not only married, but that he was the age of her father. That did not stop the harassment.
The temporary worker notified her supervisor about the harassment to her shift supervisor. A written report was then sent to upper management. The harassment allegations of harassment were confirmed by the full-time female worker, as well as a temporary male employee.
After receiving the complaint, Safie fired everyone involved except the harasser. That includes not only the two female victims but the shift supervisor and the male temporary employee. It was not until the temporary female employee filed her discrimination charge that the company let the head food processor go.
Prior Knowledge of Behavior
The head food processor’s behavior was not unknown to management. Previously, other women had complained about his behavior, but nothing resulted. In fact, his wife allegedly knew that he was sexually harassing female employees. One female worker said that when he found out she was a lesbian, he encouraged her to have sex with the company’s boss to make her more “relaxed.”
Annual Sexual Harassment Training
Under the terms of the settlement, Safie also agreed to provide annual sexual harassment training sessions to employees. The company must send the EEOC regular reports on future sexual harassment complaints and how such complaints were addressed. The agreement forces Safie to modify company sexual harassment policies and procedures.
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