Broccoli packer pays $48,000 to settle harassment suit

July 29, 2010 12:03:43 PM PDT
A broccoli packing company based in Salinas has agreed to pay $48,000 and improve employee training to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The settlement with Hilltown Packing Co. was signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Trumbull last week and announced by the EEOC's regional office in San Francisco today.

The agency filed the lawsuit in September after it was unable to resolve claims by Filomena Ruelas, a broccoli packer who alleged she was sexually harassed by comments, propositions and touching by her supervisor.

The lawsuit also claimed other women were sexually harassed. Additionally, it charged that the company retaliated against Ruelas by refusing to rehire her after she complained about the alleged treatment. Ruelas worked for the company for six years, from 1999 to 2005.

The settlement specifies that Hilltown Packing does not admit to any of the allegations by agreeing to the resolution.

Under the pact, the company will pay $48,000 to be distributed by the EEOC to Ruelas and other women workers.

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney David said agency's policy is not to reveal how the money will be allocated among individual workers.

The agreement also provides that the company will reissue its policy against sexual harassment in both English and Spanish and increase anti-harassment training of its employees.

The supervisor who allegedly harassed Ruelas is no longer working for the company, the EEOC said.

EEOC Regional Attorney William Tamayo said, "Women in the agricultural industry are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, especially immigrant women who may not be proficient in English and are unaware of their employment rights."

Tamayo added, "EEOC appreciates Hilltown's cooperation in reaching a settlement."


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