The largest orchid supplier in the United States settled a class action lawsuit for sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation brought by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The Ventura County Star reported on November 30, 2011, that Cyma Orchids Inc. denied the allegations but agreed to pay $200,000 toward the settlement. Cyma bought the business in 2008 from Taean Orchids, which also denied the allegations but agreed to pay $40,000 to settle the matter.
According to the Ventura County Reporter, the settlement was based on the complaints of seven female employees and one male employee. The EEOC charged that “several women were subjected to unwanted touching of their breasts and buttocks, repeated propositions, sexual jokes and comments about their bodies,” the Star reported. The alleged actions also were laced with discrimination against Hispanics.
The Star also reported that the company retaliated when a Hispanic man who was the lead greenhouse worker defended one of the women, and when Francisca Alvarado Garcia complained in writing. Both were subsequently fired.
“We continue to see persistent problems in agriculture with harassment,” EEOC lawyer Anna Park told the Star. “We are extremely pleased with this settlement and the preventive measures that will be implemented by the company to protect current employees from harassment.”
These types of harassment and discrimination are unacceptable, but it is comforting to hear that as part of settlement, the parties will be entering a two-and-a-half-year consent decree requiring Cyma to assign an equal employment opportunity coordinator to ensure all staff are trained regarding their EEO rights and responsibilities and the company’s policy and procedures against discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Neither quid pro quo nor hostile working environment sexual harassment should be tolerated by any employee.
Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorneys