Roy Farms Sued by EEOC for Male-on-Male Sexual Harassment

SEATTLE - Eastern Washington grower Roy Farms violated federal law by allowing a supervisor to sexually harass male laborers, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

The federal agency alleged that, for nearly two years, the male general manager constantly barraged male workers with inappropriate comments that were both sexual and threatening. He touched them in a sexual manner and asked them to look at him while he urinated in public. According to the EEOC, farm worker Martin Barrera first raised objections to the harasser himself, and then reported the matter to a former supervisor as well as the owner of the farm. When nothing was done to stop the harassment, and he believed his physical safety was in danger, Barrera felt he had no option but to quit, the EEOC said.

"I have worked in the farm industry for many years, and I had never before faced such extreme abuse," said Barrera. "I want this lawsuit to ensure that other farm workers don't have to experience the same mistreatment."

Harassment of employees based on their race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy or religion violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964. After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Roy Farms, Inc., CV-12-03117-TOR.) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Barrera and other male victims, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site, and other injunctive relief.

Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC's San Francisco District, which includes Washington State, said, "Roy Farms had a duty to keep its employees safe, and to respond to their complaints. It failed on both accounts."

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo added, "These were hardworking men who simply wanted to be able to come to work and earn their living. Because of this manager's sexual intimidation and the company's refusal to take corrective action, Mr. Barrera was forced to choose between his personal safety and dignity and his job. No one should have to make that kind of choice, and the EEOC will defend workers' rights to a workplace free from harassment."

Roy Farms is based in Moxee, Wash., and produces apples, cherries, blueberries and hops.