Two Local Companies Named In EEOC Harassment Lawsuit
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has charged in a lawsuit that Bornt & Sons, Inc. and its former farm labor contractor Barraza Farm Service, LLC and Barraza Farm Service, Inc. violated federal discrimination laws by allowing the ongoing sexual harassment of female farmworkers.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit two weeks ago and published details in a subsequent press release.
It claims that Bornt & Sons and Barraza also unlawfully retaliated against workers who opposed the harassment as well as those associated with female victims, including their family members.
“We continue to see generations of female farmworkers being subjected to sexual harassment and who are afraid to speak out due to a fear of retaliation,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, which includes Imperial County in its jurisdiction. “This is a continuing concern for the EEOC, which calls for accountability in this industry.”
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a Bornt & Sons’ manager subjected at least four female farmworkers to sexual harassment since 2010. The misconduct, the EEOC said, included unwanted touching and forcible kissing, sexual comments, leering at female workers’ buttocks and offering employment benefits in exchange for sex. In addition, the EEOC contends that Bornt & Sons and Barraza failed to take corrective action when they became aware of the federal investigation into sex harassment, instead moving the harasser to a different farm, where he continued to sexually harass other female farmworkers.
The EEOC alleges that Bornt & Sons and Barraza retaliated against at least four farmworkers who opposed or reported the widespread sexual abuse to management officials by laying them off or failing to rehire them. Bornt & Sons and Barraza also fired at least three farmworkers for their familial association with the sexual harassment victims, according to the EEOC statement.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the claimants and a class of victims, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Rosa Viramontes, district director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “These companies were given the opportunity to step up and rectify the harassment that was occurring in the workplace. Instead, they retaliated against the victims and those that were related to them, along with workers who opposed the harassment. Retaliation like this can chill others from reporting abuses at work and the EEOC is dedicated to holding companies such as these accountable.”
Bornt & Sons, headquartered in Holtville, operates organic farms in Imperial County. Barraza Farm Service is a labor contractor that provides workers to area farms. Barraza Farm Service has locations in Calipatria and Holtville.
The EEOC regularly files suit to assist employees who have claims of harassment or discrimination against their employers.