EEOC shows its intent to protect farmworkers in the workplace

October 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Directly from the EEOC website: http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/10-22-14.cfm

Federal Agency Charges County Fair Farm With Subjecting Female Farmworkers to Groping, Verbal Abuse, Solicitations for Sex

BOSTON — County Fair Farm, a farm and produce wholesaler located in Jefferson, Maine, violated federal law by creating and maintaining a sexually hostile work environment for female farmworkers since 2003, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a lawsuit today.

The EEOC charged that female farmworkers were groped, repeatedly propositioned for sex and subjected to lewd comments about their bodies by their supervisors and male co-workers while working at County Fair Farm. The lawsuit alleges that female farm workers repeatedly complained to County Fair Farm about the harassment, but the employer failed to take any action to correct the hostile work environment. In one case, the EEOC said, a female farm worker was subject to increased harassment after she complained and was ultimately forced to leave her job.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who oppose it. The EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. County Fair Farms, 14-cv- 00415-GZS) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary and injunctive relief.

The lawsuit, one of many similar suits filed by the agency in recent years on behalf of farmworkers, underscores the EEOC’s longstanding nationwide commitment to addressing the plight of these vulnerable workers, who are often reluctant or unable to exercise their rights under the equal employment laws.

Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking. Preventing harassment through systemic enforcement and targeted outreach is another specific SEP priority. To learn more about the EEOC’s strategic plan and enforcement priorities, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep.cfm.

“Farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and harassment,” said Robert D. Rose, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “They are entitled to the full protection of our laws, and the EEOC will vigorously enforce those laws when farmworkers are targets of abuse.”

Sara Smolik, trial attorney in the EEOC’s Boston office, added, “County Fair Farm has a responsibility to protect its workers, not tolerate harassment of them.”

For a select list of pending and resolved EEOC cases involving national origin discrimination and/or immigrant workers from 2005 to the present, see
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/litigation/selected/national_origin_immigrant_workers.cfm.
For a select list of pending and resolved cases involving farmworkers from 1999 to the present, see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/litigation/selected/farmworkers_august_2014.cfm.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Boston Area Office’s jurisdiction includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Further information is available at http://www.eeoc.gov.

From the Sensenig Law Firm, P.A.

Employers in agriculture need to be aware that vigilance in monitoring what is happening in the fields, in the groves, in the packing sheds, in the slaughterhouses, in the canneries, MUST occur; to claim “too much area to monitor” will not be an excuse the EEOC, or private counsel, accepts.

Having policies in place, and possibly proper insurance, will provide agricultural employers with defenses and funds to respond to litigation. First and foremost, this is a wake-up call for agricultural employers to be more proactive as to their harassment, discrimination and anti-retaliation policies.

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Pay attention Florida employers, new minimum wage as of January 1, 2015

October 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, FLSA, New employment laws/amendments, wage & hour | 1 Comment
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Florida employers covered by minimum wage and overtime will need to update their posters on January 1,2015.  Minimum wage in Florida will rise from $7.93 to $8.05, and tipped wages will increase from $4.91 to $5.03 per hour.  The Florida minimum wage is currently higher than the federal minimum wage (which we know the increase of is a priority for the current administration) so covered employers must post both the federal and the state minimum wage notices.

Be sure to print the free new poster providing the new minimum wage from the http://www.floridajobs.org site once the updated poster is published.  Failure to do so is risking the ire – and a fine – from the Department of Labor if they happen to drop by to see if you are correctly displaying the new poster.  Be sure your accounting department and payroll companies are aware of this change.  An early Happy New Year to you!

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