EEOC Sues Fresh Venture Foods for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

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LOS ANGELES — Fresh Venture Foods, LLC, a produce processing and shipping company based in Santa Maria, California, violated federal law when it failed to prevent and correct ongoing sexual harassment and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the lawsuit, the federal agency alleges that since 2016, male employees of Fresh Venture Foods and different staffing agencies subjected female workers at the Santa Maria, California facility to ongoing verbal and physical sex harassment. The harassment included frequent, unwanted groping of their bodies; unwelcome sexual advances and comments about their appearance; propositions for sex; and repeatedly asking them out on dates.

The EEOC contends that Fresh Venture Foods failed to adequately respond to multiple complaints of sexual harassment, by ignoring them or failing to take appropriate action to stop the harassment. Instead, the EEOC says, the female employees who reported the misconduct were subjected to further harassment, assigned to more strenuous work, and intimidated in retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment. The lawsuit further alleges that for some employees, the working conditions were so intolerable that they felt they had no choice but to quit.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Fresh Venture Foods, LLC, Case No. 2:21-cv-07679) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the complainants and class members as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent Fresh Venture Foods from engaging in further discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

“The EEOC sees that sexual harassment remains a problem in the agricultural industry,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District. “We will continue to vigorously enforce anti-discrimination laws on behalf of farmworker women.”

Rosa Viramontes, district director of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District, added, “Unfortunately, sexual harassment and retaliation remain present in today’s workplace. The EEOC is unequivocal in our steadfast commitment to address discrimination, especially in industries where we find those most vulnerable to harassment and retaliation.

Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

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