Last year we discussed a number of cases brought by the EEOC against employers relating to harassment of farmworkers — the most vulnerable workers, according to the EEOC’s strategic enforcement plan. We quoted the EEOC general counsel in relation to the settlement of an “appalling” sexual harassment suit: “It is one of the EEOC’s national priorities to combat discrimination against vulnerable workers, and we hope that this settlement sends a message to other employers that they need to be vigilant to prevent sexual harassment and other abuse.
We noted especially the case of Henry’s Turkey Service — where intellectually disabled workers were paid only $65 dollars per month eviscerating turkeys on an assembly line, and were exploited by being “abused verbally and physically, had their freedom unnecessarily restricted, were subject to harsh punishments, required to live collectively in substandard living conditions, and received inadequate health care.” A jury awarded the workers $240,000,000!
The EEOC has repeatedly said that “Protecting vulnerable workers from disparate pay, harassment, and other discriminatory policies is one of the priorities identified in the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).”
The EEOC just announced that a Colorado moving and storage company which it sued on behalf of Hispanic warehouse workers has agreed to pay what is the largest national origin employment discrimination settlement ever by the EEOC in Utah — $450,000.
The EEOC had alleged a hostile work environment – that warehouse managers called the Hispanic workers racist names and slurs “such as ‘(expletive deleted) Mexicans, ‘(expletive deleted) you, mojado’ [wetback].” After some employees complained, the company retaliated with firings and reducing work hours. Additionally, the company imposed a “restrictive language policy” upon all employees which “had a disparate impact against Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders.”
In settling this case, EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien reiterated — again — that “In its Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC made it a priority to protect workers who are the most vulnerable.”