Fisher Nut Company, EEOC settle allegations of reprisal against Latina workers who attended meeting that lead to EEOC charge

Modesto, California-based Fisher Nut Company has agreed to pay $150,000 to seven Latina employees and to implement preventive measures to settle a Title VII lawsuit for retaliation (EEOC v Fisher Nut Co, NDCal, No CV 10-01794), according to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statement on May 9, 2011.

A group of Latina employees suffered numerous consequences for attending an informal meeting that led to the filing of a discrimination charge, the EEOC’s investigation found. Some of the employees faced verbal threats and irrational warnings from their immediate supervisors; in one case, a worker was warned for “laughing during the course of the work day,” the EEOC said. All but one of the workers were moved from various other jobs to the entry-level almond-sorting position, widely considered the least desirable work at the plant, according to the commission. Ultimately, all the women were fired within two months of the informal meeting, the EEOC said.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Fisher Nut admits no liability but will pay $150,000 to the women and train its managers and supervisors on antidiscrimination laws, distribute its antidiscrimination policy to all employees, furnish other injunctive relief, and allow the EEOC to monitor the worksite for the next year.

“Because these workers were vulnerable to retaliation that might be disguised by the seasonal nature of their jobs, it was a priority to pursue this case,” said EEOC Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo.

The number of retaliation charges filed with the EEOC in fiscal year 2010 (36,258) was more than triple the number of sexual harassment charges filed (11,717), and has overtaken race discrimination (35,890 charges) as the number one problem alleged by workers filing complaints with the agency.