A federal jury rendered a verdict on Dec. 19, 2018 awarding $850,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to a female farm-worker at Favorite Farms in Dover, Fla., who was raped by her supervisor and reported it to police and management that same day, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
The evidence at trial showed that management at Favorite Farms, which primarily grows strawberries, failed to properly investigate the complaint, and instead sent the victim home from work without pay the next work day. Favorite Farms took no action against the harasser, leaving him to supervise women in the fields, despite evidence that this was not the first complaint of sexual harassment. Instead, Favorite Farms continued retaliating against the victim and forced her to take a leave of absence.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-01292-JSM-AAS) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The Tampa jury of seven returned a unanimous verdict finding that the victim was entitled to compensatory damages of $450,000 and punitive damages in the amount of $400,000.
“This verdict is significant because the jury was able to see the plight of a vulnerable woman at work,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “I want to thank the litigation team which was able to secure this substantial jury verdict.”
EEOC Trial Attorney Oshia Gainer Banks added, “Today’s verdict reinforces every woman’s right to be safe in the workplace. It is unfortunate that, when a woman was raped on their property, Favorite Farms chose to retaliate against their employee rather than take action against its manager.”
Michael J. Farrell, district director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, added, “This verdict also sends a strong message to employers who fail to work together with the EEOC during the administrative phase of any investigation where a violation of the law is found. Stopping sexual harassment continues to be a priority at the EEOC and this verdict shows that we are ready and able to enforce the law.”
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