California Employer to Pay $600,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment/Wrongful Termination Complaint
Ramco Enterprises, LP, a California staffing company has agreed to pay $600,000 and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment complaint involving a then 17 year old employee who alleges he was sexually harassed and assaulted by a supervisor.
The teenager who worked the night shift as a sanitation worker filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”), the state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws, in 2017 alleging that he was sexually harassed by his supervisor while working or Ramco at a food processing facility owned by Taylor Fresh Vegetables, Inc.
The complainant contended that his supervisor not only made unwelcome sexual comments, but also engaged in unwelcome touching. He alleges that his supervisor told him to go with him to do a task off-site at which time he sexually assaulted him. After the complainant reported the sexual assault to the police, Ramco terminated his employment.
After the DFEH found cause to believe a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and Ralph Civil Rights Act had occurred, the parties reached a settlement through mediation. The $600,000 settlement includes payment to complainant for emotional distress, attorneys fees to the DFEH and his representative, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. The settlement also requires Ramco to hire a third party monitor for three years to review Ramco’s policies and procedures, make regular visits to the worksite, review complaints of harassment filed by employees, attend human resources meetings at headquarters and submit compliance reports to the DFEH. Taylor Fresh Vegetables, Inc, which denied an employment relationship with the complainant, reached a separate settlement which includes hiring a monitor for a two year period.
While Ramco was the leasing company who directly employed the complainant and presumably the supervisor. While Taylor Fresh Vegetables, Inc. contends it did not employ the complainant, California law would consider it the indirect joint employer for the complainant since he worked at the facility and was directed by its workers while working there. Since the assault took place off site by a supervisor presumably employed by Ramco, the majority of the liability lied with Ramco. This fact pattern highlights the need for background checks, training, reporting procedures, prompt, thorough and unbiased investigations and corrective action to eradicate sexual harassment and assault from California workplaces, The DFEH’s use of third party monitors will hopefully ensure that these workplaces are safe going forward.
For more information on responding to sexual harassment/assault complaints and providing a safe workplace, contact Lisa Sherman at (424) 249-8631 or [email protected]