In a landmark victory, a federal jury unanimously decided to award a $17 million settlement to five women farmworkers who were subjected to sexual harassment and intimidation.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, three male supervisors at Moreno Farms “engaged in graphic acts of sexual harassment” within the Florida packing house that included rape, attempted rape, propositioning and groping.
Sandra Lopez, who came to the United States from Chiapas, Mexico to provide for her child, said she was dragged into a supervisor’s trailer and raped for half an hour, according to the Miami New Times.
The five women in the case were all fired for refusing the supervisors’ sexual advances, according to the lawsuit.
The EEOC filed the suit in August 2014, hoping for not only justice for the wronged employees but greater awareness of the special challenges women farmworkers face, especially those who are undocumented.
EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said:
“We are committed to ensuring that all immigrant and vulnerable populations are protected by the anti-discrimination laws, and this is the latest in a number of successful cases that we have litigated to stop these discriminatory practices.”
Unfortunately, it may prove difficult to collect the $17.4 million. As the case was concluding, the Moreno Farms packing plant abruptly closed and its owner fled to avoid jailing.
The Florida attorney who represented the women, Victoria Mesa, said that it’s still a significant ruling regardless.
“It’s really an important win for Florida farmworkers, who need to know that they have rights regardless of their immigration status.”
Media Resources: EEOC press release 9/10/15; Miami New Times 3/10/15; 9/10/15;