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Santa Cruz agricultural company sued for sexual harassment against strawberry worker

Time to Read: 3 minute
Santa Cruz agricultural company sued for sexual harassment against strawberry worker
Santa Cruz agricultural company sued for sexual harassment against strawberry worker
Khushbu Kumari

Seeks compensation for damages; and corrective actions to prevent abuse

The California Department of Civil Rights (CRD) filed a lawsuit against the company Ayoquezco Farms and its owner for alleged sexual harassment and assault against a temporary strawberry worker.

In the complaint, the CRD alleges that the owner of the company headquartered in the city of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County subjected the plaintiff to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, including sexual assault and crude sexual comments during and after work.

The name of the business owner was not revealed, and of course the identity of the worker who reported the attacks.

The CRD revealed in a statement that it is seeking to remedy and prevent the alleged case of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against the Watsonville worker.

“There is no place for sexual harassment in our state” said CRD director Kevin Kish.

“Whether it's in an office or on a ranch, we're committed to protecting the civil rights of California residents. No one has the right to use their position of power to degrade, humiliate and abuse workers,” he said.

He stated that the California Department of Civil Rights will continue to do its part to take action and support those who denounce and report abuse.

It was in November 2021 when the CRD received a complaint against Ayoquezco Farms and her owner for alleged discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.

It was reported that the harassment began within days of the complainant worker being hired in June 2018, and the defendant repeatedly made sexual comments for a period of years until culminating in the alleged sexual assault in 2021.

Per your legal authority,the CRD investigated the administrative complaint and determined in 2022 that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant unlawfully harassed and discriminated against the plaintiff.

They also found that the company and its owner apparently failed to take reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment of female employees.

When the supervisor of Ayoquezco was informed Farms whatever was happening, the defendants allegedly retaliated and escalated the sexual harassment, creating intolerable working conditions, forcing the employee to resign.

Despite these findings, the defendants did not take sufficient steps to remedy the alleged harm and efforts to address the state's concerns, through mediation, failed.

Through the lawsuit, the CDR seeks to repair the damage to the worker, which includes the payment of lost wages, compensation for damages and corrective actions to prevent future discrimination, harassment and retaliation against workers.

Under California law, the CRD is authorized to investigate and prosecute violations of state civil rights laws, including the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

FEHA prohibits private and public employees from discriminating against workers based on sex and other protected characteristics.

CRD ​​has authority to bring civil action on behalf of individuals and the state of California ; and this is a critical part of the state's efforts to address discrimination in the workplace.

Seasonal farmworkers, in particular, remain vulnerable to violence and sexual harassment.

A 2010 study found that 80% of female farmworkers surveyed in California's Central Valley had experienced some form of sexual harassment.

If you know of someone who has experienced discrimination, the CDR can assist you through the process of filing a complaint.


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