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Settlement in discrimination suit about California vineyards

Category: Retaliation, Wrongful Termination

A 2013 complaint involving eight Napa Valley vineyard workers was recently settled by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing after two female laborers were fired for voicing concerns. The two women and six male co-coworkers who filed the complaint are set to each receive a share of the $65,000 settlement.

The complaint was against a vineyard management company, a farm labor contractor and a Napa Valley vineyard owner. The problem started when additional bathroom facilities were requested at the 38-acre vineyard the eight laborers worked at as the vineyard had only one portable toilet, but California law dictates that agricultural operations with both men and women must have at least two separate toilets. The workers were fired after making multiple complaints about the restroom facilities. The vineyard manager allegedly stated that he had a policy of only hiring men in vineyards he managed, and workers said that a foreman acting on the manager’s orders told the men or women to leave before the women were fired for asking for a restroom again. The farm labor contractor acknowledged that the supervisor had no anti-discrimination or retaliation training.

The settlement dictates changes in the behavior of the defendants. All three have agreed to work towards fair hiring practices while the management company will receive training in anti-discrimination laws. The contractor and the vineyard owner must ensure that workers have adequate bathroom facilities.

Matters that begin with gender discrimination sometimes unfortunately turn into instances of wrongful termination when a worker makes an unofficial or official complaint. Workers have rights when alleging a hostile workplace or sexual harassment, and any efforts to infringe on those rights with actions like demotions or terminations are prohibited.

Source: Napa Valley Register, “Napa farmworker sex discrimination case settled“, Jennifer Huffman, 03/20/2015

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