SEATTLE, Wash. -- A federal agency is suing a Moxee farm claiming it violated federal law by allowing a supervisor to sexually harass male workers.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged that the general manager of Roy Farms touched male employees sexually, verbally harassed them and asked them to watch while he urinated in public.
Martin Barrera objected to the alleged harasser before he reported it to a former supervisor and the owner of the farm, according to a news release from the agency.
"I have worked in the farm industry for many years, and I had never before faced such extreme abuse," Barrera told the agency. "I want this lawsuit to ensure that other farm workers don't have to experience the same mistreatment."
Barrera told the EEOC that nothing was done to stop the alleged harassment, he felt like he was physically in danger and that he had not option but to quit.
The agency said they first tried to reach a voluntary settlement but eventually filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington. The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages for Barrera and other possible victims, training on anti-discrimination laws and to post notices on the job site.
"Roy Farms had a duty to keep its employees safe and to respond to their complaints. It failed on both accounts." Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC's San Francisco District, said in a news release.
"These were hardworking men who simply wanted to be able to come to work and earn their living," EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said in a news release. "Because of this manager's sexual intimidation and the company's refusal to take corrective action, Mr. Barrera was forced to choose between his personal safety and dignity and his job. No one should have to make that kind of choice, and the EEOC will defend workers' rights to a workplace free from harassment."
Roy Farms produces crops including apples, cherries, blueberries and hops. They're based in Moxee, Washington.