COWICHE -- Claims of sexual harassment and retaliation have led to federal charges against Evans Fruit. KIMA Action News discovered the allegations are so strong, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission placed the Cowiche business under a temporary restraining order. Three supervisors are accused of propositioning and groping the women.
A district court judge ordered Evans Fruit to stop all retaliatory activity against anyone involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company. In a rare move, The EEOC asked for the restraining order after the alleged victims and some witnesses claimed they were offered money, favors or even threatened by managers to keep their mouths shut.
More than half a dozen women say three Evans Fruit supervisors singled them out for sex. One woman claims her teenage daughter was even harassed. The alleged sexual harassment happened at Evans' orchard in Sunnyside. It's also documented in these court papers and the TRO here. And some of what KIMA found was shocking.
One woman claims supervisor Juan Marin said the worker should give her 16 year old daughter to Marin for sex. Another said Marin would hold her hand while telling her he would pay her rent or buy her a car is she slept with him. The most shocking complaint implies Marin offered to buy another woman's infant son, offering her thousands of dollars on three different occasions.
The EEOC said the sexual harassment was so wide spread, it became a condition of employment for the women.
Luis Lucero, EEOC field office director said, "In this case, it looked like it was happening almost on a daily basis. People were expected to respond to those sexual advances in order to keep their jobs."
The EEOC also said Evans never provided training or policy information to these women or other employees on sexual harassment and how to report it.
EEOC attorney May Che says, "Workers who are from immigrant populations that don't necessarily, are not aware of laws in place to protect them from this type of conduct."
An effort to negotiate with Evans on the charges fell apart when the company refused to pay the victims a quote, "ridiculous amount of money" to settle.
As for allegations Evans was attempting to scare witnesses into keeping quiet, the company's lawyer told KIMA that was "ridiculous," and that no one was in "imminent danger".
A court date has been set for August, at which time a judge will make that decision.
KIMA also met with Evan's corporate attorney, Brendon Monahan, but he refused to speak on camera. He told me the company would have more to say after the hearing in August.
The EEOC says the company is liable for the alleged harassment because those accused are supervisors who answer only to the owners.