EEOC's Enforcement Strategy Yields $17 Million Verdict in Sexual Harassment Case

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

September 25, 2015

Preventing employee harassment through investigations and lawsuits is one of the pillars of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's current enforcement strategy.

The EEOC's efforts paid big dividends earlier this week as a federal court in Miami finalized a $17 million jury verdict against Moreno Farms of Felda, Florida. According to the EEOC's suit, two sons of the owner of Moreno Farms and a third male supervisor subjected five female employees to sexual harassment that included frequent sexual comments, groping and even rape.

Sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The verdict sends "a clear message to the agricultural industry that the law will not tolerate subjecting female farm workers to sexual harassment and that there are severe consequences when a sex-based hostile work environment is permitted to exist," Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for EEOC's Miami District Office, said in a statement.

Of course, workplace sexual harassment need not be as egregious as the acts perpetrated in the Moreno Farms case for an employer to land in trouble with the law. Employers should take steps to ensure their workplaces are not a hostile environment.