Sexually Harassed Farmworkers Win $17 Million

Sandra Lopez, an immigrant from Chiapas Mexico, along with five other women, recently won a $17 million sexual harassment suit against their employer, Moreno Farms, a packing plant in Florida. According to the suit Lopez and the five women were subjected to graphic acts of sexual harassment that included rape, attempted rape, propositioning, and groping by three male supervisors. 

According to the Miami New Times, Lopez said she was dragged into her supervisor’s trailer and raped for half an hour. The other five women claimed they were fired when they didn’t comply with their supervisors’ sexual advances. 

Despite the large sum awarded to the women, collecting the money will be very difficult. As the case was coming to an end, Moreno Farms shut down and the owner fled to avoid going to jail.

Even though the women may never see a cent, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission still believes that the ruling was significant.  That’s because it shows farmworkers that they have rights despite their current immigration status. The EEOC is committed to protecting immigrants and vulnerable populations that are being subjected to discrimination and harassment by their employers.

Do you think that immigrants are particularly vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment? 

*image by Unsplash

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Uber and Airbnb Executives Sued for Sexual Harassment and Overtime

Julieta Yang, a 45 year old mother of three from the Philippines and live-in domestic worker is suing her power couple former employers for alleged sexual harassment and wage theft.

Yang claims that her employers, Cameron Poetzscher, (the head of corporate development for Uber) and Varsha Rao (the head of global operations for Airbnb), subjected her to a sexually hostile work and home environment during her time of employment. She also claims they failed to pay her for minimum wage and overtime. 

The San Franciscan tech executives, who have two children, first hired Yang in March 2008 while they were living in Singapore. Yang claims that Poetzscher would watch her cook dinner for the family, all the while being completely naked. When Rao traveled for work, the sexual harassment got worse for Yang. According to the suit, Yang was subjected to Poetzscher’s frequent nudity, sexual comments, sexual advances, and unwanted touching including rubbing his groin against her. Poetzscher warned Yang about complaining to Rao because she would get angry. 

In July of 2013, the couple moved to San Francisco. They offered to triple Yang’s salary if she made the move with them. Though she signed a contract stating that she worked 30 hours a week for $12.50 an hour, Yang actually worked much more than that per week. In fact, she was paid a fixed rate of $450 per week regardless of the actual hours she worked. Yang also claims that she was not given legally mandated meals or breaks. 

While in San Francisco, the inappropriate behavior continued. 

  1. Poetzscher would often disrobe in the room that Yang was working in.
  2. Poetzscher asked Yang to give him a massage using a rolling pin. He later apologized saying he was not supposed to act that way in the US.
  3. Poetzscher would use the toilet with the door open. 
  4. When Yang asked to talk to Pao about the behavior, Pao told her that she didn’t have time to talk and that Poetzscher would have to handle it. 

The San Francisco tech executives claim that Yang’s allegations are completely false. Pao and Poetzscher claim that Yang was part of the family for seven years and just up and left in April.

Do you think live in domstic workers are more vulnerable to this sort of harassment? 

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Employees Awarded $12 million in Sexual Harassment Lawsuit for Being Called Sluts and Accused of Having STD’s

A call center in Indianola, Iowa was recently sued by five female employees for sexual harassment. Danielle Rennenger, one of the plaintiffs, claims that she and other female employees were called derogatory names such as ‘whore’ and ‘slut’ on a daily basis during their time of employment. In addition, Rennenger also claims that she was accused of having sexually transmitted diseases at work and also forced to sit on the lap of a male co-worker.  The harassers, supervisor and co-worker, were also accused of holding up money and asking Rennenger to dance. When she complained, Rennenger claims that she was laid off in retaliation. 

Amme Roush, another plaintiff, claims that her supervisor asked her what her favorite sexual position was. When she called in sick one day, the same supervisor told the office it was because she had a sexually transmitted disease. In addition, she also alleges that she (and other female employees) were referred to as sluts and other derogatory names. 

Though a jury returned a $11.9 million verdict in Rennenger’s favor, collecting the money might prove to be very difficult. Because $10 million total was awarded in punitive damages against four independent companies (Manley Toy Direct LLC, Toy Network LLC, SLB Toys USA Inc, and Aquawood, LLC), it will be very difficult for Rennenger to collect money from any one company. Rennenger’s attorney believes that the corporate structure of the call center was set up in a way to protect the companies from lawsuits such as these. 

Though Rennenger has yet to receive any money from the lawsuit, she feels happy knowing that the jury ruled in her favor and that the harassment is out in the open and on record. 

What do you think of these crazy allegations?

*image by Michael Lokner, Flickr

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Casino Loses Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Re High Roller

A Pittsburgh cocktail waitress was recently awarded over one million dollars in a lawsuit against her employer, the Rivers Casino.

According to the report, a high-roller placed a $1 tip in Allyson Pelesky’s bra while she was serving him. As a result, he also touched her breast. Pelesky immediately reported the incident to the police but later dropped charges when she was promised that the man would not be allowed to return to the casino. A little more than a month later, the casino lifted its ban on the man, leading Pelesky to file a lawsuit against the casino for violating its zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy. 

Pelesky, who was teased by her co-workers, says she filed the lawsuit because she did not want to have to see the man who sexually harassed her every day. “Whether you’re a waitress, a manager, it doesn’t matter. We just deserve respect,” Allyson told the press. She feels that the casino only let the man return because he is a “Signature Card” player. 

Pelesky was awarded $150,000 in compensation and $999,000 in punitive damages.

According to a recent report by the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, nearly 90 percent of females that work in the restaurant industry, have experienced some type of sexual harassment at one time or another. 

How prevalent do you believe sexual harassment is in the restaurant/hospitality industry?

*image by Thomas Hawk, Flickr

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Dentist Who Killed Cecil the Lion Allegedly Sexually Harassed His Receptionist

It appears that lions aren’t the only thing Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who was made famous for killing a protected lion in Zimbabwe, preys on. In 2009, Palmer settled a sexual harassment claim against him for $127,500. Not only was the plaintiff a former patient but she was also his receptionist. 

The woman accused Palmer of touching her breasts, buttocks and genitalia as well as making verbal comments between the dates of July 1999 and January 2005. When she informed her supervisor that she wanted the harassment to stop, she was fired. Palmer then paid out the settlement without admitting guilt. In addition to paying out $127,500, Palmer was also ordered to undergo three hours of sexual harassment training. He was also required to write a letter of recommendation for the woman. 

On July 1, 2015, Palmer killed a 13 year old lion that was being tracked and studied by Oxford researchers. The two men who helped Palmer kill Cecil are being charged with poaching. Palmer might also face charges as well. 

*image by Flickr

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Female on Female Sexual Harassment Case Filed Against the City of Sacramento

Though most sexual harassment cases involve a male superior and a female subordinate, the most recent case out of Sacramento involves two females. A utilities employee in Sacramento, Jewel Mason, recently filed a sexual harassment claim against Elsie Fong, her female supervisor and Program Manager. According to the claim, Fong created a sexually hostile environment for two years. When the plaintiff complained about the sexual harassment she was experiencing, she claims she was denied a permanent position in the department as retaliation.

Fong allegedly contributed to a sexually hostile work environment by wearing excessively provocative clothing, purposely displaying her undergarments, complimenting Mason’s appearance, asking Mason personal questions about her life, intimately hugging Mason, and repeatedly directing sexual behavior towards Mason. The plaintiff also claims that Fong told her the job benefits were contingent upon Mason submitting to sexual acts.  

In March of 2014, Mason made a complaint to Fong’s superiors. Though the harassment improved for a few weeks, the plaintiff claims Fong took away two of her paid vacation days around this time. Fong was also overhead admitting as well as bragging about the harassment allegations. In October 2014, Mason made a formal discrimination claim against Fong with the EEOC. Though Fong was moved from the city’s utilities department, Mike Malone, another manager, retaliated against the plaintiff. Not only did Malone also harass Mason, but he also reduced her job responsibilities. The plaintiff believes that she was denied a permanent position as well as a parking spot because of her complaint to the EEOC. 

This is the third sexual harassment claim the city has seen in the last few months. The first was a claim against Mayor Kevin Johnson that was thrown out in May. The second claim comes from a former staff member of city councilman Alan Warren. Warren was allegedly using his authority to coerce subordinates into sexual acts. When the staff member refused to continue the sexual relationship, he fired her. 

Do you think these women are actually being sexual harassed or do you think it is an example of following the trend?

*image by Unsplash.com

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Grad Students Suing UCLA for Sexual Harassment Cover-up

Sexual harassment can happen to anyone regardless of profession or industry, but also in educational institutions. In fact, many victims that incur sexual harassment at universities are often asked to keep their allegations quiet so as not to tarnish the institution’s reputation—such is the case in this recent sexual harassment claim.

Two University of California Los Angeles grad students recently filed a suit against the university alleging that they were told to keep quiet about allegations of being sexually harassed by their history professor, Gabriel Pieterberg. The women claim that Pieterberg made inappropriate comments and unwanted advances such as pressing his body close to theirs and forcibly kissing them. 

One of the women, Kristen Hillaire Glasgow, alleges that Pieterberg began sexually harassing her early as 2008 and continued to do so until 2013. She didn’t speak up about the harassment because she was afraid the department would cut her funding. When she found out another woman, Nefertiti Takla, filed a formal complaint, she decided to speak up. Unfortunately, UCLA failed to investigate Glasgow’s claims. As far as Takla’s claims—she says she eventually dropped them after the campus adviser (who oversees the reports) told her that the other faculty members— Piterberg’s peers— would likely side with the professor. 

How often do you think claims of sexual harassment are mishandled (encouraging victims to keep quiet, failing to properly investigate claims in a timely manner, refusing to hold the harasser accountable, failing to report the harassment to the proper authorities)? 

A recent report from the Huffington Post found that 143 colleges across the US had mishandled sexual harassment and assault incidents. Sexual harassment and assault claims aren’t investigated because institutions fear the stigma that will result if word gets out. Unfortunately, ignoring the claims only causes emotional distress for the victims, perpetuates the likelihood that the harasser will harass again, and opens the institution up to more civil liability. 

images by Chris Radcliff and Derrick Story 

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