A major Immokalee, Fla., tomato grower and repacking operation is fighting a federal lawsuit that alleges it violated a group of workers’ rights.

The lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims managers and workers with the Lipman Family Cos., which grows and packs tomatoes through Six L’s Packing Co. Inc. and Custom Pak, harassed and physically abused 17 Haitian workers.

EEOC sues Immokalee packing operation

In the suit, the EEOC claims that harassment “permeated the working environment” and that the defendants “unlawfully retaliated against the Haitians after they complained about the treatment.”

In court documents, the workers claim Six L’s officials as well as some of the claimants’ coworkers insulted the Haitians and abused them by throwing tomatoes at them.

Larry Lipman, chief executive officer of the Lipman Family Cos., acknowledged the lawsuit the EEOC filed on behalf of the current or former Haitian employees.

“Six L’s Packing has been in existence since the early 1950s,” he said. “We employ as many as 1,000 Haitian employees at a time. The company denies the allegations in the lawsuit and intends to vigorously defend itself against those allegations. We are confident that when actual evidence is gathered and presented, our position will be vindicated.”

The EEOC in a news release said it filed the lawsuit after trying to reach a voluntary settlement with the company.