The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against Giumarra Vineyards Corp., a division of Gimuarra Bros. Fruit Co. Inc., Los Angeles.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Fresno, Calif., alleges the company failed to halt the sexual harassment of an employee and then fired the worker without cause.
"Giumarra Vineyards denies the allegations in the complaint filed by the EEOC and will vigorously defend itself against all of the allegations,” according to a company statement.
“When this matter is concluded we are confident that our position will be affirmed," the company said in the statement.
The case dates to summer 2007, according to the suit filed Dec. 29, when a Giumarra worker allegedly made repeated, unwanted sexual advances to a 17-year-old female employee. A third party reported it to management, but the company failed to take action to halt the harassment, the suit alleges, creating a hostile work environment.
The teenager and three co-workers were fired within 24 hours after they took the issue to management, the suit alleges; no other employees were fired at that time.
The firings were retaliation for a lawfully protected activity, according to the suit. The commission’s suit asks the court to order Giumarra Vineyards to pay back wages, punitive damages and the commission’s legal costs and to put strict employment policies into effect.