FAMILY OF INDIGENOUS FARMWORKERS CHARGES GIUMARRA VINEYARDS WITH ILLEGAL SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Family Allegedly Fired and Evicted from Housing for Resisting Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace and Reporting it to a Company Supervisor
THERMAL, CA – A family of four local farmworkers charge that Giumarra Vineyards Corporation—one of the largest producers of table grapes in the nation--created a hostile work environment for the family based on their indigenous Purépecha identity, subjected a teenager to harassment and discrimination based on her sex, and fired and evicted the entire family from their home when they collectively complained to a supervisor to have the harassment and discrimination stopped.
All of the workers are members of indigenous groups native to regions of Mexico--minorities even within the immigrant farmworker community in the United States. The workers are also residents of the notorious Coachella Valley mobile home park known as Duroville.
The family’s proposed intervention complaint, filed for consideration in the Federal District Court of the Eastern Division of California (EEOC v. Giumarra Vineyards Corporation, et al, Case No. 1:09-cv-02255), alleges pervasive and intolerably abusive conduct and language perpetrated by Giumarra supervisors against indigenous crewmembers, including the family, which created a hostile work environment. Supervisors and foreman allegedly subjected indigenous workers to unequal punishments and treated them with offensive and abusive language on a continual basis. The complaint also details sexual harassment and discrimination perpetrated against one of the complainants who at the time was only seventeen years old, as well as retaliatory action taken by a Supervisor, who fired the entire family and evicted them from their employer-provided housing unit when they collectively approached her to ask that she prohibit the perpetrator from further harassing and discriminating against their sister / daughter.
Megan Beaman Carlson of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) and Mario Martinez of Marcos Camacho Law Corporation together represent the four plaintiffs.
CRLA community worker Fausto Sanchez, who works with indigenous immigrant farmworkers in the Arvin/Lamont area, many of whom work for Giumarra Vineyards, noted: “Indigenous farmworkers are particularly vulnerable to abuse in the workplace because of the racism that still exists from non-indigenous co-workers and supervisors, cultural tendencies to distrust public and governmental agencies, resistance to speak up or seek help due to language barriers, and a hesitance to speak in detail about sensitive issues such as sexual harassment even within their own communities.”
CRLA community worker Emanuel Benitez said, “These four workers displayed and continue to display exemplary strength and courage in exercising their rights to resist and report harassment in their workplace, particularly given their cultural resistance to doing so. Giumarra must be held accountable for its blatant disregard of those rights and the damages that they have suffered, so that all workers can trust that our justice system will not tolerate such abuse of our hardest-working community members.”
Federal and state law prohibits behavior that creates a severe and pervasive hostile environment for employees on the basis of sex, indigenous status, or other protected categories such as race or national origin. The law further prohibits treating any employee differently based on these categories, and retaliation based on an expression of one’s rights to equal treatment in the workplace.