EEOC Wins $1.47M Default Ruling in Farmworker Case

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By Kevin McGowan

July 25 — A federal district court in California granted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a $1.47 million default judgment in a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment of female farmworkers and retaliation against those who complained ( EEOC v. Zoria Farms, Inc., E.D. Cal., No. 13-1544, default judgment entered 7/22/16 ).

The court July 22 granted the EEOC's request for $1.8 million against Z Foods Inc., the maximum allowable under the applicable damages cap, offset by $330,000 previously paid by its predecessor, Zoria Farms Inc.

The default judgment means Z Foods never responded to the EEOC's complaint or its motion for judgment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The EEOC in June 2015 reached a $330,000 settlement on its harassment and retaliation claims against co-defendant Zoria Farms, a Madera, Calif., fruit processor that went out of business in 2008.

The court said Z Foods, which purchased Zoria's assets and hired many former Zoria employees, shared Title VII liability as Zoria's successor for violations that occurred in the years up to and including 2008.

Z Foods ceased operations in 2011, so it's uncertain if the nine individuals the court held entitled to damages actually will recover any money.

The EEOC intends to “pursue all avenues to collect” on the judgment, EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Park said in a July 25 e-mail to Bloomberg BNA.

A company's closure “does not necessarily impact collections,” Park said. For example, the EEOC already pursued and recovered monetary relief from Zoria Farms after it had closed, she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

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