The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has settled a sexual and racial harassment lawsuit against U.S. Bakery Inc., which operates Franz Bakery, after a federal judge ruled that the company was responsible for sexual and racial harassment.
The commission settled its lawsuit on behalf of four women — three White and one African American — through a consent decree that gives the commission monitoring power over the local employer for three years and court enforcement if necessary. The women resolved their individual claims through separate, confidential agreements with U.S. Bakery.
Better known as Franz Bakery, the company is the largest family-owned bakery west of the Mississippi River and serves grocery, restaurant, food service and institutional customers in Oregon, Washington, Northern California and parts of Idaho, Montana and Alaska.
All of the women were in their 30s and 40s at the time of the sexual and racial harassment. Three of the women worked on the production floor of the bakery, while the fourth worked in the office.
"This was an egregious case of a foreman sexually and racially harassing employees for many years with impunity. The case represents an employer's abject failure to take its responsibilities seriously under the law," said Bill Tamayo, attorney for the commission's San Francisco Regional Office. Tamayo said a former foreman at the bakery engaged in extremely offensive harassment that was open and notorious for many years and was known to managers and supervisors.
The foreman admitted to making hundreds, if not thousands, of sexual and racial comments, even in the presence of supervisors and managers. He also admitted to bringing in pornography and showing it to employees and supervisors.
Although each of the four women complained to another supervisor/foreman about the conduct, the complaints never were reported to the harassing foreman's superiors or to the human relations manager.
In addition, for most of the foreman's eight-year employment at the bakery, the company had an inadequate sexual harassment policy that failed to provide a complaint procedure or assurances against retaliation for reporting harassment or discrimination, according to the commission. The company also never provided non-supervisory employees with employment discrimination or harassment training until after the harasser finally was fired, the commission said.
Tamayo noted that in August 2004, the commission won a summary judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, finding U.S. Bakery liable for sexual harassment against all four women as well as racial harassment against the African American woman.
"The commission's victory is significant because this type of ruling is rarely granted by the courts," Tamayo said.
Under the settlement, U.S. Bakery agreed to several changes, including revising the company's policies and adopting a zero-tolerance policy relating to sexual and racial harassment and discrimination. The bakery also will implement a discipline policy for supervisors or managers who engage in race or sex discrimination or harassment and will base evaluations for supervisors and managers on their compliance with the company's equal employment opportunity policies.
U.S. Bakery also agreed to conduct mandatory annual discrimination and harassment training to all employees, including managers and supervisors, and to give periodic reports to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in compliance with the terms of the consent decree.
"The terms of the consent decree will ensure that employees will know their rights and how to report discrimination," said Joan Ehrlich director of the commission's San Francisco District Office.
"It is unacceptable for employees to be harassed because of their sex or race. The work force is increasingly diverse and employers should find ways to build on the assets diversity brings, not subject employees to illegal stereotypes," Ehrlich said.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws in the private and federal sectors prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age and disability.
Further information about the EEOC is available on its Web site, www.eeoc.gov.