Vineyard workers awarded $65,000 in sex discrimination suit

Frank S. Clowney III

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing announced that eight Napa Valley vineyard workers will share $65,000 as part of the settlement of a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The complaint was filed against a vineyard owner, a management company and a farm labor contractor.

According to the complaint, two female workers were fired from a vineyard owned by Rutherford-based Alsace Co. in June 2013 after repeatedly asking for a second bathroom, which is legally required for work crews that include men and women. The claim said there was only one portable toilet available for use by two work crews.

The manager of Farm West LLC admitted he did not want women on his vineyard work crews and had a policy of only hiring men. He reportedly demanded that either the women or the men leave the grounds. The women alleged that they were fired after they refused to leave and again requested a second toilet.

The two workers and six male colleagues who supported them filed the suit. In addition to the monetary settlement, Farm West, Alsace and farm labor contractor Prime Harvest Contracting have agreed to train their employees on anti-discrimination policies, provide the legally required number of toilets and allow the hiring of women.

No worker should be forced to endure workplace discrimination based on their sex or any other classification that is protected by state and federal laws. Anyone who believes they have been illegally harassed, fired or retaliated against may wish to consult with an attorney. After reviewing the details of a complaint, an attorney could advise action that might help a client seek damages.

Source: Napa Valley Register, “Napa farmworker sex discrimination case settled,” Jennifer Huffman, March 20, 2015