Bakersfield, CA – On November 18, 2016, Rosen Saba, LLP obtained a $815,674 verdict in Kern Superior Court on behalf of Martha and Rebecca Garcia for harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. Lead Counsel James R. Rosen and Maria A. Starn proved that Grimmway, the world’s largest growers, producers and shippers of carrots, subjected Martha and Rebecca to a hostile work environment, including severe and pervasive sexual harassment, threats, retaliation and wrongful termination.
“Grimmway deliberately ignored several complaints of sexual harassment and violent behavior toward Rebecca by one of their employees,” said Rosen. “Even more egregious is that Grimmway then wrongfully terminated a loyal employee who was trying to protect her daughter from this harassment.”
This is Rosen Saba’s second high-profile jury trial and verdict in the last three years in favor of minimum-wage employees who have suffered at the hands of discriminatory employers. “Before trial, the most the plaintiffs were offered to settle was $10,000 each,” said Starn. “Discrimination against women in the workplace is appalling and wrong, and both Martha and Rebecca were victims of this problem. With this verdict, we were able to hold Grimmway accountable for the way the Garcias were treated.”
Martha was a dedicated employee for nearly a decade and worked in Grimmway’s packing warehouse. In April 2014, Grimmway hired Martha’s daughter, Rebecca, as a ticket writer in the packing warehouse. Shortly after Rebecca was hired, she received unsolicited and unwanted attention from a male employee, Martin Rodriguez. Rodriguez made sexually-charged comments, such as comments about her lips and questions about whether Rebecca wanted to kiss him, as well as degrading statements about other women at Grimmway. He also drove his forklift recklessly toward Rebecca to scare her.
Rebecca informed her mother of the incidents, and Martha reported Rodriguez’s behavior to one of their supervisors. Unfortunately, after complaining of Martin’s conduct, the harassment escalated. Rodriguez’s comments became more aggressive and he became violent, threatening to run her over with his forklift. He also began to spread rumors about Rebecca to other employees.
Unable and unwilling to tolerate his violent behavior, Rebecca filed a formal complaint with Grimmway in May 2014. She was told there would be an investigation, but Grimmway only interviewed Rodriguez about the situation. Martha was then suspended for “threatening” Rodriguez, and he was given only meaningless discipline for his behavior.
Rebecca was transferred to a different area, but Rodriguez continued to harass her and blatantly violated orders to stay away from her. In June 2014, after Rebecca complained again, Grimmway terminated Martha without any further investigation. Rebecca stopped complaining and was forced to continue to endure violent and ongoing harassment.
The jury’s verdict also entitled the Garcias to pursue punitive damages and attorneys’ fees in future proceedings; however, the case immediately settled for an undisclosed sum.