SoCal farm, contractor to pay $300K for sexual harassment suit

Bornt & Sons is accused of federal equal opportunity employment violations. (Photo: SD U-T)

HOLTVILLE, Calif. — A California farm and its former farm labor contractor will pay $300,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Commission, the federal agency announced Wednesday.

According to the EEOC, a farm manager for Bornt & Sons sexually harassed four female workers by leering at them, grabbing their private areas, making sexual comments and subjecting them to unwanted touching and kissing.

The EEOC contends the manager retaliated against at least three women who refused his sexual advances, either by firing or refusing to rehire them, a tactic also employed against workers who reported or complained about the harassment.

Bornt & Sons and its labor contractor — Barraza Farm Service — also fired at least three male farmworkers because they were somehow related to the sexual harassment victims, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC also contends the companies failed to take corrective action against the manager when they became aware of the federal investigation, instead moving the manager to a different farm.

As part of a three-year consent degree, Bornt & Sons and Barraza Farm Service will pay $300,000 to the victims. The companies will also immediately reinstate workers previously denied re-employment.

Bornt & Sons — headquartered in Holtville — operates organic farms specializing in organic salad mix in Imperial County. Barraza Farm Service is a labor contractor that provides workers to area farms. It has locations in Calipatria and Holtville.