A local bulb farm has reached a $15,000 settlement in a sexual harassment case involving three of its employees, according to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
The settlement comes after a former Dahlstrom & Watt Bulb Farms Inc. employee filed a complaint in May 2017 alleging two male co-workers made sexually harassing comments over the course of several months, as well as staring, leering, winking and licking lips, according to a DFEH press release issued Wednesday.
The complainant alleges her employer failed to take adequate action after she made them aware of the harassing behavior and then terminated her in retaliation, according to the press release.
Believing that a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act had occurred, DFEH engaged in a mandatory mediation session with the complainant and Dahlstrom & Watt Bulb Farms on May 1, according to the DFEH press release. Dahlstrom & Watt agreed to pay $15,000 to the complainant, according to the press release.
Dahlstrom & Watt will also develop and implement a written policy against sexual harassment and retaliation and will create a process for employees to make internal complaints, according to the press release.
In a written statement to the Triplicate, a Dahlstrom & Watt representative stated the company “had no reasonable economic choice but to agree to pay” the state’s final demand of $15,000 or go to trial.
According to the Dahlstrom & Watt representative, the two male employees involved in the case strongly deny making sexually harassing comments at any time and denied staring, leering, winking and licking lips.
“They also said that they found the accusation embarrassing and degrading,” the statement reads. “No other employee could be located that observed this conduct. As a result, we were not able to independently confirm the claimed conduct. Nevertheless, as requested and as allowed by work requirements, we tried to meet the complaining employee’s concerns by making work assignments.”
According to the representative, when an employee at Dahlstrom & Watt feels harassed, they should report it to their supervisor. This occurred in each instance, according to the statement, and the supervisor agreed with the complainant’s wishes to not to have to work alone with the other two employees.
The complainant was laid off in a “normal production down cycle,” according to Dahlstrom & Watt.
During the mediation session earlier this month, DFEH demanded Dahlstrom & Watt pay total damages of $75,000, according to the company’s statement. The state’s attorney also stated that unless the matter was settled, they would take it to trial and would also seek to have Dahlstrom & Watt pay their attorney fees, according to the company’s statement.
“Our attorney estimated that it would cost us $40,000 or more to defend this action,” the Dahlstrom & Watt statement reads. “There was no insurance coverage for this kind of claim and even if we won, the state would not pay for our attorney fees.”
Dahlstrom & Watt Managers will undergo three “employment-law trainings” in the next five years and Dahlstrom & Watt will provide an annual compliance report to DFEH, according to the press release.
The Dahlstrom & Watt representative said the company willingly agreed to conduct employee harassment education “because we want a harassment-free workplace.”
When asked for a copy of the complaint, DFEH Director of Communications Fahizah Alim told the Triplicate via email the department’s lawyers have to wait until the complainant receives the settlement check before they can close the case and release its documents, which typically takes a day or two.
Alim said the complainant should receive her settlement check by Saturday.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org .