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California Winery Sued over Sexual Harassment Allegations

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2022 | Sexual Harassment

According to a new filing by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles allowed male managers to sexually harass female workers for more than five years.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit on Aug. 25 claiming that the winery and its parent entity, LA-based The Wonderful Company LLC, violated federal law after several female workers were subjected to “ongoing, unwelcome, severe, and pervasive” sexual harassment.

The Complaint Details Graphic Behavior

A spokesperson for The Wonderful Company told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that it disputes the charges and plans to defend Justin Vineyards. The EEOC complaint details a disturbing litany of allegations against male managers and supervisors dating back to 2017.

The lawsuit says female employees were subjected to persistent physical and verbal sexual harassment, which included unwanted touching, hugging, and kissing. Male managers allegedly exposed their private parts and texted sexually explicit photographs to female workers.

Some male supervisors sent texts at 3 a.m. asking the women what they were wearing, whether they wanted to have sex, including whether they wanted to be in a threesome. One male supervisor reportedly said he wanted a divorce so he could be sexually active with an employee.

The Winery Allegedly Retaliated against Those Who Complained

The EEOC alleges that the male managers sexually harassed female workers on a near daily basis. When the female employees complained to the Company, they were given extra or double shifts in retaliation, accused of wrongdoing of their own, or told that they were being investigated. Moreover, supervisors reportedly screamed at, belittled, or laughed at those who complained.  The EEOC says many victims were forced to leave their jobs to escape the mistreatment. The agency says the unlawful actions were intentional and “done with malice.”

The EEOC Seeks Damages for Workers against the Company

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC notified Justin Vineyards and The Wonderful Company of the accusations on June 29 after receiving complaints in January.  The EEOC requested a jury trial and will seek compensatory and punitive monetary damages for the female workers who were subjected to this egregious sexual harassment. The EEOC also seeks an injunction against Justin Vineyards to prevent further sexual harassment and seeks for the Company to commit to ceasing its discriminatory practices.

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