Colorado produce company to pay $500,000 to conciliate sexual harassment claims

A family-owned produce company in Eaton has agreed to pay $500,000 to five complainants, and other aggrieved individuals, who claimed they suffered sexual harassment during their employment.

Fagerberg Produce Inc., which has been growing onions since the 1940s, has agreed to conciliate discrimination charges involving sexual harassment and retaliation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Com­mission (EEOC), the federal agency announced Monday.

A former manager at the company allegedly subjected employees to unwelcome sexual harassment, retaliation, and different terms and conditions of their work environment in violation of federal law, according to the EEOC.

A company spokesman could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Fagerberg has agreed to revise its EEO policy and “implement procedures to investigate complaints, including taking immediate corrective action if they receive reports of unlawful harassment,” according to an EEOC news release.

The company will “retain an external bilingual consultant to train employees, investigate harassment complaints, and monitor compliance with the terms of the agreement, along with the assistance of Fagerberg Produce’s appointed EEO officer.”

Fagerberg has agreed to send a letter to customers about the company’s commitment to creating a discrimination-free workplace, the release said.

“We thank Fagerberg Produce for cooperating with EEOC in reaching an early resolution,” said Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC’s Denver Field Office, in the release. “This type of significant relief for vulnerable workers is a priority for the Commission.”

The company has a human rights policy posted on its website.

“Our goal is to help increase the enjoyment of human rights of our workers, neighbors, customers, and within the communities in which we operate,” the policy, signed on Dec. 15, 2018, by Ryan Fagerberg, company president, states. “Our Human Rights Policy is the foundation for our corporate behavior and our day to day business operations.”

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