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Rosen Saba files complaint against Grimmway Enterprises, Inc. for harassment, other charges

Posted at 12:56 PM, May 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 19:27:45-04

A civil litigation firm filed a complaint on behalf of Thelma Isabel Guzman in Kern Superior Court for harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination at Grimmway Farms, the firm announced Friday.

The lawsuit alleges that Grimmway Enterprises, Inc., a grower, producer and shipper of carrots, treated Guzmanto poorly, including severe and pervasive harassment, physical attacks, intimidation, retaliation and wrongful termination.

The firm filed another high-profile civil action against the company less than six months ago.

Read the full press release from the firm, Rosen Saba:

"On May 5, 2017, Rosen Saba, LLP, a Beverly Hills-based civil litigation firm, filed a complaint in Kern Superior Court on behalf of Thelma Isabel Guzman for harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination. The lawsuit alleges that Grimmway, the world’s largest growers, producers and shippers of carrots, subjected Guzman to a hostile work environment, including severe and pervasive harassment, physical attacks, intimidation, retaliation and wrongful termination.

“Grimmway deliberately ignored Thelma’s complaints of harassment and violent behavior perpetrated by Martin Rodriguez, an employee who had a known track record of similar misconduct,” said Lead Counsel James R. Rosen. “Even more egregious is that Thelma was retaliated against and wrongfully terminated for speaking up and reporting this wrongdoing.”

This is Rosen Saba’s second high-profile civil action against Grimmway in less than six months. On November 23, 2016, Rosen obtained an $815,654 verdict on behalf of two former employees who had also been severely harassed by Rodriguez.

“Discrimination against women in the workplace is appalling and wrong, and it’s clear that Grimmway has allowed an atmosphere of sexual harassment and intimidation to continue for too long,” Rosen said. “Grimmway must be held accountable for the treatment Thelma and other female employees have been subjected to.”

Background

Guzman was a loyal employee who excelled at her position and was promoted to the position of forklift operator within two years of being hired by Grimmway. She was the sole female forklift operator at the company, and there was little to no supervision of the activities in the warehouse.

In the beginning of 2012, Guzman began receiving unsolicited and unwanted attention from Martin Rodriguez, a fellow forklift driver. Rodriguez harassed, intimidated and bullied Guzman; he also leered at her and refused to give her right of way when driving forklifts. His harassment continued for years, and escalated when he intentionally crashed his forklift into Guzman.

Throughout the duration of Rodriguez’s behavior, it was commonly known by warehouse personnel that Rodriguez was involved in a sexual affair with Guzman’s female supervisor, Pacheco. When Guzman verbally reported the physically violent incident to Pacheco, no action was taken to end the harassment. Rodriguez bragged that he was untouchable because of his relationship, and threatened Guzman that she would “pay for snitching.”

Guzman then filed a formal complaint with Grimmway’s management, reporting both Rodriguez’s harassment and his affair with Pacheco and requesting that Rodriguez be kept away from her. However, after a short amount of time, Rodriguez returned to Guzman’s work area and resumed his harassment.

Additionally, in retaliation for filing a complaint, Guzman was reassigned by Pacheco to work the entirety of her shifts in the freezer, a location which other employees were only scheduled to work in once or twice per week. The freezer was maintained at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and after working in the freezer nearly every day, Guzman developed chronic health issues due to the constant cold exposure, including difficulty breathing and talking and pains in her throat and chest. Though Guzman obtained a doctor’s note advising she be removed from her work in the freezer, and though two forklift drivers volunteered to take Guzman’s freezer rotations so that she could recover, Pacheco refused to allow any accommodations or permit the substitutions.

On June 23, 2015, after working several hours in the freezer, Guzman felt ill from the cold and requested to leave work early to attend a doctor’s appointment. The next day, Guzman arrived at Grimmway only to be told she could not work that day, and was informed on June 25, 2015 that she had “voluntarily quit” by leaving work sick."

Rosen Saba is seeking damages for sex and disability discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination.

Grimmway Enterprises, Inc. issued the following statement:

"Unequivocally, Grimmway Farms is committed to ensuring a safe, professional work environment for all employees and contractors, and holds everyone to a standard of mutual respect, safety and non-discrimination. We take these matters extremely seriously. However, as this involves pending litigation, we cannot comment at this time."