Seafood processor refutes claims made in federal sexual discrimination case

Published on
October 2, 2017

A Massachusetts-based seafood processor responded late last week to claims made by federal officials that it nurtured a hostile working environment and failed to take care of sexual harassment complaints.

Atlantic Capes Fisheries, Inc. said that some of the claims made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suit against the company in federal court last week, took place before the company purchased the packaging plant in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 2013.

In that lawsuit, the EEOC claims ACF and BJ’s Service Company, Inc., created and failed to remedy a hostile work environment. BJ’s Service Company hired workers and transported them to the ACF facility, according to complaints registered to the agency. While at work, female employees received sexual solicitations, heard comments about women’s bodies, and received inappropriate touching from line supervisors and company managers.

Three women filed discriminatory complaints with the EEOC, and a short time later, two of the workers were let go, according to EEOC officials.

“Employees have the right to oppose conduct they reasonably believe violates the law, without fear of retaliation,” said Kevin Berry, the EEOC New York district director. “A decision to end the employment relationship because the employee has complained about sex harassment, or has filed a charge with the EEOC, is contrary to the statute's clear requirements.”

ACF officials blasted the timing of the commission’s announcement, saying it came after business hours and before the company learned of the lawsuit.

ACF purchased the Fall River plant from IQF Custom Packing, Inc. in 2013, according to its press release. Officials said they first learned of the allegations in December 2015 and investigated those claims immediately. As a result, the company said it made improvements to its internal policies and made similar requirements for BJ’s as well. In addition, ACF said it took additional action by providing additional benefits to the contracted workers.

“ACF also went ‘above and beyond’ by providing even contracted workers with tenure at the facility, paid vacation, and holidays, which was not required by law, but was an action ACF took to show appreciation to its longtime workers, including its contracted staff,” the company said in its statement.

Attempts to reach a negotiated settlement before the lawsuit broke down because company officials felt the EEOC’s demands were excessive.

The Fall River plant employs more than 100 people, who process and pack sea scallops.

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