Atlantic Capes named in “Dirty Dozen” list, company claims false info used

Atlantic Capes Fisheries and BJ’s Service Company have been named in the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s (COSH) “Dirty Dozen” list for 2019, but the company has responded saying its addition to the list was based on false information. 

According to the COSH, the dirty dozen list solicits information from health and safety activists about companies that either put workers or communities at risk. Atlantic Capes’ mention on the list stems from a sexual harassment lawsuit that was settled for USD 675,000 (EUR 605,700) in January. 

The lawsuit stemmed from allegations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that sexual harassment of four women – which included unwanted touching, solicitations for sex, and crude comments – occurred at IQF Custom Packing Inc., in Fall River, Massachusetts, and was perpetrated by managers, line supervisors, and coworkers. 

“’If you want to work here, you have to let me do what I want.’ That’s the chilling message Margarita Fuentes Herrara received from a male supervisor in 2013, during her first week on the job at Atlantic Capes Fisheries, a seafood processing plant in Fall River, Massachusetts,” wrote the COSH. “The threat against Herrara was not an isolated incident. At least three other women in the plant – all immigrant workers – were routinely harassed, including supervisors and managers who would touch their hips and buttocks.”

Following the alleged harassment, the women sought the help of Centro Comunitario de Trabajadores, a local non-profit that works with the local immigrant community. With help from the non-profit, the four women filed a complaint with the EEOC. 

The EEOC, and the COSH, both allege that after the complaint was filed, two of the women were fired in retaliation. 

Atlantic Capes paints a different picture, however. According to the company, three of the four employees named in the lawsuit are still employed at Atlantic Capes, and the one woman no longer employed with the company left voluntarily. The period that the two women were “fired” was a layoff related to the installation of new equipment, Atlantic Capes said, and not as a result of the complaint. 

“Conversely, the workers alleged to have behaved inappropriately are no longer employed by either ACF or BJ’s,” wrote Atlantic Capes.  “The employees separated from ACF and BJs were the alleged perpetrators, not their accusers.”

The company also said the lawsuit stems from claims that predate Atlantic Capes’ acquisition of the IQF Custom Packing Inc. facility in 2013. 

The EEOC, however, claimed differently.

“Despite knowledge of the pervasive harassment, neither ACF nor BJ's made any efforts to stop the harassment or punish the harassers,” the EEOC charged. 

Since the settlement, Atlantic Capes and BJ’s signed a consent decree with the EEOC that required Atlantic Capes and BJ’s to revise their discrimination policies and training. It also required Atlantic Capes employ a bilingual human resources professional fluent in English and Spanish, as most workers in the Fall River facility are Spanish-speakers. 


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