OLYMPIA - Great Columbia Berry Farms LLC, a blueberry grower in Walla Walla County, has been ordered to pay $350,000 as a result of a lawsuit over the Berry farm manager sexually harassing multiple employees and retaliated against them for speaking out. The lawsuit, filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, asserts one of the company’s managers, Jose Luis Contreras Ramirez, raped at least one female worker, sexually harassed several female workers over the course of years and retaliated against those workers who spoke out against his conduct. At least four women were affected by Contreras’s conduct.
The entire $350,000 monetary recovery will go directly to the women harmed by Contreras and Great Columbia Berry Farms. The exact amount each woman will receive will depend upon the nature and extent of the harms they experienced.
Under Monday’s legally binding consent decree, filed in Walla Walla County Superior Court, the company must adopt anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies and trainings, approved in advance by the Attorney General’s Office. Once it is approved by the court, the consent decree will become an enforceable court order.
The Northwest Justice Project referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office after learning that Contreras sexually harassed several women — and sexually assaulted at least one woman — including one of the Northwest Justice Project’s clients.
“Companies that know or should know that powerful managers are harassing and assaulting their employees, but do nothing to stop it, bear responsibility,” Ferguson said. “Agricultural workers deserve to be heard — and they deserve a safe work environment free from abuse.”