Risks is the TUC's weekly newsletter for safety reps and others, sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors.
Workers at the world’s largest pork processing company, Smithfield Foods, say as long as lines are moving fast, supervisors who sexually harass them are given a free pass. Smithfield Foods’ 2,000-employee bacon and sausage packaging plant in Smithfield, Virginia, sits a mile down the road from the company’s stately corporate headquarters and flagship restaurant, Taste of Smithfield, a tourist-friendly establishment known for its smoked pork brioche sandwich, Virginia craft beer and “piglets” menu for kids. But the reality of life in the plant became visible in late May last year, when nine women workers sued Smithfield Foods. Several of the lawsuits charged that plant supervisors had engaged in “the most extreme acts of sexual harassment.” They alleged that, for years, supervisors brushed their genitals against them and grabbed their breasts and buttocks; promised a promotion and even a “cheap car” in exchange for sexual liaisons; and prodded the women for sexual favours. Four of the women claimed the firm’s HR department reduced their hours and three said they were fired after they reported harassment. In four of the complaints, HR allegedly took no action to address the harassment, while in one case, it took months. Five months after filing, in late October 2018, the nine women resolved their complaints with Smithfield outside of court - a route often pursued by large corporations to avoid negative publicity. No settlement amount was disclosed. Beyond sexual harassment and strict break and leave policies, the demands of meeting production quotas and keeping up the line speed have physical implications, including strain injuries requiring surgery.
In These Times.
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