NOTE: This story was edited to include a statement from Brian Burch, who serves as spokesperson for KONOS Inc.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit alleging that a local egg producer created a hostile work environment for a former female employee and then retaliated against her when she filed a complaint about her treatment.
Martin-based KONOS Inc., an Allegan County company that does business as Vande Bunte Eggs, is at the center of the complaint that stems from a 2017 incident in which a supervisor allegedly sexually assaulted a female employee. The supervisor later pleaded no contest to the charges.
In the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, the EEOC claims that the woman — referred to as “Jane Doe” — started working at the Martin facility as an egg inspector in April 2017.
Not long into her time at the facility, the complaint stated that the woman’s supervisor — a man named Selvin Castillo-Vasquez — began to sexually harass her, including sending her text messages soliciting an intimate relationship. Castillo-Vasquez sexually assaulted her on three different occasions, according to the court documents.
“Jane Doe” would go on to report the assaults to police and acquire a personal protection order against Castillo-Vasquez, according to the filings.
Castillo-Vasquez was prosecuted for the incident in Allegan County and pleaded no contest to fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. He was sentenced in January 2020 and released from probation in March, according to records from the Michigan Department of Corrections.
The EEOC said in the complaint that when the woman reported the treatment to the company, she was sent home and never returned to work.
"At this time, the EEOC lawsuit against KONOS is a pending litigation and we cannot comment," said Brian Burch, spokesperson for Vande Bunte Eggs. "However, the issues it raises are critically important for us."
The lawsuit asks for a permanent injunction against the company to avoid future cases of discrimination on the basis of sex, stop creating a sexually hostile work environment and end retaliation against employees.
The complaint requesting a jury trial also seeks compensation for “Jane Doe” for lost wages and general pain and suffering in addition to punitive damages.
Vande Bunte Eggs formed in 1946. It operates facilities in Martin and Otsego in addition to Grant Park, Ill. At the beginning of the year, a fire at the company’s Otsego facility killed 300,000 hens.
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