Female employee sues Exeter bakery for sexual harassment

Lindsay woman claims two supervisors harassed her over the course of two years at Svenhard’s production facility in Exeter


EXETER — A Lindsay woman is suing an Exeter-based manufacturer of baked goods in an alleged sexual harassment case.

Lorena Velasquez filed a complaint Dec. 19 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California against Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery and its foreman Israel Sanchez and supervisor Marcelino Chaires, claiming that they violated her rights under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

According to court documents, Velasquez began working night shifts on the singles line at Svenhard’s main production facility on Industrial Drive in Exeter on Jan. 11, 2016. “Almost immediately after starting work at Svenhard’s” Velasquez alleges that she was subjected to inappropriate comments by her then-supervisor, Israel Sanchez, who made comments about her jeans.

Velasquez reported the incident to her union representative in February or March 2016 but claims that “Svenhard’s management took no action in response.” Velasquez then requested a transfer to “escape the verbal abuse” and was reassigned to the 4 a.m. shift in sanitation rather than a similar position somewhere else on the line. Sanchez was not terminated or reassigned.

In May or June of 2016, Velasquez was reassigned to work the make-up line. Shortly after starting the new position, Velasquez claims that her new supervisor, Chaires, began making inappropriate comments to her about the different ways in which he would have sex with her, as many as three times a day nearly every day she worked. She also alleges that Chaires would stand in a corner and leer at her before coming over and making the comments, even standing behind her and telling her that he wanted to grab her.

After repeatedly telling Chaires to stop making the inappropriate comments, Velasquez filed a written complaint against the supervisor on July 19, 2017 with Dennis Richards in human resources with Svenhard’s. A week after she filed the complaint, Velasquez stated that Chaires came over and made another lewd comment to her in Spanish. On Aug. 8, 2017, Chaires was suspended.

After filing the complaint, Velasquez was reassigned to work the night shift under Sanchez again. She states that she believed the reassignment and a disciplinary warning on Sept. 1, 2017 were both issued in retaliation for her complaints of sexual harassment. The complaint goes on to say that two female coworkers, who are friends of Chaires, have also made comments and expressed their disapproval with her while Chaires and Sanchez continue to harass her and other women at the company.

As a result, Velasquez states she has suffered significant emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life and irreparable harm to her reputation.

Velasquez is seeking a jury trial, compensatory, punitive and nominal damages, court costs, attorney fees, interest, and all other necessary and appropriate relief. She is represented by attorneys Eric Baum and Philip M. Black of Eisenberg & Baum, LLP in New York.

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