Beef jerky maker Jack Link’s has agreed with the state to pay a onetime Mankato employee $50,000 because her supervisor made constant sexual advances from the time she took the job until she quit after just a few months.
Even after Wisconsin-based Jack Link’s knew of the harassment at the production plant and disciplined the supervisor, the company gave him a promotion and the harassment persisted, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights said Tuesday in its announcement of the award.
“This is an unusual case in that the employer took the right step in originally disciplining the supervisor,” said Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. “The employer however undermined its efforts by not subsequently monitoring the actions” of the supervisor.
Along with paying the woman, the settlement also requires Jack Link’s to provide training to all managerial and supervisory employees in its Minnesota operations on how to respond properly to sexual harassment.
In a statement issued Wednesday through a Minneapolis public relations agency, Jack Link’s vice president for human resources, Steve Jandrich, said that “as soon as we were made aware of the charges, we conducted an investigation and took appropriate action, which subsequently included terminating the alleged harasser.”
Jandrich said a separate agreement with the woman prevents him from commenting about the details of the case.
The identity of the woman, 35 at the time, is part of the public record of the investigation. The name of the fired supervisor, however, is not, said Human Rights Department spokeswoman Christine Dufour.
Through her attorney, the woman said in a statement Wednesday, “I greatly appreciate the work of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and its efforts to investigate and resolve this matter.”
According to the department’s investigation:
In August 2012, the woman was hired as a lead line worker at Jack Link’s. Almost immediately, the supervisor began making sexual advances toward her. The comments came “daily, every 10 to 15 minutes, when both were at work.”
He called her “baby,” said she “has a nice figure and would look nice in a swimsuit on the beach,” asked whether she was single, chanted “pack baby pack” and asked her whether he was too old for her. At times, he would follow her outside on her breaks and ask about her personal life.
Two months later, the woman reported the harassment to the company, prompting the man to retaliate by giving her less desirable assignments and berating her for failing to keep up with her work.
The company suspended the man for two days but quickly promoted him to be the woman’s direct supervisor, and the man’s harassment continued. Co-workers said the unwanted attention brought the woman to tears at times.
Four months after being hired, the woman quit, explaining that she could no longer “tolerate what is going on at work.”
The department also heard from other female employees who said the supervisor had a “high frequency of making comments, inappropriately touching female employees and acting as though he was in search of a girlfriend.”
Two other charges of discrimination were filed in recent years by workers at the Mankato plant. One involved alleged racial slights against a black woman, and the other involving a claim of sexual harassment. The Human Rights Department concluded there was no probable cause in either case.
In the company’s home state of Wisconsin, a case was investigated by government officials there that an employee was allegedly subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation. Again, a finding of no probable cause was made.
Family-owned Jack Link’s is based in Minong, Wis., about 60 miles south of Duluth, and is known for its “Messin’ With Sasquatch” television ad campaign. It promotes itself as the world’s leading meat snack manufacturer, with more than 100 varieties sold around the world.