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Ceres distributor must pay female worker for damages in sexual harassment suit
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A 10-year female employee of CenCal Beverages in Ceres has been awarded $1.2 million by a Stanislaus County Superior Court jury in a sexual harrassment suit.

After a three-week trial, the jury has determined that Julie Fagundes was a victim of inappropriate and lewd conduct from other employees and supervisors at CenCal. The jury decided that Fagundes took the appropriate steps by reporting the harassment but company officials did nothing in response but retaliate.

In addition to the $1.2 million award, Fagundes has settled with the company for punitive damages in lieu of another phase of the trial.

Therapists testified that Fagundes suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of her treatment in the workplace. She is on disability for a year.

Fagundes sued the Morgan Road company saying her superiors called her names, physically groped her and subjected her to pornography on work computers. Her lawsuit named salesman John Finley as routinely attempting to grab Fagundes on private areas of her body. She also accused company president Bob Dinsmore of dismissing repeated complaints about her treatment and that he shared a letter of complaint with those with which she had a problem. Dinsmore allegedly told Fagundes that she was "too emotional" and needed to "let things go."

Fagundes came to work at the beverage company at age 22 in 2001 when it was L&M. The company merged with B&W in 2007 to become CenCal Beverage LLC. Fagundes alleges that on the very night of the merger an operations manager was heard calling Fagundes a "stupid b----" and added that "skirts don't belong in this business," according to court records.

She also alleged that she was targeted by company supervisors by planting a GPS device on her car - something the male employees were not subjected to - and threatening to fire her without prior performance reviews. At one point, the company put her ex-husband in charge of her supervision. She also alleged that the company's human resources manager was fearful in confronting Dinsmore because she was renting property from him.

Company officials released a statement to the media saying "CenCal Beverage Company is very disappointed in the outcome. CenCal Beverage Co, LLC respectfully does not agree with the decision. We are moving forward, and putting this matter behind us."

Attorney Michael Bononi said his client was very happy with the verdict.