vs. Land O’Lakes

That photo is the Land O’Lakes, Inc. Board of Directors. Twenty-two white men; the only Fortune 500 Company that still so blatantly and brazenly displays its disregard for diversity.

Regardless of whatever homespun, Midwest values sort of hype they attempt to sell as part and parcel of their brand, this is who they really are.

“People always show you who they are.” ~ Maya Angelou

I use that quote a lot because when she was once asked to expand on it, Ms. Angelou finished it by saying, “And it’s your fault if you don’t pay attention.”

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I worked for the Land O’Lakes company for almost two years. I reported to the CEO of the division for which I worked; he is still shown on their site as one of their “Leadership Team,” despite them having been told more than three months ago by my attorney – one of the most experienced and respected in the field of sexual harassment in the country – of the gruesome details of his pursual, harassment, molestation and eventual open and life-changing, career-ending retaliation. As of today, they have done nothing. They have not responded to our claim, they have not sanctioned the man in question. He has been allowed to keep his job, his income, and his anonymity. The inequity of this is appalling.

I was a highly placed and very well-compensated member of staff myself. I was also well thought of in my own field before I ever went to Land O’Lakes. I have spoken to no one outside my immediate family and friends and my attorney about this case, yet somehow every employer for which I once worked have been told. Contacted specifically, in some instances, and my reputation has resultantly been all but destroyed.

I never thought of myself as the type who would do this – use my digital skills to distribute and amplify my voice, explain myself and my story to strangers. Of course I also never expected a $13B Fortune 500 company to ignore the grotesque actions of one of their own. But perhaps that is precisely the issue: he’s one of them, and perhaps his isn’t the only story of this ilk.

The #MeToo movement definitely gave me the confidence to move forward with my claim, but for me, #MeToo is about the stories of the victims of harassment and abuse being given an audience, a platform, and being heard; it doesn’t mean they each need to be believed without question. Being heard is a vast improvement over where we were as a society even one year ago. As the single mother of a now twenty-two-year-old son who was, only two years ago, president of his fraternity at a liberal private college, I take these types of claims very seriously. I worried every day that my beautiful son would be subjected to claims of some sort by a girl who might have simply been rejected, wanted revenge. So my specific sensitivity to this issue is absolute. It is perhaps more telling that my son is the one who encouraged me to go forward with this claim, so vile are the details and so drastic is the impact it has had on our lives.

So what can you do? First, it’s important that victims everywhere know the specific laws of their state as well as the federal laws for the statutes surrounding sexual harassment and abuse. I have posted at the end of this a blog from my attorney’s site which provides good guidance on the subject. I doubt very much that women who have been victims have any notion that the federal government believes they should only have three-hundred days to file a claim; Minnesota is generous by comparison, extending that to one year. For comparison, you can file a trespass complaint against a neighbor for up to three years after the fact. So someone can steal your garden gnome and be open to legal action for longer than someone who sexually assaulted you.

Second, you can boycott Land O’Lakes products and let them know you are doing so by using the hashtag #LOLOL to let them know you think that they and their brand are a joke.

Third, you can email me or @ me if you’ve had your own experience at the hands of someone at Land O’Lakes, Inc. The ag industry is amongst the most rife with sexual assault and abuse, and Land O’Lakes sit at the very top of that particular heap.

My Twitter is @DoubleBelle and my DMs are open. My email is LOLLOLINCMN@GMAIL.COM.

Lastly, you can read more about the case in my other blog posts such as “At What Price Silence”, which is about various aspects of the process so far. Also,  “Public vs. Private,” which is about the decision I’ve made to go public with my story and to push forward with a public lawsuit against them. Then most recently, “The Shame Game,” which uses examples from my situation to illustrate what women are up against when they try to bring a claim of sexual harassment or abuse.

Land O’Lakes has spent more money and time investigating and avoiding these allegations, and looking into my background than they have in getting their own house in order. They sent two letters to my attorney in less than twenty-four hours trying to ensure I am deprived of my First Amendment rights to express myself. The man in question is still employed and being protected. How can I or anyone in my position accept that? I will not be silenced.

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Update: March 15, 2018:

I have been quiet on this issue for well over a week, both here and in social media. The reasons are, as always, manifold, but the most decisive factors have been the number of stories I’ve been sent by others and the impact that has had on me, and the fact that I have been contacted by two reporters, one of whom was already looking into a case very similar in the same industry. We are so conditioned to not say anything, to think that extreme sexualization of women in the workplace – or in society on the whole – is normal, that it’s only when we do speak out that we find how sadly and tragically un-alone we actually are in our experiences. I’ve heard from women all over the world, and even several who had similar experiences at Land O’Lakes, the most heartbreaking of which was a joint note from two women now well beyond retirement age who said the abuse they suffered was years ago and that they had signed away their rights to speak in exchange for what they called “almost nothing.” Now, they say, they regret it, because perhaps if they had not, people like me would not be in this position. And that’s the daily tug-of-war: how much of myself do I sacrifice so that other women have a better chance? I’m under no illusion that one person can create massive change, but I do know that not speaking out only serves to perpetuate the already toxic and misogynist workplaces run by people who feel above reproach, but whose behavior is beyond contempt.

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From the website blog of my attorney

When to Report Sexual Harassment

Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, a legal claim for sexual harassment must generally be started within one year of the alleged harassment. This claim can be started by either filing a public lawsuit, or by filing a charge of discrimination (sexual harassment is generally considered a form of gender discrimination) with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Under federal law, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the limitations period is even shorter –300 days — and in some jurisdictions (outside of Minnesota), it can be as short as 180 days.

Sexual Harassment Timeline: A Few Considerations

There may be additional facts to consider when evaluating the timeliness of sexual harassment claims. For instance, if an adverse action has been taken, or an employment benefit denied in connection with the harassment, the 300-day or one-year deadline may only start to run at the date of the adverse action or denial of benefit, rather than the date of the underlying harassing conduct. Furthermore, if harassment has persisted over the course of a long period of time, and at least one incident of this pattern falls within the 300-day or one-year window, then all such actions can give rise to a legal claim under the “continuing violation” doctrine.

Finally, if you’ve waited to assert a claim because you were threatened by the harasser, or you previously tried to register a complaint but this effort was thwarted by someone in a position of authority at the company (including human resources), an attorney can determine if this misconduct might “stop the clock” on the limitations period (also referred to as “tolling), and allow you to prosecute a claim even though the conduct occurred more than a year or 300 days ago.