Female California Agriculture Workers Exposed to Harassment, Assault


Salinas, CA Among widespread complaints involving violations of California labor law are allegations of failure to pay overtime, wage and hour issues, and wrongful termination. But for women working in California’s agricultural industry, violations of federal and California state labor laws allegedly include widespread harassment and sexual assault. Although these actions constitute violations of California labor laws, many women are afraid to come forward, either because they fear retaliation or because they do not realize sexual harassment is against the law.

Issues of harassment in the US agriculture industry were reported on by FRONTLINE, Univision, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The report, titled Rape in the Fields, aired on PBS on June 25, 2013. The report cites national statistics, but California reportedly has the highest number of agricultural workers in the US and several incidents of alleged harassment in California were included in the documentary.

The report cites a 2010 UC Santa Cruz study that involved 150 female farmworkers. Of those, almost 40 percent experienced sexual harassment, which ranged from verbal harassment to rape, and 24 percent said they were sexually coerced by a supervisor. The study, titled “Examining the Sexual Harassment Experiences of Mexican Immigrant Farmworking Women” (9/22/10), notes that of approximately one million farmworkers in California, 28 percent are women. It further reports that between 35 and 50 percent of women are sexually harassed at some point in their career.

But because they need the work, because many are illegal immigrants or because they are afraid of retaliation, many instances of harassment go unreported. Many may also not realize that harassment on the job is illegal.

Harassment on the job is illegal, as is retaliation for filing a complaint about harassment. In the first sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against a grower to go to court (the case of Olivia Tamayo, who alleged she was raped three times by a supervisor) in 2004, a jury found Harris Farms - Tamayo’s employer - liable for its supervisor’s sexual harassment and retaliation, and awarded Tamayo approximately $800,000 (as reported in Rape in the Fields).

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is illegal to harass a person because of their sex. This includes sexual harassment, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment. If an employee complains about harassment, it is illegal for the employer to retaliate against the employee. Sexual harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Violations of sexual harassment laws can result in a lawsuit filed against the individual accused of committing the harassment and his or her employers.

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1 Comment

  1. Kimberly Crawford
    September 11, 2013
    My supervisor and manaager willful exposed me to ATD- Aerosol Transmissible Disease TB . Plenty of proof, but what's so strange; all the attorneys ,lawyers I contacted wont take the case. Do you have it? The gentleman I was caring for had and I didn't know. Why is that ? Dormant that's what TB will do. Regardless if I have it or not, I deserved the right to know. NEED TO KNOW. I contacted OSHA and the company had 14 days to show proof of training me on ATD. They could have faxed that to OSHA. I called for a update these things take time, be patient. I also had a back injury and I had a lawyer that lied throughout the whole process. After a staged depo I received a letter in the mail saying I was denied WC. This was 5 days after the depo. I called and asked about my case. I YOU DIDN'T GET ANYTHING IN THE MAIL? I told him I was waiting for my depo send it. After you make changes, mail it back and I will start working on getting you your money. I pawn my DODGE RAM and facing an eviction, and loss my WC and still have a TB case. Now let my land this baby. I called a attorney service I paid for, and I was assigned to a attorney by the agency. I sat there and talked and told him everything. Before hanging up he said; I CAN'T HELP YOU THE CO. YOU ARE SUING, i'M REPRESENTING THEM. I am so damn tried of writting this THE TRUTH. and nothing. Maybe a bike accident would have been the ticket.

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