Recent News Stories Reveal Sexual Assault of California Agricultural Workers
December 12, 2013
Both federal and state laws prohibit sex discrimination and harassment in the workplace by way ofTitle VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’sFair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Under unlawful sexual harassment, the laws include unwelcome sexual propositions or advances, offensive statements or gestures, leering looks, derogatory comments, statements about a person’s appearance or body, and physical conduct, such as unwanted touching, assault, or cornering or blocking movements.
If an employee has been sexually harassed, he or she would normally be advised to oppose the behavior and report the incident to a supervisor or other appropriate superior. Many companies have human resources departments or other channels through which to file a report, which may be set out in employer policies or employee handbooks. No one should be expected to tolerate sexual harassment or a hostile work environment and no one should be afraid to report such conditions.
Sexual Harassment of Farm Workers
Unfortunately, not all workers feel able to report offensive and illegal behavior in the workplace. National Public Radio recentlypublished a two-part series on sexual assault of female farm workers. Each part focused on a female who experienced sexual assault by a supervisor while working in the fields of California. Both of these women were brave enough to eventually report the wrongdoing, however the story reveals there are many, many more women whose harassment and assault at work goes unreported.
Recently, advocates from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have been using advertisements on rural radio stations to encourage women who have suffered sexual harassment or assault at work to feel safe and come forward to report the unlawful behavior. However, there are several reasons why female farm workers are afraid to do so. These reasons include:
Many farm workers are undocumented are fear getting deported if they come forward and lodge a complaint with a government or law enforcement agency.
They fear they will lose their jobs. Many farms are run by a single supervisor who has complete control over who gets hired, promoted, paid, and fired. Since that supervisor is often the harasser or assaulter, the victims fear not being able to feed their families or pay their bills if they speak.
They fear they will not find another job. As NPR reported, word travels quickly among farm supervisors in California. If other farm supervisors or workers hear that a female worker has complained of or reported sexual mistreatment, no one else in the industry will hire her.
EEOC officials and legal aid attorneys in the rural areas state that the more female agricultural workers come forward, the more consequences the offending supervisors may have to face. Those supervisors who are in hot water with the law will then serve as a warning to others in the industry that there may be both criminal and civil consequences for continued workplace harassment and assaults.
As previously mentioned, no one should have to endure offensive treatment on the job. If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment or any other type of unlawful behavior at work, contactPershing Square Law Firm for assistance as soon as possible.