CA lawmakers consider bill to prevent sexual harassment on farms

Posted in Sexual Harassment on May 24, 2014

Sexual harassment is a problem in many types of work environments. But some of the most vulnerable victims are those who work in lower-paying jobs, including in the service and labor industries. Here in California, some of these workers are doubly vulnerable because they are also undocumented immigrants who fear deportation if they complain.

Thankfully, California lawmakers are working on a way to help at least one group of these workers. Responding to widespread reports of sexual harassment and sexual assault against women working in California’s agricultural fields, legislators are proposing a bill to hold employers more accountable for preventing this behavior.

The temporary pickers and laborers are generally hired by farm labor contractors, who also hire supervisors to oversee the work. If SB1087 is passed, farm labor contractors can have their licenses revoked for hiring crew supervisors with a record of sexual harassment or sexual assault.

This measure seems to be on par with what is expected in more traditional workplaces such as offices or restaurants. Employers are responsible for making sure that sexual harassment is prevented and that supervisors or other employees who engage in it are appropriately held accountable. Enforcement seems to be more difficult in California’s agricultural settings because of wide-open work spaces, a potential language barrier and the undocumented status of some workers.

Hopefully, this will be one of many legislative measures meant to address the threat of sexual harassment and assault among agricultural workers. All Californians deserve a safe and respectful working environment no matter where they originally come from or what kind of work they do.

Source: KQED, “Bill Would Impose Sanctions for Sexually Harassing Farmworkers,” Sasha Khokha, May 22, 2014