California farm workers complain of sexual harassment
With immigration reform being contemplated in Congress, the tough jobs performed by California farm workers, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, are in the spotlight. Yet, immigration challenges are just one of the many difficulties faced by California farm workers.
California has some 800,000 farm workers. According to a study from UC Santa Cruz, almost four out of ten farm workers – that is about 320,000 individuals in the state – say they have been sexually harassed or raped.
Many farm workers, particularly those who are undocumented immigrants, are afraid to report sexual harassment. Supervisors in the farming industry have a great deal of power, and many victims fear retaliation. Therefore, many instances of sexual harassment and even sexual assault that take place on one of California’s many farms go unreported.
However, victims of sexual harassment have rights. Even an undocumented worker can file a civil suit against an employer for sexual harassment and be awarded monetary damages.
While many instances of sexual harassment in the fields go unreported, California still has more agriculture-related reports of sexual harassment than any other state. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency that bears responsibility for shielding workers from gender discrimination. Over the past decade and a half, the EEOC has handled more than 186 cases of sexual harassment in California’s agriculture industry.
If you have been harassed as a farm worker, you can file a legal claim that may help set things right. You may be eligible for back wages and damages.
Source: The California Report, Migrant farmworkers speak up about sexual harassment and rape, Sasha Khokha, June 28, 2013