EEOC settles sexual harassment suit on behalf of CA farm workers

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment at Work,Sexual Harassment by Industry on July 2, 2015

As we wrote in our last post, individuals who perpetrate sexual harassment often choose victims who have little to no authority. In schools, this may be professors who sexually harass their students. At work, supervisors or bosses may sexually harass low-level employees.

Some of the most vulnerable sexual harassment victims in California are the immigrant women who work in agriculture. Many of these women are undocumented and may not speak English very well, if at all. As such, they are very reluctant to report harassment or to seek help from the police. In many cases, harassment can and does escalate to sexual assault.

Thankfully, advocates for these workers have made great strides in holding perpetrators and employers accountable. Recently, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it has reached a settlement with Zoria Farms, based in Madera, California. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 10 Latino farm workers and was settled for $330,000.

According to the EEOC, two Zoria supervisors regularly engaged in sexual harassment, including inappropriate comments, sexual propositions, leers and unwelcome touching. This behavior was reported many times by both female and male workers, but Zoria Farms failed to adequately address the problem.

Later on, the operation was sold to another company. The EEOC said that seven of the ten workers were denied jobs (under new ownership) because they had made sexual harassment complaints. This, the EEOC alleged, was clearly illegal retaliation.

Commenting on the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC noted that “the agricultural industry in particular needs to recognize the susceptibility of its workforce to sexual harassment and make protecting workers a priority. Employers must implement measures to both prevent and correct instances of sexual harassment at work.”

If you are being sexually harassed and your employer has failed to adequately address it, please know that you have other options. In order to better understand your rights and legal options, please share your story with an experienced sexual harassment attorney.