Under California employment laws, California workers have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. This means that employers cannot engage in or allow unwanted sexual advances, sexual gestures, jokes, pictures, lewd comments or other activity that creates a hostile work environment. Employers have an obligation to stop any sexual harassment that may be occurring and cannot retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment.
While this is the standard, unfortunately many California employers fail to live up to these rules. Many allow sexual harassment in the workplace, or terminate employees that complain about a hostile work environment.
In particular, female California farmhands suffer extensive abuse at the hands of their employers. Reports suggest that many workers in the agriculture industry suffer from sexual harassment and even sexual assault by employers. If they report the abuse they risk termination.
Recently, the California legislature has taken steps to try and prevent this behavior from occurring. Under a new bill that was passed in the Senate, the middlemen that hire workers can be held responsible if they hire contractors that have been found guilty to sexually harassing employees. Furthermore, the bill requires yearly training about sexual harassment prevention.
In addition to this legislation, workers' rights advocates have also increased efforts directly on farms to make women aware of their legal rights. More farms are opening up their fields to make sure everyone understands that they have the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace.
When people suffer from sexual harassment -- like the farmhands -- they should understand their legal rights. Wrongful termination due to sexual harassment can be fought -- with the right help. People can get the compensation they need and deserve after suffering in the workplace.
Source: Frontline, "Three Plans to Stop Rape in the Fields," Bernice Yeung, June 5, 2014