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AG seeks damages for sexually harassed female farm workers

In California, the agricultural industry continues to be an economic powerhouse, generating tens of billions of dollars annually. Further up the coast in Washington state, a major sexual harrassment case has been filed in federal court by the state's attorney general, alleging that sexual harassment has become an "occupational hazard" for female farm workers at one company.

The company was charged with extensive sexual harassment in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The complaint also included allegations that the company engaged in discrimination against women by segregating their jobs and retaliation against women employees who rejected sexual advances.

The sexual harassment at the company involved quid pro quo harassment, in which women workers were required to have sex with one particular supervisor in order to keep their jobs, in addition to unwanted groping, touching and requests for intimate photos of women workers. The case illustrates a number of forms of sexual harassment combined with discriminatory job placement claims, for an overall workplace environment that was particularly abusive for female workers.

The attorney general of Washington is seeking an order to prevent the continued sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation against women workers and a declaration that the company's practices violate both state and federal law. The state is seeking damages for each employee affected by the discrimination and attorney's fees and costs from the company.

Hostile working environments are, of course, not limited to the agricultural industry or other occupations that rely heavily on manual labor. Female employees may face sexual harassment in any type of workplace and in a variety of forms. An employment law attorney can often be of assistance in seeking both a stop to this type of behavior as well as compensation for past conduct.

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