The agriculture industry is big business in California and a driving force in the state’s economy. However, workers in the farm field are often subjected to dangerous working conditions for little pay. Furthermore, new studies have shown that many female farm workers are subject to unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment from supervisors.

New research shows that many of the female workers — who account for 24 percent of all agricultural workers — have been victims of sexual harassment while at work. Some have even reported unwanted touching and other sexual advances including rape. In one study, the researchers estimated that nearly 80 percent of female farm workers had been sexually harassed by supervisors.

What’s worse is that much of this sexual harassment goes unreported. Many women in these situations have reported that they fear they will be retaliated against if they speak up about the conditions. Some who have complained worry that they will be deported or won’t be rehired next season.

Sexual harassment, in any form, is never alright. Under California employment laws, employees do not have to tolerate sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. Furthermore, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for complaining about or reporting sexual harassment that is occurring at work.

In California, officials have tried to combat the sexual harassment in farm fields by requiring all farms with more than 50 workers to provide two hours of sexual harassment education and training to its supervisors. However, some are calling for more comprehensive prevention programs.

Whatever the solution, workers need to know that they do not have to tolerate sexual harassment at work. Furthermore, compensation may be available to workers who have suffered from a hostile work environment or any type of unwanted sexual advances.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Female Farmworkers And Rape: Sexual Assault And Harassment Persist In Central San Joaquin Valley,” Robert Rodriguez and Diana Aguilera, June 24, 2013