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Report: Female farm workers in California suffer harassment, abuse

Although sexual harassment and promoting a hostile work environment is a violation of both state and federal employment and labor laws, it still occurs in many workplaces in California and throughout the entire U.S. Any worker could become a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace; however, a new report suggests that women who are farmworkers seem to suffer more sexual abuse and harassment compared to women who work in other professions.

According to the report, which was released by Human Rights Watch last month, women who are farmworkers in California and other parts of the U.S. tend to suffer this type of abuse in the workplace more commonly because they are too afraid to report it. They fear that they will lose their jobs or be deported if they speak up about their work conditions. Some even think that the abuse is simply something they are to tolerate in the U.S.

The international rights group's report shows that of the 3 million workers who are hired for migrant and seasonal agricultural work in the U.S., about 630,000 are women. About 60 percent of these farmworkers are illegal immigrants, the federal government has estimated. These women are targets for harassment because their abusers understand that many will not want to report the abuse because the women do not want to lose their jobs.

Some types of sexual harassment that many female farmworkers have endured or continue to endure include: stalking, vulgar language, inappropriate touching and even rape.

As a result of this disturbing trend amongst farmworkers in California and throughout the entire U.S., Human Rights Watch is asking Congress to pass specific laws to protect female farmworkers from sexual harassment, especially those who are immigrants or illegal immigrants.

This report certainly indicates that sexual harassment is a prevalent problem amongst female farmworkers, but women and men in any profession could be subjected to this type of illegal behavior if their employers fail ensure a safe work environment for employees.

Source: Associated Press, "Report says female farmworkers suffer sex abuse," Tracie Cone, May 16, 2012