In the United States, the immigrant population is the backbone of the agricultural industry. 50%-75% of farm workers are immigrants. These workers labor long hours at low wages to put food on the table. A major issue that has plagued these workers is that of sexual harassment. Female immigrant workers have been at the forefront of this abuse.
In the past five years, hundreds of women have come forth with allegations that they were raped, groped, or sexually harassed in some way by their supervisor or foreman. Also, the victims of this harassment are not isolated to a specific region of the country, but are spread across the United States. Being raped during work, groped on their ladders, or receiving kisses and lewd comments by their supervisors while onsite have only been a few of the claims presented by the victims. Though there have been hundreds of cases of this harassment, very few have actually gone to court. The immigrant status of most female farm workers, and the need to provide for their families, has made speaking up about these attacks not easy. The consequences could mean deportation, job loss, or in some cases, death threats from their attackers.
As other industries have modernized throughout the years by implementing certain policies to protect their employees in the workplace from dangers, such as sexual harassment, the agricultural industry has been slow at adhering to this trend. Why is this so? For example, in the case of an Oregon tree farmer accused of raping a female worker, the companies response to not having a corporate sexual harassment policy was, “We are only farmers.” Ignorance is never an excuse for allowing that kind of behavior in the workplace. It is vital that all industries, whether they are agricultural or not, have sexual harassment policies in place no matter the gender of their workforce.
No woman deserves to feel threatened in her place of employment. No matter her status in society, it is important that society itself works to insure that all companies meet the standards necessary to protect them.