The state of California is home to some of the largest and most profitable agricultural land in the U.S. Each year, thousands of agriculture workers help tend and harvest the crops that are then sold throughout the country. Many of these workers make minimum wage and do not speak English.

For years, there have been reports of rampant sexual harassment and abuse among female agricultural workers. One landmark 2004 case, resulted in a female worker being awarded a $800,000 judgement after a jury agreed that her employer was guilty of both failing to stop sexual abuse and then retaliating against her when she reported the abuse.

Since this time, however, worker rights advocates insist that little has changed. Many female farm workers are still subject to daily acts of sexual harassment and abuse and employers continue to ignore the problem.

Farm workers are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment as many do not speak English and are not familiar with state or federal workplace sexual harassment laws. What’s more, many workers employed in California’s agricultural industry are not U.S. citizens and therefore fear being deported, fired or reported to authorities.

As a result, few workers come forward to report these abuses. Doing so, however, is the only way to stop the harassment and help spur change within an industry upon which so many must rely.

California farm workers who have been the victim of sexual harassment or suffered sexual abuse while on the job should seek legal advice. An employment attorney who has experience handling these types of cases can help evaluate a case and determine if legal action is appropriate.

Source: KQED News, “California Agricultural Workers Grapple With Sexual Assault by Bosses,” Bernice Yeung and Grace Rubenstein, Sep. 4, 2013