Sacramento, CA- Working in the agriculture industry can be grueling work, but that is the only challenge female farm workers face. Many of them are subjected to rampant sexual harassment and oftentimes assault at the hands of their supervisors. Because women in the agriculture industry, they are unaware of their rights and what protections they have against sexual harassment, but a new California bills aims to change that.
On Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new bill, Senate Bill 1087, which will require mandatory sexual harassment training for farm contractors, supervisors and all other farm workers, ABC News 10 reported. Training must be conducted annually and include at a one hour in-person session. Prior to the bill, only farms with more than 50 employees were required to conduct sexual harassment training.
Contractor licensing exams will be amended to include questions about sexual harassment. A contractor who hires a supervisor that engaged in sexual harassment within three the past three years could lose their license.
The legislation was inspired in part by a Frontline documentary “Rape in the Fields” which focused on the harassment, assault and rape faced by female farmworkers. In a 2012 Human Rights watch survey of a 160 female farm workers found that the majority faced some form of harassment and assault. Some farmworkers have been raped or assaulted by their supervisors but because of their position of vulnerability, they often keep silent about the events allowing the perpetrator to victimize others.
Immigrant farm workers are often reluctant to come forward with allegations for fear of reprisals such as firing or deportation. Being an undocumented immigrant is not a barrier to filing a complaint. It’s possible for a sexual harassment attorney to keep the subject of person’s immigration status out of the court record so a complainant will feel more comfortable coming forward.
In addition to giving added protections to farmworkers in the state, Gov. Brown signed another bill aimed at curtailing sexual assault and rape on college campuses. But there are many criticisms of the law.
Under the law, a person must give their explicit consent to a prospective sexual partner. The law established that silence or failure to resist to sex is not enough to imply consent. That means when a person proceeds to have sexual relations with a drunken, drugged or unconscious individual they could face charges of sexual assault. Without affirmative consent, a definitive “Yes,” even among committed couples, sexual activity is forbidden.
Additionally, colleges will be required to teach students the “nuances of consent,” KCRA reported. And schools must train their facility how to handle complaints including what types of questions to ask.
The new law critics say goes too far since in certain situations, the explicit question “Do want to have sex?” is not broached in the heat of the moment. The fear being that some people will be wrongfully accused of assault or rape because they didn’t ask the question outright.