Monte Vista, CO-Last week the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced they would be filing and sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against a Colorado-based potato warehouse on behalf of four female workers.
The agency alleges that MountainKing Potatoes, based in Monte Vista, Colorado, allowed a hostile work environment to persist by failing to prevent management from subjected female workers to inappropriate, sexually-charged behavior. The EEOC also alleges the company retaliated against worker who complained of the harassment, according to Business Insurance.
According to the EEOC compliant, management at the warehouse routinely subject female workers to inappropriate touching, comments and gestures. When the women complained, they were forced to take undesirable positions and, in some cases, the complainants were fired.
Women who work on farm or in the agriculture industry are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment since many of these women are immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. These woman are particularly vulnerable since their supervisors can force them to be silent by threatening their jobs which they need to keep their legal status.
This case against is just one of many levied against companies in the agriculture industry over the past few years.
Last year 14 female workers from a Washington-based farm filed a sexual harassment suit alleging they were subject to harassment by several male workers. A California fruit processor was also hit with a harassment lawsuit after four women said they one of their supervisors touched then repeatedly and offered them promotions and raises in exchange for sexual favors.
A 2012 report from the Human Rights Watch showed that sexual assault, abuse and harassment of female migrant farm workers is very common. Researchers at for the advocacy group spoke to 160 women working in farms in California, North Carolina and New York, and found that the majority of those women had been or knew someone who was subjected to harassment and/or forcible sexual behavior, such as rape or assault.
The report, entitled “Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment,” contains personal accounts of the sexual abuses migrant agriculture workers face.
In personal account, a California woman said that she was raped by her supervisor, who threatened to fire her if she decided to speak up about his actions. Another migrant worker in New York said one her supervisors repeatedly touched hers and other women’s breast and buttocks while they were working. That supervisor threatened to call immigration authorities and have them deported if they reported his behavior.
Female agriculture workers often fail to report incidents of sexual harassment for the same reason native-born American women in the workplace refuse to report sexual harassment. These women are afraid of being punished for speaking up, and believe that they will lose their jobs if they report the abuse.
The laws forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace are well-known to American worker who are well-aware of their right to retain a sexual harassment attorney. But immigrant workers may be unaware of or are not informed of their protections against sexual harassment in the workplace.