Nearly a third of female workers reported experiencing offensive comments, jokes, and gestures in their current employment in a study partially funded by the small grant program at the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety. UC Cooperative Extension Advisor Dr. Monica Cooper, Emanuelle Klachky, and colleagues examined the relationship between incidence of sexual harassment, work team factors that facilitate sexual harassment, and the consequences for vineyard workers.
They surveyed 295 workers (100 women), representing 21 unique field crews from nine vineyard companies in Napa County. Of the 30% of female workers who had experienced offensive comments, jokes, and gestures, a further 9% of these women reported unwanted sexual attention and 2% reported sexual coercion (reprisals or promotion dependent on them providing sexual favors). The study did not ask workers about their experiences of sexual harassment in past employment situations.
Harassment negatively affects worker retention and job satisfaction of female and male workers
Harassed women were more likely to intend to leave their current jobs than non-harassed women. The harassment also had a negative effect on male co-workers, who were more dissatisfied with their jobs when working in a crew where sexual harassment occurred. Younger women and seasonal workers may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment: women younger than 40 were the most likely to experience harassment, and those reporting the more severe forms of sexual harassment were overwhelmingly seasonal (temporary) workers.
Hostile sexist attitudes held by men and women within an immediate work team were associated with the presence of sexual harassment in a crew. These attitudes may contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance for sexual harassment and they may be difficult to change, indicated by the fact that providing anti-sexual harassment training to workers did not appear to decrease such harassment in this study. This suggests improvements to the structure and administration of such trainings to agricultural workers should be explored. A high ratio of female to male workers in a crew did not make sexual harassment less likely to occur in this study. This implies that sexual harassment should be addressed across the organization or the industry as a whole, rather than at the level of the work team that was the focus of this study.