What is workplace sexual harassment and how does it affect agricultural workers?
Sexual harassment is an illegal form of discrimination and bullying based on sex or gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In California, the protection is expanded to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, offensive remarks, leering, gestures, sexually suggestive objects or images, derogatory comments, and/or touching.
Both federal and California laws recognize two types of sexual harassment:
- Quid pro quo (this for that): offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors
- Hostile work environment: when unwelcome comments or conduct interfere with an employee’s ability to perform their job and/or create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
Some common risk factors for sexual harassment in the workplace include working in isolation, traditionally male-dominated settings, and industries where workers are vulnerable because of their immigration status or precarious work status. These and other factors can make farmworkers vulnerable to sexual harassment.
How can employers reduce the risk of sexual harassment and what are workers’ rights?
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing requires employers who have five or more employees to provide at least two hours of training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of training to all nonsupervisory employees within six months of their date of hire.
This training must be provided once every two years and must include:
- The definition of sexual harassment under the law and the statutes that prohibit and prevent it
- Types of conduct that can be sexual harassment or abusive conduct and practical examples of harassment, including those based on gender identity, expression, or sexual orientation
- Strategies to prevent sexual harassment, resources for victims, and how it should be reported
- The supervisors’ obligation to report harassment, the complaint process, and how employers must correct harassing behavior, including an effective anti-harassment policy
- What to do if a supervisor is personally accused of harassment
What topics are covered in the WCAHS Sexual Harassment Prevention training?
WCAHS has developed an interactive, two-hour training which covers sexual harassment prevention in the agricultural workplace. During the training, participants learn what is considered sexual harassment, and have the opportunity to work in teams to review the law, to learn about workers’ rights and employer responsibilities, and brainstorm ways in which they can support a work environment free of sexual harassment.