California Enacts Bill to Protect Female Farmworkers From Sex Abuse

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September 30, 2014
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The middlemen who provide farmers with temporary workers will bear more responsibility for stopping violent sexual harassment, including rape, in agricultural work under a bill signed Sunday by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The new law requires sexual harassment training for labor contractors, supervisors and all farm employees. Questions related to sexual harassment will be added to the labor contractors’ licensing exam.

The bill was introduced in response to Rape in the Fields, a collaboration among The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, KQED-FM, FRONTLINE and Univision.

The investigation found widespread sexual abuse of the immigrant women who pick, pack and process America’s food.

Before the passage of the bill, only agricultural employers with more than 50 employees were required to give their supervisors two hours of sexual harassment training every other year. Now, all employers regardless of size must do so.

The state now also can revoke the license of a contractor who has harassed an employee. Labor contractors also could be stripped of their license if they hire a supervisor who has engaged in sexual harassment in the past three years.

Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, authored the bill.

Early versions of the bill, which required more intensive training for labor contractors, were opposed by agricultural trade groups and the California Farm Labor Contractor Association. They felt the bill would increase business costs, and they were concerned about how they would conduct sexual harassment background checks on supervisors.

But other grower groups, like the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, threw their support behind the bill early on.

“Clearly, nobody should be creating a situation which could lead to sexual harassment,” said Barry Bedwell, the organization’s president.

Watch Rape in the Fields below:

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