Sexually Harassed Farmworkers Often Unaware Of Rights

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Lemoore, CA (AP) — It took Olivia Tamayo six years to accuse her supervisor of rape, and six weeks to tell her story in court. But when she was finished, it took the jury less than six hours to award the farmworker $1 million in damages.

‘My life was hell on earth,’ said Tamayo, her voice breaking as she described violence she claimed she endured at Harris Farms, one of California’s largest farming operations. ‘When I tried to say something about it, the company didn’t believe me, didn’t do anything to protect me.’

A jury in Fresno’s federal court in January found the company had not acted promptly to stop the harassment once it was reported and that it retaliated against Tamayo, forcing her to quit.

Company President John Harris said an internal investigation led him to believe that Tamayo’s case was an affair gone bad, not rape. He said he planned to appeal the jury’s verdict in U.S. District Court.

No criminal charges were ever brought in the case. But attorneys with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought Tamayo’s case, said it is an example of how sexual harassment or abuse can go unnoticed in the fields.

There is no way of knowing how many of the country’s approximately 1 million field hands endure Tamayo’s fate. But in an industry that relies on undocumented migrants with little knowledge of English or their legal rights, chances are good that most cases never go to court, said William Tamayo, an EEOC attorney.

The farm industry DOES NOT have to rely on illegal aliens. There is a special H2-A temporary visa program for ag workers. But since illegal immigration is so out of control and the federal government refuses to enforce immigration and workplace laws the farm industry CHOOSES to break the law and hire illegal aliens. They hire them because then they do not have to pay them a fair wage or provide housing for them. They can exploit them and abuse them all they want. Under the H2-A visa program these people would be protected and be aware of thier rights.

One Response to “Sexually Harassed Farmworkers Often Unaware Of Rights”

  1. Ralph Says:

    A lot of women, not just farmworkers, are unfortunately unaware of their rights and the venues they have to stop harassment. What is a pleasure to see is when employers act fast and furious when an allegation comes up.

    A friend of mine, an immigrant from El Salvador, was being sexually harassed. A friend informed her of her rights and the law. With some encouragement and some prayers for courage, she called the headquarters of the hotel she was working at. She was still too afraid to name names but did mention that the cooks were the perpetrators.

    The next day the cooks were hauled into the back room and given a good talking too. The harassment stopped immediately. Word got out about management’s seriousness. Another waitress was heard saying, “May God bless whoever had the courage to complain because those guys were harassing me too.”

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