Workplace Sexual Violence Prevention: Helping Limited-English-Proficient Agricultural Workers, Recognize, Avoid, Prevent, and Abate

by | Feb 22, 2016 | News, US

In 2013, PBS’s Frontline, in partnership with the Center for Investigative Reporting, brought national attention to the issue of workplace sexual violence among female farmworkers with the release of the documentary “Rape in the Fields.” In their review of 153 cases brought to civil courts, they found that “…in nearly every case, [crop] workers made complaints to company management,” and that “…85 percent faced retaliation—such as being demoted, fired, or further harassed.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines workplace violence as “…occur[ing] at or outside the workplace and can range from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide, one of the leading causes of job-related deaths.” Workplace sexual violence is particularly prevalent in agriculture. A 2010 survey of 150 farmworker women in California’s Central Valley found that 80 percent of those interviewed reported some form of sexual harassment.

This issue still draws headlines in the news today. An op-ed dated January 19, 2016 in The New York Times makes the plea to protect female farmworkers. In September 2015, the Miami Herald reported on a sexual harassment lawsuit in which five female farmworkers won $17 million in federal court.

Given this critical situation, the Center for Human Services (CHS) was awarded a Susan Harwood Targeted Topic grant by the US Department of Labor to develop training materials geared towards adult English learners to develop the capacities of farmworkers to prevent and abate workplace sexual violence.

The training materials are geared toward both adult male and female agriculture workers and their supervisors. The materials address recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of workplace sexual violence of agricultural workers. In addition, materials will include information regarding employer responsibilities and worker rights under the OSHA Act, including the right to raise health and safety concerns free from retaliation. The student manual and PowerPoint presentation will cover the same general topics related to workplace sexual violence prevention for limited-English-proficient agricultural workers. Through the inclusion of novelas (stories), characters are presented from a variety of agricultural industries (e.g., crop workers, dairy workers, poultry processors, etc.), broadening the context in which the materials are perceived as applicable.

The instructor’s guide provides information for ESL instructors and program managers on facilitating the integration of the materials into ESL programs. The materials are being produced in bilingual (English/Spanish) format.

This is the second Susan Hardwood grant awarded to CHS. In 2010, CHS developed a training program targeting immigrant Hispanic/Latino workers in Pennsylvania’s food service industry.