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California Introduces New Bill to Protect Farmworkers from Abuse

Posted on in Employment

Widespread sexual harassment including cases of sexual assault and rape involving migrant farm workers have been an open secret in the farm industry for years. San Jose employment lawyers have also known that harassment is a major problem in the farm industry. Now, a new bill that was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown recently, will place the onus of preventing that harassment involving migrant workers on the middlemen, who provide farm employers with these workers.

The new law will require labor contractors, employers and supervisors to undergo sexual harassment training. In addition, labor contractor licensing exams will now also include questions that are related to sexual harassment. Under the earlier law, only farm owners and employers who had more than 50 employees were mandated to provide supervisors with at least two hours of sexual harassment training every other year. However, now all employers, regardless of the number of workers employed, must provide such sexual harassment training. Under the law, the State of California can also revoke a contractor's license if he has been found to have harassed an employee. Labor contractors could also lose their licenses if supervisors engage in such behavior.

The bill was introduced in response to a report that was designed by The Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, the Center for Investigative Reporting and others. The report claimed that there was widespread abuse of the immigrant women who were employed in these farms, and work in picking, packing and processing food. These are women who have no legal recourse to justice and protections from harassment on the job.

The farming industry had opposed earlier versions of the bill that would have required more substantial training for labor contractors, because they believed these would increase business costs.

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