It's that time of year again here in Marion County and Polk County. That means the number of people working to process crops rises dramatically. Many of those workers are women.
What many people outside this industry don't know is that sexual harassment appears rampant. Women face the danger of sexual advances, harassment and violence every day they work, but they need their jobs, so many stay quiet.
A little background
Around 32% of the farming industry's workforce is made up of women, and many of them are not even from this country. Nearly 10 years ago, data indicated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of seasonal agricultural workers came from Mexico. There is no reason to believe those numbers have significantly dwindled since that time. Co-workers, crew leaders and others take advantage of the immigration status of these women to force them into silence.
Many of these workers rely on their crew leaders for transportation and other essentials as they move from place to place to work. This creates a dangerous imbalance of power that far too many take advantage of. Even if some women wanted to complain, their fear of retaliation keeps them quiet. They already experience unsafe working conditions, low wages and other hardships just to keep their jobs. Of course, you don't have to be an immigrant to face these working conditions.
Coming forward is a risk
It's hard to deny that coming forward with sexual harassment allegations presents a risk. Even so, you may be one of the brave women who does. Perhaps you feel fighting for your rights outweighs the treatment you are subjected to at work. Perhaps you can no longer stay quiet and just want it to stop. The problem is you may not know where to turn. The truth is that you may face an uphill battle to pursue the justice and compensation you deserve.
However, that does not mean you should give up. You have rights, and you certainly should not have to put up with this behavior. Now more than ever the issue of sexual harassment is receiving the attention it deserves. People here in Oregon and across the country are realizing that even in a modern society, women still live with the fear of sexual violence in the workplace. You are not alone. An employment law attorney could prove to be an invaluable asset to you as you fight for your rights.