Sexual harassment and abuse against female farmworkers in the fields apparently often goes unnoticed. Attorneys for the EEOC claim that this occurs primarily because the majority of farmworkers have minimal knowledge of their legal rights, know little English, and are undocumented.
All of the San Francisco EEOC’s recent cases involving farmworker sexual harassment have led to settlements.
In the case of Olivia Tamayo, inability of the parties to settle led to a trial in which the jury took less than six hours to award her $1 million in damages. This was despite the fact that Tamayo took six years to accuse her supervisor of rape.
A federal court jury in January decided that although Tamayo attempted to complain about the rapes, the defendant Harris Farms did not act promptly to stop the harassment once it was reported and retaliated against Tamayo, causing her to quit. Tamayo claimed that the defendant did not believe her and did nothing to protect her.
Tamayo said she was raped for the first time by her supervisor in 1993 in one of Harris Farms’ almond groves. She said she did not know what to do or where to go, and could not tell her husband. Tamayo said that her supervisor brandished a gun and a knife while working.
According to Tamayo, her supervisor raped her two other times, once in his truck and another time at home while her husband worked and her children slept. She kept quiet until one day when he grabbed her by her hair and punched her face as she stood in the middle of a field.
Harris Farm still believes, based on the company’s own internal investigation, that Tamayo’s situation involved an affair that had gone bad and not rape, and thus plans to appeal the verdict.
Since the verdict, the defendant has been warned by the judge not to retaliate against its workers. Harris Farms has installed a complaint hot line for employees and trained supervisors to recognize harassment.
“If the pink slip doesn’t fit,