New Law Targets Sexual Harassment in California Agriculture
By Delia Barnett and Meredith Johnson
Delia Barnett is the Director of Litigation for the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. Prior to joining CRLAF, Ms. Barnett had her own firm in Pasadena, where she specialized in class and collective actions on behalf of low-wage immigrant workers. Meredith Johnson is the Litigation Fellow at the Impact Fund, where she works on employment discrimination class actions. Prior to joining the Impact Fund, Meredith clerked for the Hon. Richard A. Paez on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She graduated from Stanford Law School in 2012.
For many white collar workers in today’s business world, blatant sexual harassment is something we see on "Mad Men," not something we face in everyday life. The cat-calling, innuendos, groping, and other unwelcome advances so common a generation ago are no longer tolerated in most office environments. The labor and employment bar can take a great deal of credit for this transformation. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have brought meritorious cases, defense attorneys have warned about the risks of ignoring misconduct, and both sides have promoted equality in the workplace by helping our clients understand their rights and shoulder their responsibilities.
But it is time we did more. The unfortunate reality is that for many low-wage workers, particularly those in the agricultural industry, sexual harassment is still tragically commonplace.1 Extreme poverty, isolation, and fear of deportation keep many victims silent and their predators undeterred.