Sexual Assault: More Than a Pest for Female Farm Workers


It’s no surprise women often feel unsafe.

And although plenty companies have sworn to protect women at work with sexual harassment policies, abuse persists.

Not safe

A recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that two farming companies are being sued for not protecting four female farm workers from sexual harassment. The companies allegedly allowed women who refused sexual advances to be denied work.

The suit, which was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in early April, states that “Bornt & Sons, Inc. and its former labor contractor, Barraza Farm Services, broke federal discrimination laws starting as early as 2010,” the Union-Tribune reports.

The suit is horrifying.

The women were groped and had to endure sexual comments about their bodies. In one case, a manager “removed his clothes, sat naked on a chair and asked her to (perform a sex act).”

Not the first time

Obviously, this type of harassment is not uncommon—especially in the farming industry.

Two years ago, five female farm workers successfully won a suit against Omar and Oscar Moreno—their employer’s sons—in a Miami federal court case.

The women were initially fired for confronting the brothers and another company manager about the harassment. The Miami federal jury awarded the women $17.4 million.

And a PBS story, “Rape in the Fields,” which aired almost five years ago, found that female farm workers routinely face rape and sexual harassment in the American agriculture industry.

A common horror

The agriculture industry is rife with harassment opportunities. Managers often prey on women who have immigrated to the United States illegally. After an assault occurs, the offending manager often uses that woman’s immigration status against her.

In addition to praying on women who fear deportation, employers often threaten to fire the workers. Bosses’ also use the tried-and-true shame tactic to compel women to remain silent, too.

There are organizations that inform women in the industry of their fundamental rights. One such organization is the National Farm Worker Ministry. The Ministry educates farmers and the public about the threats women in farming face.

If you want to help female farm workers from sexual harassment by improving the system, consider the following:

  • Donate to organizations that protect female farm workers.
  • Buy produce and other food from local farmers who are transparent about their employment policies.

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Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.