Lost in the recent discussion about immigration in the United States is the plight of vulnerable female farmworkers who are often powerless against sexual harassment and abuse at work. A 2012 Human Rights Watch report detailed incidents of stalking, molestation, and sexual assault among immigrant worker populations. Such abuse often goes unreported because of the lack of firm and effective penalties for offenders. These violations are still happening today.
A researcher at Human Rights Watch says immigrant farmworkers are not afforded the basic protections that all other American workers take for granted. These gaps allow abuses to occur—sexual harassment among them. Victims also refrain from reporting sexual harassment because they fear retaliation in the form of termination or deportation if they do.
When the victims of a hostile work environment do summon the courage to speak up and report their abuse, not much seems to be done about it. Some employers abuse the power they have over female migrant workers and refuse to discipline the abusers.
It is not easy for immigrants to go up against a complex, intimidating legal system when they often have little security and speak a different language. Offenders are often given a slap on the wrist, if disciplined at all. When the abuser is the worker’s employer, the victims are intimidated into staying quiet or threatened with deportation.
VAWA and U Visas Protect Workers
The U.S. Senate’s Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), reauthorized in 2013, is one way to curb the sexual violence against women and girls in farmworker communities. The VAWA toughens penalties for sexual offenders and offers more protections to victims so they feel empowered to come forward. Encouraging immigrant victims to pursue U Visas is another option. The U Visa provides temporary legal status to victims of violent or otherwise serious crimes provided that they cooperate with law enforcement.
More needs to be done to protect the nation’s most vulnerable workers from having to endure hostile work environments. No worker deserves to be abused, violated, or harassed, regardless of their status. With legislation like the VAWA, our immigrant workforce will someday have access to the same basic rights that every worker in America deserves.
Cherry Hill Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Fight Against Hostile Work Environments
No one should be subjected to a hostile work environment. If you have been a victim of sexual harassment at work, contact McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.. for an ally in the battle against gender discrimination. Our Cherry Hill sexual harassment lawyers will discuss your case in a free initial consultation. Call our Marlton, New Jersey offices at 856-985-9800 or complete our convenient online contact form to begin.