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PORTSIDE  August 2012, Week 1

PORTSIDE August 2012, Week 1

Subject:

Women Farm Workers Win Sex Harassment Case

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 5 Aug 2012 22:46:23 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (104 lines)

Women Farm Workers Win Sex Harassment Case
DiMare Ruskin will pay a $150,000 EEOC settlement 
after women tomato-pickers filed complaints that 
they were sexually harassed.
By Christina Veiga
Miami Herald
July 26, 2012
http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/26/2908257/women-farm-workers-win-sex-harassment.html

While picking tomatoes for DiMare Ruskin, one of
Florida's largest growers, Catalina Ramirez says her
crew leader would repeatedly ask her for sex, according
to a lawsuit.

He would tell her he wanted to kiss her all over, and
that she would regret turning down his advances because
he is "well-endowed," the lawsuit claims.

In the same Immokalee fields, Lucia Reyes says she was
groped and sexually taunted by her male supervisor,
according to the suit.

Both ended up without work. And both ended up filing
complaints of sexual harassment with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC sued DiMare last year in U.S. District Court
for the Middle District of Florida. This week, the EEOC
announced that the company - affiliated with DiMare
Fresh, which has fields from Homestead to California -
will pay a $150,000 settlement.

DiMare representatives did not return requests for
comments.

Said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the Miami
District office of the EEOC: "Just the fact that this
case went forward, that these women had the courage to
come forward, that the EEOC sought justice," will
hopefully encourage other agricultural workers to "stand
up" for their rights.

The settlement requires DiMare to implement a company-
wide anti-harassment policy, create a system for
employees to submit complaints to the company, and
provide training about the EEOC's anti-discrimination
laws. The company also has to keep the EEOC updated
about how it handles discrimination complaints for the
next three years.

"Other growers will look at this as an example of
something that they can do proactively. If they don't
have these procedures in place, it ought to be sort of a
wake up call that they do need to put them in place,"
Weisberg said.

Weisberg said harassment of women farm workers is
systemic, citing a 95-page report released in May by
Human Rights Watch.

The organization interviewed 52 agricultural workers,
nearly all of whom reported they had experienced rape,
verbal abuse and exhibitionism while working in growing
fields and poultry houses.

Many of the women don't report the abuse because they
are afraid to lose their jobs or because they are
undocumented immigrants scared of being deported, the
report says. Excluding the Panhandle, 693 cases of
harassment were reported to the EEOC in 2011 from across
all sectors.

For advocates at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers,
such conditions are an almost daily reality. The women
named in the EEOC suit first came to the coalition for
help. The Human Rights Study found that workers with
access to such support groups were more likely to report
abuses.

"Labor abuse in the fields is real, and it won't go away
if we all just stick our heads in the sand," Nely
Rodriguez, a staff member for the coalition, wrote in an
email. "Rather we have to confront that reality, work
together to expose and eliminate the abusers, and move
forward together as a stronger industry."

___________________________________________

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