Sexual harassment of farmworkers has been established by the EEOC as an area of concern, with the words “harrowing,” “appalling” and “extreme abuse” used regarding a series of recently filed cases. The EEOC has said it is explicitly targeting the abuse of “vulnerable workers.”

We reported on October 11th, that the EEOC had settled a national origin harassment case against a California vinyard which, it was alleged (among other things), permitted a supervisor to call Mexican workers "wetbacks" and "beaners."  As we said then, underscoring the EEOC’s use of the word “vulnerable” to describe the type of employees that it was moving to protect, one plaintiff was quoted as saying that "Until this case, we didn't realize we had rights, or that there are laws to stop that kind of treatment."  

The EEOC has just announced a $500,000 class action settlement with a Georgia agricultural farm which has agreed to make payment to 19 American seasonal workers, mostly African-Americans, who were allegedly discriminated against based upon their race and national origin. The EEOC claimed that the employer engaged in a pattern and practice of such discrimination by firing virtually all American workers in favor of keeping Mexican workers, while also making race-based comments.

The EEOC general counsel reiterated that "The EEOC will continue to protect the rights of vulnerable workers, such as the African American agricultural workers in this case, who were unlawfully terminated because of their race and national origin. Employers must ensure that their employment practices are in line with anti-discrimination laws, especially in light of the globalization of the labor force."