VIOLENT Sexual Assault and HARASSMENT Leads to historic award for farmworker

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
February 12, 2015

Contact:
Lisel Holdenried
Staff Attorney, CRLA Salinas
(831) 757-5221 Ext. 308
lholdenried@crla.org

 

VIOLENT Sexual Assault and HARASSMENT Leads to
historic award for farmworker

Employer ordered to provide sexual harassment training to entire workforce.

SALINAS, CA- Georgina Jimenez, represented by California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (CRLA) and Dickson Geesman LLP, has been awarded approximately $1.3 million in a single female farmworker sexual assault and harassment case against Reiter Berry Farms by an arbitrator.  In addition, the award puts in place a two-year injunction requiring new company-wide training, complaint procedures, and reporting mechanisms to be overseen by a neutral outside monitor.  

Ms. Jimenez’s attorney, CRLA’s Lisel Holdenried, responded to the award saying, “Ms. Jimenez’s courage will positively affect Reiter’s 16,000 workers, and the way Reiter approaches effective training and prevention of sexual harassment in the fields.”

On August 2, 2012, Ms. Jimenez was picking raspberries in an isolated area filled with thick bushes when her foreman, Jesus Garcia, suddenly appeared and sexually assaulted her.  Ms. Jimenez immediately reported the assault to her managers, and they responded by sending her back to the field while they investigated her claim.

Ms. Jimenez had been sexually harassed by Mr. Garcia previously but her complaints were ignored by the farm’s management. In a disturbing move, Reiter Berry Farms even promoted  Mr. Garcia to be Ms. Jimenez’s foreman after her complaints were made.

A final decision and award was issued by an arbitrator, the Honorable Melinda A. Johnson (Ret.).  She found that the farm failed to respond appropriately to the violent sexual assault, to past complaints of sexual harassment, and to provide a place of safety but instead, “left her in harm’s way.”

The arbitrator noted that, “Sexual harassment, both physical and verbal, is commonplace in the fields, including at Reiter. Cultural norms often prevent prompt and full reporting.”

Ms. Holdenried agreed and added, “The injunctive relief is key in this award.  Culturally competent sexual harassment prevention training cannot be overstated because real barriers to reporting exist. Growers and farm labor contractors need to have a better understanding and awareness about what those are and how to address them in order to create and sustain a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.”

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Founded in 1966, CRLA’s mission is to fight for justice and individual rights alongside the most exploited

communities of our society. Through a network of regional offices and cross-cutting programs, CRLA provides legal services to over 32,000 low-income people annually. Our work impacts farmworkers, individuals with disabilities, immigrant populations, LGBT communities, women, children and families in rural areas.  For more information on CRLA, please visit: www.crla.org.

 


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