Preventing sexual harassment in agriculture

Victoria Breckwich Vásquez, left, and Jody Early helped develop a new toolkit that aims to prevent sexual harassment in the agriculture industry.

A group of stakeholders has completed work on a new training toolkit aimed to address sexual harassment in the agricultural workplace.

¡Basta! — which means “enough” in Spanish — Preventing Sexual Harassment in Agriculture is a bilingual resource that provides training for farmworkers, supervisors and growers. The training includes a video, guide and worksite materials and covers reporting incidents, respecting workers and creating a worksite policy compliant with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines.

The program officially launched Thursday during an event at Radio KDNA in Granger. Attendees could watch the training video and listen to presentations from people involved during the nearly six-year development process. The group included farmworkers, growers, legal experts, civil rights advocates and university researchers.

The effort to create a program came several years ago when female farmworkers expressed concern about sexual harassment during training from the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

Several state and national studies show that sexual harassment is a widespread issue in agriculture. According to those studies, women make up to a third of the state’s farm workforce and more than three-quarters of those workers have experienced sexual harassment. That number may be higher given those who do not report incidents out of fear, according to information from organizers.

“They really raised (sexual harassment) as a workplace safety issue,” said Jody Early, an associate professor at the University of Washington Bothell. “And not all of agriculture see it that way.”

Early and Victoria Breckwich Vásquez, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington Bothell, co-led the effort to develop the program. But Early emphasized the effort also required broad community engagement.

“We realized we have to approach this from multiple levels,” Early said.

Early and Breckwich Vásquez spent the last several years talking to different groups and completing research that looked into possible causes sexual harassment in the agricultural workplace and policies to prevent future incidents. The pair also talked with growers to determine the challenges they had in crafting and enforcing policy.

The goal was a training program tailored to different members of the agricultural community, including farmworkers, supervisors and growers, Early said. To that end, the training materials make several language and cultural accommodations.

“There’s a real demand for tailored educational resources,” Early said.

Efforts won’t end with the release of the new training program. The hope is that the toolkit can be expanded to include additional resources, Early said.

“This is an ongoing effort, not one and done,” Early said.

The toolkit is available for a minimal fee through the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center. The website is at https://deohs.washington.edu/pnash/sexual-harassment.

Reach Mai Hoang at maihoang@yakimaherald.com or Twitter @maiphoang