Women Agricultural Workers' Perceptions of Workplace Sexual Harassment in Yakima Valley
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<bold>Background:</bold> Workplace sexual harassment of women agricultural workers has become an increasing concern in the U.S. Women agricultural workers are largely low-income, Latina, and work in predominately male environments, increasing the risk of sexual harassment. <bold>Objective:</bold> The purpose of this study was to identify the risks, protective factors, and health consequences of workplace sexual harassment by eliciting the perspectives of women agricultural workers. <bold>Methods:</bold> A longstanding campus-community partnership enabled a qualitative study using focus groups. Two focus groups with 20 women agricultural workers were conducted in Yakima Valley, Washington. Four coders analyzed and gleaned interpretations from verbatim transcripts using the grounded theory approach. <bold>Results:</bold> Three major themes were gleaned from the focus groups. First, workplace sexual harassment is pervasive and frequent in the agriculture industry; 75% of participants shared a personal or peers' story of being sexually harassed while at work. Second, personal and work environment related risk and protective factors either perpetuate or prevent workplace sexual harassment, respectively. These risk factors also hinder workers from reporting harassment to authorities. Third, workplace sexual harassment leads to psychological, relational, and familial distress in women agricultural workers. <bold>Conclusions:</bold> Sexual harassment has become a social norm in the agriculture industry. Cultural, economic, work environment, and interpersonal factors increase the risk of harassment. Several theories are proposed to help public health professionals, community health workers, legal advocates, and health providers intervene at the prevention, research, and policy levels to reduce the risk of sexual harassment in the agriculture industry.
- Health services