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Workplace Sexual Harassment Shockingly Prevalent Among Low-Wage Workers (Part 1)

Sexual harassment and assault typically involve an imbalance of power: boss and employee, teacher and student, adult and child, police officer and civilian. The person with power takes advantage of the victim’s vulnerability. Very few people are more vulnerable than an undocumented immigrant living in the United States. Most undocumented immigrants have risked everything to be here, and their employers know it. As such, the employer of an undocumented immigrant is automatically put in a position of power. The threat of deportation looms. In far too many cases, employers use this knowledge to sexually harass or assault workers.

Reports of sexual harassment have been flooding the headlines lately, with women coming forward about enduring years of harassment at the hands of their employers. Their stories include everything from bad behavior to outright rape. Many of these women are well-known, high-paid Hollywood actresses and socialites. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Finally, women are being heard. Something is being done. Progress is being made.

Fear of Retaliation, Job Loss, or Deportation

But low-wage workers, many of them undocumented, and many of them unable to speak English, are not getting the same response to allegations of sexual harassment as their rich, white, Hollywood counterparts. For many of these women, reporting sexual harassment doesn’t seem to be viable option. They simply cannot afford to lose their jobs. And even if they want to report it, many don’t know how, or they fear that calling attention to themselves will result in deportation. A MA employment law attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

One woman in Boston – an undocumented immigrant – was continuously raped by her boss, who threatened to report her to immigration authorities if she ever told anyone. Another woman, who was working at a bread company in Charlestown, refused her supervisor’s offer to go home with him. In response, he cut her hours.

In 2015, Jena Benson started working at a Boston-area Dunkin’ Donuts. She says that her shift supervisor would always greet her with a hug, which didn’t bother her too much. But on one particular occasion, the hug lasted too long and ended with the supervisor squeezing her buttocks.

“I Didn’t Want to Lose My Job”

Benson complained to her manager, but he brushed it off, saying, “Oh, you know how he is, he’s probably just joking around.” Soon after she reported the unwanted behavior, Benson’s hours were reduced from full time to one night a week. To make matters worse, she had to work that one weekly shift with the supervisor who had assaulted her. But she didn’t do anything about it. “I didn’t want to lose my job,” Benson said.

Some time later, she decided to tell someone about the harassment. But it was too late. In MA, a victim of sexual harassment must report the incident to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination within a 300-day period. A Boston employment law attorney can help you determine how to move forward if you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment.

Low-Wage Industries are Notorious for Sexual Harassment

Reports of sexual harassment are shockingly high in certain industries. In fact, studies reveal that 80 percent of Mexican women working on farms in California have been sexually harassed. And more than half of the women working in Chicago hotels report experiencing sexual harassment at some point. The fast food industry isn’t any better; a 2016 nationwide survey showed that 40 percent of women working in fast food restaurants say they have been harassed. Low-wage workers are often particularly fearful of retaliation and tend to be less familiar with the system for reporting sexual harassment. For this reason, time limits, like the 300-day window mentioned above, put low-wage workers at a serious disadvantage.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston Employment Law Firm

If you are being sexually harassed at work, don’t suffer in silence. There is help. At Altman & Altman, LLP, our compassionate, knowledgeable attorneys will ensure that you understand your rights and options before moving forward. We will remain by your side throughout the entire process, and position you for the most favorable outcome possible. Don’t go through this difficult time alone. Contact us today for a free, and entirely confidential consultation about your case.

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