A new study from Penn State University describes a need for policies that safeguard the health and rights of farm workers in the U.S. Researchers from the Department of Biobehavioral Health at Penn State followed a group of 89 Latino farm workers in Texas over eight months. The workers routinely felt discriminated against and felt they were expected to work while injured and without treatment for their injuries. Additionally, the workers were afraid to report any injuries out of fear of retaliation.
The Penn State study took place from May to October of 2009 in the Texas Panhandle. The Latino workers had migrated there from the Texas-Mexico border to work in squash, cotton, citrus and watermelon fields. The workers were interviewed and asked to make observations for the study. In instances of perceived discrimination, 67 of 89 of the workers named the supervisor or farm owner as the source. These workers also said that they experienced discrimination at the hands of crew managers. Examples include being forced to work while suffering from a severe injury that required treatment and unfair payment practices. The farm workers were also concerned that if they asked for time off to get better that they might be fired or not be hired back.
Not every participant in the study experienced discrimination. A small number of the farm workers reported fair promotion practices and equal pay by their employers.
Language May Be a Factor for Immigrant Workers
Researchers found a correlation between language skills and perceived discrimination. The most recently-arrived immigrants had weaker English language abilities and reported stronger perceptions of discrimination. The Penn State findings relate to similar studies on immigrant farm workers in the United States and their health burdens. Researchers want to understand the social conditions in which this population lives and works. Farm workers are responsible for the production of our food and their health determines whether or not they can work.
The Penn State study is one of a limited number of studies on working populations and their social vulnerability. Researchers said that further studies are required to understand the extent of the different problems reported by the farm workers. Hiring and firing practices, working while injured and unequal pay are all concerns that need to be addressed. They hope that this direct evidence of discrimination experienced by the study’s participants can help policymakers and advocates determine how to better target their efforts to ensure fair working conditions and protections.
Supporters of the research included the National Institutes of Health, the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Southwest Center for Agricultural Health, Injury Prevention and Education of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Philadelphia Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Protect the Rights of All Workers
If you believe you have been a victim of discrimination, were wrongfully terminated, or experienced retaliation at work, the skilled and experienced Philadelphia discrimination lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. will fight for your right to fair treatment and compensation. Call us at 215-569-1999 or fill out our online contact form. We are conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia serving clients throughout Pennsylvania and South Jersey.