Be aware of cultural differences

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Editor's note: This copyrighted article is being reproduced with permission from Gempler's ALERT, a newsletter on agricultural safety and employment law compliance.

How do you teach employees and supervisors from a different culture about the importance of sexual harassment laws and other workplace practices? This is an issue many employers struggle with, as more and more of the agricultural work force is comprised of Hispanics.

"In some of these Latin American countries, women more often than not are stay-at-home wives. They raise the children, or, they may run a home-based business. So, a lot of these men are not used to working in the same environment as women," says Attorney Frank Lopez of Fisher & Phillips LLP in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The result, he says, is that some of these men "may make comments about why are they (the women) working and where are their husbands, and may treat them differently than their co-workers."

Employees need to be educated by their employer that this is not an acceptable practice. Otherwise, the employer could wind up facing a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, Lopez says.

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