The middlemen who provide farmers with temporary workers will bear more responsibility for stopping violent sexual harassment, including rape, in agricultural work under a bill signed Sunday by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The new law requires sexual harassment training for labor contractors, supervisors and all farm employees. Questions related to sexual harassment will be added to the labor contractors’ licensing exam.

The bill was introduced in response to Rape in the Fields, a collaboration among The Center for Investigative Reporting, the Investigative Reporting Program at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, KQED-FM, FRONTLINE and Univision.

The investigation found widespread sexual abuse of the immigrant women who pick, pack and process America’s food.

Before the passage of the bill, only agricultural employers with more than 50 employees were required to give their supervisors two hours of sexual harassment training every other year. Now, all employers regardless of size must do so.

The state now also can revoke the license of a contractor who has harassed an employee. Labor contractors also could be stripped of their license if they hire a supervisor who has engaged in sexual harassment in the past three years.

Sen. Bill Monning, D-Monterey, authored the bill.

Early versions of the bill, which required more intensive training for labor contractors, were opposed by agricultural trade groups and the California Farm Labor Contractor Association. They felt the bill would increase business costs, and they were concerned about how they would conduct sexual harassment background checks on supervisors.

But other grower groups, like the California Grape & Tree Fruit League, threw their support behind the bill early on.

“Clearly, nobody should be creating a situation which could lead to sexual harassment,” said Barry Bedwell, the organization’s president.

Bernice Yeung is a reporter for Reveal, covering race and gender. Her work examines issues related to violence against women, labor and employment, immigration, and environmental health. Yeung was part of the national Emmy-nominated Rape in the Fields reporting team, which investigated the sexual assault of immigrant farmworkers. The project won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. Yeung also was the lead reporter for the national Emmy-nominated Rape on the Night Shift team, which examined sexual violence against female janitors. That work won an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative journalism, and the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. Those projects led to ​​her first book in 2018, “In a Day's Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America's Most Vulnerable Workers.”  

A former staff writer for SF Weekly and editor at California Lawyer magazine, Yeung has had her work appear in a variety of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Guardian and PBS FRONTLINE. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's degree from Fordham University, where she studied sociology with a focus on crime and justice. She was a 2015-16 Knight-Wallace fellow at the University of Michigan, where she explored ways journalists can use social science survey methods in their reporting. Yeung is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.