Protecting and defending the rights of low-income rural LGBTI People in California – Part 2

Part two of our interview with Daniel Torres from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), about the work he’s been doing to protect and defend the rights of low-income rural LGBTI people in California.

Last week we published the first part of our interview with Daniel Torres from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), about the work he’s been doing to protect and defend the rights of low-income rural LGBT people in California.

Here’s the second part of the interview:

Dan Torres

Have you had any successful experience in your work at CRLA? Please share with us!

Daniel Torres: In 2011, CRLA successfully sued a food processing plant, located in Salinas, CA on behalf of four Latino workers who filed a lawsuit based on homophobic sexual harassment and retaliation.

Three women and one man employed as packers in the lasagna, tamale and ravioli production units suffered sexual harassment by the same male supervisor. Starting in August 2006, their new crew leader’s conduct included making sexual and homophobic comments; texting obscene pictures and unwanted physical touching. Although the employees reported the harassment to the management and the human resources department, the company failed to take prompt and effective corrective action. After the employees complained, the company laid off or discharged all four workers.

CRLA, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency charged with enforcing employment protections, sued the company. The company paid $535,000 to the workers and agreed to bolster its anti-harassment policy, to provide preventative training to managers and employees and to file periodic reports to the EEOC regarding any harassment or retaliation complaints.

In 2013, CRLA held several of daylong conferences throughout rural California to bring together stakeholders interested in preventing bullying and harassment of LGBT students. For many of the parents and community members, attending this kind of a conference represented an act of bravery. At one summit, a local news outlet wanted to interview participants however, many were very leery. One participant stated concerns about “neighbors and family seeing me here;” another attendee stated she “might lose her job” if her employer discovered her participation. These concerns emphasize the deep need to maintain and expand our work with LGBT communities in rural areas.

What kind of recommendations/suggestions can you make for other service providers in your field to help LGBT people get out of poverty situations?

Daniel Torres: We recommend legal assistance service providers do the following:

  • branch out to other organizations and agencies
  • build the capacity of other legal aid organizations, governmental agencies and social service providers
  • use planning tools – developing needs assessments, working with client advisory groups, drafting work plans – to map out how they will carry out their LGBT advocacy
  • take a hard look at intake systems and protocols to ensure that LGBT clients will feel confident, respected and well served
  • place dedicated or assigned LGBT project staff who can raise relevant questions, call for necessary reforms and assist with implementation of necessary changes
  • train organizational staff and partners on LGBT cultural competency and legal rights; include role-plays and real case studies so that staff and advocates gain a truly understand LGBT clients’ experiences

We hope you enjoyed our interview with Daniel Torres. For more information about CRLA

What you can do