In 2005, three individuals filed suit against Nestle USA, Nestle SA of Switzerland, Archer Daniels Midland Co. of Chicago and Cargill Inc.of Minnesota alleging the companies contributed in child slavery. The three Plaintiffs in this action worked on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast during the 1990’s.
As detailed in this article, the lawsuit alleges that by giving money and providing training and equipment to Ivorian farmers that allegedly subjected young workers to an inhumane work environment, the companies are aided and abetted in a continued practice of child slavery. According to the suit, the Plaintiffs were taken to the plantation between the ages of 12 and 14 and once there were forced to work fourteen hour days six days a week, given little to eat and beaten if their work did not satisfy the overseer.
Bought under the Alien Tort Statute of 1789 and dismissed by a federal judge in 2010, the case has been reopened by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. The panel’s issued Opinion stating, “We conclude that the prohibition against slavery is universal and may be asserted against the corporate defendants in this case… There are no rules exempting acts of enslavement carried out on behalf of a corporation.”
Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson, “The allegations suggest that a myopic focus on profit over human welfare drove the defendants to act with the purpose of obtaining the cheapest cocoa possible, even it meant facilitating child slavery.”
Attorney for the Plaintiffs, Catherine Sweetser, “The court has reestablished that corporations can be held accountable for making decisions in the United States that affect human rights in foreign countries.”
According to the Nestle website, Nestle became a founding participant in the International Cocoa Initiative, which is “dedicated to ending child and forced labor in cocoa growing, and eliminating child trafficking and abusive labor practices.”
If you or someone you know thinks they have been subjected to unlawful employment practices, the team at Radford & Keebaugh can help. Contact us by phone at (678) 369-3609 or use our contact form.