In a suit filed by the EEOC approximately three years ago against six farms in Hawaii, the EEOC claimed that Thai workers were subjected to conditions comparable to that of human trafficking. As described in the article Four Hawaii Farms to Pay $2.4 Million to Thai Workers to Settle EEOC National Origin and Retaliation Employment Discrimination Lawsuit, between the years 2003 and 2007, Global Horizons contracted Thai workers to work at farms under the H2-A temporary visa program. As part of the program, workers were to be provided food and housing, in addition to pay for the work performed. Not only were the workers required to pay excessive recruitment fees, once on site, they were subjected to denial or delay of pay, confiscated passports, denial of of adequate food and water, unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions, and production quotas that were not required of non-Thai workers. The workers who complained of the discrimination and harassment were retaliated against.
One of the affected Thai workers stated, “We worked and lived under terrible conditions, treated like animals in cage. We were housed in an overcrowded place with a few rooms but many workers, and threatened almost daily. I am grateful that the EEOC is here to help people like me.”
In March of this year, U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi ruled that Global Horizons is liable for their continued practice of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against Thai farm workers based on their national origin and race, in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.
In addition to the $2.4 million settlement paid by four farms that were named in the suit, injunctive relief will ensure that policies and procedures prohibiting discrimination will be put into place by farms and farm labor contractors.
Regional attorney for the EEOC Los Angeles District, Anna Y. Park, stated, “We all have a responsibility to ensure that the most vulnerable workers are not denied basic human dignity and life-sustaining water and food. Farms and farm labor contractors – and the supervisors that represent them – must ensure workers’ civil rights remain intact, no matter their race or the country they come from.”
If you or someone you know believes they have experienced employment discrimination and/or retaliation, the team at Radford & Keebaugh can help. Contact us by phone at (678) 369-3609.