In June, four Hawaii growers agreed to pay $2.4 million to settle claims related to the growers’ use of Thai H2-A visa workers supplied by farm labor contractor Global Horizons. The EEOC, which filed suit on behalf of the Thai workers, alleged that Global Horizons misled impoverished Thai workers to pay high registration fees to come to the United States as guest workers, effectively placing them into a situation of debt bondage, and then subjected them to unfair pay, unfair quotas, denial of adequate food and water, and unsanitary and over-crowded living conditions.
In the race/national origin discrimination and retaliation lawsuit, the EEOC named Global Horizons and six growers, asserting that the growers were joint employers with Global Horizons and therefore liable for the farm labor contractor’s acts. In addition to the June settlement by four of the growers, a fifth grower settled in 2013 for $1.2 million; the claims against Global Horizons and the sixth grower remain pending.
EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said the settlement “reflects the Commissions redoubled effort to challenge discriminatory practices against the most vulnerable workers who often live and work in the shadows of the economy.” Indeed, the EEOC’s strategic enforcement plan for fiscal years 2013 – 2016 includes as one of the Commission’s six national priorities: “Protecting Immigrant, Migrant and Other Vulnerable Workers.” EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Park characterized the settlement as “a reminder to the agricultural industry to remain ever-vigilant in hiring and monitoring farm labor contractors.” More information about the case can be found here.