The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced June 3, 2014 that EEOC and four Hawaii growers settled for $2.4 million in response to a suit alleging that Thai guest workers supplied by labor contractor Global Horizons, Inc. were discriminated against based on race and national origin. The proposed settlements are still waiting for approval by the U.S. District Court for District of Hawaii, but as they follow the court’s ruling earlier in the year that Global Horizons was in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act through their engagement in what was described as a pattern of harassment and discrimination against the Thai workers, many expect quick approval.
In 2011, the EEOC sued Global Horizons, as well as multiple growers in Hawaii and a couple growers in Washington State. The high-profile human trafficking case alleged that Global Horizons misled poor Thai workers that were forced to pay high fees in order to enter the United States as guest workers. Once on US soil, the Thai guest workers were then subjected to substandard housing, passport confiscation, harassment on the job, passport confiscation, etc.
Four separate proposed consent decrees would benefit approximately 500 Thai workers (those who worked between 2003 and 2007). Under the proposed consent decrees, defendant Mac Farms would pay $1.6 million, Kauai Coffee would be $425,000, Captain Cook Coffee would pay $100,000 and Kelena Farms would pay $275,000. Payments would go to the alleged discrimination victims in amounts to be determined by the EEOC.
For more information regarding equal employment or discrimination in the workplace, contact Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik, your California discrimination and employment law experts.