California readers who care about the issue of workplace discrimination may be interested in the following account of a lawsuit against one of the world’s largest and best known producers of fresh produce, Del Monte. The company has agreed pay $1.2 million in a worker discrimination lawsuit. The suit alleged that the company mistreated Thai immigrants who worked on pineapple farms in Hawaii.
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Del Monte and multiple farm labor contractors. The suit alleged that the companies engaged in workplace discrimination against employees that had been recruited from Thailand between the years of 2003 and 2006. The EEOC suit claimed that Del Monte and its contractors exploited Thai workers economically by charging them exorbitant fees in exchange for farming jobs in the U.S. and then treated them poorly when they arrived.
The workers were allegedly placed in substandard housing without access to kitchen facilities or food, according to the lawsuit. In addition, they were not paid sufficiently. Workers that complained about the conditions were threatened with deportation or arrest or, in some cases, physical violence. The suit also alleged that the company seized the identification documents of some workers, which made it difficult for them to leave.
Del Monte agreed to pay a $1.2 million settlement, which the EEOC says will be distributed among the mistreated Thai workers. Additionally, Del Monte will promote fair treatment for farm workers throughout the U.S. The company will ensure that all foreign workers are informed of their legal rights and will instruct its labor contractors to adhere to United States employment laws.
An attorney with EEOC stated that he was pleased that the lawsuit was resolved through negotiation rather than expensive and prolonged litigation. This case demonstrates how a lawsuit can change the way an industry treats its workers.
Source: LA TImes, “Del Monte to pay $1.2 million to settle worker-discrimination lawsuit “, Stuart Pfeifer, November 18, 2013