“Vulnerable workers” – part of the EEOC’s plan for enforcement. Protecting them, that is. Think farm workers, migrant workers, workers in isolated areas, and mentally-challenged Henry’s Turkey workers. The EEOC has just announced that a federal court has awarded judgment to another group of farmworkers.
EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP)
On November 20, 2013 we posted that “For quite awhile we have reported about the EEOC’s targets as set forth in its Strategic Enforcement Plan (“SEP”), and noted that “vulnerable worker” abuse and religious discrimination were in the cross-hairs.”
On October 8, 2013 we wrote:
“Last year we discussed a number of cases brought by the EEOC against employers relating to harassment of farmworkers — the most vulnerable workers, according to the EEOC’s strategic enforcement plan. We quoted the EEOC general counsel in relation to the settlement of an ‘appalling’ sexual harassment suit: ‘It is one of the EEOC’s national priorities to combat discrimination against vulnerable workers, and we hope that this settlement sends a message to other employers that they need to be vigilant to prevent sexual harassment and other abuse.'”
Judgment For Thai Workers In Hawaii
A federal judge has just found a Beverly Hills-based farm labor contractor liable for a pattern and practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation against Thai farm workers at the Maui Pineapple Company in Hawaii, the EEOC has said.
The EEOC said that Thai farm workers who were brought into the U.S. to work under the H2-A visa program were subject to “high recruitment fees [which] created a great debt for the Thai workers who faced abuses on the farms such as slapping, punching, humiliation, heavy surveillance and threats of being shot, deported or arrested.”
The Court held that “Global Horizons subjected the Claimants to physical and verbal harassment based on Claimants’ race and/or national origin in order to secure the Claimants’ compliance and obedience and based upon stereotypical beliefs about Thai workers. … [discriminatory] disparate treatment of Thai workers was Global Horizons’ standard operating procedure.”
The Court also found that “the Thai workers were often paid less, made to work less desirable and more demeaning jobs and denied breaks, yet worked longer hours than non-Thai farm workers. Food, housing and living conditions were also deplorable for the Thai workers.”
An EEOC lawyer said that “Employers will be held accountable for targeting workers for exploitation based on illegal stereotyping due to race or the country they come from.”
The EEOC commented that “Eliminating discriminatory policies affecting vulnerable workers who may be unaware of their rights under equal employment laws or reluctant or unable to exercise them is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment and human trafficking.”
A trial on the measure of damages assessed and the injunctive relief to be imposed has been set for Nov. 18th.