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Judge rules labor contractor liable for harassing Thai workers

March 25 2014

A federal judge has held that Global Horizons Inc., a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based farm labor contractor, is liable for the pattern or practice of harassing, discriminating and retaliating against hundreds of Thai workers in the U.S., in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced.

The EEOC initially filed this suit against Global Horizons and six farms in Hawaii in April 2011 alleging a pattern and practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation against Thai farm workers who were brought into the U.S. to work under the H2-A visa program. High recruitment fees 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, according to the EEOC.

U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi 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, the EEOC said.

The trial is set for Nov. 18 to determine the amount of money that Global Horizons will pay, as well as the measures that Global will need to implement to prevent future abuses.

Of the six farms also sued in the initial suit, Del Monte Fresh Produce settled its lawsuit in November 2013 for $1.2 million. Four additional farms in Hawaii ­­— Captain Cook Coffee Company, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms and MacFarms of Hawaii — reached settlements in principle and are finalizing their settlements with the EEOC. The case against Maui Pineapple Company is ongoing.

The EEOC’s companion case in Washington State against Global Horizons and two farms there is ongoing and set for trial on Sept. 15.

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