Staffing Agencies Discriminated Against Latino Workers, Federal Agency Charged
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- East Coast Labor Solutions, East Coast Labor Solutions of West Virginia, Labor Solutions, and Labor Solutions of Alabama ("East Coast Labor"), four related staffing agencies under common ownership, have agreed to pay $475,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal lawsuit alleging national origin discrimination and failure to accommodate disabilities brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, East Coast Labor recruited Jorge Mercado and other Latino workers to work in a poultry processing plant in Guntersville, Alabama and subjected them to harassment, including ethnic slurs, threats and verbal abuse, and other abusive working conditions. The Latino workers were paid less money than promised, were placed in more hazardous positions, were denied bathroom and lunch breaks, and received fewer hours of work than their non-Latino counterparts. In addition, East Coast Labor deducted exorbitant relocation, housing and transportation fees from their pay. The EEOC further claimed that East Coast Labor did nothing to address complaints made by the Latino workers about their working conditions and ongoing harassment.
According to the EEOC, when Latino workers suffered repetitive motion injuries to their hands, forearms and shoulders, they were denied medical treatment and other accommodations such as breaks or time off from work to recuperate.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Title VII prohibits harassment or discrimination based on national origin, and the ADA requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 4:16-CV-01848-ACA) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Middle Division on November 15, 2016, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary relief, the three-year consent decree settling the suit requires the staffing agencies to provide training to their employees on their obligations under the law, and review their anti-discrimination policies and modify them as necessary. The consent decree also prohibits the companies from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of national origin or disability. The decree requires the companies to post notices on their bulletin boards informing employees of their right to contact the EEOC if they feel they have been discriminated or retaliated against.
"We cannot allow any employer to prey on vulnerable workers by recruiting them and then subjecting them to such gross mistreatment," said Marsha L. Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office. "These workers only wanted the opportunity to work and receive a fair wage like they were promised and to work in a safe and humane environment. All workers should be treated this way, regardless of their national origin."
Bradley Anderson, the EEOC's Birmingham district director said, "The EEOC has made combatting discrimination against vulnerable workers a strategic priority so that employers cannot profit from victimizing them."
The EEOC's Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.