67 Thai Farmworkers Vindicated After Exploitation at the Hands of Global Horizons
LOS ANGELES - A federal judge has ordered farm labor contractor Global Horizons, Inc. to pay $7,658,500 for a pattern or practice of subjecting Thai farmworkers in the state of Washington to a hostile work environment, harassment and discrimination in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edward F. Shea found that Global's discriminatory practices were "reprehensible" and vindicated the Thai farmworkers who suffered from "fear, anxiety, anger, intimidation, humiliation, shame, and … an unrelenting sense of imprisonment."
As part of the $7,658,500 in compensatory and punitive damages, Judge Shea ordered an enhanced award of $2,500 to each Thai farmworker who was detained by the police because Global confiscated his or her passport. To the Thai farmworker struck on the head with cane by a Global supervisor pushing him to work faster, Judge Shea awarded additional punitive damages of $16,000 for each month he worked under such abuse. Judge Shea ordered punitive damages here based on a specific finding that Global's discriminatory conduct was "clearly and convincingly" "malicious and with reckless disregard" of these farmworkers' "federally protected rights … health and safety, ethnicity, and financial vulnerability."
EEOC initially filed suit against Global Horizons and two Yakima, Wash., farms in April 2011, charging a pattern or practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment, constructive discharge and retaliation against the Thai farmworkers, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc., et al., Case No. 2:13-cv-03045-EFS, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington].
Prior to granting default judgment in favor of EEOC against Global Horizons, Judge Shea granted summary judgment in favor of the two defendant farms from Yakima. EEOC is evaluating an appeal now that the Washington case is closed.
In the companion case in Hawaii against five farms in that state and Global Horizons, U.S. District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi awarded EEOC a default judgment of $12.3 million in damages for 82 claimants against Global Horizons and Maui Pineapple Company. The December 2014 decision also included an offset of $3.6 million for the amount from prior settlements between EEOC and the four other Hawaii farms. Ultimately in the Hawaii case, Global Horizons was held liable for $8.7 million, and Maui Pineapple was held jointly and severally liable for $8.1 million out of the $8.7 million in compensatory and punitive damages because 54 of the 82 Hawaii claimants worked at Maui Pineapple through Global Horizons.
"EEOC continues its mission of vindicating the rights of the most vulnerable workers who are directly targeted for exploitation based on stereotypes about their race and national origin that they won't dare complain," said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District. "The court's findings in this case will empower workers who think they have no voice."
Rosa M. Viramontes, district director for EEOC's Los Angeles District, added, "Unchecked discrimination, harassment and retaliation can lead to severe workplace abuses that violate federal law. The court's decision sends a strong signal to the agricultural industry that our workers' basic civil and human rights must be protected."
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 Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). These policies can include disparate pay, job segregation, harassment, and trafficking.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.