EEOC Says Companies Unlawfully Fired Haitians and Failed To Stop Harassment
IMMOKALEE, Fla. – Six L’s Packing Company (Six L’s), an Immokalee-based company specializing in growing, packing, and distributing tomatoes, and related companies LFC Agricultural Services, Inc. and Custom Pak, Inc. violated federal law when they subjected Haitian employees to harassment, disciplined Haitians more severely, and fired Haitians because of their national origin, race, and in retaliation for complaining about the treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday.
The EEOC’s suit (EEOC v. LFC Agricultural, Inc., Six L’s Packing Company, and Custom Pak, Inc., Case No. 2:09-cv-00636-JES-DNF), filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, said Hispanic managers and employees repeatedly called Haitian production workers derogatory names and subjected them to physical abuse. According to the lawsuit, managers and employees frequently insulted Haitians, calling them “pinche Haitian,” “stupid,” and “cannibals.” According to EEOC, Haitians workers were also told that they “stink,” that “Haitians are slaves,” and were subjected to other abusive conduct.
The EEOC says the harassment permeated the working environment. According to the lawsuit, the companies unlawfully retaliated against Haitians after they complained about the treatment.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed the lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“Ethnic harassment is unjust, offensive and illegal,” said EEOC Miami District Director Jacqueline McNair. “When management permits ethnic intimidation and harassment against its employees, it is particularly demeaning and offensive. Employers have an obligation under the law to ensure a work environment free from illegal harassment. Furthermore, it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain about or oppose the illegal conduct. The Commission will not tolerate this mistreatment.”
EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Michael J. O’Brien added, “Agricultural workers, who are often vulnerable to workplace abuse, must be protected from unlawful harassment and retaliation. The degrading conduct reported in this case is humiliating and intolerable. Employers must act swiftly to eliminate such conduct from the workplace.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.
The EEOC Miami District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Miami District Office has a Field Office in Tampa and a Local Office in San Juan.