THAI CDC AND THAI FARMWORKERS RESPOND TO DEL MONTE FRESH PRODUCE SETTLEMENT REACHED BY EEOC ON FARMWORKER NATIONAL ORIGIN LAWSUIT

Thai Farm Workers Were Subjected to
Discrimination on Hawaii Farm

LOS ANGELES — Del Monte Fresh Produce, one of the country’s leading producers of fresh fruit and vegetables, has agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed in Hawaii against its Hawaii subsidiary by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced on November 18, 2013.

As part of the settlement, Del Monte Fresh Produce will pay $1.2 million to be dis-tributed to the Thai claimants in the EEOC’s case. In addition, Del Monte Fresh Produce has partnered with the EEOC to champion and ensure equal employment rights and opportunities by setting an example for the U.S. farming industry.

“It has taken a decade to finally see a measure of justice materialize for our clients. Given the ordeal the Thai farmworkers went through, this settlement amount, however, is just a drop in the bucket for a major agricultural business that has reaped millions in profits at the expense of our clients. Though I am pleased the parties were able to resolve this case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation and our clients can move on with their lives, much remains to be done to fully restore there dignity and make them whole persons again. I want to be hopeful that this resolution will provide a model for the agricultural industry to ensure that farm contractors comply with anti-discrimination laws,” said Chanchanit Martorell, Thai CDC Executive Director.

Specifically, Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to institute comprehensive protocols and accountability measures to ensure that all farm labor contractors that work with Del Monte Fresh Produce comply with federal laws against discrimination and retaliation. This is the first effort of its kind for a farm to ensure farm labor contractor accountability for federal anti-discrimination laws.

Among other things, Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to:

• Establish procedures to ensure that farm labor contractors (FLCs) disseminate policies and procedures prohibiting discrimination to their local work force and to H2-A guest workers in a language they understand;
• Establish mechanisms for FLCs to provide notices to workers about their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
• Disseminate notices to all workers, including FLC and Del Monte Fresh Produce employees alike, on methods for submitting discrimination complaints;
• Conduct audits to ensure FLC compliance with the consent decree throughout its term;
• Designate a compliance officer for oversight of FLC compliance and Title VII compliance as required under the consent decree;
• Train managers, supervisors, and employees on their obligations under Title VII; and
• Report to the EEOC and keep records.

Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary is one of the first farms to resolve its case with the EEOC. After Thai CDC took the case of the Thai farmworkers to the EEOC in 2005, the EEOC originally filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in April 2011, charging that Global Horizons, a labor contractor responsible for recruiting the Thai workers, and various farm defendants engaged in conduct that constituted national origin and race discrimin¬ation, harassment and retaliation in their treatment of farm workers recruited from Thailand from 2003 through 2006. Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In its suit (EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. d/b/a Global Horizons Man¬power, Inc., Case No. CV-11-00257-LEK-RLP), the EEOC named not only the recruitment company, Global Horizons, but also the following six farms in Hawaii: Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary; Captain Cook Coffee Company, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms.

The EEOC named Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary, which contracted with Global for approx¬imately three years ending in 2005 to tend pineapple fields the subsidiary leased on the island of Oahu. For its service obligations to the subsidiary, Global hired farm laborers that it trained and supervised. Those workers brought in from Thailand and placed at the various farms, the EEOC charged, were mistreated and discriminated against by Global on the subsidiary’s farm.

“Now that Del Monte Fresh Produce has taken the first step to holding themselves somewhat accountable and maybe show its commitment to ensuring farm workers are treated with dignity and protected under federal anti-discrimination laws, the Thai farmworkers and Thai CDC ask ourselves if this is a wake-up call for others in the agricultural industry to follow Del Monte Fresh Produce’s lead in recognizing signs of potential abuses by farm labor contractors and taking proactive steps to hold them accountable or is this just a less costly way to brush aside a burdensome and cumbersome litigation, ” said Panida Rzonca, Thai CDC Staff Attorney.

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