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Del Monte Thai employees get $1.2M for workplace discrimination

Minnesota readers may be interested to learn that workers who pick pineapples for Del Monte Fresh Produce were awarded a $1.2 million settlement on claims of abuse on farms in Hawaii. Thai immigrants allegedly received employment discrimination from a contractor hired by the Del Monte unit, which is one of the biggest producers in the world of fresh fruit and vegetables. The purported mistreatment occurred from 2003 to 2006, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that the money would be split between the former employees.

The EEOC sued the company as well as several farm labor contractors over the alleged worker discrimination in 2011. In addition to paying the settlement, Del Monte promised that it would promote fair treatment of farm workers across the U.S. The company also said that it would ensure that its labor contractors followed U.S. employment laws and would keep foreign workers informed about their legal rights. An attorney with the EEOC said that he hoped that the resolved litigation would serve as a model for the entire agricultural industry.

A Del Monte contractor was accused in the lawsuit of charging Thai men massive fees in order to be hired for farming jobs in the U.S. and then housing them in uninhabitable conditions without access to food. The men were also allegedly insufficiently paid and threatened with arrest or deportation if they complained about their work circumstances. The contractor also allegedly threatened physical violence against any workers who complained.

A hostile work environment can turn even dream jobs into nightmares. Individuals who have suffered from workplace discrimination or other violations of their civil rights could petition to have their grievances addressed in a court of law.

Source: LA Times, "Del Monte to pay $1.2 million to settle worker-discrimination lawsuit ", Stuart Pfeifer, November 18, 2013

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