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A federal judge has found a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based farm labor contractor liable for harassment, discrimination and retaliation for its treatment of hundreds of Thai workers in the United States, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said.
A trial is now set for Nov. 18 to determine the amount of money Global Horizons Inc. will pay for the abuses suffered by the Thai workers, as well as the measures Global will need to implement to prevent future abuses, the EEOC said Monday in a statement.
The EEOC said that in her order, U.S. District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi in Honolulu cited examples of physical abuse, exploitation and “barbaric” security measures at Kahului, Hawaii-based Maui Pineapple Co.'s historic pineapple plantations and old worker dormitories, where the Thai workers were forced to live, and other abuses throughout Hawaii. Maui Pineapple's operations were shut down in 2009, according to a news report.
Judge Kobayashi stated in her order that Global Horizons “subjected the claimants to physical and verbal harassment based on claimants' race and/or national origin in order to secure the claimants' compliance and obedience and based upon stereotypical beliefs about Thai workers,” the EEOC said in its statement.
Judge Kobayashi's order also states that discriminatory “disparate treatment of Thai workers was Global Horizons' standard operating procedure.”
The EEOC said abuse faced by the workers included slapping, punching, humiliation, heavy surveillance and threats of being shot, deported or arrested, and that high recruitment fees by Global subjected them to “great debt.”
The EEOC initially filed its lawsuit against Global Horizons and six Hawaii farms in April 2011. In November 2013, Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., a subsidiary of Coral Gables, Fla.-based Fresh Del Monte, which had contracted with Global Horizons for about three years ending in 2005, agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle litigation against it in the case.
The EEOC said a companion case against Global Horizons and two farms in Washington is ongoing and set for trial on Sept. 15.
“The judge's granting of judgment for liability vindicates the rights of the multitude of Thai farm workers who survived inhumane abuses and discrimination at the hands of their employers who controlled not only their working conditions but where they lived, what they could eat and the basic right to move around freely,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Southern California and Hawaii in its jurisdiction, in a statement.
“Employers will be held accountable for targeting workers for exploitation based on illegal stereotyping due to race or the country they come from,” she said.
A Global Horizons spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.