The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued a labor recruitment company, accusing them of unfair and illegal treatment of workers recruited from Asia. According to Reuters, the EEOC said that all workers from around the world working in the U.S. have the right to be treated in the same way as American workers and not as “second-class citizens.”
The EEOC claims the company basically engaged in human trafficking because the foreign workers made practically no money and lived in unhealthy and unsafe conditions. The business owners dispute the EEOC’s claims.
Around 200 workers recruited from Thailand to work on farms in Hawaii and Washington are some of the 500 workers in two recent cases on behalf of whom the EEOC is filing lawsuits. The Thai farm workers had work visas and were paid around $8.50 to $9.50 an hour. The EEOC accuses the company of unfair labor practices bordering on human trafficking because they were required to pay huge recruitment fees and to pay for housing and food. The recruitment fees were between $12,000 and $25,000.
Because of the recruitment fees and other charges as well as high-interest loans taken out to pay for the recruitment fees, workers made very little money. The EEOC also accuses the recruiter of the Thai workers of taking away passports and threatening deportation if they complained about working conditions.
Criminal charges have also been filed against the head of the labor recruitment firm that recruited the farm laborers from Thailand. The business owner disputes the claims that workers lived in substandard conditions and also said that they were paid much more than in Thailand and enjoyed their jobs, according to Reuters.