EEOC Headlines: Judge Approves $2.4 Million EEOC Settlement with Four Hawaii Farms for over 500 Thai Farmworkers

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From the EEOC:

U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi in Hawaii has approved settlements between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and four Hawaii farms totaling $2.4 million for about 500 Thai farmworker victims of national origin discrimination and retaliation, the EEOC announced today. The settlement encompasses monetary relief, options for jobs and benefits, housing, other reimbursements of expenses, and sweeping injunctive relief remedies. The four farms are Mac Farms of Hawaii, LLC [nka MF Nut Co., LLC]; Kauai Coffee Company, Inc., [nka McBryde Resources, Inc.]; Kelena Farms, Inc. and Captain Cook Coffee Company, Ltd.

The EEOC initially filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in April 2011 against farm labor contractor Global Horizons and six farms in Hawaii on behalf of the Thai farmworkers. (EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. d/b/a Global Horizons Manpower, Inc., Captain Cook Coffee Co., Ltd., Del Monte Fresh Produce (Hawaii), Inc., Kauai Coffee Company, Inc., Kelena Farms, Inc., Mac Farms of Hawaii, LLC, Maui Pineapple Co., et al, Case No. CV-11-00257-LEK- RLP). One of the farms, Del Monte Fresh Produce, already settled for $1.2 million in November 2013.

In March 2014, Judge Kobayashi ruled that Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Global Horizons was liable for the pattern or practice of harassing, discriminating against and retaliating against hundreds of Thai farmworkers in the U.S. based on their national origin and race, in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC named the farms in Hawaii as defendants, asserting that they were joint employers with the labor contractor, and liable due to the acts committed by Global Horizons. Global Horizons and Maui Pineapple Company remain as the only defendants left in the case, although default judgments were entered by the court.

"We worked and lived under terrible conditions, treated like animals in a cage," said Phirom Krinsoongnoen, one of the victimized Thai farmworkers. "We were housed in an overcrowded place with a few rooms but many workers, and threatened almost daily. I am grateful that the EEOC is here to help people like me.