Hawaii Federal District Court Finds that Staffing Agency Global Horizons Singled Out Thai Workers for Disparate Treatment

On March 19, 2014, the federal district Court in Hawaii granted the Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment in EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. Global Horizons is a staffing agency based in Los Angeles, CA, which supplied workers to several defendants named in the motion, all Hawaiian agricultural firms: Maui Pineapple, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Mac Farms, and Captain Cook Coffee Company. All of these companies are singled out in Judge Kobayashi’s decisive and damning Order as participants in a pattern or practice of recruiting Thai workers specifically, charging them excessive recruitment fees to make them indebted and compliant; physically assaulting them; verbally harassing them; forcing them to work harder than members of other groups; and threatening them with demotion or deportation in retaliation for their complaints about poor working conditions. The Court acknowledged the many illegal employment practices of managers at these companies, and ultimately concluded that “as a matter of law, Global Horizons is vicariously liable for the harassment” to which they subjected their Thai recruits.

The Court concluded that Global Horizons specifically sought out Thai workers to fulfill farm labor contracts based on their stereotype of Thai nationals as “easier to exploit,” and less likely to leave the job, than workers from other national origins and/or races. Several managers from Global Horizons’s client companies explicitly acknowledged these practices and the stereotypes on which they were based, leading the Court to conclude that there “is no genuine issue of material fact as to the motivation behind Global Horizons’s harassment of the Claimants.” Thai workers, more than those of any other nationality, were systematically subjected to conditions such as denial of food, excessive discipline, and denial of medical care. “The evidence clearly establishes that Global Horizons’s standard operating procedure was to treat the Thai workers less favorably than the non-Thai workers.”

As the Court notes in several places, “Global Horizons has not identified any genuine issue of material fact as to any substantive defense to the EEOC‘s pattern and practice claim of hostile work environment.” The EEOC had served three sets of requests for admissions (RFA) on Global Horizons, but the Court noted “that Global Horizons failed to respond either to the EEOC‘s Merits Motions or the EEOC’s concise statements of fact in support of the Merits Motions…Thus, this Court HEREBY DEEMS ADMITTED all of the statements of fact set forth in the EEOC‘s Merits CSOFs.” In short, the Court concluded that the EEOC’s accusations regarding the abusive employment practices of Global Horizons and its clients were either proven or uncontested, leading the Court to decide in favor of the EEOC on its hostile work environment claims with no need for further legal motions or trial.

While Global Horizons failed to respond to these parts of the Complaint, the EEOC had included several references to managers from the Defendants’ companies who were on record acknowledging that they “selectively recruited impoverished, uneducated Thai workers,” that their reason for doing this was their belief that those workers would be less likely to complain or try to escape, and that their selective mistreatment of Thai workers was “sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the Claimants’ employment.”

If you are an employee and you believe you have been discriminated against based upon your nationality, please contact The Harman Firm P.C.