Follow-up: Case of Exploited Thai Workers in Hawaii Now Generating Million-Dollar Settlements and Strong Injunctive Relief

In March 2014, the Federal District Court for Hawaii granted summary judgment to Plaintiff in the case Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Global Horizons, Inc. et al. The Court essentially ruled that the Defendants had effectively failed to assert any potentially viable argument denying the Plaintiffs’ allegation that they had engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination and retaliation that violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Defendants, Global Horizons staffing agency plus six companies to whom they supplied workers, were jointly accused of selecting Thai workers specifically for recruitment, then subjecting them to various abuses, based on their belief that Thai workers would be especially inexpensive, complaint, hard-working, and vulnerable. The Court found that the factual allegations were essentially uncontested, and Defendants recognize that the only way to manage the cost of litigation is to settle and cooperate with the EEOC.

The Court’s Order granting Summary Judgment was unusually decisive. For example, after rehearsing a harrowing list of unchallenged accusations of gross abuses to which only Thai workers were systematically subjected, Judge Kobayashi writes that “Based on Global Horizons’s admissions and the uncontroverted evidence that the EEOC has presented in connection with the Disparate Treatment Motion, this court finds that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to the EEOC’s pattern and practice claim of disparate treatment against Global Horizons. This Court finds that the undisputed record in this case establishes that Global Horizons treated the claimants less favorably than other workers because of the Claimants’ race and/or national origin. Further, the disparate treatment of Thai workers was Global Horizons’s standard operating procedure. This Court concludes that the EEOC has established its prima facie case as to its pattern and practice claim of disparate treatment by Global Horizons.”

So far, Del Monte Fresh Produce (Hawaii) Inc. has settled for $1.2 million; Kauai Coffee Company, Inc. for $425,000; Mac Farms of Hawaii, LLC for $1.6 million; Kelena Farms, Inc. for $275,000; and Captain Cook Coffee Company Ltd. for $100,000. The last two settlements also include almost $5 million worth of wages and benefits offered to those companies’ past employees. Two companies have not yet settled: one is Maui Pineapple Company, Ltd.; and the other is Global Horizons, Inc. The latter is the Beverly Hills-based staffing company that recruited and supplied the Thai workers to all of these agricultural companies, so it seems reasonable to expect that the total awards in this case from settlements and/or judgments totals are going to increase substantially before the process is finished. Each of the settlements so far has also included injunctive relief including orders by the EEOC to end the discriminatory practices, to provide training, submit to EEOC data collection and monitoring, institute complaint procedures, post notifications to employees, etc.

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