Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to pay $1.2 million to Thai farmworkers to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed against its Hawaii subsidiary by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In addition to the monetary award, Del Monte Fresh Produce will partner with the commission to champion equal employment rights, according to a news release from the EEOC.
“I am pleased the parties were able to resolve this case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation,” EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said in the release. “We are hopeful that this resolution will provide a model for the agricultural industry to ensure that farm contractors comply with anti-discrimination laws.”
The release said Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to put in place measures to ensure that all farm labor contractors working with Del Monte Fresh Produce comply with federal laws against discrimination and retaliation.
This is the first effort of its kind for a farm to ensure farm labor contractor accountability for federal anti-discrimination laws, according to the release.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in April 2011, charging that Global Horizons, a labor contractor responsible for recruiting the Thai workers, and various farm defendants engaged in illegal conduct. That included national origin and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation in their treatment of farmworkers recruited from Thailand from 2003 through 2006, according to the release.
The EEOC named not only the recruitment company, Global Horizons, but also these farms in Hawaii: Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary; Captain Cook Coffee Company, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms, according to the release.
Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary contracted with Global Horizons for about three years, ending in 2005, to tend pineapple fields the subsidiary leased on the island of Oahu, according to the release.
Global Horizons hired farm laborers that it trained and supervised for work in the fields of Del Monte Fresh Produce’s farm. Those workers brought in from Thailand and placed at the various farms, the EEOC charged, were mistreated and discriminated against by Global Horizons on the subsidiary’s farm, according to the news release.
Among other things, Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to:
- Establish procedures to ensure farm labor contractors provide policies and procedures prohibiting discrimination to their local work force and to H-2A guest workers in a language they understand;
- Establish mechanisms for farm labor contractors to provide notices to workers about their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- Provide guidelines to workers, including farm labor contractors and Del Monte Fresh Produce employees alike, on methods for submitting discrimination complaints;
- Conduct audits to ensure farm labor contractor compliance with the consent decree throughout its term;
- Designate a compliance officer for oversight of farm labor contractor compliance and Title VII compliance as required under the consent decree;
- Train managers, supervisors, and employees on their obligations under Title VII; and
- Report to the EEOC and keep records.
Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary is one of the first farms to resolve its case with the EEOC, according to the release.
“We commend Del Monte Fresh Produce for taking a bold step to holding farm labor contractors accountable and to show its commitment to ensuring farmworkers are treated with dignity and protected under federal anti-discrimination laws,” Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office said in the release.
“We hope this is wake-up call for others in the agricultural industry to follow Del Monte Fresh Produce’s lead in recognizing signs of potential abuses by farm labor contractors and taking proactive steps to hold them accountable.”