Federal laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act are in place to ensure that all American workers have the opportunity to work in a safe, humane environment for a fair wage. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission recently brought a lawsuit against four West Virginia-based staffing agencies, accusing them violating these federal regulations by subjecting Latino workers that they recruited to work in an Alabama poultry processing plant to abusive and discriminatory treatment.
The four agencies, which are under common ownership, settled the case for $475,000. In addition, the settlement also requires the agencies to train employees on their legal obligations to treat recruitees equally regardless of national origin.
The EEOC alleges that the company that owns the agencies discriminated against Latino workers by giving them fewer hours to work than their non-Latino counterparts, denying medical treatments and reasonable accommodations for work-related injuries, paying them less money than promised and deducting exorbitant fees from their pay for housing, transportation and relocation. In addition, Latino workers allegedly endured abusive treatment that includes denial of lunch and bathroom breaks, as well as verbal abuse and threats, ethnic slurs and other forms of harassment. The agency also allegedly placed more Latino workers into more hazardous positions within the poultry processing plant.
The attorney for the staffing agencies was unreachable for comment, but the EEOC's regional attorney accused the agencies of recruiting vulnerable workers with the intention of submitting them to gross mistreatment, implying a predatory motive.
Ideally, employers should afford all workers a baseline level of dignity. Those who feel they have received discriminatory treatment from an employer may wish to contact an attorney.