By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reached settlements with five Hawaii farms in a discrimination lawsuit involving more than 100 Thai farm workers.
The agency will announce details of a settlement with one of the farms on Monday. Specifics for the other settlements have not yet been made public.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit in 2011 against California-based labor contractor Global Horizons and six Hawaii farms. Allegations include farm workers being subjected to uninhabitable housing, insufficient food, inadequate wages and deportation threats.
Court records show monetary and consent decree settlements were reached with Mac Farms of Hawaii, Kelena Farms, Del Monte Fresh Produce of Hawaii, Captain Cook Coffee Company and Kauai Coffee Company.
A February trial date has been set for Global Horizons and Maui Pineapple Co., which haven’t reached settlements, said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles district.
Among the various allegations in the lawsuit is a claim that 20 Mac Farms workers were living in a Naalehu house approved for only five people, which was cited because it “lacked a functioning toilet, toilet paper, and hot water and had a buckling kitchen floor.”
The lawsuit claims Micronesian workers at Maui Pineapple were treated better than Thai workers, whose living conditions included portable toilets and five shower heads for 70 workers. They were forbidden from using the Micronesian workers’ bathroom, the lawsuit states.
Attorneys for the farms didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.
Mordechai Orian, president and CSO of now-defunct Global Horizons, said Friday that he attended settlement meetings last week with the EEOC in Los Angeles.
“This is no admission to anything,” he said of the farms’ settlements, which he said were reached to get rid of the lawsuit. “It’s all good business. You cut a loss and move on.”
Orian said Global Horizons won’t agree to a monetary settlement but would agree to employer training conditions. “Pay for what? If we’re ever back in business, we’ll agree to training, that’s it,” he said.
A federal judge last year dismissed human trafficking charges against Orian and other associates. Authorities accused the company of manipulating 600 Thai workers it placed in farms across the United States. It was the U.S. government’s largest-ever human trafficking case.
The case was in jeopardy after federal prosecutors abruptly dropped similar accusations against owners of Hawaii’s Aloun Farms. That case prompted an investigation that found the federal government wouldn’t be able to prove the charges in the Global Horizons case, according to the dismissal order.
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