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Seasonal Farm Workers Win $500k Settlement In Discrimination Case

A class-action lawsuit filed last year by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged that Hamilton Growers, Inc., had systematically fired American workers from seasonal positions and replaced them with workers from Mexico. The majority of the workers that were fired were African-American, leading to claims of both employment discrimination based on race and based on national origin.

The African-American workers claimed that they were also denied equal work opportunities by Hamilton Growers. Their pay, based in part on the amount of food harvested, was lower than their Mexican counterparts because they were told to walk fields that had already been harvested by the foreign workers. The start times of the American workers were often delayed and they were told to quit early, again denying them equal opportunity to work.

A lawsuit was filed alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Hamilton Growers recently agreed to settle the case for $500,000.

As part of the settlement with the farmworkers, Hamilton Growers has agreed to "exercise good faith in hiring and retaining workers of American national origin" for farm and supervisory work at the company.

The EEOC noted that American farmworkers continue to face employment discrimination on the basis of national origin in communities built around agri-business across the country. An attorney involved in the case stated,"[O]ffering job opportunities to American workers is not only legally required, but also the right thing to do for communities and local economies."

Source: EEOC, "Hamilton Growers to Pay $500,000 to Settle EEOC Race / National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit," December 13, 2012

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