Tribunal Federal de Georgia le Ordena a Traficante de Personas Pagar Más de $275,000 a Trabajadores de Paja de Pino

 

PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA

Contacto:  Soli Mercado-Spencer, smercado-spencer@glsp.org

Tel. 404-463-1633

Brunswick, Georgia, 1 de agosto de 2019: El 25 de julio de 2019, un juez del Tribunal de Distrito de los Estados Unidos falló a favor de trece trabajadores de paja de pino contra el contratista de trabajadores agrícolas Manuel Sánchez. Los trabajadores, que se encontraban en los EE.UU. con visas de trabajo temporales H-2A, se quejaron de que Sánchez los sometió a condiciones de trata de personas, lo que incluyó obligarlos a trabajar por poco o ningún salario y los sometió a condiciones inhumanas de vivienda. Sánchez no respondió a la demanda y no se opuso a la petición de los trabajadores para un juicio por incumplimiento. El Tribunal de Distrito del Distrito Sur de Georgia emitió un fallo contra Sánchez por un monto de $278,889.66. Anteriormente, los trabajadores habían llegado a un acuerdo por una parte de sus salarios no pagados con la empresa de paja de pino, Premium Pineneedles, LLC.

Manuel Sánchez reclutó a estos trabajadores de aldeas pobres de México, con falsas promesas de empleo bien remunerado y vivienda gratuita. Durante el reclutamiento, Sánchez defraudó a los trabajadores con cientos de dólares en tarifas ilegales, y los indujo a endeudarse y viajar a los Estados Unidos para trabajar en las operaciones de cosecha de paja de pino de Sánchez en Georgia. Una vez en Georgia, Sánchez se negó a pagarles los salarios, los sometió a condiciones de vida inhumanas y utilizó amenazas de deportación para obligarlos a permanecer bajo su empleo. La División de Derechos de los Trabajadores Agrícolas del Programa de Servicios Legales de Georgia representó a los trabajadores. La abogada principal del caso, Solimar Mercado-Spencer, comentó: “Casos como este son demasiado comunes en Georgia. Estamos contentos de haber podido exponer a uno de estos contratistas sin escrúpulos y de que nuestros clientes tuvieron su día en la corte. Continuaremos nuestra lucha por los trabajadores más indefensos en nuestro estado “.

Acerca del Programa de Servicios Legales de Georgia: El Programa de Servicios Legales de Georgia (GLSP) es una oficina de abogados sin fines de lucro que ofrece servicios legales civiles gratuitos a las personas en Georgia de 60 años o más y a aquellos con bajos ingresos fuera del área metropolitana de Atlanta. Nuestra misión es proporcionar igualdad de acceso a la justicia y oportunidades para salir de la pobreza. Visite http://www.glsp.org o llame al 404-206-5175 para obtener más información.

Lea la Orden del Tribunal

 

Federal Court in Georgia Orders Human Trafficker to Pay Over $275,000 to Pine Straw Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:    Soli Mercado-Spencer, smercado-spencer@glsp.org

Tel. 404-463-1633

Brunswick, GA, August 1, 2019 – On July 25th, 2019, a United States District Court Judge ruled in favor of thirteen pine straw workers against farm labor contractor Manuel Sanchez.  The guest workers, who were in the U.S. with H-2A temporary work visas, complained that Sanchez subjected them to human trafficking conditions, including forcing them to work for little to no pay and subjecting them to inhumane living conditions.  Sanchez did not answer the lawsuit and did not oppose the workers’ motion for default judgment.  The District Court for the Southern District of Georgia entered a judgment against Sanchez in the amount of $278,889.66.  The workers had previously reached a settlement for a portion of their unpaid wages with the pine straw company, Premium Pineneedles, LLC.

Manuel Sanchez recruited these workers from poor villages in Mexico, with false promises of gainful employment and free housing.  During recruitment, Sanchez defrauded the workers out of hundreds of dollars in illegal fees, and induced them to take on debt and travel to the United States to work in Sanchez’s pine straw harvesting operations in Georgia.  Once in Georgia, Sanchez refused to pay the workers’ wages, subjected them to inhumane living conditions, and used threats of deportation to coerce the workers to remain under his employment.  The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services Program represented the workers.  The lead attorney for the case, Solimar Mercado-Spencer, commented, “Cases like this are all too common in Georgia. We are glad that we were able to expose one of these unscrupulous farm labor contractors and that our clients had their day in court.  We will continue our fight for the most vulnerable workers in our state.”

About Georgia Legal Services Program: Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) is a nonprofit law firm that offers free civil legal services to Georgians 60 and older and those with low-incomes outside of the Atlanta metro area. Our mission is to provide equal access to justice and opportunities out of poverty.  Visit www.glsp.org or call 404-206-5175 for more information.

Read the Judge’s Order

Farmworker Rights Division Summer Interns

The Farmworker Rights Division would like to thank our fantastic summer interns Juan Barragan-Rangel and Matt Stolz for a wonderful summer of outreach and legal research. Juan and Matt worked on several cases that the Farmworker Division is planning and completed numerous outreach trips around the state of Georgia with two GLSP outreach paralegals and representatives from Tapestri. We were lucky to have both Juan and Matt join the team for the summer and wish them the best as they return to school.

Federal Court Approves Substantial Settlement for 33 H-2A Workers

On July 25th, 2018, a United States District Court Judge approved a settlement in favor of thirty-three H-2A workers against Shiloh Berry Farms, (Alma, GA). The guest farm workers filed a complaint alleging that their employer was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, their work contracts, and that the employer fired the workers in retaliation for exerting their rights. The parties agreed on a settlement that compensates the workers for 100% of the minimum wages, 100% of the liquidated damages, and 84% of the retaliation claims allegedly owed.

The workers were agricultural guest workers from Mexico who were recruited to work for Shiloh Berry Farm in 2017. The workers complained that the employer violated their contracts by failing to pay them for all reimbursable expenses and hours of compensable work time and that the employer terminated them in retaliation for the assertion of protected rights, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Represented by Georgia Legal Services Program, the workers sought legal action to recover their damages, including unpaid and lost wages, statutory liquidated damages, unreimbursed expenses, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

The lead counsel for this case, Lauren Hoff-Downing, commented, “H-2A workers are often scared to speak up about unlawful working conditions because they fear retaliation from their employers. Retaliation against H-2A workers is particularly harmful because H-2A workers can only work for the employer listed on their visa. They therefore face a difficult choice between continuing to work under poor conditions, or speaking up, and risking having no work at all. Shortly after speaking up about their rights, the 33 Plaintiffs in this case were fired and sent back to Mexico. The Plaintiffs continued to assert their rights by filing a lawsuit against their employers, and ultimately recovered all of the minimum wages owed, and a substantial portion of the wages they would have earned had they not been unlawfully fired.”

About Georgia Legal Services Program:

Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) is a nonprofit organization which offers free legal services to low-income or senior-aged Georgians outside of the Atlanta metro area. Our mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty. Visit www.glsp.org or call 404.206.5175 for more information.

Pine Straw Workers Recover $18,448.80 in Settlement for Claims of Unpaid Wages and Violations of their Work Contracts

The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services filed a federal lawsuit on December 18, 2017, Christian Murillo Quirino, et al. v. Francisco Saucedo, et al., United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. We represented 4 guest workers from Mexico, who were brought to work in Georgia under an H-2A visa and who claimed violations of their rights under the federal minimum wage law and the H-2A regulations by the defendants. The Court approved the settlement on February 28, 2018.

H-2A Workers Recover $33,000 in Settlement for Claims of Unpaid Wages and Violations to their Work Contracts

The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services filed a federal lawsuit on June 2, 2017, Florencio Hipolito Rivera, et al. v. Javier Guerrero, et al., United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. We represented 5 guest workers from Mexico, who were brought to work in Georgia under an H-2A visa and who claimed violations of their rights under the federal minimum wage law and the H-2A regulations by the defendants. The Court approved the settlement on November 1, 2017.

Georgia Dept. of Agriculture Extends Protections to Non-English Speakers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Georgia Dept. of Agriculture Extends Protections to Non-English Speakers

Georgia Legal Services Civil Rights Complaint on Behalf of Farmworker Yields Results

(Atlanta, March 2, 2017) – On February 8, 2017, the Georgia Department of Agriculture agreed to make its protections for workers more accessible to non-English speakers. The agreement, reached between the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a result of a complaint that Georgia Legal Services Program brought to the EPA. Georgia Legal Services brought the complaint on behalf of a Spanish-speaking client, whose initial complaint of a worker protection violation was dismissed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture because the department was not equipped to interview a non-English speaker.

The Georgia Legal Services client, an agricultural worker in the south of Georgia, became ill after being exposed to pesticides while working on a farm in July 2015. The worker’s exposure to pesticides was caused by the farm’s inadequate pesticide handling, in violation of EPA regulations. The worker filed a complaint to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, but the agency was unable to adequately process the complaint because of the language barrier and, as a result, it dismissed the worker’s complaint.

The worker’s complaint demonstrated a violation of the EPA’s Worker Protection Standard, a regulation designed to protect agricultural workers. The regulation includes requirements for protective equipment, safety training, restricted-entry times following pesticide application, and others that prevent poisoning and injury from pesticides.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, which receives funding from the EPA, is charged with enforcing the Worker Protection Standard in the state. All state agencies that receive federal funding to provide services to the public must make sure that those services are accessible to all individuals, regardless of race, color or national origin, under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services Program brought this matter to the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office and, as a result, the agencies signed an agreement committing the Georgia Department of Agriculture to develop, publish, and implement written procedures to ensure meaningful access to all of the department’s programs and activities by all persons–including people with limited English proficiency.

For more information, please contact:

Solimar Mercado-Spencer, Farmworker Rights Division

(404) 463-1633, smercado-spencer@glsp.org

View the Agreement

The Georgia Legal Services Program is a nonprofit law firm whose mission is to provide civil legal services for persons with low incomes, creating equal access to justice and opportunities out of poverty.