POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 20, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 1:58 a.m. HST, May 20, 2011
Global Horizons Manpower Inc., the California-based labor company embroiled in a federal human trafficking case, has been penalized more than $340,000 for failing to pay Thai workers.
In a victory for the U.S. Department of Labor, Global Horizons was ordered by Administrative Law Judge William Dorsey to pay $153,000 in back wages to 88 temporary farmworkers, and $194,400 in penalties.
The order states that Global Horizons "violated many of the H-2A program regulations" based on "undisputed proof." The workers worked at Aloun Farms and Del Monte Fresh Produce. The back wages were determined based on the hourly payments promised to the victims.
"It confirms the veracity of what the Thai victims we are assisting with have been saying from the beginning, that they were duped by an unscrupulous man and his unscrupulous company," said Clare Hanusz, one of the local attorneys representing several of the victims.
The decision said the company and its president, Mordechai Orian, presented "extraordinary obstruction" as the investigation played out.
The litigation was "so contentious" that Orian walked out of a deposition in October 2008 and that the company failed to follow instructions in various requests.
The decision also states Orian and the company impeded resolution of the case by repudiating a 2006 settlement, constant changes of legal counsel (the company went through seven law firms or lawyers) and failing to comply with orders.
Orian and other associates are under federal indictment in what has been called the largest human trafficking prosecution in U.S. history, accused of violating the rights of hundreds of farmworkers from 2003 through 2007.
Six Hawaii farms, including Del Monte, were named in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Aloun Farms, named in the federal indictment against Orian, was not part of the EEOC case. An EEOC lawyer has said they only "named the defendants that we felt we could hold liable in a lawsuit." But Hanusz said she is not surprised that Aloun Farms was mentioned in yesterday's decision.
"The decision also implicated Aloun Farms as a willing partner to the scheme, which benefited from paying less than the prevailing wage and retaliated against workers who complained about illegal deductions and working conditions," Hanusz said.
Aloun Farms owners Alec and Mike Sou still face separate forced-labor charges in a federal case unrelated to Global Horizons.