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Commission announces $1.2 million settlement with Hawaii farm

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 10:33 a.m. HST, Nov 18, 2013

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reached a $1.2 million settlement with a Kunia farm in a discrimination lawsuit involving more than 150 Thai farm workers.

The settlement, involving workers imported from Thailand in 2003 and 2005 by Del Monte Fresh Produce, was announced by the EEOC in Los Angeles.

Rosa Viramontes, acting district director in Los Angeles, described the Thai workers as "a particular vulnerable population."

Del Monte halted its pineapple production at Kunia in 2006. A spokeswoman at its Coral Gables headquarters in Florida said the company has no comment on the lawsuit or the settlement.

David Lopez,  EEOC general counsel, said Del Monte has agreed to implement procedures to ensure that anti-discrimination laws are enforced.

Settlements have been reached with four other Hawaii farms, Mac Farms of Hawaii, Kelena Farms, Captain Cook Coffee Company and Kauai Coffee Company, according to court records. However, only Del Monte's settlement has been announced by the EEOC.

In April 2011, the EEOC lawsuits in Hawaii and Washington against California-based  farm labor contractor Global Horizons and eight farms. Allegations include farm workers being subjected to uninhabitable housing, insufficient food, inadequate wages and deportation threats. The EEOC said that Global Horizons engaged in a pattern or practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, when it trafficked more than 200 Thai male victims to farms in Hawaii and Washington where they were subjected to severe abuse.

The Thai workers were assigned to work at six farms in Hawaii: Captain Cook Coffee Company, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms; and two farms in Washington, Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards, harvesting a variety of items from pineapples to coffee beans.

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