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Company liable for abuse of Thai workers on Maui

    This Aug. 2006 photo shows Mordechai Orian, Global Horizons' chief strategic officer.

A federal judge Monday has ruled that Global Horizons is liable for the practice of harassing, discriminating and retaliating against Thai workers at a Maui farm, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In a news release, the EEOC said U.S. District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi cited examples of physical abuse, exploitation and barbaric security measures at Maui Pineapple Company’s historic pineapple plantations and old-worker dormitories where the Thai workers were forced to live, and other abuses throughout Hawaii.

Kobayashi found that the Thai workers were often paid less, made to work less desirable and more demeaning jobs and denied breaks, yet worked longer hours than non-Thai farm workers. Food, housing and living conditions were also deplorable for the Thai workers, the EEOC said.  

The federal commission said the trial is now set for Nov. 18 to determine the amount of money that Global Horizons will pay for the abuses suffered by the Thai workers, as well as the measures that Global will need to implement to prevent future abuses.  

The agency initially filed the suit against Global Horizons and six farms in Hawaii in April 2011 alleging a pattern and practice of national origin and race discrimination, harassment and retaliation against Thai farm workers who were brought into the U.S. to work under the H2-A visa program.

Five of the Hawaii farms settled their cases in November.

High recruitment fees created a great debt for the Thai workers who faced abuses on the farms such as slapping, punching, humiliation, heavy surveillance and threats of being shot, deported or arrested.

The EEOC’s companion case in Washington state against Global Horizons and two farms there is ongoing and set for trial on Sept. 15. 

The Justice Department originally brought a criminal human-trafficking case against Global Horizons, but asked a judge here to dismiss the case in 2012 after prosecutors said they were unable to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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