Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed in Hawaii against its Hawaii subsidiary by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission , the federal agency announced Monday.
As part of the settlement, Del Monte Fresh Produce will pay $1.2 million to be distributed to the Thai claimants in the EEOC's case.
In addition, Del Monte Fresh Produce has partnered with the EEOC to champion and ensure equal employment rights and opportunities by setting an example for the U.S. farming industry.
"I am pleased the parties were able to resolve this case without resorting to prolonged and expensive litigation," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "We are hopeful that this resolution will provide a model for the agricultural industry to ensure that farm contractors comply with anti-discrimination laws."
Specifically, Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to institute comprehensive protocols and accountability measures to ensure that all farm labor contractors that work with Del Monte Fresh Produce comply with federal laws against discrimination and retaliation. This is the first effort of its kind for a farm to ensure farm labor contractor accountability for federal anti-discrimination laws.
Among other things, Del Monte Fresh Produce has agreed to the following:
• Establish procedures to ensure that farm labor contractors (FLCs) disseminate policies and procedures prohibiting discrimination to their local work force and to H2-A guest workers in a language they understand;
• Establish mechanisms for FLCs to provide notices to workers about their rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
• Disseminate notices to all workers, including FLC and Del Monte Fresh Produce employees alike, on methods for submitting discrimination complaints;
• Conduct audits to ensure FLC compliance with the consent decree throughout its term;
• Designate a compliance officer for oversight of FLC compliance and Title VII compliance as required under the consent decree;
• Train managers, supervisors, and employees on their obligations under Title VII; and
• Report to the EEOC and keep records.
Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary is one of the first farms to resolve its case with the EEOC.
The EEOC originally filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in April 2011, charging that Global Horizons, a labor contractor responsible for recruiting the Thai workers, and various farm defendants engaged in conduct that constituted national origin and race discrimin¬ation, harassment and retaliation in their treatment of farm workers recruited from Thailand from 2003 through 2006.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In its suit (EEOC v. Global Horizons, Inc. d/b/a Global Horizons Man¬power, Inc., Case No. CV-11-00257-LEK-RLP), the EEOC named not only the recruitment company, Global Horizons, but also the following six farms in Hawaii: Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary; Captain Cook Coffee Company, Kauai Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawaii, and Maui Pineapple Farms.
The EEOC named Del Monte Fresh Produce’s Hawaii subsidiary, which contracted with Global for approx¬imately three years ending in 2005 to tend pineapple fields the subsidiary leased on the island of Oahu. For its service obligations to the subsidiary, Global hired farm laborers that it trained and supervised. Those workers brought in from Thailand and placed at the various farms, the EEOC charged, were mistreated and discriminated against by Global on the subsidiary’s farm.
"We commend Del Monte Fresh Produce for taking a bold step to holding farm labor contractors accountable and to show its commitment to ensuring farm workers are treated with dignity and protected under federal anti-discrimination laws," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes the state of Hawaii in its jurisdiction. "We hope this is wake-up call for others in the agricultural industry to follow Del Monte Fresh Produce’s lead in recognizing signs of potential abuses by farm labor contractors and taking proactive steps to hold them accountable."
The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimina¬tion. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.