Hawaii farms settle Thai workers suit for $2.4M

HONOLULU — Four Hawaii farms are settling a discrimination lawsuit for a total of $2.4 million over allegations that they exploited hundreds of Thai workers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was expected to announce the settlements at a Tuesday morning news conference in Honolulu. An EEOC spokeswoman declined to comment on the settlement details until after the agency’s announcement.

The EEOC filed a federal lawsuit in 2011 against California-based labor contractor Global Horizons and six Hawaii farms. Allegations include farm workers being subjected to uninhabitable housing, insufficient food, inadequate wages and deportation threats.

Mac Farms of Hawaii will pay $1.6 million, Kelena Farms will pay $275,000, Captain Cook Coffee Company will pay $100,000 and Kauai Coffee Company will pay $425,000, according to settlement agreements made public Tuesday.

A judge recently found Global Horizons liable for the discrimination and abuse of the workers.

Del Monte Fresh Produce Inc. settled for $1.2 million, the EEOC announced last year. A February trial date had been set for Global Horizons and Maui Pineapple Co., the last farm that hasn’t settled.

Among the allegations in the lawsuit is that 20 Mac Farms workers were living in a Naalehu house approved for only five people, which was cited because it “lacked a functioning toilet, toilet paper, and hot water and had a buckling kitchen floor.”

The lawsuit also alleges Micronesian workers at Maui Pineapple were treated better than Thai workers, whose living conditions included portable toilets and five shower heads for 70 workers. They were forbidden from using the Micronesian workers’ bathroom, the lawsuit states.

The farms also agreed to various anti-discrimination measures, according to the consent decrees on the settlements.

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