BY TRACEY DALZELL WALSH
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued an Alabama staffing agency, claiming it subjected at least 10 Latino workers to harsh working conditions at a poultry processing plant.
In a complaint filed Nov. 15 in the Birmingham Federal Court, the EEOC says Labor Solutions of Alabama LLC was hired by Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation to provide temporary workers at its poultry processing plant in Guntersville, Alabama.
The staffing company advertised the positions in both Spanish- and English-language newspapers, on the radio, in church bulletins, and in schools. Prospective employees were told they would work 40 hours a week and be paid $11.90 an hour, plus housing and benefits, the complaint says.
The 10 workers claim they traveled to Alabama at their own expense expecting to be reimbursed, only to be assessed $150 for “set up costs.”
But this was only the beginning.
The complaint says that once the workers arrived, they were forced to live in housing provided by Labor Solutions for at least the first four months of their employment and each was made to live in a two-bedroom apartment with three other employees.
The workers claim they were charged $68 per week for rent and utilities, and another $20 a week for furniture rental, but the apartments and furnishings were “in poor repair and dilapidated.”
The workers also claim they were denied bathroom breaks, were not given a full hour for , and they were placed on segregated “Latino-only” production lines that moved at a faster rate than non-Latino lines.
The complaint also states that the workers were dependent on the defendant for transportation and they were charged $20 for this service, but the bus was inconsistent, causing workers to arrive either very early for their shift or making them wait at least an hour at the end of their day.
The EEOC says Labor Solutions paid the Latino workers much less than advertised, and that despite each worker being charged $10 a week for “health benefits,” if someone actually was injured at work, they were forced to pay for their medical expenses out of their own pocket.
And if the injury resulted in a leave of absence, the worker was fired, the complaint says.
In addition, the EEOC says, the Latino workers were given less desirable positions than others working at the plant, they were given more difficult tasks, they were subjected to racial slurs, and they were constantly scrutinized by members of staff.
It seeks injunctive relief, back pay for the workers and other damages to be determined at trial.
The case is being handled by Marsha Rucker of the EEOC in Birmingham.