NASHVILLE (CN) – Two staffing agencies abused H-2B guest workers and discriminated against U.S. citizens, 14 plaintiffs say in a federal RICO claim. The immigrants – from El Salvador and Peru – say they were charged “recruitment fees” of $2,500 t0 $4,000; put to work stripping hazardous asbestos and lead for less money than promised; charged rent to sleep on floors, six or seven to an apartment; and forced to pay for “training.”
Cumberland Environmental Resources Co., of Nashville, and Accent Personnel Services, of Baton Rouge, falsified documents to get the visas, and discriminated against U.S. citizens, who are more difficult to abuse and exploit, according to the complaint.
The immigrants said they were promised construction and general labor jobs, but were made to work with hazardous asbestos and lead, and forced to pay for “classes” in asbestos and lead removal through payroll deductions.
They say they were forced to wait for weeks before being put to work, were not paid “in compliance with federal law,” and were fired if they protested about any of it.
Six Salvadorans and three Peruvians sued the labor contractors, along with five U.S. citizens, who claim the companies lied about U.S. workers being unavailable for the work, so they could bring in the exploitable immigrants.
Cumberland “advertises itself on its Web site as providing a flexible labor force at reasonable prices,” according to the complaint. Defendant Gary Lang directs its operations, with help from defendant Lesbia Martinez, the complaint states.
Defendant Virginia Pickering owns and runs Accent, with help from defendant Jose Campoblanco.
The plaintiffs demand punitive damages for fraud, consumer law violations, breach of contract, labor violations, and RICO violations. They are represented by Charles Yezbak III and Cynthia Cutler.