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Latino Farmworkers Win $235K in Labor Case

SEATTLE (CN) - A class of Latino farmworkers in Washington won $235,000 in damages after being illegally displaced by Thai workers. Farm labor contractor Global Horizons and orchards Valley Fruit and Green Acre Farms violated federal labor laws by bringing in workers from Thailand in 2004 under the federal H-2A guest-worker program, U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley ruled.

Whaley, who took over the long-running case after two other judges died, set aside the late U.S. District Judge Alan McDonald's award of $1.8 million, in part because the Washington Department of Labor had assessed penalties and entered into a settlement agreement with the defendants.

Whaley noted that excessive damages could "harm Plaintiffs, whose welfare is linked to the regions' fruit growing industry."

The judge also refused to enjoin Global Horizons from operating as a farm labor contractor in Washington.

The question of whether the class members would have to prove immigration status in order to recover damages "permeated throughout the proceedings," according to the ruling.

Whaley refused to impose verification requirements on the plaintiffs, expressing concern "that immigration status is an issue in this case only as a result of unspoken perception that persons with Hispanic last names are not eligible for work."


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