Like many people, “Luis” (a nickname we’re using to protect his privacy) had to keep working during the pandemic. When a recruiter first offered Luis a job as a farmworker in Georgia, he thought it would be a great opportunity, despite the risk of coronavirus. However, he soon discovered otherwise. First, his employer charged him a $1000 USD illegal recruitment fee, which was never reimbursed. Then, when he arrived, he discovered that his boss didn’t have enough work for him. The recruiter had promised Luis at least 35 hours of work per work, but Luis often ended up working less than 25 hours. His boss also frequently paid him less than the promised wage. Finally, both the housing and the van that the boss provided to Luis and his coworkers had holes in the floors that were so big that people feared for their safety.
We know that Luis’s experience is not unique. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM) recently published a study on the H-2A program that shows that 100% of H-2A workers experience at least one major violation of their rights. Yet even as the pandemic brings into stark relief how essential farmworkers are to the world, abuses in the H-2A program persist. Even as workers like Luis risk their lives to harvest our food, they suffer from the under-enforcement of existing protections and a complete lack of enforceable protections to keep them safe during the pandemic.
Although Luis was lucky enough to avoid getting sick with coronavirus, he still experienced countless violations of his rights. So, with the help of Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM), Luis filed a Wage and Hour Division complaint before the U.S. Department of Labor. He hopes to recoup the illegal recruitment fee he paid and to ensure that no one else has to work in the same conditions he experienced.
If you or someone you know had an experience similar to Luis, you can contact CDM to explore your legal options. For more information or assistance, you can contact us at:
Toll-free from US: 1.855.234.9699
Toll-free from México: 800 590 1773