Four migrant farmworkers have filed suit against farm labor contractors who allegedly “recruited undocumented field workers in Mexico and the United States to work on farms (‘growers’) and relied on a pattern of threats, violence, harassment, and indebtedness to force Plaintiffs and other migrant farmworkers to perform grueling, back-breaking manual labor as Defendants transported the workers between several states including Florida, Illinois,Georgia, Mississippi, and New York.” John Does I-IV v. Sunrise Labor Corp., No. 9:12-cv-80883-JMH (U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Cal., filed August 20, 2012). According to the complaint, the individual defendants face federal criminal charges for hiring unauthorized aliens.
Among other matters, the anonymous plaintiffs allege that the defendants imposed debts on them—involving fees paid to “coyotes” to smuggle them across the border and charges for food, rent and remittances to their families— threatened them with injury or death, did not pay them compensation to which they were entitled, forced them to work when injured and sick, created a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation, provided them with horrendous housing conditions, repeatedly exposed them to pesticides, and otherwise held them in forced labor and trafficked them with respect to peonage in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. They also allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and New York Human Rights Law. They seek actual, punitive and exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees, costs and interest.