A group of seven H-2A farmworkers who filed a federal lawsuit alleging forced labor and employment law violations against their Yakima-based employers have settled their case for $240,000.
The workers, represented by the Northwest Justice Project, filed the lawsuit in federal district court against RC Orchards LLC, G&G Orchards Inc., EGT Orchards LLC, and DG Orchards LLC, and their individual owners Rene and Carmen Garcia.
The lawsuit said the employers had recruited the farmworkers from Mexico by promising them reimbursement for travel, good pay, and free and adequate housing and transportation.
But when the workers arrived, the lawsuit alleges, the employers had used threats, intimidation, and unpaid wages to force farmworkers to work excessively long hours at an unreasonable pace, in violation of H-2A regulations and job contracts.
The lawsuit also alleges the employers monitored and restricted the workers’ personal time; denied them visitors, food deliveries and permission to leave employee housing during off-work hours; and failed to transport injured workers for medical treatment.
The settlement terms require the employers to post a notice of workers’ rights for two years in employee housing, to not interfere with legal aid services to workers, and to not retaliate against workers.
James Stephen Elliott, the attorney who represented the employers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.