FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2001
TDD (202) 514-1888
GEORGIA ONION GROWER WILL PAY MORE THAN $76,000
TO SETTLE CLAIMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST U.S. WORKERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department announced today that Bland Farms in Reidsville, Georgia, the country's largest grower and shipper of Vidalia onions, will pay approximately $62,000 in back pay to U.S. workers to settle complaints of workplace discrimination. As part of the settlement agreement, Bland Farms will also pay $15,000 in civil penalties to the government.
The settlement resolves a complaint filed by the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), alleging that Bland Farms rejected U.S. workers, primarily African Americans and Hispanics, because it preferred to hire temporary agricultural workers from Mexico on H-2A non-immigrant visas.
Although Bland Farms claimed it could not find U.S. workers willing to take field jobs or work in its packing shed, OSC's investigation found that when U.S. citizens applied for work they were denied jobs or were only offered the less desirable jobs. Under existing immigration laws, employers are required to hire qualified U.S. workers over non-immigrant temporary visa workers. Some of the U.S. workers were represented by Georgia Legal Services Program, Farmworkers Division.
"Some employers and workers are not aware that federal immigration laws also protect U.S. workers from citizenship status discrimination in the workplace," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd. "The Office of Special Counsel will vigorously enforce the employment laws that protect our citizens and all authorized workers," he said.
The Office of Special Counsel was established by Congress under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which prohibits employment discrimination based on national origin and citizenship status. The OSC is the only office in the federal government that protects U.S. workers from citizenship status discrimination. "We want to make sure that employers are aware of their responsibilities under immigration laws and that workers know about their rights," explained OSC Special Counsel Juan Carlos Benítez.
Employers with questions concerning unfair immigration-related employment practices may call OSC's toll-free automated hot-line at: 1-800-255-8155. Workers may call, toll-free, 1-800-255-7688 or 202-616-5594. Multi-lingual assistance is available. Or individuals may write to: Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20530 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or view additional information at the Department of Justice internet website http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/osc.