FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES CITY OF AGAWAM AND BOARD OF APPEALS FOR DISCRIMINATION AGAINST BLACK AND HISPANIC FARM WORKERS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today filed a complaint against the city of Agawam, Massachusetts, the Agawam Board of Appeals, and two of its members. The complaint alleges that the city violated the federal Fair Housing Act when it denied a farmer's proposal to construct housing for approximately 27 farm workers on a tobacco farm located in Agawam, a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, alleges that the city of Agawam discriminated on the basis of race and national origin against a group of Jamaican and Puerto Rican farm workers employed by C & E Tobacco, Inc. C & E, a family-owned business operating farms in Massachusetts and Connecticut, is required by federal law to provide housing for its seasonal non-local farm laborers. The complaint alleges that the city rejected C & E's housing plan based on concerns by city residents that black Jamaican and Hispanic Puerto Rican workers would occupy the housing.
The Justice Department alleges in its lawsuit that city officials took steps to reverse the Agawam Planning Board's approval of C & E's housing plan after numerous public hearings, during which white Agawam residents expressed strong opposition to the proposal.
The suit seeks an order requiring the city to cease discrimination, ensure that farm worker housing is constructed, pay damages to persons injured by the city's practices, and pay civil penalties.
Individuals who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination practices may file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or a lawsuit in federal or state court. Individuals must file their complaint with HUD within one year of a housing discrimination incident or file a lawsuit in federal or state court within two years of an incident. For more information about housing discrimination laws, call (202) 514-4713 or visit the Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing/index.html.