University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Covarrubias v. Capt. Charlie’s Seafood, Inc. EE-NC-0145
Docket / Court 2:10-cv-00010 ( E.D.N.C. )
State/Territory North Carolina
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
On March 17, 2010, women who came from their permanent residence in Mexico to work at a seafood processor in North Carolina pursuant to the guestworker visa program (H-2B), filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiff’s sued their ... read more >
On March 17, 2010, women who came from their permanent residence in Mexico to work at a seafood processor in North Carolina pursuant to the guestworker visa program (H-2B), filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The plaintiff’s sued their employer Capt. Charlie’s Seafood under the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act (NCWHA), the Fair Labor Standards Act, the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs sought reimbursement fees they incurred in receiving H-2B visas, as well as monetary relief for sex discrimination in job assignment, allocation of hours, and wrongful discharge. The women were represented by the North Carolina Justice Center and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

Capt. Charlie’s Seafood was certified to hire forty-nine workers under the H-2B visa program during 2008 and 2009. Each year, workers paid in excess of $300 in fees to acquire and maintain the visas (visa reciprocity fee, U.S. consulate fee, bordering crossing fee, bus transport from Mexico). At no time did Captain Charlie’s reimburse the plaintiffs for these costs. An employer is required to pay H-2B workers a “prevailing wage” (20 C.F.R. § 655.22(e)) of around $7 per hour. By not receiving reimbursement for the various fees, the plaintiffs claimed that they actually received a “negative wage” for their first week of work. Plaintiffs also alleged that they received fewer hours of work and less desirable jobs within the processing plant because they were women. Further, twenty women were also discharged from the plant.

The Settlement Agreement provides for Capt. Charlie’s to pay each NCWHA Class member $100 for each season in which that class member obtained a new H-2B visa to work for Defendants from March 17, 2008 through the end of 2010. The parties agree that these payments are to be accounted as reimbursement for a portion of the costs they incurred in order to obtain H-2B visas and/or to travel to North Carolina to work for Defendants. The agreement further requires Capt. Charlie’s to pay the difference between what each worker would have made had they been paid the promised wage and what they were actually paid from March 17, 2008 through the end of 2010. These amounts totaled to $18,600. Attorney’s fees were also paid in the amount of $28,000. Additionally, Capt. Charlie’s agreed to pay named plaintiffs Covarrubias, Flores, and Sandoval $2,500 for each alleged violation of Title VII.

The Settlement Agreement also provided for a three-year consent decree in which Capt. Charlie’s would pay the visa and transportation expenses of their H-2B employees, and create and implement an anti-discrimination policy and a gender-neutral policy for assigning jobs.

Dan Hofman - 02/04/2016


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Female
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination-area
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Other Conditions of Employment (including assignment, transfer, hours, working conditions, etc)
Pay / Benefits
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
Sex discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Language
Spanish
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219
Defendant(s) Capt. Charlie's Seafood, Inc.
Plaintiff Description Women coming from Mexico who were employed by Capt. Charlie's Seafood in North Carolina under the guestworker visa program (H-2B).
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2011 - 2014
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:10-cv-00010-F (E.D.N.C.) 11/07/2013
EE-NC-0145-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [initial] 03/17/2010
EE-NC-0145-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended complaint 06/28/2011
EE-NC-0145-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement agreement 11/16/2011
EE-NC-0145-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Fox, James Carroll (E.D.N.C.)
EE-NC-0145-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brooke, Carol (North Carolina)
EE-NC-0145-0004
Foulkes, Risha K. (New York)
EE-NC-0145-9000
Lapidus, Lenora M. (New Jersey)
EE-NC-0145-0001 | EE-NC-0145-0004 | EE-NC-0145-9000
Migdal, Ariela M (New York)
EE-NC-0145-0001 | EE-NC-0145-0004 | EE-NC-0145-9000
Parker, Katherine Lewis (North Carolina)
EE-NC-0145-0004
Ripley, Clermont Fraser (North Carolina)
EE-NC-0145-0001 | EE-NC-0145-0002 | EE-NC-0145-0004 | EE-NC-0145-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Morgan, James R. Jr. (North Carolina)
EE-NC-0145-9000
Pueschel, John E. (North Carolina)
EE-NC-0145-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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