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 ...
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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