Lawsuits allege migrant workers exploited

Three federal lawsuits allege that between 2013 and this year 39 workers from Mexico were paid substandard wages, lived in squalid housing, and some were threatened with jail or deportation if they complained.

News Story (Kentucky)

Deborah Yetter
Courier-Journal (KY)
May 29, 2015
Link to story

Tags: Benefits of Legal Aid, Employment, Legal Needs, Minorities: Racial/Ethnic, Workers Rights

Organizations mentioned/involved: Southern Migrant Legal Services (SMLS)


Though employers are supposed to provide adequate housing, the lawsuits describe dwellings infested with bedbugs, lice and rodents, a lack of mattresses or furniture and poor plumbing that left some workers bathing from a bucket and others using a portable toilet outside.

The migrant workers borrowed money and traveled thousands of miles for jobs that didn’t meet minimum federal standards, the lawsuits allege. In some cases, employers illegally forced workers to pay costs for travel, visas, rent and utilities.

Calling such practices “forced labor” tantamount to human trafficking, the Nashville-based Southern Migrant Legal Services, a legal aid group, filed three lawsuits Thursday against five Kentucky tobacco farms in Scott, Monroe and Nicholas counties, alleging such practices violate federal law governing the program for guest farm workers known as H-2A.