A group of 13 migrant farmworkers, represented by the Legal Aid of North Carolina Farmworker Unit, won a $75,000 civil settlement against farm labor contractors. The farmworkers alleged that the contractors enticed them to come to the U.S., promising them well-paying work and a better life, only to pay below the minimum wage and publicly threaten one worker who requested his wages. According to the complaint, these contractors failed to provide workers’ compensation, kept their Social Security cards, and prevented them from obtaining medical care. While the contractors still deny any liability, they have agreed to the settlements amount and are permanently banned from engaging in any farm labor contracting.
This settlement is a clear message to those who exploit foreign workers. Some states like North Carolina, and Illinois as of January 2019, also allow victims of labor trafficking to seek civil damages from their traffickers.
In Illinois, the latest amendment to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, PA 100-0939, expands the victims’ ability to bring civil lawsuits against their trafficker and also provide financial incentives to cooperate with police investigations of human traffickers. Additionally, victims’ family members, victim advocacy groups, court appointees, or any government entity responsible for enforcing State law, can also sue on a victim’s behalf.
The victory in North Carolina serves as a compelling example of relief for migrant workers, as most of the damages will go to the victims as they rebuild their lives.
If you, or someone you know, is a foreign national who has experienced exploitation by a U.S. employer, there may also be an immigration option – the T visa. This lesser known option could also lead to a green card for the victim and their family. For more information on the T visa, please reach out to us through our contact form.