Bayou Lawn & Landscaping Services, et al. v. Solis, et al.
As employers across the United State launched legal challenges to defeat new federal rules that would protect foreign H-2B guestworkers and U.S. workers, the SPLC asked a federal court for permission to join a lawsuit in April 2012 – a request aimed at assisting the U.S. Department of Labor in defending these new worker protections.
This lawsuit, brought by Bayou Lawn & Landscaping Services, and other employers and business associations in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, was the third legal attack by employers on the Department of Labor's rules protecting U.S. workers and guest workers. The SPLC has asked the court for permission to join the lawsuit and to allow the protections to go into effect.
The new H-2B regulations serve to protect the domestic labor market from the depressive effect of flooding the labor market with foreign workers willing to perform low-skill work. The regulations also serve to protect these foreign guestworkers from exploitation and abuse.
The department's regulations accomplish this by providing U.S. workers with increased access to jobs and equal rights on the job when they are performing the same work as H-2B workers, and by establishing basic standards for H-2B workers' employment contracts.
In April 2012, just days before these regulations were scheduled to go into effect, a federal court blocked these protections nationwide at the request of several businesses and corporate interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The regulations provided important protections to prevent human trafficking, debt servitude, fraud, charging of exorbitant fees by overseas recruiters, gross wage underpayment, and other severe abuses documented by SPLC in its 2007 report, “Close to Slavery: Guestworker Programs in the United States.”
Two previous employer lawsuits, filed in federal courts in Pennsylvania and Florida, sought to invalidate the Department of Labor's prevailing wage rule, which would have increased wages for H-2B workers and their U.S. worker counterparts. The Southern Poverty Law Center is also representing worker interests in the wage lawsuits.
Migrant Farmworker Justice Project