New regulations for the nation’s H-2B guest worker program, enacted in the waning days of the Bush administration, threatened to weaken worker protections and make it easier to replace U.S. workers with temporary foreign labor. The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of immigrant rights advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new regulations.
A dozen Latino workers at a Tennessee cheese factory went weeks without pay and endured an abusive work environment before demanding paychecks from an employer, who then had them arrested, jailed and threatened with deportation. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a federal lawsuit charging the company, its president and members of the local sheriff’s department with conspiring to violate the rights of the workers.
Students with disabilities in Palm Beach County, Fla., endured a culture of neglect and overly harsh discipline because the school district failed to provide the counseling, social work and psychological services required by law. The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of advocacy groups filed a class action administrative complaint to bring Palm Beach County schools into compliance with federal special education law and end practices that exclude or isolate children with disabilities.
Students with disabilities in Hillsborough County, Fla., were deprived of special education services required by law and subjected to harsh punishment that pushed them along a path to incarceration. The Southern Poverty Law Center, joined by the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, filed a class action administrative complaint to bring Hillsborough County schools into compliance with federal special education law and end practices that exclude or isolate children with disabilities.
Migrant farmworker Victor Marquez was traveling to his hometown in Querétero, Mexico, to pay for his new home, only to have his life savings seized by police who alleged it was drug money. During the May 5, 2008, traffic stop in Loxley, Ala., a police officer confiscated more than $19,000 from Marquez even though he earned a majority of the money by working the bean harvest in south Florida. Marquez was not charged. The Southern Poverty Law Center won the return of the money after the state refused to provide documents and information requested by SPLC lawyers representing Marquez.
Immigrant workers hired to repair storm-damaged apartments in New Orleans were routinely cheated out of wages and endured forced labor while living in crowded and dilapidated employer-provided housing. This federal lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, together with the Pro Bono Project and the National Employment Law Project, alleges the employers violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Victims of Trafficking Protection Act.
Hundreds of guest workers from India, lured by false promises of permanent U.S. residency, paid tens of thousands of dollars each to obtain temporary jobs at Gulf Coast shipyards only to find themselves forced into involuntary servitude and living in overcrowded, guarded labor camps. The SPLC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the workers, David v. Signal International, LLC. Three years later, a lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC v. Signal International, LLC,alleging Signal unlawfully discriminated against the Indian guest workers.
At the Calcasieu Parish Public School System in Louisiana, students with disabilities or emotional disturbances were deprived of the educational services required under federal law. The SPLC filed a class administrative complaint against the school district and reached a negotiated settlement agreement ensuring the services are provided and these students are not arbitrarily removed from class.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed suit on behalf of mentally ill girls living at the Columbia Training School who were shackled, physically and sexually abused, and provided with inadequate mental health treatment.
A federal judge has held Candy Brand and its individual owners accountable for routinely cheating migrant farmworkers out of wages. The court also held that the company’s failure to pay overtime wages and reimburse workers’ expenses was a breach of Candy Brand’s contract with each worker it exploited. As a result, the company and owners will be required to satisfy any judgment, which could be over $2 million dollars.