Fourteen Puerto Rican Farmworkers File Lawsuit for Discrimination and Workplace Violations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 8, 2017

Contact: John Garcia, 212-739-7581 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org

Fourteen Puerto Rican farmworkers who were recruited to work in Michigan, housed in inhospitable conditions, paid and treated unfairly and were all fired after repeated comments comparing them to other Latino workers, filed a lawsuit charging discrimination and labor abuses in violation of state and federal statutes.

The 14 farmworkers are represented by LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Farmworker Legal Services of Michigan. The workers, who were recruited for temporary jobs as hand harvesters and general farm workers to work for Manzana LLC, had applied for work through the Puerto Rican Workforce Agency. Upon arriving in Michigan to work, Manzana officials immediately began to make comments comparing Puerto Rican workers with Mexican workers and questioning their ability and willingness to work. They were housed in filthy conditions, paid and treated unfairly, and in some cases not even allowed to work before being sent away.

“I came to Michigan to work and provide for my family, yet from the moment I arrived I felt uncomfortable as I listened to my new supervisor berate a group of Puerto Rican workers who had just arrived. When I arrived at the farm, the housing accommodations they had assigned to us were unfit for anyone to stay in. They pointed to filthy mattresses on the floor that I was supposed to sleep on in a room with a stench you could smell upon entering,” related Edwin Baez Torres, one of the workers and complainants.

The workers, who left Puerto Rico to travel two days to Michigan to work as agricultural workers, had been promised seasonal work for the harvesting season that included training and free housing and utilities. The farmworkers were never provided adequate training and were all forced to sleep on “filthy” mattresses in overcrowded rooms. They were consistently harassed about their work and threatened with being fired. As the workers arrived in groups, they were also fired according to the same groups within days, and some within hours.

“I felt discriminated against at Manzana, especially when I came to work and was constantly being compared since the day I arrived with other Latino workers. My supervisor would frequently make comments about my background that had nothing to do with my ability to work,” said Wilson Torres Rivera, another worker.

The lawsuit, Juan Carlos Lopez, et al v. Manzana LLC, was filed in the District Court of Puerto Rico on February 2, 2017.

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