BLACK MISSISSIPPI FARMWORKERS SETTLE LAWSUIT ALLEGING RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND ABUSE OF H-2A GUEST WORKER PROGRAM

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
APRIL 2, 2024

 

BLACK MISSISSIPPI FARMWORKERS SETTLE LAWSUIT ALLEGING RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND ABUSE OF H-2A GUEST WORKER PROGRAM

 

Today, Southern Migrant Legal Services (SMLS) and Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) announced that their clients, 14 Black farmworkers from the Mississippi Delta, settled their case alleging their employer had offered better pay and more hours to foreign guest workers than to local Black workers. The lawsuit was brought by former employees of Nobile Fish Farms, a business that raises catfish and grows soybeans and corn in Sunflower County, Mississippi.

According to the lawsuit, Nobile Fish Farms obtained visas for foreign workers by falsely claiming to the U.S. Department of Labor they would pay local workers as much as any foreign workers and offer employment to local workers first. The lawsuit alleged the Plaintiffs would be laid off or have their hours reduced upon the arrival of the H-2A workers and the Plaintiffs were paid less than the H-2A workers for their hours worked. Nobile Fish Farms denied the allegations and denied any liability to the Plaintiffs.

To preserve the parties’ privacy, the settlement amount is confidential – yet lawyers for the farmworkers confirmed the case was settled on mutually agreeable terms.

“The H-2A program requires employers first to try to recruit and hire local workers, but we continue to hear from U.S. workers who report being pushed out of their jobs and replaced with guest workers. We will continue to investigate those claims and bring legal action when warranted,” said Hannah Wolf, an attorney with SMLS who represented the workers. “We hope our legal efforts will make clear to farmers in the Delta, and across the U.S., that they need to pay fair wages to local workers,” added Rob McDuff, a lawyer for MCJ.

This is the third case that SMLS and MCJ have filed against farms in the Delta on behalf of Black farmworkers seeking compensation for discrimination in wages and hours. Each of those was settled on mutually agreeable terms. In addition, the two organizations have settled claims for workers against five other farms without filing suit.

# # #

Contact: Sam Rucobo, Public Relations Manager, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, 915-213-1532, srucobo@trla.org, Rob McDuff Mississippi Center for Justice, 601-259-8484, rmcduff@mscenterforjustice.org.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid provides free legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney in 68 southwestern counties, including the entire Texas-Mexico border. TRLA attorneys specialize in more than 45 areas of law, including disaster assistance, family, employment, landlord-tenant, housing, education, immigration, farmworker, and civil rights. TRLA also operates public defender programs that serve at least 10 Texas counties. Our hotline is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (CST) Monday – Friday: (956)-996-TRLA (8752) or toll-free at (833) 329-TRLA (8752)

Southern Migrant Legal Services, a project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) based in Nashville, Tenn., provides free employment-related legal services to migrant farmworkers who work in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. TRLA provides free legal services to people who cannot afford an attorney in 68 counties in South and southwestern Texas. TRLA attorneys specialize in disaster assistance, family, employment, landlord-tenant, housing, education, immigration, farmworker, civil rights, and other areas.

The Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.