Mobile-based Signal International, LLC (Signal Int.) will pay about $5 million to settle a federal race discrimination lawsuit that has been pending for four years, according to officials at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
This multi-million settlement will reportedly be paid to 476 Indian workers, who were subjected to adverse living and working conditions as part of a “pattern or practice of race and national origin discrimination” practiced by Signal Int., a ship repair and building company.
Commenting on this massive settlement, David Lopez, EEOC general counsel, stated:
This case was challenging and hard-fought, but shows that EEOC will fight for the right of all workers to be free from discriminatory working conditions. This case should remind companies that EEOC remains vigilant to prevent the exploitation of immigrant and vulnerable workers. We are especially grateful for the cooperation of the Southern Poverty Law Center during the investigation and prosecution of this egregious case.
Details of the Race Discrimination
According to court documents associated with this case (EEOC v. Signal International, LLC, No. 2:12-cv-0557), Signal Int. used the federal visa program to recruit Indian workers for pipe-fitting and welding jobsin Texas and Mississippi. These immigrant workers were needed to assist in cleanup efforts in the wake of recent natural disasters (including Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita), and they reportedly came to the U.S. to work for Signal Int. from October 2006 through around March 2007.
Once these immigrant workers were employed for Signal Int. in the U.S., Signal reportedly forced them to:
- Sign employment and housing contracts that were in English without giving workers “adequate time to read or understand these documents”
- “Live in overcrowded, unsanitary, guarded camps” where “as many as 24 men were forced to live in containers the size of a double-wide trailer, while non-Indian workers were not required to live in these camps.”
This complaint also alleges that “Signal personnel and management regularly threatened the Indian Employees” with deportation if the employees stopped working for the company or failed to perform the work according to “Signal's specifications.”
Noting the importance of this settlement, Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for EEOC's Birmingham District, has stated that:
This lawsuit sends a powerful message that an employer must treat all workers equally without regard to their national origin or race… We are very pleased Signal has accepted responsibility for its wrongdoing and that these workers, who have waited 10 long years for justice, will now receive compensation and can move on with their lives. In many cases, these men paid thousands of dollars to come to the United States, only to be subjected to inhumane conditions and exploitation after they arrived.
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