LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Latino civil rights organization is suing an Indiana pig farm for federal minimum wage violations and breach of contract involving six women, according to court documents.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed the federal suit on behalf of Diana Reyes Lopez, 33, Maria Guadalupe Alvarez Guerrero, 28, Ana Morales Audelo, 42, Thalia Bamaca, 30, Elsy Colorado Colorado, 32, and Ilsy Fuentes Reyes, 35. The women all worked at the Martin Family Farms in Williamsport, Indiana between December 2018 and September 2020. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
Attorneys with MALDEF argue the company failed to pay the women for all of the hours they worked, in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Additionally, not compensating the women violates Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits discrimination in making and enforcing contracts based on alienage.
“Essential, front-line workers in agriculture have for too long been subjected to labor violations that would not be tolerated in other economic sectors,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “This lawsuit should stand as a deterrent to similar conduct by other similar employers.”
The complaint details a hostile work environment in which the women were targeted by supervisors and treated differently than Anglo workers. For instance, according to the complaint, the women were routinely assigned to a section of the pig breeding process that was considered to be the most demanding and physically grueling while assigning Anglo workers to tasks with lower production demands. The complaint also claims the women were refused re-assignment to less demanding tasks even when injured. Additionally, the women claim they were sometimes physically and verbally abused by one of the female supervisors. When the women complained to another manager, the supervisor was not reprimanded.
Among the violations cited in the lawsuit is Martin Farm’s failure to pay the women for the time required to shower and dress on-site for their shift. Nor were the women paid for the time they spent washing that company-provided clothing at work, as required by the company.
“Latina immigrant workers too often are seen as easy targets by employers who believe that female employees will endure abuses because of their limited English-proficiency, or because of their immigration status, or because of fear of retaliation, said MALDEF attorney Susana Sandoval Vargas. “Those employers are wrong, and need to understand that all employees, including Latina immigrant workers are protected by the law against such violations. Illegal employment practices are just that, illegal.”
Four of the women currently suing the company were initially hired on immigrant visas that allow qualified professionals from Mexico to temporarily work in the U.S. The visas were created as part of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA).
Reyes Lopez, Alvarez Guerrero, Morales Audelo and Colorado Colorado are from Mexico. Bamaca is a native of Honduras and Fuentes Reyes is from Guatemala.
Additionally, Martin Family Farms unlawfully deducted the final week of pay for Reyes, Alvarez and Morales, which brought their wages below the federal minimum wage. Martin Family Farms said the “voluntary deduction” was taken because the three women did not work for the company for a full year. Attorneys also argue that all of these practices violate the contract the women agreed to at the start of their employment by Martin Family Farms.
Read the complaint HERE.