A Mexican woman has been granted permission to serve as the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against a company that recruits and places temporary agricultural workers on farms and other agricultural operations in North Carolina and other states.
The woman, Marcela Olvera-Morales, claims that International LaborCorporation purposely placed women in less lucrative temporary visa programs than men. She claims this is a form of illegal sex discrimination under Title VII and wants to collect damages on behalf of all women similarly situated. The class includes thousands of women.
At the heart of the lawsuit, filed in the federal court for the Middle District of North Carolina, is Olvera-Morales’ placement in the U.S. H-2B visa program instead of the H-2A program.
Agricultural workers in the United States under the H-2A program receive free housing, reimbursement for their travel expenses and generally higher pay because of the way their wages are calculated. They also get a guarantee that they will receive at least 75% of the work hours they were promised.
In contrast, H-2B visa holders must pay their own transportation and housing costs, have no contract or guarantee of work and may end up earning less because their minimum pay is calculated differently under the law.
Final note: Remember, Title VII protects all employees, including foreign workers. Legal status isn’t necessary to bring a lawsuit. Even illegal immigrants can sue for job discrimination and Fair Labor Standards Act violations. They can collect back pay for hours they previously worked, but courts won’t order their reinstatement or lost future wages.