Michigan Grower Settles with South Texas Workers in Discrimination Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact:
Sarah Donaldson
956.447.4800
sdonaldson@trla.org
Cynthia Martinez
512.374.2764
cmartinez@trla.org

MCALLEN, Texas – October 28, 2009 – Michigan grower Doug Van Dyk, the owner of Van Dyk & Sons, settled a lawsuit filed by four Mexican-American migrant workers from south Texas after the workers alleged that the company discriminated against them based on age, sex, and national origin.

The four workers were employed as lettuce harvesters by Van Dyk & Sons in 2008.  Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the leading provider of legal aid in Texas, and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), the workers alleged that Doug Van Dyk told two workers they were too old for the work and told one worker that she should not take the job because it was not for women.  Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that Van Dyk & Sons subjected the workers to conditions that were worse than those offered to non-U.S. workers and retaliated against them by firing them when they approached attorneys for help.

“Van Dyk & Sons resisted hiring these workers because of their age, gender, and national origin, and then fired them when they stood up for their rights,” said TRLA attorney Sarah Donaldson.  “If employers want to benefit from the guestworker program, they cannot cheat the system by retaliating against qualified workers.”

The workers were hired under the federal H-2A program which allows agricultural employers to request temporary visas for foreign workers when domestic labor cannot be found.  The lawsuit alleged that Van Dyk & Sons violated the Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Added Donaldson, “These growers reject U.S.-based workers so that they can hire and exploit more vulnerable workers who come in using visas.  When they get away with it, U.S. workers, foreign guestworkers, and law-abiding businesses lose out.”

A copy of the original lawsuit can be found at http://bit.ly/4gGF8w

Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free civil legal services to low-income and disadvantaged clients in a 68-county service area. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and stability of low-income Texas residents by providing high-quality civil legal assistance and related educational services.

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