El Paso Migrant Workers File Lawsuit Over Inhumane Conditions on West Texas Farm

Sarah Rich, Attorney * 915-585-5118 * srich@trla.org
Cynthia Martinez, Communications Director * 512-374-2764 * cmartinez@trla.org

EL PASO, Texas – January 22, 2014 – Fourteen El Paso migrant workers have filed a lawsuit against a West Texas company and four individuals for violating their legal rights to safe and sanitary living and working conditions during their employment.

Represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), the migrant workers were employed by AJK Enterprises and lived at the company’s housing facility south of Van Horn, Texas in the spring, summer, and fall of 2013. During their employment they faced inhumane and unsanitary conditions, intimidation, and threats of violence.

“Our clients went to work for AJK based on promises of a good job with good pay,” said TRLA attorney Sarah Rich. “But the reality is that they were faced with disgusting facilities and an abusive environment.”

According to the lawsuit, the workers’ living arrangements had inadequate kitchen and bathroom facilities, no ventilation, spotty electricity, and bugs. Several workers were forced to live in repurposed shipping containers. Indoor bathroom facilities were limited, forcing the workers to urinate and defecate outdoors and bathe using water from a bucket. Outdoor porta potties were never cleaned or emptied and outdoor showers did not have any privacy or hot water. Additionally, the workers had limited access to water and no access to bathroom facilities while they were working. Conditions forced many of the workers to sleep in their cars or outdoors. Several workers also allege threats of assault and intimidation from their employers.

The workers are suing under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA), the Texas Government Code, and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The laws provide protections for workers including rights to certain wages, sanitary working and living conditions, and protection from abuse.

Added Rich, “Farmworkers have legal rights to live and work in a safe environment. Ignoring those rights is inhumane and cruel.”

AJK Enterprises has faced investigations of their treatment of migrant workers from the Department of Labor and the Texas Department of Housing & Community Affairs. They are currently under investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Photos of the conditions on the farm and documents related to this case are available online at www.trla.org/press/ajk.

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. For more information on TRLA visit http://www.trla.org.


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