1:10 A.M. — Six L's Packing Co., an Immokalee-based company specializing in growing, packing, and distributing tomatoes, and related companies LFC Agricultural Services Inc. and Custom Pak Inc., are being accused by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of discriminating against Haitians, according to an EEOC release.
The companies are charged in an EEOC lawsuit filed Sept. 24 with violating federal law when they subjected Haitian employees to harassment, disciplined Haitians more severely, and fired Haitians because of their national origin or race, and in retaliation for complaining about the treatment, the EEOC release states.
Hispanic managers and employees repeatedly called Haitian production workers derogatory names and subjected them to physical abuse and frequently insulted Haitians, calling them "(expletive) Haitian," "stupid" and "cannibals," according to the lawsuit.
Six L's CEO Larry Lipman couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Laura Germino, coordinator of the anti-slavery campaign of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, couldn't speak to the EEOC's allegations but said treatment like that described in the suit is common in Immokalee.
"Unfortunately, it's not surprising, given the wider context, that discrimination still exists in the fields and the packing houses," she said.
The solution, Germino said, is for companies in that industry to ensure that "managers are trained to treat workers and staff with respect and dignity, according to modern-day standards for what's acceptable and what's considered progressive."
Meanwhile, she said, there's a growing knowledge by workers in Immokalee of what their rights are.
"I think more and more workers are becoming aware and educated about their rights," Germino said.