Female seafood packers from Mexico win federal suit

July 24, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A federal judge has awarded a total of $115,458 to 15 Mexican women who claimed they were paid below the minimum wage after being brought to Maryland as migrant workers at an Eastern Shore seafood plant.

The ruling by Judge Benson E. Legg came more than a year after the case was argued in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Judge Legg ruled that Philip J. Harrington & Sons Inc. of Secretary in Dorchester County, and Capt'n Carl's Seafood Inc. of Goldsboro, N.C., violated the women's civil rights by treating them unfairly.

He ruled that Harrington & Sons violated minimum wage and overtime compensation laws and discharged the women after discovering they planned to seek legal action.

The women were recruited by Capt'n Carl's Seafood to come from Mexico to work as crab pickers at Harrington & Sons in May 1991.

They were paid $1.40 for each pound of crabs picked, which was below the rate of $1.80 to $2 a pound paid to U.S. workers.

Stuart Comstock-Gay, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, called the ruling "a major civil rights victory."

"The court found, in effect, that migrant Mexican workers who are in this country legally cannot be treated differently because of their race and where they come from," said Mr. Comstock-Gay, whose organization helped represent the women.

Philip Harrington Jr., president of the 55-year-old, family-owned Eastern Shore plant, could not be reached for comment. During the trial, he denied violating any laws.

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