Regardless of citizenship status, workers within the United States are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act. This act ensures that workers receive minimum wages, overtime pay and protects against child labor violations. Unfortunately, some employers take advantage of immigrant laborers’ vulnerability, and try to strip them of their basic rights.
Tennessee is growing, and with that growth comes an increased need of laborers. A landscaping company in Murfreesboro, Outdoors Unlimited, offered immigrants pay, housing, transportation and a temporary work visa to work as landscapers in Tennessee. However, immigrant workers reported that the company failed to adequately deliver on their promises, refusing to pay wages and failing to respect its workers.
Karla Campbell of Branstetter Stranch & Jennings took up the case, representing Guatemalan immigrant Mynor Chox, who claims that he suffered abuse under Outdoors Unlimited. Chox reported unpaid overtime hours, an inability to access food, inadequate housing and verbal abuse at the hands of his employers.
Outdoors Unlimited claims that its timecard system is inaccurate, with employees lying about their working hours. Therefore, the company relies on the word of its supervisors to determine worked hours to compensate, and whether to provide overtime pay. This difference between timecard recorded hours and company acknowledged hours created a disconnect between what Chox expected to be paid and what he actually received.
Campell and Chox filed a federal lawsuit accusing Outdoors Unlimited of trafficking immigrants for forced labor. Chox is also looking to recover wages that he was previously denied.
Immigrant employees may face a challenging situations when working in the United States. Employees may fear deportation if they anger the company sponsoring their work visa, and they may lack the English language skills and knowledge of their legal rights to challenge company actions.
Campbell has a history of protecting vulnerable employees. She stands up for their rights regarding fair pay, freedom from harassment and freedom from discrimination. As a fluent Spanish-speaker, Campbell can easily communicate with wronged workers, and advise them of their rights under US law.