Thursday, September 9, 2010


NOTHIN’ TO SEE HERE: Kaua`i Coffee’s “complaint for declaratory relief” related to 17 EEOC complaints that amount to charges of slavery- as we wrote about Tuesday and the local newspaper was finally embarrassed into covering in small part today with a promise of more to come- is one of the strangest court filings we’ve ever seen since apparently no authority has actually charged them with anything and they aren’t charging anyone with anything either.

Filed in US District Court, it essentially claims that Global Horizons Manpower Inc - the company whose head, Mordechai Orian, is being held on a million dollars bail for various charges related to “exploiting 400 workers from Thailand and forcing them to work on U.S. farms” – indemnified them against anything and everything related to the EEOC complaints.

But of course it’s hard to imagine how they could have been anything but fully aware of the circumstances supporting the conditions since they occurred right under their noses.

Strangely enough- and possible illegally- the compliant reveals the names of those making the EEOC complaints. which are considered confidential according to federal law.

The charges- at least Kaua`i Coffee’s characterization of them, according to the complaint, are supposedly uniform, saying

According to the suit:

The EEOC Charges uniformly contain the following allegations:

I. Since [2004/2005/2006], 1 I have been harassed, subjected to different terms and conditions of employment, and intimidated in all aspects of employment with Global Horizons, due to my national origin (Thailand).

The year in which the discrimination complained of allegedly began differs depending on the individual EEOC Charge.

II. On many occasions, I objected [sic] the terms and conditions of employment but was ignored.

III. I believe I have been harassed, subjected to different terms and conditions of employment, and intimidated because of my national origin (Thailand) and retaliated against for engaging in a protected activity, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

IV. Further, since [200312004/2005], 2 I believe that employees as a class have been discriminated against due to their national origin (Thailand) and retaliated against for engaging in a protected activity, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

Though the complaint details and provides exhibits as to why Kaua`i Coffee thinks Global Horizons fully indemnified them, after detailing a back and forth between attorneys over the last two years, the compliant admits

an actual and genuine controversy exists between Kauai Coffee and Global Horizons concerning the latter's obligation to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Kauai Coffee against the EEOC Charges.

Kaua`i Coffee’s case for indemnification refers to the agreements to provide the labor saying.

The Agreements state that the contract workers furnished by Global Horizons to Kauai Coffee "will be employees of [Global Horizons] and will at all times be subject to the sole and direct supervision and control of [Global Horizons]." Exs. "1" and "2" at 9[ 3(a).

Pursuant to the Agreements, Global Horizons furnished Kauai Coffee with contract farm workers from Thailand (the "Workers") at various times during the period of approximately November 2004 ("Fall '04") through approximately June 2006 ("Summer '06").

But then they admit that

Per the Agreements, Kauai Coffee provided housing and transportation to the Workers. Exs. "1" and "2" atl 8(a).

It’s hard to see how if, as with the cases against Orian and Global Horizons, workers were held against their will that Kaua`i Coffee was fully unaware of what was going on and therefore were not accessory to the crime regardless of any indemnification.

As to the case for indemnification itself the complaint says

Paragraph 11(j) of the Agreements (the "Indemnity Provision") provides as follows:

[Global Horizons] hereby agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless [Kauai Coffee] and its affiliates and their directors, officers, agents and employees against any claim, obligation, liability, demand or cause of action, including without limit, costs of defense, settlement, and reasonable attorneys' fees, that results directly or indirectly from any acts or omissions of [Global Horizons] in providing services hereunder.

The complaint says Kauai` Coffee is asking

A. For a declaration that Global Horizons is required under the Agreements to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Kauai Coffee as to the EEOC Charges;

B. For an award of attorneys' fees and costs incurred by Kauai Coffee in maintaining this suit; and

C. For such other legal and/or equitable relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

As we said, since the EEOC complaints were made against Global Horizons and, as yet, no one has actually accused Kaua`i Coffee of anything the complaint itself seems like a case where the alleged perpetrator screams “I didn’t do it” before anyone tells them what it is they supposedly did.

A Honolulu Star Advertiser story on September 3 did say that:

More than a dozen farms in Hawaii were involved in what the FBI is calling the largest human trafficking case ever prosecuted in the U.S., according to a sweeping federal indictment unsealed yesterday

About 400 workers from Thailand circulated through island farms -- some were sent to the mainland -- through Global Horizons from May 2004 through September 2005. The workers were threatened with deportation and economic stress if they did not work, the indictment said...

"The FBI is attempting to learn the extent that these farms were aware of the forced labor conditions of its workers," Simon said. "With few exceptions, the farms have been cooperating with our investigation."...

The indictment also said Global Horizon confined workers to the property of the now-defunct Maui Pineapple Farm, posting guards to prevent the workers from running away.

Two of the defendants strung yellow tape around the Maui Pineapple housing area and installed bells on string lines in the woods to alert guards of escape attempts, according to the indictment.

If Kaua`i Coffee’s involvement was anything like that of Maui Pineapple it’s easy to see why they are seeking what amounts to a CYA (cover your ass) complaint seeking to separate themselves from any wrongdoing.

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