U.S. Veteran Sues After Being Told U.S. Workers Not Wanted, Denied Work

Suit highlights discrimination against U.S. workers


January 9, 2017

Denver, CO — Dwayne Elliott, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and experienced farm machinery operator, filed a federal lawsuit today against USA Farm Labor, the employment recruiting agency whose discriminatory acts led to the denial of a job for Mr. Elliott. The suit alleges that USA Farm Labor gave preference to foreign workers brought into the United States through the H-2A Visa Program over U.S. workers like Mr. Elliott.

Federal law requires U.S. workers to be given a preference for the jobs for which employers seek foreign H-2A workers. In fact, active recruitment of U.S. workers is required until the day the foreign workers are scheduled to depart for the employer's worksite.

Mr. Elliott's lawsuit alleges that USA Farm Labor made a show of recruiting U.S. workers for seven farm machine operator positions available at a farm in Hudson, Colorado in 2015, but never intended to actually hire them. Instead, USA Farm Labor intended to bring in their foreign workforce. When Mr. Elliott responded to the job posting, he was refused the job and was told that it was because the positions were already going to be filled by the same South African workers who were brought in to work on the farm every year.

“We have received complaints that farmworker labor recruiting agencies like USA Farm Labor often avoid hiring qualified U.S. workers, and instead hire foreign H-2A workers,” said Jenifer Rodriguez, Managing Attorney of the Migrant Farm Worker Division at Colorado Legal Services. “Unfortunately, many employers seem to prefer to hire foreign workers who may be less likely to assert their rights and at times are less expensive than U.S. workers.”

USA Farm Labor brings workers to the United States on temporary work permits through the H-2A Visa Program. The lawsuit alleges that USA Farm Labor purports to comply with the H-2A Program requirements on behalf of its clients, including the recruitment of foreign and domestic workers, but in practice only hires foreign workers. On its website, USA Farm Labor stated that the workers it provides are both less expensive than U.S. workers and are also “English speaking” and of “European descent.”

“These rules are set up to protect the rights of workers. Holding employment recruitment agencies accountable to the law not only promotes a stronger workforce in Colorado, it also means vulnerable workers, both U.S. veterans such as Mr. Elliott, and foreign workers, are protected,” said Matt Baca, staff attorney in the Migrant Farm Worker Division of Colorado Legal Services.

Mr. Elliott is suing for discrimination under federal and state laws after being denied a job for which he was qualified. The lawsuit was filed this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Click here for a copy of the complaint.

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Colorado Legal Services serves low-income Coloradans on civil legal matters. It is a statewide legal aid program with thirteen offices throughout Colorado. The Migrant Farm Worker Division represents both U.S. and temporary foreign workers on a variety of civil legal issues.