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H-2B workers say they were fired for seeking medical treatment

Crawfish generic
Posted at 3:18 PM, Jun 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 17:11:36-04

Two people who came to Louisiana on H-2B visas to peel crawfish claim they were stricken with COVID-19 and fired when they sought medical care.

Last month, state officials said that they had identified three workplace COVID clusters at Acadiana crawfish processing plants, but did not identify the plants.

Today, three documents outlining the allegations were posted in an article on Huffington Post.

You can see the documents by scrolling down. They indicate the two women came to work for Acadia Processors LLC, a company based in Crowley. We've reached out to federal officials to verify, but haven't heard back from them. We also reached out to the attorney listed as the company's registered agent on state records, but haven't heard back from him.

We did speak with one of the company's owners, who told us that his company disputes the claims in the complaint. He told KATC that his company worked with public health officials to protect their employees and the community, and he denies that the women were fired for going to the hospital for treatment. We'll have more later today on KATC TV3.

"Ms. Alvarez Navarro and Ms. Hernandez Valladares are migrant workers from Mexico who were employed in the United States on H-2B temporary work visas. During their employment, they lived in cramped, overcrowded housing provided by Acadia. During the spread of COVID-19 through its workforce, Acadia required Complainants to remain in employer-provided housing as a condition of employment," the complaint states.

The conditions were cramped, the women allege.

"In the employer-provided housing, I shared a bathroom and kitchen with nearly fifty other women. I slept in a bedroom that housed eight workers and was only equipped with bunk beds, so I was in extremely close contact with my coworkers throughout the night," one of the women says of the company's housing.

The company didn't usually require employees to use their housing, which they charged $50 per week for, but in early May, the women allege, the co mpany ordered all its H-2B workers to stay in the housing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A week later, the workers were ordered to pack and move to "new, more isolated employer-provided housing, where two workers would be quarantined," the complaint states.

By this time, the two women were very sick, and they were afraid they would die. The complaint alleges that almost all the workers at the plant - around 100 people - were showing symptoms of the virus.

When they went to a hospital for medical care, they were fired, the complaint alleges. Their former employers also threatened to report them to immigration, the complaint alleges.

The women say that their employers promised to provide them with medical care and food at the new housing, but they were so ill they were afraid they would die and went to the hospital instead. They also said they didn't believe that they would get the medical care that was promised, the complaint states.

Here are the documents: