Indian Shipworkers Allege Company Lured them to U.S. Under False Pretenses

Last month, attorneys on behalf of a group of Indian workers asked for for class-action status in a federal lawsuit that describes the workers as victims of “human trafficking” and organized crime. According to the Houston Chronicle, a group of employers, immigration lawyers and labor recruiters based in India, New Orleans, Texas and Mississippi conspired to deceive and exploit workers in a multinational scam.

Skilled Indian shipbuilders were recruited to work in the U.S. with the promise of obtaining legal permanent residency — green cards. However, when they arrived in the U.S., the shipbuilding company, Signal International, required them to live in pre-fab cabins at company-run “man camps” for which they were forced to pay “rent” of $1,050 a month. According to two of the workers, the man camps felt like “jail.” Workers were allegedly subjected to routine searches (alcohol was prohibited), guests were turned away, and guards referred to them by number rather than by name.

In court documents, attorneys for Signal argued that the company was misled by labor recruiters and an immigration lawyer. Signal has allegedly demanded refunds and severed ties with one consulting firm after learning of recruiters’ false promises and inflated visa charges. Other parties in the federal lawsuit — an Indian recruiter, a New Orleans immigration lawyer and others — also denied or deflected blame for the situation.

Here in central New Jersey, we have a large community of hard-working men and women from India and other Asian countries. Unfortunately, there are companies both here and abroad who take advantage of them. If you are an immigrant who believes that your rights are being violated at work, please seek out the counsel of an employment attorney who has experience handling immigration-related employment disputes.