Human Trafficking Allegations

Six Filipino workers recently injured or killed in an explosion on an oil platform off the coast of Louisiana were working for a Louisiana company accused in a federal lawsuit of human trafficking and extensive labor violations in its treatment of foreign workers.

The workers were among 14 employees and subcontractors working for Grand Isle Shipyard on a rig owned by Houston-based Black Elk Energy, which has an office in Broussard in Lafayette Parish. Grand Isle and several recruiters here and in the Phillipines are accused in the class-action lawsuit of running a “labor camp” for foreign workers — paying substandard wages for long hours, collecting fees as high as $3,200 a month per worker for a small room shared with four to six other men, and keeping workers “imprisoned” behind lock and key except for one-hour supervised treks to Walmart once a week on Sundays. The suit accuses Grand Isle and the other companies of violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, among others.

The company and others accused in the lawsuit have denied the allegations, saying they are “patently false and baseless.” An attorney representing the company did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

The lawsuit accuses Grand Isle and several other companies of luring skilled workers from the Philippines with false promises of good jobs, fair wages, and free room and board. Instead, workers — mostly certified welders and fitters — arrived to virtual incarceration in harsh conditions and were threatened with deportation if they complained, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is seeking to include all workers recruited by the companies since Nov. 8, 2008 -— the three-year cutoff point for the statute of limitations on the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Learn more at article: Human trafficking allegations.


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