WA Employer settles private RICO suit over use of illegal immigrants

According to WorkForce Management, in December 2005 the executives of a fruit grower in Washington State settled for $1.3 million a suit “by a group of legal workers accusing the grower of depressing wages, which is illegal under RICO laws, by hiring illegal immigrants.” The case was initially filed in 2000, dismissed, and then appealed. The settlement covers the company’s operations between 1999 and 2004.
This is first time that a privately filed RICO suit about the use of illegal immigrants has come to a positive ending for the plaintiffs, who are American workers. In 2005, Wal-Mart last year paid $11 million to settle a federal investigation into its use of undocumented workers as janitors. Also in 2005, Washington State negotiated a settlement relating to the importation of Thai workers.
Johnson & Bell, headquartered in Chicago, handled the plaintiff’s case. The firm is involved in similar litigation against Tyson Foods, the poultry processing firm, and Mohawk Industries, the carpet manufacturer. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Mohawk case in April.
Zirkle Fruit used a recruitment firm, Selective Employment Agency, to manage the hiring. According to Workforce Management, all the companies being sued under RICO claim they were unaware that they were employing illegal immigrants because external labor recruiters were the ones responsible for the hiring.
RICO is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.