LAFAYETTE — A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of two Mexican migrant workers alleges a crawfish and alligator processing facility in Eunice routinely paid the employees from $2 to $4 an hour for workdays that sometimes stretched for 15 hours.
The lawsuit filed this week against Riceland Crawfish seeks unpaid wages for the two migrant workers and all employees with similar wage complaints over the past three years.
“Conservatively speaking, it involves more than 100 employees,” said Chris Wilmes, an attorney working on the case for the Chicago firm of Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym.
The firm is involved in similar litigation filed last year on behalf on migrant workers against L.T. West, a crawfish processor in nearby Mamou.
In the Riceland case, the lawsuit alleges workers were generally paid based on the number of pounds of crawfish they peeled and that total pay averaged $2 to $4 an hour, far below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
The lawsuit also alleges workers were not paid overtime for workdays that could stretch from 10 hours to 15 hours per day for six days a week.
“These people were working extraordinary hours and not being paid a rate close to the minimum wage,” Wilmes said.
Riceland owner Dexter Guillory said Wednesday that he had just been served with the lawsuit and had yet to review the allegations in detail.
“As far as I know, I’m not guilty of anything,” Guillory said.
Wilmes said it is too early to speculate on how much money could be at stake in the Riceland case, which was filed on behalf of workers Alondra Cejudo Rivas and Maria Sonia Cejudo Rivas.
The lawsuit comes after the U.S. Department of Labor this summer took action against two other south Louisiana seafood processors in response to wage complaints from migrant workers.
Harvest Time Seafood in Abbeville paid $52,750 in back wages and faces another $16,000 in penalties in an investigation involving 64 Hispanic workers there, the Labor Department announced in July.
The federal agency alleged the company paid some workers less than the hourly wage required for seafood processing jobs under the federal H-2B visa program for foreign workers, about $7.84 an hour, and in some cases less than the federal minimum wage.
The Labor Department in July also announced it was pursuing $248,000 in fines and back wages from C.J.’s Seafood in Breaux Bridge for alleged workplace safety and wage violations.