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Lawsuit

DJ Houghton lawsuit (re trafficked Lithuanian migrants)

Status: CLOSED

Incident date
Dec. 1, 2014
Date accuracy
Year and Month Correct
Unknown
Migrant & immigrant workers
Location of Filing: United Kingdom
Location of Incident: United Kingdom
Type of Litigation: Domestic
Company: DJ Houghton
Company Sector: Agriculture & livestock, Recruitment agencies
Company Location: United Kingdom

Sources

Snapshot

In December 2014, Lithuanian nationals filed a lawsuit in the UK against DJ Hougton Chicken Catching Services, accusing the company of human trafficking. In June 2016, the High Court found the company liable for labour exploitation. In December 2016, the defendants agreed to a settlement of £1 million in compensation and legal costs for the Lithuanian victims.

Factual background

The claimants said that they were trafficked to the UK in 2008 by a Lithuanian national, who was paid for this service by the defendants.  Upon arrival in the UK, they claim they were subjected to severe labour exploitation.  The workers described living in inhuman and degrading conditions, working long shifts, and being deprived of sleep and toilet breaks.  They were paid less than the minimum wage required for agricultural workers, and they claim that their pay was often docked for spurious reasons or completely withheld.  They also alleged that they were threatened and abused by supervisors.  The claimants escaped DJ Houghton in August 2012.  Later that year, the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (GLA), the public body which regulates workers in the agriculture industry, revoked the license of DJ Houghton following a police raid on the company property.  The GLA referred the workers to the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which confirmed that they were victims of trafficking.

Legal proceedings

In December 2014, six Lithuanian nationals commenced a civil lawsuit in the UK against the company DJ Houghton Chicken Catching Services (DJ Houghton).  They were employed between 2008 and 2012 to catch birds in chicken farms across the UK for major brands supplying chickens and eggs to supermarkets.  

After the commencement of the civil claim in December 2014, a further 10 Claimants came forward. A second set of proceedings was therefore issued and stayed pending the outcome of the first proceedings.

The defendants argue that the claims could and should have been brought before the Employment Tribunal; and that there was an on-going personal injuries claim that dealt with the same issues. In early 2016, the claimants applied to enter summary judgment on the basis that the defences of the Houghtons did not respond to large parts of the claims.

On 10 June 2016, a London High Court judge found in favour of the claimants, and denied the applications of the Houghton defendants.  He found the company liable for labour exploitation and ordered it to pay compensation for the unpaid wages.  In December 2016, the defendants agreed to a settlement worth more than £1 million in compensation and legal costs for the Lithuanian victims.

Case Timeline