Signal International lawsuits (re trafficking of Indian workers in USA)
In 2008, plaintiffs filed a class action on behalf of over 500 Indian workers against Signal International, a marine repair company, and a network of US labour recruiters and immigration lawyers. Plaintiffs allege the defendant lured workers from India to the US, and forced them to pay into a nonexistant labour program. In 2012, a jury found in favour of the plaintiffs. In 2015, Signal settled this lawsuit and 11 other cases for $20 million.
Class action lawsuit – David et al v Signal International LLC et al
In October 2008, a number of named plaintiffs filed a class action on behalf of over 500 Indian workers, against Signal International, a marine repair company, and a network of US labour recruiters and immigration lawyers.
The plaintiffs alleged that Signal and the co-defendants lured workers from India to the United States as part of a government guest-worker programme, between 2004 and 2007. The workers were allegedly charged up to US$20,000 each to participate in the programme, on the promise of permanent US residency. The workers claimed that they had not been granted residency upon arrival, and had instead been forced to pay Signal over US$1000 monthly to live in guarded and crowded accommodation. The specific claims included trafficking, fraud, racketeering and discrimination.
Signal denied the allegations and argues that it was misled by the recruiters. It has filed lawsuits against them.
In January 2012, a US district court denied class certification for the claim. In January 2015, the case in respect of five of the named plaintiffs went to trial. In February 2015, a jury found in favour of the plaintiffs and also held that one plaintiff had been subjected to false imprisonment and retaliation.
The company was ordered to pay $12 million damages, and a recruitment broker and lawyer were each ordered to pay $915,000.
In July 2015, Signal settled the David lawsuit and 11 other cases for $20 million. The company later filed for bankrupcy.
Related individual lawsuits
Since May 2013, more than 200 plaintiffs who had been excluded from the 2008 class action have filed at least twelve federal lawsuits against Signal and the co-defendants, asserting similar claims. These cases are on-going.
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit
In April 2011, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a federal lawsuit against Signal, accusing the company of discriminating against the workers, and retaliating against those who protested against their treatment. Some workers from the 2008 lawsuit joined this action. In December 2015, Signal International agreed to pay $5 million to settle the lawsuit.
Guest Workers to Receive $5 Million from EEOC Lawsuit Against Signal International, 18 Jan 2016
US court finds ship repair firm Signal guilty of discriminating against & trafficking Indian workers, Reuters, 19 Feb 2015
Hundreds Claim Signal International Enslaved Them for Hurricane Work, Iulia Filip, Courthouse News Service, 9 Aug 2013
Suit Points to Guest Worker Program Flaws, Julia Preston, New York Times (USA), 2 Feb 2010
Kurian David v Signal International [Statement from Signal International], 12 Jan 2015
American Civil Liberties Union:
Federal jury awards $14 million to Indian guest workers victimized in labor trafficking scheme by Gulf coast shipyard and its agents, 18 Feb 2015
Top U.S. Law Firms File Multiple Human Trafficking Lawsuits Against Signal International, LLC, 21 May 2013
Southern Poverty Law Center:
Signal International Lawsuits
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Signal International, LLC to Pay $5 Million to Settle EEOC Race, National Origin Lawsuit, 18 Dec 2015
EEOC combats labor trafficking, severe abuse and discrimination in lawsuits filed today, 20 Apr 2011
US District Court of Eastern District of Louisiana:
David, et al. v. Signal International, LLC, Et Al. - Order, 5 Dec 2008
David et al v Signal, J&M Associates, Indo Ameri-Soft (No. 08-1220-SM-DEK) – Sixth Amended Complaint, 5 Aug 2014
EEOC and Sabulal et al v Signal – Proposed First Amended Complaint in Intervention, 7 Nov 2012
Kurian David et al v Signal International LLC et al – Class Certification Decision, 4 Jan 2012
For more information on these cases and to access all court documents see, The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse at the University of Michigan Law School here.