A Seattle-based company has reached a settlement with a Hispanic man who was subjected to racial harassment and dangerous working conditions on an Alaska fishing vessel in 2011.
A Hispanic man who worked aboard an Alaska fishing vessel has reached a $1.85 million settlement with his former employer, Seattle-based Alaska Longline, after being subjected to relentless racial harassment and dangerous working conditions, his attorneys said.
Francisco Miranda, 37, and other Hispanic crew members were called “dirty Mexicans” and other racial epithets by the former captain and first mate of the Ocean Prowler in 2011, according to a stipulated judgment in the case. The captain also treated Hispanic crew members differently from those who were white and made comments like, “They should all swim back to Mexico,” the judgment says.
A white crew member confirmed the allegations, testifying in a declaration that the captain was “racist towards the Mexican people on the boat …”, according to the judgment.
According to the judgment, working conditions aboard the boat contributed to the death of another Hispanic crew member who was forced to work 22- to 24-hour shifts while ill. Hispanic crew members were repeatedly told that they would not get paid if they quit during the voyage, Miranda alleged.
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The man died in his bunk, and his death was attributed to coronary artery disease, according to an autopsy report.
After the man’s death, his body was placed in a survival suit, wrapped with plastic and duct tape and then left on the deck, even after objections from Hispanic crew members, the judgment says. The body eventually froze.
Miranda reported the harassment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), his lawyer, Scott Blankenship, said.
“The EEOC investigated his charge and made an independent finding that there was a hostile work environment based on race,” Blankenship said.
Then, Miranda hired Blankenship to pursue a civil case against Alaska Longline.
The case moved slowly until 2016, Blankenship said, when the Seattle company Blue North Fisheries merged with Alaska Longline’s parent company, Prowler Fisheries.
“The settlement came after a new company took over the management of Alaska Longline and reviewed the substantial evidence of racial harassment uncovered in the federal lawsuit. It immediately began efforts to address the issues raised in the lawsuit and to properly compensate Mr. Miranda,” Blankenship wrote in a news release.
Mark Scheer, an attorney with Alaska Longline, said in a statement that the company wanted to “publicly apologize to Mr. Miranda for what he experienced,” has changed management teams and implemented a “vigorous training program” to prevent future incidents.
“The company was stunned and saddened to learn of the racial harassment and discrimination alleged by Mr. Miranda aboard the vessel. Mr. Miranda’s allegations and evidence of his treatment on the vessel were abhorrent,” Scheer said. “The owners and managers are committed to being an equal-opportunity employer focused on diversity and providing equal opportunities for everyone.”
The crew members involved in harassment were let go by Alaska Longline, Blankenship said.
Miranda is no longer in the fishing industry.
“He couldn’t stand to be out there anymore. He didn’t feel safe. He had to reinvent himself,” Blankenship said. “Now, he’s in school studying … he wants to become a CPA.”
Miranda was born in Los Angeles and is a U.S. citizen but had lived in Mexico and speaks with an accent. He was “mistakenly abused,” in part, because crew members thought he was Mexican, Blankenship said.
That abuse might not have come to light had Miranda not spoken out.
“He understood what was being said, and he articulated his issues with it. There may have been people on board who didn’t understand the comments.”
Blankenship said there were several witnesses in the case who suffered similar abuse but feared retaliation over their immigrant status and did not pursue legal action.
The attorney who handled litigation over the crew member’s death reached a confidential settlement and said he could not comment.