Jamaican workers to split $2M under settlement with resort

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — About 240 Jamaican workers at a luxury golf resort in South Carolina will be splitting $2 million under a deal to settle a lawsuit alleging they had been cheated.

The order signed Dec. 16 by U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel applies to a pool of Jamaican guest workers who worked for Kiawah Island Golf Resort on H-2B visas. The program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the country to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs.

Several guest workers filed a class-action lawsuit last year accusing Kiawah of failing to properly pay them minimum wages by deducting housing and transportation costs from their pay for kitchen, serving and housekeeping jobs from 2012 through 2014.

Those deductions, the lawsuit argued, weren't put in writing when the employees were hired for jobs at the resort island property, located about 25 miles southwest of downtown Charleston. Kiawah was the site of the 2012 PGA Championship and will be the site of the 2021 championship.

"For years, Plaintiffs and the other class members have left their homes and families in Jamaica and spent considerable money and effort to come to the United States to work for Kiawah," the workers, represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote in the complaint.

Under the agreement, roughly 240 housekeepers, cooks, bellmen and other service workers would share $2 million. Kiawah has agreed to pay an additional $300,000 in legal fees.

Kiawah officials have denied the allegations. The agreement was reached earlier this year and finalized in Gergel's order.


Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP/ . Read more of her work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/meg-kinnard/

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