Filipino workers sue Louisiana oil company for ‘abandoning’ them in a hurricane
Ten Filipino workers, who sued a major offshore oil company, claim they were treated like prisoners at a company bunkhouse and that two of them were abandoned there when Hurricane Ida struck the Louisiana Gulf Coast in 2021.
The workers filed a federal class action suit in February 2022, against major offshore oil industry company Grand Isle Shipyard, which denied the accusations and countered with a defamation lawsuit in October 2022.
A judge dismissed Grant Isle Shipyard’s countersuit but said it could file again once the workers’ lawsuit comes to a close.
Renato Decena and Rosel Hernandez, two of the Filipino workers, who were all in the U.S. under federally granted visas, told the Associated Press they were abandoned in their bunkhouse during Hurricane Ida in August 2021.
The ten workers’ lawsuit also allege being illegally underpaid and threatened with deportation if they left their bunkhouse. They also claimed that workers who tested positive for COVID-19 were quarantined on anchored supply boats or other vessels, sometimes without adequate food or medicine.
“Not one medicine, not one tablet, not one vitamin. Nobody gave these things to us. We were on our own,” Hernandez told the AP. A 15-year employee of the company, Hernandez said there was little food when he arrived at the quarantine vessel and that he had to treat his cough with just juice and salted water.
Grand Isle Shipyard denied the claims, stating in its countersuit, “The houseboats and vessels that workers were quarantined on have fully stocked kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Breakfast, lunch and dinner for workers was delivered by Defendants to all such quarantine sites.”
“GIS’ on-site clinic physician routinely visited those in quarantine, dispensing medicine and monitoring symptoms,” the filing said. “All workers are free to come and go as often as they wish,” the company said in its counterclaim.
In a Sept. 23, 2022 ruling in New Orleans, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said the workers’ claims over wages would be arbitrated in the Philippines, but he allowed the U.S. court case to proceed with claims invoking U.S. human trafficking and fair housing laws.