Sabrina Steele is accusing Pope's Plant Farm in Greenback, Tenn. of discouraging her from taking a job so the farm could hire foreign workers. Pope's Plant Farm applied to the Department of Labor in November of 2007 for 75 foreign worker visas. The foreign workers would work 40 hour work weeks for $8.65 an hour.
Under the H-2A visa program, employers who anticipate a labor shortage can apply for temporary agricultural workers.
In an interview with FOXNews.com, Steele said Mike Pope told her she could have a job, but she would have to work an 80 hour work week and she'd be the only English-speaking American employee besides the office staff.
"I also learned that in the clearance order, the work offered to temporary foreign workers was for 40 hours a week," she wrote. "If the work offered to me had been the same as that offered to the temporary foreign (and apparently mostly male) workers, I would have accepted."
Steele works on her family farm and has two elementary school-aged children. She was looking for supplemental income and was referred to Pope's Plant Farm by the Tennessee Careers Center in December of 2007.
After her story ran in a local newspaper, she was contacted by Melody Fowler-Green who is a lawyer with a nonprofit firm that provides legal services to migrant agricultural workers. The group filed a claim on her behalf alleging that Steele was discriminated against because she is an American citizen. Steele told FOXNews.com that she decided to go through with the suit after hearing of others that had been discriminated against because they were American citizens.
"But these employers have to hire the people that apply because we need the income here," Steele said. "We have too many people that are losing their homes every day, and if they're willing to do the work, I think they should have the opportunity to do the work."
In 2007, the government issued 50,791 H-2A visas. There is no cap to the number of visas issued, but the program is hard for employers to use. Steele told FOXNews.com that she does not oppose the H-2A program in strong economic times.
FOXnews.com has more on this story.
Originally Published: Tue, Jan 13th 2009 @ 1:57pm EST