Two Oklahoma companies accused of luring immigrants to the United States and mistreating them agreed to settle with the U.S. Department of Labor late last month for more than $31,500. The Clinton, Okla., companies, owned by Walter and Carolyn Shumacher, ran two hotels, a water park, and a Montana Mike’s steakhouse. The couple did not acknowledge any violations under the terms of the settlement but agreed to make the payment “as a good faith resolution with the Administrator concerning the alleged violations,” according to a Labor Department order.
Two other cases against the couple are ongoing. In 2017, three Filipino workers who arrived in the United States on temporary work visas filed a class-action lawsuit against the Schumachers. Last year, three workers from Jamaica who were on student work visas filed a similar suit. Both groups allege the Schumachers promised the them certain hours, wages, and living arrangements if they would come to the United States to work for their companies. The immigrants claim that when they arrived the couple paid them less than minimum wage, did not give them the agreed-upon number of hours, and charged them for housing they originally said would be free or extremely cheap.
Immigrants who do not understand the language or laws tend to be vulnerable to exploitation and struggle to find attorneys or others to advocate for them.
A federal judge in Oklahoma City on Feb. 5 denied separate motions to dismiss the lawsuits. —Charissa Crotts