On September 22, 2016, two men from Indonesia filed a federal lawsuit alleging that they were induced to pay high recruitment fees to work for a U.S.-based fishing vessel, whose captain mistreated them, isolated them at sea for months at a time, and didn’t pay them according to the terms of their employment contract — much less the minimum wage.  The plaintiffs claim in their complaint that they were promised good pay as tuna fishermen, but that the captain they worked for did not pay according to their contract and forced them to keep working nonetheless.

Case Background

This is an action brought by survivors of human trafficking.  Plaintiffs were recruited to work in the commercial fishing industry.  Instead of the promised job at the promised wage on the promised vessel, the men were taken to sea and transferred against their will while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to Defendant Nguyen’s fishing vessel, the Sea Queen II.  On the Sea Queen II, Plaintiffs were subjected to forced labor, fishing for tuna, swordfish, and other seafood, for up to 20 hours per day; denied medical treatment; and were paid less than promised in their written contract.  Plaintiffs’ requests for help led nowhere.  Plaintiffs eventually were able to escape when the Sea Queen II docked in San Francisco, California in May 2010.

The plaintiffs are represented by Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC; Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; and attorney Yenny Teng-Lee. The case is Sorihin and Abdul Fatah v. Thoai Van Nguyen dba Sea Queen II, Case No. 16-5422, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.