Illegal immigrants sue over 'abusive' employment

By: By BILL POOVEY
By: By BILL POOVEY

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) -- A federal lawsuit accuses a cheese company in Manchester of treating 12 illegal immigrant employees abusively and wrongly having them arrested when they demanded back pay.

The Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center filed the lawsuit seeking damages Thursday from Durrett Cheese Sales Inc. A hearing has been set for Nov. 3 in Winchester.

The law center's Immigrant Justice Project director, Mary Bauer, says the suit seeks damages for nine women and three men who were in the United States illegally when they were working at the company and arrested in October 2007.

The suit also names Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves, who said the workers were arrested for disorderly conduct and turned over to federal immigration agents. Graves said the arrested employees were treated "with the utmost respect."

Telephone messages left at the company were not returned.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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