The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it filed suit against labor broker Global Horizons in California, six farms in that state and two in Washington for abuse of workers brought into the country from Thailand "on the promise of high-paying wages and temporary visas."
The workers, however, were "forced into vermin-ridden housing, denied the opportunity to leave the premises and subjected to harassment, including physical assault by their overseers," the commission said.
The commission said at least 200 Thai men were subjected to the abusive treatment, which included threats of deportation if the workers complained and confiscation of their passports.
The workers also paid high fees to secure their jobs, which kept them in debt to the company.
In a separate case, the commission said it filed suit in Mississippi charging Signal International, a marine services company, with subjecting 500 Indian welders and pipe-fitters to live in "unsanitary" conditions "for which they were charged an inordinate amount (and) given unwholesome food."
The Indian workers were also "demeaned by being referred to by numbers instead of their names," the commission said.
Some were also subjected to retaliation when they complained, the EEOC said.