A female crew member working on a Port Canaveral-based cruise ship filed a lawsuit today in federal court against Carnival Cruise Lines, accusing the Miami-based cruise line of forced labor, slavery and human trafficking.
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Florida, attorneys for Reshma Harilal, a 33-year-old resident of South Africa, ask that she is removed from the Carnival Glory cruise ship, where she is currently working. The suit also asks that her passport is returned to her, and that she be paid wages that she agreed to work under.
“Based on what our client has told us, there are other crew members who are also working in lower positions and at a lower pay than they agreed when they boarded the vessel,” said Tonya Meister, an associate at the Miami-based law firm Lipcon Margulies & Alsina. “This case stands for more than money. Human beings should not be treated this way. They should not be forced to work under conditions they did not agree upon, and that’s what this case is about.”
Carnival officials could not immediately be reached for comment today.
With Harilal aboard, the Carnival Glory left Port Canaveral on Saturday.
Court documents claim that Harilal traveled from South Africa to take a position as a cabin steward on the Glory, after signing a contract indicating that would be her position. While already aboard the ship, Harilal was told to work as an assistant cabin steward instead, the suit claims. The cabin steward job pays $1,500 every two weeks, and the assistant job pays $250 to $300 every two weeks, the suit claims.
The Glory was in Belize on Tuesday, was expected to dock in Bahamas on Friday, and was scheduled to return to Port Canaveral on Saturday.
Attorneys have faxed the complaint to the ship, and are hopeful that Harilal will be removed from the ship Thursday or Friday, when the ship is in the Bahamas, and then will be brought back to Miami.
Harilal holds a tourist visa, and would stay with her daughter, who lives in Florida, attorney Meister said.
BY DONNA BALANCIA