A crew member has accused Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines of forced labor, slavery and human trafficking for allegedly violating her contract by putting her in a lower-paying job, Florida Today reports.
Attorneys for 33-year-old Reshma Harilal, a resident of South Africa with a U.S. tourist visa, filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Florida.
They want her taken off the Carnival Glory and returned to Miami. The suit also wants her passport returned, and seeks the wages agreed to under the contract she signed.
Read the entire lawsuit (pdf).
“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,” Tonya Meister of the Miami law firm Lipcon Margulies & Alsina told Florida Today. (Like USA TODAY it is owned by Gannett.)
No response yet from Carnival.
The suit alleges that Harilal traveled from South Africa and signed a contract to work as a cabin steward. Once aboard, however, she was told to work as an assistant cabin steward instead, the suit claims. Cabin stewards are paid $1,500 every two weeks, while the assistant earns $250 to $300 biweekly.
The complaint has been faxed to the Glory, which is in Belize today. It’s expected to arrive in the Bahamas by Friday, and Harilal’s attorneys hope she’ll then be returned to Miami. The ship is due back at Port Canaveral on Saturday.
Update at 7:25 a.m. ET: Carnival Cruise Lines is denying the allegations. Here’s an excerpt from the statement they released last night:
Reshma Harilal has worked for Carnival since 2000. She joined the company in the position of stateroom stewardess and is presently employed as a stateroom stewardess. Over the past seven years, she has returned for multiple contracts with the cruise line. The allegations contained within the suit are not only completely false, but baffling, and the company looks forward to vigorously defending itself.