The Eagle's Lodge Motel in Ellsworth. Credit: Courtesy of City of Ellsworth

Five migrant workers have sued an Ellsworth motel, alleging it broke the law when it had four workers stay in one room sharing two beds, and didn’t change the linens or clean the room daily as it did for the general public.

In addition, there were no cooking facilities, and four of the workers had to share a mini-refrigerator to store food, which sometimes caused it to spoil, the complaint alleged.

Pine Tree Legal Assistance filed the lawsuit on the workers’ behalf on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bangor over conditions during the workers’ stay at the Eagle’s Lodge Motel in August and September 2017 when they worked for Hancock Foods, Inc. processing blueberries during the harvest. The complaint alleges that the motel violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983, which outlines the kinds of housing migrant workers are to be provided.

Hancock Foods has not been sued.

A representative of the motel did not immediately return a request for comment.

Plaintiffs Jeanine Delva, Marie Denise Derisse, Marie Myrlene Hall-Holly, Pierre Innocent and Rene Jolteus live in Florida but are of Haitian descent, according to the complaint. They allege that the hotel located at 278 High St., also known as Route 1, violated the law and are seeking up to $500 in damages per violation, the highest award the law allows.

If awarded, that would total $1,500 in damages per worker, according to Pine Tree Legal Assistance, which assists migrant workers in Maine with legal matters.

The law requires that those who own any facility used to house migrant farmworkers comply with specific safety and health requirements, the complaint said. In addition to the sharing of beds, no appropriate government agency certified that the facilities complied with safety and health requirements, and no certification was posted in the motel as required by the law.

The owners also allegedly broke the law because they did not provide a place where workers could cook and eat. Workers incurred expenses because they had to leave the property to do laundry, which must be provided on site under the law, the complaint said.

Hancock Foods paid for the room, and the workers paid the firm $5 per day for housing, according to the complaint.

Under the arrangement between Hancock Foods and the motel, the Eagle’s Lodge “envisioned that the plaintiffs would alternate sleeping times based on alternating work shifts. However, on days off and during periods of less than full-time work, which occurred often, the plaintiffs were required to share beds or sleep on the floor. The rooms were thus grossly and unhygienically overcrowded,” the complaint said.