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1600 workers are receiving their settlement claims from our Ag-mart litigation.
The couple that appear in the picture with Rob and our colleague Matt Guyette were the first clients to get their checks.
The following are some representative case(s) drawn from the Project's docket:
Dagoberto Morante-Navarro, et al. v. T & Y Pine Straw, Inc., 350 F.3d 1163 (11th Cir. 2003)
Action by 14 H-2B workers admitted to gather and pack pine straw in northern Florida and southern Alabama during 2001. The workers were paid far less than the federal minimum wage for their work, and had large deductions made from their wages for recruitment and transportation charges. The Plaintiffs also claimed that the defendants violated the disclosure, recordkeeping, wage statement and vehicle insurance provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
The district court determined that the plaintiffs were not protected by the AWPA, because their work was not "agricultural employment" within the meaning of the Act. The Eleventh Circuit reversed this ruling, holding that workers engaged in pine straw harvesting and baling are protected by the Act. As a result of this ruling, thousands of migrant workers employed in the Southeast in pine straw work will now be covered by the AWPA’s protections.
Jorge E. Arriaga, et al. v. Florida Pacific Farms, LLC, et al., 305 F.3d 1228 (11th Cir. 2002)
Action by H-2A guestworkers from Mexico employed by two Dover strawberry growers in the 1998-99 harvest. The H-2A workers incurred expenses related to their travel to the growers’ jobsite totaling between $500 and $1000 per worker. These charges included recruitment fees, visa expenses, border crossing charges and inbound transportation costs in traveling from Mexico to Florida. Only the inbound transportation expenses were ultimately reimbursed to the workers, and these reimbursements were less than the full cost of the travel expenses between the workers’ home villages in Mexico and the jobsite in Florida. The farmworkers contended that these charges violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the lower court ruling and held that expenses incurred by migrant workers in traveling to distant jobsites for temporary work primarily benefit the employer. As a result, employers must reimburse workers for these expenses during the first week of employment, to the extent that these expenses reduce workers’ wages below the minimum wage. The ruling has substantial implications outside the guestworker arena. The National Law Journal described the decision as possibly "the most significant minimum-wage ruling in the past 20 years."
Nicholas Charles, et al. v. John Burton, et al., 169 F.3d 1322 (11th Cir. 1999)
Seventeen Miami-based farmworkers were passengers in a serious vehicle accident on June 3, 1992 near Barney, Georgia.. The workers were traveling to their bean-picking jobs in the rear bed of an uninsured pickup truck. Three of the 17 passengers were killed and several others were left permanently disabled. The plaintiffs brought suit under the transportation safety and vehicle insurance provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and also claimed to have been denied the protections of the Act's payroll, wage statement and crewleader registration provisions. Suit was brought against the farmers on whose operations the workers were picking beans, as well as the packinghouse which financed the bean crop. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on most of the AWPA claims, concluding that neither the farmers or the packinghouse "employed" the harvest workers. In addition, although it court granted judgment for the plaintiffs against the farmers for their violations of the AWPA's requirement that persons using farm labor contractors verify their registration status, the district court refused the plaintiffs' request for an award of actual damages for this violation equal to the amount of the vehicle insurance required on the pickup ($5 million), and instead awarded each plaintiff $300 in statutory damages because there were no "actual damages," traceable to the violation of the Act's registration verification provisions.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed the trial court’s decision, concluding that the two farmers had "employed" the migrant workers plaintiffs and were liable for violations of the AWPA. In addition, the appeals court found that actual damages could be awarded for the registration verification violations, because the crewleader’s failure to obtain the required vehicle insurance was directly traceable to the growers’ failure to ensure that he was properly registered.
Quincy Corporation, d/b/a Quincy Farms v. United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO and United Mushroom Workers of North Florida, 681 So.2d 773 (Fla. 1st DCA 1996)
Following a labor dispute at a large mushroom farm, approximately 100 workers were demonstrating along the public right-of-ways adjoining the farm. The company obtained an ex parte temporary injunction against the union and its supporters which limited the picketing to a total of 16 workers in two groups 50 yards apart and 50 yards from the entrance to the farm. FLS appealed the temporary injunction order to the First DCA on the grounds that the trial court essentially ignored the requirements of Rule 1.610 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and that the injunction constituted a prior restraint presumptively invalid under the First Amendment. In addition, the union filed a §1983 counterclaim in the underlying circuit court proceeding, alleging that the injunction was obtained in bad faith and infringes on the workers' First Amendment rights. The First District Court of Appeal held that the injunction was not issued in compliance with the due process requirements of Rule 1.610(a) and (b), and quashed the injunction.
Immacula Antenor v. D & S Farms, 88 F.3d 925 (11th Cir. 1996)
Class action by 612 Miami-Dade County farmworkers against two of the area's largest vegetable growers for wholesale violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act during the bean harvests between 1985 and 1989. No payroll records were maintained on the workers' labor and no social security or unemployment taxes were paid with regard to this work. Most of the vehicles used to transport the workers were uninsured. Many of the workers were paid below the federal minimum wage with an estimated $500,000 in back wages due the plaintiffs. The court certified a class of approximately 10,000 bean pickers under Rule 23(b)(2) with respect to the plaintiffs' claims regarding the unpaid social security taxes. Subsequently, the district court granted the growers' motion for summary judgment, concluding that the growers were not "agricultural employers" subject to AWPA and the FLSA.
In a landmark ruling, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's decision that the growers were not joint employers of the harvest workers along with the farm labor contractor. On remand, the trial court granted the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, concluding that the growers employed the harvest workers and were responsible for ensuring compliance with federal labor laws. A confidential settlement was reached with the two growers involved. The defaulting farm labor contractor filed W-2 forms in April, 2000 reporting over $5 million in wages for members of the class between 1985 and 1989. Because most of the class members are permanent resident aliens who have limited access to public benefits as a result of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, these additional reported earnings will enable many class members to qualify for the first time for Social Security, SSI, food stamp and medicaid benefits.