Summer 2017 Farmworker Law Internships


“Interning with the Farmworker Division opened my eyes to the injustices many United States farm workers face. The greatest lesson I learned was that public interest law is not only about arguing law and winning cases. It is also about standing up with real people to help them exercise their rights.”

The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services seeks law students to join our advocacy on behalf of farmworkers.  Our unit advocates and litigates on behalf of Georgia’s farmworkers.  Our clients frequently experience significant wage violations, discrimination, wrongful termination, and other broken promises.  We litigate cases aggressively, impacting practices that affect both low-wage immigrant workers and their domestic counterparts.  See, e.g., Tomason v. Stanley, 297 F.R.D. 541 (S.D. Ga. 2014); Hernandez v. Hendrix Produce, Inc., 297 F.R.D. 538 (S.D. Ga. 2014); Ojeda-Sanchez v. Bland Farms, 600 F.Supp.2d 1373 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 4, 2009).

Our work has received national media attention.  Coverage of our cases can be found in The New York Times, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, National Public Radio, and Dan Rather Reports. You can find links to news articles here.  See, e.g., Ethan Bronner, Workers Claim Race Bias as Farms Rely on Immigrants, N.Y. Times, May 6, 2013.  We have litigated cases with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has led to efforts in Congress to defund our organization.  See, e.g., Dana Milbank, How Rep. Scott Betrayed His Tea Party Roots, Wash. Post, Aug. 9, 2011.  Due to widespread use of immigrant labor and lax government enforcement, there is no shortage of deserving clients and meritorious claims to be litigated.  In 2015, we recovered over $509,000 in unpaid wages, penalties and other damages, as well as fees and costs, on behalf of 131 farmworkers. See the chart of our recoveries. As a result of our efforts, several major agricultural employers in Georgia adopted changes in practices that will benefit countless more.

Student Intern Responsibilities:  Interns will enjoy a full summer of federal litigation, legal research and writing, case planning, fact investigation, client communication, and outreach activity to the farmworker community. Summer is our busy time, as the height of the Georgia harvest season occurs from May through July.  Student interns will develop their client communication skills through direct contact with workers. Interns will investigate cases, draft affidavits, letters and pleadings, and participate in the discovery process, including electronic document review.  Previous interns have attended trials, second-chaired depositions, and worked on cases involving racial and national origin discrimination, work stoppages, and serious violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

Supervision:  Student interns will work closely with and receive their training and assignments from Solimar Mercado-Spencer (Indiana University School of Law ’07), Lauren Hoff-Downing (UPenn Law ’14), and Isaac Raisner (NYU Law ’14).  Students will receive ongoing feedback, including mid-summer and final reviews.

Apply: Email cover letter, resume and writing sample to  Applications from both 1L and 2L law students will be considered.  Strong writing skills are necessary and Spanish-language skills are preferred. Students typically work from May through the end of July.

Notable Former Fellows, Interns and Volunteers

Read about Ashley Smith’s experience as an intern in summer 2010 on theNYU Law Blog.

See the updated case docket

Hilary Smith Highlighted in Georgia Bar Journal’s Tech Tips Article


The Farmworker Rights Division’s Regional Operations Manager and Paralegal, Hilary G. Smith, was featured in the October issue of the Georgia Bar Journal. Smith contributed to the “Legal Tech Tips” portion of the issue compiled by State Bar Pro Bono Coordinator, Mike Monahan. Commenting on her division’s use of Google Voice as a tool, Smith explained, “Google Voice is a dynamic tool that helps us better serve our clients. Clients text photos of original documents to be reviewed or added to their file, of the conditions of the barracks or hotels where they are housed, and farmworkers who work long hours can privately type us messages in the evenings without needing access to email. We are also able to send and receive messages with clients whose phones have run out of minutes but who still have texting capabilities. This helps our low-income clients whose tech and phone services are often sporadic maintain consistent contact and get all their materials and messages to their legal advocates.” To check out all the tech tips included in the column, see the full article on page 63 of the Journal.

See the full October issue of the Georgia Bar Journal online. 








NPR Runs Story on Farmworking Conditions on 50th Anniversary of Historic Strike

npr story II

“It’s always been a problem that farmworkers are not paid certainly a just wage and are not even paid the minimum wage,” says Daniela Dwyer, a lawyer at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, which handled the Bauer lawsuit. “But it’s a problem that’s becoming ever more severe because the federal minimum wage has been stagnant for a very long time.”


Sanders Farm and Associated FLC Settle Federal Wage Lawsuit for $39,500


The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services filed a federal lawsuit on May 1, 2015, Cruz-Vasquez, et al. v. Sanders Farms, Inc., et al., United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Civ. Act. No. 6:15-cv-48. We represented 9 H-2A workers who alleged violations of federal minimum wage law and breach of contract against Sanders Farms, Inc., Sanders Brothers, LLC and labor contractor Bartolo L. Hernandez.  Another 6 H-2A workers joined the suit as Opt-In Plaintiffs.  Before any responsive pleadings were filed, the parties reached a settlement in the amount of $39,500.

The Sanders Defendants compensated Plaintiffs $30,000 in damages and paid $1,500 as attorneys’ fees. Plaintiffs received a total award of $7,500 from Defendant Hernandez who also paid an additional $500 in court costs. Also, the Sanders Defendants promised to offer Plaintiffs and Opt-In Plaintiffs employment through the fall of 2018 should their operations require hand-harvest labor, and Defendant Hernandez promised that neither he nor certain close relatives would recruit, hire, or supervise any H-2A workers through the fall of 2020. The parties petitioned the Court for approval of the settlement agreement, as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act and related caselaw. The Court approved the settlement on July 21, 2016.

5 H-2A Workers’ Claims Settled for $10,000


The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services filed a federal lawsuit on December 23, 2014, Ajiatas-Solval v. Cisco Produce, Inc., U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Civ. Act. No. 1:14-cv-197. We represented 5 former H-2A workers who alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, against David Francisco-Baltazar, a former labor contractor and his corporate entity, Cisco Produce, Inc.  The suit alleged a number of threats, recruitment, and wage violations meant to scare the workers into acceptance of substandard wages and working conditions. After being served, the Defendant filed for bankruptcy, triggering an automatic stay of the suit, but the Court subsequently lifted the stay.

In the Fall of 2015, claims of contract violations against a blueberry grower and two corporate entities that allegedly participated in procuring the workers were amended into the complaint. Jamestown Blueberries, Inc., Van-Adams Blueberry Corp., and Jerry Vanerwegen of Homerville, GA settled the workers’ claims for $10,000. The Court granted a joint petition for dismissal of the remaining claims and counterclaims on July 19, 2016.

J&R Baker Farms to Pay $205,000 to Settle EEOC Race and National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit



Georgia Farm Favored Foreign Workers Over American and African-American Workers, Federal Agency Charged

ATLANTA – J&R Baker Farms, located in Norman Park, Ga., will pay $205,000 to settle a national origin and race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

EEOC filed suit on Aug.28, 2014, alleging that Baker Farms violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it subjected American and African-American workers to disparate terms and conditions of employment based on their national origin and/or race, including segregated buses, segregated work crews, and differences in production standards, work assignments, and other conditions of work. The complaint further alleged since at least the fall of 2010, Baker Farms engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawfully terminating qualified American and/or African-American workers and replacing them with foreign-born workers.

Under the terms of the consent decree settling the case, Baker Farms will pay $205,000 to resolve the litigation which sought relief for 119 workers. In addition to awarding monetary relief, the consent decree requires Baker Farms to revise its hiring practices, offer equal opportunity training for employees, adopt and implement an anti-discrimination policy, and comply with reporting, monitoring, and notice posting provisions. The settlement also resolves claims brought by some of the individual workers who had intervened under 42 U.S.C. §1981 and under the Agricultural Workers Protection Act.

“Employers have an obligation to provide a fair workplace, without discriminating against workers because of a worker’s national origin or race,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director of EEOC’s Atlanta District Office.

“Discrimination claims can arise from simple denial of employment,” said Lynette Barnes, acting regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office. “They can also arise from a pattern or practice of rules, requirements, and policies that disadvantage certain workers because of their race or national origin.”

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.

EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at

See the original press release online.

GLSP Note: The Farmworker Rights Division of Georgia Legal Services represented 19 U.S. workers who were the charging parties in this suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as 7 similarly-situated class members. GLSP intervened on our clients’ behalf and added claims for violation of the Agricultural Worker Protection Act.


Feliz Día del Padre – Happy Father’s Day

papa foto

En México celebraron a los padres y a todos los que nos proveen el 19 de junio con “El Día del Padre.” En Guatemala, celebraron a los padres dos días antes durante el mismo fin de la semana, en el día 17. Servicios Legales Para Los Trabajadores Agrícolas también celebra a los padres mexicanos y guatemaltecos, en particular a los padres que trabajan en la agricultura, los que con fortaleza de ánimo, coraje y amor apoyan a sus familias en su país natal y en EE.UU.

We also wish a Happy Father’s Day to the U.S. men working  in the fields and packing sheds on farms throughout the country. The U.S. celebrated Father’s Day on Sunday, June 19.

Los Reembolsos Debidos a Trabajadores H-2A


Muchos empleadores solo pagan el costo del transporte de sus empleados mexicanos desde Monterrey (el lugar a donde la mayoría solicita su visa). Esto es una violación de la ley, ya que los empleadores deben de pagar los gastos desde el sitio del reclutamiento (que usualmente es el lugar donde vive el trabajador en su país), hasta el primer lugar a donde va a vivir en Estados Unidos durante el período del contrato H-2A.

Gracias a nuestros colegas en Carolina del Norte por haber diseminado esta información.