¡Bienvenidos, Luchadores! Welcome, Workers!

Queremos dar la bienvenida a nuestros clientes que acaban de volver a Georgia para trabajar en la cosecha gracias al recontrato garantizado por el acuerdo de un pleito hecho en la corte federal de los EE.UU.. Ellos lucharon por sus derechos haciendo una demanda, lograron el pago que se le debía, y ya han regresado para trabajar otra temporada con la compañía Southern Valley/Hamilton Growers. Lucharon, volvieron y lograron justicia. Felicitaciones a ellos por lo que hicieron. Hace poco, cruzaron la frontera, viajando desde varias partes de México – incluyendo los estados de San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, y Guanajuato. ¡Bienvenidos Luchadores! Felicitaciones por hacer cambio en sus propios trabajos.


A warm welcome to our clients that recently returned to Georgia to work the spring harvest because of rehire provisions guaranteed in the settlement agreement from their lawsuit in Federal Court in the United States. They fought for their rights by taking part in lawsuits, they got the pay owed to them, and they have gotten to return to work another season with Southern Valley/Hamilton Growers. They fought, came back, and achieved justice. Congratulations to them for what they did. Recently, they crossed the border, traveling from many parts of Mexico – including San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, and Guanajuato. Welcome, fighters! Congratulations for making change in your own workplaces.

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

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE EEOC
7-6-16

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 www.eeoc.gov.

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.

 

Mundo Hispanico Entrevista al Abogado Dawson Morton Sobre el Pacto con Southern Valley y Hamilton Growers

Una de las empresas agrícolas más grandes de Georgia ha acordado pagar $485,000 dólares para resolver una demanda federal en la que participaron unos 90 trabajadores agrícolas extranjeros y nacionales.

La demanda en la corte federal para el Distrito Medio de Georgia afirmó que la agroindustria, basada en Norman Park, Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable, Inc. Y Hamilton Growers, Inc., pagaron a los trabajadores agrícolas muy por debajo del salario mínimo, no pagaron horas extras y no les pagaron por todas las horas trabajadas.

Publicado en Mundo Hispanico, 11 de noviembre de 2015

Vea el video en Mundo Hispanico

Fox News Latino Reporta El Pacto en Franco-Hernandez v. Southern Valley

Trabajadores agrícolas ganan batalla legal contra empresa de Georgia

Atlanta (GA), 9 nov (EFEUSA).- Casi un centenar de trabajadores agrícolas deberán ser indemnizados luego de que una corte de Georgia ordenara a una de las empresas agrícolas más grandes del estado pagar a los exempleados por salarios incompletos.

La demanda, en la que participaron 90 trabajadores agrícolas, argumentaba que la empresa Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable, Inc. y Hamilton Growers, Inc., no habrían pagado a los trabajadores agrícolas el salario mínimo de 7.25 dólares la hora, así como horas extras o el total de las horas trabajadas.

“Desde el momento en que empezamos a trabajar, faltaban horas de nuestros cheques”, dijo Ramón Zúñiga, uno de los demandantes tras darse a conocer hoy la decisión de la corte.

Lea el articulo entero en Fox News Latino

Vea el pacto aprobado por la Corte Federal

Southern Valley and Hamilton Growers Settlement Hits the Press

Both English and Spanish-language press are reporting on the settlement reached between Mexican and US farmworkers and the company they alleged paid farmworkers below the minimum wage, failed to pay overtime, failed to pay workers from Mexico federally-mandated reimbursements and failed to pay workers for all hours worked.  Links to the articles and videos are below.

Franco-Hernandez, et al v. Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable, et al

Swift Straw II, LLC Settles Pre-Litigation with Guatemalan Workers

We recently represented 11 Guatemalan H-2B forestry workers who raked and baled pine straw near Moultrie, GA for Atlanta area businessman Matthew Lowe and his company Swift Straw II LLC, a “full service vertically integrated pine straw company” operating across the Southeast.  The workers retained us to vindicate their rights for violations of federal laws that protect agricultural workers, including minimum wage violations and poor housing conditions.  We prepared a federal lawsuit on behalf of the workers, but eventually reached a pre-litigation settlement with Mr. Lowe and his company, recovering more than $21,000 in unpaid wages and other damages.

Recientemente representamos a 11 guatemaltecos que vinieron a EE.UU. con visa H -2B como trabajadores forestales que trabajaron en pino cerca de Moultrie, GA para Matthew Lowe, un empresario de Atlanta, y su compañía Swift Straw II, LLC, que opera en todo el sureste. Los trabajadores contrataron a Servicios Legales para vindicar sus derechos por violaciones de las leyes federales que protegen a los trabajadores agrícolas, incluso violaciones de salario mínimo y las malas condiciones de vivienda. Preparamos una demanda federal en nombre de los trabajadores, pero al final llegamos a un acuerdo antes de ir a la corte con el Sr. Lowe y su compañía, recuperando más de $21.000 por salarios no pagados y otros daños.

Heartland Harvesting Settles Pre-Litigation with US Workers Alleging Discrimination

We recently represented 11 American workers wrongfully fired by watermelon harvester Heartland Harvesting.  We filed EEOC charges on our clients’ behalf and the claims were resolved without litigation.  Heartland Harvesting paid a total of $16,000 and agreed to go out of business rather than make changes to its employment practices.  The Farmworker Rights Division was approached in July 2014 by a group of African-American workers near Unadilla, GA who had recently been fired. They were hired to pack and grade watermelons but were fired after only a few days to a week of work. The workers were subjected to a different set of standards than Mexican workers, had been sent from the advertised position in the packing shed to a job pulling weeds in cotton and were repeatedly encouraged to quit. GAFR helped the 11 workers file discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and eventually reached a pre-litigation agreement with the company, recovering $16,000 to resolve our clients’ Title VII discrimination claims, AWPA claims and back wages.  Rather than promise rehire and reform its employment practices, the Respondents agreed to dissolve Heartland Harvesting, Inc. within 75 days of the execution of the settlement agreement (January 31, 2015).

Recientemente representamos a 11 trabajadores estadounidenses injustamente despedidos por cosechadora de sandía Heartland Harvesting. Hemos presentado cargos EEOC en nombre de nuestros clientes y las demandas fueron resueltos sin litigio. Heartland Harvesting pagó un total de $ 16,000 y decidió cerrar la compañía en lugar de realizar cambios en sus prácticas de empleo. Un grupo de trabajadores afroamericanos cerca de Unadilla, GA que habían sido despedidos recientemente marcó a La División de Derechos de Trabajadores Agrícolas en julio de 2014. Fueron contratados para empacar y gradar sandías pero fueron despedidos después de entre unos pocos días a una semana de trabajo. Los trabajadores fueron sometidos a estándares diferentes de los trabajadores mexicanos, habían sido enviados desde el puesto anunciado en la empacadora a un trabajo tirando las malas hierbas en el algodón y agentes de la compañía les sugieron renunciar el trabajo repetidamente. La División de Derechos de Trabajadores Agrícolas ayudó a los 11 trabajadores de presentar cargos por discriminación ante la Comisión de Igualdad de Oportunidades en el Empleo y, finalmente, llegaron a un acuerdo con la empresa antes de ir a la corte.  La compañía pagó $16,000 para resolver reclamos Título VII por discriminación de nuestros clientes, reclamos AWPA y salarios atrasados. En lugar de dar una promesa de recontrato y cambiar sus prácticas de empleo, la compañía decidió disolver Heartland Harvesting, Inc. dentro de 75 días del acuerdo firmado (31 de enero de 2015).

Hendrix Produce, Inc. To Pay Over $100,000 to Settle Lawsuit Brought by Farmworkers

One of the biggest Vidalia onion farms in Georgia agreed to pay more than $100,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by farm workers. The settlement was the subject of an article published in Atlanta’s biggest newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Read the article in the AJC here.

In the lawsuit, 30 workers alleged that Hendrix Produce, Inc. and farm labor contractor Yesenia Merino paid them well below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour from 2009 to 2012. Last week, a federal judge approved the settlement. As part of the settlement, the workers will receive more than $60,000 in back wages and job-related reimbursements. One of the workers, Antonio Hernandez-Hernandez, said: “We fought for our rights, and I am glad that justice was done.”

Uno de los principales ranchos de cebollas Vidalia en Georgia acordó pagar más de $100,000 en un acuerdo extrajudicial para poner fin a una demanda civil presentada por trabajadores mexicanos y guatemaltecos contratados por medio de visas H-2A. 

El acuerdo fue sujeto de un artículo publicado en el periódico principal de Atlanta, el Atlanta Journal-Constitution. El enlace está aquí:http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/georgia-farm-to-settle-lawsuit-brought-by-mexican-/nhfyJ/

En la demanda, 30 trabajadores alegaron que el rancho Hendrix Produce, Inc. y su contratista laboral, Yesenia Merino, les pagaron muy por debajo del salario mínimo federal de $7.25 por hora en las temporadas del 2009 al 2012. La semana pasada, un juez federal aprobó el pacto. Como parte del acuerdo, los trabajadores, de México y Guatemala, recibirán más de $60,000 en pagos atrasados y reembolsos relacionados a sus gastos de trabajo. Uno de los trabajadores, Antonio Hernandez-Hernandez, dijo: “Peleamos nuestro derecho, y me alegra que se hizo justicia.”