Federal Court Approves Substantial Settlement for 33 H-2A Workers

On July 25th, 2018, a United States District Court Judge approved a settlement in favor of thirty-three H-2A workers against Shiloh Berry Farms, (Alma, GA). The guest farm workers filed a complaint alleging that their employer was in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, their work contracts, and that the employer fired the workers in retaliation for exerting their rights. The parties agreed on a settlement that compensates the workers for 100% of the minimum wages, 100% of the liquidated damages, and 84% of the retaliation claims allegedly owed.

The workers were agricultural guest workers from Mexico who were recruited to work for Shiloh Berry Farm in 2017. The workers complained that the employer violated their contracts by failing to pay them for all reimbursable expenses and hours of compensable work time and that the employer terminated them in retaliation for the assertion of protected rights, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Represented by Georgia Legal Services Program, the workers sought legal action to recover their damages, including unpaid and lost wages, statutory liquidated damages, unreimbursed expenses, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

The lead counsel for this case, Lauren Hoff-Downing, commented, “H-2A workers are often scared to speak up about unlawful working conditions because they fear retaliation from their employers. Retaliation against H-2A workers is particularly harmful because H-2A workers can only work for the employer listed on their visa. They therefore face a difficult choice between continuing to work under poor conditions, or speaking up, and risking having no work at all. Shortly after speaking up about their rights, the 33 Plaintiffs in this case were fired and sent back to Mexico. The Plaintiffs continued to assert their rights by filing a lawsuit against their employers, and ultimately recovered all of the minimum wages owed, and a substantial portion of the wages they would have earned had they not been unlawfully fired.”

About Georgia Legal Services Program:

Georgia Legal Services Program (GLSP) is a nonprofit organization which offers free legal services to low-income or senior-aged Georgians outside of the Atlanta metro area. Our mission is to provide access to justice and opportunities out of poverty. Visit www.glsp.org or call 404.206.5175 for more information.

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