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.