This month, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered a consent judgement ordering Fisher Ranch LLC, Fisher Ranch Corporation, Del Rio Harvest, Inc., and Dana Bart Fisher, Jr. to pay $21,168.00 in back wages and $49,104.00 in civil money penalties for violations of the Migrant Seasonal Workers Protection Act (“MSPA”) because Defendants “failed to ensure that its farm labor contractor, Healthy Harvesting, provided safe transportation to and from the fields for workers.” Defendants were also permanently enjoined from violating MSPA, including reviewing each Farm Labor Contractor (“FLC”) certificate before entering a contract with that FLC, or use or cause to be used vehicles for the transport of agricultural workers that do not conform to MSPA’s vehicle safety standards. The press release is available here.
The violations were discovered following an accident in March 2017 where a van with seven farmworkers inside flipped. The CHP determined that a blown tire and missing seat belt resulted in the death of one of the farmworkers. After the accident, it was also discovered that the van had a bald tire, two wheels did not have all lug nuts securing the wheels to the van, and the driver did not have a commercial driver’s license and his license had been suspended.
DOL Regional Solicitor Janet Herold said in the press release that, "Growers must use transportation-authorized farm labor contractors to prevent these types of tragic and avoidable deaths," and that, "[f]armworkers should not be putting their lives on the line simply by being transported to and from the fields by unqualified drivers using unsafe vehicles."
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
This case follows a similar accident in 2015 as we reported here, and shows that the DOL is again looking to a grower to clean up mistakes purportedly made by the FLC. If you have questions about your FLC agreements, questions about joint employment, or Wage and Hour issues, contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group.