Former Fancy Farms Employees Continue Pursuing Recruitment Fee Suit
In November 2015, H-2A employees sued Fancy Farms for failing to include a clause in their contract with All Nations Staffing LLC that barred the staffing company from collecting recruitment fees from the workers. Last year, a judge ruled that the workers had failed to demonstrate that the farm had authorized the staffing company to collect recruitment fees, with a full judgment filed in favor of Fancy Farms in January 2018.
The workers filed an appeal in February, and, last week, they submitted a brief requesting oral argument and a reversal of the district court’s judgment, claiming that the district court had erred in dismissing the breach-of-contract and Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) claims. The brief states that, because the contract between Fancy Farms and the staffing company did not include a clause specifically prohibiting the collection of recruitment fees from the workers, Fancy Farms had violated federal labor law and should be held responsible for reimbursing the workers for the recruitment fees. We’ll keep you informed as this case proceeds.
Worldwide Staffing LLC Debarred by DOL
Last Monday, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced that the Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) has debarred North Carolina farm labor contractor Worldwide Staffing LLC from applying for H-2A certifications for three years. According to the DOL’s news release, the WHD found that Worldwide Staffing had failed to reimburse employees for their inbound travel expenses from their home countries, and, in addition to asserting that the company owed $58,458 in backwages to 200 employees, the WHD assessed the company a civil penalty of $17,309. The press release also states that investigators found that the company had failed to provide adequate cooking facilities, only provided two meals per day, and charged workers more for meals than allowed. To view a list of Wage and Hour Division debarments from foreign labor certification programs updated through the end of March 2018, click here.
H-2A Housing News
Santa Maria, CA: On April 17, 2018, the Santa Maria City Council voted to end its urgency ordinance that prohibited property owners from housing more than six H-2A guest workers in units in certain residential zoning districts. The ordinance was originally put in place by council members in mid-March due to concerns regarding the H-2A program’s impact on the city’s housing supply.
According to an article in the Santa Maria Times last Tuesday, a few Santa Maria residents spoke out against opening this housing opportunity to H-2A employers, emphasizing that they felt that the council was prioritizing the needs of growers over the city’s homeowners.
Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment Expresses Support for AB 1885
As we reported on here, in January, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia introduced the California Resident Worker Program and Economic Stabilization Act (“AB 1885”). AB 1885 aims to address the labor shortage by developing a program for undocumented immigrants to legally work and live in California. In late April, the California State Assembly’s Committee on Labor and Employment discussed the proposed legislation and affirmed that it will continue to work with Assemblyman Garcia to advance policy that will address the labor shortage. We will keep you updated as AB 1885 moves through the legislative process.