Rosalino Perez-Benites et al. v. Candy Brand LLC et al.
A federal judge has held Candy Brand and its individual owners accountable for routinely cheating migrant farmworkers out of wages. The court also held that the company’s failure to pay overtime wages and reimburse workers’ expenses was a breach of Candy Brand’s contract with each worker it exploited. As a result, the company and owners will be required to satisfy any judgment, which could be over $2 million dollars.
This class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of more than 1,500 Mexican migrant workers who harvested and packed tomatoes and performed other agricultural work in Bradley County, Ark., from 2003 to 2007. The workers were employed by Candy Brand, one of the Southeast’s largest employers of foreign guestworkers. They came to the United States on temporary H-2A guestworker visas.
The case also sets a precedent that will make it more difficult for companies and their owners to skirt their responsibilities to workers, such as paying them what they are owed.
The lawsuit outlined Candy Brand’s failure to pay federally mandated overtime wages for work in its tomato packing sheds and the prevailing wage for work in the fields. The company also refused to reimburse workers for the exorbitant travel, visa and other fees they paid to obtain these jobs. Candy Brand's refusal to reimburse its guestworkers in their first week of work violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), resulting in workers earning substantially less than the minimum wage.
The lawsuit sought restitution of unpaid wages, an award of money damages and a court order requiring the defendants to comply with federal regulations governing the H-2A program.