Other Organizations' Cases

The below Docket Listing contains a sampling of some of the cases that have been filed by guest workers during the last ten years in which the workers were represented by organizations other than the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

H-2B Guest Workers

Sarmiento, et al. v. The Club at Admiral’s Cove, Inc.                                       

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project

Case involving H-2B guest workers from the Philippines who were employed in 2008 and 2009 at a country club in Jupiter, Florida.  Upon arrival in the U.S., the workers had their passports confiscated and were housed in overcrowded and dilapidated units while they worked at the country club.  Their supervisors repeatedly threatened them with deportation or violence against their families in the Philippines if they complained regarding their wages or living conditions.   Suit was brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.   

The matter was settled after substantial discovery, with the workers receiving the full amount of their back wages and a refund of their pre-hiring placement and transportation fees. 

Magnifico, et al. v. Villanueva, et al.                                                                                     

Court:  United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, West Palm Beach Division

Attorneys:  International Human Rights Clinic at George Washington University Law School; Migrant Farmworker Justice Project

Action by Filipino H-2B guest workers employed in Palm Beach County and in New York by Star One Staffing during 2005 and 2006.  In Palm Beach County, the workers were furnished for housekeeping duties to various upscale and luxury resorts, including the Boca Woods Country Club.  The staffing service confiscated the workers’ passports and withheld large portions of their wages for accommodations in overcrowded, dilapidated housing. A default judgment in excess of $14 million was entered against the defaulting labor foreman.

Matias-López, et al. v. Ramon Forestry, Inc.  

Attorneys:  Legal Aid of North Carolina

H-2B forestry workers from Guatemala brought claims in federal court in North Carolina against their employer, a forestry contractor based in Maine.  The promises made to the workers by the defendants' agent were false.  The workers were required to sign over the deeds to their homes and subsistence farm plots to the employer's agent in order to obtain their visas.   When they arrived in the U.S., the workers were required to surrender their passports. Although the H-2B prevailing wage was $9.25 per hour, the workers were paid less than the minimum wage and provided substandard housing in North Carolina. They were then transported to Maine where they were not given any work, were deprived of food, and falsely imprisoned on the employer's property.   Settlement was reached with the employer, including returning to the workers the deeds to their homes in Guatemala. 

Fernando Gonzalez-Estrella, et al. v. Jose Luis Garcia, et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services

H-2B guest workers were recruited by a Texas-based forestry contractor to work in Arkansas.  Instead of the forestry work they were promised, the workers were loaned out to work for a Louisiana sweet potato grower.  They were provided substandard housing and their work hours were not recorded properly, resulting in them earning less than the federal minimum wage.  The employer confiscated the workers passports and voting documents and demanded the cost of the visas in exchange for their return.  The complaint alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and breach of contract.  The case was filed in 2008 and settled in 2010.

Angel Enrique Ramos-Madrigal, et al. v. Mendiola Forestry Service, LLC, et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services

H-2B guest workers from Mexico were paid on a piece rate that failed to meet minimum wage.  They also alleged that their employer refused to give them their H-2B extension documents and threatened them with serious immigration consequences if they were to leave the work.  The lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, alleged violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act.  A monetary settlement in favor of the Plaintiffs was reached.

J. Guadalupe Resendiz-Ramirez, et al. v. P & H Forestry, LLC, et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Western District of Arkansas

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services

Case brought by guest workers from Mexico employed pursuant to H-2A and H-2B visas. The workers were recruited to engage in a variety of agricultural and forestry tasks.  They were then loaned out to other employers.  The workers were often not paid at all, and were paid less than the minimum wage when they were paid.  The housing they were provided was substandard.  A confidential settlement was reached with certain defendants.   A consent judgment was entered in June 2009 against defendant P & H Forestry.  Afterward, several of the defendants filed for bankruptcy protection.  The workers are still attempting to collect moneys owed to them.  

Serrano Diaz, et al. v. Quality Crab Co., Inc, et al.

Attorneys:  North Carolina Justice Center

A class and collective action involving H-2B seafood processers who alleged they were not paid the H-2B prevailing wage or federal minimum wage while working in eastern North Carolina.  The class members were required to pay for their own visa and transportation expenses from Mexico and were not reimbursed, that they had to pay for aprons, boots and other equipment required for the job, and that they lived in employer-provided housing that was in poor condition and overpriced. Under a settlement, the defendants have agreed to pay $245,000 to the class members.  

Landeros Covarrubias v. Capt. Charlie's Seafood, Inc. et al.

Attorneys:  North Carolina Justice Center 

A class action involving H-2B seafood processors who alleged they were not paid the H-2B prevailing wage as a result of being required to pay for their own visa and transportation costs from Mexico and because defendants allegedly paid them the minimum wage rather than the required H-2B wage during one season. In addition, the workers alleged that they were discriminated against based on gender because the male seafood processors were regularly provided with more hours of work per week than the female workers. Defendants stated in the application for H-2B workers that the normal weekly schedule would include 43 hours, but the female workers were offered well below 43 hours. The case was settled on a class-wide basis. 

Rubio Gaxiola v. Williams Seafood of Arapahoe, Inc, et al.

Attorneys:  North Carolina Justice Center 

A class and collective action on behalf of H-2B seafood workers who were not paid the federal minimum wage or H-2B prevailing wage as a result of the employer requiring the employees to bear the cost of visa and transportation expenses.  The employer also paid only a piece rate per pound of crab meat picked, which often resulted in workers earning less than both the minimum and H-2B prevailing wage.  After the court granted summary judgment in favor of workers and certified the class, the case settled for full damages to the class members.

Mercedalia Hernandez Garcia, et al. v. Frog Island Seafood Co., et al.

Attorneys:  North Carolina Justice Center 

A class and collective action on behalf of H-2B seafood processors who were not paid the federal minimum wage or H-2B prevailing wage as a result of the employer failing to reimburse employees for transportation and visa expenses, and making illegal deductions from the employees’ pay for required equipment and tools and for unreasonable housing costs.  The workers won summary judgment on their wage claims and the case later settled on a class-wide basis. 

Araiza Calzada, et al. v. Webb’s Seafood, Inc.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project 

H-2B workers from central Mexico filed suit regarding their employment as oyster shuckers in 2011 and 2012 near Youngstown, Florida.  Although the workers were given contracts promising them eight months of work, they were terminated after two months.  The employer failed to reimburse the workers’ pre-employment visa and transportation costs and did not pay the required prevailing wage.  

Peña Reyes, et al. v. U.S.A. Lawns, Inc., et al.

Court:  U.S.  District Court, Middle District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project 

H-2B guest workers were hired in central Mexico for landscaping jobs in the Tampa Bay area.  Upon arriving at the employer’s jobsite, they were informed that they would be required to pay a $3,000 fee in order to obtain Social Security cards and work for the company.  The workers brought suit to recover their pre-employment visa and transportation costs and damages for the defendants’ visa fraud.  The case was settled, with the employers paying the H-2B guest workers for the full amount of their pre-employment expenses as well as damages for their lost employment opportunities. 

J-1 Guest Workers 

Jatupornchaisri, et al. v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc.                    

Court:  U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida

Workers from Thailand and Vietnam were admitted to the U.S. in 2009 and 2010 on J-1 exchange visitor visas.  The workers were recruited in their homelands and paid in excess of $6,000 each to be placed in educational programs in hotel management.  Instead, they found themselves employed as housekeepers at the Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort in Orlando at wages well below those prevailing in the area, with nearly half of their income deducted for housing expenses.  The workers contended that the Wyndham was responsible for reimbursing the workers for their pre-employment expenses, and that the deductions from their wages for housing violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, because the charges were roughly twice the retail rate charged for the apartments.  A settlement was reached between the parties. 

Khamlue, et al. v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc., et al.                    

Court:  U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project 

Students from India, Vietnam, China, and Thailand paid approximately $6,000 for one year internships under J-1 cultural exchange visas with various Wyndham time share resorts in Florida and several other states.  Instead of the promised internships, the plaintiffs found themselves assigned on a full-time basis to housekeeping or maintenance jobs.  Each of the students had approximately $400 deducted from his or her earnings for rent in three-bedroom apartments shared with other J-1 students, roughly twice the market rental for these units. 

H-2A Guest Workers 

de Luna Guerrero, et al v. NCGA, et al. and Garcia-Alvarez, et al v. NCGA, et al.

Attorneys:  North Carolina Justice Center 

A class and collective action on behalf of H-2A guest workers against a class of North Carolina Grower’s Association members who were not paid the federal minimum wage or the promised wage because the employer did not reimburse the workers for the expenses they incurred for the costs of their H-2A visa, transportation to the United States, and border crossing fees.  The workers prevailed on their minimum wage claims at summary judgment.  After re-filing state law claims in state court, the workers settled on a class-wide basis for $1.475 million, as well as an agreement that the employers would bear the visa, transportation, and border crossing fees in the future. 

Miguel Angel Cristobal Lopez, et al. v. Jimmy Fish d/b/a Fish Farms, et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services; Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd.  

Lawsuit filed by H-2A guest workers from Mexico against a large tomato farming operation.  The workers alleged that after they complained about conditions at the farm, including ongoing pesticide exposure and substandard housing, the farm owners retaliated against them and “privately deported” them back to Mexico in violation of federal and state laws.  The workers filed administrative complaints with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Labor.  The lawsuit alleged that when USDOL sent investigators to meet with workers, farm owners descended upon the workers’ housing brandishing firearms, in an attempt to prevent the workers from assisting with the federal investigation. The lawsuit also alleged that the owners falsely accused one worker of aggravated assault, for which he spent several days in jail. Two weeks later, according to the lawsuit, the farm fired the workers en masse.  The complaint alleged retaliation in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Tennessee Public Protection Act, discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the TN Human Rights Act, and breach of contract.  The fourteen guest workers reached a $390,000 settlement with the farm.

Sianipar, et al. v. GTN Employment Agency, et al.

Attorneys:  Legal Aid of North Carolina 

H-2A guest workers from Indonesia were lured to pay $6,000 for H-2A visas by the defendants, a North Carolina based first-time farm labor contractor, its Indonesian recruiting agents, and the farmers who employed the contractor.  The workers were promised the ability to renew the visas for several years and steady work.  Neither of those promises materialized.  The employer required the workers to forfeit their passports upon arrival and three of them were held in a warehouse-like building in Charlotte.  The fourth worker escaped from the farm to which he had been taken after being provided with only intermittent work.  The contractor tried to extort more money from those held in the warehouse in exchange for a job.  Settlement was reached with one farmer, the other defendants ultimately defaulted and default judgment was entered against them. 

Asanok, et al. v. Million Express Manpower, Inc., et al.

Attorneys:  Legal Aid of North Carolina 

Twenty-three (23) H-2A guest workers from Thailand sued their employers and their foreign recruiters in federal court in North Carolina for violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and RICO, as well as breach of contract and violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  Each worker paid approximately eleven thousand dollars ($11,000) for their visa in Thailand, where they were promised work in the U.S. for 3 years.  To obtain this amount of money, which represented 10-20 years of wages in Thailand, they had to borrow against their homes and subsistence rice farming land, and that of their relatives.   They were required to forfeit their passports upon arrival in the U.S.  The work was far less than promised, and after two months, they were transported to New Orleans to deconstruct damaged buildings.  They were not provided with food nor paid at all for their work there.  Legal services advocates helped them to escape their armed traffickers, who threatened to shoot them or anyone who came to help them.  They obtained a default judgment against their trafficker-employers but have been unable to collect even their unpaid wages. 

Marisela Valdez Huerta, et al. v. L.T. West, Inc., et al.

Court:  United States District Court, Western District of Louisiana

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services 

H-2A guest workers from Mexico alleged that crawfish producer/processor failed to pay minimum wage, and subjected them to abusive and harassing living conditions.  Several of the workers were also subjected to forced labor through a scheme of surveillance, threats of harm, intimidation, and abuse of the legal system.  The complaint, filed in 2011, alleges violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985(3), the Louisiana Constitution, false imprisonment, assault, battery, intentional infliction of emotional district, and breach of contract. 

Isreal Antonio-Morales, et al. v. Bimbo’s Best Produce, Inc., et al.

Court:  United States District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services

Defendants are alleged to have subjected H-2A guest workers  to intolerable working conditions, including shooting a gun over their heads while they worked in the fields and killing a dog that the workers befriended.   In a scheme to keep them working, the workers alleged that they were threatened, coerced, and had their passports and visas confiscated.  The complaint, originally filed in late 2008, alleges violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, battery, and breach of contract.  The case has been stayed since 2009 pending a criminal trafficking investigation of the defendants.

Juan Francisco Sandoval Diaz v. Ryan Alexander, et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Northern District of Mississippi

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services 

Case brought on behalf of H-2A guest worker from Mexico.  The worker was employed harvesting sweet potatoes in 2008 and 2009.  In November 2009, the worker was attacked in the field, allegedly because he refused to pay a bribe demanded by a supervisor.  The worker’s ankle was severely broken, requiring surgery.  Despite the requirement that they maintain workers’ compensation insurance, the employer only had a general liability insurance policy.  The worker was sent back to Mexico and did not receive follow up care or income replacement for lost work.  The complaint alleges assault, negligence, breach of contract, and fraud. 

Oscar Rodriguez-Chavez v. Fernandez Farms, Inc.

Court:  Monterey County Superior Court

Attorneys:  California Rural Legal Assistance 

Case on behalf of H-2A guest workers employed by strawberry farm between 2009 and 2012.  Claims include failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, H-2A contract rate, ¾ work guarantee, and misrepresentation.  In addition, it is also alleged that the employer charged for housing and forced employees to pay a fee of $1,650 each if they wanted to be invited back to work the following season.

Garcia-Celestino, et al. v. Ruiz Harvesting, Inc., et al.                                    

Court:  U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project

Class action on behalf of more than 200 H-2A guest workers against farm labor contractor and the nation’s largest citrus grower for wage underpayments between 2007 and 2010.   The workers were forced to kick back a portion of their wages to the labor contractor and were not fully reimbursed for their inbound and outbound travel expenses.  Throughout two of the harvest seasons, the workers alleged that the grower improperly reduced pickers’ recorded work hours by an hour per day for travel within the grove.   

Anaya-Montiel, et al. v. Overlook Harvesting, LLC, et al.                                              

Court:  U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project 

Case brought by 80 H-2A guest workers employed during the 2007-08 or 2008-09 citrus harvests.  Because of the relatively low piece-rate wages paid, the workers alleged that they often earned less than the guaranteed adverse effect wage rate for their work.  Rather than pay the supplemental wages to bring the pickers’ wages up to the guaranteed the rate, the workers allege that the defendants routinely underreported their hours of work.  

Valcin, et al. v. Steven Davis Farms, LLC, et al.                                                   

Court:  U.S. District Court, Northern District of Florida

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project; Florida Rural Legal Services 

Case consolidating separate actions filed on behalf of H-2A guest workers from Haiti and domestic farmworkers.  The workers harvested peas and beans near Lacrosse, Florida in 2007, 2008, 2009 and/or 2010.  The workers allege that they were paid far below the minimum wage, few records were maintained on their labor, and the housing provided was unpermitted and substandard. 

Martinez-Garcia, et al. v. Perez, et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program

Case on behalf of H-2A guest workers employed by an onion farm and two onion labor contractors.  The workers suffered minimum wage violations, in part through not receiving legally required reimbursements of travel expenses, and the workers were also subject to pay well below their contractually promised wage rate.  In addition, many of the workers were subject to threats for raising wage complaints, including threats of deportation, and were exposed to pesticides without medical attention or treatment. 

Alcantara-Montiel, et al., v. R & H Farms, Inc., et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program

Case on behalf of H-2A guest workers alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, H-2A contracts, and tort law based on defendants’ failure to pay the required minimum wage for all hours worked, by requiring Plaintiffs to kickback a portion of their wages to the field supervisor each week, and by failing to reimburse their pre-employment expenses. The individual Defendant filed for bankruptcy protection and the workers filed an adversary proceeding to have the debts owed to them declared non-dischargeable as a willful and malicious injury. The case settled for $25,000 to be paid through the farmer’s personal bankruptcy plan. 

Reyes-Fuentes, et al. v. Shannon Produce Farm, Inc., et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program 

Case filed on behalf of H-2A guest workers who alleged that the defendant farm, its owners, and   principal manager retaliated against them in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for their participation in Morales-Arcadio v. Shannon Produce Farm, a FLSA unpaid wage case. After the Morales-Arcadio case was filed, the workers applied to return to work in 2006, 2007, and 2008, and were denied employment.  Two of the defendants filed for bankruptcy protection and the workers filed complaints seeking non-dischargeable treatment for the damages arising from the defendants’ intentionally discriminatory acts.  The parties agreed to settle the claims for $358,977.20 and an agreement by defendants that the judgment is non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. 

Morales-Arcadio, et al., v. Shannon Produce Farms, Inc., et. al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program 

Case filed on behalf of eighty (80) H-2A guest workers alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, breach of their H-2A contracts, fraud, and conversion.  Plaintiffs allege that the farm failed to regularly pay them, and prepared false or back-dated checks to hide the late payments and the non-payments.  Plaintiffs also allege that the farm required them to endorse blank checks. The parties settled the suit through consent judgments.  The workers obtained $222,500 for violations of the federal minimum wage and $324,264 in judgments for violation of their H-2A contracts.  The defendants failed to make the last two payments on the FLSA judgments and one of the defendants filed for bankruptcy protection. The parties then negotiated a payment plan on the outstanding judgments. 

Arriaga-Zacarias, et al. v. Lewis Taylor Farms, Inc. et al.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Middle District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program 

Lawsuit filed on behalf of eighty-five (85) H-2A guest workers from Mexico for violations of the

Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage provisions and for violations of their H-2A contract wage and benefit promises. The case settled for $165,000, with the defendants also being required to offer to re-hire the workers for the 2010 and 2011 seasons, and make a number of changes to their pay practices. 

Rojo-Andablo, et al. v. Robert Dasher d/b/a Dasher Harvesting

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program 

Case on behalf of forty-five (45) H-2A guest workers from Mexico. The complaint alleged intentional violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage provisions and the workers’ H-2A contract rights.  The workers amended their complaint to assert retaliation

claims because the farm failed to rehire them for the fall onion planting season after the lawsuit was filed.  The case settled for $121,000. The terms of a consent order required the farm to take corrective action and to rehire the workers for the next four seasons. 

Garcia-Mancha, et al. v. Hendrix Produce, Inc.

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Georgia Legal Services Program 

Case on behalf of twenty-six (26) H-2A guest workers alleging intentional violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage provisions and of the workers’ contract rights.  The case settled for a total of $58,000 in back wages. The settlement required the defendants to also rehire the workers and to make changes to their labor camp housing to provide adequate space and bedding for all workers.

Nicolas Ramos-Barrientos, et al. v. Delbert Bland, et al.                                                                               

Court:  U.S. District Court, Southern District of Georgia

Attorneys:  Migrant Farmworker Justice Project 

A class of H-2A guest workers brought suit against one of the nation’s largest employers of agricultural guest workers to recover visa processing and transportation fees paid with regard to their work in the Georgia onion harvest.  The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s determination that the employer could claim a set-off against its minimum wage obligations for the value of the housing it was obligated to provide to the workers “without charge.”   The parties’ later settled.  Under the settlement, class members received additional payments for pre-employment expenses paid in 2005 and 2006. 

Antonio Hernandez Sanchez v. David Williams,

Court:  U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky

Attorneys:  Southern Migrant Legal Services

Employer insisted that H-2A guest worker owed a debt and confiscated his passport, threatening to withhold it until the debt was paid.  Through an agent, the employer also threatened to have the worker arrested or deported if he did not pay the debt.  The employer offered little work, and then paid less than minimum wage for the work he did offer.  The complaint alleged violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and breach of contract.  The parties entered into a confidential settlement.