Farm Workers Get Go-Ahead on Wage Class Action

American farm workers in Washington state have won the right to pursue a class action case against the farmer they say failed to pay them the $12 per hour mandated by state law and paid less than what foreign workers were receiving.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday upheld the order certifying a class of domestic farm workers who claimed Mercer Canyons Inc., of Prosser, Wash., failed to inform domestic farm workers of available jobs that paid $12 per hour and when they were hired failed to pay the $12 per hour rate.

Mercer, a fruit and vegetable farm, got permission to hire temporary foreign workers under the federal visa program in 2013.  The company was allowed to hire 44 foreign workers for vineyard work with the hourly wage set at $12 under visa terms.

Once condition was that Mercer recruit domestic labor to minimize the number of foreign workers filling the 44 spots. Mercer ultimately hired 22 domestic workers and 19 foreign workers for the program.

Farm workers Bacilio Ruiz Torres and Jose Amador sued saying they were not told of the special jobs program or the hourly rate. The trial judge certified a class of roughly 600 workers who had been employed a vineyard workers at Mercer Canyons over a period of several years. The court also approved a subclass of workers who were allegedly denied equal pay.

Case: Torres v. Mercer Canyons Inc. No. 15-35615



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