FORT MYERS, Fla. — Six seasonal farmworkers have filed suit
against their former employer over wage issues and record keeping.
The workers are suing Flint Family Farm Sales LLC for failure to
pay the minimum wage, improper record keeping, and not providing wage
statement and wage payment provisions required by the U.S. Department
of Labor’s Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
The suit was filed Dec. 7, 2016, according to a previous report
by the Florida Record.
According to a report
on Law 360, the case, Crockett et al
v. Flint Family Farms Sales LLC, now sits before U.S. District
Judge John E. Steele of the District Court for the Middle District of
Florida, Fort Myers. The plaintiffs — George Crockett, Aaron Green,
Albert Riggens, Kamel Waters, James Williams and Leon Darnell
Williams — are seeking
statutory damages of $500, back pay and compensatory damages. They
are represented by Sara Mangan and Tia Huntley of Florida Rural Legal
Services Inc. in Fort Myers.
Flint Family Farms, which was incorporated in 2011, has since been
administratively dissolved, Mangan told the Florida Record.
She also said that the case is currently in a state of limbo
because of the defendant and the fact that the LLC had been
“[W]e are still trying to get the defendant served. I do not
know whether or not they have an attorney. I sent the defendant a
certified letter several months ago and never heard back,” Mangan
Born out of a 1960 journalistic
exposé about the conditions migrant
farmworkers faced, according to FarmWorkerJustice.org, MSPA was
adopted by Congress in 1983 after its initial incarnation 20 years
earlier, the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act, failed to
protect all farm hands, regardless of immigration status.
According to the DOL’s website,
MSPA “protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by
establishing employment standards related to wages, housing,
transportation, disclosures and record keeping. The MSPA also
requires farm labor contractors to register with the U.S. Department
Florida’s Department of Health reported
that there are between 150,000 to 200,000 migrant workers employed in
the state during any given year. The number of seasonal workers could
not be independently ascertained.
The events involving the plaintiffs in the Crockett
case are reportedly not rare occurrences. Mangan said that “[w]age
theft and underpayment are very common problems that farmworkers face
in the agricultural industry.”
The frequency of such instances comes despite the federal law and
even a Florida law. As Mangan explained, however, there is a reason
“Florida has the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Law (Florida
Statue § 450.27 et seq.),” she said. “But most of its provisions
only apply for farm labor contractors, not growers, and it does not
provide a private cause of action. It doesn't really apply in this
case, because we are suing Flint Family Farms Sales LLC. I believe
that Flint Family Farms Sales LLC was a part of a private farm.”
The Florida Record conducted research into
ascertaining whether this was true. Flint Family Farms Sales LLC did
not appear on the Department of Labor website's lists for farm-labor
contractors or farm-labor
contractor employees. The LLC also did not come up on a search of
for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service for
licenses or complaints.
A private grower is not bound by the strictures of the MSPA
because it does not meet the definition of “employment” as set
forth by the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a report
by Special Assistant United States Attorney at U.S. Department of
Justice Fedline Ferjuste entitled “The Agricultural Worker
Protection Act & Florida's Migrant Worker: The Hands That Feed
Florida.” Categories of employers are covered by MSPA include
agricultural associations, agricultural employers, migrant-housing
providers and farm-labor contractors.
Ferjuste's paper stated that it was the intention of Congress to
include private growers under the umbrella of MSPA regulations,
seeing as how private growers would eventually label crew leaders,
who retrieved and delivered needed help to a grower, as “independent
contractors” and free themselves from governmental oversight.