Los Angeles, CA: Multinational agricultural company Monsanto faces lawsuits over migrant labor abuses. Monsanto is facing two different class-action lawsuits over allegations that it violated two federal labor laws.
The lawsuit comes after the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting investigated labor complaints over the last ten years filed against Monsanto. Two migrant farm workers filed the federal class-action lawsuit against Monsanto in early July. According to the complaint, Monsanto violated the Agricultural Workers Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Monsanto hired the farm labor contractors to detassel corn in the Midwest. Each year, Monsanto brings in thousands of laborers to produce genetically-modified hybrid seeds. These seeds are sold to farmers worldwide in the $11 billion GMO corn industry.
The migrant workers, Armando Nieves and Roberto Perez-Perez were responsible for removing the tassel from corn plants and discarding plants from the field that were damaged or did not reach maturity.
The workers allege that Monsanto failed to pay them the minimum wage. The company allegedly also didn’t pay the workers when they promised nor did they keep adequate payroll records. In addition, Monsanto provided substandard living conditions to its workers.
Both workers were recruited by a contractor to work for Monsanto. A lawyer for one of the plaintiffs said that he believes that Monsanto hires its crews using contractors to try to exonerate themselves of responsibility when they break federal labor laws.
This particular lawsuit could bring in potential damages at over $2 million for the workers, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
This is not the first time that Monsanto has faced allegations of labor law violations. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Monsanto has been sued in the last several years for various labor law violations.
In 2013, three farm workers sued Monsanto in a Texas court after they were recruited to work with the company with promises of overtime pay, decent housing and 10-12 hour a day shifts. Monsanto did not keep their end of the bargain. They housed the workers in substandard living conditions, cramming them into rooms with strangers. There weren’t enough beds for all of the workers. The conditions in the fields weren’t any better. Workers had to walk as far as a mile to the nearest portable toilet.
Additionally, the 10-12 hours of work promised each day never materialized. This meant that Monsanto didn’t pay the workers what it promised. Instead of getting the $800 to $900 a day, they received just $300 or so. In 2014, Monsanto reached an undisclosed settlement with the plaintiffs.
Monsanto is not the only agricultural company accused of violating workers rights. In 2013, a wrongful death lawsuit was brought against DuPont Pioneer, another giant in the GMO hybrid corn market after one of the workers, Humberto Casarrubia, suffered a heatstroke. The lawsuit alleged that DuPont failed to provide enough shade and water for its farm workers who were working in 100-degree weather. The case is currently pending in the courts.
Employment Law Questions
Farmworkers often encounter abusive labor practices—sometimes at the hands of the major agricultural companies. Migrant workers may not think that they have rights against employers, but they do. Several federal employment laws protect workers against labor law violations, including the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
According to attorney Yelena Gurevich, employees have the right to be treated fairly by employers. She says that “employers who skirt the law regarding safe work conditions, minimum wage legislation and overtime could face legal action.”
Labor Law Violations
Examples of labor law violations include:
- Employee discrimination based on race, gender or customs
- Different employee treatment because of language or accent
- Mandating that the employee speaks English at all times—even during breaks and lunchtime
- Refusal to pay minimum wage or overtime
- Unsafe work environment
“If you feel that your employer has violated federal labor laws, it is best to speak with an employment lawyer,” according to attorney Yelena Gurevich. Workers should not be afraid of reporting employers that violate their rights. Whether the worker is authorized to work in the United States or not, the employer still has a duty to ensure that the employee is treated fairly and has a safe workplace.
About Consumer Action Law Group of Panzarella, Gurevich & Rode, P.C: Consumer Action Law Group is a law firm based in Los Angeles. The firm’s attorneys dedicate themselves to fighting for consumer rights. They have experience in the following areas of practice: auto fraud, bankruptcy, car accident, credit report dispute (FCRA), employment law, mortgage fraud, surplus funds recovery, foreclosures, and TCPA violations.