Florida Farmworkers Claim Ag-Mart, Other Growers Cheated ThemJul 13, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Farmworkers in Florida have filed multiple lawsuits claiming they were cheated by their employers. According to a report on naplesnews.com, the lawsuits where filed by the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, an advocate for farmworker rights in Florida. Four of the five lawsuits are class actions, and seek relief for more than 1000 workers.
Two of the lawsuits involve Ag-Mart Produce Inc., one of the Florida's largest tomato growers. The Migrant Farmworker Project has filed similar lawsuits against Ag-Mart during the past four seasons, naplesnews.com said.
According to naplesnews.com, some of the complaints against Ag-Mart allege that the firm misused an electronic timekeepingsystem to reflect fewer hours than workers were actually putting in during the harvesting season. For instance, the workers claim the electronic system automatically subtracts 90 minutes a day for lunch, even though lunch never goes past one hour. They also claim that Ag-Mart did not pay workers for waiting time when bad weather delayed their work.
The four class action lawsuits filed recently are seeking damages and relief for more than 1,000 workers, who claim they were paid less than the minimum wage required by law for work they did during the past two seasons, naplesnews.com said. In some cases, workers claim they were paid piece-rate, in amounts that fell far below the minimum wage. In addition to Ag-Mart, suits also have been brought against C & B Farms Inc, Everglades Harvesting & Hauling Inc., and Alta Citrus LLC, naplesnews.com said.
Naplesnews.com said that Ag-Mart managers are slated to meet with representatives from the Migrant Farmworker Justice Project later this month to try to come up with an agreement. In a statement, the company said it wanted to "address any unintended payroll issues, and continue our efforts to ensure that our employees are paid fairly and fully for their work.”
All of the lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, naplesnews.com said.