Farm Fails to Decertify Class in Visa Wage Suit

     SEATTLE (CN) — The Ninth Circuit refused Wednesday to decertify a class of domestic workers claiming that a farm near Prosser, Washington, withheld details about $12-an-hour jobs.
     Bacilio Ruiz Torres and Jose Amador are the lead plaintiffs behind the suit against fruit-and-vegetable farm Mercer Canyons Inc.
     They say Mercer participated in the federal H-2A program in 2013, but failed to tell local farmworkers like them about H-2A work that came with higher pay.
     The H-2A program allows Mercer to hire foreign workers for temporary agricultural positions at a $12 hourly wage.
     Ruiz Torres did vineyard work for Mercer and claims he was not told about the qualifying H-2A work at $12 an hour.
     Amador sought work at Mercer, but office staff told him, “the chances of getting jobs were really low until the people from … Mexico arrived, and they would have to see how many spots were open,” as quoted in the Wednesday ruling.
     A federal judge certified the class alleging violations of the Agricultural Workers’ Protection Act and Washington law, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed Wednesday.
     Writing for a three-person panel, U.S. Circuit Judge Milan Smith Jr. called it a “common question of fact” whether Mercer’s domestic workers were consistently paid $12 per hour for H-2A work.
     The court rejected Mercer’s argument that Ruiz Torres and Amador should not represent seasonal and migrant farmworkers because they were only seasonal farmworkers.
     Mercer “has not articulated how this would make a substantive difference” in the case, according to the ruling.

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