Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Migrant workers from Texas file lawsuit in Michigan

Thirty-two migrant farm workers in southwestern Michigan have sued a major seed company alleging unsafe work conditions and poor housing conditions. Seven of the workers' children are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Most of the workers who filed suit had moved to Cass County from Texas after being hired in 2012. The workers remove the tassels from corn that is still in the ground, an activity that requires intense physical labor.

The workers claim that the company and two recruiters violated federal wage and migrant labor laws, and the workers also say that their employer provided "false and misleading information" to them to recruit them to come work in Michigan. The workers say that they were not provided with access to toilets, drinkable water or hand-washing facilities during their time working in the fields, and they say that they were improperly housed in mobile trailers and a renovated farm building, which did not comply with either state or federal health and safety laws. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

The employer denies the workers' claims, stating that the housing facilities had been inspected by the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which approved the facilities. The employer acknowledged that there may have been occasions on which the workers did not have immediate access to water cups while on the job. Both sides in the lawsuit have said that they are open to reaching a settlement in the case, but the attorneys anticipate that discovery will continue for the next several months.

Attorneys with experience in business litigation and contract preparation may be able to help employers ensure that they are complying with all legal requirements with respect to their employees. If a company is facing an employment litigation suit, an attorney may defend an employer by demonstrating the ways in which the employer has complied with legal requirements.

Source: ABC News, "Seed Company Sued by Migrant Workers in Michigan", August 24, 2014

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