A federal class action lawsuit on behalf of two migrant farm workers was filed in federal court last week accusing Monsanto of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Workers Protection Act in its treatment of farmworkers who help produce seed corn.
The lawsuit said farm labor contractors, known as FLCs, hired migrant workers to detassel and rogue corn in the Midwest. It alleges those contractors failed to pay the workers a promised wage.
However, the farm labor contractors are not named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed June 29 in the U.S Northern District Court of Illinois Western Division.
You can read the full lawsuit here.
The lawsuit was unusual because it was a class action and covered work conducted in three states, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri, said Teresa Hendricks, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and director of the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project.
“I’m not aware of any other multi-state class action against Monsanto over its labor practices in production of seed corn,” said Hendriks, who estimated potential damages at $2 million. “Potentially, it could be the highest amount of damages of this type of suit.”
The plaintiffs – Roberto Perez-Perez and Armando Nieves – were working as migrant farmworkers performing detasseling and roguing.
The lawsuit, which is believed to be the first of its kind, alleges that Monsanto violated the acts by failing to pay its workers the minimum wage and failing to pay its workers when compensation was due. It also alleges that Monsanto misrepresented the way the employees would be paid and failed to keep adequate payroll records.
Detasseling involves removing the top part – the tassel – from corn plants and roguing involves removing undesirable corn plants from the fields so that those plants do not grow to maturity.
Perez-Perez, who lives in Florida, was recruited by a contractor to work for Monsanto in 2012 in Michigan and again in 2015 in Illinois, according to the filing.
Nieves was recruited in 2014 to work for Monsanto in Missouri and Michigan.