Calif. AG sues farm labor contractor

Chris Rizo Mar. 10, 2010, 1:37pm

Jerry Brown (D)

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against a farm labor contractor, alleging that he committed "potentially deadly" worker safety violations.

The Democratic attorney general, among other wrongdoing, alleged that Imperial Valley contractor Juan Munoz failed to pay workers minimum wage and overtime as well as neglecting to provide them rest breaks, potable drinking water and shade to field workers.

Munoz supplied field workers to onion farms in Kern County and in the Coachella Valley and Mojave Desert.

"In the scorching summer months, farm work can be dangerous if workers aren't given rest breaks, shade and drinking water," Brown said in a statement. "We have no tolerance for contractors like Munoz who deny their workers a fair wage and subject them to potentially deadly working conditions."

In 2009, the attorney general's office conducted a routine field visit at a Southern California onion farm, where state Department of Justice officials interviewed more than ten workers hired by Munoz.

Workers reportedly told officials that they worked split shifts throughout the day and night totaling approximately 70 hours a week, slept in the fields and bathed in a nearby reservoir. Moreover, workers said they were not given rest breaks or provided potable drinking water.

Growers paid Munoz a set price per piece, such as a four-gallon onion sack. His workers were typically paid $1.23 for each four-gallon sack of onions they harvested.

Brown is seeking a permanent injunction against Munoz as well as civil penalties, restitution to field workers and payment of his office's legal costs.

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