On April 20, 2006, four migrant and seasonal agricultural laborers who worked for Del Monte Fresh Produce's Georgia farms at various times during the 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 harvest seasons filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1871. The lawsuit was filed against Del Monte Fresh Product (Southeast) ("DMSE") and its parent company, Del Monte Fresh Product, NA ("DMNA"). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants: 1) failed to pay the promised wage rate; 2) failed to reimburse plaintiffs for costs that they incurred in order to work on defendants' farms; and 3) violated federal employment laws. Plaintiffs were represented by attorneys for the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Shortly after the suit was filed, the parties filed a joint motion to have the case transferred to the Northern District of Georgia. On June 30, 2006, the District Court (Judge Donald L. Graham) entered an order granting the motion to transfer. However, that same day, the Court also signed an order denying the motion, indicating that the request to have the case transferred was withdrawn. Despite these conflicting orders, the case was transferred and assigned docket number 06-cv-02000-JEC in the Northern District of Georgia.
The Del Monte defendants contended that they had not employed any of the plaintiffs and therefore had no liability in the case. Del Monte maintained that the farm labor contractors who recruited plaintiffs were their true employers, not Del Monte.
In order to resolve the issue of defendants' status as plaintiffs' employer, the District Court (Julie E. Carnes) entered a bifurcated discovery schedule, with discovery first concentrating on the employer issue. Numerous discovery disputes arose, which were ultimately resolved by the Court in May, 2007. Luna v. Del Monte Fresh Produce (Southeast), Inc., 2007 WL 1500269 (N.D.Ga. 2007). By separate order, the Court, with agreement by the parties, denied without prejudice plaintiffs' motions for class and collective action certification, until the court decided the employer issue.
Following the initial discovery period, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the employment issue. On March 19, 2008, the Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims against DMNA on the grounds that the parent corporation did not employ plaintiffs, but denied summary judgment to DMSE on the FLSA and AWPA claims. Luna v. Del Monte Fresh Produce (Se.), Inc., No. 1:06-CV-2000-JEC, 2008 WL 754452 (N.D. Ga. Mar. 19, 2008).
On April 10, 2008, plaintiffs renewed their motion for class certification on behalf of two classes of workers: 1) guest-workers recruited from Mexico pursuant to the temporary agricultural work visa program, known as the "H-2A program" and 2) non-H-2A migrant and seasonal agricultural workers recruited from within the U.S. Plaintiffs also sought certification of a collective action to pursue their FLSA claims. The Court denied class certification for the first two classes but granted certification of the FLSA collective action. Plaintiffs appealed this decision, but lost in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Judge Charles Wilson, Judge William Pryor, and Judge Emmett Cox), which on January 1, 2010, affirmed the district court's denial of class certifications. Luna v. Del Monte Fresh Produce (SE), Inc., 354 F. App'x 422 (11th Cir. 2009).
While the appeal was pending, the parties attempted to proceed with merits discovery in the district court. Discovery stalled, however, due to a number of disputes. On December 10, 2009, the District Court granted: (1) plaintiffs' motion for leave to file their third amended complaint, (2) plaintiffs' motion for joinder to add 52 opt-ins as individual plaintiffs on Counts I and II of the complaint, and (3) the parties' joint motion for extension of time to complete discovery. The court denied: (1) plaintiffs' motion to intervene, (2) plaintiffs' motion for a protective order to limit discovery to a small sample of the opt-in plaintiffs, (3) defendants' motion to stay discovery, and (4) plaintiffs' motion for a scheduling conference. Luna v. Del Monte Fresh Produce (Se.), Inc., No. 1:06-CV-2000-JEC, 2009 WL 4801357 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 10, 2009).
On April 15, 2010, the District Court approved a confidential settlement agreement with 63 workers. The court approved of an undisclosed settlement amount to be paid to the workers as well as payment of attorneys' fees and costs. Defendants did not admit liability.Dan Dalton - 09/24/2007
Carlos Torres - 06/30/2013
Jennifer Bronson - 10/22/2013