On December 19, 2007, attorneys with Community Legal Services of Arizona and Farmworker Justice filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona on behalf of displaced American farmworkers who were replaced by foreign workers during 2006-2007 and previous citrus harvesting seasons. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, an Arizona grower and farm labor contractor, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act ("AWPA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1802 et seq., by providing false and misleading information to the federal government concerning the terms and conditions of employing farmworkers. Plaintiffs, who all worked for defendants during the 2005-2006 season, alleged that defendants refused to rehire them for the 2006-2007 season and instead told the government that they couldn't find any workers, therefore forcing them to hire migrant workers under the H-2A foreign guestworker program. Plaintiffs sought lost wages and an injunction to prevent the defendants from discriminating against U.S. workers in their hiring practices.
Shortly after the case began, it was consolidated with another action for pretrial purposes only (Reynaldo Guerra Jimenez, et al. v. Servicios Agricolas Mex Inc., et al., No. CV07-1492-PHX-GMS). On September 20, 2010, the Court (Judge G. Murray Snow) entered an order denying the defendants' motion for summary judgment, and granting and denying in part plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. Jimenez v. Servicios Agricolas Mex, Inc., 742 F. Supp. 2d 1078 (D. Az. 2010). The Court found that plaintiffs had put forth evidence that defendants had refused to rehire them, and instead hired non-citizen immigrant workers, holding that defendants deprived plaintiffs of an equal right to contract as was enjoyed by others, and that defendants engaged in such discrimination against plaintiffs based on their citizenship status. The Court denied summary judgment to all other claims.
On April 8, 2011, the parties notified the Court that they had reached a settlement in the Jimenez case; however, the parties also informed the Court that they were unable to settle the Murillo case. The Court unconsolidated the two cases and dismissed Jimenez with prejudice.
From August 23 through September 2, 2011, a seven-day bench trial was held before Judge Snow. The defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law after they rested their case.
On March 27, 2012, the Court (Judge Snow) entered his findings of fact and conclusions of law. Murillo v. Servicios Agricolas Mex, Inc., No. CV-07-2581-PHX-GMS, 2012 WL 1030084 (D. Az. Mar. 27, 2012). The Court found that defendants violated the "working arrangement" they had undertaken with certain of the plaintiffs, and that they did not inform these plaintiffs prior to the beginning of the season that defendants would not be employing them. As a result, the Court found, a number of the plaintiffs were unemployed for some time at the beginning of the harvest season while they sought work elsewhere. The Court held this was a violation of a provision of AWPA, 29 U.S.C. § 1832(c), and awarded statutory damages in the amount of $500 to ten of the plaintiffs, $250 to another ten, and $150 to another eight. The Court awarded no relief to the remaining 143 plaintiffs. The Court entered judgment accordingly on April 26, 2012.
On May 25, 2012, the plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal, seeking review of the Court's final judgment. The case was argued before and submitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in March of 2014. As of October 4, 2014, the appeal remains pending.Dan Dalton - 12/21/2007
Dan Whitman - 10/07/2014