Migrant Workers Must Be Paid for Transport Time

March 25, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A vegetable producer that routinely bused its migrant laborers to various fields for the day's work must reimburse those laborers for the time spent traveling.

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose, California handed down the ruling against D’Arrigo Brothers Co after determining the 3,000 primarily Mexican immigrant workers that made up the class-action suit were effectively under the company’s control for up to 50 minutes each day as they were bused from a rendezvous point to the fields were crops were to be harvested. Thus, the workers were working while not being compensated for their time, according to an Associated Press report.

D’Arrigo argued though that the system of busing employees to and from the field was necessary since they had no way of knowing in advance which of its far-flung crops needed harvesting on any particular day, rather than allowing employees to drive their own cars to the work site. Further, attorneys for the company said executives sometimes paid laborers based on the quantity of vegetables picked rather than the number of hours worked. They argued that “piece-rate” wages included compensation for mandatory travel and waiting time.

As of yet, a final amount for the class action suit has not been determined. Fogel said back wages and penalties will be determined after April 5, the deadline for both sides in the case to submit time sheets and data. One estimate cited by the Associated Press put the total as high as $13 million.