Cases Against Mercer Canyons Inc
ABOUT THE COMPANY
Mercer Canyons Inc. is a private company and operates as an agricultural firm. Located in Washington, the Firm provides carrot growing services to customers and has vineyards. Mercer Canyons also offers potatoes, grass seed, corn, garlic and organic products.
CASES AGAINST COMPANY
Mercer Canyons, Inc.’s has been filed with breach of contract regarding recruitment and hiring of laborers in March 2014. There are two instances in which company has been filed cases against. These are:
- Ruiz Torres v. Mercer Canyons, Inc. – filed in March 2014
- Perez v. Mercer Canyons Inc. – filed in January 2016
First will look at the Ruiz Torres issue which is regarding the ‘Disclosure of Information’ and ‘Underpayment of Jobs’.
- RUIZ TORRES V. MERCER CANYON
THE H-2A CLEARANCE ORDER
Mercer Canyon undertook the H-2A temporary worker program which provides the domestic employers to hire workers from foreign country in order to fill their temporary agricultural jobs. For an employer to hire workers under this program, it first needs to submit a proposal clearance order to the State Workforce Agency (in Washington State, the Employment Security Department (ESD)), for review. Once the clearance order is accepted by the Workforce Agency, the employer needs to file an application for H-2A certification. An employer’s petition can only be approved if there are no sufficient local workers available. H-2A regulations asks employers to follow the duty, abide by the regulations and hire available local employees first.
Mercer Canyon hired WAFLA to advise regarding the regulations of H-2A program. WAFLA- WA Farm Labor Association is a seasonal employers Premier HR association. WAFLA did all the procedures on behalf of Mercer Canyon. The clearance order was accepted and the company could employee the workers from March 24, 2013 to September 1, 2013 at $12.00 per hour. WAFLA assured that Mercer would comply with the regulations of the H-2A program (CIRCUIT, 2016).
DISCUSSING THE BREACH
There were 44 positions available under the H-2A program. Mercer hired only 22 domestic workers under the H-2A program. Among these, few were hired through WorkSource. WorkSource is and organization providing job referrals. Among the remaining 22 positions, Mercer hired only 19 foreign workers. These 19 workers arrived on May 2, 2013.
Ruiz and Amador, the residents of Yakima Country applied to the company for work before the start date of the clearance order. They were qualified U.S. workers and were eligible for work under clearance order. These workers filed a suit in 2014 against Mercer Canyon, alleging that the company did not disclose the information regarding availability of higher- paying vineyard jobs under the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program and thereby misleading the local farm workers. Also, alleging that the company underpaid the domestic workers who were hired.
On March 19, 2013, Amador went to Mercer Canyons’ offices and was informed by the Mercer employee that no work was available and he was never informed about the vineyard laborer job’s availability under the H-2A clearance order. Amador’s claim was right because Mercer hired 19 foreign workers even though local workers were available for the job (casetext, n.d.).
Ruiz Torres worked as a vineyard laborer at Mercer Canyons in 2012. He came back to the company to work again in 2013 as a vineyard laborer pursuant to the H-2A clearance order that paid $12 per hour. In his case, the company did not solicit his return as a vineyard laborer pursuant under H-2A clearance order and paid $9.88 per hour (casetext, n.d.).
Judge Bastian certified an Inaccurate Information class and an Equal Pay subclass on April 8, 2015. The Inaccurate Information class, numbering approximately 600 individuals, includes the following members:
“All domestic migrant and seasonal farm workers who: 1) were employed as vineyard workers by Mercer Canyons in 2012; 2) sought employment at Mercer Canyons in 2013 between February 4 and June 15, 2013; or 3) performed vineyard work at Mercer Canyons between March 24 and September 15, 2013, and were not referred by WorkSource.”
Within this class, Plaintiffs identified an Equal Pay subclass, of approximately 200 individuals. This subclass is comprised of the following members:
“All domestic and seasonal farm workers who performed vineyard work between March 24 and September 15, 2013 for Mercer Canyons, were paid less than $12 per hour, and were not referred by WorkSource.”
The laborers were hired under the “deceived workers” class of certification which included following criteria:
- Workers who were employed by the company on 2012
- Workers who sought employment at the company in 2013 before 50% of the Clearance Order Period elapsed
- Workers who were hired at the company in 2013 prior to 50% of the Clearance Order Period and were not referred by WorkSource
This workers’ complaint fell under the violation of provisions of three Acts:
- Violating the Agricultural Workers Protection Act (AWPA)
- Violating the Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA)
- Washington Wage Law
Under Agriculture Workers Protection Act, section 1831 relates to seasonal agriculture workers and section 1831 relates to migrant agriculture workers. These sections state that:
Â “No farm labor contractor, agricultural employer, or agricultural association shall knowingly provide false or misleading information to any seasonal agricultural worker concerning the terms, conditions, or existence of agricultural employment”
MERCER CANYON’S TAKE
Mercer Canyons appealed the decision on several grounds, including that several members of the class might not have been adversely affected because they would have not been hired or they may have not been seeking other non-vineyard positions at the time.
Columbia Legal Services Attorney Lori Isley said that this case is about an employer taking advantage of the workers working in farm and who have contributed to the company and the community. He added that if the employer wants to benefit by hiring workers from forign labor market, employer has to abide by the rules (Federal Court Grants Class Action Status for Farm Workers Against Mercer Canyons for Unfair & Deceptive Practices | Columbia Legal Services, 2015).
HOW TO SOLVE
Considering the issue, two questions are believed to provide the solution of the litigations:
(1) “Whether Mercer Canyons had a policy or practice to withhold information pertaining to H-2A jobs from job-seekers and current employees”
(2) “Whether such withholding constituted providing false or misleading information concerning the existence of, or terms and conditions of, jobs . . . under the AWPA and CPA” (CIRCUIT, 2016)
Along with this a common question of Liability arises on the part of Mercer Canyon in the matter of disclosing the information on existence and pay-rate of the work under H-2A order. The individualized damages inquiries are common in the real-world scenario, especially in wage-and-hour disputes, and usually do not defeat certification. The laborers in this case had claimed the total amount of damage i.e. damaged caused to all class of laborers, rather than the individual calculations. Thus, mercer was made liable to the damages caused.
Mercer had failed to keep the adequate records on accounting of each employees. It is a drawback for the company because company cannot show proof in the court. And the workers took the advantage of claiming an aggregate sum of money in the compensation.
HOW DID MERCER SOLVE THE ISSUE
The case was first taken at the district court where the court certified an Inaccurate Information class and an Equal Pay subclass, corresponding to plaintiffs’ claims. Then the case was taken to the federal court, where federal court agreed with the decision of the district court. Thus, despite of efforts by Mercer Canyons to prove themselves, they lost in February 2017 and decided to compensate $545,000 to the workers. A negligence on the part of the company lead it to pay a huge amount.
WHAT NEXT CAN THEY DO TO BUID THE CONFIDENCE
- The company made a big mistake of not keeping the accounting records, the first thing the company needs to start with is to start maintaining the records of people and pay. Maintaining records helps and serves as a proof in cases like this
- Company needs to start abiding by the regulations of H-2A clearance order. And hence, hire the local employees first and pay proper wages.
- To ensure the confidence of the workers and other parties, company needs to have a proper communication among the parties regarding the issue. Explaining each party on what went wrong and what are the measures taken by the company to resolve the issue and make sure that such things does not arise in the future call of business.
- Company needs to keep one supervisor to keep a track of workers working on wage-pay. The supervisor can ensure on the workers’ satisfaction and can hear their problems. This would help the company solve any worker’s issue outside the court without getting into the company’s reputation.
- PEREZ V MERCER CANYON
On January 28, 2016, few plaintiffs filed a complaint against Mercer Canyon with respect to Mercer’s recruitment. These plaintiffs claim that Mercer Canyon asked them to appear for the interview. After the interview, they were asked to wait until they call for the start date and the rug test. Because of this the plaintiffs did not look for other job opportunities because they felt that their job at Mercer was approved. After a month, Mercer informed them that they are not selected for the job. Similar cases happened with few of the plaintiffs. Another plaintiff got selected after the interview and was waiting for the drug test. But then Mercer informed her that she is not hired because she left specific skills. Mercer in a way breached the contract by improper communication.
The proceedings of this issue are yet to start. Mercer in this case does not abide by ‘Good faith and Fair Dealings Standards’. Mercer also excluded a class of people from being considered for an employment and thus engaged itself in Employment discrimination.
Mercer Canyon should start gathering proper documents on its recruitment procedures to show proof in the court. It should also start gathering evidences and records. The company can also set the deal outside the court by making a negotiation with the plaintiffs.
Both the cases look like one another in a way of miscommunication or employment discrimination. Because two cases are registered with the similar complaint, Mercer should focus on its ‘communication’ to the employees and other parties. It needs to hire good staff members who are responsible for the proper flow of information among the company and to outside members. Company needs high concentration in managing the present or potential workers.
(2015, April 09). Retrieved from Federal Court Grants Class Action Status for Farm Workers Against Mercer Canyons for Unfair & Deceptive Practices | Columbia Legal Services: http://www.columbialegal.org/Farmworker-Class-Action-Granted-Against-Mercer-Canyons
casetext. (n.d.). Retrieved from casetext: https://casetext.com/case/perez-v-mercer-canyons-inc
CIRCUIT, U. S. (2016). RUIZ TORRES V. MERCER CANYONS. Washington.