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News Brief

US Labor Department files suit to recover wages for migrant workers employed to process watermelons for Great Lakes Harvester

Date of Action: Aug. 14, 2015

Type of Action: Fair Labor Standards Act and Migrant and Season Agricultural Worker Protection Act Lawsuit

Names of Defendants: Great Lakes Harvester Corporation and Miguel Rosales Ruiz

Allegations: An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that Great Lakes Harvester Corp., and company owner, Miguel Rosales Ruiz violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor alleges that Great Lakes Harvester Corporation and Ruiz failed to pay workers legally required federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, to pay them overtime at time and a half for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek, and to maintain accurate time records as required by the FLSA. Additionally, the employer failed to disclose working conditions to employees in writing, to provide wages statements and to pay workers in a timely manner, as required by the MSPA.

The minimum wage violations resulted when the company paid workers to wash, process, and pack watermelons from Piedt Farms in Eau Clare, Michigan, on a piece-rate basis, which resulted in some workers earning less than the required $7.25 per hour. Overtime violations resulted from failure to pay piece rate employees overtime premium after 40 hours.

Wage and Hour investigators estimated that 33 workers are due more than $7,300 for the minimum wage and overtime violations. The company was also assessed $7,300 in civil money penalties for violations of the MPSA, which have been paid in full.

The suit seeks full payment of the back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages for the employees. The suit also seeks to enjoin the company and Ruiz from violating the FLSA and MSPA in the future.

Quote: "Failing to pay workers the wages they have earned in a timely manner prevents them from providing for their families and can minimize the importance of their hard work," said Mary O'Rourke, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Grand Rapids. "This lawsuit puts employers on notice that the Labor Department is committed to protecting the large number of low-wage and vulnerable agricultural workers who are susceptible to exploitation and unfair treatment. A fair day's work deserves a fair day's pay."

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Southern Division

Docket Number: 4:13-cv-15147-MAG-RSW

Wage and Hour Division
August 17, 2015
Release Number
Media Contact: Scott Allen
Phone Number
Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
Phone Number