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News Brief

Employer to pay $14.6K in back wages, damages to 33 workers who processed watermelons in Eau Claire, Michigan

Date of Action: April 22, 2016

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

Defendant: Miguel Rosales Ruiz

Resolution: The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent judgment in federal court ordering Miguel Rosales Ruiz to pay 33 workers at Southwest Michigan Produce Center in Eau Claire, Michigan, a total of $14,628, which includes $7,314 in back wages for minimum wage and overtime violations, plus an equal amount of liquidated damages. Additionally, Ruiz paid $7,300 in civil money penalties assessed for violations of the MPSA.

An investigation conducted by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Ruiz violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act’s wage payment, wage statement and recordkeeping provisions.

Investigators found Ruiz, a farm labor contractor, failed to pay workers the 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 Ruiz paid workers to wash, process, and pack watermelons at Southwest Michigan Produce Center on a piece-rate basis, and failed to make up the difference when piece rates earned totaled  less than the required $7.25 per hour. Overtime violations resulted from failure to pay piece rate employees overtime premium when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. 

Workers in agricultural packing or processing operations are normally entitled to overtime pay under the FLSA unless the work involves an agricultural product produced on the farm where the packing or processing is taking place.

Ruiz has also agreed to abide by the requirements of both the FLSA and MPSA in the future and to:

  • Provide each worker a copy of the terms and conditions of employment on their first day of work and obtain a signed declaration of receipt in the worker’s native language.
  • Provide detailed wage statements each pay period, allowing workers to verify their hours worked, piece rate earnings, and pay.
  • Designate an employee to stock and maintain drinking water and sanitary facilities.
  • Provide each worker with the telephone number of the State Monitor Advocate for the state in which work is being performed.

The agreement also stipulates that any violations of the order within the next five years may result in the revocation of Ruiz’s Farm Labor Contractor Certificate.

Quote:  “The work of the Wage and Hour Division helps ensure that the fruits and vegetables sold to the American people are produced under fair and equitable employment conditions,” said Mary O’Rourke, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in Grand Rapids. “This judgment sends a message to employers that unfair treatment and exploitation of migrant and seasonal farm workers will not be tolerated. These workers deserve to be paid every penny they have rightfully earned.”

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
April 26, 2016
Release Number
Media Contact: Scott Allen
Phone Number
Media Contact: Rhonda Burke
Phone Number