After years of litigation, the parties have reached an agreement to resolve the pending appeal in Saucedo v. NW Management, which will return the case to the federal district court in Yakima to finalize the claims and distribution process.
The class action was filed in 2012, and a federal judge awarded the class of over 700 farmworkers $1,004,000 in damages for violations of state law protecting farm workers. The case was brought against NW Management and the orchard owners, who are clients of John Hancock. In March, the Washington Supreme Court unanimously upheld that ruling. Instead of returning to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for additional proceedings, the agreement means the case will return to the federal district court for the final claims and distribution process. Each worker will receive between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on how many seasons she or he worked.
“We are thankful to resolve the appeal and get payment to our co-workers more quickly,” said Abelardo Saucedo, one of the farm worker class representatives in the case. Similarly, lawyers for both sides agreed that the resolution of the appeal is a good result for all.
“We’re glad the litigation is at an end and will work hard to get back in front of the District Court as soon as possible and propose a claims and distribution process that we hope to complete later this summer,” said Lori Isley, Directing Attorney with the Working Families Project at Columbia Legal Services which represented the farmworker plaintiffs.
Previously, the federal court found the landowners leased the Alexander and Independence orchards near Sunnyside, Washington, to a California company, Farmland Management Services, which then subleased the orchards to NW Management. Because these landowners paid third parties to manage and farm their land, including hiring and employing farm workers, the court found that the landowners and, by extension, Farmland, used the services of an unlicensed farm labor contractor, NW Management. Hence, the court found that the landowners and Farmland were jointly liable for NW Management’s licensure violation, regardless of whether they had any knowledge that NW Management was unlicensed. In its March 2016 decision, the Washington Supreme Court agreed with this decision, sending the questions back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a decision by that Court.
Farm workers who worked for NW Management at the Alexander or Independence orchards near Sunnyside, Washington, in 2009, 2010, or 2011 are encouraged to contact the attorneys for the workers, Columbia Legal Services, at 1-800-631-1323 x 802.