July 23rd, 2012

Former employees are suing agricultural industry giant Monsanto for violating the terms of their employment agreement. Seven field workers say that Monsanto promised them a certain level of pay and free housing with bare necessities and that the company did violated that employment agreement. Instead, they received a lower rate for harvesting crops that was under the federally mandated minimum wage and that their motel housing was not free and did not fit the requirements they had requested.

In addition, the workers say that Monsanto exposed them to harsh pesticides that resulted in illness and injury to them and their families. The poor conditions began in the spring of 2010 and continued until they were transferred to a different task in another state in August. They are suing under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which are both federal laws.

The seven employees said that when they were recruited for the job they were told that they would have free housing that included a kitchen. The kitchen turned out to be an improperly ventilated school bus with portable stoves inside, which was parked outside the motel that the company charged them $300 to stay in.

This case is not being heard in Minnesota, but agricultural workers here experience many of the same issues with their employers. Migrant workers who remain with the same employer for the whole year but move to different regions to harvest seasonally may be able to pursue a legal action in more than one state depending on the nature of the harm. In those situations it’s important to closely examine state laws in each potential jurisdiction to see if any one state or court system would be more favorable.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Seven Say Monstanto Took Them for a Ride,” Cameron Langford, July 23, 2012.

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