Posted August 19, 2013

 

In Fulford v. Daughtry, No. 4:11-CV-103-FL., 2013 WL 3475292 (E.D.N.C. July 10, 2013), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina awarded $4,400 in damages to the farm workers for their employers’ violation of the posting requirement under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act (AWPA).  For a copy of the decision, please contact the National Agricultural Law Center at nataglaw@uark.edu.  For more information on the AWPA, visit the Center’s Labor Reading Room here. 

Background

In March of 2010 several individuals worked for the defendants, planting broccoli on their farm.  Id. at *1.  On June 20, 2011, plaintiffs, eleven of the workers, filed a complaint alleging violations of the AWPA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1801, et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”).  Id. Both parties moved for summary judgment, the motions being granted in part and denied in part.  Id.The court held that the defendants violated the AWPA’s posting requirement, 29 U.S.C. § 1831(b).  Id. On June 27, 2013, the parties filed supplemental briefings as to damages under the AWPA.  Id.  
Analysis and Holding

The court previously held that defendants violated the AWPA’s posting requirement for employers of seasonal agricultural workers, 29 U.S.C. § 1831(b).  Id.  The AWPA provides that the court “may award damages up to and including an amount equal to the amount of actual damages, or statutory damages of up to $500 per plaintiff per violation.”  Id. (citing 29 U.S.C. § 1854(c)(1)).   The amount of statutory damages is within the court’s discretion.  Id.  The courts, however, consider several factors known as the Beliz factors in determining those damages.  Id.  (citing Beliz v. W.H. McLoad & Sons Packing Co., 756 F.2d 1317, 1332 (5th Cir. 1985)). The factors considered include: “(1) the total award; (2) the nature and persistence of the violation; (3) the extent of the defendants’ culpability; (4) damage awards in similar cases; (5) the defendants’ ability to prevent future violations of the AWPA; (6) the substantive or technical nature of the violations; and (7) the circumstances of each case.” Id.  Additionally, the court noted that “it should not be cheaper for defendants to violate the AWPA than to comply with its requirements.”  Id. 

The court explained that the violations in this case were technical because the poster was not accessible to workers, but the information in the poster was distributed to them.  Id.at *2.  Defendants were experienced in hiring agricultural workers and had a poster with the required information, but they failed to post the notice in a “conspicuous location for those working in the fields.”  Id.  The court awarded plaintiffs $400 per plaintiff for the violation of the AWPA’s posting requirement, with a total award of $4,400. Id.at *2.