Rivera v. Peri & Sons Farms, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Labor Law
  • Date Filed: 11-13-2013
  • Case #: 11-17365
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O’Scannlain for the Court; Senior District Judge Singleton; Circuit Judge M.D. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

Expenses incurred by foreign workers in order to obtain employment through the H-2A program are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the employer is required to reimburse such expenses because they primarily benefit the employer, not the workers.

Peri & Sons hired a group of foreign workers through the United States Department of Labor ("DOL") H-2A program, which allows an employer to hire temporary workers if there are not sufficient workers available and the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect similarly situated US workers. In obtaining employment with Peri & Sons, the foreign workers incurred expenses, including recruitment, immigration, and travel fees, and they paid for some of their own work equipment and lodging. The employer did not reimburse them these costs, and the farm workers filed a complaint alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), breach of contract, and constitutional violations. The district court dismissed the claims as time barred, duplicative, and not subject to the FLSA. Deferring to the DOL’s regulatory interpretation of the FLSA, the Ninth Circuit determined the employer was liable for certain expenses incurred by employees during the first week of work. The panel held the travel and immigration expenses fall under the FLSA regulations because they primarily benefited the employer, rather than the farm workers. The panel held the district court erred in dismissing the breach of contract claims for lack of specificity, finding the complaint did sufficiently state the causes of action. The claims under Nevada wage and hour laws were dismissed as duplicative by the district court, but the panel held these claims valid and based upon the breach of contract claims, and improperly dismissed. The panel held the state constitutional claims were properly dismissed because they accrued outside the two year statute of limitations. However, the FLSA claims were improperly dismissed because the farm workers sufficiently alleged willfulness, so a three year statute of limitations applied rather than a two year one. AFFIRMED, REVERSED, and REMANDED.

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