The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that requires farmers to repay the travel expenses of H-2A guest workers within a week of their arrival.
The nation's highest court has refused to review a lawsuit that pitted guest workers against Peri & Sons Farms, a Nevada onion producer.
The workers, who were hired by Peri & Sons under the H-2A program, filed a lawsuit claiming they were not timely compensated for travel expenses.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the workers that growers must repay travel expenses within a week of their arrival, rather than halfway through the employment contract.
Peri & Sons had argued for the longer reimbursement period specified in H-2A regulations, but the 9th Circuit found that the shorter compensation period under the Fair Labor Standards Act applied.
Advocates for agricultural employers worried the 9th Circuit ruling will further discourage farmers from using the bureaucratically onerous H-2A program.
The longer reimbursement period provided an incentive for guest workers to stay with the employer rather than abscond shortly after arriving, according to the National Council of Agricultural Employers.
Also, it may be tougher for some farmers to repay travel expenses within a week, since they may not have generated cash flow from crop harvest, the group said.