Several farmworkers are accusing a farm and a labor contractor in Oregon of unlawfully subtracting housing costs from their wages.
A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene by the workers claims that S&A Farms and Central Valley Farm/Forest Labor Contractors jointly operated a labor camp near Salem, Ore.
The complaint alleges that the labor camp operators deducted housing costs from the workers’ paychecks, reducing their wages below the state’s minimum rate.
Two of the four plaintiffs also claim that the farm and labor contractor did not pay them for cleaning the labor camp.
The complaint, filed by attorneys from the Oregon Law Center, seeks back wages and penalties, as well as an injunction against further violations.
Capital Press was unable to reach S&A Farms and Central Valley Farm/Forest Labor Contractors refused to comment.
The Oregon Law Center filed a similar lawsuit against the orchard division of the Harry & David fruit basket company in 2007.
In 2009, a federal judge ruled that the company was allowed to credit housing costs toward the workers’ minimum wage, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that opinion in 2011.
Housing costs can’t be credited toward the minimum wage because the housing is provided primarily for the benefit of the employer, the appellate court ruled.