Both sides report settlement in workers’ lawsuit filed in 2008

OXFORD – A $30,000 settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit claiming unpaid minimum wages and breach of contract against a large, regional sweet potato operation.
The lawsuit, filed in September 2008 by 30 Mexican workers in U.S. District Court, claimed Ryan Alexander and Alexander Farms of Vardaman failed in their promises and treated them unfairly.
The settlement notice comes from both sides in joint notice to the court, which had set Dec. 16 as the deadline for specific actions.
“Trial will be unnecessary,” said the notice, signed by plaintiff counsel Caitlin Berberich with Southern Migrant Legal Services in Nashville, Tenn., with W. Brent McBride of Tupelo, and defense attorney Marc D. Amos of Columbus.
The workers sought money damages and the court’s help to correct what they called “violations of law” for their work on temporary work visas.
The workers claimed they had to pay some or all of their transportation and living expenses to get back home after their work contracts ended. They also claimed they weren’t reimbursed for things they’d been promised and weren’t paid minimum wage, as stated in their work contracts in 2006.
Berberich said her client also will drop counter-claims of contract breach because they weren’t worked the numbers of hours agreed upon in advance.
Amos responded for Alexander Farms, saying it “was and is devoted to the concept of treating its (alien) workers fairly,” best evidenced by the fact that their regular migrant workers refused to join this lawsuit.
“However, given the fact that Alexander Farms had just suffered one of the most devastating sweet potato harvests in recent history, it unfortunately had to settle the case due to the legal costs that it would have to pay to take the case to trial.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfied/NEMS Daily Journal