A federal appeals court sided with two crew leaders on Friday in a dispute about whether they should be paid overtime for driving farmworkers to accomplish tasks like buy groceries, go to the bank and do laundry.
Crew leaders Jose Ramirez and Joel Santana filed the lawsuit in 2017 against Statewide Harvesting & Hauling, LLC, which is a Florida company that harvests fruit and hauls it to processing plants and packing houses. From 2014 to 2017, the company primarily employed temporary foreign guest workers. It was required under federal law to provide meals or kitchen facilities, along with access to such things as laundry facilities, according to the ruling.
Ramirez and Santana argued in the lawsuit that they were entitled to overtime pay for the driving responsibilities under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. But Statewide Harvesting & Hauling argued that the driving fell under an overtime exemption for agricultural work, according to the ruling. The Atlanta-based appeals court upheld a Florida district judge’s ruling in favor of Ramirez and Santana. Appeals-court Chief Judge William Pryor wrote in a 14-page ruling, joined by Judges Robert Luck and Emily Coody Marks, “Santana’s and Ramirez’s driving trips were not agricultural activities within the fair meaning of the Act. They occurred off a farm. And they neither directly enabled harvesting or on-the-farm secondary activities nor were physically tied to a farm.”