Fanette v. Steven Davis Farms, LLC, Case No. 1:10cv136–MW/GRJ.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
Writing for the CourtMARK E. WALKER, District Judge.
Citation28 F.Supp.3d 1243
Decision Date01 July 2014
Docket NumberCase No. 1:10cv136–MW/GRJ.
PartiesDelinoir FANETTE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. STEVEN DAVIS FARMS, LLC and Steven M. Davis, Defendants.

28 F.Supp.3d 1243

Delinoir FANETTE, et al., Plaintiffs
STEVEN DAVIS FARMS, LLC and Steven M. Davis, Defendants.

Case No. 1:10cv136–MW/GRJ.

United States District Court, N.D. Florida.

Signed July 1, 2014.

28 F.Supp.3d 1247

Gregory Scott Schell, Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, Lake Worth, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Terry Leigh Zinn, Terry Zinn PA, Alachua, FL, for Defendants.


MARK E. WALKER, District Judge.

This matter came before this Court on the motion of the 29 domestic farmworker Plaintiffs for partial summary judgment. ECF No. 131.1 Plaintiffs seek summary judgment regarding five claims brought under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq. (“AWPA”). In particular, the domestic farmworker Plaintiffs claim they are entitled to summary judgment with respect to the Defendants' violations of the Act's provisions relating to disclosure 29 U.S.C. § 1821(a), recordkeeping 29 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(1), wage statements 29 U.S.C. § 1821(d)(2), housing certification 29 U.S.C. § 1823(b)(1) and wage payment 29 U.S.C. § 1822(a).2

The domestic farmworkers' motion was supported by a statement of material facts not in dispute, filed in accordance with Local Rule 56.1(A). ECF No. 131–1. Defendants Steven M. Davis and Steven Davis Farms, LLC filed a brief in opposition to the domestic farmworkers' motion,

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ECF No. 153, but did not file a separate statement of the material facts with respect to which they claimed there was a genuine dispute requiring a trial.3

As set out below, Defendants readily acknowledge they did not comply with the AWPA's disclosure, recordkeeping, wage statement, housing and wage payment provisions, but contend they are not liable for these violations of the Act because they did not “employ” the domestic farmworker Plaintiffs within the meaning of the AWPA.

Factual Summary

Defendant Steven Davis operates a farm in Alachua County and has over the years grown a number of crops, including cabbage, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, green beans, squash, zucchini, peas, cantaloupe and watermelons. At least a portion of the produce grown on Davis' farm is sold interstate.

In early 2008, Davis purchased a packing shed in Lacrosse, Alachua County, which he used to grade and pack the crops grown on his farm. At that time, Steven Davis Farms, LLC was created to operate the packing shed, with Davis as the principal owner and chief executive officer. Even though it was intended that the farm, with Davis as sole proprietor, and the packing shed, operated by Steven Davis Farms, LLC, would operate separately, the financial accounts of the two are substantially intertwined. Among other things, the operating expenses for the farm, including the costs of harvesting the crops, are paid by Steven Davis Farms, LLC.

The principal crops hand-harvested on Davis' operations are peas and green beans. In recent years, most of the hand-harvest work has involved peas. Substantial numbers of workers are needed to harvest the green bean and pea crops, beginning in May and June. Because Davis is unable to locate sufficient local labor, he relies on migrant labor to pick the green beans and peas produced on his farm. Prior to 2007, Davis relied on farm labor contractor Eugene Regis to recruit and furnish harvest labor to pick Davis' green beans and peas. Beginning in 2007, responsibility for recruiting hand-harvest labor for Davis' farm was assumed by Cabioch Bontemps, Regis' stepson. Bontemps was not registered with federal or state authorities as a farm labor contractor.

Bontemps recruited most of the harvest workers from the Miami area. Many of the Miami-based workers returned to work at the Davis farm year after year. The domestic worker Plaintiffs were among the Miami-based workers Bontemps recruited and furnished to the Davis farm for work in the following harvest seasons between 2007 and 2010. A detailed breakdown of the domestic farmworker Plaintiffs and the harvest seasons worked by each is attached as an addendum to this order.4

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Neither the domestic worker Plaintiffs nor any of the other members of Bontemps' crew were provided with a written statement of the job terms at the time of their recruitment.

Since at least 2008, Cabioch Bontemps has worked exclusively for Steven Davis on a year-round basis. Bontemps considers himself a manager for Davis. Besides recruiting harvest labor, Bontemps has worked for Davis as a salesman, forklift operator and security guard. Bontemps has assisted Davis in running his agricultural business, spraying the crops with chemicals and pesticides, delivering the produce to buyers and markets in central and north Florida and purchasing parts for Davis' farm equipment. In recent years, Bontemps' principal job has been assisting Davis in selling his produce. For a time, Bontemps resided at Davis' packing shed, with Davis paying the utility bills for Bontemps' quarters.

Bontemps was paid for his work by both Davis individually and by Steven Davis Farms, LLC. For his work furnishing harvest labor, Bontemps was paid based on the volume of produce his crew harvested. For furnishing workers to Davis' packing shed, Bontemps was paid $8.00 per hour. In addition, Bontemps was paid $500 per week for his other duties, such as helping load trucks, delivering produce to Davis' customers and assisting with sales of the crop. For at least part of this period, Davis treated Bontemps as an employee for tax purposes, issuing Bontemps a W–2 form for his work furnishing and supervising workers.

Davis made decisions regarding the planting, fertilizing and cultivation of his crops without any input from Bontemps. Davis provided all the capital for his farming operations and owned the equipment used to plant and cultivate the crops.

Harvesting is a crucial and integral step in Davis' farming business. On a daily basis, Davis selected the particular fields to be harvested, and then instructed Bontemps of the location for the day's picking and the type and volume of vegetables to be harvested.

The harvest workers placed the peas or beans into sacks provided by Davis. Workers designated as “luggers” carried the filled sacks, weighed the contents and issued a token to the worker for each sack filled. Davis provided portable toilets, drinking water and hand washing facilities for use by harvest workers in Bontemps' crew.

One of the luggers for Bontemps' crew was Addly Pierre, also known by his nickname, “Michael.” Pierre was a year-round employee of Davis, and was paid wages directly by Steven Davis Farms, including for work as a lugger with Bontemps' crew. Pierre also supervised the work of the harvesting crew when Bontemps was away from the field delivering produce to buyers for Davis or loading pallets with a forklift in Davis' packing shed.

During the time green beans or peas were harvested, Davis visited three to five times per day. During these visits, Davis inspected the work being done by the individual pickers and if he discovered a worker picking beans of the wrong size or quality, Davis informed Bontemps so that Bontemps could speak directly to the picker. On occasion, Davis directly demonstrated

28 F.Supp.3d 1250

to the workers which beans to pick and which not to pick, and sometimes picked alongside the members of Bontemps' crew, in part to boost the morale of the harvest workers.

Davis retained the authority to reassign members of Bontemps' harvesting crew to other jobs on the farm as needed. Among other things, Davis had the power to direct Bontemps to send part of his harvesting crew to the packing shed to grade vegetables. At the packing shed, members of Bontemps' crew worked grading green beans or butterbeans, and removing and discarding the spoiled or misshapen beans. When grading beans in Davis' packing shed, the Plaintiffs and the other members of Bontemps' crew performed the same job and worked alongside local residents who were paid directly by Davis or Steven Davis Farms. In the packing shed, Davis monitored the work of Bontemps' crewmembers and supplied time cards used to record hours of work.

Davis paid Bontemps for his labor contracting work in a lump sum. From this lump sum, Bontemps was expected to pay the members of his crew their wages, as well as any related employment taxes. No Social Security (FICA) or unemployment compensation taxes were paid on the earnings of workers in Bontemps' crew.

Bontemps was responsible for maintaining payroll records on the members of his crew, and he relied on Davis' employee, Addly Pierre, to handle most of the recordkeeping.

None of the payroll records for Cabioch Bontemps' crew from 2007 through 2010 are still in existence. Bontemps himself did not retain a copy of his records. Davis does not have the payroll records, in part, because Bontemps never provided him with a copy.

Payroll records prepared by Bontemps and Addly Pierre were admittedly deficient. Among...

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