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Plaintiffs in Wage & Hour Class Action Granted Temporary Restraining Order

In Injunctive Relief on August 18, 2010 at 7:59 am
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In an unusual move, plaintiffs in Arrendondo v. Delano Farms Company, No. CV F 09-1247 LJO DLB, 2010 WL 3212000 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2010), sought and were granted a temporary restraining order.  Plaintiffs filed an Application pursuant to  Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 requesting a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) against defendant Delano Farms Company to restrain potential retaliation and threats to witnesses and putative class members by defendant.  The Application was supported by declarations of three witnesses and potential class members who heard threats by a supervisor of Delano Farms as well as declarations from Jessica Arciniega and Thomas P. Lynch, attorneys representing plaintiffs, and Aida Sotelo, a paralegal who investigated the threats.

The putative class action alleges federal and state law wage and hour violations and claims pursuant to the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq.  The proposed class consists of all agricultural employees who are or have been employed, and who have worked one or more shifts as non-exempt hourly and/or piece rate workers for the Defendant Delano Farms.  The court described the parties as “engaged in heated contested discovery involving class certification.”

In their TRO application, Plaintiffs alleged that the supervisors of the employer defendant threatened employees and putative class members with termination and/or not being rehired for further seasonal work if the employee participates in the litigation. Plaintiffs, putative class members, and potential witnesses alleged they are fearful of retaliation based on their belief that Defendant Delano Farms, through actions of supervisors and agents, will retaliate or continue to retaliate against them for pursuing their claims and participating in this lawsuit against Defendant Delano Farms.

Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that at this point in the litigation, pending the holding of a preliminary injunction hearing, the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the underlying wage and hour claims, that the balance of the equities tip in favor of the plaintiffs, and that a temporary restraining order is in the public interest. Moreover, it is likely there will be irreparable injury to the plaintiffs, putative class members, and potential witnesses involved in Arrendondo v. Delano Farms Company if Defendant Delano Farms Company, and supervisors are permitted to continue their alleged party and witness intimidation and related conduct in that: (a) the plaintiff’s prosecution of their case is likely to be chilled; (b) the plaintiff’s investigation of their claims, and identification of class members, now pending against Delano Farms are likely to be chilled; (c) current Delano Farms employees are likely to be deterred from exercising their rights; and (d) the plaintiffs, putative class members and potential witnesses are likely to suffer damage.

The court issued “a narrowly tailored TRO”, required only a $1,000 bond.

The judge is Hon. Lawrence J. O’Neill.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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