Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford in the Western District of New York approved a settlement on Thursday in a case alleging former employees of A.J. Piedimonte Agricultural Development, LLC and connected companies were not paid the appropriate minimum wage for work they completed. The plaintiffs claimed they worked over 40 hours during a week but did not receive overtime payment.
The court released a Decision and Order in the case which said the total settlement amount is $250,000, about 30 percent of what the plaintiffs asked for in their motion for default judgment. The court said each plaintiff will get “a meaningful payment” between $710 and $27,165 dollars.
“The costs and risks to Plaintiffs of continuing with this litigation are very real,” the Decision and Order stated. “Defendants have asserted that the FLSA’s overtime exemption for agricultural workers applies in this case, a fact-intensive issue on which either party might prevail. Further, while Plaintiffs have sought default judgment as to the corporate defendants, the individual defendants concededly have not defaulted.”
The court approved the agreement on the condition that the non-disparagement provision is modified. It currently states that neither party can make a written or oral statement disparaging the other party. The judge stated the clause should be removed or changed to allow plaintiffs to make truthful statements about their experience in litigation.
Former employees of the defendants, including Armando Cardenas, Jose F. Cardenas, Juanita Senteno, Veronica Simmons Bailey, Isaiah Alexander, Kathy Alexander, and Shonda Tate filed the class action complaint on August 8, 2018. The parties participated in mediation and engaged in settlement negotiations earlier this year, submitting a request for approval of their settlement on April 10.
The judge stated in the order that the case will not be considered a class action because the deadline for that had passed. The named plaintiffs, which include some who opted into the lawsuit after it began, will be included in the settlement because the order determined that they are “similarly situated.” The Judge says that the opt-in plaintiffs will be bound by the settlement agreement when they endorse the check and accept the agreement.
The 48 farm workers who are named or opt-in plaintiffs in the case are represented by John Anthony Marsella with the Worker Justice Center of New York. The workers filed the lawsuit against farm businesses James J. Piedimonte & Sons Inc., A.J. Piedimonte Agricultural Development LLC, Anthony Joseph Piedimonte, MAGC Inc., and Scott James Bennett.