Farm Accused of Spraying Migrant Workers with Pesticides

Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. (PHI) and Corteva, Inc. were accused on Wednesday in the Central District of Illinois of spraying migrant farmworkers with toxic pesticides as they were working on their farms. The workers, according to the filing, were “plainly visible in bright neon protective clothing” during two incidents in the summer of 2019; purportedly, this was done “with callous and reckless indifference” for the plaintiffs. 

The complaint, which was filed by the workers and their family members, said the defendants brought “dozens of migrant workers from the Texas Rio Grande Valley” to help detassel corn in Illinois during the summer. 

The workers claimed that they were not given information after the incident regarding the proper decontamination measures, and accused the defendants of not providing truthful information or medical attention. The workers were reportedly told to go back and work in the field after the second incident, although there were still pesticides in the air, and they were sprayed with the pesticides for a second time that day after they went back out. The plaintiffs claimed that PHI lied about what had occurred, and, rather than provide information about the pesticides, told them the spray was simply smoke. 

PHI was also accused of violating other protections, which the plaintiffs claimed they should have had based on the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The complaint also listed Farm Air, Inc.; Curless Flying Service, Inc.; and an unknown company, all of which were hired to spray the pesticides, as defendants. 

The workers said they are seeking redress, including payment for medical expenses and emotional distress, and punitive damages, claiming that they were harmed because of exposure to the pesticides and other actions they alleged were taken by the defendants, like providing false information. 

The plaintiffs are represented by Legal Aid Chicago, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Reiter Burns LLP, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center