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MALDONADO v. LUCCA

February 24, 1986

EFRAIN MALDONADO, JESUS COLON, RENE TORRES, NELSON GARCIA, HECTOR COLON, REINALDO CLARIN, ANGEL CARABALLO, DANIEL CARABALLO, HERNAN CORTES, LUIS ACEVEDO, BENJAMIN PABON, ROBERTO CLAUDIO, PABLO SANCHEZ, ALFREDO MUNIZ, FELIPE MELENDEZ, and KETSY ALICEA (MERCED), Plaintiffs,
v.
RUSTY LUCCA, LAWRENCE ERRERA, d/b/a BAR O FARMS, and PEDRO BERMUDEZ, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BROTMAN

BROTMAN, District Judge

 FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

 This case arises under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. ("FLSA"), the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq. ("MSPA"), and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Law, N.J.S.A. 34:11-1 et seq. ("New Jersey Act"). Plaintiffs are migrant and seasonal agricultural workers who were recruited in 1984 by defendant Pedro Bermudez, a state- and federally-registered crew leader, to pick blueberries on farmland operated by defendants Rusty Lucca and Lawrence Errera, doing business as Bar O Farms. Plaintiffs contend that defendants Lucca and Errera violated FLSA, MSPA and the New Jersey Act by, inter alia, failing to pay them the minimum hourly wage for all hours worked. Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction.

 Pursuant to its discretion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(b), the court bifurcated the action and commenced a non-jury trial on January 6, 1986 on the sole issue of whether defendants Lucca and Errera were plaintiffs' "employers" within the meaning of the FLSA, the MSPA and the New Jersey Act. The court now makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required by Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a)

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. Plaintiffs are migrant and seasonal farmworkers who were recruited and hired by defendant Pedro Bermudez in June 1984 to pick blueberries in southern New Jersey. Fifteen of the plaintiffs are from Puerto Rico; one, Ketsy Merced (a/k/a Ketsy Alicea) is a resident of New Jersey. She is the only seasonal farmworker among the plaintiffs, since by definition, seasonal workers work close enough to their homes to spend the night there, while migrant workers are too far from home to return there daily.

 2. Defendants Rusty Lucca and Lawrence Errera are farmers and partners in Bar O Farms, a partnership whose main office is in Hammonton, New Jersey. They grow blueberries and peaches on leased land in Belleplain, New Jersey and in the Hammonton vicinity.

 3. In June 1984, Lucca and Errera hired Bermudez on the understanding that he would furnish them with labor to harvest their blueberry crop for the entire growing season. Lucca and Errera advanced Bermudez $3,500.00 for labor costs before the picking season began.

 4. In 1984, Bermudez was certified as a "crew leader" by the state of New Jersey, N.J.S.A. 34:8A-7 et seq., and as a "farm labor contractor" by the United States Department of Labor, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq.; 29 C.F.R. Part 500, Subpart B.

 5. Acting independently, Bermudez recruited several dozen migrant and seasonal workers, including plaintiffs, as members of his picking crew. Bermudez provided food and housing for the migrant workers in his crew and transportation to and from the fields for both migrant and seasonal workers.

 6. Bermudez and his crew picked blueberries in Bar O Farms' fields every day, weather permitting, from June 29 to July 5, 1984. Most pickers worked from about 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 p.m.

 8. Workers were paid on a piece rate, $2.30 per 12-pint carrier ("crate"). Defendants Lucca and Errera paid Bermudez $2.65 per crate.

 9. An average picker can pick one crate per hour. A fast picker can pick two crates.

 10. Defendants Lucca and Errera established the system for compensating workers who picked blueberries on their land. When a worker filled a 12-pint carrier, he or she would turn it into a truck where Lucca or one of his agents checked the berries and issued a receipt marked "Bar O Farms. 12 pints." Every Friday, members of Bermudez' crew turned in their week's accumulation of receipts to Bermudez, who paid ...


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