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Rosas v. Sarbanand Farms, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

June 7, 2018

BARBARO ROSAS, et al., Plaintiffs,
SARBANAND FARMS LLC, et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Nidia Perez's motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 20). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby DENIES the motion for the reasons explained herein.


         Plaintiffs bring this employment class action arising out of Defendants' recruitment, employment, and treatment of foreign H-2A farm workers. (Dkt. No. 12 at 1.) The sole claim against Defendant Nidia Perez is for violation of the Washington Farm Labor Contractor Act (“FLCA”). (Id. at 31.)

         Defendant Munger Bros. (“Munger”) is a California blueberry producer owned by Kewel and Baldev Munger. (Id. at 3-4.) The Mungers also own Defendant Sarbanand Farms (“Sarbanand”), a Washington blueberry producer. (Id.)

         Ms. Perez, a California resident, was employed by Munger, but also performed work for Sarbanand. (Id. at 3, 10.) Ms. Perez contacted putative class members in Mexico to recruit them to harvest blueberries for Munger in California and for Sarbanand in Washington. (Id. at 10.) Sarbanand paid Ms. Perez a fee to recruit workers who could be transferred to Sarbanand's harvest after completing the blueberry harvest in California. (Id.) Ms. Perez also recruited workers on behalf of a third company owned by the Mungers, Crowne Cold Storage (“Crowne”). These workers were recruited to package blueberries in California and then be transferred to Sarbanand in Washington. (Id. at 10.) Ms. Perez directed the workers she recruited to Defendant CSI Visa Processing's (“CSI”) office to facilitate required H-2A visas. (Id.) She also provided CSI with lists of workers to be given visas to work for Crowne, Munger, and Sarbanand. (Id. at 11.)

         Ms. Perez is not registered or licensed in Washington as a farm labor contractor, nor did she obtain a bond to operate as a licensed farm contractor. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that by failing to do so, Ms. Perez violated the FLCA. (See Dkt. No. 12). Ms. Perez moves to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the grounds that she is exempt from the FLCA. (See Dkt. No. 20.)


         A. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) Standard

         A defendant may move to dismiss when a plaintiff “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Vasquez v. L.A. County, 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). However, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences will not defeat an otherwise proper Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Id.; Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. at 678.

         B. Analysis

         Under FLCA, all farm labor contractors must be licensed. Wash. Rev. Code § 19.30. A farm labor contractor is any person who for a fee recruits, solicits, employs, supplies, transports, or hires agricultural employees. Wash. Rev. Code § 19.30.010(4)-(5). However, FLCA does not apply to persons performing these activities “only within the scope of his or her regular employment for one agricultural employer on whose behalf he or she is so acting, unless he or she is receiving a commission or fee, which commission or fee is determined by the number of workers recruited.” Wash. Rev. Code § 19.30.010(8).

         Ms. Perez argues that FLCA exempts employees of agricultural employers, thus, the statute does not apply to her. (See Dkt. Nos. 20, 28.) She relies on the FCLA exception for persons working within the scope of their employment for “one agricultural employer” who are not paid a fee based on the number of workers recruited. Wash. Rev. Code § 19.30.010(8).

         The fact that Ms. Perez is an agricultural employee does not, by itself, bring her under the FLCA exception. Plaintiffs' first amended complaint alleges that Ms. Perez was employed by Munger, that she recruited workers to harvest and package blueberries on behalf of three entities in both California and Washington, and that Sarbanand paid her a separate fee to recruit workers for its harvest. (Dkt. No. 12 at 3, 10.) The Court finds Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient ...

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