IR #2012-44
October 16, 2012

Dean Fryer
Erika Monterroza
(510) 286-1161

Twitter @CA_DIR

California Labor Commissioner files $1.6 million suit seeking unpaid wages for ag workers

Monterey, CA—California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su today filed a $1.6 million lawsuit in Monterey County Superior Court against a Greenfield farm labor contractor, Salvador Zavala Chavez dba Zavala Farms, for multiple violations including failure to provide minimum wage and overtime to approximately 150 workers covering more than 10 work locations, primarily in Monterey County.  The lawsuit seeks $1.26 million in unpaid wages, overtime and penalties for ag workers.

The lawsuit filed by the California Labor Commissioner stems from a complaint investigation conducted by the California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (Labor Commissioner’s Office). The investigation revealed evidence establishing that Zavala Farms willfully violated the law by failing to pay proper wages and overtime to its employees from April 1, 2009 to April 1, 2012. The Zavala lawsuit will be prosecuted by the attorneys for the Labor Commissioner.

“This lawsuit demonstrates the Labor Commissioner’s commitment to ensuring that all workers in this state are protected by the wage floor,” said Christine Baker, Director of DIR.  “Whether it is in agriculture or any other industry where wage violations occur, we will enforce the law.”

“These workers picked lettuce and worked in grape fields over ten hours a day without receiving overtime pay,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su.  “This lawsuit is but one example of our commitment to conducting in-depth, meaningful inspections to get the wages earned into workers’ pockets.  When workers come forward, as these farmworkers have done, to tell us about illegal working conditions, we will take action to protect them.”

The lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief to stop Zavala Farms from engaging in any future violations of the law.  “Businesses who break the law not only harm workers, they are a threat to law-abiding employers.  My job is to make sure that everyone plays by the same rules so honest businesses can thrive in California,” continued Labor Commissioner Su. 

The California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement adjudicates wage claims, investigates discrimination and public works complaints and enforces state labor law. Additional information on labor laws and work-related topics are available on our Web site, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints may call the California Workers’ Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757 for recorded information on a variety of work related topics.

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