Denver business lawyers know that certain industries are going to face more regulation and scrutiny than others.
The food and agriculture business is one of those. One company in particular lately has come under fire for Denver employment law violations, as well as food safety concerns.
It’s the Jenson Farms of Holly, and you’ve probably heard of it in recent months. This is the cantaloupe farm that has been held responsible for sickening some 140 people and killing 36, following a Listeria outbreak, a bacteria infection that results from inadequate sanitation measures.
While a class action lawsuit brought forth by some 40 of those who fell ill is likely to soon be settled for millions of dollars, one aspect that hasn’t much been discussed is the labor law violations the company was fined for just a few months ago.
The owner and operator of the farm was fined more than $4,200 because he did not provide housing to his migrant workers that met the minimum standards of safety and health, as required by the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. This act spells out very specific responsibilities that an agricultural company must meet with regard to its seasonal and migrant employees. One of those requirements mandates that housing has to be inspected and approved for meeting state and federal safety standards.
This act also lays forth a litany of employee rights, guidelines on wages and contracts, disclosure agreements and other protections. Most of those in the industry are familiar with these requirements, but having a small business attorney review your contracts and facilities is not a bad idea – just to keep you clear of any problems.
In the case of Jensen Farms, migrant workers stayed in a hotel owned by the farmer. He rented them rooms for about $25 a week. However, investigators found those rooms to be overcrowded, and lacking beds, laundry facilities, smoke detectors, and windows that opened. It was also reported that the conditions were less than sanitary.
The employer told an Associated Press reporter that he was unaware that the people renting his rooms were his own migrant workers.
That may or may not be true, but it illustrates again the need to have your business records and practices reviewed by a good attorney.