Judge denies sanctions in agricultural workers' dispute over alleged labor, payroll violations

By John Breslin | May 29, 2018

SACRAMENTO – A federal magistrate judge has granted a plaintiff's motion to compel further responses but denied a request for sanctions in a wage and labor dispute.

SACRAMENTO – A federal magistrate judge has granted a plaintiff's motion to compel further responses but denied a request for sanctions in a wage and labor dispute.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California made the ruling May 14.

Worker Marisol Gomez made the claim as part of an underlying action against J. Jacobo Farm Labor Contractor Inc. and Bedrosian Farms LLC. She alleges the defendants violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.

The suit was filed in September 2015 and seeks to cover all workers employed by the defendants since September 2011. The discovery process has been complicated by a recent change in counsel in April 2017.

Gomez asked the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California for "unspecified sanctions" on the defendants for allegedly failing to comply with discovery requests, according to a May 14 order regarding a motion to compel filed by the plaintiff.

In its order, the court ruled partly in favor of the plaintiff by ordering the defendants to produce more documents, but denied the request for sanctions. 

"Plaintiff moves for unspecified sanctions yet she is not clear as to what form she would like any sanctions to take. Nevertheless, in light of the underlying circumstances in this case, including current counsel’s recent substitution, the court does not find that sanctions are warranted at this time. However, Defendant is warned that the failure to provide supplemental documentation where possibleand appropriate will result in sanctions, including  an evidentiary exclusion," the order states.

McAuliffe also gave the defendants a 14-day deadline to produce additional documents.

The plaintiff claimed in its motion that it was agreed early on with the defendants' previous attorneys to "produce class-wide discovery."

But, it is now alleged, the new attorneys are "refusing to produce class-wide discovery on payroll and timekeeping information as well as a class list with member contact information."

The filing by the plaintiff also includes a response by the defendants, who claim their "current counsel has demonstrated full cooperation with plaintiff and has provided timely discovery responses despite having been involved with the case less than four months."

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