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LABOR + CIVIL RIGHTS UNIT

Expanding Justice Through Impact Litigation

CRLAF has a limited capacity to take on legal cases, the majority of which are referred from our Community Outreach Workers and other advocates in the field. Please contact info@crlaf.org for copies of recent amicus briefs, sample pleadings, or advice and consultation on any case involving low-wage or immigrant workers.

 

The agricultural industry is plagued by some of the worst working conditions in the state; the Central Valley’s rural residents especially experience an extreme gap in justice and access to services. CRLAF’s Labor and Civil Rights Litigation Project aggressively targets all stakeholders responsible for civil rights violations, representing individuals, families, and other classes in legal cases involving wage theft, violation of workplace safety standards, pesticide exposure, sexual assault and harassment in the workplace, discrimination and retaliation in work and domestic settings, inhumane housing, and wrongful eviction.
 

Unique among legal aid organizations in rural California, CRLAF represents clients regardless of their immigration status, and brings class action cases to assist hundreds of workers at a time. Since its founding, CRLAF’s lawsuits have led to several industry-wide reforms, and recovered millions of dollars in compensation for exploited workers.
 

Our legal team participates in amicus efforts on issues of concern to farmworkers, undocumented workers, and other rural low-wage workers. The Project also assists in Support Center activities for legal service projects funded by the California State Bar Association’s Legal Services Trust Fund, such as providing legal training, technical assistance, and co-counsel where possible to Qualified Legal Services Projects and other legal aid organizations across the state.​

 

CRLAF’s Recent, Successfully Closed Cases

  • In the beginning of 2021, the Unit assisted tenants facing eviction following the sale of their apartment complex in Fairfield to a new landlord. Many tenants were undocumented and ineligible for service from a number of federally-funded legal aid organizations. The stated cause in the eviction notice was for “substantial renovation” (followed by a very substantial increase in rent). Once opposing counsel realized that the tenants were represented by counsel who intended to present a vigorous defense, the landlord backed down and did not serve the Unlawful Detainer actions already filed. The new ownership ultimately dismissed the original complaints and instead served 15-day notices to pay or quit. CRLAF assisted the tenants to serve declarations of COVID-19 related financial distress and compute the amount of rent they would need to pay to retain their tenancies. 

 

  • In Claveron Farming, a farm labor contractor (“FLC”) failed to pay 16 farmworkers any of their wages owed for one week of work in July 2020. The FLC failed to respond to the workers’ and CRLAF’s demands for payment of these wages plus applicable penalties under California law and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. After a demand letter to the client employer, the client employer agreed to settle the case for $30,000.

 

  • CRLAF reached a $2.65 million dollar settlement in recovered back wages for unpaid overtime, meal and rest premium wages, and out-pocket expenses for tools and equipment for over 400 farmworkers, in Lizarraga v. Grower’s Choice (2020). 

 

  • Flores-Ayon v. Van Exel Dairy (2020), the court approved a settlement of $450,000 for unpaid overtime and meal and rest period compensation for approximately 144 dairy workers.

 

  • CRLAF resolved a mobile park case on behalf of Bell Trailer Village (2020), whose 50 families faced eviction due to the park’s non-compliance. CRLAF helped negotiate additional time to permit the park and tenants to come into compliance; all tenants were able to remain in their homes.

 

  • The Unit also represented a number of individual tenants to protect against various housing violations and injustices to maintain housing for and among low-income, migrant farmworkers and other rural poor residents.

 

Recent Amicus Briefs

  • CRLAF co-wrote an amicus curiae brief with CRLA, Inc. submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in Cedar Point Nursery, et al., v. Hassid, et al., (2021), which involved a California regulation affording union organizers a limited right to access property where agricultural workers are working. We explained the particular working and housing conditions and demographics of farmworkers and the agricultural industry which warranted such an access regulation to permit farmworkers to exercise their organizing rights. In addition, we argued that this regulation did not constitute a per se taking under the Court’s precedent.

 

  • Co-authored two amicus briefs with partner California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. on two cases, Adolph v. Uber before the California Supreme Court (2019 - 2022) and Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana before the U.S. Supreme Court (2021-2022), threatening the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA), a critical workers’ protection measure allowing aggrieved employees to file lawsuits to recover civil penalties on behalf of themselves, other employees, and the State of California for Labor Code violations. 

 

  • Co-authored an amicus brief with CRLA submitted to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (“ALRB”) in 2022 to further protect farmworkers misclassified by growers and that the misclassification of farmworkers is a per se violation of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act.  

 

  • Alongside partners, CRLAF submitted a brief to the California Supreme Court in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. (2020), urging the Court to determine that premium pay must be included on wage statements and paid in full when an employee quits or is discharged.

“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.”
- Cesar Chavez

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