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Rivera v. Peri & Sons Farms, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

November 13, 2013

Victor Rivera RIVERA; Ernesto Sebastian Castillo Rios; Vicente Cornejo Lugo; Jesus Garcia Mata; Luis Angel Garcia Mata; Gaudencio Garcia Rios; Simon Garcia Rios; Vicente Cornejo Cruz; Emilio Montoya Morales; Jorge Luis Aguilar Solano; Domingo Ramos Rios; Artemio Rincon Cruz; Sergio Rios Ramos; Pedro Rivera Camacho; Regulo Rincon Cruz; Aureliano Montes Montes; Manuel Rivera Rivera; Martin Flores Bravo; Virgilio Marquez Lara; Jose Balderas Guerrero; Gerardo Rios Ramos, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
PERI & SONSFARMS, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

Argued and Submitted June 14, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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José Jorge Behar, Chicago, IL, argued the cause and filed the briefs for the plaintiffs-appellants. With him on the briefs were Matthew J. Piers, Chicago, IL, and Mark R. Thierman, Reno, NV.

Brad Johnston, Yerington, NV, argued the cause for the defendant-appellee. Gregory A. Eurich, Denver, CO, and Joseph Neguese, Denver, CO, filed the brief for the defendant-appellee.

Diane A. Heim, Washington, D.C., argued the cause and filed the brief for Amicus Curiae Secretary of Labor, in support of the plaintiffs-appellants. With her on the briefs were M. Patricia Smith, Washington, D.C., Jennifer S. Brand, Washington, D.C., and Paul L. Frieden, Washington, D.C.

Monte B. Lake, Washington, D.C., filed the brief for Amicus Curiae National Council of Agricultural Employers, in support of the defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, Robert Clive Jones, Chief District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 3:11-cv-00118-RCJ-VPC.

Before: DIARMUID F. O'SCANNLAIN and MILAN D. SMITH, JR., Circuit Judges, and JAMES K. SINGLETON, Senior District Judge.[*]

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OPINION

O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge:

We are asked to decide claims of Mexican temporary farmworkers under the Fair Labor Standards Act and relevant state law.

I

A

Peri & Sons is a Nevada corporation that produces, harvests, and packages onions.[1] The plaintiffs are Victor Rivera Rivera and twenty-three other Mexican citizens (" the farmworkers" ) admitted to the United States to cultivate, harvest, and process onions on Peri & Sons' farm. Since 2004, Peri & Sons has hired such foreign workers through the H-2A program of the United States Department of Labor (DOL).

American agricultural employers may hire aliens for temporary labor under the H-2A program if the DOL certifies that:

(A) there are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services involved in the petition, and
(B) the employment of the alien in such labor or services will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed.

8 U.S.C. § 1188(a)(1). Before submitting an Application for Temporary Employment Certification, see 20 C.F.R. § 655.130, an " employer must submit a job order," id. § 655.121(a)(1). Job orders must comply with various requirements relating to the terms of employment. See, e.g., id. § 655.122.

The farmworkers incurred expenses related to their employment with Peri & Sons. Some had to pay a hiring or recruitment fee of between $100 and $500 to Peri & Sons' employees in order to be considered for employment. All had to obtain H-2A visas from the United States Consulate in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico. Each farmworker paid the necessary fees and covered his own lodging costs in Hermosillo. The farmworkers also paid a fee to obtain Form I-94 from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services upon entering the country. These immigration and travel expenses exceeded $400 for each plaintiff. In addition, the farmworkers purchased protective gloves, which were required for the performance of their jobs, at a cost of at least $10 per week. They each also incurred expenses of at least $100 in traveling from Peri & Sons' farm in Nevada back to their homes in Mexico.

The farmworkers claim that these expenses were primarily for Peri & Sons' benefit but that the company did not properly reimburse them.

B

The farmworkers filed their original complaint on February 16, 2011. The operative complaint for this appeal, however, is the Second Amended Complaint (SAC), which contained four counts. First, the SAC alleged that Peri & Sons violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., partially because it failed to reimburse each farmworker during his first week of employment for travel and immigration expenses. Second, it

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claimed that Peri & Sons breached its employment contracts by violating the terms of the job orders submitted to the DOL. Third, it alleged violations of Nevada wage-and-hour laws for failure to pay the minimum wage and failure to pay wages owed under employment contracts. Fourth, it asserted violations of the minimum wage requirement in the Nevada Constitution.

The district court dismissed the SAC with prejudice. It rejected the farmworkers' FLSA claims on the ground that 29 C.F.R. § 531.35 did not treat the relevant expenses as kickbacks. The district court dismissed the breach of contract claims because the farmworkers did not plead specific violations of the contracts beyond reiterating the wage claims. As to the state law statutory and constitutional claims, the district court treated them as " redundant" and dismissed both for the same reason it dismissed the FLSA claims. It also applied a two-year statute of limitations ...


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