Earlier this year, I posted about a recently filed class action lawsuit involving contract poultry growers, arguing that they were employees of Amick Farms and not independent contractors. For anyone needing a refresher on a class action lawsuit, I encourage you to check out that post. Another class action lawsuit filed in Georgia by growers for Perdue argues the growers are employees and not independent contractors. The lawsuit also contends that Perdue failed to pay the growers the federal minimum wage and overtime and breached the grower agreement by calling the growers independent contractors. This new lawsuit is Parker v. Perdue Farms, Inc., No. 5:22-cv-00268-TES.
The Biden administration recently announced a proposed regulation to revise the Packers and Stockyards Act to require more disclosures to contract poultry growers. These regulations would fully replace the proposed regulations announced by the Trump administration. The regulations being proposed by USDA are to combat a concern by USDA that poultry growers are not fully aware of the financial risks associated with flock placements and the tournament system. At the same time, there is a concern that growers potentially are making financial decisions involving improvements to houses without fully understanding the financial risks. The proposed rules would assist in combating that. The current administration’s proposed regulations are similar to efforts made at the end of the Obama administration to create transparency in the tournament system.
Back in 2018, I posted on a federal district court decision involving a challenge to a USDA loan guarantee granted to a new Maryland poultry farm in Caroline County. Food & Water Watch (FWW) had challenged the environmental assessment required at the time to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); see that information here. In 2018, the federal district held that FWW had standing to bring the challenge. Still, a federal court of appeals recently reversed this decision. A two-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, agreed that FWW did not have standing.
The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, in Uninsured Employers’ Fund v. Tyson Farms, Inc., recently agreed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission that a poultry farm manager’s occupational disease disablement arose out of his co-employment to both the poultry farm owner and the poultry company, Tyson Farms, Inc. Tyson may appeal to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, but growers and companies should consider the possible implications of this decision.