State sues Yakima orchards, claiming they owe workers $450,000 in back wages

YAKIMA — The state Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against two Yakima orchards and the couple that owns them, seeking $450,000 in back wages it says are owed workers.

The suit, filed Aug. 18 in Yakima County Superior Court and announced Wednesday in a state news release, is based on a state Department of Labor and Industries investigation. It alleges that G&G Orchards Inc. and RC Orchards LLC, both owned by Rene and Carmen Garcia, underpaid workers by $408,000 for piece-rate work and failed to pay $42,000 for time workers spent waiting for equipment to be repaired. More than 400 workers were not paid correctly, according to the release.

“These workers earned every dollar they’re owed,” Chris Bowe, assistant director of L&I’s Fraud Prevention and Labor Standards Division said in the release. “With the Attorney General’s Office, we’re doing what’s necessary to uphold a high standard of respect for the dignity of workers and what they do.”

A message seeking comment from the Garcias, who are named in the suit along with their companies, had not been returned by late Wednesday afternoon.

Last year the Garcias and both companies, along with two others they own, paid $240,000 in a settlement with seven H-2A farmworkers who had alleged forced labor and employment violations in a federal lawsuit.

According to the release, the companies “rebuffed extensive efforts to reach a settlement” in this case.

Source: Wenatchee World