Class-action suit advances over Gerawan’s payment of farmworkers

A federal judge in Fresno is allowing a class-action lawsuit to move forward against Gerawan Farming, one of Fresno County’s largest agriculture companies.

The lawsuit, filed in 2014, alleges that Gerawan has violated state and federal laws, including failing to pay minimum wages, failing to compensate employees for breaks, and failing to pay wages owed.

Gerawan’s attorney, David Schwarz, said the company had not broken the law.

“Class certification motions are often granted, seldom denied, and have nothing to do with the merits of the case,” Schwarz said. “Gerawan’s history of paying the industry’s highest wages is undeniable. Nothing in the allegations disproves nor even alleges otherwise.”

The May 20 decision by federal Judge Dale A. Drozd means the case can proceed as a class action on behalf of the thousands of workers employed by Gerawan from Feb. 3, 2010, to the present.

The number of current or former Gerawan workers who could benefit could be in the thousands.

Drozd appointed the Encino law firm Kingsley & Kingsley and the Bakersfield firm Martı́nez, Aguilasocho & Lynch as co-class counsel to represent the workers.

The decision comes at a time when Gerawan Farming and the United Farm Workers union continue to battle over labor issues. Mario Martinez, a co-counsel in the class-action lawsuit, also represents the UFW in other legal matters.

Robert Rodriguez: 559-441-6327, @FresnoBeeBob