The Worker Justice Center of New York has filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking class action status on behalf of former employees of W.D. Henry & Sons, Inc. and related companies owned and operated by Dan and Mark Henry in Eden, New York.
Since at least 2001, W.D. Henry & Sons, Inc. has recruited and profited from the labor of U.S. citizen residents of Villalba, Puerto Rico who have reliably traveled each season at their own expense to upstate New York and worked long hours in the company’s fields and packing facilities.
Beginning in 2016, W.D. Henry & Sons, Inc. began to take steps to replace their U.S. citizen Puerto Rican employees with temporary foreign guest workers under the H-2A visa program. Under federal law, agricultural employers are prohibited from displacing U.S. workers in favor of foreign guest workers. Moreover, all U.S. employees are entitled to the same benefits and working conditions as their H-2A guest worker counterparts. Seeking to evade these legal requirements, W.D. Henry & Sons, Inc. drastically reduced the work hours of its U.S. citizen employees, misrepresented the rights of U.S. workers to higher paying employment opportunities provided to H-2A guest workers, summarily evicted U.S. farm workers from their housing to make room for H-2A guest workers, withheld wages from U.S. workers in order to coerce them into signing false declarations as purported evidence of abandonment of their jobs, and failed to recruit and re-hire their U.S. workers as required by law. The company did this during the same time that their Puerto Rican employees’ home community was devasted by Hurricane Maria, when they were in desperate need of employment.