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Sixth Circuit Holds Cucumber Harvesters Were Employees, Not Independent Contractors

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Liza C. Moore
Foster Swift Agricultural Law News
July 17, 2015

On June 22, 2015, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment from the Western District of Michigan that a farm had violated provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Perez v. D. Howes, LLC, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 10476 (6th Cir. June 22, 2015). The Secretary of Labor filed the lawsuit after the Department of Labor conducted an investigation at the defendant’s cucumber fields. The court held that the cucumber harvesters were employees, not independent contractors, under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The district court considered six factors in determining whether a worker was an employee or independent contractor, including:

  1. the degree of permanency and duration of the relationship between the parties;
  2. the degree of skill required for rendering the services;
  3. the worker’s investment in equipment or materials required for the task;
  4. the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on his skill;
  5. the nature and degree of the alleged employer’s control over the worker’s performance; and
  6. the extent to which the services rendered are an integral part of the alleged employer’s business.

The Sixth Circuit’s decision affirming Perez v. Howes, 7 F. Supp. 3d 715 (W.D. Mich. 2014) (Judge Quist) was short because the district court “fully articulated” its decision.