In March 2018, Cohen Milstein, along with co-counsel Towards Justice and Thierman Buck LLP, filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the February 13, 2018 District Court dismissal of the case on jurisdictional grounds.
On June 19, 2019, a split Ninth Circuit ruled that the plaintiffs had met the standards for keeping their suit in federal court, thereby reviving the class action brought by a group of foreign H-2A visa shepherds, who accused several ranches of underpaying them.
On May 15, 2017, Cohen Milstein and co-counsel filed an amended putative class action on behalf of shepherds employed in Nevada through the H-2A visa program who worked for Western Range Association (WRA), El Tejon Sheep Company, Mountain Plains Agricultural Service, and Estill Ranches LLC over the past six years.
The H-2A is a special U.S. visa program that authorizes agricultural employers to recruit and hire temporary workers from outside of the United States, but requires them to comply with certain rules to ensure that the H-2A program is not used to undercut the wages that would be paid to U.S. workers. This includes paying the higher of either federal or state minimum wage.
The shepherds allege that they worked long hours on a daily basis, and were paid far below minimum wage in Nevada, which, unlike federal law, does not exempt agricultural workers from its protection.
The Court did not rule on the merits, but held that the H-2A regulations so clearly required compliance with state minimum wage law, that there was no federal question to resolve, thus making federal question jurisdiction unavailable. Plaintiffs also asserted jurisdiction under CAFA, and have appealed the district court’s findings as to the amount in controversy, which they assert clearly exceeds $5 million as to WRA.
Case name: Castillo, et al. v. Western Range Association, et.al., No.3:16-cv-00237 (D. Nev.)
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