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Farm worker lawsuit settled

Both sides agree to ‘fair, reasonable, and adequate’ amount

A lawsuit claiming the owner of a Wayne County farm did not pay a worker as required by state and federal law has been settled for $15,000.

The defendants in the case are Smith Family Farms LLC, Smith Family Acres LLC, owner Stephen Smith and operations manager Stephen Britt.

Plaintiff Robert Mein and the defendants filed a nine-page stipulation and agreement of settlement on Monday in U.S. District Court in Rochester.

Based on the potential cost, time and uncertainty of the outcome, both sides agreed on what they consider “fair, reasonable, and adequate,” according to the document.

Mein is represented by John Anthony Marsella and Robert David McCreanor, attorneys from the Worker Justice Center of New York.

The 13-page complaint filed in May is the first lawsuit filed under New York state’s Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (FLFLA), which took effect Jan. 1, and gives workers the right to unionize, receive overtime pay and a get a day of rest.

The complaint also made claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, New York Labor Law, and New York Real Property Law.

Mein was hired as a farm hand on Oct. 21 and fired on Feb. 21. He was not paid overtime wages when he worked more than 60 hours per week, according to the suit. He was paid less than $4 per hour while working as much as 80 hours per week, the suit claims.

“Despite his tireless work, defendants denied plaintiff minimum wage and overtime pay and subjected him to numerous unlawful employment, housing, and payroll practices,” the suit claims.

Farm owner Stephen Smith, in May, said Mein was paid properly, and fired “because he didn’t show up.”

Mein worked six or seven days a week from 6 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m., according to the lawsuit. He worked an alternating schedule of seven days in one week (80.5 hours) and six days in the next week (69 hours), with every other Saturday off, according to the suit.

Mein was never paid extra in overtime pay when he worked more than 60 hours in a week. And he never got pay stubs or payroll information, according to the suit.

Under the terms of the settlement, Mein will get $13,500 of the settlement funds while the Worker Justice Center will get $1,500 for attorney’s fees.

The settlement still must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford, who has scheduled a public hearing to be conducted by telephone on Aug. 24.

Smith is represented by Scott S. Allen Jr., a senior associate at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP in Buffalo.

Attorneys for both sides did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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