Feds win key ruling in Michigan farm labor lawsuit

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COPEMISH, Mich. (AP) - A judge says more than 30 workers who picked cucumbers at a northern Michigan farm in 2011 were employees, not contractors, and are covered by federal wage law.

Grand Rapids federal Judge Gordon Quist ruled in favor of the U.S. Labor Department in a lawsuit against Darryl Howes and his farm in Manistee County. Howes is accused of violating laws during the cucumber harvest three years ago.

The farm grows cucumbers that are turned into pickles. The judge says the workers were dependent on Howes and not in business for themselves.

The government claims migrant workers got less than the minimum wage and were given poor housing. Quist didn’t give a view on wages in his March 17 opinion. Settlement talks are set for May 28.

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