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A south-bound train passes farm workers shortly after sunrise on October 10, 2007 in the Coachella Valley near Mecca, California. Some Coachella Valley farmworkers are suing over poor working conditions and retaliation once they complained.
A group of Coachella Valley farmworkers is suing a Ventura County grower, as laborers claim the grower forced them to work in dangerously hot conditions and fired them when they complained.
The farmworkers say the grower let them go after they refused to pick bell peppers on a day that temperatures topped 110 degrees.
“According to the National Weather Service that day, the peak temperature was 111," said Megan Beaman, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance who's representing the workers.
“So not only were they working under extreme temperatures," Beaman said, "they were also working under extreme production requirements.”
The lawsuit claims that supervisors from Chuy and Sons Labor pushed crews to fill and empty baskets of bell peppers as quickly as possible, and even urged them to run. When the workers complained, the supervisors dismissed them for the day and told them to come back the next morning. They did, but their bosses didn’t.
Attorney Beaman said the workers seek lost wages and improved working conditions, especially during the hottest months.
“A provision in the company policies that provides for adequate rest periods or for extra shade provisions or for some additional type of protections," said Beamn, "that will ensure that workers are not reaching a point where they have to walk off the worksite to protect their own health and safety.”
An attorney who represents Chuy and Sons told the Palm Springs Desert Sun that the company already has a heat safety program in place and abides by federal health and safety rules.