Amick Farms Accused of Independent Contractor Misclassification

Plaintiffs Michael Diaz, Jean-Nichole Diaz, and Diaz Family Farms, LLC have filed suit against defendant Amick Farms, LLC on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated. The suit, which was filed on Monday in the District of South Carolina, alleges that the defendant misclassified the plaintiffs as independent contractors. The complaint asserts that the plaintiffs were treated as controlled employees, rather than independent contractors, under both federal and South Carolina employee law.

By classifying them as independent contractors, the defendant was able to avoid providing the plaintiffs with standard benefits despite knowing “that Plaintiffs should have been classified as employees based on the level of control Defendant exercised over Plaintiff’s chicken growing operation.”

Most of the chickens raised for meat consumption (broilers) today are raised by independent farmers who are contracted by larger companies, the complaint explained. Today, the larger companies have effectively consolidated the industry and control nearly every facet of broiler production. This includes growing the chicken feed, hatching the chicks, veterinary care, transportation, slaughtering, and selling the final product. Despite having this level of control, larger companies like the defendant promise growers like the plaintiff that they will run their own operations as an independent contractor.

By contracting farmers like the plaintiff, the defendant can offload “enormous capital costs and financial risks onto its growers.” These costs include constructing chicken houses, upgrading equipment, managing waste, and potentially losing chickens to natural disasters or other unexpected circumstances.

Effectively, the complaint explains that the defendant has “devised a scheme to saddle growers with risk and debt, while at the same time directing and controlling every aspect of the chicken growing process and refusing to compensate growers in the manner that federal and state law require.”

If the plaintiffs were rightfully classified as employees, they would receive benefits under ERISA, minimum wage, and would not have to pay for improvements that are required by their employer.

The complaint cites a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the South Carolina Payment of Wages Act, the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act, breach of contract accompanied by a fraudulent act, breach of contract: implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and benefits under ERISA. The plaintiff is seeking class certification, favorable judgment on all counts, compensatory and punitive damages, restitution, litigation fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, declaratory judgment that the plaintiff and class members are employees, and equitable, injunctive, and declaratory relief.The plaintiffs are represented by Duffy & Young LLC.