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Fed court issues $385K judgment against blueberry growers

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ Some Washington blueberry growers have admitted that they systematically violated the rights of their agricultural workers over a period of years.

That includes failing to pay the minimum wage and overtime in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 growing seasons.

The U.S. Department of Labor filed suit, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington entered a consent judgment in favor of the government on all counts.

Thursday’s ruling requires the Walla Walla County growers to pay $385,318 in unpaid wages and damages to pickers and packing shed workers.

The growers, who include Blue Mountain Farms, must also pay $20,000 in civil penalties to the federal government.

In 2013, investigators discovered the growers were paying hundeds of “shadow” workers off the books in Walla Walla County fields.