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Best Best & Krieger LLP Partners Christopher Pisano, Jeffrey Dunn and Carlos L. Campos and Associate Daniel Richards successfully defended the City of Coachella in a lawsuit challenging its Premium “Hero” Pay for Grocery Workers Ordinance. The Western Growers Association, California Fresh Fruit Association and Growing Coachella Valley filed suit on behalf of their members claiming the Ordinance was invalid under federal and state constitutional law and other California law. The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted the City’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit on July 12 and rejected the legal challenges to the Ordinance. This is the same team that successfully defended the City of Long Beach’s Premium Pay for Grocery Workers Ordinance in February.

“This was a major win for the City of Coachella and it solidified that local governments can play an important role in protecting worker rights within their jurisdictions, particularly during times of emergency,” stated Chris, who led the City’s legal team.

The Premium Pay for Grocery Workers Ordinance required large agricultural businesses, restaurants, pharmacies and grocery stores operating within the City to pay employees an additional $4 per hour on top of their existing wages. The additional pay was to recognize the increased risks these employees faced while working through the pandemic. The Ordinance was designed to protect farm workers who must work during the pandemic so that food supply chains would continue.

BB&K’s team defended against allegations that the Ordinance was unconstitutionally vague and violated the equal protection clause of the federal and state constitutions. The plaintiffs also alleged that the Ordinance was preempted by federal immigration law, given that many of the agricultural laborers are working on temporary immigration visas, where wages are regulated by federal immigration law. Finally the plaintiffs alleged that the City’s enactment of the Ordinance violated state procedural laws.

The case is Western Growers Association, et al v. City of Coachella, et al.

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