Shucks, Oysters are not Agriculture

Guest workers who worked shucking oysters for a seafood company alleged that the company violated sections of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA). The company claimed that the AWPA did not protect workers who shucked oysters.

In defining "agricultural employment," the AWPA itself references the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Internal Revenue Code. These definitions discuss, for example, "the raising of livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry," 29 U.S.C.S. § 203(f), or "cultivation, growing, and harvesting" and "products of the soil," 29 C.F.R. § 780.112, which reflect a focus on land-raised products. The Fair Labor Standards Act’s definition also expressly excludes "commodities produced by industrial techniques . . . or by uncultivated natural growth." 29 C.F.R. § 780.112. On the other hand, several definitions of "agricultural commodity" have included fish, seafood, or shellfish, such as the Food for Peace Act, the Trade Act of 1974, and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966.

After examining the language of the AWPA, legislative history, and applicable case law, the court held that “neither shucking oysters nor those who shuck oysters are covered by the AWPA. If the definition of agricultural labor or agricultural employment is to be expanded to include this kind of activity, it is up to Congress to do so by amending the statute.”

Lexis subscribers can access the opinion at: Bojorquez-Moreno v. Shores & Ruark Seafood Co., 92 F. Supp. 3d 459 (E.D. Va. 2015)

Lexis Advance subscribers can find the opinion at: Bojorquez-Moreno v. Shores & Ruark Seafood Co., 92 F. Supp. 3d 459, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33106 (E.D. Va. 2015)


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