Posted: Thursday, May 03, 2012 11:00 AM
A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by foreign guestworkers against a sheep rancher in Washington.
Last year, several Chilean citizens hired through the federal H-2A guest worker program filed a legal complaint against rancher Max Fernandez of Centerville, Wash., and the Western Range Association non-profit group.
Plaintiffs in the case -- Elvis Ruiz, Francisco Javier Castro and Eduardo Martinez -- claim they were paid inadequate wages by the rancher and the association.
Among other allegations, the former employees claim they were paid as sheep herders when they actually worked primarily as ranch hands, which entitled them to higher wages.
Fernandez and the association asked the judge to dismiss the case because the workers should have pursued their claims through an administrative process with the U.S. Labor Department.
Chief U.S. District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson has rejected the argument that federal law bars the ex-workers from pursuing their lawsuit in federal court.