By J. Edward Moreno
Law360 (July 6, 2021, 9:09 PM EDT) -- Pilgrim's Pride Corp., a subsidiary of JBS, has reached a $29 million settlement with workers who claim it conspired with other poultry companies to keep their wages low.
In addition to the monetary settlement, which must be approved by a Maryland federal judge, Pilgrim's agreed to cooperate with the plaintiffs' case against the remaining defendants in the suit, which include other large poultry companies such as Tyson Foods Inc. and Koch Foods LLC, according to the settlement filed Friday.
The settlement requires Pilgrim's to allow the deposition of five of its employees and turn over a trove of documents related to the accusations. The plaintiffs also agreed not to bring additional claims against Pilgrim's arising from this particular case.
"The settlement agreement allows plaintiffs to secure key evidence — in the form of documents, deposition testimony, and trial testimony — from Pilgrim's and its employees," the settlement said.
The settlement was proposed by mediator Eric D. Green after a full-day mediation session, the filing says.
George Farah, a partner at Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC and one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, called the agreement an "excellent settlement for the class of workers who were deprived of fair compensation for their grueling and dangerous work."
"It provides both a sizable financial recovery and cooperation in the litigation against the remaining defendants," Farah said in a statement to Law360.
The workers allege in the 2019 lawsuit that the poultry processors, which together own and run roughly 200 poultry plants in the United States, held clandestine meetings and traded information in an effort to tamp down wages for hundreds of thousands of workers at their facilities. The suit also names two consulting companies, Webber Meng Sahl & Co. Inc. and Agri Stats Inc., that the workers allege were part of the scheme.
The poultry companies have since made several efforts to trim and dismiss the case, most recently in March when U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher shot down three separate attempts to dismiss the case by Jennie-O Turkey Store Inc., Mountaire Farms Inc. and Sanderson Farms Inc. on various grounds.
The workers are represented by Matthew Handley, Rachel Nadas, George Farah, Rebecca Chang and William Anderson of Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC, Daniel Small, Benjamin Brown, Brent Johnson, Daniel Silverman, Alison Deich and Zach Glubiak of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Steve Berman, Breanna Van Engelen, Shana Scarlett and Rio Pierce of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.
Pilgrim's is represented by Aaron L. Casagrande of Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLP and Adam Hemlock, Carrie C. Mahan and Christopher J. Abbott of Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP.
The case is Jien et al. v. Perdue Farms Inc. et al., case number 1:19-cv-2521, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.