Minnesota officials have announced what they call one of the largest wage theft lawsuits in state history. The case involves a dairy operator northwest of the Twin Cities.
Keith Ellison, Minnesota Attorney General, detailed the civil suit against Evergreen Acres Dairy in Stearns County on Monday. His office estimates that Evergreen owes its employees at least $3 million in unpaid wages. The state says most of those affected are migrant workers who were also subject to substandard living conditions in onsite housing.
Ellison said these workers showed a lot of bravery in sharing their experiences. “This is an employer who’s not only paying their wages but also [is] their landlord at the same time, so they were concerned,” he explained.
The suit accuses Evergreen of exploiting vulnerable individuals who were forced to work demanding 12-hour shifts at least six days per week. In addition to seeking restitution, Ellison’s office is pursuing civil penalties and for the company to end the practices it’s accused of. Management officials with Evergreen Acres did not respond to a request for comment.
Ellison added not only do cases like these affect the workers, but also competitors who are playing by the rules.
“The economy depends upon fairness and people following the law and the rules,” Ellison contended.
Ellison said updates to Minnesota law in recent years have created more opportunities to pursue these investigations. But he stressed a decision regarding any criminal charges against the company lies with local officials. Despite more awareness, the Attorney General says wage theft remains a pervasive issue in Minnesota and across the nation.
Mike Moen writes for the Minnesota News Connection.