A putative class action has been filed against individual plant managers and human resources personnel responsible for hiring employees at 16 Perdue Farms, Inc. facilities in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the hiring of illegal immigrants. Walters v. McMahen, No. 10-257 (M.D. Ala., filed March 22, 2010). The named plaintiffs seek to represent a class of legally employed workers whose wages were allegedly depressed because of the illegal scheme to hire at “extremely low wages” hundreds of employees who were in this country illegally. The plaintiffs also seek treble damages, preliminary and permanent injunctions, attorney’s fees, and costs.

Among other matters, the plaintiffs allege that the illegal hiring scheme consisted of (i) “hiring workers who have previously been employed at Perdue under different identities”; (ii) hiring workers known to be using false identity documents; (iii) “hiring workers who cannot speak English while claiming to be U.S. citizens”; (iv) “falsely attesting under penalty of perjury on I-9 Forms issued by the U.S. Government that an employee’s identification document(s) appears genuine and relates to the person tendering them”; and (v) coaching illegal immigrants when hired to claim a high number of dependents to reduce the tax withholding. The plaintiffs also allege that the defendants “tip off” the illegal employees before government raids to ensure they will not be arrested, stating “former Perdue employees have explained that on days when there are visits by the government or rumors of such visits/raids, the Perdue Facilities are noticeably emptier and many production lines are unable to run.”

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.