Some (Don’t) Like It Hot: The Use of the 'Hot Goods' Injunction in Perishable Agriculture
24 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2014 Last revised: 16 May 2015
Date Written: May 15, 2015
From 2001 to 2013, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) used “hot goods” injunctions to crack down on suspected violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act by farmers who employed migrant workers. While the DOL’s use of the “hot goods” injunction in perishable agriculture is an effective tool for protecting the rights of farmworkers, the injunction creates special hurdles for growers of perishable goods — food that will spoil if not shipped quickly, such as berries and fruits. For these growers, the potential of a “hot goods” injunction is equivalent to losing an entire crop. Even a “hot goods” objection — that is, the threat of an injunction issued before any court proceedings — can ruin an entire crop because distributors and wholesalers refuse to purchase potentially “hot goods.” By the time the matter is sorted out, the crop has spoiled. In early 2014, an Oregon district court vacated a consent judgment between the DOL and a blueberry grower because the court found that the “hot goods” objection placed the grower under economic duress. This Note examines the DOL’s use of the “hot goods” injunction in perishable agriculture and analyzes whether the challenges facing growers outweigh the rights of migrant farmworkers, who face special obstacles when trying to enforce their rights. This Note concludes that while the “hot goods” objection is unwarranted because it imposes severe hardships on growers without affording them adequate legal protections, the DOL’s use of the “hot goods” injunction affords growers adequate protections and is a necessary enforcement tool to protect the rights of migrant farmworkers who face many obstacles in enforcing their rights.
Keywords: hot goods, FLSA, farmworkers, agriculture, blueberries
JEL Classification: K31, K39, J30, J31, J38, J43, J61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation