Court Determined Department of Labor Violated Law
June 20, 2014

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invalidated Labor Department rules that exempt herder employers from key labor protections, including wage-and-hour rules and requirements for workers' housing conditions.

The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by a group of herders who originally came to the United States on H-2A visas, but now have legal immigration status and claim that lax visa standards have driven down working conditions for not just immigrants but U.S. workers as well.

The court ruled that the Department of Labor (DOL) had violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the federal rule-making process, by changing the rules without holding a public comment period. The case will be remanded to the lower court to determine whether to vacate the rules immediately or leave all or a portion of them in place while the DOL undertakes a new rule-making.

In 2011, the DOL updated procedures setting minimum wages and working conditions employers must offer U.S. sheepherders, goat herders and cattle herders before hiring foreign labor.

The suit is being pushed by known labor activist groups including the Colorado Legal Services.