Dairy veterinarians appeal trafficking lawsuit dismissal

Posted at 2:48 AM, Jun 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-20 04:48:23-04

BOISE, Idaho — A group of Mexican veterinarians who recently lost a lawsuit they filed against an Idaho dairy under human trafficking laws say they'll appeal the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Attorneys for the veterinarians filed the notice of appeal in Boise's U.S. District Court on Monday.

U.S. District Judge David Nye dismissed the lawsuit last month, writing that while managers at Funk Dairy Inc. in southern Idaho used intimidating language in talking to the workers once they arrived at the diary, the managers' actions didn't rise to the level of forcing the veterinarians to work.

The veterinarians — Cesar Martinez-Rodriguez, Dalia Padilla-Lopez, Mayra Munoz-Lara, Brenda Gastelum-Sierra, Leslie Ortiz-Garcia and Ricardo Neri-Camacho — claimed in the lawsuit that they were recruited to be animal scientists at the dairy in the small town of Murtaugh but instead were forced to work as laborers. They contended that their employers exploited their fear, inability to speak English and unfamiliarity with the American legal system to force them to work 12-hour days in poor conditions.

They said they were denied meal breaks, given substandard housing and in some cases denied adequate medical care when they were injured on the job.

Attorneys for the dairy said in court documents that while the veterinarians were expected to do hard work, they were free to quit or leave the job at any time, and contended that all six of the workers were recruited and hired legally under appropriate work visas.

The judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit, in part because he said the fact that three of the veterinarians eventually quit and three others were fired showed that they weren't forced to stay at the dairy. Nye said if they were truly forced to do labor, they would not have been allowed to leave the dairy.