CA: Azcona Harvesting Pays $55,000 for Failing to Take Employees to a Doctor Immediately After Pesticide Exposure


Monterey, CA ( - Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni announced today that her Environmental Protection Unit entered into a stipulated judgment with Azcona Harvesting, LLC for failing to take their employees to a physician immediately after they were exposed to pesticides through drift. The judgment requires Azcona Harvesting to pay a $55,000 civil penalty and includes an injunction prohibiting them from violating this requirement in the future. Reiter Berry Farms, Inc., the party responsible for the pesticide application at issue, had previously stipulated to a judgment requiring payment of $195,200 in civil penalties and costs, as well as an injunction, for violations related to pesticide drift.

On June 28, 2017, at approximately 5:30 a.m., employees of Reiter Berry Farms (which markets its berries under the Driscoll’s label) began a pesticide application to the Hartnell Ranch in Salinas. At around 6:30 a.m., an Azcona Harvesting crew arrived at Madison Farms’ Norton Ranch, which neighbors the Hartnell Ranch, and began harvesting berries. Within two hours, 27 fieldworkers from Azcona’s harvesting crew began developing symptoms of pesticide exposure including, among other things, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, eye irritation, and headaches.

Worker safety laws require an employer to immediately take an employee to a physician when: (1) there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an employee has a pesticide illness; or (2) when an exposure to a pesticide has occurred that might reasonably be expected to lead to an employee’s illness. While Azcona Harvesting took three employees who vomited to a physician, they failed to take the other employees who were: (1) experiencing symptoms related to pesticide exposure; and (2) who were not exhibiting symptoms but were exposed and might have developed symptoms.

Both Azcona Harvesting and Reiter Berry Farms cooperated with the District Attorney’s Office during its investigation.  The Agricultural Commissioner’s Office also investigated this incident.

Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales stated, “Agricultural employers must plan for the eventuality of farmworkers getting exposed to pesticides while working in the fields.  All sick and exposed workers must be taken immediately to receive emergency medical care. If employers are unsure, they should err on the side of caution.”

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