[8/6/21] Gebbers Farms Settles With State

Posted in Agriculture, Health

The State Department of Labor & Industries has reached a settlement with Gebbers Farms in Brewster following one of the largest workplace safety and health fines in state history.  Under the agreement, Gebbers Farms will spend more than $2 million improving housing, quality of life, safety, and access to health care for workers and their families.

Gebbers Farms was fined more than two million dollars after two inspections last year found two dozen egregious willful violations — 12 for unsafe sleeping arrangements in temporary worker housing, and 12 for unsafe worker transportation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Two farmworkers died from COVID-19 while living and working on the farm. Gebbers was also cited for six other serious violations including not reporting a fatality.

The other investigation found the farm was not ensuring adequate social distancing by allowing workers to use both top and bottom bunks, and there were no barriers in the kitchen/cooking areas.

Under the settlement, Gebbers will make approximately $1.4 million in capital improvements to temporary worker housing, including: demolishing and rebuilding one of its older, temporary worker housing camps built in the 1970s, as well as building and maintaining recreation areas including a soccer field, picnic tables, and benches.  The company will also donate more than half a million dollars to improve access to health care for workers and their families. The money will go to area hospitals, health care centers, emergency medical services, day care and recreational centers serving the workers and their families.

And Gebbers will spend $150,000 to hire a full-time safety officer for three years who will oversee and supervise worker safety and health.

In exchange for these actions that exceed all existing state regulatory requirements, the fines resulting from the citations will be reduced to $10,000.

L & I Director Joel Sacks said because a court could not order Gebbers to make these changes, it’s a better result for workers than L&I could have achieved through litigation.