(Oct. 4) A jury in Yakima, Wash., decided Los Angeles-based labor contractor Global Horizons must pay more than $300,000 in damages for discriminating against workers and violating federal labor laws.

The Associated Press reported Sept. 28 that the contractor said the workers in the case either quit or were terminated for cause and said it would appeal the court’s decision.

In July, a federal judge found Global Horizons, and growers Valley Fruit Orchards of Wapato, and Green Acre Farms of Harrah, both in Yakima County, in violation of state and federal labor laws.

Chris Schlect, president of the Yakima-based Northwest Horticultural Council, said the case’s direct effect is limited to the parties involved. However, he said growers are paying attention.

“Our growers are concerned about the legal risks as clearly evidenced by this judgment, but many of them continue to look at the H-2A program as the only apparent legal way to harvest ever-larger crops,” he said.

A shortage of local labor, combined with federal enforcement against illegal immigrants, is elevating the importance of the H-2A program, he said.