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Varnum Prevails for Family-Owned Ag Business in Employment Violation Claims 

December 21, 2023

Varnum defended wholesale plant grower Spring Meadow Nursery in an action brought by former employees who were dismissed for repeated violations of workplace and housing rules. The former employees sued the nursery, alleging they were terminated in retaliation for raising concerns about COVID-19 safety protocols, which they claimed the employer violated.  

The matter stemmed from the May 2020 dismissal of five agricultural workers shortly after the group came to the nursery to perform seasonal work under the federal H2A program. They were terminated for repeated violations of work and housing rules, including illegal alcohol possession, tampering with security cameras, and misconduct that included unauthorized possession and use of a pellet gun near the employer’s greenhouses. Following their dismissal, the group filed a lawsuit alleging their employer breached their employment contract by firing them in retaliation for raising concerns about COVID-19 safety. 

In its arguments in support of its Motion for Summary Disposition, Varnum was able to show via overwhelming photographic, documentary, and testimonial evidence that Spring Meadow Nursery had rigorously followed all COVID-19 safety protocols during the 2020 growing season. 

Ottawa County Circuit Court granted summary disposition on three of the four claims, with the Plaintiffs agreeing to walk away from the final claim. As a result, Spring Meadow Nursery was able to dispel the false allegations without paying any money to the Plaintiffs. Varnum attorneys Brion Doyle and Ashleigh Draft led the Varnum litigation team.

“We fought hard for over three years, first through Federal Court and then locally in Ottawa County,” said Spring Meadow Nursery General Manager Jeremy Deppe. “Frivolous lawsuits have become all too common, hurting Michigan farmers who lack the funds and wherewithal to fight back. Spring Meadow Nursery was proud to work alongside Varnum in this historic decision.”

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