Editor's note: This story has been updated online to correct the name of an attorney.
GRAND HAVEN — Ottawa County 20th Circuit Court Judge Jon Hulsing ruled Friday that documents relating to immigration status, work authorization and tax return information were relevant in a case regarding COVID-19 protocols at an Ottawa County farm.
In the case Castaneda Sanchez, Covarrubias and Rodriguez vs. Sunrise Acres Egg Farm et al., three former workers at the Hudsonville farm allege proper COVID-19 protocols were not instituted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, leading to the workers contracting the virus and missing work.
Plaintiffs are seeking economic and emotional damages, including money for lost wages when they were in quarantine.
During a hearing Friday, an attorney representing Sunrise Acres said the defense sought evidentiary information including the workers' identification, work authorization and tax returns.
Attorney Nina Rosenbach, who is representing Sunrise Acres, said the information was necessary to determine what income was lost while the workers were sick. Rosenbach works for law firm Kopka Pinus Dolin, which has offices throughout the Midwest.
Rosenbach said the defense is aware that citizenship status and work authorization were factors in the lawsuit.
Gonzalo Peralta, an attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center representing the workers, said the information should not be discoverable and was irrelevant to the case.
Peralta added the motion to compel — a legal term to get a judge to order a party to produce evidence — was a "transparent attempt to appeal to prejudice."
Hulsing ultimately sided with the defense, telling parties the documents were "basic stuff." He asked the plaintiffs to produce the requested information within 14 days.
Peralta said the plaintiffs will appeal the decision. In addition to MIRC, the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice is also representing the workers.
Sunrise Farms has operated in Hudsonville since 1949.
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: In case of COVID-19 worker protocols, judge says immigration documents are relevant