Nearly 40 immigrant workers claim in a federal lawsuit that a central Minnesota vegetable farm shorted their paychecks and subjected them to "deplorable" working and living conditions.

The workers, who hail primarily from Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, Monday sued John Svihel and Svihel Vegetable Farm in U.S. District Court for Minnesota. They allege Svihel and his company violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

In a statement, Svihel farm said the lawsuit "is wrong on the facts and the law, full of falsehoods, mistruths and outright lies."

The workers, represented by Minneapolis law firm Chestnut Cambronne, were recruited between 2013 and 2022 to work at the Svihel farm in Foley, Minn., about 15 miles northeast of St. Cloud. They hold H-2A visas designed for temporary foreign agricultural workers.

The farm workers signed employment agreements calling for a workday of seven hours on weekdays and four hours on Saturdays, with Sundays off, the suit said. Any additional hours were to be considered overtime.

But workers didn't get Sundays off, and they often toiled 17 hours a day or over 100 hours a week — without overtime pay, the suit alleges: "Paychecks did not reflect this and were regularly shorted by several hundred dollars."

In the vegetable fields, workers were not allowed to drink water or go to the restroom, while pesticides were sprayed "on or near" them, the suit contends. Workers were allowed to go to a local grocery store only once every 15 days, contrary to once a week, as stated in their initial employment agreements, the suit said.

Svihel farm said it pays H-2A workers $18.50 an hour with overtime rates of $27.75 per hour. The company said it meets or exceeds federal and state requirements for the H-2A immigrant worker program. "We are proud of the working conditions, benefits and pay we provide."

The farm provides workers with communal housing at no cost. But in the suit, workers claim the living quarters in Foley — and in Santiago, Minn., 12 miles away — had "worn, unclean mattresses, bed bugs, cramped living spaces, extremely limited kitchen facilities and food storage, insufficient restroom facilities, and washers and dryers that required quarters to use."

Several workers claim Svihel farm and its owner subjected them to exploitation, verbal and "psychological" abuse, anxiety, humiliation and various physical ailments.

One defendant who currently lives in Honduras claims Svihel threw a cabbage at him, striking him in the face. Another, who lives in Florida, alleges he urinated on himself when Svihel refused to stop while driving workers to the fields — and was forced to work without a change of clothes.

Svihel farm called such claims "clickbait language" that's part of a "false narrative" promoted by the workers' attorneys, who are looking for "a quick pay day."

Two workers claim Svihel farm retaliated against them for speaking to the U.S. Department of Labor during its investigation of Svihel several years ago.

Svihel, his company and two labor brokers — one in Ohio and another in the Dominican Republic — were indicted in 2015 for conspiracy, allegedly requiring foreign workers in Minnesota to pay illegal fees and kickbacks. Charges included several counts of making false statements to the U.S. government.

The Ohio broker was convicted in federal court and handed a five-year prison sentence. Svihel and the Dominican broker each pleaded guilty in June 2016 to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in foreign labor contracting; the other charges were dropped.

Svihel agreed to pay workers restitution of $198,677 for kickbacks, $532,822 for unpaid overtime wages and $38,064 for unpaid wages generally. He also agreed to hire, with labor department approval, a monitor to oversee his farm's compliance with immigrant worker laws through 2017.

The allegations against Svihel farm is the latest claim of immigrant worker abuse against a Minnesota agricultural enterprise.

In March, three South African workers sued a western Minnesota manure spreading company for labor violations, asking for back wages and damages. In January, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued a Paynesville, Minn. dairy, claiming workers were forced to live in squalid conditions and were shorted $3 million in wages.

In federal bankruptcy court last fall, Minnesota's Department of Labor and Industry accused HyLife, a Canadian pork company operating a plant in Windom, Minn., of illegally withholding tens of thousands of dollars in back wages from its largely immigrant workforce, including many short-term, agricultural visa holders.