WHD News Release: [02/19/2013]
Contact Name: Michael D’Aquino
Phone Number: (404) 562-2076
Release Number: 13-0040-ATL
San-Way Farms Inc. in Florida pays nearly $90,000 in back wages and penalties for violations following US Labor Department investigation
Ongoing initiative strengthens labor law compliance in Florida’s agricultural industry
PLANT CITY, Fla. San-Way Farms Inc. and owner Wayne Moss have paid $53,800 in back wages to 391 employees after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division disclosed significant violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The department assessed the employer an additional $35,000 in civil money penalties, which have also been paid in full.
San-Way Farms Inc., in Plant City, is an agricultural employer involved in the cultivation of strawberries and other crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and beans. San-Way Farms employs migrant and seasonal workers to perform activities related to planting and harvesting these crops. The employer has been the subject of a previous Wage and Hour Division investigation, which disclosed similar MSPA violations.
"These vulnerable migrant farm workers performed intense physical labor, planting and harvesting crops, but in turn were denied their rightful wages and many even suffered unsafe housing conditions," said James Schmidt, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Tampa District Office. "The safety and well-being of farm workers is a top priority for the department. We are pleased these workers will finally be paid the wages they are owed, and we expect that this time San-Way Farms will stay true to its commitment to maintaining future compliance with the law."
A team of investigators from the division's Tampa District Office visited the farming operation and conducted thorough inspections of migrant housing units and vehicles, reviewed payroll records, employment practices, and conducted employee interviews in English and Spanish to assess compliance with all applicable agricultural labor standards.
Investigators found many San-Way Farms employees, such as those hired to hand-harvest strawberries, were paid piece-rate wages varying from $1.75 to $3 per flat, or container, of picked crops. The employer failed to keep daily and weekly time records when employees were paid on a piece-rate basis; these employees were not paid for all hours worked, causing some employees' wages to fall below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour required by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Significant MSPA violations were also found at the farm, including failure to pay wages when due; failure to disclose employment terms and conditions to workers in a language they could understand at time of recruitment; failure to provide requisite wage statements; and failure to make and maintain legally required payroll records.
The employer also failed to meet federal health and safety standards for migrant worker housing facilities, as required under the MSPA. San-Way Farms contracted with Silver Lane, LLC a MSPA-covered housing provider, to lease trailers that served as temporary housing facilities for its migrant agricultural workers. Inspections of these housing facilities disclosed violations, such as broken windows and screens, inadequate drainage and lack of ventilation and protection against the elements. As a result of these violations, the department has also assessed Silver Lane, LLC $3,150 in civil money penalties.
San-Way Farms and owner Moss signed a settlement agreement with the department committing to future compliance and agreeing to pay all back wages and civil money penalties owed. The employer also indicated that it plans to install and utilize a new electronic timekeeping system to properly track work hours and ensure accurate payment of wages, in accordance with the law.
This investigation was conducted under a multiyear enforcement initiative aimed at strengthening compliance with labor laws in Central Florida's agricultural industry. Under this initiative, the division's Tampa District Office conducted 144 investigations of agricultural industry employers in 2012, recovering more than $135,000 in back wages for 926 workers and assessing approximately $228,000 in civil money penalties. The division also conducted more than 40 outreach sessions, providing valuable education and compliance assistance to hundreds of employers, employees and stakeholders regarding the requirements of the law. For more information about the initiative, see the division's Jan. 14 press release at http://www.dol.gov/whd/media/press/whdpressVB3.asp?pressdoc=Southeast/20130114.xml.
Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the department is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/search.
Most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to the MSPA, which provides additional protections for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping. Information on the MSPA is available at http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/mspa.htm.
The division's Tampa office can be reached at 813-288-1242. Information on FLSA and other wage laws is available by calling the division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or by visiting http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
- Read this news release en Español.