WHD News Release: [03/30/2011]
Contact Name: Michael D’Aquino or Michael Wald
Phone Number: (404) 562-2076 or x2078
Release Number: 11-0407-ATL
US Labor Department cites unregistered farm labor contractor after traffic accident in Tennessee results in 2 deaths and 5 injuries
NASHVILLE, Tenn. The U.S. Department of Labor has cited Carmen Maria Santos for operating as a farm labor contractor without registering with the department, in violation of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
The department's Wage and Hour Division became aware of the contractor after a traffic accident in Lafayette that resulted in the death of two farmworkers and serious injuries to five others who were being transported in the contractor's van.
Investigators found that the van's driver lacked a valid driver's license and a post-manufacture modification to the van had replaced the original seats with wooden benches that were not attached to the vehicle, which created extremely unsafe conditions for the workers being transported. In addition, Santos had failed to register the van driver as a farm labor contractor employee, lacked prescribed insurance coverage for the vehicle used to transport workers, failed to provide safe transport for workers, did not disclose working conditions to workers in writing, failed to post required information at the worksite, failed to keep accurate records of hours worked by each employee and failed to provide wage statements to her workers.
"The Labor Department requires farm labor contractors to register with the department specifically to prevent tragedies such as this one," said Nettie Lewis, acting district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Nashville. "This loss of life might not have occurred if farmers had made sure that they were employing an authorized contractor who was transporting workers in a safe vehicle operated by a properly licensed driver."
Farm labor businesses are required to register with the Department of Labor to perform any farm labor contracting work, including recruiting, soliciting, hiring, employing, furnishing and transporting workers. There are special registration requirements for farm labor contractors that intend to house, transport or drive a migrant or seasonal agricultural worker.
The Wage and Hour Division has assessed Santos $12,975 in penalties for the violations.
A list farm labor contractors registered with the Labor Department can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/FLCList.htm. The Wage and Hour Division also maintains a list of individuals and corporations whose authorization to operate as farm labor contractors has been revoked. That list is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/mspa_debar.htm.
The Wage and Hour Division's Nashville District Office conducted this investigation and can be contacted at 615-781-5343. For more information on MSPA and other federal laws administered by the division, call its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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