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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [06/13/2011]
Contact Name: Deanne Amaden or Josť A. Carnevali
Phone Number: (415) 625-2630 or x2631
Release Number: 11-0786-SAN

US Labor Department orders 2 California farm labor contractors to pay more than $91,000 in fines and back wages for willful transportation, wage violations

Traffic accidents resulted in deaths of 6 migrant workers, serious injuries to 6 others

SAN FRANCISCO The U.S. Department of Labor has assessed the maximum penalties allowed against Madera-based Mid-Valley Labor Services and Riverdale-based Ayala Corp. for willful transportation violations under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, totaling $41,300. Additionally, more than $50,000 in back wages owed to 120 farm workers was recovered after the department's Wage and Hour Division determined that the farm labor contractors also had committed wage violations.

The Wage and Hour Division initiated investigations following two separate traffic accidents in 2010 that resulted in the deaths of six migrant workers and serious injuries to six others, all of whom were being transported by the employers in an unsafe and unlawful manner.

"The Labor Department is applying the maximum penalties allowed by law because these tragedies could have been prevented had the law been followed," said George Friday Jr., administrator of the Wage and Hour Division's Western Region. "It is imperative that employers, farm labor contractors and others provide safe means of transportation for agricultural workers and use properly licensed drivers."

The investigation of Mid-Valley Labor Services, which has operations in 15 California counties, was prompted by a farm labor vehicle accident in Santa Rosa on Aug. 3, 2010, that resulted in the death of one migrant worker and serious injuries to four others. Investigators found that the contractor had failed to meet federal safety requirements, ensure drivers had valid licenses and obtain proper insurance coverage.

Mid-Valley Labor Services was fined $21,100 in penalties for the transportation violations. The Wage and Hour Division also recovered $49,527 in back wages owed to 114 farm workers after determining that Mid-Valley had failed to pay wages in a timely manner, unlawfully charged workers for transportation and failed to pay for work activities performed prior to their shifts in the fields.

In a separate investigation, the division determined that Ayala Corp. had failed to provide safe transportation to migrant and seasonal farm workers, resulting in a Dec. 13, 2010, traffic accident near Kettleman City that caused the deaths of five farm workers and injuries to two others. The passengers were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident and were ejected from the vehicle when it overturned. Investigators also found that Ayala Corp. failed to provide vehicle insurance and to ensure that crew leaders were properly registered.

Ayala Corp. previously had been cited for other transportation-related violations and was fined $20,200 for the most recent violations. The Wage and Hour Division also recovered $960 in back wages for six employees after finding that transportation costs were illegally deducted from the workers' pay.

The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act provides employment-related protections to migrant and seasonal agricultural workers and is enforced by the Wage and Hour Division. Farm labor contractors are required to register with the Labor Department prior to engaging in any farm labor contracting activity. Farm labor contractors intending to house, transport or drive one or more migrant or seasonal agricultural workers must meet special registration requirements.

A list of farm labor contractors registered with the Labor Department can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/FLCList.htm. A list of individuals and corporations whose authorization to operate as farm labor contractors has been revoked is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/mspa_debar.htm.

The Wage and Hour Division's San Francisco and Sacramento district offices conducted the investigations. 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 on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.