Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The U.S. Department of Labor today announced $78,040 in civil money penalties assessed against 17 blueberry growers and nine farm labor contractors in West Michigan’s Allegan, Ottawa and Van Buren counties for migrant housing and child labor law violations. Additionally, the growers were ordered to pay $27,874 in back wages to hand-harvest workers for wage and overtime violations. The violations were found as a result of investigations conducted by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division.
“Some of the migrant housing conditions we found during our investigations were deplorable,” said James Smith, district director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Detroit office. “Among the violations were dilapidated building structures, overcrowding, lack of hot water for bathing and rooms infested by insects. These conditions certainly violated the law, as well as common decency.”
Cornerstone Ag Enterprises, a grower located in South Haven, Mich., received the highest penalty amount: $29,700 for housing and child labor violations. The child labor violations related to provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and hazardous occupation restrictions for minors. Cornerstone employed four children ages 14 to 17, who worked in packing operations where the grower was packing blueberries for other producers.
The investigations also determined that many of the 17 growers did not pay workers the proper wages. As a result, those growers were ordered to pay $9,057 to 271 workers who did not receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. An additional $8,707 in back wages was owed to 354 migrant workers who were not paid the wage they were promised when recruited, and $10,110 was owed to 33 workers because they failed to receive the proper overtime pay while working in a commercial packing operation.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, which protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping.
The division also enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires covered employers to pay farmworkers at least the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, for all hours worked, and sets standards for the employment of minors.
For more information about the FLSA, child labor rules and the MSPA, call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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