Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
MISSION, Texas -- Rio Queen Citrus Inc. has agreed to pay $11,000 in civil money penalties following a recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division that found violations of the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“This company has a history of employing minors,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. “Protecting and keeping our youngest workers safe is one of the department’s top priorities.”
During the recent investigation by the Wage and Hour Division’s McAllen District Office, a 10-year-old was found at work harvesting onions. Following surveillance and interviews with employees, investigators determined that the fields where the minor was working were not owned or operated by the child’s parents. Similar violations of the FLSA’s child labor provisions were found during a 2010 investigation involving a 6-year-old working in the fields.
To resolve the current case, a representative of Rio Queen Citrus, which grows and ships citrus, onions, honeydew melons and tomatoes, signed a commitment letter with the Labor Department in which the business agrees to institute training on child labor requirements, post visible signs in all fields stating a no tolerance policy as it relates to minors working in the fields; require supervisors and farm labor contractors to comply with the postings; and provide quarterly training sessions for supervisors and farm labor contractors that will cover all child labor provisions of the FLSA.
The Wage and Hour Division is pursuing a number of strategies to promote compliance with the agricultural labor standards for which it has enforcement responsibility. These include planned investigations at the peak harvesting season for onions; conducting investigations in areas with a history of past child labor violations; conducting investigations on the weekend and in the evenings when children are most likely to be working illegally in the fields; and by using the FLSA’s “hot goods” provision, meaning that when goods are produced in violation of the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime or child labor provisions, the Labor Department can prevent those goods from being shipped in interstate commerce. The department uses this action to ensure that the nation’s workers receive fair pay and treatment.
The division enforces worker protection laws including the FLSA, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s field sanitation and temporary labor camp provisions. Information on the FLSA, MSPA and OSH Act is available by calling the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its McAllen District Office at 956-682-4631. Information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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