Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
Hammonton, NJ, wholesale produce broker to pay more than $650,000 in back wages and damages following US Labor Department investigation
Company and temporary employment agency that supplied workers failed to comply with federal wage laws
HAMMONTON, N.J. -- Wholesale produce broker Frank Donio Inc. has agreed to pay $657,069 in back wages and liquidated damages to 519 workers at the company’s Hammonton packing facility. The back wages owed result from violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act discovered during an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.
Through employee interviews and reviews of time and payroll records, investigators determined that the employees were paid $6.50 per hour, which is below the required minimum wage. The employees also were not paid time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked in excess of 40 per week, in violation of the FLSA’s overtime requirements. Finally, the company violated the FLSA’s record-keeping provisions by not maintaining proper records of hours worked or adequate records identifying employees.
Investigators also learned that FDI used Heng Heng Agency Inc., a temporary employment agency in Philadelphia, to provide the workers. The Wage and Hour Division analyzed the employment relationship between the companies and determined that the affected workers, who hand-packed fruits and vegetables at FDI’s facility under the supervision of its managers, were jointly employed by FDI and Heng Heng Agency. As a result, both companies are responsible for the FLSA violations.
“An employer does not relinquish responsibility to pay workers according to the law simply because those workers have been hired through a third party,” said Pat Reilly, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Southern New Jersey District Office, which conducted the investigation. “Temporary employment agencies often provide workers for a variety of low-wage jobs in industries where labor violations are most prevalent. This case underscores the division’s commitment to protecting vulnerable temporary workers and ensuring compliance under the law.”
FDI cooperated in the investigation and agreed to correct the violations immediately upon being notified of them by the division. In addition to paying the back wages and liquidated damages to the employees, FDI has agreed to ensure that all workers, including those who may be hired or supplied by temporary help or employment service companies, are treated in accordance with the requirements of the FLSA. FDI will advise its business partners of FDI’s commitment to comply with the FLSA and its expectation that they, too, comply with the FLSA and all applicable laws. The company also will take steps to raise awareness among other produce growers, brokers and shippers about the importance of compliance with federal labor laws.
“I am pleased that FDI has recognized its responsibility to these workers and agreed to compensate them fully, as well as take additional actions to promote compliance with the FLSA and other federal labor laws relating to the produce industry,” said George Ference, regional administrator for the division in the Northeast.
This investigation was conducted under a multiyear enforcement initiative focused on remedying FLSA violations and strengthening compliance in temporary employment industry throughout Southern New Jersey. Across the nation, the division has conducted 900 investigations of temporary employment agencies since 2009, resulting in $10,870,947 in back wages recovered for more than 19,900 employees.
Investigations conducted under this initiative will continue to focus on identifying and remedying common FLSA violations among temporary employment agencies and the employers using their services. Additionally, the division will continue providing compliance assistance to employers and conducting outreach to workers, community organizations and other stakeholders to encourage their participation in promoting industrywide compliance.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates, including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay, for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are, as a general rule, liable to employees for back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.
For more information about the FLSA and other federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Southern New Jersey office at 609-538-8310. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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