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Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

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U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Release Number: 13-2208-NEW/BOS 2013-212

Date: 

Dec. 9, 2013

Contact: 

Ted Fitzgerald or Andre J. Bowser

Phone: 

617-565-2075 or 617-565-2074

Lares coffee grower agrees to pay more than $81,000 in back wages to workers following US Labor Department investigation into industry in Puerto Rico


Wage and Hour Division committed to eliminating labor violations in coffee industry

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Coffee farm Beneficiado de Café Torres Corp., Hacienda Loma Alta Inc., Hacienda Los Eucaliptos and officer Jose L. Torres have signed a settlement agreement with the U.S. Labor Department to pay a total of $81,448 in unpaid minimum wage and overtime back wages to 168 agricultural workers. An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that the Lares-based coffee grower violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions when it paid incorrect wages to its year-round agricultural workers.

“We are committed to strengthening compliance in the coffee-growing industry in Puerto Rico—a sector that employs many low-wage workers and where we have found significant labor violations in the past. Our effort aims to change the industry practice of paying subminimum wages to workers involved in the growing, picking and processing of coffee beans in the mountainous region of Puerto Rico,” said Jose R. Vazquez, director of the division’s Caribbean District Office. “This case should remind all employers that denying workers their overtime pay, and failing to pay the statutory minimum wage won’t be tolerated in Puerto Rico. We are using all enforcement tools available to protect agricultural workers and ensure their employment is in compliance with federal labor laws.”

An investigation conducted by the division’s Caribbean District Office found that the employer paid its year-round agricultural workers $6.35 per hour and its coffee pickers were paid piece-rate wages that amounted to an estimated $5.42 per hour. These wages fell below the required federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The company also paid straight-time wages for all hours, rather than an overtime premium for hours worked beyond 40 in a week, as required by the FLSA.

The employer resolved these FLSA violations by entering into a settlement agreement with the department. Pursuant to the settlement, the employer will address pay rate and overtime discrepancies; provide all employees with written notice in Spanish and English of the hourly or piece-rate wages those employees will receive; provide pay stubs to employees showing accurate information; will not request, require or cause employees to sign inaccurate time cards or payroll documents; and will record and maintain an accurate record of all hours worked and wages paid to employees.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.

For more information about the FLSA, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Caribbean District Office at 787-775-1924. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.

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U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.