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News Brief

Vegetable supplier to major grocery chains assessed over $1.4M in civil money penalties after two-year federal investigation

Red Diamond Farms also pays $149,572 in back wages to 380 workers

Employer’s names: Red Diamond Enterprises Inc., doing business as Red Diamond Farms
German “Javier” Torres, president and owner

Investigation sites: Wimauma, Sarasota, Quincy and West Palm Beach, Florida

Investigation findings: Investigators from the department’s Wage and Hour Division Tampa District Office found that Red Diamond Farms and Torres violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and H-2A temporary agricultural program. Specifically, investigators found the employer:

  • Provided preferential treatment to H-2A guest workers over corresponding domestic workers when it paid the guest workers higher rates and offered them more hours than the domestic workers, and failed to offer free housing or pay transportation costs to the domestic workers;
  • Failed to disclose the conditions of employment to the domestic workers when they were not provided a contract, as the law requires;
  • Concealed the presence of the domestic workers by segregating the payrolls, and denying their presence during the investigation;
  • Failed to keep accurate and complete payroll records.

In the course of the two-year investigation, agency investigators also determined that 380 employees were due back wages stemming from underpayments and the company’s failure to meet the full terms and conditions of the H-2A contract.

Proposed Penalties: The department has assessed Red Diamond Farms and Torres civil money penalties totaling $1,488,800 for the H-2A, MSPA violations. The employer has paid the back wages totaling $149,572. In addition to collecting civil penalties, the department is also moving forward with debarring the employer from the H-2A program.

Quote: “Red Diamond Farms and its owner willfully disobeyed federal labor laws and exploited vulnerable, low-wage workers. These actions are unacceptable,” said Wayne Kotowski, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in Atlanta. “Guest worker programs must protect U.S. and foreign workers simultaneously.  This is another example of the department’s commitment to use every enforcement tool available – including civil penalties and debarment from these programs – to combat these violations and protect workers.”

Background:  Based in Wimauma, the company has farms in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. Red Diamond Farms grows several varieties of vine-ripened tomatoes, peppers and squash and through Tomato Thyme Corp. ships to major grocery chains and numerous retailers across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Customers include; Safeway, Amish Markets, Publix, Meijer’s, Stew Leonard’s, Morton Williams, King Kullen, Eataly, Manhattan Fruit Exchange, Grace’s Market Place Agatha Gourmet Garage, Garden of Eden, Loblaw’s, Kroger, Schuck’s Market, AWI, Tops Friendly Markets, Sendinks Market, Brennan’s Market, Fairway and Sobey’s. 

Information: For more information about MSPA and H-2A requirements please visit:

http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs49.pdf https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/faqsanswers.cfm#gotoh2

For more information about the FLSA and wage laws or to file a complaint, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243); the Tampa District Office at 813-288-1242 or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
May 12, 2016
Release Number
16-0728-ATL
Contact: Lindsay Williams
Phone Number
Contact: Michael D'Aquino
Phone Number