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News Brief

Salinas agricultural company pays $180,000 to U.S. workers terminated wrongfully

Foreign workers under H-2A program kept jobs despite being outperformed

Employer: Foothill Packing, Inc.

Location: 1582 G-Moffet St., Salinas, California

Investigation findings: An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined that the termination of 18 American workers by Foothill Packing, a packing and labeling company, violated the labor provisions of the H-2A guest worker program. The employer claimed the workers – who were U.S. citizens – had failed to meet production standards. Investigators found that many of them had consistently exceeded the production of many of the foreign workers doing the same jobs, yet Foothill did not terminate these foreign workers.

Resolution:  Foothill Packing paid $180,000 in back wages to the 18 terminated workers and also paid $55,000 in penalties for the violations of H-2A provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Foothill agreed to future compliance and signed an agreement with the department requiring the company to:

  • Designate a staff member whose primary job duties consist of monitoring and reporting the firm’s compliance with all H-2A regulatory requirements.
  • Provide annual training to all frontline supervisors involved with the H-2A program.
  • Provide detailed reasons for any future terminations to the U.S. Department of Labor.    

Quote:  “The H-2A visa program is explicit in stating that all jobs in this country must be offered to U.S. citizens before an employer may receive authorization to hire foreign workers. That same tenet also pertains to keeping workers on the payroll who are meeting performance standards,” said Susana Blanco, director of the Wage and Hour Division office in San Francisco. “We appreciate Foothill Packing’s cooperating with us to compensate the laid-off workers while also stepping up to the plate to ensure future compliance with federal labor laws.”

Information: The H-2A visa program allows companies and farm labor contractors to bring in foreign agricultural workers on a temporary basis when an adequate amount of qualified U.S. workers cannot be found to perform the work.  Employers must comply with a number of provisions, including providing housing, potential costs of inbound and outbound transportation from their home country to the U.S., in some cases meals, and must pay the adverse effect wage rate set by the department.  In addition, the employer must demonstrate that they made required efforts to hire U.S. workers prior to having their visas approved.  Employers must not give H-2A workers preferential treatment or wrongfully discharge U.S. workers. 

For more information about federal wage laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, or to file a complaint, call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).  All services are free and confidential. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

Read this news release en españól.

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
June 13, 2016
Release Number
16-1092-SAN
Contact: Leo Kay
Phone Number
Contact: Jose Carnevali
Phone Number