WASHINGTON, Pa. – A Pittsburgh-area wholesale nursery has paid nearly $150,000 in back wages and penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor found the company failed to recruit and hire American workers from Puerto Rico before hiring foreign workers under the H-2A visa program, in violation of section 218 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced in June that the Department will increase protections of American workers while more aggressively confronting entities committing visa program fraud and abuse.
“Employers must give Americans the opportunity to be hired for an open job before they look overseas,” said Secretary Acosta. “The Department of Labor is committed to ensuring Americans have access to good, safe jobs and will continue taking legal action on those who abuse our country’s visa programs.”
Investigators with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division found George Godwin, doing business as Godwin’s Nursery & Trees, owed back wages after the employer illegally denied five qualified U.S. workers from Puerto Rico the opportunity to work at the nursery. Instead, the employer hired four H-2A farmworkers from Mexico.
The division also found that the Washington-based employer failed to provide housing for agricultural workers that met required housing safety and health standards. Godwin also failed to post required information about agricultural workers’ rights.
Godwin’s Nursery has paid $117,449 in back wages and $29,593 in civil money penalties to resolve the matter.
The division is committed to providing companies with the tools they need to understand and comply with the variety of labor laws the division enforces. It offers useful resources ranging from an interactive Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses advisor to a complete library of free, downloadable workplace posters. In addition, Community Outreach and Resource Planning specialists conduct ongoing activities to educate stakeholders, including employers, employees, business and labor groups, and professional associations.
For more information about federal wage laws, call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.