U.S. Department of Labor Debars Georgia Farm Labor Contractor For H-2A Violations in Georgia and Wisconsin, Assesses $207,522 Penalty
VIDALIA, GA – The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has revoked the certificate of registration for farm labor contractor J.C. Longoria Castro and debarred him from applying for H-2A certification for three years for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). WHD also found he violated labor provisions of the H-2A visa program at worksites in Georgia and Wisconsin. In addition to the revocation and debarment, WHD assessed a civil money penalty of $207,522.
Castro – owner of J.C. Castro Harvesting LLC - is an H-2A farm labor contractor who furnished approximately 150 temporary guest agricultural employees to Scott Farms LLC in Brinson, and 63 combined H-2A and equivalent U.S. employees to growers in Wisconsin. In total, WHD found that Castro, based in Vidalia, Georgia, owed $72,166 back wages to 63 employees in Wisconsin and $28,177 in back wages to 122 employees in Georgia.
"The U.S. Department of Labor will enforce the law rigorously when employers knowingly disregard their obligations," said Wayne Kotowski, Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator in Atlanta. "The Department will use all the tools at its disposal to ensure farm workers are paid legally and treated humanely, and to level the playing field for growers who play by the rules. We strongly encourage all employers to use the multiple tools we provide to help them understand their responsibilities, and to verify that any contractor providing them labor is complying with the law."
Investigators determined Castro violated H-2A requirements by:
- Requiring employees to work earlier than their anticipated period of employment;
- Failing to provide employees copies of their work contracts;
- Failing to provide meals or kitchen facilities;
- Failing to pay H-2A employees required wages, despite the company's records indicating it had;
- Failing to include the total hours of employment offered and worked on employees' earnings record;
- Failing to provide an itemized list of deductions taken from employees' wages on earnings records; and
- Failing to provide housing that met safety and health standards.
Castro violated MSPA provisions by failing to post an MSPA poster at the worksite, failing to disclose employment conditions such as pay rates and duration of employment to corresponding U.S. employees, and failing to ensure that drivers of vehicles used to transport migrant employees held valid licenses. Recordkeeping violations were charged under the FLSA.
Before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services can approve an employer's petition for H-2A visa workers, the employer must file an application with the Department of Labor stating that:
- An insufficient number of U.S. employees are able, willing, qualified, and available to work; and
- The employment of non-immigrant, temporary workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
For more information about the FLSA, MSPA, H-2A and other laws enforced by the Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/whd.