U.S. Department of Labor Debars Two North Carolina H-2A Farm Labor Contractors for Wage and Worker Protection Violations
FREMONT, NC – The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has revoked the farm labor contractor certificate of registration for Jasiel Rodriguez-Nunez and has debarred the contractor and his business partner, unregistered farm labor contractor Aricel Lopez-Morales, from applying for H-2A certification for three years following an investigation. WHD found that Rodriguez-Nunez and Lopez-Morales each violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) and labor provisions of the H-2A visa program.
WHD has assessed Rodriguez-Nunez $187,332 in civil money penalties for the violations and found that he owes $24,199 in back wages to 98 employees who worked at Evans Farms in Fremont. WHD assessed Lopez-Morales $202,662 in civil money penalties and declared the farm labor contractor ineligible to apply for a certificate of registration in the future.
Numerous violations were disclosed, including failure to pay workers required wages, failure to reimburse workers for the cost of their transportation to the U.S., and failure to ensure that drivers transporting the workers locally were licensed and insured.
"Any employer seeking permission to participate in the H-2A program must be ready and willing to abide by all of the program's requirements, and must not attempt to shift any of the employer's costs onto the workers" said Richard Blaylock, Wage and Hour Division District Director in Raleigh, North Carolina. "This case demonstrates our commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for law-abiding employers, and protect vulnerable workers from being paid less than they are legally owed or otherwise working under substandard conditions."
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 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.