U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Results in Sweet Potato Farm Paying $62,793 in Back Wages and Penalties
WYNNE, AR – As a result of a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation, Matthews Sweet Potato Farm, based in Wynne, Arkansas, has paid $56,193 in back wages to 113 employees, and $6,600 in civil money penalties to settle violations of the labor provisions of the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program.
WHD investigators found the employer gave H-2A workers preferential treatment when they paid American workers less than those paid to H-2A workers. The employer also failed to reimburse H-2A workers for the full cost of their transportation from their home towns to the farm and back again, as the law requires. Additionally, Matthews Sweet Potato Farm failed to provide local workers engaged in similar work as the H-2A workers with written work contracts. The employer also failed to record the time the workers began and ended each workday.
"Any employer seeking H-2A workers must abide by all of the program's requirements," said Wage and Hour Division District Director Hanz Grünauer, in Little Rock. "This case demonstrates the Department of Labor's commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for law-abiding employers, and ensure that workers are paid the wages that they are legally owed."
The H-2A temporary agricultural program establishes a means for agricultural employers, who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers, to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
The program requires an employer to attest to the U.S. Department of Labor that it will offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the following: the prevailing wage for the occupation and geographic area, applicable federal minimum wage, state minimum wage, or local minimum wage. This wage must be paid to the H-2A workers and certain similarly employed U.S. workers during the entire period of the approved labor certification. The program also establishes recruitment and displacement standards to protect similarly employed American workers.
The Department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, confidential calls, or in-person visits to local WHD offices.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at www.dol.gov/whd including a search tool for workers who may be owed back wages collected by WHD.
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