U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Results in California Horse Training Facilities Paying $1,270,683 in Back Wages and Damages to 30 Employees
OAKLAND, CA – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD), EWC & Associates Inc. – a Northern California owner and operator of two horse training facilities – will pay $1,270,683 in back wages and damages to 30 employees for multiple work visa program and wage violations.
A consent judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California requires EWC & Associates Inc. - doing business as Portola Valley Training Center in Menlo Park and as Gilroy Gaits in Hollister - to pay back wages and damages, plus an additional $100,000 in civil penalties. The judgment also enjoins EWC & Associates, and owner Kevin Chambers from applying for any labor certification applications, including under the H-2B temporary visa program, for one year.
WHD investigators found the employer failed to pay employees the correct prevailing wage rates required under the H-2B visa program, and also failed to pay the promised rates under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
Investigators also determined EWC & Associates Inc. violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when it paid employees straight time for overtime hours. In addition, the employer:
- Collected kickbacks from the workers' H-2B visa fees;
- Made impermissible deductions for transportation costs to and from the workers' home countries;
- Provided unsafe and unhealthy housing conditions for employees, such as housing employees in converted stables with no running potable water; and
- Failed to keep required records of overtime worked and deductions made from workers' pay.
"The U.S Department of Labor will take all steps necessary to ensure employees receive the wages that they have rightfully earned," said Wage and Hour Division District Director Susana Blanco, in San Jose. "This judgment makes clear our commitment to making sure that employers who break the law don't gain an unfair advantage over law-abiding competitors."
For more information about the H-2B temporary visa program, FLSA, MSPA, and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/whd including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the Division.