U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Results in California Farm Labor Contractor Paying $56,673 in Back Wages and Penalties
SALINAS, CA – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Empire Farm Labor Contractor – based in Salinas, California – has paid $38,260 in back wages to 79 employees for multiple violations found under the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). The contractor also paid $18,413 in civil money penalties for the violations found in Imperial County, California, that occurred from December 2018 to May 2019.
WHD investigators found Empire Farm Labor Contractor rejected a qualified U.S. worker who applied for a job, in violation of the H-2A requirements. The employer also failed to pay H-2A workers' transportation expenses for travel from their home countries, and retained H-2A workers' passports and visas. Empire violated MSPA requirements by transporting farm workers without the appropriate licensing.
"Farm labor contractors and all agricultural employers seeking H-2A workers must abide by all of the program's requirements," said Wage and Hour District Director Rodolfo Cortez in San Diego, California. "Our work in this area safeguards American jobs while protecting the wages and safety of all agricultural workers. We encourage H-2A employers to attend our educational outreach events to learn about their responsibilities and to allow us to answer directly any questions they may have."
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, electronic toolkits, or in-person visits with local WHD staff.
For more information about the H-2A visa program, the MSPA, 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.
WHD's mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation's workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.