U.S. Department of Labor Investigations Result in Two Idaho Agricultural Employers Paying $51,571 in Back Wages and Penalties for Multiple H-2A Violations
BOISE, ID – After separate investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD), two agricultural employers in Idaho have paid a combined $24,625 in back wages to 19 employees for multiple violations found under the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program. The employers have also paid a total of $26,946 in civil money penalties.
WHD found Alan Brown – a commercial beekeeper and honey producer in Soda Springs, Idaho – gave preferential treatment to H-2A workers by paying a U.S worker less for doing the same work. The employer also failed to meet housing safety and health requirements; pay transportation and other expenses to H-2A workers traveling to and from Peru; and meet the frequency of pay requirements.
Investigators also found that Brown retained the H-2A workers' passports and visas, failed to provide the employees with pay statements, failed to pay the required rates, and made impermissible pay deductions from workers' earnings.
In a separate investigation, WHD found Forrest Arthur – a sheepherder and agricultural grower and harvester in Paul, Idaho – in violation of several H-2A visa program requirements. Investigators determined Arthur failed to reimburse H-2A workers from Peru and Mexico for transportation expenses to and from their home countries, failed to pay the required rates of pay to some workers, and failed to meet required housing and transportation safety requirements.
"Investigations like these demonstrate the continued need for agricultural employers to understand and abide by the labor provisions of the H-2A visa program," said Wage and Hour District Director Thomas Silva in Portland, Oregon. "Our work in this area safeguards American jobs while protecting the wages of all agricultural workers. We urge employers to use the many tools and resources we offer to ensure that employees get paid as the law requires and that employers compete fairly on a level playing field."
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 Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (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.