U.S. Department of Labor Finds Florida-based Farm Labor Contractor Violated Guest Worker Visa Requirements at 5 North Carolina Farms
RALEIGH, NC – After a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation, SBHLP Inc. – a Lake Placid, Florida-based H-2A labor contractor that supplied workers for five North Carolina farms – is required to pay $224,249 in wages to 194 employees for violating requirements of the H-2A visa program. The department also assessed the employer a $239,430 civil penalty and debarred the labor contractor for 3 years.
WHD investigators determined SBHLP Inc. and owner Salvador Barajas failed to provide workers at least three meals per day, as per the work order. The employer also failed to reimburse the H-2A workers for their 2018 outbound travel expenses and did not pay for their 2019 inbound travel expenses after they completed 50 percent of their contract, as the law requires.
Investigators also found that the employer collected money from the workers to cover charter bus inbound transportation and required each worker to pay their own visa and border fees while traveling from Mexico to the U.S., all violations under the federal visa program.
“Agricultural labor contractors must ensure they comply with all the requirements of the H-2A visa program,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock, in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Employers that violate the H-2A visa program’s provisions create unfair advantages over other H-2A employers. The Wage and Hour Division remains committed to protecting workers and maintaining a level playing field for other employers.”
SBHLP Inc. provided H-2A employees to work on the following North Carolina farms:
- OJ Smith Farms Farm in Whitakers;
- Kent Smith in Rocky Mount;
- Greenleaf Nursery in Tarboro;
- Bailey Brothers in Bailey; and
- Bass Farm in Nashville.
The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities to comply with federal law and employees are aware of their rights under the law, such as online videos, confidential calls, or in-person trainings.
For more information about the H-2A visa program and other laws enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/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.
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