U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Results in South Dakota Bee Company Paying $466,767 in Back Wages and Penalties
KADOKA, SD – After a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation, Strehlow Bees Inc. has paid $404,827 in back wages to 36 employees – from the United States, South Africa and Nicaragua – for violating multiple conditions of the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers. The Kadoka, South Dakota, company has also paid $61,940 in civil money penalties, assessed by the Department.
WHD investigators found the employer – which raises, tends and cares for bees used in pollination of agricultural products and the production of honey and beeswax – violated several H-2A visa program requirements. WHD determined Strehlow paid employees significantly less than the hourly rate of pay advertised, failed to include work locations in Texas and California on its visa applications, and failed to have all housing inspected prior to occupancy. Investigators also found the employer housed more workers than allowed for the space provided at one of its worksites. WHD determined guest workers and U.S. employees were owed back wages.
“Agricultural employers that bring in temporary guest workers on H-2A visas are responsible for abiding by the terms of the visa program including paying required wages, maintaining accurate payroll records and providing safe, certified housing,” said Wage and Hour District Director Charles Frasier in Denver, Colorado. “The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for law-abiding employers and ensure that workers are paid the wages that they legally earned. Employers and farm labor contractors are encouraged to contact us to better understand their responsibilities so that they can avoid violations like those found in this case.”
WHD also found Strehlow failed to state actual job terms and conditions on its visa applications and to identify itself as having multiple worksites. In addition, the agency found the employer failed to advertise to recruit U.S. workers in the 2019 certification year for a worksite in California before applying for guest workers. Strehlow also did not keep accurate and adequate records of workers’ hours, rate of pay and earnings; and failed to provide pay stubs to any of its workers detailing their rates of pay, hours and deductions made.
Strehlow also violated the housing requirements for temporary workers by failing to obtain preoccupancy inspections from state workforce agencies for housing sites in Kadoka, South Dakota and Groveton, Texas.
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, or confidential calls to local WHD offices.
For more information about the H-2A, Fair Labor Standards Act and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or consult the agency’s webpage at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd. Employers that discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program.
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.