News Release

U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Finds Kentucky Landscaping Contractor Violated Requirements of Guest Worker Visa Program

WILDER, KY – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Merkle Lawn Care Inc. – based in Wilder, Kentucky – has paid $20,502 in back wages to 42 employees for violating labor provisions of the H-2B visa program. The Department also assessed Merkle Lawn Care Inc. a civil penalty of $10,335.

WHD investigators found the landscaping contractor failed to disclose rent, vehicle insurance and uniform deductions in job advertisements. The employer charged employees rent on a weekly basis in excess of fair market value. In addition, Merkle Lawn Care charged its employees on a weekly basis for uniforms bearing the company’s name.

“Employers seeking H-2B workers must abide by all of the program’s requirements, including paying the workers as the law requires and not making illegal deductions from employees’ pay,” said Wage and Hour District Director Karen Garnett-Civils in Louisville, Kentucky. “The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to safeguard American jobs and level the playing field for law-abiding employers. We encourage employers to contact the Wage and Hour Division by phone, online or to attend any of our many virtual outreach events for assistance and to learn more about their responsibilities.”

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 and confidential calls to local WHD offices.

The H-2B nonimmigrant program permits employers to hire temporarily nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load need or intermittent need. 

For more information about the H-2B and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/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.

Agency
Wage and Hour Division
Date
January 5, 2021
Release Number
20-2190-ATL
Contact: Eric R. Lucero
Phone Number
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