Maine tomato grower pays $337K in back wages, penalties after US Department of Labor investigation
MANCHESTER, NH – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $245,351 in back wages for 117 employees of a greenhouse tomato grower in Madison, Maine, that failed to comply with federal laws governing wages and working conditions for agricultural temporary guest workers, U.S. workers and workers in corresponding employment.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Backyard Farms LLC violated the labor provisions of the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act . In addition to the back wages, Backyard Farms paid $92,114 in civil money penalties for its violations.
Investigators determined Backyard Farms violated H-2A program requirements when it made room for incoming foreign workers by dismissing U.S. workers it employed through temporary help agencies as de-leafers, pickers and packers. The grower also paid workers in corresponding employment lower wages than H-2A workers for performing the same work, which is prohibited by law. Additionally, Backyard Farms failed to offer employment to U.S. workers who worked in the same occupation the previous year, instead giving those positions to guest workers. The employer also failed to provide employees with copies of their work contracts, as required by law.
Backyard Farms also violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act when it contracted with three temporary help agencies that were not farm labor contractors registered to perform MSPA-covered activities.
“The U.S. Department of Labor continues to enforce the requirements of agricultural guest worker program to ensure employers do not terminate or fail to offer jobs to U.S. workers in favor of foreign workers, and do not pay any workers in corresponding employment less than their hard-earned wages,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Daniel Cronin in Manchester, New Hampshire. “In this case, Backyard Farms dismissed some U.S. workers and paid other workers lower wages than foreign workers for the same work. Employers that violate the requirements of the H-2A program can be assessed back wages and substantial penalties, and may be barred from participating in the H-2A program for up to 3 years.”
The division’s Northern New England District Office in Manchester conducted the investigation.
The Wage and Hour Division provides its Workers Owed Wages search tool to assist workers owed back wages. The division also provides employers with a range of compliance assistance materials and encourages all employers to contact their local office to speak confidentially with a wage and hour professional to discuss any questions they may have. For more information about the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program and other laws enforced by the division, call 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).