Minnesota company debarred from federal guest worker program after investigation finds temporary foreign workers exploited
MINNEAPOLIS – A Minnesota lawn care and snow removal company took advantage of more than 70 temporary foreign workers – charging them higher rent than allowed, requiring them to pay for their international transportation and demanding payment to keep their jobs – all in violation of the federal H-2B Visa program. The program helps supply employers with temporary foreign workers when sufficient numbers of U.S. workers are not available.
A U.S. Department of Labor investigation of Valdes Lawn Care and Snow Removal LLC in Lake Elmo has led to the recovery of $118,950 in back wages and $38,688 in liquidated damages for 72 employees for violations of H-2B prevailing wage rate requirements and for violations of the overtime and record keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The company will also pay $127,561 in civil money penalties, and be debarred from eligibility to participate in the H-2B program for three years.
The payments and the debarment are part of a consent judgment entered by an administrative law judge in Pittsburgh.
“Employers who exploit temporary workers hurt both foreign and U.S. workers,” said Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Kristin Tout in Minneapolis. “The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring that all workers receive their hard-earned wages, and that employers using the H-2B visa program abide by all program requirements. Our enforcement protects workers and levels the playing field for employers who play by the rules.”
The division determined Valdes violated the H-2B Visa program when it:
- Failed to disclose that housing was available at a cost and then profited off workers by charging monthly rent fees that were higher than the cost to Valdes.
- Demanded guest workers each pay them up to $800 as a condition of employment.
- Failed to reimburse guest workers for travel expenses from and to their home countries, as required.
- Failed to offer guest workers at least 35 hours per workweek during the first months of the work season as required.
- Employed at least four temporary foreign workers hired for landscaping and snow removal work to perform construction work.
- Misrepresented the need for workers; for a four-month period, the employer had little to no work available.
- Failed to provide workers with a copy of the job order outlining the terms and conditions of employment.
- Failed to post the mandatory Employee Rights Under the H-2B Program poster.
Additionally, the company violated FLSA minimum wage and overtime requirements when it:
- Failed to pay overtime after 40 hours in a work week and instead paid overtime only after 80 hours worked in a two-week pay period.
- Failed to pay guest workers overtime at the required rates.
- Paid nine U.S. workers flat salaries regardless of the number of hours that they worked, failing to pay overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek.
- Failed to keep records of the number of hours employees actually worked by salaried workers, and by H-2B workers who performed construction and laborer work at the employer’s home.
For more information about the H-2B Program, the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.
COURT NO: Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor V. Valdes Lawn Care and Snow Removal LLC, 2020-TNE-00034