Ohio nursery owner debarred from foreign labor visa program after US Department of Labor investigation finds repeated violations
PERRY, OH – An Ohio nursery owner’s history of violations, coupled with allegations that they intimidated and threatened workers, and denied them their full wages, has led the U.S. Department of Labor to assess $76,278, in penalties and to debar the Perry employer from participating in the federal agricultural visa program for three years.
Known as H-2A, the program allows employers to recruit and transport agricultural workers from outside the U.S. on a temporary basis, often for seasonal work or when sufficient numbers of U.S. workers are not available.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Secor Nursery in Perry – owned by Lawrence J. Secor – violated the H-2A program as follows:
- Discriminated against, intimidated and threatened workers.
- Made illegal deductions from wages.
- Required employees to repay costs associated with inbound and outbound transportation.
- Shifted the cost of H-2A participation to the workers.
- Failed to record the terms and conditions of the job offered accurately.
“Unscrupulous actions like intimating workers and denying them wages will not be tolerated from Secor Nursery or any other employer. The hard work performed by people employed in the agricultural industry is essential to our nation’s food supply and yet, too often these temporary guest workers are exploited by employers that fail to live up to the terms of their own contracts,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Matthew Utley in Columbus, Ohio.
“The H-2A visa program is designed to help industry employers meet their labor needs while treating guest and U.S. workers fairly. Employers who fail to fulfill their obligations as H-2A participants and who ignore the program’s worker protections violate the law and gain an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors,” Utley added.
Investigators also determined Secor Nursery violated overtime regulations during certain workweeks when employees handled crops grown from other farms. Although agricultural workers are not required to receive overtime, they must be paid additional half-time for hours worked over 40 in a workweek when they handle crops grown on other farms.
The division assessed Secor with the civil money penalties for the H-2A violations and debarred the employer from H-2A participation until May 2025. Investigations previously found program violations by the nursery in 2009, 2011 and 2018. The most recent investigation also recovered $62,330 in back wages for 19 workers.
Secor Nursery is a family owned and operated nursery and farm market, growing fruits, vegetables and nursery stock from March through October.
For more information about 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.
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