US Labor Department obtains order stopping Arizona agricultural employer from abusing workers, exposing them to workplace dangers
PHOENIX – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a federal court order to prevent an Arizona agricultural employer from continuing to abuse agricultural guest workers, exposing them to dangerous workplace conditions – including requiring them to operate unsafe vehicles and housing them in overcrowded quarters – and from discriminating against those who complained.
On Oct. 25, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted the department’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order forbidding VH Harvesting LLC and owner Preston Van Hofwegen from violating the H-2A program. Separately, joint employer T&K Feeds Inc. agreed to a stipulated preliminary injunction not to violate the H-2A program.
The court’s action follows an investigation into possible H-2A program violations of T&K Feeds in Stanfield and VH Harvesting in Maricopa by the department’s Wage and Hour Division.
Investigators found evidence that VH Harvesting violated its H-2A work order by providing substandard housing, paying wages below those required and using H-2A workers as interstate truck drivers. VH Harvesting required workers to drive for up to 16 hours, using semi-trucks with mechanical failures, such as a missing motor brake, broken trailer attachment, or an engine with severe oil leaks. While on the road, VH forced workers to sleep in trucks’ cabs and share a bed with another worker. In its H-2A guest workers application, VH Harvesting claimed the workers would be operating harvesting machines in Arizona and Kansas.
The division also found that VH Harvesting threatened to call law enforcement or immigration officials on workers who complained about their working conditions.
The division’s district office in Phoenix conducted the investigation. Counsel for the Wage and Hour Division Boris Orlov, Senior Trial Attorney Charles Song, and Trial Attorney Victoria Yee of the department’s regional Office of the Solicitor in Los Angeles is litigating the case.
For more information about the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’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. The division protects workers regardless of immigration status and can communicate with workers in more than 200 languages. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App, available for android and iOS devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.