US Department of Labor recovers more than $159K in back wages for 147 employees after Florida produce packer denies overtime
Employer: Ark Foods Group Inc., operating as Ark Foods
Investigation sites: 855 County Road, Immokalee, FL 34142
1050 Canaan Road, Roebuck, SC 29376
Investigation findings: Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the Florida produce packing company incorrectly claimed an agricultural exemption – for packing that happens on or near a farm that produces the harvest – and misclassified its employees as independent contractors as a result. By doing so, Ark Foods failed to pay employees the time-and-a-half rate due for hours over 40 in a workweek, in violation of overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The division determined Ark Foods could not claim the exemption because the packing house does not meet the exemption’s requirements.
Back Wages Recovered: $159,519 for 147 workers.
Quote: “Employers must comply with the legal requirements to claim an agricultural exemption. Ark Foods failed to do so and now must face and address the consequences,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Nicolas Ratmiroff in Tampa, Florida. “The Wage and Hour Division encourages workers and employers to reach out to us for help understanding their rights and responsibilities under the law.”
Background: From November through May each year, workers at Ark Foods’ Immokalee location pack chili peppers and tomatoes for distribution to large grocery retailers. Founded in 2013, the company also operates packing houses in Hackensack, New Jersey, and Roebuck, South Carolina.
Employers can contact the Wage and Hour Division at its toll-free number, 1-866-4-US-WAGE. The division offers information on farmworkers’ rights, compliance assistance resources for employers, and an agriculture compliance assistance toolkit to ensure compliance with the law. The division also offers online resources for employers, such as a fact sheet on Fair Labor Standards Act wage laws overtime requirements. Workers who feel they may not be getting the wages they earned may contact a Wage and Hour Division expert in their state through a list and interactive online map on the agency’s website. Workers and employers alike can help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s timesheet app for free. Learn more about Wage and Hour Division.