Department of Labor recovers $167K for Oregon farmworkers whose employer misused exemption to deny overtime pay
PORTLAND, OR – The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $167,179 in back wages and liquidated damages for 43 workers employed by an Oregon agricultural grower and manufacturer who failed to pay overtime to the workers, some of whom worked as many as 75 hours per week.
Investigators from the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Columbia Empire Farms Inc. misapplied an overtime pay exemption for agricultural workers for time they spent doing non-agricultural work. Specifically, the employer paid straight-time pay to the affected employees for all hours they worked both harvesting in fields and while performing non-agricultural work at a packing house.
In most cases, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to pay overtime wages for hours over 40 in a workweek. The consequences for violators can be costly as the division recovers back wages and possibly damages for workers and assesses penalties depending on an investigation’s findings.
In addition to its overtime violations, Columbia Empire Farms did not pay wages when due as required. Under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, workers must be paid at least twice a month, but investigators learned the employer paid some workers monthly in violation of the law.
Specifically, the division recovered $83,589 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, and assessed Columbia Empire Farms Inc. and its owners with $13,828 in civil money penalties.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will protect the rights of vulnerable workers and hold employers accountable when they fail to pay them all their hard-earned wages, including overtime,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland, Oregon.
Columbia Empire Farms Inc. is owned by R.B. Pamplin Corp., a family-owned enterprise based in Portland that includes holdings in agriculture, construction, newspaper and book publishing, radio broadcasting, printing, manufacturing and retail. The farm grows crops and makes and sells preserves, syrups and other products in Your Northwest retail and online stores.
The division offers farmworker rights information, compliance assistance resources for employers, and an agriculture compliance assistance toolkit to ensure compliance with the law. Employees and employers can also contact the Wage and Hour Division at its toll-free number, 1-866-4-US-WAGE. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions – regardless of where they are from – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
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. Workers and employers alike can help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Timesheet App – now available in Spanish – for free on Android and Apple devices.