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WHD News Release: [12/02/2009]
Contact Name: Deanne Amaden
Phone Number: (415) 625-2630
Release Number: 09-1203-SAN
US Department of Labor settles allegations over foreign worker program violations with bankrupt Arizona tomato grower
Agreement will result in payment of more than $937,000 in back wages, interest to nearly 600 US workers at Eurofresh Inc.
PHOENIX Eurofresh Inc. of Willcox, Ariz., has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division to pay $937,460 in back wages and interest to 587 U.S. workers following an investigation into company practices related to hiring temporary, non-immigrant foreign agricultural workers.
The Labor Department investigation determined that Eurofresh violated several provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act designed to protect the jobs of corresponding U.S. workers when the company hired foreign agricultural workers under the H-2A temporary worker program.
"The back wage payments for these workers are the result of significant effort to ensure all workers are treated properly when employers participate in this temporary worker program," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Employers who participate in the H-2A program should make certain that their workers are treated fairly. It's not only the right thing to do, it's the law."
The agreement settles claims for back wages and interest that arose from the Labor Department's investigation and follows proceedings resulting from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by Eurofresh last April. Eurofresh paid $550,000 to the U.S. Department of Labor last week after establishing the effective date for its bankruptcy plan as Nov. 18. The balance will be paid in two subsequent payments due in September 2010 and 2011, bringing the total amount, including a $12,500 civil money penalty, to $949,960. This total includes $245,482 which is equal to five percent of the $4,909,644 unsecured back wages determined owed during the Labor Department's investigation. This is the same percentage Eurofresh will pay all unsecured creditors under its Chapter 11 reorganization plan. The Labor Department will distribute back wage payments to eligible workers.
The violations cited include illegally terminating 527 U.S. workers and failing to notify the local employment office of the action; failing to provide pay or work for three-quarters of the required time period to 45 U.S. workers; failing to offer housing to 80 U.S. workers; and making illegal paycheck deductions from 82 U.S. workers. The employer also failed to provide more than 800 U.S. workers with copies of the H-2A work contract or job order which provides workers with the terms and conditions of their employment.
The Wage and Hour Division's Phoenix District Office conducted the investigation. For more information about federal laws governing pay for foreign workers or pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, call the Phoenix District Office at 602-514-7100 or the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.wagehour.dol.gov.