Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
Tennessee landscaping contractor to pay more than $18,000 in back wages to 42 H-2B workers following US Labor Department investigation
Vanderbilt Landscaping violated Fair Labor Standards Act and H-2B visa rules
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Vanderbilt Landscaping Inc. has agreed to pay $18,496 in back wages to 42 workers after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that the Mason-based contractor violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. The division has assessed the company an additional $18,000 in penalties for violating the H-2B visa rules governing the employment of nonimmigrant temporary workers, which the company is appealing.
“The Labor Department vigorously enforces rules governing nonimmigrant temporary workers, to protect the rights of those workers as well as those of U.S. citizens,” said Nettie Lewis, the Wage and Hour Division’s acting district director in Nashville. “The Wage and Hour Division requires accurate advertising of job duties and rates of pay so that U.S. citizens will be given a fair chance at obtaining these jobs.”
In its request for permission to recruit foreign workers, the company agreed to abide by the conditions of the H-2B certification. However, investigators found that the company willfully violated certain provisions of the rules, including the placement of workers outside the area of their intended employment, not conducting required recruitment of U.S. citizens and misrepresenting the reason for its temporary need for H-2B workers.
Investigators conducted interviews with workers in English and Spanish, and examined payroll and time records. They found that workers were not compensated for visa and transportation costs, which reduced their wages to less than the federal minimum wage. The company also failed to compensate workers for all hours spent conducting job duties, resulting in employees not receiving premium pay when they worked more than 40 hours during a week.
The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the U.S. The employment must be of a temporary nature for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence or for seasonal, peak load and intermittent needs. The program requires an employer to attest to the Department of Labor that it will offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the following: the prevailing wage, applicable federal minimum wage, state minimum wage or local minimum wage. This wage will be paid to the H-2B nonimmigrant worker for the occupation in the area of intended employment during the entire period of the approved labor certification. The program also establishes certain recruitment and displacement standards in order to protect similarly employed U.S. workers.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular hourly rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
For more information, contact the Wage and Hour Division’s Nashville District Office at 615-781-5344 or call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.