Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.
Date: March 6, 2013
Contact: Michael D'Aquino
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Release Number: 13-223-ATL (47)
J. Roland Wood Farms pays nearly $21,000 in back wages, penalties following US Labor Department investigation
Investigation part of ongoing initiative to strengthen labor law compliance in North Carolina’s agricultural industry
BENSON,N.C. -- J. Roland Wood, the owner of J. Roland Wood Farms Inc., has paid $16,870 in back wages to 138 employees after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division disclosed violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The department assessed the employer an additional $3,950 in civil money penalties, which have also been paid in full.
Investigators found multiple MSPA violations at the farm, including failure to pay wages when due; failure to inform migrant workers that rent would be deducted from their wages; failure to disclose employment terms and conditions to workers in a language they could understand at the time of recruitment; and failure to provide required wage statements to workers. The back wages found due represent illegal deductions which are being repaid to the affected workers.
The employer also failed to meet federal health and safety standards for migrant worker housing facilities, as required by the MSPA. Investigators found standing water on the surface of the ground above the facility’s septic tank, exposing workers to raw sewage. Additionally, the employer utilized services of an unauthorized farm labor contractor to assign and supervise the migrant housing, which is prohibited under the MSPA.
“The nature of migrant agricultural work makes the migrant farm worker vulnerable to unfair and unsafe labor practices. These workers performed intense physical labor by planting and harvesting crops, but were denied their rightful wages,” said Richard Blaylock, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Raleigh District Office. “The safety and well-being of farm workers is a top priority for the department. We are pleased these workers have now been paid the wages they earned, and that safety concerns have been corrected.”
J. Roland Wood Farms is an agricultural employer that harvests tobacco and sweet potatoes. The farm employs migrant and seasonal workers to perform activities related to planting and harvesting of these crops. The Wage and Hour Division has previously investigated this employer, and found similar MSPA violations in the past.
J. Roland Wood has signed a settlement agreement with the department committing to future compliance and agreeing to pay all back wages and civil money penalties owed.
This investigation was conducted under a multiyear enforcement initiative aimed at strengthening compliance with labor laws in North Carolina. The department continues to conduct investigations of agricultural employers to seek long-term industry compliance.
Accessible and searchable information on enforcement activities by the department is available at http://ogesdw.dol.gov/search.
Most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to the MSPA, which provides additional protections for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the department. Information on the MSPA is available at http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/mspa.htm.
The division’s Raleigh office can be reached at 919-790-2742. Information on FLSA and other wage laws is available by calling the division’s toll free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or by visiting 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.