Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.
Date: May 13, 2014
Contact: Diana Petterson or Juan Rodriguez
Phone: 972-850-4710 or 972-850-4709
U.S. Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
Release Number: 14-636-DAL
Fairfield, Texas, farm pays more than $122,000 in unpaid wages and penalties following US Department of Labor investigation
Cooper Farms violated child labor, overtime and migrant worker laws
FAIRFIELD, Texas -- Tim Cooper Farm Enterprises LP, doing business as Cooper Farms and Cooper Farms Country Store in Fairfield, has paid more than $122,000 in back wages and civil money penalties following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The investigation found that the company violated the child labor, minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and provisions of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
“This investigation should put agricultural employers on notice that the department is committed to ensuring that workers are legally and properly paid for the labor they provide, ensuring that businesses compete with one another on a fair and level playing field,” said Cynthia Watson, regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. “Additionally, we are concerned about the employment of young workers who, due to their lack of experience, are especially vulnerable to workplace hazards. Employers are responsible for compliance with all wage, hour and safety rules for young workers involved in agricultural operations.”
Investigators from the division’s Dallas District Office found that Cooper Farms violated the child labor provisions of the FLSA by allowing four minors under 18 years old to drive a box truck that exceeded 6,000 pounds on public roads. The employer also violated the minimum wage provisions of the FLSA by paying employees less than the current federal rate of $7.25 per hour. The firm erroneously claimed an agriculture FLSA overtime exemption and violated overtime provisions when it did not pay time and one-half the regular rate of pay for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Finally, the employer did not keep required payroll records.
Cooper Farms violated the MSPA when it failed to disclose employment conditions to workers; record and maintain hours worked; provide wage statements to workers; post housing conditions provided to workers; ensure housing safety and health; and provide safe transportation vehicles.
Cooper Farms has agreed to pay the required minimum wage for all hours worked; to pay overtime when employees exceed 40 hours in a workweek; to record and maintain hours worked; and to comply with all child labor requirements in the future. All back wages and penalties have been paid.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Workers not employed in agriculture, and not otherwise exempt from overtime compensation, are entitled to time and one-half their regular rates of pay 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.
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.
Information on federal laws concerning migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, as well as other labor laws, is available by calling the Wage and Hour 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.