The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recently concluded an agricultural employment focused educational and enforcement initiatives that recovered $422,152 in back wages for 443 low-wage workers across California and assessed $85,168 in civil penalties primarily against growers in central California.
Focused on compliance with transportation safety requirements, the initiative found widespread violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and of the labor provisions of the H-2A visa program at 10 facilities and among the farm labor contractors investigated.
The initiative included a balance of inspections and enforcement activities with a robust outreach effort by WHD investigators to provide compliance assistance to growers and non-profits, and to educate workers.
"The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to be on the lookout to ensure agricultural workers are paid the wages they have legally earned, and are also provided safe working, housing and transportation conditions," said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez, in San Francisco. "We are always available to assist employers in understanding their responsibilities under federal laws. We encourage all employers to take advantage of the free resources we provide and avoid costly penalties."
WHD investigators inspected onion-growing operations in the high desert around Lancaster and Palmdale before moving to strawberry harvest operations in the Santa Maria area.
H-2A and MSPA violations included failing to pay the required minimum wage, missing paychecks, unlawfully rejecting U.S. workers, failing to provide safe housing, and failing to meet safe transportation requirements for workers.
The most significant violations occurred at JV Harvesting in Santa Maria, Manuel Perez Farming in San Luis Obispo, Savino Farms in Santa Maria, La Palma Farms in Santa Maria, Big F Company in Santa Maria, Rio Vista Corp. in Santa Maria, and Aztec Harvesting in Fresno.