Dec 2, 2020Florida H-2A labor contractors cited for violations by labor department
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has debarred Flo-Ag LLC – a farm labor contracting company based in Labelle, Florida – and its principals Jose Flores and Juan Flores from applying for certification to request temporary foreign workers under the H-2A agricultural worker visa program for two years.
According to a WHD news release, it also assessed Flo-Ag LLC, Jose Flores and Juan Flores a $17,939 civil penalty for violating the labor provisions of the H-2A visa program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), and found that the employer owed $45,212 in back wages to 113 employees.
WHD investigators found Flo-Ag and H-2A labor contractors Juan and Jose Flores violated wage requirements when they paid lower wages to U.S. workers than they paid to guest workers performing the same work. They violated housing requirements when they failed to provide free housing to U.S. workers but did so for guest workers, and failed to provide meals or kitchen facilities to U.S. workers. Flo-Ag also violated safety and health standards in the housing it provided to guest workers, and failed to reimburse them for expenses they incurred traveling to the facility from their home countries, as the law requires.
WHD also found Flo-Ag paid some U.S. workers in cash and did not provide a pay stub, failed to provide a work contract to some employees, and housed migrant workers without the proper authorization.
“Employers must ensure that they comply with all requirements while participating in the H-2A visa program. Employers or their contractors that violate the H-2A visa program’s provisions gain unfair advantage over other H-2A employers, hurt U.S. workers and put guest workers at risk,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Wildalí De Jesús, in Orlando, Florida. “The Wage and Hour Division provides many tools and educational opportunities to help agricultural employers understand their responsibilities, including those that apply when they use guest worker programs. We remain committed to protecting essential farmworkers, holding accountable employers who violate the law, and maintaining a level playing field for employers.”
Flo-Ag has paid the back wages. The employer provided H-2A workers to harvest blueberries, watermelons, bell peppers and cucumbers at Smith Farms of Bell Inc. in Trenton, Florida, and Wood Farms Inc. in Rochelle, Georgia.
The Department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos and confidential calls to local WHD offices.
For more information about the MSPA, H-2A visa program and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers that discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.
WHD’s mission is to promote and achieve compliance with labor standards to protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s workforce. WHD enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, record-keeping and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. WHD also enforces the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes.
Additionally, WHD administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.