Dec 10, 2021Violation of H-2A rules by Florida beekeeping farms hit by labor department
Three Florida beekeeping farms felt the sting of civil money penalties for failing to comply with federal laws regarding pay practices and the employment of migrant and seasonal workers.
In separate investigations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found violations of the H-2A program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act at businesses in Brevard and Gulf counties.
In Wewahitchka, Big River Honey of Gulf County paid $7,265 in civil money penalties after the division cited several violations, including:
- Advertising multiple requirements for U.S. workers, but not applying the same conditions to the H-2A workers.
- Paying H-2A workers a higher rate than corresponding U.S. workers doing the same jobs.
- Failing to provide copies of contracts to workers, and failing to give some workers pay statements for two months of work.
In Brevard County, Flowing Gold Apiaries in Grant was found to have changed the terms of their contract after employees arrived for work, paying H-2A workers higher than the advertised rate. By advertising the lower rate, the employer may have discouraged U.S. workers from applying for the job. In addition, they failed to pay three workers over multiple pay periods and failed to reimburse visa and travel costs. The employer paid $7,500 to the workers to resolve violations and an additional $3,395 in civil money penalties.
In Mims, also in Brevard County, the division determined that Jester Bee Co. failed to pay workers’ visa fees for two seasons. They also violated H-2A provisions by not displaying the H-2A workers’ rights poster onsite as the law requires. To resolve the violations, Jester Bee paid $3,420 to 10 workers and an additional $2,323 in civil money penalties.
Another Florida beekeeper was also found in violation of the H-2A program requirements earlier this year.
“Our investigations find that beekeeping operations in Florida continue to struggle with H-2A compliance and meeting their obligations to essential agricultural workers,” Wage and Hour Division District Office Director Wildalí De Jesús in Orlando, Florida, said in a news release. “We urge beekeeping employers to contact our offices for compliance assistance information and assistance in understanding their responsibilities.”
For information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, and use its search tool if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.