Virginia farm, Reyes Nature Greens, pays more than $55K in back wages, civil penalties after a federal investigation, administrative law judge decision, order
Employer shortchanged workers who harvested pumpkins, Christmas trees
INDEPENDENCE, VA (STL.News) Following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, and an administrative law judge’s order, 20 temporary agricultural workers who traveled from Mexico to help provide pumpkins, Christmas trees and produce for Mid-Atlantic consumers will be paid $19,988 in back wages by an Independence farm. The farm will also pay $36,000 in civil money penalties.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division investigation determined that Reyes Nature Greens LLC hired the workers under the H-2A temporary agricultural workers visa program, which allows employers to hire temporary, nonimmigrant workers for seasonal agricultural work.
Specifically, the division found Reyes Nature Greens failed to comply with H-2A requirements to:
- Pay the offered and required wage rate. The employer paid the temporary workers $11.42 an hour instead of $11.46 per hour, the required adverse effect wage rate at the time. The employer also missed payrolls and made no payments during certain workweeks.
- Provide a copy of the work contract, pay statements with all required information, and display required H-2A posters.
- Provide or secure housing for workers and transportation between the workers’ living quarters and the employer’s worksite without cost to the worker and in compliance with all applicable laws, safety, and health standards.
- Guarantee worker’s employment hours of at least 75 percent of the workdays in the contract period.
The department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges issued a decision and order approving consent findings, which requires Reyes Nature Greens to pay back wages to resolve the wage violations. The farm also paid a $36,000 civil money penalty and agreed to enhanced compliance through a three-year monitoring agreement.
“Agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable essential workers our laws protect,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director John DuMont in Pittsburgh. “This investigation underscores the department’s commitment to using all enforcement tools to protect the rights of people who work in the U.S. Other employers should use the outcome of this investigation as an opportunity to review their own practices to make sure they comply with the law and avoid violations like those found in this case.”