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U.S. Department of Labor Debars Farm Labor Contractor for H-2A Violations

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has the power to investigate employers and farm labor contractors for possible violations to the H-2A or H-2B rules and debar them from the visa program when they don't comply with the law, in addition to impose fines and order the payment of salaries owed to migrant workers.

Recently, the WHD investigated three farm labor contractors that operated in North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin. The WHD determined that all contractors violated the rights of H-2A workers and failed to comply with other obligations under the law. The companies Worldwide Staffing LLC, in Dunn, North Carolina; Vasquez Citrus & Hauling Inc. and Juan Vásquez, in Lake Placid, Florida and J.C. Castro Harvesting LLC and J.C. Longoria Castro in Vidalia, Georgia, which also hired people to work in agriculture in Wisconsin, were debarred from the H-2A program and they can not request H-2A workers until 2021.

According to the WHD investigation, Worldwide Staffing LLC failed to meet its obligation to reimburse the travel expenses of H-2A workers and is obligated to pay workers $ 58,458 for unpaid wages. Additionally, it was determined that the kitchen facilities were inadequate and that the employer failed to provide three meals per day, as required by law, and charged the workers more than the allowed cost per food. The WHD imposed a civil penalty of $ 17,309 dollars to Worldwide Staffing LLC.

Similarly, Vásquez Citrus & Hauling Inc. and Juan Vásquez also failed in their obligation to reimburse the travel expenses for H-2A workers, and to keep adequate records of workers' hours and payments. For this reason, the WHD imposed a civil penalty of $ 15,153 dollars.

The WHD also determined that J.C Castro and his company J.C. Castro Harvesting, LLC, violated the rights of approximately 150 workers that were employed in the company Scott Farms in Brinson and another 63 workers who worked in other farms in Wisconsin. The violations were: failure to provide employees with copies of their contracts; failure to provide meals or kitchen facilities; failure to pay H-2A workers required wages, despite the company's records indicating it had; failure to include the total hours of employment offered and worked on employee records, and failure to provide safe a decent housing, among others. The company will have to pay a civil penalty of $ 207,522 as well as $ 28,177 to 122 workers in Georgia for unpaid wages and $ 72,166 to 63 workers in Wisconsin for the same reason.

The results of the investigations demonstrate that the WHD is a resource available for H-2A workers in order to claim any violation to their rights, as well as a way to ensure compliance with the rules of the visa program. To contact the DOL Wage and Hour Division, you can call 866-487-9243 to learn about your rights, or, if applicable, file a complaint against your employer. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (CDM), can also answer your questions about your labor rights in temporary work programs. You can call CDM toll-free at 1-855-234-9699 from the US or at 01-800-590-1773 from Mexico.