The US District Court for the Western District of Washington in Tacoma on March 26 ordered Continental Floral Greens to pay $888,000 in back wages and $888,000 in liquidated damages to nearly 700 H-2B workers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The federal court also ordered the producer of Christmas wreaths and seasonal greens to pay $74,000 in additional back wages to the workers for Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act violations and $40,000 in penalties to the US Department of Labor.

Continental Floral Greens operates eight farms, production and distribution facilities, and sales and management offices in California, Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington. It employs temporary workers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico and supplies products to retailers including Costco, Publix, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walmart and Wegmans.

According to the department’s Wage and Hour Division, Continental Floral Greens denied the workers their required overtime pay for hours over 40 in a workweek, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Division investigators also found the Shelton, Washington-based company submitted fraudulent information on job orders about wages, housing and transportation to bring workers to the US, a violation of the H-2B worker program, which allows US employers or US agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the US to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs.

“Federal law requires employers hiring workers from outside the US on temporary non-agricultural visas to ensure safe working conditions and pay the legal prevailing wage, including overtime,” Regional Solicitor of Labor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco stated in a press release. “Employers must also accurately represent the terms and conditions of those jobs so that US workers have a full and fair opportunity to work those jobs.”

According to the labor department, the investigation launched after 14 migrant workers were injured when their van crashed in November 2022. Four Salvadoran workers suffered serious injuries in the wreck, and officials determined the Continental Floral Greens employee driving the van lacked required certification to operate the vehicle.

Under terms of the consent judgment and order, Continental Floral Greens also agreed to conduct a self-audit for the next five years to ensure the company complies with all federal laws regarding H-2B employees.

SIA has reached out to Continental Floral Greens for comment.

The case is Julie A. Su, Acting Secretary of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor vs Continental Floral LLC et al.