A Kentucky tobacco and hemp farm will pay $25,905 in back pay to 46 workers and a $13,281 civil penalty in a settlement over H-2A temporary agricultural workers program violations, the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division reported. The farm also will be debarred from the program for three years.
The division enforces the labor provisions of the federal H-2A temporary agricultural workers program to prevent employers from exploiting temporary, nonimmigrant workers hired for seasonal agricultural work and from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding employers.
An investigation of Campbellsville, Kentucky’s Hunt Farm, owned by David Hunt, found the farm failed to reimburse H-2A workers for travel expenses they incurred returning to their home countries, as the law requires. Investigators also found the employer failed to provide work-related contracts to employees, failed to pay prevailing wages and failed to offer at least three-fourths the hours promised in the workers’ contracts, all of which the H-2A program requires. In addition, the employer attempted to impede the division’s investigation by unduly delaying access to workers, records, and housing, and by providing false information.
The DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges approved the settlement.
“These workers, who are away from their families for months at a time, deserve to be paid every penny they rightfully earn,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Karen Garnett-Civils in Louisville, Kentucky. “This investigation underscores the department’s commitment to using any and all enforcement strategies at our disposal to protect the rights of these employees, and to level the playing field for employers who obey the law.”