A swimming pool subcontractor in Pennsylvania will pay back wages after failing to pay the required wages and violating several provisions of the H-2B guest worker visa program, the US Department of Labor reported. Separately, a former owner a Wisconsin-based business was sentenced to prison for making false materials statements to the DOL and to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Swimming pool subcontractor
An Ambler, Pennsylvania, swimming pool subcontractor will pay $317,097 in back wages to three US workers and 56 workers from Mexico after failing to pay the required wages to them and violating several provisions of the H-2B guest worker visa program, according to a consent order obtained by the US Department of Labor. The company will also pay $67,649 in civil money penalties in addition to $50,470 in travel expenses as part of their back wages.
The investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that GSI Pool Finishes Inc. illegally paid the workers, hired as cement masons, at a piece rate that was below the required offered wage rate, resulting in the workers being owed $266,627 in back wages.
Moreover, GSI Pool Finishes did not include housing availability in its advertisement or Temporary Employment Certification; failed to conduct drug tests and criminal background checks, despite advertising that it would; and improperly classified three workers as a yard helper, truck shop helper and warehouse helper when it was only permitted to employ workers as cement masons.
Additionally, the employer failed to include all required information on the employees’ earning statements; did not provide inbound, outbound, and daily subsistence to workers for their travel to and from the employer’s worksite from either the US or hometowns in Mexico; failed to provide workers with a written job disclosure, as required by H-2B regulations; did not keep accurate records of employee hours worked and any monies paid to workers for travel; and failed to recruit US workers as required, as part of supplemental recruitment in 2018.
Wisconsin-based forestry business
A former owner of an Eleva, Wisconsin-based business was sentenced to 18 months in prison for making false materials statements to the US Department of Labor and to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin reported.
The owner, Alfredo Aguilar, previously pleaded guilty on Jan. 13, 2023, and paid the full fine and restitution for the immigrant workers. Aguilar also paid $1,144,693.56 in restitution and $210,696.39 in civil penalties to the non-citizen workers.
According to the office, from 2015 until December 2018, as the co-owner of Northwoods Forestry Inc., Aguilar recruited H-2B workers from Mexico and Central America to work in forestry, planting and caring for trees and clearing and developing woodland. Employers are permitted to hire temporary workers from other countries on H-2B visas to perform labor to address one-time, seasonal, intermittent or peak needs. Northwoods Forestry agents made statements and attestations under oath to the Department of Labor and USCIS regarding the type of work the workers would do and the wages they would receive.
Aguilar admitted to placing Northwoods Forestry H-2B workers with non-forestry employers, including in meat packing, construction, roofing, agriculture, painting, fur processing and landscaping businesses, and assured those employers that the H-2B employees could legally work at their businesses when he knew that was false, according to the US Attorney’s Office. Aguilar also admitted that Northwoods Forestry failed to pay the workers the highest applicable wages and overtime, deducted the cost of safety boots from the employees sent to work in meat packing, and deducted expenses and subsistence for transportation to and from the US from the H-2B employees’ pay, all contrary to their sworn statements to the Department of Labor.