A Maine tomato grower has paid $245,351 in back wages for 117 employees for failure to comply with federal laws governing wages and working conditions for agricultural temporary guest workers, US workers and workers in corresponding employment, the US Department of Labor announced Tuesday. In addition to the back wages, Backyard Farms LLC paid $92,114 in civil money penalties for its violations.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Backyard Farms violated the labor provisions of the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act .
Investigators determined Backyard Farms violated H-2A program requirements when it made room for incoming foreign workers by dismissing US workers it employed through temporary help agencies as de-leafers, pickers and packers. The grower also paid workers in corresponding employment lower wages than H-2A workers for performing the same work, which is prohibited by law. Additionally, Backyard Farms failed to offer employment to US workers who worked in the same occupation the previous year, instead giving those positions to guest workers. The employer also failed to provide employees with copies of their work contracts, as required by law.
Backyard Farms also violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act when it contracted with three temporary help agencies that were not farm labor contractors registered to perform MSPA-covered activities.
“The US Department of Labor continues to enforce the requirements of agricultural guest worker program to ensure employers do not terminate or fail to offer jobs to US workers in favor of foreign workers, and do not pay any workers in corresponding employment less than their hard-earned wages,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Daniel Cronin in Manchester, New Hampshire. “In this case, Backyard Farms dismissed some US workers and paid other workers lower wages than foreign workers for the same work. Employers that violate the requirements of the H-2A program can be assessed back wages and substantial penalties, and may be barred from participating in the H-2A program for up to 3 years.”