After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Delano, California-based blueberry grower Munger Bros. LLC and two related companies will pay $2.5 million in back wages to approximately 3,000 workers to resolve violations of the H-2A visa program and the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
Munger Bros. and the two related companies will also pay $1 million in civil money penalties due to the seriousness of the violations found during the 2017 blueberry harvest season in California and Washington.
Under the consent judgment entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Munger Bros. and the two related companies, which are under the grower’s control, are enjoined for three years from participating in the H-2A program and from using the services of H-2A labor contractors. When they use the services of an H-2A labor contractor, they must continue to recruit, contact and re-hire any U.S. workers.
The judgment further requires that when Munger Bros. and related companies use the H-2A program they must first contact any area farm labor contractors to meet their labor needs, purchase radio advertisements to announce available jobs, only hire transportation authorized farm labor contractors, and implement an enhanced compliance monitoring program of their labor contractors.
WHD investigators found Munger Bros., Crowne Cold Storage LLC, and Sarbanand Farms LLC violated the H-2A program by unlawfully giving preferential hiring treatment to temporary foreign agricultural workers; and for failing to recruit, contact and re-hire U.S. workers, including those previously hired through farm labor contractors. The investigation also revealed the grower failed to provide safe housing to the H-2A workers, pay workers the required rates of pay, including for time spent traveling and waiting for transportation to and from job sites, and provide safe transportation to H-2A workers.
Investigators found the employers also used farm labor contractors to provide transportation services without being authorized, failed to provide workers with all the terms and conditions of employment, and failed to keep accurate records of actual hours worked each day for all employees.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will use all available legal tools to ensure employers comply with their obligations under our agricultural labor visa programs,” said Solicitor of Labor Kate S. O’Scannlain.
“This case demonstrates our commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for law-abiding employers and protect workers from being paid less than they are legally owed,” said Cheryl M. Stanton, Wage and Hour Administrator. “The Wage and Hour Division is always available to assist employers in understanding their responsibilities under federal laws.”
Munger Bros. is one of America’s biggest blueberry producers.
The Department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities and to comply with federal law, such as online videos, electronic toolkits, or in-person visits with local WHD staff.
For more information about the H-2A and MSPA visa programs, and other laws enforced by the Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at www.dol.gov/whd, including a search tool for workers who may be owed back wages collected by WHD.