Feb 24, 2022DOL finds Idaho potato farm in violation of H-2A obligations
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) investigators have determined that an Idaho potato farm violated its obligations to guest workers.
According to a news release, U.S. Department of Labor investigators determined an Idaho potato farm “violated its obligations to guest workers and the law, shortchanged wages and exposed workers to substandard living conditions.” Investigators also determined the employer used threats and intimidation to exploit workers.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division found Jorgensen Management Inc., a potato farm in Bancroft, Idaho, intentionally violated the following provisions of the H-2A guest worker program:
- Failure to pay the required rates to 69 domestic workers hired alongside H-2A visa workers.
- Failure to provide H-2A workers with at least three-quarters of the work hours guaranteed on their contracts.
- Failure to reimburse workers for inbound transportation costs.
In addition to these violations, investigators determined that the employer threatened to terminate the work contract and send workers back to Mexico if they refused to accept wages at a lower rate than legally required under the H-2A program. The division also found Jorgensen violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act by failing to meet mandatory housing safety and health standards, failing to disclose all conditions of employment, failing to provide wage statements to workers and failing to pay wages when due.
The penalties include the DOL recovering $159,256 in unpaid wages and assessing $25,430 in fines.
“By threatening and shortchanging some of the lowest paid workers in our nation, Jorgensen Management showed a willful disregard for the law. They created a toxic workplace and victimized these vulnerable workers,” Wage and Hour District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland, Oregon, said in the news release. “The outcome of this investigation sends a strong message to other employers that the Wage and Hour Division will not tolerate abuses of the H-2A program and will protect the rights of all people working in the U.S.”
In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division conducted 1,000 investigations of agricultural employers, resulting in more than 10,000 workers recovering $8.4 million in back wages. The investigations also resulted in $7 million in penalties.