Dec 1, 2020Idaho grower-shipper cited for labor violations
After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD), an American Falls, Idaho, agricultural grower and potato transporter will pay $68,848 in back wages to 66 workers to resolve violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the labor provisions of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program and the Migrant Seasonal Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
According to a DOL news release, the owners of the two companies, Lance Funk Farms and Great Rift Transportation, also will pay $6,534 in civil penalties for the violations.
WHD investigators found that Great Rift Transportation failed to pay overtime when employees worked more than 40 hours in a work week, resulting in $30,961 in back wages owed to 19 employees. Instead, the employer paid workers at their straight time rates for the overtime hours.
Lance Funk Farms failed to pay the same rate to U.S. workers as they paid to H-2A workers from Mexico and South Africa performing the same work. To protect American jobs, the law requires that similarly employed U.S. workers be paid at least as much as the guest workers. This employer’s failure to do so resulted in $32,016 in back wages owed to 25 employees.
The company also failed to reimburse Mexican workers for expenses they incurred traveling to the employer’s location from their home country, as the law requires, resulting in $4,160 owed to 16 employees. The employer further failed to reimburse South African H-2A workers for their visa costs, resulting in $1,710 owed to six employees. Finally, Lance Funk Farms failed to disclose employment terms and conditions to employees, and to provide required wage statements.
“The Wage and Hour Division provides many tools and educational opportunities to help agricultural employers understand their responsibilities, including those that apply when they request workers under guest worker programs,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Thomas Silva, in Portland, Oregon, through a press release. “Employers who violate agricultural labor laws create unfair advantages over other employers, hurt U.S. workers and put guest workers at risk. The Wage and Hour Division remains committed to protecting essential farmworkers, holding accountable employers who violate the law, and maintaining a level playing field for employers.”
Lance & Lisa Funk Partnership — operating as Lance Funk Farms — grows potatoes, sugar beets, wheat, corn, mustard and sunflowers on approximately 25,000 acres. The employer also owns Great Rift Transportation LLC, which transports potatoes from other growers.
For more information about the FLSA, MSPA, H2A program and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
Employers that discover overtime or minimum wage violations may self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.