MAINE VEGETABLE FARM PAYS $10,164 PENALTY AND AMENDS HIRING AND PAY PRACTICES IN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR AGREEMENT
The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with a Maine vegetable farm after an investigation found that it willfully violated terms of the H-2B non-immigrant visa program under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Under the settlement agreement, Green Thumb Farms Inc. of Fryeburg has paid $10,164 in penalties to the Department and agreed to comply with the law, applicable H-2B regulations, and the obligations agreed and attested to in all of its temporary employment certification applications.
The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrant foreign workers to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the U.S. for a limited period of time.
Green Thumb Farms had hired foreign H-2B workers to pack potatoes. The employer failed to comply with the required recruitment of persons in the U.S., including contacting all former U.S. employees hired for potato packing in previous seasons. It also did not offer U.S. workers the same transportation and housing it had offered to H-2B workers. In addition, the employer misrepresented in its application that employees would be working only 40 hours per week, when they regularly worked 50 hours per week.
“The protections for U.S. employees that stem from the law’s requirements to contact, recruit, and offer them employment are clear and known to employers who request to hire under the H-2B visa program.” said the Department’s Wage and Hour Division Northern New England District Director Daniel Cronin.
“This case is important because it highlights the Department’s commitment to enforcing the requirement for employers to recruit and hire qualified, available persons in the U.S. before requesting permission to hire foreign workers. The H-2B program safeguards American employees against displacement and also protects vulnerable foreign workers from being paid less than the prevailing wage or otherwise working under substandard conditions,” said Merle Hyman, Counsel for Wage and Hour Programs in the office of the Regional Solicitor of Labor.
The Division’s Northern New England District Office conducted the investigation. Attorney Sheila Gholkar of the Boston Regional Office of the Solicitor litigated the case for the Division. For more information about the H-2B program, contact the Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Northern New England District Office at 603-666-7716. Information also is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor v. Green Thumb Farms, Inc.