SONOMA, Calif. – The U.S. Department of Labor recovered $54,935 in lost wages for 14 farmworkers after an investigation found that a California grape grower gave workers employed under the H-2A agricultural worker program more hours and better wages than those provided to U.S. workers, in violation of federal law.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that Vino Farms, headquartered in Lodi, illegally gave preferential treatment to the H-2A workers provided by Premium Employment Services of Salinas, and failed to offer equal pay and work hours to 14 U.S.-based workers supplied by a second contractor, Perez Farming Services of Lodi.
In addition to paying lost wages, Vino Farms was assessed $21,257 in civil money penalties. The investigation examined work performed on Vino Farms’ Sonoma County vineyards.
“The H-2A program provides agricultural employers the ability to hire foreign farmworkers after attempts to hire U.S.-based workers are unsuccessful,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Susana Blanco in San Jose. “The agricultural community must understand that the wages and hours afforded to migrant workers in the H-2A program cannot shortchange U.S. workers.”
In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the Wage and Hour Division investigated 735 cases with H-2A violations and recovered more than $9 million in back wages for more than 13,000 workers. It also assessed $9.5 million in civil penalties to employers for violations of federal labor laws.