BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — An Alabama agricultural employer has paid over $18,000 in back wages and penalties after giving H-2A workers preferential treatment over U.S. workers.
Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that Steele, Alabama-based Boatwright Farms LLC underpaid 106 U.S. workers, giving them a lower rate of pay than legally required, among other violations.
The agency found that Boatwright recruited and hired H-2A workers to plant, grow, harvest and prepare tomatoes for shipping. The employer violated regulations of the H-2A program by paying U.S. workers in corresponding jobs a lower hourly rate than offered to H-2A workers.
The employer also failed to satisfy the job order’s requirements by not stating actual terms and conditions and did not give workers their wage and hours statements.
Additionally, the employer violated the Migrant and Seasonal Workers Protection Act.
The division recovered $8,862 in back wages for 106 workers, and assessed $9,970 in civil money penalties to the employer.
“In order to participate in the H-2A program, agricultural employers are required to pay U.S. workers no less than corresponding H-2A workers,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Kenneth Stripling in Birmingham. “Our investigation found that this employer failed to adhere to legal standards when employing workers – including failing to tell them the job requirements and location and failing to give them wage stubs and correct pay. Our agency has multiple resources available to help employers understand their obligations under the law.”