Vegetable Growing, Packing Firm Fined Over Wage Violations

Federal officials recovered nearly $480,000 for more than 200 workers.

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PARK HILLS, Mo. – A Park Hills vegetable farming and packing operation will pay $479,983 in back wages to 208 workers, following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

In a consent order and judgment entered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on March 12, 2024, and an H-2A settlement agreement executed on Dec. 29, 2023, Missouri Vegetable Farm LLC, and its owners Benjy Proffer and Robert Proffer, will pay Fair Labor Standards Act back wages of $394,159 to 102 H-2A temporary visa workers and 105 U.S. workers, as well as H-2A back wages of $85,824 to 22 “corresponding” U.S. workers. The company was also assessed civil money penalties of $38,289 for its H-2A violations. 

This action follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found Missouri Vegetable Farm often failed to compensate workers at time and one-half the adverse effect wage rate for the specific agricultural task being performed when they worked over 40 hours in a workweek. The company also often failed to combine hours employees worked in both farming and packaging operations and to pay the required wage rate. The investigation reviewed pay records from May 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021.

“Employers must understand the wage requirements for the workers they employ. When seeking approval to hire temporary visa workers, employers agree to specific terms for pay rates, job tasks and other compensation and must also pay non-visa employees at least the same rate,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Noah Lee in St. Louis. “The wages recovered for these workers will have a significant impact on their lives. Many of them may have not understood their rights to overtime pay.”

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature. 

Missouri Vegetable Farm LLC is part of the Proffer Company, a family-owned and operated full-line wholesale produce company that farms in Missouri and Arkansas.

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