By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has debarred Christopher Lee Smith, owner of Christopher Lee Smith Farms in Glasgow, Kentucky, from applying for certification to request temporary foreign workers under the H-2A agricultural worker visa program for three years. WHD also assessed the employer a $35,755 civil penalty for violating the labor provisions of the H-2A program and found Smith owed $58,820 in back wages to 14 employees.

The DOL investigation found Smith violated the requirements of the H-2A visa program by failing to reimburse foreign workers for their transportation expenses to and from their home countries, as the law requires; failing to reimburse employees for expenses related to obtaining their visas; failing to keep required time and pay records; failing to pay employees their wages when due; and failing to pay the required minimum wage to H-2A visa workers, as required by law.

And in a continuing trend with each resolution of an immigration-related case by a federal agency, the DOL pointed to safeguarding American jobs pursuant to Trump’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order. Specifically, Karen Garnett, Wage and Hour Division District Director in Louisville, said “This case demonstrates our commitment to safeguard American jobs, level the playing field for law-abiding employers, and protect vulnerable workers from being paid less than they are legally owed.”

The H-2A temporary agricultural program establishes a means for agricultural employers, who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers, to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.