By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

U.S. District Judge of Arizona Susan Brnovich ordered Agro Cargo LLC and Christian Gomez Bueno to pay $48,771 in civil penalties and $26,229 in back wages they owe their employees. The Judge also barred Jose Carlos Gomez, who is Gomez Bueno’s father and did business as Union Harvest, from ever again serving as a farm labor contractor. Finally, the judge defined clear requirements for future compliance for both father and son under MSPA and the H-2A program. This order was a result of an U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation under the labor provisions of the H-2A visa foreign guest worker program and Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). MSPA protects migrant and seasonal agricultural employees by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, and transportation.

Wage and Hour investigators found Agro Cargo LLC, Christian Gomez Bueno and Jose Carlos Gomez failed to provide employees with safe transportation, to pay employees all the wages they had earned when due, to maintain accurate records of hours employees worked under the H-2A program and MSPA, and to register all persons performing farm labor contractor activities on their behalf. The investigation found egregious transportation safety violations, including that the buses used had worn tires, missing mirrors, faulty lights, inoperative horns and duct tape was used to hold together the steering column of one of the buses.

The consent judgment requires the defendants to provide notices to employees about their rights; permit WHD investigators to enter the fields to read the notices to employees and answer employees’ questions on company time; provide for annual and bi-annual trainings for supervisors; and to cooperate with the Department to secure liens on property.