By Bruce E. Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
After investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), two farm companies have paid or agreed to pay back wages for violations related to the H-2A Visa program.

Tackett Fish Farms LLC, based in Schlater, Mississippi, paid $30,963 in back wages to 38 employees for violating the labor provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s H-2A visa program. WHD determined the fish farm failed to reimburse H-2A workers for expenses they incurred while traveling to the employer’s location from their home countries, as required by law. WHD also found the employer failed to include some required information on employees’ earning statements.

In a separate case, Lance Funk Farms and Great Ri Transportation, an American Falls, Idaho, agricultural grower and potato transporter, agreed to pay $68,848 in back wages to 66 workers to resolve violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the labor provisions of the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program and the Migrant Seasonal Worker Protection Act (MSPA).

The owners of Lance Funk Farms and Great Ri Transportation will also pay $6,534 in civil penalties for the violations. WHD investigators found Great Ri Transportation failed to pay overtime when employees worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, resulting in $30,961 in back wages owed to 19 employees. Instead, the employer paid workers at their straight time rates for the overtime hours.

Moreover, Lance Funk Farms failed to pay the same rate to U.S. workers as they paid to H-2A workers from Mexico and South Africa performing the same work. To protect American jobs, the law requires that similarly employed U.S. workers be paid at least as much as the guest workers. This employer’s failure to do so resulted in $32,016 in back wages owed to 25 employees. The company also failed to reimburse Mexican workers for expenses they incurred traveling to the employer’s location from their home country, as the law requires, resulting in $4,160 owed to 16 employees. The employer further failed to reimburse South African H-2A workers for their visa costs, resulting in $1,710 owed to six employees. Finally, Lance Funk Farms failed to disclose employment terms and conditions to employees, and to provide required wage statements.

If you want to know more about issues of immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.