By: Bruce E. Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has recovered $245,351 in back wages for 117 employees of Backyard Farms LLC, a greenhouse tomato grower in Madison, Maine, that failed to comply with federal laws governing wages and working conditions for agricultural temporary guest workers, U.S. workers and workers in corresponding employment.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division found Backyard Farms violated the labor provisions of the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Visa Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. In addition to the $245,351 in back wages, Backyard Farms paid $92,114 in civil money penalties for its violations. Backyard Farms also violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act when it contracted with three temporary help agencies that were not farm labor contractors registered to perform MSPA-covered activities.

Investigators determined Backyard Farms violated H-2A program requirements when it made room for incoming foreign workers by dismissing U.S. workers it employed through temporary help agencies as de-leafers, pickers and packers. The grower also paid workers in corresponding employment lower wages than H-2A workers for performing the same work, which is prohibited by law. Additionally, Backyard Farms failed to offer employment to U.S. workers who worked in the same occupation the previous year, giving those positions to guest workers instead.