By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

Valdes Lawn Care and Snow Removal LLC, a Minnesota lawn care and snow removal company, violated the H-2B visa program by charging foreign temporary workers higher rent than allowed, requiring them to pay for their international transportation and demanding payment to keep their jobs. As a result of a U.S. Department of Labor investigation and a Consent Judgment entered by a DOL Administrative Law Judge, Valdes Lawn Care and Snow Removal paid $118,950 in back wages and $38,688 in liquidated damages for 72 employees. The company will also pay $127,561 in civil money penalties and be debarred from eligibility to participate in the H-2B program for three years.

It was determined Valdes Lawn Care violated the H-2B Visa program when it:
  • Failed to disclose that housing was available at a cost and then profited off workers by charging monthly rent fees that were higher than the cost to Valdes.
  • Demanded guest workers each pay them up to $800 as a condition of employment.
  • Failed to reimburse guest workers for travel expenses from and to their home countries, as required.
  • Failed to offer guest workers at least 35 hours per workweek during the first months of the work season as required.
  • Employed at least four temporary foreign workers hired for landscaping and snow removal work to perform construction work.
  • Misrepresented the need for workers; for a four-month period, the employer had little to no work available.
Additionally, the company violated FLSA minimum wage and overtime requirements when it:
  • Failed to pay overtime after 40 hours in a work week and instead paid overtime only after 80 hours worked in a two-week pay period.
  • Failed to pay guest workers overtime at the required rates.
  • Paid nine U.S. workers flat salaries regardless of the number of hours that they worked, failing to pay overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek.