By: Bruce E Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges has ordered a fine of approximately $56,000 against Garcia Forest Service, a North Carolina tree-trimming company, for violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The DOL investigation arose out of a Maine vehicle crash in 2017 that injured 14 foreign workers, employed as evergreen branch cutters under the H-2B visa program, in a company passenger van and who were not wearing seat belts. The penalties were to resolve violations of federal laws protecting migrant and seasonal workers and preventing adverse conditions for U.S. workers.

DOL investigators found that Garcia Forest Service violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act by:
  • Failing to comply with U.S. Department of Transportation vehicle standards for safe loading and minimum age requirements, and applicable state safety standards.
  • Failing to ensure each driver had an appropriate and valid license.
  • Failing to pay wages to workers when due, provide a wage statement to each worker, make, and keep records with respect to each worker, and disclose employment conditions to workers.
Garcia Forest Service also violated H-2B program rules by failing to keep documents on file, placing workers outside an approved employment area, paying rates higher than advertised when trying to recruit U.S. workers, and hiring foreign workers without necessary expertise.

In addition to the penalties, Garcia and his company must hire an outside consultant – for the next three years – who will assist them with properly drafting and submitting MSPA-related applications and issue an annual compliance report with a copy to the division. They are also required to use a third party to aid in drafting and submitting their applications for temporary employment certifications under the H-2B program.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer 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.