The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division enforces the labor provisions of the federal H-2A temporary agricultural workers program to prevent employers from exploiting temporary, nonimmigrant workers hired for seasonal agricultural work and from gaining an unfair competitive advantage over law-abiding employers.
An investigation of a Campbellsville tobacco and hemp farm offers an example of why this enforcement is necessary and how attempting to impede an investigation resulted in the division debarring the farm’s operator from participating in the program for three years.
An investigation by the division of a farm operated by David Hunt found that the Hunt Farm failed to reimburse H-2A workers for travel expenses they incurred returning to their home countries, as the law requires. Investigators also found the employer failed to provide work-related contracts to employees, failed to pay prevailing wages and failed to offer at least three-fourths the hours promised in the workers’ contracts, all of which the H-2A program requires. In addition, the employer attempted to impede the division’s investigation by unduly delaying access to workers, records, and housing, and by providing false information.
Following the investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges approved a settlement ordering Hunt to pay $25,905 in back wages to 46 workers to resolve the violations. Hunt is also required to pay a $13,281 civil penalty and is debarred from participation in the H-2A program for three years.