TURLOCK, CA – Too often, federal investigators find foreign-born workers brought to the U.S. fail to receive the rights and protections they are legally due. Employers don’t pay them as the law requires, and transport them in unsafe vehicles and house them in overcrowded – and sometimes hazardous – conditions. Employers who exploit these workers gain an unfair advantage over industry competitors and lower standards for domestic workers.
A recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found numerous violations of the H-2A agricultural worker program by Roberto Perez Farms and Perez Bros Farms Inc. in Turlock. Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the employers:
- Illegally rejected domestic workers.
- Failed to pay the required H-2A rate to workers hired alongside H-2A visa workers.
- Did not provide H-2A workers with at least three-quarters of the work hours guaranteed on their contracts, and pay them the wages the program requires.
- Failed to reimburse H-2A workers for inbound and outbound transportation, visa and border crossing fees, as the law requires.
- Made illegal deductions from pay.
- Failed to maintain complete records, as required.
The division also determined that the employers transported workers in unsafe vehicles with bald tires and inoperable lights, and housed workers in unsafe and overcrowded conditions. Investigators also found Roberto Perez Farms and Perez Bros Farms Inc. failed to disclose all conditions of employment, provide wage statements to workers and pay wages when due, all violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
The investigation recovered $82,616 in back wages for 92 workers and led the department to assess $36,765 in civil money penalties against the two California agricultural employers for multiple violations of the H-2A guest worker program.
“Agricultural employers violate basic labor laws when they reject domestic workers and instead use, abuse and steal the hard-earned wages and limited funds of guest workers,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Cesar Avila in Sacramento. “These violations are all too common in the agricultural industry. The Wage and Hour Division will continue to use every enforcement tool available to hold accountable those taking advantage vulnerable farmworkers and putting their health at risk.”
In fiscal year 2021, the Wage and Hour Division conducted 1,000 investigations of agricultural employers, recovering more than $8.4 million in back wages for 10,000 and assessing $7 million in penalties.
For more information about the H-2A visa program and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division.