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H-2B Program Exploited By Contractor – 72 Temporary Workers Affected
After an investigation revealed that temporary foreign workers were exploited, a Minnesota company was barred from the federal guest worker program.
Employer compensates 72 employees for unpaid wages and damages totaling $118,950.00
MINNEAPOLIS- A United States Department of Labor investigation of Valdes Lawn Care and Snow Removal LLC in Lake Elmo resulted in the recovery of $118,950 in back wages and $38,688 in liquidated damages for 72 employees for violations of the H-2B prevailing wage rate requirements and the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions. Additionally, the company will pay $127,561 in civil money penalties and will be barred from participating in the H-2B program for three years.
The payments and debarment are a result of a consent judgment entered by a Pittsburgh administrative law judge.
“Employers who exploit temporary workers harm both foreign and domestic workers,” said Assistant District Director Kristin Tout of the Wage and Hour Division in Minneapolis. “The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring that all employees receive their hard-earned wages and that employers participating in the H-2B visa program comply with all program requirements. Our enforcement safeguards workers and levels the playing field for law-abiding employers.”
Valdes violated the H-2B Visa program, the division determined, when it:
Failed to disclose that housing was available at a cost and then profited from workers by charging monthly rent fees that exceeded Valdes’s cost.
Each of the guest workers was required to pay up to $800 as a condition of employment.
Defaulted on reimbursing guest workers for travel costs to and from their home countries.
During the first months of the work season, failed to provide guest workers with at least 35 hours per week.
At least four temporary foreign workers were hired to perform landscaping and snow removal work.
Employer misrepresented the need for workers; the employer had little to no work available for a four-month period.
Employees were not provided with a copy of the job order outlining their employment terms and conditions.
Employee Rights Under the H-2B Program poster was not posted.
Furthermore, the company violated the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements by:
Overtime was not paid after 40 hours worked in a work week and was instead paid after 80 hours worked in a two-week pay period.
Failure to compensate guest workers for required overtime.
Paid nine US employees a flat salary regardless of the number of hours worked, failing to compensate them for overtime hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.
Failed to maintain records of the hours worked by salaried employees and H-2B workers performing construction and laborer work at the employer’s residence.
For more information about the H-2B Program, the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’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.