Contributed by Christina Pitrelli, Esq.
On July 10, 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it reached a record settlement with a Nevada-based onion grower to pay over $2.3 million in back wages to 1,365 workers who came to the U.S. from Mexico to work for the company as H-2A nonimmigrant temporary agricultural workers. In addition to the back wages, the company will be required to pay a civil penalty of $500,000 for violating the terms of the H-2A program. Violations included the failure to pay the required minimum wage, subsistence costs, and return transportation costs to the workers, as well as the failure to pay them for time spent in job-related training.
The H-2A visa program enables U.S. businesses engaged in temporary or seasonal agricultural work for which they anticipate a shortage of U.S. workers to hire foreign workers for periods of less than one year.