By KAREN VELIE
The U.S. Department of Labor fined five farms, including one in Nipomo and three in Santa Maria, for withholding pay and benefits due farm workers in the country on the federal H-2A program.
The H-2A program allows employers to bring workers here from other countries to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural labor or services. An ongoing review revealed some California vegetable farms had not been providing H-2A workers with the pay, benefits and personal protections the law requires.
In a series of investigations conducted from April 2020 through Feb. 2022, the federal agency discovered the five farms had failed to pay back wages, to provide meals or kitchen facilities, to pay required inbound and outbound transportation and to allow workers to be transported safely.
The investigations led to the recovery of $225,114 in back wages for 588 workers and assessments of $54,617 in penalties from the following five farms:
SARC in Nipomo: Failed to pay inbound transportation and meal costs and made improper deductions for meals and unpaid hours worked. Also, did not ensure health and safety standards. SARC paid $34,996 in back wages to 42 employees and $13,160 in penalties.
Adam Bros Farming in Santa Maria: Failed to provide meals or kitchen facilities, transportation and meal costs. Failed to pay all required wages and unlawfully deducting meal costs, including when meals were not provided. The employer paid $94,146 in back wages to 30 employees and $7,862 in penalties.
Boavista Farms in Santa Maria: Failed to pay required inbound and outbound transportation and meal costs. Failed to pay all required wages. Boavista Farms was ordered to pay $43,297 in back wages to 28 employees and $5,361 in penalties.
Profresco Inc. in Santa Maria: Failed to pay all required inbound and outbound transportation and meal costs, and failed to meet safety requirements. Profresco Farms paid $50,789 in back wages to 471 employees and $7,505 in penalties.
Togliatti Farms LLC in San Martin: Failed to pay for required inbound transportation and did not pay the required rate of pay. Togliatti Farms was ordered to pay $1,885 in back wages to 17 workers, and $20,729 in penalties.