FRYEBURG — The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with a local vegetable farm that willfully violated terms of a nonimmigrant visa program, according to the Labor Department.
Under the agreement, Green Thumb Farms has paid $10,164 in penalties to the department and has agreed to comply with the law, applicable regulations and the obligations agreed and attested to in all of its temporary employment certification applications, according to the release.
The visa program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrant foreign workers to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the U.S. for a limited time.
Green Thumb Farms had hired foreign workers to pack potatoes, according to the release. The employer failed to comply with the required recruitment of workers in the U.S., including contacting all former U.S. employees hired for potato packing in previous seasons.
It also did not offer workers in the U.S. the same transportation and housing it had offered to the foreign workers.
In addition, the farm misrepresented in its application that employees would be working only 40 hours per week, when they regularly worked 50 hours per week, according to the release.
“The protections for U.S. employees that stem from the law’s requirements to contact, recruit, and offer them employment are clear and known to employers who request to hire under the H-2B visa program,” Department Wage and Hour Division Northern New England District Director Daniel Cronin said in the statement.
“This case is important because it highlights the department’s commitment to enforcing the requirement for employers to recruit and hire qualified, available persons in the U.S. before requesting permission to hire foreign workers,” said Merle Hyman, counsel for Wage and Hour Programs in the office of the Regional Solicitor of Labor.
“The H-2B program safeguards American employees against displacement and also protects vulnerable foreign workers from being paid less than the prevailing wage or otherwise working under substandard conditions,” Hyman said.
The Division’s Northern New England District Office conducted the investigation.
For more information about the H-2B program, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Northern New England District Office at 603-666-7716.