US Department of Labor Fines Contractor $239,430 For Illegally Busing Mexican Workers To NC Farms

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After a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation, SBHLP Inc. is required to pay $224,249 in wages to 194 employees for violating requirements of the H-2A visa program. The department also assessed the employer a $239,430 civil penalty and debarred the labor contractor for 3 years.

WHD investigators determined SBHLP Inc. and owner Salvador Barajas failed to provide workers at least three meals per day, as per the work order. The employer also failed to reimburse the H-2A workers for their 2018 outbound travel expenses and did not pay for their 2019 inbound travel expenses after they completed 50 percent of their contract, as the law requires.

Investigators also found that the employer collected money from the workers to cover charter bus inbound transportation and required each worker to pay their own visa and border fees while traveling from Mexico to the U.S., all violations under the federal visa program.

“Agricultural labor contractors must ensure they comply with all the requirements of the H-2A visa program,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Richard Blaylock, in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Employers that violate the H-2A visa program’s provisions create unfair advantages over other H-2A employers. The Wage and Hour Division remains committed to protecting workers and maintaining a level playing field for other employers.”

SBHLP Inc. provided H-2A employees to work on the following North Carolina farms:

–      OJ Smith Farms Farm in Whitakers;

–      Kent Smith in Rocky Mount;

–      Greenleaf Nursery in Tarboro;

–      Bailey Brothers in Bailey;

–      Bass Farm in Nashville.

The department offers numerous resources to ensure employers have the tools they need to understand their responsibilities to comply with federal law and employees are aware of their rights under the law, such as online videos, confidential calls, or in-person trainings.

For more information about the H-2A visa program and other laws enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd, including a search tool for workers who may be owed back wages collected by WHD.

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