The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) reports Daniels Produce near Columbus did not pay Mexican and Guatemalan workers the required minimum wage and told the migrant employees to lie during the investigation.
Kelly Jackson, Daniels Produce office manager, says an administrative judge found there was no intimidation of workers, but she does admit mistakes regarding the issue of pay.
“We made errors calculating pay and travel reimbursements for our H-2A workers and U.S. workers back in 2012 and 2013,” Jackson tells Nebraska Radio Network. “In fact, we were making up those amounts to workers even before the settlement was reached with the USDOL.”
The farm is paying $250,000 in back wages for 89 workers.
“It was 89 people over two years and a majority of them were people that decided, ‘I’m going to work on a farm for a day or two,’” Jackson says. “So, there were not 89 people here at one time.”
Daniels Produce also must pay a $20,000 fine for violating the law.
Richard Tesarek is the assistant district director at USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division in Omaha. He says says this is a good lesson for other agricultural producers.
“These employers will ask for these workers and all of these requirements are spelled out in writing,” Tesarek tells Nebraska Radio Network. “They know what they’re getting into before they do this.”
The audit of Daniels Produce covered 2012 and 2013.
Jackson says at the time of the audit, Daniels had hired a full-time company to keep up with H-2A requirements.
“Now, I have somebody full-time in our office who tries to keep up with all the never-ending interpretations of this rule,” she says. “I just wanted legal workers.”
“You signed this document that said you would do X, Y, Z, and now you’re not doing it and you’re upset because we’re telling you that you didn’t do it,” Tesarek says, calling the situation with many producers in similar situations “frustrating.”