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DOL’s blueberry farm investigation bears fruit

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources

The U.S. Department of Labor has cited nine blueberry farms and 17 labor contractors for violations of child labor laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). The farms and contractors operated in Bladen and Craven counties.

According to the DOL, the farms and contractors hired workers as young as 8 years old to perform farm work. Federal law prohibits workers under 14 from working on farms without DOL permission.

Five of the farms (Blueberry Hill Farms, Carter Farms, Morris Bros. Blueberry Farms, Nelson’s Blueberry Farm and Thomas Milton Smith) and two of the contractors (Macendonio Hernandez and Jesus Moto Serrano) were cited for child labor law violations.

The other employers were cited for failure to disclose terms and conditions of employment as required by MSPA, record-keeping violations and violations of federal minimum wage law. Penalties imposed against the 26 employers total $31,445 in addition to $40,010 in back wages owed to 428 farm workers.

Note: Employers should always double-check employee age and worker eligibility even when using a hiring contractor such as a temporary agency. Your contractor’s lax employment and compensation practices could cost you plenty.

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