The U.S. Department of Labor has filed two lawsuits against contractors providing workers to South Florida farms, following investigations into migrant laborers’ working conditions.
One suit targets Elvira Cepeda, Juan Jose Luna and Maria Sanchez for permit violations. The suit alleges that, despite being denied a labor contractor permit, Cepeda continued to recruit and provide workers to farms in the Homestead area. It accuses Luna and Sanchez of allowing Cepeda to use their certificates to procure laborers.
Investigators also alleged Cepeda failed to disclose to migrant workers in their own language the terms and conditions of employment, failed to keep accurate payroll records and provide workers with itemized, written pay statements. Those are alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act () and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
The department seeks an injunction against Cepeda, Luna and Sanchez barring them from ever providing labor contracting services again.
A second lawsuit targets Fisteac Farm Labor, Ledford Farms and their owners for FLSA violations. The suit seeks three years of back pay, and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which would be paid to farm workers. The suit is also seeks penalties under the MSPA.
Note: The Department of Labor is targeting industries it considers chronic violators, such as agriculture and the hospitality industry. Employers in those industries should evaluate their pay policies before they are investigated.