$163,000 to be Paid by California Farm Labor Contractor for Wage Payment Violations

Friday, February 27, 2015

A northern California farm labor contractor will pay more than $163,000 to 59 migrant workers after U.S. Department of Labor investigators found that he had failed to pay wages for three weeks during last fall's grape harvest outside Ukiah in Mendocino County. The payment will include $99,953 in back wages owed under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and $63,274 in back wages and damages due under the Fair Labor Standards Act. 

The department's Wage and Hour Division cited Manuel Quezada, of Orland, for violations in August and September 2014 at the Roederer Estate, where he has provided work crews for the past 10 years. Less than a week after learning of the investigation's findings, Roederer agreed to sign an enhanced compliance agreement requiring stringent reviews of its farm labor contractors' practices. 

Quezada was cited for several MSPA violations, including not paying employees at least biweekly or semimonthly; not providing wage statements to workers; and not disclosing employment conditions to workers. The agency also determined Quezada violated the FLSA's minimum wage provisions.

A large agricultural employer, Roederer owns 660 acres primarily throughout Mendocino County's Anderson Valley. The vineyard produces and ships products under the Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley, Scharffenberger Cellars and Domaine Anderson labels. Retail customers include Total Wine and Costco.

Quezada provides work crews for grape harvesting, pruning and other harvesting jobs in almond and walnut groves in northern California.

Most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to the MSPA, which establishes employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping. Under the MSPA, each person or organization owning or controlling a facility or property used for housing migrant workers must comply with federal and state safety and health standards. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the department.

The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as well as one and one-half times their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment. The FLSA provides that employers who violate the law are generally liable to employees for their back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages, which are paid directly to the affected employees.

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