Maine tomato grower owes $337K in back wages, penalties

Immigration

Tomatoes are sorted at a farm owned and operated by Pacific Tomato Growers on February 19, 2021 in Immokalee, Florida. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

MADISON, Maine (AP) — A Maine tomato grower must pay $337,465 in back wages and penalties after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation revealed that the employer failed to comply with federal laws for wages and working conditions.

Investigators found that Backyard Farms LLC in Madison violated the H2-A Temporary Agricultural Visa Program and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, according to the agency.

The H2-A program allows agricultural employers to utilize nonimmigrant international workers when there is an expected shortage of domestic workers and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act protects these workers, the Morning Sentinel reported.

Information from the Labor Department reveals that investigators found that Backyard violated H2-A by dismissing domestic workers to make room for foreign workers. In addition, Backyard paid workers in corresponding employment lower wages than it paid H-2A workers, which is prohibited.

“Additionally, Backyard Farms failed to offer employment to U.S. workers who worked in the same occupation the previous year, instead (of) giving those positions to guest workers,” according to the Labor Department.

Backyard Farms has paid $92,114 in civil penalties for its violations and owes $245,351 in back wages, according to federal officials.

The Sentinel could not reach representatives from Backyard Farms for comment Tuesday.

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