Without farm hands to plow the field and pick the crops, often under the hot sun, our tables wouldn’t be as plentiful. So as a nation we’ve rightly insisted that the companies that hire these workers comply with all applicable laws on fair treatment and wages.
When companies don’t respect those rights, they must be brought to account.
That’s what the U.S. Department of Labor did this week in announcing it had settled a wage and hour lawsuit against Fat Law Farm’s Inc., a grower in Hawaii. According to DOL, the farm violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime and recordkeeping provisions. Specifically, the DOL said that the Oahu-based company and its owners, members of the Law family, did not pay employees overtime at time and one-half their regular rates of pay for all hours beyond 40 in a workweek, as required by the FLSA.
The DOL said that a federal district court in Hawaii had ordered the company to pay $428,800 to the victims of these violations.
The company employed two primary groups of workers. Filipino workers were predominantly paid at $7.25 per hour, with overtime compensation. However, other workers, mainly from Laos, were paid $5 per hour in cash, without overtime, for 70 hours per week on average.
“The department made use of a search warrant to get an honest snapshot of the pay practices and working conditions established by the employer and the documented effort to hide evidence and witnesses from inspection,” said Juan Coria, acting regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Western Region. “With the warrant, we obtained unhindered access to employee and payroll documents reflecting names and payment disbursements to workers employed at the farm, including employees paid only in cash. We will continue to protect workers, prevent abuse and enforce labor laws, particularly where workers are vulnerable and violations are so egregious, as in this case.”
You can read more about the case and settlement here.