SALINAS, Calif. (KRON) — A farm labor contractor was ordered to pay nearly half a million dollars in fines for withholding paychecks from hundreds of farmworkers, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday.
A. Oseguera Company Inc. is an H-2A farm labor contractor that employs workers to harvest crops seasonally across California’s Central Coast, in Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
The U.S. Department of Labor said it launched an investigation into the company and its owners, Antonio Oseguera and Hilda Oseguera Garibay, for failing to pay 542 farmworkers minimum wage.
Following the investigation, a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California judge ordered A. Oseguera Company Inc. to pay $410,606 in liquidated damages and $41,351 in travel costs to the 542 workers.
The affected workers are U.S. workers and migrant farmworkers hired under the H-2A temporary agricultural program.
“Agricultural workers do the hard work needed to feed our nation and those who employ them must meet federal wage and other requirements or face the consequences,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Ruben Rosalez.
“The U.S. Department of Labor’s investigation and litigation sends a signal to industry employers that we will not tolerate their failure to respect the dignity of workers and meet their legal responsibilities,” Rosalez said.
Division investigators determined missed payrolls led to violations of the minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Withheld paychecks also violated the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and Immigration and Nationality Act.
Investigators said A. Oseguera Company violated federal law by failing to:
- Pay workers at their required rate of pay.
- Pay outbound transportation and subsistence costs as the H-2A program requires.
- Keep accurate pay records.
- Satisfy the requirements of the job order.
“For years, Antonio Oseguera and his company have ignored their obligations under the H-2A temporary agricultural worker program,” said Regional Solicitor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The Solicitor’s Office will take every legal step necessary to protect the safety, well-being and wages of temporary guest workers. These steps may include seeking to use the power of a federal court to make employers to comply with the law and prevent them from hiring H-2A program workers.”
The consent judgment follows the recovery of $977,590 in wages from A. Oseguera Company by the department’s Wage and Hour Division in December 2021.
Farmworkers can contact the Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-4-US-WAGE confidentially with questions — regardless of where they are from — and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
San Mateo County recently launched a task force to investigate farms within the county and to help migrant workers “living in the shadows,” county supervisors said. The task force was created in response to January’s mass shooting that left seven Half Moon Bay farmworkers died.
In the wake of the shooting, officials who toured the farms’ housing conditions said they found shacks, trailers, and shipping containers with no insulation or running water. County Supervisor Ray Mueller said families were living in “heartbreaking” and “deplorable” conditions.