YUMA, Ariz. - Investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that Amigo Farms, Inc. failed to pay lettuce pickers at fields in Winterhaven, California, for time spent on the job waiting for ice to melt off the produce in the winter months. At times, the thaw could take 1 to 3 hours per day.
Amigo Farms, Inc. was fined $13,000 in unpaid wages to 32 workers. The company was also fined $1,400 in civil penalties and change its recordkeeping practices.
"We have a growing concern over the illegal practice of failing to pay workers for time spent waiting while they're on the clock," said Rodolfo Cortez, director of the Wage and Hour Division office in San Diego. "Employers have a responsibility to know what counts as work time and to pay their workers accordingly. The Wage and Hour Division has provided annual training to farmers in Southeastern California and in parts of Arizona, primarily in Spanish, to help them understand their responsibilities. Employers should have a contingency plan during inclement weather so workers are not left standing in the cold and not being paid as required."
Amigo Farms said in a statement:
"An Amigo Farms supervisor made an unfortunate error and disregarded wage and hour training when reporting wait times hours to the payroll department during last season's harvest period.
As soon as the company was made aware of the improper wage reporting, we took immediate steps to compensate that crew for the wages owed to them. We value the work efforts of our harvest employees and have taken steps to ensure greater accountability in payroll recordkeeping."