• Investigators recovered $159,256 in unpaid wages for the farm's guest workers
  • Workers were given fewer working hours than what their contracts gauranteed
  • “Their work is vital to the nation’s food supply,” the Department of Labor noted

An Idaho potato farm is facing penalties for allegedly threatening to send guest workers back to Mexico if they do not work for wages that are lower than the legal limit. The farm was slapped with a fine of around $25,000.

A statement by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) said that the Bancroft farm, known as Jorgensen Management Inc., was violating H-2A visa rules and making their workers live in substandard living conditions, according to the New York Post.

It was also noted that the operators of the farm failed to reimburse the workers for travel expenses. In addition to this, the workers were not provided with at least three-quarters of the number of work hours that their contracts guaranteed, the DOL.

The statement released Tuesday said the farm failed to pay the required rates to 69 domestic workers alongside H-2A visa workers, according to Business Insider.

“Investigators determined that the employer threatened to terminate the work contract and send workers back to Mexico if they refused to accept wages at a lower rate than legally required under the H-2A program,” read the statement.

Investigators recovered around $159,256 in unpaid wages for the workers and assessed the civil money penalties at $25,430.

DOL’s statement noted that guest workers often leave their countries and travel hundreds or thousands of miles to perform seasonal work in the U.S. The statement also noted that the workers leave behind their homes and families under the impression that the employers will meet the H-2A program’s requirements.

They usually work for the agricultural industry, and “their work is vital to the nation’s food supply,” the statement added.

“By threatening and shortchanging some of the lowest paid workers in our nation, Jorgensen Management showed a willful disregard for the law. They created a toxic workplace and victimized these vulnerable workers,” said Wage and Hour District Director Carrie Aguilar in Portland, Oregon, according to the DOL’s statement. “The outcome of this investigation sends a strong message to other employers that the Wage and Hour Division will not tolerate abuses of the H-2A program and will protect the rights of all people working in the U.S.”

Representative image Credit: Pixabay