Two South Carolina tobacco farms and an agricultural labor contractor were cited by the U.S. Department of Labor last week for unsafe housing, health and safety as well as wage violations. The employers, which grow tobacco in South Carolina for Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds, now face more than $16,000 in fines for the violations.
The fines were assessed by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). Because the employers produce goods for interstate commerce, they are subject to federal rules and regulations.
The MSPA is a federal law that establishes employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the Department of Labor.
The J. Robert Griggs Farms of Hartsville, South Carolina, was cited for failing to meet minimum housing and safety requirements. For example, the housing provided to the migrant workers lacked working toilets and hot water. This farm was fined with $15,225.
R.D. King Farms of Society Hill, South Carolina, and farm labor contractor Jean Fisteac, were fined with more than $16,000 for unsafe housing, health and safety, and wage violations after it was discovered that migrant workers were being transported on public roadways in the open bed of pickup trucks.
Additionally, the labor contractor agreed to pay 33 employees a total of $9,388 in back wages after it was discovered that the workers were being paid less than the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The labor contractor was also was fined $1,325 for the bad behavior.
The director of the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division's Columbia District Office said agricultural employers should be put on notice that the department will be on the lookout for farms that are not in compliance with the FLSA and the MSPA. The director said these workers "deserve a safe work environment and to be paid every penny they rightfully earn."
Source: WLTX.com, "SC Farms, Labor Contractor, Cited for Labor Violations," April 4, 2013