A federal judge says a farm labor recruiter must pay $56,631 in back wages to a group of visa workers who came from Mexico to Indiana in 2014.
The 26 Mexican workers got H-2A visas through Tejas Workforce Connection of Texas, which recruits temporary agricultural workers for companies including Beck’s Hybrids in Hamilton County.
The contract required to get the workers’ visas promised them $11.63 an hour to detassel corn from July to October 2014. But the contractor, Joe Gomez Jr., couldn’t find the group enough work, and cut them loose after just two weeks.
And he didn’t pay at least three-quarters of the promised wages, as required by federal law. U.S. Department of Labor spokesman Scott Allen says that shortchanged a vulnerable population.
“They’re basically putting out themselves to try and make some wages, and if they don’t get them, then they could be in a tough situation to try and raise their families,” Allen says.
Gomez has also been assessed more than $17,000 in civil penalties. His was one of 173 similar cases across the country in 2014, with back pay totalling nearly $1.4 million and civil penalties topping $1.7 million.
The H-2A program requires recruiters to prove they can’t fill the same jobs with American workers. It’s used most often in the Southeastern U.S. on tobacco and fruit farms.