US: Florida strawberry farm to pay civil penalties and back pay

A Florida strawberry farm has agreed to pay civil penalties and back pay to qualified US workers to settle a claim it discriminated against American workers by employing temporary visa workers, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) states.

The settlement is the seventh achieved through its “Protecting US Workers Initiative,” DOJ explains in a press release detailing the agreement:

“The Department of Justice today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with Sam Williamson Farms Inc. (SWF), a strawberry farm in Dover, Florida. The settlement resolves the Department’s investigation into whether SWF violated the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by preferring to hire H-2A visa holders to harvest its strawberry crop instead of US workers. This is the seventh settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s Protecting US Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against US workers in favor of temporary visa workers.

“The Department of Justice’s independent investigation concluded that at the end of the 2016-2017 strawberry picking season, SWF informed its existing US workers that it would rely instead on H-2A workers from a farm labor contractor to harvest its strawberries for the next season, and retained a farm labor contractor for the express purpose of obtaining workers with H-2A visas. Ultimately, the strawberry picking positions were filled by more than 300 H-2A workers and no US workers.

Under the settlement, the strawberry farm agrees to:
- Pay $60,000 in civil penalties to the United States,
- Pay up to $85,000 in back pay to eligible US workers,
- Conduct enhanced US worker recruitment and advertising for future positions,
- Train employees on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision and be subject to monitoring and reporting requirements.

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