A Florida strawberry farm has agreed to pay civil penalties and back pay to qualified U.S. workers to settle a claim it discriminated against American workers by employing temporary visa workers, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.
The settlement is the seventh achieved through its “Protecting U.S. 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 U.S. workers. This is the seventh settlement under the Civil Rights Division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which is aimed at targeting, investigating, and taking enforcement actions against companies that discriminate against U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. workers.
“Refusing to recruit or hire available and qualified U.S. workers because of their citizenship status violates the INA.”
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 U.S. workers,
- Conduct enhanced U.S. worker recruitment and advertising for future positions, and
- Train employees on the requirements of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision and be subject to departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.