A U.S. Department of Labor investigation found a Walterboro landscaping company failed to reimburse workers employed in the U.S. under the H-2B guest worker program for their travel costs and failed to pay wage rates as required.
The department’s Wage and Hour Division determined Palmetto State Forestry Services LLC violated H-2B rules and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Specifically, violations of the H-2B program occurred when the employer:
- Discriminated against U.S. workers by paying H-2B workers higher wage rates for supervisor positions and failing to advertise or offer the position to U.S. applicants.
- Failed to pay wages equal to or higher than the prevailing wage for federal, state or local minimum wage.
- Failed to pay H-2B workers for their travel costs from the country of origin to the jobsite.
Palmetto State Forestry Services LLC violated the FLSA when it failed to pay drivers for travel time to various job sites. By doing so, the employer incurred overtime violations when the additional hours exceeded 40 hours in the workweek. Palmetto also failed to keep an accurate record of hours worked.
The investigation led to the recovery of $13,516 in back wages for 31 workers. In addition, the employer paid a civil money penalty of $20,514 for the H-2B violations.
“The H-2B temporary guest worker program is intended to provide employers with workers needed to operate their businesses for a temporary time period when the workers are needed. However, the program requires that employers first advertise all available positions to U.S. workers, and once hired, workers must receive all their rightful legal wages,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Juan Coria. “The Wage and Hour Division stands ready to help workers and employers understand the requirements of the H-2B program and other laws enforced by the agency.”
The department certified Palmetto State Forestry Services LLC to employ temporary non-agricultural workers under the H-2B visa program, which allows U.S. employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services.