According to an alert sent by the Farm Employer Education & Legal Defense Service (FEELDS), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is actively investigating farms in the Willamette Valley this week. Their focus thus far has been on blueberry farms, but that could change.
Concurrently, DOL has requested an appeal to a federal judge’s ruling that the agency has abused its “hot goods” provision of labor law by threatening to block product from getting to market of Oregon blueberry growers. At issue is the agency’s claim that some growers employ “ghost workers” who work off the books and are paid less than the minimum wage.
“It is a significant matter of concern when a federal agency inspects a farm operation with the presumption of guilt in mind,” said OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone. “We will follow this matter closely, work with our agricultural partners to evaluate the situation and make our views known to the administration and congressional members.”
The list of items that the DOL requests to see during an investigation includes the following:
- Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all business owners and company officers (e.g., President, Treasurer, Secretary, Board of Directors and other Corporate Officers) along with a company organizational chart if you have one;
- Legal names of the company and all other names used by the company (DBA or trade names)
- Federal Employer Identification Number
- Your gross annual dollar volume of sales for the past three years
- List of branch locations (name, address, phone number)
- List of name, address, and telephone numbers of all growers, Farm Labor Contractors, Shipper/Packers, Brokers & Retailers that you do business with and or sell commodities to.
- List of names and addresses of the firm’s major suppliers
- 1099 Forms and contract documents with any independent contractors, day laborers, or subcontractors at this establishment.
- A list of all employees (year round, Migrant, seasonal, and H-2A) employed in the last three years with their addresses, hourly rate or salary, descriptive job title, shift, and whether or not you consider that employee exempt from overtime.
- All time cards, time sheets, computer tapes (in and out times, daily and weekly record of hours worked, piece rate production) for all of the aforementioned workers.
- All payroll journal, payroll register, and wage/earning statements (indicating gross pay, net pay, hours worked, rate of pay, legal deductions and date of pay) for all of the aforementioned workers.
- Birthdates for all employees under age 18 who worked during the previous 24 months.
- List of all hours of work offered to the H-2A workers and corresponding U.S. workers.
- Copy of all advertisements/job announcements made in (recruitment location) and in the U.S. for all of the aforementioned ag workers.
- Copy of all communications made to (local State Workforce Agency) regarding H-2A workers and corresponding U.S. workers.
- List identifying location where all of the aforementioned ag workers physically worked.
- Copy of the job description or scope of work for each ag job title listed.
- Copy of all contracts between employer and any of the aforementioned ag workers.
- Copy of all contracts between employer/farm labor contractor and any grower.
- Copy of all work schedules of the workers
- Copy of all transportation schedules of the workers.
- Copy of all invoices, bills, or receipts for transportation or subsistence related to all of the H-2A workers that were transported from their foreign country to the workstie or housing facility.
- Copy of all housing permits and documents of water sample testing results prior to occupancy for all housing facilities.
- Copy of all housing inspections performed for any housing facility where any of the aforementioned ag workers live.
- Copy of all meal menus or documents that identify what the workers were fed each day.
- Copy of the driver’s license of all van/bus drivers who transport workers.
- Copy of the vehicle insurance coverage and vehicle registration for all vehicles used to transport workers.
- Copy of Farm Labor Contractor certificates of registration (license)
- Copy of Farm Labor Contractor employee certificates for (1) all supervisors and (2) all van/bus drivers who drive van/buses to transport workers.
- Copy of the doctor certificates for all van/bus drivers who drive buses to transport workers.
- Copy of vehicle inspection reports (WH 514) for all van/buses used to transport workers.
- Invoices from your FLC, specific FLC and time frame deals in business with.
Legal representatives advise that farm operators do not provide customer and supplier names or numbers if requested by a DOL inspector. If you are approached, it is recommended that you call your legal counsel and/or OAN before handing over any documents to DOL.