Strehlow Bees Inc. has paid $404,827 in back wages to 36 employees – from the United States, South Africa and Nicaragua – for violating multiple conditions of the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers. This comes after a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation.
The Kadoka, South Dakota, company has also paid $61,940 in civil money penalties, assessed by the department.
WHD investigators found the employer – which raises, tends and cares for bees used in pollination of agricultural products and the production of honey and beeswax – violated several H-2A visa program requirements. WHD determined the Strehlow paid employees significantly less than the hourly rate of pay advertised, failed to include work locations in Texas and California on its visa applications, and failed to have all housing inspected prior to occupancy. Investigators also found the employer housed more workers than allowed for the space provided at one of its worksites. WHD determined guest workers and U.S. employees were owed back wages.
“Agricultural employers that bring in temporary guest workers on H-2A visas are responsible for abiding by the terms of the visa program, including paying required wages, maintaining accurate payroll records and providing safe, certified housing,” said Charles Frasier, wage and hour district director in Denver, CO. “Employers and farm labor contractors are encouraged to contact us to better understand their responsibilities so that they can avoid violations like those found in this case.”
WHD also found Strehlow failed to state actual job terms and conditions on its visa applications and to identify itself as having multiple worksites. In addition, the agency found the employer failed to advertise to recruit U.S. workers in the 2019 certification year for a worksite in California before applying for guest workers. Strehlow also did not keep accurate and adequate records of workers’ hours, rate of pay and earnings; and failed to provide pay stubs to any of its workers detailing their rates of pay, hours and deductions made.
Strehlow also violated the housing requirements for temporary workers by failing to obtain preoccupancy inspections from state workforce agencies for housing sites in Kadoka, S.D., and Groveton, Texas.