OTHELLO, Wash. — A farm labor contractor has been fined $105,000 for allegedly operating without a license by the state Department of Labor & Industries.
The fine, issued to Agri Aide of Othello, is the largest ever levied against a farm labor contractor by the department, a department news release says.
Marivel Brunetti, co-owner of Agri Aide with Jose Luis Brunetti, told Capital Press the fine wasn’t for operating without a license and that she was trying to take care of the matter with L&I right then and couldn’t talk.
The penalty is based on the firm’s history of repeated violations, L&I said. Agri Aide did not file an appeal by an Oct. 6 deadline but made a $2,000 payment toward the infraction, L&I said.
Agri Aide operated without a license in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and received maximum fines in those cases, the news release states. Violations included forging a contractor license in 2012 and failing to tell workers about conditions of employment in 2015, L&I said.
Investigation of the latest case began in May from a complaint. It involved Agri Aide workers transplanting chili plants at Williamson Farms in Quincy.
Williamson Farms hadn’t checked the Agri Aide license since 2006 and said it would no longer work with any unlicensed contractor, L&I said.
Tisa Soeteber, L&I agricultural employment specialist, said farmers should check farm labor contract licenses annually before using them, that the Farm Labor Contractor Act protects workers’ rights and limits farmers’ liability for using unlicensed contractors.
Agri Aide is one of about 250 firms across the state that hires, organizes and transports workers to farms. By law, contractors must provide each worker written notice about pay, housing, safety requirements and other items.