DOL to continue enforcement, WAFLA warns

Workers prune Kanzi apple trees in Mt. View Orchard, East Wenatchee, Wash., March 14. The labor intensive apple industry will be scrutinized by the U.S. Department of Labor for labor law violations as apple season progresses.

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor will continue robust enforcement of wage laws and regulations with agricultural producers throughout Central Washington this season, a farm labor association says.

Wage and Hour outlined it’s enforcement strategy at a meeting in Yakima, according to an email labor alert to members from WAFLA, formerly the Washington Farm Labor Association, in Olympia.

Violations will result in civil monetary penalties, especially for repeated offenses, WAFLA said.

Investigators will place heavy emphasis on start and stop times of actual hours worked and compensation for piece-rate workers for non-productive time, the alert states. That includes travel time between fields, time moving equipment and idleness due to machine breakdowns.

Common violations include failure to provide workers with the WH-516 form disclosing terms and conditions of work and failure to post the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Rights poster, WAFLA said.

DOL said it will continue to use “hot goods” seizures of crops, when warranted, to prevent products produced in violation of labor laws from entering the supply chain, WAFLA said.

WAFLA offers webinars and mock audits of DOL inspections.

Last August, a Mesa apple grower paid a $16,000 fine to get apples cleared for packing after DOL investigators allegedly found children working in his orchard and placed a hold on the packing. The grower said two children were not picking but were in an orchard because workers had no child care.

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