Labor Commissioner Cites Farm Labor Contractor, Holds Growers Liable for Wage Theft Violations Affecting 1,374 Seasonal Workers

San Bernardino—The Labor Commissioner’s Office has issued wage theft citations to a large farm labor contracting operation for failing to timely provide 1,374 seasonal farmworkers their final pay. Vista Santa Rosa Inc. did not pay discharged workers on the last day of work as required by law, and the company consistently issued final paychecks at least 72 hours late. Both client employers and their labor suppliers are accountable for workplace labor law violations in California.

“Delaying final paychecks is wage theft and in this case, puts significant pressure on seasonal workers to abandon their pay or wait and jeopardize competitive job and lodging openings,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “Bringing attention to this issue during the grape harvest should deter farm labor contractors and growers from this wage theft practice and help ensure their workers are paid on time.”

The Labor Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation in August 2016 after workers reported violations of late pay to California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit that provides free legal services. The investigation identified $646,875 in waiting time penalties, of which $323,729 is due to 867 affected workers in 2016, and $323,145 is due to 864 workers in 2017.

Vista Santa Rosa Inc. hires and provides farmworkers to growers in the Coachella Valley region. In 2016, Vista was a sole-proprietorship owned and operated by Jose Luis Gomez Jr. In 2017 Gomez began doing business as Vista Santa Rosa Inc. Both Gomez and his successor company Vista share joint and several liability for the $646,875 in waiting time penalties.

California Labor Code section 2810.3 holds client employers – those that obtain or are provided workers from a subcontractor – responsible for their subcontractor’s workplace violations. Client employers also liable for Vista’s violations include:

• Brighton Distributing, Inc.

• Alexandra Dates, Inc.

• Coachella Valley Ranch Development, Inc.

• MICA, LLC

• The Wildwood Group, Inc.

• East-West Unlimited, LLC

• Anthony Vineyards, Inc.

• Sun World International, LLC

Final pay laws require all wages due to be paid on the last day at the time of separation. If a worker quits, final wages are due within 72 hours of the notice. Waiting time penalties are imposed when the employer intentionally fails to pay all wages due to the employee at the time of separation. This penalty is calculated by taking the employee’s daily rate of pay and multiplying it by the number of days the employee was not paid, up to a maximum of 30 days.

Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime and other labor law violations, and any payments owed and penalties due are calculated.

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, or the Labor Commissioner’s Office, is the division within the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) with wide-ranging enforcement responsibilities including adjudicating wage claims, inspecting workplaces for wage and hour violations, investigating retaliation complaints and educating the public on labor laws.

Source: Department of Industrial Relations |  2018 © Copyright Payroll Masters

Payroll Masters is not a licensed insurance broker or agent, law firm or accountancy and does not provide professional or legal advice and therefore Payroll Masters assumes no responsibility for claims arising from the use or implementation of any information proffered here or verbally. This document has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal or financial advice. Please contact your attorney, CPA, insurance agent or financial advisor in connection with any fact-specific situation in which you intend to take significant employment action. Reader shall and does hereby indemnify, defend, and hold harmless Payroll Masters from and against any and all claims, demands, losses, costs, expenses, obligations, liabilities, damages, recoveries, and deficiencies, including without limitation interest, penalties, and reasonable attorney fees and costs, that either party may incur or suffer and that arise from, result from, or are related to this article, topics contained herein or any actions reader may have taken as a result of reading said article.