Strawberry Grower Fined For Demanding Kickbacks From H-2A Workers
The Los Angeles Times reports Gonzalo Fernandez, operator of Fernandez Farms Inc., in Watsonville, CA, has been fined $1.1 million and ordered by a judge to repay kickbacks and rent he demanded from his H-2A employees.
The Times says Fernandez demanded payments of more than $1,600 each from his more than 400 H-2A employees over two seasons as reimbursement for transportation and other costs of bringing the workers from Mexico.
The Times reports Fernandez also charged workers between $125 and $150 a month for rent in trailers and did not pay workers piece rate and overtime.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Fernandez allegedly impeded the investigation by intimidating workers and coercing them to hid from or lie to investigators.
He has been ordered to repay $1.29 million in reimbursement and has been banned from applying for the H-2A program for three years.