Farm Labor Contractor Accused of Wage Theft

Farm Labor Contractor Accused of Wage Theft

The Labor Commissioner’s Office of California 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. is said to not have paid discharged workers on the last day of work as required by law, and that 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.

Advertisement

“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. 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 liabilities 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.
  • Coachella Valley Ranch Development, Inc.
  • East-West Unlimited, LLC
  • Anthony Vineyards, Inc.
  • Alexandra Dates, Inc.
  • MICA, LLC
  • The Wildwood Group, 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.