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12 Oct 2023

USA: Labour supplier Rancho Nuevo Harvesting to pay over $1 million USD in back-wages & penalties after repeated rights abuse, incl. cos. responses & non-responses

In September 2023, the Department of Labor reported that the farm labour contractor Rancho Nuevo Harvesting had underpaid its migrant workers, violated numerous requirements of the H-2A programme, and made false statements during the programme’s certification process. The article states that, during investigations, Rancho Nuevo Harvesting provided workers to harvest produce to Dulcinea Farms, Fisher Ranch, and Duda Farms.

Temporary agricultural workers are often among the most vulnerable and abused in the nation’s workforce…The outcome in this case should be a reminder to other farm labor contractors and growers of the costly consequences of violating federal regulations and that lying during an H-2A certification process can be grounds for debarment.
Ruben Rosalez, Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator, San Francisco

The article alleges the labour contractor violated several labour rights, including:

  • Right to food – the contractor provided workers with spoiled and insufficient food;
  • Precarious and unsuitable housing - housing workers in accommodation that failed to meet health and safety requirements;
  • Occupational health and safety violations – the labour contractor failed to provide safe transportation from housing to worksites;
  • Recruitment Fees – the contractor failed to pay outbound transportation and subsistence when workers completed their contracts;
  • Contract substitution and the Right to Information – the labour contractor failed to state the terms and conditions accurately and completely in job orders and work contracts.
  • Wage theft – the labour contractor was found to have underpaid the workers and did not meet the H-2A programme’s three-fourths guarantee. The employer also tried to avoid paying the amounts specified in the contracts by illegally seeking worker resignations when there was insufficient work.

The findings reflect similar violations by the employer that were identified in four previous investigations in 2020 and 2023.

The court has ordered Rancho Nuevo Harvesting to pay $558,298 in back wages to 649 workers, and $475,211 in penalties for the repeated violations.

In October 2023, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre contacted Dulcinea Farms, Duda Farms, and Fisher Ranch for comment. Dulcinea Farm’s and Duda Farm’s responses can be read in full below. Fisher Ranch did not respond to the Resource Centre’s request for comment.

Company Responses

Dulcinea Farms View Response
Duda Farms View Response
Fisher Ranch

No Response