California’s Labor Commissioner’s Office has cited one farm labor contractor and two growers for wage thefts that affected 365 Fresno Area farm workers picking blueberries and persimmons.
In total, the LCO says that M.G. Luna Inc. of Parlier, Madera Persimmon Growers Inc. of Madera, and Willems Farms Inc. of Kingsburg are responsible for $1,926,531 in wage theft.
According to a government newss release, the farm labor contractor, M.G. Luna, collected wages for the growers but then failed to pay the workers. The contractor also hired workers to harvest blueberries at the owner’s farm, failing to pay those workers.
“The agricultural industry has up-the-chain liability laws holding client companies responsible for unpaid wages when their contractor fails to pay their workers. In this case, the growers who contracted with M.G. Luna will pay the owed wages to workers,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “To avoid liability as client employers, growers have an obligation to ensure that the FLCs they hire are licensed, in good standing, and paying legal wages.”
The LCO opened its investigation into M.G. Luna and the two growers back in 2019 after they’d received a referral from the California Rural Legal Assistance Inc. The investigation focused on dozens of wage claims workers filed against the FLC and the growers for nonpayment of wages or for receiving checks with insufficient funds.
The citations and penalties issued total $1,926,531.
Maria Guadalupe Luna, an individual, and Madera Persimmon Inc., a corporation, were cited $75,120 for waiting time penalties, $6,273 for minimum wage violations, and $2,230 in interest involving 25 workers.
Maria Guadalupe Luna, an individual, and Willems Farms, Inc., a corporation, and Gayle A. Willems and Paul E. Willems, both trustees of the Willems Family Trust, were cited $334,080 for waiting time penalties, $76,272 for minimum wage violations, and $28,568 in interest involving 108 workers.
Maria Guadalupe Luna, an individual, was also cited $1,140,720 for waiting time penalties, $191,943 for minimum wage violations, and $71,325 in interest affecting 223 workers.
The Labor Commissioner’s License and Registration search page allows growers to ensure the labor contractor they are hiring is properly licensed and registered with the Labor Commissioner’s Office as required by law.
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