Kentucky tobacco and hemp farmer underpaid foreign workers, Labor Department says

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A Campbellsville farmer has been required to pay back wages to 46 seasonal workers he is accused of shortchanging.

The tobacco and hemp farm run by David Hunt had hired the laborers through the federal H-2A program, which allows agricultural operations to bring in workers from outside the United States to do temporary work when they can’t find domestic workers to do the jobs.

Under the rules of the program, employers must give the workers contracts related to their work, offer them at least three quarters of the hours promised in the contract, pay prevailing wages and repay them for the cost of traveling back to their home countries, all of which Hunt’s farm failed to do, the Labor Department said in a news release.

“In addition, the employer attempted to impede the division’s investigation by unduly delaying access to workers, records, and housing, and by providing false information,” the news release stated.

Hunt will pay $25,905 in back wages and a civil penalty of $13,281 as part of a settlement. He also is prohibited from participating in the H-2A program for three years.

“These workers, who are away from their families for months at a time, deserve to be paid every penny they rightfully earn,” Karen Garnett-Civils, district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Louisville, said in the release. “This investigation underscores the department’s commitment to using any and all enforcement strategies at our disposal to protect the rights of these employees, and to level the playing field for employers who obey the law.”

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