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A produce company will pay $498,604 in back wages and damages to temporary workers, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Wednesday. The firm was investigated as part of a multi-year enforcement effort.
The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division reported it has conducted 1,000 investigations of temporary employment agencies since 2009. Those probes have resulted in more than $11.5 million in back wages for more than 1,000 employees.
The case announced Wednesday involved Lucca Freezer & Cold Storage Inc., which operates a facility in Vineland, N.J., according to the department. The site provides services for produce growers nationwide.
Temporary workers at the site were required to be in the production area of the plant 15 minutes before the start of their shifts but were not paid for that time, the department reported. In addition, temporary workers were occasionally assigned to unload trailers at a piece rate of $40 per trailer, and those piece-rate wages were improperly not included when calculating overtime.
Lucca used a temporary firm called Quickstuff LLC to obtain as many as 600 temporary workers per day, according to the department, and both firms are liable for Fair Labor Standards Act violations. Lucca cooperated with the investigation and signed a settlement agreement to pay $249,301 in back wages plus an equal amount in liquidated damages.
“This case is part of our ongoing initiative to strengthen labor law compliance among the providers and users of temporary workers in New Jersey,” said Patrick Reilly, director of the division’s Southern New Jersey District Office, which conducted the investigation.
“Temporary employment agencies serve valuable and legitimate business needs in today’s economy, but employers may not use such services to escape their responsibility to pay their workers the minimum wage and overtime pay they are entitled to under the law,” Reilly said. “As demonstrated in this case, we are using all enforcement tools available to make whole the affected workers and ensure compliance with the FLSA.”