Benson, N.C. — A Benson farm owner has paid more than $20,000 in back wages and penalties following a federal investigation into labor law violations, officials said Wednesday.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor said they found multiple violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act at J. Roland Wood Farms Inc., including failure to pay wages when due, failure to inform migrant workers that rent would be deducted from their wages, failure to disclose employment conditions in a language workers could understand and failure to provide required wage statements to workers.
Owner James Roland Wood also failed to meet health and safety standards for migrant housing, investigators said. Workers were exposed to raw sewage from standing water on the ground above a septic tank.
Wood has paid $16,870 in back wages to 138 migrant workers and $3,950 in civil penalties.
“The nature of migrant agricultural work makes the migrant farm worker vulnerable to unfair and unsafe labor practices. These workers performed intense physical labor by planting and harvesting crops, but were denied their rightful wages,” said Richard Blaylock, division director at the department’s Raleigh office. “The safety and well-being of farm workers is a top priority for the department. We are pleased these workers have now been paid the wages they earned, and that safety concerns have been corrected.”
Blaylock said the farm, which produces tobacco and sweet potatoes, has been cited for similar violations in the past.