Jul 3, 2018
California labor contractor penalized $646K for late pay

A labor contractor in California’s Coachella Valley region faces more than $646,000 penalties for sending paychecks late for allegedly failing to give 1,374 seasonal farmworkers their final pay on time.

The labor contractor, Vista Santa Rosa, did not pay discharged workers on the last day of work as required by law, and the company consistently issued final paychecks at least 72 hours late, according to a news release from the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). In California, both client employers and their labor suppliers are accountable for workplace labor law violations.

“Delaying final paychecks is wage theft and, in this case, puts significant pressure on seasonal workers to abandon their pay or wait and jeopardize competitive job and lodging openings,” said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “Bringing attention to this issue during the grape harvest should deter farm labor contractors and growers from this wage theft practice and help ensure their workers are paid on time.”

The Labor Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation in August 2016 after workers reported violations of late pay to California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit that provides free legal services, DIR said. The investigation identified $646,875 in waiting time penalties, of which $323,729 is due to 867 affected workers in 2016, and $323,145 is due to 864 workers in 2017, DIR said.

Vista Santa Rosa hires and provides farmworkers to growers in the Coachella Valley region, and is owned and operated by Jose Luis Gomez Jr., according to DIR’s release. Gomez and his successor company Vista are both liable for the $646,875 in waiting time penalties.

The Los Angeles Times reported it could not reach Gomez for comment on Monday, July 2.

California law holds client employers – those that obtain or are provided workers from a subcontractor – responsible for their subcontractor’s workplace violations.

DIR released names of client employers also liable for Vista’s violations:

  • Brighton Distributing
  • Coachella Valley Ranch Development
  • East-West Unlimited
  • Anthony Vineyards
  • Alexandra Dates
  • MICA
  • The Wildwood Group
  • Sun World International

Final pay laws require all wages due to be paid on the last day at the time of separation, according to DIR’s news release. If a worker quits, final wages are due within 72 hours of the notice. Waiting time penalties are imposed when the employer intentionally fails to pay all wages due to the employee at the time of separation. This penalty is calculated by taking the employee’s daily rate of pay and multiplying it by the number of days the employee was not paid, up to a maximum of 30 days.

Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime and other labor law violations, and any payments owed and penalties due are calculated, DIR said.


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