Immigrants and temporary workers are often silent about certain employment abuses, lost wages, and other violations in fear of facing retaliation or losing their position. Temporary agencies and employers suspected of hiring immigrants and foreign nationals are continually under scrutiny because of the employment and human rights abuses, especially in certain industries, including farming.
Immigrants and temporary workers are often silent about certain employment abuses, lost wages, and other violations in fear of facing retaliation or losing their position. Temporary agencies and employers suspected of hiring immigrants and foreign nationals are continually under scrutiny because of the employment and human rights abuses, especially in certain industries, including farming. After a 2010 complaint was filed in North Dakota, a federal judge has recently approved a class action on behalf of foreign workers for breach of contract, unpaid wages, and violation of state and federal labor violations.
The plaintiffs, two South African brothers, were hired by the North Dakota harvesting company, known as Altendorf Harvesting. According to the complaint, the brothers came to the U.S. with legal visas in the summer of 2008 to work for Altendorf, the company that hires crews to harvest farmers’ crops for the season. The young workers claim they were hired to work 48 hours per week at a rate of $9.55 per hour, but when paid, their hours amounted to 80 or 90 hours and they were paid less than the agreed upon hourly rate. The workers filed for certification of their class on behalf of dozens of former employees who suffered from breach of contract as well as state and federal wage law violations. A defense team for the harvesting company has denied the allegations and asserts that the company has paid the full wages to its former employees.
In the custom-harvesting business, it is not unusual for farm owners to hire foreigners who obtain visas to work the harvest and then return home after the season. The temporary nature of this work, combined with the foreign-worker status creates an arrangement ripe for labor law abuses. In this case, the exact amount owned to foreign workers cannot be determined until the company discloses certain documents. The approved class action applies to the Altendorf employees who have worked the harvest for the past three years. These employees ran combines and operated grain carts, drove trucks and fixed equipment.
Temporary workers face a number of risks when entering the workforce. In addition to improper training and potentially dangerous working conditions, temporary workers are often forced into illegal working arrangements and continue to perform in fear of losing their jobs. Foreign workers in temporary positions may assume they have fewer legal protections, but all immigrant and foreign nationals are entitled to legal protections under U.S. employment law. These workers should also be treated with dignity and respect and should pursue legal action to prevent future abuses and violations.
The temporary and foreign national work force in Minnesota, the Midwest, and nationwide, is at risk wage and hour violations, and potentially human rights abuses. If you are an immigrant or foreign worker and have been denied your rightful wages, it is important to consult with an experienced advocate to protect your rights. Our attorneys at Wanta Thome PLC are dedicated to protecting temporary and foreign workers’ rights. For more information about temporary worker and foreign national worker wage and hour law violations, please call 612-252-3570.