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Littleton landscaper pays $550K for underpaying foreign workers

January 12, 2018 -  By

Parkside Landscaping, located in Littleton, Colo., paid more than $500,000 in back wages and penalties after it faced allegations of underpaying foreign workers it hired to fill seasonal jobs, The Denver Post reported.

The company paid $524,063 in back wages to 53 employees and $26,104 in penalties to resolve violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and H-2B nonagricultural visa program provisions.

Gene Baker, the company’s owner, told the Post he was put in a bind when the government sharply raised the wages required for landscape workers after he had already signed contracts with his clients.

“We have learned from the process, paid the cost promptly and have moved forward. We are now in full compliance,” he said.

Under the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program, companies must certify that they tried to find local workers and failed to do so at a prevailing wage before they can bring in temporary help from other countries.

Labor investigators found that Parkside didn’t pay foreign workers the wage stated in its certification. An additional eight employees were paid straight time wages for overtime hours worked, a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Parkside also was fined for failing to provide earning statements, comply with safety requirements for employer-provided transportation and provide a copy of the job order to employees at the time they applied for their visas, according to the Department of Labor.

According to Baker, the H-2B rules require employers to prove they can pay the workers they are bringing in, typically in the form of signed contracts with clients.

Even though he bid out his contracts to include an increase in wages over the prior year, the Department of Labor boosted the prevailing wage for landscape workers by much more than expected, Baker said.

He told his workers, many of whom had been with him for years, that they might have to return home. But his employees said they were content with the wage agreed on earlier and they wanted to work.

“It was very naive of me to think it was a right they could give away,” he said.

Baker added that the H-2B rules are complex and constantly changing and that he paid the shortfall in wages in October after he was notified.

This article is tagged with and posted in Today's Green Industry News
Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

1 Comment on "Littleton landscaper pays $550K for underpaying foreign workers"

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  1. larry says:

    Great, lesson learned