US DOL sues Sabana Grande farmer over unpaid minimum wage
The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against agricultural employers José V. Fabre Laboy, doing business as Bananera Fabre, and his son, José V. Fabre Santiago, doing business as Finca La Plata, for failing to pay their workers the minimum wage as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The defendants cultivate and package bananas, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables for wholesale in Sabana Grande.
An investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that the defendants willfully and repeatedly violated the law. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but the defendants paid many employees only $6.25 or $6.50 per hour. The division estimates that a total of $191,402 is owed to 174 employees between the two employers.
“These agricultural employers willfully and repeatedly violated the law, and they continue to withhold payments of unpaid wages due to their employees,” said José R. Vazquez, the director of the division’s district office in Guaynabo, which conducted the investigation.
“We will not tolerate these actions and, as demonstrated by the filing of this lawsuit, the Labor Department will use all enforcement tools available to recover workers’ wages and hold accountable employers who demonstrate a clear disregard for the law,” he said.
The department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico in San Juan. The suit asks the court to order the defendants to pay the full amount of back wages due plus an equal amount in liquidated damages to the affected workers. The suit also seeks to permanently prohibit the defendants from future violations of the FLSA.
Fabre Laboy has been the subject of several Wage and Hour Division investigations in the past. As a result of the most recent prior inspection, Fabre Laboy paid $38,098 in back wages as well as $6,381 in civil money penalties.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week.
The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.