ALBANY, NY – A federal investigation has found that a Cortland facility operated by an Illinois global packager and distributor of personal care products violated laws protecting domestic and temporary nonimmigrant workers and recovered more than $277,000 for 50 underpaid workers.
The investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined Vee Pak LLC, doing business as Voyant Beauty, violated provisions of the federal H-2B worker program involving workers at its former Cortland location.
The federal H-2B program requires employers to meet certain requirements, including recruitment and displacement standards, to protect similarly employed U.S. workers. This includes a requirement to recruit U.S. workers and hire qualified U.S. workers who apply, as well as solicit former U.S. workers to return, before employing H-2B workers. Employment of H-2B workers must be for a limited specific period, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal, peak load or intermittent need.
Division investigators found that the employer violated the H-2B program’s requirements between November 2021 and July 2022 when it did the following:
Fired 17 U.S. workers employed as packers so H-2B workers could take their place.
Did not advertise the availability of housing to U.S. workers, potentially discouraging them from applying for the jobs.
Failed to pay 33 H-2B workers for meals and lodging expenses incurred during their travel to the U.S.
To resolve its violations, Vee Pak has paid $276,012 to the 17 displaced U.S. workers and $1,303 to 33 undercompensated H-2B workers, for a total of $277,315, and also paid a total of $20,003 in civil money penalties to the U.S. Department of Labor. Vee Pak has also been debarred from the H-2B program for three years as a result of its violations.
“Employers must understand and abide by federal laws that prevent employers from displacing U.S. workers and ensure all workers, including temporary workers, are paid properly. Employers who willfully disregard their responsibilities face costly penalties and debarment,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jay I. Rosenblum in Albany, New York. “The U.S. Department of Labor offers employers extensive assistance to ensure that they understand their responsibilities.”
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from. The department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices – free and now available in Spanish – to track hours and pay.