AMBLER, PA – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a consent order to enable the recovery of $317,097 in back wages for three U.S. and 56 workers from Mexico employed by an Ambler, Pennsylvania, swimming pool subcontractor under the federal H-2B guest worker visa program.
The order by the Office of Administrative Law Judges follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found GSI Pool Finishes Inc., operating as GSI Pool Finishes, violated provisions of the H-2B program by failing to pay required wages to the U.S. and foreign workers. The employer illegally paid the workers, hired as cement masons, a piece rate not at least equal to the applicable required offered wage rate. The incorrect wage rate resulted in the workers being owed $266,627 in back wages by the employer.
“These vulnerable workers left their home country to come to the U.S. to work under conditions clearly defined by the H-2B visa program. They deserve every protection that comes along with those promised conditions,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jim Cain in Philadelphia. “The Department of Labor protects workers’ rights and is diligent in its efforts to ensure they receive the wages they earn. Employers who choose to participate in the H-2B program must ensure they are aware of their obligations and abide by the law.”
The employer additionally violated H-2B program provisions when it:
Did not include housing availability in its advertisement or Temporary Employment Certification.
Failed to conduct drug tests and criminal background checks, despite advertising that it would.
Improperly classified three workers as a yard helper, truck shop helper and warehouse helper. The employer was only permitted to employ workers as cement masons.
Failed to include all required information on the employees’ earning statements.
Did not provide inbound, outbound and daily subsistence to workers for their travel to and from the employer’s worksite from either the U.S. or hometowns in Mexico.
Failed to provide workers with a written job disclosure, as required by H-2B regulations.
Did not keep accurate records of employee hours worked and any monies paid to workers for travel.
Failed to recruit U.S. workers as required, as part of supplemental recruitment in 2018.
The H-2B violations led the division to assess $67,649 in civil money penalties. In addition, the employer must pay the workers $50,470 in travel expenses as part of their back wages.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will vigorously pursue litigation against employers who violate H-2B program requirements and will work hard to make sure the rights of workers to receive the wages and benefits are legally protected,” explained Deputy Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas, in Philadelphia. “Those who wrongly believe they can ignore the law are deeply mistaken and will be held accountable.”
GSI Pool Finishes LLC is a subcontractor specializing in swimming pool construction services.
The federal H-2B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrants to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the U.S. The employment must be temporary in nature and be for a limited period, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load or intermittent need.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).
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. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for Android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.
U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Administrative Law Judges, Cherry Hill, New Jersey