A federal judge has demanded that a construction contractor compensate 43 workers from Mexico with $288,000 and also pay penalties of $63,000 for violating the H-2A program.

A federal judge has upheld the U.S. Department of Labor’s ruling that a construction company from Nebraska, operating in Southern California, engaged in blatant and willful discrimination against American workers. The company, R&R Christo Construction LLC, owned and operated by Randy and Kary Christo, was found to have brought Mexican workers to the U.S. under false pretenses, paid them below minimum wage, and subjected them to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.

The Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges ordered the company to pay $288,719 in back wages to 43 agricultural workers and $63,813 in penalties. The investigation was prompted by a referral from Cal/OSHA, which was investigating an injury suffered by an H-2A worker who had been “loaned” to a roofing subcontractor by R&R Christo Construction. This practice of “loaning” workers for additional profits was found to be a violation of H-2A regulations.

In addition to the H-2A violations, the company was also found to have denied employees overtime wages and failed to provide safe transportation for workers. Most employees were found to be working up to 60 hours per week, but were not receiving overtime pay as required by California law. The living conditions provided by the company were also found to be substandard, with workers housed in overcrowded facilities less than 500 feet from livestock.

Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Rafael Valles stated, “R&R Christo Construction discriminated against U.S. construction workers and failed to meet its legal requirements for employing agricultural workers from outside the U.S. seeking better opportunities. The blatant disregard of these requirements and abuse of dozens of vulnerable workers from Mexico is inexcusable.”

Western Regional Solicitor Marc Pilotin added, “R&R Christo Construction exploited workers deliberately and tried to game the system by unlawfully misrepresenting the intent and crucial elements of the H-2A agricultural worker program. This emphasizes the importance of enforcing labor laws and protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation.”  

Share This Article
Leave a comment