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Blueberry Farmers Fined for Violating the Fair Labor Standards Act

Recently, the United States Labor Department cited 18 blueberry farmers in Michigan for violating child labor law standards under the Fair Labor Standards Act and migrant housing law violations. Nine labor contractors were also cited for similar violations. The farmers and contractors will pay almost $106,000 in back wages and penalties.

Of the total monetary amount, farmers will have to pay $27,874 to field workers for wage and overtime violations. The remaining $78,040 is in civil penalties that the 18 blueberry farmers and nine contractors will have to pay. The penalties are a result of an investigation by the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division. The investigation was conducted at 22 farms in Western Michigan during the July and August blueberry harvest season.

The farm that received the highest penalty of $29,700 for child labor and housing violations is a 1,000 acre blueberry farm in South Haven, Michigan. The farm has decided to file an appeal with the Department of Labor. According to investigators, the farm employed four children ages 14 to 17 as blueberry packers. Not only did the farm violate child labor standards, it also violated hazardous occupation restrictions for workers who are minors.

In addition to the Fair Labor Standards Act violations, farmers were cited for violating migrant housing laws. According to the area's district director of the Wage and Hour Division, the workers' housing conditions were "deplorable." Farmers were cited for run down building structures, lack of hot water for personal hygiene, overcrowding and insect infestation.

Source: The Gran Rapids Press, "Blueberry Growers in 4 West Michigan Counties Fined for Labor Conditions," Shandra Martinez, 12/6/10

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