Construction Company Faces Fines for Labor Discrimination

SAN JACINTO, CALIFORNIA – A federal judge has upheld the U.S. Department of Labor’s finding that a Nebraska-based construction company, operating in Southern California, deliberately discriminated against American workers by bringing in Mexican employees under pretenses. These workers were underpaid and exposed to safety and health risks in inadequate living conditions.

The department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges ordered Randy and Kary Christo, owners of R&R Christo Construction LLC of Fremont, to pay $288,719 in back wages to 43 agricultural workers and $63,813 in fines for labor discrimination

The department’s Wage and Hour Division confirmed that the company submitted job orders that misrepresented the terms in their application to the H-2A agricultural visa program. The orders indicated that foreign workers would perform agricultural work when, in reality, they were employed in construction at a poultry operation in San Jacinto.

The judge determined that the employer benefited by exploiting vulnerable H-2A workers. By misrepresenting the nature of the work, R&R Christo Construction discriminated against American construction workers.

R&R Christo Construction discriminated against U.S. workers and failed to comply with legal requirements to employ foreign agricultural workers,” stated Rafael Valles, Assistant District Director of the Wage and Hour Division in West Covina, California. “The blatant disregard for the requirements and the abuse of vulnerable Mexican workers is inexcusable.

The situation came to light following a referral from Cal/OSHA, prompted by an investigation into injuries sustained by an H-2A worker who fell from a roof. Federal investigators discovered that the injured worker was one of many R&R Christo Construction employees illegally loaned to roofing subcontractors for additional profit.

In addition to H-2A program violations, the division found that R&R Christo Construction denied employees overtime pay for work performed beyond 40 hours per week. On average, R&R employees worked up to 60 hours per week. Under California law, employers must pay overtime rates for hours worked beyond eight per day and 40 per week. Employers cannot pay H-2A workers less than what all applicable laws require.

Investigators also found that Randy and Kary Christo housed workers in substandard accommodations less than 500 feet from livestock in overcrowded conditions, with up to 11 beds in a single room. They also failed to meet H-2A safety requirements by transporting workers in a vehicle with insufficient and inoperable seatbelts.

R&R Christo Construction deliberately exploited workers and manipulated the system by illegally misrepresenting crucial elements of the H-2A program,” added Regional Solicitor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “The employer’s illegal actions also denied job opportunities to American workers.

Any worker affected by the illegal actions of this employer should contact the Wage and Hour Division immediately to recover owed wages.

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