San Diego, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The US Department Of Labor (USDOL) announced that a second judgement has been entered in the US District Court for Central California for a case involving a 2017 traffic accident in which one migrant farm worker was killed and six others were injured. Farm Labor Contractor company Healthy Harvesting Inc. and its president, Fernando Pineda Garcia have been ordered to pay $79,153 in civil penalties for failure to provide workers with safe transportation resulting in a violation of the Migrant Seasonal Workers Protection Act (MSPA).
According to a previous article on WorkersCompensation.com, the first judgement in the case came in 2018 when Fisher Ranch LLC of Blythe, California was ordered to pay $49,104 in civil penalties for failing to ensure its labor contractor, Healthy Harvesting, provided safe transportation for its workers.
The 2017 accident was due to a blown tire, according to the investigation by the California Highway Patrol. Additionally, a missing seat belt was a contributor. Upon further investigation, it was found that the other tires on the van were bald as well as missing lug nuts. Under the MSPA, vehicles are to be inspected for safety. Additionally, the driver did not have a commercial drivers’ license and, in fact, his personal drivers license had been suspended.
As a result of the judgement, both Fisher Ranch and Healthy Harvest are required to post information about the MSPA for their workers, provide proper MSPA training for supervisors and managers, and hire an independent entity to monitor compliance.
Janet Herold, USDOL Regional Solicitor in Los Angeles, Cal., believes farms and contractors are responsible for keeping their workers safe. “Farm labor contractors must provide safe transportation to workers to prevent these types of tragic and avoidable deaths in the future,” she said.
The MSPA protects migrant workers by establishing safety standards; such as addressing wages, housing, disclosures and record keeping, and transportation. Labor Contractors are required to register with the USDOL for monitoring of compliance.
According to statistics published by the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH), there are 2.5-3 million farm workers in the United States. The majority of farm workers are foreign born and comprise 73 percent of the agriculture workforce. Most of the workers are considered seasonal workers, at 84 percent, and 14 percent are considered as migrating. Of those, 27 percent state that they could not speak English at all and had an average educational level of 8thgrade