L&I fines farm labor contractor
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, widely called L&I, said it has fined an Othello company $105,000 for violating required conditions in hiring farm workers.
The violation issued to Agri Aide Inc. is the largest L&I fine ever against a farm labor contractor, L&I said in a press release. The penalty is based on the firm’s history of repeated violations. Agri Aide did not file an appeal by the Oct. 6 deadline and made a $2,000 payment toward the infraction.
Agri Aide is one of about 250 firms across the state that hires, organizes and transports workers to farms, according to L&I. Under law, contractors must provide each worker written notice about pay, housing, safety requirements and other conditions.
“Often, these workers are happy just to have a job; they’re not looking at whether the person who got them the job has a license,” said Tisa Soeteber, agricultural employment specialist at L&I, in a press release. “L&I is going after repeat offenders like Agri Aide to stop unlicensed contractors from both competing with legitimate farm labor contractors and putting workers at risk.”
According to L&I, Marivel and Jose Luis Brunetti, Agri Aide owners, operated the company without a farm labor contracting license in at least 2012, 2013 and 2015. Agri Aide received the maximum fines in those cases, which included forging a contractor license in 2012 and failing to tell workers about the conditions of their employment in 2015.
L&I began its investigation in May after receiving a complaint. It involved Agri Aide laborers at Williamson Farms, in Quincy, transplanting chili plants.
Williamson Farms hadn’t checked the Agri Aide license since 2006, L&I said. The farm told L&I it would no longer work with any unlicensed contractor, L&I said.
Soeteber said farmers should check annually for the license of their farm labor contractor. She said the Farm Labor Contractor Act protects workers’ rights and limits the liability a farmer may face for using an unlicensed firm.
Information about farm labor contracting is available by emailing ESgeneral@Lni.wa.gov, calling 866-219-7321, or going online to www.Lni.wa.gov and typing “Farm Labor Contractors” in the search box.