Vanderbilt Landscaping’s next help wanted ads are going to look something like this:
“Temporary workers needed with roadside mowing operations. U.S. citizens only need apply.”
To the uninformed, the ad is going to sound discriminating.
But that’s the price you pay when you violate labor laws and abuse your foreign workers. You lose your go-to source of labor.
The family-owned landscaping business in Smyrna, Tenn., landed in hot water last August after its Mexican guest workers accused them of inhumane practices.
According to a lawsuit the workers filed, they had their passports and visas confiscated, were forced to live under surveillance by armed managers, threatened with deportation and suffered from other mistreatment.
One worker even said he was falsely imprisoned by Vanderbilt, forced to get on a bus back to Mexico after he complained about the situation.
Vanderbilt claimed no wrongdoing and filed a countersuit against its workers, alleging defamation, libel, emotional distress and civil conspiracy, to name a scant few. They also alleged they lost a $275,000 lawn-mowing contract bid, due to the bad publicity.
“They are using the legal system, I think, to essentially blackmail Vanderbilt Landscaping,” their attorney Mekesha Montgomery said. “This is the client defending themselves, and nothing more.”
In March, the U.S. Department of Labor found the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, and got Vanderbilt to agree to pay the workers $18,496 in back wages. They were also fined for violating federal rules on employment of migrant workers, to a sum of $18,000.
William Carlson, of the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, said in a statement, “Companies that play by the rules are welcome to take part in the H-2B program. Those companies which do not may lose that privilege in the future.”
Those rules include conducting required recruitment of U.S. citizens before resorting to bringing in foreign workers.
News outlets were blasted by comments claiming the workers were most likely illegal aliens, and had no right to complain about their conditions.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but H-2B visas are the temporarily legal way to work in the U.S. Ergo, the workers weren’t illegal.
They were just ill-gotten pawns in Vanderbilt’s scheme.