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Labor officials penalize NJ farm for rejecting Puerto Rican workers in favor of undocumented migrants

HOLTVILLE, CA - OCTOBER 08:  Mexican agricultural workers cultivate romaine lettuce on a farm on October 8, 2013 in Holtville, California. Thousands of Mexican workers cross the border legally each night from Mexicali, Mexico into Calexico, CA, where they pick up work as agricultural day laborers in California's fertile Imperial Valley. Although the Imperial Valley, irrigated from water diverted from the Colorado River, is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the United States, it has one of the highest unemployment rates in California, at more than 25 percent. Mexican farm workers commute each day from Mexicali to work in the fields for about $9 an hour, which many local U.S. residents shun as too low pay.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

HOLTVILLE, CA - OCTOBER 08: Mexican agricultural workers cultivate romaine lettuce on a farm on October 8, 2013 in Holtville, California. Thousands of Mexican workers cross the border legally each night from Mexicali, Mexico into Calexico, CA, where they pick up work as agricultural day laborers in California's fertile Imperial Valley. Although the Imperial Valley, irrigated from water diverted from the Colorado River, is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the United States, it has one of the highest unemployment rates in California, at more than 25 percent. Mexican farm workers commute each day from Mexicali to work in the fields for about $9 an hour, which many local U.S. residents shun as too low pay. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)  (2013 Getty Images)

A New Jersey farmer has been found guilty of snubbing Puerto Ricans who sought to work for him and instead hiring migrant laborers.

Cassaday Farms LLC must pay $175,000 in back wages and fines in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor, according to NJ.com.

Labor laws require that employers seeking to import foreign workers through the government program known as H-2A first make an earnest effort to hire Americans. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. The 13 Puerto Rican applicants who lost job opportunities to migrants had the skills to do the work, labor officials said.

"By denying qualified U.S. workers employment, Cassaday Farms did what H-2A regulations help prevent," said Charlene Rachor, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Southern New Jersey District Office, according to NJ.com. "This consent finding and order underscores our commitment to hold employers accountable when they attempt to circumvent the law to gain a competitive advantage."

The Department of Labor accused Cassaday Farms, which Greensgrow.org says began in 1870, of offering U.S. workers less appealing employment terms and conditions than it did to foreign workers.

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The agency also said that Cassaday kept inadequate records about its employees.
The labor department will be monitoring the farm closely, NJ.com said, to ensure compliance and that they are making efforts to hire U.S. workers.

On its LinkedIn page, Cassaday Farms described job opportunities it had last year. It said it was looking for workers who could “plow, harrow, plant, cultivate, fertilize, apply pesticides or herbicides, & harvest. Prune, sucker, stake & tie peppers & tomatoes, including in greenhouse. Operate & maintain, tractors, farm vehicles, irrigation equipment, & other farm machinery.”

It added: “Must be able to lift 75 (pounds), must have experience of at least 3 months on a vegetable farm working with tomatoes.”

It stated a salary of $11.06 per hour, and described a weekly shift of 60 hours.

Cassaday Farms has not commented on the allegations.

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