By Doug Storum —
LOVELAND — Crop Production Services Inc., based in Loveland, has agreed to pay a penalty and back wages to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department for discrimination against U.S. citizens in favor of foreign visa workers.
According to a Justice Department statement released Monday, the settlement agreement requires Crop Production to pay civil penalties of $10,500 to the United States, undergo department-provided training on the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and comply with departmental monitoring and reporting requirements.
In a separate agreement with workers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Crop Production agreed to pay $18,738.75 in lost wages to affected U.S. workers.
The department’s lawsuit alleged that in 2016, Crop Production discriminated against at least three U.S. citizens by refusing to employ them as seasonal technicians at its El Campo, Texas, location because the company preferred to employ temporary foreign workers under the H-2A visa program.
According to the complaint, Crop Production imposed more-burdensome requirements on U.S. citizens than it did on H-2A visa workers to discourage U.S. citizens from working at the facility. The complaint alleges that although U.S. citizens had to complete a background check and a drug test before being permitted to start work, H-2A visa workers were allowed to begin working without completing them and, in some cases, never completed them.
The complaint also alleged that Crop Production refused to consider a limited-English proficient U.S. citizen for employment yet hired H-2A visa workers with limited-English proficiency. All of Crop Production’s 15 available seasonal technician jobs in 2016 went to H-2A visa workers instead of U.S. workers.
Under the INA, it is unlawful for employers to intentionally discriminate against U.S. workers because of their citizenship status or to otherwise favor the employment of temporary foreign visa workers over available, qualified U.S. workers. In addition, the H-2A visa program allows employers to hire foreign visa workers only if there is not a sufficient number of qualified and available U.S. workers to fill the jobs.