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Farm labor contractor fined over late wages

In this photo taken Monday, May 21, 2018, workers trim leaves on Pinot Noir vines in the Azaya viney
A Coachella Valley labor contractor will have to pay nearly $647,000 to more than 1,300 farm workers for failing to issue final paychecks on time, the state labor commissioner announced Monday.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

A Coachella Valley farm labor contractor was ordered to pay nearly $647,000 in back wages Monday to more than 1,300 farm workers who did not receive their final paychecks on time.

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su categorized the penalty against Vista Santa Rosa Inc., based in Thermal, as a warning to labor contractors currently hiring for the state’s grape harvest, which is wrapping up in the Coachella Valley and moving north into the Central Valley.

“Delaying final paychecks is wage theft and in this case puts significant pressure on seasonal workers to abandon their pay or wait and jeopardize competitive job and lodging openings,” Su said. “Bringing attention to this issue during the grape harvest should deter farm labor contractors and growers from this wage theft practice and help ensure their workers are paid on time.”

The company’s president, Jose Luis Gomez Jr., could not be reached for comment Monday.

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Gomez and the eight farms where his workers labored are jointly responsible for paying $646,875 to 1,374 seasonal workers he hired last year and in 2016, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations.

The sum was calculated based on prevailing wage rates and the number of days paychecks were delayed beyond 72 hours after work concluded. There were no additional civil penalties.

geoffrey.mohan@latimes.com

Follow me: @LATgeoffmohan

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