The landscaping company accused last summer of violating terms of a federal guest worker program has been fined $18,000 and has agreed to not participate in the program for three years.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that Vanderbilt Landscaping LLC failed to properly recruit and place H-2B guest workers as well as accurately specify the reasons for needing such workers. Those violations resulted in $18,000 in penalties.
Originally, the department’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification notified Vanderbilt Landscaping (which is not affiliated with Vanderbilt University) that it intended to debar the company from participating in the program. But before that could happen, the parties reached a settlement agreement last week.
As part of the settlement, and without admitting guilt, Vanderbilt Landscaping — which is headquartered in Mason, Tenn., and has a satellite office in Smyrna — agreed to not apply for any H-2B guest workers for three years.
A group of Mexican guest workers filed a federal lawsuit against the company and its principals in March, alleging that the company took their visas and intimidated them into working amidst poor conditions.
A statement from Vanderbilt Landscaping’s attorney, provided by company spokeswoman Deborah Varallo, called the issues raised by the Department of Labor “alleged technical violations” of the guest worker program. The statement continued, “While the Company had valid legal arguments contrary to the allegations raised by the DOL, it agreed to pay the relatively minor fine and to voluntarily sit out of the [H-2B] program in order to put this matter behind them so that it could return its focus to running the business. As is reflected in the agreement resolving the matter with the DOL, Vanderbilt Landscaping continues to deny any wrongdoing.”
The H-2B guest worker program allows companies to bring foreign workers into the U.S. so that they may work temporary, nonagricultural jobs, which are usually seasonal and for which insufficient numbers of American workers can be found.