Growers, labor companies in Fresno County fined for not paying farmworkers, regulator says

Three farm labor companies and growers were fined almost $2 million after labor regulators accused them of not paying farmworkers they employed in the Fresno area, state officials said Tuesday.

The California Labor Commissioner’s Office said M.G. Luna Inc. of Parlier, Madera Persimmon Growers Inc. of Madera and Willems Farms Inc. of Kingsburg face $1,926,531 in fines after failing to pay 356 workers who harvested blueberries and persimmons, regulators said in a news release.

M.G. Luna collected wages from growers but did not pay laborers, the commission said. Some were not paid while others got checks that bounced.

Regulators began their investigation in September 2019 after a referral from California Rural Legal Assistance, the commission said.

Luna Inc. faces the largest portion of the fines, which totaled more than $1.4 million, officials said. That company’s business license has been suspended, according to records from the Secretary of State.

Willems Farms Inc. was fined more than $410,000.

The fines also included charges for minimum wage violations and interest payments, the commission said.

Attempts by The Bee on Tuesday to reach the companies for comment were unsuccessful.

In the agricultural industry, growers are responsible for ensuring their contractors pay the workers, according to Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower.

“In this case, the growers who contracted with M.G. Luna will pay the owed wages to workers,” she said in a news release. “To avoid liability as client employers, growers have an obligation to ensure that the (farm labor companies) they hire are licensed, in good standing and paying legal wages.”