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Federal Judge Rules Contractor Must Pay $288K to 43 Workers from Mexico and $63K for H-2A Program Violations



A federal judge has reaffirmed the U.S. Department of Labor’s finding that a Nebraska construction company operating in Southern California blatantly and willfully discriminated against U.S. workers by bringing Mexican workers to the U.S. under false pretenses, shortchanging their wages and putting their safety and health at risk in substandard living conditions. 


The department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges ordered Randy and Kary Christo — owners and operators of R&R Christo Construction LLC of Fremont — to pay $288,719 in wages to 43 agricultural workers and $63,813 in penalties after the department’s Wage and Hour Division confirmed they submitted a job order in their H-2A agricultural visa program application deliberately misrepresenting that the foreign workers would do agricultural work when, in fact, they were employed for construction jobs at a San Jacinto poultry operation. 


The judge found the employer profited by abusing and exploiting vulnerable, unsuspecting H-2A workers. By misrepresenting the nature of the job, the employer discriminated against U.S. construction workers. 


“R&R Christo Construction discriminated against U.S. construction workers and failed to meet its legal requirements for employing agricultural workers from outside the U.S. seeking better opportunities,” said Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Rafael Valles in West Covina, California. “The blatant disregard of these requirements and abuse of dozens of vulnerable workers from Mexico is inexcusable.” 


The division learned of the situation after a referral prompted by a Cal/OSHA investigation into injuries suffered by an H-2A worker after falling from a roof. Federal investigators learned the injured worker was one of many R&R Christo Construction employees “loaned” illegally to roofing subcontractors in return for additional profits. 

In addition to the H-2A violations, the division determined R&R Christo Construction denied employees overtime wages for hours over 40 in a workweek. On average, investigators learned most R&R employees worked up to 60 hours per week. Under California law, employers must pay construction workers overtime for hours worked over eight hours a day and 40 in a workweek. Employers cannot pay H-2A workers less than what is required under all applicable laws.


Investigators also found Randy and Kary Christo housed the workers in substandard living facilities less than 500 feet from livestock in overcrowded conditions with as many as 11 beds in a single room. The employers also failed to meet H-2A safety requirements by transporting workers in a vehicle with insufficient, inoperable seatbelts.


“R&R Christo Construction exploited workers deliberately and tried to game the system by unlawfully misrepresenting the intent and crucial elements of the H-2A agricultural worker program,” added Western Regional Solicitor Marc Pilotin in San Francisco. “This employer’s illegal actions also denied job opportunities to U.S. construction workers.”   


Any worker affected by this employer’s illegal actions should contact the Wage and Hour Division immediately to receive the recovered wages. The division can speak with callers in more than 200 languages, regardless of where a caller is from.


The division’s West Covina District Office conducted the investigation and the department’s Office of the Solicitor in San Francisco litigated the case. The Office of Administrative Law Judges in Boston entered the consent findings.


Read press release on USDOL

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