Steve Asmussen Stables has entered into a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to reimburse grooms and hotwalkers nearly $130,000 to resolve violations of the federal H-2B worker program, which enables businesses to employ temporary visa workers, according to a release from the Department of Labor. Asmussen was also assessed civil money penalties of just over $75,000 for its violations in addition to the wage penalties.
According to the release, this is the fourth time in recent years that Asmussen has been ordered to make payments to workers, having most recently been ordered to pay more than a half-million dollars in back wages and damages. The DOL investigation in this instance found that the employer violated numerous commitments that it made during the H-2B application process to employ workers in the state of New York. The violations were said to have occurred between December 2016 and December 2019.
According to the release, the violations included:
- Failing to pay workers for costs they incurred during travel to and from the U.S. at the beginning and end of the racing season, including visa fees;
- Seeking and obtaining kickbacks from workers, supposedly to cover Asmussen Stables' attorney fees;
- Employing workers outside of New York, contrary to statements made to the government;
- Overstating the number of H-2B workers needed by the employer and;
- Not disclosing material terms of the position to potential U.S. job applicants, such as that free housing may be available onsite.
“H-2B workers too often find themselves vulnerable to wage shortages and other violations of their rights,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director David An in Westbury, New York. “Employers like Steve Asmussen Stables who employ H-2B workers must comply with the law or face sanctions, including fines and potentially being barred from the program.”
The settlement also includes enhanced compliance measures, including hiring of an independent monitor by the stable to conduct regular audits, providing workers with updated training in languages they understand, forbidding certain managers from being involved in the H-2B program and allowing the division to provide training to Asmussen Stables' H-2B workers regarding their rights.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will pursue all necessary legal avenues to obtain proper compensation for employees and prevent future violations by employers,” explained regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York. “This settlement reimburses these underpaid workers, requires Asmussen Stables to pay penalties and seeks to change this employer's behavior and prevent future violations by providing an independent monitor to perform regular audits.”
The division's Long Island District Office conducted the investigation. Department of Labor Senior Trial Attorney Jacob Heyman-Kantor litigated the case for the division before the Office of Administrative Law Judges. View the consent findings and the order approving the findings.