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Release Number: 2023-64
Date: August 29, 2023

California Labor Commissioner Cites Fresno Area Farm Labor Contractor and Two Growers $1.9 Million for Wage Theft Violations

Fresno—The Labor Commissioner’s Office (LCO) has cited farm labor contractor (FLC) M.G. Luna, Inc. of Parlier and growers Madera Persimmon Growers Inc. of Madera and Willems Farms, Inc. of Kingsburg $1,926,531, for wage theft affecting 356 workers who harvested persimmons and blueberries. The Fresno County-based FLC registered to Maria Guadalupe Luna collected wages from the growers but failed to pay the workers. The FLC also hired workers to harvest blueberries on Luna’s own farm and failed to pay them.    

“The agricultural industry has up-the-chain liability laws holding client companies responsible for unpaid wages when their contractor fails to pay their workers. In this case, the growers who contracted with M.G. Luna will pay the owed wages to workers,” said Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “To avoid liability as client employers, growers have an obligation to ensure that the FLCs they hire are licensed, in good standing, and paying legal wages.”

The LCO opened its investigation into M.G. Luna Inc. and growers Madera Persimmon Growers Inc., and Willems Farms, Inc. in September 2019 after receiving a referral from California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. The investigation focused on dozens of wage claims workers filed against the FLC and the growers for nonpayment of wages or for receiving checks with insufficient funds.

The citations and penalties issued total $1,926,531. Maria Guadalupe Luna, an individual, and Madera Persimmon Inc., a corporation, were cited $75,120 for waiting time penalties, $6,273 for minimum wage violations, and $2,230 in interest involving 25 workers. Maria Guadalupe Luna, an individual, and Willems Farms, Inc., a corporation, and Gayle A. Willems and Paul E. Willems, both trustees of the Willems Family Trust, were cited $334,080 for waiting time penalties, $76,272 for minimum wage violations, and $28,568 in interest involving 108 workers. Maria Guadalupe Luna, an individual, was also cited $1,140,720 for waiting time penalties, $191,943 for minimum wage violations, and $71,325 in interest affecting 223 workers.

The Labor Commissioner’s License and Registration search page allows growers to ensure the labor contractor they are hiring is properly licensed and registered with the Labor Commissioner’s Office as required by law. Growers in California can find out if wage claims have been filed against an FLC by searching on the Labor Commissioner’s Wage Claim Search tool webpage. Growers should also check the search tool after work is completed, as wage claims are not always filed immediately after nonpayment of wages.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (California Labor Commissioner’s Office) combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.

The Labor Commissioner’s Office in 2020 launched an interdisciplinary outreach campaign, “Reaching Every Californian.” The campaign amplifies basic protections and builds pathways to affected populations, so workers and employers understand legal protections and obligations, as well as the Labor Commissioner’s enforcement procedures. Californians can follow the Labor Commissioner on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: Communications@dir.ca.gov, (510) 286-1161

Employers with Questions on Requirements May Contact: MakeItFair@dir.ca.gov