A Camden County company will pay $34,200 in back wages to 55 workers and $48,000 in civil penalties after violating of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division said Monday.
Popsy Pop LLC in Somerdale recruited workers from Eastern Europe, Central and South America and the Caribbean to drive trucks and sell ice cream throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The law allows employers to temporarily hire nonimmigrant workers to perform nonagricultural labor or services.
But the company misrepresented the wages to be paid, and the number of positions available and dates of need when submitting an application for workers, the Labor Department found.
The agency's investigation also determined that the company placed workers outside the area of intended employment, didn't pay the workers the offered wage rate, and failed to notify Departments of Labor and Homeland Security when the workers were separated early from their employment.
The violations occurred from February 2010 through October 2011, Leni Fortson, a Labor spokeswoman said Monday.
Work permitted under the federal act is of a temporary nature, such as a one-time occurrence or for a seasonal or peak load need, officials said. Employers are required to offer a wage that equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing pay or applicable minimum wage.
The standards were established to protect similarly employed U.S. workers, officials said.
Employers who bring in foreign workers "must demonstrate they have taken certain steps to recruit U.S. workers and will pay the foreign workers wages that do not have an adverse effect on wage rates for U.S. workers," said Patrick Reilly, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Southern New Jersey office.
The investigation revealed that the foreign workers "were paid commissions not disclosed to potential U.S. workers during the recruitment period, which is likely to have discouraged them from applying for these positions."
Popsy Pop agreed to comply with the terms of the federal program in the future and implement compliance monitoring through a neutral third party to review hiring, employment and payroll practices. It also said it would start an improved program for seeking out qualified U.S. workers to fill jobs.