Chad Brown, the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer, has agreed to pay $1.6 million in back pay and fines after a federal investigation determined that he had failed to pay overtime wages to hotwalkers and grooms in his barn and found other “willful violations” of federal labor law, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The release states that Brown signed a consent judgment May 13 agreeing to the back pay and fines. Under the judgment and a separate agreement under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Brown has agreed to pay $1.2 million in back wages, with another $287,000 in liquidated damages and $120,000 in civil penalties, according to the release. The complaint covered the period from Dec. 13, 2014, to Aug. 31, 2017.
The investigation focused on workers employed by Brown under the H-2B visa program, which allows guest workers from foreign countries. The program carries restrictions that require employers to advertise for domestic workers prior to being granted visas for employees, along with wage regulations.
Backstretch workers like grooms and hotwalkers have notoriously erratic schedules and often work long hours at racetracks. Many trainers rely on the H-2B visa program to fill positions that they claim U.S. workers do not typically want.
According to the complaint, grooms and hotwalkers “regularly worked upwards of 51 hours per week, with some working as many as 60 or more hours a week.” Nevertheless, the employees “were regularly denied premium pay owed” to them under the federal regulations, the complaint states.
The complaint from the Department of Labor also claims that Brown and his limited-liability company had a long list of “willful violations” of the policies for H-2B laborers, including collecting payment from the employees to cover their visa costs and failing to pay employees “the wages they were offered.” Immigration attorneys have said visa costs usually run around $10,000 per employee under the H-2B program.
Under the agreement, Brown will “institute and maintain a comprehensive H-2B compliance program,” which will entail the appointment of a compliance officer to monitor Brown’s operation, and “conduct orientation sessions to inform employees of the timekeeping system and their H-2B rights.”
The consent order comes amid a national discussion over U.S. immigration and visa policies. The White House has pushed over the past two years for restrictions on U.S. immigration, but earlier this year, the Department of Labor agreed to issue 30,000 additional visas under the H-2B program to address concerns by U.S. employers.
Late last year, trainer Linda Rice, who, like Brown, is based in New York, said she agreed to pay $110,000 in back wages and fines from a similar a complaint.
– additional reporting by David Grening
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.