One of the largest producers of Georgia’s famous Vidalia onions has been ordered by a federal judge to pay $1.4 million in damages and unpaid overtime owed to hundreds of workers.
A U.S. District Court judge found that Bland Farms Production and Packing LLC failed to pay overtime to 460 workers during harvest seasons from 2012 through this year. The U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against the company, owned by farmer Delbert Bland of Glennville, in 2014.
The Labor Department said in a news release Thursday that Bland Farms wrongly claimed an agricultural exemption from overtime rules when paying workers for packing onions Bland bought from other farmers. Defense attorneys said Bland Farms wasn’t just a buyer, but its employees helped grow and harvest onions on those farmers’ land.