Duvall Farm Faces $1 Million Fine for Illegal Hiring
Lane Powell Shareholder Diane Butler was interviewed on April 23 in a KUOW radio segment titled “Duvall Farm Faces $1 Million Fine for Illegal Hiring.” During the interview, Butler discussed the government’s investigation of HerbCo International (“HerbCo”), an organic herb farm in Duvall, Wash., for immigration hiring violations. Federal prosecutors want HerbCo to pay $1 million for violating immigration laws, and prosecutors say the farm knowingly employed more than 200 undocumented workers. The farm’s owner and two key staffers now face criminal charges, stiff penalties and possible jail time. Prosecutors in Seattle filed their sentencing recommendations on April 23.
According to the documents, a federal audit last year found about 200 workers with invalid Social Security numbers. That was 65 percent of HerbCo’s work force. Immigration agents gave the company about a week to submit legal documents, or dismiss those workers. HerbCo dismissed 86 people — the rest apparently had already left. HerbCo hired workers from a temp agency to fill the void. But production slowed down and stores threatened to pull their contracts.
Diane Butler is an immigration attorney in Seattle. She’s represented employers in HerbCo’s predicament. She thinks, in this case, the feds took a heavier handed approach than necessary. “They could’ve allowed HerbCo some time to have rolling layoffs. That is, they allow the company to let a few go week by week by week while they’re looking for replacements.” Without that option, HerbCo made a brazen move. Prosecutors say a day after the terminations, the farm secretly re–hired about 25 of the undocumented workers.