A leader of a grape-picking crew at Mendocino County's Roederer Estate has been fined $163K in back wages after a Department of Labor investigation found that he had employed 59 migrant workers without pay, according to The Drinks Business. Manuel Quezada, who's based in Orland, has been a contractor for Roederer for the past decade, and investigators discovered he also was in violation of rules regarding paying the minimum wage, full disclosure of employment, providing wage statements, and paying workers at least biweekly or semimonthly.
In addition to the settlement from Quezada, Roederer has agreed to sign an enhanced compliance agreement, requiring more in-depth evaluation of its farm labor contractors' practices. "This case strikes a fair balance between rectifying Mr. Quezada’s violations and his and the winery’s willingness to step up to the plate to correct violations now and in the future," said Susana Blanco, director of the wage and hour division of the Labor Department’s SF office, in a statement.
While Roederer isn't directly responsible for underpaying the workers, the verdict is nonetheless a blow to the winery, which sells its Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley, Scharffenberger Cellars and Domaine Anderson wines to the likes of Total Wine and Costco. The company is one of the Anderson Valley region's largest employers, with over 660 acres at its disposal. Quezada has a number of other crews in the region, encompassing everything from grape-harvesting to pruning to almond and walnut grove maintenance, meaning that more wineries and producers could potentially be implicated in his illegal practices.