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Latino Daily News

Monday January 23, 2012

Farm Where Listeria Outbreak Originated Fined for Inhumane Housing Conditions for Migrant Workers

Farm Where Listeria Outbreak Originated Fined for Inhumane Housing Conditions for Migrant Workers

Photo: Jensen Farm Fined for Inhumane Housing Conditions for Migrant Workers

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The Colorado farm discovered to be the source of last year’s listeria outbreak was discovered to have kept their workers’ housing in poor condition, and is once again facing monetary penalties.

Lat year, 30 people died as a result of the contaminated produce from Jensen Farms in Grenada, Colorado.

Eric Jensen has been fined by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division for failing to meet safety and health requirements outlined in the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection (MSAP) Act .

Jensen rents rooms to migrant workers at a building he owns in Holly called the Gateway Motel, where investigators from the division’s Denver District Office found overcrowded rooms without beds, windows that did not open, a lack of laundry facilities, a lack of smoke detectors and unsanitary conditions, all in violation of the MSPA. Workers pay Jensen about $25 per week to stay there.

“Profiting at the expense of vulnerable workers is not just inhumane, it’s illegal,” said Chad Frasier, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Denver. “Our agency is committed to upholding wage and hour laws that protect the nation’s workers, particularly those who earn the least and are vulnerable. Enforcing regulations prohibiting employers from housing migrant workers in dangerous and unsanitary conditions is a priority for the Wage and Hour Division, and the penalties assessed in this case demonstrate our commitment to holding housing providers accountable.”

According to the division, Jensen claimed an exemption from the requirements of the MSPA as an innkeeper, as he said other people used the motel during the hunting season. However, the investigation revealed that the facility is not open to the public. In fact, investigators found that it is closed most of the year and has no telephone number for prospective guests to call to reserve a room. As a result, Jensen does not qualify for the exemption.

Jensen has been fined $4,250 in civil penalties for failing to provide the workers with housing that meets the requirements of the MSAP Act.