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Rochester food concession operator ordered to pay $200,000 in back pay and fines for visa violations

Rochester-based Solem Concessions Inc. has been ordered to pay more than $200,000 in back pay and fines by the U.S. Department of Labor for violations of how it treated 35 temporary workers with H-2B visas from January 2017 to November 2018. Solem operates 15 food concession stands at fairs and events in eight states.

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In 2021, Adam Forgac put the finishing touches on one of the Solem Concessions food trailers before the start of the 2021 Olmsted County Fair.
Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — Rochester-based Solem Concessions Inc. has been ordered to pay more than $200,000 in back pay and fines for violations of how it treated temporary workers with H-2B visas.

The U.S. Department of Labor sent out a press release about the case on Wednesday.

“Federal labor law provides worker protections for non-immigrant workers employed under the H-2B program and Solem Concessions Inc. violated those requirements," stated Wage and Hour District Director Kristin Tout in Minneapolis. “The Department of Labor protects non-immigrant workers’ rights and is diligent in its efforts to ensure they receive the wages they earn. Employers who chose to participate in the H-2B program must ensure they are aware of their obligations and abide by the law.”

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The federal H-2B visa program permits employers to temporarily hire non-immigrants to perform non-agricultural labor or services in the U.S. The employment must be temporary in nature and be for a limited period of time, such as a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load or intermittent need.

In May, an administrative judge found that Solem Concessions violated the rights of 35 workers and the rules of the H-2B visa program from January 2017 to November 2018. Solem operates 15 food concession stands at fairs and events in eight states. The violations took place in multiple states.

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Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division identified several violations of the temporary H-2B worker visa program and found Solem Concessions owed $148,631 in back wages and $54,905 in civil money penalties.

The U.S. Department of Labor determined the employer violated multiple rules.

  • Solem did not pay the required hourly rate. The company paid employees flat salaries that did not compensate them for all hours they worked.
  • Solem failed to accurately report their temporary need by staggering employee arrival and departure dates throughout the work season.
  • Solem failed to maintain accurate payroll and time records, including hours worked per day.
  • Solem did not provide time sheets and earning statements to workers that included the employer’s address and identification number, the employees’ hourly rate of pay, hours worked, the pay period’s beginning and end dates, and the employee’s last and first name.
  • Solem reimbursed visa fees to the workers at the end of the season, rather than during the first work week.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard Around Rochester," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. The opinions of my employer do not necessarily reflect my opinions. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.
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