A recent wage-and-hour case illustrates the effect payroll deductions can have on minimum wage compliance. In Rivera v. Brickman Group, Ltd., No. 05-1518 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 2008), a company brought Guatemalan and Mexican workers to the United States for seasonal employment under H-2B visas. Although the workers were paid amounts that appeared to be above the minimum wage, the company failed to take into account certain travel expenses and other employment-related costs incurred by the workers – expenses that reduced the workers’ earnings below minimum wage levels.

In particular, the court found that transportation expenses, costs involved in obtaining visas, and fees charged by the company’s recruiters were incurred by the workers primarily for the company’s benefit. Therefore, the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act because the deductions brought the employees’ earnings below the minimum wage. In reaching its decision, the court rejected the company’s argument that the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Portal-to-Portal Act supersede the FLSA with regard to H-2B workers’ wages and do not require employers to bear the travel expenses of such employees. The company has not yet announced whether it will appeal the decision.