Three companies operating warehouses in Otay Mesa paid workers who lived in Mexico but worked in the U.S. in pesos, at rates equivalent to as low as $2.50 an hour, in violation of federal law, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday.
As a result, the department says the companies -- Columbia Export Group PDSA, OMG Freight Forwarders, and Atlas Freight Forwarding Inc. -- have been ordered by a federal court to pay nearly $2 million in minimum and overtime back wages to 108 workers. The companies must also pay more than $56,000 in penalties for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime requirements.
According to a Department of Labor statement, the companies "engaged in similar schemes to exploit workers and circumvent the FLSA, including using affiliates in Mexico to pay their employees as if they worked in Mexico, not in the U.S."
Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said, "All employees working in the U.S. are entitled to the full protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Through our enforcement efforts, these San Diego employers have come to realize that they cannot avoid federal labor protections simply because their employees return home across the border at the end of the workday."
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
The investigations into the three companies followed another conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor last year into San Diego-based Premar Global Warehouse Logistics, which was found to have paid its workers as low as $3.38 per hour and no overtime. The company also paid its workers in pesos despite the fact that their work was performed entirely in San Diego, the investigation concluded.
"Paying warehouse workers below minimum wage and failing to pay overtime are illegal practices that should never be tolerated," said Consul General of Mexico Carlos González Gutierrez in San Diego. "May these cases remind us all, both workers and employers, that once the worker crosses the Mexico-U.S. border, U.S. labor law applies and will be soundly enforced."