Labor Department fines Jorge Castro Farms 

Federal officials have ordered a California farm labor contractor to pay fines and back wages for what they say are violations of the rights of migrant strawberry pickers at a farm in Salinas.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday that an investigation into Santa Cruz-based Jorge Castro Farms found the contractor violated a number of federal laws.

Labor Department investigators say the contractor charged workers for rent, which had not been disclosed prior to employment. Investigators also found violations related to overcrowding, electrical hazards, a substandard cooking facility and unsanitary housing conditions. The contractor also employed a 13-year-old boy during school hours to harvest strawberries.

As a result of the investigation, Labor Department officials delayed the shipment of 10,000 pounds of strawberries.

The shipment was released once the contractor paid $34,650 in back wages and $13,900 in penalties. The company also submitted a plan to ensure future compliance.

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