Ever wonder what is sometimes involved with trying to get a government agency to answer what should be a simple question? I thought I’d give people a picture of how I spent my entire afternoon, Wednesday, May 24, 2018, trying to find out the name and position title of the attorney who was present, on behalf of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), at a May 23, 2018, Whatcom County District Court proceeding. The proceeding involved Sarbanand Farms, located in Sumas, Washington, and L&I. I was seeking the attorney’s name to include in an article I was putting together about the May 23, court proceeding.
Adding to the list of the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ (L&I) inspections of Sarbanand Farms in Sumas, Washington, in 2017, is another safety and health inspection I learned more about on Wednesday, April 25. Inspection number 317946364 was conducted by L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) after being initiated back in June 2017, although it was not mentioned in L&I’s February 1, 2018 press release announcing its findings from investigations at Sarbanand Farms which the department initiated in August 2017.
The DOSH inspection initiated in June 2017 did find that Sarbanand Farms had committed a serious violation involving an employee injury.
In a full courtroom in Whatcom County District Court on Tuesday morning, June 19, 2018, attendees heard Judge Pro Tempore Dave Cottingham agree to Sarbanand Farms’ request that the $73,000 penalty it was assessed by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), be reduced by half, to $36,500. The proceedings that day serve to raise significant doubt as to the ability of state and local agencies to take actions that would adequately identify and prevent abuse of farm workers employed by farms under the H-2A visa program.