Court Issues Restraining Order Against Produce Inspection Company

The firm allegedly fired an inspector after she contacted federal regulators.

Camden, N.J.
Camden, N.J.

CAMDEN, N.J. — The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a court order to stop a product inspection company from alleged retaliation and intimidation against workers.

The temporary restraining order was issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Camden. The action follows a complaint and motion filed by the department on Oct. 30.

The department alleges that Nova Produce Inspection Services LLC, of Ocean View, New Jersey, and owners Christian Rojas and Karina Rojas retaliated against an employee for contacting the department's Wage and Hour Division to report concerns about not being properly paid, a protected activity under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In its filing, the department alleges in early October, Rojas and Rojas fired quality control inspector Karen Barra Figueroa after she admitted contacting the department.

The division began an investigation of Nova Produce Inspection Services LLC in July 2023 to determine its compliance with federal wage laws, including the H-1B and H-1B1 visa programs under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The department alleges that, in this case, the employers inferred wrongly that Barra prompted the division's investigation. Regardless of why the division opened its investigation, the FLSA protects employees' right to file a complaint with the division or cooperate in an investigation, free from retaliation or discrimination by an employer.

The court's temporary restraining order prohibits the employers from violating the FLSA's anti-retaliation provisions, and forbids them from instructing employees not to cooperate with the division's investigations, pending further court order. The employers must also provide the division written notice at least seven days before terminating any employee for any reason, pending further court order.

“Retaliating against employees for engaging in federally protected activity is illegal and discourages workers from asserting their rights,” said Regional Solicitor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York. “Our request for a temporary restraining order in this matter shows the department will do everything in its power to protect workers' ability to exercise their rights free from retaliation or intimidation of any kind, and to ensure the integrity of the department's investigations.”

The division's Southern New Jersey District Office is conducting the investigations. Senior Trial Attorney Susan Jacobs of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York is litigating the department's case.

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