Worcester Wreath to pay $25,000 over immigrant hiring practices

Posted April 21, 2014, at 1:04 p.m.
Last modified April 21, 2014, at 6:31 p.m.

HARRINGTON, Maine — A local wreath manufacturing company has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a federal investigation of its immigrant hiring practices, according to officials.

Worcester Resources Inc., parent company of Worcester Wreath Co., in 2007 improperly retained some employees whose legal work status could not be confirmed, the U.S. attorney’s office indicated Monday in a prepared statement. The company has cooperated with the federal investigation, which covered 2005 through 2007 and is concluding without an official finding of wrongdoing, officials said.

According to the statement, in 2007 the Harrington firm switched from the Social Security Number Verification System to the E-Verify System, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services program that employers can use to confirm whether someone is authorized to work in the United States. E-Verify cannot confirm that someone does not have such authorization, however. The program allows employees whose work status has not been confirmed to work for 10 days while those workers attempt to clarify their status.

Worcester Wreath hires as many as 500 temporary employees each fall to handcraft balsam wreaths and centerpieces for the holidays. The company also is well known for Wreaths Across America, which since 1992 has provided holiday wreaths at Christmastime to place on graves at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 2007, the wreath company terminated 101 employees whose statuses could not be confirmed and, though it was not required to do so, forwarded the names and personal information of these terminated workers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. attorney’s office indicated.

However, six employees whose status could not be confirmed through E-Verify were retained and six more who had been terminated and whose information was forwarded to ICE were brought back to work for another 2½ weeks, federal officials wrote in the statement. Worcester Resources will pay a total of $25,000 to the federal government over a three-year period to settle these alleged civil infractions.

Rob Worcester, president of Worcester Resources, said in the statement that the investigation has been helpful to the company, which has improved its hiring verification procedures.

“With the government’s assistance, we learned we could do a better job with the E-Verify System,” Worcester said. “In 2008, we hired a former FBI special agent and a former county sheriff to run our hiring and employment program.”

The company is committed to using E-Verify to confirm the status of hundreds of seasonal workers it hires each fall, Worcester added.

Tim Woodcock, attorney for Worcester Resources, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Wolff each declined to comment further when contacted Monday morning about the settlement. Rob Worcester did not return a message seeking additional comment left Monday at his office.

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