Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. -- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is planning an enforcement initiative focused on the New Jersey blueberry harvest to ensure that growers and their farm labor contractors are in compliance with labor standards during the 2010 season.
“We will be conducting investigations on a broad scale this year, including during weekends and after regular working hours,” said Patrick Reilly, director of the agency’s Southern New Jersey District Office. “Growers should also be advised that they could be held legally responsible for violations committed by farm labor contractors that provide them with workers.”
In 2009, the Wage and Hour Division’s Southern New Jersey office conducted a total of 20 investigations during the berry season, including 11 investigations of blueberry growers and nine investigations of farm labor contractors that supplied labor for the blueberry harvest.
Seven minors were found illegally employed during the last blueberry harvest. All were under age 12. A fact sheet available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/childlabor102.pdf provides information about employment of minors to perform agricultural work.
As a result of the 2009 wage violations, 212 workers were paid $13,250 in back wages, and a total of $44,560 in civil money penalties were assessed against seven growers and eight crew leaders for child labor, housing and vehicle related violations, and for problems with crew leader registration.
Blueberry agriculture is centered in western Atlantic County, N.J. The blueberry season begins at the end of June and lasts until mid-July.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces worker protection laws that include the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s field sanitation and temporary labor camp provisions, and protections for guest workers with H-2A visas provided by the Immigration and Naturalization Act.
The investigations will be conducted by the Wage and Hour Division’s Southern New Jersey District Office. Information on federal laws concerning minimum wage, overtime, and migrant and seasonal agricultural workers is available by calling the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd. The Southern New Jersey District Office may be reached at 609-538-8310.
U.S. Department of Labor releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this news release will be made available in alternate format (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office upon request. Please specify which news release when placing your request at (202) 693-7828 or TTY (202) 693-7755. The Labor Department is committed to providing America’s employers and employees with easy access to understandable information on how to comply with its laws and regulations. For more information, please visit www.dol.gov/compliance.