Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department agriculture investigations in Michigan find violations of migrant housing and child labor laws
6-year-old found picking in fields; more than $36,000 in civil money penalties assessed
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the assessment of $36,134 in civil money penalties against eight growers in five Michigan counties for migrant housing and child labor law violations following investigations of 35 agricultural employers throughout the state.
James Smith, district director of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division in Detroit, Mich., called the violations “intolerable and disappointing.” He added, “Among the violations we cited were workers living in unlicensed labor camps with sewage from a faulty septic system seeping up in close proximity to living units, untreated waste water spilling out of broken pipes, no hot water for hand washing, and infestation by insects and rodents.”
Investigations were conducted at farms in Berrien, Cass, Kent, Newaygo, Ottawa, Oceana, Muskegon and Van Buren counties. Of the total in assessed penalties, $2,584 was assessed against blueberry growers Adkin Blue Ribbon Packing Co. and Jawor Brothers in Van Buren and Muskegon counties, respectively, for child labor violations. Children under the age of 12, including one six-year-old, were found picking in the fields.
Farms found in violation of Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act (MSPA) housing provisions included: Froehlich Farms, Schaenfeld Farms, Adkin Blue Ribbon Packing Co., Tony Brush Farm, Scherer Fruit Farms, Berrybrook Enterprises and William Bouwcamp.
The Wage and Hour Division enforces MSPA, which protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping. The division also enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires covered employers to pay farm workers at least the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, for all hours worked, and sets standards for the employment of minors. Generally, individuals under age 12 cannot be employed in any agricultural job. Individuals ages 12 and 13 can be employed in nonhazardous jobs in agriculture outside of school hours if working on the same farm as their parents or with written parental consent. Employers must maintain records of hours worked and pay, and dates of birth for all minors under age 19.
For more information about FLSA, child labor rules and MSPA, call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available online at http://www.wagehour.dol.gov.
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