Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department plans agricultural enforcement initiative in Buncombe and Henderson Counties, NC
Goal is to prevent child labor and migrant farm worker abuses during annual harvest
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is planning an enforcement initiative focused on the tomato harvest in Buncombe and Henderson counties, N.C., to ensure that growers and their farm labor contractors are in compliance with child labor and migrant farm worker laws.
“This year, investigators will be visiting the fields in the two counties during weekends and after regular working hours,” said Richard Blaylock, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Raleigh. “Growers need to be aware that they are legally responsible for violations committed by farm labor contractors who supply them with workers.”
In 2009, the Wage and Hour Division office in Raleigh conducted investigations into blueberry harvests in eastern North Carolina and found violations of both the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, including violations of underage children working the blueberry fields.
Prior to the start of this year’s harvests, Wage and Hour Division staff met with growers and farm labor contractors as part of the department’s “We Can Help” campaign to ensure that employers understood their responsibilities, and agricultural workers knew their rights and protections provided under federal law.
The FLSA allows individuals under the age of 12 to be employed in agricultural jobs with parental consent, but only on very small farms that are not subject to the federal minimum wage requirements. Twelve- and 13-year-olds may be employed in agricultural settings if they are working on the same farm as a parent or with a parent’s consent. Generally, no hired farm worker under the age of 16 may be employed during school hours or perform hazardous work. Employers must maintain records of hours worked and pay, and dates of birth for all individuals under age 19. Most farm workers, even the youngest, must receive at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for every hour worked.
For more information, in English or Spanish, about the FLSA and MSPA, call the Wage and Hour Division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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