Wage and Hour Division (WHD)
U.S. Department of Labor
US Labor Department strike force in farmers’ fields of North Carolina’s Buncombe, Henderson and Haywood counties to enforce federal labor laws
return in 2011 after all 2010 investigations uncovered violations
RALEIGH, N.C. -- The U. S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is conducting an enforcement initiative focusing on agricultural employers in western North Carolina, where the division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act during last year’s tomato harvest. The initiative is focusing on compliance with laws regulating child labor, workers’ wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping by farms in Buncombe, Henderson and Haywood counties.
“The Labor Department is committed to ensuring that agricultural employers understand their responsibilities and agricultural workers – especially the low-wage and vulnerable workers in this industry who are often denied the pay legally guaranteed to them by federal law – understand their rights,” said Richard Blaylock, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Raleigh. “Our goal for this enforcement initiative is to identify and remedy labor violations so workers are protected against exploitation, and law-abiding employers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage for playing by the rules and paying fair wages.”
During the 2010 tomato harvest, 100 percent of the farmers and farm labor contractors in western North Carolina that were investigated by the Wage and Hour Division’s Raleigh office were in violation of either the FLSA or the MSPA. Violations found included failures to pay the minimum wage for all hours worked, disclose written employment conditions and wage statements to workers, ensure that workers had safe housing, obtain proper vehicle insurance and ensure that drivers possessed valid licenses.
As part of the division’s 2011 agriculture initiative, investigators have been meeting with farm groups, community organizations, and state and county agencies to inform employers of their obligations and employees of their rights.
Virtually all employees engaged in agriculture are covered by federal law because they produce goods for interstate commerce. Most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to the MSPA, which protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the Labor Department.
A fact sheet on the MSPA is available at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs49.pdf. Information about the MSPA and the FLSA also is available by contacting the Wage and Hour Division’s Raleigh District Office at 4407 Somerset Road, Suite 260, Raleigh, N.C. 27609, telephone 919-790-2742; or its Charlotte Area Office at 3800 Arco Corporate Drive, Suite 460, Charlotte, N.C. 28273, telephone 704-749-3360.
Additionally, information about all of the federal labor laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division is available in English and Spanish by calling the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), or by visiting its website at http://www.dol.gov/whd.
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.