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Wages and Hours Worked:

Wages in Agriculture



OVERVIEW

The Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division administers three laws that determine the wages of workers engaged in agricultural employment. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires payment of no less than the federal minimum wage for each hour worked and time and one-half the employee's regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in the workweek. The federal minimum wage for covered, nonexempt employees is $5.85 per hour effective July 24, 2007; $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Certain small farms are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FLSA. Workers engaged in agricultural employment (as defined by the FLSA) are exempt from the overtime requirements.

Most migrant and seasonal workers engaged in agriculture are protected by the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). This law requires, among other things, that workers receive the rate that was disclosed upon recruitment or hire. This is sometimes called the "promised wage." The disclosed wage cannot be less than the higher of the applicable state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage established in the FLSA. The law also restricts the deductions that may be legally made from worker's wages.

The H-2A provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorize the lawful entry into the United States of temporary, non-immigrant workers (H-2A workers) to perform agricultural labor or agricultural services of a temporary or seasonal nature. Foreign workers and U.S. workers performing the same work at the same location for the same employer as foreign workers must be paid the highest of (a) the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), (b) the "prevailing rate" for a given crop/area or (c) the federal or state minimum wage. The law also contains requirements regarding employer-provided meals and transportation of workers and restricts the deductions that may be legally made from workers' wages.

COMPLIANCE ASSISTANCE MATERIALS

BASIC INFORMATION

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA):

H-2A:

FACT SHEETS

POSTERS

  • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) Poster (English/Spanish) (English/Haitian) - Each farm labor contractor, agricultural employer and agricultural association that is subject to the MSPA and that employs any migrant or seasonal agricultural worker(s) is required to post this poster which explains the rights and protections for workers required under the MSPA.

RECORDKEEPING

Every employer covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must keep certain records for each employee. The FLSA requires no particular form for the records, but does require that the records include certain identifying information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. For a listing of the basic records that an employer must maintain, see the FLSA recordkeeping fact sheet.

Agricultural employers, farm labor contractors (FLCs), and agricultural associations have recordkeeping and disclosure requirements under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). See 29 CFR 500.80 for further information.

Employers of foreign nonimmigrant temporary/seasonal agricultural workers under the H-2A Visa Program are required to keep accurate records with respect to each worker's earnings. See 20 CFR 655.102(b)(7) for further information on recordkeeping requirements under the H-2A visa program.

APPLICABLE LAWS AND REGULATIONS

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) - Establishes minimum wages, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for private sector and government workers.
  • 29 CFR Part 780 - Fair Labor Standards Act regulations regarding agriculture, processing of agricultural commodities, and related subjects.
  • The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) - Requires farm labor contractors, agricultural employers, and agricultural associations who recruit, solicit, hire, employ, furnish, transport, or house agricultural workers, as well as providers of migrant housing, to meet certain minimum requirements in their dealings with migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
  • 29 CFR Part 500 - Regulations on migrant and seasonal agricultural worker protections.
  • The Immigration and Nationality Act - Sets forth the conditions for the temporary employment of aliens in the U.S. and includes provisions that address employment eligibility and employment verification. These provisions apply to all employers.
  • 20 CFR Part 655 - Regulations on temporary employment of aliens in the United States.
  • 29 CFR Part 501 - Regulations on the enforcement of contractual obligations for temporary alien agricultural workers admitted under Section 216 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

RELATED TOPICS AND LINKS

  • Migrant and Seasonal Workers Home Page - Web site offered by the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to assist migrant and other seasonally employed farmworkers and their families.
  • National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) - Provides funding to help migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families achieve economic self sufficiency by offering supportive services to them while they work in agriculture or by helping them to acquire new skills for jobs offering better pay.
  • State Labor Offices - When the state laws differ from the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer must comply with the standard most protective to employees.

DOL CONTACTS*

  • Wage and Hour Division
    200 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Room S-3502
    Washington, DC 20210
    Contact WHD
    Tel: 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)
    TTY: 1-877-889-5627
    Local Offices

  • For questions on other DOL laws,
    please call DOL's Toll-Free Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365). Live assistance is available in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Additional service is available in more than 140 languages through a translation service.
    Tel: 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365)
    TTY

*Pursuant to the U.S. Department of Labor's Confidentiality Protocol for Compliance Assistance Inquiries, information provided by a telephone caller will be kept confidential within the bounds of the law. Compliance assistance inquiries will not trigger an inspection, audit, investigation, etc.